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Jackie Movie Review

Last Wednesday, I went to a screening of Jackie.

This was the third free screening that I had attended at various theaters around Atlanta in less than three weeks. I had also just finished my very last final of the semester at ten o’clock that morning. I was completely packed and ready to go home the next day. All in all, I was giddy from good luck, excitement, and relief. Going to see the movie was my only plan for the evening, and it was a good and welcome one.

I went with Sam, my friend and cohort in many an interesting Uber excursion. She too had survived the biology exam with me hours before, and I thought it would be a perfect thing to do together before the holiday.

img_2486It was. We were a bit rushed and had very little time to take in the surroundings of the Tara Cinemas, however. We arrived inside right at seven o’clock, the movie’s schedule start time, and were directed to the last remaining seats. And where were these seats, you ask?

Why do you ask. They were in the very front row.

Fortunately, there was a distance between the front row and the screen that is unique, I think, to smaller, less commercial movie theaters. Also fortunately, we at least got to sit in the very middle of the row, so it was more of an IMAX experience than a sideways, off-kilter one.

When the movie began, the magic happened, as they say. I was first struck by how well-framed everything was. Media studies nerd-alert, I know. But Natalie Portman is completely and perfectly positioned throughout the entire film. Her face is balanced in each shot, the cars are centered or not, the buildings, etcetera. The lighting, the eerie music, you name it. It felt appropriately complex and calculated. The cinematography felt as heavy but significant as the material it conveyed. It alone was exquisite.

Then, of course, there was the way that the story was told. I had no idea how they were going to approach it beforehand. Would it chronicle JFK’s assassination from the eyes of Jackie in order of the events as they occurred? Would the movie’s plot take place years later? Where would it begin? These questions are answered almost as quickly as they are asked; a reporter on screen immediately knocks on Jackie’s door. He is interviewing her after JFK’s funeral. Later, of course, time is further skewed by the presence of a priest, but for the most part the movie progresses through a series of flashbacks and storytelling through the eyes of Natalie Portman as Jackie herself. I thought that this was a very compelling way to tell the story, as it allowed viewers to go back and forth from the impact of the assassination on both the United States and mental state of Jackie O, as well as the time in the White House before, when everything was beautiful and lovely and there was no danger of losing everything. This contrast was clear, emphasized, and horribly sad.

t-natalie-portman-jackie-kennedy-first-lookApart from the manner in which the story was told, there was the actual acting, the talent, that brought everything lovely and terrible to life. Natalie Portman was perfect. Like, Oscar-worthy perfect. She perfectly embodied Jackie’s grace, elegance, strength. At times it was unclear if she knew what she wanted, or what her relationship with JFK was really like, but I will attribute this to my admittedly scant knowledge of the Kennedys. Portman, however, became Jackie, completely exposing the psychological impacts that such a trauma would have on one’s self, life, family, and desires. She was luminary.

By the end of the film, it was as though I had been punched in the gut, without actually knowing why. It was such a strong film, perhaps. Or maybe the performance and final messages were just dumbfounding. In any case, I wanted to sit in the dark and quiet theater for as long as possible, not ready for the experience to be over.

When Sam finally dragged me up, though, I looked around and realized, for the first time, that we were the youngest people in the theater. Everyone was in their late thirties at least, and most seemed even older. A lady with white hair who had been sitting beside me, I realized, had actually been sniffling and trying not to cry. As we walked up the aisle, I heard discussions about the film begin to pick up all around us. They were debating the portrayal of Jackie, admiring or disputing the choice in actors, questioning how they found such a spot-on JFK look-alike, pondering the merits of that manner of storytelling.

There was a line to the bathroom, which was small and cramped and almost welcomed not only jokes about how cramped it was, but discussions about the film we had all just seen as well. One woman asked us what we thought of the movie, and we talked for a bit before learning that she was six years old at the time of JFK’s funeral, and remembered watching every detail on TV. “It was really a spectacle,” she said. I couldn’t tell if she said this reverently or not before it was time to wash my hands.

img_2489After leaving the tiny space, we were left to a nearly empty lobby. Nearly empty, accepting the sitting area complete with armchairs and a coffee table with a chess set, where several individuals were continuing their film debates at greater length. Critics! I thought excitedly, even though I have no idea if they actually were.

