Wednesday, 31 August 2011

'The Moonstone' by Wilkie Collins (1868)

Synopsis: Rachel Verinder is bequeathed a yellow diamond on her 18th birthday. This might sound like a pretty nice gift but it's actually The Moonstone - which was looted from an Indian temple and is supposedly cursed. That very same night the diamond is stolen again and no-one in Rachel's household is beyond suspicion.

I believe this book is generally considered to be Collins' best work but I wouldn't go that far since I much prefer The Woman in White. I raced through that book in just a few days but The Moonstone took me a couple of weeks to finish. The Moonstone does have an intriguing plot, and the opening and closing sections of this book are great. Unfortunately the middle section lets the whole book down. This section often drags and gets quite tedious at times. Also, I found Rachel Verinder extremely irritating for some reason but I can't quite put my finger on why. The most likeable and sympathetic characters in this book for me were Gabriel Betteredge (with his very amusing Robinson Crusoe obsession), Ezra Jennings and Rosanna Spearman. Rosanna reminded me quite a bit of Victor Hugo's Eponine in Les Miserables. I wouldn't class this book as being a literary classic - at least not on the level of The Woman in White anyway - but overall the good sections in this book outweigh the not-so-good.

Rating: 3.5/5

Sunday, 28 August 2011

'Villette' by Charlotte Bronte (1853)

Synopsis: Lucy Snowe doesn't have any friends or family so she sets sail from England to Labbesecour (Belgium by another name). Then she gets a job as a teacher at a girls' boarding school in the small town of Villette. There she struggles to deal with unruly pupils, a nosy headmistress who spies on her staff, and her feelings for two men. She falls in love with the school's English doctor and then for the stern professor M. Paul Emmanuel. Villette is Charlotte Bronte's most autobiographical novel and draws from her own unhappy experiences as a teacher in Belgium.

I was quite keen to read this book because I'm a massive fan of Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre. It's one of my favourite books. I don't feel the same way about Villette though. I really struggled with it and I completely disagree with those who think that it's Charlotte Bronte's true masterpiece. Having said that Villette isn't without merit and it isn't a bad book. I'd recommend it to readers who'd like to know a little bit more about Charlotte Bronte's experiences of working in Belgium as it is a semi-autobiographical novel. Villette is also very well-written and there are some surprising plot twists. The story is more complex and intricate than Jane Eyre is - in fact Villette is a very different book to Jane Eyre. Charlotte Bronte was clearly broadening her literary horizons and I do admire her for that. However, Villette is one of those books that's easy to admire but hard to love.

Villette is very well-written but it's also very draggy and slow-moving in places. I didn't like the book's heroine Lucy Snowe either. Apparently even Charlotte Bronte's close friend Elizabeth Gaskell didn't like her. Lucy comes across as stuck-up, emotionally weak, submissive and, at times, quite hypocritical. Her constant verbal head-bashing of Catholicism was just a pointless insertion of Charlotte Bronte's own personal beliefs and didn't really do anything to improve my opinion of her. One moment Lucy declares that she believes in Ecumenism but then she fiercely slates the Catholic church just a few pages later. I found it pretty laughable and I'm not even Catholic. Lucy also withholds information from the reader - a lot of information. You can't really trust her as a narrator at all. Lucy's character did improve a little bit as the book went on I must admit but I still couldn't warm to her. Her character seemed like the exact opposite of the independent, moral Jane Eyre (who I loved).

When I was reading Villette I was actually far more interested in the subplot involving Lucy's various friends and relations - Dr. John, Paulina and Ginevra - than I was on the main plot. That was what kept me reading the book. I enjoyed that subplot and I wanted to know the outcome of that story. However, the characters involved in that story got less and less mention towards the end of the book as Lucy then gets a romance of her own. 

Villette is still worth a read if you're a Bronte fan but Jane Eyre is vastly superior. Perhaps I'll re-read Villette when I'm older and will appreciate it more but for now I only respect it. 

Rating: 2.5/5

'Much Ado About Nothing' by William Shakespeare (1600)

Synopsis: a feisty, vivacious woman called Beatrice and a high-spirited man called Benedick both claim to hate each other and that they are determined never to marry. But then their mutual friends trick them into believing that each is secretly in love with the other. This finally forces them to admit their real feelings for each other. There are also two subplots in this play. One of these subplots has Benedick's friend Claudio becoming engaged to Beatrice's cousin Hero. However the malicious Don John tricks Claudio into thinking that Hero has been unchaste and unfaithful to him. Claudio then publicly denounces Hero at the altar. The other subplot involves the night watchmen Dogberry and Verges trying to uncover the truth. Much Ado About Nothing is set in Sicily. 

Sometimes people can be a little reluctant to read Shakespearean plays. I know I was during most of my school years. It is true that you can spend almost as much time reading the footnotes as you do with the main text and not all of the jokes are funny. Some of them are too archaic for you to find them amusing. But there's a reason why Shakespeare's works are still so widely read and performed today... because he's awesome!

Although Hamlet is probably still my favourite Shakespeare play so far, Much Ado is a fantastic play as well. Some might not like the sound of this play though because in practically every rom-com film that gets made these days the man and the woman start off hating each other, because of some contrived misunderstandings, before they end up getting together. But Much Ado is different. Partly because it's just so funny and brilliantly written. Partly because Shakespeare drops several hints that Beatrice and Benedick had a romantic past and that they still have feelings for each other. I'm inclined to think that even if Beatrice and Benedick's friends hadn't meddled with their affairs that they would have still admitted their real feelings for each at some point. It would have just taken them longer to get there. 

Much Ado is an immensely enjoyable, beautifully written, genuinely funny comedy and it's amazing at just how little the humour of it has dated. Even after 400 years it's still funny. In fact the play is hilariously funny in places! I loved all of the witty banter between Beatrice and Benedick. They're both extremely likeable characters and make for a fantastic couple. I would love to hang out with these two and I don't think they'd ever be a dull moment in their marriage. Another thing that really impresses me about this play is that Shakespeare mixes the comedy and the drama so well. The Hero/Claudio subplot is very reminiscent of Othello and it could have easily ended in tragedy. 

I would definitely recommend reading this play or seeing it live. Much Ado is the quickest and easiest read of the Shakespeare plays I've read so far and it would make for a brilliant introduction to Shakespeare. It really is a hilarious and fantastic romantic comedy. Much Ado is still the only one I've seen performed live so far too - with Catherine Tate and David Tennant : ) I really must read more of Shakespeare's plays in future.

