Books, Movies/TV series, Uncategorized

Saving Mr Banks Review

Mary Poppins is my favourite childhood character. For a few years I wanted to be her when I grew up, after that I just wanted to play her if I ever had to play a lead role in a movie! So when I saw there was a movie about the author and how the Mary Poppins movie came to be made, despite the author being reluctant, I had to see it.

Mrs Travers as portrayed in SaMary Poppins movie coverving Mr Banks is a most adorable character. She is British, proper and respectable. The story behind her stiff character is revealed alongside the story of the development of the script of the Mary Poppins movie.

As a young girl she slowly watches her fantastical father (played admirably by Colin Farrell – previously not on my radar) disintegrate into drink & illness. It becomes clear that when P L Travers says the the characters in her books are family, she means these characters are based upon her family, this is why she held so tightly to her story.

It is a beautifully told, amazingly acted movie. Emma Thompson is superb – she displays the heart within the tough old bird. In refusing to let Mr Banks be a horrid man and Mary Poppins to become a singing joke, she is protecting the legacy of two precious adults from her childhood.

Mary Poppins She WroteTo name only two others from the excellent cast – Tom Hanks played an awesome Walt Disney and the young Pamela, “Ginty”, was astounding – Annie Rose Buckley has a tremendous career ahead of her.

I’ve had to put the biography, Mary Poppins She Wrote, which inspired this movie, on my to-read list!

I’d definitely recommend this movie, especially if you also grew up watching or reading Mary Poppins, or if you just have an interest in biography.

Fancy, Movies/TV series

Wicked the Musical!

It blew my mind!elphaba and glinda

Wicked the Musical came to New Zealand and I scored a ticket due to my partner having to work that night.

I entered Auckland’s Civic Theatre for my first time and was confronted by a large mechanical dragon hanging above the stage. The theatre itself was amazing.

From the moment they began I was blown away by the voices and the dancing. There is nothing quite like the experience of your first time hearing phenomenal singers live. Sure, I’ve been to concerts, but they had nothing on these women.

Suzie Mathers as Glinda and Jemma Rix as Elphaba (the Wicked Witch of the West) were two of the most amazing singers I have ever heard.

The re imagining of the classic Oz story was truly astonishing. They wove in a prequel and a convincing alternative explanation to the witches and their roles in the Oz story. This story centres around the friendship of Glinda and Elphaba and how they changed each other for the better. It was really thought provoking to see how a different point of view can vastly change the way we see a character.

It was also really funny. Suzie Mathers’ portrayal as a young Glinda was part-Legally Blonde, part-Clueless, and although she was entirely more superficial than you would imagine Glinda to be, surprisingly, it fit. One of the people I went with said their eardrums had been shattered by the pitch of Glinda’s squeals of excitement.

The entire cast was amazing, from the dancers, to the actors, to the monkeys – I was super impressed with the monkeys. It was flawless.

This was a spectacular, well produced, well performed, event that everyone should see to understand what theatre can be.

Books, Fancy, Movies/TV series, Writing

Adaptations: Every Reader’s Dream?

By Luke Parkes

It’s every reader’s dreams to see their favourite book on the big screen, but would it leave you disappointed?

The fact is the alterations made from novel to screen can be either a huge hit or an epic failure. It really depends on how filmmakers “translate” a full-length novel to the screen and how the reader responds to it. I will delve into the reasons behind changes and how readers can interpret the film adaptation as its own entity.

Tomorrow, When the War Began

Corrie says to Ellie in the film Tomorrow, When the War Began that her book is “better than the movie,” to which Ellie comments, “Yeah, books usually are.” I have to agree with Ellie there; books are usually better than the movie. Yet you’ll be surprised how many films are based on literature.

In the article Adaptation: From Novel to Film, it was estimated by John Harrington that if you include all the literary forms—such as novels, drama and short stories—the percentage of film adaptations might well be 65% (or possibly even more). It shows that most of the films are based on literature.

Most of the classic novels have been adapted to the screen at least more than once, such as Sherlock Holmes, which has over 200 adaptations. Some of the classic novels have been adapted to both a different time and setting, such as Cruel Intentions, an adaptation of Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’ novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses, which is set among wealthy teenagers in modern New York. Filmmakers decide this so the film can be more appealing toward younger and older audiences, as well as for both sexes.

