New Year’s Resolutions: Reading List for 2015 (Updated 3/13)

Hey everyone! It’s exciting to be back after taking a 2 1/2 week-break from blogging at All Eyes On Screen. I had a wonderful Christmas and fun New Year’s celebration with family and friends in both my hometown state of Illinois and my current residence in Wisconsin. While I was starting to take down all of my holiday decorations, I was thinking through all of the resolutions I have for this new year that has already started. Reviving All Eyes On Screen in 2014 was one of the most fulfilling and fun resolutions to accomplish. As I’m looking to the future, I hope to continue to update and improve All Eyes On Screen, from upping the quality of writing content, to publishing more posts on a consistent basis. I anticipate some major changes happening personally in my life over the next year, but I am hoping to learn to balance my time better, and regularly write for the site. With that all said, I do realize that breaks from writing will be inevitable and necessary to take from time to time; however, I will be aiming to publish posts as consistently and regularly as possible. Looking to the future of 2015, I have been composing lists of resolutions that will serve as an accountability and goal for me to work towards bettering myself and All Eyes On Screen. My first goal related to the site is to read more books. So many of the movies we see today are based on someone’s written work, and I think we often get a more well-rounded view and appreciation for source material when we read it. I’ll admit that I’m not a huge reader, but I’d like to change that. I read ten books in 2014, so I’d like to improve that number by reading twenty-five books over the year 2015. I’ve separated my list into sections that I can work towards. Note: I’ve starred all the books that have (or will have) a movie/TV adaptation (that I’m aware of) with one star. I added a second star for all of the movie/TV adaptations I’ve already seen.


 Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge

This past year, I just started watching the awesome show Gilmore Girls (2000-2007) from the beginning in order, after Netflix so graciously added the show to their streaming service. Gilmore Girls has become my current TV addiction, and with it, a desire to read more, given that Rory always has a book in her hands. I found this awesome list on Pinterest that states: “Over the course of seven seasons of Gilmore Girls, Rory Gilmore was seen reading 339 books on screen.” I selected five on the list that piqued my interest:

25. The Virgin Suicides** by Jeffrey Eugenides

24. Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach (Finished 2/16)

23. The Shining** by Stephen King

22. The Great Gatsby** by F. Scott Fitzgerald

21. On the Road* by Jack Kerouac


Finishing (or Continuing) Series

Here is my list of books that are part of series I’d like to finish. It’s embarrassing to admit that I haven’t finished the Harry Potter collection, but I resolve to conclude the series this year. And since we’re talking about J.K. Rowling books here, I decided to add the second book of her Cormoran Strike novels to my series list. Without apology, I also admit to never finishing Tolkein’s The Return of the King after struggling through the first two in the trilogy.

20. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix** by J.K. Rowling (halfway through)

19. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince** by J.K. Rowling

18. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows** by J.K. Rowling

17. The Silkworm* by Robert Galbraith

16. The Return of the King** by J.R.R. Tolkein


Five Personal Choices

Here are five books I’ve been looking forward to starting:

15. Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire)* by George R.R. Martin

14. The Count of Monte Cristo** by Alexandre Dumas

13. Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination by J.K. Rowling

12. Divergent** by Veronica Roth

11. The Bourne Identity** by Robert Ludlum


Book Club Selections

When I moved to Wisconsin halfway through last year, I joined a growing book club. Thanks to that club, I got back into reading. We usually have six meetings a year (one every other month). The future ones have yet to be determined, although talk of reading Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken has surfaced . . .

10. To Kill a Mockingbird** by Harper Lee (Finished 1/22)

9. Unbroken* by Laura Hillenbrand (Finished 3/12)

8. Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times* by Jennifer Worth

7. To be determined

6. To be determined


Your Recommendations

I handed this section over to readers, commenters, and anyone who mentioned an idea via word of mouth, Facebook, or Twitter. These are the five books I picked, thanks to your recommendations:

5. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

4. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

3. High Fidelity by Nick Hornby

2. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo** by Stieg Larsson

1. The Fault in Our Stars** by John Green


Stay tuned for more New Years Resolutions posts this week and next, and don’t forget to check out my Reading Corner on the bottom left of the site, where I list what I’m currently reading.

