Friday, November 25, 2011

Melancholia -- Oddly Beautiful

I will get to some slightly more accessible movies, I promise, but I wanted to say a few things about Lars Von Trier's Melancholia.

First, I've been a fan of Danish director Von Trier since Breaking the Waves and Dancer in the Dark and Dogtown. I also saw a very bizarre documentary about him and one of his mentors at the festival one year. I wish I could remember the name of it, but I suppose it would be hard for people to find anyway.

He is one strange dude. But strange in a fascinating if unlikeable way. And his movies are often kind of like that, too. Strange and somewhat unlikeable. He definitely has a point of view and isn't afraid to express it. (Even to the point of that horrible quote he said at a press conference in Cannes this year that got him kicked out.)

But even given that the movie's strange and unlikeable, I really enjoyed Melancholia. It's about the end of the world and two sisters, one of whom is very seriously depressed. To the point she spends a good chunk of her lavish wedding reception hiding out in the bathtub. (and she married Eric from True Blood--that she wasn't joyous enough about that to get through her reception is proof enough of her serious mental illness. ;)

The depressed sister is played by Kirsten Dunst and I liked her in this more than I've liked her in anything since Interview With a Vampire--when she was about twelve. I really believed her character. Hard to play someone that severely depressed and not make it one note. Her sister is played by Charlotte Gainsbourg who is always fascinating in films. I find her real life, or the idea of it, fascinating enough, as she's the child of French singer/songwriter/icon Serge Gainsbourg and the sixties fashion icon Jane Birkin (yes, the Birkin bag was named after her mom.) Kiefer Sutherland plays her brother in law. And both Alexander and Stellan Skarsgaard are in it, playing father and son, in fact.

Anyway... the film is very surreal and has two parts. The first is essentially from the Kirsten Dunst character's POV and covers the night of her wedding reception. (The first five minutes at least are a scene of a long limo doing endless tiny adjustments trying to get around corners on a steep narrow road to take them to their reception. Symbolism...) The 2nd part is from the Charlotte Gainsbourg character's POV, but it's not quite that clean cut. The first part shows the disastrous wedding reception where the bride is an unbelievable mess. And that night they all spot a strange star in the sky no one's seen before.

Turns out it's not a star, but a planet that was previously undiscovered because it was hiding behind the sun. Don't quibble about the science. You kind of just have to go with it. Point is, this planet is moving toward the earth and may or may not destroy the world if it gets too close as it passes or actually hits. The second part is about the characters preparing for this disaster/possible doomsday.

The irony here, or von Trier's "message" is that the one who was already clinically depressed is the one who deals with this impending doom the best. And the cheeriest, most "together" character (Kiefer Sutherland's character who is the very wealthy husband of the Gainsbourg character) is the one who handles it the worst.

Since I think it's fair to assume that Mr. von Trier has struggled with a few mental illnesses himself, it's not hard to get his point here... Maybe the mentally ill among us are actually the most sane.

If you hate surrealism, or strange movies, and didn't like, for example, The Tree of Life, then you probably shouldn't see this one. But it's beautiful to look at, seriously beautiful, (the first ten or so minutes have no dialogue and are just a series of very surreal images), and the performances are astoundingly good (Dunst won best actress at Cannes or maybe Venice... or maybe both) so if this description hasn't turned you off.... go see it. And keep an open mind. :)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Another Olsen Kid -- Who Knew?

I hereby vow **holds hand up** that I will blog at least once a week, more often if I can, until I've covered more of my TIFF films.

I thought I should start with some of the ones that have already hit theatres...

One I really liked:  Martha Marcy May Marlene. (It's easier to remember the title and order of the names after seeing the film...)

This is not an "easy" film but I was completely enthralled and mostly because of the performance by its lead, Elizabeth Olsen, pictured here with Sarah Paulson who's always interesting to watch.

I didn't know until after seeing the film that the actress was the younger sister of the Olsen twins and I'm glad I didn't know, because I might have been distracted thinking about it. But maybe not. She was pretty remarkable in a not very easy part. Time will tell whether or not her performance in her debut movie was fluke but I'm guessing not.

The real challenge of this part is that she has to play this young woman in several different states of mind. One is a lost teen searching for approval and a place in the world. One is a happy, eager new member of a cult, thinking she's finally found acceptance and love. One an obedient soldier in the cult, broken but steadfast. One a desperate escapee on the run. And finally a girl trying to adapt to the real world again and figuring out how to live with her sister and brother in law.

The timelines interweave. If memory serves (this is the problem with blogging more than 2 months later) we first see the escapee version of her character, then the girl trying to cope, then we flash back to when she first met the cult members etc. The tension continues to build as we see more and more of what this girl went through and understand why she's so messed up and acting in such a bizarre manner in the present.

The cult leader is played by John Hawkes from Deadwood and Winter's Bone. He was also fabulous in this. When I was a teen everyone was talking about cults... Maybe because the idealism in the 1970's and the disillusionment with "society" (remember antidisestablishmentarianism?) led more young people toward cults... But this film reminded me why being brainwashed haunted my twelve year old nightmares.

The ending of this movie will likely tick some viewers off. I saw it with a festival audience and even then a few people shouted at the screen at the very abrupt ending. But those people might not have been angry... more startled. That's all I'm going to say, except that with hindsight it was the perfect ending. The only other way they could have gone would be to add a big third act climax with a Hollywood ending... (think the hilarious last act of Adaptation after Charlie Kaufman goes to Robert McKee's Story seminar) but it's just not that kind of film. And we've seen enough at that point to deduce what's about to happen after the projector shuts off.

If you have any tolerance for "art films" this is one you should see. I think Elizabeth Olsen might end up nominated for some awards and might just be a new rising star who will make people think of Kate and Ashley as Elizabeth Olsen's older sisters rather than the other way around.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Ides of March

Dang, I am a bad blogger. I promised I'd get around to talking about some of the other TIFF films I saw last weekend. My how time flies.

While I haven't found time to blog in the past 10 days, I did manage to see three movies ;) . All films that were at TIFF, but I didn't pick to see there (mostly because I knew they were coming out right after the festival.) I think all three of the fest movies I saw post-fest were great: Drive, 50/50 and Moneyball. If I had to pick a favorite, I'd have to go with 50/50, (because it's the easiest to "like"), but if I had to pick the one I thought was "best" I'd go with Drive.

But back to The Ides of March.

