Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) – Movie Review

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

Cast: Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, Toby Kebbell & Kodi Smit-McPhee

Writers: Mark Bomback, Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver

Director: Matt Reeves

Viewed: Monday 21 August 2014 @ Event Cinemas Glendale, Newcastle.

The Planet of the Apes franchise has a long and checkered history. The original 1968 movie is a classic but, as is often the case, each subsequent sequel got worse and worse. The 2001 reboot/remake by Tim Burton is universally reviled (rightly so) and better off forgotten. Then 2011 brought us yet another reboot in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and we finally got the first film worth of carrying on the legacy started over four decades previously. Now the second reboot gets a sequel. Will it find itself associated with the more positive entries in the Apes series, or just another entry on the seemingly endless list of forgettable entries?

Is whiteface still racist on a monkey?

Is whiteface still racist on a monkey?

Ten years after the events of Rise, the “Alzheimer’s cure”, now know as the simian flu, that escaped the labs of Gen-Sys has wiped out most of the human population on Earth (some rather nifty opening credits depict this). Apes however, led by Caesar (Andy Serkis, King Kong), have prospered and made a home for themselves in the woods outside San Francisco (we get no clues as to how apes from anywhere else in the world are doing) where they have been developing their language skills, becoming more educated, raising families and becoming a tight-knit community. Meanwhile, a group of genetically immune, human survivors, including leader, Dreyfus (Gary Oldman, The Dark Knight), Malcolm (Jason Clark, Zero Dark Thirty), Ellie (Kerri Russell, Mission Impossible III) and Malcolm’s son Alexander (Kodi Smit-McPhee, Let Me In) are holed up inside San Francisco but on the verge of running out of the fuel that feeds their power source, so they need to repair the local dam…which just happens to be located inside the Apes’ domain. Now the humans and apes must learn to trust each other to avoid a war, which could end in the extinction of either or both species.

I’ve read that Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is being described as the Empire Strike’s Back of the franchise. This is simply not true. It’s a decent movie, certainly the best sequel the series has seen, but I don’t think it’s better than Rise in any way. First of all there’s the leading man. I’m all for Aussie’s making it big in Hollywood, but Shane Clark is no James Franco. In fact all the human characters are pretty dull and underdeveloped. Gary Oldman is always dependable but he only has a handful of scenes and does little more than, annoyingly, yell into a megaphone. As for Keri Russell, her character could have almost been completely cut without making much of an impact on the final film. I understand that the main draw of this movie is supposed to be seeing how the apes have progressed since everything that happened in Rise, be we still need interesting human characters we can relate to. They’re not present here. Instead we’re given cliché characters with a throwaway line or two about each of their past lives that is supposed to make us care about them. It doesn’t work.

Then there are the apes, who are thankfully given much more development as we spend much more time with them (all the important players are also given individual external markings that are handy when trying to distinguish who is who, like Caesar’s son Blue Eyes who gets some large scars across his chest in the opening scene, his wife Cornelia (Judy Greer, Carrie) who wears a headpiece and his right-hand-ape Koba (Toby Kebbell, RocknRolla) who you’ll remember from Rise as the one-eyed, menacing lab-chimp who first releases the virus). The 10 year jump works well in that we get to see them in a place where they have evolved enough to speak occasionally (they communicate amongst themselves mostly using sign language, at the beginning of the movie anyway. Their speech seems to improve considerably towards the end), build what is essentially an ape city and creating their own set of laws to live by in an attempt not to become too much like the humans who treated them (mostly), and each other so badly and ultimately created a virus that led to their own demise. This without them having yet completely evolved into the half man/half ape beings of the original movies. The film is at its most interesting when we are spending time with the apes without any human interference. The big problem with the apes is that the CGI is often so bad that they often look as bad as those half man/half ape beings from the 1960’s. That might be an over exaggeration but they’re certainly a step down from Rise. Perhaps because there are just so many of them now and so many CGI shots needed that the budget wasn’t sufficient. There is a scene where a baby chimp is climbing over a couple of the human actors and it is so terribly fake they may as well have just left the tennis ball on a stick that the actors were so obviously actually interacting with in the shot.

