Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Important Dates in My Diary!

Below is a list of stuff that I am psyched about! If I had written this post two weeks ago I would have put The Dark Knight Rises on but I've seen it now (and it was incredible!)

13th August 2012: Brave is released.
17th-21st August: I'm going to the Momentum festival in Somerset.
25th August 2012: Doctor Who series 7 is on TV.
27th September 2012: J.K. Rowling's new book The Casual Vacancy is out.
29th September 2012: Merlin Series 5 is on TV.
3rd November 2012: Seeing the Les Miserables stage version for the second time on the West End.
14th December 2012: The Hobbit is released.
2013: Sherlock series 3 comes on TV (hopefully!)
11th January 2013: the Les Miserables film is released. Two days before my birthday!
22nd March 2013: Seeing the Phantom of the Opera 25th anniversary tour (for the second time) in Birmingham.
17th May 2013: Star Trek 2 is released.
8th November 2013: Thor 2: The Dark World is released.
22nd November 2013: Catching Fire is released.
13th December 2013: The Hobbit 2 is released.
17th July 2014: X Men: First Class 2 is released.

If anything else comes up between these dates I might just put that in here as well.

Friday, 27 July 2012

'The Mystery of the Yellow Room' by Gaston Leroux (1907)

Synopsis: When Mademoiselle Strangerson (the daughter of a famous scientist) is viciously attacked in her own bedroom, the public is shocked and appalled. Who would try to kill her? And how did the attacker enter and escape the room when it was watched and firmly bolted and locked from the inside? The brilliant young journalist Joseph Rouletabille decides that he wants to investigate this case and is aided by his trusty sidekick Sinclair, a barrister and the book's narrator. Rouletabille quickly clashes with a rival detective, the famous Frederic Larsan, because Larsan makes it clear that he suspects the culprit is Mademoiselle Strangerson's fiancĂ© Robert Darzac. Can Rouletabille prove Darzac's innocence and work out how the attack took place?

Gaston Leroux is most famous these days for being the author of The Phantom of the Opera. But besides writing that book, Leroux was a journalist and a prolific writer of detective fiction. The most famous of these novels is The Mystery of the Yellow Room, a book which is widely regarded as being one of the best locked room mysteries ever written. The locked room mystery is a sub-genre of crime fiction in which a crime is committed, in a locked room, under almost impossible circumstances, but has nevertheless occurred. Edgar Allan Poe is single-handedly credited with inventing this sub-genre with his story The Murders of the Rue Morgue, and Arthur Conan Doyle tried his hand at it as well with the Sherlock Holmes story The Speckled Band (one of my favourite Sherlock Holmes stories). The crime author John Dickson Carr loved The Mystery of the Yellow Room and Agatha Christie was a big fan as well. Apparently this book inspired her to write her very first mystery novel!

The Mystery of the Yellow Room is the first of Leroux's books to feature Joseph Rouletabille and a very interesting character he is too. For one thing, he's actually a newspaper reporter who just so happens to solve crimes in his spare time. And he's an 18 year old boy-genius. As you can imagine his biggest problem is usually trying to get people to take him seriously. Rouletabille is incredibly intelligent but he's still a teenager so he has mood swings, can be quite impulsive, and is extremely enthusiastic about everything.

The Mystery of the Yellow Room is an excellent book and I was very impressed with it. It's entertaining, well-paced, fun, lively and really clever. If, like me, you love Phantom of the Opera and good old-fashioned detective stories then I would definitely recommend that you give this book a try. Rouletabille may not be as fascinating as Erik or Sherlock Holmes but he's still a great character nevertheless and I'm sure that I'll read some of the other Joseph Rouletabille books at some point. It's a shame that this book isn't more famous. It was very well-regarded in Leroux's lifetime but is sadly underrated now. Someone should get Andrew Lloyd Webber to do a musical adaptation!

Rating: 4.5/5

Thursday, 26 July 2012

The Lion King (Stage Musical)

I saw this musical in January 2011 for my 23rd birthday but I haven't yet written a review of the show. I should say in advance that this review is probably going to sound a bit negative but I did actually enjoy the show. It's just not something that I could see myself going back to again-and-again like Les Miserables or the other musicals that I really love.

