Sept. 5 - All libraries will be closed for Labor Day.
The past few years, numerous films have been made about civil rights and the lack thereof. Selma brought us the story of African Americans, led by Martin Luther King Junior, fighting for the right to vote. Stonewall told the story of gay rights, as did Pride. Now we are presented with Suffragette, another film about rights, but this time as they pertain to women.
Suffragette stars Carey Mulligan as Maude Williams, a timid housewife in early 1900s England. She loves her husband and child George. She works everyday at a laundry. Maud is rather unremarkable and tries to stay that way. And it works for her, until the suffragettes, women demanding voting rights, start to involve themselves with her life. As they start speaking up, specifically around her place of work, Maud slowly gets sucked in more and more into the world of activism until she becomes a suffragette herself.
The standout piece of this film is the story. Heavily fact based, the atrocities suffered and committed by these women are unthinkable. They were beaten, jailed, force fed (through a tube inserted into their nose and down their esophagus), among other equally heinous things. They themselves would throw rocks at stores and blow up various things, all in the search of equality. It’s amazing, hard to believe, and true.
The acting was also terrific, Carey Mulligan specifically wonderful. She perfectly encapsulated her character’s emotional journey in every scene. Without her the film would not have been nearly as good as it turned out being. Helena Bonham Carter, whose character lead a group of suffragettes, was also quite good. She was a great foil for Carey Mulligan. Meryl Streep is also in this movie, that is for one scene. It annoys me that they plastered her across all of the posters and trailers for what amounts to no more than 7 minutes screen time, but she’s Meryl Streep. She does well with what she’s given.
A particularly interesting character was the chief inspector, played by Brendan Gleason. In a movie like this, it would have been easy to write off the villain as some evil sexist pig who loved to triumph over the women. Gleason goes a more interesting route luckily, giving his character real warmth and meaning. Just because his character’s job is to stop the suffragettes, he doesn’t seem to enjoy it, in fact he seems to sympathize with their cause. At one point in the film, he indicates that he agrees with their goals. But he knows it doesn’t matter what he thinks is wrong or right. His job is to uphold the law, however unjust it may be. It’s a real interesting choice, that I feel pays off in the end, giving the whole movie a more human feel.
If there’s a weak part, it’s the direction. Sarah Gavron felt the need to almost never use a tripod for the entirety of the runtime. This works well for some moments, when women are getting beaten is a good example of this. It also works not so well at other moments, like during simple conversations. It was hard to focus on the words when the camera was shaking so much for absolutely no reason. There was nothing special or remarkable about the directing, nothing unique. It was just fine.
As great as a lot of the parts were, Suffragette still seems like a bit of a disappointment. The combination seemed to have somehow lessened how good they were. In spite of the direction, the story manages to get across and be impactful. One only can imagine what could have been made with a more artful person at the helm, but in the end, it is a good movie. Not great, not bad, just good. 7/10
Image Credit: Leonard Bentley on Flickr.
Genre: mystery, romance
Star Rating: ★★★½ Borrow It
Recommended For/If You Liked: 13 Reasons Why, If I Stay. For fans of romance and Gayle Forman.
Short Summary: Cody and Meg have been best friends since kindergarten. But when Meg goes off to college, leaving Cody stuck in their small town in Washington, and drinks a bottle of industrial poison, it shocks everyone, including Cody. So Cody decides to embark on a quest to find out why Meg, of all people, would kill herself. Along the way, she finds new people, love, and answers about Meg’s death that aren’t at all what she (or anyone else) expected.
What I Liked: The writing and descriptions were excellent, as they are in all Gayle Forman books.The romance (if a little cliché) is perfectly timed, another thing that Forman excels at in her other books. But here, Forman outdoes herself with Cody’s self-discovery. Cody’s changes over the course of the book are astounding, and these make her seem even more real as a character. That was another thing I liked: Cody is very real. She doesn’t come from a big city, her job (cleaning houses) isn’t glitzy, and she calls her mother by her first name and has never met her father. The relationships in this book were also very complex, and not just the romantic ones; Cody’s relationship with her mom, Meg’s parents, and Meg’s former roommates were all developed beautifully.