This is a political film starring George Clooney and Ryan Gosling (sounds great, right?) and co-starring Paul Giamatti and Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Marisa Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood (sounds even better, right?). I mean stellar cast, stellar performances, interesting topic... It should have been a home run (to use a metaphor more suited to Moneyball).

But it wasn't home run for me. Don't get me wrong, it was very good. But I wanted to be blown away and I wasn't. I keep trying to put my finger on why.... I think it's because there's really nothing new or groundbreaking about this story. Call me cynical but it's not news to me that otherwise good people with strong values and ideals can do unethical and immoral things in pursuit of power. And in this case in order to get the democratic nomination for the US Presidency.

I feel as if Primary Colors already covered that ground and while this movie is more serious and dare-I-say smarter than Primary Colors, I'm not sure it was as entertaining.

I'm not saying don't go see it -- especially if you're a fan of either Clooney or Gosling -- but don't get your hopes up as high as mine were, because super-high expectations are hard to live up to. :)

Drive and 50/50, on the other hand, both lived up to my expectations. But I'll talk about those soon. :) I promise this time.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Ones Coming Out Soon

After promising to post some reviews, I guess I should follow through. I've hit that evil just past the middle place in my current WIP and I've been spending a lot of time banging my head against the keyboard and haven't felt much like blogging.

But here's my take on a couple of films that are out or will be out soon.


I actually already talked about this one here.  According to it was released in the US on September 16th. I don't think it's showing up here in Canada.

I give this a "maybe worth a rental" rating. I love Mia Wasikowska--think she's incredibly talented--but the screenplay didn't live up to her performance for me.


This was the one "second choice" I got this year. I'd chosen A Dangerous Method (which doesn't open until December) but wasn't that disappointed to get this screening instead. Both screenings were "day after the gala" showings so it's not like there was any red carpet action going on anyway.

This one releases Oct 28th, and if you haven't already seen the trailer (they've been showing it for MONTHS already) it's set in Elizabethan times (not QE2) and posits another theory for who actually wrote Shakespeare's plays, plus some interesting theories about the rightful heir to Elizabeth's throne.

At least this theory was a new one to me, although I certainly don't pretend to be all that informed about Shakespeare theories. I was definitely aware of the theories that Will could not have been the true author, since there's no historical evidence he was educated, never mind being able to write. The Shakespeare character in this movie (a minor role) was very funny and I enjoyed him a lot. I also like the young Earl of Oxford, played by Jamie Campbell Bower, who plays Arthur in the TV series Camelot. But I'm not certain I really bought Rhys Ifans (photo above) as his older self. I didn't immeditately recognize Ifans, so I don't think I was affected by other goofier parts he's played, but I just didn't buy him as a leading man. I honestly thought he was the villain in the first few scenes he was in and it took me a while to figure out who was who and what was going on. My overall reaction might have been different if I'd seen him differently from the start. (One reason to see again is to see if the screenwriter or actor or director missed an opportunity to make me like/identify with the protagonist...) I think the problem is that they make you think that Ben Jonson is the main character, but he's really not....

Talking about Ifans not really working for me and my issues with identifying a main character probably leads me to my overall reaction to this movie which is:  I'm not sure... I think I'm going to see it again when it comes out. My biggest problem had nothing to do with the movie (I don't think) but to do with the couple who were sharing my row near the front right side of the Elgin and destroying my concentration. Both of them had their phones out through the movie, frequently flashing in my eyes, in spite of my telling them to shut up and turn off their phones a number of times. People have suggested I should have called an usher (or one of the big burly men with night vision glasses) but I figured that would just cause more disruption for other people, and I'm not sure if the the big burly men care about phones shining in people's eyes as long as you're not filming.... Generally festival goers are better behaved than this pair, but it was a weekend screening and I don't think they were true "festival goers" if you know what I mean.

Anyway, it was brilliant to cast mother/daughter acting team of Vanessa Redgrave and Joely Richardson as the younger and older versions of Queen Elizabeth I and the obvious age difference between Richardson and Bower (who plays the young version of Oxford) made one major plot twist even more deliciously creepy.

I think this one is worth seeing on the big screen--it's beautiful if nothing else. Full of interesting conspiracy theories about an fascinating historical time. And like I said, I plan to see it a second time. But it didn't blow me away as much as I'd hoped.

Will post my review of The Ides of March some time over the weekend. :)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

TIFF 11 Review

I am going to start posting reviews of all or most of the 32 films I saw... but for now, I thought I'd post an overall review of this year's festival. I know. Exciting, right?

Weather:  A

This is more important than you might think. The weather wasn't absolutely prefect, but while it was kind of hot and humid near the beginning (if you got stuck in a line in direct sunlight) and kind of nippy later in the week (waiting in a line at night), it didn't rain! (more than sprinkles) and was overall neither too hot nor too cold. Yay. With all the waiting in lines involved in the festival, this is key. A few of the days were downright gorgeous early fall days.

Ease of Festivalling:  B-

Yes, I made up a new verb. Sue me. I decided to fork out the big bucks to be a contributing member this year. While this didn't mean I got all my picks, I did get 29 out of 30.  The only one I didn't get was A Dangerous Method (got Anonymous instead) and based on what I've heard people say... it wasn't that great, anyway. Or at least not as great as everyone expected with the Fassbender, Mortensen, Cronenberg combination. Although rating on imdb is quite good I see...

All of my trips down to the box office went smoothly -- picking up book, dropping off picks, picking up tickets, buying a few single tickets, exchanging a ticket... That members and donors line is AWESOME.
On the other hand, I was annoyed that there were even more premium screenings this year. It was hard to pick films to see in the evenings the first weekend because so many of them were off limits for picks with passes and coupons. I think the festival should add some kind of pass or coupon booklet where you can pre-select a certain number of premium films... I don't like buying a Gala pass (hate seeing movies at Roy Thompson Hall) and found the Visa Screening Room disappointing, too, because you end up with no choice... But why not a 10 coupon book or 5 coupon book for premium screenings... In my perfect festival world, I'd have a 30 film pass where I could pick up to 5-10 premium screenings within my 30.