All around was an air of creativity, a feeling of philosophy and thought, complex analysis of film and art. There were movie posters for upcoming indie movies that I have been longing to see for ages scattered about the walls, and as we waited for our Uber back to reality, I walked around slowly, breathing it all in. I loved it—Jackie, the experience, everything. I loved discussing the story with the stranger in the line to the bathroom; I gained a new perspective. I loved watching an amazing performance from what probably wasn’t even a flattering angle. And I loved going to a new place, full of exciting, artistic, forward and critical thinking. I was in my element. And I can’t wait to go back. Very, very soon.

Rating: 9/10

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas


IMG_4006Let’s talk Throne of Glass.

I think this was the fastest I’ve ever read (listened to) an audiobook. I picked it up (not literally) because everyone online raves about it, has been raving about it. They go on and on about the love triangle and“awesome” fantasy elements. They fangirl over their “favorite bad*ss female heroine,” Celaena Sardothien. I’ve been curious about it all for a while.

I finally started it…and read it…and was swept into the messy sea of drama and magic…and yelled and groaned at it…and finished it. It was nothing like what I thought it would be, but I really liked it. It was entertaining, exciting. I couldn’t stop listening—I had to know what became of Celaena, where Chaol was, what the wyrdmarks meant.

Throne of Glass was fast-paced and amusing, but oftentimes unbearably confusing and, well, predictable and irritating. I’m still confused about the wrydmarks, to be honest. It took Celaena entirely too long to figure out what they sort-of meant. And why was she so unconcerned? Sure, she did research, but if evil forces are after someone so used to fighting, why didn’t she get more involved?

For a kick*ss assassin, Celaena also spent an awful lot of time threatening people but not doing anything early on. That is, anything other than going back and forth between Dorian and Chaol and puppies and music  and not liking to kill people and dresses and jewels and wanting blood. She was well-rounded; she had a “soft, kind-hearted girlish side” to balance out literally being an assassin. This made her more relatable, more human, but for a while it was like Maas was trying to make her everything, every heroine she could, wrapped into one.

This isn’t to say that I didn’t like Celaena, though. In fact, she was great—sometimes annoying, but always brave and sassy and strong. She stood out in this way from the very first page. I immediately liked her, cheered her on, felt pain for her, wanted her to win. She definitely grew on me throughout the book. She was my second favorite character. Chaol was my first, but more on that in a bit.

Another issue I had with Throne of Glass was the world. I have absolutely concept of it. I don’t even know what it’s called. Eralia? I know that magic was outlawed, and could imagine the grounds really well due to the beautiful imagery. But the names were so similar, and the politics were so shaky. It didn’t seem very well-developed. Why there are death camps? Why was Celaena captured? Why were there rebellions? The king—what? Who? He has a PLAN? What’s his plan? I have no idea. The king and so many of the characters seemed just as flimsy as the political atmosphere, just as one-dimensional.

And the fae, the MAGIC. I’ve never really read anything about fae before, and this book didn’t help me out at all. It didn’t help that I wasn’t even expecting magic. I was getting a really strong Hunger Games vibe, so I was pretty surprised (startled) halfway through the story when fairies and magic rune things began appearing, casually. And the demons and characters that like…don’t go away, just come and go?

Speaking of characters, where was Chaol for half of the book? His POV was SO underrepresented. Who cares about Dorian that much, anyway?

Oh, and what was the court doing? I loved the ball, I wanted more to happen at the ball! Where was the Queen? And Kaltain? Her POV in particular was shown so infrequently that it seemed as though her plotting never led to anything. At some points I forgot that she was a problem.

There were several problems, conflicts faced by the characters, though, that I was completely blindsided by. (Not by Cain, he was obvious. I rolled my eyes at him. OH, and the hidden passageway. That was so obvious too.) But the PLOT TWISTS! Those were excellently executed. They took me by surprise, twisted the story at just the right moment. 

