Thursday Movie Picks #36: Movies adapted from a Young Adult Novel

ThursdayMoviePicksHappy Thursday everyone! This is another entry to the weekly Thursday Movie Picks that’s spearheaded by Wandering Through the Shelves Blog.

The rules are simple simple:
Each week there is a topic for you to create a list of three movies. Your picks can either be favourites/best, worst, hidden gems, or if you’re up to it one of each. Today the theme is… 

Movies adapted from a Young Adult Novel


How I Live Now (2013)

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An American girl, sent to the English countryside to stay with relatives, finds love and purpose while fighting for her survival as war envelops the world around her.

I saw this film three years ago at TCFF. It’s definitely one of the darker young-adult adaptations that sort of flew under the radar. I didn’t give it a stellar review as it seems more elusive than suspenseful but I think it’s worth a look for it’s intriguing survival story in a doomed distant future based on a YA novel by Meg Rosoff. I’ve always been impressed by Saoirse Ronan and her casting was the main draw for me to see it. She didn’t disappoint, even if the uneven tone of the film prevents this from being a truly compelling film.

Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe (2005)

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Four kids travel through a wardrobe to the land of Narnia and learn of their destiny to free it with the guidance of a mystical lion.

Seems that it’s been ages since I saw this movie but I remember being enchanted by it. There’s mystery, adventure and magic, a proper fantasy film of good vs evil filled with interesting characters. One of those characters is no doubt Mr. Tumnus, played by then-unknown James McAvoy. The child actors were wonderful but it’s the supporting cast who are the truly memorable, especially Tilda Swinton as the White Witch and Liam Neeson‘s voice lending gravitas to the godly lion Aslan. This is director Andrew Adamson‘s live-action debut, but I think he did C.S. Lewis’ beloved work justice.

Harry Potter films (2001-2011)

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Rescued from the outrageous neglect of his aunt and uncle, a young boy with a great destiny proves his worth while attending Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

I got into the Harry Potter franchise rather late, in fact it was around the time the first of the two final movies was released that my hubby and I started watching. Well, the first few were good but thankfully they got better in future installments, and I’d say my favorite is The Prisoner of Azkaban when Sirius Black appeared. Even amongst a stellar all-British cast, Gary Oldman still stood out in the role. It doesn’t hurt that the film was directed by Alfonso Cuarón. I have to give props to Daniel Radcliffe and the rest of the young cast for being so watchable across 8 movies and made me care about their journey. The last two Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows final films are adventurous, properly dark and emotionally-engaging. I might revisit these movie again and this May I’m actually visiting The Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park in Universal Studios 🙂


What do you think of my picks? Have you seen any of these films?

TCFF Awards & Top Five Film Picks from TCFF Bloggers

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Happy Halloween everyone! Pardon the late post for this folks, due to my traveling schedule to attend my sister-in-law’s wedding in NYC, naturally I had to put the blog on hiatus. But I’m back now, so here’s the summary of the 10-day film fest that ended with awards announcement during the Festival’s Closing Night Gala in St. Louis Park, MN.

Eight films were singled out for awards late Saturday night. Leading the pack was the critically acclaimed August: Osage County, starring Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts, which walked away with the festival’s coveted Best Feature Film award.

The indie horror hit Delivery, which enjoyed its world premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival in June, won the festival’s inaugural “Indie Vision Award.” Twin Cities audiences championed Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, starring Idris Elba, with the TCFF Audience Award (feature), and the Mason Makram short The First Date with the TCFF Audience Award (short).

The awards ceremony marked the culmination of the 10-day festival, which screened more than 75 titles – a mix of independent premieres and Hollywood sneak peeks – at the Showplace ICON Theatres. In addition to the annual October festival, the Minnesota-based non-profit organizes year-round programming, as well as industry networking events and educational opportunities. Learn more at twincitiesfilmfest.org.

