Book vs Movie: Murder on the Orient Express

Alright, y’all! You know what time it is… It’s clobberin’ time!

Okay okay, the movie really wasn’t that bad. Actually, I really enjoyed it. I just think it was very different from the book.

So here’s how this all went down: I was super excited for Murder on the Orient Express the movie, and as you know from my previous blog on the book, I had never read any of the Agatha Christie novels before, but I was fairly well-versed in Hercule Poirot movies thanks to my wonderful parents (hi guys!). But when I heard they were making a new movie with Kenneth Branaugh as Poirot, I was really excited.

Naturally, I saw the movie at the theatre and I was…. underwhelmed. Not because it wasn’t a good movie, but because I didn’t think they got Poirot quite right. I’ll get to that in a minute, but first I’d like to mention the three biggest highlights for me in this movie:

 

  1. The visuals are stunning! For a story about being stuck on a train, this movie did not at all feel claustrophobic, which is a huge feat in my opinion. They had interesting camera angles and they managed to get a whole bunch of really wide beautiful landscape shots.
  2. The acting was great. I think that some of the actors (*cough cough* Michelle Pfeiffer) maybe overacted in some parts. Not to be confused with over-reacting. But overall, the acting was fantastic.
  3. This is more of a sub-note, but Johnny Depp was amazing in this. His portrayal of a bad guy was spot on, and I was genuinely creeped out by his performance as Casetti, which is exactly how I felt about his character while reading the story. Fantastic job on his part!

**Note: I’m not adding anything here with spoilers, I will only add something within the plot that happens, but does not play a role in the ending of the story whatsoever**

Now, let’s get to the dicey bits.

To start, there were some plot points that were not at all in the story that I understood why they were there, but felt either could have been placed better or left out completely. I’ll provide you with

 

two examples because these were the things that bugged me the most:

  1. Problems with Prejudice

It’s made pretty clear in the original story that prejudice plays a role on the train. There is an Italian man, Antonio Foscarelli, that M. Bouc consistently tries to get Poirot to believe is the murderer due to his own personal prejudices towards Italians. M. Bouc is also not the only one who has prejudices in the story – a lot of the British people and Americans have backwards ideas about one another.

However, all of these prejudices are about ethnicity, not race. In this movie not only is Colonel Arbuthnot portrayed by a black man, Leslie Odom Jr. (who is a fantastic singer, by the way; he played Aaron Burr in the original Hamilton on

 

Broadway, and really blew me away in this with his on-screen acting chops), but the Italian has been replaced with its Cuban counterpart, Biniamino Marquez.

So I have some issues with this. I mentioned earlier that there were things I think shouldn’t have been there in the first place and things that should have been arranged differently. I think this should have been arranged differently.

For instance, I completely understand that when this story came out (1934) immigration prejudices were far more talked about than those of race – that was always pretty hushed up around white people. Thus, it makes a lot of sense that the man called “The Italian” in the story would be very stereotypical, and not trusted by M. Bouc and others on the train. I also fully comprehend that we don’t have these specific prejudices in our current society. I am sure there are some who do, but for the most part that is not the focus.

The focus at the present is racial, not ethnic. Therefore, it makes a lot of sense to have someone take Foscarelli’s place to make it more topical. That is where Biniamino

 

Marquez comes in. Given our immigration issues currently, it would make a lot of sense to switch that prejudice from Italian to Hispanic. WHY DIDN’T THEY?

Instead of taking the smallest, but most effective action, they switched the story entirely and made Colonel Arbuthnot African-American, and made the prejudices about his skin color.

Here’s why that upsets me (and keep in mind that in this story, every person on the train has some connection with the Daisy Armstrong murder [a play on the Lindbergh trial] two years previously *not a spoiler*): This story takes place after WWI. Historically speaking, African-Americans were in their own regiments, and did not fight alongside white men, let alone well-to-do, influential white men. Historically speaking, it makes absolutely no sense that the Colonel would have been anywhere near Mr. Armstrong enough to have made a deep friendship with him in the war… Actually, it doesn’t make sense for them to have any connection at all in battle!

So here’s the thing, I understand that currently in America we need to have a very serious talk about the racial violence and prejudice going on. We need to figure that stuff out, and we need to have an open dialogue. I want to make that clear. My issues here are not prejudicial, they’re historical.

