Gone Girl and Two Movie Review Updates

Before I start my review of Gone Girl I would like to take a moment to review the movies I saw over the weekend. I gave my predictions of both Mama and Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters last Friday, and they both deserve an update.

I really enjoyed Mama. My prediction was fairly correct in that it did not haunt my dreams afterward, however it provided nice jolts throughout and the acting was great on most accounts. There was one thing (I won’t give anything away) that I did not like regarding a vision, but one fault in a horror is about as good as it gets. The ending (again no spoilers, I hate spoilers) was unexpected, but very much Guillermo del Toro style. I had my own idea of what was going to happen (something that tied into some information you get earlier on) and when it didn’t end that way I felt like it was a not the perfect ending. On the flip side I can’t say I was exactly disappointed either, it may not have been perfect, but it was the next best conclusion. Also, I have to say visually, it was disturbing, earthy and beautiful, again very del Toro. I change my rating to a 9/10.

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters was better than I expected. It definitely had The Brothers Grimm feel, but the story was really good and the one liners were funny. I walked in thinking the movie was PG-13, so half-way through you see girl butt and a boob and all I thought was “Can they do that in PG-13 now? Well alright.” Then came a series of head squishing and blood spurting, and I thought “No, no this has to be R.” It was funny how it took a lot to convince me it was R because the commercials, the witches character design, even the cast seemed to be lending to a PG-13 movie. Well, anyways (I just thought that was funny) the way they did the movie was a success. I think if any element was done differently the movie would have been how I predicted, not bad but nothing to get too excited for. I change my rating to an 8/10.

Ok now onto Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.

It’s hard to give a summary of this book without giving too much away. So we’ll go with this:

On his 5th wedding anniversary, Nick has breakfast with his wife, Amy and then leaves for work. He later finds the front door to his house wide open, the cat outside, and the living room a mess. His wife is gone. Who took her? Is she still alive? Was Nick actually involved? The cops seem to think he may be, especially as the investigation continues.

Like the synopsis? I know it doesn’t really give you anything to go off of besides “it’s an investigative thriller” so hopefully my spoiler-free review will.

I cared very little about the plot of this story. I did not care what happened in the story, it could have ended in any way and I wouldn’t have cared more one way than the other. That’s not to say the book was bad, in-fact I loved this book and the ending as well. I enjoyed what happened, how it progressed and all the twists, but I was too much enveloped by the characters to care what happened to them. I know that sounds weird, you’d think if I was so enveloped with the characters I would only care more about what their fate had in store, I know and I can’t really explain.

But I can try.

In many books, a bad plot is often waived by amazing characters, or terrible characters are only bearable because of the gripping plot. Don’t get me wrong, the plot for Gone Girl is great, no doubt, but when a good plot is so overshadowed by characters, characters that are literally fun to be around, you no longer care where they go, just as long as they keep going.

It wasn’t just Nick that was enthralling, every character, Amy, his sister, Go, the cops, the neighbors, the parents, every person was so concrete that you pictured this Mississippi Riverside town vividly.

But what made these characters so enriched? Well, to start the writing was solid. Each character was his own. All were convincing but the best thing about the characters was not one of them was perfect, and all of them were in some way very messed up.

I love messed up characters, especially ones as conniving, low, and downright crazy as the ones in Gone Girl. It makes you love them, it makes you hate them, it makes you not care what happens to them and love everything that does, all the good and all the bad they run into through the story… And there was a lot of bad!

So, if you want great characters that will stick with you, a twisting, deranged mystery that deepens as the story continues, pick up Gone Girl.

Also, one little thing I found interesting: in the acknowledgements Gillian Flynn talks about her son whom she simply calls Flynn. I think that for an author, who for whatever reason they may have, wants to not display their child’s name, simply calling them by the surname is kind of genius- and if I have a child I may do that someday.

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Bringing Up Books: Crank

When I picked this book up, I thought I would be in for a treat. I was excited about the format, and for some reason the short, thick dimensions were (unexpectedly) interesting in a good way. Ellen Hopkins decided to tell the story using free verse poetry, so of course I would like it. I love those odd, unique choices. I had read Zombie Haiku which is similar -using the little harmonic 3 lined poems to develop the apocalyptic struggle- short, but extremely successful, so I figured this would be just another verse-full joy. It was not.

Crank tells the story of a young girl, Kristina, who, on a 3 week vacation to see her father, becomes enamored with Adam, who then enables her to try Meth. Upon trying the drug, she falls into its addictive grip. Back from her vacation with her father, her struggle through her addiction becomes even more complicated when she is raped.

Hopkins’ novels are widely respected and simultaneously the center of controversy. She deals with hard subjects; drugs, sex, rape, and suicide and receives droves of criticism as a result. As a voice for these issues, she stands as a roughly real writer and people seem to either condemn her works or give exceptional praise for them. I find myself wanting to do neither.

