Adam’s Film Friday: A Review of Gone Girl

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What makes a story newsworthy? Is it that the people involved have an intriguing background, or is it that we can relate to their story? Is there more to the story than we as the public aren’t privy to? Would we view the story differently if we knew the whole truth? All of these questions are explored in the film Gone Girl, based on Gillian Flynn’s novel of the same name. The film takes its viewers on a roller coaster of emotions complete with an all-star cast and a top-grade director. What you’re left with is a stunned reaction and an overall feeling of WTF?

Closely following the book, Nick and Amy Dunne have been married for five years. Amy suddenly goes missing on their fifth wedding anniversary. Her husband Nick comes under suspicion and begins to act aloof and questionable when under the press’ microscope. During the investigation Nick begins to look guiltier than ever and everyone, including even those closest to him, begin thinking he is guilty despite his proclamation of innocence. Did Nick, the all-American perfect husband, kill his wife or are things not what they seem to be on the surface?

Gone Girl was one of the best page-to-screen adaptations I’ve ever seen. One factor that supported this was that the author of the book, Gillian Flynn, was responsible for writing the screenplay. The same emotions I felt while reading the book were felt throughout the film: the bone chilling scenes, the shock of the twists, and the utter disgust I felt towards certain characters were all still very much present throughout the film.  Much of the film’s dialogue was taken directly from the novel, which gave it such a genuine feeling of truth in the adaptation.

gg1From the first scene to the last shot, I was completely immersed in this world of mystery and double meanings, and could not physically wait for the next scene. I say physically because the emotions took me on an emotional roller coaster, and sometimes I needed a minute to think about what had happened and grasp it. It sometimes toys with your emotions more to see the actions of a film play out in front of your eyes rather than what you feel while reading the pages of a book. That is definitely true here. The film was under the proper care of director David Fincher, a director who meticulously crafts every scene no matter how important/anti-climactic. He is also known for having very dark lighting and dark cinematography and this works perfectly for the tone of this story. While at its core it’s a very dark story, there are small bits of humor sprinkled throughout. Every scene was exquisitely put together, from the shot choices to the lighting, sound, and score. The score is flawlessly crafted by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (the third collaboration between them and Fincher).

In my opinion, the film’s success depended entirely on the perfect casting of Amy. You needed an actress who you can relate to at face value, but know nothing about her beyond that. As a viewer, you know all about Amy’s superficial information: hair color, eye color, what clothes she wears, etc. Her personality, however, is a complete mystery. Rosamund Pike was the PERFECT choice for Amy. While she’s not a household name, she’s someone who dove head first into the complexity of the character and was ultimately successful in her portrayal. From the first time you hear her character speak, she was Amy.

gg2Ben Affleck’s acting has never been better. I never thought I would say this but Tyler Perry was really good in his role as Nick Dunne’s attorney Tanner Bolt. I was most hesitant about his casting because the character of Tanner is crucial to Nick’s story. Perry is known to play very over-the-top characters, so while I had some faith that Fincher wouldn’t ruin the film by miscasting the role, I still felt a level of skepticism. Perry’s delivery of one of his last lines had me laughing out loud and I realized how true the sentiment was behind the line. Kim Dickens as Detective Booney and Carrie Coon as Margo Dunne were excellent supporting players. They both have long careers ahead of them, and I wouldn’t be surprised if their names are mentioned during Oscar buzz.

All in all, I think this was a perfect adaptation of the book. I loved every aspect of the film, and would have gladly watched a five-hour version, as I was so engrossed. For all the controversy surrounding the end of the film, I felt that it was a cherry on top of this sundae of a film. It will stick with the viewer for days, weeks, and even months. I would suggest it to anyone who loved the book, or anyone who was intrigued by the trailer or promotional material. I will say, that after viewing this, you will never look at tabloid headlines the same way again.