None of this means I didn’t enjoy the movie. I did. I just didn’t find it to be the cinematic masterpiece that some seem to be lauding it as. The story it tells is an interesting one and feels like a natural next step after Rise. There are a few LOL moments, a few genuinely tense moments and a few naaawww cute moments. It just has its flaws and is very uneven. A small example of this is during the climatic battle where the tension of hundreds of apes advancing on the human compound is quickly replaced with ridiculouslessness as we witness Koba on a galloping horse maniacally wielding two machine guns. It’s misplaced silliness in what is an otherwise mostly serious movie. Oh, and the 3D is utterly pointless (there is not a single instance where it is warranted. Save yourself the extra $ and stick to 2D). Still, I am looking forward to a few years time when we get Mid-Morning, or Brunch or High Noon of the Planet of the Apes. For all these reasons I give Dawn of the Planet of the Apes 3 ½ Rant and Rave points.

Be sure to head over and read my friend Doctor Ry’s review here.

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The Fault in Our Stars (2014) – Movie Review

The Fault in Our Stars (2014)

Cast: Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Laura Dern, Sam Trammell, Nat Wolfe & Willem Dafoe

Writers: Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber

Director: Josh Boone

Viewed: Wednesday 16 July 2014 @ Event Cinemas Glendale, Newcastle.

The Fault in Our Stars instantly became a favourite book of mine as soon as I read it last year. Great characters, great dialogue and great writing (something that is sorely lacking from much of popular literature these days) and a lack of supernatural creatures made it stand out among the over-abundance of “young adult” fiction that has been hitting the shelves over the last few years. Author, John Green truly created something special. The combination of my love for its source, how impressed I was with Ansel Elgort in the otherwise mediocre Carrie remake last year (you can read me gush about him here), and my interest in seeing Shailene Woodley and Elgort go from playing siblings to lovers in movies released just months apart, made this film one of my most anticipated of 2014. I couldn’t wait. It stands to reason then that university exams, illness and moving to a different State meant I didn’t get to see it until its final day of screening at my new local cinema.

#foreheadbreathing

#foreheadbreathing

When Hazel (Woodley, Divergent), suffering thyroid cancer and needing to be constantly fed oxygen through nose tubes, meets Gus (Elgort), in remission from osteosarcoma after having a leg amputated, at a cancer support group, there is an instant attraction between the two teenagers who share a tendency for using big words and a sharp wit. When Hazel introduces Gus to her favourite book “An Imperial Affliction” they soon share a passion for the story and a burning desire to know more about the characters from one-hit-wonder-author, Peter Van Houten (Willem Dafoe, The Grand Budapest Hotel). The two are soon inseparable, bound for Amsterdam, and set to experience love, disappointment, heartbreak…and maybe even oblivion.

What can I say? This is the film adaptation all book lovers ask for. It’s extremely faithful to its source with all your favourite characters and scenes jumping for the page to the screen. Time is taken to develop the characters and the acting is stellar throughout, with special mentions to Laura Dern (Jurassic Park) as Hazel’s mum and Nat Wolff (New Year’s Eve, though I’m trying not to hold that against him, a guy’s gotta eat, right?) as fellow cancer sufferer, Isaac. The two leads have great chemistry and their love is convincing (to quote the popular internet meme: Still a better love story than Twilight). The ending is inevitable, yet tragic and real. I have a lot of praise for this one and only one criticism, just a small one: the dialogue doesn’t work as well on the big screen as it does on the written page. It’s not as if it is clunky or terrible, it’s just that the way these teenagers speak isn’t what you generally hear in real life and somehow their thoughts, feelings and comments work better when you’re reading them than when you are hearing them. It in no way sullied my enjoyment of watching the movie though.

If you love a romance, or a comedy, or a tearjerker, or a feel-good story, then this one is for you. It has a bit of everything for everyone. It is surprisingly funny, something you might not expect from a movie where the two leads have cancer. You’ll LOL, you’ll TUM (Tear Up Majorly. Start using it. It’s the next big thing, I promise). It is also surprisingly uplifting. You’ll leave with red eyes, but also a smile on your face. For all these reasons I give The Fault in our Stars 4 ½ Rant and Rave points.

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Last Vegas (2013) – Movie Review

Last Vegas (2013)

Cast: Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline, Mary Steenburgen, Jerry Ferrara, Romany Malco, Roger Bart, Joanna Gleason, Michael Ealy

Writer: Dan Fogelman

Director: Jon Turteltaub

Viewed: Wednesday 19 February 2014 @ Event Cinemas Myer Centre, Brisbane.