Initially, I thought that because I have never done drugs there was a lack of connection to the character. Maybe that’s true, but I have not been completely shielded from drugs either. I know people , friends and family, who have suffered from such addictions, some people facing extremely similar situations and consequences. I think the feeling of a lack of connection was from something else. I think that Kristina’s sense of character is lost, which is sad because poetry is the medium in which the particulars a writer chooses to highlight in the story shows the audience the character and the scenes in such a vibrant, precise way. When you choose to write a book in only poetry, you need to allow that format to contribute those minute yet distinct details. It’s a challenge, a real, very difficult challenge that takes more than just knowing poetry and just knowing novels. You need to have a firm grasp of storytelling and movement, rhythm, syllabic importance -even if it is free verse, but above everything you need to be able to allow alterations to the story you have to tell and to the poetry in order to make the best work from them both. It’s a give and take when trying to make two things work together. In some cases what you have set in mind needs to be changed to make it work well. It’s tricky, especially when you are talking about taking a novel (wordy, descriptive in such a way that gives you the most amount of detail) and formatting it in poetry (precise, descriptive in the way that gives you only the most important details).

This novel has all the elements to a compelling story, it has characters that can be interesting, it even has a unique form and delivery, but for me it lacks. I understand it, I know there is pain, I hear the poetry, I can see why people love it and I can see why others hate it, but, for me, it still just lacks. Maybe it’s the sense of a lost connection. Maybe it’s simply that the reputation hyped it up and then it fell short by comparison. Or maybe it’s the choices Hopkins made while writing.

A teacher from high school once told me that the hardest part about writing is picking and choosing what to keep and what to scrap. It is completely true. All of those details you choose to give or cut really decides how well the work comes out. And with poetry it is even more important due to the brevity of the form. It makes me think that in Hopkins’ (undoubted) countless edits, amidst the trash and crumples, there lies pieces, fragments of the story, those little details that would have made a stronger connection and a very successful marriage of novel and free verse.

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Bringing Up Books: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

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Seth Grahame-Smith, the same author as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, wrote Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, a book definitely fitting his niche. However, in this book he uses Lincoln’s diary entries to work in his vampire world. Through “found” diaries of the late President we are able to follow Lincoln’s journey and his close tie to the vampire society. In his childhood he realizes a vampire kills his mother and sets his mind (and body) on hunting vampires.

The book has a few unexpected turns, and pleasant surprises (at least surprising me). I think this is Graham-Smith at the best I’ve ever read from him. Vampire Hunter works better than his Pride and Prejudice because he is not as entirely constrained by another authors text. Instead, he is able to use history and the journals to highlight his story, making it seem like the truth. The story has just enough violence balanced with an obviously heavily associated protagonist, but the other characters, like the vampire Henry, are just as well developed. There is a compelling sadness to the story, that really gives the novel a meaningfulness not often felt, especially for a mash-up fantasy, horror genre. I highly recommend.

P.S. I have yet to see the movie, so I can not compare the two. I am anxious to see how it compares, though. Soon. Soon.

Bringing Up Books: The Princess Bride

The Princess Bride by William Goldman is a novel about a young girl, Buttercup, who swiftly becomes one of the most beautiful girls who have ever lived, and how she fell in love with Westley. Soon after they proclaim their love, Westley sets out for America vowing to return with the means to make a comfortable life for them. However, his ship is captured by the Dread Pirate Roberts, known for leaving no survivors. Upon hearing of Westley’s death, Buttercup is devastated and when offered marriage to Prince Humperdinck, accepts under the knowledge that she will never love again. But before the wedding, Buttercup is kidnapped by 3 criminals, each with their own very unique and interesting back stories, and all are followed by the man in the black mask.

I remember seeing this movie as a kid and not really liking it. Then, I saw it again much older and found it hilarious. The book is way better than the movie (aren’t they always?). Seriously, the book has a bit more graphic details, (Inigo , the expert swordsman, shoving his hand into the wound in his stomach to stop the bleeding, for instance) and much more satire. This book had me laughing to myself quietly, really trying not to disturb the people around (I’m sure they just think I’m crazy, that’s fine). It really is “high adventure and true love.”

One thing in particular about this book that caught me off guard was the author introduction, the footnotes, or breaks in the story that give Goldman the chance to explain his abridgment. I found them amazingly entertaining. I loved this rendition so much, I wanted to attempt the crazy long S. Morgenstern original, only when I googled it I found that all of that was fake. William Goldman wrote everything, and his life as described -fake. Lies and devices for entertainment. Well, it worked. But a part of me is really sad that the lawsuits Goldman “faced,” were falsified, and that Stephen King does not have distant family in Florin. I was duped. Hats off to Mr. Goldman, a great storyteller.

