Friday, 30 September 2011

Films for the weekend

I'm reverting back to my teens this weekend and babysitting my lovely cousin's little baby girl. So, in true teenage style I must plan my evening's viewing... and what do I find...? That I am spoilt for choice!

This Saturday night will be a veritable feast of films for UK film-lovers. On channel 4 at 7:25pm Hugh Jackman enjoys his own hairy spin-off in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Co-starring Liev Schrieber and Will.I.Am this is a good mindless fun film and perfect Saturday viewing.

If, though, you prefer something a little more intellectual then Frost/Nixon will be on BBC2 at 9:45pm starring the sublime Frank Langella as Richard Nixon and Michael Sheen as David Frost. The film surrounds the infamous interview Frost was granted after the Watergate scandal rocked US politics. The two leads are intoxicating from start to finish and it's a fascinating look into accountability and media coverage of "the facts".

For comedy fans, 10:45pm on ITV sees the Winchester, a shotgun and a crap load of zombies as Shaun takes on the dead in Shaun of the Dead starring Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Penelope Wilton, Bill Nighy and some of the greatest comedic talents in the UK today.

So whatever you're in the mood for this weekend... looks like the TV has it covered! Brill!

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Ultimate DVD shelf

A few days ago I did a post about the Ultimate bookshelf - the kind of books that you just can't part with, the ones that need to be on your shelf for the days (possibly many years from now) when you know you will need to read it again. But in the interest of fairness here at film vs book - I should really do an ultimate DVD shelf too. These are the DVDs that once again - need to be owned and ready to be seen at a moment's notice.

As I started to consider mine, I realised that most are classics, musicals or Disney. These are the types of films that are not normally on TV and sometimes you are just in the mood to watch one - this is when having them in your DVD vault is essential.

Here are my top 10:
  1. It's a Wonderful Life - comes out every Christmas, Jimmy Stewart at his finest, heart-wearming and cheesy but oh so brilliantly dark too. "Excuse me, excuse me, excuse me .... I burped." Brilliant.
  2. Fiddler on the Roof - very rarely on TV but a must if you grew up in my house. 
  3. Singing in the Rain - arguably the finest musical ever made for the big screen. Incredible dance sequences, amazing colour and oh so funny.
  4. The Lion King - the best Disney ever made, never gets old. Amazing score, amazing story, amazing characters. Perfect Disney fun.
  5. Back to the Future trilogy (yes I'm cheating and going for a box set!)
  6. Top Secret - so secret, many haven't heard of it. Never on TV and so so funny. A DVD must-have.
  7. Monty Python film collection - Life of Brian, Holy Grail. Sometimes you just need some python humour!
  8. Pedro Almódovar box set - sometimes you just need to go Spanish, dark and brilliant - and who better than Pedro to take you there.
  9. Love Actually - not the greatest film I've ever seen but a brilliant romcom with arguably the funniest audio commentary I have ever heard. Hugh Grant, Bill Nighy and co all chat about the film and are so funny that they become more interesting than the film itself!
  10. Stand by Me - the ultimate coming-of-age film with an incredible foursome of young stars back in the day. Deals with some serious issues (this is based on a Stephen King book after all!) but has some of the funniest, silliest insults and one-liners ever uttered on screen.
Others that came close but didn't quite make the cut are Flight of the Navigator, Empire Records, The Goonies (video commentary with the cast all grown up!) a great disaster movie - either Independence Day or The Day After Tomorrow and Soapdish.

So what DVDs would be in your collection?

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

New clip revealed for Real Steel

Real Steel is out in October and stars Hugh Jackman and Evangeline Lily. It's got Hugh Jackman and robots... what more could you want? :) Here's a new clip of Jackman as Charlie teaches robot Atom to box like a man... go on Atom!

For the review of Real Steel click here.