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The complete list of 2013 winners:

Best Feature Film: August: Osage County (dir. John Wells)

Best Documentary: Antarctica: A Year On Ice (dir. Anthony Powell)

Best Short Film: Hot and Bothered (dir. Jake Greene)

Audience Award (Feature): Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (dir. Justin Chadwick)

Audience Award (Short): The First Date (dir. Mason Makram)

Indie Vision Award: Delivery (dir. Brian Netto)

TCFF Breakthrough Achievement Award: Emily Fradenburgh, actress, Nothing Without You (dir. Xackery Irving)

Congrats to all the winners! Now, naturally everyone’s going to have a different list of favorites, so I asked two of TCFF blog volunteers to list their own top five picks. Here they are:

Sarah’s Picks:

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  1. August: Osage County. Meryl Streep as the venom-spewing, drug-addicted matriarch of a dysfunctional Oklahoma clan. ‘Nuff said.
  2. Nebraska. I’m a fan of Alexander Payne (“Sideways,” “The Descendants”) so I thoroughly enjoyed this funny yet poignant glimpse into a father-son relationship.
  3. Trust, Greed, Bullets and Bourbon. This movie is what film fests are all about. I found myself pleasantly surprised by this independent tale of a heist gone wrong. And I got to meet the director in person as well, what’s cooler than that?
  4. Remote Area Medical. Filmmakers Jeff Reichert and Farihah Zaman managed to bring one of the hot button issues of our time into focus as a human story that allows the viewer to reach their own conclusion without sensationalism.
  5. Hot and Bothered. This one is just for fun- in 12 minutes, filmmakers Natalie Irby and Jake Green develop a plot that you wouldn’t mind watching again to catch the subtle nuances and enjoy the double entendres.

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Adam’s Picks:

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  1. The Gold Sparrow. This played in block one of the Best Of Minnesota Shorts. A spectacular animated film from Daniel Steesen, with only having music for its soundtrack, it is able to tell an intriguing story about a woman who steals the color of this animated world. It has an amazing score that is fast paced and keeps up with the vibrant colors used in the color stealing scenes.
  2. Honeymoon Suite. This film played before the feature presentation of “We Are What We Are.” This film tells the story of a difficult hotel guest who stays at a hotel once a month for a problem he can’t deal with at home. Originally planned as an extended commercial for a Chinese hotel that claims to be able to handle any type of hotel guest, it is able to take on a life of its own, and is a delight to enjoy.
  3. Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom. This film is a new bar on how biopics should be made. This movie aimed to be very ambitious in how detailed and extensive it is in telling the story of Nelson Mandela and it is able to accomplish it and show the good and bad of how Nelson Mandela has lived his life. Idris Elba turns in a top notch performance becoming Nelson Mandela during the course of this film. Audience will be amazed at how deep Elba goes to pull off this role.
  4. Antarctica: A Year On Ice. A Fascinating documentary about the men and women who work on the research bases in Antarctica. Director Anthony Powell had to build and test equipment he made on his own to capture long extensive footage and time lapses in Antarctica as most camera equipment already available can’t survive the harsh environment. A beautifully shot film and engaging documentary that gives insight to the people who are work in Antarctica.
  5. How I Live Now. This movie tells the story of an American teenage girl who is visiting her cousins in England when all of a sudden World War 3 starts. The movie stars Saoirse Ronan who turns a spectacular performance of a girl who has to grow and mature whil the world around her drastically changes. The physical and mental journey Ronan’s character endures in this movie is one rarely seen. The movie has some dark elements but is still a delight to watch as the film allows you to feel the same emotions as the main character has, the characters and stories are fleshed out so well in this film.

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Ruth’s Picks

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Now, for my picks, I only include feature and documentary films, as I’ve listed my favorite short films in this post, which includes the TCFF winner Hot and Bothered, as well as the sci-fi-themed short A Better Life. Check out my interview with both filmmakers Jake Greene and Conor Holt. I missed a few films that I had planned on seeing as I was sidelined with a cold, but out of what I was able to see, here are my favorites in alphabetical order:

