Film Review: Love and Friendship

Film Review: Love and Friendship

Release date: 27th May 2016

Director: Whit Stillman

Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Chloe Sevingy, Xavier Samuel, Tom Bennett, Morfydd Clark, Emma Greenwell

Runtime: 94 minutes

Genre: Period Drama, Romance

Watched in: 2D

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Love and Friendship is based on Jane Austen’s epistolary novel Lady Susan which wasn’t published until after her death. There is also an epistolary book called Love and Friendship, but the film takes the plot of Lady Susan with the title of Love and Friendship. I know, confusing. Why not just call it Lady Susan? Why take the title of another Jane Austen work and confuse everyone?

Lady Susan is a tactical widow who sets her eyes on finding a suitable husband for her daughter, with the help of an American friend, also aiming to bag herself a man in the process. I enjoyed the plot and it was certainly humorous at times, most of the laughs coming from Lady Susan’s scandalous and outrageous lines. Kate Beckinsale definitely stood above the rest as Lady Susan, delivering her lines so well. The obliviously stupid Sir James is also a great character who provides a lot of humour. In many ways it is different to other stories by Jane Austen with a somewhat unlikeable, scheming protagonist who is somehow at the same time captivating.

If is somewhat odd that it is a U-rated film, but which is most definitely about scandal and affairs. It’s odd but somehow works.

The acting was good at times but in places it was stilted and like they were reading off a script. There was nothing striking about the scenery and imagery, and the music wasn’t anything special and felt oddly out of place for some reason. Actually, what was most odd was the costumes. I’m no expert on period fashions but the dresses didn’t look at all right for the time period.

It was thoroughly entertaining, charming, and passed some time, but there were some elements that were just…off. The production let down a story with potential to make a great film. I don’t have much to say about this one. An average but enjoyable film.

Film Review: Allegiant

Film Review: Allegiant (Divergent Series #3)

Release date: 10th March 2016

Director: Robert Schwentke

Starring: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Octavia Spencer, Miles Teller, Ansel Elgort, Zoe Kravitz

Runtime: 121 minutes

Genre: Science-Fiction, Dystopia, Action

Watched in: 2D

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Allegiant is the third film in the Divergent series. Allegiant is the third and final book in the series put as per the popular move at the moment it is being split into two films, the first titled Allegiant and the second titled Ascendant (slightly different to calling them Part One and Part Two I suppose). At the end of the previous film the people of Chicago received a message from the outside world inviting them to go beyond the wall. Former leader of the Factionless Evelyn has essentially taken over and stops people from going over the wall. Tris, Four, Christina, Peter, Caleb and Tori get past Evelyn’s defences and go over the wall to find what is left of the rest of the world.

The book was undoubtedly my least favourite in the series. I felt it went massively downhill in quality from the first two books and was quite disappointed by it. So, unusually, I was happy for them to make changes to the film in the hopes of making it better. The film was fairly similar to the book, though with some changes obviously.

One of the best aspects of the film was the set designs. The design of the future world outside the wall was amazing and really imaginative. Unfortunately though it felt like a step down from the previous film, which itself wasn’t quite as good as the first film. I can’t quite place my finger on why it wasn’t as good. Perhaps it was the acting that wasn’t quite as sharp in this one. And obviously they had a flawed novel to work from, although I think they took a lot of the better aspects from the book to use in the film.

My confusion lies in where they are going with the fourth film, Ascendant. The third film was pretty similar to the book in terms of the plot arc, concluding in a kind of similar yet also different way to the book. So I’m not entirely sure where they are going with the fourth film. It will have to contain new material, as they have used up almost all of the book.

Overall I enjoyed the film but it wasn’t spectacular. It could have been better and although I really liked some of the things they added I felt they also left some important ideas out. I’m most intrigued to see what they will do with the last film, and to look back on this film once the last film has been released in terms of their adaption of the final book in the series.

Book Review: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

Genre: Detective Fiction

Publishing Info: September 2013 by Not Avail (first published 1926)

Pages: 305

Star Rating: 3.5/5

Back Cover Summary:

Roger Ackroyd knew too much. He knew that the woman he loved had poisoned her brutal first husband. He suspected that she was being blackmailed. Then came the news that she had taken her own life. But, before he found all the clues, he was murdered.

This was my first time dipping into the world of Agatha Christie’s novels. The detective story can be rather formulaic but this one diverges from the formula in an interesting way which makes it stand out from the usual mould. I can’t disclose any more on that front without completely ruining the book. It’s the twist that really makes the story. Until I got to the twist it was a fairly standard affair.

