Monday, February 02, 2009

Monday At the Theater: Inkheart & Phantom of the Opera

Movie: Inkheart
Genre: ‎Action/Adventure/Family/Scifi/Fantasy
MPAA Rating: PG
Directed By: Iain Softley
Writers: David Lindsay-Abaire (screenplay) & Cornelia Funke (novel)
A young girl discovers her father has an amazing talent to bring characters out of their books and must try to stop a freed villain from destroying them all, with the help of her father, her aunt, and a storybook's hero. [from IMDB]
I am one of a handful of people who was not blown away when I first read Cornelia Funke's Inkheart. I loved the premise of the book, but I wasn't as enamored as so many other book lovers were. Could it have been because the book is YA fiction, a genre that is hit and miss with me? Or was it something else? I really don't remember exactly. It has been quite a while since I read the book, but I knew I wanted to see the movie when I first heard it was being released. Maybe this would be a case of my loving the movie more than the book. At least that's what I hoped. Not so much. I did enjoy the movie. It was entertaining and fun, but I came away with that same feeling I had after reading the book. I liked it fine, but it did not blow me away.

In the case of the movie, the story moved along so fast and with such a full cast of characters, it was difficult to really get to know any of them well. I did think Paul Bettany in the role of Dustfinger, one of the characters who had been read out of a book, did an impressive job, and I just adored Helen Mirren's character, Great Aunt Elinor. I could not tell you how closely the movie mirrors the book since it has been so long since I read it. I loved the sets and costumes. Oh, how I wouldn't have minded traveling along those windy roads in the hills and mountains!

I have not read the other books in the series and admit I have not been too enthusiastic to do so. A friend recently told me the later books are better than the first and I should give them a try. What do you think? Those of you who have read the books, do you think I should continue with the series?

My husband and I saw Inkheart on a Friday afternoon, while most people were at work and children were at school, all that is except a few scattering who had come to see the movie just like us. I admit that I am a bit of an eavesdropper when in restaurants and at the movie theater. If I hear something that catches my interest, I immediately try to hone in. I'm nosy. I admit it.

I didn't hear anything of interest while at the Inkheart showing, but the weekend before, while waiting for Defiance to start, I overhead an interesting discussion that piqued my interest. Two women, who were sitting in the same aisle as my husband and I, were discussing one of the woman's love of books. She was telling her friend how much she loved to read as a child. She told the story of how she used to pull a chair over to the refrigerator and climb up on top of it to reach the adult magazines her mother kept on top, out of reach. I haven't a clue what the storyteller meant by adult magazines, but I admired her initiative.

She went on to say that when she was a child she used to hide a copy of Peyton Place (by Grace Metalious) under her mattress that she read over and over again. She knew her mother would be quite upset if she found out her daughter was reading such a "risque book."

I imagine many book lovers have similar stories of sneaking or hiding books they thought they might get in trouble for reading when they were young. How about you? Do you have a similar story you would like to share?

My husband and I went to see The Phantom of the Opera this past Saturday at the Pantages Theater in Los Angeles. I have been wanting to see it since my high school days when I first heard Michael Crawford sing Music of the Night. For the longest time, that song would make me melt inside just about every time I heard it.

My brother and I had long ago seen a musical called Phantom, which I had expected to be the Andrew Lloyd Webber version, only to discover, much to my disappointment, that it wasn't (although, Phantom was good in its own right and I enjoyed it very much). So, this was a huge deal for me.

For those who are not familiar with the story, The Phantom of the Opera is based on the novel by Gaston Leroux which was published in the early 1900's. The story is set in a 19th century Parisian opera house that is believed to be haunted by a ghost. The ghost takes a special interest in a young woman from the chorus and mentors her, bringing her into her own. She has the makings to be a great opera star and the opera ghost, known as the Phantom, is determined to see her dream come true. His love for her turns to obsession and what follows is a tragic and terrifying story.

