Mook Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

First, read my review on The Hunger Games and Catching Fire! 

Mockingjay – Novel by Suzanne Collins

via Wikipedia.org

via Wikipedia.org

After flying through both The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, my brain could not WAIT to absorb Mockingjay.  Catching Fire ended on such a major cliffhanger and I was intrigued, anxious, and excited to see what was going to happen in Panem.  The concept behind Mockingjay is awesome, and it had the opportunity to be the best of the three.  A rebel army hiding beneath the surface of the long gone District 13?  An emerging new leader, ready to take on the Capitol?  A deranged and depressed protagonist who needs to become the face of a rebellion?  Collins’ third installment really spoke to the idea of a revolution.

Executionally, Mockingjay could have been a lot better.  The first half of the book really dragged on and I was desperate for Katniss to come out of her slump and be the heroine we all expected her to be.  While it is extremely believable that Katniss would have some very serious mental debilitations following her second round of games, it just didn’t work for me.  The first part of the book seemed very repetitive and while I understood the direction Collins was taking the story in, and I didn’t really believe Katniss was depressed.

About a third into the book is when Mockingjay really picks up speed.  Katniss finally comes alive and it begins to feel like the story I wanted it to be.  Of course, Collins does a fascinating job of surprising the readers.  The reunion of Katniss and Peeta is devastating and I think I gasped out loud when I first read it.  Halfway through this novel I was desperate to finish reading, clutching onto Mockingjay in my bed into the late hours of the night, fighting off sleep so I can just read another chapter.

And then… it’s over.  I have to say I was REALLY disappointed with the ending of Mockingjay.  Towards the end of the book, Mockingjay gets so intense, so action packed, so heart wrenching and dramatic, with an intensity that spans through many chapters.  But it ends abruptly and with a quick summary of what happens to our characters and Panem.  I put down Mockingjay wanting more, and not in a good way.

Needless to say, Mockingjay was my least favorite of the books.  I struggle a lot with the way the final story is told and really didn’t find it as good as the others.  It starts too slow and then picks up just in time to fall flat again.  Also, there were times towards the end where the action scenes were too complex that I just couldn’t wrap my head around it.  That said, I do believe Mockingjay will be a GREAT movie – not necessarily better than the first two films, but definitely a better movie than book.  Unfortunately, it just wasn’t the novel I wanted this story to end on.

 

“Mockingjay – Part 1” – Directed by Francis Lawrence

via Wikipedia.org

via Wikipedia.org

As mentioned above, I expected “Mockingjay – Part 1″ to be a better movie than novel.  There are a lot of things going for the storyline of Mockingjay that suits itself for film – the actors are superb and can pull off the complexity of emotion necessary and the action scenes in the book can be taken to a whole other level on screen.  However,  “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” is a tough act to follow.  There is a lot to live up to, as I felt “Catching Fire” exceeded my expectations and was much more successful than “The Hunger Games.”

With this film, I was not disappointed.  Jennifer Lawrence is really just a force to be reckoned with and she pulls off the damaged version of Katniss so well.  I did feel like “Mockingjay – Part 1″ jumped a little too quickly into the action.  I would have liked a few more scenes with Katniss struggling to adapt to life in 13, but I understand it was necessary to get right into it for the sake of time.  Once the action starts going, “Mockingjay – Part 1″ takes off without a hitch.  Parts of this movie were so moving; for example, when Katniss arrives in District 8 and walks through the hospital and is barely able to keep herself together, I had chills.  And Julianne Moore, as the stone cold Alma Coin, is absolutely perfect.  She has just the slight touch of evil that makes you really dislike her – and you can tell Katniss does too.

I had a slight issue with Peeta’s appearance.  I thought the CGI of the final two scenes of him in the Capitol’s videos were not believable and looked really fake, although I thought the acting was great.  Since Mockingjay was split up into two feature films, I had speculated (as many have) that it would end on the reunion of Katniss and Peeta.  I was right.  And it was intense.  It was one of the best scenes in all three of the movies and everyone in the audience felt pain watching the scene.  It was a great moment to close on and really left you wanting the next, and final, installment of “The Hunger Games” franchise.

