Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: What I'm Watching!

This week's TTT is a TV themed freebie. As Autumn draws in the TV always steps up it's game and there's loads of good stuff on at the moment. Here's a few of the things I've been loving. (Only got seven this week, sorry!)


So far this has exceeded my expectations for one prime reason - Rufus Sewell. Sewell plays Lord Melbourne, the Prime Minister and supposedly first love of Jenna Coleman's young Victoria. Albert comes in to it next week but I'm struggling to see how he's going to compete. This is a lavish costume drama from ITV, and I'm still smarting over the fact that I COULD HAVE BEEN AN EXTRA IN THIS. I got the call, but I was working :( Devastated.


If Rufus Sewell wasn't enough on a Sunday night, now we've got Aidan Turner to boot. They're spoiling us. Series two of Poldark is based on the second and third books, which are the most drama packed, so we're in for a good series I think. (Also, to my relief, they're making some changes to the events at the end of Warleggan. If you've read the books you'll know what I mean, I think.)

Strictly Come Dancing

I don't know if I'd quite call myself a Strictly superfan, but I've only missed one series since it started, so I guess I'm close. Looks like a good line up this year - favourite pairings so far are Greg and Natalie and Melvin and Janette. And Judge Rinder is going to be hilarious.

Happy Valley

Just finished watching this on Netflix and would heartily recommend. Police dramas are really not my thing but I binge-watched the first series in an evening and the second was good too, although not as tense. The writing and acting is faultless and the characters are very real. It's grim and violent, but there's still plenty of humour. It's also very disturbing to see Prince Andrei/Granchester as the psychopathic villain.


Season 4 has finally come to the UK and... it's not quite as good so far. But I'm still enjoying it.  Scarlett gets on my nerves nowadays and I can't see where they're going with the Juliette story-line - but the songs are still fab, particularly Layla's stuff.  If I Didn't Know Better (from the first ever episode) is still my favourite though.

The Great British Bake Off

Usually I hate cooking shows, but this is baking, so it's different! Plus the contestants are always so warm and likeable, and I love Paul (flying the flag for the Wirral!) and Mary.

First Dates

I'm not normally big on reality tv, and dating shows make me cringe. First Dates does too, but it's worth suffering for because it's just so sweet. There's no gimmick, it's just ordinary people matched up on honest blind dates that the producers and the audience actually want to go well. They try to match them up properly, with people they'd be suited with. Obviously it doesn't always work out, but a lot of the time it does. I liked the celebrity version too but it was basically the same - none of them were particularly famous.

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Liebster Questions

Thanks to Olivia from Meanwhile in Rivendell for nominating me for a Liebster award! Been a while since I did a tag, and I had a lot of fun answering the questions :D

1.) Tell us four names (if you don't know the answer to any, just tell the ones you do know): one that your parents would have given you if you were the opposite gender, one they considered once they knew your gender, one you would choose if you got to choose your own name, and one you would NOT like to have.

If I'd been a boy I was going to be Gerard. Ged for short (feel free to judge my parents.) My favourite girls' names at the mo are Aurelia and Eilis. Least favourite...maybe Doris?

2.) If you were to adapt one of your favourite stories, what story would it be and how would you tell it? (movie, musical, webseries, play, book, etc?)

I have a list of these ten miles long. But I'd like to do My Lady of Cleeves as a mini-series and North and South as a musical - with a clog dancing scene in the mill. Noughts and Crosses (Malorie Blackman) used to be on the list, but the BBC are finally doing it!!!

3.) Tell us four of your favourite words.

Delicious, Lolloping, Calligraphy, Quadruplets.

4.) What is a life lesson you have learned in the past year?

That I'm secretly a morning person.

5.) Who is your favourite secondary character in a book you've read recently?

Charlie Weasley - he deserves more page time. 

6.) What are five of the books on your TBR list right now?

The Girl on the Train, the new Mediator by Meg Cabot and Five Children on the Western Front. I want to finish the fourth Game of Thrones at some point and since my baby sister is leaving us soon for university in Bath, I'm feeling a re-read of  Persuasion...

7.) Tell us one talent/skill you have, and one you'd like to develop.

I can play the piano a bit but I'd like to get better.

8.) What's the best joke you've heard recently? (Awful puns are highly acceptable!)

How do you get Pikachu on a bus? Poke 'im on.

