Summer reading standards: reflections

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The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (pseudonym of J.K. Rowling)

Cormoran Strike is a struggling private detective who is hired to solve the death of supermodel Lula Landry – a death that has officially been ruled a suicide, but her grieving brother is convinced she was murdered. It was a bit slow to get into, but once Strike realizes that Landry may have not committed suicide after all, you can’t put it down.

Rating: 4 stars

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The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler

In February 2014, I saw The Vagina Monologues performed for the first time at my school. As I was reading these hilarious, empowering, devastating monologues three years later, I was transported back to sitting next to my then-roommate in a packed Jesse Hall watching women dressed in red moan in pseudo-arousal a la When Harry Met Sally and scream about their pissed-off vaginas. The standout line: “I want to taste the fish. That’s why I ordered it.”

Rating: 4 stars

carrie

The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher

Published just two months before her untimely death, Carrie Fisher recounts her experiences making the first Star Wars film and entering the realm of fame, but what dominates the book is her affair with co-star Harrison Ford. This was the first book I’ve read by Fisher, who writes with whip-smart wit that often had me scoffing and laughing out loud.

Rating: 3 stars

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Room by Emma Donoghue

I saw the movie at a little indie theater in CoMo last January and cried snot the entire time. Now I finally read the book and cried just as much (if not more). I devoured Room in less than three days, something I haven’t done to a book in years, and I believe everyone should give this a read at least once.

Rating: 5 stars

helter skelter

Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders by Vincent Bugliosi

I had more than a few nightmares reading this (including one particularly strange dream that my boyfriend invited his “good friend Charlie” over to dinner) but it was one of the most riveting books I’ve read in a long, long time. I couldn’t put it down. I couldn’t believe it was nonfiction. The story of how Charles Manson built his “Family” and maintained such a strong, Christ-like influence over each of its members is astonishing, bizarre and terrifying.

Rating: 5 stars

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Strangeland by Tracey Emin

Emin is one of the most well-known artists from the Young British Artists of the ’90s, and my personal favorite ever since I learned about her and saw her piece “My Bed” last summer. Like much of her workStrangeland offered brief glimpses into moments of her life. It was written simply and sparsely, no-nonsense and never deviated with unnecessary details of each scene. It offered an interesting look into her life and psyche, but did lag as much as it engrossed.

Rating: 3 stars

‘BoJack Horseman’ interweaves past with present for poignant season four

bojack

It’s been a year since BoJack left his Hollywoo life behind and, subsequently, left us to wonder how the show would follow the genius of season three, which pushed our favorite antihero to a new devastating brink with his costar’s overdose. But season four does the seemingly impossible – by intertwining the past with present, BoJack Horseman produces its most searing season to date.

When we last saw BoJack, he was fleeing Hollywoo in search of…something. Happiness. Acceptance. The ability to feel good about himself, perhaps. His search leads him to The Old Sugarman Place, which belonged to his grandfather and where he and his mother both spent their childhood summers. He fixes up the rundown house as flashbacks of a particularly life-changing summer during his mother’s childhood play, often interweaved with the present day as ghostly images. This is the first demonstration of this season’s peculiar relationship with time – the season covers the longest time span of any other, leaving each character drastically changed by its end.

BoJack meets Hollyhock, a teenage girl who pulls him back to reality and out of his self-deprecating cycle of needing help, looking for help and rejecting help. He’s still haunted by his part in Sarah Lynn’s death and the harm he caused Penny and Charlotte, but Hollyhock gives him a reason to be responsible, to be present, to simply be. It’s not the first time BoJack has shown promise, but it is the most hopeful I’ve been that he will, somehow, eventually, one day get better.

And since BoJack Horseman isn’t just about the titular horse, each member of the gang goes through their own hardships. Season four picks up in the midst of Mr. Peanutbutter’s campaign for governor, which puts a strain on his marriage to a less-than-thrilled Diane. Todd is coming to terms with his sexual identity and meets with other asexuals. Princess Carolyn is still trying to have it all – career, relationship, family. BoJack’s mother Beatrice, a scathing secondary character despised by fans since season one, is the most present (er, physically, at least) she has ever been, much to his chagrin.