Like most people of my generation I grew up with The Lion King and it's one of my favourite Disney movies. I still remember seeing it for the first time when I was about six years old. Six yearrrrrs oooooolllllddd! The Lion King has a moving, rich and powerful Hamlet-inspired story, plenty of spectacle, gorgeous animation, fun characters, and great songs. It's the perfect family film, and it was such a success upon its release in 1994 that Disney decided to bring out a Broadway musical adaptation three years later. The show was also a critical and commercial success. It debuted in London at the Lyceum Theatre in 1999 and it's still running today (an interesting fact if you're a fan of Bram Stoker's Dracula, Bram Stoker was the business manager of the Lyceum Theatre and worked there for almost 30 years).

If you're already familiar with The Lion King - and really, who isn't? - then the musical won't come as much of a surprise to you. The plot in the stage version is exactly the same as the film and the dialogue is about 75% word-for-word the same. There are only a few slight differences between the two. One of which is that Rafiki, who is a male in the film, is a female in the stage version. Apparently this is because Julie Taymor, who directed the Broadway musical, felt that there weren't enough major female characters in the film. There are also a few extra scenes and songs in the stage version. This is a very understandable change. There are only about 5 or 6 songs in the film so it makes sense that the makers of the Broadway musical felt that it needed some padding out.

The reason why I wouldn't rate this show as highly as others that I've seen is that the majority of the performers weren't especially strong singers, which I did find a bit surprising and disappointing. The only one who really stood out for me was the woman who played Rafiki. She had a great voice but I can't remember her voice. Where's my programme? Rumages around...Aha! Her name was Brown Lindiwe Mkhize. Another reason why I wouldn't rate the show as highly as others that I've seen is that, apart from They Live in You and its reprise He Lives in You, most of the added songs in this stage version aren't that good. It's not that they're bad, grating, ear-bleeding songs or anything. It's just that they're the sort of song that you hear once, think "Oh, that's nice" and then instantly forget how it went. They're not memorable - certainly not as good as the songs that Elton John and Tim Rice wrote for the film, or the added songs that were put in the Beauty and the Beast stage musical. They Live in You/He Lives in You is great though and very moving. In fact Disney even nicked it and put it in The Lion King 2 movie!

Like I said though, I still liked the stage version and I still enjoyed myself. The sets, costumes, puppets and effects in the show are truly spectacular and you can really tell that a lot of thought and care was put into it. The show has plenty of spectacle still and the Circle of Life scenes that begin and end the show and have "animals" walking past the aisles are wonderful. I also really enjoyed the Stampede scene. I'd been wondering just how the heck the stage version would pull this off and I thought it was very well done. The acting was decent. The power of the story comes through too and it's still a moving experience. The stage version is well worth seeing at least once (and more if you've got kids) but I don't think I'd see the stage version again unless I wanted to entertain a child for some reason. I saw the stage version, I liked it, but I've never felt the urge to see it again. I think I'll just stick with the movie and give the Broadway cast album a listen to every now and again. I'll close my review with the best added song from the stage version: They Live in You/He Lives in You. The man who's playing Adult Simba is Jason Raize, an amazing singer and the original star of the Broadway production. He tragically killed himself in 2004, aged just 28, after a long battle with depression. Such a tragic waste of life and talent : ( Rest in peace, Jason.

Rating: 3.5/5

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Merlin (Series Three)

When this series begins the Kingdom of Camelot is in turmoil. It's been just over a year since the events of the series two finale The Last Dragonlord and Morgana is still missing. Uther Pendragon has been sending knights out here, there and everywhere to try to find her as he thinks that she's been kidnapped. He probably wouldn't be so keen to find her though if he knew that Morgana has magical powers and has actually been living quite happily with her evil, magical half-sister Morgause the entire time. Finally, while out leading a search party in enemy territory, Arthur finds a seemingly dazed Morgana wandering aimlessly through a forest and brings her back to Camelot. Uther is overjoyed but Merlin isn't so sure if she can be trusted and he's right. Morgana has now turned into a bitter, evil and hate-filled villain and is working alongside Morgause and their ally King Cenred. She now wants to overthrow Uther, kill both him and Arthur, and establish herself as Queen of Camelot. Morgana has a genuine claim to the throne since she's Uther's secret, illegitimate daughter. Only Merlin and Gaius know Morgana's true plans, but both are unable to reveal the truth to the king because Uther is so blinded by his love for his daughter that he wouldn't believe them. Oh, and in retaliation Morgana could always reveal that Merlin tried to poison her which wouldn't sit too well with Uther either.

