‘Wonder’ Review

Mild spoilers ahead. 

Three years ago, I read R.J. Palacio’s novel Wonder, and earlier today, I watched the film adaptation with my family. Not to sound clichĂŠ, but it truly was a wonder.Wonder is about Auggie Pullman (portrayed by Jacob Tremblay), a fifth grader with Treacher Collins syndrome (essentially a severe facial deformity). Due to his face, Auggie has never attended a real school, and his mother homeschooled him. The summer before he started fifth grade, his mother, Isabel (Julia Roberts), and father, Nate (Owen Wilson), decided that it’s time for him to start going to a real school. Partly because the longer they waited, the harder it’d be to integrate him into a school, and partly because of Auggie’s mother’s math skills.

Auggie agrees, and it’s off to Beecher Prep he goes. Not all of the students are instantly welcoming, but he finds true friends in his classmates Summer Dawson (Millie Davis) and Jack Will (Noah Jupe).

The school year has ups and downs for the other characters in the story as well: at first glance, Wonder seems to revolve around Auggie, but it doesn’t. By the time the novel ends, you get a look into the heads of several of the other characters. Aside from Auggie, sections of the novel are narrated by Via (Auggie’s older sister; portrayed by Izabela Vidovic), Jack, Justin (Via’s boyfriend; portrayed by Nadji Jeter), and Miranda (Via’s former best friend; portrayed by Danielle Rose Russel). Each of the characters has their own connection to Auggie, and they all have their own distinctive narrative voices.

All of that transferred beautifully into the screenplay, which was written by Stephen Chbosky (who wrote the The Perks of Being a Wallflower and the screenplay for this year’s reboot of Beauty and the Beast). Both the film and the novel were heartwarming, emotional, and humorous, and it was wondrous seeing the novel come to life.

Auggie’s story is a story that anyone can relate to, no matter how old or how young. Everyone has some experience with dealing with bullying, whether they were the target or a bystander (or even, God forbid, the instigator). Each of the supporting characters has a storyline that is relatable as well.

I found myself relating to Via’s storyline: at the beginning of the school year, she discovers that one of her closest friends, Miranda, has changed entirely. Miranda stops talking to Via entirely after a series of awkward interactions, and Via is hurt by the collapse of their friendship. I had a similar experience with a former friend, and seeing it play out on screen was incredible to watch. Vidovic’s performance was outstanding, and she was truly the perfect actress for Via.

Overall, reading the book and seeing the movie was a wonderful experience. The movie packed plenty of emotional punches (I normally don’t cry at movies, but I shed tears three times during this movie) but it was also funny and real when it needed to be. The novel is great to read when you need a pick-me-up, and the movie is sure to be fun for the whole family.

If you haven’t seen the movie or read the book, I recommend you do so immediately!

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‘Ten: Murder Island’ Review

Mild spoilers ahead for the novel Ten and the movie Ten: Murder Island. 

On September 16, Lifetime aired Ten: Murder Island, a movie based on Gretchen McNeil’s 2012 novel Ten that starred China Anne McClain and Rome Flynn as the leads, Meg and T.J. Last year, when I first found out that an adaptation of Ten was being made, I was really excited. Gretchen McNeil’s work is absolutely amazing, and she is without a doubt, one of my favorite authors. Her writing is smart, funny, thrilling, and suspenseful, and her all of her characters (even the ones you can’t help but hate) feel so three-dimensional and real. (And while we’re on the subject of Gretchen McNeil, I strongly recommend her books Get Even, Get Dirty, and 3:59, as well as Ten) Finding out Ten was being made into a movie was amazing. Finding out that the lead character (whom I related to so much) was being played by China Anne McClain just made it so much better.

Today I sat down and watched the movie, and I honestly don’t know how to feel about it.

The movie follows the same premise of the book: ten teens, Meg (McClain), Minnie (Cassidy Gifford), T.J. (Flynn), Gunner (Zak Steiner), Ben (Callan McAuliffe), Lori (Raquel Castro), Kenny (Matt Mercurio), Vivian (Meg Cashel), and Nathan (Dylan Arnold) are invited to a weekend house party by a popular girl in their grade, Jessica Lawrence. When the teens arrive at the Lawrence’s house, a death on the first night clues them in that someone is out to get them, and they realize that Jessica isn’t the one who invited them. Naturally, their first instinct is to get off the island, but the absence of ferries (their only escape) and the lack of cell service makes that impossible. As more deaths and sinister accidents occur, Meg, T.J., and the others frantically search for clues, but as they do, they get closer and closer to a killer.

The book was excellently plotted, amazingly funny, and brilliantly paced. The movie was really good, but in some ways, it didn’t really live up to the greatness of the book.

