21st century girl

reviews – my way.

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

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‘I will bring you that fallen star’ 

Stardust is a book written by Neil Gaiman and it is about a man called Tristran Thorn who vows to retrieve a fallen star for his beloved, a woman called Victoria Forester.

I was familiar with some of Neil Gaiman’s work previously, but I had not read any of it. Considering my fascination with fantasy and magical realism novels, I will continue to explore his work in the near future. I am aware that there is a film adaptation of Stardust but I have not seen it, although I might watch it at some point and see if it lives up to my expectations that I concluded from the novel. As I read the book, I realize how the Take That song made for the film suits the moral of the story. I was recommended this book by my older sister, and as I was reluctant to explore more in the fantasy genre, I had a go at reading it.

This book is short and sweet and I finished it in about two days. Although the concept of having someone retrieve a fallen star for the person that they love is considered to be a cliched idea, Neil Gaiman does it in such a way that makes you fall in love with his vivid descriptions and characters that is all too common in the fantasy genre. His characters, however, are distinguishable. I do love a good fairytale. I also have a small interest in stars and it is simply fascinating looking at them on a cold winter’s night. Stardust is also quite an easy book to follow and everything starts to come together the more that you read it. I tended to avoid the reviews of the book to keep my first impression of the novel fresh and undiluted from someone else’s negativity.

This book strives on conflict. On one side, there is Tristran wanting to catch a falling star as a favour for the woman that he loves, and on the other side, there is the evil witch who wishes to destroy the star. What was particularly effective was the fact that the star was personinified as an actual woman, a lady called Yvaine. Gaiman takes what would usually be cliches if applied to any other story and puts his own individual twist on it, making you dwell in a fantastic fantasy world that you refuse to leave. His narrative does not go down a straight road full of predictabilities. The book is full of surprises. Tristran does not even marry the woman who he retrieved the star for. This suggests that even if you go the distance for people, they would not care in return, as it shows in the book when Victoria Forester marries someone else.

I would definetly read this book more than once. The characters are not just cardboard characters, I personally think that they are metaphors. Tristran’s journey represents maturity into adulthood, and the personification of the star represents goodness and hope while the witch represents evil. Witches are common creatures in folklore, giving more of a reason to make her villainous. She also has a motive to be evil, to destroy people’s happiness, so she isn’t just a cartoon villian. Gaiman’s vivid descriptions of the woods and trees and the sky and the the stars can easily make you fall in love with the book so that you are seduced by his effective narrative.

Overall, a fantastic book that I shall reread at some point, full of surprises and wonderful characters. As it is set in the Victorian Era, the author gives a bit of context at the beginning of the book and dwells off into his own fantasy world that readers can easily get lost in. The book also makes me really want either a goat drawn carriage or a unicorn. The fact that the author uses goats and unicorns etc instead of horses gives its own individuality, only a subject to the writer’s eccentricities. Apparently Stardust is a sequel to a book that Neil Gaiman never published but Stardust is fine on its own.

4.5/5

 

 

 

The Big Bang Theory (TV Show)

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I’m not crazy, my mother had me tested!’ 

The Big Bang Theory is an American TV show about a group of scientists/physicists called Leonard Hofstadter (Johnny  Galecki), Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons) and Raj Koothrappali (Kunal Neyyar) and an engineer called Howard Wollowitz (Simon Helberg) and the women in their lives, to include Amy Ferrari Fowler (Mayim Bialick), Bernadette (Melissa Raunch) and the blonde and slightly bimboish Penny (Kaley Cuoco).

I watched the series because some of my friends are obsessed with the show, and when I was less familiar with the programme, we watched the scene about Sheldon’s explanation of the Doppler effect in GCSE physics. I also knew that Sheldon’s favourite number is 73 long before I began to watch the show.

