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“Insurgent” by Veronica Roth: a reaction to the novel

This is not a traditional review. It’s a reaction. And I’m doing this because I don’t feel like writing today, plus this is a second novel in a series by Veronica Roth, and I don’t want to waste your time if you’re not interested in the series. If you are curious though, please read my first blog review about the first novel HERE to decide if it’s worth your time.

The truth is, with every author writing a trilogy or worse, it’s hard to get genuinely excited for a series anymore. A lot of these author in Young Adult take a premise that could be a book or two at best and make them between three and seven obnoxious, money grabbing books. If you read my blogs from the past few months, you’ll know I complain about this regularly.

That said: I can honestly say the “Divergent” series is deserving of the buzz and should be THE NEXT BIG THING. A movie will come, and when the third book is out, this will hit the roof, just like Mockingjay did for Collins’ and her less than impressive “Hunger Games” Series.

Divergent is better. I’m sticking to it.

Which brings me to the reaction to “Insurgent” which came out in MAY 2012:

This was the best sequel to a “book one” I’ve ever read in Y.A.

It had the impact of Harry Potter while being Sci-Fi. It carries weight and angst and romance and violence. Veronica Roth continued to write a fast-paced story here, and, yes, it’s not perfect writing and can sometimes go on a bit, but nowhere near the extent of other Y.A. authors. You read Veronica Roth’s work because it’s so visual and has a lot of energy. It’s the series I would equate most to “reading a movie.” This is not poetic or artsy writing, in fact it is very utilitarian in its use, but you can’t turn the pages fast enough.

You read because the plot and story rules. She works with her strengths well. She does what she does damned good.

So I give it a 4/5, just like the first installment. These are not really sepearate books, but a three part, very long story. “Insurgent” picked up exactly where “Divergent” left off, which will be jumbling to someone who hasn’t read the first book in ten months, but it’s nothing a brief wiki visit can’t fix. Overall, this continued the adventure at the same calibur as the first one, which isn’t always the case for sequel movies and books. God knows there’s a lot of shit out there. But if you liked Divergent or if my PREVIOUS REVIEW entices you, go NOW to your library.

And the Ending, the last chapter, no, the last page, is a Holy Crap Moment. Enjoy that.

I’m sad there’s only one book left.

The stakes are raised, people die, and this plot runs deeper than affecting just five factions.

I’ve said too much already. Go. Go!

4/5

MH

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“The Chocolate War” by Robert Cormier: a book review

Because the style and emotional conveyance worked so effectively, “The Chocolate War” gets a 3.0 rather than a 2.5 star.

“What?” you say. “Only a 3? It’s a classic!”

Yeah, but age has worked against it, and being edgy and controversial doesn’t always make great art, and while this book could be great for kids in high school, it’s too damn bleak and bullyish. While argulably realistic, no one — not one character, students or teacher, bad guy or good guy or in-the-middle characters — got what they deserved. The good were punished, the bad guys never repented, and there was simply a lot of harsh language and sexuality here, all of which I was fine with, but given the plot and the story, I felt they were interesting character vignettes; powerful but little else.

It’s a book for boys. Girls are objects, don’t disturb the status quo, adults suck. If anything, it made me dislike organized religion, authority, and bullies more than I already do, and if that was the point, bravo.

But aren’t readers supposed to enjoy the books and lessons in them? Aren’t writer’s goals to give harsh reality checks in a way that make us want to keep reading? Fail.

I was never swept away, I could always find a place to put down the book and check my Facebook account, and the depth of the story honestly merited a short story, not a novel. You would have lost some of the brilliant character depth, yes, but that’s the trade-off, and I would have prefered it.

Robert Cormier was an incredible writer, and it does show it’s face here in “The Chocolate War.” But you can tell by how disjointed some parts are, how repetitious the second act was, and how confusing and unfocused the first few chapters were: this was a book he wrote off-and-on for three years while he was working a full-time job (which he admits in the back of the 30th Anninversy paperback edition).

I admire this author, but he has better stuff out there, and “The Chocolate War” came no where near the excitement and readability and appeal and execution that “I Am the Cheese” can tout.