I’ll be making the rounds on everyone else’s sites over the next three weeks in hopes of catching up to my lengthy feed of unread posts.

What are your reading resolutions for 2015?

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From Page to Screen: Gone Girl (2014)

Because of how closely tied both the book and movie are, and because I just found it easier to combine my reviews of both formats, I decided to make this From Page to Screen post different from previous ones by having only two sections: a single review, and then a comparison/contrast section.

One thing I want to note: there will be SPOILERS throughout for both the book and film. You have been warned! 🙂


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Book/Movie Reviews

You lose some of the suspense, however well created or intentioned to be, when you know the ending of a story.

I went into Gone Girl (2014) having already read the book, yet still highly anticipating watching what I had read unravel on screen. I held onto the promise that director David Fincher, actor Ben Affleck, and book author and screenwriter Gillian Flynn lead us all to believe: the movie’s ending would be different than the book’s.

And here’s the biggest spoiler I can write in this post: the difference was so little, the plot still kept all the same major points, that the simple “adjustments” made to the film were overshadowed by the blatant reminder that readers of Flynn’s thriller were watching exactly what we were suspecting to not witness: the same horrible ending that, while it works as a surprise factor, did not benefit the film, or work as well as Fincher or Flynn probably intended.

For those still interested in why I think this, let me break it down for you:

Those who didn’t read the book are going to be asking varying renditions of this question after they watch the ending: Why would Nick stay with this crazy psychopath even if she’s pregnant? 

That question leads to more questions: How do we know she isn’t just making up her pregnancy? Why does Nick not try harder with Boney to prove Amy’s guilt?

No, Nick pastes on his fakest smile, nods, and later proclaims to his twin that he’s going along with it to save the child from his horrible mother. Honorable? Yes. Enough reason to not fight it, research it, try desperately to get out of it, yet somehow help the child in the process? No, and not even close.

This is where the book and movie separates, and while we realize that we aren’t interested in seeing a replica of the book on screen (This is a movie, after all; Entertain us, Mr. Fincher!), that if they’re going to keep a strikingly similar ending to a book, then they needed solid material throughout the film to support that ending, even if they wanted to change parts or leave out characters here and there.

Here are the two major reasons that the ending works well in the book, but not in the film:

  1. The book presents a detailed enough background on Nick, his past home life, and his drunk, cheating father who is known to regularly debase women (especially Nick’s mom) that Nick is faced with an enigma as he grows up: he doesn’t want to become his father, even though he occasionally recognizes little parts of his father in himself. This is critical to the plot because Nick doesn’t want to be his father; he wants to be a good husband (well, so we think?), but even more importantly, he wants to be a good father who wouldn’t abandon his child. This reason significantly alters Nick’s reasoning for staying with a psychopath: his fear of becoming his father outweighs his fear of his murderous, psychotic wife carrying his child.
  2. While it is complicated and somewhat understandably left out of the movie version, the second reason has more to do with why Nick didn’t question the pregnancy. Fincher dropped only one hint in the entire 2 1/2 hour film’s runtime as to why Nick didn’t question Amy when she presented him with the positive pregnancy test. It happened in the middle of the film when Nick and Margo were fighting, and out of the blue, Nick declares that he was the one who wanted children, and that he wanted them so much, he even went to a fertility clinic. What Fincher and Flynn leave out in the film version is that Amy was so meticulous in her scheming, that she stopped by the clinic, picked up Nick’s sperm, and kept it frozen in case she ever needed it to blackmail him. Of course, she does blackmail him at the end of both the book and film to stay with her because she is pregnant – and the child is most definitely his – and he’s fully aware that she had taken his frozen sperm and impregnated herself. But leaving this vital detail out of the film, yet expecting viewers not to wonder why Nick hasn’t questioned Amy more than “there needs to be a paternity test!” is just odd.

Alas, I’ll end my rant with this: I consider this is a major boo-boo in the film, despite how much I enjoyed it and thought it honored the source material while still making it it’s own. But let me get on with what I did enjoy now.