Monday, 26 September 2011

The Ultimate Bookshelf

Some books are a good read, some are a great read and others, no matter how much you love them, are books you will only ever read once - and most likely will pass on to others.  Then there are the books that you cannot part with, the rare books that must remain in your position until the end of time just for that day you feel the need to read them again. Or perhaps you just want to compile an impressive collection of works of literary genius to impress your friends and visitors :)

Mine would be a compilation of classics, the perspective-altering must reads, a couple of more recent books I consider to be perfect literature and ones I would want to pass on to future children because they are great adventures and inspire the use of imagination. In no particular order - here are my Top 10. (Though I'm sure I've forgotten something of vital importance).
  1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  2. The Harry Potter collection by JK Rowling
  3. The Roald Dahl collection
  4. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon
  5. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  6. Bag of Bones by Stephen King
  7. Sister by Rosamund Lupton
  8. Little Women by Louisa M. Alcott 
  9. The complete works of William Shakespeare
  10. The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne
So what books would you have on your ultimate bookshelf? And how long would they sit there before you picked them up and read them again?

    Saturday, 24 September 2011

    Review - Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

    Based on the book by John Le Carré and directed by Tomas Alfredson (Let the Right One In), Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is the story of a mole in MI6 during the Cold War. Veteran George Smiley (Gary Oldman) is forced out of retirement to investigate and uncover the mole and takes Peter Guillam (Benedict Cumberbatch) as his assistant, forcing him to spy on his own kind - something which does not sit too well with Guillam.

    With a mind-blowingly brilliant cast including Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, John Hurt, Mark Strong and Ciarán Hinds, this film was always going to be brilliant. It is, I would say, a perfect film.  The cast are flawless, the dialogue captivating and brilliantly executed, the plot is complex and clever, the score is dark and subtle, the locations are stunning and the era is depicted with incredible accuracy from the visual outfits, hairstyles and cars to the mannerisms and attitudes regarding sexism in the workplace. (Colin Firth, rather amusingly, actually rings his bike bell to perve on the new girl in the office).

    In its perfection, however, lies a problem. It's almost TOO good. You don't have a loud moment in the cinema to pick up your popcorn and eat. It's such a quiet film, there is never an appropriate moment to make a noise. You hear every cough, every sneeze, every shuffle in a chair. And there is so much talking you cannot let your mind wander for a second for fear of missing a vital piece of information. So who is the mole in MI6? It doesn't really matter. If you are waiting for the big dramatic reveal, you may just find yourself disappointed. This is not that sort of film. It isn't about leading up to the ending. It IS the lead-up to the ending. So don't watch it waiting for it to get good. Every second of it is good, and enjoy each one as it takes place.

    4/5 FOBLES

    Thursday, 22 September 2011

    Jane Eyre: Book vs Film

    For fans of the classics - Jane Austen, Charlotte and Emily Brontë etc, there is little debate over the best adaptations. A personal favourite of mine (and numerous others) is the TV five-part adaptation of Pride and Prejudice - the TV phenomenon that transformed Colin Firth into a sexual god overnight in the infamous lake scene. But it wasn't just Colin all wet and broody that did it. The cast was perfection - irritating, plain, beautiful, proper, embarrassing. Each character was just as the book portrayed it and apart from cutting the book a little short and ending the show a touch early, it was incredibly true to the book.

    Now imagine if you watched Part 1, 3 and 5 of that. It's all brilliant, you can't fault it exactly - the scenery, the outfits and of course the acting are all great. It just feels like there's something missing. A lot of emphasis is on certain characters but not a lot on others. Parts have been left out and though everything you're seeing is perfection, there's just not enough TIME to really get into it all.

    This, for me, is how this latest in a long line of adaptations of Jane Eyre felt. The story is of a young orphaned girl who is sent off to a school, where she then becomes a teacher. She then moves onto Thornfield house to become Governess to young Adele and, having never even conversed with a man, meets the bitter and abrasive Mr Rochester.

    Jane, played by Mia Wasikowska, is a complex character with a hard past that explains her far better than actions can. Her relationship with Mr Rochester (Michael Fassbender) is equally complex as they are both surprised by one another, grow to respect each other and then... well you know.

