Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Movie Review: Hook

Title: Hook
Author: Steven Spielberg, Robin Williams, Julia Roberts
Release Date: 1991
Genre: Adventure, Peter Pan, fantasy, pirates, family
My Rating: *
Official Rating: PG
Age Group: 10+

Wendy Darling took the Lost Boys back with her and found them homes. That was once upon a time, long long ago. Peter Pan came back for Wendy, his "mother", only to find her all grown up with a daughter, Jane. So he took her to Neverland instead. That lasted about as long as Wendy's adventure did.
Then Peter Pan came to Wendy once more, only to find her an old woman. And in the little bed, her granddaugther Moria. Peter Pan fell in love--and decided to stay and grow up.
Now, Peter is a successful businessman in the US with two children (whom he never seems to have enough time for) and a beautiful wife. Off they go to visit Great Grandma Wendy and Tootles (who seems to live with her).
But when Hook kidnaps Peter's young children to take revenge on his arch enemy, Peter is confused. There is no Neverland, no Hook, no Tinker Bell. The police will find his children. Wendy's a sweet (but entirely crazy) little old lady.

Word of Warning
  • This is more explicitly dark than the original Peter Pan stories. Hook is clearly evil and spiteful.
  • The grown up Peter is focused entirely on his career and not on his family. This is often painful to watch.
  • A character (appears to be in his teens) is stabbed in the back and killed.
  • Mermaids are barely dressed, shells acting as bikinis.
  • People are killed, some shot and some stabbed, and much of it is for comic relief.
  • Language: ass, hell, damn, and God's name is used in vain a few times as well.
  • Being Lost Boys with no guidance, the boys throw some pretty Dahl-esque insults at each other (think rude, potty humor, and just mean).
  • In passing, someone says "I didn't do drugs. I missed the sixties. I was an accountant." This isn't dwelt upon.
  • There is a suggested romance between Peter and Tinker Bell. Which is all fine and rather accurate to the original (though it was very one-sided, as were all girls' crushes on Peter, for interesting reasons I won't go into here), but Peter at this point is married. Eventually Peter does refuse her offer of a kiss, but it still feels very unfaithful.
  • Women wear dresses that are a bit low in the front (this isn't counting the mermaids, mentioned above).
  • A grown man because disturbingly childish.

My Thoughts
Me while I'm watching, "That isn't right. That's not how it goes. That's completely contradictory to the original! Why are they doing that? It goes against the original intention" and so on. My siblings, who were watching over my shoulder, rightfully hushed me with a, "Just enjoy the movie."
In my defense, I was actually watching it for a research project I am doing for a class. So it was my job to analyze it properly.
Still, they had a point. The movie on its own wasn't all that bad. Probably not interesting for kids, because an adult is the main character, and it's much darker (explicitly) than the other Peter Pan stories. And maybe not for people who are very familiar with the Peter Pan stories (because yes, there were many, even by Barrie himself).
It wasn't a bad movie. It wasn't a great movie either. And it doesn't capture the spirit of the original Peter Pan or any of his stories.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Movie Review: Finding Neverland

Title: Finding Neverland
Author: Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet,
Release Date: 2004
Genre: biography, drama, family, Peter Pan
My Rating: ****
Official Rating: PG for mild thematic elements and brief language
Age Group: acceptable for 10+, enjoyable for 16+

Sir James Matthew Barrie, author of Peter Pan, or Peter and Wendy, or The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up, or...suffice it to say there were many more versions of this story than the average reader is aware of. While that might be the case, the origin is all the same. Barrie befriended the Llewelyn Davies boys. They're young and adventuring in the local park when he first meets them. Apparently Michael has been put in jail by the evil Prince George. Well jail turns out to be Barrie's park bench, and when he finds out Michael was put there for being a younger brother, he calmly explains that he cannot help him, because there is no way around that sentence. Distracted by his conversation with the boys, Barrie doesn't notice when his dog Porthos wanders off. Mrs. Davies brings him back, trailing behind her her other two boys. Barrie offers a bear show starring Porthos. The boys agree. Thus begins a fantastic friendship.
Barrie imagines adventures and the boys follow along eagerly. Mrs. Davies is incredibly grateful for the joy Barrie brings the boys, especially so soon after their father's death. Peter is particularly hard to grow close to, but eventually even he becomes enamored with the games.
But wonderful things don't last forever. There is always sickness, or marital problems, or a crabby old grandmother.