Rating: 5/5

Saturday, 27 August 2011

'Friends' (1994-2004)

I'll be honest here. I do like the show but at the same time I think its overrated and by no means perfect. There are other sitcoms I find much funnier. Friends started to go downhill after Season 4. The show started to take itself a bit too seriously and they were clearly running out of ideas by the end - the decision to get Joey and Rachel together is a good example of this!

The characters just seemed to change so much as well. Don't get me wrong, character development is good and all but the way that some of them changed just wasn't very believable. Rachel started off as being a bit dim and ditsy but then she became really smart and successful. Huh? I think getting Chandler and Monica together didn't help matters either. One of the funniest things about the early seasons was Chandler's total lack of success with women that stemmed from his childhood, and he seemed to completely lose his spine and balls when he got together with Monica. Monica's OCD wasn't handled very well either in the later seasons. In the early seasons it was a constant theme - she was always slightly uptight. But then in the later seasons she was either completely MANIC or she was completely fine and it wasn't even an issue. This will be controversial but a part of me thinks that they should have written their characters out after their marriage and brought in Paul Rudd's Mike as a regular character, and maybe even got Rachel's sister Amy in as a regular character as well. And then there's Phoebe. She started off as being a sweet, kooky character but then she became really bad-tempered and unlikeable. Her constant screaming got on my nerves as well. Ross is the only character who actually improved and became funnier as the show went on. He went from being the show's most serious character to probably the show's least serious but somehow it worked. By the end he had replaced Chandler as the show's best character. The final seasons were greatly improved with the introduction of the immensely likeable Paul Rudd too.

However, the first four seasons of this show are genuinely great, laugh-out-loud television and very re-watchable. The quality went down in the middle seasons and it was never quite the same but there was a definite improvement towards the end. Heck, I would still choose to watch the show's weaker, middle seasons over crap like Two and a Half Men or Will and Grace anyday. Season 2 is probably my favourite season of Friends overall. It was before everyone got successful, Rachel was still working at Central Perk, Joey was still a struggling actor and Chandler hated his office job. Also, I just love the Eddie episodes! : ) His character really was a stroke of genius. This is one of my favourite Friends moments. I'd put more up but for some strange reason none of the Friends clips on YouTube seem to allow embedding. Anyway, enjoy!

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Christian Music

I'm sure that I've mentioned this one or two times before but someone reading this blog for the first time may not know that I'm a Christian. And since becoming a Christian I've come to love Christian music.

Christian music is one of those things that most non-Christians won't be very familiar with. Even the most popular and successful acts only tend to be famous within Christian circles. The band that most non-Christians are likely to have heard of is Delirious? They've split up now but they had a few top 20 hits back when they were together. I have had non-Christian friends and family telling me that they like black gospel music in the past but it's not really my thing. Some of it I like but some of it can be too screamy and shouty for my tastes. This post is just to comment on some of the music that I'm into and to let readers know that there is quite a bit more to Christian music than the Jonas Brothers.

I am generalising but broadly speaking there are two kinds of Christian music. One of which is the Worship music that you'll hear sung in churches. Worship music can include hymns such as Amazing Grace, How Great Thou Art, In Christ Alone, the Charles Wesley stuff and Jerusalem; as well as the boring stuff that you had to sing in school assemblies and choir. However, Worship music has been contemporised quite a lot and there are some really great artists out there like Tim Hughes, Phil Wickham, Chris Tomlin, Hillsong, Jesus Culture and Matt Redman who are bringing a lot to worship music and are often sung in churches these days.

On the other side, there are the Christian artists who use their talents to write Christian-themed music that isn't used in churches. There's a band that I love called Jars of Clay that are a good example of this, and Johnny Cash and Sam Cooke have written some great gospel songs. Mumford and Sons have Christian-themed lyrics as well.

Here are some links to some of the music that I like:

Jars of Clay - Eyes Wide Open

Delirious? - Did You Feel the Mountains Tremble? (cover by Tom Field)

Chris Tomlin - Everlasting God

Sam Cooke and the Soul Stirrers - Jesus Gave Me Water

Johnny Cash - How Great Thou Art

Hillsong - Hosanna

Phil Wickham - Divine Romance

Jesus Culture - Your Love is Everything

Jerusalem - William Blake and Hubert Parry (when will this be our official national anthem?!)

Mumford and Sons - Sigh No More

'Gone with the Wind' by Margaret Mitchell (1936)

Synopsis: The book takes place in the south of the USA and is set in and around the American Civil War. Its heroine is Scarlett O'Hara and the book chronicles her life during these years.

This book was a total surprise! I'd had my doubts about this book before I read it. Having never seen the famous movie adaptation I had assumed it would be some throwaway Mills and Boon-ish romance novel. I was very surprised by this book then as it's an excellent piece of historical fiction and more than just a romance. I learnt loads about the American Civil War while I was reading it - a period of history that I didn't know all that much about beforehand. Mitchell obviously did her research and the book was much grittier and tougher than I thought it was going to be. It's also very gripping and compelling - despite being over 1000 pages long it never drags. It's an extremely well-written book too and I can see why it won the Pullitzer. Also, the characters are very well-written and are rich, complex and believable.

Scarlett O'Hara is a fantastic character and is far from being your typical romance heroine. She isn't very likeable at all for large portions of the book and is really more of an anti-heroine. She's spoilt, selfish, cunning, ruthless, manipulative and a pretty bad mother. There were many times when I disapproved of her selfish actions and motives. Yet she's such a strong, sassy, resourceful, brave, practical and determined woman that you really can't help but have a grudging admiration and respect for her. I also liked Rhett Butler (who gets all the best lines) and the quietly fascinating Melanie Hamilton. I've read one or two negative reviews criticising this book for its racist tone but it didn't actually bother me. Yes, it can be a little uncomfortable at times for the modern reader but it is realistic. Mitchell is just portraying the common attitudes of the time. The book would have been more offensive if she'd tried to gloss over the facts or tried to pretend that such beliefs didn't exist. You can't rewrite history. Overall: this is a brilliantly-written book with fantastic characters and a great story. I look forward to the film!