Well colour me surprised. Recently, gathering a group of “big name” stars for a comedy hasn’t always meant great results (I’m talking about you Valentine’s Day & New Year’s Eve). Then there is the fact that De Niro has been in some truly terrible films over the last few years, Freeman spent most of 2013 phoning in his performances, and I can’t remember the last time I saw Douglas or Kline in anything, let alone something good (yes, I know Douglas has Behind the Candelabra, but I haven’t seen it so my statement stands). Understandably, I had low expectations heading in to Last Vegas, and I was pleased beyond belief to have them greatly exceeded.

Legend...wait for it...

Legend…wait for it…

When Billy (Douglas, The Game) proposes to his less-than-half-his-age girlfriend (Bre Blair, Quarintine 2: Terminal) while delivering a eulogy at a friend’s funeral, his best friends of the last 60 years decide to throw him a bachelor weekend in Vegas. There are some long simmering tensions in the group but Sam (Kline, Wild Wild West) wants to escape his wife (Gleason, Sex and the City) who he is bored with, Archie (Freeman, The Shawshank Redemption) wants to escape his overbearing son (Ealy, Underworld: Awakening), and Paddy (De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook) wants to escape his empty apartment after the death of his wife a year earlier, so they all end up in the city of sin. There they meet lounge singer Diana (Steenburgen, Step Brothers), confront issues from the past and present, and “party like it’s 1959”.

Ok, yes, Last Vegas is as cliché as they come. Everything you think would happen in a “fish out of water” story of a group of 70 year olds partying it up in Vegas certainly does. People laugh at them, they try to get in to clubs, they ogle big breasts, they declare that they must take naps. You’ll also know exactly how the movie is going to end in the first 20 minutes. The thing is, it’s still so much more than that. It’s genuinely funny for one. There was only a small audience in the theatre but everyone was LOLing very often. The comic timing and delivery of the leads is perfect (Morgan Freeman drunk on Red Bull Vodkas comes straight to mind). I actually can’t remember a joke that didn’t work. It’s also extremely moving in a number of places. De Niro doesn’t do vulnerable very often, but he should. Paddy’s anger at Billy and subsequent softening towards him is some of his best work in my recent memory. Billy’s inevitable epiphany towards the end of the movie that he hasn’t been as good a friend as he could and he’s not as young as he used to be also caused a tear to well in my eye. Freeman and Kline get their chance to shine too.

There are a couple of very small negatives. There’s an odd cameo from LMFAOs Redfoo that doesn’t really work (though I would have loved to be a fly on the wall when they explained to De Niro what would be happening to him during this scene). A later, smaller cameo hits a better note. A storyline involving Sam and a cross-dressing Roger Bart (The Stepford Wives) doesn’t really evolve into anything (I think it’s supposed to show Sam that “odd couples” can work, but we don’t know enough about he and his wife for this to really resonate). Finally, Billy and Sam aren’t always the most sympathetic of characters. Both of these guys have women at home but are in Vegas acting like single men. Again though, these are all minor and don’t affect the enjoyment of the movie.

This was clearly a very fun movie to make. It’s obvious throughout the entire viewing. There are great performances all round with a couple of the leads even going some way towards mending past transgressions in my mind. The film’s conclusion is rife with sequel opportunities but that’s something I definitely hope doesn’t happen. It works as it is and needs to stay as a standalone (remember how much you loved The Hangover? Remember how fast it went downhill with the sequels? In fact there have been a lot of comparisons between this and The Hangover but the two are completely different brands of comedy). Comedies are hard to judge because everybody has a different sense of humor but I had a great time watching this. For all these reasons I give Last Vegas 4 Rant and Rave points.

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The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) – Movie Review

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

Cast: Leonardo DeCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Kyle Chandler, Rob Reiner, Jon Bernthal, Matthew McConaughey

Writer: Terence Winter

Director: Martin Scorsese

Viewed: Wednesday 22 January 2014 @ Event Cinemas Indooroopilly, Brisbane.

Arguably the most hotly anticipated, non-sequel (Desolation of Smaug, Catching Fire) release of late 2013/early 2014, The Wolf of Wall Street has finally arrived. The internet has been buzzing for more than a year about this movie, with stories of 4-hour running times, issues with ratings, setting records for the use of profanities, extreme drug use, sex and nudity, and glorifying the life of its criminal protagonist, Jordan Belfort, and this was before it was nominated for a slew of Oscars (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay). It is not an exaggeration that The Wolf of Wall Street had a lot of hype to live up to. Could it ever possibly have a chance of meeting such high expectations?