Many people in the world, including myself, rave about a favourite book being adapted into a TV series or movie. I am excitedly anticipating the film Vampire Academy: Blood Sisters (out February 14, 2014), which is based on the first book in the six-part series by Richelle Mead. If the author says the movie looks great, then it’s going to be great, right?

Vampire Academy: Blood Sisters

However, many other people fear that screen adaptations won’t do the book justice. All the omitted scenes, characters, dialogue, backstories and other details are the most troubling aspects in adapting from novel to screen. Changes, though, are made for several reasons. In the case of adapting a novel, the filmmakers have to cut scenes, characters, dialogue, backstories and other details to make a two hour long movie. Also, sometimes the filmmakers will make other changes to make it slightly—or possibly a great deal—different to the novel, so they get more than just the readers on board.

Some adaptations stick closely to the novel. I have seen many adaptations that only have very minor changes from the original novel, such as the film Tomorrow, When the War Began. None of the alterations made a difference to the plotline, like the omission of Ellie’s confused feelings for Homer in the film, which is “A-OK with me, as that was my least favourite part of the book,” says Aftran from Aftran’s YA Book Reviews.

Other changes can be major. I have seen many adaptations that divert from the book, like the television series The Vampire Diaries, based upon the novels by L.J. Smith. Excluding the first few episodes, it has developed in its own way, making it seem more like its own entity. Characters’ personalities and roles are different and the storyline takes on a completely different direction. One difference that anyone would notice is that in the show Elena has brunette hair and is really “sweet and caring and tough,” says Jenny from Forever Young Adult, while in the book she is blonde and “whiny and mean and snobby,” says Talya.

Cruel Intentions

Changes can have bad effects on movies, as well. Most reviews on the film Eragon, based upon Christopher Paolini’s debut fantasy novel, talked about the lacklustre acting, dialogue, and lack of pace, with a reviewer saying, “The only solid piece of real acting comes from the voice over work of Rachel Weisz.” An alteration from the book is when Eragon and Brom kill the Ra’zac, who aren’t actually killed until Brisingr, book three. Of course, not all reviews are negative; in fact, there are plenty of positive reviews, such as “It’s still a pretty good movie though.”

Always look to the positive side. When it comes to reading, you can visualise a movie playing in your head; whoever you’d cast in the movie, however the locations would look, that power is in your hands. For an adaptation, it allows everyone to see someone else’s interpretation, which gives readers an opportunity to compare and contrast to their own.

It’s true: every reader’s dream is to see his or her favourite book on the big screen. The question is: will it leave you disappointed? Yes, there will be disappointments, I admit, but you know what? Changes are inevitable, and it depends on how filmmakers “translate” a full-length novel to the screen and how the reader responds to it. Readers, like me, should enjoy the book and film for their own qualities.

Adventures, Books, Movies/TV series

Mortal Instruments and Fatigue

Never judge a book by the movieWhen I’m super tired and struggling with my neck I tend to crave “quiet” weekends and retreat into other worlds.

Last Saturday, I went to The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones with my brother, Luke. It was a great movie of itself, but movie adaptations are rarely a good translation of the book. Especially where there are complex storylines that span several books, things are left out or altered for time and end up falling flat.

In saying that, they did portray the world/setting admirably. I adored the two main characters and I look forward to seeing Lily Collins in Love, Rosie, the movie adaptation of Cecelia Ahern’s Where Rainbows End.

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones was based on the first book of the same name, in a six book series by Cassandra Clare. I picked up the third book right after, wanting to be transported, in the way only YA Urban Fantasy seems to be able to do.

mortal instruments city of bonesClare has created a fantastic world filled with delicious characters. She weaves the subplot and main story together building toward an inexorable climax. Her protagonist—a young, powerful girl whose journey of self-discovery leads her to the centre of the action and the solution—is delightfully flawed. The conclusion was satisfactory in the kind of way that leaves you pleased and settled. When I told Luke how I felt—not compelled to read book four right now—he informed me that Clare originally intended book three to be the conclusion of the trilogy.