I really did like Throne of Glass, don’t let my confusion and numerous complaints throw you. I enjoyed the action, the plot twists, the sass. I loved the tests, especially the wall-climbing and poison testing scenes. The main characters were so interesting, and had great chemistry. And the BANTER! So cute.

I would definitely recommend this book if you like YA magic and fantasy and love triangles. I would not recommend it if you are used to Game of Thrones politics and intrigue. I would also not recommend reading it as an audiobook. (At all. Usually I’m fine with them, but all of the quick magic scenes and world-building was completely lost on me. I might reread it at some point, but goodness.)

Despite this…print copy of Crown of Midnight, here I come.

Similar to: The Hunger Games (the characters, action, and competition), The Selection (the setting and castle vibe, the competition), Graceling (the magic)

Rating: 3.5…ok 4/5 stars

Zootopia Movie Review

Ok but…why was Zootopia so freaking good?

It seems like it would be silly, another random animated “kid” Disney movie. It seems like it would be cute, definitely—but juvenile. Ok, it was obviously adorable…but “juvenile,” shallow? Far from it. The storyline was full of twists and turns, full of action and adventure.

And holy cow were there twists and turns. (See what I did there?) I got more antsy during this movie than I have for an episode of CSI or any Bond movie in forever. It was well-paced, smart. I had no idea what was going to happen next, and I was shocked and pleasantly surprised by how complicated and well-thought out everything was. Like, the animation was great, obviously, but the STORYLINE! The storyline won.

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It was really heavy on low-key (and ok, maybe not so low-key) life lessons, as well as action. This is typical of animated films, but each point was so thought-provoking, so valid. “Predators versus prey” easily translated into “the big kids and the bullies versus kids, little people.” It also emphasized determination and perseverance. The main character, Judy Hopps, for example, is one of these said “little people”—she’s a rabbit, she’s prey. But she wants to be a police officer so badly that she lets nothing stop her. It doesn’t matter that she’s the First Bunny Cop Ever (an official title), it doesn’t matter that Zootopia, her idealistic haven of equality and justice, is not as fair and perfect as she imagined. Judy keeps trying, keeps sleuthing, keeps working hard. She tries to prove the “big guy” wrong. And, not even spoiling anything, she does. She gets two-hundred parking tickets in one day. She catches a bad guy on her own. She out-wits a fox. And she’s so sassy all the while, it’s great.

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This movie also emphasized teamwork, and not judging others based on how they look. Which goes back to the whole “animal-instincts/predator-prey thing:” the predators are not always the bad guys. Foxes can be kind. Lions can be weak.

…And moles can be the Godfather. Because ok, OH MY GOD THE GODFATHER REFERENCES. Sorry to change the subject completely from morals and everything, but there were so many Godfather references! Entire scenes, the mole daughter getting married off, the “deal [they] couldn’t refuse”…. This was one of many of the movie’s clever highlights for me, one that absolutely no little kid would get (except maybe mine one day, obviously).

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There was a Frozen reference as well, which I really appreciated (*cough* Weaselton *cough*). And the SATIRE. There was a whole thing on cops generally being big tough males, and THAT got slammed. Oh, and SLOTHS RUNNING THE DMV? Perfect. It was these little dialogue details and connections, this satire, as well as Judy’s quick banter, that was essentially icing on the already excellent metaphorical cake.

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I highly recommend this movie with a target audience of less than half my age, a movie that made me yell at the screen, a movie that I wish I had written and designed, a movie that I was blown away by and can’t wait to watch and marvel at again. Zootopia was wild. Pun intended.

Rating: 9/10 stars

Me Before You

I don’t usually read what all of the BookTubers and Bookstagrammers are reading—at least not when they’re currently raving about and reading it. This isn’t on general principal, I just rarely have time, and am usually already reading something else anyway. But when I needed a new audiobook, I ran to the supposedly special and uber hyped-up little red book with swirly white letters on the cover. Especially since I had heard there was a movie coming out “sometime soon”—a movie starring none other than Daenerys Targaryen and Finnick Odair themselves.