Screen Shot 2017-09-11 at 2.14.59 PM

It is Beatrice, of all people, who is the most devastating character of the new season. Through the show’s manipulation of time, we learn how she became so coldhearted and cruel toward BoJack. Episode 11, “Time’s Arrow,” is dedicated solely to Beatrice as we jump between scenes of her childhood, adolescence and marriage to BoJack’s father Butterscotch and is one of the most poignant episodes of the series – I’d equate it to season one’s “Downer Ending.”

But in true BoJack fashion, there is still the “loosely related wacky misadventures.” In episode seven, “The Underground”, the main characters (plus Jessica Biel) become trapped underground for days after a fracking accident and must build a new society in order to govern and survive their underground world. It’s reminiscent of season three’s “Brrap Brrap Pew Pew” (a personal favorite of mine) and season two’s “Chickens.” Todd is still finding new ventures to pursue, this time in a terrifying dentist/clown mash-up business that goes terribly awry.

In season four, BoJack Horseman challenged itself. Its ambition and gusto have solidified it as one of the best seasons of 2017 TV and leaves us all waiting impatiently for season five – when this damn horse cartoon will make us cry yet again.

Meet Me in Montauk

Today is the 11th anniversary of “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” It’s a film that’s very special to me for a number of reasons.

eternal sunshine

I didn’t see “Eternal Sunshine” until my senior year of high school, almost exactly two years ago. I’ve probably watched it a hundred times since, and it’s become very near and dear to my heart. I have an “Eternal Sunshine” poster hanging in my room. I have an “Eternal Sunshine” phone case. If you know me, I’ve almost definitely made you watch the movie with me at least once.

I have always been a fan of Jim Carrey. I grew up watching “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” “Ace Ventura,” and “A Series of Unfortunate Events.” When I got older, I loved “Yes Man,” “I Love You, Phillip Morris,” and “Horton Hears a Who,” all of which left me in stitches. I had never seen him in a serious role before, and I was captivated by his role as reserved, shy Joel Barish.

Instantly, I found myself relating to Joel. I can be quiet and introverted and, above all, awkward. I doodle in journals on a daily basis. I’m a romantic. I tend to let people have more power over me than they should. I often don’t know what to say. I, like Joel, would have run away from Clementine at the beach and been too afraid to walk out onto the frozen lake.

But I could also see myself in Clementine (a perfect as always Kate Winslet). Granted, I’m not spontaneous and I don’t dye my hair “Blue Ruin,” but she’s more than the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. She’s irritable and erratic and, in her own words, “just a fucked-up girl who’s looking for (her) own peace of mind.”

The thing I love about “Eternal Sunshine” is how truthful it is. Every time I watch it, I learn something new about it and about myself/relationships/love:

You can try as hard as you can to make a relationship work, but sometimes…it just won’t. There’s no such thing as a perfect relationship. Everybody has flaws, everybody has baggage. You’re not going to be completely happy all the time. Love isn’t easy, and “Eternal Sunshine” shows all of its complexities.

You can’t force a connection. When Patrick uses Joel’s possessions and words to make Clementine fall in love with him, it’s not right — the connection isn’t there. Clementine feels like something’s wrong. Sometimes it’s just not meant to be, and you have to accept that.

That being said, if it’s meant to be, it will happen. When Clementine and Joel erase each other from their memories, they end up finding each other again.

Past experiences, even the painful ones, make you who you are. If you erase all the memories of people who ever did you wrong, you won’t grow. We love who we love, and sometimes we love the wrong person. The good and the bad shape us, and (hopefully) we learn from the hurt. It sucks at the time, but going through rough times only benefits us in the future.

The first time I saw this movie, I was in the midst of my very first breakup and I had no idea what was going on. This movie made me feel so much less alone. Every time I’m going through hard times and boys are being stupid, “Eternal Sunshine” will always be there for me. The film’s universal feelings of love, loss, and loneliness are like a giant hug around your heart.

So happy birthday, “Eternal Sunshine.” Thank you for impacting my life.