My husband and I didn't get off to a good start the evening of the musical, unfortunately, and it cast a shadow on the rest of the night. We were late getting to the theater (thanks to a stalled van right smack dab in the middle of the freeway, and then we missed our exit.) For the record, I hate being late to anything. I try and always be early. So, you can imagine my dismay that we ended up being so late. I almost told my husband to just turn around and forget it.

We ended up missing the first scene and had to step over several people to get to our seats. I think I stepped on one man's toes--I felt so bad! It turned out that a couple in the row decided our seats were better than their own (which they were) and had taken over our seats. As a result, we ended up practically crossing over the entire row of people to get to the two empty seats in the row. In the dark, we had no way of knowing this until later--and since we were late, we couldn't really complain at that point. We did finally settle in, but it took a while.

I thought the show was marvelous otherwise. John Cudia who played the Phantom was wonderful, and whenever Trista Moldovan, who played the role of Christine, opened her mouth, I got chills. The character of Raoul, performed by Kyle Barisich, won me over instantly, and now I am wondering why I never noticed what a great song All I Ask of You is.

You should probably feel sorry for my coworkers this week as I serenade them with songs from The Phantom of the Opera.

We will be seeing Grease in March. It's one of my favorite musicals. Can you feel my excitement?


  1. I am with you on the Inkheart book. I just didnt really like it, and I do enjoy the YA genre.

    Its shame the movie didnt hit the spot as it has some really good actors in it so should have just blown everything out of the water. Again its not out here yet :( so will have to wait and see for myself.

    I never really had a sneaking books story as both parents were bibliophiles so they never batted an eyelid. But then again the only thing I was interested in sneaking into was the cupboard that held the Christmas presents LOL

  2. I haven't read or watched Inkheart yet; my husband was talking about the movie the other day and I'm not sure if I wanted to watch it though, since I haven't read the book and that I've heard mixed reviews about it.

    I'm particular about punctuality too. I hate to walk into the cinema in pitch darkness and then dismayed to find that the show has started! I confess I've this 'afraid to lose' mentality when it comes to watching movies in cinemas; I've to be seated before the screen is on, LOL! I hate to miss anything, even with the trailers! ;P

  3. I definitely intend to see Inkheart with my daughter read it (I did not) and loved it.

    Some wild soul in my grade school was able to get a copy of "Forever" by Judy Blume. For a ten year old farm girl, this was forbidden fruit. It circulated through the entire class. My mom would have just died had she known I read it. (I would die now if my daughter read it!) We were all deliciously shocked by the book.

    I've seen Phantom as well on the traveling Broadway tour through Orlando awhile back. I had prepared by consuming the music for a month prior. I was entranced. My husband fell asleep.

  4. Inkheart hasn't released in India yet and I have been wanting to see it since I saw the trailer on youtube. I haven't read the book so I am glad I won't compare it to anything :)

  5. Sorry about your rough start with The Phantom of the Opera, but I'm glad in the end it turned out to be an enjoyable experience.

    I don't remember ever hiding anything I was reading from my parents. But as a kid, I loved Judy Blume. I was 11- or 12-years-old when Wifey came out. And my mom bought it for me, having no idea that it most definitely was NOT a kids' book. She'd probably have had a heart attack if she'd known what she'd handed me.

  6. I love Grease! I've seen the movie a million times, but I don't remember seeing the play. I might have a long time ago. Enjoy!

  7. Thanks for the Inkheart review. I think I'll wait for the DVD. I'm sorry your trip got off to such a rocky start. I hate being late too. As a matter of fact, it's almost impossible for me to be later for some reason. LOL.

  8. I've read the first two books in the Inkheart series, and loved them both. I haven't gotten around to number three yet. I'm definitely planning to take my kids to the movie - we can't wait for it to get to our little rural town's one-screen movie theater!

