11.22.63: Mini Series (2016)

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*CONTAINS SPOILERS*

What I liked:

  • The opening credits. Heck yeah, it summed the book up perfectly, all the smaller things that the show might have missed. It was engaging and looked good.
  • Daniel Webber as Lee Harvey Oswald. This guy was good. Seriously. There were times where you actually felt pity for this man, dirt poor and a wee bit cuckoo, and other times where you were just like “you ass”.

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  • Al Templeton flashing in between the episodes, explaining more about the past, talking about his research and what he discovered, as well as sharing some of the history. It keeps things relevant, so it wasn’t all blandly said in the beginning, and then things referenced throughout the film and then just not making sense later.
  • The tension that the show builds. While it lacks at times, it really kicks other times.
  • The show is engaging. It has a doomed air, and gives you all you need to appreciate the setting, the concept, and how it will come together.

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  • The performances all round were actually really good.
  • Obviously I was a fan of the romance between Sadie and Jake. Man. Lovely. It was captured rather well here, albeit so much more different than what it should have been like.

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  • How Jake also did things that were against his character, just to try and bend the past to his will, no matter that the past is obdurate, and does not want to be changed. I think a particularly crazy scene to highlight this was the entire debacle with Bill and the psych ward.
  • Bringing in the Harry Dunning story so effectively. This was a big thing for me, and I think Leon Rippy was a great Harry. Gosh, that story was so painful, and I am glad we got to see some of it.

What I didn’t like: 

  • How much it deviates from the book.
  • Johnny Clayton in the show was just not as terrifying as the book. His role was totally different, and he didn’t tear into town and wreck Sadie’s life under disguise or shockingly. They knew he was there. Also, I wish 11.22.63 had captured how loopy the guy was. WTF?! They touched on it but didn’t own it.

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  • The Yellow Card Man was also not as mysterious as he should have been, or as scary. The use of him was rather heavy handed, and the lack of explanation was also rather grating. It was an incredibly bizarre change for me, and not a particularly good character here, and he should have been.
  • The time jumped around a lot, and that left you feeling like things had been missed, and progression of certain other things had been overlooked.
  • Some things just didn’t have enough background, and so did not carry a lot of weight and came across as forced, which is unfortunate.

Rating:
GRADE 7
So y’all know I finished the book recently. I am still hanging. I have not stopped thinking about it since then, and I really had a hard time committing to another book. I tried man, I really tried. Other books just don’t look as great by comparison. Naturally I got my hands on 11.22.63 and decided to give it a go with my husband, who will never take the time to read the book, but with whom I really wanted to share the story.

Right off the bat, my husband loved it. He thought it was great, and was super flat when it was over, for so many reasons. I had an array of issues and niggles, of course, but that’s because I read the book. I continually reminded myself that it was obviously going to be different, and it was a huge book to bring to screen, and that the finer points would be missed. Unfortunately. That being said, and the fact that the show and the book are vastly different, it isn’t a bad show – it’s just not like the book. At all.

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The show felt a little bit confused about it wanted to be (for me). Like, did it want to focus on the romance? Did it want to be all about the JFK conspiracy? Did it want to be about time travel? These were not themes that had difficulty interacting in the book, but on screen it comes across as clunky, as though the writers didn’t know what was the most important thing to concentrate on. I was also really let down by how many characters got skipped over – the novel was so story-centric, and there were so many amazing characters that I was really excited to see. Mike and Bobby Jill essentially got a cameo. Ellie didn’t even make it into the story, as well as the array of gangsters that were skipped entirely. All those characters being forgotten and overlooked did not change the fact that Bill Turcotte became a big player in this one. Shockingly. Luckily he was a character that grew on me, otherwise we could have had issues.

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For the most part the show looked really good. The sets were great and looked legitimately old school. The directing made the show suffer a bit, and the pacing was off, and as much as my hubby was hanging on to every word to see what was cooking, so was I. This story was something different entirely, and they worked way more in depth with the whole concept of Oswald being used by the CIA for a hit.

I was so excited to see the relationship between Sadie and Jake. I mean wow, if ever there was an amazing romance, that would be it. I absolutely adored it. I think Sarah Gadon is gorgeous, and she and James Franco made for a good looking couple. She was rather different from what I imagined, and their romance was more fleeting that I would have liked – it was a super elaborate story in the books. However, Sadie and Jake fit together, and while the dance from the show was a little more stiff than I would have appreciated, I was thrilled to see it happen. The show managed to show how their relationship was not a simple, easy thing.