Final words: Bland, not fun to read, not something you’ll be recommending to friends. You’ll hear about it because your school blabbers on and on about it or because it’s been on the banned book list for ages.

enjoyment at heart: 2.0/5

writing: 4.5/5

my sensible and critical grade: 3.0/5

MH

 

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Prometheus: a movie review

If you saw “Prometheus” and were let down, the link below delivers a few reasons why that could have been:

Click this if you want the movie spoiled or you’ve seen it already: Red Letter Media on YouTube

I gave it a charitable 7/10. I’m being generous, though you might twist my arm to a 6.75. Initially, when I just finished it, I liked it. But the more I thought about it, the bruises started to show. My 8 went to a 7 in the last third of the film. I did like it that the film was not paced like an action/fantasy, but more like a genuine sci-fi. I will likely continue to second guess my thoughts about how smart or not smart it was, but here are my thoughts right now.

I can understand people giving it a 6 or an 8, but anything higher or lower is too critical or too rewarding. There are problems on the most basic level of tension building and story-telling.

First the good: some amazing scenes are in here, and this is better than many films I’ve seen this year. It is the best shot Sci-Fi ever. Also, you don’t have to know or like the original Alien to enjoy this. But the trailer was so good, and I’m not a fan boy, and I still say this didn’t deliver how it “said” it would.

This movie was average at best, and the idiot writer from “LOST” the TV show should have never been hired to write this. It could have been legendary. It is forgettable. Beautifully rendered, but substantively illusive. The “LOST” screenwriter is not that smart, and delivered a faux-intellectual, psuedo-philosophical cheap gangbang.

The logic was weak, the likability of characters hollow, and general satisfaction was lacking. Very little was answered, and you can’t just say “well, there moght be a sequel.” F*** that argument. Give me a single good movie before you rope me into a long string of ’em I have to commit to just to get to the “real” ending. There were plot holes you couldn’t ignore, and simply put: while a few loose ends are great for sci-fi, too many leaves the audience mad and leaves the film directionless.

Thematically schizophrenic, “Prometheus” can honestly blame nearly all of its problems on the WRITING: direction, photography, special visual effects, costuming, make-up, and set design and acting where all great or better than great. The characters, motivations, and logic are all the writers fault. Ridley Scott, your biggest mistake was who you hired to write the screenplay. It is a movie that thinks it is brilliant while everyone watching knows it’s barely in its “Honors Classes.” It’s no genius.

Did not deliever on medium to medium-high expectations. More a thriller than a horror, not that it mattered to me, but it might to you. Just give me a good sci-fi. Please.
7/10
MH

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“Snow White and the Huntsman”: a response to the film

Considering how much was done right in this film, the few things that were mishandled, poorly written, or ill-executed really hurt my ability to recommend “Snow White & the Huntsman.” At times, one could argue that more could have been accomplished if they dropped the “Snow White” angle in the title and really went out there to create something new and special in the “Good-vs.-Evil-Kings-and-Princesses” genre”, especially considering how much artistic license was already taken to change many things. Despite these liberties, certain elements of the original Snow White tale were forced into this film to the overall detriment of the viewing experience, like pushing a square block through a circular hole.

To begin, this movie had quantitatively more strengths than weakness. The setting, dialogue, acting, costuming, sound design, set design, beautiful on location filming, and make-up were all top notch. Just looking at any freeze frame of this film, one instantly notices the money they had to throw around. There are a lot of good things to be said about this film, and its ability to create a mood was obvious. The action sequences were relatively clean; and the general style of the film — taking big chances in this regard — panned out nicely due to the exquisite team of producers and post-production special effects people making the world feel real. Truly great fantasy stuff here. Pretty stuff.

Now, after all of that praise, how could a few negatives bring down the ability to recommend the film?

Well, the few bones I have to pick with this film, while not many, are massive qualitatively, including some obvious, flagrant omissions; these issues cannot be defended or expalined and fall directly in the writers and director’s realm of blame.

The first 20 minutes of this film are rocky. Too much time is spent with the Queen’s back story and the escape of Snow White felt rushed. All the while we are being forced voice-over narration from the Huntsman? Why the voice-over is the Huntsman seemed very arbitrary. Why not any character? Why not Snow White? The narrator and whose character in the film it is matters, and here, it felt tacked on. Also in the first act or so, none of the characters, none, are easily relatable or easy to empathize with. It’s not until the Huntsman is introduced (around 30-mins) in the beginning of the second act that this film was saved. Thank you, Chris Hemsworth for playing the role so well. What little dimensionality there were to any characters, you brought it.