What I Didn’t Like: Despite all this raving, there were a few major things that brought down the rating of this book. First off, the plot was a little dry and it often felt like it wasn’t going anywhere. Secondly, the romance, while well written, felt like an unnecessary sideshow, detracting attention from the main story. Lastly, Meg’s character seemed all-too-familiar, and the fact that Cody was always overshadowed by Meg made their friendship too much like the one in Since You’ve Been Gone, a book I read this summer.
In Conclusion: Though this book was very well written, the three things I mentioned above were its fatal flaws. In the end, I liked it and it had a good lesson, but it could have been better written. Nevertheless, Forman’s fans will like it, and though it’s not all it could have been, it’s still a good book.
Don’t forget to check out my blog for more YA book reviews & recommendations!
Find more titles by Gayle Forman here.
"I'm thankful for books."
"I'm thankful for amazing views and hikes on North Table Mountain."
"I'm thankful for gorgeous sunrises."
"I'm thankful for all of the amazing literature in the world"
"I am thankful for having the opportunity to travel. This is a photo from the top of the Sears tower in Chicago!"
At 17 years old, S.E. Hinton managed to write one of the most memorable and accurate novelistic depictions of what it’s like wanting acceptance and belonging as a teenager. The Outsiders, Hinton’s first novel, remains as one of the best-selling young-adult novels of all time.
Written for teenagers, about teenagers, and by a teenager, The Outsiders captivates its audience with memorable characters (who are memorable for more than their obscure names) and climactic drama, and it leaves the reader with the message of what a blessing it is to be naive, innocent, and young (or, as the book puts it, staying “gold”).
The story centers around the aftermath of a “rumble” between two opposing gangs: the Socs, who are the “rich kids,” and the Greasers, the kids on the wrong side of the tracks. The two gangs are comparable to the Jets and the Sharks in West Side Story (1957). Ponyboy Curtis, a 14-year old member of the Greasers gang, gets tossed into a fast-paced whirlwind of events when one of his friends causes an uproar in the Greaser-Soc rivalry.
This book is extremely well written. The gripping plot progresses fluidly, and the scenes are skillfully sketched out with important and illustrative details before any event unfolds; this helps the reader grasp onto any component the author conveys. The characters are thoroughly represented with flaws and interests, which causes the reader to imagine them as real people dealing with real problems.
The Outsiders still sings a similar song about the trials, violence, and difficult decisions in a youth’s everyday life, despite the differences between 1965 and today. This book makes us realize how important it is to “stay gold” and preserve innocence. The Outsiders is a must-read for teenagers and adults alike.
Check out The Outsiders here.
I wrote this poem for one of my friends when she said she was ugly and hopeless.
Touched by the sun, she dances.
Her golden locks disobey her as they flow from the heart-shaped frame of her pale face.
Like a cascade of sun-kissed wheat, her bangs fall in front of her marble eyes.
Stormy torrents of a deep sea blue fill her eyes like smoke in a crystal ball.
Just as a crystal ball, the rhythm to her tapping feet is an enigma to those who don't try to dance along with this glowing angel.
Her kunzite lips usher songs as she moves her feet to her own beat now.
It's the only way she knows.
Though this dancing beauty knows no bounds, she does not realize that she was sent from heaven.
She cannot see the pearl wings arching from her back.
But the truth is hidden in her enticing eyes, holding many secrets.
For the sun has touched her there too, leaving an imprint of itself in the middle of the raging green seas.
So I ask of you to believe me when I say that this maiden clad in gold rose to the heavens once again.
Believe me when I say that Amber Rose.
Image credit: KaleidoscopePhotos on Flickr.
Last book I read: Hyperbole and a Half, by Allie Brosh
What is it: A book with pictures and stories, like a graphic novel. It is a collection of funny stories and observations from the author.
Why I read it: I wanted something funny, and this one looked funny on the cover and was in the area with other comedy.
What I thought of it: I thought the illustrations were really funny and added a lot to the book. It was a fast read but I thought it made me laugh a lot. I looked up her blog later.
Would I recommend it to a friend? Yes. I think some of my other friends would think this is funny too.
Find Hyperbole and a Half here.
Submit your own quick review to firstname.lastname@example.org
Charlie Brown and his friends have returned to the big screen for the first time in years, giving new and old fans alike a consistently entertaining experience.
