REVIEW: The Giver

15 08 2014

The GiverIf there was any doubt that we’re reaching the point of supersaturation with dystopian YA adaptations, “The Giver” confirms that the tipping point has arrived.  I get that life in post-recessional America doesn’t exactly inspire hope, be you a teenager or an adult.  But I doubt real life could be any worse than escaping into this derivative and, often times, outright laughable film.

I first read the film’s source material, Lois Lowry’s Newberry-winning novel that is now a staple of middle school English curricula, as an impressionable 12-year-old in 2005.  At the time, the post-“Harry Potter” adolescent fiction boom had not begun to tarnish the newly bolstered reputation of writing aimed for emerging readers (not even the “Twilight” series had been published).  YA was neither a dirty word nor a marketing buzzword then; it was just my demographic.

Lowry’s book might have been relatively short, but it sure packed a punch.  “The Giver” can serve a crucial function in the escalation of material for language arts, providing a key stepping stone towards more weighty adult literature.  If you can place yourself in the position of a teenager, the dialectical push and pull between order and chaos as well as pain and pleasure are actually quite thought-provoking.

Yet no matter how deeply one might have regarded the thematic content of the novel, it’s entirely possible to discredit “The Giver” as little more than a compilation of shallow marketing hooks for a cookie-cutter dystopian YA film.  The very premise of the story loses sophistication and nuance as it’s forced to fit the mold made popular by “The Hunger Games.”  What made Lowry’s story special is largely discarded in favor the conventional, leaving behind a film that’s a shadow of its literary incarnation.

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REVIEW: Valentine’s Day

6 07 2010

As much as I wanted to say that all these stars couldn’t save a movie, I can’t. Much to my surprise, “Valentine’s Day” was a relatively charming and very entertaining look at just about every kind of love that might exist. And given the day it is set on, all the love stories are as pumped up on steroids as the size of the cast.

The line-up is like a romantic comedy all-star team, and to top it off, they’ve even peppered in some serious actors. Oscar winners Kathy Bates, Jamie Foxx, Julia Roberts (who falls into the rom-com category as well), and Shirley MacLaine all make appearances. “Grey’s Anatomy” fans can rejoice at getting McDreamy AND McSteamy together outside of Seattle Grace hospital. Teen idols for both boys and girls are represented through Taylor Swift and Taylor Lautner. In case you had any doubt, you can find at least one star to make your valentine in the cast.

And there’s every kind of love story you can imagine. The movie rounds all the bases and covers all the definitions of the L word that keeps the world spinning. There’s young love and old love, pure love and cheating love, parental love and physical love.  And of course, because you can’t have love without it, there’s heartbreak.

Now, just because it tells all these stories doesn’t mean that they are all told well.  There are plenty that are just plain boring to watch or so horrifyingly predictable that the movie would have done well to shuck it and lose a few minutes off a pretty bloated running time.  At over two hours, it’s a marathon romantic comedy.  You can feel the fatigue starting to set in as it crosses the hour mark, dragging along under the weight of too many characters and storylines.  Most are wrapped up with class, albeit in a fairly typical and predictable fashion.  Be sure to stay tuned until the very end because there are some nice and touching twists up its sleeve.  Turning it off would be a big mistake.  Huge.  B /





Random Factoid #159

3 01 2010

I have a new pet peeve of moviegoing, so naturally, I shall vent it here.

At the AMC theater which I attend, there has been a pandemic sweeping the halls.  No one closes the door to the theater!

This may not seem like a big deal, but when you hear the sounds of Taylor Swift and Reba MacEntire ever so softly while you revel in the beautiful silences of “Bright Star,” it is incredibly distracting.  I can now count the number of times I have gotten out of my seat in the middle of a movie (which I never do if I can help it) to shut the theater door so I can focus on the movie.

If anyone who has any say at AMC reads this, I am more than willing to have a face-to-face conversation about this.  We can do it by phone, too, if you wish.