Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (2013) * * *

I went to this movie after reading mixed reviews about it. Though there were mixed reviews about the books as well, and those I liked. Okay, the first three. I haven't read on, as I felt it should have ended there. Moving on...
When I watch a movie that is based on a book, I don't try to compare it to the book too much. They are two different mediums, and something that may work in a book, doesn't work in a movie. What is important is for the movie to give back the main story line of the book, the feel of the book, and to stand on its own, so that people who don't read the books understand it as well.

The story line I had a problem with. Partly, because I read the book over a year ago, and I don't remember much of it. I'm pretty sure the end was different, but that I understand because of the time. They did commit a major sin though. They revealed a very important plot point, in fact, I think more than one, that doesn't get revealed until the next book. They did stick to it mostly, but still...
The feel was great. Seriously, I came out of the theater pumped up, and that is always a good thing. I saw the world as if I was still in the movie. That may not be that good.
It can stand on its own for the most part. There were some things that I knew from the book, that was a bit problematic in the movie. For example, the people living at the Institute. Who they were wasn't explained well. I would have liked them to be properly introduced. Maybe it was a time issue, or a flow issue, but really, how long would it take to say "Hi, I'm Isabelle, this is Alec, my brother." or something to that effect. We basically don't know anything about anyone, just Clary. All the back stories that they may have is missing. It's implied, but I only caught snippets. That was a negative. The rest of the plot is explained well, can be understood without the book.

The look of the movie was great. The Institute I loved, the demons looked properly hideous, the fight scenes were reasonably exciting. The soundtrack was also really good. I generally don't pay much attention to the music, but that was a huge plus in this one. I especially liked one fight scene music, so I'm definitely getting the soundtrack.

Now on to the cast. I must say, pretty good.
Lily Collins I first noticed in Mirror, Mirror, where I thought how better she was at being Snow White than Kristen Stewart. She was a very believable Clary too. I look forward to seeing her in more movies, I think she'll be great.
Jamie Campbell Bower was properly hot and dark as Jace. I didn't have a clear picture of Jace in my head, but it would have been something like him. I was very glad when he was cast, I always thought he was wasted as the young Grindelwald.
Kevin Zegers as Alec was a bit of a let-down. I just imagined Alec as a lot more imposing figure somehow. A bit like a darker, more muscular Jace. It was especially a let-down, because I always liked Alec.
Some people say Godfrey Gao didn't fit the bill of Magnus. I actually imagined him to be uglier somehow. It was a bit of a pleasant surprise, because I found Godfrey very cute. Therefore, although he didn't fit my Magnus either, I'd rather have him.
Aidan Turner I didn't recognise at first, although I watched Being Human. I knew I had seen him somewhere, but because of all the hair, he was playing Luke, it was hard. He didn't have a major role in the movie, I hope he'll get more story next time. I always thought Luke was a good character.
Casting Jared Harris as Hodge is a bit of a give-away. I won't say more. Spoilers.

Overall, it was a good movie. Watchable. I may even re-watch it in a few months on a bored Sunday. People can take their boyfriends or girlfriends to it as well, and they will probably have a good time too. I do wish it was less show, more story, but the fight scenes were pretty cool. If someone likes the story, they should read the book though. If someone read the book, try to leave your outrage over the little things behind, and just immerse yourself in the sights. That is why this gets 3 stars. Slightly worse than the book.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Itazura na Kiss ~ Love in Tokyo (JDrama) * * * * *

I wanted to watch a cute, funny and romantic drama, and that is just what I got. I do remember watching the previous version of Itazura na Kiss, but I don't remember much of it. It didn't seem to have much of an impact, and that version was only 9 episodes, while this one is 16.

