Saturday, July 9, 2016

Roald Dahl's book The BFG hits the big screen

Here's another popular book that just hit the Big Screen as a summer blockbuster!  This post is from my movie review blog:

Movie Title:   
Grade:  B+

Rating:  PG, 115 minutes

In a Nutshell:     In an interview with Regal Theaters, Steven Spielberg said “This is one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.” It was a reunion of sorts with some of his old team from the E.T. movie days. 

Director Steven Spielberg and musical composer John Williams are both film legends, so it’s awesome to see a new film that uses both of their talents again.  They introduce us to a magical world based on the 1982 novel by Roald Dahl.

Uplifting theme: 
  • The world is more giant than you can imagine.
  • The healing power of friendship.
  • "Dreams are quick on the outside, but last long on the inside." - The BFG

Things I liked:
  • Mark Rylance truly shines as the Big Friendly Giant.
  • John Williams’ musical score conjures a magical spell that rests lovingly on this old-fashioned tale.
  • I love all the fun words the BFG makes up.  He says, “I cannot be helping it if I saying things a little squiggly.”   English teachers will be delighted and frustrated.
  • Ruby Barnhill is fantastic and one of Spielberg’s best child talents ever. She is extremely entertaining with a bright future ahead of her.
  • Technically, this movie is stellar, mixing CG and motion-capture images as one.  Of that impressive blend, Steven Spielberg said, “Motion capture makes you believe a little girl and a big giant can exist in the same shot.”   The animation itself was incredibly detailed and realistic-looking.
  • I have never read The BFG by Roald Dahl, but I hear that there are some darker elements in the book that Spielberg and writer Melissa Mathison decided to leave out in lieu of a more family-friendly, feel-good flick.  You don't have to read the book to enjoy or understand the movie.
  • Some of the conversations are pretty funny.

Things I didn’t like:
  • The movie definitely takes its time to develop, but the second half of the movie got bogged down a little bit.  The breakfast scene with the queen was fun, but definitely slowed down the pacing of the movie even more.
  • Exactly what The BFG does for a living is a little fuzzy.  I mean, was he self-appointed to his job and who is he going to pass his trade on to?
  • No women giants.  The BFG explains that giants don't have parents, so apparently, female giants aren't needed.
  • Am I monster to admit I was a little bit bored a few times?

Funny lines:
  •  You is an insult to giant people.” – Fleshlumpeater (Jemaine Clement)
  • “Well, what I says and what I means is sometimes two different things.” – The BFG

Tips for parents:

  • This is a sweet family film for most all ages.
  • Very young children might be frightened by the bad giants or the thought that a giant gives them dreams by sneaking into their room at night.  They might worry that, like Sophie, they could be snatched out of their beds at night.
  • No profanity.
  • The BFG calls farts “wiz poppers.”   There are several discussions and BIG displays of farts.  Kids will think it's hilarious.

Edgar Rice Burrough's Tarzan lives on in another movie

Authors are always hoping their books will become classics and live on with generations of fans.  Edgar Rice Burrough was able to actually do that.   Below is my movie review for the newest summer blockbuster: The Legend of Tarzan

Movie Title:     The Legend of Tarzan
Grade:   B

Rating:   PG-13, 109 minutes

In a Nutshell:  Director David Yates is most known for his work with the last four Harry Potter films.  This time he brings us a new take on Edgar Rice Burrough’s Tarzan. 

One of Hollywood’s first silent films was the Tarzan story, shortly after the original book came out.  While the story is flawed, and many feel like there was no need for a remake, the lush, romantic images in this movie will make you feel like Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bocall could float down the river at any minute.

Did you ever see the 1984 movie “Greystoke”?  I loved it and highly recommend it.  This story...sort of....begins where that movie left off.

Uplifting theme: 
  • “A normal man can do the impossible to save the woman he loves.  My husband is no normal man.” - Jane Clayton
  • Honor, friendship, loyalty, revenge, respect.
  • The value of human an animal life.

