Monday, 19 September 2011

TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY

Hm. This is a tricky one. I was really looking forward to seeing "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy," even though it features the God-awful Colin Firth alongside brilliant actors like Gary Oldman, Mark Strong, Benedict Cumberbatch and the wonderful Tom Hardy. I'd been talking about it for weeks, desperate to see it and actually expecting not to get a chance to.

So, when we went yesterday, I had high expectations and I was a little...disappointed isn't quite the right word, but it wasn't what I was expecting. For those that don't know, the film, based on the novel by John le Carre, concerns a recently retired MI5 (or MI6, I wasn't 100% sure) agent, George Smiley (Oldman) who is brought back in to discover the identity of a mole for the Russians. The fact that it's set during the 70s might put off younger viewers, (which is probably a good thing) but knowledge of the Cold War isn't essential to understanding the film.

My problem was that, although I wasn't expecting a thriller with lots of explosions and swearing and running about (if you want that, try the Bourne films), I did expect there to be more tension in the film, which just seems to hum along nicely while never really fleshing out any of the one-dimensional characters. It's interesting and there are great scenes, there just seemed to be a lot of nothing-ness in between those scenes. Perhaps I'm being unfair, a whole novel that became a six-hour BBC series in the 70s is bound to lose a lot when it is condensed into just a couple of hours. It always happens when a book becomes a film, but I do feel like the film was missing some depth, maybe.

The acting was good, as you would expect from such a stellar cast (Firth excluded), and the script was simple enough to follow and complex enough to be interesting, and there was actually a lot more humour in it than I expected. Not laugh-out-loud humour, but it was amusing. Kudos to Benedict Cumberbatch, though, who has the standout performance of the film in my opinion. I've never seen him produce anything less than an excellent performance (his turn as Frankenstein was particularly impressive) and I hope that people might start to take a bit more notice of him after this.

So, to sum up, it's definitely worth a watch even though it didn't live up to my expectations. I don't know, maybe my enjoyment was dampened by the other people in the cinema, which was packed. You can all look forward to another blog entry about why I love going to the cinema despite the fact that it is, 99% of the time, a thoroughly miserable experience.

COWBOYS AND ALIENS

I know, I know, I'm useless. I actually saw "Cowboys and Aliens" about three weeks ago, and am finally writing my review of it, even though I don't think it's still on at the cinema and therefore when I give it a glowing review and make you all want to see it, you won't be able to.

So, anyway, "Cowboys and Aliens" is one of those films, like "Snakes on a Plane" that is basically what it says on the tin. A group of cowboys/regular people in the Wild West are being plagued by aliens (can't say much more without giving everything away) and it seems that only Daniel Craig (who had another name in the film that may have been Jake Somebody-or-other-but-pronounced-stupidly) can help.

He woke up in the desert with no memory of, well, anything and a weird sci-fi-ish cuff on his wrist. He goes into town and argues with Harrison Ford's son, then Harrison Ford, and makes eyes at Olivia Wilde...so far, so predictable.

But then, the movie gets going. And it's brilliant. I'll be honest, I wasn't expecting much. FYI, anyone else who's only interested because they heard Daniel Craig gets his shirt off, you're better off spending a few quid on a copy of "Casino Royale" and playing the scene with the blue speedos over and over again...

Sorry, got a little distracted there. My point being that I wasn't expecting much of the film, but was really impressed by it. It's engrossing, and there's a reason why the aliens are attacking these people - A REASON THAT ACTUALLY MAKES SENSE. And no, they're not after Unobtainium. The end fight scene is a little long for my liking, how many times can you see an alien get shot with a pistol? Other than that, though, it was engrossing. For me, anyway.

I have never seen so many people get up during a film to go out and use the toilet. Seriously, there was no point during the film when every single person with a ticket was in there watching it. And I can't understand why that was. I think the problem might be, like with "Super 8" a few weeks ago, that it was targeted at the wrong audience. Sure, there's action and it's a sci-fi film, but at the same time it's quite talk-y and subtle and a Western. I think a few people went in with expectations of a real action adventure movie, and were a bit disappointed by what they found. I, however, went in expecting absolute nonsense, and really enjoyed the film. I would highly recommend it.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Announcements

Today I have a few announcements that you may or may not be interested in, but you'll never know until you read them:

1 - I am completely useless and should have updated this blog as these things happened.

2 - I'm living in Winchester again (yay, I think) but my internet is shit. I'm starting to think it may be my laptop, since I'm having the same problem here as I was at home, so if anyone wants to buy me a new laptop my birthday's coming up. The reason I'm announcing this here is so that I have an excuse I can refer people to when they ask why I'm updating. Dodgy internet connection, perfect.

3 - I completely forgot to announce that the first ever issue of MISSPELLED MAGAZINE went live like eleven days ago (told you I was useless). You can find it on the current issue page of this website: http://www.misspelledmagazine.moonfruit.com and just need to download the PDF file to read it. Please read it, send it to everyone you know and then leave feedback for the editors or contributors either on the current issue page or buy emailing us at misspelledmagazine@gmail.com. We'll make sure your feedback gets to the right people, all writers love to hear how wonderful they are, and some of them can even handle constructive criticism.

