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!!


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:


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.


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?

40 thoughts on “Weekend Viewing Roundup and The Book Thief review

  1. I remember seeing a trailer for The Book Thief which looked like an Oscar-bait film and then… came that awful voiceover in the trailer. Man, that ruined it for me and now to see that film sucks. Whoo, another film I don’t have to worry about watching. I spent the weekend watching a couple of docs about Roman Polanski’s extradition case and the nWo during their hey-day in WCW in the late 90s plus Argo and the new Wes Anderson short while getting a couple of more Criterion DVDs from Barnes & Noble.

    1. I don’t remember what the VO in the trailer but I actually don’t mind it in the film. I feel that every Holocaust film is going to be deemed ‘Oscar bait,’ not sure that’s fair.

      You rewatched Argo or is it the first time you saw it?

  2. This weekend I watched The Counselor at the theater and it was terrible. Such an awful, disappointing, pretentious movie 😦

    Can’t say I want to see The Book Thief. Looks too schmaltzy for my taste. Reminds me of War Horse, which I hated!

    1. Oh man, i’m soo glad i skipped The Counselor. I love Ridley Scott n Fassbender but the reviews swayed me away. I hear ya about War Horse, but i actually like this one a bit more. It’s not as emotionally manipulative.

  3. Ted S.

    That’s too bad about the audio issue BD of Man of Steel, I haven’t rented it yet but if I have the same issue then they should do factory recall for these discs. I’ll let you know if I have the same problem with the disc.

    I DVR’d Almost Human so I’ll watch it later this week, I already gave up on AGENT of SHIELDS so hopefully this one will keep me watching. I’ll probably skip The Book Thief, nothing about the story really interests me.

    I rented Pacific Rim over the weekend, all I can say is that it’s better than any of the Transformers movies. I can’t say that I enjoyed it as much as you did, I actually fell asleep a couple of times during the movie, LOL. I also re-watched Quantum of Solace, haven’t seen it in a while, still enjoyed it but I think it really suffer because of the rush into production. Stupid writers strike ruined on what could’ve been a great sequel to Casino Royale.

    1. Yeah, I’m kinda disappointed by the audio quality but more importantly, I find that I’m not as fond of the film the 3rd time around 😦

      I’ve sort of given up on SHIELD too, though I did like the last episode. But I REALLY like Almost Human based on what I saw so far, hope it’ll keep my interest!

      I still love Pac Rim even my 4th time seeing it! It’s just a lot of fun! I might give QoS a chance one of these days but I remember I didn’t dig it the first time around. But Casino Royale is just superb, still THE best out of Craig’s Bond films.

      1. Ted S.

        That’s what I’m afraid of when I watch Man of Steel again, I enjoyed the first time around but might not feel the same when I see it again. It’s been a theme this year, I really enjoyed both Iron Man 3 and WWZ in theater but when I watched it again, just didn’t like them as much.

        I actually watched Almost Human last night, pretty descent pilot, although too many scenes reminded me of Blade Runner, Minority Report (especially when he watched the old clip of his girlfriend, that’s a directly ripoff of a scene from Minority Report) and the plot is sort of similar to i, Robot. Hopefully as the show progresses, they’ll come up with something new and “original”. But I’m a sucker for futuristic shows/movies, I’ll keep watching it.

        I didn’t hate Pacific Rim, just didn’t find the story involving enough. It sure does look great though and Idris Alba was the only good thing in the movie. The lead actor, whatever his name is, he sucks. Reminded me of Taylor Kitsch from John Carter.

  4. Dissapointing that The Book Thief isn’t powerful enough to warrant a more resounding recommendation. But I still look forward to giving it a try at some point!

    Great review, Ruth.

    1. Yeah, I’d say it’s perhaps only worth a matinee or rental James. It’s not a bad film, but there just isn’t as strong emotional resonance as what you’d expect from a story like this. I’m curious about the book now though, surely it’s far more compelling.

  5. My sister-in-law read and loved The Book Thief. I have a copy awaiting attention. Thanks for your review – would you believe I did not know they were even making a movie?

    Last night we went to see Thor, we being my husband and 21-year old son. It was definitely their choice of movie and genre and I’ll admit I did not know a lot about Thor. It felt a bit like a combination of Lord of the Rings, Dr. Who and Star Wars to me…I’m not sure if anyone else will understand that comment and I agree with your Thor review that it did not have much character development (which I really could have used.) However, in the end I guess I enjoyed it. I really enjoyed Chris Hemsworth and thought Tom Hiddleston was brilliant. Hopefully, there will be another film with Loki.