While I did enjoy the movie so much more than the book, it didn’t quite make it to the success of “Catching Fire” …but that is ok.  In some ways, “Mockingjay – Part 1″ did just feel like a set up for the second movie and it definitely can’t stand alone on it’s own.  But it was successful in what it set out to prove and really showed the audience that there are no more games – this a real war.  A Rebellion.  And it is just getting started.  I definitely am anxious to see what “Mockingjay – Part 2″ will bring and if it will have a greater impact than the book did.  Here’s to waiting another year for the close of this great series!

Mook Rating  ★1/2

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Mook Review: The Giver

The Giver – Novel by Lois Lowry

via Wikipedia.org

via Wikipedia.org

Reading was always something I loved as a kid.  When most of my peers would go home and spend hours in front of the television, I was the nerd who couldn’t wait to finish another chapter of my book.  I read everything and anything, both inside and outside of school, so it is no surprise that I read The Giver when it was part of my elementary school curriculum.  However, the distinct difference between The Giver and all the other books I had read up to that point, it was one of the first books that actually made me feel something.  Furthermore, it made me WANT to feel something.  Even at a young age, I understood after the impact of The Giver.  The novel isn’t easily forgettable, and shows us why it is so important to feel, to live, to explore.

When I picked it up again as a refresher for the movie, I was astonished at how advanced the message really was.  In a world where we can barely keep up with technological advances, a world where microchipped DNA doesn’t seem too unrealistic, The Giver really hit home.  I was reminded of why I fell in love with the story in the first place, and also why it is a Newbery Medal winning novel.  Lowry did a magnificent job of making the futuristic dystopia both relatable and timeless, even in todays very advanced society.  I would hope that adolescents today still have the same response to reading The Giver as I did, and want to cherish the present and the ability to feel and live freely.

In many ways, The Giver is more impactful now than it ever was before.  Every new generation becomes more and more detached from the real world, instead hiding behind smartphones, tablets, and laptops.  I would definitely suggest reading The Giver if you haven’t already, but also if you have.  It is so short that you can breeze through it, but there will also be moments that you didn’t realize or understand before.  Since the story of Jonas and The Giver is timeless it does not disappoint, and will make you take a deep breath in light of the present.

 

“The Giver”Directed by Phillip Noyce

via Wikipedia.org

via Wikipedia.org

I have a theory about why “The Giver” was so poorly received by viewers and critics… and I think I am right.

When put up against box office hits like “The Hunger Games” or even “Divergent” there is something about “The Giver” that just falls flat.  Even though it was packed with well known actors such as Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep, and Katie Holmes, it is almost boring compared to the YA dystopian epics in theaters now.  The other YA blockbusters are action packed, with jarring plot twists, and blurring divisions of good and evil.

However, none of those other blockbuster mooks live on middle-school curriculums or won a Newbery Medal. That’s what made “The Giver” what it is.

When I saw the first trailer of “The Giver” I knew it was going to try and be something that it wasn’t.  Although it didn’t push the limits as far as I had expected, “The Giver” still tried to keep up with the ranks of it’s competitors when it shouldn’t have.  There were some obvious changes to the book, most noticeably the much more prominent roles of Fiona and the Chief Elder.  That I did not mind so much, since the novel really only focuses on Jonas and it was necessary for the film to give a more 360 degree view of the story.  For the most part I did actually enjoy the movie, but as a whole the film just didn’t seem necessary.  Why bring a literary classic to life only to make money off of a trend?  “The Giver” could have been simpler, and more honest.

To summarize, if YA dystopia hadn’t become so popular as of late, I do not believe they would have made this movie.  In my opinion, “The Giver” was created purely to keep up with demand.

 

Mook Rating  

 

Mook Review: Gone Girl

Gone Girl – Novel by Gillian Flynn

via Amazon.com

via Amazon.com

There are some books that seem to blow up all at once.  It’s as if suddenly EVERYONE is reading it, EVERYONE is talking about it, and EVERYONE is waiting movie adaptation.  These books are thrilling and successful, but are hardly ever very good (think The Da Vinci Code, 50 Shades of Grey), and typically have a great plot with surface level characters.  Frankly, these trendy books just don’t have much depth.