Rating: 4.5/5

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Phantom of the Opera (1990)

Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical is by far the most famous adaptation of Gaston Leroux's novel The Phantom of the Opera but there are many other adaptations. Another stage musical adaptation of the book is Maury Yeston and Arthur Kopit's Phantom. This musical has a very interesting backstory. Yeston and Kopit were working on their musical in the USA at around the same time that Andrew Lloyd Webber was working on his in Britain. Unfortunately for Yeston and Kopit, Webber finished his musical first and it became a smash hit on the West End. When this happened the Broadway investors of the Yeston & Kopit musical then got cold feet and pulled out of the project. Yeston and Kopit had to abandon their musical. But they still didn't give up on their project. Arthur Kopit rewrote their musical as a television miniseries and took out all of the musical's songs, the only music that would be used in the miniseries would be opera music. The miniseries was aired in 1990 and was very well-received. A few years later Yeston & Kopit were even able to use the money that they made from the miniseries to bring out their musical. Their musical has never made it to Broadway but it's been performed at high schools and has had several successful regional productions.

This post is only going to be a review of the television miniseries which I really love. In this miniseries, a deformed musical genius called Erik lives beneath the Paris opera house and secretly co-ordinates its seasons with the aid of his father Gerard Carriere (Burt Lancaster) who is the opera house manager. Carriere is then sacked from his job. He's been replaced by a man called Choleti (Ian Richardson) who has taken on the job in order to boost the career of his wife Carlotta (Andrea Ferreol). Carlotta then becomes the opera house diva but she's actually a very bad singer. Meanwhile, a poor young woman from the countryside called Christine Daae (Terri Polo) then arrives at the opera house. She's after singing lessons which have been promised to her by the count Philippe de Chagny (Adam Storke). But when Christine arrives she discovers that Philippe is a playboy and that she's not the only woman he's promised singing lessons to. She does, however, manage to get a job as a costume girl. Later that night, when the opera house is empty, she starts to sing. Erik overhears her and immediately falls in love with her voice. He approaches Christine and offers to give her singing lessons - but only if she doesn't reveal to anyone who's teaching her. Christine accepts. As Erik spends more time with Christine he begins to fall in love with her and attempts to boost her career.

Although the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical will always be my favourite Phantom of the Opera adaptation this miniseries isn't very far behind. Yes I'm willing to admit that as an adaptation of Gaston Leroux's novel this miniseries is far from perfect. As you've probably already gathered it's a very loose adaptation of the story. Erik is more mild-mannered than he is in the book and his madness is toned down. He has a completely different backstory and you don't really get much of a sense of his loneliness and isolation in this version. Christine Daae bears an uncanny resemblance to Erik's mother in this version too. Their roles are even played by the same actress! Now surely I can't be the only one who finds this really creepy and Freudian?! My biggest issue with this miniseries though is that Raoul isn't even in it! He's been inexplicably swapped with his older brother Philippe! Why?! How can you do a Phantom of the Opera adaptation without Raoul?!

However, despite this version's annoying inaccuracies I completely forgive it. Since I'm such a huge fan of Leroux's novel you might think that I'd nitpick this version to death but I'm actually going to come out and defend it! This version has so much going for it! It does a superb job in capturing the ghostly atmosphere of Leroux's book. It captures Erik's dark sense of humour extremely well. He gets some really funny lines in this version and is known as the "Sassy Phantom" by fans :D Erik is very sarcastic in the book anyway but this is emphasised in this version. Since they toned Erik's character down in other respects I definitely appreciated this and laughed many times. Erik also does a number of cruel practical jokes in this version, mostly aimed at Carlotta's expense. He even tips a box of rats on her for ruining Christine's debut! Speaking of Carlotta, I love her in this version! In this miniseries she's married to the new manager of the opera house and is very entertaining. She's egotistical, selfish, cunning and very nasty. She's a great villain.

This adaptation of The Phantom of the Opera is the only one that was actually shot on location in Paris and at the opera house itself. It's the only non-musical adaptation of the book where the Phantom actually sings. Christine is a blonde. This adaptation has great cinematography and is very visually appealing. It uses music from the opera Faust which I certainly appreciate as a Leroux fan. The actors are great in this version. Charles Dance is especially great as the Phantom. Dance's Phantom is very endearing and he and Terri Polo had a very touching chemistry. So much chemistry in fact that I actually ship the Phantom and Christine in this version! This is a big deal for me! Usually I'm a very staunch Raoul/Christine shipper. But then again Raoul isn't even in this version. Also, although Philippe is nice and falls genuinely in love with Christine, he doesn't get to risk his life for her by rescuing her from the Phantom's lair. He therefore loses some valuable "hero" points. Finally, because this version is three hours long, it doesn't need to rush the story and can take its time. The first hour of this miniseries is quite light-hearted and focuses mainly on the romance and comedy. In places it's very funny. The tone then starts to become more serious in the second hour and the final 30 minutes or so of this miniseries are really quite sad, focusing mostly on Erik's pain and heartbreak after Christine's rejection of him. 

Some of my favourite scenes in this miniseries are:

  • A scene set in a bistro in which Carlotta tries to upstage Christine in a duet. Christine is having none of it and completely outsings her.
  • Carlotta gets so angry that Christine outsang her at the bistro and won the role of Marguerite over her that she gives Christine some sort of throat-destroying drink that ruins her debut. The Phantom then gets so furious that he brings the chandelier down, giving us a glimpse of his inner rage and madness. I love the Chandelier cutting sequence! It's even more dramatic and exciting than the chandelier scene in the ALW version!
  • After Erik cuts the chandelier we then get a scene where he takes Christine down to his lair. The journey to the Phantom's lair isn't as dramatic as the scene in the ALW musical but it has a very magical feel to it, like they're entering into a new world.
  • In this version Christine manages to persuade the Phantom to show her his face voluntarily. She believes that if she truly loves Erik that she'll be able to look upon his face without horror. I can't imagine Leroux's Erik ever consenting to that! I do really love this scene though. The fact that Christine manages to talk the Phantom into revealing his face makes it more suspenseful and psychological. There's more of a build-up. And when Christine isn't able to look upon Erik's face without horror and faints, the scene becomes very sad and even more powerful.
  • After Christine escapes from the Phantom's lair she feels guilty for demanding to see Erik's face. She also has a premonition that Erik is dying. Christine then decides to perform for Erik one last time in Faust to let him know that she still cares about him. We then get a very emotional scene with Erik and Christine both singing a duet from the opera.
  • After Christine and the Phantom perform their duet the Phantom gets shot at by the police. He then makes one last-ditch attempt to kidnap Christine. The final confrontation between Erik, Christine and Philippe on the rooftops of the opera house is great. The police then turn up and try to arrest Erik. Erik then gets shot by his father to fulfil his promise of never allowing his son to be put on display. In another very moving scene, Christine gives Erik one last goodbye kiss as he dies. She and Philippe then go off to start a new life together.
I really do love this version. As a Leroux fan I certainly don't approve of all of the changes that were made but I still love this version regardless. It's entertaining, moving, very well-made, and makes for an interesting alternative to the Andrew Lloyd Webber version. The fact that it isn't a very faithful adaptation will certainly put some viewers off but viewers who aren't hardcore book purists should find a lot to enjoy in this version. In fact I'm sure that viewers who usually would consider themselves to be book purists would find a lot to enjoy in this version!