Insert high-pitched howl here.

Insert high-pitched howl here.

After learning the “true” ways of Wall Street and becoming a licenced stockbroker under the tutelage of Mark Hanna (McConaughey, Mud), Jordan Belfort (DeCaprio, Django Unchained) has soon created his own company, consisting of a group of his friends in an old garage, selling useless “penny stocks” to unsuspecting fools. The scam takes off successfully and soon Belfort and his best friend/partner, Donnie Azoff (Hill, This is the End), have a large office full of workers, are millionaires and are living a high life of sex, drugs, yachts, mansions, and money smuggling. Things begin to come undone for Belfort when an FBI agent (Chandler, Super 8) starts investigating him, but it is ultimately Belfort’s own arrogance that is his true downfall.

Well, expectations met. This movie is great fun. Scorsese has created a world and characters you will love to hate. Belfort is a douche-y as they come, but DeCaprio is so energetic and mesmerising in his performance that you can’t help but understand how the real-life Belfort was easily able to suck so many people in to his schemes. Really, the whole cast has this effect. It’s perfect. McConaughey, in what amounts to a small cameo role, leaves an impression that lasts through the entire film. Hill is just going from strength to strength in Hollywood. Both he and DeCaprio deserve the Oscars they have been nominated for. Margot Robbie (About Time), wow, all of Australia should be proud of the girl from Ramsey Street as she holds her own against some of America’s most famous stars. Her role could have so easily become a caricature, but Robbie keeps that from happening. There just isn’t a single mistake made in the casting process.

If there is anything stopping The Wolf of Wall Street receiving a perfect score, it’s its running time. Three hours isn’t too long for a movie by any means, it’s just that the first two acts are so fast-paced and engrossing that you barely realise they are passing. In the third act, however, when things begin to unravel for Belfort, the film slows down ever so slightly, but it’s enough to make you start checking you watch. Cuts could have been made (well, more cuts anyway, since considerable cuts have already been made to reach the current run time). That is a very small criticism though. It’s not as if you’ll be sighing in relief when the credits start to roll. Possibly quite the opposite because you will be wanting to spend more time with DeCaprio in the role of his career.

It’s impossible to deny that Martin Scorsese (Goodfellas) is a brilliant filmmaker and The Wolf of Wall Street continues his legacy. Plus, who doesn’t love a Scorsese/DeCaprio collaboration (the two of them appear to be working to undo the record kept by Burton and Depp). All his signature techniques are present here, the New York setting, the slow motion, beginning the movie with a scene from further along the storyline. The difference between Scorsese and other directors’ techniques (J.J. Abrams’ lens-flares for example) is that Scorsese never over uses them or makes them feel forced down our throats. In a movie where the subject matter and characters are so horrid and offensive (I can’t imagine any other situation where I would laugh so hard after hearing the words cerebral palsy), he manages to create a perfect balance so you have no choice but to find yourself entertained by what you are experiencing. For all these reasons I give The Wold of Wall Street 4 ½ Rant and Rave points.

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Saving Mr. Banks (2013) – Movie Review

Saving Mr. Banks (2013)

Cast: Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, Colin Farrell, Ruth Wilson, Annie Rose Buckley, Paul Giamatti, Bradley Whitford, B.J. Novak, Jason Schwartzman, Rachel Griffiths

Writers: Kelly Marcel & Sue Smith

Director: John Lee Hancock

Viewed: Friday 17 January 2014 @ Event Cinemas Indooroopilly, Brisbane.

A quick Wikipedia search on the woman who penned the Mary Poppins books makes for a compelling read and the life of P.L. Travers would certainly make for an interesting film. Apparently though, Hollywood was not so interested. That is until it was decided to focus on the production of the Mary Poppins movie. And so we have Saving Mr. Banks, a dramatisation of Travers’ time as a part of the wonderful world of Disney.

Perhaps one of the best movie posters in recent memory.

Perhaps one of the best movie posters in recent memory.

