2012 In Review: Adam’s Top Five Films of the Year

moonrise_kingdomWhen Kim asked me for my top five films of the year, I thought “wow that’s going to be really hard to decide”. I love films and I love reading critics’ top ten films of the year lists. Sports people get excited for draft days and signing of free agents. I, on the other hand, get excited for the end of the year and the start of Oscar season. To read what critics loved and loathed and being able to see how my own list compares to theirs greatly excites me. To finally be able to do my list is really awesome! Unfortunately seeing films in Manhattan is expensive, so I haven’t seen that many 2012 releases.

Author’s note: I have not seen Les Miserables yet.  Odds are once I do, that will be number one (unless it sucks). But as of December 9, 2012 this is my top five list.

Number 5: Moonrise Kingdom: An extremely unique love story told by the massively creative Wes Anderson. Just from viewing the trailer, I knew this would be a classic Wes Anderson film. Seeing Moonrise Kingdom offered me some of the most carefree time spent at the movies this year.  A great ensemble and great cinematography make this a film not to be missed.

2012_5_25_AbrahamLincolnVampireHunterNumber 4: Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter: Ah, yes the lesser known of the two Lincoln “biopics” films of 2012.  Adapted from the equally entertaining novel of the same name by Seth Grahame- Smith, this film tells the unknown history of one of the greatest leaders this country has ever had (you can read my book review here and my page to screen review here.) With action sequences and solid performances that kept the audience at the edge of their seat, this film proved once and for all that there is such thing as a good book to screen adaptation.

Number 3: I couldn’t decide between The Hunger Games and 21 Jump Street, so I picked them both!

HG PosterThe Hunger Games: Another excellent page to screen adaptation and definitely this year’s first blockbuster hit (rightfully so). The young cast, in particular Jennifer Lawrence as heroine Katniss Everdeen, jumped off the screen and made the audience feel like they right there in the games with them. I think the shaky camera work used by director Gary Ross helped illustrate this feeling as well. Every emotion I felt while watching that film lined up perfectly with how I felt as I read the book.  If you’re one of the very few people who haven’t seen this film yet go check it out, but read the book first!

21 Jump Street: I’ll admit it. I was highly skeptical that this film would be funny. Channing Tatum in a funny role? No way. I saw his SNL performance and thought it was pretty bad.  After seeing this film, I take it all back. Channing Tatum, funny? HELL YES! This is probably the most quotable film of the year.  My side hurt from laughing after seeing this film. Jonah Hill as the sidekick was hysterical and his performance just made my night when I saw it. Definitely check this comedy out, it’s so worth it.  I’m hoping the film receives a Golden Globe nomination for best comedy.  I’m doubting that it will happen, but after The Hangover received one and won it a few years ago, so  you never know.

darkknightrisesNumber 2: The Dark Knight Rises– First things first, screw The Avengers. It was semi-entertaining, but nothing compared to the final installment of The Batman Trilogy. From the bad ass-ness of Bane, the twist ending, and the incredibly gorgeous Anne Hathaway as Catwoman, I could not have scripted a better ending to one of the greatest trilogies of all time (only behind The Godfather Trilogy in my opinion).  Like his other two Batman films, Nolan was able to leave the audience wanting more when the credits rolled. He was able to create a Gotham City that was real and very life-like. The film had a tough predecessor, especially with Heath Ledger’s genius portrayal of The Joker, but this film came really close and in some aspects topped the previous two films. Also how could you hate a film that spawns something as awesome as this picture?

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And number 1……….

argoArgo: Ben Affleck, you are forgiven for Gigli and Jersey Girl (actually I was never mad at you for those because I never saw them). This film left me absolutely speechless. Ben Affleck is a master director and because of that was able to tell this unknown story of a classified CIA case with ease and honesty. If you are unfamiliar with the story, six people were able to escape the American Embassy the day the Iranian Hostages were taken. They hid at the Canadian ambassador’s house until the CIA concocted a plan to rescue them. CIA agents went undercover, stating that they were a Canadian film crew scouting a site for their new film, aptly titled Argo. The suspense you felt in this film was real and genuine because it was a real story. Even though the end was fabricated for the screen, I was still on the edge of my seat wondering what was going to happen to these people who had suffered so much already. It was a mesmerizing story with excellent ensemble acting, and perfect direction from Ben Affleck. He has definitely found his niche as a director and found a fan in me. Definitely check it out.

Well readers, there you have it. My top five (really six) films of the year.  Do you agree with my selections? What are your top films of the year?

Page to Screen: Adam’s Review of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

This post is the first in a new series on the blog, Page to Screen! Members of the staff will compare their thoughts on books and their film adaptations.  Check out the first edition with Adam and his thoughts on Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter!

