Thursday, 20 December 2012

Gorgeous new images from Ang Lee's Life of Pi

Today marks the release of a film they said could never be adapted. Based on Yann Martel's incredible Man Booker prize-winning novel, Life of Pi has been turned into a cinematic masterpiece with Suraj Sharma and Irrfan Khan playing Pi at different ages. Directed by Ang Lee, the film also stars Rafe Spall.

To celebrate the film's release, here are some gorgeous new stills from the film. Click to enlarge.

Check out the book vs film for Life of Pi here and make sure you experience this incredible adaptation on the big screen and in 3D while you can. It will take you on one hell of a journey!

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Books of 2012: My Highlights

A lot of great books hit the shelves in 2012. Some highly-anticipated novels left many readers underwhelmed, while other quiet debuts proved that you don't have to have a well-known name to write a quality piece of fiction. 2012 also saw the welcome return of much-loved author Marian Keyes and brought British expat Jane Green briefly back to her native England.

This year, Young Adult fiction became my new favourite genre. Having adored the imagination and complexity of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series, I had been searching for something to fill that void. The release of the Hunger Games film earlier in the year sent me to the book trilogy and I managed to devour all three in a very short space of time. It was similar in plot to that of Battle Royale (one of my favourite films!) but it brought a sick reality TV element that made it all the more sinister in its glamour. The Suzanne Collins trilogy was simply the beginning of my YA enjoyment this year though, with an impressive debut from Louisa Reid and a dramatic change in style from world-renowned author Jodi Picoult.

Firstly, Reid's dark book Black Heart Blue blew me away. There is nothing worse than finding something written for teenagers that is filled with a patronising attitude and simplicity - as if they are incapable of grasping anything more. There is none of that here as Reid deals with abuse, neglect and disability with grace and intelligence. The book, about the twin left behind after the death of her beautiful, more socially accepted, sister, is heartbreaking but gripping in its style. An eye-opener that promises more exciting work from an immensely talented author.

Completely different in style to Black Heart Blue, Picoult teamed up with her teenage daughter Samantha Van Leer to write the simply magical Between the Lines. The story, which sees the division between reader and fictional character blurred, saw a teenage girl fall for a character in a book - who wants nothing more than to leave his world and join hers. With gorgeous images in the margins and an utterly captivating and imaginative story, it's pure unadulterated escapism. A delight.

Another impressive debut this year came from Karen Thompson Walker who took a slow and menacing apocalyptic look at the end of the world in The Age of Miracles. It's completely captivating throughout and the prose is just gorgeous.

For the more adult reads this year, highlights have included Jane Green's The Patchwork Marriage, Dorothy Koomson's The Rose Petal Beach and the welcome return of Marian Keyes with her first novel in a few years, Mystery of Mercy Close. Green handled the contemporary issue of blended families with impartiality and understanding. Koomson brought a hidden darkness and humanity to a mystery and Keyes brought her own battle with depression into a courageous book about Helen Walsh.

2012 was also the year when Novelicious creator, Kirsty Greenwood, self-published her hilarious debut novel, Yours Truly. The book is filled with northern charm, humour and endearing characters. The premise - that Natalie Butterworth, people-pleaser and all round wallflower, is hypnotised into telling the truth - is inspired and loses nothing in the execution.

For the even more adult readers, of course, this was the year of 'mummy porn' Fifty Shades of Grey. The writing of this phenomenon was poor but the book was a guilty pleasure enjoyed by millions of readers across the world. The series spawned lots of copycats who tried to follow on from the success of E.L. James's books but only one managed to come close. With the creation of her crossfire series - which began with Bared to You - Sylvia Day created a brilliantly written tale of two dysfunctional people far more equal in their partnership. It's dramatic, naughty and devilishly exciting. Well worth a read.

What have your book highlights been for 2012? Share your tips in the comments below...

