Thursday, 30 June 2011

Pretty Twisted by Gina Blaxill

As a teen reader I loved the Point Horror and Point Crime books. They were books that were interesting, mysterious and compelling without being patronising because it was meant for young adults. So when the lovely Gina asked me if I'd want to read her book I took a look at the synopsis and agreed without hesitation. The cover alone tempted me..

Two different stories, One missing girl... Who would you trust?

Pretty Twisted explores the disappearance of the beautiful and enigmatic Freya from the perspective of her (until recently) boyfriend Jonathan and his new online friend Ros. Jonathan is annoyed that he is stuck at home while his gorgeous girlfriend gets to move to London and go to Music School. One night, angry at being stuck at home without her, 16 year old Jon befriends Ros in an online chatroom and they begin a friendship based on a lie that Ros is actually 16 (in reality she is only 14). They discuss friendships, family and relationships and their mutual love of sci-fi and become close quickly.

So when, only a few short weeks later, Jon has a blazing row with Freya and ends up getting dumped he appears to be the most likely candidate as to where Freya disappears off to. But Ros has abandonment issues after her mother walked out on her and her sister and has really fallen for Jon and been following Freya around without him knowing.

In a mystery that will leave you guessing to the very end, Blaxill manages to show teen angst and unrequited love against an altogether more sinister backdrop of internet friends, underage sex and disappearances. Her characters continue on with the everlasting battle to just be accepted. Some struggle to be adults before their time, others are just trying to do what they love without the pressure of making family proud.

But the question remains... where is Freya?

Brilliant young adult fiction but would appeal to those older who just like a good mystery.


Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Film vs. Book meets Author Lynn Shepherd

Lynn Shepherd is the award winning Author of Murder at Mansfield Park and a massive Jane Austen fan. She is also a bit of a darling of the twitter world, always making time to chat and discuss the finer points of books, writing and all things Austen. Here she tells me what got her into writing a Jane Austen style novel, what her favourite Austen book to film conversion is and what films she loves to watch when she isn't reading or copywriting. She also explains a little about her next book due to hit shops early next year...

What is involved in ghost writing the way you did in Murder at Mansfield Park? What got you into it?
I first read Mansfield Park for my school-leaving exams, and I was just bowled over by the beauty of her prose. She’s a one-woman tutorial in the elegant use of the English language, and of course there’s the delicious twist that a good deal of that elegant prose is barbed with her equally vicious wit. So I’ve always been a confirmed admirer of the way she writes. As for Mansfield Park in particular, I realised even at 18 that this book was very different from the others – much more serious, and with a hero and heroine that are really rather difficult to like. You talked about ‘ghosting Austen’ and I always felt there was the ghost of another novel buried in Mansfield Park, just waiting to be set free. But it was only many years later – after I became a freelance copywriter – that I had the time, and probably the maturity, to set about freeing that novel myself.

What does a normal writing day involve for you?
Because I work as a writer anyway, I’m pretty disciplined about putting in the hours and not getting distracted. Most days I go to the gym first thing, then I’m at my desk by 9, and generally work through (with a break at lunch) until about 5, whether it’s my own writing or something for a client. I find I don’t work well at night, and if I have to do so to meet a deadline I generally end up re-writing it all the following morning, so it’s a bit of a waste of time!

What sort of books do you enjoy reading in your spare time?
I have to confess I don’t read as much as I used to – or as I’d like to! If I have spare time I usually choose to fill it with my own research or writing, rather than reading for pleasure. The exception is holidays, when I can get through a book a day easily, and irritate my husband by filling the suitcases with books (which I do them leave behind, so other people can enjoy them). On that basis I suspect I’m the ideal market for an e-book reader! And to answer your question, it’s classic English fiction, and really good crime that I enjoy most. And of course it’s a fusion of those two things that I’m trying to write in my own books.

What is your favourite Austen book?
I think my favourite – like most people – is Pride & Prejudice, but the one that intrigues, inspires and irritates me the most is, of course, Mansfield Park!