I don’t thoroughly hide during periods of increased fatigue; I’ve still walked the dog everyday and carried on, with a slightly reduced schedule. But I find inhabiting another’s psyche to be a nice holiday from my foggy brain.

Books, Movies/TV series

From Supergirl to Werewolf

158866-supergirl-laura-vandervoortBy Luke

If you’ve seen the television series Smallville, then you already know it’s about a young Clark Kent’s journey to becoming the Man of Steel—Superman.

There are other characters who appear in it from the original comics—such as Lois Lane, Lex Luthor, Lana Lang, Jimmy Olsen, and Supergirl. Along with them, characters such as Chloe Sullivan and Lionel Luthor were created specifically for the show.

But this post isn’t about Smallville, though I wouldn’t mind writing about it. It’s actually about the actress who played Kara, a.k.a. Supergirl—Laura Vandervoort. She’s tall, gorgeous, strong, and blonde. Her career highlights were the television series Smallville (2001-2011) (of course) and V (2009-2011) (the remake of the mini-series of the same name), as well as the movies Into the Blue 2: The Reef (2009) and Damage (2009).

Do you want to know what’s next in her career? Well, she was cast in the television adaptation of Kelley Armstrong’s Bitten, the first book in the Women of the Otherworld. Laura Vandervoort will play the main character, Elena who is a werewolf.

bitten-kelley-armstrong-paperback12-med

Here’s the plotline of Bitten:

Elena Michaels seems like the typically strong and sexy modern woman, She lives with her architect boyfriend, writes for a popular newspaper, and works out at the gym. She’s also a werewolf.

Elena has done all she can to assimilate to the human world, but the man whose bite changed her existence forever, and his legacy, continue to haunt her. Thrown into a desperate war for survival that tests her allegiance to a secret clan of werewolves, Elena must recon with who, and what, she is in this passionate, page-turning novel that begins the Women of the Otherworld series. 

It sounds interesting, doesn’t it? Have you already read it? I haven’t. But now I’m more eager to. I’ll order it from the library, and after I read it, I’ll write a review!

Fancy, Movies/TV series

The Great Gatsby Film Review

parties from Gatsby
From Imdb.com

Decadent parties, hypnotizing characters, sumptuous sets and designer dresses – Prada designed forty of the costumes. The Great Gatsby has it all. It’s a beautifully genuine adaptation of a beloved book. In typical Bazz Lurhmann style, it was theatrical – in the most grandiose, but natural way. He simultaneously captured the magic of the 20s while disemboweling a superficial, careless culture.

Matching great, current tunes with the perfectly period movie, the new Florence and the Machine song, “Over the Love”, was hauntingly dispersed through key plot points.

gatsby and daisy
From Imdb.com

Carey Mulligan plays a divinely tragic Romantic heroine. Leonardo DiCaprio cuts a fine Gatsby and embodies a perfectly heartbreaking, enigmatic young man who amasses amazing wealth in the pursuit of a hope that has long left his reach.

True to the book, we are driven through the heartbreaking story at pace with Nick Carraway’s narration, a character who is “both within and without”, much like Dan Humphrey in the Gossip Girl series. We are drawn into a world of elaborate parties and idle, wasteful people, where politicians and police commissioners cavort with gangsters and strippers – but even the seedy underworld seems shiny.

I watched this movie twice at the theatre (it was that good), and it only improved upon second viewing. Check out the official blog for more stunning pictures, the trailers and the making of the Florence and the Machine video clip. I can’t wait for it to be released on DVD so that I can watch it with director’s commentary!

Books, Movies/TV series, Top Ten

Melissa’s Top Ten Heroines and Films to Check Out

One of the first lists I came up with when we decided to compile a series of top ten posts (after books and authors, of course) was top ten heroines, so here they are:

  1. Elizabeth Bennet220px-Prideandprejudiceposter

    Lively, clever, independent and able to capture (and inform) the arrogant Mr. Darcy, who is above her station in life (which was important in the 18th Century) – Elizabeth is number one. I can re-read Pride and Prejudice repeatedly and still be amused and amazed at her. I adore both portrayals of her in the 1995 BBC mini-series) adaptation and the 2005 Keira Knightly version.