Now, I am not at all a “purist” – I don’t believe that every literary work when put onto the big screen needs to be exact. However, it’s important to keep the context of the story as close as possible so it doesn’t lose the overall atmosphere of the original story. In keeping the time period (1930s) but making the prejudice about the Colonel and not about the Italian (or Cuban in this case), the historical context is lost.

Granted, that’s my opinion. I feel like while it’s important to have a discussion about race in our current society, it cannot be done the way this movie wanted to do it. With keeping the time period, there is no logical way that a Colonel in WWI (or any war at the time) would have been seated alongside any African-American in equality. That would not have happened, and that really bugged me throughout the movie since they tried to keep the rest of the story historically accurate except that one piece.

What would I do differently, you ask? I think it would have made more sense to keep Colonel Arbuthnot a white man, but make the counterpart to Foscarelli (who was just a regular guy and not in the armed forces) a black man or a Cuban man, which would have aligned more accurately with the prejudices of the time.

2. Poirot’s…. Issues

Alas we come to the thing that needed to change completely: Poirot, himself.

Look, he really wasn’t that bad. He just wasn’t Poirot. What I mean is that as a detective – just a regular ol’ Belgian detective – he’s great. But as POIROT, he misses the mark.

First of all, in the movie – the very first scene of the movie, mind you – Poirot keeps sending back a poor little boy who needs to find two PERFECTLY sized eggs in order for Poirot to have his breakfast. Poirot even has a little measuring tape. In what world would Poirot ever send anything back? His manners completely forbid him to do such a thing, he would rather just sit there and be polite to a fault than send something back, especially that many times. To set the air with that first shot just threw me for a loop because it was so uncharacteristic of Poirot and it was the very first thing you see him do. Hrmph!

Then, there’s the matter of his OCD. The movie makes a big deal about Poirot being OCD to the point that they try to imply that for him, his idea that there is only right or wrong in the world is sprung on by his OCD tendencies of having a right way of doing something and a wrong way, and not a matter of his “little grey cells” that the Poirot stories general imply.

The “cells” by the way are basically a way of saying that it’s in Poirot’s DNA to understand that which others cannot in a murder case. Whereas in the movie, the writing makes it sound like he only sees things because his brain – his obsessive compulsive thoughts – are what allows him to be a good detective. While it may seem like a minuscule thing, to me it was a massive oversight. Or rather, not an oversight but a down-playing of Poirot’s natural abilities.

Finally, there is Poirot’s “heroism.” There’s a chase scene here. Poirot chases someone. A chase scene!! Poirot is supposed to be an older man, portly, gentleman in this series – how exactly do you expect Poirot to run? Because I can assure you it will mess up his mustache and if there’s one thing that you don’t mess up, it’s Poirot’s mustache! That’s all I’m going to say about that – just know that I was flabbergasted.

All in all, objectively this is a great movie. If I knew nothing about Poirot and just went in thinking that it was going to be a fun period-piece detective movie I think you’d come out of it really liking this movie. However, as someone who actually read and enjoyed the story and likes Poirot’s character in general, it was a little tougher to get really into it. Again, I also had a very hard time getting past the historical inaccuracies, which I just felt could have been handled in a more effective, less sloppy way.

But like I said, it’s still a really enjoyable movie. It has a lot of plot twists that you don’t see coming (a lot of which they added to this movie that wasn’t in the original story, but nevertheless was entertaining), the acting was great, and the cinematography was spectacular.

Not surprisingly, the book wins this battle once again!! However, while I think you should read the book, I really do urge you to see the movie as well because it really was a fun movie to watch and it’s not that long. If you have time I would say go see it or rent it at home when it comes out because it was very entertaining!

Well, that’s all folks! As always, if you have any comments or questions, feel free to leave them below, or you can e-mail me at rachel@booksandcleverness.com!

Until next time,

Rachel

e-mail: rachel@booksandcleverness.com

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Heartless Pt 1 of 2 Review

Alright we have a little bit of a situation.

I started reading Heartless by Marissa Meyer to start the new year off right – haaaay 2017, whaddup? I’m absolutely in love with Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles series, and I was thrilled when I heard that she was writing a new book – separate from the series – about who The Queen of Hearts was before Alice in Wonderland. That’s awesome, right?!

Except I really don’t like this book so far.

So what’s the deal, you may ask? Why is this even going to be two parts if you don’t like it, you may ask? Well, I got so pissed off at this book that I put it down for three days. In fact, I got so pissed off at this book that I started reading another book! But after careful consideration today, I decided that I’m going to tough it out.