What can you tell us about your next book and when will we be able to read it?
It’s another ‘literary murder’, though this time it’s inspired by Charles Dickens. In other words I’ve moved forward a bit in time, but it’s still a historical setting, though I’m not writing pastiche this time, so the book is ‘in my own voice’. Fans of my thief-taker Charles Maddox will also be pleased to hear that he’s back – though not, perhaps, in the way people might expect. It’s coming out from Corsair in early February in the UK, and then in the summer of 2012 from Random House in the US.

What types of films do you enjoy watching?
I like good drama, a well-made mystery, or a genuinely thrilling thriller. I don’t like sci-fi or horror, and there are only a few film comedies I would put on my list – the exceptions would be The Full Monty and Spinal Tap. My favourite films would include the Lord of the Rings trilogy (a favourite book of mine since I was a child, so I was apprehensive but in the end delighted with the film versions); also The Long Good Friday, a classic British thriller; the Pierce Brosnan version of The Thomas Crown Affair, and Chariots of Fire.

What book would you like to see made into a film?
This is a bit of an obscure one but one of my favourite books is Isabel Colegate’s Statues in a Garden. A wonderfully elegiac book set just before the First World War. The Shooting Party is also by her, and made a very moving film, but I think Statues in a Garden is better.

What question do you wish you were asked but never have been...
There isn’t a question I wish I was asked, but there is a question I always seem to be asked, and that’s which on-screen Austen I prefer. And my answer – as always – is the BBC Persuasion starring Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds. Perfect casting, perfect settings, and a fine attention to period detail that other aspiring moviemakers could learn a lot from. Just perfect.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire: Book vs Film

The Goblet of Fire opens with the Quidditch World Cup - a magically protected event where no muggles are permitted. Harry attends with the Weasley family, meeting fellow schoolmate Cedric Diggory on his travels, and discovers yet more wonders of the magical world from microphone spells to giant TARDIS-like tents. But the fun everyone is having at this event is short lived as the dark mark appears above them and deatheaters start running riot amongst the spectators.

With this dark cloud hanging over the wizarding world, the book sees a change in tradition at Hogwarts. There will be no Quidditch, no clubs - just the Tri-Wizard Tournament and some extra students staying all year. The beautiful French girls from the Beauxbatons Academy arrive along with the boys from Durmstrang. Ron is massively impressed to discover his Quidditch idol Victor Krum is still in school and now attending his and all the boys are impressed with the new girls from France.

The rules are explained that there are challenges which will take place throughout the year and the goblet of fire will select one student from each school to take part. As there is an age restriction, Harry and his friends are relieved to learn that they will not be able to take part and Harry actually believes he might get a year off from the spotlight of being 'the boy who lived'. Wrong! After the three are chosen from each school, a fourth name appears... Harry Potter. He claims not to have done it but nobody believes him, not even Ron who has grown tired of living in his shadow and the two start to bicker. But the goblet has spoken and believe him or not, Harry must take part in the tournament.

The new year at Hogwarts also sees the introduction of yet another new teacher for the Defense Against the Dark Arts class - Mad Eye Moody. One roving eye can see through invisibility cloaks and through spells and works independently of the other but the man knows his stuff. Within days of his arrival at Hogwarts he has turned Draco into a rodent and taught the class the three unforgivable curses.

As the children are now 14 years old, there are a lot of hormones thrown into the mix here. There is a formal dance and the boys have to find a date. Hermione finds her girly side and everyone must learn to dance.

Ron: Oi, Hermione... you're a girl.
Hermione: Very well spotted.
Ron: Come with one of us! It's one thing for a bloke to show up alone, but for a girl it's just sad.
Hermione: I won't be going alone, because believe it or not, someone's asked me! And I said yes!
Ron: Bloody hell. She's lying, right?
Harry: If you say so.

The challenges continue throughout the book as the teen angst, bickering and relationships continue to develop and they get ever more cryptic and dangerous, culminating in one of the most shocking Harry Potter finales. On first release, this book was in massively high demand as JK Rowling had revealed that one of the characters was going to die.... but who?