Christie writes good stories, but her writing isn’t exactly inspiring. The writing is pretty basic but I guess that makes it an easy read that will suite some. That’s the thing about these kind of novels, they’re the sort you read casually on the train or on holiday.

The characters are your standard mix of suspects and investigators with nobody particularly different, unusual or interesting. The setting as well is the typical country town. But if this is the kind of read you’re looking for then this isn’t a problem, it’s what you’d expect from a Christie.

This is one of those books that now I know what happens and what the twist is I may reread it at some point because it would be completely different reading it a second time with that knowledge. Obviously I can’t compare it to other Christie novels as this is my first but I’d say it was a pretty good one. It’s all about the twist at the end though. I didn’t find the build up to it that exciting.

Film Review: The Scorch Trials

Release date: 11th September 2015

Director: Wes Ball

Starring: Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Aiden Gillen, Giancarlo Esposito, Patricia Clarkson

Runtime: 131 minutes

Genre: Science-Fiction, Dystopia, Action, Thriller

Watched in: 2D

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials is the second film in the Maze Runner series, based on the book by James Dashner. It is very different to the book, diverting from the plot quite substantially, although this isn’t necessarily a bad thing anyway.

The film carries on moments after the first film finished as Thomas and the survivors from the Glade are rescued from WCKD by a mysterious alternative group. After discovering a truth about their rescuers the Gladers escape from the compound they have been taken to into the Scorch – outside where the world is like a desert and Cranks (basically zombies, at least in the film anyway) try to attack them. Their aim is to reach the Right Arm (a rebellion group in the mountains).

Once I got over the fact that it was very different to the book I read (something which is probably a good thing to accept when going to see any film based on a book to avoid disappointment) I enjoyed it and found it very exciting and gripping. The Cranks were done extremely well and were absolutely terrifying, and would have been even more scary if I hadn’t been anticipating it from having read the book! All of the CGI/special effects stuff was very good.

The acting was good, considering what the actors had to work with – in the book the characters aren’t fleshed out that well.

Although it didn’t bother me too much that the plot was quite different to the book, the end section didn’t make much sense and ended in a completely different way to the book, meaning I’m not sure what they’re going to do in the last film.

It was a good film, but I preferred the first one, which isn’t that surprising as I preferred the first book to the second book. If you haven’t read the book then it’s an exciting film, and if you liked the first one you’d like the second one. Though I would avoid it if you’re getting tired of YA dystopia film adaptions…

Book Review: The Iron King by Julie Kagawa

The Iron King by Julie Kagawa

Genre: Young Adult, Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Fairies

Publishing Info: February 1st 2010 by Harlequin Teen

Pages: 363

Star Rating: 3.5/5

 

Back Cover Summary:

Meghan Chase has a secret destiny; one she could never have imagined.

Something has always felt slightly off in Meghan’s life, ever since her father disappeared before her eyes when she was six. She has never quite fit in at school or at home.

When a dark stranger begins watching her from afar, and her prankster best friend becomes strangely protective of her, Meghan senses that everything she’s known is about to change.

But she could never have guessed the truth – that she is the daughter of a mythical faery king and is a pawn in a deadly war. Now Meghan will learn just how far she’ll go to save someone she cares about, to stop a mysterious evil, no faery creature dare face; and to find love with a young prince who might rather see her dead than let her touch his icy heart.

 

The Iron King is the first book in Julie Kagawa’s urban fantasy series which brings fairies into the modern age. The main reason I picked up this book was the recommendations of my friends. The paranormal genre is one I’ve begun to stay away from after many disappointing reads, however, I thought I would give this a go as dark fairies sounded different to vampires and werewolves and the like.

My first impression was a negative one. The writing style doesn’t really do anything for me. Sometimes the wording doesn’t always flow and Meghan’s voice in the narrative feels quite immature at times. It took me a while to ‘get into’ the story, it was at least halfway through before I started to enjoy it and want to keep reading.

In terms of characters I found most of them to be quite weak. Meghan always seems to have to be rescued by others, frequently playing the ‘damsel in distress’ role and very rarely being able to use her brain. It takes until the last few chapters of the book before she is able to act on her own and fight for herself. The redeeming part of her characterisation is her determination to get her brother back no matter the consequences. Puck is a good character, always having a good line to add some humour. I didn’t connect with Ash much, though he grew on me as the book went on. Kagawa did a good job of presenting him as cold and unemotional. Grimalkin steals the show for me for most of the book, despite not being one of the three main characters. Grim’s characterisation is best of all the characters.