Health:  B+

Okay, this is a pretty personal one, but also important. Back when I used to buy a 50 Film pass, I got a cold every year. I haven't become ill the last couple of years because a) I no longer try to go to 9:00 am screenings. That's just crazy. And b) I make sure I eat better than I used to and drink lots of water. But this year I got a monster zit on my nose, the likes of which I've never seen before... So not an A worthy health year. :)

Line Buzz: C

I noticed that now that everyone has a blackberry or iphone in line, no one talks anymore. Nor are they as likely to chatter with seatmates once seated in the theatre. I miss that. Although I do admit to checking my e-mail and reading on my kindle in lines and in my seat while waiting for screenings, too. Next year I vow to talk to more people (assuming I go again). I've met so many cool people at TIFF over the years and missed that this year. It's fun to hear what everyone else loved and compare notes on films you saw in common. Plus, I get kind of strange when I go 10 days without much human interaction. Scary really. And the big zit didn't help.

Overall Experience:  C+

The festival just isn't as exciting as it used to be. Maybe I'm getting jaded, but I think it has to do with the fact I couldn't pick any of the premium screenings and most of the "red carpet" events were deemed premium. Also, I somehow picked quite a few films this year that didn't have a Q&A, even though it was a first screening... and didn't have any of those great surprises when the director or actors show up at a next day screening. I miss that.

Films: B-

I will talk about each film later, but basically I didn't have many that totally blew me away. :( And talking to the few people I did talk to in lines (and eavesdropping) most people felt the same way. That it was kind of a m'eh year for films. Maybe that's why the People's Choice was a Lebanese musical... Although I do hope winning that award will mean the film gets a general release. I don't remember a time when the TIFF People's Choice award didn't go on to be a box office success...

More later. :)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Great TIFF Day

So, I'm a little too bagged to blog properly... I will get caught up and talk about this year's films properly, but I did have a really great day today. It was a five ticket day. I can't say five film day, because one of them was a "Maverick" talk, not a film, but we did see a film clip as part of it...

My day started with Rampart, starring Woody Harrelson. I will post more about this film... Overall: great performances, interesting, too long. At least that's what I think was "wrong" with it for me.

Then I went to a talk between Indian-born, Canadian filmmaker, Deepa Mehta and Salman Rushdie. She is currently making a movie of his book Midnight's Children that will be out in October 2012. It was a pretty cool talk. I haven't read the book, but the talk made me really want to see the movie and tackle the book, too. Sounds like my cup of tea... No pun intended. Seriously. I did not intend that almost pun.

Then I saw a screening of Anonymous. Very good. I think I'll see this movie again when it comes out (soon). I was distracted by very annoying people sitting next to me who when they weren't talking to each other, one or the other of them had their phone out. That kind of behaviour is rare at TIFF and I wanted to kill them. But LOVED the film's theory on Shakespeare. Loved it.

Then came Pariah, which I understand was one of the darlings of Sundance last winter. And often those films don't do as well with a "real" audience vs. the industry audience at Sundance, but I loved it. I'll talk about this one later, too... But I was riveted. Touching coming of age story at its core. Stunning performance by the lead.

Then my last film of the day was Martha Marcy May Marlene. VERY interesting and tense. Loved it. Again, a stunning performance by the young lead (who happens to have very famous older twin sisters... named Olsen...) A non-hollywood ending that will make some people crazy (a few people swore aloud) and had me sitting stunned through the credits while the theatre cleared out. I have a new theory about the ending... Now can't wait for someone else to see it so I can discuss. :)

Sorry for the very vague references and incomplete reviews. I promise I will talk more about these films and post some pictures as soon as I get some sleep!

Friday, September 09, 2011

And it Begins

The 36th annual Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) opened yesterday, so my life for the next 10 days is gone. I have some time today and a bit later in the week where I gave myself a break, (theoretically to write. Ha!), but I'm seeing at least 33 films at this point.

Yesterday, the TIFF was all about U2, with the premiere of the documentary From the Sky Down, but alas, not for me.

That was a "premium" screening, so I couldn't select it with my 30 film pass and frankly I think that film is likely one of the main reasons it was next to impossible to get through on the web or the phone to get single tickets when they went on sale last Saturday.

But, I did have a good first night.

My first film was also a documentary, Into the Abyss by Werner Herzog. He got a (very long) standing ovation when he came on stage just to introduce the film, which shows how well he's respected. Interestingly, there was no standing ovation at the end. I did like the film -- actually, like might not be the right word. It's a hard film to "like". If you want to see an "easier" Herzog film that's playing around still I think, go see Cave of Forgotten Dreams. Mesmerizing.

The subject of Into the Abyss is a very young man who was executed in Texas last year for murders he committed when he was only 18. It's hard to like anyone in this film, and Herzog to his credit does not try to manipulate the audience opinions. Clearly Herzog himself is anti-death penalty, but he doesn't ask leading questions or try to tug at heart strings and gives the daughter and sister of two of the victims a lot of time on screen. And while I didn't like her, either... she's one of the most sympathetic people he interviews. Herzog also dedicated the film to her and all victims of violent crime.

The part of this film that will stay for me for a long time is the realization that this laughing, goofy, immature, uneducated, probably lower-than-average IQ kid we saw interviewed is now dead. Killed by lethal injection 8 days after the interview. And there's no question he was guilty of the crimes. But he was a human being and I suppose more than anything the film showed that he was human, not a monster. Herzog said that after: his crimes were monstrous. He wasn't.

It's probably clear by now that I'm against the death penalty, too and I try to keep this blog away from political or controversial issues, so I'll shut up now and talk about the next film. :)

I also saw the new Gus Van Sant film Restless last night. I'm slightly on the fence about this one, too. It's a more commercial film than a lot of his movies about teens, but I almost found it too commercial or too pat. I might have been influenced by a negative review I read in NOW magazine right before the movie started, but I think my beefs were slightly different than the reviewer's.

The film stars the fabulous Mia Wasikowska which is why I picked it. She really is such a fabulous young actress and she's very good in this. The male lead is the screen debut of Henry Hopper, who happens to be Dennis Hopper's son and for me, he was slightly less than fabulous. I don't know. I had trouble believing a few things he did/said. But generally the performances are very good and it had a very natural, voyeuristic feel. 

My issue was the screenplay which I thought was a tad unsubtle. I don't know. As I try to describe it, it all sounds kind of clever and tight... And this is (slightly) spoilerish... A boy trying to get over the deaths of his parents imagines that he's friends with a dead WWII kamikazi pilot and falls in love with a terminally ill girl. 