    1. Hi Brenda! I wasn’t even aware of the novel so I’m way worse than you 🙂 Are you planning to see it?

      As for Thor, “… It felt a bit like a combination of Lord of the Rings, Dr. Who and Star Wars” I think that’s spot on, esp Star Wars as the flying sequences remind me a lot like it. Yes I’m hoping there’ll be a LOKI film at some point!

    1. Has it premiered yet in Scotland Mark? If you’re into sci-fi stuff, you should enjoy Almost Human. I hope it’ll be something that’ll keep my interest, a lot of TV shows disappointed me after a few episodes.

  6. I had no idea The Book Thief wad due for release! I thought it was sometime next year. I really enjoyed the book, it’s excellent, but it does sound like this doesn’t quite live up to it which is a shame. I didn’t watch much this weekend, I was too busy having my shoulder put back in its socket after a climbing incident 🙂 But I did managed to catch British comedy Sightseers, which was good fun.

    1. Yeah that one came up by surprise to me too, but I LOVE Geoffrey Rush so immediately I was drawn to it. It’s still worth a watch despite my quibbles Chris.

      Oh my, you poor thing!! I hope your shoulder gets better soon, sounds so painful man. Well a good comedy hopefully helps you get through it.

  7. The book theif looked a bit too sentimental for me. may give it a rent tho. And this weekend i saw Frances Ha, which was really good. The main character isn’t exactly likable,but i ended up rooting for her anyways

    1. It’s definitely worth a rent, Julian. The sentimental part could be reigned in, but yeah, it often plagues films w/ this kind of theme. I’ve been curious about Frances Ha, glad you like that one.

  8. Nice review. I do want to see The Book Thief, but it’s not high on my watchlist.

    I saw About Time and 12 Years a Slave (2nd time) this weekend, and I rewatched The Place Beyond the Pines. I also watched several 1945 titles, including The Portrait of Dorian Gray and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

    1. Oh my, 2nd time on 12 Years a Slave! I almost did when the director came to town but didn’t end up making it. I haven’t seen any film about Dorian Gray but you made me curious about The Portrait of Dorian Gray now, will you be reviewing it?

    1. Hi Keith, did you read the novel? Yeah I wish it had been more compelling but it was still a pretty heart-rending and beautiful film. I’d say bring the kids as there are lots of teachable moments in it.

        1. It was to me too, though I knew about the narrator from a colleague who read the book. It made it quite interesting instead of a standard VO, and he’s quite witty, too.

  9. Hi, Ruth:

    I caught the pilot and first episode of ‘Almost Human’ and thought it was pretty well done, medium budget Sci-Fi. Nice to see Dorian (Michael Ealy) starting to evolve and connect with Karl Urban’s Detective Kennex. Also pleasantly surprised to see Michael Irby (“Betty Blue” from the old CBS/Mamet series ‘The Unit’) given a decent character and role.

    Also liking Fox’s ‘Sleepy Hollow’. For its flash back period clothing and lead characters. And for just its hint of Sy~Fy’s ‘Haven’ weirdness.

    1. Hi Jack! I’m already hooked on Almost Human, definitely will be watching this week after week now. LOVE Ealy and Urban, not familiar w/ Irby but I love the lab guy played by Mackenzie Crook, he reminds me of Jack Sparrow, ahah, apparently he’s also in the Pirates movies. Can’t wait for more!

      I almost stayed on for Sleepy Hollow but I don’t know if I have time for 2 shows in one season. I’d love it if you do a review of that show at some point [hint, hint]

  10. Nice review Ruth. The ‘Book Thief’ seems intriguing enough to give it a chance when it comes out on video. Besides, I try not to miss a chance to watch Geoffrey Rush, even though this role doesn’t seem to ask a whole lot from him.
    I missed Almost Human purposely. I think I’m over cop/buddy dramedies clogging network television. When will it stop? I mean, I like Urban, and the concept is one of the more interesting ones pushed through the vine as of late, but I can’t help but think it’ll be just one more of the bunch, or turned into just one more of those middle-of-the-road shows. Besides, I was mad it took over Fox’s late Sunday lineup, especially Bob’s Burgers, which is one of the best, and funniest shows on TV.

    1. It really is worth a watch Niels, and it has a sweet message too. I was going to say in my review that this role seems too easy for Rush, it’s like he’s way too good for the film. At the same time, I have never seen him act with a young kid so it was nice to see.

      Well see, that’s the nice thing about not watching barely any show this year, so I’m not jaded about the cop genre. Besides, I think this one has enough of a twist that I find refreshing. I LOVE Urban but now I’ve come to really like Michael Ealy as well, both of them are superb! See you can’t blame the show for its time slot, ahah, that’s another benefit of not watching anything else, there’s no conflict 😀

      I will blog about this show at some point as I really dug it!

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