I have not loved a Young Adult fantasy series like I do the Lunar Chronicles since I read the freakin’ Hunger Games in 2010. Six years! It took SIX YEARS for me to find a YA series that I genuinely, absolutely adored. So I think I owe it to myself, and to Marissa Meyer, to give this book a fair chance. After all, the Lunar Chronicles was five books – so I know she’s a great writer.

Now, I’ve made my feelings very clear in a previous blog post back in 2015 why you should stop reading books you don’t like. However, I’m going to tough this one out, and see if she doesn’t disappoint…. For science!

Before I say the bad stuff about the book, let me tell you one great thing: the packaging. The book cover is gorgeous, the hardback is beautiful, and even down to the page it’s stunning to look at it. That’s one thing I can say without a doubt about Meyer’s novels, is that the artwork is phenomenal.18584855

Okay, why do I not like Heartless so far? Well, to start, it’s incredibly slow on the uptake. I understand that she’s trying to build suspense, and set the scene, and I appreciate that. But the way she goes about it is wrong.

The book so far has been about a girl, Cath, who dreams of owning a bakery with her servant, and best friend, Mary Ann. She’s such a wonderful baker that the King of Hearts himself requests for his desserts at parties to include her treats. Now what Cath doesn’t know, is that her parents have arranged for her and the King to get married. At the royal ball, the King is about to announce to everyone that intends to marry her. Spooked, Cath flees from the ball she faints and is revived from the new Court Joker, Jest.

This all seems fine, normal, and dandy right?

Yeah, but that night she discusses with Mary Ann that she doesn’t want to marry the King at all. She wants to open the bakery.

Before I get into that, I want to take a minute to mention that the King is like the world’s nicest man! He’s always happy and kind to everyone he meets, he’s constantly smiling and telling bad jokes, and yes maybe he laughs too much, but I’d rather be around a King who is kind and can laugh at the world than one who can’t stand his people or takes everything too seriously. Just a genuinely sweet man, and she acts as if he’s the grossest thing in the world, and thinks his laughing is so annoying. I mean, look lady, did it ever occur to you that maybe you’re just a stick in the mud?

Anyway, so she complains to her friend-servant that she doesn’t want to marry the King and how awful that would be. Mary Ann, who is a servant, is rightfully upset. She doesn’t understand how anyone could not want to be Queen – she wouldn’t answer to anyone, she’d have all the freedom in the world, she’d be able to do anything she wanted, and the King was a nice man… I mean, come on, you can’t really complain to a servant – who will never be able to move upwards in society, and who has to clean your goddamn bed pans every night – that yeah, I guess it’s a wonderful opportunity for not just Cath, but for her entire family and probably even all of the servants and servant’s families because they’d likely be moved to the castle to serve, but by golly does that bakery on main street sound nice!

Here’s my other thing, if she’s the fucking Queen, why can’t she open a bakery herself? If that’s the only thing in life that she’s concerned with then by marrying the King she would be able to have the money to pay for the bakery, would have all day every day to bake in the royal kitchen which I would assume is pretty top notch, and to buy the specific plot of real estate she wants without going behind her parent’s back and stealing the money they were going to use for her dowry (I forgot to mention that her parents don’t even know she wants a bakery because Cath has never told them, so instead of them listening to her and understanding what she actually wants for her life, they just assume that she would be happy marrying the King. And even when she says she doesn’t want to marry the King, Cath still doesn’t tell her parents what she wants instead). Am I wrong, here? Furthermore, it’s not even like the King would be mad, I don’t think. I think he’d be happy because it would mean she’s making him desserts all day, and bringing in money for the Kingdom. I mean, really.

I understand that in the end she’s going to do something horrible because she is still the “off with their heads!” Queen, but holy crap – I mean, I have no sympathy for her struggle in the least. I’m just waiting for her to know that she’s evil so that at least I can hate her as the villain in this story and not just as annoying narcissistic girl with no empathy for what her loved ones might be feeling.

Now lets move on to this Joker, Jest. Cath feels like she’s in love with him because she had a dream about him and then suddenly lemons and roses appeared in her bedroom. Okay, that’s a little weird, I’ll give you that, but a dream does not a relationship make! Furthermore, in almost every instance Jest has hinted that he’d be happy being the jester to the King and to her – AS THE QUEEN – for the rest of his life. He even talked to the King when he realized she wasn’t ready for marriage and asked the King to slow it down and court her, to which the King was delighted to do because he really, truly cares about Cath for whatever unknown reason other than her goodies (pun intended).