The film version saw the rise of another young star. Before he was Edward Cullen, Robert Pattinson was cast as the hot young stud Cedric Diggory. Cedric is chosen to be the Hogwarts student in the Tri-wizard cup (alongside Harry in this case!) and the boy who gets the girl of Harry's dreams - Cho Chang. He is the stud of the school and Pattinson does the role well. Brendan Gleeson is suitably wacky as Mad Eye Moody and even former Dr Who David Tennant joined the cast as Barty Crouch, a deatheater and son of the respectable Barty Crouch Snr, played by Roger Lloyd-Pack of Only Fools and Horses fame.

The effects continue to amaze from the Quidditch tournament at the start and throughout the Tri-Wizard Cup tournament (which includes dragon battles, flying and underwater sequences and the final maze and dramatic finale).

This is the first Harry Potter film that made me really emotional but I realised the second time around that I had seen it dubbed in Spanish the first time and wasn't as moved when I watched it in English. Make of that what you will...

All in all, the conversion from book to film was actually very good. There are little changes throughout but nothing so major that it angered me. An excellent job!

Enjoy x

Book 5: The Order of the Phoenix book to film review

Monday, 20 June 2011


In trying to come up with a new and exciting way to raise money for Cancer Research UK in addition to my running this year's Race for Life it occurred to me that if I could get a publisher to donate a cool signed book then people could bid their donations and win it! And thanks to the fabulous people at Ebury Press and Little, Brown, I now have TWO amazing books to offer the person with the highest donation for this life-changing charity... and they're both SIGNED BY THE AUTHORS :)

AFTERWARDS by Rosamund Lupton
There is a fire and they are in There. They are in there . . .

Black smoke stains a summer blue sky. A school is on fire. And one mother, Grace, sees the smoke and runs. She knows her teenage daughter Jenny is inside. She runs into the burning building to rescue her.

Afterwards, Grace must find the identity of the arsonist and protect her family from the person who's still intent on destroying them. Afterwards, she must fight the limits of her physical strength and discover the limitlessness of love.

This is the new book from Richard and Judy approved author Rosamund Lupton, author of Sister. It's a gripping read from start to finish.
Thanks to the lovely folks over at Little, Brown for this one.

The Best Friends' Guide to Life
 by Holly Willoughby and Fearne Cotton

What makes a great friend? Has Facebook ruined dating? What's the secret to effortless style?
'Hello! This is a book written by proper best friends - us! - who have been hanging out together for over ten years. We thought that if we shared some of our own experiences and views on friendship, relationships, leaving home, studying or starting a new job, then it might help you on your own journey.

Inside you'll find loads of stories - some funny, some sad, and some that make us cringe with embarrassment - as well as tips and advice on things like dating and looking good. We've included our best photos from over the years (even the dodgy ones!) and drawings that Fearne has done especially.
Let's face it, life isn't easy at times so we hope that this book will make you laugh, entertain you, but most of all that it might be a bit like talking to your very best friend.'

So tweet me (@filmvsbook) the amount you would like to donate with the hashtag #bookforlife and follow its progress. For those not on Twitter, leave a comment at the bottom of this post with the amount you want to bid. The person who has the highest donation bid at midday on Sunday 17th July 2011 will be sent the book as soon as possible after the deadline.  Please donate at the page below.

(UK entrants only please!)

Little Eva xx

Friday, 17 June 2011

Harry Potter: The Prisoner of Azkaban - Book vs. Film

The third book in the series saw the world of Harry Potter get even darker than its predecessor The Chamber of Secrets and also saw the introduction of a whole bunch of new characters including the fantastically demented Sirius Black, new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher Remus Lupin, the totally bonkers Professor Trelawney, the chillingly creepy dementors and the magical hipogrif Buckbeak.

Sirius Black is one of the most feared prisoners held at the magical prison of Azkaban, guarded by the terrifying dementors who don't kill you - they suck out your soul with a dementor's kiss. But Sirius has done the impossible and broken out of Azkaban and is after Harry. Of course, having been sheltered from the wizarding world until his eleventh birthday, Harry doesn't know who Sirius is or why on earth he would be after him and will soon unearth a horrific secret about how Voldermort found his parents and killed them - they were betrayed by their best friend.