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Bringing Up Books: The Host

The Host by Stephanie MeyerStephanie Meyer

Gah, I might have to change my Bringing Up Book from Wednesdays to Saturdays. Either way, my goal is to bring you a book review once a week. Here is for this week. ūüôā

I have to start this review off by first giving a brief of Twilight. I read Twilight, I thought it was ok. I prefer my vampires to be non “vegetarian” and not sparkly. However, I think that Meyer’s series adds some interesting aspects, like vampire powers and the Volturi are interesting. Her story behind the “werewolves” is also unique, although they are technically shape-shifters, I think that makes it better. Anyways, Twilight was not particularly written well, until you get to Breaking Dawn. It still has issues, but her¬†writing¬†definitely¬†develops.¬†Meyer put out The Host while around the same time as Breaking Dawn and readers will appreciate the improved writing as well as a better story.

The world has been taken over by “souls,” alien life forms that travel from world to world to¬†experience¬†different ways of living. They individually insert themselves into a host and live life similar to us. When only small groups of humans remain, the souls begin to use the root through the minds of the hosts in order find the¬†rebellious¬†remaining humans. Wanderer is one such soul,¬†inserted¬†into Melanie, a young strong willed girl. When Wanderer starts searching through her mind, Melanie begins to push back, pushing her emotions onto the soul. Wanderer begins to sympathize and even miss Melanie’s brother, Jamie and her boyfriend, Jared. Winning more control over the emotions¬†Melanie¬†is¬†soon¬†able to control her limbs to some extent. With the help of Wanderer they find her family and a small community of people hiding in caves. As much as Melanie wishes to reconnect with them, they do not accept her into the community because as revealed through her eyes, she is no longer Melanie, but a soul. However, Wanderer begins to show her compassion for the human race and Melanie begins to show everyone she is still in there.

I really enjoyed this story. I thought it had a unique perspective, giving both a human side to being taken over and the souls¬†exploratory¬†side. Although it is classified as a sci-fi/romance, it is not overly saturated with the love story. It’s also about survival and understanding. The setting is also great, timed after the initial invasion, with only small¬†communities¬†of humans hiding from souls. For anyone who loves Twilight, you’ll enjoy the nearly triangulated love scenario, and for everyone else who thought Bella was a hormonal wishy-washy schoolgirl, you’l like the complication that it is really 2 girls in one mind, sharing emotions and not understanding how to deal with the people they both come to care for. The characters handle things in a more adult manner.

The movie comes out March 2013, starring Diane Kruger and Saoirse Ronan, two actresses I absolutely love. Read the book first, trust me, even if you hate Twilight, you’ll probably like this.

 

Bringing Up Books: Guilt By Association

Guilt By Association by Susan R. Sloan 

Karen Kern is a spirited young woman who, at a¬†pivotal¬†point in her life – right before marriage and really coming into her own, becomes a victim of rape. Near death, she is discovered the following morning, but though she knew her attacker, her word against his left him uncharged and free to go. The story then follows Karen through her life and the challenges and consequences that have resonated from that singular event; a family that shoves the rape under the rug, a mother who blames her, a boyfriend who she can’t bear to tell the truth. She copes, she grows, she changes. In a time where women were expected to marry and raise children, where their voice held far less than a mans, Karen finds herself pushed onto another path, one that eventually leads her back to her date-rape assailant (who has grown successful and trustworthy). A path that allows her some final closure.

Again, this is another book whose characters are so vivid, they all have just enough detail to either love them or hate them. In moments I hated his book, because, like one commentator on Amazon pointed out, Karen is strong and vulnerable, lovable and flawed -she is human, so she makes mistakes and deals with her challenges in real ways. This book is set during the cusp of women’s acceptance in the workforce and having a different life than marriage and motherhood and encompasses the transition from traditional thinking.

Bringing Up Books: Ghosts That Have Haunted Me

Ghosts That Have Haunted Me by John Kendrick Bangs

I know, I missed last weeks Bringing Up Books post. Between lighting off fireworks for the fourth of July and jumping on a plane the following evening after work to spend an extended weekend in Winnemucca, Nevada with family, I was fighting for time just for sleep. So I apologize for the lack of activity, but I am (hopefully) making amends by bringing up a very entertaining short story, one I hope is new to you. And, as an added treat check out my Winnemucca post for some pictures and fun information about my trip.

John Kendrick Bangs begins his short story by explaining his (or the narrators) ideas on ghosts as well as transgressing to highlight his idea on writing truth. He tells that ghosts are really just creatures that make humans respond by physically rejecting them and that if we could overcome the physical repulsion people would be able to converse, respect and understand the paranormal creatures. His transgression into writing on truth reveals that he believes that a person ought to transform what they see into their art, in an accurate depiction of what the believe as truth -a perception is reality theory. Then he begins to account three separate instances in which he had the opportunity to overcome the physical and mentally accept the ghosts that appeared to him.

What I love about this story is  that truth is constantly bought up, as well as affirmations of the narrators honesty. While the narrator constantly reminds the audience of his trustworthiness, he embellishes his stories and accents them with extreme precision of details. It is not a frightening read, as I had believed by the title, but really funny. I was laughing the whole way through.