  1. August: Osage County
    With a cast like this one, naturally one has quite a high expectations but thankfully it delivers. Well to be exact, they deliver! Meryl Streep does it again, proving she is the acting legend of our generation and beyond playing a decidedly- unlikable role. The rest of the cast of this extremely-dysfunctional family does wonders as well, though as a big fan of Benedict Cumberbatch, I have to admit his scenes are my favorites. He’s memorable even in his brief scenes, plus he sings beautifully too! Even though it’s tricky to adapt a play into film, I think the story actually translates pretty well thanks to John Wells’ direction. If you think your family is a mess, you probably would feel a heck of a lot better about it once you see this film.
    ,,,
  2. The Armstrong Lie
    One of the best documentaries I’ve seen, it’s so well-made, beautifully-shot and features an unprecedented access to its subject matter. The Lance Armstrong doping scandal resulted in perhaps THE biggest fall-from-grace of any celebrity athlete in the world. Yet, the doc is not done in a way to paint Armstrong as evil, I think it’s a pretty balanced account of the debacle as it starts out as a project about his come-back to Tour de France. In the end, it’s not so much about the doping but the abuse of power in covering ‘a lie that has become unbelievable’ that brought him down.
  3. Gladiators: The Uncertain Future of American Football (view my full review)
    Considering I’m not even a football fan, it’s a testament to how good this documentary is that I list it as my favorites. It’s eye-opening but also quite entertaining. In 90-min, it’s jam-packed with historical backgrounds, stats, and first-account interviews with various players, medical professionals, as well as some family members of the people suffering from the brain injury CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy). An essential viewing for sports fan, but definitely worth watching even if you’re not.
  4. Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
    There has been quite a lot of films involving Mandela, in fact I think I’ve seen three of them in the past five years. But this is perhaps the most comprehensive as it’s based on his own biography of the same name. I LOVE Idris Elba so he’s the main draw, but even so, I was a bit skeptical of his casting at first. But I think Elba did a fantastic job immersing himself into the South African hero, as what matters in the end is not the ‘look’ of the actor but his ability to embody the essence of the character. I also love the relationship between Nelson and his second wife Winnie (played wonderfully by Naomie Harris) and the two have a strong chemistry. At 146 min, the film’s editing could’ve been tightened a bit but Elba’s compelling performance has the gravitas to command your attention, every step of the way.
  5. Nebraska
    I knew this one would boast great performances but I was still surprised how much I enjoyed this film. Alexander Payne has a gift in creating a whimsical family drama, balancing comedy and poignancy in this father & son road trip film. Bruce Dern deserves all the kudos he’s been receiving for his performance (including his Cannes’ Best Actor win) as he holds the screen even without saying a word. SNL alum Will Forte is quite a revelation in a serious role, though it’s June Quibb as Dern’s wife is the real scene-stealer with her outrageous remarks. The film is also boast a marvelous black & white cinematography of Midwestern America.
    ….

Honorable Mention:
SearchForSimonI just had to include The Search for Simon, a British sci-fi comedy, directed by Martin Gooch who’s also the lead actor in the film. It’s a enjoyable little film that’s hilarious and quirky without being mean-spirited. It’s also doesn’t have a lot of crude language that’s typical of British comedies, and Mr. Gooch is so immensely likable! I hope this will be available to rent soon, I highly recommend it if you enjoy British humor. Check out the specially-made video from Martin Gooch if you haven’t already. Trust me, it’s a hoot!

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That’s it from TCFF 2013! Hope you enjoy our coverage this year.
It’s always been fun to be a part of the film festivities!

Join us next year on October 16, 2014!


Thoughts on any of our picks? Which one(s) of these have you seen?

TCFF Day 7 reviews: The Liability, Casual Encounters, How I Live Now

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Now that TCFF has wrapped, I’ll be posting some reviews from the last few days of the film fest, as well as which films won the TCFF Awards which was announced last night. Glad to see some of my personal favorites getting nominated. You can check out the list here.

Now here are some films from Day 7 that are worth checking out:

How I Live Now

by Ruth Maramis

I have not heard about this film until it was announced as a TCFF lineup. I was immediately drawn to it because of Saoirse Ronan who’s been excellent in everything I’ve seen her in so far. This time it’s no different. In this film adaptation of novel by Meg Rosoff, Ronan plays an angst-y American teenager Daisy, who reluctantly goes to spend her Summer vacation with her cousin in an English countryside. Once she’s there, the rural house is in complete mess as her four cousins, Isaac (Tom Holland), Piper (Harley Bird), Edmond “Eddie” (George MacKay) pretty much had to look after themselves as their mom is involved in a mysterious project, something about the ‘peace process,’ who’s quickly whisked to Geneva, never to be seen again.

