Film Review: Downton Abbey

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Film Review: Downton Abbey

Release date: 13th September 2019

Director: Michael Engler

Starring: Hugh Bonneville, Laura Carmichael, Elizabeth McGovern, Jim Carter, Maggie Smith and many more

Runtime: 120 minutes

Genre: Period drama

Watched in: 2D

Rating: 3/5 stars

Downton Abbey is the much awaited return of a very popular series. This time, the characters take to the big screen with a film version of the television programme. Downton Abbey aired between 2010 and 2015 and was very popular, so in many ways it’s no surprise it made it to the big screen. The film sees the family, and servants, at Downton Abbey preparing for a royal visit from the King and Queen.

While I was delighted to once again hear Downton’s wonderful main theme and return to the halls of the grand house, I wonder if the film was a step too far. It was charming and entertaining, but the plot was a little thin. It would have perhaps worked better as a special episode for TV, as that’s basically what I felt like I was watching, rather than a film. It will certainly appeal for fans of the show, but is not the best entrance to the world of Downton Abbey for anyone not familiar with the TV show.

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Top 10 Tuesday: Bingeworthy TV Shows/Amazing Movies

I really need to watch more TV shows! In the past, I didn’t watch TV that much, but when I went to uni and lived alone, being able to watch whatever I want meant I started watching more TV. This list is a mixture of shows I loved and shows that were strangely addictive even though they were fairly average.

Top 10 Tuesday was originally created by The Broke and the Bookish, but as of January has now moved to That Artsy Reader Girl. If you’re interested in taking part click here.

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Top 10 Tuesday: Books I Disliked/Hated but Am Really Glad I Read

Some of these are books I disliked but am glad I read because I learnt something from them. As much as we can learn what makes a great book, as a writer you can learn what not to do from what you don’t like about books you’ve read.

Top 10 Tuesday was originally created by The Broke and the Bookish, but as of January has now moved to That Artsy Reader Girl. If you’re interested in taking part click here.

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Book Review: Changeling by Philippa Gregory

71qbw-gazclChangeling by Philippa Gregory

Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction

Publishing Info: 2013 by Simon and Schuster (first published 2012)

Pages: 272

Star Rating: 2/5

Back Cover Summary:

In 1453, seventeen-year-old Luca Vero, accused of heresy and expelled from his monastery, is recruited to help investigate evil across Europe but frees his first subject, Isolde, from captivity in a nunnery, and together they seek the one who defends the boundaries of Christendom and holds the secrets of the Order of Darkness.

Philippa Gregory is such a well known name in the book world, and especially in historical fiction. This was my first time reading one of her works and unfortunately it was a poor introduction. It really wouldn’t encourage me to read any of her other books, but I would have hoped some of her other novels are far better than this. It was quite shocking to read such a bad book by a bestselling and well-known author.

The premise is interesting and had potential, but it fell a long long way from that. My main issue with this book is the plot – or lack of it. It reads like its split in two halves. The first half of the book is readable but unremarkable. Luca is investigating witchcraft at the nunnery where Isolde has recently been made Lady Abbess. I found the mystery intriguing and didn’t guess the ‘solution’ to the investigation. It wasn’t a great mystery, but it was okay. There was just about enough to keep me reading.

It went quite downhill after that point. The second half of the book is a rambling mess with no direction. Coincidence after coincidence follow one after another. They happen to stumble upon another unusual happening to investigate totally by chance and decide to get involved, but it’s totally unconnected from the first half of the book. I couldn’t get into the second half at all because I could not see the point of it. The ‘solution’ to this investigation was highly predictable. I guessed it almost instantly so there was nothing to keep me engaged. There was no end goal, no point. There wasn’t even a point in all the characters being there except Gregory wanted them to all be there, so she found a lame excuse to shoehorn them all together. The plot (if you can call it that) is poorly planned out and it just seems to be a random jumble of events.

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Film Review: Dunkirk

dunkirk-posterFilm Review: Dunkirk

Release date: 21st July 2017

Director: Christopher Nolan

Starring: Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, Aneurin Barnard

Runtime: 106 minutes

Genre: War, Historical

Watched in: 2D Impact

Rating: 4/5 stars

I was quite stunned to discover that this film was still in cinemas yesterday when a friend suggested we watch a flick. Almost seven weeks since its release date, Dunkirk was not only still on with multiple screenings per day, it was still showing in Empire’s biggest screen at my local cinema – the Impact screen. It was my first time in the big Impact showing, and the screen was absolutely massive, covering the entirety of the front wall of the room. The sound was bogglingly loud, much louder than a normal screen, and unfortunately I’m not good with loud, so the sharp racket of gunfire and bass heavy soundtrack wasn’t enjoyable for me and did spoil the experience a bit. The film itself was great, and I would gladly see it again (in a quieter, though unfortunately smaller, screen or at home where I can change the volume).

