Category Archives: book to movie review

Fairytale to movie review: Mirror, Mirror

***CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS***

Fairytale remakes seem to be en vogue right now. Last year, there was Red Riding Hood, Beastly and I read on GreenBeanTeenQueen‘s blog that there’s a Beauty and the Beast TV show in the works.

Mirror, Mirror with Julia Roberts as the evil stepmother and Lily Collins as Snow White premiered yesterday, just a few months before Snow White and the Huntsman, which comes out in June.

Mirror, mirror on the wall, which is the best Snow White adaptation of them all?

Of course, we will have to wait until this summer to answer the question, but my bet is on Snow White and the Huntsman, despite my lack of enthusiasm for any movie with Kristen Stewart. I saw Mirror, Mirror last night and it wasn’t that bad, but it wasn’t fantastic, either. I guess between these two adaptations, it will really depend on what you’re looking for.

With so many fairytale movies out there, it begs the question: what is the appeal of these retellings? I think people can easily identify with fairytales because they know them so well already and they speak to universal themes. Also, these tales have strong visual components, for example, the bright red apple featured in Snow White or the sharp needle on the spinning wheel in Sleeping Beauty. These iconic images (along with fabulous, elaborate costumes) give the filmmakers a chance to create a visually stunning motion picture.

Mirror, Mirror is rated PG, but there is nothing in it that is objectionable, in fact many of the viewers I saw last night were tweens, or a bit younger. I must admit that I was interested in seeing the movie for the dresses. I knew that going in, so I was prepared for the kind of experience I got (and the dresses were more than I could have dreamed of). During the first part of the movie, I thought “Wow, this is actually a retelling of Snow White. There’s no twist or anything.”

If the movie had continued in that vein, I would not have enjoyed it very much. Besides creating a visually stunning motion picture (as I mentioned above) fairytale retellings also have the opportunity to show a different side to the classic story. The example that instantly springs to mind is the book Wicked by Gregory Maguire. These stories are interesting because they give a voice to another character or change another aspect of the fairytale in some way.

So, what was the twist to Mirror, Mirror? Snow White sees right through her stepmother’s disguise and does not bite the poisoned apple. Therefore, she doesn’t need to be saved by the prince. She informs him (when she is in another dangerous situation) that the princess will be the hero this time. It’s always refreshing to see a strong female lead in movie, especially in a fairytale, where women are known for being damsels in distress, not saving the kingdom. However, I didn’t really respond to the girl power, probably because I was still thinking about the awesomeness that is Katniss Everdeen (who was kicking butt and taking names in the next theater over) and let’s face it, few girls can compete with the Mockingjay.

From what I’ve heard about Snow White and the Huntsman, the movie will tell the “true story” of Snow White. I’m expecting a grittier movie, more special effects, and huge armies on horseback (from what I’ve seen in the preview) and much less “happily ever after.” At first, I had little desire to see this remake, but after seeing the preview, I must say, I’m intrigued.

That said, I did actually enjoy Mirror, Mirror. The dwarfs (played by every famous little person actor you can think of) were surprisingly funny. The dresses, as I mentioned, were amazing:

I think I would have really, really liked this movie when I was a tween. When I was about twelve years old, a Cinderella adaptation called Ever After came out in theaters. I loved that movie when I saw it then, but watching it years later (yes, I own it) isn’t quite the same. I noticed how certain characters drop their fake British accents twenty minutes into the movie and the major, obvious plot holes. Being older, these things bother me although twelve year old me was just happy to watch what I thought of as a “grown-up version of Cinderella.” So, I suspect that twelve year old girls will go to this movie with their friends and be excited to see a “grown-up version of Snow White.” For the rest of you (who aren’t drawn to the theater by the promise of elaborate gowns) the premiere of Snow White and the Huntsman is only a couple of months away.

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Book to movie review: The Hunger Games

*CONTAINS SPOILERS*

I was a little apprehensive about seeing The Hunger Games.  On the one hand, I was extremely excited to see the movie, but I was also nervous because I had enjoyed the book so much.  I was prepared for the fact that some events from the book would be cut out.  Personally, it doesn’t bother me if a movie doesn’t follow the book word for word.  Books and movies have different strengths and weaknesses in terms of their storytelling ability.  Here are some strengths and weaknesses of the movie adaptation of The Hunger Games.