7 out of 5 Stars

Gone Girl (2014)
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
R, 149 Minutes

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Adam’s Review of Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

gggfWhat if you lost everything of value in your world? What if, after losing all this, the world watched your every move, judging you for the decisions you made, as well as analyzing everything down to your smile and your response to questions? What if you and your family were the only ones who knew the truth of your situation, yet no one on the outside believed you? What would you do if you felt the world caving in, but knew the truth that would set you free? Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn addresses these issues and many more in a thrilling mystery of epic proportions.

Nick and Amy Dunne have been married for five years. Like any marriage, theirs has been through a lot, including the loss of both their jobs, as well as relocating to Missouri from New York City to help care for Nick’s dying mother and Alzheimer’s stricken father. On the morning of their fifth anniversary, Amy has gone missing and Nick is the primary suspect. He acts inappropriately and smiles at the wrong time, leading everyone to suspect that he is to blame for Amy’s disappearance. The only people who are on his side are his sister Margo, and to some extent Amy’s parents. What follows is a story of deceit, intrusion of the media, and how public opinion can quickly change due to one off-handed comment.

I have never in my life been so enthralled by a book. I know I’ve said this before about The Great Gatsby, The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Angels and Demons, but those books pale in comparison to the emotions I felt while reading this book. I’ve never been so emotionally involved in a book to the point where if I didn’t know what happened next, I wouldn’t be able to live anymore. It was the type of book where just one more chapter turned into a few more, and before I knew it I had read the whole thing in 24 hours. Even though the book is a quick read, every word matters. Every scenario builds upon the last, and the climax leaves the reader stunned.

Gillian Flynn has a way of writing characters that bring out emotions in the reader. Never did I think it was possible to hate one of the main characters as much as I did (I will not say which character for those readers who have yet to experience this book), but the passion I felt towards hating this character made reading the story even better. It bought out in me emotions that up until this point only movies had been able to. I truly didn’t think it was possible for a book to do so. Flynn’s writing had this cinematic flair to it with a Hitchcock-style twist, which made the book that much more effective for me as a reader. I will admit to gasping out loud probably 150 times while reading this book. Additionally, switching between Nick and Amy’s perspectives helped to get a fuller understanding of the events of the novel. So often when a novel is told from one perspective the reader doesn’t get the full story. The dual narration provided a full explanation of all of the events of the story, and made it that much more powerful.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough to any reader who likes a good mystery. Gillian Flynn creates a world using characters we know in a world we know all too well. The backdrop of modern society with paparazzi and the 24-hour news cycle really enhances this classic story of betrayal and the truth behind it. I think anyone who reads this review that hasn’t read Gone Girl yet needs to go get the book and experience the pure excitement of it. I am beyond excited to see the film adaptation and see how it translates to the screen.

7 out of 5 Stars

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Crown Publishing (2012)
Hardcover: 432 pages
ISBN: 9780307588364

Adam’s Film Friday – A Review of Les Mis

lesmisposterWhen waiting for a movie to come out, often times anticipation plays with our mind. When we finally see the movie, it doesn’t live up to the hype that we imagine the final product will be. Often times, even though we have a pre-conceived notion of what the movie will be and how it will look, as well as what choices the director and actors will make, it just doesn’t hit the mark somehow. There’s no denying I have been eagerly anticipating the arrival of the Les Miserables movie. I even wrote a post about the women of Les Miserables (which you can read here). Although it is not the first film adaptation of the classic Victor Hugo novel, it is the first adaptation of the musical, which itself is adapted from the novel. I have been following the progression of this film from the first announcement, to casting announcements, to the first leaked pictures, to the first trailer, TV spots, and even random cast members on talk shows. I couldn’t get enough clips and literally could not wait any longer to see the movie. Would the hype of the movie ultimately ruin it for me? Would it be everything I had imagined it to be? Would it be a bigger let down than Mockingjay of the Hunger Games series? So many questions were finally answered when I saw the movie on Christmas Eve.

