[ Movie Review ] The Giver

-e275c57b-49c1-49cb-bc0a-d87bfa624a12If you’re roughly the same age as I am, and went to high school in the mid-to-late 90’s, you probably read The Giver, by Lois Lowry, in school – and loved it. In fact, you’re anything like me – it was the only book you were forced to read that you actually liked. Yup, before there were Maze Runners, Hunger Games, and Divergent-y young adult dystopian novels, there was The Giver. And it was fantastic.

I won’t regale you with a review of the novel or its plot. Those interested should read it. Unfortunately, in today’s dystopian-flooded market, new readers probably won’t think much of it because it’s a much different book than those listed above. Nevertheless, it will always hold a place in my list of favorite books – as I’m sure it does for most folks my age.

But this review is about the movie and we all know how often adaptions of novels usually don’t get things quite right (i.e.: Ender’s Game). After seeing the first few trailers months ago I was already worried. It kind-of looked like it should but there were these extra things that didn’t belong. I was nervous. Still excited though.

I wasn’t able to see it the opening weekend, but one of my best friends did. We share a passion for the book. When I finally was able to see it this past weekend I took his advice and went in trying to distance myself from the book, knowing it wasn’t going to live up to it, and things were going to be different and to just view the movie as a singular entity based on the premise of the novel. In the end it was a toss up. I liked it. I didn’t like it.

First a little background; Jeff Bridges has been trying to get this movie made for the better part of two decades, and wanted to be a part of it. In fact he wanted his father, Lloyd Bridges, to play the eponymous character. Of course, when Lloyd died in 1998 that idea fell by the wayside. Of course I don’t know what goes on behind the closed doors of Hollywood’s decision makers but I’m going to assume Jeff finally found some traction getting the project going because of the success of the recent batch of books and movies (Hunger Games, Divergent, etc). It seems like fate that Jeff Bridges was now able to play the key character in the book/movie.

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So the premise of the book/movie is pretty straight forward: after some unknown world-changing event, this group of people have formed a community where everyone conforms to this idea of “sameness.” There are no emotions or feelings, no lying, no memories of the past, everyone is assigned jobs based on their strengths, and for the most part people don’t know any better. The movie begins in black & white – as it should. Because it’s not until you’re well into the book you discover the book started in black & white too – the members of the community do not see any color. Because color = emotions = not sameness!

Enter: Jonas. (Oh, did I mention they don’t have last names, either?) And of course we all know how the formula goes – you can almost hear the movie trailer voice-over guy; “one man, one world, one decision will change everything…” blah blah blah. Anyway, when all the boys & girls come of age they go to a big fun ceremony where they get assigned their jobs. By the way I should also mention that much like the Ender’s Game, and Percy Jackson adaptations, Jonas has been up-aged from his book equivalent to be a hormonal teenager. Because apparently the movie going public cannot suspend disbelief enough to agree that younger characters are capable of, you know, anything. So Jonas gets the honor of becoming The Receiver of Memory. He’s all like, WTF? His friends got to be nurses, and baby mommas, and drone pilots. Wait, drones in The Giver? Ugh, thanks Obama. The Receiver of Memory does pretty much what it sounds like: receives memories. But it’s more than just memories. It’s emotions. Fears. Colors. Ideas. The past. Bridges’ character, whom does not actually have a name aside from The Giver, is the only person in the community having any knowledge of the past and, well, anything and everything. And his job is to pass those memories, the wisdom, on to the next Receiver so that he or she may advise the Elders in matters. Of course, Jonas cannot tell his friends, or family, or anyone, any of this. He must keep it secret. Of course once Jonas learns how all of life’s best things are being repressed there must be a revolution. Naturally. That’s the basic plot of the movie. I’ll leave further details to be watched.

I found the pace of the film rushed. While the book is barely a couple hundred pages, the movie clocks in at about an hour and a half. It didn’t need to be a 2 and THE GIVERa 1/2 hour epic or anything, but there was definitely something missing in the middle. The best part of the book is the interactions between The Giver and Jonas. These were few in the movie. I’ll again draw a comparison to Ender’s Game – where nearly 2/3 of the book takes place in the Battle School, and is the bulk of the plot and pretty much the entire point of the book – but the movie fast forwards through it.