9.) Share a quote from the book you're currently reading.

"I do not think my secret is trivial. It is easily guessed as Angier has apparently done, in spite of what I have written. Others have probably guessed too. Anyone who reads this narrative will probably work it out for themselves. What cannot be guessed is the effect the secret has had on my life."

(From The Prestige by Christopher Priest)

10.) What song is stuck in your head right now? (Or just share one that's been bouncing around recently if you don't have one right now.)

Where you lead, by Carol King. AKA the Gilmore Girls theme tune.

11.) What do you want your life to be like when you're a little old lady?  

I'd like to go on cruises and have a little group of friends to go the bingo with.

I tag anyone who wants to take the questions on - I hope it's not too lazy not to tag people properly, but it will feel too much like procrastination from the huge amount of uni work I have to do in the next few weeks! However, here's some quick questions if you want to give the tag a go:

1 - Favourite Zoo animal?
2 - Favourite season?
3 - Favourite drink?
4 - Favourite Fictional couple?
5 - Favourite song from a musical?
6 - Favourite TV theme song?
7 - First film you saw at the cinema?
8 - First film/book that ever made you cry?
9 - Earliest childhood memory?
10-Favourite quote?
11- First TV/film crush?

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Favourite Sports Films


So I hate sport. I never watch it unless I have to, but for some reason I do like the Olympics. Probably because there are so many different things to get into. I love the gymnastics, and I'll watch a lot of the more random stuff. My hatred of sport also doesn't stretch to Sporting films - competition and an underdog to support always makes for good drama, and the more random the sport the better.  So, in honour of Rio, here are some of my favourites:

Stick it
The writer of Bring it on takes on the world of gymnastics, in this story of a rebellious former gymnast who returns to the sport as an alternative to jail and finds herself in training for the world championships. Good fun, great gymnastics and no pointless love interest.

Fast Girls
This is a kind-of-terrible-but-enjoyable film about a fictional girls relay team at the 2012 London Olympics (or not, as they weren't allowed to mention the year or the word 'Olympics' due to copyright reasons.) Starring Lily James, Mickey from Doctor Who and Arthur from Merlin.

Chariots of Fire
Oscar winning true-life story about two different Olympic runners, one Jewish, one Christian. Don't google the outcome of the games before you watch! Stirring and enjoyable if a bit old fashioned.

Cool Runnings
Disney are renowned for their animated films, but some of their live-action stuff is great, this being one of my favourites. Based on true events, Cool Runnings is the story of the first Jamaican bobsled team. Feel the rhythm, feel the rhyme, get on up it's bobsled time! 

The Greatest Game Ever Played
Another Disney film, true life story and a new discovery. Also a period drama which I can never resist. Stannis from Game of Thrones plays Harry Varden, a famous golfer and all-around nice guy from the Isle of Man, while Shia LeBouf is the American amateur who finds himself competing against his hero in the American open. I never thought I'd like a film about golf but this ticks all the right boxes.
The Karate Kid
Is it blasphemy to say I prefer the re-make? I like Jackie Chan as Mr. Miyagi, the Chinese setting makes it more original and exciting and the bullies are much scarier. And Jayden Smith is great in this. Definitely worth watching, and the competition at the end is nail-biting stuff.

In a pre-Andy Murray world, a Brit winning Wimbledon seemed like a distant dream, which is part of the reason why this film worked so well - we all love an underdog. Paul Bettany plays an English tennis player, who finds himself doing better than expected in what will be his last shot at Wimbledon. But when he falls for Kirsten Dunst's American rising star, things get complicated.

Bend It Like Beckham
You don't have to know anything about football (Soccer in some places...) or David Beckham to enjoy this film. Fun, smart and feel-good, this is the story of a British-Indian girl who wants to be a footballer, although her parents disapprove.

Remember the Titans
I really don't know the first thing about American Football (and I'm none the wiser after watching this film) but I do know whenever it's on TV I will sit down and watch it to the end. Starring Denzel Washington and featuring a young Ryan Gosling and Hayden Panetierre, this is another true story, about a school football team and race relations in America in the 1970s.

Two estranged brothers, one ex-army, one a teacher struggling to cope financially, enter a mixed-martial-arts cage fighting competition. I don't quite know why I like this film, I think it's because it's so hard to call which brother I want to win out.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

WWW Wednesdays: A Town Like Alice, After You, Harry Potter, The Prestige

WWW Wednesday is a link-up  hosted at Taking on a World of Words. To join in just answer the three W's (What have you been reading, what are you currently reading and what are you planning to read next) and post your link.