Series Three is the best series of Merlin yet for several reasons. One of the reasons is due to the fact that we see far less of the dragon in this series. Because he can't rely on the dragon anywhere near as much as he used to, Merlin is forced to make his own decisions more and for the most part he makes the right ones. I think a great example of this more independent Merlin is in the episode Queen of Hearts. Merlin's method of saving Gwen is brilliant and somehow I doubt he would have come up with it if the dragon had still been around. Also, when the dragon is used in this series it actually feels necessary and critical to the plot. In the earliest episodes of Merlin it sometimes felt as if the dragon was just there for a nifty special effect. OK, the CGI dragon was never all that nifty but I'm sure the writers/producers had intentions of niftyness!

Another big factor in series three of Merlin being the best yet is that there are far fewer standalone baddie-of-the-week episodes. The majority of the episodes are concerned with Morgause and Morgana's various attempts to take over Camelot so there's much more of a central story arc than the previous series of the show. This is quite refreshing! Of the thirteen episodes in this series there are only four of which I'd say are of the baddie-of-the-week format of old. These are Goblin's Gold, Gwaine, The Changeling and Love in The Time of Dragons. Gwaine and Love in The Time of Dragons are great episodes but Goblin's Gold is a very unfunny episode and, along with Valiant in series one (that episode featured a Hollyoaks actor), is possibly the worst episode of Merlin so far. Goblin's Gold is about a goblin (funnily enough) who takes possession of Gaius...and makes people fart. Oh dear! Did they not realise that no-one over the age of 9 finds fart jokes funny?! This was a very bad move! Maybe they thought they needed to throw in a silly episode to keep the kids happy after the dark two-parter episode The Tears of Uther Pendragon that came before? A big mistake! In fairness I did find the scene where Possessed Gaius goes off to the tavern, and the look on Merlin's face when he did, quite funny. The Changeling isn't really a bad episode as such. Miriam Margoyles is in it and she was funny, and we get to see Merlin kicking some ass with his staff again and that's always fun. But it's still one of the weaker episodes in this series. If these two episodes had been in series one and two they would have still stood out as being weak episodes but because the overall quality of series three is generally very high, and higher than series one and two, they seem even more so.

Again, this series of Merlin is the best yet and the vast majority of the episodes are brilliant. The stakes are higher and it's darker than series two (just as series two was darker than series one) but there's still plenty of comedy and fun moments. The action, adventure and magic remains. The themes of honour, compassion and friendship remain. We get new characters and the old characters continue to develop. Gwaine is the best new character to be introduced in this series. Not only is he interesting - an Irish rebel who has sword-fights and gets into bar fights and has issues with nobility despite being a nobleman himself - he's gorgeous! If Viggo Mortensen's Aragorn in Lord of the Rings had a younger brother he'd look like Eoin Macken's Gwaine. The makers of Merlin obviously realised that they'd cast a bit of a hottie as Gwaine too because they thoughtfully provided lots of scenes of him shirtless. In series two they started to give us scenes of Bradley James/Arthur shirtless and now Gwaine. Hurray! Gwaine has quite the bromance with Merlin in this series as well. Arthur had better watch out. Another new character that I liked was King Cenred. He was a really cool villain and I really shipped him and Morgause. I wish they'd gotten together. Oh, and he was played by Tom Ellis who's quite easy on the eyes.

As for the old characters in this series, Gwen's character is strengthened quite a bit.  Despite the fact that she was clearly a nice, kind and sweet girl in series one, her character was just so dull that I felt complete apathy towards her. In series two I started to warm to her a bit more and now I actually like her. Her character gets given more to do in this series and she gets a bit more backstory. Her brother Elyan is introduced and her love for Arthur starts to become more serious. I have to admit I'm still not all that keen on Arthur and Gwen as a couple. I really like Arthur. I quite like Gwen now. But I don't really like them together all that much. I still much prefer the idea of Gwen and Lancelot together. Maybe I'll come around to the idea of Gwen and Arthur as a couple though? Gaius fares well in this series of Merlin as well since there are two episodes that are pretty much focused on his character: Goblin's Gold and Love in The Time of Dragons. I think I've already made my feelings on Goblin's Gold quite clear but Love in The Time of Dragons is a great episode. Gaius actually gets a love-interest in it because he's reunited with his ex-fiancĂ©e Alice (played by Pauline Collins). It's quite a moving episode.