Hermione and Ron begin an argument that seems neverending as Hermione's new cat takes an instant dislike to Ron's rat Scabbers and Harry is caught in the middle while dealing with his own issues (and the poor kid has bigger issues than most!). The third year students are allowed to have weekend trips to the nearby town of Hogsmeade but Harry is excluded as he has no permission slip allowing him to go, leaving him behind while all his friends go and have fun elsewhere. Hermione also becomes a little frazzled after taking on a rather demanding work load and, as is often the case in the world Harry and his friends - things are not always as they seem. The twists and turns are non-stop and will leave you guessing right to the end and every character seems to be hiding a dark secret.

This is the first book where as a reader you start to appreciate JK Rowling not just for her brilliant imagination but for her unbelievable creativity and complexity in her writing.

The film version is one of the best and most popular of the series, despite it's bad ending which is not only simplified but altered entirely from the brilliant twists of the book. Seeing the hipogrif on the big screen really is magical and the dementors are the stuff of nightmares, fantastically realised by new Director Alfonso Cuarón.

Due to the sad death of Richard Harris, the role of Albus Dumbledore was taken over by Michael Gambon who, though a brilliant actor in his own right, never managed to capture the role for me as well as Harris did. Dumbledore is a very particular character who must be powerful (as he is the only wizard feared by Voldermort) and grandfatherly. I never quite believe Gambon as the grandfather type - perhaps because Harris did it so well.

It's great to see more of Robbie Coltrane as Hagrid gets more involvement in the plot and the introduction of Emma Thompson as Professor Trelawney armed with crazy large glasses and a quirky and totally mad performance Thompson pulls off as only she can.

George Weasley: Yeah, c'mon, Ron. We'll walk you off the
Astronomy Tower and see how you come out looking.
Harry: Probably a right sight better than he normally does.

There's also some great effects and a brilliant finale as magical creatures take over their human counterparts with impressive fights and flight sequences. Oh and Hermione finally gets her own back (albeit briefly) on the nasty Draco for always calling her 'mudblood'. You go girl!

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Harry Potter: The Chamber of Secrets - Book Vs Film

Book Two in the series is my least favourite of all the books. That is not to say it isn't enjoyable - it just wasn't as compelling as the others for me. Forces are plotting to keep Harry away from Hogwarts but he is determined to get there, whatever it takes - and understandably because he hates life at home. It follows exactly the same pattern as The Philosopher's Stone - there's a mystery, the three of them try to solve it, it gets scary, all is resolved in a nail-biting dramatic finale.

It does, however, introduce an array of fantastic new characters into the mix. There is the youngest Weasley, Ron's little sister Ginny. Eleven year old Ginny is new to Hogwarts, has a crush on Harry and doesn't have many friends. This book also sees the introduction of the fabulous house-elf Dobby, the elf owned by the Malfoy family who takes it upon himself to protect Harry Potter... only he doesn't do it in such a subtle way. Gilderoy Lockhart is the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher who clearly has more celebrity than brains and there is also the brilliantly funny and oh-so-crazy Moaning Myrtle, the ghost who haunts the ladies toilets.

The Chamber of Secrets focuses on a legend at Hogwarts about a Chamber that will unearth all sorts of evils if someone managed to open it. Harry discovers a diary written by a boy named Tom Riddle which has the power to transport him back in time to view his parents at his age along with a young and slightly creepy Professor Snape and Dumbledore. But Harry doesn't understand the diary or what consequences might come from reading it. He starts to hear voices nobody else can hear and thinks perhaps he is going crazy.

The film is much like the first one except everybody seems to have found their feet a little more. The young cast have really started honing their skills and Bonnie Wright is great as the shy young Ginny. Kenneth Branagh arrives as the "dreamy" but totally useless Gilderoy Lockhart which adds some great comedy value as he frequently takes it upon himself to save the day but always gets it wrong. Overall, though, this story starts to dig deeper than the first with more explanation as to the history of the magical world and more specifically the school and its four founders Godric Gryffindor, Helga Hufflepuff, Rowena Ravenclaw, and Salazar Slytherin.

