The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
Genre: General Fiction
Susie Salmon is fourteen when she is violently murdered by a man from her neighbourhood. Now, viewing her family and friends from her heaven, all she can do is watch as they learn to deal with their grief, and eventually grow up and begin to move on with their lives.
For me this book is clearly split into two parts: part one, where Susie and her loved ones are coming to grips with the horror of what has happened, and part two, where Susie and her loved ones begin to move on with their lives.
Both parts are equally as moving. In the beginning we realise the huge impact Susie’s murder has had on those around her- namely Lindsey, her 13 year old sister, Buckley, her 4 year old brother, her parents Abigail and Jack, and two of her classmates: Ruth and Ray.
It’s heart wrenching to see them attempting to live their lives without Susie, in a way that makes you deeply wish a similar tragedy will never ever happen to you.
Susie too, has to learn to cope with the fact that she’s now dead, and has to deal with her anger towards her murderer.
The second part of the book is equally as moving. It’s hard for the reader to see Susie watch her family and friends grow up and reach milestones she will never reach.
This book is one of my favourite books. Sebold’s imagination when it comes to Susie’s ‘inbetween’ and the idea that not only do the living have to let go of the dead, but the dead also have to let go of the living, is brilliant. The book is enchanting and touching in so many ways. It isn’t gruesome as you might expect, however whilst Sebold may not go into all the grisly details, the sense of true horror of the crimes committed is not eradicated. Sebold perceptively conveys the characters and makes them believable and relatable too- whilst Susie may be angry with her murderer, she’s also sad that she never really got to kiss the boy she fancied.
Recently I read a scathing review of this novel with the writer citing several reasons. One was Susie’s omnipresence and ability to understand what people are feeling- I mean, she’s in heaven, what did you expect? If she couldn’t do this then the book wouldn’t work. It’s not annoying, and it’s not really something you notice. Secondly, they mentioned the choppy narrative. I accept that this could be a small issue- Sebold switches from scene to scene between present and the past between all the different characters between the paragraphs, so we could cover many different bases in one chapter. However, I would say that this is only an issue in a few occurrences, and the majority of the time you still understand where you’re at and what Susie is talking about. This reviewer also said that she found Abigail’s response: ‘I stand warned’ to her daughter finding out about her affair ridiculous. Personally, I found it slightly infuriating, but the point is that Abigail sleeps with Len out of grief and she never really loves him- and anyway, the important thing in the situation is her reconciliation with Jack.
Overall, I would thoroughly recommend reading this book. It has always captivated me since I first read it, aged around 13. It’s moving but whilst it is about death, it doesn’t drag you down. It will always be one of my favourites.
Genre: High School Movie
I’d just like to start by saying whoever designed the release poster/DVD cover should have been fired. It’s absolutely awful, and does not attract anyone to the film. I have no idea why Mr M is in Tracey’s mouth. It’s shockingly bad.
Disregarding the terrible advertising, I didn’t think this film was great. I know, I watched it after The Breakfast Club so the bar had been set high, but even by itself it didn’t really warm to me.
I hated the narration, I absolutely hated it. I couldn’t stand the freeze-frames in completely random shots and the annoyingness of the characters’ voice overs.
I think it’s why I was never really submerged in the film: I never really rooted for anyone, and I couldn’t care less about what happened to the characters, because I just felt like the film and the whole plot was being dictated to me by the dreadful narrators.
Reese Witherspoon’s character, the ambitious Tracy Flick, is running for school president, so Mr M convinces another student to run against her.
I know Tracy is annoying but she does actually try hard, and I don’t really see why Mr M feels the need to stop her. Tracy also has previously had an affair with another teacher who was promptly fired. I find this completely unbelievable, especially coming from a student like her.
Paul, the opponent Mr M finds for Tracy, played by American Pie actor Chris Klein, is just too nice and sickly-sweet to be likeable either. It’s unbelievable that the jock that he is would be so nice. He seems to never show any signs of the normal human emotions you would expect during the election- envy, anger, misunderstanding.
Tracy too, never shows any true emotions and we never really find out why she is the way she is. She never ‘cracks’ to reveal a real person inside, and the only moment of weakness she shows is when she tears down all her opposition’s posters, but this simply seems to be from anger that she’s no longer guaranteed to be the best.
