Oh how I loved The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak when I first read it way back in 2009 (read my review). And so when this amazing book was made into a movie, I could not wait to see it. But I had to wait, because it only just now arrived in my area (the movie was actually released in November). My husband and I went to see it Saturday and it was powerful and wonderful. Not only did it follow the book (I hate when the movie is different from a book I’ve loved), but the actors chosen for the characters were perfect.
First let me talk about Sophie Nélisse (a Canadian teen actress) who plays the part of Liesel. She is stunning with huge, expressive eyes…and she nails Liesel, capturing her vulnerability, but also her feisty nature and love of words. This young actress stole my heart on many levels and was the perfect choice for Liesel.
The actors for both Rosa and Hans (Liesel’s adoptive parents) were also perfect. Geoffrey Roy Rush, AC, is an Australian actor and film producer and he embodies the warm heart and caring nature of Hans. As soon as he walks on screen, he creates the fatherly chemistry needed for the part. And then there is Emily Margaret Watson, an English actress, who plays the part of Rosa. Initially tough and biting, she manages to show Rosa’s soft heart as the movie progresses.
Outstanding performances were also given by Ben Schnetzer as Max Vandenburg (a Jewish man who takes refusge in the basement of Rosa and Hans), Nico Liersch as Rudy Steiner, and Roger Allam who narrates the story as Death.
Director Brian Percival has done an astonishing job at capturing The Book Thief on the big screen – from setting, to music, to the actors he chose to play the various characters, the effect was brilliant. Poignant, and with a wonderful message of love and the power of words to overcome evil, The Book Thief movie is well worth your time. Go see it.
I am delighted to be able to offer one lucky U.S. reader of my blog the chance to win both Call the Midwife: Shadows of the Workhouse by Jennifer Worth (Ecco, January 2013) and the television companion The Life and Times of Call the Midlife.
Call the Midwife: Shadows of the Workhouse has been published for the first time in the US and is the continuation of Jennifer Worth’s #1 UK bestselling memoir trilogy, and the basis for the popular BBC and PBS series, “Call the Midwife”. This enduring work of literary nonfiction is at once a warm-hearted coming of age story and a startling look at women’s lives in the poorest section of postwar London. Ecco will be publishing the third book in the series, Midwife: Farwell to the East End, in March 2013.
ABOUT the Television Companion
Season 1 of “Call the Midwife” has already run in the UK and it was higher-rated than “Downton Abbey.” In fact, it is the highest-rated new BBC drama ever in their history. Season 2 airs in the UK January 2013.
PBS bought “Downton Abbey” and is just as excited about “Call the Midwife.” They will premiere the first episode on Sunday, September 30 at 8:00 p.m. PBS has already signed up Seasons 2 and 3 of “Call the Midwife.”‘
The book is the authorized TV companion and is being put together by Harper UK (who published the bestselling Downton Abbey companion) and the book’s writer is the actual screenwriter for the series.
ABOUT Call The Midlife: Shadows of the Workhouse
From the Publisher:
In the 1950’s, twenty-two year old Jennifer Worth left her comfortable middle class life to work as a midwife in the East End, the direst section of postwar London. During her time there as a midwife she not only delivered hundreds of babies and touched many lives, she became its most vivid chronicler.
When Worth became a midwife, working with the Nonnatus nuns in the East End of London, she joined a community whose lives had often been touched by the shadow of the workhouse, a persistent Victorian institution in which the poor adults and children alike lived like prisoners. Worth tells the true stories of the people whose lives had been warped by such places. There is the story of Peggy and Frank whose parents both died within six months of each other leaving them as destitute children; the story of 7-year-old Jane whose bubbly spirit was broken by the cruelty of the master of the workhouse; and the story of Mr. Collett, a Boer War veteran, who lost his family in the two world wars and ended up in a relic of the workhouse system. As in Worth’s other books, what shines through in these portrayals of triumph over tragedy is the unbreakable resilience of the human spirit.
With deep professional knowledge of midwifery and an unerring eye for the details of life in the London slums of the Nineteen Fifties Jennifer Worth has painted a stunningly vivid picture of an era now passed. – Patrick Taylor, MD, author of the New York Times bestseller An Irish Country Doctor
Readers will fall in love with Call the Midwife. . . an affirmation of life during the best and worst of times.” — Elizabeth Brundage, author of The Doctor’s Wife
Jennifer Worth trained as a nurse at the Royal Berkshire Hospital, Reading, and was later ward sister at the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital in London, then the Marie Curie Hospital, also in London. Music had always been her passion, and in 1973 she left nursing in order to study music intensively, teaching piano and singing for about twenty-five years. Jennifer died in May 2011 after a short illness, leaving her husband Philip, two daughters, and three grandchildren. Her books have all been bestsellers in England.
ENTER TO WIN:
Contest is open from January 30, 2013 through February 7th at 5:00 pm PST.