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Deke becoming a more central character was awesome, even if he still hung in the fringe a bit more than most. He was entertaining, and I wish we had seen more of him and Miz Mimi. As for Lee Harvey Oswald? Daniel Webber nailed him. Seriously. The show constantly had you suspicious of him, and did not beat around about painting him this dark, deranged cuckoo. I liked it. It was rather sinister. There were times I felt absurdly sorry for him, too.

Jake is from a totally different time, and the show addressed it quite well that Jake comes from a future where injustice is not taken so calmly, and the way he championed for Miz Mimi to be treated as an equal? Loved it. He gave that horrible petrol attendant the chirping of his life, and his decency at offering her even just a cup of coffee in a time where that was not acceptable was fantastic. The show didn’t spend too much time on it, but it did not overlook the fact that the sixties had some major issues.

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11.22.63 nailed the doomed, melancholic, bittersweet story it should be by the end. It might have been a mixed bag, but really got it rolling right by the end. Looking at how the ability to change the past will mess with you is great. Seriously, how do you know where you fit in anymore? Everything in the world is so precarious. The butterfly effect was explored quite well here.

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I particularly appreciated the smaller things that the show did, such as the grassy knoll umbrella dude and Oswald’s infamous backyard selfie. There were also plenty non-historic Easter eggs like “REDRUM” scrawled on the Texas Book Depository stairwell, and Franco’s “so good” over the pie, reference to The Green Mile’s “Old Sparky”, to name but a few.

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While this will never become one of my all time favourite shows, I appreciate what they went for, super large deviation and all. I think the biggest issue is that King’s work is really hard to bring to screen. Some have been done excellently, with the right people, and I was really holding out hope that this would come together like The Green Mile, but I was let down by that. However, I am convinced that if you watch this and haven’t read the book, you will love it. I am basing this on my husband’s reaction, who thoroughly enjoyed this and it stuck with him long after, and he is not one to really linger or get overly involved. If you have read the book, this will be a little jarring, but if you put that out of your mind, you will have a decent show to fill your time with.

SPOILER: The end was beautiful and crushing, all at once. It left you with that broken feeling, that feeling you were lied to, allowed to hope, even though you know it will be a tragedy, no matter how things go down. It was stunning and sad in equal measure, the perfect close.

Review: Underworld: Blood Wars (2016)

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“The Vampire and Lycan clans have been at war for centuries, turning our world into a battlefield. For me, the fight is personal. Everyone I’ve ever loved has been hunted down. Now a new war is being waged.”
– Selene

SYNOPSIS: Vampire death dealer, Selene fights to end the eternal war between the Lycan clan and the Vampire faction that betrayed her. – via IMDB

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GRADE 6Hoo-boy, was I ever excited for this! I know there are tons of people that have issues with the Underworld movies, but come on peeps, lighten up! They are fun and entertaining. Don’t overthink it. So when we got Blood Wars in December, I was out in full force to catch up with ass-kicking Death Dealer Selene, and to see what has become of the ever-precious Michael.

Now, right off the bat, I wanted to love the costume design. It is usually pretty good, but then this movie looked like The Hunger Games in terms of outfits. The parallel didn’t stop there. When I saw how the new Death Dealers were being trained, I was a little shocked. Seriously guys, since when are you guys in cages, wearing the same creepy leather vests, and training like you are going to get in the arena? Then the makeup and costumes that were so over the top also made me keep up with that line of thinking. Oh well.

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I was pleased to see David and his father Thomas return, and I particularly enjoyed the story arc involving David’s lineage. Theo James is a welcome addition to the franchise, and works quite well with Kate Beckinsale. The story was again (surprise surprise) lacking here, but again, not a deal breaker for me. There is enough story to keep you mindlessly entertained, with plenty action to glue it all together. I was not pleased with the stupidly weak coup that took place, because really, there was so much more potential there to use than was actually realised. Another major issue I had with Blood Wars is that it felt rushed, and that is such a pity. It came across as a bit clunky.

