Confessions of a Host lover

thehostmovieposterThe Host is premiering in theaters tomorrow. And as someone who has been using this book to justify Stephenie Meyer to non-reader-movie-goers ever since the Twilight movies took inhumanly-beautiful vampires and made them pale-beyond-belief with whacko hair and emo lighting… well, I’m nervous.

I really, really want this movie to be good.

Really.

Aside from a few little issues that I have with The Host, the book (like the weak-sauce pipsqueak they turn the main character into in the epilogue, and Meyer’s ongoing belief that being carried around by others makes for a romantic heroine) I really love this book.

I’m the first to admit that I have a complicated opinion of Stephenie Meyer. I love the Twilight trilogy. And I hate it. I especially hate Breaking Dawn. Except for Jacob’s chapters. And Renesmee, annoyingly enough (I hate that I loved Renesmee by the end of the book). I hate that so much of Twilight is about giving up any power you have in the name of love, and how being a supernatural creature made you sterile if you are a woman. I’m fairly convinced that, at least fictionally, Stephenie Meyer hates her own gender.

But that’s all besides the fact that I love Jacob Black. I love Charlie Swan. I love Alice Cullen. And when I write these names, I’m talking about the book versions of them, which in my mind look nothing like their movie counterparts.

And, I love The HostThe love-triangle-that-isn’t appeals to me in ways that I can’t fully explain without delving into my long-ago, fanfic-obsessed days, where I reveled in stories that questioned the hows and whys of love, instead of just having the same two characters fall for each other in some new quirky way.

Maybe the thing that makes me truly worried about The Host  coming out concerns how it is being advertised absolutely everywhere online. It is trying really hard to make it as big as the Twilight movies. And it even has a few well-known actors thrown in that are legitimizing it.

But I don’t know what I will do if the movie doesn’t do the book justice. I don’t care if it’s spot-on-accurate; I gave that wist up with Harry Potter. I just want the feel to be the same. And if this movie is bad? If it is as bad as the Twilight movies, so that it almost becomes its own parody? Will I have as much difficulty separating the badness of the movie from the goodness of the book, the way I do with Twilight now?

Because so far as I’ve seen, the movie doesn’t feel like the book. I can’t tell yet if it’s made a mockery of it. But Jared is a little too pretty, and they’re showing him kissing her a little too much, and Jamie—Melody and Wanderer’s MAIN priority in the book—has not been mentioned at all.

These things, they worry me. I want to trust that this will make a decent movie… but I don’t know that I can until I see it firsthand.

What about you? Are you looking forward to The Host?

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Warm Bodies Film Review

warmbodiesMost of the time I like to read the book before I see the movie, but I have to admit it, when Nicholas Hoult is involved… all bets are off.

Besides, zombie movie that I wanted to watch? I knew The Mr. would agree to that.

So here’s the basic premise of Warm Bodies (based on the book of the same name by Isaac Marion): R is a zombie. With a pension for vinyl and collecting  things. He goes by R because he can’t really remember his name. He can’t really communicate well, either.

He shambles around feeling very disconnected to people—until he sees Julie. He decides to save her rather than eat her, which starts a change that makes all of the zombies a little bit… warmer. More human. (And maybe just in time to stop Julie’s dad from trying to wipe out zombies entirely).

I was utterly enchanted with Warm Bodies. It was a little unconventional how R learned about Julie’s past, and a little odd how quickly she got over the how (can’t really explain that without giving a lot away) but I guess I can understand it in the fact that you don’t have a whole lot of time for storytelling in a two-hour movie.

This was a surprisingly sweet love story, and the idea that love could cure zombie-ism was fresh and fairytale-ish. Just exactly the type of zombie movie to make up for all of the depressing, there-is-no-hope scenarios out there (I’m looking at you, Walking Dead.)

The side-characters were great, too. John Malkovich was convincing as a man taking grief over his wife against unsuspecting zombies, and Rob Corddry was memorable as M, R’s best friend (who he shared growling sessions with).

My favorite moment was at the beginning of the movie, when R was wandering around the airport with other zombies, thinking about how wonderful things must have been before, when people could communicate with each other, and enjoy each other’s company. Meanwhile, in his fantasizing of this better world—every single “normal” person was on a cell phone, texting or playing, ignoring everyone around them. Symbolism? Loud and clear.

All in all, this is a movie I highly recommend. Fun, sweet, with just the right number of scares.

What have you seen lately?

Movie Review: The Lorax

I was never overly familiar with The Lorax. It wasn’t one of the Seuss books that I owned and cuddled and opened up all the time just to look at the pictures. In fact, if the commercials hadn’t made it fairly clear, I wouldn’t have remembered what The Lorax was about at all. Cutting down trees to make thneeds… vaguely familiar, but again, not a strong Seuss memory for me like Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

Still, it looked like a fun movie. And it looked funner and friendlier than Horton Hears a Who. I still don’t really get the evil vulture in that story. Also it had Ed Helms! So who could resist?

The Lorax is a story of a city entirely made of plastic, with no single growing thing other than people. Because of this, the air is ultra-polluted, but one man decides to bottle clean air and sell it. One girl has heard about trees, though, and wants nothing more than to have a real tree growing in her own backyard, so the boy who likes her decides he’s going to go and find her a tree. He is lead to the Once-ler by his grandmother, and from him, learns the strange tale of the Lorax, and what happened to the trees in the first place.

Ultimately this was a fun movie. The colors were so bright and happy that you couldn’t help but enjoy them, and the lesson of taking care of your environment didn’t come off as preachy as say, the old Seuss cartoons from the 70s.