Generally, some of the episodes make me laugh, while some of the plot lines are quite repetitive throughout some of the seasons and therefore aren’t that funny. I don’t really like the character of Penny, particularly in the earlier seasons. I felt that if you threw something at her character then her character would either fall down or not budge or react, but I suppose that she grows on you as the seasons progress and she’s only there for the same appeal that the character of Charlotte brought to The Inbetweeners. The show also plays on a lot of common stereotypes. I particularly like the characters of Amy and Sheldon. Sheldon is a man child and Parsons brings so much geeky, bittersweet and childlike charm to his character. As for Amy, her comic timing and stage prescence is fantastic and I identify more with her character rather than any other female in the show.

Likewise, the show is heavily quotable, one of my favourites being the common Sheldon quote ‘That’s my spot’. Despite all the cliches, I think that it is quite a good show and I watched it because it was convientantly on Netflix. I like the social aspect of most American TV shows. You walk into each other’s apartments (using the secret knock first), have takeaway every night and occasionally go down to the lab.

An interesting, heavily quotable and slightly addictive programme with a catchy theme song that does not insult the geek culture,but rather makes all the everyday people look stupid. In some ways, it also explores the opposition of views of the beginning of humanity I.e the religious version from Sheldon’s mother and the slightly more realistic and scientific view from people such as Sheldon.

4/5

 

Seasons

This isn’t a conventional Halloween post. By seasons, I mean spring, summer, autumn, winter, not the seasons of your favourite TV show. In the last days of autumn for the year, I often wonder what makes autumn such a wonderful time of year. Is it the heavily romanticised falling leaves? Is it the shades of yellow and orange that somehow complement each other? The pumpkins? Who knows. It’s different for everybody.

Autumn, as I see it, is the awkward but beautiful in between season. When summer is over and winter isn’t quite there yet, it’s good to have a season that glorifies the colour orange (one of my least favourite colours, but only if it’s on clothing). I don’t think there’s anything better than having the fire on when it’s dark outside and watching the TV, or the sight of fallen orange leaves.

I’ve never really been a fan of Halloween. By that, I mean that I don’t really go to Halloween parties, but there’s something so lovely about carved pumpkins and the cold on the same day. Halloween decorations are in the shops by August, and Christmas things arrive in the shops not long afterwards. Bonfire Night is also quite good because I like fireworks, and it reminds me of V For Vendetta.

Happy Halloween.

 

 

 

 

King Arthur (2004)

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‘I fight for a cause that is beyond yours and Rome’s understanding,’ 

King Arthur is a movie that is loosely based off the tale of Arthur and the Knights of the Roundtable, starring Clive Owen (yes, I do review a lot of his work) as King Arthur,Keira Knightley as Guinevere and Iona Gruffudd as Lancelelot. It also stars Hugh Dancy, Stellan Starsgard, Til Schweiteger, Ray Winstone, the main guy in the TV show Hannibal and Joel Edgerton.

Generally, I liked the cinematography in this movie. I liked the different textures of colour from the snow in the middle of the film to the scenes that took place on the battlefields, and they were often shot in a wide shot and they definitely got creative with the blood splattering in the battle scenes. The close ups were also quite interesting, and all the shots are quite quick so you’re watching it thinking ‘Did that guy really get his head cut off?’. Clive Owen uses his theatrical skills and stage prescence to bring along the character of Arthur convincingly, and he did indeed succeed. Keira Knightley’s character was quite a badass character, and though she wasn’t afraid of anything, I did think that the romance between Guinevere and Arthur seemed a little bit too forced. I think they only included the romance plot line so that the whole movie wasn’t one big battle, and they only really used Keira Knightley for the sex appeal, although she is quite a good actress. I also think that the movie is viewed through the male gaze.

The costumes looked fantastic, and the blueish makeup that Knightley wears towards the end of the film reminds me of Avatar. Maybe they used this film as an influence. This film also reminded me of the opening scene of The Lord Of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring stretched out into a two and a half hour film. Basically what they wouldn’t allow in a relatively child friendly film such as Lord of the Rings went into this film instead, and set whenever King Arthur is meant to be set in. The bit at the end when Arthur takes off his helmet represents him giving up his power and leadership from the death of his friend Lancelot. The same power that led him into battle.