Contest is open only for those living in the continental United States.
Prize pack is two books which will be mailed to the winner by the publisher.
One winner will be selected randomly at the close of the contest and their name will be announced here on my blog (I will also contact them by email to confirm their mailing address).
Have you seen the trailer for this new series coming to the History Channel in March?
THE BIBLE is an epic 10-hour television series produced by Roma Downey (Touched By an Angel) and Mark Burnett (The Voice, Survivor, Shark Tank, Celebrity Apprentice) premiering on 3/3/13 on History Channel, and Blu-ray and DVD soon after. Downey plays Mother Mary and Emmy-winner Keith David provides voice-overs throughout. Oscar- and Grammy-award winning composer Hans Zimmer created the musical score to the iconic saga.
Last weekend my husband and I went to see The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo English-language 2011 movie produced by Columbia Pictures. Some of you may remember that I read this book and did not completely love it (read my review), although I did love Lisbeth Salanger. I went to the movie with some reservations…but I ended up loving it. It is very faithful to the book and, as in the book, Lisbeth (acted by Rooney Mara) stole the show. The cinematography is stunning (the opening title sequence, created by Blur Studio, is amazing), as is the soundtrack. The movie was filmed in Stockholm, Zurich and the United States.
Besides Rooney Mara, who should win an Oscar for her performance, Daniel Craig played Mikael Blomkvist. I ended up feeling exactly the same way about this character as I did in the book – although he is charming, he is actually a bit of a spineless guy who uses women. Of course, that is the whole point of the story – the degradation of women. Lisbeth as the gutsy, strong female lead shows that women do not have to be the “weaker sex.”
Movie goers should be warned – the “R” rating of the movie is well deserved. There is significant violence, including an especially graphic rape scene. The sex scenes do not leave a whole lot to the imagination either. There were moments in the movie where, I admit, I looked away. That said, the movie is a fast-paced, edge of your seat thriller which I will not soon forget.
Be aware – this movie, which is a United States production, is different from the original Swedish version and is not yet out in DVD.
I recommend reading the book before seeing the movie as the movie does leave out certain plot points.
He was a dreamer. Even when he was busiest smoothing down the paste on the wallpaper, or painting the outside of other people’s houses, he would forget what he was doing. Once he had painted three sides of a kitchen green, and the other side yellow. The housewife, instead of being angry and making him do it over, had liked it so well that she made him leave it that way. And all the other housewives, when they saw it, admired it too, so that pretty soon everybody in Stillwater had two colored kitchens. – from Mr. Popper’s Penguins, page 5 -
The classic children’s book Mr. Popper’s Penguins, written in 1938 by Richard and Florence Atwater, takes place in the small fictional town of Stillwater where Mr. Popper lives with his wife and two children. Mr. Popper is a dreamer, a man who works as a painter but longs to travel the world. When a letter written to Admiral Drake results in a surprise delivery of a live penguin from Antarctica, the Popper’s family is turned upside down. Then a second penguin arrives unexpectedly from a zoo, and the penguins begin to multiply. Before the Poppers know it, their home has been converted into a freezing playground for penguins. Eventually, Mr. Popper discovers that penguin antics are marketable and the Popppers hit the road with their penguins to entertain the public.
The book is delightful, silly and wholly fantastical. Children of all ages will find this 1939 Newbury Honor winner whimsical and fun.
It is no wonder, then, that Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment is releasing the modern retelling of the story (based loosely on the book) on December 6th. Starring Jim Carrey as Thomas Popper and Angela Lansbury as Selma Van Gundy (a woman who owns an historical restaurant slated for destruction), the movie opens in New York City with Thomas Popper as a successful businessman with an art for persuasion. Divorced with two children, Thomas has little time for family…a fact which stems directly from his abandonment issues from childhood (his father, an enthusiastic adventurer, spent most of Thomas’s childhood traveling the world). When Thomas gets the news that his father has passed away in Antarctica, the last thing he expects is a crate bearing a live penguin…followed by a second crate with five more penguins.
Jim Carrey is hilarious in the role of Mr. Popper as his svelte New York City apartment is converted into a penguin’s dreamworld. But beneath the humor is a larger message – that of letting go of wealth and prestige to focus on the less tangible things which bring us joy: family, love and personal relationships.
The Mr. Popper of the movie is not the carefree, slightly eccentric Mr. Popper of the book. Instead, viewers will recognize the wholly modern version of the American family with divorced parents and a father whose dedication to his work damages his family connections. When the loveable, rambunctious penguins take center stage, however, redemption and second chances abound.
This is a heartwarming movie which is perfect for the holiday season. Kids and parents alike will enjoy the antics of the penguins (the movie uses both computer generated and live animals). I thoroughly enjoyed Carrey’s physical comedy. The lesser known Ophelia Lovibond does an admirable job as Mr. Popper’s assistant Pippi. Her constant alliteration of all things beginning with “p” will especially appeal to younger viewers. And of course, Angela Lansbury is wonderful, as you would expect.
