Sunday, 17 February 2013

Beautiful Creatures Film Review

Beautiful Creatures 2013

  Yesterday (Feb. 16 2013) we went to see the Beautiful Creatures movie at the theater. Needless to say, we had a case of the fangirl squees while waiting for the film to start. We have been waiting to see the film since we all read the book.  
            Unfortunately, there were many times when we looked at each other and mouthed “what?!” I am adamant that adaptations from book to film cannot be exactly alike. What works in a book does not necessarily work in a film. However, while watching this film, there is the moment when you realize the film has gone crazy and has started adding unnecessary things to the story. Some of the additions are ridiculous, and I will address them, but those sections might contain spoilers and will be marked. I try not to repeat myself so while some comments could appear under many headings, I try to keep some kind of semblance of organization.

Main Characters
            Ethan does not behave as I thought he did in the book. Admittedly, I thought their banter was much more interesting in the book, and overall he had more personality. (Lena: Can we just have a normal, awkward teenager date? Ethan: I won’t even call you the next day. *note: this is not an exact quote, only what I can remember.) I still stand by my opinion that he looks older than he should, and he doesn’t have the hair that needs cutting as stated in the book. It would be one thing if the film simply ignored it, but no, it doesn’t. In the first few moments of the film Amma reminds Ethan that he needs a haircut (when he obviously doesn’t). It was a moment when the writer tells the audience “Hey, I read the book too, I know what I’m writing about.” And by the way, he doesn’t know what he’s writing about.  
            Lena is a decent actor, though like Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss in the Hunger Games film, I feel that they should have been more aware of how her face looks in certain angles. That’s something the camera and the actress needs to be aware of. My only major gripe with Lena is that her wardrobe doesn’t have the otherworldly feel like it does in the book. She is supposed to look different and out of place. Sure, she might not look exactly like her class mates, but it’s close, and maybe she is from the next town over. She is supposed to look noticeably different, and she doesn’t. Also, the charm necklace is never explained and should therefore just be taken out of the film.    

            The atmosphere was well-done in the film, though I have actually never been to the south (yet). At least it looks like what other films tell me the American South looks like. However, I hate it when films have a narrative frame, trying to emulate Twilight. It would have been more effective to have Ethan speaking to someone for the set-up. Ethan: Hey Link. I hate Gatlin. You know what my mom always said, right? That we should strive to get out of this town full of religious zealots. She was right. All Gatlin talks about is the Battle of Honey Hill. Etc. There is at least one other point in the film that uses voice-over narrative that is unnecessary and shows lazy writing. Also, throwing around terms like “naturalist” without explanation is lazy writing and confusing for the audience, whether they have read the book or not.   
            I do dislike how the term southern Gothic is automatically stapled to this film. Yes, it takes place in the south and has the religious overtones known in the Bible Belt. Does it really have the abandoned, spooky buildings or other iconic symbolism? Not really. Everything is overdramatic and not scary at all. In fact, most of the scenes are in happy daylight. Southern Gothic also involves the grotesque in some way. It’s not here. So let’s stop using terms we don’t understand, shall we? It’s a teen romance movie, don’t paint it as something that it is not.

Book to Film-What Was Changed
(Mild Spoilers)

Light Vs Dark
            This change I actually liked. In the book, why you wouldn’t want to go Dark isn’t particularly clear. I assumed it has something to do with going to the dark side and you get to shoot lightning out of your fingers, but nothing is said in the book, as far as we can recall. With the exception of the “OMG once you go Dark you’ll hurt everybody you love!” you don’t know anything besides Dark=Bad.
            In the film, Dark Casters are actually bad. Ridley, a siren, actually hurts people. Sarafine has an agenda that will hurt mortals. Even Macon Ravenwood is a total jerk at one point and does something mean to Ethan.   

All Duchannes are Claimed, male or female, in the book. In the film, only the men get to choose and the girls still get Claimed. Why did they change this in the film? They made it a girl only curse that is directly related to their bloodline. I think this was a stupid idea that was totally unnecessary. Why change what isn't broken? 

Secondary Characters
            A lot of fail here. Why don’t we get to hear about any of the family’s powers? Where are all the other family members? Larkin’s purpose in the film has been so altered, I have to ask: why is he even in the film? Marian has been cut and replaced with Amma. Amma is supposed to be the Caster and Public Library librarian, on top of being Ethan’s caretaker (which is not explained, to my recollection) and a seer. This doesn’t give her much time to do all the other things she is supposed to do in the story, and I hate how the film just neglects logic and piles all this on her character. Ethan’s father never makes an appearance and he is swiftly forgotten. Not much mentioning of Ethan’s mother, either, when she plays a role in the first book even though she is absent. Don’t even get me started on what they did to Macon in the end of the film.   

