Thoughts on Divergent and Book-to-Film Adaptations

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SHAILENE WOODLEY and THEO JAMES star in DIVERGENTLast weekend Divergent came out in theaters. Naturally I had to go see it. I had read all three books in the series over the holiday break, and had been counting down to seeing the movie. If I were completely honest I would probably admit that I was mostly excited about the movie because it was starring Theo James, but if you know me you probably already guessed that.

I really enjoyed the movie. Sure there were some changes made, some things had to get cut and other scenes were either out of order or combined. But overall, I thought the film did a great job of streamlining the plot and making it accessible to an audience whether they had read the books or not. So many times these YA adaptations have a lot of things in them that make so much more sense if you’ve read the books and understand more of the background story. I didn’t find anything like that in this film, at least not on the first viewing. I think one of the only drawbacks to the film was the characters of Will and Christina really didn’t get fleshed out nearly as much in the film. Also, even though they explained it fairly well, Al’s betrayal – as well as the depth of his betrayal – still seemed to come out of nowhere because we lost a lot of his struggle leading up to that scene, as well as his crush on Tris. However, I think they did explain it well and showed the impact well.

One thing that was completely cut out was the viciousness of Peter and his determination to come out on top. There was no scene of him stabbing Edward’s eye. Although, the 8-year-olds in the film with me had apparently read the book because that’s all they talked about as we left the theater. Not only was I surprised kids so young had read the books, it was a little disturbing hearing them talk so excitedly about somebody being stabbed in the eye (and they were even a little disappointed in wasn’t in the movie).

So overall, I think Divergent was a really good adaptation of the books, and if you’re a fan of YA fiction or dystopian lit then you’ll probably appreciate this one. It keeps getting compared to the Hunger Games, which I find somewhat unfair as the plots and the characters are very different (in my opinion). I also think this one did a much better job translating book to film than the first Hunger Games film (Catching Fire did a much better job).

If you’ve read all of the series then you know how Allegiant, the third book ends. I won’t spoil that ending for you here, but I had read an article the other day that talked about whether or not the films would attempt to change that ending since it had been so controversial with fans. I myself am not a big fan of the third book. I felt it lacked focus and completely changed in tone from the first two. I also felt a little betrayed by the author in the end (though major props to her for having the guts to write that ending). That being said, I’m not sure that I would appreciate a film completely rewriting the ending either. If you’ve read the books and you know what I’m talking about, then you can understand. What do you think? If an author writes an ending that the majority of fans disagree with, is it okay to rewrite the ending? Isn’t that what they did for My Sister’s Keeper (another ending I hated).

While I’m on the subject of adapting films and making changes, I also want to put in a plug for my most recent Curiata.com column, in which I discuss film adaptations. We all judge them so harshly, but I’ve come to the conclusion it’s important to enjoy it completely separate from the book and judge each on it’s own merits. Even though most of my above discussion revolves around comparing film to book, I really tried not to do that throughout the film. I probably would have enjoyed it even if it hadn’t been anything like the book (and no, not just because of Theo James).

So check out my column (and the entire site) and let us know what you think about film adaptations. There’s also a great review of Catching Fire that discusses how faithful it was to the book.

Veronica Mars is Back! Time to Decide: Team Logan or Team Piz?

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Good Morning Marshmallows!

Today is the day we’ve been waiting for! After waiting nearly seven years, Veronica Mars is finally back! As I write this I am wearing my Official Kickstarter Backer T-Shirt and anxiously awaiting the email with my download code so I can watch the movie as soon as I get home from work.

It’s hard to believe it’s already been an entire year since the Kickstarter began and we all started counting down to the day we would actually get to see the movie.

If you haven’t already completed your rewatch in preparation for the film, or if you’re new to Neptune and would like to know how best to get caught up, check out my column on Curiata.com. I don’t give away too many spoilers, but it gives a brief synopsis of each season and which episodes are best to try to see in order to understand the series.

TeamPizLoganI know the one thing everyone can’t wait to find out is this: Does Veronica end up with Logan or Piz? We know she’s with Piz at the start of the movie, but does she stay with him in the end? What about that look she gave Logan in their last scene together in the series finale?

I am definitely Team Logan. I always have been. (Especially when the only other option was Duncan, because no offense to Duncan fans, but he was a little boring.) Piz is sweet, and adorable, and I love him and don’t want to see him get his heart broken, but I just can’t help shipping LoVe. Sure, Logan can be a jerk sometimes, but there’s just something about him that’s irresistible.

So readers, which are you – Team Piz or Team Logan? Discuss in the comments! (But no spoilers for those who haven’t seen the movie yet!)