Gone Girl, in many ways, falls into the category of the book-of-the-moment.  Flynn’s third novel was wildly successful, with readers spanning from teenagers to parents to everyone in-between.  It was one of those novels everyone stayed up until 4am reading, just trying to get through one more chapter, and couldn’t wait to gush about to their peers.  But Flynn’s characters were complex.  As a reader, I developed emotions towards them: distrust, empathy, anger.  I found myself connected to their story.  I spoke about Nick and Amy Dunne as if they were real people.  I was obsessed.

The ending of Gone Girl was a sensitive subject for most but I do feel that since this was one of those top reads that everyone expected the concrete ending that most best sellers have.  I found the ending to be successful, with just enough information to know that something terrible is still going to happen, without explicitly knowing what.  The ending leaves your imagination to run away with itself in the right way, but I understand why most found it unfulfilling.  Flynn is a talented author, and Gone Girl led me to read her two other books which I really enjoyed.  While Gone Girl was definitely the strongest, I’m excited to see what comes next from Gillian Flynn.

 

“Gone Girl”Directed by David Fincher

via IMDB.com

via IMDB.com

There are so many ways “Gone Girl” could have gone horribly wrong.  It could have been poorly cast, terribly written, hard to understand, or too over the top to be impactful.  This move got a lot of hype, and even those who didn’t read the novel were eager to see the movie.  I do have to say, reading the book helped with digesting the movie.  For example, when Amy (played by Rosamund Pike) turns up on Nick’s doorstep covered in blood and looking distressed, I knew that she was just being typical, crazy Amy.  But for most of those in the theater, they found it comical.  People were laughing.  I also think many of the non-book-readers found the whole story to be slow.  The build up wasn’t as intense when you aren’t hearing the information through first person and became, in a way, boring.

The book was better, plain and simple.

The obvious aside, Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike did an incredible job and were perfectly cast.  There was something about the way Pike carried herself that really nailed it for me.  Her smile was mechanical and her movements were calculated – and almost robotic – at times.   As beautiful as she is, Pike’s smile made me cringe.  Affleck also did a really great job playing Nick, although I feel like he wasn’t so much playing a part but playing himself.  You hate him almost as much as you hate Amy, which is exactly what he is supposed to do.  Of course there were bits and pieces left out of the movie, but they actually followed the storyline honorably well, moreso than many other mooks.  I still don’t really understand why the scene with Desi became so graphic, but I guess visually for those who didn’t read the book it may have been more thrilling.

In general, “Gone Girl” was a good movie but for all points and purposes just read the damn book.

Mook Rating  ★★

Mook Review: The Leftovers

The Leftovers – Novel by Tom Perrotta

via Wikipedia.org

via Wikipedia.org

I really, really enjoyed The Leftovers.  Tom Perrotta (of Little Children fame) writes a beautiful depiction of post-rapture life in suburbia, complete with teen angst, cults, love, and betrayal while somehow managing to come across in the most subtle of ways.  Perrotta’s fictional Mapleton, and those who reside there, are well rounded characters that represent all types of coping methods.  Some look for answers, others lead the community, many try to forget, and a certain group hinges on brutal remembrance.  While I didn’t find the plot incredibly riveting (it was slow and stagnant at times) I felt myself drawn to this book.  I wanted to get to the end.  I needed to know what happened.

The story centers around the Garvey family; a family that becomes less and less like the nuclear clan one typically thinks of when they hear that word.  Kevin, the father and leader in more ways than one, internalizes his desperation to hold his family together.  After his son disappears to follow a religious movement under the figurehead Holy Wayne, and his wife joins a cult-like group called the Guilty Remnant (whose focus is to provoke the memories of lost loved ones and prove the meaningless of life post-Rapture), Kevin tries to hold on to his daughter, Jill, who is depressed and lost in light of the situation.  The Garvey’s are nothing spectacular, but an accurate representation of the American-dream family after trauma. Disjointed, disconnected, and disturbed.  And although their unit remains in tact after the Sudden Departure, unlike many that had been torn apart, the Garvey’s still find it nearly impossible to go on.

