Movies!

I’ve been to the movies three times in three weeks.  That’s like a world’s record for me! Here is what I saw:

Ender’s Game

Ender’s Game made an okay movie.  If you have not read the book, you will find it to be entertaining, though you may have some questions about it afterward.  I read the book, but my son, husband, dad, and nephew did not know anything about it when they went to see it.  My husband found parts of it to be unbelievable.  My son said it was “meh.” (Teenagers!)  My dad thought it was pretty good, but I think he was relieved to see a more mature kids’ movie for a change, instead of the usual animated things he takes the grandkids to watch. My nephew, a fifth grader, seemed unsure about it, and I think this was his first real journey into a middle-grade level movie.  

I’ll say that what they DID include in the movie was fine.  I mean, we had to know the movie would be much more shallow than the book, that’s a given.  A lot of things were changed, starting with making Ender much older, which softens some of the violence in the story (and allows them to make a movie with a rating that lets kids actually see it.)  It is hard to tell how much time has passed in the movie though, and you can’t really understand that the book takes place over years of time and be able to realize how much they have manipulated and messed with Ender’s mind.  Ender’s brother and sister have been basically eliminated from the movie, but they try to replace those relationships with other characters.  With the actual characters gone though, a big piece of the plot is also gone, but I guess that works out okay because of the compressed timeline.  The book is much more political, but again that wouldn’t really keep the interest of the younger kids that the movie makers need to have in the audience.  It’s definitely a book that is hard to adapt for a film.

So, the verdict is, go read the book.  And then read some of the following books, because Ender’s Game was really just the set-up for the second book, Speaker of the Dead.  It’s a difficult read and it’s complicated, and it’s definitely not for everyone.  I’ve handed it to students only for them to pass it right back to me and say “Thanks but no thanks.”  Science fiction can be tricky because you have to be okay with not knowing what is happening until the author needs you to know more.

Thor 2: Dark World

This was great fun! I liked it better than the first one, and I’m not normally into superhero movies. I  preferred seeing Thor in his own world this time. Having him be lost and confused on Earth in the first movie did not work for me, so I’m glad he got to be a smarter character in this one.  Loki was fantastic and Thor’s mom gets a quick chance to show off her crazy skills, too.  At any rate, it’s not really a movie that you’re supposed to think about too much, so just go see it and enjoy! 

Catching Fire

So good that I didn’t even get upset with the cliffhanger ending! I read The Hunger Games when it first came out and before it was a “thing”, so I’ve been following these books for a long time.  This movie was really well done, and I particularly liked the pacing of how it played out.  It stayed in each setting long enough for you to gather the needed information and then it switched up again.  The images were very impactful.  Remember that in the book, the first part is Katniss and Peeta on their Victory Tour, then it’s the  Quarter Quell, they get swept off immediately for more training time, and the part about the games is pretty short.  The pacing was really important to make the movie feel balanced and still have a lot of action in it to keep it moving.  

The main thing I wished we had been able to see from the books would have been the videos of Haymitch in his Quarter Quell games.  His own story is only hinted at, but it explains so much about his character. I’m hoping that maybe some of those scenes will pop up on the DVD later.  If this same team is going to be responsible for Mockingjay, too, I’ll be very happy!

Next up…

The Book Thief

I read this book when it first came out, too, and it was my favorite book of that year.  The writing is beautiful and it looks like the movie will do it justice. I hope to see it this week while on vacation for Thanksgiving.  Part of me wonders if I have time to read it again, but maybe it is better to not confuse the two versions in my head. Has anyone seen this so yet? 

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck by Jeff Kinney

wimpy kidI started reading this book in class the other day and it literally made me LOL during silent reading. (Bad example, Mrs. P!) These books are always so funny, and they are written so precisely that they aren’t just throw-away funny, they are truly funny-funny.  I love the movies, too!

In Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck (that’s book #8 for those of you keeping track), Greg and Rowley have grown apart.  Rowley, of all people, has gotten himself a girlfriend! Greg finds himself pushed out of the friendship and is left to figure out what to do with himself.  His family is still their wacky selves, and he makes several discoveries around the house since he is spending so much time at home.  First, he finds a Magic 8 Ball fortune-teller under Roderick’s bed.  He begins using it to make all of the decisions he needs to face, though it’s not exactly accurate or reliable.  Secondly, while hiding from his chores in his parents’ closet (based on advice he got from the Magic 8 Ball), he finds a pile of parenting books and realizes his mom has been studying child psychology and using it on him all of these years!  He finds some other odd things in that closet, too, which leads to the funniest part of the whole book when he decides to take it to school.  I won’t say what it is, but the illustrations cracked me up!  This story also brings in Greg’s extended family as they get together for Easter and leads to a hunt for Grandma’s diamond ring that she may have hidden in the backyard before she died.

Now, I wanted to feel for Greg and how he struggles with losing Rowley as his sidekick.  I’m a middle school teacher, and I see groups of friends shifting as the year goes along, not to mention this whole dating thing starting up, and it can really pull the rug out from underneath a person!  I separated from the girls I had known and been friends with for-ev-er when I was in sixth grade, and we grew apart. It was time to regroup.  It happens.  So I did recognize that in Greg as he wanders around the lunchroom trying to figure out where to sit, or hangs out at the find-a-friend station on the playground, unsure of what to do with himself.  And then he decides that now would be a great time to get Fregley on his side, so he goes off to pursue that friendship.

It doesn’t go well, and it really brings to light how much Greg uses everyone around him.  He chooses his friends based on what they can do for HIM.  Since Rowley would carry Greg’s backpack home, Greg plans to get Fregley to do the same.  Greg wants to mold Fregley into a new person for his own personal benefit.  And when you start to think about it, he’s been doing the same to Rowley all these years!

This has been bothering me all week.  I’m not sure why.  I hope Greg learned from this lesson. It’s hard to tell with middle school boys.  So while I laughed and laughed while reading, the book did not sit well with me in the end. Because Rowley is out of the picture, and Roderick is barely mentioned, this book feels more like a series of smaller stories stuck together.  I do hope there will be a book #9, just because I need to know that Greg finally “got it” and changed his attitude as he evolved.

Read this if you’ve read all the others, of course!  Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck has an AR level of 5.5 and is worth 3 points.