    Amelia Clarkson does a brilliant job of showing the 'passionate' Jane as a child, hardened by the loveless care of her Aunt Reid, but still not afraid to use her own voice.

    Mr Brocklehurst: And what is hell? Can you tell me that?
    Young Jane: A pit full of fire.
    Mr Brocklehurst: And should you like to fall into that pit, and to be burning there forever?
    Young Jane: No sir.
    Mr Brocklehurst: What must you do to avoid it?
    Young Jane: Keep well and and not die, sir.
    The book, controversially perhaps, was a little too much for me at times. The dialogue is superb - especially the conversations between Jane and Rochester. I just adore the harshness and honesty of their exchanges and the hidden meanings in their propriety (or not in the case of Rochester!). But the book has pages and pages of descriptive text which I found myself unwittingly skimming over.

    For those unfamiliar with the book I will try not to give too much away. There are three quite distinctive chunks. Firstly, Jane is sent to Lowood school for girls where she later becomes a teacher. Then she goes to Thornfield to become governess to Adele. Then she meets St John and his sisters. This is all done in chronological order.

    Directed by relative newcomer to the big screen Cary Fukunaga, the film had a somewhat bizarre mixture of cuts. The school is trimmed right down, St John gets to be the main focus as the film starts with him finding her and taking her in. That just leaves Jane's time at Thornfield. It's a slightly bizarre but not altogether terrible restructuring of the book, starting with Jane Eyre fleeing a house, getting caught in the rain and stumbling across a little cottage in the middle of nowhere. St John (played by Billy Eliott himself, Jamie Bell) takes her in and he and his two sisters look after her. Her life is then shown to the audience using flashbacks which goes a certain way to explaining the dramatic cuts (some of which - I acknowledge - were of course necessary).

    Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? - Jane Eyre
    Judi Dench as Mrs Fairfax seemed a little bit mis-cast. The woman is CLEARLY an incredible actress - it's not just anyone who can pull Elizabeth I off with ease - but her occasional northern accent left a little to be desired.

    That there is some nicety to Jane's time at Lowood school is ignored in this adaptation and I think, every adaptation that has ever been done. It's far more dramatic I suppose to focus on the negative. I was quite surprised when I read the book, having already seen adaptations, to see that there are nice teachers and enough encouragement and affection shown toward Jane in her early years at the school to spur her into becoming a teacher herself. This is always overlooked. 

    The biggest issue I have with it is the lack of drama in the big reveal. There was very little build up, the events are there but Jane seems subservient not curious. She never asks questions, is never told that it's just Grace Poole and not to worry. This is not in her nature, and this is not all that scary.
    All in all though, the film is brilliantly made. The acting is superb, the score is moving, the scenery is stunning. It boils down to a matter of timing. There simply is not enough time to really explore the two main characters, their relationship and what made them each who they are. Had this been made into a five-part series, it would have rivalled Pride and Prejudice with ease.

    Film - 3.5/5 FOBLES
    Book - 4/5 FOBLES

    Anonymous: Teaser clips from Roland Emmerich's latest film

    Roland Emmerich, Director of Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow and 2012, is known for blowing stuff up. But does he want to always be known for this? Well it seems not. In his own words "I'm a film-maker, not a terrorist!"

    Emmerich's latest film, Anonymous, explores the theory that William Shakespeare was not actually the man behind the plays, merely the face in front of them.

    Roland Emmerich was asked at a Q&A at Empire Big Screen why the shift from disaster movies to something altogether more character-focused. He responded that the subject matter fascinated him – he believes the theory that Shakespeare never wrote a word – and he is “more sensitive than people think”. Emmerich also explained that he fought for a British cast and used the argument “well it worked for Harry Potter!”

    So here are two clips of two of these great British actresses he speaks of doing what they do best. Mother and daughter combo Joely Richardson and Vanessa Redgrave playing Queen Elizabeth in her younger and older years...


