Book to film adaptations

REVIEW: Journey’s End (2017)

Set in the trenches in Aisne in March 1918, the story focusses on C Company and it’s officers, led by the young Captain Stanhope (Sam Claflin), as they wait for the German offensive they’ve been warned is imminent.

Journey’s End is a claustrophobic and tense film. The way it’s shot makes you feel like you’re in the trenches beside these young men. This is achieved by a lot of close ups and the fact you as the viewer only see as much as the characters do. Like them, you get no warning when there’s sniper fire or a barrage of bombs, you have the same information as the characters do and this increasingly racks up the tension.

The majority of the film is set in the trenches and in the officer’s dug out. The dynamics between the five officers, Stanhope, Osborne (Paul Bettany), Trotter (Stephen Graham), Hibbert (Tom Sturridge) and Raleigh (Asa Butterfield), switch between camaraderie to violence and anger as the pressures of their situations rest heavily on their shoulders. All actors give brilliant performances but Claflin was the standout. I’ve never thought he was a bad actor, but he never made much of an impact on me before, in Journey’s End he’s magnificent. The fear, anger and frustration was clear to see as he struggled to look out for his men when it seems like there’s no hope at all. He turns to drink to get him through but that in no way stops him being a good Captain, even as it’s clear to see his mental state is deteriorating.

While Journey’s End is a bleak film, there’s still moments of humour, most of them coming from the officer’s interactions with the cook Mason (Toby Jones). It’s often gallows humour but they are trying to make the most of their terrible situation. These moments of humour help flesh out all the characters as you get to see their personalities when they’re not just focused on what’s a few hundred metres across no man’s land.

Journey’s End is a powerful and gripping film. Everything comes together, the costume and set design, the simple yet haunting music, and the great performances, to make this a great war film. 4/5.

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REVIEW: The Dark Tower (2017)

Jake (Tom Taylor) has dreams of another world, of a Dark Tower, a Gunslinger (Idris Elba) called Roland who chases the Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey). But when Jake discovers a portal to another world, he realises that his dreams are real and he joins Roland on his quest to save the Dark Tower and defeat the Man in Black.

The Dark Tower is a fantasy adventure based on The Dark Tower series by Stephen King. I’ve only read the first book (you can find my review here) but there is a lot of stuff crammed into this film for its 90-minute runtime. This film is disjointed. It has weird editing in a single scene, cutting between conversations when there doesn’t appear to be any need to, never mind the fact that it jumps from character, to place and there’s often no real connection between them.

Idris Elba is great in this and, from reading only one book in the series, I feel he does the best with what he’s given and is actually a really good Roland. McConaughey on the other hand, just seems to be playing himself. There’s no menace in him and there’s no real tension between him and Elba, he’s just there.

There are action sequences, and for the most part they look OK but some of the CGI is bad and noticeable, especially during the fight between Roland and the Man in Black. The problem is they’re never particularly exciting, they just happen. Also, the most interesting moments are all featured in the trailer so there are very few surprises.

The main problem with The Dark Tower was that it was dull and forgettable. There’s a lot of stuff that could be interesting but is never developed so you’re left with a fantasy world that’s pretty bland. The Dark Tower drags and Idris Elba’s performance is not enough to elevate it. 2/5.

REVIEW: Far from the Madding Crowd (2015)

In Victorian England, independent and headstrong farm owner Bathsheba Everdene (Carey Mulligan) attracts three very different suitors, sheep farmer Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoenaerts), successful and mature bachelor Mr Boldwood (Michael Sheen), and Sergeant Troy (Tom Sturridge).

Far from the Madding Crowd is a beautiful film, in every sense of the word. The cinematography really shows of the beauty of the British countryside, as well as how beautiful the cast is. The music is gorgeous, emotive and very fitting to the story. The story itself is captivating and for an adaptation of a nineteenth century novel it’s almost surprisingly modern in how Everdene is presented as an independent young woman.

The film never really does what you expect with these characters – unless you’ve read the book of course. You expect there to be strong antagonism between Boldwood and Oak but you see they respect each other and the role they each play in Everdene’s life. The three suitors all have good and bad points and it’s clear to see why Everdene may want to be with one over another, or not be tied to one man at all.

Carey Mulligan is a fantastic lead, often giving a very subtle performance, and the whole cast is brilliant – the chemistry between Mulligan and Schoenaerts is electric. The scenes between them two were by far my favourite as they navigate the roles they play in each other’s lives.

Far from the Madding Crowd is a gorgeous film with compelling and understandable characters. 4/5.

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: 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.

REVIEW: Odd Thomas (2013)

odd thomas movie posterSmall town cook Odd Thomas (Anton Yelchin) isn’t exactly normal. He can see dead people and sense when something bad is about to happen. When he encounters a mysterious man (Shuler Hensley) with links to dark forces, Odd must do something before the whole town is under attack.

Odd Thomas is a supernatural, horror film but it also fun and full of surprises. While it’s got a lot of death and evil creatures, Odd Thomas is more of a mystery really as Odd tries to figure out what’s going to happen to the town and when. All the strands of the mystery are there; some are more obvious than others but it doesn’t take anything away from the twists and turns.

The CGI in Odd Thomas isn’t the greatest but it is used sparingly and as the focus is more on the characters than big action-set pieces, the dodgy CGI doesn’t pull you out of the film too much.

One of the highlights of Odd Thomas is the characters. They are all likeable and believable and they actually communicate with each other. The fact that Chief Wyatt Porter (Willem Dafoe) knows about Odd’s supernatural gift means that Odd actually has help in catching bad guys and has someone to cover for him from the rest of the police department. Odd’s girlfriend Stormy (Addison Timlin) also knows about Odd and supports and helps him when she can as well as being the voice of reason when he’s being reckless. So often in films about a guy with special abilities who must save the world, he keeps everything a secret from the people he’s closest too, causing unnecessary problems and conflict – Odd Thomas manages to avoid this cliché.

Odd Thomas is a fast-paced, mystery/horror film with likeable characters. It packs an emotional punch and is well-worth a watch. 4/5.

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Top Ten Books I’d Love To See As Movies/TV Shows

Top Ten Tuesday is a feature run by BrokeAndBookish each week – I’m thinking I might not take part every week but just see if a week takes my fancy. This week is about the books that I think would make good films or TV Shows – Ii chose some because they’re my favourites and some because I think the world is so rich that it would make a great screen adaptation.

Five Ghosts by Frank J. Barbiere and Chris Mooneyham
Five Ghosts would make an excellent adventure film like Indiana Jones but with some supernatural elements. I did hear there might be a TV show made out of Five Ghosts which would be equally awesome.

The Twelve by Justin Cronin
The Twelve is about a vampire-filled apocalypse. It would make a great TV show but I think The Walking Dead has filled the post-apocalyptic world filled with monsters quota for media. (more…)