Lancelot makes an appearance in The Coming of Arthur as well. I always love it whenever Lancelot shows up. It's always nice to see Santiago Cabrera and Lancelot is the only character in the show, apart from Gaius and the dragon, who knows about Merlin's powers. And finally, it would be remiss of me to do a Merlin review without mentioning either Arthur or Merlin. In this series we continue to see their characters (and their bromance) develop. Arthur might still act like an arrogant prat at times but we still see plenty of moments that show he'll be a better King and man than his father will ever be. He also gets to take charge (temporarily) in The Tears of Uther Pendragon and seems much more comfortable with taking on a greater leadership role.  And as for Merlin, well, what can I say? I love him. Love, love, love him. He's such a likeable and adorable character and is played to perfection by Colin Morgan. I love Colin Morgan too. I love his acting. I love his cheekbones and smile and blue eyes. OK, I'll stop now because I'm even embarrassing myself but I have to show this scene where Merlin uses a spell to disguise himself as his 80-year-old-self in order to save Gwen in Queen of Hearts. It was the highlight of the series for me and had me laughing out loud. Even now I still get a huge grin on my face when I watch it. Comedy Gold!

Old Merlin is awesome! I also love the look on Gaius's face when Old Merlin is giving Arthur a telling-off. He's like "Yes, Merlin. I know you're having fun but you should really give it a rest now". The make-up is incredible too.

Now those who are fans of the show and of the traditional Arthurian legends should be especially happy with this series too because we see the show starting to include more of the key elements of the legends. Of course we don't get rape, incest and adultery. This is still a family show after all. Nevertheless, we do get an episode that features the Fisher King (The Eye of the Phoenix). And in the final episode The Coming of Arthur we see a fair bit of traditional Arthurian elements. We get Excalibur being taken from the Lady of the Lake. We get Arthur forming the Knights of the Round Table. We even get the Quest for the Holy Grail! (Well, sort of) The show also deserves credit for having Morgana and Morgause as separate characters. Most modern authors of Arthurian fiction tend to combine their characters together. I'm particularly happy about the formation of the Knights of the Round Table (they dance whenever they're able, they do routines and chorus scenes...sorry). Now whenever Arthur goes off on a dangerous quest, instead of taking Merlin and a few nameless Red Cloaks (who die just to show how dangerous the situation is), he can have his mates with actual personalities go with him instead. Yay! I'm very much looking forward to seeing this in series 4 : )

Merlin is a show that just keeps getting better and better and it pains me to criticise this series. Nevertheless I still have one major gripe with this series, and it wasn't even Goblin's Gold either. It's how Morgana's character was handled. I still loved the series and my issue with her character wasn't enough to stop me enjoying the show. I do realise that I'm probably just nitpicking but I'd still like to explain why I wasn't happy with the way her character was written.

It is great that Morgana finally gets quite a bit of screentime and it must be said that Katie McGrath does a fabulous job playing the character (she acts the role with relish and is clearly having the time of her life). However, I still think that the writers have made her character too black and white and one-dimensional as a villain. Back in series one and two Morgana was an extremely likeable character. She was sweet, passionate, brave, feisty, sympathetic and she genuinely cared about her friends. I just find it hard to believe that Morgana could have turned this evil so soon. It would have been really nice if we'd gotten a couple of scenes where we see the character questioning her motives and expressing doubt and unease with her evil plans. She shows no hesitation or remorse whatsoever when she attempts to have Gwen and her half-brother Arthur killed. She even takes pleasure out of it! Now I can understand why Morgana wants Uther dead. Heck, the first time she tried to kill him was in To Kill the King back in series one and that was when she still had good intentions! I can even understand why Morgana hates Merlin and wants him dead as much as I love him. He did poison her after all (even though he only did it in order to save Camelot). What I don't understand is why Morgana hates Arthur and Gwen so much. What have they ever done to her?! And why is she so willing to kill innocent people?! OK, I know that Morgana is usually depicted as evil in the traditional Arthurian tales and I am actually glad that the show is starting to move closer to the traditional legends - but I still think that Morgana's turning to the dark side could have been much better handled. In hindsight the writers should have either made Morgana's character evil right from the start of series 1 or made her descent into evil more gradual in this series. I'm assuming that if Morgana did have any hesitation and doubt about becoming evil that it would have happened in the one-year gap between series two and three only we never got to see it.