By far my favourite character is Paul’s sister. She’s amusing, and relatable to, and seems much more real than any of the other characters. As a closet lesbian, she is thrilled when she gets sent to an all-girls Catholic school by her parents. The only annoying thing about her character is her tendency to watch the power station… um, why?
Mr M also participates in a pathetic affair which is really just a one-time thing which somehow results in his wife never ever talking to him again (and yet, she doesn’t seem angry with the woman who he had an affair with, who happens to be her best friend).
Overall, this film didn’t really appeal to me. It was watchable- just, and I know some people love it, but it just wasn’t for me.
Fatal Attraction (1987)
I didn’t really know what to expect from this film. I watched after some characters in another film were watching it on their TV and we decided to buy it to watch it. My mum told me she saw it at the cinema and thought it was ‘shocking’- an example of this in the film is when Alex gives Dan a blowjob in the lift… um, yeah, so shocking. Clearly times have moved on since 1987.
Dan cheats on his wife Beth in one weekend, with a girl called Alex. He then ends it insisting it was a mistake, but Alex is pregnant and won’t let Dan go. Alex is so creepy. She proceeds to stalk his family, threaten them, kidnap Dan’s kid Ellen, kill Ellen’s bunny rabbit by boiling it and then eventually tries to kill Beth and Dan at the end of the movie.
It’s tense at some moments, and the last scene with Alex in it made me jump so much! The music they play in ‘dramatic’ moments is ridiculously over the top though and I just kept laughing it. I found the film a bit boring at the beginning and nearer the end I just wanted to find out what happened.
I have to say: Ellen looks like a boy. Also, she wakes up when her parents are arguing and goes downstairs before they even start shouting at each other, but then when crazy Alex is trying to kill them she doesn’t seem to stir? It would be pretty unlikely that she didn’t wake up!
It’s worth watching although I can’t guarantee you’ll like it. I understand why it must have been much more ‘shocking’ in 1987, and I think perhaps watching it then would have made it seem better than now. Overall, even though I didn’t love it, I can see why some people do.
Ps. I was looking at the Fatal Attraction tag and I found this ‘Overly Attached Girlfriend’ meme.
V for Vendetta (2005)
Genre: Dystopian Thriller
I watched this film in about 20 minute segments over a few months, in class, so I feel the film was a bit fragmented but I know that’s only because of how I watched it!
I don’t really know where to begin on this, so I’ll start with what my friend and I always say about it: Natalie Portman’s British accent is the most annoying thing ever.
The film is set in a future where Britain has become a dictatorship. Cue the protagonist known only as ‘V’. V and Evey (Portman) end up becoming involved in each other’s lives after he rescues her from the secret police. Evey is annoying sometimes, and seems so unbelievably innocent and asks V the stupidest questions. The plot is quite good, although another girl in my class said on finding out we never actually get to see V’s face ‘but that was the whole point in watching the film’.
V starts a rebellion against the government in a world where everyone else is far too scared of the consequences to. I was never really sure how he ended up with all that stuff down there in his ‘house’. Or how he built a fake prison- which, despite the cruelty of it, I could tell it was V all along.
I guess that’s what I like about V’s character: even though he’s the ‘hero’ he’s also ruthless and punishing, and will do anything to achieve his end goal.
Overall, the film could have had slightly more to it, and I never completely warmed to it. I don’t think I would watch it again, although I could do, and I would say that it is definitely worth watching once.
The Breakfast Club (1985)
Genre: High School Movie
Hailed as the high-school movie to see, The Breakfast Club doesn’t fail to disappoint. Personally what I found impressive is John Hugh’s ability to make a 97 minute film with a cast of just seven characters, who for the large part remain in one room, whilst managing keep the audience’s attention throughout. It doesn’t get boring.
The premise for The Breakfast Club is five teenagers all from different cliques having been given a Saturday detention. Since they are all together in one room, they eventually end up getting to know one another and by the end realise that, ultimately, they aren’t really that different.
As the iconic voice over informs you:
‘Dear Mr. Vernon, We accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong. What we did *was* wrong. But we think you’re crazy to make us write an essay telling you who we think we are. What do you care? You see us as you want to see us - in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. You see us as a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal. Correct? That’s the way we saw each other at 7:00 this morning. We were brainwashed.’