The story is a love triangle, sort of. From the start we know that Kotoko is in love with Irie-kun. It's also not hard to deduct that Kin-chan is in love with Kotoko. Irie-kun doesn't even seem to know that Kotoko exists, until she presents him with a love letter that of course, no surprise, he turns down. What happens after that is years and years of Kotoko being hopelessly devoted. Yes, this drama takes place over 3-4 years.
Kotoko is in class F at the beginning, and Irie is in A. Fs, people who are perhaps not that book smart, and As, who are seem to be a world apart. Can two people so different find each other? Can it work? At one point Irie confesses that he had no troubles until Kotoko entered into his life. Everything was easy for him, he never meet any challenges. The obstacles in his life, and overcoming them showed him that he can be strong. Only someone from class F could have done that for him.
The story is complex, and full of ups and downs. It reminded me of Hana Yori Dango in that, which is my favourite drama of all time. I often found it hard to believe that Kotoko could still go on, but I think she is such a positive person, she couldn't give up.

Kotoko is played by the lovely Honoka Miki. She has the obligatory big ears, but other than that, she's beautiful. Half the time I was staring at her, and couldn't understand how Irie-kun could resist her. Miki does a great job. She hadn't worked in many dramas yet, but she's very young. She's the youngest of the trio, and completely steals every scene. I hope to see a lot more of her in the future.
Irie-kun is played by Furukawa Yuki. The actor grew up in Canada, and hasn't been in many dramas either. He has to speak English in a few scenes, and there is one very funny one, where he has to repeat what he said in a strong Japanese accent for Kotoko to understand it. He is very cold, and hardly ever smiles, but that's in his role. I don't know how he could bear not laughing at Kotoko all the time.
Kinnosuke Ikezawa, aka. Kin-chan is played by Yamada Yuki. His character dresses a bit like someone from the early 90s, which is strange and out of place. He is lovable though in the way he dots on Kotoko, and I did find myself wishing that she gave up on Irie. His cooking always made me hungry.
A supporting character I really loved was Irie's mother, Machiko, played by Nishimura Tomomi. She was a bit silly, kind of a comic relief, but really sweet in her love for Kotoko. I felt that the two found each other. She needed a daughter, and Kotoko a mother. I was almost more concerned for their relationship than Kotoko and Irie's.

Overall, this is a very good drama. I recommend it to all women, because I'm sure you'll enjoy this a lot. This may just be my second favourite drama.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Blood Trail (Victoria Nelson, #2) by Tanya Huff * * * *

I liked this book better than the previous one. The supporting cast was more present and interesting.

In this story Vicki finds herself heading out from Toronto to rural Canada. Henry is asked to help in uncovering who killed a few of his old friends from a family he has been in contact with since WWII, and he asks Vicki to go with him. Mike gets into the mix too about half-way through, and messes things up a bit.
A fun thing about the story was that it takes place in the high heat of the summer, August. I read it in August, beginning it just as I was waiting for the bus, trying not to faint from the heat.
The detective story was interesting, and the ending reminded me a bit of the kind of stories I saw in Japanese detective dramas. It was slightly bittersweet. Again, about half-way through, we were told who the killer was, and got to see it a bit from their perspective. I'd really prefer it if Tanya Huff hadn't done that, but maybe it was a thing in the 90s. I mostly read historical fiction back then. It did give another perspective though, however briefly.

In the story we do see some progression in Vicki's and Henry's relationship, but not a lot, which is a bit disappointing at times. It's not really the sizzling vampire romance, but I don't mind all that much, since I'm not a fan of romance. In fact, Henry is not present a lot in the story at all, just at some important points. The focus is more on Vicki, and the other family.
As can be expected, it's not an ordinary family. Without trying to spoil it, I'll just say that I enjoyed learning about their way of life, their habits. I also grew to like the whole family, especially the twins. This lead me to care for them, and the situation they were in.

Overall, the story was entertaining, and a quick read. I recommend it to people who like a simple detective story with a supernatural twist. If you like a lot of romance, this is not for you. It can be read in a few days. The only reason it took me so long was that I read another novel at the same time.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Darkfever (Fever, #1) by Karen Marie Moning * *

Darkfever is a novel that is in the very popular supernatural YA category. Mercifully, this first instalment of the series skips the trope of the girl falling madly in love at first sight with a mysterious man, though there are signs that it's in her future. Still, not just yet.