What starts out as an idyllic vacation, complete with picnic, lake-swimming, and a blossoming teen romance between Daisy and Eddie, life is soon turned upside down for them as war suddenly broke out, seemingly out of nowhere. Whilst there are hints along the way that of what looks to be a World War III scenario, from news footage on TV, signs of military presence, etc., when nuke effect “snow” from a London nuclear attack falling on them, it still came as quite a surprise. As the country descend into a violent and chaotic military state, Daisy is given a chance to return to America, but yet she chooses to stay with Eddie.

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The last half of the film becomes a journey for survival story as Daisy and Piper flee a forced-labor camp through the woods. The pacing of the film drags at times, and I find the film’s relentlessly-allusive storyline a bit frustrating. I like a good mystery but somehow this film felt more elusive than truly suspenseful. I also feel like the chemistry between the characters a bit lacking. The romance is far from gripping and the pairing of Daisy and Piper also didn’t quite mesh well, though both actors did a good job. Thus I didn’t feel as emotionally-involved with the characters as I otherwise would.

I do think the premise is intriguing though, and there’s enough going for it here that kept me engaged. The tone is dark and pretty grim, especially the last third of the film, with some gruesome doomsday scenes that warrants its R rating. Just like she did in Hanna, Ronan pretty much carried the film here and she’s more than capable. She easily outshines everyone else in this film, though Harley Bird as Piper has some scene-stealing moments. The cinematography is gorgeous as well, giving us a stark contrast between the serene and lush pastoral beauty and the sinister apocalyptic views of a doomed future.

As far as young adult stories go though, this one is certainly far more compelling than other ‘supernaturally-themed’ offerings out there. I quite like the hopeful but not ‘too neat’ ending, though some might feel it’s a bit anti-climactic. It could’ve been a bit more compelling, especially coming from director Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland, State of Play), but I’d say it’s worth a rent though if you’re a fan of the talents involved.

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Casual Encounters

by Adam Wells

Casual Encounters is an anthology film about people who meet other people online for a casual night of love. The movie shows five different people’s experience with a casual encounter and they do intertwine as some characters show up in multiple storylines. The film is really 5 short films and in some cases they have been shown separately in some cases but Casual Encounters has them shown altogether.

The movie has excellent performances all around, the actors and actresses in this film handle the maturity of the content of this nature. In particular the character of Eric who is the only one to appear in three storylines including his own, his character has many levels of depth to him as his life is a bit complicated. Eric is portrayed by Aaron Mathias (who was also the star of Things I Don’t Understand which premiered at TCFF last year), and he is definitely an actor to keep on your radar.

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The movie has many settings that take place at night, but despite that the cinematography is done very well, while also different color palettes for lighting in each story’s setting. As each story differs in its nature of intimacy and sexual orientation, the colors of the lighting seem to change, and that shows the producers and director really thought through the composition of the shots wanted the viewer to associate certain colors with certain interactions, as Eric’s story is the final one in the film and has multiple settings as opposed to the other stories that have one or two.

Overall, Casual Encounters is an excellent film and comes highly recommended due to its amazing performances, elaborate world it creates with intertwining storylines, and its content that is usually not shown in films. The film plays against the viewers expectations as it has romantic movie plots but they don’t play out as most romantic movie plots usually play out, which is always pleasant to see.
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The Liability

by Sarah Johnson

A movie with good plot twists that also wraps up all the loose ends by the time the credits roll? The Liability, the new crime tale directed by Craig Viveiros and written by John Wrathall, does just that. It stars Tim Roth as Roy, a world weary hit man who only wants to retire so he can attend his daughter’s wedding, and Jack O’Connell as Adam, the 19 year old stepson of Roy’s gangster boss Peter (Peter Mullan). When Adam wrecks Peter’s car he gives him a job of becoming Roy’s driver as a way to work off his debt. “It’s either that or the septic tank,” Peter says.
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Of course things don’t go according to plan. A bizarre string of events involve a girl, a hippie van and the true reason Adam was paired with Roy. Suffice it to say, when I heard a nearby audience member gasp at one of the plot twists, I knew the filmmakers had done their job. Casting Tim Roth in one of the starring roles was a good choice as his wry acting style is a good mix with the sexy edginess of the movie. (“I haven’t killed a woman since 1983,” he proclaims.)
The one thing I found slightly lacking was the chemistry between O’Connell and Roth- it would have been nice to see them play off each other more. Some might say the movie is a little too by-the-book in wrapping it up at the end. I appreciate movies that keep you guessing as well but is walking out of the theatre feeling like you understood everything so wrong?