The film delves deep into many issues surrounding adolescent life and especially confronts the stereotype that each teen has been given.
I absolutely loved this film, and I can see it becoming a firm favourite in my film collection. It will definitely be one I watch over and over again!
Dark Shadows (2012)
Genre: Dark Comedy
I was excited to see this film, because I love Tim Burton films. Even though they are deliciously weird, they aren’t too weird, and they still manage to deliver in terms of characters and plot.
I’m undecided about this one though- it has good and bad features and they probably balance out, making it okay.
Johnny Depp plays Barnabas, a man who is turned into a vampire and buried alive by an evil witch (Eva Green) because Barnabas picks another girl, his ‘true love’, over her. This all occurs in the 1700s, and years later Barnabas is dug up by some builders, and arrives into the 1970s. We then follow the story which amounts to the witch trying to get back at Barnabas (again).
Barnabas’ ‘true love’, Josette, was sent walking off a cliff face in seventeen-hundred-and-whatever by Angelique, the witch. However for some reason Josette has been re-embodied as another girl, Victoria Winters (played by the same actress), who Barnabas falls for. This point is never really explained, so we’re not really sure if it is the same girl or if they are supposed to just look similar, or something else entirely- my point is, we’re never exactly sure, and it’s not the only thing left unexplained in this movie.
Banarbas’ 1970s descendants are a funny lot, Chloë Grace Moretz plays the hilarious teenage daughter who turns out to be a werewolf (we get told at the end by Angelique that she got bitten in her crib, but once again, we’re never really sure why). Then there’s Elizabeth Collins, played by Michelle Pfeiffer, who I found annoying, David the son who can see his dead mother, and his psychiatrist, played by Helena Bonham-Carter, and as I read in another review of this film, wearing a red wig doesn’t mean she’s funny. I never really liked her character, so I was quite happy when Barnabas decides to suck her blood and kill her.
This film is okay, and there are some funny moments. The ending is very Tim Burton-esque, and is reminiscent of Beetlejuice as it relies heavily on special effects. Angelique for some reason seems to start breaking up like a china doll. I don’t know why either. Although, I especially enjoyed her saying to Barnabus ‘you make me sick’ before opening her mouth and almost as if she has a hose running through her, sick is violently squirted out into his face.
Overally, this film is fairly entertaining, but some gaping holes in the plot are never filled, and it leaves you feeling rather unsatisfied.
American Reunion (2012)
‘Save the best piece for last’ is the tagline for this film, and it sounds totally untrue- because how can another American Pie film still be good, especially ten years later? However, as everyone has been saying, it surpasses everyone’s (albeit low) expectations.
I guess you could say it’s a pleasant surprise that it’s not horrifically bad. I’ve never been a huge fan of the American Pie franchise and I watched American Pie: The Wedding before going to watch this as I had never seen it (In fact I watched the second film, then the first, then the third).
I would have to say, I probably enjoyed this film the most. I don’t know whether it’s because it’s more recent or because the attitudes to sex are less similar to those of the characters in The Inbetweeners. I think maybe it’s just that they’ve grown up a bit. Obviously, there is still sex in it and there are still a lot of references to sex! It’s funny and people who love American Pie I’m sure would love this. There’s more than sex though because American Reunion explores issues such as problems within marriage and bereavement- and I think that’s why I appreciate it more.
It’s quite a funny movie in its own right. Stifler is still as annoying as can be though, but I guess that means it’s good because his character is ‘convincing’.
I would have to say that by the end some of the old jokes are a bit too re-hashed and for that reason I really hope they don’t ever make another American Pie film. This one has surprised everyone by being good, but I think the next one will be bitterly disappointing to American Pie fans. The ending has clearly been left open to do another film but I really really hope they don’t.
It’s worth watching: it’s quite funny, it’s quite good, and it is really nice to see all the original cast members back (even if some of them only have a cameo role).
Before I Go To Sleep by S J Watson
Genre: Psychological Thriller
This novel has been widely acclaimed and has been in the charts for months, so I was excitedly anticipating starting to read it. However, I have to say, I was deeply disappointed.
The premise of the book is that the main character wakes up every day having forgotten everything about her life, and each morning she has to be re-informed about it by her husband. The question the blurb asks is: what if he’s not telling the truth?