The casting, from what I’ve mentioned in multiple lead-up posts, was not only a sure thing to attract fans of the book, but also a more wide stream audience. After Affleck’s multiple successful directing credits, especially the most recent Academy Award winning-film Argo (2012), Gone Girl was certainly expecting to attract an audience. Attach the incredibly talented directing name “David Fincher” to most of the ads, and you have a double whammy for getting butts into theater seats. What paid off, however, was not just attracting theater goers, but stellar casting that fit the material as well as anyone could have hoped for.

Neil Patrick Harris, however, felt underused. Despite his creepy, extreme nature that made him a convincing Desi, he just didn’t have enough scenes (which just happens when you’re adapting a book to film) to make us wonder why Amy brutally killed him the way she did. Maybe Amy is just an insane murderer? Perhaps, and no one would be crazy for thinking that. The book, however, gives us more understanding as to why she lashed out: she was feeling trapped and controlled and unable to make decisions for herself, so she took matters into her own hands.

Tyler Perry acted as the comic relief of the film, with some one-liners that were only too true that you knew you were laughing at his sheer honesty instead of a silly joke. The stand-out performance for me came from actress Carrie Coon, who played Nick’s twin sister, Margo. She looked enough like Affleck that someone would have believed they were twins. Her chemistry with Affleck felt genuine, and she felt like one of the few characters you wanted to root for. She acted as Nick’s conscious, yet she stayed completely dedicated to her brother, even as his hidden sins came to light.

Critic Michael Phillips for The Chicago Tribune mentions that Fincher uses a lot of mustard lighting throughout the film, creating a pallet that he didn’t care for. I thought the lighting worked well and aided the suspense of the film. My biggest complaint deals with the raved-about score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. While my seating location in the theater might have had something to do with this, during the opening scene, I was fighting to hear any dialogue over the overpowering and sometimes nonessential score. There were moments when it created or built the suspense, supported the scenes, and gave us a theme when certain characters were on screen. But sometimes it felt completely excessive, taking away from a scene rather than subtly reinforcing it. I was much more impressed with their score for The Social Network (2010).

Overall, I was a big fan of both the book and the movie. Gillian Flynn was successful as both the author and screenwriter for the two formats, bringing her book to life on film in an eerily similar way. Neither are for the faint of heart, both packed with pulpy fiction, dramatic dialogue, and (just in the movie) a murder scene most would die . . . to not see ever again.

I give the book Gone Girl 

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ON PAGE
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And I give the movie Gone Girl 

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and 1/2 ON SCREEN.


Compare/Contrast Gone Girl‘s Book and Film

Which did you hear of first, the book or the film? I heard about the movie first (when do I not?). I read the book right after I saw the trailer, and that prompted my excitement to see it on screen.

What was your favorite and least favorite parts of the book?

  • Favorite – My favorite part of the book was how Flynn put it together. I loved that one chapter was from Nick’s perspective, and the next was a diary entry from Amy. Getting multiple perspective made it more interesting and suspenseful. The pace was fast, but not rushed.
  • Least favorite – I just didn’t care for the ending, even given it’s surprising nature and “what the heck?” reaction. I’m a bigger fan of books where there’s justice, with evil losing and good winning. And while I appreciate flawed characters in a book, I felt like the two main characters fell short of being even a little redeemable. At times the language was over-the-top and unnecessary.

Do you think it was inspired by any other books? According to an interview Flynn had with The Guardian, she claimed the novel Mystic River to have inspired her to include a mystery in her book.

What was your favorite and least favorite parts of the movie?

  • Favorite – I couldn’t have imagined a different casting holding down this movie. Ben Affleck knows exactly how to play both the guilty and innocent sides of Nick Dunne, and you both abhor and like him. It’s a great film to showcase actors.
  • Least favorite – Without repeating myself too much, I’ll just say the score and the poor choice (in my opinion) of how they wrote the ending.

Do you think the movie was inspired by any other movies? I imagine any mysteries, especially murder mysteries, inspired the plot. David Fincher continues to grow as a director with his unique style of shooting scenes and guiding actors. I could see his latest movies such as The Social Network and his remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) inspiring his work.

