Check It Out!

Staff recommendations and reviews from the Plainfield Public Library

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The weirdness of this movie starts at the very beginning where none of the characters in this movie have names.  Jennifer Lawrence plays the young wife of a renowned poet (Javier Bardem), who has not written in years and suffers writer’s block. They live in an old house in what looks like a rural location. A man played by Ed Harris unexpectedly drops in, as he confuses their homestead as a bed and breakfast.

Bardem invites him in and allows him to stay, much to the wife’s chagrin. Then, Harris’ wife, played by Michelle Pfeiffer, arrives and is also invited to stay. The couple have a blatant disregard to Lawrence’s requests about her house, smoking when she has asked them not to or visiting Bardem’s home office, which she has said is off limits. Then the couple’s two grown children show up and an altercation over the father’s will ensues.

The movie only gets weirder from there, with Bardem finally able to write his next poem. The reaction from the public is bizarre, with them treating him like he is some sort of God and Lawrence the ultimate sacrifice. This movie isn’t for everyone, and you’ll be left baffled and confused unless you understand the deeper meaning, which went way over my head. Rated R.


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Bonfire by Krysten Ritter

In this debut novel from actress Krysten Ritter, Chicago environmental lawyer Abby Williams is brought back to her home town of Barrens, a rural community in southern Indiana, to investigate complaints of water pollution. Residents have been getting sick for years, which may be due to the practices of a plastics/polymer company called Optimal, who could be dumping their waste into the reservoir.

Abby and her team are having trouble getting anyone to talk since Optimal pretty much owns Barrens, having built the new community center and employing a large quantity of the residents. Even though she has tried to forget her past, Abby is brought back to her high school years when she runs into some of her classmates, including the best friend of Casey Mitchell. Casey and Abby used to be close until high school when Casey and a group of three other girls became popular and bullied Abby.

Back then, Casey would get sick with unexplained fainting and vomiting, but it turned out the whole thing was a hoax. Casey admitted to faking it for attention, and then split shortly after graduation. No one has heard from her since. Abby’s assignment becomes derailed when she makes it her mission to find Casey. Perhaps she wasn’t really faking it after all. And is Optimal paying people to keep quiet?

For a debut novel by an actress, I was pretty impressed with BonfireMultiple plot strings keep readers hooked and make for a fast and entertaining read.

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Home Again

Alice Kinney (Reese Witherspoon), daughter of a famous screenwriter and producer, moves back to LA to her childhood home after recently separating from her husband (Michael Sheen). It’s her 40th birthday, and she goes a little crazy with her friends where they end up dancing the night away with a group of twenty-something guys.

One of the guys, Harry, ends up in Alice’s bed while his two friends crash on the couch. The three guys (Harry, Teddy and George), who moved to LA in hopes of making it in Hollywood, are like homeless puppies, so Alice agrees to let them stay in her guest house until they can get back on their feet. They form a bond with Alice’s two daughters, and Harry and Alice embark on a flirtatious romance, even though she knows that it’s just a fling.

When Alice’s ex, Austen, drops in unexpectedly, he is not too happy with his family’s current living arrangement. Alice must learn to balance single motherhood in her unconventional new family.

Reese is always cute, but the whole premise was unbelievable and the acting just bad. If you can suspend belief and enjoy the requisite happy ending, then this movie is for you. Rated PG-13.

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The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine

Running away from her past, Amber has the perfect plan to get the life she deserves.  She stages a run in with Daphne Parrish at Daphne’s gym where she “accidentally” drops a magazine about Cystic Fibrosis.  The disease is an issue close to Daphne’s heart since she lost her sister of CF.  Amber constructs a false story suggesting she lost her own sister to CF as well.

Although they make an unlikely pair since Daphne comes from the rich society of Bishop’s Harbor along the Long Island Sound and Amber claims she comes from a small Nebraska town, the two become fast friends. They are so close that Amber becomes almost like the sister Daphne lost. When Amber loses her real estate job, Daphne is there to help by getting her a job at her husband’s prestigious Manhattan company.