Professor Minerva McGonagall: Salazar Slytherin wished to be more selective about the students admitted to Hogwarts. He believed magical learning should be kept within all magic families. In other words, pure bloods. Unable to sway the others, he decided to leave the school. Now according to legend, Slytherin had built a hidden chamber in this castle, known as the Chamber of Secrets. Though shortly before departing, he sealed it until that time when his own true heir returned to the school. The heir alone would be able to open the chamber and unleash the horror within, and by so doing, purge the school of all those who, in Slytherin's view, were unworthy to study magic.

As with The Philosopher's Stone, this book reads more like a childrens' book. However, it is evidently getting darker by exploring the horrific idea of ethnic cleansing via the Chamber of Secrets. As McGonagall explains to the children, the mudbloods (those not of magical lineage) were deemed unfit to study and practise magic and as such were persecuted and killed. As Hermione is not of magical lineage (but is clearly a better witch than all her peers!) it becomes a very personal affair for our three young heroines.

It's the personal elements of the story that make it so readable. The drama is always happening to one of the three or somebody close to them. Drama and danger just seem to seek them out. And I wouldn't have it any other way :)

Overall, an excellent conversion from book to film. The snake is terrifying and the drama brilliantly captured on the big screen.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

My Sister's Keeper: Book Vs. Film

Jodi Picoult is a bestselling women's fiction author and with good reason. She has broken the mould of nice and neat literature by exploring taboo subjects with sensitivity and grit. She has explored horrific topics from rape to organ donation and terminal illness. The infamous grey area where things are not clear cut and there are different perspectives to consider.

In My Sister's Keeper, she writes about a family with a child so sick they genetically alter a new baby to be born as a perfect match for its big sister. The cells from newborn Anna are used from the moment of her birth to help her big sister live just a little longer and continue as the years pass. And while all these operations and procedures help Kate live, they are not a cure and she continues to get sick and have treatment for her Leukaemia.

So when Anna goes to a lawyer and asks to sue for the rights to her own body, there are some serious reactions from her family. Her mother cannot understand how she could be so selfish and issue what is tantamount to a death warrant to her big sister while Anna's father tries to understand and be more sympathetic to his daughter's plight. After all, you can't help one child by hurting another - can you?

And this is the moral and ethical dilemma that is explored so beautifully by Picoult throughout the book. As the court case continues, Kate is getting sicker and the already dysfunctional family unit starts to fracture even more under the increasing pressure. The marriage between mum Sarah and dad Brian is close to complete meltdown and tensions are constantly running high. The brother Jesse is all but forgotten amid the chaos and Kate spends a lot of time in a hospital bed, sheltered by her parents. They clearly think they are protecting her but frequently get it wrong or make it worse. Kate gets a brief flickering romance with a fellow patient at the hospital that is so cute and endearing it makes you smile.

The point to the book is that no human is perfect and when faced with a situation as horrific as this, nobody knows how they would react. As with all good Picoult books, there are twists and turns you do not see coming that will leave you stunned and moved to tears on numerous occasions. To tell you any more would ruin the book so I will just say have tissues at the ready and read with an open mind to all perspectives.

5 out of 5 FOBLES - sensitive and daring. Perfect!

Now the film... The film had Abigail Breslin playing Anna and Cameron Diaz playing her mother. Two pieces of great casting that would have worked had the film been any good...but sadly it was not.

I heard when this was due out that something big had been changed but when I saw it at the cinema I was horrified to discover what it was that had been changed. I can't say what without ruining it but it's not a small change I can tell you that and it completely ruined the brilliantly written and darkly poetic ending to the masterpiece novel. It managed to turn a sensitive, sweet and endearing teen romance into something overly raunchy and unnecessary. For the brief moments where I actually enjoyed seeing the relationship between the sisters on the big screen I will give it 1 FOBLE but otherwise it's an overly sentimental destruction of a work of literary genius and deserves nothing more from me.

If it had stuck to the plot of the book, it would have been a classy, clever and endearing weepy but it ended up being an overly sentimental tearjerker playing for cheap tears like a bad comedy plays for the cheap and obvious laughs. I have never been so compelled to complain as I did when I watched this and even found myself going on to the Jodi Picoult website to ask her what the hell she had done in allowing them to destroy her masterpiece. Evidently I was not the first... as Jodi had already written on her page that she had no say in the matter and if you wanted to complain, do it the filmmakers directly.... so I did.