    Tuesday, 20 September 2011

    New Trailer for Wuthering Heights

    The first trailer is finally here for the new arty and edgy adaption of Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. It is the first to dare cast a black actor in the lead role of Heathcliff (newcomer James Howson) and stars Skins star Kaya Scodelario as Cathy. Directed by Andrea Arnold (Fish Tank), it's debatable whether being brave and daring with some radical casting decisions equates to being any good.

    If the trailer is anything to go by, it looks like it's going to be dreary, moody and atmospheric - with not a whole lot of talking.

    Monday, 19 September 2011

    Watchmen: Comic Book vs Film

    When it comes to book to film conversions, I seem to always have something to say. But I will readily admit to not having a clue when it comes to comic book to film convertions. So with that in mind please welcome Scott Inkson to Film vs Book. Here is his first post, taking a look at the 2009 film Watchmen, based on the comic.

    Guest post by Scott Inkson

    Cinematic Wallpaper
    Who watches the Watchmen? Well, I did just now. It is probably now someone else’s turn, I can’t watch it all the time; I have a life...sometimes. Watchmen is, of course, the 2009 Zack Snyder film based off the seminal graphic novel by Alan Moore (and Dave Gibbons) of the same name which deconstructed superheroes by placing them in a real-life context. By creating an alternative history diverting from the year 1938 (when Superman was created), it speculates on life if “superheroes” had actually emerged and what they would possibly by like. In this timeline, Moore explores the various anxieties which were quite palpable in the ‘80’s, here the US and Russia are now on a collision course for an all-out Nuclear war which provides much of the nihilistic backdrop of his worthy superhero critique. Due to the numerous subplots and rich-themes, and in a text which at times even deconstructs its own medium of comic-books, many had proclaimed Watchman as simply unfilmable in the face of the suggested adaptations in development. After several false starts and many years however, finally in 2009 we were given an R-rated, largely faithful, two and a half hour movie that made a rather good go of it in light of those valid concerns.

    The film charts the progression of the alternate chain-of-events, explored largely in patches by
    Moore in the book (largely through supplementary material), in a breathtakingly stylish and concise
    credits sequence to the tune of Bob Dylan’s ‘Times they are a’changing’. A fulfilling sequence both
    assuring and impressive with the novel in mind, as it is surprisingly dense with information all while
    being far from disorientating for those coming in cold.

    For those uninitiated, the main plot is instigated by the murder of “The Comedian” Edward Blake
    which prompts the only remaining unretired and unsanctioned superhero “Rorschach” (A highly-
    paranoid sociopath reflective of the popular anti-heroes of the time), into investigating, drawing ex-
    team members out of retirement and slowly unravelling a far-larger conspiracy. All the ‘heroes’ are
    incredibly flawed characters, not one is without a severe disorder, neurosis or psychosis of some
    kind, exploring what heroes would be/have to be like through the prism of pseudo-reality. It’s not
    without its fantastical elements however, with its chief one being its analogous super-man, the
    demi-god like, superpowered, no-longer-human - Dr Manhattan.

    The film doesn’t play up the mystery-element as much in my view; the ‘villain’ of the piece might as
    well be twiddling the elaborate moustache he doesn’t have soon as he hits the screen. This slightly
    ties into the paradoxical nature of the film, its greatest strength and arguably greatest weakness is
    its largely-incredible reverence to the book. Reverence is next to godliness when it comes to direct-
    adaptations however most of its shortcomings come from its slight-dependency on the viewer being
    familiar enough with the source to fill in the cracks and paint in the edges. Obviously for the sake
    of running-times, a lot of ‘superfluous’ scenes/events had to be trimmed, however, anyone whose
    read the book can tell you these smaller-asides all serve to inform the main story or cement its
    themes in ways which leaves it a slightly less whole affair without. Its largest omission is no doubt
    the understandable, but slightly saddening exclusion of the ‘story-within-a-story’ Tale of the Black
    Freighter, a comic read by a child within the story – a tale which mirrors the trajectory of Veidt,
    crystallising the themes of the wider-story in a wonderfully succinct way. Incidentally Warner Bros
    made this available as an animated straight-to-DVD release, providing the option to play it ‘in movie’
    on the special, super-duper, never-to-be-repeated-until-next-time edition of the DVD. The exclusions
    wouldn’t necessarily be an issue if it had been flexible and bold enough to try and compensate for
    its omissions within its narrative/dialogue, often refusing to in defiant determinism to play out the
    scenes precisely.