Sometimes Celebrities Care

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This week my column for Fanning Out is about some of my favorite favorite celebrities and the amazing things they do in their spare time to help others. I encourage you to read it, especially if you’re like me and you often feel frustrated by all the news coverage of the negative things celebrities do (*cough*Bieber*cough*). There are a lot of celebrities out there who genuinely care about their fans and the world in general, and I think it’s better to focus on the good, rather than the bad.

The column was originally inspired by this tweet from Zachary Levi:

Levi Tweet

His tweet was a response to this blog on Tumblr. Fans of Levi already know what a great guy he is in real life, and this is just further proof.

A friend of mine brought the tweet, and then the blog, to my attention last week and it just struck me how genuine Levi’s words were. And for a celebrity like him – who I’m sure is not only busy with work, but also with running a business and planning for Nerd HQ 2014 – to take time out to reach out to a fan and let them know he cares is just incredible.

There are so many stars who use their fame and influence for good. Aside from the ones I mentioned in my column, Norman Reedus has sponsored charity auctions for fans with cancer; Christian Bale visited victims of the Aurora shooting in the hospital; after Hurricane Sandy Anson Mount spent a lot of time helping to clean up neighborhoods in New York and New Jersey and the list goes on.

I love seeing the human side of the people that I watch on TV or in movies and I love stories about celebrities who actually care about something other than making more money, getting awards, media attention and whatever else the self-obsessed stars tend to care about. It reminds me that the people I admire are just people too. Sure, they have a much cooler job than me and get to hang out with a lot of other awesome people, but really they’re just like us. At least, stars like Zachary Levi are.

And the Award Goes to…

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This is the first year I have taken the time to see all the nominees and pay close attention to the Oscar race. I love film, and this has been a fun experience. I think I’ll have to make this an annual tradition from now on. Not only do I actually have an informed opinion about who I would like to see win on Sunday, but I got to see several really good movies I probably wouldn’t have even bothered watching otherwise.

As promised, here are my predictions (or best guesses, anyway) for the winners of the major categories for the 2014 Academy Awards.

Best Supporting Actress

Oscars Jennifer LawrenceSally Hawkins
Jennifer Lawrence
Julia Roberts
June Squibb
Lupita Nyong’o

As much as I love Jennifer Lawrence, I thought Lupita Nyong’o’s performance in 12 Years a Slave was incredible and I’d love to see her win the Academy Award. However, I have a feeling voters may lean toward Lawrence. To be honest the only performance I’m ambivalent about in this category would be Sally Hawkins. I’d be happy with anyone else winning – but I have a feeling it will be Lawrence.

Best Supporting Actor

Barkhad Abdi
Bradley Cooper
Jonah Hill
Jared Leto
Michael Fassbender

I love Bradley Cooper and Jonah Hill, but I honestly don’t think either of them particularly deserve to win this category. Both were entertaining in their roles, but the other three in this category are so much more deserving. Barkhad Abdi was fantastic in Captain Phillips, and I would honestly like to see him win. However, Jared Leto was also excellent and Michael Fassbender was chilling as a cruel slave owner. Of those three I’m going to have to pick Leto for the win.

Best Actress

Amy Adams
Cate Blanchett
Judi Dench
Meryl Streep
Sandra Bullock

This is where the choices start getting more difficult. I think Sandra Bullock is the throwaway here. While her performance was powerful, I don’t see it having a chance against the other nominees. I would like to see Meryl Streep or Judi Dench win; I loved both in their nominated roles and they’re equally deserving. However, judging from the praise Cate Blanchett has received for Blue Jasmine I suspect she may end up the winner here.

Best Actor

Oscars Matthew McConaugheyChristian Bale
Bruce Dern
Chiwetel Eijofor
Leonardo DiCaprio
Matthew McConaughey

This is possibly the hardest category. All the actors nominated are deserving of this award. I loved Nebraska and Bruce Dern was wonderful, but I think he is the least likely candidate. I would like to see Chiwetel Eijofor win, but that could be my bias based on the fact that I loved his performance in Serenity. Leonardo DiCaprio gave a terrific performance in Wolf of Wall Street, however I think this will likely come down to Bale or McConaughey and between them I think McConaughey deserves the win.

Best Director

David O. Russell (American Hustle)
Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity)
Alexander Payne (Nebraska)
Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave)
Martin Scorsese (Wolf of Wall Street)

I am much less equipped to judge directing than acting, so I wouldn’t trust my judgment in this category. As I’ve said before, I loved Nebraska – it’s one of my favorites among the nominees – but I don’t think it’s going to win any of the big awards. I think David O. Russell or Alfonso Cuarón are the most likely winners in this category. I don’t think Gravity has a chance of winning Best Picture, but I really think Cuarón just might walk away with Best Director.