    I've seen the touring company of Phantom of the Opera on stage twice, and found it brilliant both times. When I was a sophomore in college, I went with a group of friends to see it in Vancouver, BC. We left immediately after morning classes, thinking the show started at 3. Someone checked the tickets en route and found it started at 2! I discovered that changing into a dress and stocking and heels in the back of a Ford hatchback is possible, but not easy! We then had to run from the parking lot to the theater and made it into our seats just as the lights dimmed. Since I had removed my heels to run, the bottoms of my stockings were gone. :) Fun memory.

  9. Inkheart – I’ve never read it (nor do I have any desire to even though a very good friend RAVES about it) but I would like to see the movie. Kiddo isn’t interested though … he wants to see Bedtime Stories instead.

    Phantom of the Opera – Although I know all of the words to all of the songs, I still have never seen this entire play. And I’m sure that despite knowing the songs, I really don’t know what happens in the story. The same thing happened with Miss Saigon – when I finally saw the play, I was completely shocked at what actually happened.

    And by the way, if I were your co-worker I’d be singing right along with you all week! ~LOL~

  10. I'm so thrilled to hear that you fell in love with Phantom--despite the difficulties getting there. This is one of my favorite musicals and I don't think I'll ever tire of listening to it. At the end when they are in the underground lair and Christine and Raoul are singing to one another--oh, it breaks my heart just thinking about the music. All I Ask of You is definitely one of my favorites--along with Point of No Return. I think I'll listen to it now. :)

    Thanks for sharing your experience with us! How did Anjin like it?

  11. I felt the same way as you about Inkheart (and I generally love YA fiction!). It was nice, but it didn't blow me away. I've also heard that the other books in the series are better, though, so I'll pick them up someday. I'm just not dying to read them or anything. I haven't watched the movie yet, but it's too bad that it was rushed.

    When I was about 11 or 12 I sneakily read my parent's copy of Dracula. I remember staying home sick for a few days and hiding it under my pillow whenever someone came into my room to check on me. My parents never forbade me from reading any books, but I was afraid that if they caught me with Dracula at that age they'd decide it was too scary for me and take it away :P

  12. I enjoyed Inkheart, although I admit that it did not come up to my expectations. I have not read any further in the series, however.

    Sorry that the mishaps spoiled some of your pleasure at Phantom, especially since you had looked forward to it for so long.

  13. Phantom is my favorite obsession! I mean musical! I love the story and the music...its beautiful from beginning to end.

    I loved the book first though. Gaston Leroux has a journalistic style all his own. Its a good read if you want to learn more about the Phantom character. Also Susan Kay's Phantom is a great prequel to the Paris incidents...

  14. I haven't read the Inkheart books and didn't realize that a movie was out (I'm behind!).

    I was in L.A. Saturday too! I attended a lecture by a Holocaust survivor at the Skirball Cultural Center. She teaches at one of the Claremont Colleges and recently published a book based on her interviews of 18 women who were part of the French Resistance. As a child she was one of the children saved from the Holocaust through the kindness of a French family who took her in as one of their own children.

    I still haven't seen Phantom; I think I'd like it. Glad you were able to finally settle in a enjoy it. I know what you mean about being early to events and not missing the beginning.

  15. Sorry you were late to the theatre - stupid LA freeways :-)! Glad you enjoyed the show, though. Phantom has never really been a draw for me, but I am a bit envious that you'll be seeing Grease - that should be LOTS of fun!

    We saw Inkheart this weekend too. Stepson is reading another book by Cornelia Funke, so he was interested in it, and Stepdaughter read the book a few years ago. We sll liked the movie, but I think you have a point - the premise itself is more interesting than the presentation. I liked the casting, though.

  16. Phantom of the Opera is one of my favorite musicals. I'd so love to see it again!

  17. I felt like you about Inkheart the book, so I want to go see the movie. :D And I love Phantom of the Opera; for my twelfth birthday, my mom took me to see it in London (we lived in England at the time, and we had just read the book). I listened to the soundtrack over and over, and then last year my sister surprised my mom and I with tickets when we were in San Antonio. It was fun to see it again! I really like the movie version too. :D

  18. I've heard a lot of people say similar things about INKHEART. I had pretty much the same reaction to THE THIEF LORD, and that's left me reluctant to pick up any of her other books. I'm sure I'll get to them someday, but not too soon.