    Its only major (well, slight in essence) deviation is funnily enough the ending. In the book, Veidt’s ‘masterplan’ involves uniting the world through an alien threat, albeit a fake one and, in the face of possible planetary invasion and untold destruction, the superpowers have little choice but to join forces for the sake of humankind. The film presumably dropped the squid/alien threat on grounds it would seem completely “out-there” in a film where one of the main characters is a naked, blue man who can do anything. Navigating this, the film instead has Veidt ‘frame’ Dr Manhattan, making him the ‘alien threat’ that unites the world. While its fidelity to the book is one of its chief strengths throughout and to change the ending borders on heresy, within the context of the film and for general audiences I think the change holds up better than it has right to in theory, or purists will ever like admitting. It’s the films only bold deviance and whenever rewatching the film I sometimes find myself wondering if they perhaps should have been braver to tweak other portions as well to make it stand alone more.

    The brilliance of the book, which the film largely retains, is its morally-grey and challenging ending.
    Superhero-stories are often Manichean tales of good and evil, we always know who to empathise
    with and that a rightful equilibrium will be restored for the most part. Watchmen’s ultimate villain
    is the one with the widest purview and best intentions; blinded by them he commits acts which
    are utterly-reprehensible. Powerless, all the ‘heroes’ can do in the end is to be complicit for the
    sake of damage limitation. The most unhinged of them all ends the least ethically compromised,
    even though this costs him his life. As these events unfold, we are forced to contemplate our own
    moralities and ethics, rather than following the guidance of the text as superhero stories often do.

    In essence, while far from perfect, Snyder has managed to make a (largely) coherent film from a
    landmark graphic novel proclaimed unfilmable. While there may be some discrepancies between the
    source and film (like with any adaptation), it is clear this film went out of its way to be as reverent
    as possible and it is hard to be too judgemental with such honourable intent on the part of the
    film-makers. It is a great companion piece to the book, however non-converts be warned it might
    seem quite inaccessible and haphazard without the weight of backstory provided in the graphic
    novel behind it. However, it is another consolidating comic-book movie helping to liberate the ever-
    growing sub-genre from the stigma attached due to its often lazily-done, lighter examples, hopefully
    helping to demonstrate there is far more weight to this source-medium than, say, The Fantastic Four
    might demonstrate.

    Book – 5 out of 5 – The Citizen Kane of graphic novels.

    Film - 3.5 out of 5 – A stylish and solid attempt of the near-impossible.

    Sunday, 18 September 2011

    Dani's Story by Diane and Bernie Lierow with Kay West

    Dani's Story is the true story of Danielle Lierow and how she came to be in a loving, caring adopted family after seven years of severe neglect. It is a harrowing tale of a girl who held on when many might have perished and was able, despite a horrific start in life, to acknowledge the possibilities of allowing in the love of a new family.

    The book is written from the perspective of adoptive parents Diane and Bernie and shows their struggle to get Danielle into their home as soon as possible after learning about her start in life. They never imagined when they first looked into adopting that they would take in a special needs child but fell in love with Danielle and knew that she needed them as much as they needed her. It would be an adjustment for all involved and would take longer than any of them realised, with some massive roadblocks along the way.

    I was fascinated by this book before I had even read it, after reading that the diagnosis of Danielle's "condition" after being removed from her birth mother was that of Environmental Autism. Basically, it seemed that Danielle was born completely fine, but the neglect she suffered from a young age and the severe lack of love, care and encouragement she encountered meant that she had gone into herself, never spoke and acted the way a baby does. She made noises, grunts and repetitive sounds, she walked on her tip-toes, drank from a sippy cup, shovelled food in her mouth so fast it often made her sick and still wore a nappy. So when the Lierows were told the full extent of her life so far, nobody could say for sure whether she would improve or stay the same for the rest of her life.


