MOVIE REVIEW: The Maze Runner

I’m a huge fan of James Dashner’s Young Adult Maze Runner book series, so I was both excited and extremely concerned when I saw it was being made into a movie. However, my fears were unfounded for the most part. Like any movie adaptation, there are a few things that are different from the book, but it didn’t deviate enough to cause alarm (only enough to start righteous book rants in the theater when the lights come up).

MV5BMjUyNTA3MTAyM15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTEyMTkyMjE@__V1_The Maze Runner film, directed by Wes Ball, was very similar to the book by James Dashner. It was the same group of boys stuck in the glade surrounded by a maze that’s constantly changing and houses deadly creatures in the night.

The cast was a bit hit and miss. Thomas, played by Dylan O’Brien (also on MTV’s Teen Wolf), was phenomenal. He really captured the essence of being both afraid and driven to find a way out of the maze. Kaya Scodelario played Teresa and I wasn’t impressed. She had like ten lines and seemed very insignificant throughout the movie, when she’s a huge player in the book. Other standout characters were Minho and Galley.

The plot of the movie was nearly identical to the book from the way it starts with Thomas coming up in the elevator to the twist at the end. There were a few issues I had from a book-reader-holier-than-movie-watcher way. For example, the way they solve the code to get out of the maze wasn’t the same and the way the doors are locked open at night had slightly different results. The movie made it seem like it was random, where in the book, the Grievers had a very specific task to complete each night. The Grievers were close to how I imagined them, but they weren’t as grotesque. Also, there wasn’t much gore in the movie, which I recall there was more of that in the book. I was also a little disappointed they didn’t stick with the Gladers unique way of cussing. They preserved the curses, but they translated it to boring, real world terms.

Overall, I was thoroughly entertained. This is a fight-for-your-life kind of movie, definitely geared towards boys. However, if you love adventure stories, you’ll love this one. As always, I always recommend the book first, but the movie did it justice.

The one good thing about reading the book is you know what’ll happen next. I was amused at the flabbergasted expressions and remarks of disbelief from people in the theater at the end. All I could do was smile and say, “Wait until you get to book three; that’s when it gets really crazy!”

Great Book. Good Movie. Go see it!

STARS: 5 out of 5

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Movie Review: Divergent

untitledWhere’s the dauntless cake? Because that’s the only thing missing from Divergent the movie. (Hey, I think it’s important!) Sure there were a million other little things that can only be captured in the words of Ms. Veronica Roth herself, but I’m trying not to have a book-reader-holier-than-movie-watchers moment.

First, I’m still in full-on grieving mode from the conclusion of the Divergent series, Allegiant. So from the moment the movie started, I was on the verge of tears. (I know this makes me look like a psycho but it’s true.) Plus, it was so beautiful to see Divergent on the big screen because the book was so good. The world of Divergent was so vivid between the pages of Roth’s book, that it felt like I was seeing the movie for the second or third time because it looked/felt like the world I once delved into.

Overall, the movie followed very closely with the book with the exception of the dauntless cake and the subsequent “parent visit,” which is where Tris originally figures out her mother was once of a different faction. Everything else was pretty much by the book and each character was as sexy/scary/intimidating/funny as they were supposed to be. The action was awesome and the threat of becoming factionless was a tangible fear that I felt the audience really understood and could connect to.

I felt the character of Tris was wonderfully cast and I freakin’ loved her hair, like the entire time. Plus, who could forget Four who was absolutely perfect (which the actor is British in real life so his accent makes him even more swoon-worthy). I really enjoyed the tattoos and how they were important to who the dauntless were. Plus, getting to finally see Four’s tattoos was one of my favorite scenes.

Fans of the Divergent series will enjoy this movie. It’s true to Roth’s intentions and is filled with the same amount of danger and wonder from the books. The book will always be better but this movie was a beautifully-done adaptation that I hope will only draw more and more people to pick up the book and lose themselves in the “real” world of Divergent.

 STARS: 5 out of 5

MOVIE REVIEW: Les Misérables

51M1TsXn16L__SL500_AA300_I’ve had a great love of musicals since I popped in a VHS of Newsies in 1992. My love only grew as I got older discovering more and more amazing musical stories. It wasn’t until last year that I was exposed to Les Miserable, the musical (I know, waited long enough right?!) and I absolutely loved it. I watched the 25th Anniversary Concert Edition constantly, saw it live at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta and jammed out to Javert and Valjean in my car. I was truly inspired by the music but most of all by one of the greatest stories of judgment and redemption. The musical is based on the book with the same name by Victor Hugo, which is currently sitting on my very large, to-be-read list. I was ecstatic, but hesitant, when I heard it was going to be turned into a movie. However, the trailers took my breath away and I drug my husband to watch it in theaters the day after Christmas.

I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I can’t say that it blew me away. Nothing can compare to the special energy of seeing a musical on stage but the movie didn’t completely ruin it either. The best way to sum up how I feel about this movie is I enjoyed the actors/actresses that had done Broadway before. You could tell who they were; they could sing. I’m not saying the other big name actors couldn’t sing but they didn’t have that Broadway tone — that full, rich sound that fills giant theaters of expectant viewers.