The Guilty Remnant was the main part of The Leftovers that really drew me in.  Historically, I enjoy learning about cult-like phenomena and find so many aspects of it interesting.  I am sickly fascinated by it.  Perotta did a great job of bringing a fictional cult to life and I found myself more invested in Laurie’s chapters than others.

Ending the leftovers in the way he did, Perotta left a lot to the imagination.  I typically don’t like ambiguity in my books as I prefer to have a concrete ending, however I didn’t mind this one so much.  It was fitting for the characters, the plot, and the setting.  I definitely recommend this read.

The Leftovers Series by Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta

via IMDB.com

via IMDB.com

The Leftovers as a novel served as a stand alone.  There was no inclination of their being a sequel, and really no need for there to be.  You can imagine how intrigued I was to then hear that this novel was not only being adapted for television, but that the author himself created the show in partnership with Damon Lindelof (of LOST fame.)

I knew before watching the series that it was going to be very different.  A novel like The Leftovers was too final and ambiguous to translate to TV without many changes.  In many ways, turning The Leftovers into a series really did not make sense.  Despite this, I had a good feeling about the show for three reasons… 1) The author was heavily involved in making it, so the integrity of the story had hope to stay the same 2) LOST was arguably the first TV series where people became obsessive, binge watched, and actually took TV seriously and 3) HBO typically produces amazing, award-winning series’.

For the first few episodes, I was thrown off.  I had a lot of questions about the surface-changes made (Why make Kevin the Chief of Police rather than Mayor?  How come Jill didn’t shave her head?  Did they really have to make Pastor Jamison into Nora’s brother?)  But as the series went on I began to realize in order for the series to be successful on its own, the creators of the show needed to make certain liberties.  Kevin transforms from the desperate, and sometimes boring, Father in the books to a strained, and perhaps crazy, police officer on screen.  As different as the character appear, Kevin still tries to hold onto any sense of normalcy and succeeds as the lead actor (and Justin Theroux being smoking hot has almost nothing to do with it).

By the last few episodes, I was not only hooked, but found myself enjoying the show even MORE than the novel… which almost never happens.  That isn’t to say I find the television series better, necessarily, than the book.  They are quite different.  The one part of the book I wish had more presence (or a stronger presence) in the show would be Holy Wayne.  While in the book this convention has depth and complexity, it doesn’t translate well on screen.

I do strongly believe that The Leftovers on HBO will last many seasons and pick up more viewers as they go on.  I was very impressed by season one and I am itching in my seat for season two – I can’t wait to see what they have in store for the residents of Mapleton.

Mook Rating  ★★

Mook Review: The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars Novel by John Green

via Wikipedia.org

via Wikipedia.org

Green’s most popular novel, The Fault in Our Stars, is famous for a reason.  Personally, I’ve found it difficult to identify books about cancer that aren’t just about cancer.  While the subject of this particular illness (or any for that matter) is hard on many, and most fiction written about the topic triggers an endless supply of tears, I really feel that just because a novel is heartbreaking doesn’t mean it is good.  At the risk of sounding insensitive, I am in no way trivializing something that hits so close to home.  However, when it comes to fictionalizing these very sad stories it becomes hard to disassociate heartbreak from what is actually well written and enlightening.

That aside, The Fault in Our Stars breaks boundaries in terms of being profound and John Green, as in all of his novels,  is prolific.  Hazel is the kind of narrator you have no choice but to admire.  She is extremely self-aware of her own mortality, almost to a fault, and it makes Hazel a very honorable character.  Augustus “Gus” Waters strikes the perfect balance to the very realist/pessimist character of Hazel.  He is optimistic and passionate… and everything that Hazel needed.  It’s impossible to not fall in love with their love story.

Where Green really removes the “cancer” stigma is through the actual plot.  It is not about Hazel and Gus’s illnesses, it is about the two of them finding answers and finding each other.  The scene where Hazel and Gus visit Peter van Houten only to find that he is an angry drunk, who couldn’t care less about answering their questions, is agonizing.  You truly connect with the characters and feel their same distresses and pains.