Cinema: Hot Tips for the Christmas Break

Many people are now counting the days, minutes, perhaps even seconds until they break up for a Christmas holiday. So if it's school or work you're having a break from, check out my hot tips of what to see at the cinema this holiday season:

Thursday 20th December - Life of Pi

Based on the book by Yann Martel, is a stunning piece of cinema that must be seen in all it's cinematic 3D glory to be experienced at its best. With incredible performances and ocean loads of emotion and drama, it is certainly one to watch now while you can! Check out the book vs film.

Friday 21st December - Pitch Perfect

Having been delayed for two months, this hilarious US film finally reaches UK shores just in time for Christmas. It's crude, it's hilarious and it's musical - American Pie meets Glee. Full review at Filmoria.

Friday 11th January - Les Misérables

It's due out in the US on Christmas day so us Brits need to wait a little bit longer - but it is worth the wait! So much more than the incredible music, this incredible cast bring a raw, intoxicating performance. Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman will be the ones to beat come award season. Full review at Filmoria.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Les Misérables Film Review

I had the absolute pleasure this week of seeing Tom Hooper's new musical film adaptation of Les Misérables which boasts an all-star cast that includes Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Eddie Redmayne, Amanda Seyfried... the list is endless. Let me just say, it's 24 hours later and I still can't get it out of my head. It's raw, powerful and totally captivating - even with Russell Crowe as Javert. 

I'm afraid I haven't read the Victor Hugo book but I have seen and loved the stage production and can say that it does the musical justice. It isn't as neat and precise as the stage show but brings something new in its authentic feel.

I highly recommend checking it out - whether or not you are a fan of musicals - if only for Anne Hathaway's interpretation of the infamous I Dreamed a Dream. Stunning cinema.

For my full review, check out Filmoria. The film is out in the US at the end of December and on January 11th in the UK.

Enjoy! x

(If you have read the book, I'd love to know how it compares...)

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Heather Headley and Lloyd Owen Discuss new Bodyguard Musical

Did the idea of remaking the hit Whitney Houston/Kevin Costner film The Bodyguard into a stage musical strike you as ridiculous? Well it seems the two stars of the show thought that too - until they read the script!

I caught up with Lloyd Owen and Heather Headley recently and, having seen the show, can say that it is certainly an adaptation worth checking out - whether or not you loved the original film.

Here's my interview with the pair:

Source: Filmoria

Friday, 7 December 2012

James McAvoy to Play Macbeth in new 2013 Stage Production

Film and stage actor James McAvoy (Atonement, X-Men: First Class) will take on the infamous role of Macbeth next year when the Shakespearean tale comes to the London stage. Alongside his impressive film credits, James McAvoy has starred on stage in 2009 in Three Days of Rain (Olivier Award nomination). his other stage credits include Breathing Corpses at the Royal Court, Privates on Parade at the Donmar Warehouse and Out in the Open at Hampstead Theatre. For Macbeth, McAvoy will be reunited with Three Days of Rain director Jamie Lloyd. Macbeth will be staged at Trafalgar Studios from 9 February until 27 April.
On 9 February 2013 Trafalgar Studios will be transformed. Macbeth is the inaugural production in a season of productions to be directed by Jamie Lloyd in Trafalgar Studios, set to be the theatre destination of 2013. Olivier Award winner Jamie Lloyd (Donmar’s Passion, Broadway’s Cyrano de Bergerac starring Douglas Hodge, Royal Court’s The Pride) directs one of the most exciting international film stars James McAvoy (The Last King Of Scotland, Atonement, X-Men) in this nihilistic vision of chaos, played out with breathless momentum and visceral passion. Shakespeare’s darkest tragedy is re-imagined in post-apocalyptic separatist Scotland. In this toxic dystopia, mysticism and witchcraft are interfused with hallucinogenic drugs as Macbeth begins his crusade of pathological ambition. Spurred on by arrogance, paranoia and the eroticism of murder, his struggle for power explores the corrosive potential of the human mind and exposes the ugliness of a society brutalized by war and tyranny. Set to be the hottest ticket of the year. Macbeth opens on February 9th 2013 and runs until April 27th 2013. 


Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Life of Pi: Book vs Film

Let me begin this review with a warning. Life of Pi is not a children's adventure story. This is not Robinson Crusoe for a new generation. The story is shocking, violent, graphic, terrifying and completely heartbreaking. Yet somehow it also manages to be awe-inspiring and beautiful. As a result, this will not be for everyone. Life of Pi has the potential to make or break you - much like Pi himself - so prepare yourself for a choppy ride... 

Life of Pi follows the trials and tribulations of young Pi Patel as he is shipwrecked at sea with only a tiger for company. The epic tale won the Man Booker Prize back in 2002 and saw author Yann Martel propelled to worldwide fame. 

What Martel created in Life of Pi was so much more than a story of shipwreck, of being lost at sea. The son of a zookeeper, Pi has been around animals his entire life. He understands them better than most and must battle not just the elements, the fear of starvation and everything that being stranded at sea would normally entail. Pi must also face off a Bengal tiger by the name of Richard Parker that could kill him in a split second.

Stuck for seemingly endless days at sea in an apparently hopeless situation, Pi's daily struggle is both a physical and emotional one - laden with such intensity that the story becomes completely immersive for the reader.
The detail of the battle between human and animal, between what lies within the boat and what lies outside of it, is intoxicating and captivating. Pi's battle is with himself and watching him give in to his animal instincts is fascinating and horrifying all at the same time.

Before he reaches the sea though, Pi has an upbringing to consider and by spending a substantial amount of time at the start of the novel dedicated to Pi's backstory, Martel manages to really show the many sides to his protagonist. He is a deeply religious person, fascinated not just by his Hindu upbringing but by what Christianity and Islam have to offer. Pi is not simply picking and choosing, though, as if he wants to cover his bases. He is an intelligent young man who has a great love of God and all that is spiritual. 

The main focus of the story is of course what happens at sea. Given that most of the story is spent out in the ocean, turning Life of Pi into a film might have seemed too big an ask for many directors. Ang Lee, however, decided to bravely take on the project and the end result is something to behold.

For the film adaptation, Lee found a total unknown actor to play young Pi Patel. Suraj Sharma puts in a performance more seasoned actors would struggle to accomplish, capturing both the innocence of the religious teenage boy and the strength and desperation of a boy alone at sea. Audiences feel his every emotion: his loss, his hope, his stupidity and his bravery. It is both heartbreaking and intoxicating. 

In Irrfan Khan - who plays Pi grown up - Lee has found a man who can reveal such deep emotion with merely a glance, an inflection or the slightest hint of a smile that he needs no spectacle to get his story across. Stunning as the scenes at sea are, many viewers will find themselves just as gripped by his story and the way he tells it. Khan is a superb storyteller and conveys the truth behind Martel's story gracefully and respectfully. 

With these two central performances sorted, it was up to Lee to figure out how to put the epic tale on the big screen. The use of 3D really allows audiences the opportunity to fully enter Pi's world. With this extra dimension added, viewers are sure to both cower in fear and marvel in awe at all that Pi witnesses on his journey.

Martel's book was groundbreaking. It is a truly unique piece of writing that blends action adventure, religion and emotion in a way no other story has managed. It is hard to read at parts though, with great detail given to just what Pi has to do in order to survive - details that some readers may find too much to bear. It's the book's greatest strength and weakness that audiences may not fully know what to expect. You go in thinking it's a story about a boy in a boat with a tiger and then the kid starts talking about religion and the beauty of life in India. It's jarring and unsettling and for me, if I hadn't been told to power through it, I may well have given up in that first section. Had I done so I would have missed out on so much. At the same time, the greatest way to experience the story itself is to go in knowing as little as possible. It is the kind of story that stays with you long after the book has been closed but you have to have a little faith that it is worth sticking it out to the end.

With Lee's adaptation, something magical happens. Though none of the horror of Pi's story is forgotten, certain details are left off screen, making it just that little bit more palatable. Enough of his story is explained that audiences fully understand what he has had to endure - so the feel of the book is not lost - but every graphic detail is not required to enforce the point.