  2. Jane Eyre coverJane Eyre

    Her independence, morality and strength of character captured me from first reading. The 2011 adaptation with Mia Wasikowska is my favourite. I love the line, “I am come back to you.”

  3. Ann Elliot

    Ann Elliot (of Persuasion, Jane Austen) is an unlikely pick as I much prefer independent women but she is such a good, gentle character, so much put-upon and she learns her lesson eventually.

  4. Elinor Dashwood

    Elinor Dashwood (of Sense & Sensibility, Jane Austen) is the pragmatic older sister to the romantic Marianne. I adore her sense of responsibility, pragmatism and dependability in the face of a family that needs her strength. I love that she gets her happily ever after, after all her sacrifice.

  5. Sydney Sagethe indigo spell

    In my review of The Indigo Spell I declare Sydney to be, “the perfect protagonist to read in the first person. She is intelligent, scientific, analytical, independent, strong, and some social interactions perplex her.” She also holds her own against some formidable opponents. The actress cast to play her (in the Vampire Academy films) will have to be pretty awesome in order to avoid letting me down.

  6. the time travellers wifeClare Abshire

    Another strong, romantic figure in a beautiful book and film, Clare Abshire is The Time Traveller’s Wife. Rachel McAdams is the perfect Clare.

  7. Margaret Hale

    Margaret (of North & South) is a lively, intelligent young woman who rises above terrible, successive events with elegance while capturing the heart of the tough Mr Thornton. Daniela Denby-Ashe is the perfect Margaret in the 2004 mini-series adaptation.

  8. Rose Hathawayzoey deuch

    Rose is the protagonist of the Vampire Academy series. She is kick-ass and unfailingly loyal. I can’t wait for the first of the movies out next year. I hope Zoey Deutch (set to play her) can do her justice.

  9. tomorrow when the war beganEllie Linton

    I love Tomorrow When the War Began, I loved it when the books came out in the 90s, I adored the movie when it came out in 2010. Caitlin Stasey wasn’t exactly how I imagined Ellie, but she was so awesome it didn’t matter. There will potentially be a follow up film out next year .

  10. Katniss Everdeen

    I came at this series the wrong way around, I saw the first movie and then began reading the books (because I had to know what happened next). You know the movie I’m talking about, because you haven’t been living under a rock have you? The Hunger Games. Either way Katniss is awesome – she is as compassionate as Margaret Hale, as integral to her family as Elinor the hunger gamesDashwood and as feisty as Rose Hathaway.

Is there anyone else that should be included in the list?

Movies/TV series

Luke’s Underworld Review

“It is certainly one of the best on-screen portrayals of vampires and werewolves.”

Underworld (2003 film)

Directed by Len Wisemen

Starring Kate Beckinsale, Scott Speedman, Michael Sheen, Shane Brolly, Sophia Myles and Bill Nighy

UnderworldUnderworld centres around a vampire named Selene (Kate Beckinsale) who is a Death Dealer. As a Death Dealer, it is her mission to hunt down the Lycan (werewolf) race. When she meets a human, Michael Corvin (Scott Speedman), she finds she has feelings for him. After Lucian (Michael Sheen), the leader of the Lycans, bites Michael, Selene decides to go against her clan in order to protect him.

What I found most intriguing was the backstory between vampires and Lycans. We discover all this through flashbacks and by the narration of Selene. The conflict between vampires and Lycans had started centuries ago, when the old vampire Viktor executed his own daughter, Sonja. He did this because she had fallen in love with Lucian, and Viktor feared that if a hybrid vampire/Lycan came into existence, it would be stronger than both races.

What we also discover is why Selene wants to eradicate the entire Lycan race. When she was human, Lycans had slaughtered her family. She survived because Viktor saved her. Selene has carried a grudge towards them for the many centuries of her immortal life. Viktor saved her because she reminded him of his own daughter and she looked up to him as her father.

One thing I found clever was a major plot twist, but it contains a spoiler and you are just going to have to watch this movie to find out. (Hehe!)