The wit and wisdom of “BoJack Horseman”

Imagine the typical ’90s family sitcom: a lovable, sweater-wearing single father of three adorable children, who teaches those children important values like family, loyalty and honesty.

Now imagine that, after nine seasons of being the hottest show of the decade, the sitcom is canceled, the child stars become forgotten drug addicts and the amiable father character never gets another big role.

This is the story of BoJack Horseman.

BoJack (voiced by Will Arnett) is the washed-up, has-been star of the ’90s hit “Horsin’ Around.” He lives in a “Hollywoo” mansion and does nothing but sit around, get drunk and watch episodes of his old show again and again with Todd (Aaron Paul), a slacker who lives on BoJack’s couch.

Oh, and BoJack Horseman is also a literal horse-man.

Netflix’s newest animated original show, “BoJack Horseman,” puts humans and anthropomorphic animals side-by-side — Penguin Books is run by actual penguins, Navy SEALs are actual seals, and there’s BoJack’s feline agent and on-again-off-again girlfriend, Princess Carolyn (Amy Sedaris), whose office’s hold music is a song from the Broadway musical “Cats.”

BoJack wants to make a comeback to social relevancy by writing a tell-all memoir. The only problem is, he is awful at writing (and, really, responsibility in general). Frustrated, the penguin publishers hire a ghostwriter, Diane (Alison Brie), to whom he dictates his life.

The jokes of “BoJack Horseman” come at you fast, much like Arnett’s previous comedy “Arrested Development.” Whether it’s spoofing Beyoncé lyrics, making fun of broadcast journalism (MSNBSea, in place of MSNBC, complete with a whale as an anchor) or one of the many, many animal puns, you’ll miss a joke or two or five if you blink. Each time you watch, you’ll catch a gag that slipped past you before. There’s even a Buzzfeed article “136 Hidden Jokes You Probably Missed On ‘BoJack Horseman.’”

But be warned. While astonishingly clever and smart, “BoJack Horseman” is also unabashedly crude. There are jokes about Afghanistan, the World Trade Center attacks and the Holocaust. There’s a pop song called “Prickly Muffin,” and a former child star who is heavily addicted to drugs. One episode is titled “BoJack Hates the Troops.” In another episode, BoJack tells someone “Get cancer, jerkwad,” and — spoiler alert — he eventually does.

Watch at your own risk.

But underneath the banter and cringe-worthy jokes, there is a darkness to BoJack. He is sad, self-loathing and terrified of being alone. Despite the tough, uncaring façade he has built for himself, BoJack isn’t the jerk he first seems to be. He’s relatable.

BoJack is lonely. He falls in love with the girlfriend of his lifelong frenemy, Mr. Peanutbutter (Paul F. Tompkins), an obnoxious golden retriever of below-average intelligence. He is dissatisfied with his life, and wishes he had chosen a different path without “Horsin’ Around.” His parents abused him, and his childhood hero, Secretariat, committed suicide. In a column, Vulture named “BoJack Horseman” the “funniest show about depression ever.”

As the season develops, the laughs don’t stop, but the underlying ideas and concepts become heavier. BoJack, who is notorious for his public social missteps and substance abuse, finds himself asking: “Am I a good person?”

It’s not only BoJack who is facing hardships. His ghostwriter Diane worries she isn’t making a difference with her work. His agent Princess Carolyn realizes the only thing she has in her life is her job. His TV daughter Sarah Lynn (Kristen Schaal) struggles to come to terms that her time in the spotlight has ended as she’s gotten older.

I watched the entire first season of “BoJack Horseman” in one afternoon. Since that day, I’ve sporadically watched episodes two or three more times. On some level, I think we can all relate to the show. Maybe not the whole “I’m not socially relevant anymore so I’m going to turn to hard drugs,” or the “My life is ruined because my hit TV show was canceled,” aspect, but the longing for connections with other people, wanting to be a “good” person and having the fear that your life is passing you by and you’re not doing the things you want.

As Diane says on the season finale, “That’s the problem with life. Either you know what you want, and you don’t get what you want; or you get what you want, and then you don’t know what you want.”