Rating: 5/5

'The Woman in White' by Wilkie Collins (1860)

Synopsis: Walter Hartright is walking home on his last night in London when he has an eerie encounter with a mysterious woman who is dressed all in white, and is apparently in deep distress. Walter helps her on her way but later finds out that she has escaped from an asylum. The next day he travels north to Limmeridge House where he has been commissioned to teach drawing to two half-sisters: Laura Fairlie and Marian Halcombe. Walter is shocked to find that Laura bears a very strong resemblance to the woman in white. He then becomes involved in the sinister plotting of Sir Percival Glyde and his "charming" friend Count Fosco.
I really was well and truly blown away by The Woman in White.It was written by Wilkie Collins, who was a close friend of Charles Dickens and a great author too in his own right. I was expecting the book to be a good read but happily it exceeded all my expectations and turned out to be a fantastic one!
The Woman in White is a big book but it's a real page-turner and it easily beats most of the current thrillers being written today. Yes, the book relies on a couple of unlikely coincidences that a modern author probably wouldn't be able to get away with but, leaving that aside, it's a brilliant gothic thriller and mystery novel. It's genuinely clever, brilliantly-plotted and exciting. It's absolutely full of intrigue, tension, suspense, humour, mystery and romance. The book is an early pioneer of the detective novel and it's incredibly entertaining. It moves at such a pace that I'd frequently say to myself "just one more chapter" and there I'd be, still reading, 100 pages later. It's that gripping and it keeps you guessing right to the very end. I can well imagine that had I been living in the Victorian era when the book was first serialised I would have been eagerly awaiting each upcoming issue so I could find out what happens next.
Collins was clearly an amazing storyteller and I was really impressed with his interesting narrative style. Collins uses a multiple first-person narrative technique: The Woman in White is told in epistolary form and we read the letters and diary entries of a variety of different characters. This narrative technique was something that I'd already encountered in Bram Stoker's Dracula but is used to even better effect here. You really do get a strong sense of each character's personality and you're given such an insight into their thoughts. I very much enjoyed reading about the brave and endearing Walter Hartright, and the hilarious, hypochondriac uncle Mr Fairlie, and the eccentric and menacing villain Count Fosco. However, it was the character whose diary entry takes place in the middle of the book that I loved best: Marian Halcombe. I loved how intelligent, strong, brave and determined she was. She's become one of my favourite fictional heroines and she is so much more interesting and fascinating than her sister, the sweet but passive Laura. I'm always impressed by authors who can write believable characters of an opposite gender, especially in first person, and Marian definetly felt very real to me. I think Collins probably had very modern views on women and their role in society.
Rating: 5/5

Monday, 8 August 2011

Les Miserables (1998)

I've already mentioned my love of the book and stage musical of Les Miserables on this blog. I'm cautiously excited about the upcoming movie adaptation of the musical but first I thought I'd do a post about what is probably the most famous and well-known adaptation of the book after the musical, the 1998 movie. I hate this film and it's a dreadful adaptation of the book! But I'll get a few positive comments out of the way before I list my many problems with it. The cinematography and locations are very nice in this film. The acting is good; particularly from Liam Neeson (Jean Valjean), Geoffrey Rush (Javert) and Uma Thurman (Fantine). They all do the best they can with the material that they've been given to work with. However, I just can't like this film due to its many character mutilations and assassinations! The characters are all so unlikeable in this film!

Jean Valjean - in the book he's portrayed as a bitter, angry and animalistic ex-convict who has his life turned around by a single act of mercy and compassion. He becomes a man of God and spends the rest of his life trying to help people and do good deeds. But in this film he comes across as a paranoid fugitive who only cares about his own safety. He would NEVER slap Cosette! Never ever ever! And he would never SMILE just seconds after Javert has committed suicide right in front of him. That's just ridiculous! And why do they have Valjean falling in love with Fantine? There was no romance between them in the book! Valjean felt sorry for Fantine and was upset when she died but he had no romantic love for her whatsoever. And how come Valjean doesn't get a tear-jerking death scene in this film?

Javert - his character is made out to be a villain in this movie. This was probably because the Thenardiers (the real villains of Hugo's novel) are only on screen for about two minutes. Javert isn't supposed to be some evil, depraved villain! He's supposed to be a misguided, overzealous police officer who simply went a bit overboard on the job! He's very much an anti-hero in the book but in this film it's like they actually want you to hate him. I seriously doubt that Hugo would have approved of the scene where Javert punches Fantine in the face, or the scene where he beats up Marius and then ties Cosette up in an alley whilst screaming obscenities at her. I can sort of see why Javert might want to hurt Jean Valjean but what's he got against Marius and Cosette? What have they ever done to him?

Fantine - she isn't blonde and she still seems to have all of her hair and teeth. However, her character hasn't been butchered to the same extent as the others.

Cosette - in the novel she's a gentle, lovely and kind young woman. But in this version she's been changed into a whiny, spoilt brat who pouts and sulks when she doesn't get her own way! And how come she doesn't get married to Marius in this movie? Where's the big wedding scene?

Marius - I prefer Marius in Hugo's novel and I was hoping that this film might include some of the information about his character that the musical omitted. But it doesn't. It never once mentions Marius's father or his relationship with his grandfather. It never mentions Marius's prior connection to the Thernadiers. And Marius is now the leader of the student revolution! What??? Marius shouldn't be standing on top of a table making speeches! He should be trying to find Cosette or mourning his dead dad. Give him a larger role in the revolution by all means but don't make him the leader! Marius may be a brave man with a good heart but he's not exactly Enjolras material! But Enjolras isn't even in this adaptation. Enjolras and Marius have clearly been combined together to form one character. It doesn't work at all! Neither Enjolras NOR Marius would smirk if someone made a comment about them wanting to make love to Cosette so I really don't see why some hybrid Marjolras would! Enjolras would have given them one of his cold death stares until they shut up or stammered out an apology, and Marius would have just punched them. Marius comes across as being a bit creepy in this version as well, what with his stalking Cosette and all : S

The Thenardiers - as I've already mentioned they're only in this film for about two minutes and are never seen again.