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But then I actually started reading Me Before You. And I fell in love. And there is nothing fleeting or flippant about it.

Me Before You tells the story of a young woman named Louisa Clark who needs to find a job—and herself. She finds the former as a carer for quadriplegic Will Traynor, a man who has lived and loved and lost. He teaches her to embrace everything she has, everything she could have, and everything she could be.

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This sounds super cheesy—like, almost worthy of being photographed for social media but ripped apart in reviews. But it’s really worthy of so much more.

Yes, Louisa and Will fall in love. Spoiler alert. But the book doesn’t focus on this aspect of their relationship. It focuses on them as people, helping one another, living together and caring for one another in the limited ways that they can. It also focuses on their clever banter, which absolutely killed me. Louisa is hysterical—so awkward, so adorable, so relatable. Will is smart, sharp. Moyes’ characterization of them was impeccable. By the end of the story I felt like both characters were part of me. Or at least my children or something.

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Anyway, I absolutely adored the book. I loved the conflicts, the jokes, the message to live boldly. I easily forgave the pointless perspective changes, the sometimes annoying excess of sister drama (I hated Trina so this was amplified). I cried while listening to it. In my car. While driving down the road. Yeah. It was that good.

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So you can see why I was a little surprised when I didn’t shed a single tear when I saw the movie last night. I went to the screening at the Regal Theater in Atlantic Station, hosted by Warner Brothers and Harper’s Bazaar (thank you so, so much!). It was a good movie, but was nothing compared to the movie in my head, nothing compared to the book.

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Want some, Lou?

My main disappointment was due to how much of the story was omitted in the film. The backstory about why Lou isn’t as daring as she once was, why she hates the castle? Nope. Moving in with Patrick, fighting with the Traynors about taking Will places? Nothing. The freaking BUMBLEBEE TATTOO? NADA. Too many crucial, interesting, and character-bonding conflicts are smoothed over and erased.

Other than this, the movie was great. In fact, it was probably great to anyone who hadn’t read the book. Why so great? I don’t know, ask the Mother of Dragons and the darling of the Capitol. They were brilliant. Emilia WAS Louisa, and Sam WAS Will. She was so bubbly, so happy, so Lou. He was so rough and quick-mouthed, but later so kind. They were exactly what I imagined the characters to be like, right down to the facial expressions and costumes.

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This was the best part of the movie to me. Despite the simplified plot, despite everything happening so quickly, despite the imperceptible but pointless tweaks here and there, the movie Me Before You was mostly true to the book. But more importantly, it was true to the characters. Right down to the sparkly Wellies and bumblebee tights.

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Live boldly, all. “Just…live.”

Book: 5/5 stars

Movie: 7/10 stars

The Martian

the-martian-reviewWhen the Oscar nominees were announced, my mother and I set to work watching the Best Picture films. We struggled through The Revenant and sat enthralled by Spotlight and squirmed throughout Room. We watched them all—all, that is, except for The Martian.

We deftly avoided The Martian because—you can probably see this coming—I wanted to read the book.

And the only problem with this was that…I was reading four other books at the time. Four! Oh school.

While sitting boredoutofmymind in traffic one day, however, the solution was painfully clear: I should try an audiobook. Youtubers praise them, bloggers are mad about them.

So I tried it. And I am oh so glad that I did. The 300+ page book, of course, became a ten hour long story, but this is my only complaint. For I truly enjoyed hearing about Mark’s adventure from his own perspective, and the narrator’s voice became his voice to me.

So yeah, the audiobook, my first actual novel audiobook, was excellent. But I’m also pretty sure it was so great because the story and characters themselves were too. Bravo, Andy Weir.

rs_560x415-150608110132-1024-the-martian-cm-6815_copyThe Martian is such a good story—no matter what form it is told in or read from.

For those who don’t know, The Martian in a nutshell: really funny spaceman and crew travels to Mars, something goes wrong, crew leaves funny spaceman on Mars because they think he’s dead but spaceman really survives keeps surviving until he almost dies like five times and finally Earth realizes he’s alive and then they communicate and—Okay that’s all you get. No spoilers, right?