It’s the early 1960’s and Pamela Travers (Thompson, Love Actually) is running out of money. Walt Disney (Hanks, Cast Away) has been chasing the rights to Mary Poppins for 20 years now and, against her better judgment, Travers relents and decides to meet with Disney and his team, including scriptwriter Don DaGradi (Whitford, The Cabin in the Woods) and songwriters Robert (Novak, Inglourious Basterds) and Richard (Schwartzman, Moonrise Kingdom) Sherman, in L.A.. Travers, however, insists on complete creative control over the film and proceeds to make life extremely difficult for everyone involved in the project. Travers’ time in Los Angeles is intercut with flashbacks to her childhood in Australia were her father (Farrell, Fright Night) struggles with alcoholism, her mother (Wilson, The Lone Ranger) with depression and the young Helen “Ginty” Goff (Travers’ birth name) meets the real-life inspiration for the magical Nanny.

People are saying that Tom Hanks has been “robbed” by not receiving an Oscars nomination for his portrayal as Disney, but it is Thompson who has truly been robbed (although, admittedly, Cate Blanchet deserves the win for Blue Jasmine). As the stern and harshly blunt Travers, Thompson delivers every eye roll, every sigh, every criticism and demand with absolute perfection. The whole cast is indeed in excellent form (Colin Farrell, particularly, delivers his best performance since In Bruges), but this is definitely Thompson’s film and she carries it brilliantly. Don’t get me wrong, Hanks is great too, but not Oscars great.

Other standouts are the set and costume designs, which will have you believing you’ve been transported back to the 60’s. From downtown L.A. to Disneyland, from Disney’s offices to modes of travel, everything looks legit. The scenes in early 1900’s Australia are also well done. They work. Flashbacks aren’t always everybody’s cup of tea but the story being told in these add to the overall narrative of the film and are edited into the main story in such a way that they are never distracting, in fact I found myself waiting for them to find out what would happen next. Annie Rose Buckley, in her first role besides one episode of Home and Away, proves herself extremely capable as the young Travers and has great chemistry with Farrell.

“Based on a true story” films always need to be taken with a grain of salt, and this one probably needs to be taken with a teaspoon on salt (see what I did there?). It has obviously been Disney-fied to the extreme. Travers was not a nice person and almost certainly never softened towards the Mary Poppins movie or the team behind it in the way it is presented for us here. It’s hard to imagine the same woman who demands the exclusion of any songs (along with the colour red) from the movie dancing around the room with the Sherman brothers to on one of the musical inclusions in a matter of a couple of weeks in their company. Making Travers a little more sympathetic than she was in real-life is understandable though. The film wouldn’t work quite was well if she was just an absolute bitch the whole time. As dishonest as it may be, it is a brilliantly made, acted and entertaining movie. For all these reasons I give Saving Mr. Banks 4 ½ Rant and Rave points.

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Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2013) – Movie Review

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2013)

Cast: Chris Pine, Kevin Costner, Kenneth Branagh, Keira Knightly

Writers: Adam Cozad & David Koepp

Director: Kenneth Branagh

Viewed: Thursday 16 January 2014 @ Event Cinemas Myer Center, Brisbane.

Well this was inevitable. I had been having such a good run of seeing great movies that something had to come along to ruin it all. A movie so bad it would finally let me have a good rant. A movie so bad you wonder how the name Kenneth Branagh could be listed in the credits as an actor let alone as the director! A movie so bad you wonder how anyone involved in its production could have ever been taking it seriously. A movie so bad you feel the  company and people responsible for it should be paying you to suffer through it instead of the other way around. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is that movie.

The best thing about this movie: the poster

The best thing about this movie: the poster

The movie opens, inexplicably (maybe this is covered in the books but it is certainly given no explanation here) with Jack Ryan (Pine, Star Trek) studying in London. He sees coverage of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on a television and in the next scene is in the military serving in Afghanistan. In a sequence so ridiculously edited you have absolutely no chance of deciphering what is happening a missile hits the helicopter Jack is travelling in and he is horrifically injured. Now he’s in an army hospital learning to walk again and “flirting” with Cathy (Knightly, Atonement), the med student responsible for his rehab. While he’s there Jack is creepily being watched by Thomas Harper (Costner, Waterworld) who may or may not work for the CIA and thinks some reports Jack wrote back in his Afghanistan days were good enough to warrant him becoming a CIA analyst. This is all enough for Jack to really want to walk again. Ten years flash by and Jack and Cathy are together and Jack is, indeed, an analyst for the CIA who works undercover in banks uncovering terrorist financial activities. There’s some suspicious stuff going on with some Russian associates of the bank and, of course, nobody but Ryan is suitable to travel to Moscow and meet with the (possibly) Russian terrorist, Viktor (Brenagh, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets). Soon Ryan is killing people, Cathy is assisting in CIA sting operations and Russians are trying to start “the next great depression”.

