Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

After studying the novel by Susan Hill at University and watching the stage adaptation on three separate occasions, it is safe to say that I had a nervous anticipation about the release of this film.
Additionally, my excitement to see Hammer making a comeback with their second production accumulated to some high expectations with fears of disappointment that is so often the way in contemporary cinema.

However, I was pleasantly surprised. Surpassing Watkins’ debut, The Woman in Black delivers horrifying chills, nail biting suspense and beautifully twisted macabre. Its finest feature by far is its cinematography. The camerawork is simply superb with, assumably, a combination of over the shoulder shots, POV from all characters putting the handicam to great effect. It is this that is responsible for so much of the terrors within.
As an adaptation, it does well to emulate but not mirror the novel or the stage show, of which an attempt to do so would have been insulting. It maximises the benefit of its medium by delivering horrific special effects and eardrum perforating sound; all in crisp and all too lifelike high definition.
Radcliffe is, sadly, unmemorable. It is a credit to the actor that he is attempting to break away from the painful Potter days but this will not be remembered as his best work. Whilst the audience screams and shrieks at the events occurring on screen, Radcliffe encounters each hurdle and ordeal with unconvincing stoicism. He certainly improves as the film continues although his lack of passion and fear allows the audience to relax and be reminded that that’s all this is: a film.

James Watkins’ The Woman in Black stars Daniel Radcliffe and is currently showing in cinemas.


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So this isn’t particularly the way I would want to write this review, I’d like to do it with a bit more opinion and a bit more attitude (a.k.a: vulgarity) but it was for Uni so I had to stick to their rubric rigidly!

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part Two

To produce an effective review of a film adapted from a book there are certain aspects to consider. Two of the central points are the degree to which the film stays loyal to the book and how this affects the outcome of the end product and its quality as a film. It is my opinion that the final instalment of the blockbuster “Harry Potter” series, directed by David Yates and based on the books by J.K. Rowling, is a poor display of both aspects despite its general success and positive reception from fans and critics alike.

A key factor to consider when discussing the adaptation of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two is the fidelity of said adaptation, and the reasons behind the choices made that deviate from the original novel. The alterations within this adaptation may be split into certain categories and possible reasons behind the choices made I can account for, yet, I feel they are still to the film’s detriment.

The first reason for the film’s lack of fidelity is the transition of medium from book to film. This has never proven to be a simple journey and one that rarely is successful which is proven in this adaptation. The foremost reason for this is that when concerning films, one is presented with the issue of running time, which is quite a crucial limit that is absolutely devoid from literature. Therefore it is not only understandable but imperative to edit sections of the original book and either alter or eradicate the sections that are least instrumental in the direction of the film. This is however in my opinion, poorly advised in the film and certainly acts as one of its major downfalls. Examples of this such as the characterisation and plot deviations within the film undoubtedly are due to this. However, the issue that I present here is that they present a direct threat to the quality of the film and are unwisely chosen to be removed compared to more visually entertaining or crowd-pleasing scenes. An accurate example of this is at the beginning of the narrative. Harry is talking to Griphook the goblin and discussing the favour he requires from him. Griphook inquires where Harry procured the sword of Godric Gryffindor to which Harry shrugs the question off, eliminating any explanation that could be needed for viewers unfamiliar with the story or previous films. This is echoed in Phillip French’s review in The Observer:

“How did you come by the sword?”, referring to the Excalibur-like weapon retrieved from the bottom of a lake in The Deathly Hallows: Part 1. “It’s complicated,” replies a desperately tired, unwashed Harry, who rapidly dispenses with anything that might be described as a synopsis of preceding events, leaving people who don’t know their Horcruxes from their Dementors to muggle through. (French)