As Jackson Parrish’s new assistant, Amber starts dressing differently, wearing more revealing and stylish clothes and not the mousy attire she used to sport. Amber believes that she can seduce the handsome and powerful Jackson and convince him to leave Daphne. Amber will finally get the luxurious lifestyle that is owed to her, and Daphne, who doesn’t appreciate what she has, will be left with nothing. However, things rarely go according to plan.

This was a page turner I couldn’t put down.  The characters’ actions are dark and shocking, but you’ll want to keep reading to see what she’ll do next and how it will all end.

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LEGO Ninjago

In this new addition to the LEGO franchise, Lloyd is your average school kid by day, but Lloyd and his friends turn into Ninja warriors whenever villain Garmadon and his hench people show up in an attempt to take over Ninjago City. But there is more to the story than simply trying to defeat Garmadon, as Garmadon is Lloyd’s father. As if being a Ninja warrior isn’t enough, Lloyd struggles knowing that his father doesn’t care to be a part of his life.

Despite a warning from Ninja master Uncle Woo, Lloyd releases the “ultimate weapon” on the city to stop Garmadon, but this time it has endangered everyone. There is an “ultimate ultimate weapon” that Lloyd and his friends need to find to save the city. It will take a trek across a dangerous jungle where Lloyd learns not only about becoming a true Ninja, but also about his past and his father.

Loved this movie! I am not a super LEGO fan by any means, and took a friend’s five-year old son to see it and enjoyed it more than the kid. Enough hilarity and action ensue to entertain anyone of any age. Rated PG

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The Beguiled

Strict and conservative Martha (Nicole Kidman) runs a home for girls in Civil War Virginia where she in charge of six girls of varying ages. One of the younger girls, Amy, is out collecting mushrooms when she comes across a solider who can’t walk because of a leg injury. Not wanting to leave him stranded and injured, she helps Corporal McBurney (Colin Farrell) stumble back to the house.

The stranger’s good looks aren’t lost on Martha and the older girls, who definitely take notice. Martha tends to his wounds until he can walk again. He is mostly confined to the music room while he is healing, so as to avoid temptation. As he is getting better, the Corporal realizes he has nowhere to go and hopes that he can stick around the house to help with the gardens. He even confesses his love to the oldest girl, Edwina (Kirsten Dunst), who he promises to meet in her bedroom later that evening.

Instead, he goes to the bedroom of the younger Alicia (Elle Fanning) and Edwina can hear their giggling outside her room. When she goes to confront him, a scuffle occurs which causes the Corporal to take a tumble down the stairs. Now his leg is injured beyond repair.  Martha, aware of his rejection of her and Edwina in favor of Alicia, takes advantage of the Corporal’s new injury to exact revenge.

This dark movie takes a bit to build to the inevitable conclusion, which happens abruptly, and may not appeal to everyone. Rated R

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Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips

Joan is at the zoo with her four-year-old son, Lincoln, like she is on many afternoons with him. Lincoln likes to play in the dinosaur dig area with his action figures while making up his “stories.” In the distance, she hears a few loud bangs, but doesn’t think any thing of it. It’s almost closing time, and she has to get Lincoln to start walking towards the exit so they don’t get locked in.

As they make their way towards the exit, something is off.  And then she is it: bloody bodies on the ground, and in the distance, gun fire rings out. She sees at least one man making the shots. Instinct kicks in and immediately she scoops up Lincoln and runs back into the depths of the zoo to find a place to hide. But how do you keep a toddler from making any noise, even if their lives are a stake?

The rest of the novel takes place over the course of a few hours as Joan’s maternal instinct is put to the test at a place where the predators are young, disturbed gun men and Joan, her son, and any remaining zoo visitors are the prey.

Overall, this was an intense read that kept you engaged throughout, and an ending that leaves you with more questions than answers.