It’s not just another stupid animated comedy.

Read it on the MOVE website here.

“I feel infinite.”

Dear Friend,

I am writing to you because she says you listen and understand and didn’t try to sleep with that person at that party even though you could have.

Perks cover

I read Stephen Chbosky’s “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” when I was 15, the summer before my sophomore year of high school. I skimmed through it in a couple of days, thought Charlie was “weird” for crying so much, gave it a three star rating on Goodreads, and moved on. As years passed, I noticed people would mention how much they loved the book, while I was too busy with my nose stuck in Richelle Mead’s “Vampire Academy” series and other YA supernatural romances (Team Edward or gtfo). I wondered what the big deal was about “Perks.” Sure, I had thought it was alright, but I didn’t see the book as anything too special.

Then, in 2012, it was made into a movie. I was excited to see it (after all, the perfect Emma Watson was starring as Sam) and I even volunteered to review it for my high school newspaper. I drove all the way to the giant AMC in Olathe (the only movie theater near me showing the indie flick) and saw it with my mom. By this point, I had pretty much forgotten everything about the book, so I came into the movie fairly oblivious.

Perks

I fell in love with the movie. I fell in love with Emma Watson’s Sam, with Ezra Miller’s Patrick, and, especially, with Logan Lerman’s Charlie. I was crying by the time it was over, and I saw it two more times in theaters with my friends. The story was beautiful and relatable and so damn truthful. It’s one of my favorite movies, only behind “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” I bought the book shortly after seeing the film, but it wasn’t until this past week that I picked it back up.

Reading “Perks” as a 19-year-old college student is much different than reading it as a 15-year-old girl.

Everyone can relate to Charlie. Everyone, at one point or another, feels like a wallflower. We all think something is wrong with us but don’t know what, we all long for a place to belong, we all feel “both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.”

Like Charlie, I have often felt like a silent observer, standing in the corner watching everyone interact and wondering about their lives. Like Charlie, I have spent time completely without friends, and even when I was surrounded by friends I’ve felt apart from them. Different. Like an outsider.

When I read “Perks” the first time, I didn’t get it, you know? I was 15. I was still in high school, I hadn’t gone through any particularly life changing experiences. I hadn’t lost friends, I hadn’t made too many stupid decisions, I hadn’t had a boyfriend or even my first kiss. I was just a kid who spent all of her time at home reading and watching TV. I was innocent and oblivious and ignorant about the world.

At 19, I’ve lost friends. I’ve had relationships and had those relationships end. I’ve been completely out of my element. I’ve had to make all new friends and find my place to belong in college. I’ve watched my older friends leave for college before me, while I stayed behind to finish my last year of high school. I’ve had nights with my friends where I’ve felt infinite and alive and felt like I was really there. 

When I finished “Perks” today, I got it.

I have never, in all my years of devouring books, annotated. I don’t circle things, I don’t underline, I don’t write my own thoughts between the margins. But with “Perks,” there were lines I read over and over, and I just had to mark them.

When Bill warns Charlie, “Sometimes people use thought to not participate in life.”

When Charlie reminisces about past experiences, “Maybe it’s sad that these are now memories. And maybe it’s not so sad.”

When Charlie watches some kids sledding down a hill, completely elated, “I think it would be great if sledding was always enough, but it isn’t.”

When Bill tells Charlie, “We accept the love we think we deserve.”

When Charlie observes, “Things change. And friends leave. And life doesn’t stop for anybody.”

And, of course, the beautiful untitled poem that Charlie reads to his friends at the Christmas party, all about the loss of innocence. (which I, admittedly, read through multiple times and cried).

“The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” is honest. It’s beautiful and heartbreaking and passionate. It’s a story about growing up and discovering love and sex and drugs and friendship and yourself. It’s universal and timeless and…everything. It’s about taking action and “participating” in life, and not just sitting on the sidelines. Charlie and his friends go through what we all go through as we grow up and figure out who we want to be. It’s about, as Charlie says in the novel’s closing pages, “It’s okay to feel things. And be who you are about them.” It’s about that one song, that one night, on that one drive, where you felt infinite.