I rated it just 2 stars, because it was just okay. I can't say it was terrible, like New Moon, which was 1 star, but I also can't say that I liked it. It was just okay. The reason for it is not in the story itself, or the writing. The story was fine. It kind of blew some of the plot on the first page. The story is told from the perspective of a future Mac, the main character, who doesn't just tell the story, but also comments on it, almost like she has an agenda, like self-reflection. Therefore, foreshadowing is a big thing in the narration.
It's also not very fast-paced, because it does stop often to make room for what we could call "fillers". One kind of filler that drove me crazy and I started skipping it at about 53%, was outfit descriptions. I don't just mean things like "he wore all black". We get descriptions from the maker of shirts to the heel of boots. They don't add to the story and are not even interesting, pretty, or artistic. They really just seem to be there to add word numbers. Things like these stop the flow of the story, and even when there were action scenes, the descriptions, and other motion-stopping fillers just kept coming. Therefore, instead of smooth camera action, you get a serious of stills and slow motion footages. Sometimes it gets so distracting, that you lose track of what is actually happening.
Otherwise, the story itself is not bad. The world that is built is interesting, and has a lot of potential. There are two types of Fae, and I'm not really spoiling here, since that is basically on the first page. They are not just dark and light haired faries, but more diverse.
The writing is not bad either. Sometimes you even get highlights, especially in the way emotions are told. They can be kind of pretty in places. That was a saving grace in the story, and one of the places where I actually almost liked it.

The characters are the main reason why I gave it 2 stars. I just couldn't care about any of them, nor like them.
MacKayla Lane is the main character in the story, and her older version is the narrator. Most of the time her older self sounds more interesting, than the younger one. At the start she is quite shallow. Moning tried to deepen her character by liking books, but she must read only romance novels, because otherwise she doesn't sound all that smart or knowledgeable. She's also pretty bad with technology, which in the 21st century is odd from a young person. For example, there is a part where she's trying to find a street. Does she use Google, or Google maps, or something like that? No. She gets maps from a store. Another thing that bothered me about her characterization was that she was too Southern. Especially in the first half she was all magnolia trees and fried chicken, to the point of exhaustion.
The other main character is Jerricho Barrons. He's the enigmatic love interest, without there being much of an interest in love. He's so enigmatic, I really don't know much about him other than he wears a lot of black. In fact, his secrecy is taken so far, that instead of being sexy and interesting, to me he's totally boring. He hardly ever answers any questions, when he's supposed to be the character that introduces Mac into this other world. He also keeps calling the main character "Ms Lane", which is annoying, especially because he inserts it into every other sentence. It's not needed in the context, and just weird after a while.
There are some minor characters. For example, a strange old woman that pops up in a few convenient places to move along a plot line. Not even in likely places. Which old lady goes to a pub at night, or to the museum in their own city?
Another is V'lane, who is just annoying at this point. He's the only Light Fae that we meet, and doesn't rank high up in the likeability scale. I also can't stand his power, which is humiliating, and disgusted me so much, I had to page through his scenes. Mercifully there were only a few.

Overall, the book isn't bad. Some people even love it. However, the author failed to make me care for the characters, and because of that, I couldn't enjoy the story. They could have all died in the end, and I would have been glad. It is worth giving a shot to though, and I'm not saying I'll never read on. However, for now, I want to read about people I actually give a damn about.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Colony (2013) *

I'm really mad at this movie. Mad with disappointment. After watching the trailer some time ago, I was excited to see this. Now, I just want to kill the people who couldn't translate the awesomeness in the trailer to the movie.