The direction with Charlize Theron didn’t work for me, at least not in the first half. In the first act, as she was often being directed to scream and flail at a “10”, where for the remainder of the movie she was at a 7 or 8 in intensity. Never pop that cherry of villain-rage so early. Basic Movie laws. BUILD it.

The second act moved along well enough, and the casting of all the dwarves worked well. It could have blown up in their tiny little faces, and I applauded, once again, the special affects work here. Most of these “dwarves” were played by 5 or 6 foot-tall Hollywood A-listers and B-listers. Cleverly done, a la “Lord of the Rings” perhaps with scale models, stand-ins, and brilliantly smooth “After Affects.” They really look like dwarves, not like pasted faces on tiny bodies.

The next issue was the inclusion of the apple from the old fairy tale. I think this should have been omitted from the film. The way in which the poison apple is used here seems inconsequential since it occurs at the ¾ mark rather than the ½ way mark, and then, within 10 minutes or so of screen time, she is kissed by the Huntsman and is back. Poof. Just like that. There needed to be 20 minutes at least where Snow White’s childhood friend and the Huntsman discuss their equal love for Snow White, try a few things to get her to wake, travel to the Keep where they promised they would take her, etc. It all happened to quick. In a time where many characters could have received some due development, they flushed the opportunity. As if not having Snow White in the film for more than ten minutes would have audience members walking out. Please.

The biggest sin was that when she did wake up, after the kiss, the Huntsman had already left the room, and this kiss IS NEVER DISCUSSED. Snow White just wakes up, she doesn’t know why, the Huntsman doesn’t know he was responsible, and they never discuss it. Ever.

Inexcusable.

If the director and the writer were going to go through the painful lengths of including the dwarves and the poison apple and the “mirror, mirror on the wall,” they needed to keep the love story and find its closure. It is such a simple inclusion that they pissed away, focusing all on style and mood and sights and sounds. This movie is a sights and sound movie. Not a tale which can find its value in the merits of its storytelling.

By this point I was going to give the film a 7. But then the ending happened. Oh, my.

Who do you think she got with? Answer: Neither. That’s right.

In the final moments of the film, when Snow White is supposed to bring the land out of its cold rapture and into a Spring for the animals, the plants, and mankind, there is decidedly NOT a montage of any kind showing the lands and the hills and the forests blossoming into their former glory. What? Did they run out of cash? Futhermore, at Snow White’s coronation and crowning in the final minute of the film, she JUST TRADES GLANCES WITH HER CHILDHOOD FRIEND AND THE HUNTSMAN.

The doors closed, the music crescendoed… roll credits. No epilogue. Something that could have given us all emotional closure in 90-seconds of fottage was not necessary apparently.

Can you see why I’m mad? In Snow-Freaking-White, part of it is the Prince Charming bit. She needs that love and the audience needs that closure. No satisfaction is to be found in the end of this film regarding who she picks and if she will ever really have love. Did they not want to choose team Jacob or Team Edward? Get the eff outta here. What a strike out.

They should have either changed everything in this Snow White tale and called it something else, or made the intelligent decision to play their cards closer to the chest and pull out a more traditional Snow White tale, still one with the style and mood and special effects all there. It was a real waste of money considering this will be soon forgotten and very few people’s “Favorite Snow White Variation.”

Really Let-down. Had a lot of faith. Really wanted to like this and give it a 7, but those last 30 seconds are unforgivable.

6.5/10

MH

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“A Devil Inside”: a movie review

Firstly, this cover is misleading. No one looks like this in the film. This character doesn’t exist. Strike one of eight. Making one of your letters in the title backwards doesn’t make you spooky, that makes you the 90s metal band “Korn.” Strike two.

God, Eff off, A Devil Inside, for serious.

When your film is in and out of the theaters and on DVD in under four months, hey, you got a problem of quality. Overall, this is how you do a bad “exorcist” movie. This is the kind of film that makes the public think horror is dumb and the sub-genre of exorcism is not scary.