Love Always,

Charlie

Continue reading ““I feel infinite.””

Review: ‘The Fault in Our Stars’

20th Century Fox
20th Century Fox

You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world, but you do have some say in who hurts you.

That’s the premise behind “The Fault in Our Stars.” Based off the acclaimed and universally-obsessed-over book by John Green, “The Fault in Our Stars” is more than another teen love drama. It’s a story about cancer, love, and pain that demands to be felt.

Hazel Grace Lancaster (Shailene Woodley) is a teenage girl who has been battling cancer since she was diagnosed at 13. She has to breathe from a tube and haul an oxygen tank everywhere she goes, as using stairs and standing for too long make her short of breath.

After her parents suspect Hazel of being depressed, they make her go to a support group for kids with cancer. It is here where Hazel meets Augustus “Gus” Waters (Ansel Elgort), an 18-year-old boy in remission. The two get to talking, sparks fly, and, despite Hazel’s hesitance about hurting Gus with her inevitable death, the two fall madly in love.

The genius of “The Fault in Our Stars,” lies with its risk to be funny while telling a sad story. You’ll laugh at the banter between Gus and Hazel, the goofy persona of fellow cancer victim Isaac (Nat Wolff), and the way the characters poke fun at their disease (as Gus says to Hazel’s father, “I didn’t cut this guy off for the hell of it,” motioning to his amputated leg he lost to his cancer).

A Fault In Our Stars

Following up amazing performances in The Descendants and The Spectacular Now, Woodley is never better. As Hazel Grace, she is witty, sweet, and heartbreaking. You won’t be able to take your eyes off her. Opposite her Divergent co-star Elgort, the two are a match made in heaven.

“The Fault in Our Stars” isn’t just another cancer movie comprised of sad scenes and cliché. The story is lively, the characters bright, and the love poignant. The soundtrack, featuring songs from Ed Sheeran, M83, and Kodaline among others, breathes life and beauty into the film.

But, you must remember, this is a cancer movie — it’s not all laughs.

The audible squeals, giggles and applause from the audience slowly turn into suffocating silence and broken cries of “why?” and “no!” By the film’s conclusion you will find yourself bawling into your popcorn (or, in the my case, smuggled-in chocolates), surrounded by loud sobbing and nose-blowing noises from the packed theater. You will leave feeling broken but complete at the same time.

It lives up to its hype.

“The Walking Dead” Season 4: the season that was strongly “eh.”

“The Walking Dead” — the only show on basic cable television where I can get my post-apocalyptic zombie fix.

For the past year and a half, I’ve been a girl obsessed. I binge-watched the first two seasons within the first week I had my Netflix account. My parents would frequently come home from work to find me standing on the couch, flailing my arms and screaming obscenities at the TV.

When season 3 started I devotedly live-tweeted each episode and had heated discussions with my friends the next day at school. And last February, I paid $45 to go to The Walking Dead Live in Kansas City — a live panel with Greg Nicotero, Lauren Cohan, Michael Rooker, and (*fangirls hopelessly*) Norman Reedus, Daryl Dixon himself.

For me, “The Walking Dead” is a pretty big deal.

When season 4 began last fall I was ecstatic. I finally had friends to watch and obsess over the show with, and I couldn’t have been happier.

But when compared to past seasons, season 4 is just “eh.”

Season 4 picked up a while after season 3 ended. The group has grown after refugees from Woodberry were taken in. They have their own system for growing food, gathering water, eliminating walkers who build up around the perimeter, and just surviving. Everything seems to be going swimmingly, until the zombie flu hits, the Governor attacks, and the group is forced to flee their prison sanctuary and becomes divided.

There are a lot of things wrong with season 4. The main thing I had a problem with throughout the first half of the season was that the anonymous characters taken in from Woodberry were the only ones to get picked off by the zombie flu and other disasters. When the first person succumbed to the zombie flu and attacked the group from within the prison, I was yawning. It was painfully obvious that the core characters — Glen, Maggie, Rick, Carol, etc. — would emerge unscathed and all the newbies would be killed. This is exactly what happened, and it continued to be the case for all of season 4 — by the finale, the only newbie that’s still alive and well is Bob. the The only long-standing cast member to perish this season was Hershel during the midseason finale.