4 - In terms of the reviews that basically make up this blog, I do have more in the pipeline. I've been reading boring books for class all summer that I don't really want to write about because I have nothing to say (I made a special exception for "Wolf Hall") but I saw "Cowboys and Aliens" last week and have been meaning to review it. Expect it to be a rubbish review, since I've basically forgotten what happened.

5 - The basketball season has started again! Well, kind of. I went to a friendly match on bank holiday Monday and the first proper game is on Saturday. Actually cannot wait, but might not be able to go. This is the main reason I hate living in Winchester. Sigh. Expect me to be grumpy on weekends for the forseeable future as I check my phone constantly for score updates.

6 - Jumping back to upcoming blogs (I don't know why I've done this silly post instead of reviewing "Cowboys and Aliens" like most normal people would have done) I've been thinking about topics to write about concerning writing (since that was kind of the point of this blog) and some topics I plan to cover sometime before I expire include: dialogue, writing habits, chapter lengths, naming characters and coming up with titles, being a writer and overthinking things. All, some or none of these will be coming to a blog near you soon. Ish.

7 - I thought I'd mention the Reading Festival of Crime Writing, which I believe is taking place in November this year. The creative people amongst you might be interested to know that there is a short story writing competition, the details of which you can find here: http://www.readingfestivalofcrimewriting.org.uk/competition.html. You might even be competing against my entry, should I ever get around to writing it. I was doing so well with the planning, then I reread the page above - he instead of she! So frustrating!

8 - This is not actually an announcement, just a question. Can you be allergic to lavender?

9 - I don't really have anything to say, but 8 announcements is just stupid. I must get to ten.

10 - Oh, I have one. Tomorrow (the 13th) the agent who finally accepted the Harry Potter books but told J.K. Rowling not to give up the day job is speaking somewhere on campus at 7.30pm. I believe it's in the Main Building, room 5, but it's definitely worth checking out.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

30 Days of Books Meme (Part 4)

I thought I hadn't updated in ages, but apparently it's only been about ten days. Weird. Anyway, here are days 10-12 of the 30 Days of Books. You can see details of the full list by clicking the thingy on the right.

Day 10 - Favourite classic book

I have a surprisingly high tolerance for classic books. Well, it surprises me, anyway. I'll be honest, I didn't read "North and South" by Elizabeth Gaskell until after I'd watched the BBC's adaptation. I'll be honest, I only watched the BBC's adaptation because it starred Richard Armitage.

Margaret Hale has lived a comfortable life in the south of England, doing what all relatively well off country girls did in those days - frolic in fields and read books. But then her father, a reverend (I think) decides to leave his parish on philosophical grounds (it's been a long time since I read the book, I'm hoping this is right) and so the entire family relocates to the North. The Grim North. Honestly, the way Margaret reacts is as if she's been handed a one-way ticket to Hell, but she goes along with it and is determined to put on a brave face for her mother. Just as she is starting to truly loathe the North, mill-owner John Thornton appears and makes life a lot more interesting.


It's a great book, but I would probably recommend watching the series first, and not just because of the wonderful Richard Armitage (who by the way does a damn good job of portraying Thornton) but because there's a lot of quite heavy-going political stuff which I think I would have been put off by if I hadn't seen the programme first. It's not overly complicated, but occasionally you might find yourself skimming some of the lengthier political debates and accidentally miss something important.


And I believe Elizabeth Gaskell wrote the novel/s that the series "Cranford" was based on as well, though don't quote me on that because there's a strong chance I've just made it up.



Day 11 - A book you hated
This was a hard one. There are so many. I love books, but I've hated a lot of them, too. However, when I was drawing up this list, the answer became obvious. Regular readers of this blog will have read all about my opinions of the interminable "Wolf Hall" by Hilary Mantel. Irregular readers of this blog can find it by scrolling down the side and choosing the book reviews tag.

I had to read this book for a class, and though I expected to dislike it for that reason alone (I like to pick my own books), I had hope. The Tudors are interesting. That's a fact. How Mantel managed to suck all the life out of such an colourful array of characters astonishes me. What astonishes me more, however, is that she won the Booker Prize for this ghastly piece of sort-of-true-but-really-fiction.






Day 12 - A book you used to love but don't anymore

I picked a series for this one. Because I can. Most people will laugh at me for saying I used to love "The Princess Diaries" books by Meg Cabot, but I doubt any of them have actually read the books. If you've seen the film and hated it, I can tell you that it is definitely one of the worst film adaptation's that I've ever seen. If you've seen the film and loved it, I have to ask what's wrong with you.


Mia is a regular fifteen-year-old high school student, living in New York with her artist mother and fat cat. And that's an actual fat cat, not a metaphorical one. Her somewhat estranged father reveals, after having had an operation that makes having more kids a little tricky, that Mia is in fact the heir to the throne of Genovia.


Okay, so I'll admit that the premise is a bit iffy, and that I hated the diary format at the start, but they're actually very readable books. I think I got as far as number seven before I decided I'd outgrown them and stopped buying them. They're not classic literature, no, but as a fourteen-year-old girl, I loved them, and there's nothing wrong with that.