Why is Sarafine introduced so early? The whole “OMG she’s been influencing everyone the entire time!” falls flat because in the film, we are SHOWN a huge reveal too soon. The audience is left here’s Sarafine, being evil. I guess she’s the bad guy. The film tells us: Please be afraid of her now. This doesn’t really work.  

            The ending was ridiculous. I will not apologize for my statement either. It was stupid and uninspired. It was like whoever wrote the screenplay felt pressured to throw in a mish-mash of overused tripe and call it a day. Even the lines the actors were given are just awful. Why did they deviate from the source material so badly? I can't stand what they did to Macon and Ridley.

            An alright movie for people who have not read the book and are into paranormal romances. The ending was rubbish. The beginning was more than decent for this kind of film. It had some interesting and thrilling scenes with magic like spinning tables. The love story was alright. Better than Twilight. Atmosphere and acting was enjoyable. If the second film is made despite the abysmal ending, I hope they get a better screen writer.   

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

The Giving Bunny Project
A great thing to teach teens (or anyone) is the value of giving. The Giving Bunny Project encourages participants to make simple bunnies with a paper tag and leave them to be found. This brightens someone's day and encourages the receiver to become a giver. Giving a gift anonymously is something that most people will never do. The experience of giving without recognition is very refreshing.  You can find all the details, along with a template in this blog post.

This project was created by Urban Threads and is perfect for use in teen programming! You just need some kind of white fabric like felt or fleece, some thread for stitching, stuffing, and a pompom for the tail. The site suggests embroidering the eyes and nose. If teaching embroidery to teens is daunting, you can make it simpler by using tiny button eyes and a tiny pink pompom for the nose, or stitch on the shapes. I've seen some adorable variants and it's not about being exact to the pictures. Just get together with the supplies, some snacks, and go at it!

Hopefully we'll be making our own once we pick up the supplies in a week or so. We look forward to leaving them in places to be found to bring a smile to someone's face!

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Dr. Frankenstein’s Daughters by Suzanne Weyn

*Made Possible by! Thank you very much!
Published: January 1 2013
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Website: Author’s Website

            Before Victor Frankenstein died, he had twin daughters. Ingrid is her father’s daughter, possessing a scientific mind. Giselle is frail with her cough, but is beautiful. They inherit Castle Frankenstein on a lonely little island and relocate with their new wealth. Ingrid becomes fascinated with her late father’s scientific research, and Giselle is a budding socialite looking for love. The peaceful life on the island is interrupted with several murders. Who is the murderer?
The premise of this book hooked me because I love Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein. I cannot count how many times I have read it. The idea that he had two daughters who may take up his work is brilliant. I had hoped for a gothic tale involving castles, monsters, insanity, love, and science.

Unfortunately, that is where the brilliance ends. The beginning of the book is terribly slow. To fix this, there needs to be a hook at the very beginning. Perhaps start with an incident that is described later. Of course, no one is paying me to edit this, but there are many ways to easily fix the pacing. The beginning is boring and made me wonder if I really wanted to give my time to it.

Murder Mystery
            The murder mystery was disappointing. Without giving away who is behind them, it is terribly obvious. Perhaps the author shouldn’t have made that person act like a nutcase all the time. Or balance that person’s insanity with people of equal or insanity, or perhaps even worse. And when it is revealed who did’s over. That’s it. Well? What happened to them? What about all the people left behind? How do they feel about it? This short book could have been made longer with some exposition.   

In my opinion, it should be re-written for an older age group. You know, for teens who have read Frankenstein in high school. On my copy it says for ages 12 and up. A 12-year-old’s reading taste and a 16-year-old’s will differ immensely. If it is for young adults, write it for that age group. A 12-year-old is not a YA.

My biggest gripe is the writing. Nothing about the prose stands out. That’s probably because it was written for 12-year-olds, though I have read books for that audience that is written with artistry. There is nothing about this that makes it stand out in the sea of books already written. Pick an age group and deliver the best writing possible.    

The cover, the premise, and I thought it was cute to mention Percy and Mary Shelly.

Final Verdict 
            Great idea, mediocre execution. Because of the mediocre writing, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it for a teen book club pick. If a teen likes Frankenstein, I would recommend it on the basis of the premise alone.