Another thing that bothers me about Morgana's character is her constant Evil Smirking. She does this numerous times throughout the whole series, sometimes in public, and no-one seems to notice! Hellllloooo-oooo! Can't you people tell that she's evil?! She must be the most blatantly, obviously evil villain ever but apparently the people of Camelot are just too dense to pick up on it! This was quite aggravating at first but it did become unintentionally amusing after a few episodes. If you can think of a more blatantly, obviously villain whose vilainy isn't picked up on then please comment below. I'm interested! Also, how is that Morgana can keep sneaking out of Camelot at night to visit Morgause and no-one seems to notice? And one more thing: Morgana doesn't even seem all that capable as a villain. Merlin may struggle more with Morgause but he keeps defeating Morgana with ease and this is especially apparent in The Crystal Cave. Morgana, you really need to take some notes from your big sister Morgause. Now she's badass! Again, I don't blame Katie McGrath. I really do think that she does a great job and I think the evil smirking was probably due to the scripts and direction.

The best episodes in this series are probably the opening and closing episodes, both of which are two-parters. These are The Tears of Uther Pendragon and The Coming of Arthur. These episodes are practically cinematic in terms of the storytelling, visual effects and emotional power. They're epic! I loved Gwaine, The Castle of Fyrien, The Eye of the Phoenix, Love in the Time of Dragons and Queen of Hearts as well. Bring on series four!

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Les Miserables (Teaser Trailer)

The filming of Les Mis has officially finished! The film has gone into post-production now, and while the film-makers are now busy with all the technical, editing stuff they have to do they've given us a poster and a theatrical trailer to look at. Here are my thoughts on the trailer and other news that I've heard about the film:

- Well, the film certainly looks great! I love how Tom Hooper seems to have gone for a gritty, dirty and realistic approach.

- Anne Hathaway's singing of I Dreamed a Dream on the trailer has already caused some controversy amongst Les Mis fans. Although I was a bit disappointed not to hear Anne belt the song out at first, I actually really like her version of the song now and I think it will work really well for the big screen. She gives quite a different interpretation of I Dreamed a Dream. This song is usually performed as a belty, power ballad but Anne gives a more vulnerable and emotionally fragile take on this song - and it makes sense. In the stage version of Les Mis that we have now, Fantine sings I Dreamed a Dream after she's been sacked from the factory. But on the original French concept album Fantine sings the I Dreamed a Dream/J'avais Reve D'une Autre Vie song after she's become a prostitute and is dying of TB. Judging from this trailer, the I Dreamed a Dream song has been moved back to its original position. It makes sense then for Anne to sing the song the way she does. This sort of interpretation wouldn't work so well for the stage version but Anne doesn't have to project her voice to the back of the theatre like stage actresses have to do. Also, her version of the song reflects the fact that Fantine's health and life are supposed to be deteriorating. The character is in complete despair. Almost all of her old spirit has gone. She's at her lowest ebb. There are videos on YouTube of Anne belting songs out and I'm certain that she has the vocal ability to a powerful, belty version of I Dreamed a Dream. Anne sings the song the way she does out of choice, not because she can't! I have full confidence that Anne is going to do a great job in this film. Also, the hair-cutting scene looks like it's going to be great and I love the shot at 0.54 in the trailer. It looks like something out of a horror movie! It's cool, creepy and sad. I'm assuming that it's from the Lovely Ladies song.

- Judging from the shots of Jean Valjean at Toulon, it looks like they're going to film Work Song as a montage. I really like that. It's something that can't be done on stage and it shows that they're making the most of the medium.

- I love the shot of scared, young Cosette in the woods and her shots with Valjean. The actress they've cast (I think her name is Isabelle Allen) looks really cute and she actually looks like a younger version of Amanda Seyfried. Hopefully her version of Castle on a Cloud will be good. 

- I expect that we'll see more of the Thenardiers in the next trailer. They're conspicuously absent in this teaser trailer and it's obvious that Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter were still filming their scenes at the time the trailer was put together. We don't see Enjolras in this trailer either. I would also expect the theatrical trailer to focus a bit more on the revolution since this trailer focuses mainly on Fantine's character and the I Dreamed a Dream song. It would be cool if the theatrical trailer included Look Down, Do You Hear the People Sing? or One Day More.