There were lots of elements that were just as great as the book. Nathan was truly a terrible person (spoiler alert: he’s not the killer, he’s just a womanizing jerk) but Arnold’s performance was spot-on. Castro’s performance as Lori was also a standout, even if Castro didn’t have as much screen time. All of the actors (especially Castro, Arnold, Flynn, Gifford, and McClain) were absolutely perfect for their respective parts, and that I wouldn’t change. The dialogue was great (although at times it was a bit stilted), and the story line, for the most part, stayed true to the book. The effects and the music were perfectly timed, and visually, the film was great.

The elements that didn’t stay true to the book were the ones that stand out the most. A major plot point in the novel is the discovery of a journal, one that the teens assume belongs to the killer. The author of this journal was just a sweet, sad, misunderstood girl, but the writers of the film made her seem vindictive and delusional. I loved the way that her journal entries were shot as flashbacks, but the narration that went with it didn’t match. In the book, you found yourself relating to the girl, as much as you wanted to suspect her as a killer, and in the movie, they made it easy to hate her.

Also, the leads were given more time to develop and the books, and I think it would’ve made each death more emotional (well, for the deaths of the characters that were actually likable) if they’d been given that development time. Meg and Minnie’s friendship, which is the force behind most of Meg’s decisions in the book/movie, was sort of underplayed. Understanding Meg and her motivations is a key part of the book, and I think the movie fell short in that respect.

Additionally, the ending of the movie definitely wasn’t as great as the ending. It packed an emotional punch, sure, but it lacked the intensity of the book’s climax. In the book, the killer goes up in flames (literally) after a vicious fight between Meg and the last remaining teen breaks out. After Meg and the other teen escape, they talk about what happened on the island means for them, and they are rescued by a Coast Guard boat. In the movie, the killer is tackled by one of the remaining teens and then beat to death with a gasoline can. Meg and the last remaining teen have an emotional conversation that fails to include any of the humor from the book. Interesting, yes, but it didn’t last very long. The final fight scene was less than ten minutes long, and I was just like, “All of that time spent over analysing who the killer was and what their motives was, and the killer’s taken down in five minutes? Please.”

Overall, I liked the movie. It was funny and thrilling, much like the book was. At the same time, the elements they excluded/changed from the book made it a lot more cliche. One of the things I enjoy most about McNeil’s writing is that it never feels cliche or unoriginal, and this adaptation feels like a little bit of both at times. Also, the novel is fast-paced but it never feels rushed, and the movie definitely felt a bit rushed at times.

This movie was good, but it could’ve been a lot better. In my opinion, I think it would’ve been better suited as a limited series, or perhaps a longer movie: character development definitely wouldn’t have had to take a back seat, and they could’ve kept the pacing of the original novel.

As much as I anticipated this movie, I’m kind of disappointed about how it turned out. But McNeil has other works that deserve to be made into movies/TV shows. Maybe if those get adapted as well, they’ll live up to the mastery of the originals.

Shadowhunters Mondays?

Anyone who knows me really well (or has been reading this blog since I started it in 2014) knows that I am absolutely, positively obsessed with Freeform’s Twisted. There was time where Twisted Tuesdays was my whole life.

A year before Twisted came into my life, Cassandra Clare’s series The Mortal Instruments (or TMI) came into my life. Normally, I don’t read fantasy. It doesn’t necessarily interest me as much as science fiction does. But The Mortal Instruments isn’t like any other fantasy series, or at least not to me. It’s actually the third series (it’s chronologically the third, at least) in a fantasy franchise entitled The Shadowhunter Chronicles. We can go into more detail about those series later (because they’re just as amazing as The Mortal Instruments). 

The Mortal Instruments is about a fifteen-year-old girl named Clary Fray (who’s eighteen in the TV adaptation) whose life is turned upside down. Sounds clichĂŠ, right? At first yes, but that’s the only part of this series that’s clichĂŠ (besides the love triangles, of course). Shortly before her sixteenth birthday, she’s at a club called Pandemonium with her best friend Simon Lewis when she witnesses a murder committed by three teenagers covered in strange markings. Even stranger? No one else can see or hear them: only Clary can. From there, her life takes a crazy turn as her mother is abducted and Clary is thrust into the world of Shadowhunters, half-angel, half human warriors whose mandate is to kill demons and protect humans from the Shadow World.

In 2013, The Mortal Instruments was developed into a movie entitled The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, and it starred Lily Collins and Jamie Campbell Bower. To be frank, it was terrible and I hated almost everything about it. Except for Robert Sheehan. He made a great Simon.

So, in 2015, when ABC Family announced that they were adapting The Mortal Instruments into a show called Shadowhunters, I was equally skeptical and excited. I was mainly excited, though, because I was hoping that Shadowhunters would be better than the TV series, and I was absolutely right. (Although my mother doesn’t agree with me on that.) 

For the most part, it sticks to the books pretty well, and the dialogue is way better than the dialogue in the movie. It does stray from the books in certain ways, but I think that the show is still really good even with that. I think the first season was amazing, and the music is great too. The acting is amazing, and the actor choices are incredible, especially Alberto Rosende’s Simon, Isaiah Mustafa’s Luke, and Emeraude Toubia’s Isabelle. Also, I have to admit that in the books I wasn’t always Clary’s biggest fan (although by the end of City of Heavenly Fire she’d started to grow on me), but I really like her in the TV series.