For those unfamiliar with the story, Les Miserables begins by introducing us to Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), a convict who served 19 years in jail for stealing a loaf of bread. After he is paroled by the no-nonsense Inspector Javert (Russell Crowe), he realizes he cannot exist with his old identity because his papers have labeled him a dangerous man. After a chance encounter with a bishop, Valjean vows to be a better and honest man. Over the course of the movie, you witness the story of a student revolution, a mother’s unwavering love for her child, a love triangle, and finally a story of redemption, all told with an amazing score and incredible songs.

Ok, I cannot wait anymore to tell you what I thought of the movie. I absolutely loved it. I thought it was one of the best musical movies ever made. One thing which made it one of the best musicals ever made was the decision to sing live while the cameras were rolling, as opposed to pre-recording the songs. With live singing, you experience the emotions the actors were trying to get across.  The songs came across much more genuine than they would have had the actors pre-recorded the songs. Although this is not the first time an actor has sung live on the set (I believe Rex Harrison sang live for My Fair Lady), this is the first time 100% of the scenes in a musical were sung live 100% of the time. It was an incredibly intimate way to portray the story of Les Miserables, and it worked perfectly. I hope more musicals decide to try this in the future.

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The performance of the movie was none other than Anne Hathaway as the factory worker-turned-prostitute Fantine. From her first scene to her last scene (over the course of 20 minutes), she captivates the audience with her portrayal of this tragic character. She gets her hair cut on-screen and you can see the fear and despair in that particular shot in her eyes. She became this character who literally is in a downward spiral with no hope of ever getting out of it. Fantine’s signature song “I Dreamed a Dream” was moved around in the movie compared to its placement in the musical. In the musical it is right after she is fired from the factory job, and in the movie it is right after her first experience as a prostitute. The movement of this song made the already sad lyrics even sadder. To put the cherry on top was how Hathaway decided to sing the song. She decided against belting it, instead going for a quieter version. Her version was so emotional, so raw, and so heartfelt that every time I’ve seen the movie (which is now up to three times), it breaks my heart and I feel a single tear coming down my cheek. I also have to give credit to director Tom Hooper for his shot choice during this song. It is shot in one long take with a minor cut in the beginning, and is just focused on Hathaway’s face. You could feel her emotions jumping off the screen. It was an incredibly effective way of shooting this scene.  If she is not this year’s best supporting actress for her performance as Fantine, then clearly all the Academy members went to the bathroom during that scene because it is utterly heartbreaking.

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Some other strong performances were Samantha Barks as Eponine, the street urchin who gets the short end of the stick in a love triangle, and Eddie Redmayne as the student revolutionary-turned-love sick puppy named Marius. Samantha had previously played Eponine on the West End Stage and the O2 25th anniversary concert. She lights up the screen with every scene she is in, and she really showed restraint in her vocal changes. Having come from a stage background, she said that she was used to singing to 2,000 people in a theater and that she had to learn to retrain her voice to strip down her singing. She really gives a great debut performance and will have a long movie career ahead of her. Eddie Redmayne as Marius was able to take one song I really don’t love, Empty Chairs at Empty Tables, and make it a heart-tugging performance. He had a boyish quality that Marius is often missing in the stage show, and he really added validity to the story that he had never been in love until he saw Cosette. Hugh Jackman was also Oscar-worthy as Valjean, and is probably in the final five of my Best Actor Oscar list, but unfortunately for Jackman it looks like nothing is stopping Daniel Day-Lewis and his incredible performance as Lincoln. However, Jackman was the perfect screen adaptation of Valjean.

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Someone who I feel is unfortunately getting the short end of the stick by many critics is Russell Crowe as the persistent inspector Javert. At the end of his career, would this one performance be what he is known for? Probably not, but he didn’t ruin the movie as many critics have stated. I actually thought as the movie went on his performance got stronger.  He was by no means one of the strongest voices of the cast, but he wasn’t as bad vocally as Pierce Brosnan in Mamma Mia (just even mentioning his croaking singing makes my ears hurt). In truth, he really had the unrelenting quality that any good Javert should have. His soliloquy was actually one of the strongest parts of the second half of the movie, and as in the play, we finally see some humanity in Javert. Also, I’ve heard that people don’t like Amanda Seyfried as Cosette because of her vibrato. I will say that after hearing the soundtrack, I was afraid it would be annoying and would make me hate the character of Cosette more so than I do already. However after seeing the movie, the vibrato in fact makes Cosette a more endearing character somehow. You often forget that Cosette is someone who (until she meets Valjean) has never known the true love of a parent. You forget how Valjean guards her, and through the imperfection in Seyfried’s voice you really understand the sense of innocence that her character has. Her performance in the epilogue was really heartbreaking and if you don’t tear up, you may be hollow on the inside.