1 out of 5 FOBLES.  Horrific, tacky and obvious.

LE xx

Harry Potter: The Philosopher's Stone - Book vs. Film

When a series as well known and well loved as the Harry Potter books get made into films, it is fairly predictable that they are never going to manage to be wholly accurate conversions. Plot twists have been lost, things didn't always look the way you imagined them to when reading and certain plot developments were totally altered. But there remains something totally magical about seeing the world of Hogwarts and muggles on the big screen and the films have, collectively, done amazing things for the British film industry. It also helps that the cast lists read like a who's who of British actors.

Book 1: The Philosopher's Stone
Harry Potter is 11 years old and living with his mean auntie, uncle and cousin in a small house in Surrey, more specifically in the cupboard under the stairs. As his 11th birthday approaches he learns that he is in fact a wizard and his parents were not killed in a car crash as he has been told all his life - but murdered by an evil wizard. As Harry enters the magical world of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry he learns that he is famous in the wizarding world as the boy who lived. He immediately makes friends with Ron Weasley and the two later become friends with the loveable know-it-all Hermione Granger. The three learn about Nicholas Flamel and the Philosopher's Stone, a gem that gives its owner eternal life. But they are not the only people aware of its presence and it's a race to the finish to make sure the stone does not fall into the wrong hands.
As the first book in the series, the introduction of Harry into the wizarding world is as seamless as it is for the reader, with spells and customs explained to both at the same time. The teachers are a mix of fun and quirky, stern and moody. And of course there is Headmaster Professor Albus Dumbledore - the grandfather figure who manages to be cute and fluffy and powerful all at once. Dumbledore is, after all, the only wizard feared by Voldermort - the evil wizard who killed Harry's parents and many others and a wizard so feared that people daren't speak his name.

Best Line
Hermione: Now, I am going to bed before EITHER of you think of
another brilliant idea to get us killed, or worse, expelled.
Ron: She needs to sort out her priorities.

As a film, this was arguably the most anticipated film of the last ten+ years. Children and adults across the world had grown to love the books and were eager to see their favourite characters on the big screen. And it didn't disappoint. The new young actors Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson weren't perfect but they weren't bad at all. Rupert Grint especially shone with the adorable charm of a Weasley.

It was a little cheesy in parts but the action more than made up for it. The three headed guard dog, the first ever look at the game of Quidditch (performed brutally on broomsticks) and a brilliantly creative and gripping finale made for a brilliant and very promising opener to the series.

Cast included Richard Harris as Dumbledore, the always brilliant Maggie Smith as Professor McGonagall, Alan Rickman as nasty teacher Severus Snape and Robbie Coltrane as the gamekeeper Rubeus Hagrid. Even Harry's bullying and nasty classmate Draco Malfoy was played by Tom Felton who had already acted in The Borrowers and Anna and the King alongside Jodie Foster.

Friday, 10 June 2011

X-Men: First Class

X-Men: First Class had all the makings of another brilliant Marvel film. It had the effects, it had the actors and it had the backstories to many well-known X-men veterans (not just Magneto and Professor X but also Hank McCoy and Mystique). And yet somehow it managed to fall flat. I didn't dislike it but I didn't love it. It wasted what it had bizarrely with too much plot. If it was the back story it might have worked but it played the leads against a wartime backdrop of the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Holocaust, expanding on Erik (Magneto's) discovery of his skills just as his parents are taken away from him at a concentration camp.

Some amazing actors end up looking really strange. Kevin Bacon, who plays the evil Shaw, doctor at the concentration camps turned destroyer of the world, speaks so many languages it sounds odd and he just didn't work as a comic book bad guy. His right hand woman, Emma Frost (played by January Jones) looked like an extra from the Avengers in her all white leather get up and just didn't have the charisma that Mystique manages to pull off in the trilogy films in a similar role.