Gavroche - it isn't mentioned that he's the Thenardier's son or that the two little boys he is taking care of are really his long-lost brothers. OK, ok, the musical didn't include this information either but at least it gives Gavroche more time on stage than he gets in this film. Gavroche only gets about one or two scenes in this but since the child actor is annoying maybe that's not such a bad thing. 

Eponine - her character isn't even in this film and I honestly cannot believe that they didn't include her! She's one of the book/musical's most popular and interesting characters! And having her in the movie would have added some more depth to the Marius-Cosette romance if the film-makers had had the sense to include her.

Enjolras - honestly how can you even have a Barricade scene without Enjolras?! Marjolras doesn't count! He's another character that's popular and interesting so I really don't understand his exclusion either.

Grantaire - he's another character that's missing in this movie. Another mistake. His drunkenness could have livened things up a bit and brought some humour into the story.

Rating: 1/5

Thursday, 4 August 2011

'The Prestige' by Christopher Priest (1995)

Synopsis: in London 1878, two rival magicians clash during the course of a fraudulent seance. From this moment on the magician's lives become full of deceit and revelations as they continually try to outwit and expose one another. The rivalry will take them to the height of their careers but it will have terrible consequences. Their rivalry will even have an effect on their modern-day descendants.

I think I'd have probably been more impressed with this book had I not seen its film adaptation first which is 10 times better. The Prestige is a fantastic film and is one of my all-time favourites. It's also one of those very rare examples of a film that is actually better than the book it's based on! Here's why:

  1. The book's subplot. Priest mostly tells his story about the two magicians - Alfred Borden and Rupert Angier - through their diary entries but he also includes a subplot about the magician's modern day descendants. I think it was a very wise decision on Christopher Nolan's part to remove this subplot from his film because it's very boring and almost completely pointless and irrelevant. 
  2. The main characters and their motivations are much better fleshed out and are given much more depth in the film. In the book the magician's feud may well be interesting but the magicians themselves aren't. Their feud has no real basis either. Priest does provide a reason for how the feud initially began, but it's not a very strong explanation when you start to consider the magician's intense obsession and hatred of one another. Why does their feud carry on for over two decades? Why do they resort to increasingly violent means to sabotage one another's act? In the book we never really know and it's all very vague and unclear. The film provides a much more convincing backstory for the magician's feud and it fleshes out their characters more. Both Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman give brilliant performances in the film and deserve a lot of credit for making their characters more complex and interesting than they are in the book. The tension between them is palpable.
  3. Nikola Tesla's disappearance. In Priest's book Tesla builds Angier's machine and then abandons his lab due to bankruptcy - even though he's received a vast sum of money from Angier. In the film Tesla is forced to abandon his lab because Thomas Edison's goons have tracked him down and torched the place. It's a much more interesting explanation since Tesla and Edison had a real-life rivalry and it compliments the feud between the magicians.
  4. The two big twists at the end of the book just weren't a shock to me since I'd already seen the film.

After doing a bit of thinking I've decided to give this book three stars rather than the two that I was initially thinking of giving it. Priest did come up with a fascinating premise and the potential for a great story is certainly there. The book has some interesting themes too - like the nature of obsession and the dangers of deception and of living a double life. Priest is a good writer and parts of this book are decent. What a shame then the book is let down by weak characterisation, vague motivations and an unnecessary framing device! This book had the potential to be a truly brilliant work of fiction but instead it's just average. The film is just so much more enjoyable and I'd completely recommend it!

Rating: 3/5

'Wuthering Heights' by Emily Bronte (1847)

Synopsis: Mr Lockwood, a wealthy man from the south of England, has rented Thrushcross Grange in the bleak Yorkshire Moors for some peace and rest. He goes to visit his landlord, Heathcliff, soon after his
arrival. Heathcliff lives in a remote house on the Moors called Wuthering Heights. Lockwood finds Heathcliff and the inhabitants of the house to be very strange indeed. Heathcliff dresses like a gentleman but his manners and speech suggests otherwise. The mistress of the house is only in her late teens and is cold and rude. There's also a man who dresses, acts and talks like a servant and yet he's treated like a member of the family. Due to a blizzard, Lockwood is then forced to stay at the house overnight and discovers items from a woman called Catherine in his room. When he falls asleep, Lockwood has a nightmare in which he sees Catherine as a ghost trying to break through the window. He wakes up screaming and angers Heathcliff when he describes what he's been dreaming about. The next day he goes back to Thrushcross Grange and asks his housekeeper, Nelly Dean, to tell him more about the family of Wuthering Heights. Nelly tells Lockwood that Heathcliff was adopted by the kindly Mr Earnshaw when he was about seven years old. Earnshaw had been visiting Liverpool and had found Heathcliff homeless and living on the streets. Earnshaw took pity on this hungry, dirty, raggedly-dressed, gypsy-looking boy. He decided to bring Heathcliff back to Wuthering Heights and treat him like one of his own children. However, when Mr Earnshaw died, Heathcliff lost his only protector. He was then bullied and beaten by Earnshaw's son Hindley. He was mocked for being a gypsy and was treated like a servant. This filled Heathcliff with anger and hatred. Despite this Heathcliff became best friends with Earnshaw's daughter Cathy and developed a passionate love for her - but Cathy flirted with the wealthy and respectable Edgar Linton of Thrushcross Grange and planned to marry him instead. Devastated by Cathy's betrayal, Heathcliff plotted revenge. Nelly then tells Lockwood how this even affected the second generation of their families.

Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights was one of the first few classic novels that I ever read and also the first Bronte novel I read. Wuthering Heights wasn't initially well-received by the Victorian public in 1847. It wasn't a huge seller and many critics condemned the book as being sordid, vulgar and tasteless. However in 1850 the book was reprinted and it came with a new introduction by Charlotte Bronte. The book began to attract a wider readership and now it's widely regarded as being one of the greatest novels of English Literature. That being said Wuthering Heights still continues to divide its readers. I've read modern reviews which complain about the book not having a point (I very much disagree) and reviews which complain about the book being dark and disturbing (I agree with that last part but for me the book is dark and disturbing in a good way).