    Re: sneaking books: my parents and I never clashed when I was little, but when I was fifteen I started reading Anne Rice. I kept the book under wraps until I was nearly finished, as I was sure my father would be upset. I was right; he piled on the guilt in an attempt to get me to abandon "those dark, negative books that [he'd] really prefer [I] didn't read." I ignored him and bought the rest of the series.

  19. I have not heard of this book but will have to check it out

  20. I'm glad you had such a wonderful time at Phantom, despite getting there a bit late. I saw it once in Vancouver years and years ago. We had terrible, high seats though so we couldn't fully enjoy it but then I saw it again when we lived in London and we had great seats that time. I'm going to have to listen to the CDs again, it's been a while. :)

  21. Thanks so much for doing Monday's Movie. I enjoyed reading about both movies!

  22. I'm glad you enjoyed the movie! I wished I did too but I just couldn't stomach the fact that it was changed so much from the book. I like Dustfinger and I think the actor did a great job.

  23. I haven't read Inkheart either but all the kids at my middle school love it!! They know that I have Inkdeath in the back just waiting to be processed...I like to tease them!!!

    I'm with you on having to be early for everything. I don't care what it is I need to be AT least 15 minutes early. That is a shame that someone else felt they could take your seats!!! I'm envious..I've never seen a broadway show and would love to see this one performed live. I bet Grease will be spectacular too!!!!

  24. Caspette - I think my expectations were a little too high going into Inkheart. I did think the actors did a good job; it just felt there wasn't really enough time to get to know them as well as I might have liked. Hopefully you will enjoy it when you do get the chance to see it.

    I never had to sneak books either, although I did occasionally sneak in reading time when I was supposed to be sleeping. :-)

    Melody - Many people enjoyed the book Inkheart and so you might like it as well, Melody. I think the story has a great premise and a lot of fun characters.

    I like to catch the trailers before the start of a movie too. I don't know about the theaters in your country, but in my part of the world many of the movie theaters run 15-20 minute pre-shows which are basically big advertisements for products, TV shows or upcoming movies. Sometimes they are interesting, but because my husband and I go to the movies frequently we end up seeing the same pre-show over and over again. As a result, we don't really care if we miss the pre-show. The theater isn't darkened for the pre-show and so it doesn't have that arriving late feel to it, thank goodness.

    Sandy - I hope you and your children enjoy Inkheart. The children in our theater seemed pleased with the movie, so that's a good sign. :-)

    I remember "Forever". I was a little older when I got to that one, I think. My parents were pretty liberal about my reading material. I don't remember there ever being books that were off limits.

    Haha! That's funny about your husband falling asleep. :-) I think my husband was a little less impressed with Phantom of the Opera than some of the other musicals we've had the chance to see, although he did seem to like it. I'd been listening the to CD's off and on for weeks before the show, but I probably should have made a point to listen to them while hubby was around. I think he would have appreciated the performance more. He was actually the one who put the CD's on the next day wanting to relieve the experience.

    Eliza - I look forward to hearing your thoughts on Inkheart when you do see it, especially not having read the book. My husband didn't read the book and wasn't impressed with the movie, but then, it really wasn't his type of movie. He just went because I wanted to see it (although I did tell him I didn't mind going on my own)

    Debi -Thanks, Debi. I am glad it turned out well, but now I will have to make a point of going again someday to see the entire show. :-) It won't be this year though.

    That's funny about the Judy Blume book. :-) I loved her books when I was around that age too. Like with your parents, I didn't really have to hide any of the books I was reading. I used to put a towel at the base of my door hoping to block my reading light from filtering through in the middle of the night though. Anything to stay up late and read without being told to go to sleep.

    Yvonne - I love Grease too. :-) My husband was joking with me that it won't be the same without John Travolta. I have never seen the play before, but, like you, I've seen the movie a million times.