The name of the film says it all. It follows the events of the evacuation Dunkirk during the Second World War. While it was a mark of a military defeat, the evacuation of thousands of soldiers was a victory. The film follows several characters closely – a group on the beach trying to get on a ship to take them home, fighter pilots in the air, and the civilian boats coming to rescue the stranded soldiers.

It was in some ways a very strange film. There was no context and no set up. It starts at Dunkirk. Most of the characters the film follows are unnamed, and nothing is known about them. I think this was probably a deliberate artistic choice, which was interesting and different from the norm for historical films. However, it also made me feel disconnected from the characters.

The filming was spectacular. They used minimal CGI, filming on location at Dunkirk beach and with real planes and ships. It was refreshing to know that what I was seeing was mostly real, as so often these days filmmakers rely on CGI when some of what they are filming could be done without it.

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Film Review: Wonder Woman

wonder-woman-final-posterFilm Review: Wonder Woman

Release date: 1st June 2017

Director: Patty Jenkins

Starring: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, David Thewlis, Connie Nielsen, Robin Wright

Runtime: 141 minutes

Genre: Science Fiction, Action, Adventure, Historical

Watched in: 2D

Rating: 4/5 stars

 

Prior to its release, Wonder Woman was a highly anticipated female-led and female-directed superhero movie. I had my doubts, since films don’t often live up to their hype. Man of Steel, which I liked, is the only other DC film I’ve seen, and since many of their films have flopped and had negative reviews, I was a little apprehensive. In this case, I was thrilled it met expectations.

Wonder Woman follows Diana of the Amazons, who chooses to leave her paradise home and join the war to end all wars when an American pilot (played by Chris Pine) crashes on the island. I knew nothing about the Wonder Woman comics before I saw the film and didn’t realise the background to the character is of Ancient Greek mythology. As mythology has always been an interest of mine this was a pleasant surprise.

Gal Gadot does an excellent job of playing Diana, and it’s refreshing to see a new face playing a lead superhero role. The other cast members also played their characters well and side characters had personalities rather than being cardboard two-dimensional afterthoughts. There are some good touches of humour throughout which also adds to the likeability of the characters.

The cinematography is stunning. All of the fight sequences were well thought out and choreographed. As I watched, I couldn’t help but marvel at the stunning way these sequences had been filmed, capturing such detail in fast paced action scenes. At the climax, the film took a different direction than I was expecting, with a twist that I didn’t see coming and which made for a thrilling final conflict. It did slide into clichéd sentiments towards the end, but it didn’t prevent the ending from being satisfying. The film was perhaps a little too long, with small scenes that could have been cut down a little to give a better flow to the movie.

Book Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal, Science Fiction, Historical Fiction

Publishing Info: June 2013 by Quirk Books (first published 2011)

Pages: 382

Star Rating: 4/5

 

Back Cover Summary:

A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of curious photographs. It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that Miss Peregrine’s children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.

 

I’ve been dying to read this book since I heard about it. A young adult novel with photographs in it? Photography being another of my hobbies, this was a rather big draw, and it sounded like such a unique and interesting read. The photographs used are all authentic found photographs, not ones taken for the purpose of the book. There’s an interview at the end of the edition I have with Ransom Riggs in which he talks about how he found and used the photographs.

Is the story completely original? No, I mean, that’s not really possible. Yes, I guess the plot/concept is kind of similar to X-Men. However, where X-Men is very much science-fiction, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is quite different and has a more fantastical and paranormal feel to it. Peculiar, is in fact, a perfect word to describe the book.

Jacob wasn’t anything special as far as main characters go. It was a pretty standard first person narration from his point of view. Many of the other characters also weren’t that fleshed out. Characterisation seemed to be less of a priority that the concept, plot and aesthetic of the book. I’ve seen worse characterisation, but this aspect of the book definitely needed more development.

The plot kept me interested and there were surprises along the way. It wasn’t as creepy as I was expecting, which is fine for me as I’m not a fan of horror. At times it did unfortunately feel like the story was forced to fit the photographs or vice versa, which is a shame. I did enjoy the plot though and wanted to keep reading to find out what would happen next.

As the first book a trilogy, it seems like this first one is a lot of set up for the next one, as if this is just an introduction to the characters and concept, in order for the main plot to actually start in the second book.

I thoroughly enjoyed it and wasn’t disappointed. I’m looking forward to reading the second and third books – and also seeing the film adaptation.