Southbury Teen Review Blog

Books, music, movies, and more!

The Great Gatsby June 5, 2013

PG-13, 142 minutes, Warner Bros. Pictures, Village Roadshow

gatsby movieWhat’s that saying?  Everything old is new again?  Well, that’s certainly the case with The Great Gatsby.  The Roaring Twenties are hotter than ever – the music, the fashion, hairstyles – Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan!  Baz Luhrmann, the director famous for movies like Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge, has given us another visual masterpiece.

We all know the story of Jay Gatsby and his tragic rise and fall by know, right?  I’ll assume you do.  (I highly recommend you re-acquaint yourself with this classic if you don’t!)

Tobey Maguire is the perfect Nick Carraway, the fresh-faced narrator and witness to the escapades to come.  His cousin Daisy Buchanan is played by Carey Mulligan.  Her fragile beauty and breezy indifference add depth to this shallow character.  The real standout performances for me were Joel Edgerton as Tom Buchanan and Isla Fisher as Myrtle Wilson.

Fans of the 1974 Francis Ford Coppola version starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow and a more genteel portrayal of Fitzgerald’s novel need not despair.  The 2013 version is different enough not to diminish its importance.  Luhrmann is famous for lavish spectacles and he does not disappoint.  The party scenes are a feast for the senses.  The true depth to the decadence of the times is felt more than in any other film adaptation.  Whether you’re a die-hard Fitzgerald fan or not, this one is a must see!


The Diviners June 3, 2013

The Diviners by Libba Bray

the-divinersIt’s 1926.  The height of the Jazz Age.  Evie O”Neill arrives fresh from Ohio in NYC to live with her Uncle Will Fitzgerald.  He just happened to be curator of the Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult (locally know as the Museum of the Creepy Crawlies).  Coincidentally, Uncle Will is consulting on the recent spate of serial murders  gripping the city.  Evie soon finds herself thrust in the midst of the investigations into the Pentagram Killer.

A varied cast of characters including Ziegfeld girl Theta Knight, Evie’s best friend Mabel Rose and erstwhile pickpocket Sam Lloyd all become embroiled in the supernatural goings on.  Memphis Campbell and his younger brother Isaiah possess certain gifts similar to Evie’s.  Uncle Will’s assistant Jericho Jones may be hiding secrets as well.  Can Evie and co. solve the mystery and put an end to the killings before Naughty John makes quick work of them all?

Filled with more nifty lingo than you can shake a stick at, The Diviners is the cat’s pajamas!  Libba Bray has done it again, masterfully blending insidious horror with hilarious moments, and a hint of romance.  Evie O’Neill is “pos-i-lutely” an instant classic heroine.

“Naughty John, Naughty John, does his work with his apron on.  Cuts your throat and takes your bones, sells ’em off for a coupla stones.”


Jepp, Who Defied the Stars

Jepp, Who Defied the Stars by Katherine Marsh

jeppwhodefiedthestarsJepp, Who Defied the Stars is the tale of an 16th century teenager with dwarfism and the uncertain path his life takes.  Urged by nobleman Don Diego, Jepp agrees to leave his loving mother and Astraveld, the only home he’s known.  He is unwittingly captured and sold to the Infanta Isabella and taken to the Palace of Coudenberg in the Spanish Netherlands.  Here Jepp is subjected to the humiliating role of court jester.  Among his companions are several other dwarfs.  He quickly becomes enamored with the beautiful Lia.  Not resigned to such indignations, Jepp attempts escape several times.  He and Lia make one last attempt, only resulting in her untimely death, for which Jepp feels responsible.

He is eventually “sold” to Tycho Brach and travels to Uraniborg.  Here he is kept at his master’s feet and fed scraps like a dog under the table.  Curiosities abound at Brahe’s home, like the huge Elk that roams the halls and shares a stall with Jepp.  Soon Brahe’s daughter discovers Jepp is not all he appears.  He reads Latin and is the intellectual equivalent of any astronomer there and soon begins to assist the scientists.  Not one to settle down for too long, Jepp must travel back to his home and revisit ghosts from his past before he can truly embrace his future.

An engrossing and unique tale that asks the question is our fate determined or do we have free will and the ability to change what is written in the stars.


Tamagotchi L.I.F.E app

Filed under: Tech Talk — Heather @ 4:16 pm
Tags: , ,

tamagotchiRewind the clock to the late 1990s – Tamagotchis are back!  The free app from Bandai Co. can be downloaded to Android smartphones.  For those of you that loved the original plastic egg-shaped toy, this app is a must.

The same rules apply when taking care of your Tamagotchi.  You are responsible for the care of a virtual pet.  Yes, this includes feeding, exercise, and even poop scooping.  Constant attention is needed or you’ll find  your critter has virtually croaked.