The novel is not a whizz-bang action romp. It’s a quiet, thoughtful story with a lot of exposition and internal dialogue. But that’s also what makes it so interesting. It’s Jonas’ slow exploration of what he is being given, how it unravels in front of him and he begins to discover and understand the world around him and what is missing. That is what makes The Giver such a great book. I think it also is much more poignant with a character of 12 years old, and not a good looking teenage boy who wouldn’t have a problem channeling a whiny Luke Skywalker. But here in the movie Jonas is learning a lot – very quickly. Yes, it’s alluded to that time is passing and it’s more than just a few days, but time skips ahead in huge leaps leaving out the interactions with The Giver. And then of course once Jonas makes the realization he alone must change the way things have been for generations. Yeah! Meryl Streep is a bad, bad lady and she must be stopped! You get the idea.

As far as building the world of the novel, and portraying the rest of the society, I thought this was done well. Yeah the bikes were stupid but the overall look and feel of the world, and the mannerisms of its inhabitants were well done. SPOILER: the whole barrier thing was…well…wtf.

THE GIVERNone of the actors stood out as amazing, everyone did an equally good job. It should be noted however that Katie Holmes plays a stone cold bitch like a champ. Yikes. I thought Bridges did well with what he was given but there should have been so much more of him. So much more. He does such a good job portraying what probably a lot of us envision The Giver to be that it’s disappointing we don’t hear him impart some wisdom of his own to Jonas. Not to mention watching Bridges get that voice out of the awkward movement of his mouth was a spectacle all on its own. Oh, and Taylor Swift is in it and plays a piano. Weird.

Overall it was enjoyable, but even though I attempted to distance myself from the book – I couldn’t, fully. It’s a book that’s too important to my childhood and I couldn’t help but draw the comparisons. Despite the flaws I found the movie adequate.

The biggest hurdle for the movie I see is the current crop of Hunger Games loving YA readers not understanding the point of the movie, and leaving the theater with the impression it was mostly boring. Either way, I hope Bridges is happy with the result. I am…mostly. Go see it if you haven’t already. It’s worth seeing. But please, read the book. It’s so much more.

The Giver C+

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It’s not really the 4th of July until you’ve watched Bill Pullman kick the tires and light the fires

Happy 4th of July, USA. Celebrate with badassery, and safety.

FOX News says: ‘BEWARE The LEGO Movie!!!’ Seriously, How are these people on TV?

Time and time again, clips from various news programs on the FOX News channel pop up on Youtube or other news sites proving, time and time again, beyond a reasonable doubt, they are the absolute worst people in the “news” industry – and overall just terrible human beings. I don’t understand who possibly buys into their garbage, but the scary part is so many people do.

This time, it’s The LEGO Movie.

Parents, everyone, beware! The LEGO Movie is indoctrinating your kids to hate capitalism and big business! No, really! It’s LEGO and Hollywood’s hidden agenda: to make 7 year olds come out of the movie thinking “I’m against freedom, capitalism, and monopolies! Down with CEOs!” Here’s the clip:

HOW ARE THESE PEOPLE ON TV

I don’t get it. Millions of qualified people are having trouble finding employment in dozens of different fields of work, while these morons are on television, making assloads of money, and influencing people.

By the way, I’m pretty sure the only thing your kids are coming out of The LEGO Movie thinking is:

EVERYTHING IS AWESOME!!!

The LEGO Movie is AMAZING [A+]

the-lego-movie-poster-full-photoThe wife and I had date night last night. It was comprised of a nice dinner at a favorite sushi joint of ours, then on to the 7:30 showing of The LEGO Movie. Probably not your typical date night – but it was for us! Thankfully my wife has always supported my LEGO habit, and also loves it too. She was almost as excited for the movie to come out as I was. Almost. I was assuming the theater would be packed with families and children but was pleasantly surprised when we walked in and the majority of the seats were empty. Hopefully this wasn’t indicative of how the movie is doing in the rest of the theaters across the country. It was one of the larger screen theaters so I’d say it was about half full by the time the movie started. There was a small kid, probably five or so who had obviously seen the movie earlier in the day already because he knew most of the words to the songs and even some of the punchlines – but he was so happy and excited and into the movie it just added to the experience.