I really enjoyed this film. The love story was adorable, the fish and bears and daffy birds were cute and fun, and the hard-learned lesson of the Once-ler’s was done in a nice, poignant way.

My one reservation on enjoying this film was the song numbers. When I saw the Once-ler fiddling with his guitar, I was sort of hoping the music would be constrained to Ed Helms playing a ditty here or there. Instead, there were mediocre, over-the-top musical numbers with electric guitars and clanging. Which wasn’t really what I was looking for. In my opinion, the movie would have done better without the musical numbers at all.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a big song and dance number as much as anyone, especially in a cartoon format… I just feel like filmmakers don’t really know what goes into that anymore. Too often they miss out on the heart of it and try to do too much. Think of “A Dream is a Wish your Heart Makes.” A simple song will usually work just fine.

Movie Review: The Hunger Games

Once in a while a movie adaptation of a book is good enough to make lovers of the novel want to stand up and cheer. I think Hunger Games was a prime example of this. The movie, while not 100% faithful to the book, was wonderfully, refreshingly loyal to its original incarnation. I suspect it had something to do with Suzanne Collins working on the script, but maybe it’s more? Maybe Hollywood is finally understanding that movie adaptations turn out better when they stick to the plot of the book? (See: Harry Potter vs. Percy Jackson). Any book canon sacrifices in the movie seem to have been done solely for the sake of clarity for a brand-new audience, and those were handled deftly, if I may be allowed to say so.

Overall, I thought it was brilliant. It was visually perfect, as far as I’m concerned, and the some of the side characters did a marvelous job with a tiny amount of screentime. For example, I’d never felt much emotional attachment to Gale before (don’t judge, I’m only a couple of chapters into Catching Fire), but Liam Hemsworth made my heart ache for the boy more than Katniss’ narration has yet been able to.

Gah, I’m almost too pleased with this film to review it well! Jennifer Lawrence was a bit more trembly than I imagined Katniss being in the books, but on the other hand, she had nothing but her facial expression to convey everything Katniss tells us in the book, so I forgive her entirely for that. Josh Hutcherson was point-perfect as Peeta. Woody Harrelson was the only person who possibly could have played Haymitch, and his performance did not let me down. I always pictured a serious-faced Alan Tudyk as Cinna, but Lenny Kravitz did the job admirably.

And yes, I cried. When Katniss volunteered herself, when Rue… well, you probably know, but best not to say anyhow.

Even the end music was perfection. Haunting and lovely, exactly what you want walking away from that.

Now I better get finished with Catching Fire! Because really, it’s getting so good…

How to Train Your Dragon

I finally got to see How to Train Your Dragon a few days ago. Talk about a cute movie. I’ll admit, I’ve wanted to see this movie since I first heard about it, but things just kept getting in the way. To the point where I lost some of the desire to see it, almost. Almost.

The story is all about being yourself, and not being afraid of thinking differently from everyone around you. The main character is a scrawny kid named Hiccup, who is smaller and weaker than just about every other person in his village. His village of Vikings. In fact, his father is the chief (chief?) of the village.

His people are in constant battle with dragons. Dragons come, burn their homes and steal their livestock, so the Vikings are akin to fighting them—and killing them. As Hiccup tells you at the start of the film, you’re nobody if you don’t kill a dragon. Hiccup gets a chance to kill his own dragon, thanks to his invention that has let him bring one out of the sky, but he just can’t do it. Still, he’s injured the dragon’s tail, so now this fearsome dragon can’t fly.

Eventually Hiccup and the dragon become friends, and Hiccup helps the dragon learn how to fly again—which ends up leading to repercussions when his pet is found out.

In the end, Hiccup and his friends save the day and teach the older villagers how to think differently, so that they and the dragons can co-exist happily.

The movie does have a darker moment or two, both in terms of violence and also in emotional hits (Hiccup’s father basically disowns him at one point). Still, I don’t think it’s too harsh for younger audiences. And the dragons are so cute. So. Cute. I don’t know if this movie is likely to have a sequel or not, but I’d definitely watch it if there were one.

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole

Other than fantastic effects, I really didn’t know what to expect going into this movie.  My older brother said it was fantastic, but he gets caught up in visual effects anyhow.  My sister found it particularly disturbing.  She said that it was gory and violent.  From the previews, personally, I found it to be very pastel.  But I went and saw it at a little dollar theater in Salt Lake the other night, and I have to admit, I enjoyed it.

It really was very dark and violent, something I don’t think I’d be comfortable with little kids seeing, but as a friend who saw it with me reminded me, so was The Secret of Nimh*, a movie that I watched as a young child (though, now that I think about it, I never really liked The Secret of Nimh).  It was much darker, for example, than the first Harry Potter film, and more disturbing in its darkness than the more recent Potter‘s, because on the surface it’s this cute, kid’s movie where all the characters are owls.  It sold itself as an adventure, and it certainly was, but it was an adventure with particularly cruel and sinister bad guys, along with ghastly betrayals by friends and brothers alike.

Why then, can I say that I enjoyed it?  Well, firstly, I liked some of the messages involved, especially the idea that stories are so important—that they inspire us to, both to dream and to act.  What I wasn’t so impressed with was how there seemed to be no chance for redemption for any of the bad characters.  Once you chose the wrong side, there’s no turning back from it, and you’ll probably suffer horrifically for it at some point.  At least once.

Maybe I’m judging harshly, or at least prematurely.  Maybe the story is much more gray-scale in the books, and there’s eventual redemption worked in.  Or maybe not.  Can anybody tell me?

*Also, both of these are movies based on books. Are kids’ books more acceptable in darkness than movies, maybe?  Or is it just that dark kids’ adventure books get turned into movies? I wonder….