50/50 Reading Challenge: August Movies

This is a brief little post to highlight the few movies I watched in August for the 50/50 Reading Challenge.  My offerings are meager – August was surprisingly busy – but interesting.  The kids and I have been enjoying the classic horror offerings on Netflix.  Much of the time we are entertained for the wrong reasons (i.e., over-acting, rudimentary cinematic techniques, use of language, prejudices, political incorrectness, etc.).  However, it has been educational and enlightening to experience first hand the foundations that modern thrillers, horror films, and cinematography in general are built upon.

The Invisible Man (1933) starring Claude Rains, Gloria Stuart, and William Harrigan.  The Invisible Man, based on the same-titled book by H. G. Wells, chronicles the downward spiral of a scientist who discovers how to disappear using a drug  with the undesirable side effect of madness.  The general consensus among the Whimseys was that this was a pretty good movie.  It offered humor, tension, and an interesting plot, while addressing some heavy issues like the corruptible nature of absolute power.  That’s not bad for 71 minutes of film.  Seeing the movie has tempted us to read the book.  Anything that entices Buddy to read receives kudos from this mom.  (3.75/ stars)

North and South (2004) starring Daniela Denby-Ashe and Richard Armitage.  I always feel the need to give some kind of disclaimer when I discuss period movies like The North and the South.  I love this stuff, so expect the review to be colored by that bias.  I also haven’t read the book by Elizabeth Gaskill (yet) so I won’t be able to discuss the movie’s fidelity to the plot and characters.

I watched this movie late one evening after everyone else was in bed.  Because I enjoyed Gaskill’s Wives and Daughters (both the movie and the book), I thought North and South would be a good bet for some “me” time.  Oh. My. Word.  How did I miss this BBC mini-series?  Four hours of my life passed in the blink of an eye as I lost myself in the world of Margaret Hale and John Thorton.  The social and economic climate of Milton, a northern cotton mill town in England, is the back drop that showcases the antagonistic but passionate relationship between Margaret and John.  The performances are spot on, especially Richard Armitage portraying the brooding and complicated John Thorton, and the chemistry between the main characters is palpable.  I’ve put the book at the top of my to-read list.  And the movie?  Without a doubt, I’ll be indulging again and again.  Yes, it was that good.  (5/5 stars)

Dracula (1931) starring Bela Lugosi, Helen Chandler, and David Manners.  I wasn’t expecting much from this movie and that’s exactly what I got.  My modern expectations of who or what Dracula should be ruined my experience of the film.  Everything just seemed over-acted and hokey.  Why was Bela Lugosi doing that thing with his hands whenever he was about to bite someone? Instead of looking sinister, he just looked disabled.  The costumes didn’t fit with the time period/setting of the story, either, which bothered me for some unidentifiable reason.  Believe it or not, I feel the need to reread Bram Stoker’s Dracula just to refresh my memory.  When I read the book as a teenager, it scared me to death and I’m curious to know if I’d feel the same way now.  The movie certainly didn’t have that effect.  (2.5/5 stars)

After August’s batch of movies, I’ve added three more books to my already cumbersome to-read list.  I’m going to have to read fifty books for the next ten years to whittle that pile down to nothing.  Adding these last three movies to the the 50/50 Reading Challenge list brings my total movie count for 2012 to 33.  I’m right on par heading into to the last quarter of the year and with so many good movies coming out – The Great Gatsby, Les Misérables, and The Hobbit to name a few, meeting my goal should be very doable.  Oh, and Anna Karenina.  How could I forget that one?  Bring on the popcorn!

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