Best Picture

Film Review 12 Years a Slave12 Years a Slave
Philomena
Nebraska
Dallas Buyers Club
Gravity
Captain Phillips
American Hustle
Wolf of Wall Street
Her

While each film, even the ones I didn’t enjoy as much as the others, had qualities that I enjoyed the top four films on the above list are my favorites. I know there’s been a lot of talk about American Hustle winning Best Picture, since David O. Rustle didn’t win for Silver Linings Playbook last year, but while I enjoyed the film I just don’t see why it’s an Oscar contender. The plot, though a fun ride, is very difficult to follow and at the end I was wondering what I had just watched. Wolf of Wall Street is just so insane, I really don’t see that one winning. Though I loved Philomena and Nebraska, I don’t think either has a broad enough appeal to come out on top – same for Her, which was probably my least favorite. Captain Phillips was a really good movie, but it just didn’t have that spark that makes it stand out from any other well-made suspenseful film. And as much as I loved the visual effects in Gravity, I just don’t see that one winning either (though as I stated above I think Cuarón has a good chance of winning Best Director). I think the race is really between Dallas Buyers Club and 12 Years a Slave. I think either of those two deserve more than anyone else in the category, but I think 12 Years a Slave just has something more that Dallas Buyers Club was missing. For that reason I think 12 Years a Slave should win, but will it? I guess we’ll find out on Sunday.

Best Picture Nominee: Philomena

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Before I start talking about Philomena, for anyone interested in my full review of Dallas Buyers Club it is now up on Curiata.com. And if you’re not following Curiata.com yet on Twitter or Facebook you should be. You can find more reviews from the Curiata.com staff here.

philomena-movie-posterCast:
Judi Dench
Steve Coogan

Philomena is a beautifully human story of loss and forgiveness. As a teenager, Philomena was sent to live in a convent when she became pregnant and then had to work off her debt to nuns. Her son Anthony was then adopted to an American couple. Philomena keeps silent for 50 years before opening up to her daughter, who then shares the story to a former reporter, Martin. From there Martin and Philomena embark on a journey to find her son.

Judi Dench’s performance in this film is absolutely wonderful. I’m used to seeing her as strong, confident women – such as M in the James Bond films – so the role of Philomena was a definite contrast. However, she completely embraces the role and becomes Philomena. I had been rooting for Meryl Streep to win the Best Actress category, but now I think Judi Dench deserves the award as well. I’m not sure Philomena has a chance at Best Picture, but I would love to see it win something.

Rating:
9/10

Favorite Moment: There were a lot of great moments in this film. One of my favorites was Philomena’s enthusiasm for the hotel’s breakfast bar. I also loved listening to her describe the novel she had just finished to Martin.

Ranking:
1. 12 Years a Slave
2. Philomena
3. Nebraska
4. Dallas Buyers Club
5. Gravity
6. Captain Phillips
7. American Hustle
8. The Wolf of Wall Street
9. Her

Stay tuned later this week for my predictions for the winners of the main categories!

 

When Fangirls Go Too Far

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Coriolanus1You know me. You know I’m a big fangirl, I can squee with the best of them. I’ve been to fan conventions, I have photos of myself with the cast of Supernatural and Dule Hill among others. I dream of someday attending Comic Con and interacting with my own kind (2015? Maybe?), but even I have my fangirl limits. Believe it or not, there are just some times when it’s not appropriate to act like the super-obsessed fangirl you are. And if you do, then all you accomplish is giving the rest of us a bad name.

In this week’s ‘Fanning Out’ column for Curiata.com I wrote about several of my favorite fandom actors and some of their more “high culture” performances such as Broadway and Shakespeare. A lot of my favorite actors have recently been involved in some really good live productions. For example, Tom Hiddleston recently starred in National Theatre Live’s production of Coriolanus at the Donmar Warehouse in London.  While few Americans had the opportunity to see it live, National Theatre Live broadcast the production in theaters across the US. I was able to see one of these broadcasts last Sunday, and it was fantastic.

One thing to keep in mind as you’re watching any of these performances – especially if you happen to be fortunate enough to see one in person – there is a line between being a fangirl and just being obnoxious. Please don’t cross that line.