Season 4 didn’t hesitate in returning the Governor. But, interestingly, the show dedicated a number of episodes to what happened to him after the fall of Woodberry. Gov. Phil goes through some “character development,” maybe trying to make the audience sympathize with him, before returning to his cold-blooded ways and manipulating a gang of people he meets on the road to attack the prison.

“The Walking Dead” stalled the inevitable — everything in the episodes focusing on the Governor and leading up to the prison raid simply did not need to be made. In fact, the entire first half of season 4 was more or less irrelevant. The midseason finale, where the prison is destroyed and Gov. Phil finally gets what’s coming to him, was the season 3 finale we were denied.

Photo courtesy amctv.com
Photo courtesy amctv.com

Despite its lags, especially throughout 4A, season 4 had its share of strengths and events that will be remembered as pinnacle moments of the show. The one that stands out the most: Lizzie murdering her sister, Mika.

From the moment she was introduced, Lizzie was one of the most intriguing characters of the season. She was sick, she wasn’t wired right, she regarded walkers as people, just “different,” and even went as far as calling them her “friends.”

Photo courtesy amctv.com
Photo courtesy amctv.com

The episode where Lizzie finally snapped and killed her sister so she would come back as a walker was without a doubt the strongest episode of the season. The last 20 minutes are brutal and end with Carol having to, for lack of a better term, “put down” Lizzie to insure the safety of baby Judith, to whom Lizzie was a huge threat.

As Carol said, “She can’t be around people.”

Season 4 focused largely on character development and explored the dynamics that exist between the adults and children. It shows the differences in perception from the adults, who are adjusting to the new post-apocalyptic world, and the children who are growing up in it and who have few, and perhaps fading, memories of the world before the walkers.

Starting in season 3, the show has shifted from humans-vs-zombies to humans-vs-humans. This was continued throughout season 4 — the main threats to the group being the Governor, the redneck group Daryl fleetingly joins, Lizzie’s psychosis, and Terminus.

The walkers are stupid, slow, and easy to get rid of with a simple stab or shot to the brain. Humans are a different story.

As is the tradition of “The Walking Dead,” the season finale broke records — 15.7 million viewers tuned in to last night’s episode. The season ended on the biggest cliffhanger of the series, with most of the gang trapped in a boxcar in Terminus, a trap which lures in people with the promise of sanctuary. (So, Terminus is a bad place. Who knew? “Those who arrive survive” totally didn’t sound too good to be true. I hope you’re picking up on my sarcasm here.)

Season 4 leaves a lot of unanswered questions. What is the agenda behind Terminus? Are the people there cannibals? What’s going to happen to Carol, Tyreese, and Judith who are still out on the road heading to Terminus? Will they too be imprisoned? Now that most of the Woodberry characters have long since perished, who will be killed off next? And for god’s sake, where is Beth?

Though this season was my least favorite of the 4, season 5 has been set up to be packed with action. Rick Grimes, it’s time to prove that Terminus messed with the wrong people.

Review: ‘Divergent’

Divergent

In a futuristic Chicago there live four factions, where the citizens are categorized according to their personalities: Candor (honesty), Amity (kindness), Abnegation (selflessness), Erudite (intelligence), and Dauntless (bravery). Each faction performs specific roles for society and are forbidden to interact with anyone outside their group. Upon reaching a certain age, the city’s youth are given a personality test, which determines which faction they should join. Everything is peaceful and well within the walls of the city — that is, until Tris takes the aptitude test.

Enter, Beatrice “Tris” Prior (Shailene Woodley). Tris is Divergent — someone who does not fit completely into the requirements of one faction. Tris is a danger to society. Her existence threatens to overthrow what has been in place for as long as anyone can remember. Because of this, Tris must hide her inconclusive test results and not let anybody know she is a Divergent.

“Divergent” is nothing original. But what separates the film from most movies based on YA books (think, “Immortal Instruments,” “Vampire Academy,” “Beautiful Creatures,” etc.) — it doesn’t suck.