The movie, as its predecessors, is dark and gloomy and looks good (even if you take that whole Hunger Games vibe and toss it). I appreciate the continuity of these movies, as it is more consistent than most franchises. I found Lara Pulver to be a total nuisance, and hopefully we will not have to suffer through any more of her in future. Bradley James reminds me of a young Mads Mikkelsen, which is pretty cool.

Underworld: Blood Wars is another silly, popcorn entertainment film that should satiate fans of the Underworld franchise, but might not appeal to people who are not familiar with the mythos of the vampire and lycan clans. I suppose it might not even really win over existing fans, but I thought it was alright! SPOILER: I absolutely refuse to accept this crappy premise that Michael is dead. REFUSE, I tell you. Guess we will have to see where it goes from here. Worth a watch, I’d say.

Blind Spot Series 2017

Another year, another list of movies I have been meaning to get to and yet never have. Don’t judge me. We all have that list. That massive-ass list we continually keep adding on to, saying we will get to whatever is on there. Sometimes we do. Often we don’t. For that reason, there is a Blind Spot series. Get my butt in gear to actually actively tick off some of those titles.

These are my picks for 2017:

JFK (1991)

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SYNOPSIS: A New Orleans DA discovers there’s more to the Kennedy assassination than the official story. – via IMDB

Say Anything (1989)

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SYNOPSIS: A noble underachiever and a beautiful valedictorian fall in love the summer before she goes off to college. – via IMDB

Once Upon A Time In America (1984)

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SYNOPSIS: Epic tale of a group of Jewish gangsters in New York, from childhood, through their glory years during prohibition, and their meeting again 35 years later. – via IMDB

Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)

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SYNOPSIS: A depressed musician reunites with his lover, though their romance – which has already endured several centuries – is disrupted by the arrival of her uncontrollable younger sister. – via IMDB

The Road (2009)

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SYNOPSIS: In a dangerous post-apocalyptic world, an ailing father defends his son as they slowly travel to the sea. – via IMDB

Rear Window (1954)

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SYNOPSIS: A wheelchair-bound photographer spies on his neighbours from his apartment window and becomes convinced one of them has committed murder. – via IMDB

Atonement (2007)

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SYNOPSIS: Fledgling writer Briony Tallis, as a thirteen-year-old, irrevocably changes the course of several lives when she accuses her older sister’s lover of a crime he did not commit. – via IMDB

The Help (2011)

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SYNOPSIS: An aspiring author during the civil rights movement of the 1960s decides to write a book detailing the African American maids’ point of view on the white families for which they work, and the hardships they go through on a daily basis. – via IMDB

The Orphanage (2007)

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SYNOPSIS: A woman brings her family back to her childhood home, which used to be an orphanage for handicapped children. Before long, her son starts to communicate with an invisible new friend. – via IMDB

Cronos (1993)

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SYNOPSIS: A mysterious device designed to provide its owner with eternal life resurfaces after four hundred years, leaving a trail of destruction in its path. – via IMDB

City of God (2002)

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SYNOPSIS: Two boys growing up in a violent neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro take different paths: one becomes a photographer, the other a drug dealer. – via IMDB

Deliverance (1972)

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SYNOPSIS: Intent on seeing the Cahulawassee River before it’s turned into one huge lake, outdoor fanatic Lewis Medlock takes his friends on a river-rafting trip they’ll never forget into the dangerous American back-country. – via IMDB

Review: Underworld: Awakening (2012)

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“Do you think I’m foolish enough to take you at your word? No reason to fear a Death Dealer who fell in love with a Lycan, who murdered two of our elders, and who, at every turn, has betrayed her own kind.”
– Thomas

SYNOPSIS: When human forces discover the existence of the Vampire and Lycan clans, a war to eradicate both species commences. The vampire warrior Selene leads the battle against humankind. – via IMDB

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GRADE 6.5While this is not my favourite Underworld film, it has grown on me since I first saw it, which was the only time I saw it. I wasn’t bowled over, it was a bit messy, true, and all over the show, and I was dead set against it because so little Michael just shattered me. But I watched it again and it actually isn’t that bad.

I am not a fan of the humans knowing about the clans, and the wars that have popped up because of that. I don’t know, I like the vampires and the lycans moving in secrecy, fitting in. This was a spin that I wasn’t keen on, and as the movie progressed, I thought things got even more bizarre. For instance, the humans are hunting them, etc. but the further on it goes, the less the movie even focuses on humans, which is just silly. It becomes just about the lycans (building a super breed) and the vampires. The humans just disappeared. Hello, where?