Of course, as with almost any great novel, I cried through the end of this story.  I cried hard and long… as a reader, I just couldn’t help it.  As sad of a story this is, I highly recommend it to almost anyone.  You can’t help but fall in love with this story just as much and Hazel and Gus fall with each other.

 

“The Fault in Our Stars”  Directed by Josh Boone

via Wikipedia.org

via Wikipedia.org

They marketed this film as “One Sick Love Story” and, as we know, it is awfully true.  “The Fault in Our Stars” film hit the silver screen with a bang and backlash.  There were a lot of people upset by this film, and understandably so.  However, I think for most viewers this was the kind of movie they didn’t expect to be so connected with in such a short amount of time, to the point of extreme sadness and many, many tears.

I have to commend Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort.  They are, simply put, amazing.  The casting on this film really hit the nail on the head, as Woodley and Elgort have incredible chemistry that is absolutely necessary for a story like this.  And I couldn’t leave Laura Dern out as a wonderful asset to this movie as well – as Hazel’s mom, she is everything you need her to be.  Strong, yet sad, and willing to do just about anything for her daughter.

I do understand that “The Fault in Our Stars” got a lot of heat for the Anne Frank scene.  Personally, I did not find that scene in the novel to be much of a turning point.  However, in the movie it definitely makes a stronger statement.  The issue here is they are comparing Hazel’s struggle, a very personal and unavoidable affliction, to a man-orchestrated genocide of an entire nationality.  It comes across in the film as a little bit rude and impersonal, however I know this is not how Green intended the message.  At this point in “The Fault in Our Stars” Hazel and Gus have just had their hearts broken by their favorite author and are extremely let down.  Hazel, even at her most frustrated, pushes through her hardship and resentment by forcing herself to climb all of the steps in the Anne Frank house.  It is supposed to be a moment of accomplishment, yet it can be viewed as insensitive by the author.  In my opinion, it did not anger me as much as some, even though I understand why.

Without truly giving away the entire story, do yourself a favor and go see “The Fault in Our Stars.”  There is something about seeing young actors succeed that is very uplifting, even with a film as distressing as this one.  “The Fault in Our Stars” will be a movie people remember and talk about for years to come, and it definitely made a huge impact on today’s generation.  Okay? Okay.

Mook Rating  

Mook Review: Divergent

Divergent Novel by Veronica Roth

via veronicarothbooks.blogspot.com

via veronicarothbooks.blogspot.com

Anyone who observes my reading habits knows that The Hunger Games left a huge, YA dystopia hole in my heart.  This genre has blown up in recent years, dominating both the book shelves and box office, but many competitors in the genre have fallen flat and not lived up to their expectations.

The Divergent series is a nice breath of fresh air in a very crowded genre.  While it doesn’t have the ambition and breadth of skill that The Hunger Games does, and at times the love story can seem contrived and silly, I enjoyed it.  The first and second installments definitely have a stronger presence than the last (we can discuss my opinions on Allegiant at a later time) but it is an interesting world that Roth created, albeit a little unrealistic.

Tris Prior is a successful heroine and I really found myself rooting for her and connecting with her bravery.  She is earnest, smart, and gutsy.  She fails and then thrives.  She finds herself in very typical, teenage predicaments but holds her own in a war that is far beyond her sixteen years.  Personally, I feel that Tris is a great role model and holds her own in this story.  There are, of course, very cheesy moments of bubbling love that seems just slightly unbelievable, but then again I am a 25 year old woman reading a novel targeted for teens.

The whole faction system at times did seem a little unrealistic and not very thoroughly explained.  It almost seemed like the author had a very surface level idea that she manipulated to seem more complex, without actually creating it from the ground up.  But, all in all, I enjoyed Divergent and it definitely sucked my attention in.

“Divergent” Directed by Neil Burger

via Wikipedia.org

via Wikipedia.org

For obvious reasons, I was skeptical about this film.  There have been so many adaptations of YA novels lately that have completely bombed (“Beautiful Creatures”, “City of Bones”, “Ender’s Game”, etc) and I was worried that “Divergent” would not hold its own, especially in comparison to the widely acclaimed “Hunger Games” movies.