“There has never been a faithful adaptation of a book into a movie.” “You should just read the book and skip the movie.”  These are just some of the things book lovers say regarding many an adaptation of their favorite novels into films. Often times, I feel out-of-place when writing on the blog because I don’t love to read. I am glad Kim still allows me to blog for her despite my proclamation that I’m much more of a film fan than a book fan. About a year ago I read a book I actually enjoyed, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I reviewed it for this very website (you can read my review here). A year later a movie version of that book came out, and I went to see it in the hopes of proving or disproving the book lover adage that there is no such thing as a good adaptation from page to film.  First, however, a little history of my experience reading the novel.

One sunny summer day in New York City a miracle happened: I checked a book out from the library! That book of course was Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, and I read it in about 2.5 weeks (lightening speed for me). I really enjoyed how the story was told, especially how Grahame-Smith intertwined the personal diary of Lincoln, which many people did not know about, with the main plot line. When I found out they were making the book into a movie, I wondered how they would translate this particular aspect of the novel. I originally thought that since the whole story is told through narrative and journal entries, it wouldn’t really translate well to the screen. Fortunately, the first time I saw the full-length trailer my faith was restored. One, it was visually stunning and two, they kept Henry, my favorite character from the book. As I began to visit IMDB more often to search about the movie, I learned that Seth Grahame-Smith co-wrote the script and was also credited as a producer. My faith was fully restored. He wouldn’t butcher his own baby, right?

There were many differences between the film and novel, some of which were for time constraint, while others just wouldn’t translate well. Some characters were taken out of the book: Ann Rutledge, who was Abraham Lincoln’s fiancée before Mary Todd, Edgar Allan Poe, who also hated the vampires and knew of their true evils, and John Wilkes Booth, the man who assassinated Lincoln and knew an important secret about him.

In return for those three characters we added Adam, the main antagonist of the film and a head vampire who wanted the south to break away from the union to create a vampire nation. He added a great conflict to the story, one that was needed to make the film. As much as I loved the book and the inner thoughts of Abraham Lincoln, I don’t think that this alone would’ve translated well. I think the audience would have been bored and not drawn in to the film. Another deviation from the book was how quickly Lincoln begins his quest against vampires. In both the book and the movie, Lincoln witnesses a vampire poisoning his mother, killing her. In the book, shortly after this act he kills the vampire, while in the movie it takes quite a few years to do so. In both the book and the movie, Henry trains Lincoln to kill vampires, but one key fact is revealed at a different point: Henry is a vampire himself. In the book it is revealed shortly after we meet Henry, while in the movie, a rule was created that prevented vampires from killing other vampires: a rule that does not exist in the book. Finally, the ending is also very different, but this is a no spoiler website. Go out and read the book and view the movie for yourself!

Like anything in life, most people don’t like changes. When we go from one big stage of our lives to another, we panic and start holding on to the past. I’m here to tell all you bookies, it’s ok to like the movie version too. Yes it will be different, and yes they may cut out the best scene of inner dialogue because it won’t translate to screen well, but it can still be great! I think if you have faith that the main idea of the book will come across, you can enjoy both the movie and novel. Also, although I rated both the movie and book versions of Vampire Hunter the same, I did like the movie an ounce more, just for the sheer fact that Benjamin Walker (who played Abraham Lincoln) was so badass. Until next time, happy reading and viewing.

Book: 5 out of 5 Stars

Movie: 5 out of 5 Stars

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012)
Tim Burton Productions
R, 105 Minutes

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith
Grand Central Publishing (2010)
Paperback: 336 pages
ISBN: 0446563080

Adam’s Review of Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith

Cover Image

Hello all and welcome to another edition of Adam’s film… oh wait, this time I am reviewing a book!  Very rarely in my life have I ever been super motivated to read.  Hearing about this particular book however intrigued me, making me excited to read for once.  I was looking through the library and I had heard about this book being turned into a movie, and I thought (shockingly), “I might as well read it before the movie comes out”.  The book and (future movie) are entitled Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame- Smith.  Told as if it was historical fact, the story tells the other side of Abraham Lincoln,  a man whom many have considered to be one of the greatest Presidents of the United States.  In this case, he happens to be the greatest vampire hunter too. 

The story details a side of Abraham Lincoln’s life that we’ve never seen before.  The novel starts off with the eventual narrator working a dead-end job at a hardware store in upstate New York.  A chance encounter with a customer named Henry Sturges leads to the narrator being given the secret diaries of Abraham Lincoln.  Sturges is a vampire and former confidant of Lincoln himself.  The narrator begins perusing the diaries and finds that they chronicle Lincoln’s hunting of vampires.  Lincoln’s hatred for the undead started after the death of his mother, which was originally blamed milk sickness, a common contamination disease.  However, young Abraham soon learns that she died due to a bad business deal with a vampire.  After Lincoln hunts down and kills this vampire, he realizes that there are in fact more out there and decides to dedicate his life to the extinction of vampires.  On one of his early killings he is saved by Mr. Sturges, who acts differently than the others and has human sympathies.  Together they vow to get rid of those whom they feel don’t deserve to live eternally.  While doing so, Lincoln learns of the connection between vampires and slavery, and therefore sets the stage for his fateful and timeless Presidency in our history. 