A child in a film pretty much always grates on me, and this was no exception. I was not a fan. I understood the arc, but didn’t much care for it. At least the kid wasn’t around the whole time. I would just not deal. Aside from her, I actually appreciated some of the new characters, like Detective Sebastian, David and his father, Thomas. I was interested to see how David and his father didn’t always see eye to eye, both having different ideals and how to go about them. Then there was Sebastian, a human, but very much on their side.

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The one thing I really didn’t dig about this movie? The effects. They were beyond dodgy… looked like a bunch of first year graphic design students were given this movie and told to have a good time. I don’t know, it just wan’t okay all the time, and the other movies usually looked pretty good. Another thing? The story to this was, again, pretty thin. That being said, I suppose their is plenty action that is supposed to distract you from that, and the movie is shot pretty well and looks all dark and gloomy.

So while Underworld: Awakening has issues, it was still a light, fun watch. Definitely not as bad as I remember it, but it could definitely do with more Michael and Selene (yes, I will ship this for life man).

Review: Me Before You (2016)

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“I don’t do anything, Miss Clark. I sit and just about exist.”
– Will Traynor

SYNOPSIS: A girl in a small town forms an unlikely bond with a recently-paralyzed man she’s taking care of. – via IMDB

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GRADE 5So I read this book a while back, then saw after that a movie was coming. I was absolutely not going to rush out to see it in cinema. Not because the book was bad, I rather enjoyed that, but because I just didn’t see how they were going to bring is to the screen successfully. My doubts were not wrong.

Me Before You was a right bland affair. Massive chunks of the book were left out, which I understand, but there were also particularly important parts that were skipped. Like, the ones we needed to flesh out the relationship between Will and Lou, to understand why they got so close, and why this was such an emotional story. I suppose due to that, you never get really involved with what is going on, and it doesn’t feel like the movie is playing too much with your emotions, so I guess that is okay. Or maybe they did want to mess with your emotions but put it together so sloppily it would never work. Who knows? It just felt ridiculously rushed, that’s what. Anyway. I really did enjoy the tights scene. That was an important one for me, and they did it perfectly. One score, at least.

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I thought Sam Claflin was a really good pick to play Will and I think he did a pretty good job, especially considering how limited his movement was for this role. I think he got the sarcastic, angry side of Will, and yet could be the sweetest person, too.  I did not particularly appreciate Emilia Clarke though. I think the world has an inexplicable and unhealthy obsession with her. You can ask Natasha, I was totally ready to flip out based purely on the fact that her eyebrows were overactive. So overactive you never actually know what emotion she is going for, which is absurd. Maybe she doesn’t get to express herself enough on Game of Thrones, so she goes overboard here. Whatever, she irritated me. She got he awkward side of Lou down though. But those fucking brows man.

There were definitely changes from the book. Some changes were fine, others were terrible, but that is to be expected with a adaptation to the screen from a book. A lot of the cast definitely felt immensely underused, and could have been used better. I quite liked the relationship between Mr and Mrs Traynor, albeit extremely different from the book. Nathan, too, was what I expected of him, so that is good.

While I have some major issues with this movie for a multitude of reasons, what with the pacing being all wrong, the story being rather hollow and ultimately forgettable, just to name a few, there are worse movies out there. This is utterly generic, with nothing special going for it.

 

Review: Underworld: Rise of the Lycans (2009)

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“I have no wish to remove one shackle from around your necks, only to replace them with one of my own. You’ll have a choice: you can run and hide, or you can stay and fight. Any man who fights with me shall have his freedom and, if he wishes it; immortality.”
– Lucian

SYNOPSIS: An origins story centered on the centuries-old feud between the race of aristocratic vampires and their onetime slaves, the Lycans. – via IMDB

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GRADE 8This movie was so good. Since the first movie I have wanted a more in depth history of the lycan origins. I mean heck, Lucian said in Underworld: “We were slaves once. The daylight guardians of the vampires. I was born into servitude. Yet I harbored them no ill will.” You just know there is so much more to the story. Rise of the Lycans totally delivered on all fronts.