One aspect that this film picks up on is religion. I am an atheist, and to be honest, you could see the divide in the movie between the religious people (such as King Arthur) who thought that God is the only one to guide people through war, and the people who thought that God doesn’t really help. I’m not going to drivel on about religion but it’s definitely a reoccurring theme throughout the film.

Overall, a fairly decent film with a great cast but I felt like some aspects of it seemed rushed or forced and the intense battle scenes wouldn’t be that intense without the dramatic music, close ups and overuse of slow motion but that opinion is from someone who did a unit on editing at college in first year. Despite that, this film has given me a lot of ideas for a story that I’m still in the planning process of writing at the moment and this movie deserves a rewatch.

3/5

North and South (2004 TV Drama)

‘A mother’s love holds fast and forever’ 

North and South is a television miniseries starring Daniela Denby-Ashe, Sinead Cusack, Richard Armitage and Tim Pigott Smith and it is about a woman called Margaret Hale (Denby-Ashe) who moves up to northern England. Hale is sympathetic towards the town cotton mill workers but she is despised by the family of the cotton mill owners, a rich family called the Thortons, who think of her as inferior to their social customs.

The cast members were good in their roles. I’ve only ever seen Daniela Denby-Ashe in My Family, and to be honest, she was a one dimensional shallow character in that show. Here, she has feelings as a proper character and you can connect with her. There’s so much conflict between the strikes and riots of the mill workers, Thorton’s growing attraction for Margaret that is largely disapproved by his mother and mostly everything else in the story. To be fair, Thornton is a mummy’s boy and I think that Richard Armitage plays his part to the very best of his high ability as an actor to show charm right through the screen. Thornton is not a conventional leading romantic hero, in fact, he is anything but that prototype of the leading man that had previously been stereotyped by Pride and Prejudice’s Mr Darcy. I’ve seen Sinead Cusack and Tim Pigott Smith in the film V For Vendetta but they’re so diverse as actors that they can adjust quickly to different characters. I saw this as a recommendation on Netflix and I decided to watch it because my older sisters have seen it. I also shipped Margaret Hale and John Thornton to be together ever since they met, and I was delighted when they eventually did.

North and South is also based on a book by Elizabeth Gaskell. The book of North and South is high up on my reading list as I am yet to read it.

Overall, a great television series that explores so many themes and issues and ignores every stereotype of Victorian dramas. I particularly liked how they didn’t overload it with too many flashbacks and great performances from all of the cast.

4/5

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

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Miss Peregrine’s home for Peculiar Children is about a sixteen year old boy called Jacob Portman who goes to a remote island after the death of his grandfather and discovers a crumbling orphanage run by Miss Peregrine, but a few mysteries involving the children begin to unfold and it turns out that they are all stuck in a one day time loop from 1940.

This book is the first of the Miss Peregrine book series and I only read this book because there is an upcoming film adaptation directed by Tim Burton and starring Asa Butterfield as the lead character. Regardless of the film, I started to read it knowing that it was part of a series, having seen them regularly on the shelves in WHSmith or in my friend’s book shop, and it was also part of the magical realism and fantasy genre, which is one of my favourite genres. It’s marketed like a children’s book, but it’s definitely for adults, and it is a dark book full of fantastic photographs. I love the narrative flow and when I’ve finished this book and maybe watched the film, I will read the rest of the series. It also combines photography and narrative as well. It’s as if the book has its own quirky personality that makes it different from all the other books, that are generally only typed words on a basic white page. The patterns on the start of every chapter are lovely and as an art student, I could incorporate similar patterns into my own work (without copying it).

I got so stuck into the book that I finished it in just under a day. I think the pictures helped, but the writer lets you use your own imagination, even though I wouldn’t want to be stuck in a continuous one day time loop due to the deja vu. It was a relief when they left the time loop, yet the book had an open ending so that it could move swiftly onto the next book in the series. I just wonder how it will adapt from page to screen.