The saving grace though is the two leads. James McAvoy as Charles Xavier and Michael Fassbender as Erik Lehnsherr are mindblowing. They play the roles with depth and subtlety which many actors would have struggled with and their developing friendship is fascinating to watch. It's also lots of fun for X-Men fans to see a young Charles Xavier chatting up young college students with his knowledge of evolution and being rather protective over his luscious locks. It's compelling viewing seeing a young Erik battle with the completely understandable rage that has been festering in him since Shaw killed his parents and tortured him into developing his 'gift'. It explores the two characters opposite approaches to the humans, with one trying to appease and play nice and wait for them to come around and the other sick of waiting and already convinced they are the enemy.

For fans of the other films, there is a brilliant cameo that had me laughing and lots of in-jokes (namely about Charles' hair) but it does still make sense to those who haven't see any so don't worry if you're not all clued up.

The action sequences are impressive but for this film buff there was just too much plot, too much politics and not enough action. Still worth a watch.

3 out of 5 FOBLES.

LE xx

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Misery: Book vs Film

It is rare to find an actor so good that when they are the only thing on screen you want to stick around for two hours just to see what they do. Tom Hanks managed it, Will Smith not so much... Misery certainly managed it as 99% of the entire film revolves around only two people and their relationship. It's compelling and creepy because of two things - its plot and its two main actors.

Firstly, Kathy Bates and James Caan are incredible! Secondly, Stephen King is a master story-WRITER (in joke for those who have read the book!) if not THE master so any plot conceived and made by him is a great place to start.

Bates plays Annie, an ex-nurse who lives in the middle of a remote US town far away from her neighbours and other townspeople when she stumbles across an overturned car in a snowstorm. As she pulls the dying man from the wreckage, she is shocked to discover that it is none other than her all time favourite author Paul Sheldon, writer of her favourite book series ever - the Misery books.

So nice Annie takes Paul in to her home to look after him right? WRONG! She takes him home and gives him pain killers and feeds him and changes him. But she isn't nice - she's psychotic! And as Paul starts to recuperate he quickly realises his "saviour" has a temper and he had better keep on the right side of it.
The plot develops at a relatively quick pace as Annie asks permission to read the latest Misery book Paul was carrying with him when he had the accident - only to discover that he has done the unthinkable and killed Misery off. Furious, she forces him to write her return and Paul soon discovers his own form of escape in the 19th century world of his most lucrative creation.

The thing to realise about this film is that Paul is in an impossible position. His legs are so badly broken from the crash that he has no choice but to stay where he is - in the spare bedroom at Annie's house looking at those same four walls. And as time goes on and there seems to be no sign of somebody trying to track him down, he resigns himself to his situation. But Annie is volatile and she doesn't like to be told no which makes Paul the victim of her horrific bursts of rage with one scene particular nasty where she decides she can't have him heal and restores him to his former crippled self. And as Paul quickly learns, Annie may well be crazy - but she is not stupid. The language she comes out with is priceless and King manages to make phrases like "you dirty bird" menacing simply by making Annie say them.

Paul's frustration and Annie's mental instability make for a fascinating relationship as the film develops with a dramatic ending that doesn't disappoint.

Now as for the book, which I have just finished, holy crap! I am a massive Stephen King fan and have read many of his dark and twisted novels and thoroughly enjoyed them... but even this (sorry Stephen!) may have been too much for me. The "hobbling" scene as it is often reffered to makes the film version look like something out of Cbeebies by comparison and was so detailed in its graphic horror that I think I may have forgotten to breathe for a few seconds. And it isn't just that scene, there are quite a few parts in the book that were jaw-droppingly horrific. It's like watching a nasty car accident. You don't want to look, you know you shouldn't, it's just going to get worse - but something compels you to keep on...

Overall, the film sticks very well to the plot of the book so it certainly falls into the good King book to film conversions (there are many bad ones!) What the book has, however, that the film doesn't have is time. The book really manages to explore the sheer length of time Paul Sheldon is stuck in that bed, wholly dependant on Annie - his saviour/captor. And the further into the book you get, the crazier Paul gets. The writer in him starts to imagine scenarios that aren't actually happening, starts to plan lavish ways he could escape or what was going on in the outside world he has for so long been cut off from. The imprints on the ceiling start to take shapes, the calendar on the wall, forever on February, makes for the longest month of his life. And when you realise that he is there for months not weeks you feel his frustration and his anger and his fall into madness. The chapters in the book are also broken up into different lengths - with some less than a page to show Paul slipping in and out of consciousness from the pain and the drugs.