The characterisation is as severely altercated as the plot and is ultimately due to the medium and its restraints. Poorly adapted characters can be seen in the form of Harry himself, Voldemort, Dumbledore, Hagrid and a long list of others. Key attributes of their personalities are either poorly translated or ignored completely within the film, supposedly due to the restraints of running time. In particular is the character of Hagrid. As a main and integral character, it is strange to me that he is absent from the majority of the film, when the book features him predominantly. The vitality of characterisation is so the audience may identify with the characters and build up an understanding of their actions and behaviour. This is nearly irrevocably lost in the film and severely damages its quality. Without a strong bond between character and viewer there is no concern for the character’s safety and in a type of storyline, like the one in question, this is vital. The lack of characterisation causes there to be a lack of emotive response from the viewer. An example of this is the many deaths that occur within the narrative that pass without an excessive amount of grief from its viewer. This is the opposite reaction to the book, where instead of feeling as if someone close to them had been killed, one is left with the feeling of indifference. This is something which I for one am certain was not the intended response.

On the other hand, film as a medium does have its advantages against the book in some ways. Worth mentioning is the fact that it is one hundred percent visual as it can employ techniques such Computer Generated Images (CGI) to bring the magic, quite literally in this case, to life. When compared to literature one can identify that Rowling, who is limited to using her command of language to illustrate the vision for the reader, did not have this benefit. However in a film wherein the special effects and CGI have the budget and a real opportunity to flourish and rescue the film it does not seem to quite manage that either. A scene that is most memorable for this would be the part where Harry, Ron and Hermione are racing for their lives on broomsticks away from the ‘FiendFyre’; a fire created by dark magic that resembles fiery, mythological beasts and that destroys everything in its path. Once again viewers were disappointed, as the CGI employed in this scene did not only quite plainly resemble CGI but CGI that was being used seven years ago.

A second explanation for the choices concerning the films fidelity is that of its target audience. Despite the books being thoroughly enjoyed by all ages it is predominantly a children’s novel and this could not be truer in respect for the film. Being a children’s film, there are certain scenes that to depict visually and explicitly would incur the BBFC rating of the film to rise, allowing only an audience of mid-teenagers and above to view it. As a children’s film this is not possible, and despite the fact that the film would have, in my opinion, been far deeper, hard-hitting and emotionally successful, it would have excluded its target audience. An example where this factor could have been in mind when making directive selections could be the scene in Gringotts bank, where the treasure in the vault merely duplicates rather than additionally becoming blistering and smouldering as it is in the book. The viewing of three teenagers drowning and suffocating under scorching hot metal by children is clearly one that could distress. It is interesting to note, conversely, that on the children’s edition of the book the front cover actually depicts them in the burning metal, with clear signs of scorching on their skin. There seems to be a constant attempt throughout the film to create a dark and raw adventure film balanced with a light-hearted children’s film that is not succeeded. By making a decisive move in one direction the film would have been much more of success in either category. However, that would have cut down on its wide appeal and, ergo, cut down on its profit.

Another example of the film’s unfaithfulness to the novel can be witnessed through the sligthly cheapening moments throughout the film. Numerous examples are seen at the final phase of the film, for example certain lines from characters such as Professor McGonagall played by renowned actress Maggie Smith. After a well-delivered line from the book and surrounding a very nicely shot scene, the characteristically strict and severe teacher admits a girl-like giggle and proclaims that; ‘I’ve always wanted to use that spell!’ This choice of basic humour not only destroys the character of McGonagall but also destroys the desperately sought after foreboding and thrilling tone that the film so badly requires yet, so frequently, relinquishes. This one of several examples of the unbecoming tone and cheapening of the movie, yet it is it is not the acting that causes these issues. The film is rich in acting with only minor disappointments; it is the adaptation that causes these moments to appear so cheap and lifeless.

