Movie News and Randomness

Time for another couple of movie-related news.  Without further ado, here are five movie things that got me super stoked this week.

1. The DUFF trailer

I was really looking forward to this movie because I love Mae Whitman so much, but I sort of shriveled up and died when I saw the trailer.  It looks cheap, which is fine, but it also looks like they gutted the central story, which makes absolutely no sense.  In no way, shape, or form did we need another movie wherein the heroine gets a makeover so that she becomes attractive to the dude she’s interested in.  In fact, one could argue that it goes against the central thesis of Keplinger’s book.  So what in the actual fuck happened?

2. Michelle MacLaren in talks to direct Wonder Woman movie

I won’t actually believe this film is happening until it actually hits theaters, but at any rate, the female director has done great work on Breaking Bad and Walking Dead, so I’m all for this particular bit of news. (Variety)

3. Cinderella trailer

Do we need yet another Cinderella retelling?  Absolutely not (Ever After FOREVER, y’all).  Will I still see this eventually, because it’s sparkly and has an interesting cast (well, the supporting roles, at least)?  Yes.

4. There will be a Playmobil movie 

Because why not?  My sister and I got the Victorian dollhouse and it was the best Chrismukkah ever.  (Variety)

5. Song One trailer

This is here mostly for Jenny Lewis, who did much of the music for the film.  The buzz has been mixed, and Anne Hathaway is polarizing, so take what you will.


Waiting on Wednesday: All the Bright Places by Jennifer Liven

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.  Its purpose is to spotlight eagerly-anticipated upcoming releases.

This week I’m eagerly awaiting:

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Liven

Expected Release Date: January 5, 2015

The Fault in Our Stars meets Eleanor and Park in this compelling, exhilarating, and beautiful story about a girl who learns to live from a boy who intends to die.

Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.

Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.

(summary via Goodreads)

I mean, I’m not the only person who sees a book pitch start with something “meets” something else, especially when the two things being compared are wildly popular.  But it’s not the book’s fault that the book packager lacks any sort of originality, right?  The fact that the blurb also name-drops some of the brightest YA writers right now hints at a sort of desperation, too, but I’m willing to overlook it if the book is good on its own.

At any rate, the book looks interesting enough without being shuffled to the sides by comparisons to successful authors.  I’ll definitely be checking this one out when it’s released in January.

What are you waiting on this week?

Book Review: Falling into Place by Amy Zhang

Liz Emerson decides to die and crashes her Mercedes into a tree.  In the hospital, in limbo, those who know her wait to find out her fate.  Skipping around in time and perspective, this tale is about Liz, but it’s also about the people she’s impacted–in good and bad ways.

This book, by debut author (and teenager) Amy Zhang, has received a fair amount of buzz, not only for its unusual execution but for its author’s noteworthy young age.  While the book’s premise is a novel one, the execution doesn’t live up to the promise.  Flat characters, overly earnest and oftentimes clunky prose make this novel fall short of its rather lofty ambitions.

That isn’t to say that there aren’t things here worth examining.  Zhang displays promise as a writer, even though the prose here borders on overtly didactic at times, and she certainly has an interesting take on how the novel gets narrated.  The decision to have the book jump around in time makes for a more interesting read than if it was strictly chronological, and Zhang’s decision to make Liz Emerson a very flawed, kind of generally awful person makes for a much more nuanced read.  She’s definitely an author to watch.

The problem is that the book’s unique narrator (Liz’s childhood imaginary friend) and a non-chronological plot can’t sustain the uneven writing and the otherwise flat secondary characters.  The book’s abrupt ending doesn’t help things, either.  This is likely to find readers who enjoy books like Gayle Forman’s If I Stay or Jay Asher’s 13 Reasons Why, as it’s similar in theme and concept, but Zhang isn’t quite there yet as a writer.

Falling into Place by Amy Zhang. Greenwillow Books: 2014. Library copy.