lesmishughIn closing, I will answer the question I posed in the introduction: did the hype ruin the movie? No, it lived up to all of my expectations and surpassed many more. It wasn’t a let down like Mockingjay. It was everything I imagined it to be and was pure perfection. Not many movies can be labeled perfection and I think this is one that deserves that title. I would recommend this movie to anyone and everyone, even if you don’t like musicals. I think this story has developed a way to transcend the barrier of the musical. It has figured out a way to tell the story with music, rather than the music becoming an annoyance and taking away from the beauty of the story. In short, you have to go see this movie.

7 out of 5 Stars

Les Miserables (2012)
Working Titles Films
PG-13, 157 Minutes

Adam’s Film Friday – A Review of The Artist

Do you ever wish you could travel back in time and live in another generation? Experience what life was like back in another lifetime and view some of the entertainment that our ancestors once enjoyed? Very few period movies released now-a-days actually have the ability to transport the audience to a whole new world, one that we would otherwise would not be able to see. However, I have found a movie that not only transports you as back in time, but it also makes you want to stay there. The Artist transports the viewer back to the golden age of silent films, allowing you to experience a truly unique movie-going experience which you won’t soon forget.

A mix of two of my favorite old movies, A Star is Born and Singin’ in the Rain, The Artist tells the story of silent film star George Valentin (played by Jean Dujardin) who at the time is the biggest silent star in the world. At one of the premieres to his films he has a chance meeting with a fan and struggling actress named Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo). The next day George is able to get Peppy a role in the film he is working on. However, Hollywood is changing over from silent films to talking pictures, and George is unable to find work while Peppy becomes a bigger and bigger star. Now fully unemployed, George’s life begins to fall apart. His wife leaves him, he loses his house, and soon the only companionship he has is a dog (played by the adorable Uggie). Will George be able to bring his career back to the star level it once was on? Will he ever find happiness in another person again?

This movie made me so happy. Never have I ever seen a movie in the theaters that made me as genuinely happy as this movie did from the beginning  to the end. Even including the more serious parts, this movie made me smile. Maybe it was the environment I was in (I saw it in a single picture movie house, sitting in the balcony), but this movie just made me so happy. It felt true to other silent films I have seen in the past and seemed like it could have been an “Old Hollywood” film just from its feel alone. Jean Dujardin had a very Gene Kelly-like quality about him, and every time he smiled I thought of him. He just oozed personality and charm, which is very difficult considering there is no dialogue. He was able to convince the audience that he was in fact a struggling silent movie actor awash in a confusing new world of sound. He deserves any accolade he gets for this film and should be preparing his shocked winner face/speech for the Oscar, because if there is any sanity left in the world he will be rewarded for this truly unique performance. The only actor who out-acted him was Uggie, but sadly dogs can’t be nominated for Best Supporting Actor. Berenice Bejo was divine as the up-and-coming Peppy and really lit up any scene she was in.

Although it was a mixture of two great films’ plots, the storyline seemed to be really fresh and delved into uncharted territory. Maybe it was the silent aspect, but it seemed like it was a new story. The direction was beautifully done, and Michel Hazanavicius deserves a lot of credit for not only this but for being the lead writer of the film as well. Additionally, the fact that the movie is in black and white just made it that much more special. Black and white adds an extra ounce of quality to any movie, and it was really cool to see it used in this day and age. The music, more important than ever due to the lack of dialogue, still fit the film perfectly and really enhanced the story telling and helped move the story along.

