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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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“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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