- It's been announced that there's going to be a song in this film that isn't in the stage version. It's a new song that has been written especially for the film called Suddenly. I expect that the film-makers are hoping that this song will get the film an Oscar nomination, or even a win, for Best Original Song - like when Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice won an Oscar for the You Must Love Me song they wrote for the Evita film. The original stage version songs wouldn't be eligible to receive nominations for the Best Song category. Apparently Suddenly is going to be sung by Valjean and will be about him learning to love and bring up young Cosette. To be honest I would rather it be the other way round, that the song would be about Cosette learning to love Valjean as her father. Cosette doesn't have any solo songs in the musical and I think her character could do with one. Also, Valjean already has three solo songs: Valjean's Soliloquy (or What Have I Done?), Who Am I? and Bring Him Home. It's not like he needs another. Having said that though, this new song might fill in the gap between Valjean taking Cosette away from the Thenardiers and then showing up in Paris with her almost a decade later. The stage version doesn't mention what happens to Valjean and Cosette during this gap, but those who have read the book will know that Valjean and Cosette spend that gap living at the Gorbeau House and then at a convent. Maybe we'll get to see this in the film?!

- This beings me to another thing that I'm looking forward to about this film. Even though it's going to be based on the musical rather than the book itself, it seems that the film-makers have still drawn a lot of inspiration from Hugo's novel. Apparently, Azelma is going to make an appearance in the film and Gavroche's elephant is going to be in it. Apparently, Bamatabois is going to put snow down Fantine's dress in this film too. George Blagden (who plays Grantaire) has written tweets which imply that his character and Enjolras get shot by a firing squad like they do in the book. Yay for this book-inspired goodness!

- Fans of the book are going to enjoy the extra little details from Hugo's novel that are going to be in this film, and theatre geeks are going to enjoy spotting the various cameos from West End stars. Samantha Barks has been cast as Eponine and it's been announced that several stars from the stage version of Les Mis are going to make appearances in this film; including Hannah Waddingham, Caroline Sheen, Bertie Carvel, Alexia Khadime, Kerry Ellis, Killian Donnelly, Hadley Fraser, Gina Beck, Katie Hall and Nancy Sullivan. Colm Wilkinson (the original Valjean) is going to play the Bishop in this film - yay! Also, Frances Ruffelle (the original Eponine) is going to make an appearance in this film...hmm. I know that Ruffelle won a Tony for playing Eponine, and that there are people out there who like her, but I've always found her voice to be whiny, nasal and grating. Ah well, Ruffelle's cameo will be nice for her fans. It seems like the film-makers are covering all bases with this film. They've put in extra details from the book to keep book fans happy. They've put in West End stars to keep the theatre geeks happy. And they've cast some big-name Hollywood actors (see the teaser poster) to try pulling in a new audience. 

- I know that this may sound a bit ridiculous since this film isn't even finished yet but I already think that it's going to be one of the best stage-to-screen adaptations ever made. It certainly looks like it's going to be a million miles better than Joel Schumacher's Phantom of the Opera film. Damn you Schumacher! Why did you have to ruin Phantom?! I think this film is instead going to be right up there with My Fair Lady, Little Shop of Horrors and The Sound of Music as being one of the best musical films ever made. I'm even thinking that this film is going to be of my all-time favourites! Now for some photos and videos of the film : )

Samantha Barks is beautiful but dang, her waist is tiny! Someone give her a sandwich! I  think they were trying to make her look like a poor, starving girl.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Hitchcock (2013): a Rant

I'm taking a short break from my Merlin reviews to make a complaint about this upcoming film. It's due to come out next year and is going to be about the making of Hitchcock's film Psycho; apparently it's going to focus on the relationship between Hitchcock and his wife Alma Reville during Psycho's production. It's going to star Anthony Hopkins as Hitchcock, Scarlett Johansson as Janet Leigh and James D'Arcy as Anthony Perkins. Now I don't really have a problem with Hopkins being cast as Hitchcock or Johansson being cast as Janet Leigh. I'm not a fan of Scarlett Johansson and I think she's rather overrated but I can admit that she does bear a vague resemblance to Janet Leigh. I can understand why she's been cast. Hopkins is a great actor and he does look like Hitchcock in the photo below.

Scarlett Johansson and Janet Leigh
Anthony Hopkins and Alfred Hitchcock

The casting choice that I'm peeved about is James D'Arcy as Anthony Perkins. I think James D'Arcy is a good actor. I liked him in ITV's Mansfield Park adaptation and I loved his Raoul in the Big Finish version of Phantom of the Opera. But D'Arcy looks absolutely nothing like Anthony Perkins! I look at him and I don't see any resemblance to Anthony Perkins AT ALL.