What I've been reading...

A Town Like Alice - by Nevil Shute

I had no idea what to expect from this book, all I knew was that Australia or Australians featured in some way. But I really enjoyed it - Jean Paget is my new hero. Based very loosely on a true story, this is quite an old-fashioned novel about an English girl who finds herself a prisoner of the Japanese in Malaysia during World War Two, along with a number of other women and children. It's an easy read, there's romance and the characters are good. Only problem was the racist language and attitude towards the aborigines - which was odd, considering the book wasn't racist towards the Japanese or the Malaysians. There's also an old black-and-white film - it's on my to-watch list.

After You - by Jojo Moyes 

The sequel to Me Before You, this follows Lou Clark after she returns from her travels. I could have done without this book, to be honest. Although the original sounded miserable in theory, I didn't actually feel miserable while reading it. Also, it had a plot and a point, whereas this just meandered. Lou was likeable as ever and I suppose it's realistic that she would still be struggling. But After You was just depressing on every level. The ending was okay and it was a quick read, but I don't think I could recommend.

What I'm currently reading...

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - J.K Rowling

This is the Harry Potter book I've re-read the least, so I thought I should refresh my memory a little (who am I kidding, I don't really need to) before I go and see Cursed Child. I'm not going to read the play first but if someone gives me spoilers before November I swear... Anyway I'd forgotten how exciting Deathly Hallows is. There's so much action! It might even be my favourite if it wasn't for a couple of things.

What I'm reading next...

The Prestige - by Christopher Priest

I bought The Prestige for a pound in a charity shop last week. I didn't know there was a book, but I liked the film so hopefully it's just as good.

What have you been reading lately? Anyone know if The Prestige is worth reading? Have you read A Town Like Alice or After You? Let me know in the comments :D

Sunday, 24 July 2016

No prince for Moana? Favourite Romantic Disney Moments

It's recently been announced that the newest Disney heroine, Polynesian princess Moana, will not have a love interest. And I guess that's good -  female empowerment and all that. So is it wrong for me to feel a little disappointed? I liked Brave well enough, and it felt right that Frozen's Queen Elsa didn't meet a handsome prince (she had a lot on her plate after all, where would she have found the time?) But call me old-fashioned, I like romance in my princess movies. At least as a B story-line. Mulan, for example, wasn't about the romance with Shang, but the love story added something extra without taking away from Mulan's journey. Is it bad to want that for Moana too?

There are some stunning romantic scenes in Disney, and the newer films can do the 'mushy stuff' just as well as ever - Rapunzel and Flynn in Tangled are the perfect example of how to get it right. From what I can see, the best loved Disney films have romance in them, and so to remind you just what Moana will be missing, here are some of my favourite romantic Disney moments!

Once Upon a Dream
Sleeping Beauty (1959)

"Do you want to stay forever?"
Mulan (1998)

Kiss the Girl
The Little Mermaid (1989)

"I'd rather die tomorrow, than live a hundred years without knowing you."
Pocahontas (1995)

A Whole New World
Aladdin (1992)

The Beast shows Belle the library
Beauty and the Beast (1991)

I See the Light
Tangled (2010)

Do you have a favourite romantic scene from Disney? A favourite couple or prince? Let me know in the comments!

Friday, 8 July 2016

What I'm Watching: Romeo and Juliet Live!

Last night, Kenneth Branagh's acclaimed new production of Romeo and Juliet was broadcast to cinemas around the world, courtesy of National Theatre Live. Starring Lily James and Richard Madden, with Derek Jacobi as Mercutio, it definitely sounded worth a watch, so my sister and I went into Liverpool to soak up a bit of culture. It was all booked up at our local cinema - which is impressive, considering this is Shakespeare we're talking about, and people hardly go the cinema anymore anyway. I've been to a couple of live cinema screenings in the past (Macbeth and The Tempest, mainly for Alexander Vlahos and Colin Morgan respectively - my sister's a big Merlin fan) and I'll admit that this time, I was partly there for Richard Madden. Imagine my dismay then, when Kenneth Branagh emerged before curtain up, to inform us all that our Romeo had done his back in (or was it his ankle?). Luckily however, he was determined to still perform, and they just had to change some of the staging. Cue sighs of relief.