The non-cliche, best part of the story is that it's a really sweet romance. It's clear these two kids are made for each other in a way you rarely see in films. You rarely see two characters who so completely get each other and it's tragic watching them fall in love when you know it will end so soon.  I don't know. Maybe I liked it more on reflection. :)

I did wonder as I was watching, "How did the screenwriter get this made? It doesn't seem all that special. And how did he possibly get Gus Van Sant to direct?" Then it all became clear in the Q&A. The screenwriter is a long-time friend of Bryce Dallas Howard... Who produced the film, with the help of her father (Ron Howard) and father's best friend (Brian Grazer). Hmmm.. That's an idea if I want a screenplay made. I need to make friends with the kids of huge Hollywood producers. Must get on that. :) 

But to the writer's credit... I did really believe the relationship between these kids and that can't have been just the actors and the director. 

Here are some snaps taken last night.  The dude in the green pants is the writer and just look how pregnant Bryce Dallas Howard is! I had no idea

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Fright Night -- UF or Horror?

I posted a review of sorts for Fright Night over at Drunk Writer Talk.

In a nutshell. Loved it. In the review I called it a horror movie... but now that we have the genre of Urban Fantasy in fiction, I'm wondering where the genre line lies in movies...

If you've seen Fright Night, is it horror or Urban Fantasy?

Do you think there are true Urban Fantasy movies?

Friday, August 12, 2011

My Zombie Apocalypse Team

There's a meme going around on Facebook right now where you go to your profile and form your Zombie Apocalypse Team from the first seven people listed on your friend list (FB randomly changes this list all the time...)

Mine was just too awesome not to share and comment on, and I couldn't get it all in the 500 characters you're allowed in a FB status update. :)

My Zombie Apocalypse Team:

Sidekick: Lisa McMann (HOW AWESOME IS THAT?? Lisa is the sidekick of my wildest dreams. I'd be lucky to be her sidekick. :)

Heavy Weapons: Amanda Coppedge Bosky (AWESOME! She knows about zombies. I've seen her reading the manual! For real! I'm Golden!!!)

The Idiot Who Survives: Kaylin McFarren (She's a tough cookie. And so not an idiot. Glad you survive, Kaylin. :)

Sniper: Kristen Millar (I'm glad I got at least one family member on my team. And my cousin's got good aim, I'll bet. :)

The One Who Loses It: Christine Enta (Oh, this is funny. Sorry Christine. But a chick lit writer is the one who loses it??? Oh, the stereotyping.)

The Brains: Loreth Anne White (and it gets better and better. Loreth writes suspense! LOVE my team. Loreth definitely has the knowledge and brains to save us! YAY!)

First To Die: Megan Crewe (Oh, no!!!!! Megan, I'm sure you'll die saving the rest of my awesome Zombie Apocalypse Team. :)

My Zombie Apocalypse Team rocks! We are going to kick a lot of zombie ass!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Book Giveaway!

Check out the review for Cinderella: Ninja Warrior on Brittany Rochelle's blog The Write Stuff.

And... there's a chance to win one of my books!


Good luck! :)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Interviewed at The Write Stuff

I have been such a bad blogger **flogs self**.

Today I was interviewed at The Write Stuff by the lovely Brittany Rochelle whom I was introduced to by good writer-friend Marilyn Brant.  Brittany asked some great questions, and I'm particularly happy with this interview, which I did back in June. I do believe I answered her questions while I was preparing my workshop for the RWA National conference in New York and the interview includes some good (if I do say so myself) advice for aspiring authors.

Check it out if you have a chance. Interview here.

Tomorrow (July 19) she's posting her review and hosting a giveaway.

How's everyone's summer going? Hot enough for you? ;)

Thursday, June 02, 2011

The Magazine

Cinderella: Ninja Warrior is featured in the summer issue of The Magazine! Read by hundreds of thousands of Canadian kids. :)

Just heard this. Will be running to a news stand to buy a copy, ASAP. :)

And how funny that the "Kind of Like" comparable they use is Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Space Cadet

I seem to be forgetting a lot of things lately. To many things on my mind? Not enough?

Last evening I had a ticket to see a screening and discussion of Double Indemnity as part of the CBC/Tiff "Books on Film Club" and forgot. Around 5:30 or 6:00 (would have still been plenty of time to get home, grab ticket, and rush over to Tiff Bell Lightbox... I thought, Hmmm... maybe I'll go see a movie.

Went to see the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie, mostly because it was the one starting. Was bored, bored, bored, bored. Not sure why. Was it just my mood? Did others enjoy this movie?

Monday, May 30, 2011

Bursting out All Over

I've been all over the interweb these past few weeks and haven't been doing a great job of keeping up with it all. Why can't time stop for a day so I can get caught up?

That said, today, I'm thrilled to be featured on NYT Bestselling author Cynthia Leitich Smith's blog Cynsations as part of her New Voices program.

I'm also blogging at the Chick Lit Writers of the World about how Hollywood stereotypes female friendships and how much I liked Bridesmaids.

And there are still some giveaways going on, too!

Black and Blue Ink Enter by June 8th

Books, Thoughts and a Few Adventures Enter by June 1st

To Read or Not To Read Enter by June 3rd

Red House Books Enter by June 3rd

Books at Midnight Enter by June 3rd

My Chaotic Ramblings Not sure of deadline. Still open today.

Cornucopia of Reviews Enter by June 5th

The Book Rat Enter by May 31st

Friday, May 13, 2011

Debbie's Book Bag

I'm a guest today on Debbie's Book Bag! And she's doing a giveaway.

Check out the very nice review she gave to Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer. :)

Did I mention how much I love book bloggers? :)

Did I include enough smiley emoticons in this post? ;)

Blog Tour

I'm on tour! Well, a virtual one. One where there are fewer hotel rooms and plane rides. :)

Stop by and say hi if you have a chance. I'll make it worth your while. Many of the stops feature giveaways. :)

It continues through the end of the month, but here are this week's stops.

May 10

Tasha A Trillion Books  Interview

Katie A Book Obsession  Giveaway

Jazz About Books Blog   Review  (Love this review. :)

May 11

Irena This Miss Loves To Read  Interview & Giveaway

May 12

Kristen Seeing Night Book Reviews  Interview & Giveaway

Jenny Dreaming of Books  Interview & Giveaway

May 13

Debbie Debs Book Bag   Giveaway & Guest Post

Stella Book Lovers  Interview & Giveaway

Thanks so much to the fabulous Ginger and Mana at Silver Dolphin Books and to Premier Virtual Author Book Tours for setting this up for me. Thanks to to all the book bloggers. I <3 book bloggers.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Talking about Twisting Tales

I'm thrilled to be guest blogging at the Indigo Teen Blog today. (For those of you not in Canada, Indigo is the biggest bookseller in Canada.)