To begin, this film is one hour and fifteen minutes of actual movie. Over seven minutes at the end of the film are the credits; the slow, slow credits—part of which ask you go online after the film for “more about the unsolved case.” Well, shit, glad I didn’t pay 12 bucks for a seventy-five minute film which then gave me enrichment study homework. What a crock. It’s like Downloadable content that XBOX360 games ask you to buy after you buy the 60 dollar game. Put it in one package please. Doing it in stagnated pieces is lazy. You’re wasting my time or money, and sometimes both.

This film had no style, rehashing everything that’s been done in the shaky-cam, mediocre-college-actor genre that better films like “Paranormal Activity” and “Cloverfield” have already done. Something here reminds me of “Insidious” and “The Last Exorcism”, but both of those films, regardless of your opinion of them, were at least more original and clever. This film was not clever. The mood was never quite right. The pacing was never quite right. It’s difficult to put your finger on it, but if you see it, which you shouldn’t, you’ll feel what I’m talking about. Something just wasn’t done correctly here and feels sloppy, inarticulate, uncrafted. Very few details are given about the plot, what made this situation “special” or this story worth telling, and the characters are given the bare minimum of backstory and dimensionality.

Only at the one hour mark the film become something fresh and inventive, and that lasts for about fifteen minutes. Whoopie.

Just when it gets good, when an additional 15-minutes could is almost expected to follow and could wrap-up with a stately denouement and resolution, we are left at the Climax, with no way to know who lived, who died, how the demons went from body to body, or what ever happened to Maria, the protagonists mother (whose acting was actually pretty good for being possessed). The actress playing Maria kept this Phoned-In Money Grabber from dying at the front door of the genre club it desperately wanted to be a part of.

Some of you may say that “realistic endings” where everything is not wrapped up is more real and better. While that’s left to debate, this doesn’t do it well. I like movies that don’t put a bow on everything. Most people in America today who what to be intellectually-challenged when enjoying a film would agree, but this film ends shockingly in spite of itself and just for the sake of “oh, that would be a crazy ending. Like, real life, where, ya know, you don’t know what happens.” Yeah. Okay. It can be done well when a theme or irony or metaphor is in place, but this had none of that.

When the best part of your movie is the tail end of the third act, and then you don’t FINISH your third act, well, you should be ashamed to call yourself a full-length picture. On top of all of this, pieces of the trailer were re-edited in the final cut, and really, the best movie of “A Devil Inside” is the freaking trailer.

Save yourself the trouble. Don’t even get this on REDBOX unless you are a die-hard horror fan or just HAVE to know how this film stacks up to the other of its sub-genre. Hint: in the bottom half.

Because the ending was better than the whole film, it gets a 5 instead of a 4.5

I would rewatch any, yes, any exorcist movie again before this one.

5/10

MH

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“Looking For Alaska” by John Green: a book review

We’ve all felt like we don’t belong. We all wonder about religion and the meaning of life and friendships and love. This novel will remind you of everything you questioned as a teen, and might remind you to hold on to hope.

This novel rightly won the Printz medal for Outstanding Young Adult Ficiton and its cover art could not have been more smartly chosen.

John Green’s premiere book from 2006 will make you laugh out loud, cry, and marvel at how honest and heavy a novel can be. It’s almost a crime to ONLY call it a “YA” book. This is for anyone 15-30, if only because the people in this age group will more easily follow the lingo and pop culture references and likely know what a PlayStation 2 is. Having said that, I think even adults and teachers could easily find the value in this book. This ranks up there with the ultimate coming-of-age stories involving life, death, love, guilt, and “firsts.”
It is similar to Murakami’s “Norwegian Wood” (which focused on the 60s Japanese youth expereience) and Salinger’s “Catcher in the Rye” (the 50s American youth experience). “Looking For Alaska” brings it’s own modern/21st Century thing to table, with certain references and speech cadences that make it very readable, relateable, and digestable. There’s no question that this book is for 1990’s and 2000’s kids, yet the themes here are for any generation.
This is a solid 4.5/5 for style and message alone. There are maybe 10-15 pages that drag in the last 1/3 of the book keeping it from a 5/5, and maybe I’m being too harsh, but this is still an exceptionally necessary book to experience. It will take you to places of sorrow and joy and you will likely read another John Green book. Proof, once again, that small books can pack a punch and you don’t need over 400 pages to write important ficiton.