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So that about wraps up our Day 7 reviews. Any thoughts about any of these films?

TCFF Day 7 Highlights: MN Shorts 2, The Liability, Casual Encounters, How I Live Now

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Only four more days left at TCFF but there are no shortage of great films to look forward to. Between my two volunteer staff and I, there’s a myriad of shorts, documentary and feature films we’re planning to catch tonight:

Beyond Right and Wrong: Stories of Justice and Forgiveness

Wednesday, October 23, 2013 at 4:00pm

Directed by Lekha Singh & Roger Spottiswoode

BEYOND RIGHT AND WRONG follows the stories of survivors, like Beata, whose children were murdered in the Rwandan Genocide; Bassam and Rami, who each lost a daughter in the conflicts in Israel and Palestine; and Jo, whose father died in the bombing of the Grand Hotel in Brighton during the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Relying on the survivors’ own words, BEYOND RIGHT AND WRONG does not dwell on the violence and loss, but highlights healing through forgiveness, as victims and perpetrators alike begin humanizing the people they once perceived as enemies or animals. By sharing their experiences of loss and anger, their struggles with forgiveness, and their efforts for peace, these survivors have opened a discussion on the role of forgiveness in the search for justice.

This premise of this documentary intrigues me. It’s a tough subject that promises to be a heart-wrenching and thought-provoking one.


MN Shorts Part II

Another collection of great short films shot in the state of Minnesota!


Panhandler – 25 minutes

Go Home – 13 minutes 

PROTOS – 17 minutes 

Public toilet – 2 minutes 

The Information Thief – 11 minutes 

3 Bullets – 14 minutes


The Liability

Showing: Wednesday, October 23, 2013 at 6:30pm

Directed by Craig Viveiros

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Dark comedy thriller starring Tim Roth and Jack O’Connell. When Adam (O’Connell) is asked to be the driver for a business associate of his mother’s crime boss boyfriend, he soon finds out that this business associate is Roy (Roth) – an aging hitman on the eve of his retirement. While Adam drives Roy to what he hopes are his last ever jobs, a series of unexpected events lands the pair in a game of cat and mouse with a mysterious Latvian woman (Talulah Riley).


Casual Encounters

Showing: Wednesday, October 23, 2013 at 9:00pm

Directed by Will McCord

No matter how alone or strange one may be, internet sex personals provide an anonymous setting to divulge one’s most secret and intimate desires. Post an ad about your kinkiest desires and you’re bound to receive dozens of replies from like-minded people – some genuine and real and others deceitful and predatory. CASUAL ENCOUNTERS tells five stories where each character meets their online respondent for what they think will be a simple encounter. What they discover is very different.


There’s also another screening of Hot & Bothered short film tonight. Stay tuned for a spotlight post on that with review and interview with director Jake Greene!


How I Live Now

HowILiveNowShowing: Wednesday, October 23, 2013 at 8:30pm

Directed by Kevin Macdonald

Starring Saoirse Ronan (The Lovely Bones, Atonement, Hanna and The Way Back) and based on the popular Meg Rosoff novel, HOW I LIVE NOW tells the story of an American girl on holiday with her family in the English countryside, who finds herself in hiding and fighting for her survival as the third world war breaks out. A powerful tale of battlefield heroics, shattered innocence, and how love enables us to endure.

I’ve been a huge fan of Ronan since I saw her in Atonement, and one of my favorite Irish actors. She’s easily one of the most talented young actress working today so she’s the main draw for me here. I also like the Scottish director Kevin Macdonald’s previous work State of Play. Sounds like the role is tailor-made for Ronan, I hope this film is worthy of her talents.


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Ticket Prices are as follows:
General Admission $10; Opening/Closing Gala $20; Centerpiece Gala $20; Sneak Preview Galas $20. Festival Passes can also be purchased: Silver $50 for 6 films; Gold $70 for 10 films; or Platinum $120 for 12 films + 2 tickets to Opening, Closing or Gala. (Silver and Gold Packages do not include Opening, Closing or Gala Tickets).

For more information and to purchase tickets visit www.twincitiesfilmfest.org.


So that’s Day 7 highlights. Any one of these piqued your interest, folks?