A further display of infidelity that undermines the film’s quality is the display of poor continuity that must surely be down to differing judgement. The prolonged fight between Voldemort and Harry for example, which has previously been declared in the film and books as impossible. Snape’s death scene being needlessly in a completely different location also certainly falls into this category. They display lack of continuity and alterations to the original plot for the mere sake of doing so. Something that I feel is worth noting for continuity failure is that in the final phase of the film, the character Gregory Goyle is now both a totally different actor and race to the previous films. Choices like this are amongst many that leave one confused to say the least.

Perhaps more understandable deviations from the original novel applied in the adaptation, are that of the movements away from a considerable amount of the themes and symbolism within the book. Critics and fans have often been heard to identify religious symbolism within the series, most commonly associated with Christianity and the New Testament of the Bible. It is perhaps understandable therefore why the direction of the film is to remain more neutral on this topic to, once again, remain appealing to a wider audience and eliminate the risk of offence. This could then explain the hasty progression through the scene where, in the book, Harry theoretically rises from the death of a martyr.

In conclusion, it is due to the varied reasons that I have stated in this review that as an adaptation, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two fails to be wholly accurate and that its infidelity is to its detriment, not just in its quality as an adaptation, but as a film also.

Word Count: 1634


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So I was genuinely intending on writing this sooner than I have done, but this has really been the earliest opportunity I have found myself in a fit state to actually write anything. The gig was THAT good. As always, apologies for the photography, iPhone’s don’t like lights that strong!

I had been eagerly anticipating this gig for a number of months now, this was largely due to the factors that I had seen Enter Shikari twice before and they beat the living juices out of my eyeballs, and the fact that I don’t have much else to look forward to, I lead a quiet life (hmmm). Now the previous times of which I have seen these musical magicians have both been at Reading Festival. The first being in the lock up tent and the second being on the main stage. Now, both were superb performances, full of energy and mayhem but the one that had maintained a pretty well established slot in my memory (an impressive feat as it seems each time I pulverise my liver my memory also seems to suffer) was the show in the tent. Now for those of you who know of Enter Shikari, well you know what I’m taking about, but if not my reasons behind this favouritism is due to Shikari working so much better in an enclosed environment. Don’t misunderstand me, the main stage was something else too, but due to their style, an inside and intimate feel is definitely the way forward. So, tickets for them playing at the o2 in Bristol was definitely something that I was understandably looking forward to.

Now due to my post on this gig being of the standardly tardy nature, it can most accurately be assumed that I may have indulged a little too heavily once again, but this most certainly should not sway anyone into the thinking that my memory of the performance is nothing short of top notch. Because it is.

That being said my memory of the support bands is certainly limited, so for this I do sincerely offer my profound apologies but we arrived late and decided the bar needed our support holding it up far more than the support bands.

As the lights went down however, we cordially departed from the bar and hastened to take our preferred platform over the right hand side of the stage. This I have found, is a most apt area to enjoy gigs, perfect birds eye view of the stage. It does, sadly, exclude one from the frivolities of the main crowd and circle pits but perhaps I’d feel a bit old there nowadays.

As predicted, Shikari opened with ‘Destabilize’ which couldn’t have been better. The energy transferred from the band to the crowd and back again worked as a symbiotic masterpiece and it was superb to see the band putting every cell of themselves into assuring they performed to the utmost ability. Too often do I watch bands that give the impression that they may almost be too good to be there and simply let the crowd do most of the work and coast through gigs. This was not one of those occasions. Rou launched himself about the stage alike to a lemur to its branches and consistently had a massive grin on his face. It was also encouraging indeed to see the crowd not letting the band down, I’m pretty certain that they had to raise the levels at one point due to the crowd’s attempts to do Rou’s job for him.

It was also an extremely welcome surprise to hear such a diverse combination of their material. Too often do bands merely plug their new stuff and ride upon their, what I like to call, ‘glory supporters’. But if you haven’t listened to ALL of the band’s albums you would be left unable to sing along, and everyone likes to sing along. From ‘Mothership’ to ‘Sssssnakepit’, songs were thrown at us from all albums and with all manner of variations.