Every high schooler who has ever lost a love or had a friend die young, from accident or suicide, should read this book. You will connect with it, be lifted, and you will recommend the book like I am now.

Before or after you read this, John Green’s newest book, 2012’s “The Fault in Our Stars“, is just as good or better.

4.5/5

MH

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“Delirium” by Lauren Oliver: a book review and YA Marketing Rant

REVIEW:
It’s a bit better than the usual 3 stars, but really isn’t quite a four.  This has all the elements of being a very exciting story, but sad to say, it isn’t. The last fifty pages lift it from a two star, barely, but can’t save the entirety of the book. First of all, it’s simply too long for what is in here. The storyline isn’t bad, but it’s far too minutely descriptive and all I can think is, well, this is going to be stretched out to fill three books so, of course, it’s overly descriptive. Something has to fill all those pages. Too bad it isn’t the story, but street by street bicycling and walking or running. And the sights and smells over and over and over. There are some things that are described in almost the same way several times. This is unneccessary. And while we’re on the subject of unneccessary, I know that Lena is five foot, two. I got that the first time I was told and it didn’t need repetition. It was not in need of repetition. Or to put it a little differently while still giving you the same information again: it didn’t need repeating. This whole story could have been tightened up and more than likely the whole proposed three installments would fit within the pages of one book. I get it, I really do. Why write one book when you can hook readers into three? I mean, it’s three sales, three times the money, so kudos to the author on that, but the story really needs to be strong enough to make readers keep coming back for more. And, as usual, it ends on something of a cliff-hanger so, as a reader, I’m left disappointed.

Young Adult Publishing RANT:

The truth is, and I won’t list them all here, but I have 6 YA books behind me on my shelf I have to read and they are all the first installments of series that have begun in the past three years or just came out. Another 4 or 5 I’ve read recently. My concern is that these authors and their little game may be a terrible money making art and nothing more, and while there are good series out there that make sense to be SERIES, some publishers are asking these new, starry eyes, late-twenty-something authors who live in San Francisco or NYC to spread too little butter over too much bread. It’s getting to the point that if you want to buy that new book you’ve heard so much about, you have to find out who the author is, when the series started and play catch up. At the rate first time novelists are releasing now, in five years or less, the shelves will be a mess in libraries and book stores every where trying to finish up sagas and trilogies and people will be scrambling to keep them straight and everyone will be sick of the same forty or so authors digging into our pockets with the same drivel. There will be nothing fresh in a few years because it will be “the decade of series’ completion”.

I just hope some of these authors are worth it and give us good story arcs over a few books and move on. It’s near impossible to find good stand-alone YA novels today, except for John Green, I can’t think of one big name off the top of my head that is not involved in some trilogy or worse. I can only hope I am wrong and that three or more novels I read costing me between 10 and 20 bucks is a story worth finishing, because, you know, we just haaaaaave to know how it ends, right? Fuck.

I won’t even get into the discussion that every other YA novel I read already has a movie deal in the works for 2014. Thanks, Hunger Games. Geesh. Seriously, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Childrenis slated to be directed by Tim Burton, and I’ve also heard Divergent by Veronica Roth could get the Hollywood treatment; and possibly Legend by Marie Lu is going to be a mini-series or an animated TV show. The Forest of Hands and Teeth is also rumored to start production in the coming year. Movies are being based off YA books and adult novels like never before (look at The Help, 127 Hours, Water For Elephants, and Nicholas Sparks novels).

Snazzy titles, slick covers, big margins, 12-point font! Curse You, YA!

3.25/5

MH

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Cabin in the Woods: a film review

You don’t know what this movie is and you will be happily surprised. Go see Cabin in the Woods:

The Spoiler-Free Set-up: By knowing the conventions of the genre, Joss Whedon, (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and some comics) wrote his own formula with director Drew Goddard to create the most entertaining and fun horror of 2012, and the past 12 years. You have no idea what this movie is gonna be until you watch it or read a spoiler. Do not do the latter.