The wonderful editors there asked me to talk about the process of updating the fairy tales and adding reader interaction.

I'd love it if you stopped by! Indigo Teen Blog!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Is Hanna YA?

I saw Hanna last week. Definitely a story I wish I'd written. Totally up my alley in terms of the kinds of stories I'm trying to write writing right now....

But it got me thinking about what makes a book or movie Young Adult vs adult. It's not just about the age of the protagonist. I've seen discussions on the topic before that made sense to me and if memory serves the differentiations had to do with the themes explored etc. but I don't think there are any obvious answers. It might be "you know it when you see it" and it might simply be a marketing decision. Some books, like the Harry Potter series and Twilight and The Hunger Games are clearly YA in my mind, but they get read by a ton of adults. But not all YA stories appeal to adults.

And I think with this current "hot trend" in YA a lot of books/stories are being released as YA that five or so years ago would have been published as adult books, regardless of the age of the protagonist.

Some books that come to mind that have kid protagonists but feel more like adult books to me include: Room, and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night, and The Book Thief. I recently bought a new YA, Between Shades of Gray, that I'm really looking forward to reading, and I suspect it might fall into that category, too. Certainly the topic feels adult to me, even though it was on the teen shelf at Indigo. (Thanks to new writer friend, Angela Cerrito, for pointing me to this book. Angela's debut novel The End of the Line has just been released, BTW. Angela's book it has a thirteen y/o protagonist but an adult sounding subject. Cannot WAIT to read.)

But back to Hanna and whether it's YA. I did a post a while back about True Grit and how I thought it was kind of crazy that it was being marketed as an adult Western, with Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon as the stars, when clearly, to me, it was a young adult story with Hailee Steinfeld as its star...

Another book and movie that just sprang to mind is The Lovely Bones. I loved that book. LOVED it. And although the main character was young (and dead) I thought of it as an adult book. But I'll bet if it had been first released now, instead of in 2002, that it would have been released as YA. And they marketed the movie as YA, didn't they? And it kind of bombed as a movie. I admit I haven't seen it, which is shocking because I see a lot (a ton) of films and was really looking forward to that one, until I started hearing negative things. Did they tame it down while trying to make it more of a teen story?? Does anyone know?

And then there's Hanna, with the same wonderful lead actress as The Lovely Bones, Saoirse Ronan. And while this story is clearly about a teen girl, and has fairy tale elements to it... To me it was completely an adult story.

Not sure I fully understand why I think this. Can't wait to discuss.

Anyone else seen Hanna? Thoughts? We've been talking about this over at DWT if you want to join the discussion there.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Another Giveaway!

Today, I'm being interviewed on The Qwillery and giving away another book. Stop by there, if you'd like a chance to win.

And here are photos of a couple more book sightings.

In other news, once a month I meet up with a lovely group of Toronto-(and environs)-based middle grade and young adult writers. We've dubbed ourselves #torkidlit. You can follow us on Twitter or check out our Facebook page.

Torkidlit was started by the lovely and fabulous Claudia Osmond, author of SMUDGE'S MARK, but much of our energy/organization is owed to the equally fabulous author/illustrator Debbie Ohi, also known as Inkygirl.

Debbie made a video this week to show our support for the people of Japan. (Coincidentally, the past several months we've been meeting in a fabulous Japanese restaurant...)

Monday, April 04, 2011

Release -- The Aftermath

So, the books are actually out in the world. For realsies.

You want proof? I'll give you proof.

This is at a local indie bookseller.

Irony is I'd been trying to get up the courage to go into said bookstore and tell them about my books, hoping that they wouldn't just scoff. I never expected to discover they actually had ordered the books and had them on display. On a table!!!

Thanks to SIL Kate for making the discovery and taking the pictures for me. :)

If you're still hoping for a chance to win a book, stop on by the fabulous Claudia Osmond's blog today: Where the (not-so) Wild Things Are. She's having a Maureen McGowan Monday. How awesome is that?

Saturday, April 02, 2011

And the winners are...

The winners of books are:

Marilyn Brant and Lexie@BookBug

The first one to contact me gets first pick on whether she prefers to receive Cinderella: Ninja Warrior or Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer!

Thanks so much to everyone who stopped by to visit this week. You made my release week very special.

And I know I promised some more info about Sleeping Beauty... It's still coming, I promise.

Also, this week I'm going to be visiting some other awesome blogs.

Monday I'll be at: Claudia Osmond's blog

Tuesday I'll be at: Marilyn Brant's Blog (Total coincidence she won a book. I used a Honest.)
And at:                  Linda Gerber's Blog

Further info about my adventures in blog land will be updated on my Keep in Touch page on this blog and my Page at Get Lost in a Story.

If you didn't win a book this time, there will be more chances!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Inside Scoop on Cinderella: Ninja Warrior

Yesterday, one of my fabulous fellow bloggers at Get Lost in a Story, debut author Donnell Ann Bell, interviewed me. Below is an excerpt from the interview with some insider information on how CINDERELLA: NINJA WARRIOR came about.

Donnell: Maureen, I just have to say I love fairy tales. You're talking to a person who has watched The Little Mermaid at least 15 times. When you described to me the story adaptation that brought about CINDERELLA: NINJA WARRIOR, I made the decision right then and there to pick up this book.

You take the tried and true Cinderella fairy tale, in which the message to little girls is, let the prince save you. You, however, turn it into a kick-butt heroine who can darn well save herself. Love your message. What inspired you to create this version?

Maureen:  Thanks, Donnell. When I was asked by the editor to take a shot at writing a proposal for a Cinderella story with a choose-your-own-adventure element, I jumped at the chance. But because the idea had come from the editor, I worried that I wouldn’t be able to tell the stories the way I wanted. The editor assured me I’d have complete creative freedom. To test her assertion, I asked, “Can there be ninjas?” She said sure, and the rest is history.
I also liked the idea of “fixing” some of the elements of the traditional stories that bothered me. For example, the original Cinderella character was too much of a victim for my taste, waiting around for a handsome prince to save her. I wanted to create a strong heroine who was doing all she could to save herself. I also never liked the idea that the prince needed a shoe to recognize her the day after supposedly falling in love, or that he fell in love with her because of her beauty—beauty which he doesn’t recognize the next day when she’s out of her fancy dress. What kind of message does that send to modern young readers about love or their self-worth?