All and all, I think The Artist is a rare movie that deserves the title of perfect. From the acting, to the direction, to the music, everything in this movie excited me. I think it will soon be considered a modern classic. I know a lot of people are put off by watching a silent film, but please don’t stop that from allowing you to experience this true joy of a film. Go out and see it!

7 out of 5 stars

The Artist (2012)
 La Petite Reine
PG-13, 100 Minutes

#80 A Review of One Day by David Nicholls

One DayEvery once in a while a truly great book comes across your path that gets inside your heart and head rendering you speechless upon completion.  One Day by David Nicholls did exactly that for me.  Upon completion I just sat on my couch staring into space.  My husband Todd said, “Well? How was it?”  I turned to face him, with tears streaming down my face, responding with, “I have no words.”  It’s taken my almost a month after finishing this novel to try to put together some coherent thoughts on why this book was one of the most beautiful and heart-wrenching books I’ve ever read.

The day is July 15th, 1988.  Dexter (Dex) Mayhew and Emma (Em) Morley are both at a crossroads in their lives.  They meet each other for the first time as they are both graduating from university (or college, as we in the states put it).  With their lives spread wide before them, they are eager to leave school and tackle the world.  However, they can’t seem to get each other out of their minds.  What began as a day of graduation and ended with a night of something very different (i.e. sex).  Em and Dex’s paths are thrown together for one day, only to diverge again over the coming years.  We follow them in a unique way: only viewing their lives on this one day, July 15th, as their lives progress through the years.  These quick snapshots of their lives give us just enough information to piece together how their lives are taking shape, and subtle clues in each chapter (i.e. July 15th in a different year) guide us as we move to create an overall picture of what their lives have become.  Their journey through the years is erratic and twisting, and the ending is the biggest shock of them all.

When I first understood the concept of the book (the story being told as snapshots, the same day every year) I thought it would be difficult to follow.  How are you supposed to know what went on during the other 364 days of the year?!?!  My concerns were completely unnecessary, as Nicholls weaves Dex and Emma’s stories seamlessly.  I really enjoyed how a piece of information that gets dropped in one year (chapter) might mean nothing, yet it turns into something huge a few years (chapters) later.  The order and way things are told makes you feel like you’re piecing together a huge puzzle, unsure of what it’ll look like in the end.

I’m not even sure what to say about the main characters.  Dex and Em are both incredibly complex characters, filled with lots of self-doubt about certain parts of their personalities that only the other can soothe and calm.  Dex and Em are so REAL.  They are dealing with the same emotional problems that people all over the world can understand: unrequited love, drug problems, self-doubt about being a parent, self-doubt about one’s career choice, etc.  They’re entirely relatable, making the events of the story that much more gripping.

One of the other things I really enjoyed was how even the minor characters played small but interesting roles in the book.  For example, Dex leaves a book with a letter to Emma in it at  a nightclub.  A woman finds the book, hoping to find it’s owner, but never does.  Nicholls gives us a little narrative about the woman and how the book is still sitting on a bookshelf in her home, and that she hopes this Dex found his Emma.  It’s wonderful little touches like this all throughout the book that make the story that much more special.

This book was honestly one of the best I’ve read in a LONG time.  I love when you find a book that literally just gets inside your heart and head and forces you to become invested in the story as if it were your own.  One Day did that with me.  It’s not often a book comes along that does that to me but when it does, boy do I react.  I was SOBBING for the last 100 pages.  NO JOKE.  This book hit a cord within me and I was literally just overcome with the entire thing.  Is this book sad?  Yes.  Is this book heartbreaking? Yes.  Is it worth every tear, laughter, smile, and frown? 100% yes.

7 out of 5 Stars

This is my twentieth completed review for the Page to Screen Challenge

One Day by David Nicholls
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group (2010)
Paperback 437 pages

Adam’s Film Friday – A Review of Ides of March

Welcome back to another edition of Film Friday!  This week I decided on doing a film that’s still in theaters, to see if I could convince any of you to actually go and see it.  Ides of March is a political thriller, starring Ryan Gosling and George Clooney (who also had directing duties), which showcases a darker side of the Democratic race for an upcoming presidential election.