The Peanuts Movie’s premise is exceedingly simple. Charlie Brown falls in love, as does Snoopy. His crush is on the new kid at school, the little redheaded girl (whose name is never known and whose face is rarely seen). Snoopy meanwhile lives in his fantasy as the flying ace, trying to be with his love Fifi (an entirely new character who looks like Snoopy with a pom pom on his head) and defeat the dreaded Red Baron.
The characters contain all of the traits given to them in previous incarnations, each varying slightly. This is mainly due to the voice cast. As with the other films and specials, children were hired to do all of the voices. The new actors bring different dimensions to loved pieces of Peanuts.
Keeping with tradition, adults talk in an augmented trombone. Snoopy and Woodstock’s noises are all recycled from the other movies in the canon, staying true yet again to the original fans.
The animation of the film is beautiful. Capturing all of the unique poses and moments that recurred throughout Schultz’s comics must have been a hefty task. The 3-D animation captured the visual style of Peanuts while adding dimensions to it. Similarly to last year’s Lego Movie, which looked like stop-motion despite being animated, the animation is the most impressive thing about the film.
The film stays true to the original incarnations in every way. The film remains extremely entertaining and mildly humorous for all of it’s runtime, which was a classic trait of Peanuts. Some modernization and more funny moments may have elevated it further, but the final product remains incredible.
The Peanuts Movie will delight older fans while introducing younger ones to the universe of The Peanuts. It is an excellent film, and definitely worth watching 8/10.
Image Credit: Brandi Korte, Flickr.
Check out more from the Charlie Brown and Peanuts crew here.
Be warned: This film is rated R.
When talking to people about the film Steve Jobs, the reaction is almost the same from everyone. “They made another movie about Steve Jobs? Isn’t one enough?” And I agree with them. There is no need for two films about Steve Jobs to exist. However, the one to have been released in 2015 is the one that should have been made in the first place.
Steve Jobs stars Michael Fassbender in the titular role and Kate Winslet as his Polish assistant. Among the supporting characters, Seth Rogen, Jeff Daniels, and Michael Stuhlbarg contribute their acting talents along with countless other people. The acting truly elevates this movie over other films made recently. Every actor devotes their entire being to their role, and it shows. The audience feels like they are privy to secret information and have a special insight into the life of Steve Jobs never before available to the public. Fassbender especially shines, bringing humanity to a man many thought as heartless and robotic.
The screenplay is the best thing about the film, even better than Fassbender’s devoted performance. Penned by Aaron Sorkin, writer of The Social Network and Moneyball, the script has an intelligent air to it. The writing is elevated, witty, funny, and exciting all at the same time. This is partially due to the way Sorkin decided to structure the film.
Almost every film ever made has had a three act structure, but few are as defined or influential to the plot as this one is. The entire film takes place before a presentation. The first act is before the launch of the Mac, the second act takes place before the Next Cube launch, and the third takes place before the launch of the iMac. In each section there are a few flashback sequences, but everything else takes place in the highly chaotic pre-presentation scramble. This creates every exchange Steve Jobs has contain elevated importance, as he must be on stage momentarily. It is in these moments the various conflicts arise. Steve Job’s friends and family decide that right before these monumental parts in his life are the best time to bring up quarrels. Seems like convenient timing, but more on that later.
Danny Boyle’s direction pushes the film forward, electrifying it and giving every frame importance and urgency. He continually finds ways to make things interesting and new. For example, every act was filmed on a different camera, each one reflecting the time period it takes place in. Little embellishments like this continually make the film feel fresh. For a movie mainly made up of conversations, this is an essential piece of what makes it so appealing and enthralling.
Many criticize the structure and events of the film, like the convenient timing mentioned above. People say that it’s unrealistic and not historically accurate that the events in the film all lined up near the launches. And they’re right. Many of the events in the film, although taking place at some point in Steve Jobs life, didn’t happen when they do in the film. Aaron Sorkin didn’t strive to have a historically accurate movie about Steve Jobs, however. That was already done. It’s called Jobs and it’s awful. He instead created an interesting character study into the man Jobs was. Sorkin changed events around and embellished different parts of his life in order to dive into the man Steve Jobs was. So while not necessarily accurate or probable, the film remains fascinating.
Steve Jobs is one of the best films of the year. All components combine to create an interesting and dynamic story about one of the technological pioneers. Everyone should definitely go see it. 9/10
Image credit: Charis Tsevis on Flickr.