Donnell: Not much of an esteem builder at all. I so agree. Would you say the theme is still good vs. evil, or do you see something else in the storytelling?

Maureen: The traditional fairy tale themes of finding true love and good vs. evil are definitely in CINDERELLA: NINJA WARRIOR, but other themes in the story include: believing in yourself and seeing through the superficial to what really matters—the person inside.

Donnell: You have a prince in disguise and a fairy godfather. Will you tell us about those switches and what inspired those roles?

Maureen: I made the decision about the godfather right from the start. One of the first things that popped into my mind as I started working on this book, (after ninjas), was the line, “Hi, I’m Fred, your fairy godfather.” It just struck me as funny. 
That line, minus the word “fairy”, ended up in the book. (He’s actually her real godfather, not a fairy.) But he has a magical secret, too… and that element is something I discovered organically while writing the opening pages.
The prince in disguise was a happy accident while writing—when he showed up at the door, I realized the messenger bringing the invitations to the ball wasn’t who he said he was—but in hindsight that element was essential to the story. I wanted Cinderella and the Prince to fall in love, so I needed to get him into the story well ahead of the ball—especially since, depending on the readers’ choices, Cinderella doesn’t necessarily go to the ball. The prince-in-disguise element also nicely ties together with the theme of seeing the true person inside.

Tune in Friday for the scoop on SLEEPING BEAUTY: VAMPIRE SLAYER.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Release Week Party and Giveaway!

My, how time flies!

This time last year, I was still working on my two debut novels, Cinderella: Ninja Warrior and Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer, and now they are both being released--on the same day!--to launch the Twisted Tales series!

The official release date is April 1, 2011, but they are already shipping from some online retailers. I can't wait to actually see/hold one myself and/or hear that someone has spotted one in the wild! If you see a copy in a store, please let me know! Even better, take a picture and send it to me. :)

In spite of the long and twisty road I took to this point (worthy of any challenging fairy tale fraught with evil witches) I'm not letting the April Fool's Day release date temper my excitement. Tune back on Friday to find out whether the joke's on me. LOL.  I might tell some of the twisty tale that day.  :)

In the meantime, here's what the publisher and some fabulous bloggers/reviewers have said about the first two books in the Twisted Tales series.


In this thrilling story full of adventure and romance, Sleeping Beauty is more than just a lonely princess waiting for her prince—she's a brave, tenacious girl who never backs down from a challenge. With vampire-slaying talents that she practices in secret, Sleeping Beauty puts her courage to the test in the dark of night, fighting evil as she searches for a way to break the spell that has cut her off from her family. In a special twist, readers have the opportunity to make key decisions for Sleeping Beauty and decide where she goes next—but no matter the choice; the result is a story unlike any fairy tale you've ever read!
Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer is an entirely new type of fairy tale–one that will keep today's kids guessing and offer them hours of magical fun.

"If you’re just a fan of retold fairytales, then Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer is exactly what you’ve been looking for." Maianka Verstraete of I <3 Reading

"It's a fairytale full of teen angst, comedy, romance, mystery and adventure! The 'choose a path' option was brilliant and made the book a lot of fun. I will be looking at other works by this Author and look forward to any other writing she has coming out." - Kristi Stern of The Book Faery

"Once upon a time a story comes along that makes your heart soar and transports you to a world filled with royalty, magical beings and immortal creatures. Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer is one such story."  -Aobibliophile of Aobiblioshpere

"This was a wonderful new twist on the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale. ... Lucette was one butt-kicking vampire-slaying princess."  -ReaderGirl of NightOwl Reviews


In this fast-paced story full of adventure and romance, Cinderella is more than just a servant girl waiting for her prince—she's a tough, fearless girl who is capable of taking charge of a dangerous situation. Seeking to escape the clutches of her evil stepmother, Cinderella perfects her ninja skills and magic talents in secret, waiting for the day when she can break free and live happily ever after. In a special twist, readers have the opportunity to make key decisions for Cinderella and decide where she goes next—but no matter the choice; the result is a story unlike any fairy tale you've ever read!

"An extremely funny, enjoyable and entertaining read that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and brings a fabulous twist to a well-known fairytale."  Majanka Verstraete of I <3 Reading

"My favourite princess made even stronger, it couldn’t be better!  A world filled with magic with love being the strongest magic of all.  A wonderful concoction of Maureen McGowan: a retelling of Cinderella mixed in with wizardry, martial arts, and choose-your-own-adventure!"  Tien of Tien's Blurb

"I was never fan of Cinderella to tell you the truth. But this book...oh my...! I wish the original stories were like that! Forget the sweet cliché love story and the poor girl. Here we have witches, championships, warriors, villains and even dragons! How awesome is it?" Yiota of Splash of Our Worlds


All week at Get Lost in a Story we'll be celebrating the books' release. 

Stop by there, every day this week, for up to FIVE chances to win one of four books -- 2 of each.


In addition to the drawing on Get Lost in a Story, I'll give away two additional copies to commenters on this blog. That's right. If you comment here, and every day on Get Lost in a Story, you'll have even more chances to win. :)

Thanks for stopping by to help me celebrate!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Giveaway Over

Well, that was fun!

My first foray into Goodreads Giveaways and it was kind of exciting. Just the thought of over 1600 people, most of whom I don't know, entering a contest to win a copy of my ARC was thrilling.

Goodreads picked the winners last night and it got even better!

Two of the winners are people I know. Kwana Jackson and Christine D'Abo!

Like I said... 1602 entries. Maybe 20 of them I knew, (scanning through the entries), Goodreads picks randomly and I know 2!

How fun is that?

Congrats to all the winners! I'll be sending your ARCs out very soon.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

ARC Giveaway!

I'm giving away 10 Advance Reader Copies for Cinderella: Ninja Warrior.

Win and you can get a copy of the book before it even comes out!)

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Cinderella: Ninja Warrior (Twisted Tales, #1) by Maureen McGowan


by Maureen McGowan

Giveaway ends March 23, 2011.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Monday, March 14, 2011

Dead on Delivery

No, not me. :)

Today, I'm interviewing the fabulous Eileen Rendahl over at Get Lost in a Story.

Come on by to chat with Eileen and get a chance to win her fabulous new urban fantasy, DEAD ON DELIVERY.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Letters From Home

Happy, happy release day to Kristina McMorris, whose fabulous book, Letters From Home, officially hits stores today.