Steven Meyers (Gosling) is a junior campaign manager with an impressive resume working for Mike Morris (Clooney), one of the Democratic presidential candidates.  Morris is an ideological mix between Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.  Both presidential candidates are trying to win Ohio, which has proved to be a crucial state in the past few elections.  The idea is whichever candidate wins Ohio, wins the candidacy.  After one particular intense debate between Morris and his opponent, Meyers gets a call from his opponent’s campaign manager, Tom Duffy (Paul Giametti), who asks to meet up with him at a local bar.  Meyers is offered a position working for said candidate, Senator Hoffman.  While all this is going on, Meyers also starts a sexual relationship with an intern who is working on the Morris campaign named Molly (Evan Rachel Wood), who’s hiding her own secret.   All of these different events combine to tell a tale of loyalty, integrity, and politics, and leave you with this question: what lengths would you go to fight and protect something that you believe in?

Let me start this review by saying that the first thing I said after the last shot of the film was, “This was the best film I have seen in five years”.  Everything about it was film-making at its best.  From the story (which is based on the play Farragut North), the acting ensemble, the cinematography, and even the music: everything about this film was done perfectly.  The acting ensemble was one of the best I’ve ever seen.  Even with powerhouse lead actors like Gosling and Clooney, the ensemble feeling shined through.  If there is any justice left in this world, Ryan Gosling will be nominated for the best actor Oscar this upcoming award season.  He stole every scene he was in, and his character went through huge changes throughout the story, showcasing his superb acting chops.  He began the story as someone who was determined to fight and work until Mike Morris won the election, due to the fact that he believed in what Morris was saying and what he was fighting for.  By the end, after the different twists and turns the story took, he became someone who was so determined to win just to say that he won.  He became ruthless and heartless, not really caring who he trampled on to achieve his goal.  He realizes that the only goal in politics is to win and that second place is meaningless.  Another strong acting performance was Molly, played by Evan Rachel Wood.  She is definitely an up and coming actress who gave a career-making performance in her role (have you seen her in HBO’s Mildred Pierce?!)   I definitely see a long career ahead for her.  Her raw talent is reminiscent of some old-time actresses, the ones we remember for decades.

George Clooney (who I secretly hate and admire at the same time) is a genius.  His performance as a politician was very believable.  He played the role with the perfect amount of charm, and anytime he was giving a speech or taking part in a debate on-screen my eyes were drawn to him.  I think he actually exudes the amount of charisma needed to be a politician in real life.  Despite his fantastic acting, his strong point in Ides of March was his direction of the film.  The film is shot as a constant build up to the climax, becoming an explosion of all the little plot lines colliding into one.  Every scene made you anticipate the next one, leaving me on the edge of my seat for most of the film.  The story was built in such an amazing way that when it ended, I was sad because I wanted it to just continue on.  I refused to leave the theater because the film was that good;  I wanted to see more.  It is apparent that Clooney took his time with the film because every scene mattered.  It was carefully lit to expose the dramatic or the comedic parts of the story, and there was careful placement of American flags and other paraphernalia which were used to help frame the scenes.

All I can say is that you need to go see this film.  It had a strong story, strong actors, and a strong director which all blended together to make this a tour de force of a film.  I truly hope this film will be remembered come award season because it has everything that a best picture nominee should have.  As always, I leave you with a question: what do you think goes on behind the scenes in politics? After seeing this film you will definitely wonder about the candidates that you vote for.