Lee has so flawlessly managed to capture the imagination of Martel's book that it really doesn't matter if the film is seen before or after reading it. Both versions convey the full extent of Pi's struggle, the tumultuous but entirely necessary relationship between him and Richard Parker and the heartbreaking duality of both the majesty and torture that comes with a life stranded at sea. In choosing a stunningly talented cast and by adding the extra dimension of 3D to the film, Lee has proven himself one of the greatest directors of modern cinema. Life of Pi is a visual spectacle but never loses its heart and emotion. 

They said Martel's book couldn't be adapted. They were wrong.Life of Pi must be seen to be believed and seen to be experienced. Most of all, though, it must be seen in 3D and on the big screen to really get the full effect. It is a master class in adaptations - a true masterpiece in cinema. 

Book: 4.5/5 FOBLES
Film: 5/5 FOBLES

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Breaking Dawn: Book vs Film

*Warning: contains some spoilers* 

With Breaking Dawn, Stephenie Meyer brought her Twilight series to a close. The book followed Bella Swan as she marries the love of her life, Edward Cullen, and becomes both a vampire and a mother. With this book, the series took a bizarre turn from the teen angst that had riddled the pages of the earlier three and saw Bella mature into an impressive woman thanks to her new vampiric status. It also offered a shift of perspective for a while as Jacob took centre stage with his wolfpack.

For its adaptation, the book was divided into two films - the first following Bella as she prepared to marry Edward, went on her honeymoon and discovered she was pregnant with his child and the second as she had given birth to their half-vampire, half-human baby and was enjoying life as a newborn vampire herself.  Director Bill Condon was on hand for both parts meaning that the feel and flow of the pair worked well together.

Part One was all about the romance. There was a stunning outdoors wedding, a honeymoon on their very own island and the opportunity to consumate their new marriage. Bella then gets protective over her unborn child that is - quite literally - sucking the life out of her forcing Edward to turn her before she dies.

Though Part Two begins with a happy Bella (Kristen Stewart) revelling in her new life, the drama begins when Alice sees that the Volturi vampires think their daughter Renesmee is an immortal and are coming to kill her. The most important law of the vampire world is that biting a child is forbidden and the Volturi believe the Cullens have broken this law and must stop them. In order to prove that Renesmee was born, not bitten, Edward (Robert Pattinson) and Carlisle travel the world and enlist all the friends they can find to stand with them against the Volturi. As a result, a whole host of new vampires arrive in the town of Forks from across the globe and Jacob, who has imprinted on baby Renesmee so is forever with them all, finds himself outnumbered by red eyes. 

In the film, Stewart took to the vampiric Bella superbly, showing just how talented an actress she really is when given the opportunity to (pardon the reference) shine. Pattinson is able to relax a little here too which makes for a much more amusing Edward than audiences have seen previously. He is no longer living in fear of hurting the woman he loves. He now realises that it is her turn not to hurt him (as she is stronger than him!) and relishes watching his wife in action.

Whereas fans of the series had spent all their time thus far observing the world of the vampires from the outside, Breaking Dawn Part Two offers the chance to experience it from the inside. It is a far more adult book than the earlier three, with marriage, pregnancy, parenthood and lots of vampire sex to boot and Condon handles this well, keeping the theme of young love and Bella and Edward's plans of 'forever' at the forefront while allowing his stars to grow up and develop.

While the book of Breaking Dawn went off on such a random tangent that many fans of the series may have found it jarring and peculiar, the final film managed to add the drama and action seriously lacking in the book - and, more importantly, made it credible. It wasn't action for action's sake and in creating a far more spectacular ending to the film franchise, the film managed to surpass the book. What the book lacked in tension, loss and drama, the film more than made up for with some impressive fight sequences and cinematic blood on snow imagery.

After the release of the first Twilight book, I don't think anyone could have guessed that Bella would become a vampire, a mother and a wife - not even Stephenie Meyer herself. Though no doubt many fans did enjoy the 'happy ending' of it all, this twi-hard found it massively anti-climactic and all too neat and tidy. The film, however, clarified the book's ending with all the tense action necessary to give the series a fitting end.

Book - 3 FOBLES
Film (Part One) - 3 FOBLES
Film (Part Two) - 4 FOBLES