Will the book, movie, or both forms, stand the test of time? That’s a tricky question, because both have their setbacks. Ultimately, I think the book will just because (of course) it came first. The film is memorable, yes, particularly due to stellar performances, but I think the book has a slight edge over the film.


It’s your turn now. Have you seen Gone Girl? If not, do you plan to see it? What do you think of the film compared to the book? Please join the discussion below, because I would love to know your thoughts.

All Eyes On Bloggers, Ed. 2 + From Page to Screen Review: The Maze Runner (2014)

Today I’m offering two posts combined into one, because today marks one month since I posted my first edition of All Eyes On Bloggers, Ed. 1a series that features some favorite posts I’ve read around the blogosphere over the month of September. Without further ado, I present . . .

All Eyes On Bloggers, Ed. 2

I’m a new reader to Getter Trumsi’s blog, Mettel Ray, the place where she talks a lot about the small screen. I’m definitely a new fan, and one of my favorite posts of hers includes her recent Shame List, a list of movies that are considered classics or popular or must-see for any film buff, but ones she hasn’t actually watched yet. I love this idea for a post, considering that my list would likely be just as long as hers.

One movie I’m certain to see in the near future is A Walk Among the Tombstones (2014), given the positive reviews by both Tom of Digital Shortbread and Dan of Dan the Man’s Movie Reviews. Meanwhile, Chef (2014) has become an absolute must-see with great reviews by Nostra at My Film Reviews, Jaina at Time Well Spent, and Ryan at The Matinee. And if it ever shows in Milwaukee, Ruth at Flixchatter has all but convinced me that my fall will not be complete until I’ve seen The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them (2014), thanks to her review.

I have joined two blogathons after being inspired by other bloggers’ participating posts: Caroline posted about her favorite guilty pleasures films at her site Let’s Go to the Movies by participating in Jenna and Allie’s Guilty Pleasure Movie Blogathon (you can check out my guilty pleasures movies too here!). One of my absolute favorite posts I’ve gotten to read so far spawned from the The Matinee, where Ryan wrote about what the movies of the summer taught him. You can read my copycat post and feel free to write a similar post if you’d like.

I also read a couple of interesting posts about two popular animated flicks: first, this post from one of my new favorite blogs to read, Writer Loves Movies, poses the question, What do you think makes Toy Story such an enduring animation? second, Mark at The Animation Commendation continues to ask questions about the background of unknown characters in animations films, this time focusing on “The Lady with the Kids” in Pixar’s Monster’s Inc (2001).

And that wraps up edition two. Thanks everyone for all the great posts this month . . . looking forward to reading this October!

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From Page to Screen: The Maze Runner (2014)

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Switching gears here, I’ve been very excited to see The Maze Runner (2014) ever since I read the book (okay, all three) and saw the promising trailer for this YA adaptation. While I’m growing tired of teenage protagonists leading the fight to end the government in a post-apocalyptic world, I felt like James Dashner’s idea was a bit different, and the movie was worth giving my attention to. My sister, Jennifer, has written for All Eyes On Screen before, even if it has been a couple years. She helped me with this second From Page to Screen post, writing both the book review and participating in the compare/contrast section at the end.

Book Review

By Jennifer Griffin

TMR coverReleased in 2009, James Dashner’s The Maze Runner (2009) is another novel belonging to the currently trendy, young adult post-apocalyptic sci-fi/dystopian genre, and it is often compared to The Lord of the Flies (1954), a book about a group of British boys who find themselves stranded on a deserted island. The Lord of the Flies, The Maze Runner, The Giver (1993), The Hunger Games (2008), and other young adult dystopian fiction center around the theme of welfare of the individual vs. the welfare of the community.