Shailene Woodley is a talented actress, and between her role in both “Divergent” and “The Fault in Our Stars” (which is set to debut a little later this year) she has set herself up for box office success.  However, I didn’t feel that her impact as an actor really carried the movie all the way through.  There were so many directions the movie could have gone in to make it less cheesy.  For starters, Abnegation is a faction that is supposed to be about selflessness and not relying too much on oneself.  It really, really bothered me how much makeup both Tris and her mother visibly wore.  I wanted the Abnegation to be simple people, and the costuming just didn’t really connect which I think was a huge slip up in the making of this film.
Another big issue for me was the music.  Going into this film, I figured that the track listing for “Divergent” was going to be yet-another companion album to the movie (a marketing scheme I totally do not understand; why release an album full of songs by top artists that aren’t even in the film?).  When I realized that these songs were actually in “Divergent” I was pleasantly surprised… for about five minutes.  It completely took away from the integrity of the film.  Again, it was just very cheesy.All of that aside, there were parts of the movie I liked, but not enough to be impressed. I was a little bit let down.  I will still hold out hope for other YA adaptation (“The Maze Runner” is my latest obsession and set to release in September, and long-time childhood favorite “The Giver” will release in August) but after another disappointment, I do feel my faith wearing a bit thin.

Mook Rating  

Mook Review: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Click here to read my review of The Hunger Games!

Catching Fire – Novel by Suzanne Collins

via Wikipedia.org

via Wikipedia.org

Let it be known, Catching Fire is my favorite installment of the trilogy.  Where The Hunger Games wows us with this sick dystopian world, the contrived Capitol, and the defiant emergence of Katniss, Catching Fire really ups the stakes for the story and we begin to see the severity of Katniss’ survival in the Games and what it means for the other district citizens.

Catching Fire is so successful in what it sets out to do.  With most trilogies, the middle installment naturally acts as a bridge between two major plot points, but often they are either dull and just filling a gap between two pieces of information or completely overloaded with material that you get kind of lost.  What I love about Catching Fire is that it IS a bridge between two major plot points,  but can still stand alone on its own.  It introduces very important new characters and themes, reveals more depth to existing characters, and reinforces and reiterates what is important about this story without constantly repeating itself.

If I could, I would read Catching Fire again and again and again.  It is an exiting piece of work and it really begins to construct the rebellion brewing in Panem, which leads seamlessly into Mockingjay.  The rapid events at the ending of the story happen quite quickly, and was something I had to reread in order to truly understand, but if done well could transition onto screen perfectly.  Catching Fire is definitely the strongest of the three books; an opinion I know I share with most fans of the series.

“The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” – Directed by Francis Lawrence

via Wikipedia.org

via Wikipedia.org

Francis Lawrence’s adaptation of “Catching Fire” makes “The Hunger Games” seem like childs play.  As a huge fan of the first movie (you can read my review here), I was interested and skeptical in how this film would pan out with a new director.  “Catching Fire” hits us over the head with brilliance and does the book incredible justice.

Just like the Third Quarter Quell, everything about “Catching Fire” is bigger and better.  The actors have developed stronger skills, the costumes are avantgarde and absolutely brilliant, and the special effects blow the previous movie out of the water.  The Tribute Parade and CGI animals in the arena were the most notable differences for me.  In “The Hunger Games” the Tribute Parade is almost embarrassing.  The special effects were sub par and it was really the only part of the movie I truly didn’t like.  Similarly, the “mutts” in “The Hunger Games” were very fake looking and, while scary in thought, weren’t realistic.  The current films Tribute Parade is as if we are transported to a dystopian ancient Greece, and Katniss and Peeta’s costumes are astonishingly executed without the cheesy flames of the first film.  And the baboons in the arena?  Absolutely terrifying.