Have you ever seen a more gorgeous cover?

Chicago, 1944. Liz Stephens has little interest in attending a USO club dance with her friends Betty and Julia. She doesn't need a flirtation with a lonely serviceman when she's set to marry her childhood sweetheart. Yet something happens the moment Liz glimpses Morgan McClain. They share only a brief conversation - cut short by the soldier's evident interest in Betty - but Liz can't forget him. Thus, when Betty asks her to ghostwrite a letter to Morgan, stationed overseas, Liz reluctantly agrees.

Thousands of miles away, Morgan struggles to adjust to the brutality of war. His letters from "Betty" are a comfort, their soul-baring correspondence a revelation to them both. While Liz is torn by her feelings for a man who doesn't know her true identity, Betty and Julia each become immersed in their own romantic entanglements. And as the war draws to a close, all three will face heart-wrenching choices, painful losses, and the bittersweet joy of new beginnings.

I met the lovely Kristina when we were both finalists for the Golden Heart competition in 2007, her with this very book. I couldn't be more excited for her. Seriously. Go out and buy this book. Now. :)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Got ARC?

Look at what came in the mail today!!

A lovely box of ARCs for Cinderella: Ninja Warrior!

Will have to dream up some great giveaway ideas.... Hmmmm...

Monday, February 14, 2011

Interviewing Molly O'Keefe

Today, I'm thrilled to be hosting RITA® Award winning contemporary romance author, Molly O'Keefe, who just happens to be, not only one of my valued critique partners, but also one of my closest friends. In addition to her RITA® win, she's also won two RT Reviewers' Choice Awards as well as numerous other accolades. She's has 18 novels published by Harlequin and two fabulous longer romances coming out from Bantam Dell in 2012.

For the full interview, check out the Get Lost in a Story blog

His Wife For One Night
February 2011
ISBN 9780373716883
Jack McKibbon knows the score when he offers to marry his best friend Mia Alatore. He's fixing a bad situation for her—that's all—they aren't making a real life together. She wants to stay on the ranch and he's got his studies and inventions elsewhere. Still, this arrangement is a good deal for both of them.
Until that one night…
A sexy interlude with Mia makes Jack rethink their relationship…and their future. But all his plans grind to a halt when she asks for a divorce. Once upon a time, Jack might have agreed. But now that he knows the chemistry they share, he's not giving up a second chance to be with his wife.


Molly O'Keefe has always known she wanted to be a writer (except when she wanted to be a florist or a chef and the brief period of time when she considered being a cowgirl). And once she got her hands on some romances, she knew exactly what she wanted to write.

She published her first Harlequin romance at age 25 and hasn't looked back. She loves exploring every character's road towards happily ever after.

Originally from a small town outside of Chicago, she went to university in St. Louis where she met and fell in love with the editor of her school newspaper. They followed each other around the world for several years and finally got married and settled down in Toronto, Ontario. They welcomed their son into their family in 2006, and their daughter in 2008. When she's not at the park or cleaning up the toy room, Molly is working hard on her next novel, trying to exercise, stalking Tina Fey on the internet and dreaming of the day she can finish a cup of coffee without interruption.

To read the full interview, check out the Get Lost in a Story blog

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Interviewing Anna Humphrey

Today, I'm interviewing the lovely, Anna Humphrey, author of RHYMES WITH CUPID and the upcoming MISSION (UN)POPULAR.

Anna Humphrey is the author of RHYMES WITH CUPID (currently available) and MISSION (UN)POPULAR (due out June 2011)—both books for teens. She lives in Toronto with her husband and kids. 

I've been lucky enough to meet Anna in person through the fabulous @torkidlit tweet group. Follow our hashtag. :)


RHYMES WITH CUPID from HarperTeen is the story of a girl who finds romance despite her best efforts not to.

After a terrible heartbreak last Valentine’s day, Elyse Ulrich has sworn off dating as well as celebrating the February 14th holiday. Both things are a problem, though, since:
a) she works at a gift & stationery store, surrounded by annoying singing Cupid dolls, tacky heart-shaped balloons, and sappy cards with poems that don’t even really rhyme.
b) she ends up meeting Patrick, who works in the same mall and is her new neighbor and her driving instructor and is really cute and incredibly charming… which might be okay except for the whole ‘sworn off dating’ thing…

Elyse isn’t interested in putting her heart on the line. But with Valentine’s Day approaching, she finds out that avoiding Cupid’s arrow is a lot harder than she expected.

To read the full interview, click here: Get Lost in a Story.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Monday, January 24, 2011

Book Giveaway from Claudia Osmond!

Today, I interviewed the fabulous, Claudia Osmond over at Get Lost in a Story.

Drop by to read her great answers to my silly questions. If you comment on that post you'll get a chance to win her book, SMUDGE'S MARK!

Claudia Osmond is an only child, wife, and mother who loves caramel apples, hates snakes, stands for social justice, sits at the feet of her Muse, accepts the fact that she’s getting older, denies the idea that her best years are behind her, reads voraciously, writes passionately, sings only when no one’s listening, and admits that she wrote her very first novel in a closet ~ both literally and figuratively speaking.


“With a shaky hand, I laid the brass key on the paper flat side down, and slid it over top of the sketch. It fit the shape exactly. Then the line circling the key uncurled and reformed itself into two words: FIND IT.”

Simon is a fourteen-year-old Orphan with No Options: an O.W.N.O. And “Oh no” pretty much sums up his life. He’s stuck in Grimstown with his prank-pulling grampa and a housekeeper-slash-nanny from you-know-where. Worse, Simon can’t remember a thing about his childhood. Then one night a bizarre dream unlocks some of those forgotten memories, leaving Simon with half of a key in his pajama pocket and a growing awareness that he’s in the middle of a dangerous plot that threatens to destroy Emogen, a hidden realm connected to Earth. In order to save Emogen – and his best friend – from a deadly curse, Simon needs to find out who he really is. But can he discover his true identity before it’s too late?

Again, for a chance to win the book, leave a comment on the post at Get Lost in a Story! A blog for readers of all ages. 

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Interview with Eileen Cook!

I interviewed Eileen Cook at Get Lost in a Story, and we talked about her new YA book THE EDUCATION OF HAILEY KENDRICK (and about Johnny Depp). Check it out. :)

Eileen Cook is a multi-published author with her novels appearing in six different languages. She spent most of her teen years wishing she were someone else or somewhere else, which is great training for a writer.