Maybe the success rests with the exceptional cast. Following her strong performances in “The Descendants” (which earned her a Golden Globe nomination) and “The Spectacular Now,” (and overlooking her stint as a pregnant teen in “The Secret Life of the American Teenager,”) Woodley shines as Tris. She’s strong, beautiful, brave, determined, but is still afraid and doubtful of herself. She’s a gem.

Alongside Woodley is the gorgeous and talented Theo James. James brings just the right amount of irresistible, come-hitherness to Four, one of Tris’ mentors. Kate Winslet is despicably wicked as Jeanine, the Erudite leader with a diabolical plot, and Miles Teller is the douche bag you’ll love to roll your eyes at.

Or maybe it’s because of the intriguing, sci-fi distopian setting. The country has been ravaged by a mysterious war, which led to the construction of a wall around the city’s barriers and complete isolation from the outside war. What caused the war? Who was it between? What is life like outside the Chicago barrier? A potential sequel or two will (hopefully) answer these lingering questions.

“Divergent” is no “Hunger Games,” but it provides entertainment — mouthwatering man candy, steamy romance scenes, kick-ass action sequences, strong female characters, and a “don’t be afraid to think for yourself” theme. What else could you want out of a YA novel adaptation?

For the Win: The 86th Academy Awards

Two days ago was the 86th Academy Awards— my own personal holiday/Super Bowl/favorite television event ever.

The picture that single-handedly, at over 1 million retweets, broke the retweet record and temporarily crashed Twitter's website. Fun fact: it is now also my Facebook cover photo.
The picture that single-handedly, at over 1 million retweets, broke the retweet record and temporarily crashed Twitter’s website. Fun fact: it is now also my Facebook cover photo.

You can read about the pizza, the selfies, and, oh yeah, the awards and my pre-Oscars predictions on the MOVE website.

Good Book, Bad Movie: Top 5 Worst Book-to-Movie Adaptations

This past weekend I went to the movie theater. No, I did not see “The Lego Movie,” which has taken the world by storm these last couple of days. (97% on Rotten Tomatoes? Can it really be that good? I think I’ll wait until it’s on Redbox). Instead, I  saw “Vampire Academy.”

“But Claudia, why would you do that?” you might be wondering. “‘Vampire Academy?’ It looks awful! Horrendous! ‘Twilight’ minus the sparkling!” And yeah, it pretty much was. I wrote a review of it for my movie column, which you can read here.

As explained in my column, I decided to see “Vampire Academy” simply because I owed it to my 14 year-old self. I went through a phase where I obsessed over teen paranormal romance novels, as every young girl does. And one of my very favorite book series was Richelle Mead’s vampire romance. I loved everything about it- Rose’s snark, Lissa and Christian’s unconventional relationship, and don’t even get me started on Dimitri; I was in love with that hunky Russian guardian. “Vampire Academy” was a quality series. And as with many book-to-movie adaptations, the film fell flat on its face.

So in honor of Hollywood’s latest fail to adapt a popular book series, I’ve decided to take a walk down memory lane and remember all the books that I love and the movies that completely crushed them into the ground.

1. “Eragon” (20th Century Fox, 2006)

Twentieth Century Fox
Twentieth Century Fox

Every time I think of “Eragon,” I feel so sorry for little sixth-grade Claudia. In the course of the school year I devoured Christopher Paolini’s first two novels (the only ones that were published at the time), “Eragon” and “Eldest,” and I thought they were absolutely brilliant. Fantasy, romance, adventure, mystery, battles, dragons, magic- what more could you ask for from a story? When the movie finally came to theaters, I was shaking with excitement. I went to the theater with my dad, all giddy and bouncing in anticipation…and then my hopes and dreams were destroyed.

It was god-awful. The acting was horrendous, the story was watered down almost beyond recognition, and Hollywood almost killed off Saphira and barely mentioned Angela. No. No no no. A part of my childhood died that day. And to make things worse, I didn’t have the emotional strength to express my dissatisfaction over the film, thus my parents assumed that I liked it and ended up giving it to me on DVD as a present. So now I own it. And every time I see it sitting among my other DVDs as I’m searching for a movie to watch, I vomit in my mouth a little.