The sets were back up to par in this one, and the movie was once again dark, dreary, and depressing, which totally captured the mood. I also think that the lycans still look absolutley awesome, and the costume design was good. Going back centuries to the origin of this blood feud was something I have been waiting for for ages. Again, the consistency in the storytelling is great, and the lore sticks to what they have give us so far, so credit where credit is due. The more you see of Viktor, the more reprehensible a character he becomes, no doubt about this.

This movie also did a good job in showing you the differences between the thoroughbred werewolves, and the stranger crossbreed of lycans. It was also difficult to watch how these lycans came about, and how they were treated. Their eventual uprising and fighting back was something I greatly admired, and I thought it looked fantastic. I mean come on, there was a castle siege. You all know how I get about sieges!

Lucian is such a great character, and exploring him more in depth was super rewarding, and I really liked seeing him and Sonja together, though I knew they were doomed. Even knowing what the outcome will be,  it does not change the fact that you wish it would work out differently. Man, not cool!

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Rise of the Lycans is a solid addition to the Underworld franchise, and gives us more history to chew on, and details about this ancient lycan/vampire feud. It looks good, sounds good, and is incredibly entertaining. I highly recommend this for a watch! Excellent prequel.

Review: 11/22/63 – Stephen King

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SYNOPSIS: Life can turn on a dime—or stumble into the extraordinary, as it does for Jake Epping, a high school English teacher in Lisbon Falls, Maine. While grading essays by his GED students, Jake reads a gruesome, enthralling piece penned by janitor Harry Dunning: fifty years ago, Harry somehow survived his father’s sledgehammer slaughter of his entire family. Jake is blown away…but an even more bizarre secret comes to light when Jake’s friend Al, owner of the local diner, enlists Jake to take over the mission that has become his obsession—to prevent the Kennedy assassination. How? By stepping through a portal in the diner’s storeroom, and into the era of Ike and Elvis, of big American cars, sock hops, and cigarette smoke… Finding himself in warmhearted Jodie, Texas, Jake begins a new life. But all turns in the road lead to a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald. The course of history is about to be rewritten…and become heart-stoppingly suspenseful. – via Goodreads

GRADE 10I am going to suffer such a book hangover because of this. I have been reading it for weeks now. It is quite a long book, and I was snatching snippets of time whenever I could to read this, and I loved every moment of it. In fact, I was pleased it was being drawn out the way it was for me, meant I had so much more time to enjoy it. Alas, I had to finish it sometime.

I am a huge King fan. There are still so many of his books I have yet to read, and I hope to someday have read them all, or as close to that as possible. I have been eyeing this for years, and it just seemed like the right time recently. I am fascinated by the JFK assassination, and I figured a book dealing with time travel to stop that assassination could only be good. I was so right.

King takes time to set up the story, so nothing is rushed, and you understand what is going on. He also takes his time with the characters, so they are rich and full, and become real people. Jake Epping really morphed into George Amberson for me, and Sadie was a wonderful woman. Then let us not forget Miz Mimi, Ellie, Deke, the adorable Mike or his unlucky girlfriend, Bobby Jill. I really appreciated all the characters. There are so many more than the ones I have mentioned, but they are the standout ones for me. I also really appreciated the relationships between them. They came across as genuine, and real. Also, the love story between Sadie and Jake/George. is beautiful. This is how I enjoy a romance to be woven through a novel. It just clicked, and didn’t come across as forced or unnatural.

Considering the time travel starts in 1958, you know that there is some time before the Kennedy assassination is to take place, so naturally you are going to be spending a lot of time in the past with Jake/George. I was okay with that, and what a story he had to tell! I feel that 11/22/63 had everything: some history, some romance, some humour, some drama, all of it. And it was fascinating. I was not bored at any point during my time with this book, and thought the pacing was good. I also liked how the book never really became predictable. There were so many ways certain things could have gone, some did, some didn’t, and there were plenty things that happened that went against what I thought. It was nice to have a book that kept me guessing again for a change.

King is also the master of putting just a dash of creep into his work, so every now and then, as much as “the past harmonizes”, there were other things that cropped up, not too in your face or anything, but enough to get just under your skin. I really liked that. Overall, I feel that 11/22/63 is a fantastic read that is worth every moment of your time. It is engaging, has a great set of characters and events to work with, and everything comes together so well. The book is a bittersweet affair, one I truly enjoyed, as you can tell. I don’t know when last I was this invested in a novel, so it was a welcome delight for me. King just doesn’t disappoint.