One thing that makes this movie adaptation unique is there are no voice overs. What you hear is the actor actually singing as the scene is being shot. Anne Hathaway (as Fantine) did a memorable job and sounded really good compared to the other big name actors. I didn’t like how her acting got in the way of her singing, though. During “I Dreamed a Dream,” she was so busy crying, her notes sounded squashed and airy. This is Fantine’s moment! It needs to be epic!

I have to admit I despised Russell Crowe’s (as Javert) singing. It was so monotonous! Couldn’t they have picked someone else? He did a great job acting but the singing was mediocre. Javert is my favorite character, and I didn’t like Crowe’s rendition of him. Hugh Jackman (as Jean Valjean) did an amazing job acting. His singing was better than Crowe’s but still not up to par. I mean compared to Alfie Boe in the 25th Anniversary Concert Edition, who was the best Jean Valjean that has ever been, Jackman pales in comparison. He couldn’t hit those sweet high notes in “Bring Him Home,” which is my all-time favorite song in the musical.

Samantha Barks (as Eponine) was AMAZING! She was part of the 25th Anniversary Concert and she’s the perfect Eponine. Her voice was sweet, clear and perfect. She had me in tears during “On My Own” and “A Little Fall Of Rain.” Amanda Seyfried (as Cossette) was awful. She had the worst high-pitched vibrato that made all her notes too sharp. I want to cover my ears just thinking about it. Little Cossette, however, (played by Issabelle Allen) was PERFECT. “Castle On A Cloud” is another one of my favorites and she nailed it! Her sweet, innocent, desperate face on the cover of the movie poster makes my heart swell.

British actor, Eddie Redmayne (as Marius), had a peculiar tone that I can only describe as “ginger,” but his rendition of “Empty Chairs and Empty Tables” was breathtaking. I truly believed in his grief that couldn’t be spoken. He wasn’t what I pictured as Marius but he didn’t completely blow it either. I have to give a shoutout to Daniel Huttlestone (as the street kid, Gavroche). He played his part so well I cried. I could probably sit here and give you a whole character analysis but I’ll stop now. 🙂

In case you’re wondering, yes, you should see Les Miserables. If you’re in it for the story, the movie is just fine but if you’re in it for the singing. I’d go see it live or I’d recommend you buy/rent the 25th Anniversary Concert version. Overall, the movie wasn’t bad. I love this story. Everyone should see it, so any way it can be shared with others is a great thing.

Movie Review: Breaking Dawn Part 2

I finally had the chance to see the final movie in the Twilight Series, Breaking Dawn Part 2. I usually always go to the midnight show, (I’m a little hardcore about these things.) but life got in the way and I couldn’t go. (I guess that means I’m getting old…)
 
The best part of watching the Twilight movies is reliving the Twilight books all over again. As laughable as the first Twilight movie was, it was pretty close to what happened in the book. To me, that is the MOST important thing about a movie adaptation. The following Twilight movies got better and better with more money filing in due to the popularity of the series, and they always stayed true to the books. I haven’t read Breaking Dawn by Stephanie Meyer since the midnight book release in 2008 which I stayed up all night to finish. So, it was nice to be reminded of what happened and to see that the movie preserved some awesome moments, like when Bella freaks out at Jacob for nicknaming her daughter after the Lochness Monster. Priceless!
 
If you’re not a Twilight fan, this movie isn’t for you. But if you are, this final movie was a great ending to an amazing series. Kristen Stewart (who I honestly despise but put up with for the sake of Twilight) looked awesome as a vampire. I didn’t really buy her “mom” side but I wasn’t a fan of Stephanie Meyer ending her love story with a baby, anyway. It kind of creeped me out. Robert Pattinson (who I also despise but loved in Harry Potter) probably did his best acting as Edward Cullen and a caring father. I kind of liked him after it was all said and done. And Taylor Lautner as Jacob Black was as delicious as ever. (Team Jacob here!) The scene with Bella’s Dad, Charlie, was hysterical!!
 
I even loved all the secondary characters collected for the sake of the showdown with the Volturi. Although, there were only brief introductions, I thought it was just enough to cause attachment.
 
Now remember when I said I liked being reminded of what happened in the books? I kind of forgot what happened specifically. I knew how it ended but I couldn’t remember exactly what happened and I don’t want to spoil anything, but I was almost thrown off with everyone else who hadn’t read the book with Alice’s “vision” in the end. For a split second, I thought the movie producers took the movie down a different path. Thankfully, they didn’t.
 
It’s hard when a series ends. (I mourned for weeks after Harry Potter ended and again when the movies wrapped up.) It was the same with Twilight. I do remember being dissatisfied with the book, Breaking Dawn, simply because of the baby element but it was still a great series. The way the movie producers paid tribute to the movie series in the end was heart-warming. It really brought everything together and reminded viewers and readers alike of the journey that was Twilight, emphasizing the book itself.  I want to cry just thinking about it! Haters can hate, but Twilight was an amazing series. Edward, Bella and Jacob will be a staple for our generation.
 
I’d recommend seeing it. If you’re a fan, you won’t be disappointed. Another great series is under our generation’s belt, to join other series like Harry Potter. It’s sad when the final page is turned, but to live the journey makes it so unbelievably worth it.