The Hollow Crown aired in the United Kingdom shortly before the Summer Olympics in 2012, and in the United States back in September. It’s a four-film adaptation of Shakespeare’s Richard II, Henry IV Pt. 1, Henry IV Pt. 2 and Henry V. Each play is a fairly faithful adaptation of Shakespeare’s work. They are beautifully filmed and the cast includes Tom Hiddleston, Patrick Stewart, Jeremy Irons, Ben Whishaw, Michelle Dockery, Joe Armstrong, Simon Russell Beale, and many others, all of whom are amazing.

I adore Tom Hiddleston just as much as the next fangirl, but if you searched The Hollow Crown on the internet while the series of films was originally airing in the UK, one would think he was the only person involved in this series, and that’s a little frustrating. I even posted a blog at the time about my irritation with Hiddleston fans. I love that the presence of actors like Hiddleston in these adaptations encourages people who may never watch Shakespeare to see them, but believe it or not there is an entire cast of brilliant actors aside from him who also made The Hollow Crown incredible; they deserve just as much credit and respect as Hiddleston.

Another thing that annoyed me about Hiddleston fans and The Hollow Crown, were all those who complained about how he wasn’t even in the first film, Richard II. Considering Richard II was wonderfully done and Ben Whishaw was absolutely brilliant as Richard II, it was a little offensive that these girls would complain because the play wasn’t rewritten to include Hiddleston’s character in all four films.

But I think what really irritated me the most was the fact that there were a large number of fans complaining about the fact that the dialogue was too old-fashioned and nobody could understand it. I had almost forgotten about this irritation until I saw Coriolanus on Sunday and there was a group of teenage girls in the audience obviously there just to see Hiddleston and they too complained about how they couldn’t understand anything that was being said.

If you’re going to see a Shakespeare performance because you love one of the actors, but know very little about Shakespeare, try to take this opportunity to learn more about the literature behind the play. Pick up a copy of the play and try to read it – No Fear makes wonderful editions with the full English version side-by-side with the original text and many of these are available to read online. Don’t just go, sit in the theater clueless and then afterward complain about how you couldn’t understand a word they were saying, and why do they have to talk that way?

One of the things that makes Shakespeare great is his use of language. If you want to see Shakespeare with modern language then watch 10 Things I Hate About You. But if you want to see real Shakespeare, starring actors like Tom Hiddleston, David Tennant, Patrick Stewart or Ian McKellan, then you’re going to have to actively listen to the dialogue on stage.

Moving away from my ranting about Shakespeare, if you happen to be one of the lucky people who gets to see your favorite celebrity in a live production, please for the love of God don’t act like an obsessed fangirl in the audience. I saw How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying on Broadway starring Darren Criss and the most annoying thing in the world is having a bunch of teenaged girls behind you screaming and squealing as if this were a concert, not a Broadway production. Then, they didn’t even stay until the end of the musical, because they had to get outside and around to back of the building in case Criss came out after to greet his fans. Not only is this disrespectful to the other actors on the stage, but it’s distracting to the performers and the audience alike (as is all the screaming and trying to sneak photos during the performance).

Please be aware of your surroundings and recognize that there are some venues where it’s just not appropriate to cheer and scream “Marry Me” at the top of your lungs. Broadway and other theatrical productions being one.

There’s no reason why we can’t be ourselves and fan out all we want, but we should also be respectful of the people we’re fanning out over and their other fans. No one likes being stereotyped, and that obsessive fangirl stereotype comes from somewhere – let’s try not to perpetua­­­­te it.

An Exclusive Interview with the Creator of CW’s Star-Crossed

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Image ExclusiveIf you know me at all, you may know that I love television and I dream of becoming a writer. I would love to become one of those writer’s whose day job is to write about television, because really that’s just the best of both worlds. You have an excuse to watch all the great television being produced and you get to meet all kinds of interesting people in the process.

Last week part of that dream came true, or at least it was the first step. I had the opportunity to interview Meredith Averill, the creator of the CW Network’s new sci-fi drama, Star-Crossed for the online magazine Curiata.com. Averill has formerly worked on The Good Wife as well as Happy Town and Life on Mars. I’m really excited about this opportunity and I’m excited to be able to share this interview with everyone.

So, head over to Curiata.com to read our exclusive interview with Meredith Averill then make sure to watch Star-Crossed at 8 p.m. on the CW. The show also stars Aimee Teegarden from Friday Night Lights and 90210‘s Matt Lanter.

While you’re at Curiata.com check out some of our other pieces. I recently started a weekly column for all things worth fanning out over; there’s a wine column, articles on Batman, movie reviews – a wide range of material and we’re just getting started. So be sure to bookmark the page and follow us on Twitter (@CuriataDotCom). You can also Like our Facebook page to stay up-to-date on all our posts!