I think being a history major in college definitely was one of the reasons I truly enjoyed the novel as whole.  To see the parallels in the author’s writing to the most famous historical happenings of the time was fascinating.  The book itself was a fast read because the narrative was broken up by the faux journal entries of Abraham Lincoln.  These journal entries added a whole other level to the book, giving the book a real sense of authenticity.  Even though the whole idea of our 16th president as a famous vampire hunter is false (sadly), it seemed very real.  The idea to make the history of slavery be a direct result of vampires was really creative.  To see how vampires were portrayed in this novel was also really interesting; I am so used to what I see on True Blood and Twilight, where vampires intermingle and openly interact with some humans, that it was nice to see vampires go back to their “hidden” roots.  Grahame-Smith’s work is a very old school approach to the mythology of vampires, where he creates them as an almost underground cult symbolizing evil as opposed to typical teenage fantasy vampires on TV today.  I found that it’s a really refreshing take on vampires to see them mixed with American history.

Grahame-Smith has a way of writing that makes the reader seem like they are watching something unfold in front of them as opposed to reading it.  He describes everything perfectly and I think in this particular book the journal entries from Lincoln really added a visual aspect.  Rather than being told in a completely third person perspective they added a first person narrative, which gave the story a sense of truth to it.  Even though the premise of the journals seemed very outlandish on the surface, for some odd reason the entries added some creditability to the story, and for some reason I wanted this whole story to be the truth. 

All in all I think Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter is an entertaining take on one of the most widely discussed US presidents.  The novel sucks you in and you won’t come up for air until the end.  As always, I leave you with a question: what are some other “unheard-of stories” that our history text books leave out?

Until next time, happy reading!

5 out of 5 stars

Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith
Grand Central Publishing (2010)
Hardcover, 336 pages

A Review of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen & Seth Grahame-Smith

Cover ImagePride and Prejudice and Zombies unknowingly changed the world of books when it was published in 2009.  What started as a random idea by Quirk Books editor Jason Rekulak turned into a literary phenomenon.  “Mash-ups” became the new hit thing with this particular novel spurring a prequel (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls), sequel (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dreadfully Ever After), a graphic novel and upcoming feature film of the orignal Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.
 
Regency England has become overrun with dreadfuls (zombies) and it’s up to Mr. Bennet and his warrior daughters to protect the residents of Meryton.  Keeping in line with Austen’s original work, The Bennets attend a ball in town where they meet with their new neighbor Mr. Bingley, his sisters, and the haughty Mr. Darcy.  Darcy’s “she is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me” comment is overheard by Elizabeth just as in the original, but instead of walking it off, she vows that she will slice Darcy’s throat to avenge her honor.  As she begins to prepare for his death zombies break through the windows scaring the townsfolk attending the ball.  It’s up to the Bennet sisters and their mastery in the deadly arts (a combination of ninja skills and the martial arts) to save everyone.  Darcy, while watching Elizabeth, realizes that he has never seen a woman with a more beautiful set of eyes and skill at wielding a blade.   The book continues along in this style staying true to the original plot while infusing it with zombie attacks:  Bingley still has a ball at Netherfield, Lydia runs away with Wickham, and Darcy’s failed proposal at Rosings.  All these events joyfully still happen, there just happen to be zombies in the mix.
 
While the idea behind P&P&Z is an incredibly clever and innovative one, it falls flat in its execution.  The mash-up at times seems very forced and was far from seamless.  The book is literally Austen’s work with a word changed here or there and a sentence about zombies added in.  Had Grahame-Smith taken away the original wording of Austen I think the idea might have worked better.  In my opinion I think having complete creative control with the book would have made it read less like a disjointed novel and more like a new creative venture.  I understand that to be a mash-up it must have both the original work and new wording, but it didn’t seem like Grahame-Smith even tried to stick with sounding Austen-ish.
 
What I did like about the novel was its humor.  Imagining Lizzie and her sisters performing the “pentagram of death”, a martial arts move to dispatch those pesky zombies, made me laugh out loud especially when juxtaposing it against Jane’s normal demure attitude.  Austen purists, stay far away from this book.  It is filled with sexual innuendo and double entendre that while funny, would make purists cringe and throw the book half way across a room.  The humor won me over enough for me to finish the entire novel.  I like to think of myself as someone who’s open to reading anything at least once, this book however will stay as just that, a one time read for me. 
 
3 out of 5 Stars
 
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith
Quick Classics (2009)
Paperback 320 pages
ISBN: 9781594743344
 
You can check out my review of the graphic novel version of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies here

#13 A Guest Review of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Graphic Novel, adapted by Tony Lee and Illustrated by Cliff Richards

As a big fan of graphic novels and Jane Austen fan fiction I was incredibly excited when my friend Laurel Ann (moderator of the Austenprose blog) offered me the opportunity to review the graphic novel version of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.  My review has been posted today and I do hope you’ll go check it out!!

For a direct link to my review click here

This is my seventh completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge