Weekend Viewing Roundup and The Book Thief review

How’s your weekend everyone? Hope it was a good one. I skipped the cinema this weekend and opted to rewatch Man of Steel as I finally got my Blu-ray last week. I still like it but unfortunately the replayability value of the BD is probably not going to be very high, well for one, the audio conversion quality is pretty terrible as the background sound/music overwhelms the dialog. There are other issues that I might blog about at some point.

But hey, my most-anticipated TV show finally premiered tonight after being delayed a few weeks!!

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I’ve blogged about Almost Human here and since most of you know I’m a big fan of Karl Urban, naturally I’m excited for the FOX sci-fi series. Well, the first pilot was pretty good! Yes it’s a mixture between Robocop and Minority Report, but y’know what, there’s still a fresh spin to it that’ll keep me tuning in. For one, I like the bromance of sort between Urban and his droid partner Michael Ealy known as Dorian. I might do a proper review after second part of pilot airs tomorrow, but for now I’m glad to say I wasn’t disappointed!

Now here’s my review from my latest screening:

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The Book Thief is based on a novel by Australian author Markus Zusak. Set during the era of Nazi Germany, the protagonist is 11-year-old Liesel Meminger who upon her young brother’s death is adopted by housepainter Hans Hubermann and his wife Rosa. The narrator of the story is Death, who describes the WWII era as being an extremely busy time for it.

Naturally, it takes some time for Liesl to adjust in her new foster home, but Hans’ patience with her slowly wins her over. Starting with the book dropped by the grave digger who buried her brother, Hans teaches Liesl how to read and write. Liesl soon becomes quite a voracious reader in a time where books have become scarce with the Nazi’s penchant for book burning. Time after time, it’s books that become her refuge, it’s a key part in her journey, a link to the past and her future. But then things get complicated when a Jewish man from a family Hans knew well stops by and ask for a refuge as the Nazis are starting to raid the Jews and sending them to concentration camps.

The story of Liesl is definitely worth-telling. I particularly like the point of view from a young girl in one of the world’s darkest hour. Perhaps not exactly as desperate as Anne Frank, but there are certainly dark moments in her life that no child—or adult for that matter—should ever have to experience. For a relative newbie, French-Canadian Sophie Nélisse is pretty good in the lead role, though she’s not as expressive as she could’ve been, something that’d usually come from experience. What sold me about this film is Geoffrey Rush‘ casting as Hans, and to my pleasant surprise, Emily Watson also has a prominent role as Liesl’s foster mom. I especially enjoyed the scenes between Rush and Nélisse, the father/daughter relationship serves as the heart of the film. Rush and Watson certainly elevated Brian Percival‘s direction from being too much like a Saturday Afternoon Special.

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Despite some heart-wrenching moments though, at times the film just feels rather superficial in the way it explores the narrative and characters. Along the way, we’re introduced to a few people who enter Liesl’s life, but the initial build-up between the characters, we’re left wanting more. In regards to Max especially, the Jewish young man hiding under Hans’ basement, there’s barely any character development on him though he seems pretty integral to the plot. There’s also the friendship between Liesl and her schoolmate Rudy (Nico Liersch) that starts off sweet but it just never seems to gain much traction. The heavy melodrama and slow pace also threatens to grind the film to a halt on several occasions, though fortunately it never derailed it entirely.

The cinematography is gorgeous though, I like the look of small town Germany and the Wintry shots. The look isn’t exactly gritty, but a meticulous attention to detail to the costumes and set pieces are lovely to behold. The score is done by the legendary John Williams, which adds to the solemn atmosphere of the film. It’s nowhere as memorable as his gut-wrenching score as Schindler’s List though, but then again, neither is the film. I guess what I’m trying to say is this film could’ve been far more profound, for a lack of a better word. I doubt that this film would reach nearly the same level as the celebrated novel, which won numerous awards and was on The New York Times Best Seller list for over 230 weeks. (per Wiki)

That said, there’s a certain honesty and charm that I find quite pretty stirring and delightful. The message about the power of words, reading and creativity is certainly an admirable one for both children and adults. Despite my quibbles, the film’s heart is in the right place and there’s enough going for it here to warrant a recommendation.

Three and a half stars out of Five
3.5 out of 5 reels


So what did you see this weekend, folks? Anything good?