    The brilliance of this book is its honesty. At no point do you get the impression that the Lierows are saints or annoying do-gooders who blow their own trumpet. They are a close-knit family comprised of children from each parent's previous marriage and Willie, the one child the two of them share. They live in a close-knit community, close to their pastor and a couple of elderly couples nearby who are like surrogate grandparents. They do not see Danielle as a project, merely another member of their family. They keep eight year old Willie constantly in the loop to make sure he will be OK with the transition.

    And what a transition it is... For prospective adoptive parents, they also go into laborious detail about each step of the process and how after all the time and effort they have put into becoming potential adoptive parents for Danielle, they then have to apply for a Foster licence too. The red tape gets so much, you can see how so many people would give up on the process. But despite knock-back after knock-back, the Lierows are a determined bunch and you feel their frustrations and pleasures so keenly as the process drags on and on.

    I work with special needs children and was touched by the way the books describes the "little victories". When an Autistic child manages to get one word out, you want to grab them and hug them and tell them how amazing they are. The Lierows have this appreciation of Danielle. They take their victories where they can and realise how lucky she is and they are compared to the many children and families with far more severe disabilities.
    Then Dani's story really takes off when a local reporter asks to cover their story, which gets a massive response from people all over the world... especially when the story is picked up by Oprah!

    It's not always an easy read, but is helped by the fact that you know Danielle is now adopted by the Lierows so there is a certain "happy ending" to her tale. This doesn't lessen the frustrations, the horror and the fear at all, it simply drives you on to see how they managed to pull it off.

    Dani's Story is a gripping, heartwarming and horrifying non-fiction must-read.

    4/5 FOBLES

    Click here for an extract on the Penguin website.

    Thursday, 15 September 2011

    The Monty Python Message

    Monty Python, contrary to what many thought at the time, was a comedy group comprised of Graham Chapman, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones, John Cleese and Micheal Palin. They created the highly popular British comedy hit series Monty Python's Flying Circus and the films Life of Brian, Holy Grail, Meaning of Life and And Now For Something Completely Different.

    It is hard to know for certain the best way to describe the style of humour the young guys used back in the 1970s. British - definitely, juvenile - possibly, cheeky - absolutely! Perhaps controversial, radical... offensive? The Python team worked in a time where political correctness was not at the top of everybody's priority list. They dared to say things nobody else seemed to have the courage to say. They made silly jokes that took you back to child-like humour but somehow translated it for adults. They could poke fun at anyone and everyone and because there was no discrimination in their rudeness they couldn't be accused of being racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic. Surely?

    Monty Python and the Holy Grail came first in the run of films in 1975, followed by Life of Brian in 1979 and The Meaning of Life in 1983. The Holy Grail was a parody of the many films made about English Knights and saw King Arthur on a quest, charged by God to find the Holy Grail itself - with hilarious and Pythonesque results and an ending that remains one of the most surprising ever made. Then came Life of Brian, a tale about a man born on the same day as Jesus who gets confused for the messiah and people start to follow him. This film was unsurprisingly met with harsh criticism by the Christian leaders and many others who felt it was the lowest form of humour and ridiculing their lord. The Pythons had to defend their work and insist that it was not insulting the religion.

    This was not the first time the Python lads had to defend their comedy style. In December of 1975, Monty Python's Flying Circus was broadcast across the United States for the first time on ABC - only without the naughty bits. Seeing as the humour is quintessentially naughty, the Pythons realised that removing the naughty bits made it far less funny - so Terry Gilliam and Michael Palin dared to take on the network and get the naughty bits put back in.