Instead of a teenage heroine turning into a modern Joan of Arc archetype, The Maze Runner’s plot centers around 17-year-old Thomas, who wakes up one day in a metal cage realizing that he remembers absolutely nothing about himself except for his first name. When the cage stops moving, he finds himself transported to an unnaturally isolated environment in which only boys ages 12 through 18 reside and band together to survive. Every boy he meets refuses to tell him anything about what has happened or why he remembers nothing about his past. They consistently call him “Greenie,” and have added other strange colloquialisms to their vocabulary such as “shank” for idiot or “klunk” for poop. One book reviewer, Jessica Harrison of the Deseret Morning News, states that the main drawbacks of the book The Maze Runner are that it “starts out a bit slow,” and the “fictionalized slang gets old pretty fast.”

As time goes by, Thomas learns that all of the boys have been trapped in what they call the Glade, where each boy works in his own unit for the good of the group, the Maze preventing them from finding a way out because its patterns change every night. The other problem that plagues the Gladers are the nightmarish, blubbery robot creatures they call Grievers which can either kill or sting the boys, a blow that would force them to go through “The Changing” process, which will kill its victims if they do not receive the Griever serum (supplied by the Maze creators) in time. Those who experience “The Changing” also remember fragments of their past before they were marooned in the Glade. After Thomas arrives in the Glade, Gladers who went through “The Changing” target Thomas, specifically Gally and Ben, both who claim Thomas is to blame for their predicament. Ben also tries to kill Thomas at one point. Three days after Thomas’s arrival, a girl named Teresa comes up in the cage and immediately recognizes Thomas. She’s holding a note that says she will be the last person to arrive in the box.

These events prompt the gladers to mistrust Thomas until one night Alby, their leader, and Minho, the keeper of the runners, do not come out of the Maze as the doors are about to close. The Gladers consider being left inside the Maze overnight a death sentence, left to be the victims of the Grievers and the changing Maze walls. As the Maze doors are shutting, Thomas runs into the Maze to save them, trapping himself inside. Minho has given up and run; Alby has been stung and left for dead. Not only is Thomas instrumental in saving Alby’s life by hiding him in the Maze walls from the Grievers, but he also outsmarts the Grievers into jumping off a cliff to their deaths, saving Minho and himself in the process. The Gladers gain a newfound respect for Thomas, making him their new unspoken leader. Thomas motivates the Gladers to find a way out of the Maze using the patterns that the runners have compiled with the help of Teresa, with whom he can inexplicably speak telepathically. The Gladers finally discover how to leave the Maze by going through the Grievers’s entrance into the Maze and inputing the letter codes from the Maze patterns they discovered. Thomas leads a group of Gladers to their final battle with the Grievers in front of the exit, many of whom die while fighting. Only Thomas and nineteen others survive and make it through.

At the end of the book, the head of W.I.C.K.E.D., the agency responsible for putting the boys in the maze and experimenting on their minds to interpret their reactions to the trials, reveals two key pieces of information:

1) They are experimenting on more than one group of people.

2) More trials await the Gladers.

I give The Maze Runner book

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 and 1/2 EYES ON PAGE.

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Film Review

By Kristin

So I let Jennifer handle the book review, and since this is a longer post, I’m going to keep this film review fairly short. If you’ve read the book (or the review Jennifer wrote), you’ll have a pretty good idea of The Maze Runner‘s plot. So instead of reiterating the story, I’ll separate my thoughts on the movie into two categories: negative and positive. Let’s start with negative first, and get it out of the way!