Things I liked:
  • The musical score sounded very exotic and mysterious from the very beginning.
  • Christoph Waltz is fantastic in anything.
  • Alexander Skarsgard makes for a perfectly believable Tarzan.  I loved it when he greeted the lions he had known since they were cubs.  So sweet.  Great CGI moment!  As a 6'4" hunk of muscle and abs, Alexander convincingly plays a kind Tarzan who can easily kick butt when needed.
  • Margot Robbie makes a lovely, spunky Jane Porter.  She's a British actress playing an American, while Alexander Skarsgard is an American playing a Brit.  
  • Samuel Jackson.  Ha ha  He looks like he's having fun.  His character is actually based on a real person.
  • Beautiful scenery and settings.
  • Tarzan thinks those pincer ants taste like bacon.  Ha ha
  • There is a lot of action and movement from start to finish. 
  • There are some emotional moments akin to Bambi losing his mother.

Things I didn’t like:
  • The movie jumps back and forth in time and could become confusing for some people.
  • Sometimes the apes and animals looked real; other times the CGI looked too fake.
  • There is a LOT of narration so that the audience can understand what’s going on.  The problem is that the movie almost talks down to the audience.  Show us; don't just tell us.
  • Samuel L. Jackson’s existence in the movie is merely for comic relief.  He represents an American emissary, which doesn’t make a lot of sense in the story line.
  •  You hear Tarzan's famous yell, but you never actually see Alexander Skarsgard do it.  You also hear him growl like lions and other animals, but again, it's a soundtrack behind him and you never see his face while he's making those sounds.

  Funny lines:
  • “I’ve already been to Africa.  And it’s hot.” – John Clayton (Tarzan)
  • “I never take the stairs.  I usually take the curtains.” – John Clayton
  • “You DO know that the right side of your mustache is just a little bit lower than the left?” – Jane
  • “How are we supposed to catch a train going 40 miles an hour?” – Samuel L. Jackson    “Gravity.” - Tarzan

Interesting lines:
  • “He’s Tarzan.  You’re Jane.  He’ll come for you.” – Captain Rom (Christoph Waltz)
  • “They say an elephant’s eye speaks the greatest language.  Who else can say so much without speaking a word?”  - Tarzan
  • “These are what you came for?  What will you do for them? – Chief Mbonga (Djmon Hounsou)
“Whatever is necessary.” – Leon Ron (Christoph Waltz)
* No man ever started with less.” – Jane
  • “Your husband’s wildness easily disturbs me more than I can easily express, whereas your spirit…” Captain Rom
  • “That woman!”  - Captain Rom
  • “What was that?” – Captain Rom’s assistant
“Tarzan, although it sounded different than I thought.  Better.” – Captain Rom

Tips for parents:   

  • There is a LOT of violence.  Man vs. man.  Man vs. animal. 
  • Some profanity, usually out of the mouth of Samuel L. Jackson.
  • The issues of African slavery, mistreatment of the American Indians, and “blood diamonds” are addressed.
  • There is a before and after sex scene, but the audience doesn’t see what happens in between.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Immortal authors

As an author, I'd love to think my books are timeless and will live on long after I'm gone.  I'm also a realist and recognize that probably won't happen!  ha ha

Rudyard Kipling has definitely achieved immortality in the sense that his children's story has been loved by many generations.  

Below is my review of the newest remake of his story, which I shared on my movie review blog.

Movie Title:      The Jungle Book

Grade:   A

Rating:   PG, 1 hour 51 minutes

In a Nutshell:    What do you get when you mix 90% CGI with a Rudyard Kipling remake?  Surprisingly, a beautiful family friendly film.  

Director Jon Favreau gives a respectful nod to the 1967 Disney original, while crafting a new one that is fresh and full of heart.  See it in 3D if you can.

Uplifting theme: 
  •  Baloo says, “Everyone’s got a song.” A strong message that comes out in the film is to be yourself, your best self.  We all have our unique strengths and others around us will be blessed when we are true to ourselves and use our talents.
  • Another wise thing Baloo says is, “You say you want to go the man village.  I say you can be a man right here.”  We need to stop waiting for something to happen before we live up to our potential.
  • Friendship, courage, love.