Gush: Though a warm and lovely spring it has been, go see this immediately. The trailers to it no justice; it was remarkable and gushable; something to watch with friends; something worth the ticket price; bloody, funny, and so freakin’ original that my butt still hurts. It had its way with me, and, yes, I enjoyed it. It’s a genius, self-aware, teen horror that delivers, setting the bar for this decade pretty freakin’ high for me personally.

Fun fact: This was shot in 2009, but not released until this year. I don’t know why.

Categorize How?: This movie is a precise balance of action, humor, paranormal, and horror. This intelligently crafted sleeper hit will hopefully change the coming decade of horror. That’s a big statement, and while this film may not win any awards, its cult status like Evil Dead, Cabin Fever, Drag Me To Hell, and the Saw Franchise is pretty much in stone.

I can’t say anything else without spoiling it, but if you enjoy unique films, or if you’re a buff regarding the sub-genres of horror and international nods to cult-horror hits, prepare for something you’ve never seen before: a legendary stand-alone film that will have you smilin’ and laughing. Inventive twists, set-ups and reveals all work magically, including powers of ancient and global proportions. Who’s pulling the strings? I can say no more.

Best horror of 2012.

The past 12 years.

Maybe the coming decade.

While I have not seen every horror movie, I have seen a lot, and this is easily my top 10 supernatural horror for entertainment and originality alone.

It’s probably a 4/5 to most, maybe lower to non-horror lovers, but this fresh and entertaining gem has to get more than a 4 from me, and a 4.5 seems like I’m just lying to myself to avoid fallout from detractors.

This is a 5/5

Must Watch of 2012. The whole world depends on it.

MH

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Brain Droppings: When the Last Page Turns

Books don’t come with one idea, they come with a few.

They are not always designed around one theme or focused on one lesson which everyone should get. Sometimes (often) people take different things away from the same book. Furthermore, sometimes authors approach the art of writing with no intention of preaching any number of ideas or arguments, but are honestly trying to find meaning for a question themselves. They say, “What if this happened to characters like this? What does that say about human nature or just this character or me?”

The point is: post-reading discussions or research sessions can and should be an integral part to deepening a relationship and comprehension of a novel for readers looking for the fullest experience. Too many individulas read books—partially or fully—and never utter a word about the book to anyone. Alone, we are all but one mind. Alone, fun and pleasure stop at the last word of the final sentence. A community never blossoms.

Between reading group participation and utilizing websites dedicated to discussion, review and analysis, there’s no reason to not dig deep into something a reader enjoyed. In our time, right now, we are wholly spoiled with access to information, through each other and the internet, to grow as educated, curious beings, who sometimes naively (but always rightly) believe true personal growth and learning can come from something as insipid and questionable as fiction.

Beautiful.

click and check it out...

I bid you good day, sir.

MH

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“Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close”: a response to the film

This is less of a review and analysis and more of a immediate reaction and response to this film.

 

FIRST THOUGHTS:

Based on Jonathan Safran Foer’s novel, I hated Oscar in the first 45-minutes of “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.” From taking the picture of Viola Davis crying, which was unsettling, to the flashback showing Oscar keeping his dead father’s voice messages from his mother. I didn’t care that he seems to have some social issues, possibly be obsessive compulsive, and clearly a career intellect. I don’t like “him” as a character. He is incapable of what many consider normal human interaction and watching this movie just made me mad.

The novel and the movie were highly praised, and yet, also controversial and divisive. It was nominated for Best Picture? Really?

It shows that not all novels can or should or deserve to be made into films. Having said all this, the actor who played Oscar was perfectly cast and his acting is superb for being so young. That doesn’t mean I liked the screenplay.

SEPTEMBER 11th PREMISE:

This movie is bloated with its own self-awareness, and if you take out the 9/11 aspects and just look at the film about a screwy kid who lost his father (Tom Hanks) in any sad way, it’s still just a story of a messed up kid searching to keep his father in his life. The 9/11 angle isn’t really important at all to the story, and this story could have been in any city. No themes or ideas of Americanism or Nationalism or terrorism were explored whatsoever, only the randomness and unfairness of tragic death; therefore, it is just an emotional backdrop and a wasted opportunity to say something interesting about this time of American History.