It honestly sounds like a one-sided romance to me. And not in the brilliant way that Meyer’s did in her novel Fairest where we follow the bad guy before she was the bad guy and you can see all of the things that led to her becoming the way she is, including forcing a man to love her by killing his wife and then making herself look like his dead wife. I 22489107mean that character went through some really messed up stuff, and I can’t really blame her for becoming evil. Not that I liked the character, and in that book she did some really dark stuff, but at least I understood. In this, it’s different. The character is just a jerk, but she thinks she’s this thoughtful great person.

So now I’ve reached that impasse where I think, Rae, you’re like two hundred pages in, and even when you skipped ahead  to see how much more of this book you’d have to sit through, she still was on the fence about marrying this King and running off with Jest- do you really want to subject yourself to listening to this spoiled girl go on and on about how she wants this bakery? 

Normally my answer is no. Normally, my response is to say fuck this book – I’m moving on. Life is too short to be reading bad books. But then there’s that flicker that says, Nah, dawg, wait it out. 

Thus, I’m listening to the flicker. Even as I wrote that sentence, I rolled my eyes and put my hand on my face like “oh, I have such a headache, I’m a screw up. Fuuuuuuuuuuuucc…..”

We’ll see. I hope I’m not disappointed, but this bitch better either turn evil real quick so I’m justified in hating her or at least make me sympathize with her in like the next 40 pages because I swear by the time this book is finished I’ll have gouged claw marks into the pages.

I’m going to try to read it as swiftly as possible, but no guarantees it’ll be done in the next few days because at this rate it’s been about four days and I haven’t even touched it. I promise I’ll pick it up, though, guys. I do promise you that, because I’m actually interested in seeing where this experiment goes.

Now I’m off to do me the big science! She blinded me with sciiiiience… na, na naaaa, na…. Science!

I’m sorry I just threw some Thomas Dolby at you. I’ll just be over here if you need me.

Until next time,

Rachel

e-mail: rachel@booksandcleverness.com

Book vs Movie: The Martian

I did it! I saw The Martian!

After reading the book by Andy Weir back in July and waiting for a painstaking 3 whole months for the movie to come out, I have finally seen it! And let me tell you….. it was worth it.

For anyone that doesn’t know (because they’ve been living under a rock) The Martian is about an astronaut named Mark Watney who is believed dead on Mars. Only he’s not dead, and he needs to find a way to survive on a lifeless planet for at least four years.

The book was geeky, funny, and excellently written, and the movie was the same. That being said, I liked the book so much more. Here’s why:

  1. There is nothing that can simulate the incredible writing that Andy Weir delivered in his book. The book captivated you into this astronaut’s life to the point where I would go through the day and think, “man, I really need to figure out a way to get the rover to have more room.” …. I’m not even stuck in space and I’m worrying about fixing a rover? WHAT? But it’s things like that that make me realize how great of a writer he is. To be able to get someone (who knows absolutely nothing about math, science or mechanics) to truly start thinking as the main character to the point that they want to work on their non-existent space rover is a wonderful feat.
  2. The jokes!!! In the movie they keep a very good amount of the jokes and little things that Mark Watney says, but not nearly enough. I was sitting in bed laughing and reading parts of jokes to my boyfriend because I just thought it was hilarious. In the movie, there were funny parts, but they weren’t as good as the book.
  3. Matt Damon! I’ve mentioned this enough times, but I love Matt Damon. I love him in everything he’s been in. But I just don’t know if he was the right choice for this movie. While he was excellent in it, and anyone who hasn’t read the book might think that he was the perfect candidate, I just felt that the actor who played Watney should have been geekier and have less of the “I’m Matt Damon and I’m super awesome and funny” attitude.
  4. Lastly, the mishaps. In the book there are things that happen to ruin everything he has worked for in a split second. In the movie, they use one or two of them. I read the book and thought a countless number of times, “how the fuck is he going to live now?” I didn’t really get that same sense of absolute urgency and devastation from the movie. And I think it could’ve done so much better if it kept that in there (and the movie did really well).

All of that said, the movie was really great. The acting was excellent, the art direction was phenomenal, and the story was even better. I just very much advise you to read the book first. It was just so spectacular for people who like all different types of novels: funny, science fiction, character study, action, all of it! It was such a perfect book, and you’ll love it.

My verdict?

TO DATE:    Book: 5, Movie: 4

If you have any suggestions for books I should read or if you just want to say hi, you can comment below or shoot me an e-mail at rachel@booksandcleverness.com

Until next time my lovely blog family!

Rachel

A Very Long Review of The Martian by Andy Weir

I’d like to tell you a little story about how I never listen to my dad. First, let me start by saying that when I was a kid my dad would always joke, “don’t trust your father.” Obviously he was kidding, but I did end up taking that lesson with me in two aspects: books and movies.

Movies are the easiest for me to explain. For a long time we would watch movies together that he wanted me to see and know of. I would always play it cool and say that they weren’t that great of movies (even though they were pretty fricken awesome). So whenever he recommended a movie to me he’d say, “don’t you trust me?” and I’d always say “No.” Of course this has changed, and if my dad recommends a movie now it goes immediately onto my watch-list…

…Except for Chappie, which he pitched to me as “it was so bad. You really shouldn’t watch it…. Actually, watch it and see how bad it is. It’s so bad.”

But books are different. My dad is an avid reader, albeit an incredibly slow reader, but he loves books. He got me addicted to fantasy and science fiction, and I’m forever grateful for that. However, as I’m sure you’ve figured out, I take books very seriously. I love when people give me recommendations so I can add them to my to-read list, but I don’t like being pushed into reading a book. I’m stubborn like my mom and the more you push me to read a book, the less likely I am to read that book out of sheer principle.

My dad is the King of Pushers. He will recommend a book, and I’ll usually find that book’s concept pretty interesting, but I’ll add it to my list and keep going through the books I already have lined up. This does not satisfy my dad. He will continually say, “You HAVE to read this book. When you’re done with your book, you NEED to read this one.” and when I finish my book, and start reading a different book, he’ll say the same things. Over and over again, until he gives up and reads a new book that I HAVE to read.

But something strange happened. I learned about the upcoming movie, The Martian, starring Matt Damon (and if you read my To See or Not To See post back in February you’ll know that I love Matt Damon. I really do. He’s wonderful. Also, my sister would hate me for saying this but Ben Affleck is not as attractive as everyone thinks. Matt Damon totally wins that contest, hands down), and realized it was a book. The second I found that out, I was hooked. I had to add it to my list.

But then my boyfriend and I went over to my parents house for dinner. I told my mom about this really cool new movie that’s coming out that has Matt Damon in it, about this guy that’s stuck on Mars and has to plant crops on Mars and survive, and it’s even a book! And to my surprise she said, “That sounds like the book that Dad’s reading.”

What?! My dad is reading a book I want to read before I even hear of it?? What alternate universe is this??

It turned out, he was reading The Martian. He recommended it instantly and said, “oh my God, Rae, you HAVE to read this. The writer reminds me so much of your writing style. It’s funny, written well, and you just have to read it.” But this time, I trusted him. (Note: Sorry, Dad, I’m learning how to trust you again. I know this dampens your street cred.)

What happened when I started reading The Martian, written by Andy Weirwas magical. The first page made me laugh, and I entered a world that was completely foreign to me, but I felt completely at ease.

The story is about a man who is believed to be dead on Mars, but he’s not. He needs to figure out a way to survive on Mars indefinitely, using only a small amount of resources. It’s so good.

Andy Weir’s writing style is so sarcastic, but so detailed and rich that it’s not like reading a book where the author just tries to be snarky, instead it’s actually like reading this man’s life, and reading what he’s going through – being Mark Watney’s friend. Weir is an incredible writer, with a ridiculous amount of knowledge when it comes to science and math (something that just went straight over my head), but always finds a way to make the characters relatable even with them being super science and math driven.

If I could give this book 500 stars out of 10, plus 15 high fives, and four thumbs-ups, I would. 18 Quatloo’s for you, sir!

Everyone needs to read this book before the movie comes out. I know I’ve mentioned a hundred times that I don’t necessarily think that seeing the movie first is a bad idea, but in this case: read the book first. The movie comes out October 2015, so you have a few more months to read it, even if you’re as slow of a reader as my dear old dad. Go get it!

All that said, I’d like to give a shoutout to my dad (as if there haven’t been enough in this post) for finally getting me to read one of the books he’s recommended. Good job, Pops. This is a big day for you.

If you’ve read this book, please comment below so we can discuss it because oh. my. god. All I want to do is talk about it right now. If there could be a The Martian chat room, I’d join it right now.

Until next time, blog family!

Rachel

email: rachel@booksandcleverness.com