This version of the play was set in 1950's Italy and filmed in Black and White, which gave it a real old Hollywood/film noir quality. The girls were in big skirts, the men in sharp suits and Juliet had some gorgeous 1950's style pyjamas. It was a very different version to anything I'd seen before but I loved the style, and the way that some of the scenes were interpreted. For example, Juliet knocks back a bottle of wine before the balcony scene - which sounds cringey but actually it worked. Making Juliet happily tipsy put a funny twist on an iconic moment without taking too much away from the romance. They were definitely going for a very teenage portrayal of the lovers and I thought both leads played it really well. The inclusion of music also added a lot - Juliet is singing at the party when Romeo sees her for the first time (Lily James has a really nice voice) and at one point Derek Jacobi's Mercutio breaks into a song and dance while Romeo and Benvolio click along. It was a bit random, yes, but funny. 

On the subject of Derek Jacobi, I was sceptical. An old Mercutio, would it work? I'm no expert, but I thought it did. In a kind of trailer before the show started, Kenneth Branagh explained that they were going for a sort of ageing Oscar Wilde type - and being one of the big Shakespearean actors of our time, Derek Jacobi pulled it off with flair. I don't know if the fight scene between Mercutio and Tybalt quite convinced me, but other than that, it was all good. The smaller parts were all a bit different too - Friar Lawrence wasn't much older than Romeo, but I really enjoyed his portrayal, and Meera Syal almost stole the show as a flirtatious, more youthful nurse.

Overall, there wasn't much I could fault in this production. It might not be to everyone's taste, especially if you're a real purist, but I really enjoyed it. Critics were a bit sniffy about the young leads' ability to speak the verse, but I thought they did really well; Lily James is always charming and Richard Madden managed to bring likeability to Romeo, who let's face it, is usually pretty bland.   The pair had great chemistry as always, the rest of the cast were great, the staging was seamless and I loved the costumes and styling. Romeo and Juliet is still playing at the Garrick Theatre, London until August 13th, and from what I saw last night, I'd say it's worth going to see if you get the chance.

Sunday, 3 July 2016

The King and I: Live action (1956) vs Cartoon (1999)

In an age where Disney is churning out live-action re-makes one nail-biting release at a time (they've been good so far, but that doesn't mean there's not going to be a travesty somewhere along the line) it's odd to think that it sometimes works the other way around. I saw the 1999 20th Century Fox re-make of The King and I at the cinema (and enjoyed it!) so I don't feel the same animosity towards that version as some do. Still, I can appreciate it's ridiculousness, and I thought it was time for a review. 

(For other cartoon/live-action comparisons, see Anastasia and The Jungle Book.)

The King and I is (loosely) based on the true story of Anna Leonowens, a British woman who travelled to Siam (now Thailand, if you were wondering) to become schoolmistress to the children of King Mongkut, in the late 18th century. There have been multiple adaptations of the story, but the most famous was released in 1956 and won five academy awards, including Best Actor for Yul Brynner, who made the role of the King his own. The Cartoon didn't do quite so well - in fact it bombed at the box office and was slated by critics and audiences alike.

As The King and I was a famous stage musical (by Rodgers and Hammerstein) before Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr took it on, you could be forgiven for thinking that the cartoon isn't technically a re-make. The selection of songs is slightly different  (I'll come to that later) and most of the iconic dialogue used also comes directly from the show. But - apart from some very random additions - the scenes, costumes and even Yul Brynner's bald head, are closely copied, and the film seems designed to look very much like the classic musical. 


Saying that, there are significant differences between the cartoon and the original. And I can understand why they thought this was necessary - The King and I is an odd choice to re-make as a children's film when you think about it. Yes, there are songs, and children, but there the suitability ends. There's not much action, it ends sadly and the central themes of a man at war with himself, eighteenth century cultural differences and polygamy must have made it a difficult sell. So how does the cartoon deal with all this? Well, first of all, they add animals (Louis has a pet monkey and the king a pet panther) and magic. The Kralahome ( the Siamese prime minister, who in the original film is merely a bit sceptical of Anna and her western ideas) has become the arch villain. From his underground lair he plots the downfall of the King so that he can become ruler of Siam and...bring back the ivory trade? He has two elephants that he keeps locked in a cage, a politically incorrect side-kick named Master Little and a giant magic-mirror like contraption, through which he summons monsters, including a sea monster to frighten Anna on her voyage from England and statues to creep up on the King during "A Puzzlement."