Negative
  • Tangled Plot – I supposed I mean the pun when I say “tangled,” give that this movie is about a maze. Puns aside, The Maze Runner is a bit of a mess when it comes to the plot. It’s partially understandable given that the source material was complicated. You have all of those terms down that were mentioned in the book review, right? Haha. Unlike this year’s Guardians of the Galaxy, which introduced us to a new universe, characters, and story, The Maze Runner struggled to communicate its reasoning behind why the characters did what they did. The plot moved forward so quickly at some points, that characters were making decisions where I was left scratching my head and wondering why.
  • Too much change – While I actually applaud screenwriters Noah Oppenheim, Grand Pierce Myers, and T.S. Nowlin for leaving out some unnecessary explanations and scenes from the book, I think they failed to include enough explanation, leaving the actors to try to be really, really convincing when the story didn’t support their actions.
  • Not enough characterization – This is one point my sister discussed with me at length, but like any good story, you can’t care about the characters if you don’t know enough about them. While Thomas seemed to be the most evolved on screen, prominent characters such as Chuck, Teresa, and Alby didn’t receive enough screen time or dialogue for us to care about their characters.
Positive
  • Great casting – This is such a subjective point, but I loved the cast, specifically Thomas Brodie-Sangster, who stood out as Newt. Dylan O’Brien plays a convincing enough lead who will undoubtedly be offered more opportunities after The Maze Runner. Aml Ameen (Alby) and Ki Hong Lee (Minho) were great in their roles as well, although they functioned more as needles in a haystack with the large cast of youthful boys in an unmemorable film.
  • Memorable soundtrack – While John Paesano doesn’t have the largest resume, he composed a fitting, fast-paced score to match the intensity and energy of The Maze Runner‘s action scenes. Apparently Paesano is also the composer behind this year’s When the Game Stands Tall‘s soundtrack, which I might have to check out now.
  • Ideal set – While I normally don’t comment much on a film’s set, the set for The Maze Runner was not only massive, but also as scary and intimidating as I imagined it could have been when reading the book. The maze acted as a character in this film, and I certainly wasn’t surprised to read that it was filmed in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, a fitting place for a set as large as that one must have been.

I give The Maze Runner

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 and 1/2 EYES ON SCREEN.

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Compare/Contrast THE MAZE RUNNER’s Book and Film

Answers given by Jennifer Griffin

Which did you hear of first, the book or the film? I heard about the book first. After I read The Hunger Games (2008), it was a book series recommended to me being of the same genre. Only thing is, instead of a heroine, we have a hero.

What was your favorite and least favorite parts of the book?

Favorite – My favorite part of the book was the interpersonal relationships between the characters, and how they all seemed to work together. They’ve all been marooned for almost 3 years in the maze, and they all have established this society that has helped everyone survive, and actually in some respects, prosper more than what they would in their dystopian world in which they’ve come from.

Least favorite – My least favorite part – there’s not necessarily one thing that’s horrible or great – obviously they establish their own language, which for me took a long time to get used to. Something that was an even bigger deal to me: in the book, Thomas and Teresa can communicate with telepathy backand forth, and Dashner never explains how or why they can do it, or why they’re special, or even why the characters remember certain things, but don’t remember others.

Do you think it was inspired by any other books? A lot of people compare it to The Hunger Games, but there was no way Dashner could “taken” an idea away from Suzanne Collins because of when it was published. He’s definitely inspired by Ray Bradbury, because Fahrenheit 451 (1953) is one of the first dystopian books. I also think he’s been inspired by Lord of the Flies (1954), which The Maze Runner shares a lot of the same ideas.

What was your favorite and least favorite parts of the movie?

Favorite – I would say the actual maze. It was very interesting to see how they showed how the maze change, the different noises it made, and just the terrifying concept of running into this maze in the middle of the night.

Least favorite – The explanation of things: I understand how you can’t explain all the terminology throughout; it would take forever. But I felt the like the whole explanation of “The Changing” made no sense in the movie; also, [it was never explained] why a person would go through “The Changing” and what that would explain for them. In addition, the character Teresa is made to look like an idiotic, throwaway character in the movie. (She actually fills in a lot of the blanks in the book.) One other part I really disliked is that I felt like the movie had a lot of missed opportunities in the scene with just Thomas and Minho.

Do you think the movie was inspired by any other movies? One thing that makes the movie appealing is that you don’t really see anything like this; it doesn’t really remind of anything except for maybe The Matrix (1999), but it’s so different it’s really hard to compare.

Will the book, movie, or both forms, stand the test of time? No, because I don’t feel like [the story] is original enough in a lot of ways. The whole idea of studying people for years on end and seeing how they react to things, even international crises going on, is not a new idea. The only new idea is that they’re testing it on teenagers. And both the book and movie have been released at a time when a lot of other young adult franchises that have come out that are either more well-written as a book or more effective as a film.

Thanks again to Jennifer for both her book review, as well as answering all of my questions about The Maze Runner.

