REVIEW: The Jane Austen Book Club (2007)

the-jane-austen-book-clubSix people start a book club to discuss the works of Jane Austen only to find their relationships seem to resemble 21st century versions of her novels.

The group who get together for the book club all have their own problems but they slowly start to find help and comfort from each other. Sylvia’s (Amy Brenneman) husband has just left her so her daughter Allegra (Maggie Grace) has moved in with her, Prudie (Emily Blunt) is a teacher who fancies one of her students, Jocelyn (Maria Bello) has never been in a long-term relationship, Grigg (Hugh Dancy) is the lover of sci-fi and a Jane Austen-virgin, while Bernadette (Kathy Baker) is the most put together out of the whole group. Some of the book group have known each other for years while others are new found friends. It’s the quips and debates between them and the other people in their lives that makes The Jane Austen Book Club enjoyable and funny.

The thing that would probably add another layer of enjoyment to The Jane Austen Book Club is if you have read the six books by Jane Austen that are studied and talked about in the film. Not only would you have your own opinions on what the characters interpret from the books, but you’d probably be able to see how the six protagonist’s relationships mirror the novels a lot more easily. I have only read Pride & Prejudice so while I did enjoy The Jane Austen Book Club, and feel I didn’t miss that much from the overall story, if I’d known the Austen novels there might be some in-jokes and references I would’ve gotten.

The Jane Austen Book Club is a sweet, easy-watch kind of film with some good character dynamics and it’s definitely worth watching if you’re a Jane Austen fan. 3/5.

REVIEW: Coin Heist (2017)

coin-heist-movie-posterWhen the principle of Dennington Prep is arrested for embezzling school funds, his son Jason (Alex Saxon) hatches a plan with three other students to do the impossible and steal from the U.S. Mint in order to save their school.

Coin Heist is a heist film (the title gives it away) but it still has some high school and family drama in it that instead of taking away from the main story, it enriches it. The four unlikely friends who come up with this plan on paper look very much like the usual high school stereotypes, but through good performances and a well-written script, the film slowly shows that they are all more than the reductive labels put on them by the genre.

Benny (Jay Walker) is the footballer whose scholarship goes down the drain when the schools’ funds disappear, Dakota (Sasha Pieterse) is the grade A student who would really rather perform, Jason is often seen as a slacker but he turns out to think quick on his feet, and Alice (Alexis G. Zall) is the hacker who doesn’t want people to see her vulnerability. They are all more than their stereotypes and seeing how their relationship grows is a pleasant surprise.

Coin Heist also has a brilliant soundtrack. It’s almost reminiscent of the 80’s teen movies sometimes, it has some techno tracks and indie music that all fits with the story so incredibly well.

Coin Heist is a fun film, with a solid cast of characters committing a clever heist that you don’t tend to see in the genre. It might be a smaller scale heist but it’s no less fun and still has the usual twists and turns seen in the genre. 4/5.

REVIEW: A Monster Calls (2016)

a-monster-calls-movie-posterTwelve-year-old Connor (Lewis MacDougall) is struggling to deal with his mum’s (Felicity Jones) terminal illness when help comes from an unlikely source, a tree monster (Liam Neeson) who comes from the churchyard near Connor’s house.

Connor has a lot to deal with a lot. He’s being bullied, his dad (Toby Kebbell) lives abroad and his mum is suffering from a terminal illness. Lewis MacDougall has a lot on his young shoulders but delivers a brilliant performance and you really feel Connor’s pain and anger at the situation he is in. The scenes with Connor and his grandmother (Sigourney Weaver) are especially complicated as they are completely different people but are united in their love for his mother.

A Monster Calls is a beautiful film. The Monster is a brilliant piece of CGI but it still always feels like a real, living creature that treads the line between friend and foe thanks to some great animation and a wonderful voice performance from Liam Neeson. When the Monster tells Connor stories, they are told through beautiful and bright water colour-esque animation that contrasts so well with the dreary world Connor really lives in.

The performances, the music and the cinematography all come together to give A Monster Calls a raw and almost visceral feel as you are taken through the stages of grief with Connor. It doesn’t really let up but there’s still the moments of fun and hope in Connor’s life that brighten the darkest of days. It’s an emotional rollercoaster but it’s one that’s also got a bit of magic to it as you never really know where or how the Monster exists.

It tackles a subject matter that might be too dark for younger viewers but the messages and ideas A Monster Calls presents about grief and imagination are relevant to all ages. 5/5.

Patrick Ness adapted his own book for the big screen and it’s a very true and heartfelt adaptation. If you’re interested in my thoughts on the book (which I also loved) you can find them here.