 7 out of 5 stars

Ides of March (2011)
Cross Creek Pictures
R, 101 Minutes

Adam’s Film Friday (Really Monday) – A Review of The Godfather Part II

Welcome back to another Film Friday!  This week will be a continuation of my three-week series of reviewing all of the films in The Godfather trilogy.  This week is The Godfather Part II.  Many film critics and film fans say The Godfather Part II is an even better film than the first, and knowing how much I liked the first one, I was eager to continue on my journey and learn more about the Corleone family.  Part II is told through two different stories: one that takes place two years after the end of the first film, and one that tells the back-story of Vito Corleone and how he became the Don.  Once again the filmmakers and cast take you on a journey of family, loyalty, and deciding between what is right and wrong.

As previously stated, The Godfather Part II is told as two distinct stories. The first story begins in 1901 in Sicily, depicting how Vito Corleone (played this time by Robert DeNiro) came to power.   Vito’s father and brother are being ordered to be killed by the local mafia. When his mother goes to confront the mafia, she is shot.  Vito is sent to America for his own protection.  From there, he begins to gain more power in his neighborhood and eventually vows to go back to Sicily to seek revenge on the people who killed his family.  Intertwined throughout this story is the story of Michael Corleone, who is now settling into the role as the new Don of the Corleone family.  He realizes the truth about the family business, and knows that his involvement as the leader of the clan is tearing up his own family.  Most of all, it is destroying his relationships with the people closest to him, mainly his wife Kay (Diane Keaton), who has never truly agreed with his decision to take over the family business.

Once again, Francis Ford Coppola , who won the Oscar for Best Director, was able to create a masterpiece.  The way he effortlessly intertwined the two very different stories was incredible.  The story of Vito Corleone made me appreciate the greatness of the first film because you learned more about the motives of his character.  I now understood that he had gotten to such a point at the end of his life and career that made him act the way that he did in the first film.  It was interesting, because many times you don’t get to see characters’ lives before the film starts.  Learning the story in this film helped me to appreciate the Don’s character more, and understand why he was the way he was.

Robert DeNiro was pure genius as the young Vito Corleone.  His performance is the thing that legendary performances are made of.  He took this character that Marlon Brando had played so memorably and really made it his own.  Granted he played him at a different point of his life, but he still retained some of the same mannerisms and speech patterns that Brando did without it seeming like he was copying him.  It’s no wonder he won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.  Two other performances that were really strong, especially in the scenes when they were together, were Al Pacino and Diane Keaton.  They really advanced their character’s stories from the first film, and I wondered how these two people who were so in love in the first film got to this point.  You’re basically seeing their marriage unfold on the screen.  The scene where Kay tells the truth about her miscarriage with Michael’s baby was definitely the dramatic highlight of the film.  That scene was so poignant and powerful that I watched it twice!

All and all, the hype about this being better than the first Godfather film is definitely true.  Once again, solid performances from the cast, beautiful direction by Francis Ford Coppola, and the way the story was told through the two separate plot lines made this film an amazing follow-up to the first.  As always I will end my review with a question: based on his actions in the film would you consider Michael Corleone a villain, a hero, or a victim of his circumstances?

Until next time, happy viewing!

7 out of 5 stars

The Godfather Part II (1974)
Paramount Pictures
R, 200 Minutes

#21 A Review of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

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I feel the need to start this review off by saying I’ve always been an Austenite.  Knowing that there was a feud between Austen and Charlotte Brontë has always made me distance myself from giving any of the Brontë sisters’ works a chance (horrid of me I know).  I began seeing previews of the new Jane Eyre film and they looked so good that I decided I had to put the feuding aside and give Charlotte a chance.  Never did I think I would have the experience reading Jane Eyre that I did.