    Kristy - I think seeing it on DVD is a good idea, especially if you aren't dying to see it right away. I wish I had your luck at hardly ever being late. :-) I'm so good about leaving early to get to places too. You can bet we'll be leaving extra early for Grease and we'll probably have a long wait before the play in the meantime. :-) It'll give us an excuse to have dinner in the city, maybe.

  25. Carrie K. - I hope you don't have to wait long! Be sure and let me know what you think of it when you see it.

    That was a close call in Vancouver! I am glad you made it just in time! I had to laugh about your stockings. That sounds like something that would happen to me. :-)

    Heather - Bedtime Stories looks like a cute movie. Adam Sandler is a hit and miss actor for me though so I don't know if I will see that one.

    That's happened to me several times too, where I haven't really known the overall story of a musical even though I know all the words to the songs. Les Miserables, however, was completely different. I knew that one from start to finish--but then, the entire musical is in song and music and there aren't any speaking part. I loved Miss Saigon. I wasn't familiar with the music or the story when I saw that one, so it was all a surprise to me.

    You are welcome to come to work with me and sing along. :-)

    Trish - I was listening to the CD on my way to work this morning, and I have to say, it really relaxed me! So beautiful! My commute isn't that long though, so I didn't make it far into the first CD.

    Anjin liked the second half much better than the first. He had trouble understanding a couple of the group songs and I think that put a damper on his enjoyment. It's not one of his favorite musicals, he's decided, but he did have a good time. And now we're fighting over the CD's (we don't have iPods or MP3 players).

    Nymeth - I will probably read the rest of the series too, but, like you, I'm not in a hurry.

    How cool! Dracula at such a young age! I am not sure I would have appreciated it then as I did when I read it as an adult a couple of years ago.

    Jenclair - Inkheart did have its ups. It was a very quotable book. And I loved the aunt's library . . .

    Hopefully I will get a chance to see Phantom of the Opera again. I'll be better prepared next time. :-)

    Serena - Haha! Right now, I can't get enough of the music right now. And I definitely want to read the book now, especially after you described the author's writing as being a "journalistic style all his own." I definitely get the impression from both musicals and the movie that there is a depth to the Phantom that is worth exploring more.

    Terri - That's okay. My poor mom called the other night and was telling me about all the new movies coming out (I guess there were several trailers during the Super Bowl), all of which I had already heard about. Although I am not always in the know, I tend to keep an eye on movies since my husband and I enjoy movies so much.

    What a coincidence that you were in L.A. on Saturday too! The lecture sounds really interesting, like something I would have liked hearing. Do you remember the woman's name? I will have to look for her book.

    It almost feels like a big piece is missing when you miss the beginning. :-(

  26. Florinda - And the van had to be right in the middle of the freeway, not off to the side like a good broken down van. I do feel bad for whoever was in the van. It really slowed down the traffic for miles and miles. Grease is going to be awesome; I just know it. You should try and see it. ;-)

    I do think the casting for Inkheart was good, I agree. I'm hoping we can see Slumdog Millionaire this coming weekend, but we'll see.

    Megan - It's definitely a great show. I hope you are able to see it again--and me too!

    Eva - Haha! Hopefully you will enjoy the movie. :-)

    What a great surprise from your sister! I definitely would like to see Phantom of the Opera again. I liked the movie, but the actor who played the Phantom wasn't Michael Crawford and so I wasn't quite as taken in by the movie when I saw it all those years ago. I wonder what I'd think of it now.

    Memory - If it's meant to be, you will find your way to the books when their time comes. That's what I keep telling myself. :-)

    When I was in my teens, I went through a Harlequin Intrigue and John Saul phase and my parents never seemed to mind. We'd trade off books. I really cannot think of any books they minded my reading or wanted me to stay away from. I was always encouraged to read whatever I wanted.

    Anne Rice's books are pretty dark. I probably would have kept reading them too, despite any parental protests. :-)

    Cheryl - I hope you enjoy it if you do decide to read it.