    The Telegraph
    The Pythons are still regarded as the height of British comedy by many and many of it's original group still work, in one way or another in the business - whether it be acting, hosting, directing or writing. Eric Idle wrote Spamalot, the hit musical show lovingly based on The Holy Grail and popular in theatres across the world. And for Londoners who love the Python humour - until October 15th, there is a far-too-short run of the comedy genius that is No Naughty Bits at Hampstead Theatre. The play takes a hilarious look at what happened when Gilliam (the abrasive American) and Palin (the polite Brit) took on the American network.

    I cannot recommend this enough to Python fans and newcomers alike. Watching American executives disect the jokes line by line is painfully funny and the American vs British tastes and ideas on censorship never fails to entertain. There are a couple of inside jokes for those who have followed the Pythons - like John Cleese being too busy to go to the US because he's doing his hotel show (a reference to Fawlty Towers to those who don't know) - and laughs that will have you surprised by your own volume. It's SO funny... I even saw Terry Gilliam himself laughing along.

    The Monty Python humour is more than just naughty words, it's comedic timing, theatricality and a brilliant collaborative effort by all six. It's the kind of humour that would not be as funny if you tried to do it yourself because you are not a Python. So my advice to you is this - let the Pythons take you to their wacky, clever and brilliantly funny world. Check out the play, see the films, look up the sketches. You will not be disappointed!


    Friday, 9 September 2011

    PS I Love You: Book vs Film

    I saw the film a while ago and was aware of one massive thing that had been altered in the book to film conversion - the location. I was told that the book is set in Ireland and yet the film has been relocated over the ocean to New York. What I didn't realise is that this is not the only thing that has been altered.

    PS I Love You was Cecelia Ahern's debut book and became a bestseller pretty quickly. The plot revolves around Holly, who has been widowed at the tender age of 30 and without husband Gerry is lost and doesn't know how to move on. Then she learns that while Gerry lay dying, he thought to write her notes - one for every month for the rest of the year - and each note is going to guide her forward.

    This concept is what was taken over to the film and all the incidentals around that seem to have been lost. Holly and Gerry remain the same. Gerry, played by Scotsman Gerard Butler, is Irish (terrible accent though sorry Gez!) and Holly, played by Hilary Swank, has two best friends called Sharon (Gina Gershon) and Denise (Lisa Kudrow). Her cooky younger sister Ciara and mum are in it too and there is a barman called Daniel... and that's it.

    For the film adaption, characters were cut or merged into new people and large chunks of the plot are completely altered or created from scratch. Holly's poor dad and THREE brothers are all ditched, possibly in an attempt to make the film more girly. They play a massive part in the book as Holly is a family girl and has them around her often, even against her wishes! In the film, she sees her mum more out of obligation than anything.

    The little nuances of the book are still there - the bedside lamp that forces them to get out of bed on a cold night and walk back in pitch black, the passionate rows, the new job tradition that only they know about and the idea that this is a relationship so tightly wound that he has been her reason for existing for so long and now she doesn't know how to be without him.

    The book examines Holly's constant battle with depression, loneliness and the uphill battle to keep up appearances and not be a total downer with her friends as their lives just seem to get better and better. The film deals with a more external battle and the moments where Holly gets really overwhelmed and emotional are much fewer and far between, meaning that they have more effect than in the book where she seems to be forever crying or worrying or over-thinking something.

    This is one of the rare book to film conversions where I would say the two have very little to do with each other and should not be looked at as a comparison. Instead they should be viewed as two completely different mediums that took an original concept and went with it. The original concept remains in tact - the letters from a lost love guiding you through the haze of the aftermath of their death - but the incidentals, the concurrent storylines, even the characters are largely altered and are so far in many cases from the original they don't even warrant a comparison. The supporting cast in the film are a mixed bag but all interesting enough with the likes of Kudrow, Gershon, Kathy Bates, Harry Connick Jnr, James Marsters and Jeffrey Dean Morgan.

    Much like One Day, the book was well written and interesting - but dragged on for too long. The film was trimmed and the result was a punchier, easier to digest, more compact version of the same topic. The idea is a brilliant one but even brilliant ideas can be laboured.

    So, bizarrely - even though the film made a God-awful attempt at converting the book onto the big screen, I preferred it to the book. It lacked the longevity which made the book drag and achieved more of a balance between heartbreak and laughter.