It really makes me laugh that often people who have never read Wuthering Heights have this perception of it being some lovely, idyllic romance when nothing could be further from the truth. Cathy actually dies halfway through the book and even before then the book could hardly be described as a beautiful and uplifting love story. Wuthering Heights is essentially a story about how obsession and revenge can ruin lives. I don't think there's a single character in this book that I genuinely liked or cared about. Hindley is a cruel and spiteful drunk who makes Heathcliff's life a misery out of petty jealousy. Edgar Linton is boring and disowns his sister. Isabella Linton is a naive, foolish idiot for thinking that Heathcliff was genuinely in love with her. Joseph is a sanctimonious git who delivers incomprehensible Yorkshire slang. Cathy Jr is whiny and annoying and so is Linton. Nelly Dean is a nosy, gossipy cow. Cathy is a bitchy, moody, selfish, unkind, spoilt brat. And then there's Heathcliff... who I didn't hate. That's not to say that I actually liked Heathcliff mind you! He's clearly the villain of the piece and I would never, ever want to meet him! He's bitter, cruel, vindictive and violent and seems to love nothing and no-one apart from his beloved Cathy. And yet I still think that he's an absolutely brilliant character. He's extremely well-written and complex and twisted.

Whenever I read Wuthering Heights I always find myself feeling amazed at how Emily Bronte is able to make me so interested and captivated in her novel even though I dislike its characters. Wuthering Heights is one of the most gripping and fascinating books that I've ever come across. It has some very interesting things to say about love, desire, passion, revenge, obsession, jealousy and self-destruction. The book is also extremely vivid and gothic and powerful and haunting. It's bursting with passion and emotion and feeling. And yet another thing that I find so fascinating about the book is that Nelly Dean tells the story to Lockwood who in turn narrates the story to the reader. As a friend once pointed out to me, how much of the story actually happened and how much of it has been distorted and twisted by the unreliable narrators? *Okay, okay, I know that Wuthering Heights didn't actually happen at all because it's entirely fictitious but you know what I mean!* Have Nelly and Lockwood exaggerated and over-emphasised certain details? Have they gotten some things wrong? Have they made some things up? Lockwood seems like a clueless, bumbling numpty and even though Nelly is a more informed narrator than Lockwood she's clearly biased. She mistreated Heathcliff when he was a child and she seems to have far too much love and respect for the Linton family. 

I think everyone should read for Wuthering Heights. Not everyone will like it of course but it will never have you feeling bored, you won't forget it, and if you love this book you'll find yourself reading it again and again. Wuthering Heights isn't my favourite Bronte novel. I much prefer Charlotte's Jane Eyre and Anne's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Those books are better-written, have genuinely likeable characters, and are much more uplifting and inspiring. I still consider Wuthering Heights to be a great book though because, as I say, I just find it so gripping and fascinating. It's such a deep loss that Emily Bronte died so tragically young. Who knows what she could have then gone on to write? I'm going to finish this review with Kate Bush's Wuthering Heights song which is just awesome!  : )

Rating: 4.5/5

'Robinson Crusoe' by Daniel Defoe (1719)

Synopsis: Robinson Crusoe, the only survivor of a shipwreck, finds himself washed up on a deserted island. In his diary Crusoe makes a record of his daily battle to stay alive. He makes clothes and shelter, conquers depression, encounters another human being and is then forced to fight off cannibals and mutineers.

This book has had an influence on virtually every single desert island/castaway story that has come along ever since, including some of my favourites (i.e. Lost, Life of Pi and Treasure lsland). As you can imagine I was very curious to read this novel. However, this book was nowhere near as exciting and entertaining as I thought it was going to be. Some sections of this book are really quite boring and I really didn't care for Defoe's writing style - I found it pretty dry. Also, there's a very surprising lack of dialogue in Robinson Crusoe. This lack of dialogue is obviously understandable in the book's middle section but it's not so understandable for the opening and closing sections! Having said that, I enjoyed Crusoe's finding God and there is quite a lot of spiritual insight that could be taken from this book. I enjoyed Crusoe's encounters with Man Friday as well. I'm glad I read Robinson Crusoe but I don't think I'll ever read it again.

Rating: 3/5

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

'The Devil Wears Prada' by Lauren Weisberger (2003)

Synopsis: Andrea "Andy" Sachs is a young woman who has recently graduated from university. She is then hired as a junior personal assistant to the powerful fashion magazine editor of Runway, Miranda Priestly. The job becomes hellish as Andy struggles to keep up with her boss's outrageous demands.

The Devil Wears Prada is allegedly a semi-autobiographical story about Weisberger's own experiences of working for Anna Wintour at Vogue. Now I come to think of it this is actually quite an interesting premise for a book but it wasn't why I read it. I only decided to read the book after seeing its film adaptation. It came on TV one day and because I was bored I ended up watching it - and loving it! Much to my surprise the film was so much sharper and funnier than I thought it was going to be and I loved the acting. I've seen The Devil Wears Prada lots of times since then and it's such a fun and enjoyable film. However, unlike the film, I can't see myself revisiting the book again.

The Devil Wears Prada is at least 100 pages too long and Andy isn't a likeable heroine. Most of the time she just comes across as really whiny and spineless. She keeps complaining about how unhappy she is working at Runway but she never actually does anything to try to improve her situation! Well if you hate your job that much then why don't you just quit?! No-one is making you work there! Anne Hathaway's Andy is a lot more likeable and endearing and the film's ending is much better than the book's ending, which is schmaltzy and predictable. Also I personally find the film funnier. The film really is better than this book! Having said though I didn't hate the book either. It passed the time and certain bits of it were amusing.

Basically, if you're into Chick Lit then you'd be much more likely to enjoy this book. It's got fashion, parties, gossip, comedy, drama and glamorous locations (New York and Paris). But if you aren't into Chick Lit then you shouldn't bother.

Rating: 2/5

'Phantom' by Susan Kay (1990)

Synopsis: A spin-off of Gaston Leroux's The Phantom of the Opera, Phantom retells the life of Erik/the Phantom from his birth right up to his death. 

This book seems to be much-loved by a lot of Phantom of the Opera fans but I'm really not sure why. It did nothing for me whatsoever and it makes me really sad that some fans rate it even more highly than Leroux's novel. I first heard about Phantom a couple of years ago but I was extremely sceptical about it and it turns out I was right.

In fairness I wouldn't say that this book is terrible. Well, it's not all terrible. The first half of Phantom is actually quite decent. OK, it is a bit contrived and sensationalistic in places but Kay does a good job at fleshing out the details of Erik's backstory that are only hinted at in Leroux's novel. I have to admit that I found the Rome and Persia sections of this book pretty interesting and I was impressed by the sheer amount of research that Kay must have done. In fact, if Kay had ended her novel right where Leroux's book starts off then I think we would have been left with a perfectly decent prequel to Phantom of the Opera. Unfortunately Kay didn't choose to end her novel at this point and I carried on reading.