Things I liked:
  • Neel Sethi plays Mowgli, the only human in the movie, yet there is great humanity in the film.  He does an excellent job and is completely adorable.  I love the realistic detail of some scars on his shoulder and chest.  
  • Even if we don’t get to see the talented Ben Kingsley, it’s a pleasure to hear his voice as the protective teacher Bagheera.
  • Who doesn’t love the carefree Baloo?  Bill Murray’s voice fits perfectly and provides plenty of comic relief, making the audience I sat with laugh almost every time the lovable bear was on the screen.  This ain’t no bear from The Revenant!
  • Casting Christopher Walken as the creepy, funny King Louie was perfect. Walken has that reputation in Hollywood.
  • Idris Elba voices the scary Shere Khan and provides a villain who is frightening, yet not so much that young children won’t be able to watch the movie.
  • Scarlett Johansson’s soothing, tempting voice was also a great choice for Kaa.
  • The wolf oath has been borrowed by the Boy Scouts of America, because it teaches some important principles still today!  The 8 year old boys in Cub Scouts repeat a somewhat different version each week in their gatherings.
  • Adorable, yet realistic creatures in the jungle.  The porcupine was an especially popular character for the audience.   
  • Pay close attention to this fascinating detail…there is a water scene where you actually see water splashes on the camera…but is there really a camera there or was it all CGI?
  • Honey IS actually good for scratches and bee stings!

Things I didn’t like:
  • There is nothing at the end of credits, so feel free to leave the theater after the last scene.  I was disappointed, because they could have easily added any number of fun nuggets to surprise and delight audiences.
  • Some of the CGI looks a little fake, but most of it is actually stunning.

Funny lines:
  •  “Bears don’t hibernate in the jungle.” – Bagheera 
“Not full hibernation, but I nap…a lot.” – Baloo

  • I realize you weren’t born a wolf, but couldn’t you just act like one?” - Bagheera
  • “If you can’t learn to run with the pack, one of these days, you’ll be someone’s dinner.” – Bagheera
  • “He’s walking on two legs!” – animal child at Peace Rock
“Don’t stare!” – animal’s shocked mother
  • “What did I tell you?  He’s special.” – Baloo talking about Mowgli
“I know.  I raised him.” - Bagheera

Interesting lines:
  • “If it’s meant to be, it will be.” – Raksha (Lupita Nyong’o)
  • “You have never been a more endangered species than you are in this moment.” - Baloo 
Tips for parents:   

  • There are some animal fight scenes that might frighten very young children.
  • Shere Khan has a scarred eye that makes him look scary.
  • No profanity.

Other great versions I loved of The Jungle Book :

Saturday, February 13, 2016

What's YOUR favorite chick flick or romance novel?

                         By Trina Boice

Happy Valentine's Day!
I wanted to feature a romantic movie on this special day.  Unfortunately, there are 2 mediocre chick flicks in theaters right now, nothing I can highly recommend.

One of them is based on the newest Nicholas Sparks books, and because this blog is all about reading and writing, I thought I'd feature this one below from my movie review blog.

One of my all-time favorite movies about true love is "The Princess Bride."  What is yours?

Movie Title:      The Choice

Grade:   C-

Rating:   PG-13, 1 hour 49 minutes

In a Nutshell:    My husband says that the definition of a Chick Flick is when two good-looking guys fall all over themselves for one spoiled girl.  If that’s true, then this is definitely a Chick Flick, although not a very good one.

One of the obvious choices in this formulaic movie isn’t just which guy to choose, but there are several others.  