Jane Eyre is supposed to be an autobiographical novel told through the eyes of Jane.  She begins her story by telling of her childhood growing up in the house of her aunt and uncle Reed.  After her parents deaths her uncle Reed adopts her and takes her into his household as if she was one of his own children.  Shortly after Jane moves in with the Reed’s her uncle dies, but not before extracting a promise from her aunt that Jane will be raised as one of her own children.  Aunt Reed promises to do so but in reality does nothing of the sort.  Jane is a very passionate child and aunt Reed decides it’s really “wickedness” and punishes Jane often, leaving her in solitude.  Jane’s cousins are horrible to her as well, with her cousin John abusing her both physically and mentally.  During one particular physical altercation Jane fights back against her cousin and is punished by being sent to the room her uncle died in, also known as the red room.  During her time in the room she thinks she sees/hears a ghost and actually faints from fear.  She is found and brought back to her room and a doctor is called.  After speaking with Jane the doctor convinces aunt Reed to send Jane away to school.  Jane is sent to Lowood Institution where she spends the next eight years of her life, six as a student and two as a teacher.  The students at Lowood Institution are mistreated due to the neglect and greed of a Mr. Brocklehurst, the schools treasurer.  After a bad typhus epidemic that kills nearly half the students in the school an investigation is launched and a complete overhaul of the school is completed.  Jane spends the rest of her time there relatively happy, until age 18 when she decides that she would like to leave Lowood and become a governess.  Jane places an ad in the paper which is answered by a Mrs. Fairfax of Thornfield Hall.  Jane accepts the position and heads to Thornfield where her life will unknowingly change forever. 

Shortly after her arrival at Thornfield she meets the master of the house, Mr. Edward Rochester, during one of her walks to the town.  His horse comes out of nowhere in the fog, is startled, and slips on a patch of ice causing Rochester to fall off of his horse.  Jane helps him up and sits with him until he is able to get back on his horse, thus beginning their strange relationship.  I say strange because eerie things begin happening at Thornfield Hall and Jane seems to be there to help out just in the nick of time.  Someone sets fire to Mr. Thornfield’s bed in the middle of the night, a man is attacked, and some of Jane’s clothing is ripped in the middle of the night by an intruder to her bedchamber.  Through all of this Jane falls in love with Mr. Rochester.  Will Mr. Rochester ever find out that Jane loves him as deeply as she does?  Will the strange events prevent a future for the two of them? 

I think my favorite aspect of this novel is that it is totally pro-feminist.  Jane has a horrid life, but she’s never a damsel in distress.  She deals with the shortcomings of her life with grace and piousness.  She doesn’t let the misgivings of her life turn her into a cruel person.  She is forgiving and accepts the life she’s been handed. 

The writing is absolutely exquisite.  I found myself being so moved by certain passages that I had to go find my husband Todd and read them aloud to him.  Brontë knows exactly what she wants to say and uses the most perfect and vivid language possible to convey it.  The scenes I must specifically point out are the fortune-teller scene and the scene with Rochester and Jane in the garden.  The narrative is absolutely breathtaking.

“I tell you I must go!” I retorted, roused to something like passion.  “Do you think I can stay to become nothing to you?  Do you think I am an automaton? a machine without feelings? and can bear to have my morsel of bread snatched from my lips, and my drop of living water dashed from my cup?  Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless?  You think wrong! I have as much soul as you, and full as much heart!”

It’s difficult for me to find the words to express how in love I am with this novel.  Brontë takes the reader on an emotional journey that is stunning, vivid, depressing, shocking, romantic, dark, joyous, melancholy, courageous, righteous, and so much more.  Your emotions while reading the novel literally go on a rollercoaster with Jane.  Brontë’s writing allows you to literally become one with Jane and experience everything with Jane as she explains it.  I’ve never felt more in tune with a character than I did with Jane. I laughed and cried with her, felt dejected and happy when she did, was depressed at some times, and overcome with joy at others.   She is filled with a passion that I now see has been lacking in many other novels I’ve read.  This novel has forever changed the eyes I read with. 

I cannot recommend this novel enough.  Upon finishing it I’ve watched two of the mini-series versions of it as well as a film version.  I’ve become utterly obsessed with Jane’s story, and I have a feeling that you will too after reading it.

7 out of 5 Stars

This is my seventh completed review for the Page to Screen Challenge

This is my twelfth completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge

This is my first completed review for the Chunkster Challenge

Jane Eyre by Charlotte  Brontë
Barnes and Noble Classics (2003)
Paperback 558 pages
ISBN: 9781593080075