Another issue, inexpertly tackled, is Tuptim. In the original, she is one of the King's wives, recently gifted to him from the King of Burma and still in love with the man who brought her from her own country. In the cartoon, she's still a gift to the King, but she's given as a servant, not a wife. Her job? To arrange flowers. That's literally it. She falls in love with the Crown Prince Chulalongkorn (who is aged up in this version) which creates the conflict as 'servant girl and prince - is forbidden!'  Actually, the Tuptim thing was probably one of the cartoon's better ideas - but a flower arranger, really? The cartoon sort of skirts around the subject of the King's wives in general, maybe to avoid awkward questions about Anna and the King's relationship. I know as a child, I always wanted Anna and the King to get together, conveniently forgetting he was already married many times over.

The most bizarre difference between the two films though, is probably the ending. In the 1956 film you don't really find out what happened to Tuptim after the nearly-getting-whipped incident. In real life (as I was devastated to discover as a kid, after watching a King and I documentary) she was burned at the stake. In the cartoon she escapes with Chulalongkorn and Anna's son Louis (???)  on the back of some white elephants. The Kralahome tries to lure them to their deaths at the 'ancient place of the elephants' but the King has a change of heart, chases them in his hot air balloon and rescues Tuptim, before the balloon is shot down with firework cannons by the Kralahome. Oh, and the King lives.

Basically, the cartoon is very, very odd. But it does have it's good points. No - really! The voice acting isn't bad, and Miranda Richardson makes a good Anna. Aside from the weirdness the basics of the story are still there, and despite being what you might call 'disneyfied' (comedy animal sidekicks etc.) they don't over sanitise the story, and all the important scenes are included, even (as mentioned above) that moment when Tuptim nearly gets beaten to death. And that's dark stuff.  A big positive about the cartoon is that it includes some songs that were missing from the 1956 adaptation of the musical.  Out of the stage show's two duets between the young lovers, the old film opted only to include 'We Kiss in a Shadow' while the cartoon uses 'I have Dreamed' instead. I like both, but if I had to choose I'd definitely go for the latter. I'm not the biggest fan of 'Shall I tell you What I think of you' but that's in the cartoon too, while it's missing from both the 1999 and the 1956. 'Western people funny' was omitted from both films, and I've got to say, that was probably a wise choice.

(I Have Dreamed from the 1999 soundtrack)

As one of my early cinema memories, I'm rather fond of the animated King and I, but part of it's advantage was that it introduced me to the original. While not my favourite Rogers and Hammerstein (you can't beat Sound of Music can you?) it's still a classic. It's a bit slow, in the grand tradition of older films, but it's an interesting story, with some great scenes. The King is a fascinating, complex and strangely love-able character, despite his flaws, and the relationship between him and Anna makes the film for me. The acting between the two leads is great and the chemistry is palpable. I love the way the relationship builds, to the high point of 'Shall we Dance' - where you almost believe that something might happen between them -  and then Tuptim is found and everything comes crashing down. So dramatic!

(Shall we Dance from the 1956 film)

Aside from some un-pc overtones, the main weak point of the original King and I is the ending. Firstly, it's a bit of a downer. Secondly, what exactly is the King supposed to be dying of? He's been perfectly healthy up until now. They seem to suggest that he's dying of a broken heart, which feels out of place within the largely realistic plot (if it was the cartoon, this wouldn't be a problem, but even there they provide a proper reason for his illness... even if it is a hot air balloon accident.) In real life, Mongkut died of Malaria, but I guess that wouldn't be as dramatic. I probably don't need to bring up weak points in regards to the animated film, but I'd say the biggest problem there is Master Little. What's with the teeth falling out thing? And he's kind of racist -  not that the old film is perfect in that regard. I mean Tuptim is Anita from West Side Story and Yul Brynner is Russian. Are then any actual Thai people in this film at all? Some of the kids and the wives maybe.

Anyway. if you can stomach a bit of political incorrectness, both films are fun.Watch the old version for some fantastic acting, a shirtless Yul Brynner and actually quite a lot of humour. Watch the cartoon for the inclusion of 'I have dreamed' - and for a good laugh. Although in that case it's unintentional.