Overall, a dark but quirky book with brilliant photographs, fantastic characters and a great narrative. It’s quite easy to follow too. You put down the book and it leaves you asking questions, not necessarily about whether or not it’s entertaining but of the fate of the characters. Are they dead? Is it his imagination? Or is he living off a thing that his grandpa told him about?

4.5/5

 

Time and Time again by Ben Elton

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‘No matter how many times everyone uses each other’s first names, the rich still get richer and the poor still get poorer and nobody gives a damn about anyone,’ 

Time and Time again is a book set in three different time periods over 300 years and it is about an ex soldier and adventurer called Hugh Stanton who knows that the Great War is coming but he must change that history and prevent it, therefore preventing a butterfly effect of events over the course of the next century.

I read it thinking that it was going to be another same old time travel story. I have a small interest in time travel from watching films and TV shows such as Back to the Future and Goodnight Sweetheart. Time and Time again, however, is not any old boring story. It doesn’t just tell a story, it makes a statement on culture and society from the past and even now, although the present events are actually set in the future, and it tests the involvement of Newton’s law of gravity with time travel. I connect with the characters, and I feel sorry for Stanton for losing his wife and kids, and yet I knew that he also loved Bernie, an Irish suffragette. The narrative and pacing is rather smooth so that I could pick up the book where I left off, and I could still find out so many things about how a war and a crazy scientist’s theory and the butterfly effect shaped how we are today. What exactly would have happened if Franz Ferdinand didn’t get shot?

His plan is simple- to kill the Kaiser and keep Franz Ferdinand alive, but one gunshot will change history. Yes, he stopped World War I, but that led to another event and poems and books that will make no sense to altered history because he stopped World War I. It’s also a reoccurring thing in the book that there’s a loop of time of about a hundred and ten years with three different worlds. The book is so hectic yet every event crushes the previous event and you go on such a journey with the character that you don’t bother looking back. The character of Hugh Stanton is quick and he knows his stuff yet he’s lonely in a metaphorical way to the point where he’s probably considered strange by other people. It’s also up to your own interpretation into how the book ends. That’s what so good about it. The narrative is strong and it has a good flow to make your own decision.

I love Ben Elton’s writing style, what with his use of rhetorical questions that aren’t too overbearing. Sometimes the line about the gunshot was short, maybe to suggest that the shot was quick. I hadn’t  hadn’t heard of Ben Elton before reading this book but I might need to read some more of his work. This novel is definetly within my ‘Top five Favourite books’ list, but I might need to buy it (I borrowed it from a local library) and re read it to pick up the smaller details that I didn’t pick up last time. Sadly, in he real world, there was still World War I and Hugh Stanton is not there to stop it.

A thrilling read and I would highly recommend it, though the pacing slows down at times.

4.5/5

The Sound of Music (1965)

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‘The hills are alive with the sound of music,’ 

The Sound of Music is about a nun called Maria (Julie Andrews) who is sent to be a governess to a strict and recently widowed sea captain called Captain Georg Von Trapp (Christopher Plummer)’s seven children Liesel (Charmain Carr), Gretel (Kym Karath), Louisa (Heather Menzies), Brigitta (Angela Cartwright) Friedrich (Nicholas Hammond), Marta (Debbie Turner) and Kurt (Duane Chase). It is based very loosely off the true story of The Von Trapp singers, who were a family of singers who fled the Nazis during the second world war.

I have watched this movie many times ever since I was a small child. It’s one of those guilty pleasure movies that are incredibly corny, but you can’t help but love it. I’m also very surprised that I haven’t reviewed it before in a formal blogpost other than this one, and even if I have then it was ages ago. Julie Andrews was also one of my favourite actresses when I was younger, and she’s still one of those actresses who have been in all of your childhood films and Christopher Plummer gives that attractive charm to the screen. I used to have to sing most of the songs from the film in my old school choir, and I distinctly remember my eccentric old music teacher making up a fun one involving school.