The changeling plot isn’t all that original and as the world of the fey is very much based on actual myths and legends there isn’t much room for Kagawa’s own world building (apart from a particular part of the world which is entirely her own creation but no spoilers). It didn’t take too long to establish the plot which I thought was good, Kagawa gets to the point quite quickly but once the ‘saving the brother’ storyline is established it takes ages for anything much to happen. I like the element of adventure the book has as a lot of similar YA books focus on romance and nothing much happens in them. Thankfully, the romance doesn’t dominate the story which is one of its saving points.

Overall, this book is much better than many paranormal YA novels and for once the romance is a side plot that hardly crops up rather than being the focus of the plot. I liked that there was adventure and some events were unexpected (though I wouldn’t say it was full of twists and turns, more of a sprinkling). The minor characters (especially Grimalkin) steal the show with Meghan being a very mediocre and at times annoying main character. I’ll be reading the next one at least because I bought the books together since they were on offer. I’ve heard they get better as they go along so hopefully I will enjoy the next one more.

Now I have to take a moment to compare this to Poison by Chris Wooding. This book is about a female main character called Poison who has to rescue her sister who has been swapped for a fairy changeling. These books have the same premise but Chris Wooding pulls it off a million times better. Poison is dark, adventurous, compelling, exciting, and void of irritating, whiny main characters. If you want to read a YA book about fairies pick this up. It is leagues superior to The Iron King.

Book Review: Unravelling by Elizabeth Norris

Unravelling by Elizabeth Norris

Genre: Young Adult, Science-Fiction, Romance, Mystery

Publishing Info: June 7th 2012 by HarperCollins Children’s Books

Pages: 445

Star Rating: 3.5/5

 

Back Cover Summary:

STOP THE COUNTDOWN. SAVE THE WORLD…

Leaving the beach, seventeen-year-old Janelle Tenner is hit head on by a pickup truck.

And killed.

Then Ben Michaels, resident stoner, is leaning over her. And even though it isn’t possible, she knows Ben somehow brought her back to life…

Meanwhile, Janelle’s father, a special agent for the FBI, starts working on a case that seems strangely connected to Ben. Digging in his files, Janelle finds a mysterious device – one that seems to be counting down to something that will happen in 23 days and 10 hours time.

That something? It might just be the end of the world. And if Janelle wants to stop it, she’s going to need to uncover Ben’s secrets – and keep from falling in love with him in the process…

 

I really wanted to love this book. When I started it I was really into it, really enjoying it, really gripped by it, then I don’t know what happened. It started off so well with lots of mystery and suspense. Then it took a different turn and went in a completely different direction to what I was expecting (won’t give away any spoilers). I like books which surprise me and aren’t predictable, so this is a good thing. It’s also a bad thing because what started out as a thrilling mystery suddenly turned into a bizarre science-fiction revelation. I love science-fiction, but I just didn’t like this angle in this particular book. It had great potential as a thriller, but the science-fiction just made it unbelievable and too out there. It spoiled what started out as a great book, in my opinion.

Janelle’s character was good and fairly likeable, though I know some other readers have commented that they found her annoying. I felt she didn’t really change that much as a character and there was much more potential for Norris to develop her character and improve her character arc. Ben Michaels was a good ‘love interest’ character, but he wasn’t anything spectacularly different from all the other characters out there. Norris adopted the all-too-familiar love interest who is different inside to the image he projects on the outside. What was good to see was the ‘romance’ treated as a side plot, not the main focus of the story like it is in so many teen and young adult books.

There were several other important characters. The relationship between Janelle and her brother is portrayed very well and also Janelle’s friendship with Alex is believable. However I found Elijah an annoying character because he always seemed to be yelling. I get he’s a troubled character but he just seemed a bit too over-the-top.

The writing style was good – Janelle’s voice was sustained well all the way through – but nothing particularly new or interesting. I felt the book dragged on a bit. It was quite long and I don’t really think it needed to be so long and drawn out.

I wasn’t particularly happy to find out there are going to be more books in this series. The story ends at the end of the book, yet there are going to be more of them. It always seems to be the case with teen and young adult books that it has to be a series. Sometimes they would work better as a standalone and in this case more books really aren’t necessary. I probably won’t be reading them, not because I didn’t enjoy this one, but because I’m happy with where the story ended in this book.

Overall I enjoyed reading Unravelling, mainly because I liked the element of mystery in it and Norris managed to surprise me. I only gave it 3.5 stars because it didn’t blow me away. It wasn’t bad by any means but it wasn’t amazing.