Let's start with the story. It starts out good. Post-apocalyptic world, good. Characters having tension, there. Love angle, present. See? Lots of potential. When they decide to go to the other colony, you get excited. They even learn something very important there, that you think is going to be the endgame of the movie. Instead, when it does end, you have a WTF moment. I usually don't use such things in my reviews, but seriously, that's the only way it could be described. Like halfway through the budget ended, and they decided to leave it at that. Or it was the first episode in a TV series. Yeah, I could actually see this continued in a TV series.

The acting couldn't have been much of a challenge. You have Laurence Fishburn playing his usual authority figure. As if he was still the same person he played in CSI, but after he left, the world ended and he got stuck in the colony.
Don't be fooled by the picture though, he's not the main character. It's actually Kevin Zegers' character, Sam. He does a good job, but not a demanding role. Maybe just in the amount of running he had to do.
Bill Paxton's role is such a cliché, it almost hurt. In every one of the stories you need the guy who just wants to be the king of the junk yard. However, I didn't expect too much depth in the story, just some entertainment, so I guess he could stay.

I thought that this was one of the most disappointing movies that I've ever seen. They had a potential here, and ended up doing one of those mindless "running from zombies / things that want to eat you" movies. I get that they are hip now. However, it can be done without me wanting to slap someone, and scream at them: "You had all this potential and you wasted it on THIS?"
Watch this movie, if you like to see people running from stuff. Also, watch it if you want to see good world-building wasted. Watch it if you are looking for a good base for a fanfiction. Otherwise, stay away!

Lovelace (2013) * * *

First of all, I have a confession to make. I watched this movie because I just love Amanda Seyfried. She's beautiful and very talented. It was strange to see her as a brunette, but she looked good with that too. Now, on to the movie review.

The story itself is about Linda Lovelace, one of the best-known porn actresses in the 70s. Frankly, having grown up in Europe and been born in the 80s, I never heard of her. I did read up afterwards though. From what I could gather, the events in the movie are taken from her autobiography, Ordeal. It is controversial in a way, and some sources have contradicted several statements in it, like just how much porn she participated in, or how willingly. It also leaves out the reported drug and alcohol abuse she was doing at the time.
However, as a woman of today, these things didn't matter to me. What spoke to me was the way she grew up, and the way people dealt with the domestic abuse that was going on at the time. In a way it was shocking to see just how much the attitudes in the general public have changed since then, but also keeping in mind that in some places, that is still the case.

The way the story was told was particularly interesting. I'm trying not to spoil it, but let's just say that first you get the outside, then the inside. It played with the mind of the viewer, by having them sort of see the surface at first, and establish a view of the events, only to show the flip side later. It especially works if you go into it not knowing anything about Lovelace.

Amanda Seyfried was great as the slightly naive girl. Due to the rather pornographic nature of the theme, it was probably not an easy role to play. However, I had to remind myself that she wasn't just the innocent Sophie in Mamma Mia!, but also the strange and sexual creature in Chloe. I could wholly believe she was Linda.

Peter Sarsgaard played her husband. He was just as hateable as you would want from the villain of the story.

The reason that I'm giving it 3 stars is because while the storytelling is done very well, and the actors are good too, the whole thing feels disjointed, and incomplete. We get glimpses of Linda's life, we do see the problems, but it feels like something is missing. I would have especially liked to see more of just how she managed to get out of the marriage and the porn industry. The story did have a beginning and an end, but it was a shadow. You didn't see what was actually casting the shadow. However, I do recommend it, especially to women, but it's something for a Sunday afternoon when you want to relax, but also engage your brain some.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Scarlet (Lunar Chronicles, #2) by Marissa Meyer * * * *

This is the second addition to the series, disregarding the little side stories. When I started reading I was worried that we wouldn't see anything of Cinder, but my fears were quickly silenced. While the majority of the story does focus on Scarlet, Cinder is still a part of it.