James D'Arcy

Now call me an old-fashioned purist but I really do think that if an actor is playing a real-life person that they should (at the very least) bear a passing resemblance to that person. It just makes it so much easier for the audience to take the actor's performance seriously. Instead of D'Arcy I really, really, really, really, really wish that Andrew Garfield had been cast as Anthony Perkins. Just look at the photos below! The resemblance between the two of them is almost uncanny!

As far as I'm concerned the fact that Andrew Garfield hasn't been cast as Perkins is a JOKE! Not only do they look incredibly similar, they've even got similar mannerisms and a similar acting style!  Also, Garfield is roughly the same age that Perkins was when he played Norman Bates. I just can't understand why Andrew Garfield hasn't got the role! Maybe they couldn't afford him? I suppose Garfield's wage-per-film must have gone up since Spiderman? Anyway, that's why I'm annoyed about this film. I love Psycho and Anthony Perkins' performance as Norman Bates. I've got nothing against James D'Arcy but I'm just not going to be able to take his performance as Anthony Perkins seriously. Grr!

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Merlin (Series Two)

After getting addicted to series one of Merlin I was obviously going to carry on with the show and watch series two! I'm not going to go into as much depth with this review as I did with my series one review but I was once again delighted. In fact series two is better than series one! The show is still very funny and family-friendly but it begins to venture into darker territory. And although the writers do stick to the tried and tested baddie-of-the-week format most of the time, they also start to develop the characters more and there's plenty of action. Merlin finds out more about his mysterious father and his magic continues to grow in power. Arthur begins to learn more about humility and compassion - and falls in love with Gwen. Gwen seemed to fancy Merlin in series one but in this second series she develops romantic feelings for both Arthur and Lancelot. Morgana discovers that she has magical powers and begins to turn to the dark side. Lancelot and Mordred show up again, with the latter swearing revenge on Merlin. Gaius's father-son relationship with Merlin continues to develop. The Great Dragon begins to put heavy pressure on Merlin to free him from the castle. The only character that doesn't get much character development is Uther but that's a small complaint.

Once again the best thing about the show is the Merlin-Arthur double-act. Colin Morgan (Merlin) and Bradley James (Arthur) continue to entertain with their comic timing, epic chemistry, acting talent, adorableness and visual appeal. Both of them have the most gorgeous blue eyes! : D As you'll have gathered from my series one review I love Merlin's character and I think Colin Morgan is a great actor. He's the best in the show for me. But I really should give Arthur and Bradley James more credit. Arthur gets so many great lines and James does a terrific job playing him. He acts his socks off in The Sins of the Father too and puts in a very emotional, intense performance. He looks good swinging a sword too! Like Morgan I hope he goes on to have a great career when Merlin eventually finishes.

And as for the guest stars, we get Santiago Cabrera (Lancelot) and Asa Butterfield (Mordred) showing up again. We also get Mackenzie Crook as a thief who becomes possessed by the spirit of an evil wizard called Cornelius Sigan. I wasn't that keen on Crook's performance though sadly. I thought he was a lot less convincing as Sigan than he was as a thief. But we do get some excellent guest stars in this second series. We get Laura Donnelly playing a druid girl called Freya, a fleeting love interest for Merlin. We get John Lynch as a Dragonlord called Balinor. We get Georgia Moffett (David Tennant's wife) as a spoilt princess called Vivian. We get Charles Dance as a witchfinder who puts Merlin, Morgana and Gaius in danger. He gives a great performance and I finally got to see what his face looks like unmasked! I also loved Emilia Fox as Morgana's half-sister Morgause (a badass female villain!) Oh, if Emilia Fox looks familiar to you then it might be because you saw her play Darcy's sister Georgiana in the BBC's Pride and Prejudice. I knew I'd recognised her from somewhere! The best guest star for me though was Sarah Parish. She plays a troll in disguise who marries Uther. She gives a brilliant comic performance and plays the role incredibly well. You can really tell that she was having the time of her life playing the character! Also, she has such good chemistry with Anthony Stewart Head that I actually wanted Uther to stay married to her. They were such a good couple!

The Witchfinder
The Troll

To round off my my review, my favourite episodes of this second series, in no particular order, were, The Witchfinder, The Sins of the Father, The Fires of Idirsholas, The Last Dragonlord and the two-part episode Beauty and the Beast.