Most importantly, the journey we, as viewers, go on with our beloved characters is emotional and real.  In a moment of purity, Effie breaks down in her disappointment with what has happened with Katniss and Peeta and expresses her loyalty to them as a team.  It is touching and moving, and I found myself getting choked up at most points throughout the film.  Newcomers like Finnick and Johanna elevate the storyline and bring realness to what is happening; like Katniss and Peeta, they are victors and they have also been betrayed by the Capitol.

All biases aside, something needs to be said about Jennifer Lawrence’s role as Katniss.  The final scene is astounding, her facial expressions flawless, and it is as if you are completely inside Katniss’ head without her saying a word at all.  The last few minutes of the film has me clenching the side of my seat and ended with a cliff hanger of astronomical proportions, leaving me beyond anxious for “Mockingjay Part One.”  Catching Fire is absolutely brilliant and I personally felt it was as near flawless of an adaptation as they come.

Mook Rating  

Mook Review: “Into the Wild”

Into the Wild – Novel by Jon Krakauer

via Wikipedia.org

via Wikipedia.org

The nonfiction book “Into the Wild”, written by Jon Krakauer, documents the life of the adventurous, intriguing, and outrageously intelligent Chris McCandless.  In 1990, just after graduating from Emory University, Chris left his entire his money, possessions, and family behind him to venture into the wild and pursue a greater way of being.  Krakauer delves into the story as much as anyone possible could, and gives as much detail on the interesting young man as possible, without actually being McCandless himself.  This, we come to learn, is because of Krakauers alliance to the same school of thought as McCandless, his similar passions, and wildly ambitious nature as a young man that almost led him to his own death.

Through letters and diary entries, interviews with those whose lives McCandless has touched, articles written on him, and stories of other young men who sought out the wild so eagerly they felt invincible, Krakauer tells us this story.  It is wonderfully written, insightful, and captivating, something I found remarkable considering Krakauer had never met McCandless and there was hardly anything known about him post-disappearance.  This novel is less of a biography, and more of an extended essay that touches upon the romance of nature, the slight of invincibility, and the truth of what actually happens to those who think they are above the twentieth century.

I am hardly critical or not understanding of why people seek the wild and abandon cultural norms.  In fact, the idea of the wild intrigues me but the collection of stories Krakauer puts together, in addition to the journey of McCandless, definitely teaches you to be mindful of any kind of epic wild journey you may embark on. Regardless, this biography is stimulating and wonderful, and I truly fell in love with it.

 

“Into the Wild” – Directed by Sean Penn

via Wikipedia.org

via Wikipedia.org

The first I’d ever heard of “Into the Wild” was when I caught the movie midway through on HBO several years ago.  I became immersed in what little was left of the story, and was always intrigued by it, but it was not until some time later that I actually came back to it.

Emile Hirsche and Sean Penn make the epic tag team duo as actor and director.  I was a little bit worried about how this would play out as a Mook; Krakauer uses stories of other travelers to support the story of McCandless, while “Into the Wild” only focuses on McCandless and his journey to his untimely death. 

One thing that always impresses me are actors who can create drama, depth, and intuition when it is just them singularly on screen. The majority of this film is McCandless on his own, and it takes a truly great actor to convey the transcendental and emotional person that he was.  On that note, Hirsche succeeds immensely.  The entire supporting cast helps create a dynamic climax as well, along with some phenomenal cinematography that captures the beauty of nature – the thing that drew McCandless out of his traditional life and into the wild at the young age of 22.

Generally, I just love the story of Christopher McCandless and I urge you to immerse yourself in who he was, whether you read Krakauers book or watch his biopic.  You will not be disappointed.

Mook Rating  

Mook Review: The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones – Novel by Cassandra Clare

via Wikipedia.org

via Wikipedia.org

As many of my loyal readers know by now, there is nothing I enjoy more than a riveting YA fantasy series. In stating that, I really wanted to like The Mortal Instruments series, and after reading the first installment City of Bones, it wasn’t that I didn’t like it… I just wasn’t obsessed.  Personally, I like a book that I can’t put down.  I like story that is so engaging I think about it when I am not reading it and long after I have finished.  I like a novel that is a quality piece of work and stimulates the mind, and inspires me to write.