The addition of games that increase the happiness of your pet are  included on this app.  Look for that same pixelated appearance, but now in color.  Cuteness abounds, but be mindful this game is a time sucker, just like the toy.

Now available for iPhones and iPads.


Beautiful Creatures

beautiful creatures moviePG-13, 124 minutes, Alcon Entertainment, Warner Bros. Entertainment

The highly anticipated screen version of Beautiful Creatures, the best-selling novel by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, has arrived.  While I wanted to catch this one in the theater, I had to wait until the DVD was released.  Although not a box office smash, I was pleasantly surprised by this adaptation.

For those of you familiar with the book, the supernaturally star-crossed teens need no introduction.  Ethan Wate is played by the adorkably handsome Alden Ehrenreich.  The mysterious new girl in town is played by Alice Englert.  Lena Duchannes has come to stay with her uncle Macon Ravenwood, played brilliantly by the inimitable Jeremy Irons.  Lena and her family are Casters, or what we’d call witches.  On her not-so-sweet-sixteenth birthday Lena will be claimed by either the light or dark side of the family.  Dark cousin Ridley arrives to make sure Lena joins her on the dark side.  Can Lena choose light over dark?   Can Lena’s and Ethan’s love survive?  Or will a two hundred year old curse tear them apart for good?

If you’ve read the book, then you know the answers anyway!  A few changes to the plot are not a deterrent from enjoying this film.  My only complaints are the absence of Marion the librarian and Macon’s dog Boo Radley.  Other than that, this was a more than decent adaptation.  Standout performances from Eileen Atkins as Gramma, Viola Davis as Amma, and Emma Thompson as Mrs. Lincoln round out a fantastic cast.  A definite must-see for fans of the book.


The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

great gatsby bookOften called “the Great American Novel,” F. Scott Fitzgerald‘s The Great Gatsby has been popular since first published in 1925.  An instant hit with the flappers and philosophers of the Jazz Age, the story struck a cord and the reverberations are still felt today as the title appears on countless reading lists and is now a getting the star treatment from director Baz Luhrmann.

The tale is narrated by Nick Carraway, a young man fresh from Yale and World War I, as he moves East to be a bond trader on Wall Street.  Renting a tiny cottage in West Egg, Long Island, Nick finds himself neighbors with the mysterious Jay Gatsby.  Next door Nick is witness to decadent and lavish parties held at Gatsby’s immense mansion.  Across the bay from Gatsby’s, a green light blinks on a dock on old monied East Egg.  This happens to be the home of Nick’s cousin Daisy Buchanan and her philandering husband Tom.

Naive Nick quickly becomes embroiled in the exploits of the super wealthy, complete with trips to NYC, gangsters, and socialites.  Tom takes Nick to meet his mistress, Myrtle Wilson, wife of poor mechanic George.  They reside in the “valley of the ashes” between Long Island and New York City.  This depressed and destitute border town is watched over by the eyes of Dr. T J Eckleburg, a billboard and silent witness of events to come.

Nick is then invited to one of Gatsby’s parties.  Here he encounters Daisy’s friend Jordan Baker and finally meets the Jay Gatsby.  Later, Nick learns that Gatsby and Daisy were sweethearts before the war.  Separated by distance and social status, Daisy eventually married Tom instead.  Now, Gatsby wants Nick’s help in reuniting with Daisy.

Events come to a head when the five travel to the Plaza Hotel in the city.  Gatsby urges Daisy to confront Tom and tell him she never loved him.  Tom counters with questions about Gatsby’s dubious origins and the real source of his millions.  Unable to commit to Gatsby, Daisy wants to leave.  Tom sends them home together as he, Nick and Jordan follow in another car.  While speeding through the “valley of the ashes,” Daisy hits and kills Myrtle.  Gatsby takes responsibility for the accident, trying to cover up the evidence.  When Tom finds a distraught George Wilson at the scene of the accident, he tells him it was Gatsby in the yellow car.

Nick leaves Gatsby as he waits in vain for Daisy to change her mind.  Taking a dip in the luxurious swimming pool he’s never used, Gatsby is shot to death by a vengeful George Wilson, who then takes his own life.  Myrtle’s death and adultery is attributed to Gatsby.  Daisy and Tom flee to Chicago, heedless of the destruction left in their wake.  Nick remains to make arrangements for his deceased friend.  Only Gatsby’s father, the stranger known as Owl Eyes and Nick are mourners at the funeral.

The Great Gatsby‘s themes are timeless and universal.  The desire to achieve and accumulate doesn’t make you happy.  You can’t buy love or friendship.  You can look to the past, but rarely recapture those moments.  As powerful as it was almost 90 years ago, F. Scott Fitzgerald‘s The Great Gatsby is just a relevant today.

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”