Uplifting theme: 
  • “Life just keeps unfolding.  If you sit still, it’ll pass you by altogether.” – Gabby (Teresa Palmer)
  • “Life is held together by choices – all sizes.” – Gabby
  • “Opportunity is missed by most people, because it’s dressed up in overalls and looks a lot like work.” – Thomas Edison, as quoted by Shep (Tom Wilkinson)
  • “Every path you take leads to another choice.” – Travis (Benjamin Walker)

Things I liked:
  • Most of the movie takes place lakeside with beautiful views.
  • Cute puppies!
  • Teresa Palmer looks like the All-American girl next door.
  • Nicholas Sparks tries to add depth to his romantic stories.  His most recent tale-turned-Chick-Flick was “The Longest Ride.”  You can see my movie review of that film here.  That film did it much better than this one.
  • If you’re thinking about cheating on your boyfriend, you’ll see what a two-timer feels like.
  • There’s a funny proposal scene.

Things I didn’t like:
  • Everything about this movie is clichéd, even the clothing.  For example, he wears a tank top to show off his muscles and she wears a white t-shirt in the rain.
  • A lot of movie critics are begging Nicholas Sparks to stop writing such cheesy love stories that then get turned into sappy movies.
  • Benjamin Walker drinks bottles of beer in a weird way.  I know that seems nit-picky, but it bugged me.
  • They try to have clever chit-chat, but it comes out forced and predictable.  The actors look like they’re acting.
  • SPOILER ALERT:  A happy ending is an easy out.  The harder ending would have been to write something more interesting.
  • Both Travis and Gabby are too cocky for my taste.  They fight and bicker from the very first moment they meet, which is a clichéd, although not appealing, form of flirtation.
  • What kind of character does a girl have who jumps in bed with another guy when her boyfriend has only been gone a few days on a business trip?  Does true love excuse lack of integrity or morality? Um...nope.

Funny lines:
  •  “What are you doing?” – Gabby
“Walking towards you real slow.” – Travis
“Why?” - Gabby
“Cause if I ran, I’d scare you.”  - Travis
  • “Mama, he’s a walking cautionary tale.” - Gabby

Interesting lines:
  • “Has anyone ever said no to you?” – Gabby
“No.” – Travis
“Then, I’m making history.” - Gabby
  • “Your friends, family…that’s all you can count on in this world.  That’s what I believe.” – Travis
  • “I kind of fell into the Bible.  He wanted to burn it.” – Shep
  • “If you see a man sleeping on the cold floor, there’s sure to be a pretty woman nearby.” – Shep
  • “There’s no shame in being a broken man.  I should know. You just pick up the pieces and start rebuilding.” – Shep
  • “That’s all any woman wants…a man who’s going to fight.”   (for her)  - Monica (Alexandra Daddario)

Tips for parents:   

  • Girls falling out of their bikini tops.
  • One girl flips the bird.
  • Some profanity.
  • Two people jump in bed together on their very first date.
  • Take the opportunity to talk to your family about “Do Not Resuscitate” orders.  

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

How to write good

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Which is better: the book or the movie?

 By Trina Boice

This blog was started by several authors who love to write and talk about writing.

Who doesn't want to write an epic novel that inspires generations and movies?

"Call me Ishmael" is probably one of the most famous first lines of a novel. You were probably forced to read it in high school.  If not, then you may have noticed it in this weekend's box office hit "In the Heart of the Sea."

Below is my movie review of Hollywood's latest attempt to live up to an incredible book.  How did they do?

In a Nutshell:     1820. A giant, vengeful whale.  A ship.  A determined captain.  Man vs. beast.  Imagine Entertainment and Director Ron Howard create a visual masterpiece with unbelievable cinematography, sailing you to the “edge of insanity.”

This seafaring yarn graphically illustrates how Herman Melville’s famous novel Moby-Dick came to be.  While the screen definitely captures your attention, the storytelling has movie critics disappointed.  I was entertained and intrigued, as well as disgusted and exhausted. 

As always, the book is better than the movie, but these special effects are innovative and effective.

Uplifting theme: 
  • “Can man bend nature to our will? – Captain Pollard  (Benjamin Walker)
  • Persistence and tenacity will see you through.
  • Integrity is worth more than reputation or money.