I loved Mark. I liked his optimism, his sarcastic sense of humor, his love of duct tape. I admired his “I better get to work so I don’t die on a planet by myself” attitude. I enjoyed every joke about disco, every panic-filled stream of curse words.

The story was constantly exciting—something kept going wrong, a canvas kept tearing, things kept depressurizing. And yet Mark never gave up.

The scienceaustronautchemistbotanist lingo and tech speak were plentiful, sure. A lot of people who reviewed the book thought that it was “so boring” because of this. However, I didn’t think that it was too much. I appreciated the fact that all of the science and math was accurate. The author? Yeah, he’s like a legitimate computer programming math wiz. I thought all of this information, in fields so foreign to me, was truly fascinating. I think I learned a little bit too.

the-martian4-1940x1289I made it through the book in a couple of weeks, diligently and eagerly listening to Mark’s misadventures as I drove to and from work and school. I watched the movie the very next night. It too was excellent: well-paced, great characters and casting, exciting, funny. And very, very Oscar worthy. I would know, I’ve seen all of this year’s Best Picture noms now!

Anyway, I genuinely enjoyed the book and the movie and I would highly recommend it to anyone who asks (or doesn’t).

Book: 4/5 stars

Movie: 8/10 stars

(Side note, I completely ship Johannsen and Beck and want to read the story from solely their POV. They literally fall in love in space and everything. Bless you Hollywood for adding the ending where they are happily married and have a baby but oh my goodness.)

Far from the Madding Crowd Movie Review

IMG_5110In the beginning of the movie, Bathsheba Everdene (played by Carey Mulligan) promises that she will astonish everyone. And astonish them she does.

Everdene is an orphan and a farmer who, after a stroke of good fortune (or bad fortune, it depends on how you view the death of an uncle), inherits an extremely wealthy and large estate. Everdene is strong, independent, and hardworking; she isn’t afraid of getting her hands dirty.

The story revolves around her independence and identity, her farm, and her love life, of course. And what a love life it is – she meets and wins the hearts of not one or two but three very different men. These men each come into and out of her life at various points in the story. They cause all sorts of problems, both internally and externally (let’s just say, there’s a gun involved). One of these suitors, however, does nothing but help and care for Everdene. He remains at her side through it all, even when she is oblivious.

This movie is easily one of my Top Five Favorite Movies Of All Time – maybe even top three. (It still doesn’t surpass Joe Wright’s Pride & Prejudice, though.) But seriously, I loved this movie. The actors, the acting, the setting, the costumes, the dialogue, THE STORY ITSELF – all SO good.

IMG_5097It wasn’t like one of Joe Wright’s period films (speaking of P&P); Far from the Madding Crowd didn’t seek to make every room or letter or teacup stunningly beautiful. But that was completely okay. I didn’t even notice much other than the story and the action – which were gripping. Occasionally infuriating and odd (the Valentine? Really?), but encaptivating.

Because the heroine takes what is, generally, the position of a man during this time period, a lot of gender role issues were explored. Everdene is, like I said, extremely independent; she does not want a man to tie her down. She’s a woman, but knows that she doesn’t need a man, although society around her claims otherwise. When businessmen try to scrimp on her payments simply because she is a woman, she won’t have it; she holds her own against them and finds that she can be successful on her own. Little feminist that I am – you know that I got fired up. This quote especially gave me chills – 

“It is difficult for a woman to define her feelings in a language chiefly made by men to express theirs.”

I’m not sure if the book that this movie is based on portrays this same #YesAllWomen idea, but if it does, that’s pretty revolutionary for this time period. Especially since it was written by a man.

IMG_5104I know that there are some issues that were too brief, too vague, which is the peril of many such movies. For example, I’m not sure how Everdene inherits her uncle’s land to begin with, because this is England in the 1800’s. However, I’m sure that this, and many other significant plot developments, are much more clear in the book – which is officially on my short TBR list.