The second half of Phantom is a total let-down and to be perfectly frank I think most of it really sucks. First of all we find out that Christine Daae bears an uncanny resemblance to Madeleine, Erik's mother. Now surely I can't be the only person who finds this a bit creepy and Freudian?! And besides, Madeleine hated Erik and vice versa so wouldn't Christine's physical resemblance to his mother be off-putting to him? And why does Erik sell his soul to the devil in the version?! What's up with that?!

Another thing that I found extremely irritating about this book are the bizarre alterations from Leroux's original story that occur. It's really strange because Kay has obviously made an effort, in the first half of this book at least, to keep Erik's physical appearance and backstory accurate to Leroux's descriptions. But when Kay actually comes to the story that we all know and love she makes weird changes. I can understand Kay wanting to put her own twist on things and to make the story her own but the way that she did this was too off canon for my tastes. There are so many scenes in this book that supposedly take place in Leroux's novel but are in reality nothing like those scenes at all. For example: Leroux's novel has Carlotta croak like a toad on the same night that the chandelier falls but in Kay's Phantom the chandelier falls on a different night much later on. The unmasking scene here is nothing like the unmasking scene in Leroux's novel. By far the most cringeworthy scene in this book has to be the one where Christine first hears Erik's music for Don Juan Triumphant. The music is described as being like a sob in Leroux's novel, as the ultimate expression of grief and rage. Christine is frightened and disturbed. Here though, the music is so incredibly sexy and arousing that Christine *ahem* ends up getting herself off to it. Okaaay then... The book then proceeds to delve even further into the realms of bad fanfiction. Basically I got the very strong impression that Kay didn't like how Leroux's novel ended and decided to twist and distort the characters and events of that novel to suit her own purposes, like a lot of bad fanfiction writers do.

I love the Phantom in Leroux's novel. I think he's a fantastic character and very sympathetic. In Kay's novel I felt barely any sympathy for him at all. Also, I can't say that I was ever a massive fan of Christine in Leroux's novel (just because I never really found her all that interesting) but reading Kay's novel actually made me appreciate her a whole lot more! OK, Christine does come across as being a bit helpless in Leroux's novel but at least she has some backbone. She's independent and capable of thinking for herself and making her own decisions. She's in love with Raoul and determined to save him. In Kay's novel, Christine is completely incapable of making any decisions by herself and seems incredibly childish and bratty. I know that Christine is supposed to be naive and a very young and innocent girl from reading Leroux's novel - childlike as opposed to childish - but Kay seems to take this to mean that "Christine is stupid and mentally challenged". Er, no she isn't! Kay strips Christine of every ounce of intelligence and integrity that she has in Leroux's novel and what we have instead is an incredibly annoying character. She also has an aggravating habit of always saying exactly the wrong thing to Erik and she uses Raoul horribly. Basically she only runs off to Raoul in this book whenever Erik has done something to upset her: whether it's because he shouted at her or because she's jealous of his cat. Raoul is just some tool for Christine to punish Erik with. I felt really sorry for Raoul in this book and he must surely deserve some sort of medal for the crap that he has to put up with! Christine sleeps with Erik right before her wedding to Raoul. Not only does this remind me of the ALW musical sequel Love Never Dies it's also quite laughable when you remember that she made love to Erik when he was on his deathbed. Er, if Erik's dying then how does he manage to summon up enough energy to have sex?! Anyway, poor Raoul is forced to accept all of this, Christine takes Erik's cat to live with them and then has a son that turns out to be Erik's. So Raoul has to put up with the fact that his wife, his son and even his pet are all Erik's! How harsh is that?!

To sum up: if you're an E/C shipper who hates Raoul, loves the Phantom unconditionally, and always thought that Christine should have chosen Erik and was in love with him all along then Phantom is a must-read and you will love it. And if you're not, don't bother!

Rating: 1.5/5

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

'The Wizard of Oz' by L. Frank Baum (1900)

Synopsis: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (later called just The Wizard of Oz) is about a young orphan called Dorothy Gale. Dorothy lives on a farm in Kansas with her aunt, uncle and little dog Toto. One day the family farmhouse is caught in a tornado with Dorothy and Toto trapped inside. They eventually land in a place called Oz to find that they have accidentally killed the Wicked Witch of the East. The Good Witch of the North then arrives to tell Dorothy that the only way she will be able to return home is by going to the Emerald City and asking the mysterious Wizard of Oz for help.

To be honest I don't really get why this book is considered a classic (perhaps it's due to the classic film?) The Wizard of Oz is alright but it pales in comparison to other classic children's fantasy novels like The Hobbit and The Chronicles of Narnia. Yes, it is a classic book in terms of its age but I wouldn't call it high quality. It isn't particularly well-written and I noticed several grammatical errors. The characters are very one-dimensional and aren't especially interesting. The plot is decent I suppose but it never really stirred my imagination and emotions. A truly great children's novel will transcend its genre and will simply be a great book. The Wizard of Oz isn't a great children's book and is just for children only.

Rating: 3/5

'Lorna Doone' by R.D. Blackmore (1869)

Synopsis: The book is set in the West Country during the 1600s. John Ridd is the son of a respectable farmer who was murdered in cold blood by one of the Doones, a once noble family that have turned into outlaws. John grows up into a respectable farmer himself but accidentally meets Lorna Doone and falls in love with her. Lorna is the granddaughter of Sir Ensor Doone (the head of the family) and is being forced into marrying her cousin Carver. Carver is determined to marry Lorna so he can come into his inheritance. Can John save Lorna from her own family and can they be together?

This book may have been written in 1869 but it's actually a historical romance set in the 1600s, with a story that's a little bit similar to Romeo and Juliet. I think I'd have enjoyed this book a little bit more if my expectations hadn't been so high. It's enjoyable and well-written but it didn't blow me away. The romance is sickly sweet and Lorna herself is a surprisingly flat and underdeveloped character. She's far too good to be true when you consider the fact that she's been brought up by the villainous Doone family! I liked the narrator John Ridd though and most of the other characters. The historical setting seemed accurate (although I'm no expert) and it's got some suspense and action. I wouldn't say that Lorna Doone is a brilliant book but it's worth a read.

Rating: 3/5

Pride and Prejudice (2005)

The first time I saw this film was when I was flicking through some TV channels one day. I didn't watch it all the way through and I hated it. But realising that it wouldn't really be fair for me to slate a film that I hadn't seen all the way through I decided to watch it again and I have warmed to it. Visually it's an incredibly beautiful film. The cinematography, sets, lighting, costumes and locations are all stunning. Dario Marianelli's music is also stunning. In fact this film has one of my favourite soundtracks and this song in particular is so emotional and powerful. It's just an absolutely beautiful piece of music.

