Monday, October 24, 2016

Movie and Book Wrap-up, Summer 2016 ...

Of all the things in the world to do, among my very favorites: going to the movies. I love the surround sound, the huge screen, the comfy seats, the popcorn (!!!). Yeah, sure, there are those morons who talk too much or pull out their phones, but when that opening scroll starts up for Universal or Village Roadshow or MGM or 20th Century Fox, well, my imagination catches fire. There’s just something about the movies that makes everything else okay. And right now, with the world in that hell-bound hand basket folks talk so much about, a little escapism goes a long way.
This entry is excerpted from my Eliza Gordon newsletter from summer 2016 and includes a movie wrap-up of some popular films I managed to squeeze into my eyeballs, both at the theatre and from the comfort of my not-so-comfortable couch. Maybe you haven't seen these yet, and with the Long Dark coming at us, movies are a great way to pass the time. Because movies are awesome!
Let's begin:
Captain America: Civil War – Team Winter Soldier forevah! Love me some Bucky Barnes. Fun movie but I’m a Team DC Comics girl, I think. Solid story and in fact, it provided some great talking points when I was engaged with the middle schoolers (see below) about what makes a protagonist vs. antagonist. Suffice it to say, you’re either Team Cap or Team Iron Man. Who will you choose?

Black Mass: Johnny Depp is creepy as hell in this but the movie never really got off the ground for me. None of the characters evolved; they were just sorta the same from start to finish. Solid performances, though—Depp is always strong when he’s playing someone a little weird (and evil). And I love Joel Edgerton. Check him out if he’s new to you.

The 5th Wave: I so wanted to like this film as I love YA (young adult) books and films and Chloe Grace Moretz is one of my favorite young actresses working today. Kid’s got moxie. But despite a strong start and a believable performance from Moretz, the film splits itself in two when it follows a predictable military storyline with a completely different character (Nick Robinson) who crosses paths with our hero, Cassie, in a manner WAY too convenient. Things become predictable, and Cassie isn’t the one who saves the day in the end. It’s not great this film didn’t do better (it made $35M gross, shy of earning back its $38M budget) because that means we likely won’t see author Rick Yancey’s sequels make it to the big screen—which sort of sucks because the film ends on a relative cliffhanger and I'd like to see Cassie step up and save the world.

Deadpool: RAUNCHY and HILARIOUS. I waited until this was OnDemand and man, it is so freaking funny. Ryan Reynolds is adorable, a natural comedian, and the supporting cast is all kinds of fun. Super inappropriate for the underage crowd, so do NOT let your little ones watch it!
Me Before You: OH MAN, I love Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin! I loved this book (by Jojo Moyes) and its sequel (AFTER YOU, which I found so satisfying). It takes a lot to get me to cry in a movie so I held steady with this but the theatre was filled with sniffles. It was awesome to see Clarke’s range, considering I know her best as Daenerys Targaryen/Mother of Dragons, and any time Sam Claflin is on a screen, I’m all in. (Check him out in LOVE, ROSIE, the adorable 2014 adaptation of Cecelia Ahern’s charming novel, co-starring Lily Collins.)

Gods of Egypt: Just because you employ some of Hollywood’s best-looking leading men does NOT mean your film will succeed. Marco Beltrami's soundtrack for this is good but honestly, the white-washing of Egyptian history, the scattershot storyline, and the haphazard CGI makes this one to skip.

13 Hours: This ain’t the Jim from The Office you remember. John Krazinski is beefy and militarized in this taut but sometimes on-the-nose biopic about the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012, in which four Americans were killed (including Ambassador Chris Stevens). Solid military film, if not edging into cliche tropes, which has absolutely nothing to do with the actual event and everything to do with slippery screenwriting.

Sisters: Hilarious! Can’t go wrong with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. You’ll cringe at what they do to their poor parents’ house but you’ll wish you had a sister that crazy and cool by film’s end. Not their funniest turn in front of the camera but we definitely had a good night of laughs, which is the point, right?


Central Intelligence: MY BEEFY BEAUTIFUL BOYFRIEND IS IN THIS, so how could it go wrong? Dwayne The Rock Johnson and Kevin Hart are so fun together, and though I went in with few expectations, I came out with a Rock-sized smile. Super fun. You’ll leave hoping that your Sixteen Candles moment isn’t far behind! ;)

Batman v. Superman – Ultimate Edition: FUN! Lots of extra details that were deleted from the theatrical version. Adds about 30 minutes to the film but diehard fans will enjoy every second … especially that bathtub scene that is about five seconds more and shows Henry skin. Oooh la la.
Oh, and a brief shower scene with Batfleck. Batfleck Buns for the win.
Nice to see Jena Malone's (brief) addition to the film; I found a lot of the material added to this version filled in the gaps in my understanding of the storyline.