    Nat - Our seats weren't too bad, but I wouldn't have minded being closer. We got our tickets fairly early, but most of the better seats were already taken, not to mention we couldn't afford the cost of the best seats in the house. I'm just glad we got to go. I would love to see it performed in London. That must have been awesome.

    Sher - Thank you for hosting the Monday Movie event. :-)

  27. Alice - You almost make me want to go back and re-read the book to see exactly what the changes were. Almost, but now quite. ;-) I am sorry the movie was such a disappointment to you. I guess it does pay off to have a lot of time sometimes between reading the book and seeing the movie.

    Staci - I can definitely see the appeal of Inkheart, especially for the younger crowd. You are such a tease! I can just see all those middle school students begging and pleading for you to hurry up and process Inkdeath so they can read it. You're such a tease! LOL

    I hope someday you are able to see a live performance of a show. Even if it's not a Broadway show, they can be quite spectacular. One of the things I miss about living in Sacramento is the Music Circus. It's a theater in the round, with a circular state in the middle and seats all around. That's an experience not to be missed.

  28. I've read the whole Inkworld series, and to everyone who read Inkheart and was disappointed and stopped: Keep going! I was also pretty ambivalent after Inkheart, but the other two books are *much* better - more mature storytelling, broader scope, more complex characters and themes, more interesting world to explore... just generally better.

  29. (I skipped your review of Inkheart because I want to watch it first)... but Phantom of the Opera!! I'm also a HUGE fan. My boyfriend surprised me at Christmas with tickets to see it in London!! I loved it and I think I could watch it again and again... the orchestra was my favourite part -- so powerful!

  30. As a fellow Phantom lover, I am THRILLED for you that you finally got to see it! I've seen two different touring companies, and both times I cried. It's beautiful.

  31. I still haven't gone to see Inkheart :( I do remember really loving the book though! I'm almost positive that I've seen The Phantom of the Opera too... at least I know I've listened to the soundtrack lol! Grease is one of my favorite musicals too! I have the original soundtrack LP that folds out and everything.

  32. I haven't read Inkheart yet, but I did see the film. I loved it but I am not sure if I was slightly biased by Paul Bettany being toppless doing fire poi! I love Phantom too. I used to have a copy of the soundtrack on tape (I wonder where that went) and I saw it on my 20th birthday on it's final day in Liverpool. I really must go and see it again. Sing your heart out at work!

  33. Fyrefly - Thank you for the advice about the Funke's trilogy. I probably will read on, especially after what you said about the storytelling being more mature and with more complex characters.

    Monica - I remember you talking about going. What a great gift! The music is so powerful in Phantom of the Opera.

    Elizabeth - Phantom is just amazing, isn't it? I cried too. :-)

    Jen - I recently bought the stage production soundtrack for Grease so that I could get used to other people besides the movie actors performing the show. I don't want to be disappointed when John Travolta doesn't step onto stage. LOL Grease is one of the musicals I watch over and over again.

    I look forward to hearing what you think of Inkheart when you do get a chance to see it.

    Rhinoa - Yes, Paul Bettany certainly was something to look at in that scene. :-)

    I was surprised when I discovered that I didn't have the CD soundtrack for Phantom of the Opera, then realized it was because I had the cassettes. I remedied that very quickly since I don't really listen to tapes anymore.

    That must have been wonderful, seeing it in Liverpool!

  34. I'm glad you had a good time at Phantom, even though it was a bit of a rough start!

    Grease is really good too!

  35. Melissa - I hope I can see it again someday--with a proper start! I can't wait to see Grease.

  36. I bought Inkheart and the following two books after seeing the movie. I thought the movie was great, but I see what you're saying about how fast paced it was. I think that's why I enjoyed it. There didn't seem to be any slow, boring moments at all.

    Diary of an Eccentric

  37. Anna - Most people, I think, really liked the book and so hopefully you will enjoy the series. :-) It was a fun movie. Not my favorite, but still fun.


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