The film just doesn't manage to pull that descent into madness off, and keeps Paul relatively sane right up to the end.

So overall, I really couldn't tell you which is better. If you are more faint-hearted perhaps just stick to the film but if you think you can handle it, the book is a disturbing masterpiece.

Both would get a 4 out 5 FOBLES.

I'd say enjoy but.... well you know.

LE xx

Thursday, 2 June 2011

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas: Book vs Film

John Boyne has made an absolute fortune I imagine for this book, especially as it's been translated and sold to over 40 countries worldwide (and still counting). And rightly so, I hasten to add. It is a rare writer who can write about the Holocaust with innocence and sincerity and in such a way that appeals to children and adults alike.

TBITSP was written for children about children. Bruno is an 8 year old boy who gets annoyed when his parents tell him that they and his elder sister are moving away to live in a new house in the country. He is annoyed because it means he won't be able to play with his friends anymore. So when they arrive at the remote new house and find it brimming with soldiers but nobody young enough for Bruno to play with, he is further annoyed but not surprised. What you learn after a while is that Bruno's dad is a soldier, and not just any soldier - he is one of the most senior soldiers in Hitler's war. The genius of the book lies in Boyne's way of combining youthful innocence and naivety with what the reader clearly knows. For one, Bruno keeps saying he doesn't like the new place they live in and is annoyed he can't even pronounce it right - referring to it only as Out-With. Then the Fury comes for dinner with his wife and he doesn't much like him either.

The main plot really takes off when Bruno is naughty and goes outside after being told not to. He has seen young people in the distance from his new bedroom window and is determined to find someone his own age to play with. So off he goes to the big fence a short walk away down the back garden and encounters Shmuel, a young boy in striped pyjamas who looks to be about his age and in need of somebody to play with too! What luck! Bruno returns most days at the same time to chat with his new friend about everything from football to birthdays (they have the same birthday) and even starts to bring him food as his new friend appears to be quite skinny.

Largely, the book lacks action and drama but it still works. The drama is happening around the two boys and that is what makes it so fascinating. Their lack of understanding makes their relationship much more simplistic and honest. After all, Bruno and Shmuel are the same boy - just born into different circumstances. One has been born into wealth and respect and the other into persecution and imprisonment. But at the tender age of 8, neither have had the chance to fully grasp the enormity of what is happening around them and their way of seeing the world is what drives this phenomenal book forward, culminating into one of the most mind-blowing endings ever written.

The film, by comparison, is a bit more dramatic. Other characters get more of a role than they do in the book as there is no limit to perspectives. Watching the mother, played by Vera Farmiga, go slowly crazy is horrific and compelling all at once and more horrifying still is the gradual progression of Bruno's elder sister from sweet young teenager into Nazi activist. She relishes their lessons which explore how much money the Jews are costing Germany and how much easier life would be if they were just disposed of, she reads Mein Kampf and puts posters of support up in her room. Bruno is often scolded as he prefers adventure books and doesn't take to the new lesson plan as well as his sister.

The dad himself, played by Harry Potter's own Remus Lupin - David Thewlis, has depth... which is hard to convey when playing a Nazi. He is played out to be the strict family man doing his duty. The arguments between him and his wife are actually very moving given that he wants to set a good example to his soldiers but she is finally starting to realise that living by a concentration camp may not be the best place to raise two young impressionable children. That the two of them can make such a bizarre argument moving and relatable is a true testament to their acting skills.

Overall, the film sticks to the book surprisingly well. The only real change is the dramatic ending which is much slower in the book but as the end result is the same I have no issue with the way it was put together.

Both film and book are brilliant but if you had to choose just one - it would be the book every time. The film sticks to the book very well but on its own it just isn't as compelling. By exploring the characters around him, it loses the innocence and naivety of Bruno's perspective and that perspective is what makes the book so unique.

5/5 FOBLES - book
3.5/5 FOBLES - film