The DVD has some great extra features including the making of the film using live penguins, an educational bit about penguins, and an animated feature of what happens “after” the movie.
My conclusion: both the book and the movie are fun and entertaining. The movie is a very loose interpretation of the book, but will engage all audiences…especially children, but with an appeal for adults as well.
Interview with Ophelia Lovibond on the red carpet at a special screening of Mr Popper’s Penguins at the Empire Cinema in London:
Academy Award® Winner Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson On Blu-ray and DVD November 1
LIFE IS THE MOST SPECTACULAR SHOW ON EARTH
Thanks to the generosity of Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, I am thrilled to be able to offer one lucky reader to my blog a DVD/book bundle of Water for Elephants. Recently I was able to view an early release of the film and loved it (read my review). Those readers who have already read the book will find that the movie closely parallels the novel (read my review of the book).
Summary of the Movie:
Take a journey back in time with the romantic tale based on Sara Gruen’s New York Times #1 Best-Seller novel of the same name, WATER FOR ELEPHANTS, coming to Blu-ray and DVD on November 1st from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment. Starring Academy Award®-winner Reese Witherspoon (Walk The Line), Robert Pattinson (Twilight series) and Oscar®-winner Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds), the film presents an epic tale of forbidden love in a magical place filled with adventure, wonder and great danger. Showcasing the decadence of a bohemian circus and the majesty of its animals against the backdrop and beauty of a bygone era, WATER FOR ELEPHANTS makes the ideal holiday gift idea for your favorite film buff, fashionista or book-lover!
Devastated by the sudden death of his parents at the height of The Depression, a young dreamer from the wrong side of the tracks, Jacob Jankowski (Pattinson), abandons his veterinary studies at Cornell University. With no other family, no house, and no money, Jacob stows away on a train carrying the circus performers of The Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. Hired as a veterinarian to care for the troupe’s animals, Jacob is temporarily filled with the promise of an exciting life that comes with a traveling circus troupe. However, as he builds a rapport and falls in love with the star of the show, Marlena (Witherspoon), they become prey to the circus’s owner, Marlena’s violent and abusive husband August (Waltz). As the circus begins to crumble from within and against all odds, Jacob and Marlena come together and fall in love through their compassion for a special elephant. With their love on the line, Jacob and Marlena come to a crossroads that will forever change their destiny.
Directed by critically-acclaimed filmmaker Francis Lawrence (Constantine), WATER FOR ELEPHANTS features fantastic supporting performances from Paul Schneider (Lars and the Real Girl), Jim Norton (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets), Mark Povinelli (The Polar Express), Richard Brake (Batman Begins), and Academy Award®-nominee Hal Holbrook (Into the Wild).
U.S. Rating: PG-13
Total Run Time: 2 hours, 29 minutes
The DVD includes the following:
Robert Pattinson Spotlight
Feature Performer Reese Witherspoon
The Traveling Show: From Page to Screen
Audio Commentary with Director Francis Lawrence and Writer Richard LaGravenese
How to Enter to Win this Bundle:
You must have a US/Canada mailing address to be eligible.
I read the novel Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen way back in 2007 and thoroughly enjoyed it (read my review), so when I got the opportunity to preview the movie (due for release on Blu-Ray/DVD November 1st), I took it. The producers of this film (starring Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon) have been incredibly true to the book. In many ways, the film builds upon the romance between Jacob Jankowski and Marlena. The passion between them that readers first experienced between the pages of Gruen’s well-received novel crackles on screen.
Water for Elephants is about Jacob Jankowski who is first introduced as an elderly man longing for his younger days in the circus. Jacob has a story about the Benzini Brothers Circus – a story most people do not know. The movie quickly flashes back to Jacob’s younger years as he discovers the circus, Marlena (the wife of the violent circus owner, August), and a special elephant named Rosie.
Fox has done a remarkable job recreating a circus set in the prohibition days. The settings and costumes captured exactly what I had imagined while reading the novel. And there is no better actress to play the stunning and captivating Marlena, than Reese Witherspoon.
Pattinson is a real heart throb and it is no wonder he won the Teen Choice award for his portrayal of Jacob Jankowski. Don’t believe me? Check out this look at his performance:
My sister and I watched this movie and were completely captivated – we both agreed that its portrayal of story and characters paralleled the novel perfectly.
The film has been rated PG-13 and I think that is an appropriate rating. Younger viewers, or those who are sensitive, should be warned there is some violence against both animals and people in this movie which may be upsetting to some people.
Book groups who wish to read and discuss Water for Elephants will find the movie a wonderful complement to their analysis of the book. Fox has developed this excellent Book to Movie Study Guide which would help jump start a lively discussion: