Review: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Sometime in the early 21st century, World War Terminus has resulted in widespread destruction and nuclear fallout, so everyone who can afford it has emigrated to Mars. To help these emigrants establish a new civilization, androids were created to be servants and laborers. As time went on, the androids became more sophisticated until they were virtually indistinguishable from humans — except for a complete lack of empathy. Now some of these androids have returned to Earth, where their presence is illegal, and policeman Rick Deckard is charged with hunting them down and “retiring” them. In fact, he is authorized to kill them on sight; but as he pursues the rogue androids, he must confront his own feelings and beliefs, including what it means to be human.

When I started this book, I was expecting the main issue to be the nature of the androids themselves: If they have the same intelligence and (mostly) the same emotions as humans, aren’t they also human? But oddly enough, the book leaves no doubt on this issue — the androids are not human, and Rick Deckard’s struggle with this fact gets him into trouble on several occasions. Even though the androids are machines, Deckard can’t help but see them as human beings, due to his own empathetic response. He feels pity for them, recognizes their contributions to society, and even falls in love with one of them. Ultimately, the real issue of the book is not the humanity of the androids, but rather the humanity of the humans: Can Deckard do his job and still retain his humanity? As such, I found the book a fascinating read, even though it wasn’t quite what I expected.

Blade Runner final cutAfter reading this book, I decided to rent the movie “Blade Runner” so that I could compare and contrast the film adaptation with the original. Basically, the movie is VERY different from the book, and I was bewildered by most of the changes. The movie is visually stunning — I loved the vision of a post-apocalyptic Los Angeles — but I just didn’t understand Deckard’s relationships with the androids in the movie at all. It’s hard to say more without spoiling, but let me just say that the final confrontation scene goes VERY differently in the movie versus the book. The movie also suggests (and Ridley Scott confirmed that this was his intention) that Deckard himself is an android, which is 100% NOT the case in the book. So while “Blade Runner” is an interesting movie in its own right, it’s definitely not a faithful adaptation of the book!

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Top Ten Tuesday, Part One: Favorite Movies

Top 10 TuesdayA lot of people make a distinction between reading books and watching movies, claiming that the former is somehow better, more challenging, or more highbrow than the latter. And while there may be some truth to that, in the end they’re just two different forms of storytelling; they both have the power to challenge, move, and entertain us. For this week’s Top Ten Tuesday, we’ve been asked to list our favorite movies or TV shows — but I can’t resist doing both! So I’ll be doing a second post on my favorite TV shows, but for now, here’s a list of ten of my all-time favorite movies (in alphabetical order):

1. “Better Off Dead” — I really enjoy almost all John Cusack movies from the ’80s, but this is definitely my favorite. It’s the bizarrely surreal tale of a teenage boy who is so depressed by his recent breakup that he tries to commit suicide, but he just can’t seem to finish the job. And it’s really funny! Worth watching just for the bits where his mom is cooking something.

2. “Clueless” — What girl who came of age in the ’90s doesn’t love this movie? No girl I want to be friends with, that’s for sure! This deliciously funny satire of the lives of the rich and vacuous also happens to be a very clever adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma. Plus, Paul Rudd is in it!

3. “An Ideal Husband” — Based on an Oscar Wilde play, this movie is a quintessential British comedy of manners. The cast is terrific, especially Rupert Everett as the idle but smarter-than-he-looks Lord Goring. There’s witty banter, romance, a sinister blackmailing scheme…and of course a very important conversation that takes place under “the usual palm tree!”

4. “Much Ado About Nothing” (Kenneth Branagh version) — My favorite Shakespeare play and a wonderful, exuberant film.

5. “Penelope” — I’m kind of a sucker for whimsy, and this movie is practically exploding with it. Penelope is an aristocratic young woman cursed with a “face like a pig,” and her only hope is to marry a fellow blueblood…except none of them will get near her, until she meets a charming gambler who inspires her to start enjoying life. The romance is very sweet, and I absolutely love the scenery of the movie, with its saturated colors and fairy-tale-esque imagery.

6. “The Philadelphia Story” — I know some people don’t like black-and-white movies, but all I can say is, they are wrong. 🙂 This classic comedy (starring Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, and Jimmy Stewart — you can’t beat that!) involves a young socialite who is about to get married, but the wedding is hijacked by her first husband and a couple of tabloid reporters. Hijinks ensue!

7. “The Princess Bride” — I don’t actually need to explain this one, do I?

8. “Spaceballs” — All I can say is that Mel Brooks is a frickin’ genius. I have probably memorized about 75% of the dialogue from this movie…it’s just that good, people.

9. “Strictly Ballroom” — I’ve never been much of a dancer, but for some reason I’ve always really liked dance movies! This one is a delightful little film set in the unusual world of Australian ballroom dancing. A rising star on the professional circuit teams up with an amateur to create a new style of ballroom for the upcoming competition, but various forces are arrayed against them. Baz Luhrmann directed it, so of course it’s visually gorgeous, but it’s also funny and surprisingly moving!

10. “While You Were Sleeping” — This is just a straight-up romantic comedy that holds sentimental value for me, as I often watched it with my mom growing up. Sandra Bullock plays a lonely young woman who, due to a series of misunderstandings, pretends to be engaged to a comatose man and is embraced by his kooky family. It’s just a nice, heartwarming movie with some wonderful comedy from the supporting cast.

Bonus: “Pride and Prejudice” (Colin Firth version) — It’s technically a miniseries, so I didn’t include it on my “official” list…but let’s face it, I consider this my favorite movie (and not because of the lake scene!). 🙂

So wow, this list is pretty homogenous! All the movies are comedies, and they all incorporate romance to some extent. Maybe that’s shallow of me — and I have loved a lot of darker, grittier movies as well — but I guess I just fundamentally want a happy ending!

Top Ten Tuesday: Never judge a book by its movie

Top 10 TuesdayThis week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic is perfect for me, since I love movies almost as much as I love books! The task is to list 10 great film adaptations, 10 terrible ones, or mix and match. I’m going to take the latter approach and give you five excellent movie adaptations followed by five (ahem) less successful ones. Links go to the movie trailers, if you’re interested!

BEST

1. “Much Ado About Nothing” (Kenneth Branagh, 1993) — Much Ado is my favorite Shakespeare play, and this is one of my absolute favorite movies. It’s got an amazing cast; everyone handles the dialogue magnificently, and even Keanu Reeves is funny (though perhaps in his case it’s unintentional…). It’s romantic and exuberant and really does justice to this classic play. Of course, I also have to mention Joss Whedon’s recent version, which is wonderful in a different way (and it’s still playing in theaters, so go see it!)!

2. “High Fidelity” (Stephen Frears, 2000) — This adaptation stays very faithful to the novel by Nick Hornby, except for moving the setting from London to Chicago. I’ve always had a soft spot for John Cusack, at least in his earlier stuff, and he’s really the perfect guy to play the sad-sack, music-obsessed Rob. The soundtrack is very cool, as is appropriate for a movie about music, and the deadpan humor is a perfect way to lighten the somewhat depressing plot.

3. “The Thin Man” (W.S. Van Dyke, 1934) — I have to admit, I think I enjoyed the movie even more than Dashiell Hammett’s book! William Powell and Myrna Loy are so great together, and it’s sheer joy to watch them banter back and forth. The mystery plot is intriguing (as is the mystery of how everybody can drink so much without falling down drunk!), and there are plenty of wacky secondary characters to enjoy.

4. “The Princess Bride” (Rob Reiner, 1987) — I mean, obviously. The movie actually isn’t quite faithful to the book, and it leaves out a lot of cool stuff (Zoo of Death, anyone?). But it 100% deserves its classic status, and I can’t even find words to describe how much I love it! So I’ll simply say: “Mawwiage…mawwiage is what bwings us togevah today.”

5. “Clueless” (Amy Heckerling, 1995) — This is flat-out one of the best Austen adaptations I’ve ever seen. (It’s based on Emma, if you didn’t happen to know.) Since I’m a child of the ’90s, it also has great nostalgia value for me; there’s even a cameo by the Mighty Mighty Bosstones! Alicia Silverstone is perfect as the vapid yet ultimately likable Cher, and Paul Rudd is Paul Rudd, so enough said.

WORST

6. “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (Ron Howard, 2000) — Dr. Seuss’ beloved children’s book had already been made into a charming 30-minute cartoon narrated by Boris Karloff. (I love it. I have it on DVD. I watch it every year at Christmas!) So I guess my question for Ron Howard is: Why did this live action monstrosity need to happen?!?! There’s an entirely fabricated story about how the Whos used to be shallow and materialistic, as well as a love story (!) for the Grinch.

7. “The Count of Monte Cristo” (David Greene, 1975 AND Kevin Reynolds, 2002) — I have seen two adaptations of Dumas’ classic novel, and they are both awful. To be fair, I don’t remember much about the 2002 movie — I actually saw it in theaters! — but I do remember that it completely changed the ending. As in, NOTHING was the same! As for the  1975 version (starring Richard Chamberlain), which I recently watched with my mom, it was just hilariously bad. If you don’t believe me, watch the trailer — at least until [0:35], where Mercedes screams “Edmoooooooond!” It’s actually so hideous that it’s kind of fun to watch!

8. “Ella Enchanted” (Tommy O’Haver, 2004) — This movie is based on a charming little book by Gail Carson Levine, which I really enjoyed. Unfortunately, the film changed the plot so much that it’s almost unrecognizable! Also — and this is just a personal thing — I don’t like Anne Hathaway, so I wasn’t all that invested in her problems. (Young Hugh Dancy was totally cute, though!) I have to admit that I did kind of enjoy this movie, but that was mostly for the spontaneous musical rendition of Queen’s “Somebody to Love.” It certainly doesn’t do justice to the book!

9. “Pride and Prejudice” (Robert Z. Leonard, 1940) — I love P&P and collect all the movie adaptations I can get my hands on, but this particular version is shockingly unfaithful to the book. Darcy calls Elizabeth “Lizzy,” Lady Catherine is a kind old broad at heart, and Colonel Fitzwilliam wears a kilt! In the drawing room! I must say I enjoy watching the movie, though; it’s campy and fun, and the women’s sleeves alone make it worth watching!

10. “The Age of Innocence” (Martin Scorsese, 1993) — How can this movie be so bad when Edith Wharton’s novel is so good? I blame the absolutely horrendous casting. To be fair, I’m not a huge fan of any of the three main actors (Daniel Day-Lewis, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Winona Ryder). Maybe you’d like the movie better if you like them; but personal preferences aside, nobody seems to be a good fit for his/her role. The dialogue is wooden and the acting robotic. In sum, the thing is just bad.

Phew, that list was hard to compile…and now I’ve just thought of about 10 more movies I could have included! Oh well, I’ll just have to save them for the next time this topic comes around!

Why you should watch “Tonight You’re Mine”

Tonight You're MIneRecently I decided to try out Netflix’s DVD service so that I could finally watch some new releases I’d been wanting to see. While I was browsing through their offerings, I came across a movie called “Tonight You’re Mine.” The synopsis intrigued me:

Shot over the course of five days at Scotland’s annual T in the Park music festival, this unconventional romance centers on a pair of bickering rockers who are handcuffed together; 24 hours later, they’re falling in love.

Yes, the setup is a total cliché, but I’m a sucker for movies about music and musicians, so I figured I’d give it a chance. And I’m really glad I did! The two lead actors are very appealing, particularly Luke Treadaway as Adam. (To be fair, I like looking at scruffy rock stars, so I might be a bit biased!) They have great chemistry together and manage to make the handcuff thing look very natural and realistic.

I also loved the fact that the movie was filmed at an actual music festival; it really captured the energy and magic of 85,000 people coming together to enjoy some great songs. A lot of real bands are featured in the film, and while I had never heard of most of them before, I was happy to be introduced to some new music!

It’s not a perfect movie, by any means. Because the movie is short and was filmed on a very tight schedule, the plot and character development are relatively slight. Also, it’s very hard to hear some of the dialogue due to the challenges of filming at a live event. But there’s enough here to be entertaining for anyone who likes music and rom-coms. This scene alone, where the heroine’s band is playing a gig (with the hero still handcuffed to her arm), sold me:

Unfortunately the end of the song is cut off, but you get the idea. 🙂

There’s also this charming song from the very beginning of the film (actually written by Treadaway):

It’s so freakin’ catchy, I can’t even take it!

Long story short, “Tonight You’re Mine” isn’t going to be one of my all-time favorite movies, but it’s definitely worth watching!

Bookish trailers

Is it just me, or are there a lot of great-looking book-related movies coming out soon? Here are a few that I’ll be lining up to see:

“Cheerful Weather for the Wedding,” based on the novel by Julia Strachey, looks like sheer delight for those of us who love period pieces! The U.K. release date is early 2013, but I can’t seem to find a U.S. release date anywhere (alas!). However, it is available to rent on Comcast On Demand if you feel like spending $10. I plan to sit tight and hope for a theater release, but it does look tempting!

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I’m so excited that Baz Luhrmann’s doing “The Great Gatsby”! I read the book a couple times in school and didn’t particularly love it. (I didn’t hate it either; it just didn’t make a huge impression on me.) But with Luhrmann directing, the movie is sure to be gorgeous. The cast also seems great, with Leonardo DiCaprio in the title role and Carey Mulligan as Daisy. U.S. release date is May 10, 2013.

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And then of course there’s Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit: Part One.” (About that…are three movies really necessary, Mr. Jackson? Don’t you have enough money already?) Lord of the Rings is one of my favorite books, so obviously I can’t miss this! Martin Freeman is a great choice for Bilbo — and after “North and South,” I’ll watch Richard Armitage do anything, even with a giant dwarf beard! U.S. release date is December 14.

I can’t believe this exists!!!

You guys, Much Ado About Nothing is my very favorite Shakespeare play and one of my all-time favorite literary works. And Joss Whedon is awesome (Exhibit A: “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog.” Exhibit B: You don’t need one!). So I can only assume that this will be THE MOST AMAZING THING EVER! Granted, the Kenneth Branagh film is wonderful…but this is Joss Whedon doing Shakespeare!! And  Nathan Fillion is playing Dogberry!!! I am without words to express my glee.

Frantic Googling has revealed that the movie debuted at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival, and apparently Lionsgate will be releasing the movie in North America at some point. If anyone has more information, let me know ASAP, because I definitely need to see this movie!