Suffice to say the movie’s story isn’t brand new – loser dude finds out he is special and can change the fate of the world. It doesn’t hold to story back, however. Instead The LEGO Movie takes the cliche and runs wild – with hilarious results. For the kids, the movie does a great job of showing the positives and negatives of working as a team but also being true to yourself and recognizing you are special in your own way. For the adults accompanying their LEGO crazed kids to the film, you’ll be quite entertained as well. It panders to the kids just enough to make it a kids movie but has tons of little quips and moments over the kid’s heads for the adults.

Unikitty_filmstill1The movie is phenomenal. Smiles and laughs the whole way through – in hysterics a few times. Hands down the best thing about The LEGO Movie is the universe it takes place in – a land made of LEGO bricks. It opens doors for so many ideas for both story, and comedy. Thankfully the movie had just the right amount of “we’re LEGO and these are our limitations – look, it’s funny!” kind of humor. The animators made it seem like the land of LEGO was as natural as can be. And in that vein I must commend the absolutely mind boggling attention to detail throughout the movie. From watching the individual LEGO bricks and pieces being manipulated to be built with or to act as flowing water it all seemed as perfect as a Pixar movie, but with that extra bit of hilarity because it’s actually LEGO pieces being made to look like ocean spray, instead of just computerized ocean spray.

One bit that cracked me up was watching our main character, Emmet, come to work at his construction site where the blueprints for building were actually the LEGO instruction booklets that come in the box of LEGO models you buy! The fun comes fast, and the jokes sometimes come even faster. Keep your eyes and ears peeled for your favorite sets, and minifigs because chances are they make an appearance. I think UniKitty might be our favorite – the scene where she goes into Mr. Business’ board room meeting was just perfect. Though Will Arnett’s Batman was spot on comedy.

I’ll admit I haven’t done any homework to see how the movie was made, but the computer imagery is not overwhelming, and a good chunk of the film looks like stop-motion filmography, which just adds all the more nostalgic love to it (even if it’s all CGI). Either way, the movie is beautiful to behold.

If you haven’t already, look up the voice cast on IMDB. The movie was chock full of famous folks, and even some really excellent cameos that came straight out of left field adding to the list of surprises.

And there are a lot of surprises. And an ending you won’t see coming!

I give The LEGO Movie an A+, and not just because I’m a doofy LEGO lover, but because as a movie it’s just really, really great.

Don’t miss it.
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The Next LEGO CUUSOO Set: ‘Who Ya Gonna Call?’

The official LEGO Cuusoo blog has announced what the next fan-created official LEGO set will be: The Ghostbuster’s famous car ECTO-1, along with minifigured version of our favorite characters: Venkman, Winston, Ray, and Egon. As a child of the 80’s and a lover of the film, this is great.

While the original fan model will be tweaked to conform to LEGO guidelines and building specs, let’s hope that it doesn’t end up looking like the previous Cuusoo set for Back to the Future‘s time-traveling DeLorean – which as you may recall looks like shit.

It’s unfortunate the set didn’t include the Ghostbuster’s famous fire-house headquarters from the movie. You can see the complete set in the picture below – along with the other sets that were considered but ultimately rejected. It’s too bad, too, the headquarters and the car would have made an awesome set. The Female Scientists set is still under consideration – and I hope they decide to go ahead with it because there needs to be a larger focus on women in the sciences. Make it!
Here’s a cheesy video from LEGO revealing the winner, and talking about some more LEGO news. Visit the official Cuusoo blog using the link at the top of this post to read the full release details.

Don’t cross the streams.

The LEGO Movie: Building sets & Minifigs

With the forthcoming LEGO movie, LEGO of course is going to capitalize as much on it as possible. They have already unveiled a number of special building sets from the movie, with a few more as yet to be unveiled. Additionally, the next series of collectible minifigs will all be from the film. Here’s a few to get your imagination going. A link to the official site with more is below the pictures.

To view them all, go to the official LEGO site for the movie’s products.