I’m especially excited for season two’s debut tonight, since they’ve announced that Maia Roberts, one of my favorite characters, will be introduced in this season. Sebastian, a character every TMI fan loves to hate (and if you watch the show, you’ll see why) will be introduced in the second half of the season, and I’m excited for the chaos his arrival is sure to bring. Although I think that it will be torture waiting for the second half of the season, which will likely premiere sometime in the summer.

I haven’t been this excited about a TV series since Twisted. Maybe, just maybe Shadowhunters Mondays will become the next Twisted Tuesdays. (But Twisted Tuesdays has a better ring to it. Maybe Mundie Mondays, how about that?)  Shadowhunters just might be the show I’ve been waiting for, since Pretty Little Liars is no longer cutting it, and hasn’t been for a long time. (But the books are still great!)

*Note: The original version of this post stated that Shadowhunters airs on Tuesdays. Last year they aired on Tuesdays (taking Twisted’s spot) but this year it looks like it’s going to be aired on Mondays.

 

Here’s What I Think About Mockingjay

I saw The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part Two yesterday. I was somewhat wary, after hearing all of the bad reviews.  I have to say, it deserved some of them. I’m going to give it 3 out of 5 stars.

I read the book, and I was on the edge of my seat the whole time. I loved Mockingjay, or as I called it, “The installment where everyone dies.”

I’m not wrong, am I?

Back to the movie. The reason I’m only giving the movie three stars is because, despite being a brutal movie, it just wasn’t very exciting.

I was only on my toes for one part of the movie, and that’s because I knew that one of my favorite characters was about to die. (It, was, however, right before another character’s death–a death I had forgotten.) That was the only part where my heart was threatening to beat out of my chest.

Also, Liam Hemsworth. We need to discuss. At first I thought that it was ridiculous that a review said that his performance was terrible.

That review (read it here: http://www.vox.com/culture/2015/11/20/9768210/hunger-games-mockingjay-part-2-review-final-movie) shocked me at first. But now that I’ve seen the movie, I think that the blame should go to Gale, not Liam. In the movie, I hated Gale as a character, but not Liam as an actor.

Another criticism I have is that I feel like it rushed through the book (it was the second shortest Hunger Games movie). Squad 451 stayed with Tigress for much longer than they did in the film.

It had also been way too long since I had seen Part One, or reread the book, so some of the criticisms I had been unwarranted since they had been in the first movie. I won’t mention those.

My favorite part of the movie was the ending. Not because it was over, but because I loved Katniss’ words.

All in all, I think it was a decent ending. Could’ve been better. But we’ll live.

Liam Hemsworth Teases ‘Kiss’ With Josh Hutcherson In Final ‘Hunger Games’ Movie

I have no words. (Except this needs to happen!)

Hollywood Life

Talk about a bromance! Liam Hemsworth left fans reeling when he suggested he shares a steamy kiss with Josh Hutcherson in ‘The Hunger Games.’ Say what?

Liam Hemsworth, 25, has a new on-screen love interest in the final install of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay. While promoting the film during San Diego Comic-Con, the actor shared that he has an unlikely suitor in the film: Josh Hutcherson, 22. There’s just one question: real or not real?

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Tut‘s Avan Jogia Talks Twisted Cliffhanger, Shares Pitch for Season 2

I love this!

TVLine

Until Avan Jogia is reintroduced to television viewers as the titular pharaoh in SpikeTV’s Tut (July 19, 9/8c), he’s still Twisted‘s Danny Desai in our hearts.

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Gossip Girl Takeover 7: A Farewell to J? 

It’s Gossip Girl here, your most reliable source in the day to day lives of Delaware’s most adorkable girls, cutest guys, and mean teachers. (Oh, all of the aforementioned people’s names have been edited/shortened to protect the one and only innocent person in this situation-moi.)                    *•*•*•*•*•*•*•*•*•*•*•*•*•*•*•*•*•*•*• I’m back and better than ever! 

First things first. The dance. It’s been canceled twice. It’s this Friday…a month after the original dance. Jeez, Mother Nature. Hate on people who live in warm states! 

Second things second. The musical. Didn’t get to see it (sad face emoji) because I was too busy watching the drama backstage. Good job, R, H, and J! Looking forward to next year. 

Third things third. J’s got a crush–and it’s not Tyler Blackburn or Keegan Allen! I dare you to spill, girlfriend. 

Fourth things fourth. Remember how H got into IB? So did the Wicked Witch, who’s actually pretty sweet. And we hear J’s applying as well. Or is the correct word applied. Her mom was seen mailing something on Friday…

Last things last. Hope to see you guys at the dance! 

XOXO, Gossip Girl ❤️😘