The film is mostly faithful to Austen's book as well although parts of it are obviously left out because it's a two hour film adaptation. For example: Bingley's other sister Mrs Hurst and the Bennet sisters' Aunt Philips aren't in this film. Having said that the film doesn't leave out anything major and all of the important scenes are still there.

Rosamond Pike as Jane Bennet
Some of the supporting actors are excellent in this film too. The number one standout for me is Rosamond Pike who makes for a lovely Jane Bennet. She is the Jane Bennet I imagined when I read the book! Rosamond Pike's Jane is clearly shy and reserved but she still comes across as warm and affectionate. She's also very beautiful, arguably more so than Keira Knightley. This is very fitting since Jane is supposed to be the most beautiful of the Bennet sisters! I really love Brenda Blethyn's performance as Mrs Bennet too. She gives a much better performance than Alison Steadman did in the 1995 adaptation. Blethyn's Mrs Bennet is silly, ridiculous and annoying but she isn't so over-the-top annoying that you want to strangle her every time she appears on screen. The same goes for Jenna Malone's Lydia. She's still annoying in this film but she's nowhere near as over-the-top as Julia Sawalha is in the 1995 version and she does a very convincing English accent too - a much more convincing English accent than Donald Sutherland managed. Malone makes for a much more credible 15 year old than Julia Sawalha as well! I also really loved Tom Hollander's Mr Collins. Hollander manages to be pompous, boring and smarmy without being as obviously slimy and unpleasant as David Bamber is in the 1995 version. You completely understand why Elizabeth rejects Mr Collins' marriage proposal in this version but at the same time you don't think Charlotte Lucas is an idiot for accepting him. I also loved Rupert Friend's Wickham, Kelly Reilly's Miss Bingley, and Claudie Blakely's Charlotte Lucas in this version. Judi Dench is a great actress and she gives a good performance as Lady Catherine too - although she still can't hold a candle to Barbara Leigh-Hunt's in the 1995 version. However, I still have some major issues with this film.

One major issue that I have with this film is that the leading actress is miscast. Keira Knightley is undeniably beautiful and she definitely looks the part with her light figure and her dark "fine eyes". However I didn't really care for her performance at all. Her acting isn't as terrible as I'd feared but she has some very annoying mannerisms and I never, ever believed that I was watching Jane Austen's Elizabeth brought to life. Knightley's Elizabeth is much too giggly, flirty and pouty and she got on my nerves at times. I never sensed much intelligence or sharp, dry wit coming from her Elizabeth either. Also, she and Matthew MacFadyen had very little chemistry. And boy did they overdo the whole "Elizabeth Bennet = Modern Woman/Tomboy" in this film! Yes, Elizabeth is an unconventional and outspoken woman for her time but she's still a woman of her time! Her appearance in this film is all wrong. The other Bennet sisters manage to keep their hair and bonnets in place, but half the time Knightley's Elizabeth looks as if she's rolling around in the ground and sleeping in hedges. Women did not wear their hair down in public back then! I really didn't like the scene where Knightley's Elizabeth shouts at her family to leave her alone after her confrontation with Lady Catherine either. I can't ever imagine Austen's Elizabeth doing that!

Keira Knightley isn't the only actor to have been miscast in this film though. Tamzin Merchant's Georgiana Darcy is far too outgoing and lively and Donald Sutherland's Mr Bennet is expressionless and lifeless. Sutherland looks really bored in most of his scenes and his Mr Bennet bears no relation whatsover to the witty, sardonic Mr Bennet of the novel. Sutherland looks like he's wandered onto the wrong film set by mistake or something! The actor in the 1995 adaptation did a much better job. Mr Bennet's relationship with his wife is completely wrong in this film as well but in fairness that's clearly a fault of the script. In the book Austen makes it very clear that Mr and Mrs Bennet have an unhappy marriage and that they're completely mismatched. Mr Bennet barely tolerates his wife and chooses to spend most of his time shut up in his study so he can avoid her. But Mr and Mrs Bennet seem to have a very happy marriage in this film and there's even a shot of them them kissing and cuddling in bed! 

And as for the leading actor in this film, well, Matthew MacFadyen is very attractive and he's by no means bad as Darcy. However, according to, MacFadyen didn't read Austen's book before filming and just based his entire interpretation of the character on the script - and you can tell. We hardly ever get to see the arrogant, "pride" side of Darcy's character and it seems that Darcy is just socially awkward and shy in this film. Erm... no. That's not really Jane Austen's Darcy. Yes, Darcy can be socially awkward at times and he isn't anywhere near as bad a person as Elizabeth initially thinks he is. He didn't realise that Jane really was in love with Bingley and he was entirely justified in his treatment of Wickham. He does improve as the book goes on. Having said that Darcy is still arrogant and haughty at the beginning of the book. I preferred MacFadyen's performance over Knightley's though and his shy, socially awkward take on Darcy makes more sense as the film goes on. It's just jarring in the early scenes when Darcy is supposed to be full of pride. 

I still have some other issues with this film. For one thing, I hated how Bingley's character was turned into a stuttering idiot! What exactly does Jane see in him?! Why is he Darcy's best friend?! The fact that the Bennet family are made out to be much poorer in this movie than they are in the book was something that really bothered me as well. In this film they live in a ramshackle, overgrown farmhouse with animals running around all over the place. In the book it's different. They may not be rich but they're hardly destitute. They have one or two servants and are able to live a relatively comfortable lifestyle. There are a number of historical inaccuracies in this film actually. In addition to Elizabeth wearing her hair down in public we also get Darcy going into Elizabeth's bedroom so he can hand her a letter. And, while I'm at it, Lady Catherine may be an extremely rude woman in Austen's novel but even she would have had the decency not to turn up at Longbourn in the middle of the night! Last but not least, another problem that I have with this film is that the alternate American ending for this film is cheesy and unintentionally hilarious! So bad it's good! Apparently they decided to release an alternate ending for this film because the American test screen audiences complained about Darcy and Elizabeth not kissing at the end. I can see why they made an alternate ending then but this is just embarrassing! A better choice in my opinion would have been that scene from the book when Darcy and Elizabeth are talking about when their feelings for each other began to turn into love. 

I don't actually hate this film at all. I did dislike it the first time I saw it but having seen it a few times since I now think it's OK. The story moves at a good pace and despite its faults I do think it's a mostly enjoyable film. It's visually stunning and the cinematography is amazing. The music is also amazing. Some of the supporting actors are great. But the film isn't really Austen's Pride and Prejudice and it doesn't do the book justice. 

Rating: 3/5