Cassandra Clare’s series is just… eh.  The story is ok, and even nonsensical at times, and the writing is nothing to call home about.  While other YA authors such as Suzanne Collins (The Hunger Games) and Veronica Roth (Divergent) aren’t necessarily better technically, Clare doesn’t suck the reader in a provide enough page-turning material to make this truly worthwhile.  However, I did find myself consistently going back to this book and, albeit not desperately, wanting to know the truth about Clary and her relations to the demonic world of Shadowhunters.  I can see the audience this book can reach and why it has a following, but in a way I think I am just too old for this.

While the ending to this story was a cliffhanger in the traditional sense of the word, it didn’t really leave me hanging.  I was quite confused by the direction the novel took and wasn’t completely sure how the integrity of the story would redeem itself, but I wouldn’t completely shun the idea of finishing the rest of the series.  Honestly, there are just too many other books I want to read, and none that I want to sacrifice for the second installment of this series.

“The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones” – Directed by Harald Zwart

via Wikipedia.org

via Wikipedia.org

This movie, to be quite blunt, was awful.  I couldn’t even finish watching it.  I am a firm believer that even if the book is just mildly invigorating, the movie can be much better (ie: my Mook review of “Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightening Thief”) and I was hoping that expectation would be met in this movie.  I was wrong.  Lily Collins, while beautiful, is kind of pathetic as Clary and Jace, while mysterious, is flat and lacking any kind of depth.

The biggest problem I had with this film was pace.  It was like this movie was on speed.  The first 30 minutes spanned a huge portion of the book and left the viewer with no explanations, no insight, and no passion.  I know I am not the only person with this opinion either, as it completely tanked at the box office and filming for the second movie “City of Ashes” was put on pause (the movie has since been reinstated).

I almost feel that I am not even at liberty to give this Mook a rating since I couldn’t finish watching the film, but I don’t think it would have made much of a difference.  Fellow mookologists, what did you think of this film?

Mook Rating  

Mook Review: The Spectacular Now

The Spectacular Now  Novel by Tim Tharp

via whatanerdgirlsays.com

via whatanerdgirlsays.com

I was a little underwhelmed by this book.  When I went into reading The Spectacular Now, I knew little about the story.  I only knew there was a film counterpart that had debuted at the Sundance Film Festival and had done favorably well.  I’m not exactly sure what my expectations were going into this story, but I just didn’t connect with it.  The carefree, lush narrator Sutter Keely was a frustrating one and since the story is told from his perspective, you can’t escape him.

While I supposed having such an emotional reaction to the main character, albeit a negative one, is a good thing, I still don’t know what exactly was missing for me.  The development of his and Aimee’s relationship wasn’t authentic enough for me to take seriously, although the very realistic circumstances of their lives was effective.  I was waiting for Sutter’s catharsis and growth but was utterly disappointed at the ending of this novel.  If there is one thing I am almost guaranteed to not enjoy, it is an ambiguous ending, and the one in The Spectacular Now was a total let down.

Although I enjoyed the storyline and felt that Tharp captured the essence of his characters in a realistic way, there was something about the story that didn’t grab me.

The Spectacular Now” – Directed by James Ponsoldt 

via Wikipedia.org

via Wikipedia.org

“The Spectacular Now” might be one of my favorite movies of the year.  Unlike the novel, this movie is impeccably authentic, crazily effective, viscerally saddening, and sublimely uplifting all at the same time. I loved it.

Miles Teller is an incredible actor and I loved him as Sutter and his chemistry with Shailene Woodley is wonderful.  It is always satisfying to see a cast of young actors really take the movie on and prove themselves.  I felt the connection between Sutter and Aimee in this movie, where I did not in the book.

Another stroke of genius (in my opinion) was the change of ending.  One of the last scenes of the movie with Sutter and his Mom (played by the awesome Jennifer Jason Leigh) is so touching and I really loved that addition to the storyline.  Of course, seeing Sutter turn a new leaf and actually face his fears was something the viewers wanted, and I felt it brought closure to the story even though it was a small final scene.

Mook Rating – ★★★