My Weekend in Pop Culture

I had a super busy weekend but because of the snow, I spent some time on the couch (at least during the day) watching a couple of things.  I also had a ton of car time because of said snow.  Here’s the pop culture I consumed:

serialSerial podcast: Uh, I devoured all of the available episodes this weekend.  Because we got hit with some snow and I was determined to make it to all my weekend engagements, I spent double the usual amount of time in the car this weekend, giving me ample time to enjoy (is that the appropriate word here?) this excellent series.  If you like true crime at all, you need to listen to this.  I can’t wait to see how the rest of the episodes go. I’m OBSESSED.

princessThe Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement: I needed
something to watch while I was baking for a party this weekend, and this was completely mindless background noise.  I haven’t seen this one since it was originally released, and holy fuck is it problematic (and also generally terrible).  Everyone in it looks embarassed to be in it.  Amazing.

youveYou’ve Got Mail: Despite being written by the amazing Nora Ephron, I feel comfortable saying that this movie is the literal worst.  Everyone in it is horrible.  Meg Ryan’s “cutesy face” is the grossest, and Tom Hanks’s smug rich-boy thing is terrible.  UGH THE WORST.  WHY DO I DO THIS TO MYSELF.

What pop culture did you consume this weekend?

What I’m Reading and Thinking About This Week

It’s been another particularly frustrating week to be a woman on the internet (UGH TIME MAGAZINE UGH), but here are the the things I’ve been reading and thinking about this week.

“Did You Ever Mind it?” On Race and Adoption (The Toast)

I’m operating under the assumption that you’re already reading The Toast every week, if not every day like I am, but in case you missed this excellent piece, please drop what you are doing and go read it now.  In it, Nicole Soojung Callahan explores her own past as a transracial adoptee and what it has meant to confront the way it has impacted her life and her sense of self:

If another set of white adoptive parents asked me those same questions today—Should we adopt? Could we be good parents?—I still wouldn’t say no. Those answers are so often unknowable. I might say that I no longer think of adoption in terms of good or bad, but realistic and unrealistic. I would explain that my own parents tried very hard to be good parents, and in many ways were good parents, and we did not have a single honest conversation about race until I was in my late twenties and are still dealing with the consequences of that.

It is awesome and well-written and wholly thought-provoking.

Let’s Just Say it: Women Matter More Than Fetuses (The New Republic)

I cannot believe that this statement is still controversial.  I cannot believe that we have to write articles like this, reaffirming the belief that women should be able to regulate their own bodies and that their life matters more than the life of the fetus inside them.

And so we need to make it clear that abortions are not about fetuses or embryos. Nor are they about babies, except insofar as they enable women to make sound decisions about if or when to have them. They’re about women: their choices, health, and their own moral value.

BRB ordering a copy of Pollitt’s book Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights.

On Young Men and Virginity (Carrie Mesrobian)

Carrie Mesrobian is one of my favorite people on the internet and she’s also one of my favorite writers.  So I am biased in my thinking that she is pretty brilliant and amazing.  This piece, posted last week on her blog, is interesting for all sorts of reasons: it talks frankly about sex, about masculinity and femininity and media expectations and so on and so forth.  It also features a picture of Sam Heughan (Jamie Frasier) shirtless, and also a picture of Norman Reedus (Daryl Dixon).  It’s also just a good piece of writing:

There is a sort of har-har-har involved when dealing with male virginity – or debut sex, if you want to be fancy – and it just gets worse the older the dude involved is. He’s a nerd, he’s awkward, he’s got some awful problem, blah blah blah. Because the larger myth we’re contending with is that Men Are Rapacious Sex Monsters Every Waking Moment.

Also, she touches on an important part of all of this as it relates to consent and rape culture and all the things I refuse to shut up about because I am an ULTRA FEMINIST or whatever:

The reason we need to see more fiction that deals with debut sex – and that deals with how young men encounter such sex – is that though mechanistically, porn gives us lots of data, what is important for young people contending with sexual experience and identity is the context in which these decisions are made. A shorter way of saying this is you cannot fully understand what CONSENT means if you only know about sex outside of any kind of interconnected CONTEXT.