My Reading in 2016 and Goals for 2017

So this is kind of a little late compared to when I normally post this sort of thing but it’s still the first week of January so let’s go with it.

My reading in 2016 was a bit of a mixed bag. I started very strong, reading 4-6 books each month but towards the end of the year I couldn’t really get into any book I was picking up and I started a new job so I had to figure out my new day-to-day work/life balance.

Still, I read some great books in 2016 and you can check out my ten favourite books here.

I had some reading goals for 2016, some I completed and some I didn’t. I surpassed my target of reading 40 books and I in fact read 58 so I was very happy with that and I reviewed 34 of those books, beating my target of 26 reviews.

I signed up to the Bookish Bingo Challenge hosted by The Girly Geek at the start of the year and while I enjoyed the challenge I only completed 24 of the 35 squares. That’s still over half and to be honest, I didn’t really base my reading around the challenge, I read what I liked and then had a look at the bingo card every now and then to see if anything fit on a square. I don’t think I’ll be signing up for any challenges like that this year, but I will be starting the Read the World Project – a wonderful challenge you can find more about here.

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The Read the World Project

Louise Marie over at A Novel Haul has decided to do something pretty cool. She wants to try and read a book from every country in the world before her 30th birthday in 2021. You can read her post about this project here. It got me thinking, I always want to try and read more diverse books, stories and voices, so maybe I should give this a go as well?

So I’m going to and I’m going to have a very similar time-frame as Louise Marie. My 30th birthday is in September 2021 and by then, I want to have read a book from every country in the world. That gives me nearly five years.

I’ve started listing countries with the help of the internet and I currently have 172 countries on my list. I must be missing some as when you google, “How many countries are in the world?” it says there are 195 but I have five years to figure out which ones I’m missing.

read-the-world-project

I’ve had a look through my bookshelves and I currently have seven unread books that are set in various countries around the world. This is the thing about this challenge, I’ve yet to decide if I want to work it out so it’s just that the book is set in a country, or if I should go by the author’s nationality as well. This might make things a bit interesting as you’d have some books like And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini which is set in Afghanistan and is written by an Afghan author, but then there’s a book like Leaving Berlin by Joseph Kanon which is set in Germany but is written by an American author. I suppose I’ll have to see how I do with finding books for different countries, but it’s something I’m thinking about at the moment.

If you have any suggestions for books by international authors or are set in countries that aren’t England or the USA that would be much appreciated. And if anyone else would like to join in with the Read the World Project, then just go ahead. You can set whatever time-frame you’d like and the hashtag that’s being used on Twitter and Instagram is #readtheworldproject.

My Film Year in Review and my Film-related Goals of 2017

In 2016 I watched a lot of films, 189 of them in fact, and there were some great ones. You can find my ten favourites of the year here.

I only had a couple of film-related goals for 2016. One was to watch more of my unwatched DVD’s and Blu-rays, something that didn’t really happen as I finally got Netflix half way through the year and that became my new obsession. My other goal was to take part in and complete the Women in Film’s pledge to watch 52 films that are directed by women – this I did! You can find the list of films I watched for this challenge here, almost all of them were new to me and I ended up watching just over the target at 56 films. I also made a note of the films I watched that had a woman credited as the screenwriter and it turned out 65 of the films I watched in 2016 had a female screenwriter. You can find those films in a handy list here.

Some other interesting stats are which directors and actors I happened to watch the most in 2016. Thanks to Letterboxd (which is a great site and is basically Goodreads for films) I can see and share that info.

My most watched actors were:

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My Top Ten Favourite Films of 2016

It’s the end of the year so that means it’s time for best-of lists! So if you haven’t spotted my top ten list on HeyUGuys Movie Bloggers Top Ten – a list you should check out because it’s interesting to see what a load of different bloggers love – here is my top ten and my thoughts on each film. Now please note, all of these were released in the UK in 2016 because as you’ll notice, a couple of these films came out last year in America. If the film title has a link, it goes to my review of it. These are kind of in order but really the only one that has a definite spot is my number one film of the year, nothing has beaten it.

10. 13th
13th is a powerful and important documentary about the American prison system and racism in America. It’s shocking and frustrating at times because it shows how racism is almost encouraged through laws, still it’s riveting film everyone should watch.

9. Midnight Special
Midnight Special really surprised me. It’s definitely one of those films that benefits from going into it knowing as little as possible. It’s a beautiful film full of love and hope and a special kind of magic.

8. Spotlight
Spotlight was so stressful but so good! Just seeing the time and effort this group of ordinary journalists to share the truth about something so horrible is inspiring (more…)