Basically, this movie is everything that I love (period film, England, feminism, and romance) all rolled up into one. I highly recommend it to those who enjoy period pieces with strong but wronged female leads, such as Jane Eyre or The Duchess.

I, for one, was truly and wonderfully astonished.

9.5/10 stars

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

IMG_4199I committed the unforgivable book sin of watching the movie before reading the book.

Who can blame me though – I got free tickets! (Thank you, Fox Searchlight!)

The movie was playing at the Landmark Midtown Art Cinema in Atlanta. It is the cutest little arthouse, complete with flowering trees and twinkling Christmas lights. I went with my mom, and we were completely prepared to cry.

We were not prepared to laugh our heads off. It was so funny I wanted to punch myself in the face.

(Not really, of course. Greg just says that a lot in the book and I find it humorous. I mean, just picture it.)

I know that laughing during a movie about a girl who is dying from cancer sounds morbid; I’ve gotten several strange looks while referring it to people for its comedic value. But I’m not kidding. It was mostly funny because of Greg and Earl, but comedians such as Nick Offerman (Greg’s dad) and Molly Shannon (Rachel’s mom, Denise) lit up the screen as well. Nick Offerman walking around in a robe holding Cat Stevens – don’t get me started.

It was the kind of movie that makes you cry with laughter and with sadness. But I didn’t really mind looking like a mess in a movie theater – it was that good.

It was so good, in fact, that I read the book solely to compare the two story formats.

First, there’s “me” – Greg, the novel’s brutally honest and extremely apathetic narrator. He’s flawed: he doesn’t care about the future, is lazy, and has a very low self-esteem. (In the book, this is sometimes exaggerated to an obnoxious extent. I was less annoyed with him in the movie.)

This isn’t to say that I hated Greg, or that he’s a bad character. He’s actually a really good character, one who is startlingly real. He makes bad jokes and has girl problems. His family is a bit odd, and school stresses him out. He felt like one of my brothers.

Greg’s tone throughout the novel is the kicker. It’s laced with humor, completely off-the-wall (but weirdly accurate) analogies, and his unfiltered thoughts about people and situations that he observes.

Then there’s Earl.

Earl is probably my favorite character. He’s so funny – crude, but funny. It takes a while to realize this, but Earl is much more mature and thoughtful than Greg. He calls Greg out on his crap, makes him take responsibility, makes him think. I felt like I knew Earl too, like he was someone I go to school with.

And we can’t forget about the dying girl.

I mean, even though the book seems to.

Seriously. I could easily count the number of chapters that Rachel is actually in. There are very few of them. Reading the book, I didn’t know her at all. It’s told from Greg’s memories and mind, and he’s so caught up with himself and conversations and making the film that, as a reader, I don’t even feel like Rachel was a real person. She was a shadow character.
me-and-earl-and-the-dying-girlThis is where the movie shone. The movie brought Rachel to life. It brought us out of Greg’s head and into his school, into Rachel’s house, into Mr. McCarthy’s office. (Why does the history teacher have an office? Whatever – respect the research.) The movie added humor (the scene in class where Greg discovers how he got high – not in the book) and took away useless factors (like Greg’s sisters, and the fact that he used to date Rachel). The movie was also nice because it showed bits and pieces of the films that they made. Because let’s be honest – it’s weird to read about someone doing stop motion.

Finally, the film added a level of depth and emotion that the book lacked. Like I said, everything in the book is told directly from Greg’s perspective, while in the movie you can see him struggle with things and see people interact with him. It’s less biased, in a way. You grow to love Rachel, and cry when it’s time for prom (also not in the book). The Greg in the book never would have done what Movie Greg did in this scene. Movie Greg does learn from Rachel’s situation, while Book Greg just seems to sort of move on.

(If that was vague, my apologies. Spoilers and whatnot.)

Long story short, the movie was perfect, and the book was pretty good. Weird as this sounds, I might like the book more because I saw the movie first, and because it was so good. I definitely would (and have) recommend(ed) this book and movie to others.

Who knew that a book/movie about a girl with cancer could be so funny?

Book: 4/5 stars

Movie: 9/10 stars (IMDb scale)