Book to film adaptations

REVIEW: The Hate U Give (2018)

Starr (Amanda Stenberg) has two lives, one in her poor black neighbourhood and one in her affluent, predominately white private school. Those two lives come crashing down when she witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil (Algee Smith) by a police officer, and Starr must find her voice and stand up for what’s right.

The Hate U Give is a fantastic film. It’s about so many real-world problems affecting black people. It talks about race, discrimination, poverty, drugs and violence. Starr lives in a neighbourhood where there’s so many open and warm people, but there’s also the gang led by King (Anthony Mackie) that is a constant threatening presence in everyone’s lives. Starr describes herself as two people, Starr Version One is who she is at home, when she’s with her family and her people, Starr Version Two is who she is at school, where she doesn’t use any slang and doesn’t cause a fuss.

Amandla Stenberg is fantastic at showing the different sides of Starr, how they conflict and how over the cause of the investigation into Khalil’s death she learns to find her voice and be her true self. Starr is more of a watcher to begin with, standing in the corner at parties and just watching how events unfold. More things, often horrible things, happen to her than her being proactive, but as the fear and pressure mounts, she starts to choose to react to what she’s seen and it’s all the more powerful when she does.

Stenberg carries the film brilliantly, but she’s also surrounded by a great cast, the majority of which give nuanced performances. Russell Hornsby and Regina Hall play Starr’s parents Maverick and Lisa, who each want the best for Starr and their family as a whole but that translates into different things. Lisa wants to protect her family, ideally moving them out of the neighbourhood to somewhere safer, while Maverick says this is their home and encourages Starr to speak out and do what she thinks is right. They are both incredibly loving parents and any scenes with Starr and her family can go from being sweet and funny one moment, to them all suddenly being under threat.

Besides from being a film with an important message, The Hate U Give also shows the life of a modern teenage girl to great effect. Starr and her friends have Tumblr’s, they have different tastes in music, and when friendships become strained Starr must weigh up the positives and the negatives to see if this relationship she wants to fight for. It’s the little things, Starr’s love of The Fresh Prince and how she and her friends used to play at being Harry Potter makes her a relatable modern teenager.

The Hate U Give is a heart-breaking and powerful film, but at its heart there is a strength to it and so much heart. It will make you cry but it will also make you laugh. It balances so many different elements but with an assured direction from George Tillman Jr. and Amandla Stenberg’s phenomenal lead performance, The Hate U Give is an incredible film that will stand the test of time. 5/5.

I read, loved and reviewed The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas last year, you can find that review here.

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REVIEW: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)

Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and Dumbledore’s (Michael Gambon) warnings of Voldemort’s (Ralph Fiennes) return are ignored as the Ministry of Magic sends Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton) to Hogwarts to be the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher. With her failing to teach them how to defend themselves, Harry and his friends’ band together to learn how to fight, as darkness grows

As I was rewatching this film, I realised that now I’m in the latter half of the series, these are the films I haven’t seen as many times and don’t necessarily remember everything about them. As I said previously, Prisoner of Azkaban is my favourite and I’ve probably watched that film the most out of all of them, but I’ve also ended up seeing pits and pieces of the first four films on TV, as those are the films seem to be on TV the most. Anyway, onto the review.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is the first film in the series that David Yates directed, and he goes on to direct the rest of the films in the series. It’s a film that’s a lot darker in tone. Harry is having nightmares after seeing a fellow student killed in front of him and he’s feeling isolated especially as Dumbledore appears to be avoiding him. The colour palette of the film is colder too, everything seems slightly blue which is especially noticeable in contrast to the previous films where scenes at Hogwarts seem so full of warmth.

The scenes where Harry is teaching his classmates is wonderful. He’s so encouraging and it’s fun to see these kids skills progress – when Neville (Matthew Lewis) masters a spell everyone is so happy for him. Together these young people have made a supportive environment, which so many of them need when there’s outside forces working against them – including Umbridge.

Umbridge is a brilliant character and one of the most evil villains in the series. She’s a bureaucrat on a power trip, convinced she’s right and is better than everyone. Seeing other teachers disapprove of her, even in small ways, is great as it shows that the teachers are human too.

The Order of the Phoenix is full of highs and lows. When there’s action set-pieces they are well-shot and exciting, but as there’s so much talking between characters, sitting around a table discussing what they should do next, the film can be slower and less interesting at times.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is a lot darker and is full of new information that helps make the threat of Voldemort and his follows more real. The finale is a bit lacking as due to the script, and Goblet of Fire’s script as well really, characters aren’t utilised enough so when tragic things happen, it doesn’t have as much of an impact as it should. 3/5.