Things I liked:
·         THOR!  If you’re not in awe of the giant whale, then you have handsome and studly Chris Hemsworth to stare at.
·         Believe it or not, I actually like it when there are water spots on the camera lens.  That tells me there was real water in the scene and not just CGI.  Then again, some of the scenes made me wonder if the water spots were CGI!  If so, nice detail!  The water scenes are so well done that sometimes you even feel like you’re going to get splashed on.
·         The scene with the blood raining from above was disgusting and extremely powerful.
·         I liked learning more about Melville, the author of Moby-Dick, and played by Ben Whishaw.
·         How did they get some of those amazing scenes?  Drones? 
·         Interesting camera angles.  I also love how the camera goes under the water and back above the water seamlessly.  Great underwater scenes.  You might feel like holding your breath.
·         I thought the whale pins were cool.  In order to earn one, young Tom Nickerson (Tom Holland) is told that “you have to thrust a killing lance into one of the largest beasts to grace this earth.”
·         I love the mention of Nathaniel Hawthorne.  Tom Nickerson asks “Have you read Hawthorne, Mr. Melville?  There’s a writer, great writer.”  Apparently, Herman Melville was quite taken with Hawthorne and even dedicated Moby-Dick to Hawthorne whom he compared to Shakespeare and called a genius.
·         Great sound effects, although sometimes a bit too loud.
·         I’ve always liked Charlotte Riley and wonder why we don’t see her more often.  She was really great in Ridley Scott’s medieval drama “World Without End.”
·         I’m always impressed with characters who rise above their temptations, like Cillian Murphy’s character, Matthew Joy. His resolve to not drink alcohol, even when things got tough, was inspiring and not seen often enough in movies.
·         I love that they included a quick shot of the words “My name is Ishmael” on the screen, which is the first sentence in the book Moby-Dick.

Things I didn’t like:
·         See it in 3D if you can, unless you get motion sickness.  You might get sea sick watching some of the scenes.  Just close your eyes for a few seconds and you’ll be fine.
·         Some scenes have so many loud noises between people yelling and waves crashing and boats creaking that you can’t quite understand what anyone is saying.
·         Animal activists will find many of the scenes unnerving.
·         I’ve never understood how all those sails and ropes work, but it’s always fascinating to watch sailors work it.
·         The scene that shows the ocean view from Owen’s house looks terribly artificial, but all of the other CGI scenes were very believable.

Interesting lines:
·         “Sometimes, the fewer questions one asks, the better.”   - Matthew
·         “I’ll come back as quick as a summer’s eve.” – Owen
“Just come back.” – Peggy
·         “Without you, the world plunges into darkness.” – Pollard senior
·         “Monsters, are they real or do the stories exist to respect the sea’s dark secrets?  The question both vexes and excites me.” – Herman Melville
·         “The whale?  So, it’s true?” – Melville
“Yes.  Too much is true.” – Nickerson
·         “The devil loves unspoken secrets.” –  Melville
·         “No right-minded sailor discards what might save him.” – Owen Chase
*    "We will surely perish out there." - Captain Pollard
       "We might also survive."  - Mr. Chase

Tips for parents:   
  • The sailors draw a picture of a topless woman.
  • Some profanity.
  • Several intense scenes with lots of blood and guts. 
  • Skeletons of dead guys might frighten young children.
  • Explain to your kids that a “greenhorn” is the old-fashioned way of saying “newbie”.

Sailing definitions:
Doldrums: an equatorial region of the Atlantic Ocean with unpredictable and often no winds
Port side:  left-hand side of a ship
Squall:  a sudden violent storm

I always do all the “talking” in these reviews, but I want to hear what YOU liked and didn’t like!  Please comment below!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

What writers and readers can learn from R.L. Stine and his Goosebump books

This blog is for writers who want to improve their craft and readers who love all things I thought it would be appropriate to include one of my recent movie reviews here!   
         by Trina Boice

Movie:    Goosebumps

Rating:    PG, 1 hour 43 minutes

Grade:   A

In a Nutshell:   If you grew up reading R.L. Stine's Goosebumps books or were a parent who read them to your kids like I did, you’re going to get a kick out of this homage to comedy horror stories and the author who gave them to us.