It’s your turn now. Have you seen The Maze Runner? If not, do you plan to see it? What do you think of the film compared to the book? Please join the discussion below, because I would love to know your thoughts.

From Page to Screen Review: The Giver (2014)

Book Review

In 1993, Lois Lowry wrote and published The Giver, a book that has sold over 10 million copies and received critical acclaim, winning several awards including the Newbery Medal the year following its publication. Over the next twenty years, Lowry penned three books within the same era. The Giver isn’t beloved by all its readers, and certainly not all of its critics, but regardless, it is considered successful based off its sales alone.

Most of the people I have asked about The Giver told me they read it in middle school or high school. The rock I must have been hiding under was huge, because I hadn’t heard of the The Giver until I saw the first teaser for the film adaptation. In June, I read The Giver, along with its three counterpart sequels. Personally, I would consider The Giver the strongest read out of the quartet, although I enjoyed all four books.

What I appreciated most when reading The Giver is how simple the plot is. Jonas is about to turn twelve years old, reaching the age where his childhood is complete and his life job is assigned to him. Pills are administered to each inhabitant of the area, where people speak with limited vocabulary, live in a colorless world, and are void of emotion. The Giver‘s universe strives for utopia, but the book’s setting is dystopian in nature as the plot builds and Jonas comes to terms with his assigned life position, Receiver of Memories. The Giver transmits memories of the world’s history to Jonas, who discovers color, experiences feelings, and understands that more exists beyond the borders of his small, limited world.

Comic by Brian Warmoth

Unity is what Jonas’s world consists of. Uniqueness, self-identity, and love are all new concepts he learns from the Giver’s memories. Lowry was onto something as many other future authors, including Suzanne Collins (The Hunger Games), Veronica Roth (Divergent), and James Dashner (The Maze Runner) have all been informed and inspired by her work to pen their well-received dystopian book-turned-film series.

I would give the book The Giver 

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Have you read The Giver? If so, what did you think of it? Please join the discussion below, because I would love to know your thoughts!

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Film Review

Harold Crick (Will Ferrell) brushes his teeth with a certain number of strokes. He walks a precise number of steps to the bus each morning. He combs his hair, dresses himself, and carries his life in a predictable nature not because he is a creature of habit, but because habit conclusively defines his life. His existence is based upon following his strict code of patterns that he has fully succumbed to.

 

Harold Crick would fit well within the The Giver‘s universe, but unfortunately his character exists only in the lovely 2006 film Stranger Than Fiction. It is not until Crick hears his life narrated by the author, horrified to find that she is killing him off, that Harold chooses to stray from his pattern-formed life. Unfortunately for the movie The Giver (2014), the characters stray far from their built-in nature, and not for any reason that would make sense within their universe.

I have learned that when I see a movie based off a book, I have to accept that certain licenses will be taken, whether it’s to fit into a film narrative better, or perhaps certain dialogue or actions would be communicated better on screen. In the case of The Giver, I think all of the wrong liberties were taken with the source material. Given its star-studded cast, led by Meryl Streep and Jeff Bridges, it’s certainly a disappointment that The Giver went off the rails almost immediately, failing to get back on the rest of the film’s short runtime.

Other than a very short explanation opening the film, the universe of The Giver was never well-established. From the get-go, we don’t care about rooting for Jonas (Brenton Thwaites), even with all the charisma the young actor put into the role. The film pushes on, forcing viewers on a ride that fails to pause on important moments, defining dialogue, or pressing exchanges between characters. Even when the Giver (Jeff Bridges) is transmitting his memories to Jonas, the memories lack the warmth, terror, or joy in which they are described very earnestly in the book. Chicago film critic Richard Roeper described the memories as “something you’d find in an Apple commercial,” appearing to look more like stock photos or video footage you could find anywhere on the Internet.

The screenplay stumbled over itself, and no matter what came out of the Giver’s or the Chief Elder’s (Meryl Streep) mouths, the words felt forced to move along with the screenplay, because that is what they were written for. I found myself asking constant questions throughout the movie, like the following:

Why did Fiona (Odeya Rush) stop taking her pill if she was programmed never to question the idea of taking a pill?