Strength:  The movie captures Panem in detail

When I read the book, I was aware that the citizens District 12 were living in extreme poverty, but to see it portrayed on the big screen really made an impression on me.  The opening scenes, which serve mostly to introduce us to Katniss’ life, are devoid of bright color.  As Katniss walks through the streets on her way to the forest, we see an old man greedily eating a small animal and piling the bones up next to him.  The overall feeling is one of despair.  These people are hanging on-but just barely.   The review in this week’s Entertainment Weekly says “director Gary Ross does a tight job of establishing the future-meets-1984 vibe in Panem: the slog of daily life, the hopelessness that dulls the citizens, the fear that returns each year at the Hunger Games lottery known as the Reaping. ”

On the other side of the spectrum is the Capitol.  As those who have read the book already know, the people who live in the Capitol are characterized by their hedonism and devotion to excess in every aspect of their lives:  they eat extravagant food, have every luxury money could buy, and are obsessed with fashion.  They even go so far as to have extreme plastic surgery to stay en vogue.  The scenes depicting the citizens of the Capitol may not have matched up exactly with the descriptions of the book, but the overall atmosphere was the same.  Effie Trinket’s looks seemed tame next to some of the other characters’ fashion choices (Katniss’ stylist with the impossible long eyelashes really freaked me out!)  To see a bunch of people from the Capitol together really gave a sense of what it would be like to live there (or in Katniss and Peeta’s case, visit briefly).

Weakness:  Flashbacks

One of the most important flashback scenes in the book is Katniss’ memory of Peeta giving her a loaf of bread.  Since the book is told in first-person narration, Katniss can describe to us exactly what happened and how she feels about it.  In the movie, this memory is more difficult to get across.  There are many brief, wordless flashbacks of “the bread incident” but it is not fully explained.  This is not a problem for someone who has read the book, but people who are new to the story would mostly likely be confused.

Katniss also has flashbacks and hallucinations about her father’s death and her mother’s subsequent decline.  These scenes are choppy and would be difficult to understand without knowledge of the storyline.

Strength and Weakness:  Casting

Jennifer Lawrence was the perfect choice to play Katniss Everdeen.  I had seen her in Winter’s Bone, so I knew she could pull of the strong, self-sufficient personality that is necessary for the role.  I was pleasantly surprised by Elizabeth Banks (Effie Trinket), Woody Harrelson (Haymitch), and Stanley Tucci (Caesar Flickerman).  I couldn’t quite picture any of them in their roles, but they did a great job bringing the characters to life.

I was a little disappointed with some of the other characters, however.  It may be because they were not given a lot of screen time (I felt like we hardly saw Prim or Gale) but something didn’t quite fit.  I was most disappointed by Peeta because I enjoy the character so much when I read the book.  One minute he’s professing his love for Katniss on national television, and then he has teemed up with the Careers (who are determined to kill Katniss).  Katniss has a hard time trusting him, and I did too, when I read the book.  As the review in EW puts it “In the book, interesting edges rough up his niceness; he’s not quite so easy to peg.”  Josh Hutcherson didn’t quite capture Peeta’s complexity.  He portrays him as a nice, sensitive boy who is hopelessly in love.  This is an important aspect of the character, but certainly not the whole picture.

As a fan of the book, I felt that the adaptation stayed true to the spirit of The Hunger Games.  The film has been criticized for its mild approach to the violent scenes, but I don’t think this detracted from the story at all.  The idea that children must fight to the death each year is enough to make an impression; seeing every death isn’t necessary.  Even though I had already read the book, I found myself getting nervous during certain scenes (the Reaping, in particular).  So, even if you’re familiar with the story, watching the movie is still a captivating experience.

Recommendation: 4.5 out of 5 lupines

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Book to movie review: Hugo

This week I finally had a chance to see Hugo (on DVD).  Hugo is Martin Scorsese’s adaptation of Brian Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret.  I wasn’t sure how I would respond to the movie, considering that the book is one of my favorite tween reads.  Brian Selznick has such a unique way of telling his story-I wasn’t sure that could be captured on film.

I was surprised at how much I liked it.  No, Hugo is not just like The Invention of Hugo Cabret (as many library patrons pointed out to me… “I can’t believe they left out this part!”  “She wasn’t even a character in the book!”, etc…) but after watching many movie adaptations, I’ve learned not to expect the book.

The movie is beautifully shot and the use of CGI to create the train station was especially impressive.  In terms of plot changes (SPOILER ALERT) I did not mind the addition of Emily Mortimer’s character (Lisette, the flower girl) because the interactions that she had with the station master really helped to develop his character.  The movie includes a more detailed drawing of the station master-including his history and explains why he is so strict (heartless?) about stray children in the station.

I was mostly concerned that the movie would give us too much information about the story.  When reading the book, the reader gets some information from text, and some from illustrations.  For example, Selznick could have written a detailed description of Isabelle’s favorite bookstore, but instead he gives us a detailed illustration:

By studying the illustration, the reader can pick up details in the story and create a full picture in his/her mind.  Especially for people who are visual learners, the numerous illustrations in this book provide for a complete reading experience.  How could a movie accomplish this?  Scorsese includes many shots of Paris and close-ups of the characters without dialogue that simulate the effect-the images speak for themselves.

Pairing The Invention of Hugo Cabret with the movie adaptation would be a great choice for a book-to-movie club for tweens.  Has anyone tried a book-to-movie club for this age group?

Recommendation: 5 out of 5 lupines

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