Be warned: This film is rated R.
In talking about the movie Hell and Back, we must first talk about bad movies as a whole. In the world of film, a hierarchy of bad films has been created. The top level I call the enjoyable films. There are films that are definitely not good but not too bad. These movies, such as Pain and Gain, can be enjoyed, just not necessarily cerebrally. The next tier down are where tolerable films live, such as The Green Inferno. These are have good aspects but are widely underwhelming. Intolerable films are worse yet. There is no enjoyment to be had while watching these, just regret. Interestingly enough, all the movies worse than Intolerable steadily become more enjoyable. Films like The Room possess a “so bad it’s good quality.” Hell and Back unfortunately lands under the category of intolerable, full of terrible things.
It focuses on three stoner friends who run a decrepit amusement park. When one makes the other take a blood oath (some stupid thing about a mint) and fails, two must save the other, who is being held captive by the devil. And if it sounds like I’m being vague, that’s only because this film is an awful failure of cinema.
I feel it necessary to discuss the positives first, as this film is so mind-numbingly stupid I could talk for pages about what would make it better. The voice cast is great, featuring Nick Swardson, Mila Kunis, and T.J. Miller to name a few. And they do well with what they’re given (more on that later).
The stop motion animation is cool and well done. Often these types of movies are not very smooth and tend to give me headaches. No headache in my book equals well done stop motion.
There is a recurring joke involving a spirit and a demon. The demon tortures the spirit in an underwhelming way, and the spirit is clearly put out by the punishment. These events happen four times throughout the film. I tell you this for two reasons. First, these jokes are hilarious and had me laughing hard every time the characters returned. Second, these scenes are legitimately the only funny parts of this so called “comedy,” and now that I have told you what happens, you will be less inclined to see the film.
The film’s script is terrible. Less concerned with being funny, more so with how raunchy it can get, the jokes grow uncomfortable. An extended monologue about a tree comes to mind, The script doesn’t make any of the main characters likeable. They all are just terrible with no redeeming qualities. The film gives us no reason to want them to succeed. And I spent the run time hoping they would all die. In addition to being raunchy, it is also incredibly misogynistic. The writers were probably in middle school and just learned about girls existing when they wrote the waste of money.
And really, a comedy should first and foremost be funny. When it fails to live up to that expectation, a comedy fails. When it is additionally stupid and childish, then it becomes a truly terrible movie. This has 4 hysterical parts, and a lot of terrible parts. earning itself a score of 2/10.
Check out some more stop-motion animation films here.
Image Credit: Ros Alhague on Flickr.
Review: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
Book Basics: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
Copyright: 2015, Balzer + Bray
Genre: YA, LGBT, coming-of-age,
Star Rating: ★★★½ Borrow It First, Then Buy It
Short Summary: When sixteen-year-old Simon Spier’s secret emails fall into the wrong hands, he has no choice but to go along with being blackmailed, out of fear of his entire Georgia high school finding out that he’s gay. As Simon struggles with keeping his secret, he falls more and more in love with Blue (the guy he’s been emailing) and becomes more and more curious about Blue’s true identity, knowing that Blue is one of his fellow classmates.
What I Liked: This book was absolutely adorable. Like seriously, Simon and Blue’s emails made me squirm and squeal on the inside, it was so cute. Reading the book is like watching baby animal videos on YouTube: it’s just so cute it makes your heart explode. Becky Albertalli did an excellent job of writing Simon and Blue’s relationship and developed it very nicely, even though it was all online. Cuteness factor aside, the main characters were very well developed and there was an awesome message about stereotyping and how the “default” person shouldn’t be straight and white.
What I Didn’t Like: Overall, the writing could have been a bit better. At times, the plot felt a little dry, like it wasn’t going anywhere, and it kind of went in circles. A lot of the supporting characters were undeveloped, which was unfortunate, as they were really awesome people, just not really awesome characters.
In Conclusion: This was a super cute book. As I said before, the writing could have been better, but it had a great central message, and it’s always good to see diversity in YA novels, especially romance novels. If you like romance novels or you’re looking for something different, or you just want something fun and light to read, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is ADORABLE.
Don’t forget to check out my blog for more YA book reviews & recommendations!
Check out Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda here.