Additionally, I was accompanied by two friends and my girlfriend, the latter of which did not know Shikari’s material as thoroughly as the rest of us by any means. This was a concern to my anticipations of her enjoyment of the gig, as she is a massive fan of singing along to bands with the songs she knows and if she cannot, well, it’s usually a bit of a let down. However, despite not witnessing her screaming along like Turkey’s at Christmas time as the rest of us were, she claimed to love it, and that it was the atmosphere and stage show that achieved this.  

In short, it rocked, and I was slipping and sliding like a penguin on ice out of the arena due to my fervent perspiration; always a good sign. Enter Shikari: I ssssssalute thee.

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This (as it appears the majority of my posts are) is a martyr’s tale. Woe is me and all of that stuff. And the topic of which I will be talking upon is something that is greatly adored by an enormous majority of the female population, and a sprinkling of the male, so I’ll understand if a tirade of torment follows this. This is the tale, of a dormouse (me) being forced to put myself through the trauma, the anguish nay, the torture, of watching the stage production of Dirty Dancing. I know right? Am I a victim or what?

I was never supposed to go, that’s how this sad and woeful tale begins. My mother had purchased three tickets for my sister, my girlfriend and herself and I held back my sarcastic and belittling comments (mostly) and said “enjoy!” and to myself ‘rather you than me’. Dodged that cheesy, poorly acted, musically enhanced bullet. Or so I thought. But life has been going far too well for me to continue in that mode.

On the afternoon of the show, I have received a phone call from a sincerely sombre sibling informing me that she could no longer make it. I was aware that she had been suffering from a very malicious chest infection and that there were reservations about her attending the ‘show’ so was not altogether surprised, but certainly felt for her, as I know she was greatly anticipating it (she has always has questionable taste) and could imagine how disappointed she would be to miss out. I thought that this would be the entirety of the sad news. But no, as I was consoling her over the phone I heard a new voice amidst the barking coughs of my sister, one that was sure to change the beautifully dirty dancing-free plans I had that evening. My mother. Why don’t I go along with them? No Mum, I’d rather attach my boy bits to the Eurostar. (n.b: To my American cousins: the Eurostar is a very big train that rapidly trasports us from our little island around Europe. I’d hate for you to think I was suggesting a preference of some French super hero from outer space or something).

But after a considerable amount of negotiating (of which usually I excel) I found myself up against the old irrevocable argument that is that; it is my mother, and therefore I love her and must do things to make her happy due to what she has done for me (childbirth and all that). I yielded and said I would attend with them, if I could not sell it, I thought. So next is the image of me stood outside the Hippodrome in Bristol attempting to flog a ticket to Dirty Dancing. Now usually, I  can sell beer to a brewery, but my usual clientele (people similar to me) are not the sort of folk that would generally jump for the chance of two and a half hours of dancing surrounded by a couple hundred women positively crazy for Swayze and his everlasting memory. Looks like I was going in after all.

I think it’s worth pointing out at this stage, that this is such a sad tale as this certainly is not the first time this has happened. Oh no. My Mum’s been granting these cultural delights and outings upon me ever since I can remember. It started as just small things, being dragged around shopping centers for hours (as a small boy with far too much energy that’s like salt for slugs), being made to sit through different plays and shows…the list is endless. And finally I thought, now that I’ve moved out, I might escape them. You don’t escape a mother’s love. Now when I was younger the whole thing really was unjust, why on earth was I being taken to something that I quite clearly was going loathe? Why on earth isn’t everyone doing exactly what I want, when I want it? Why oh why should I have to do things for other people? Now things are slightly different, I am more or less happy to do things for those who, to be fair, have done a billion times more for me in my life, but Dirty Dancing? Really? That’s crossing the line.

Needless to say my first port of call was the bar. A couple of double gin ‘n’ tonics and the majority of my Mum’s glass of chardonnay down I thought it might be bearable. It was not.