REVIEW: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)

The Triwizard Tournament, a competition between three champions, each from a different school, has come to Hogwarts. From the Goblet of Fire Viktor Krum (Stanislav Yanevski) from Durmstrang, Fleur Delacour (Clémence Poésy) from Beauxbatons and Cedric Diggory (Robert Pattinson) from Hogwarts are all chosen to compete. But when Harry Potter’s (Daniel Radcliffe) name is also pulled out of the Goblet of Fire, he must join the champions in braving three dangerous tasks.

The Goblet of Fire starts with a bang and the pace never really slows down. This film expects you to know about Quidditch, magic and who these characters are. It does flesh out the world a bit as it takes the time to introduce you to the unforgivable curses and show why they are so unforgivable, but besides from that it’s a very fast paced film that fully immerses you into the magical world.

Like it’s predecessor, The Goblet of Fire is darker and more grown up. Our teenage heroes are definitely teenagers as there’s angst, miscommunication and hints of romance. When Harry’s name comes out of the Goblet of Fire, Ron (Rupert Grint) is hurt, jealous and moody about it all as he’s sick of being what he feels to be Harry’s sidekick. I know all this from reading the book but due to it being an adaptation, in the film Ron unfortunately comes across more of an unlikable and petty guy.

The Triwizard Tournament itself is very exciting. The three tasks are very different, and they show off different magical creatures we haven’t really seen before, and spells and potions. The special effects are fantastic too which definitely help make creatures like dragons and merpeople threatening, and in some cases, pretty scary.

I’ve always found the ending of Goblet of Fire pretty jarring. Something incredibly tragic happens leading to Dumbledore giving a solemn speech that’s really affecting but in the next scene, all the school kids are smiling and laughing, and the film ends on a light-hearted note. You almost get whiplash from it all.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is a little uneven in terms of tone but it’s a fun, exciting time. It’s a film with a final act that changes just about everything for Harry, his friends, and the wizarding world as a whole, and that builds the anticipation for the next instalment. 4/5.

REVIEW: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)

Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) ignores warnings from Dobby the House Elf (voiced by Toby Jones) not to return to Hogwarts, but there he finds the school is plagued by something attacking students and Harry starts hearing a voice that no one else can hear.

The Chamber of Secrets is darker in tone compared to its predecessor, but it still has a lot of childlike wonder about it. Just when you think you know everything about Hogwarts, there’s hidden dangers and rooms waiting to be discovered. Some of those dangers include giant animals that no one would want to meet in real life.

The scenes at The Burrow, the Weasley’s home, are wonderful. It’s the first chance for both Harry and the audience to see a proper wizarding family’s home and there’s a lot to see; dishes washing themselves and a fascinating clock are just the tip of the iceberg. It’s lovely to see more of the Weasley’s, especially Mrs Weasley (Julie Walters) who is a force of nature but it’s clear she loves her children, and Harry, very much.

The young cast have improved since their first outing, though aren’t as good as they grow up to be, but Rupert Grint shows the beginnings of some great comedic timing. They’re still surrounded by some great acting talent and there’s some new faces in the form of Kenneth Branagh as Professor Gilderoy Lockhart. His ego makes him hilarious! Also joining the cast is Jason Isaacs as Lucius Malfoy, Draco’s (Tom Felton) father. He’s an imposing presence, and is both slimy and charming in equal measure.

The Chamber of Secrets is probably the most faithful of the adaptations but that does mean it can get a little bogged down with scenes and characters that don’t particularly further the plot. Anything with Dobby though is brilliant. For a computer-generated creature, he’s so emotive and easily likeable, his scenes with Harry are often funny.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets starts to raise the stakes as you learn more about Lord Voldemort, but it still feels like there’s a safety net around our young heroes. But that is all about to change very soon. 3/5.

REVIEW: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001)

On the run up the release of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald I’m rewatching and reviewing all the Harry Potter films, including Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, as they’re films that made up a big part of my childhood but I’ve never reviewed them before.

Orphaned Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) discovers he’s a wizard and joins the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry where he makes new friends and rivals and learns that there’s an evil that haunts the magical world.

It’s hard to talk about the Harry Potter films individually when you’ve seen the entire series and have read the books. You know where all these characters end up and The Philosopher’s Stone sets up so many character arcs and mentions so many people or items that will become more important later on in the grand scheme of things, and it does it all so well. With hindsight I appreciate The Philosopher’s Stone a lot, it’s a perfect introduction to this whole new magical world, taking the time to explain things while still having a compelling mystery at its core.

While he’s learning magic and potions, Harry meets Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) who soon become his best friends. When they’re not in classes the three of them stumble across a massive three-headed dog and soon get involved in a secret hidden in their school. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone works so well because one of its main story elements is the adults don’t or won’t believe the children, so they are the ones who have to go on a potentially dangerous adventure to save the day. Everyone has been a child so it’s a situation we can all relate to.