I found the plot predictable, and that’s never a good sign for a book like this- what’s the point in reading it if you’ve already figured out what’s going to happen?
However, I slogged on. I found the author’s writing style simplistic and therefore, after a while, it began to annoy me. The characters weren’t always convincing and neither was the plot.
I mean, it was okay, but that was all. I found it thoroughly underserving of the enormous amount praise it has been given by critics and readers alike, and I wouldn’t recommend reading it.
We Need To Talk About Kevin (2011)
After reading the book (which I thought was fantastic- read my review here), I knew that the film would have to be a good film to live up to it. I watched it with my family and they didn’t enjoy it- they said that it was too ‘arty’, that the plot was hard to understand, and that the ending was disappointing.
I personally thought that it was a really good adaptation of the book. Tilda Swinton plays Eva and Ezra Miller plays Kevin, her son, who is the perpetrator of a massacre at his high school. I understand where my family were coming from about the plot- there is no narrator who explains what is going on- and I think for that reason, you should read the book first. Why not, since the book is amazing anyway? Anyway, whilst it might not follow a linear storyline, and isn’t obviously and thoroughly explained right from the start this doesn’t make it a bad film, it makes you want to carry on watching it. However, I think you would have a much deeper understanding of the film if you had previously read the book, since many things may be left unexplained otherwise.
If you have read the book, think back to the gasp-inducing plot twist at the end- and then let me tell you, it is explicitly obvious from the beginning of the film. I’m not saying this is a negative, and I think the producers meant it to be that way, so I’m not saying it has ‘predictable plot’ here. I don’t think it was a bad choice, but what I mean to say is that it makes it even more important to read the book first, because I think knowing what the plot-twist would detract from the book.
Tilda Swinton is outstanding as Eva, and the camerawork is brilliant. I personally thought the depiction of her post-‘Thursday’ life was excellent.
My family were left disappointed by the ending since the audience never truly finds out why Kevin did it (Eva asks him in the last scene, as in the novel). I understand why you may be left frustrated by this lack of conclusion, and it’s why I’m saying read the book first. The book fully explores all the related issues and whilst, no, Kevin still never explicitly states why he did it, in the film you are left disappointed, but when you have finished the novel you are left with a sense of fulfilment and to some extent, understanding.
As I said earlier, this is an impressive adaptation of a book which I thought would be pretty difficult to adapt. There’s moving performances by the actors and overall I really enjoyed it.
However, I think watching this film having not previously read the novel takes away from firstly, the film, as when watching the film after reading the book means you have an understanding of what is going on deeper than what they can go into in ninety minutes. Secondly it takes away from the novel itself as I think reading it already knowing what’s going to happen detracts from its power.
So, watch it, it’s really good, but read the book and then watch the film if you want a better experience (and it’s worth reading the book, it really is).
Genre: Black Comedy
Oh, where to start. Heathers is my all-time favourite film, and was the film that began my Winona Ryder obsession.
Winona is awesome in this by the way, she plays Veronica, a girl who half-heartedly is part of the popular clique at her high school. All other three members who are called Heathers.
Shannen Doherty plays Heather Duke, then there’s Heather Chandler (Kim Walker) and Heather McNamara (Lisanne Falke).
Veronica meets bad-boy Jason Dean (a hot Christian Slater), and then they proceed to go on a killing spree. Okay, it’s not quite as obvious as that. They accidently kill Heather Chandler, which leaves Veronica worried that she will have to send her SAT scores to San Quentin instead of Stanford! J.D. convinces her to use her handwriting skills to write a fake suicide note, and then tricks her into killing more people, making them seem like suicides.
All the while, ‘Teenage Suicide, Don’t do it’, a song by the fictional band ‘Big Fun’ is playing, Veronica’s parents perpetually sit on their patio eating pâté, and the girls all play croquet. The fashion of Heathers is great, and everyone’s complete nonchalance in the face of their friends dying is hilarious.
This film was a flop at the box office (the reason why is beyond me) but then has gone on to become a cult movie. It’s well deservingly so (unlike Donnie Darko, but I’m not even going to go there).
It’s so quotable, and the characters come out with some amazing lines, and it’s also noticeably an influence on later high school films such as Mean Girls.
Basically, I cannot even begin to describe all the reasons this film is so fantastic. Just watch it, I beg you.