Word of Warning
  •  There are suggestions (relatively veiled) that Barrie is having an affair with Mrs. Davies. This is far from the truth (even in real life), and he disagrees with these firmly (as does everyone else involved, except his wife, who isn't sure).
  • Barrie's wife does run off with another man, but this is done very discretely as well.
  • A veiled hint that Barrie is a pedophile, which is why he spends so much time with the Davies boys.  Barrie is very angry at this, and loudly counters that that is a horrible thing to say, that they are young and innocent children and that would be an evil thing to do. This entire conversation is very well handled, to the point where I highly doubt any younger viewers would understand it.
  • A character falls ill, eventually dying. this is very hard on other characters, especially given the context.
  • Social drinking, but nothing problematic.
  • Language: shit used twice, crap used twice (these are estimates, not exactly numbers)
My Thoughts
If you watch this movie, be prepared to tear up, possibly even cry.
And you should watch this movie. Not because it's the story behind the creation of Peter Pan (or Peter and Wendy, or The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up, or any of its other titles). Not because it stars a very talented cast. Not even because it's the story of a famous and skilled author.
No, you should watch this movie because it's beautiful. Aesthetically, maybe. But the very story itself is beautiful. It's full of goodness amid the suffering, and it's the goodness that brings the tears.
It's full of beauty and goodness that you don't want to miss.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Book Review: Violet and the Pearl of the Orient

Title: Violet and the Pearl of the Orient
Author: Harriet Whitehorn
Illustrated by: Becka Moor
Release Date: 2014
Genre: friendship, mystery, British literature
My Rating: **
Official Rating: Childrens to middle grade fiction
Age Group: 8+

Violet Remy-Robinson and her best friend Rose have a good life. They like to play in the garden (Violet is a very good climber), visit the eccentric neighbor lady Dee Dee (she's from America), care for their cats, and they go to a nice school.
Then the Du Plicitous family moves in. Isabella is rude, and so are her parents. Dee Dee starts having trouble with them as her new landlords. Then one day Dee Dee's most valuable possession, the Pearl of the Orient, goes missing. Violet and Rose don't think the whole thing is being handled properly, and they set out to solve the mystery themselves. Now if they could just get someone to take them seriously....

Word of Warning
  • The Du Plicitous family is very very rude. 
  • Violet and Rose hatch several plans to escape from school. Eventually they do (but there are consequences).
  • Violet's parents like a good cocktail, or so we're told. There are several other drinks mentioned as well, and Violet is given a small amount in her own glass. Still, there is no drunkenness or anything I'd be worried about.
  • Violet disobeys her mother and climbs a tree she was told not to climb.

My Thoughts
I picked it up looking for a book to bring home to my younger sister--and because of the illustrations. They're fun, but my favorite part was how they interacted with the text. They didn't just give more detail to the text, making it easier to picture. They were part of the text, and often it was necessary to look at them closely in order to understand the story. It was fun.
The reason there are no more stars than there are is because nothing about this book stood out to me. It was good, and I will be gifting it after all, but it didn't do anything (aside from the pictures) to stand out above any other mystery novel written for this age group.
Still, it's a fun and fast read, and it has enough British English vocabulary in it to keep an American on her toes. Plus, the eccentric American woman was too funny.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Post Update

Hello all,
For the first time in a long time, there has been no Wednesday morning post. I apologize for this. I've been doing archival work in the UK for the past two weeks and decided to not stress about getting reviews out. I will be returning very soon, however, and am excited to share the many new books I've found here, as well as jump right back into watching TV shows and movies. And perhaps even some music! I haven't been listening to much here, so it's quite possible there will be something that catches my ear when I return.
As always, we do take requests. Just leave a comment on any of the posts with a request for a genre, a specific title (book, movie, TV show, song, etc), or any other suggestions.
Thank you for your patience, and your continued support. We will return shortly!