While Underworld showed positive reception from audiences, the critics mostly gave it negative reviews, largely criticising the overacting and lack of character development. Other critics had praised it for the stylish Gothic visuals, the “icy English composure” in Kate Beckinsale’s performance and the well-developed backstory between the vampires and the Lycans. (For more about the reviews, check the Wikipedia page and the Rotten Tomatoes page.)

I have to say that I loved it. It has since become one of my most favourite movies. It is certainly one of the best on-screen portrayals of vampires and werewolves.

Movies/TV series

Luke’s Oz: The Great and Powerful Review

ozgreatandpowerful-thirdposter-fullOz: The Great and Powerful, directed by Sam Raimi

It has been 113 years since the first publication of L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and 74 years since The Wizard of Oz movie starring Judy Garland first came out. When I was younger, it was my most favourite movie.

It was last year that I heard about Oz: The Great and Powerful. I knew it was going to be a prequel in some way. I knew that Michelle Williams, who I know as Jen in Dawson’s Creek, was going to play Glinda the Good Witch of the South, who performed brilliantly.

I knew that two other witches, Theodora and Evanora, were going to be played by Mila Kunis and Rachel Weisz, who also performed well.

This was one of my most anticipated movies of 2013—along with The Host, based on the 2008 novel by Stephenie Meyer.

Basically, Oz: The Great and Powerful tells the story of how Oscar Diggs—also known as Oz—(James Franco), a small-time circus magician, is hurled away from Kansas to the Land of Oz. When he arrives in Oz, he finds it under the control of the “Wicked Witch,” but we soon learn that not all is as it seems.

This Oz movie is darker, and more intense, than the 1939 adaptation.

One of a million things I liked was that the beginning was in black and white, and then blossomed into Technicolor when Oz arrived in the Land of Oz, mirroring the same experience when Dorothy arrives at Oz.

Overall, the movie was amazing! All the characters, all the special effects, and all the settings, were wonderful! I highly recommend it to all who grew up watching the various Oz movies. And to anyone who loves fantasy!

–Luke

Movies/TV series

In Time Review

In TimeWe saw In Time recently and it really resonated with me: the lesson in human nature. There will always be selfish, greedy people to extort the system. But there will always be those who give, despite how much it costs.

This movie had such an amazing cast. I’d love to see Justin Timberlake in another role; he’s shed that boy band image in my mind. Amanda Seyfried was astounding; this is my favourite of her roles. Vincent Kartheiser (who I’d previously seen in Angel) was remarkably good at conveying an older man in a young man’s body.

Alex Pettifer as a bad guy doesn’t do it for me, but it doesn’t mean he wasn’t good at it. (Sorry, you’ll always be Four.) The last honorable mention goes to Olivia Wilde; it shocked me when it was revealed she was Will’s (Timberlake) mum, but she is stunning! I was heartbroken when she wasn’t allowed on the bus and attempted to run to her son.

The premise, living on time rather than money, made me question some priorities. Imagine giving four minutes of your life for every coffee! I’d lose half an hour a week, two hours a month, 24 hours a year—a day a year to coffee!

But when you think about it, you do, just not directly. The time you had to spend working translates your time to dollars. Spending 1.25 hours a week on coffee seems insane! If I had only had one year left, that’d feel extreme.

Will’s kindness also resonated with me, giving such a high proportion of his time away when no one else does. The downtrodden in area 12 don’t have any to spare and the wealthy don’t see the “ghetto” where people die over limited bus fare while they have a (spare) million years secured in a vault. This is particularly pertinent to me at the moment, because I have read an article about research demonstrating that poor people give more than the rich, “the wealthiest Americans donate 1.3 percent of their income; the poorest, 3.2 percent”.  (I could write a whole post about how we should be celebrating these people, rather than giving magazine and newspaper coverage to those who give an amount that is hardly noticeable to them.)

GALECKI

About an hour into the movie I realised it was a stand-alone movie and they couldn’t save the world in the remaining time, so I adored it ending positively but not resolved. This film was equal proportions thought provoking, action-packed and hot.

P.S. I prefer my Johnny Galecki more Leonard-y!