This story is different from Cinder. The previous book was a lot slower, and focused on the plague. It also had a lot more of Kai. While the Emperor is still occasionally there, his part is minuscule. However, it's still good.
The story focuses on Scarlet, and just like her original version, Little Red Riding Hood, she's searching for her grandmother. While the wolf is originally the symbol for a sexual predator, Wolf is more of an actual wolf, but sexual attraction still plays a part. The story is very fast-paced. It sweeps you along, making you keep reading. Thinking back, the whole thing takes place in about three days. Cinder is also looking for the grandmother, but she is no longer alone. She got a new friend.

Scarlet is not the scared little girl in the fairy tale. She has guts, and is determined to go after her grandmother, even though people try to deter her. I took an instant liking to her.
Wolf is an interesting character. I suggest reading The Queen's Army first, because it does give a lot of insight into Wolf. He is an interesting character, and his animal nature is fascinating to me. However, I always loved wolves. That part did make me think of A Game of Thrones. I do want to see more of him though, because he also makes the air sizzle with his animal instincts.
Cinder is more on the side lines this time. Though I was glad for her response to the revelation at the end of the previous book. In a way that part reminded me of Japanese anime, which the author does like. Usually the characters in those deal with such monumental revelations about themselves this way.
Carswell Thorne is Cinder's new friend, and she needed a man like that. Cinder is a nice person, and she is very disturbed by her abilities, but Thorne gives her the outside perspective that she needs. He is also the sort of rugged rascal we women tend to go for in our weak moments, and he knows it. However, deep down, he's a good person. He is a walking cliché, but he fills a needed hole.

This story also has romance. It is kept to a minimum, maybe a bit too much. The attraction is that sudden YA romance thing, but thankfully the fluff is kept to a minimum. I can deal with it. Though I had to admit, at the end it was getting a bit too sugary cute.

Overall, it's a fun book of action. It is different enough from the previous book to not feel like a copy of that like some bad series sometimes do. No surprises really, but it's not the kind of book that you expect to win literary awards. I still recommend it to people who like good action, light sci-fi, and re-interpretations of fairy tales.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Papa Wa Idol (JDrama) * * * *

Papa Wa Idol or Papadoru is a funny family drama. It's about an idol, Nishikido Ryo, a member of Kanjani8, who falls in love with a woman, and marries her. Now, as a European person, this whole idol thing is a bit strange for me. I understand that people think these guys shouldn't get married, because that destroys the illusion of their availability, but in reality, they really aren't available for the average Jane. In fact, ironically, this could be about the realisation of a fan. After all, all fans dream of marrying their idol. If we go by this drama, marrying an idol is the easy part. The life after is the hard part.

The story doesn't show much of the romance, it focuses on the start of the marriage itself. Haruka, the new wife, already has three children from her previous marriage. The drama mainly centers around Nishikido being an idol, and how he tries to become a husband and a father while hiding the whole thing from the public. This provides lots of occasions for hilarity, as well as touching moments. In the mids of it all we can explore what it means to be part of a family, and a father. Some of the more touching scenes had me reaching for tissues. The story helps us realise that there are more ways one can be a father, than what we may traditionally imagine.

Nishikido did a good job, but he had the easy part, as he was basically playing himself. He does seem to be bewildered sometimes, like he's not sure what he's doing. Especially when he's not speaking, it's almost like he falls out of the situation.
Yuka plays Haruka, the wife. Her character is often on the side-lines, which is strange in the story. She doesn't have a lot of lines, much of her part is silent, but that is hard to do, and she does it well. The air doesn't sizzle between the two lovers, it's more like a quiet, easy romance.
Overshadowing the mother's character is the older daughter, Mei, played by Kawashima Umika. She is the strong person in the family, and has a lovely side story.
A fun character is the younger daughter, Kana, played by Kanon Tani. She is an Arashi and Sho fan. I'm a MatsuJun fan, but I can relate. Her adoration towards our favourite band was a constant source of fun.

Overall, this is a good drama to watch. It's fun, but has its deep moments. Culturally the whole "idol" thing was interesting to me as a non-Japanese. I recommend it to all ages. Even to men, who are becoming fathers, because some of the themes speak to them.