Where do I even start with this garbage? Well, I certainly have nothing positive to say so I’ll jump straight in to the negative. Firstly, every casting decision is terrible. Pine does not at all convince as Ryan and Knightly is flat and boring. Put them both together on screen and there is zero chemistry. It’s like they don’t even know each other when they have supposed to have been together for years. Brenagh as the Russian bad guy? Please. It’s probably his worst performance ever. Costner comes off the best of the bunch, but that isn’t saying much. The script is awful. Events occur simply to progress the “storyline” and rules are established and then broken as soon as it’s convenient. There is never any tension established. You never care for any of the characters or about anything taking place. The direction? Oh dear. There is not a single flourish or shot of originality. There is no love engrained in any of it. No care. It’s lazy, pedestrian work on Branagh’s part and it’s severely disappointing.

“Let’s reboot the Jack Ryan franchise!” they said. “It’ll be great!” they said. They were so very, very wrong. Instead, it’s a piece of shit. There is absolutely nothing to recommend this movie. It’s not worth the price of admission to the cinema and it won’t be worth the price of renting or buying it when it is released on bluray. Hell, it isn’t even worth the time or space it would take up on your computer to illegally download it (not that I would ever condone such a thing). For all these reasons I give Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit 0 Rant and Rave points.

Read my good friend, Doctor Ry’s review here.

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The Book Thief (2013) – Movie Review

The Book Thief (2013)

Cast: Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson, Ben Schnetzer, Sophie Nelisse, Nico Liersch, Roger Allam

Writer: Michael Petroni

Director: Brian Percival

Viewed: Sunday 12 January 2014 @ Event Cinemas Indooroopilly, Brisbane.

The 2006 novel The Book Thief, written by Markus Zusak, is a superbly written story. The concept of Death narrating the life events of a small girl he encounters during Nazi Germany is so brilliant, and so wonderfully done, that the book is a pretty perfect entity in itself, making, in my humble (yet all-important) opinion, a film adaptation completely unnecessary. Nethertheless here it is. So how does the story of The Book Thief stand up on the big screen?

That there's some terrible CGI fire.

That there’s some terrible CGI fire.

After the death of her little brother and abandonment by her Communist mother, Liesel Meminger (Nelisse, Pawn Sacrifice) is taken to live with Hans (Rush, The King’s Speech) and Rosa (Watson, Red Dragon) Hubermann during the rise of Hitler in Germany. In between stealing books whenever the opportunity presents itself, Liesel develops relationships with her “new parents”, the neighbour-boy, Rudy (Liersch, Afrika Ruft Nach Dir), the wife of the Mayor (Barbara Auer, The Weekend), and a Jew named Max (Schnetzer, Ben’s Plan), who has a connection to Hans’ past and shows up on their doorstep one night seeking refuge. Through these friendships Liesel begins to understand the world she is growing up in and that “sometimes when life robs you, you have to rob it back.”

I freely admit it is hard for me not to compare the book and the movie. I really do love the book. That being said though, the movie is pretty damn good too. Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson are both perfectly cast as the Humbermann’s, in fact the whole cast is impressive (the child actors, which can so often ruin a movie, are great); the friendship between Liesel and Max is developed well (the two of them together have some great chemistry and generate most of the movie’s LOL moments); the young love between Liesel and Rudy is sweet, innocent and believable; and the whole town and community of small-town Molching, Germany during WWII is beautifully realised on screen. The film left almost as much of an impression on me as the book (if you don’t have tears in your eyes during the film’s final few minutes there’s every chance you might be missing a small part of your soul).

Sure, some sub-plots from the book have been exercised, but that is necessary and expected. Much of Death’s witty, hauntingly accurate narration has been lost, but again you can’t have everything. Overall it’s still a great story being told, and told well. When watching book adaptations I always wonder: would the author be happy with this? In this case I can’t see how Zusak couldn’t be. For all these reasons I give The Book Thief 4 Rant and Rave points.

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