Tarzan: Umm, abs, anyone? Again, I didn’t go in with high expectations. TARZAN has been movie’d to death, but I actually found myself enamored with this one. Yeah, suspend disbelief for a while because the physics don’t always work with what a human body is capable of, but if that human body is a shirtless Alexander SkarsgĂ„rd, well, it’s worth the price of admission. Christoph Waltz is menacing as usual (I’d like to see that guy play a nice-guy role ...) and Margot Robbie is a tough beauty with a likeable backstory. And the soundtrack by Rupert Gregson-Williams is gorgeous.

Secret Life of Pets: A fun afternoon spent with my 11-year-old that was not short on laughs. This film runs at a breakneck pace that might exhaust younger viewers but they’ll be so enamored with the tiny angry bunny, Snowball (Kevin Hart!) and the brave heroes—Max, Duke, Gidget, Chloe—that giggles are assured all the way through. There was a daycare at the theatre the day we went, and those kids howled. Recommend!
Ghostbusters: This film—OH MY GHOSTS—so much fun that we’re going to see it again. I LOVE HOLTZMANN!!! It has just the right mix of camp and crazy that you’ll bust a gut laughing. Fun cameos, ghoulish ghouls, and all the slime you could ask for. Plus you can’t go wrong with Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig, two of my FAVORITE comedic actors, but this reboot absolutely sparkles with the fierce talent of SNL’s Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones, who sort of steal the show, TBH. Believe the good hype: this film rocks. And for those haters, well, let them go find something else to hate on.

AND NOW, books!

When I'm not watching movies, I read, as much as I possibly can. When I'm deep in my own writing projects, I need to read to fill the word reservoir. Books have the same effect on my brain that the movies do, and I love working a long day and getting all the family stuff out of the way so I can FINALLY curl up and get lost in someone else's words for a while. Plus I read across genres, depending on my mood, so there's always something for everyone to latch on to in my recommendations.

These last few months, I've read ...

THE THREE, Sarah Lotz (thriller): Creepy and weird but it held me all the way to the end. Lotz will keep you guessing, and I love that in a thriller. It's told in brief chapters of interviews and news reports, so for folks who want a linear narrative, this might not work for you. But the creative way the author has woven multiple storylines into the main theme is remarkable. For fans of the TV show LOST and books by Stephen King.

, John Corey Whaley (YA): Heartfelt coming-of-age story about a 16-year-old agoraphobic named Solomon. Very well done—a compelling read. These characters were relatable and interesting, as is common with every Whaley project. Have a look.


THE SERPENT KING, Jeff Zentner (YA): Loved this one. About three best friends from very divergent backgrounds in rural Tennessee. You will fall in love with and root for Travis, Dill, and Lydia—and you won’t see that shocking turn of events that will undo everything, altering the future for our beloved characters. As I've never been to Tennessee, it was awesome to see the setting play just as much of a role as the characters themselves; fascinating part of the world, and native Zentner does his home state justice in his delicious descriptions.

, kc dyer (contemporary romance): For fans of Diana Gabaldon’s OUTLANDER, this is a must-read. It is so fun! A little slow in the opening chapters but once Emma Sheridan gets to Scotland in search of her own Jamie Fraser, the pages turn themselves. Funny, heartfelt, and charming.


GIRL of FIRE and THORNS, CROWN of EMBERS, THE BITTER KINGDOM, trilogy by Rae Carson (YA): I needed a good YA fantasy, and this series did not fail to deliver. Friends have been telling me about this one for a few years but I had a hard time finding it on store shelves (and then I'd forget to order it online!). I read the first book in two days and immediately went to the bookstore for the rest of the trilogy (thankfully, they were in stock! Miracles do happen, people!). Find yourself falling for Elisa and her colorful cast of characters, some friend, some foe, and all of them intriguing, well-drawn figures, a testament to Carson’s skill. Also check out her gorgeous book WALK ON EARTH A STRANGER about a girl who can divine gold hidden in the earth; the sequel, LIKE A RIVER GLORIOUS, came out September 27.

What are you reading? Any recommendations for me?

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