Why did Asher (Cameron Monaghan) suddenly choose to trust Jonas and not kill him when he had never experienced an emotion?

Why would the Chief Elder select Asher to hunt down and kill Jonas if he was only a first-year recruit?

How could the Chief Elder be able to use words that didn’t exist within their world to converse with the Giver?

How did Taylor Swift weasel her way into the movie in the first place?

The answer to all of these questions deals with the poor screenplay of the film. In a fictional universe, there is an established set of rules. Once you start breaking the rules, the writing falls flat, and the story implodes. This was the fate of The Giver and the reason it performed so poorly with both critics and fans alike. The point of The Giver is lost on viewers, because the movie wanted to be something it wasn’t, losing both its focus and viewers’ attention.

I feel generous in giving The Giver 

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It’s your turn. Did you see The Giver? If not, do you plan to? If so, what did you think of it? Please join the discussion below, because I would love to know your thoughts!

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Compare/Contrast THE GIVER’s Book and Film

Which did you hear of first, the book or the film? I actually heard about the film first, but I read the book before seeing the movie.

What was your favorite and least favorite parts of the book? I loved the simple plot, and I liked how the Giver introducing Jonas to history changed Jonas – and made him want to change the way things are too. I didn’t really have a “least favorite” part. I didn’t think it was a perfect book, but I thought it was very well-written. It was definitely a page-turner.

Do you think it was inspired by any other books? Definitely – I kept thinking of Fahrenheit 451 the entire time I was reading it.

What was your favorite and least favorite parts of the movie? One thing I appreciated about the movie was the B&W in the beginning. I think they could have done more with it, like drawing out the color of the apple in the book when Asher and Jonas were tossing it. The screenplay was certainly my least favorite part. It really destroyed what could have made a great movie.

Do you think the movie was inspired by any other movies? I thought it had a similar universe to Equilibrium (2002). Very devoid of emotions.

Will the book, movie, or both forms, stand the test of time? Definitely the book. The movie fell short, and it’s sad, because Jeff Bridges had wanted to make the film for years. If he had had the chance earlier, perhaps more time could have been spent on the screenplay.

I answered fewer questions for the compare/contrast section, considering how short both the book and film were. Which form will stand the test of time to you – the book, the movie, or both? Please join the discussion below, because I would love to know your thoughts!

Introducing FROM PAGE TO SCREEN Posts to AEOS

Hey all! As many of you know, I just re-joined the movie blogosphere from an almost two-year hiatus which felt like forever. But I’m back, and as I said in my first returning post, I’m wanting to do more with AEOS.

The Giver Book and Movie PostersI have four to five new post ideas in the works, and I’m excited to introduce the first of them. I got this idea when I recently joined a book club where I’ve gotten to read a few books that have film versions coming out later this year. With The Giver (2014) coming to theaters this weekend, I was excited to unveil and start my first new segment for AEOS: FROM PAGE TO SCREEN posts.

About FROM PAGE TO SCREEN posts

What can I expect to be in these posts?  Posts will feature a short book review, a film review, and a comparison/contrast section, along with an open/closed eyes rating for both the book and the film.

What is the point(s) of these posts? My goal in creating this type of post is to introduce film-goers to some great (or not so great) books, and to introduce bookworms to films. I also look forward to comparing the two art forms, and consider what works and what doesn’t work in each form.

How can I participate in the posts? I’m always looking for people who have already read the book a movie is based off, and is interested and willing to give their opinion. If there is a movie coming out that you’ve read the book, please contact me in a comment or email me at alleyesonscreen@gmail.com. If you’ve read a book and seen the movie it’s based off that has already premiered in theaters or come out on DVD, the same rule applies. I would love to gain new contributors to AEOS!

What are some upcoming posts we can expect to see in the future? Aside from The Giver, I already have both The Maze Runner (2014) and Gone Girl (2014) FROM PAGE TO SCREEN posts planned out for 2014.

Last, but certainly not least, what books/movies would you like to see featured in FROM PAGE TO SCREEN posts? I’m always open to recommendations, and of course, I would love to hear your thoughts, so please join the discussion below.