Furthermore, the story of this boy and his father could have been told artfully AND simultaneously with an American narrative. The novelist and the screenwriter were not that talented. Since it does nothing but focus on a boy’s tradegy, the 9/11 angle is purely, purely exploitative to sell tickets and novels and be featured in Entertainment Weekly. Period.

In the movie version at least, the issues of September 11th serve as nothing more than a cheap crutch to make the film “more important” and is a little shameless in that regard. The producers and director shot a beautiful film with too many A-listers and obnoxious voice over by a savant/prodigy child who was lied to by his father for his whole life who the audience cannot empathize with.

THE CHARACTERS:

Only at the 48 minute when Sandra Bullock (the mom) and Oscar get into the huge fight about death not making sense and have the scary and truly emotional screaming match did this film get a second moment of curiosity from me and respect. Finally, a scene without voice-over that meant something, but again, wasn’t exclusive to a 9/11 specific death. The idea of chaos and dying on any given day is universal, and should NOT carry extra weight just because we are American’s and remember 9/11. I find the whole scene right after this emotionally manipulative. I don’t know how I would grade this movie had it been made 8 years ago just after 9/11 or 10 years from now. Would either date of release be better or worse? Who knows?

On another note, just after the one hour point, I could believe I had an hour and some change left. This fuckwhistle drags. Pardon the creative French.

I just didn’t buy that “The Renter” (Max Von S.) would run around with a kid in NYC. It’s too fantastic and dumb. But then at the one hour fifteen minute mark, when Oscar is acting like a psychopath in a warehouse full of lockboxes, I was like, oh, of course the Renter is Oscar’s grandfather. How obvious. Oscar guesses this at the hour twenty mark.  I should have known. Well, now that that’s outta the way, let’s get Oscar some psychological help; something his mom, Bullock, should have done a year ago! But, no, they don’t do this.

And why the hell didn’t “The Renter” reveal his relationship? Why? Why!! What a bunch of asses Oscar has in his life! A mother who lets him run around the city alone and knows about it for weeks, a father who played a deeply deceptive game and should have stopped once he was no longer ten, and a grandfather who literally says nothing to his own grandson which may have been a big help for both of their characters to discuss Tom Hank’s character therapeutically and with family. Nope. That all makes too much sense to fix. It’s contrived, contrived, contrived, contrived.

Then, at the hour and forty-eight minute mark, Sandra Bullock explains to Oscar how she’s known all along what he’s been up to and has somehow found the time to contact and visit all of the people Oscar has been visiting and is due to visit soon. Does she have a job? With what time? Awwww, how sweet. You can tell because of the piano in the soundtrack. Awwww.

WHAT ABOUT THE BOOK VERSION?:

I hope the book is better than this, in fact, I’m sure it is, but if the story and the characters are anything like this I honestly am not going to waste my time. I’m not interested in it enough. It’s not an issue of the medium in which this story is being told—it is the story itself. It capitalizes on 9/11 and would be just as average, if not better, had it not involved “The Worst Day Ever.”

CONCLUSION:

So prepare to be manipulated. “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” is forgettable and worth maybe one viewing. I just didn’t care, and I was paying attention. I gave it the benefit of the doubt, before and during. Rhetorically speaking — Does this film capitalize on American tragedy to sell false emotional excrement or is it a brave, bold American film facing our greatest tragedy. See for yourself. I didn’t cry, and I think “we” were supposed to throughout several scenes. Fail.

I almost didn’t want to finish this one, but it did get better after the unbalanced first act, and I don’t hate Oscar anymore… as much. I feel bad for him, because the people around him don’t seem to know how to make it any better for him and what he’s going through. Terrible parenting.

On a comical note about “Oscar”: I wish Thomas Horn was instead Macaulay Culkin circa 1992. LOL.

Only the acting and the cinematography make this enjoyable. Not the lackluster story (Eric Roth), basic editing, pretentious directing (Stephen Daldry), or sleepy, cliché musical score.

I just don’t care about this film. What a complex bunch of crap his father designed for him to end up looking under a swing. How contrived and just plain old crazy are both father and son.

What a waste of late 2011 hype.

6.0/10

MH

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