Friday, 31 January 2014

Sense & Sensibility by Joanna Trollope

A few years ago it was announced that The Austen Project would task six bestselling contemporary writers with updating one of Jane Austen’s novels. Most probably in an attempt to introduce modern readers to one of England’s most loved authors and to prove that her work is still relevant within today’s society. The news was received with the inevitable dismay of her many fans who think it sacrilegious to mess with the words of their beloved novelist. To the chagrin of my Romanticism professors, I have never been a major fan of Austen: in fact I can only really admit to actually fully enjoying Northanger Abbey, which is simply because the second half of the book is batshit crazy and Gothic. It’s always seemed to me that Austen was writing Bridget Jones’ Diary with added corsets which meant that women of every generation have lapped up the hopelessly romantic journeys of her heroines whilst still feeling as though they are enjoying some sort of feminist doctrine. 

Now I’m not trying to say that she isn’t talented and there is real evidence within her novels that she was clever and very witty. However, no amount of random and bitchy tangents can change the fact that she is the grandmother of chick-lit and I’ll never be able to get excited reading the tales of annoying girls falling in love with utterly objectionable men. Regardless, I was interested in this modernisation plan because when it is done well it can be fantastic. For example, Emma may be my dad’s favourite Austen novel but you can just give me Clueless any day of the week. Plus, no matter what I may have just said, I don’t really mind Sense and Sensibility but that is mainly thanks to Emma Thompson’s lovely adaptation. So, as soon as I could find a cheap enough version, I set about to see whether Trollope had pulled off a Clueless or a She’s the Man.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)

A few years ago I got into a fairly heated Twitter argument with my old flatmate about Todd Hayne’s unconventional Bob Dylan biopic I’m Not There. I wanted so much to love it but, aside from Cate Blanchett, found very little to get too excited about. It was an interesting concept but I couldn’t help feeling it was all style and no substance. He, as someone who is a hell of a lot more Indie than I am, was outraged at my criticisms. I always intended to go back and rewatch it but my first viewing has filled me with an unending wariness of films loosely based on the lives of famous folk singers. So it filled me with dread and some sadness to discover that for their latest film the Coen brothers took inspiration from the memoir of the late Dave Van Ronk, The Mayor of MacDougal Street, to tell the tale of Llewyn Davis. Whilst not an out and out biography there was some concern about how it would end up. Plus the Welsh link isn’t exactly subtle and it is hard not to add your own level of subtext. However, the trailer is just magnificent and the Coens so rarely steer me wrong. If anyone could rectify Hayne’s mistakes it would be Joel and Ethan, right?

Saturday, 18 January 2014

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)

The Hobbit came out last year amid great despair that it wasn’t a fitting adaptation of Tolkien’s loved children’s fantasy. As you may recall, I loved it and thought the real-time Dwarf dinner would have been exactly how Tolkien would have envisioned a film version of his simple tale. I was filled with excitement for the second instalment as soon as I stepped out of the cinema that first time but, thanks to the pressures of Christmas and a shortage of staff at work, I was left to wait until last week to view it. With the state of mind I was in, Peter Jackson would have had to do something horrific for me not to be even slightly impressed. Particularly when one of my many great loves, Benedict Cumberbatch, was the sexy voice of Smaug the dragon.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013)

If there is one thing you can say about Anchorman 2 it’s that it has definitely utilised its marketing team. For the past few months (though it feels like years) we have seen Will Ferrell dressed as Ron Burgundy on anything with a captive audience. Not that I’m really complaining. I utterly adore the first Anchorman film and, along with Zoolander, will watch it whenever I need an instant boost. That said, ever since the sequel was announced, I found myself unsure whether it was necessary. Anchorman was a complete film and I just couldn’t see that there was any need to bring back the characters to continue their story. However, a friend and I found ourselves having only had about four hours sleep on New Year’s Day and needing to find an activity that took place in a dark room and didn’t involve interacting with other people. It seemed like destiny was calling.

Friday, 10 January 2014

Gravity (2013)

Gravity is one of the films that has featured in a pretty much every ‘Top Films of 2013’ lists and, despite being extremely late to the party, I managed to fit in a viewing before the year came to an end. Despite the cavalcade of positive feedback that poured out following its release, a friend of mine saw this fairly early in its release and came up with the one word review of “weird”. Although, as she is the same friend who argued the case for the awful 2011 Three Musketeers remake, I wasn’t prepared to miss the opportunity based on her analysis. (She also hated Hugo which, if you ask me, is unforgivable.)

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty (2013)

James Thurber’s 1939 short story, ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’, has, despite its low page count, now spawned two Hollywood adaptations. Thurber tells the story of Walter Mitty, a put-upon husband, who retreats to daydreams of heroic acts to get away from his humdrum existence. It’s a lovely short story that doesn’t attempt to move beyond a familiar reality in quite the way that the previous 1947 adaptation did. Taking inspiration from the war-time setting, this version eventually took Walter out of his dreams and placed him into a world of espionage and drama. It was a fairly big leap from Thurber’s simple and unassuming original but it was certainly more suitable for a Hollywood film. There has been talk of a modern adaptation since the late 90s and a host of comedy performers have been discussed into taking the leading role. It wasn’t until Ben Stiller came aboard to direct and star in that the film began to really take shape. Now I really like Ben Stiller and Kristen Wiig but I can’t say I was exactly rushing to watch a film being hailed as “the new Forrest Gump”. However, the trailers suggested that there may be potential for humour and sentiment so I thought I’d give it a go.