Ok despite my whining about the hideous show firstly I have to address the obvious. The dancing was awesome. They really knew their twirls from their tangos and fox-trots from there fandangos. The length of time the dancers were performing combined with the complexity of the dancing really did impress me. Glad I pointed that out.

The rest of it, please save me. Not only do I take issue with the film with it’s bogstandard run of the mill romance theme (for a ‘classic’ it needs a little bit more or just to stand out) but the acting was just painful. I couldn’t stand it. You’re supposed to receive some sense of character with these people. Something that makes you root for one and condemn another, or something that makes you relate to them, something that makes you feel moved and go on some emotional journey. I did not. No journey. Not even an emotional stroll. No characterisation, not a character they’d copied from the film nor one they’d tried to recreate for themselves. Well done, we can see there’s inequality, yes we see that offends you, what are you going to do about it? Dance? I see.

But did I complain? Did I ruin it for everyone else? No. As much as I wanted to I let everyone else have the time of their lives, (see what I did there, couldn’t help myself) save for perhaps one snooty middle aged chap behind me who kept kicking the back of my chair causing me to swivel around and communicate with my eyes that if he did it again he would experience the full extent of my displeasure of my evening. I think in fact the only comment I made was when Johnny and Baby are quite plainly about to get it on and she asks him to dance and I said that it would be ‘the no pants dance’ which I thought was more than appropriate. This still resulted in a look from my mother that was far more terrifying than the one I bestowed on my new friend behind me.

So was it that bad? Well yes it was, but I received a free meal, which was extremely nice and I’m sure I’ll learn to repress it along with a whole the list of pursuits that my Mum has ever so kindly introduced me to. Mum, I try and be a good son, sorry for complaining you know I’d sit through it a thousand more times for you (please no).

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So this Dormouse went to a gig last Saturday. The pictures are from my phone, for this: I apologise.

I had been visiting my home for the past few days and had rather over-indulged the previous evening on Indian food, wine, beer and pretty much no sleep.  Standard trips home for me really, but this did then cue the less than savoury feeling I had the next morning. Anyone who has had an intensely frivolous one night stand with the above vices can testify that, when making that decision, the visage and feeling the next morning resembles an ungainly mixture between a rather humid Basset Hound, and a Water Buffalo with motion sickness. I had decided to rise early, due to the fact England were playing Scotland in the group stages of the world cup (considering England bowed out this morning I wish not to linger upon this) which meant sleep depravation added to my grievances. I am fully aware that it seems that I am complaining a lot, but I feel it is vital to put you in the mind of a person in the midst of a semi-severe hangover. Everything seems phenomenally hopeless, and that not only do you feel so awful, but you are also convinced that the discomfort is unjust, that you are some kind of self-inflicted martyr.

So I wasn’t feeling at my best, and was definitely considering the prospect of missing what promised to be an extensively energetic gig, which happened to take place on the superb, yet extremely small, sweaty and smelly (it gets better) boat (yep there’s the motion sickness): The Thekla. I was being picked up by a friend who was also going back to Bristol from our home, and who, coincidentally, was also attending the gig that evening.

I made (much I’m sure to her delight) a slightly more reserved passenger than she is accustomed to when driving me. My girlfriend I discovered was also feeling unwell, so naturally I provided the caring male archetype of: “Well if you’re not feeling well enough, then I wouldn’t want you to make yourself feel worse,” and “of course I would miss the concert and stay with you. You know you are my number one priority.” This much is certainly true, but I somehow missed out the part where it transpired that I too was feeling like a badger’s behind, and was looking for an escape route. However, I discovered that if we pulled out, my dear friend who had chauffeured us back to Bristol, would be the only person going, so I couldn’t very well bail now.