Anyway, Mesrobian is a really funny and smart lady and her whole post is worth a read.

#Pointergate: What Happened After the Mayor of Minneapolis Posed with a Black Man (Vox)

This is a case of something I’ve been tracking locally that has sort of blown up.  KSTP, which is a local news affiliate, engaged in some racist bullshit “journalism” last week after they reported that Mayor of Minneapolis Betsy Hodges posed with a “convicted felon” and flashed gang signs.  Or, um, possibly the guy is not a convicted felon but is just a black man and they were pointing at each other?  Could that be it?  Since pointing is a thing Hodges does in a lot of her photos?  OF COURSE NOT.

At any rate, this article rundown over at Vox is really comprehensive and a quick read.  It’s worth your time to read, in part because this sort of shit is indicative of what is happening all over the country and speaks to the larger problem of how the media views black men in general.

Oh, by the way, KSTP and the “reporter” who filed the story have yet to apologize or admit any wrongdoing.  FUCK EVERYTHING.

Book Review: When I Was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds

Ali lives in Bed Stuy, New York, and he’s trying hard to be a good kid.  He works hard in school and takes boxing lessons and generally stays out of trouble.  His best friend, nicknamed Noodles, isn’t trying so hard to be good.  But Ali is always around to help get him out of trouble.  It’s what you do: look out for your friends.  But then Ali and Noodles, along with his brother Needles, find themselves in a situation that gets real, really fast.  And there might be some serious–and lasting–repercussions.

Jason Reynolds’s debut novel about a witty, smart teen living in a rough neighborhood in Brooklyn should be on readers’ radars.  Although it’s more character-driven than plot-focused, the novel features incredibly memorable characters and authentic voices that are guaranteed to hook readers young and old alike.  This will work for teens looking for urban fiction, but it should also appeal to readers outside the genre.

Ali’s voice makes the novel.  All of the characters are well-drawn and tenderly nuanced, but Ali, as the narrator, sticks out.  He’s smart and kind and wants to succeed.  He loves his family and his friends and recognizes the dangers his neighborhood poses to him and to Noodles.  He’s also just a teenager–and teenagers make mistakes.  All of this feels incredibly realistic, lending an authenticity to the narrative.

The book isn’t long on plot, but what is present is compelling stuff.  It’s clear that Reynolds is much more invested in the characters he’s created here than he is in creating a ridiculously over-the-top plot where the action overtakes the narrative and the character’s actions.  It might be a bit slow for some readers, but most should find themselves drawn to these excellent, memorable characters.  Recommended.

When I Was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds.  Atheneum Books for Young Readers: 2014. ILL copy from library.

Waiting on Wednesday: Love and Other Theories by Alexis Bass

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.  Its purpose is to spotlight eagerly-anticipated upcoming releases.

This week I’m eagerly awaiting:

Love and Other Theories by Alexis Bass

Expected Release Date: December 31, 2014

If you want more, you have to give less.

That’s the secret to dating in high school. By giving as little as they expect to get in return, seventeen-year-old Aubrey Housing and her three best friends have made it to the second semester of their senior year heartbreak-free. And it’s all thanks to a few simple rules: don’t commit, don’t be needy, and don’t give away your heart.

So when smoking-hot Nathan Diggs transfers to Lincoln High, it shouldn’t be a big deal. At least that’s what Aubrey tells herself. But Nathan’s new-boy charm, his kindness, and his disarming honesty throw Aubrey off her game and put her in danger of breaking the most important rule of all: Don’t fall in love.

(summary via Goodreads)

I’m not sure that there’s anything new here exactly, but it looks like it might be a fun little romance to ring in the new year.  Early reviews are mixed (there seems to be a fair amount of people who are wringing their hands over the fact that the protagonist isn’t super likable, which, sign me up, because that is real life) but it’s got a good cover and a catchy little summary.

What are you waiting on this week?