    Book - 3/5 FOBLES
    Film - 3.5/5 FOBLES

    Friday, 2 September 2011

    One Day: Book vs. Film

    One Day is the story of Emma and Dexter (Em and Dex), who meet on their final night at university. The book spans their interwoven lives for the next twenty years showing the highs and lows, loves and heartbreaks. The basic concept is that we see a day every year over twenty years to see how their lives develop.

    I have made no secret of how underwhelmed I was by the book version of One Day. The characters are not very likeable and I found the plot overly depressing. But there is no question that it was written by a highly skilled author and I can see why so many people loved it. For the full review see Novelicious.
    Directed by An Education Director Lone Scherfig, the film version of One Day has received lots of criticism, largely for two reasons. Firstly, the book has a massive legion of devoted fans who dubbed the book life-changing and were never going to be happy with it because it could never do it justice. Secondly, Anne Hathaway.

    I must say, normally I am a massive fan of Anne Hathaway. She does silly and cute very well (Princess Diaries), she can sing (check her out with Hugh Jackman on the Oscars!), and is actually very funny and seems nice when interviewed. The funny thing is, her accent is actually quite good. The weirdness of it seems to be why she only has a Yorkshire accent every one in five sentences. She switches between London and Yorkshire like Ross switches between American and British in THAT episode of Friends. She's insisted that the accent was meant to soften when she lived in London but it doesn't. It jumps between the two regardless of what year we're in. She also is just too damn hot to play Emma. Emma is not meant to be ugly - she is meant to be plain. For the love of all that is filmic - please realise film-makers that putting frizzy hair and glasses on a lady does not a minger make! (I take this quite personally as a glasses wearer myself!) There are many many female leads that could have done Emma with more subtlety and in casting her, they have made their biggest error. Though perhaps they will still make so much money from it, the film-makers won't really mind.
    Jim Sturgess, on the other hand, was INCREDIBLE! His portrayal of Dexter as he goes through fame, popularity, lots and lots of women and the almost inevitable descent into darkness is gripping. Unlike the book version of Dexter, I actually felt invested in him as a character. When he was sad, I wanted to hug him and when he was being a tool, I wanted to smack him. When I read the book I just wanted Emma to wise up and leave him be.
    There was also some great casting in the form of Patricia Clarkson as Dexter's mother Alison, who pulls off all the elements to the character beautifully, Rafe Spall as the horrifically adorable Ian and a great team of supporting cast in the form or Jodie Whittaker, Romola Garai and Georgia King.
    David Nicholls, the author of the book, also wrote the screenplay and it’s a true testament to him that he has managed to do a pretty good job. Book to film conversions are always going to be difficult but he has managed to keep the really important parts as they should be and just crop and tighten the rest. Little bits are changed but largely it is the setting that is altered. They are on a roof when they should be in a maze or in France when it should be Italy. But the conversations remain the same, the important facts are not altered. There are also little hints of a book storyline for book fans like when Dex walks out for his live show with a bottle of water. Quite a few story lines are dropped entirely so hardcore book fans will, no doubt, be upset by this. You will be relieved to hear, though, that they do not do a My Sister's Keeper and DESTROY the ending. *Phew!*
    All in all, I really enjoyed it! In trimming the fat - so to speak - of the plot, the characters become much more likeable. I found myself actually caring what happened to them both. You can't get too bogged down in the more depressing times because it jumps to the next year so soon that you aren't given the opportunity to really wallow.
    If you loved the book, I’d wait a while and watch it on DVD. Nothing major has been altered but there are little things that will bug you. I think the dates have been messed about with a little, one year is completely ignored and the accent – oh that accent – will drive you mad.

    If though, like me, you don’t really think the book was all that impressive then check out the film. It's a suitably dark look at the realities of romance and might just be the perfect date film. It's got the grittiness and honesty of a Mike Leigh film but with a hint of Hollywood glamour.
    3/5 FOBLES