We arrived at the charmingly dilapidated and world renowned venue that is The Thekla, with me not feeling that my sea legs were totally, pardon the pun, on board. But we presented our tickets to the ‘friendly’ looking men at the door (they were very thorough but not so gentle when searching me) and got on the boat. I knew my best bet was to get a drink as swiftly as possible, and do my utmost to get to the solace of inebriation where no morose feelings would bother me any longer.

We got in there and the first thing that struck me was that it was dead. More life in a graveyard, which greatly surprised me as The Subways sold out quickly. However we did not fret, the less idiots there to get in the way and necessitate me to ‘move’.  Anyway, the support act, The Dancers, were just finishing up by the time I had wandered to the front with a couple of pints of that frosty promise of good nights and terrible mornings: cider. Come on, When in Bristol. The Dancers are present a pleasant sound that were complimented nicely by The Subways, being that both apply the rarely effective technique of both male and female singers. Despite only seeing them for the last two and half songs of the set, I definitely enjoyed them and made a mental note (I definitely made many that night, most of which I have no recollection of) to check them out at a later date. I will do, right after I finish writing this.

Thatchers Gold #4 down the hatch and on come The Computers. Hmm, where to start with this guys. First of all, they looked like complete berks. 100% berktastic. The typical ‘Chindy’ look that’s appearing these days, a chav shops at topman, becomes indie, or whatever, I don’t know, I guess I’m getting old. However, they started to play and I genuinely thought they were pretty good. If anyone knows of the band; Emanuel, there are definite likenesses there. They make an awful lot of noise, and their songs are pretty crazy. On a downside, it did sound very similar, and I would probably struggle to tell the songs apart which, despite being a fan of pretty heavy music, is not a good sign. The main drawback to The Computers was their attitude. They seemed to picture themselves as this generations Sex Pistols, just as famous and on the Reading main stage. They were sadly mistaken. The energy was awesome and contagious, but the lead singer repeatedly spitting on the floor…really? You’re really going to be that guy? You’re not a macho, tobacco chewing cowboy and you’re not a camel. Enough. But the part wherein he jumped off the stage into the ‘crowd’ (there was no one there) and then couldn’t climb back on stage because his trousers were too tight, greatly entertained me. And musically, they were very good.

Thatchers Gold #6 finished, money disappeared too coincidentally, I buy a pint of lager as it’s all I can now afford (thanks to nice Mr Barman knocking off 20p) and take my place near the front for the main event. To my relief, the illusive ticket holders had now got their act together and swarmed into place. So, thinking it was wise to drain half my pint due to the excessive moshing and jumping that would surely soon commence, I proceeded to spill half of it down my top, before hearing a very familiar sound. “Come with me, and we’ll be, in a, wooorld of pure imagination…’ Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka’s theme from the 1971 motion picture, which usually proceed the band’s appearance. This time it was mixed with the opening bars of the theme tune to the 1981 classic Chariots of Fire. An odd mix I would agree, but somehow, one that worked exceedingly well to fill one with the most invigorating anticipation to what we only knew was coming. They hit the stage, the crowd went wild and as Billy and Charlotte grinned down at us, the iconic bars of ‘Oh Yeah’ stormed into my ear drums.

They played a good 45 minute set at least, which featured a titillating mixture of both their newly released album, Money and Celebrity, and their previous albums. This proved a formula for greatness. I was sucked into a circle pit. I found myself tripping over someone’s foot and toppling down. As I fell to the floor my shoe flew off my foot in front of me and I grasped to catch it as I fell, creating an image much like Frodo catching the Ring on his finger in Lord of the Rings. After this we heard Billy ask: “If I jump are you guys gonna catch me?”. Of course we are Bill. You’ve won our trust by being incredibly awesome. He lept, crowd surfed and climbed a balcony, only to launch himself back into the crowd and have us ferry him back to the stage.

It was a superb performance, both by their musical skills and crowd pleasing banter and techniques. However, I was yet again, a sickened buffalo/martyr (Muffalo if you will) the next morning. The Subways: I thank you. Liver: I apologise.

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