2. “Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant” (Universal Studios, 2009)

Universal Pictures
Universal Studios

I found Darren Shan’s “Cirque Du Freak” series almost accidentally. I remember I was at Borders, glancing over the shelves, when the first book, “A Living Nightmare,” caught my eye. I opened it, sat down, and read the preface. That’s all it took- I was hooked. After that day, I read the 12-book series in record time. It captivated me- “Cirque Du Freak” was unique, unpredictable, void of all clichés. I loved it so much that I even wrote fan fiction and made slideshows of fan art in my spare time. (Sixth-grade Claudia had a lot of spare time, okay?)

When I learned it was going to be made into a movie, I was thrilled. But, as with “Eragon,” I was only to be disappointed. Let’s be real- this movie was doomed for failure the moment that John C. Reilly was cast to play the sexy, mysterious, bad ass vampire Larten Crepsley (my favorite character of the series). To be honest, I can’t remember much of the movie, which is probably for the best. I remember a train wreck of the plot being completely changed and awful acting, but no specifics. I have successfully pushed the traumatic experience out of my mind, and I am perfectly okay with that.

I don't even know what's going on here. Why, Hollywood? WHY?
I don’t even know what’s going on here. Why, Hollywood? WHY?

3. “Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief” (20th Century Fox, 2010)

Twentieth Century Fox
Twentieth Century Fox

Oh Logan Lerman, where did you go wrong? You can do so much better! Where is the charmingly awkward Charlie from “The Perks of Being A Wallflower” that we all fell in love with?

To be fair, Logan Lerman is probably the best thing about this adaptation of Rick Riordan’s popular children’s series. The acting was blah, there were changes to the plot that I had strong feelings against, etc. It just didn’t do it for me, okay? I also had a hard time adjusting to Annabeth’s hair being brown.

"ANNABETH IS A BLONDE! A BLONDE!" -me, internally.
“ANNABETH IS A BLONDE! A BLONDE!” -me, internally.

But seriously, how hard is it to dye your hair? And why is she finally blonde in the sequel, “Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters?” I must not have been the only one who freaked out over this seemingly-infinitesimal detail. (It’s a big deal, guys).

4. “The Golden Compass” (New Line Cinema, 2007)

New Line Cinema
New Line Cinema

With a cast including Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig, Ian McKellan, and Sam Elliott, “The Golden Compass” should have been a hell of a lot better than it was. Yes, the animation is pretty impressive. Yes, Philip Pullman’s fantasy story of a parallel universe is nothing short of stellar. But “The Golden Compass” ended up as one big train wreck.

What went wrong? Well, it could be the fact that the big-name actors get remarkably little screen time compared to the “star,” Dakota Blue Richards, who portrays (or, tries to portray) Lyra. It was pitiful to watch the poor girl. The Catholics got upset because it was “anti-Catholic.” If they were going to get upset, it should have been because it was an utter piece of crap. And it ended on what is quite possibly the most boring cliffhanger (Lyra looking out to the horizon, urging her enemies to “just try to stop us”) for a sequel that will never be made.

5. “The City of Ember” (20th Century Fox, 2008)

Twentieth Century Fox
Twentieth Century Fox

“The City of Ember” wasn’t awful. It was just simply extremely forgettable.

Nothing was “wrong” with it, per say. I am a huge Saoirse Ronan fan (“Hanna,” “The Lovely Bones,” “Atonement,”) and Billy Murray, who plays the mayor of Ember, can do no wrong. The reason I have included “The City Of Ember” on this list is simple: it did not even come close to doing the novel justice.

Jeanne DuPrau’s story is phenomenal. I read “The City of Ember” multiple times throughout elementary school, and I will always associate the story with my childhood. The film adaptation just fell flat. It was fine, but nothing that impressive. Eh.

P.S., what’s up with the giant moths and moles, Hollywood? DO NOT ADD THINGS TO SOMETHING THAT IS ALREADY PERFECT!