The main young trio Radcliffe, Grint and Hermione Watson give fine performances but it’s the adult cast that’s built around them that manages to be great but at the same time never overshadows their child co-stars. Richard Harris as Dumbledore is brilliant, he’s wise and calm but it’s clear he’s powerful and respected. Maggie Smith and Robbie Coltrane, as Professor McGonagall and Hagrid respectively, both bring warmth and humour to their roles. It’s Alan Rickman as Professor Snape that really stands out though. He plays Snape with such nuance that he’s an intriguing character from the outset.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is so bright and colourful which you appreciate more when you think about how dark, both in tone and colour palette, the latter films get. While some of the special effects have not aged so well, the Quidditch match is still thrilling to watch. The score is beautiful, and it’s funny going back to the beginning because these musical cues have become so iconic, and who knew this music would be here to stay.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is a great family film. It’s funny, exciting and has a compelling mystery at its heart. It’s a great starting point for adapting the books. 5/5.

REVIEW: Crazy Rich Asians (2018)

Rachel (Constance Wu) and Nick (Henry Golding) have been dating for over a year, and when it’s Nick’s best friend Colin’s (Chris Pang) wedding in Singapore, it’s the perfect chance for Rachel to meet Nick’s family and friends – what she doesn’t expect is for them all to be super rich and famous!

Based on the book of the same name by Kevin Kwan, Crazy Rich Asians is a romantic comedy that’s big, bright and full of over the top characters and settings, and somehow it all works.

Singapore with all its people, buildings and food looks stunning. The film captures the extravagance of these characters lives, showing all the glitz and glamour but still being able to shine light, however briefly, on the characters more hidden sides – one of Nick’s cousins Astrid (Gemma Chan) has a subplot with her dissatisfied husband (Pierre Png) that’s heart-breaking.

Rachel and Nick are a believable couple as their chemistry is fantastic and they actually talk about the problems they encounter – though both of them don’t always understand what the other could face because of their relationship. Rachel’s main adversary is Eleanor (Michelle Yeoh), Nick’s glamourous and reserved mother. She wants the best for her son and see’s Rachel as an outsider and a distraction, both because of Rachel’s status in class, and the fact she grew up in America. As Eleanor’s disapproval becomes more obvious, Rachel must decide whether to fight or give in to the almost insurmountable pressures she and Nick are under. While Eleanor is the villain to Rachel’s hero, the film never fully villainises her, instead being sure to show Eleanor’s side to things and making her sympathetic in her own way.

The whole cast is brilliant and while the romance is the main focus, the film showcases some brilliant relationships between women. There’s Rachel and her best friend from university Peik Lin (Awkwafina) who is hilarious and supportive, Astrid is one of the few members of her family to fully accept and like Rachel straight away, and Rachel and mother (Kheng Hua Tan) have one of the best mother-daughter relationships, and while her mother is from China, even she doesn’t quite get all the ins and outs of high Singapore society.

Crazy Rich Asians is a funny, romantic film with engaging characters you root for. Everything works, the opulence, the music and the cast. It’s a delightful film that’s pure escapism and there’s nothing wrong with that. 5/5.

You can read my review of the book here.

REVIEW: Love, Simon (2018)

Simon Spier (Nick Robinson) has a huge secret, he’s not told his friends, family, or anyone at school: he’s gay. Simon finds someone to talk to through anonymous emails, but when someone discovers his secret and threatens to expose him, Simon must face everyone and come to terms with how he feels.

Nick Robinson is great as Simon, he’s charming and likeable and you feel his heartache. Simon’s friends are all pretty great too and they all feel like a real group of friends. They fall-out and are sometimes selfish, but they also care about one another.

Not only are the teen cast brilliant, so are the adults in supporting roles. Ms Albright (Natasha Rothwell), the drama teacher, is hilarious and steals every scene she’s in, while Vice-Principal Mr Worth (Tony Hale) is equal parts funny and cringey. Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel play Simon’s parents and they are some of the best parents in a teen movie in a long time. They feel like normal parents and their relationship with Simon is wonderful.

Love, Simon has all the makings of a classic, teen rom-com. It’s very funny, it’s touching, and it’s has so many great characters. It’s a coming of age story that pulls you in and you can fully empathise with Simon and his friends, no matter how old you or how long it’s been since you were a high school student yourself. Love, Simon manages to be persistently funny, even when it’s handling the more dramatic and sad moments. It balances all these emotions perfectly and the soundtrack’s fantastic too.

Love, Simon is brilliant. I laughed, I cried, and I can’t wait to see it again. 5/5.