I have taken quite a liking to old musicals and films. They have that nostalgic charm that you don’t get with modern films, and although this movie is incredibly sickly sweet and nearly all made up, it’s classic and you can return to it time and time again. The scenery also looks fantastic, and so does the interior of the Von Trapp house. I can’t pick a favourite musical number; it was ’16 going on 17′ (I have recently turned 17) but it turns out that the song gives the message of ‘you’re younger than me and therefore I can control you and tell you what to do’, but my other favourite include ‘how do you solve a problem like maria’ and the classics such as ‘Do re mi’ and ‘my Favourite things’ remind me of my childhood. I have known all the words to every song in the film for years now so I end up singing along.

Overall, a cheesy but incredibly loveable film that anyone can watch at any age. There have been many spin off musicals and stage productions and it was originally based off the Broadway musical.

3.5/5

 

Goodnight Sweetheart revival episode

Goodnight Sweetheart is a series that ran for six seasons from 1993 to 1999, and it is about a time traveler called Gary Sparrow (Nicholas Lyndhurst) who lives a double life in the 1940s and the 1990s. However, they revived the slightly dated series for a spin off episode that was aired a few days ago. This time, Gary gets stuck in 2016 and has to get back to the 1960s, where his wife Phoebe and teenage son Micheal live.

I used to watch the reruns of the original show with my younger brother before I had to leave for school, and I came to like the series. When I saw the revival episode, I was surprised that I wasn’t hallucinating the entire thing yet it was sweet to see the characters adjust with time. It makes you realize the huge difference between the 1990s and the 2010s in terms of the development of technology and apps, though it was heavy on the product placement. Apps such as Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter and even the show that Gary’s other wife Yvonne was on weren’t around twenty years ago, yet the show adjusts to fit around the development of people and technology over the last twenty years, including the loss of telephone boxes in Favour of thinner and more stylish mobile phones. It did seem a bit strange to adjust to the 1960s in the show, but the actor who played Micheal stole the show and he comes across as being a promising actor. The reunion of Ron and Gary was also very good.

However, the problem with revival episodes is that they try to hard to be like the original though I think it would be great as a spin off series rather than an episode. The series and the spin off has hindered my interest in time travel, especially at the scene where Gary holds the baby version of himself. If you went back in time, would you see only what you perceived to what might have happened in the past at that particular time because before you went back, that event had already happened, or if you went back, would the butterfly effect ensure that that event never occurred?

Overall, a great spin off episode with many storylines that connected together, but at times it was trying too hard to say ‘Look at us! We have changed!’ but there are some promising performances from the actors who played Micheal and Yvonne’s stroppy teenage daughter Ellie, who were probably very little when the original series was still being aired. To see how allDare I say that it is considerably better than the excuse for a ‘spin off sequel’ to my Mum’s Favourite show ‘Keeping Up Apperances’ entitled ‘Young Hyacinth’.

4/5

Gene Wilder

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‘Come with me, and you’ll see, a world of pure imagination,’

Gene Wilder was an actor best known for playing Willy Wonka in the 1971 version of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory amongst other movies, and he sadly passed away at the age of 83 due to Alziemers.

I was deeply saddened by the news that he had died, and I’m not saying that because he’s dead. Alziemers strips the life away from your loved ones. I grew up watching Willy Wonka and reading Roald Dahl, and I loved the idea of a chocolate factory, and I will always prefer the 1971 film to the 2005 Tim Burton version because it’s slightly old fashioned and dark. The ending scene of Willy Wonka, which used to be a rather bittersweet ending of Charlie Bucket and Willy Wonka heading off in a big glass elevator that was going up towards the sky will now have an ironic and melancholy touch to it. Now he’ll take the glass elevator to heaven, and he even has a golden ticket.

Nearly all the childhood legends have gone. David Bowie, Prince, Alan Rickman and Kenny Baker are now all dead, and that’s naming only a few, all who have brought magic to our childhoods or to our lives at some point. The in memoriam section of the Oscars next year will truly be a long and emotional list of incredible actors.

Rest in Peace Gene Wilder 1933- 2016.