You can read more about Eileen, her books, and the things that strike her as funny at Eileen lives in Vancouver with her husband and two dogs and no longer wishes to be anyone or anywhere else.

About the Book

Hailey Kendrick always does exactly what's expected of her. She has the right friends, dates the perfect boy, gets good grades, and follows all the rules. But one night, Hailey risks everything by breaking a very big rule in a very public way...and with a very unexpected partner in crime. Hailey gets caught, but her accomplice does not, and Hailey takes the fall for both of them.
Suddenly, Hailey's perfect life--and her reputation--are blowing up in her face. Her friends are all avoiding her. Her teachers don't trust her. Her boyfriend won't even speak to her for long enough to tell her that she's been dumped.
They say honesty is the best policy--but some secrets are worth keeping, no matter the cost. Or are they?

If you don't believe me, (and why wouldn't you?), here's what major reviewers have had to say about her latest release, THE EDUCATION OF HAILEY KENDRICK:
"Cook effectively builds both Hailey's (justified) feelings of rebellion and the social dynamics of her ostracism, especially in her growing friendship with a challenging townie, Drew, who supervises her punishment working with the janitorial staff....Cook coaxes considerable empathy for the otherwise privileged Hailey as she abandons the achievement treadmill to explore her independence."
--Publishers Weekly
* "Hailey may be an A student headed to the Ivy League, but when it comes to taking a chance on life, she’s clueless. She’s also enormously appealing and great company throughout this breezy read. Yes, it’s chick lit, but of the highest quality—like a gourmet truffle. Cook has whipped up a real treat.”
--Kirkus starred review

You can keep in touch with Eileen online here:
Twitter: @Eileenwriter

Thursday, January 06, 2011

True Grit -- A Western YA

When I walked in the theatre to see True Grit last weekend I was expecting to see a Western. And given how many groups of men were in the audience, so did they. Little did they know, we were about to see one of the smartest, funniest, most tightly plotted, girl-driven young adult stories I've seen/read in a long time.

I've never been a big fan of Westerns as a genre, but I do vaguely remember seeing the 1969 version of True Grit on TV, (probably because I had a now-embarrassing crush on Glen Campbell). And I barely remembered that the story was about a young girl.

When the book was first published, I understand it was put out by as a "book for young readers", and having just seen the new Coen brothers movie (twice), which supposedly follows the original book more closely, I understand that. And really want to read the book. It is a YA story.

I did a (tiny) bit of research before composing this post, and now understand that the original film didn't stick to the material in the novel as well as the Coen brothers did. Plus, in the new version, the actress who plays fourteen-year-old Mattie was just thirteen during filming. The actress in the original was twenty-one. And that says a lot in itself. I was in my early teens when I saw the original on TV and likely could easily see through the adult pretending to be fourteen.

The old version also took out a lot of the comic elements and made it more about Rooster and LeBoeuf and Chaney -- more of a traditional western. I think the Coen's managed to marry the two genres. Or rather make a YA with cross-over appeal, rather than a western. :)

One of the first things that struck me after seeing this movie was what an excellent lesson in POV it is. Perhaps it was just because I'm preparing to teach a POV workshop this weekend and thinking a lot about the topic, but I couldn't help but notice that here's not one scene in this movie that's not from Mattie's POV. Even the scenes that aren't really about her, or that she's not directly part of, we only see through her eyes... Entirely seen through the eyes of a fourteen year old girl. How could that not be a YA?

The trailer makes it seem like an adult western, and I suppose that was smart on the studio/distributor's part, but how little Mattie is in this trailer is misleading. As I said above, she is in every scene in the movie, even if she's just observing a few times. Also, the trailer makes her look like a victim. They skip the important part of that scene in the river. The part where she's incredibly brave.

A good ten or fifteen minutes of the movie goes by before we ever see (or hear) Rooster. And the first time we hear Rooster, she's tracked him down to an outhouse. And the Coen's don't cheat and show Jeff Bridges's face, or go for the potential funny moment of seeing him inside the outhouse with his pants down. Or without his pants down and simply hiding from the girl. No. We're left to imagine what he's doing and just see her banging on the door, saying things like, "you've been about your business for an awful long time, Marshall" and we only see the scene from her side. Similarly, when Rooster is testifying in a court case a few scenes later, (the first time we see his character), we don't see or hear any part of the trial until she walks in the room. Another example is when someone approaches Rooster and Mattie in the forest, when she's high up in a tree, we don't hear the conversation between Rooster and the man, until she's down out of the tree and within hearing distance. Anyone who wants to understand POV should watch this movie.

Even more, anyone who wants an example of an active, decisive, perfectly motivated protagonist should see this movie. Yes, Jeff Bridges is getting a lot of attention for his performance and he was excellent. Yes, Matt Damon is HILARIOUS as the bombastic braggart LeBoeuf (pronounced "LaBeef" in this movie -- which I found hilarious in itself). Yes, Brolin is astoundingly good as Chaney and Barry Pepper is so great in the role of Ned Pepper, I can't even imagine that Robert Duvall did it better in 1969. But the real star of this film is its protagonist, Mattie Ross, played by Hailee Steinfeld. She never misses a beat.

Mostly, I love that this is a story about a brave young girl in grown up and dangerous situations, but instead of being overwhelmed, she holds her own and doesn't need to rely on the adults for everything. Yes, it's true that she does need the adults. She couldn't have gone after Chaney on her own. But she's smart enough to know this and smart enough not to let the men take advantage of her, and even smart enough to push for her own way even when they aren't really trying to take advantage -- but thinking that they know what's good for her better than she does. This girl doesn't take cr%p from anyone. I particularly loved the scenes of her haggling near the beginning and how much she knows about law and how incredibly well-educated and articulate she is. Her word choices cracked me up so many times.

I think she's one of the strongest female characters I've seen in a long time who didn't have unrealistic skills or superpowers. And she's fourteen!

I even think my twelve year old niece should see this movie. I actually went the second time mostly to remind myself of the content because I'd already told my sister that she should take my niece to see it and started to question my recommendation. Yes, men get shot. Men get hung. It is a western. And there is one scene that's pretty gruesome, but it's not gratuitous and (like everything) it's shown through Mattie's eyes, and we feel the horror of it with her. (And compared to the violence in many PG-13 movies, it's really not that bad.)

YA is taking over the entertainment world right now -- it's even claimed the gritty western.
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