Sony Pictures Animation does a great job at blending reality with fantasy, mixed with sarcasm and romance.  Thanks for releasing it in time for Halloween!   “It gives me…oh what’s the word…goosebumps.”

Uplifting Theme:
·         “It’s time to face your demons…” – R.L. Stine
·         Connecting with real people.

Things I liked:
·         As an author, I love how the ink literally comes to life off the pages of the book.
·         I love how Slappy actually looks like Jack Black/R.L. Stine.
·         You gotta admire the way the real R.L. Stine is bringing new life and sales back to his books!  Brilliant!
·         Good for Amy Ryan for starring in 2 movies in theaters at the same time!  (Bridge of Spies )  I’ve always adored her ever since I first saw her do a Yoda impression on The Office: Season 5 .
·         See if you can spot the real R.L. Stine in his cameo at the school.  This is what he looks like in real life:

Things I didn’t like:
·         It was a little bit scawy…
-    It would have been fun to see more of the other characters R.L. Stine created in the movie.
-    Jack Black didn't have a mole on his forehead like the real R.L. Stine does.

Funny lines:  
·         “Dude, we should call the cops!” – Champ
“Have you met the cops in this town?” – Zach
·         “Is that your scream?” – Zach
“Don’t judge me.” – Champ
·         “What is that?” -    Aunt Lorraine   (played by Jillian Bell)
“I rub myself in cilantro every morning.” – R.L. Stine
·         “I don’t remember writing about a giant preying mantis!   (it then spews s sticky ick from its mouth)  “Right, now I remember.” – R.L. Stine
·         “Let’s split up!”  - R.L.
“No!  Haven’t you read any of your books?  We’re never supposed to split up!”  - Champ
·         “Look at this kitchen!” – Gale
“We don’t cook.” – Zach
“Well, look at all this counter space to put take-out on!” – Gale
·         “I’m going to get a start on decorating my room…knock it off my Bucket List.” – Zach
·         “I know I speak for the entire administration when I say how excited we are about this weekend’s dance.  We  can’t stop twerking about it.” – Gale
·         “Shut your mouth!” – Cop
“Ok, but that’s not going to help.”  - Slappy  (the ventriloquist dummy)

Things you learn about writing from R.L. Stine:
·         “Every story ever told can be broken down into 3 distinct parts: the beginning, the middle, and the twist.”
·         R.L. Stine wrote”THE GHOST NEXT DOOR book.  I guess he wrote about it twice.  Think about it.
·         “The night was cold.  Cold was the night.”  Word order is powerful.
·         “No, it doesn’t work unless it’s a real R.L. story with twists, turns and frights…and personal growth for the main character.”
·         Champ asks R.L. “Why did you have to come up with something so freaky?”  The author simply replies “I just have a knack for it.”    In other words, write what you know.
·         “Steve King wishes he could be me!  I sell way more books than him, but no one ever talks about that.”
·         “Why couldn’t you have written stories about rainbows and unicorns?”   - Champ
“Because that doesn’t sell 400 million copies.”   R.L. Stine
“Domestic?” – Champ
“No, international, but it’s still a very impressive number.  Shut up!”   R.L. Stine
·         “That typewriter is special.  It has a soul of its own.” – R.L.

Tips for Parents:
·         Some of the monsters can be pretty scary.  There are plenty of creepy things too, like clowns, ghouls/zombies, drooling werewolf with frightening teeth and claws, evil garden gnomes, dolls, bugs, aliens, etc.  R.L. Stine said in a recent interview with Plugged In that he didn't want to traumatize children who see the film, so you won't see any blood.
·         Explosions, violence, suspenseful chase scenes.
-    Topics addressed include evil, revenge, and love.

Can't get enough of R.L. Stine's Goosebumps? Check these out!