Thursday, September 18, 2014

Mansfield Park ~ Book VS. Movie

I just finished Jane Austen's Mansfield Park, and I think it has become one of my all-time favourite books already. It's also become my #1 favourite Austen book OVER Pride and Prejudice. This idea surprised me because Mansfield Park doesn't have the wit and humorous banter of the latter. However, I think what made me love it so much was the sweet disposition of the main character, Fanny, and the fact that I was already shipping Fanny with her future husband from the first moment he was introduced.

But to address the main question here... how did the 2007 movie live up to the book?

I think the movie did a good job of adapting the book to screen with a few revisions. One scene in the book has Fanny's uncle send her home to visit her family (whom she hasn't seen since she was nine years old) because he wants make her miss the guy whose proposal she rejected (and, ultimately, accept him if - rather, when - he were to ask again). In the movie, however, Fanny's uncle has Fanny stay at home when the rest of the family leaves on a trip. Not only does this punishment seem harsh, it didn't make as much sense with the rest of the story. It also doesn't make sense that Fanny's Aunt Bertram always complains that she needs Fanny at her side at all times, and then is suddenly fine with her getting married and going away. The book does this all much better.

However, I think the ending was done better in the movie. I was really disappointed that Edmund's realization of the fact that he loved Fanny was glossed over in such a way that there was almost nothing of the falling in love / wedding part. The movie did a much better job on fleshing out Jane Austen's last few pages. And that line "Let us make it our business, Mrs. Bertram, to be happy ever after"? That was a line that sounded like it just came out of the book - but it didn't.... which disappointed me greatly.

Book wins because book is better (in everything but that last chapter).


Billie Piper as Fanny Price; Blake Ritson as Edmund Bertram

In the book, Fanny is a sweet girl who doesn't talk much eitherbecause she is too shy or she believes she isn't good enough to be able to. While I love Billie Piper (mostly because of Doctor Who), she just didn't play Fanny right. Billie Piper portrays Fanny as a sweet girl, but she is also bright and lively and sometimes steps out of the low place her Aunt Norris puts her into. (Example: Aunt Norris reminds Fanny that she is lower than her cousins and should not step out of place at the ball. Fanny replies that she will always remember that -- unless she's having too much fun to remember. While this might seem fairly innocent, in the Austen's world, this would be quite significant and would be seen as Fanny sassing her aunt.)

The other characters, however, are played very well. I really liked how Blake Ritson carried himself as Fanny's dear cousin Edmund, and Michelle Ryan did a great job as Maria. (Actually, I was expecting her to turn bad any moment after seeing her play Nimueh in Merlin.) The rest of the cast was also stellar, although I did keep confusing Henry Crawford with Fanny's cousin Tom.

So while the rest of the characters are played perfectly, in my opinion, Fanny is unfortunately portrayed in a wrong way.

Book or Movie?
Book, obviously. But the movie does a really good job at adapting the book, a better job than movies usually do.

Alyianna's ratings
Book: 10 out of 10
Movie: 9 out of 10

Monday, September 15, 2014

Listen ~ a Doctor Who episode review

Last week's episode was a continuation on the good-episode streak - actually, it was pretty amazing and bittersweet at certain parts. Unfortunately, Moffat did make some of his usual blunders; namely, that of forgetting plots from previous episodes. For example...

- Orson Pink is proclaimed to be the "first" time traveller. But what about the "first" time traveller in Moffat's own episode "Hide"?

- "The last planet in existence," the Doctor says. But what about the time he, Martha, and Captain Jack travelled to the last place left in the universe in "Utopia"?

These are just some examples of Moffat conveniently (or actually) forgetting previous plots. It doesn't matter which one it is, it just looks sloppy and causes me some fist-shaking "Moffat!" moments.

Another thing I had a problem with is that "Listen" felt like two episodes squished into one without covering them properly. Couldn't Moffat have just stopped after Clara came back to Danny in the restaurant and fleshed out the episode properly - and then do the rest of the episode in another and fleshed out that one properly?

However, besides these common Moffat mistakes, "Listen" was quite a good episode. I believe it is that questioning part of the Doctor that's making me start to really like him... as well as his kind moments, which are made all the more special because he's usually so rude. :) The first fifteen minutes were good and the last fifteen minutes almost blew my mind away. I might not have liked the episode as much as I did with all the annoying blunders, but that ending saved Moffat... this time.

Alyianna's rating: 8 out of 10

Question – Why do we talk out loud when we know we’re alone? Conjecture – Because we know we’re not.

This is just a dream, but very clever people can hear dreams. So please, just listen. I know you’re afraid, but being afraid is alright. Because didn’t anybody ever tell you? Fear is a superpower. Fear can make you faster and cleverer and stronger. And one day you’re gonna come back to this barn and on that day you’re going to be very afraid indeed. But that’s okay, because if you’re very wise and very strong fear doesn’t have to make you cruel or cowardly. Fear can make you kind. It doesn’t matter if there’s nothing under the bed or in the dark so long as you know it’s okay to be afraid of it. So listen. If you listen to anything else, listen to this. You’re always gonna be afraid even if you learn to hide it. Fear is like a companion, a constant companion, always there. But that’s okay because fear can bring us together. Fear can bring you home. I’m gonna leave you something just so you’ll always remember. Fear makes companions of us all.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Robot of Sherwood ~ a Doctor Who episode review

"Robot of Sherwood" - Clara dearly wants to go back in time to meet her hero, Robin Hood. The Doctor doesn't believe that Robin could really exist - or could he?

I was hoping that Saturday's episode would be better than the last - and it definitely was! While it wasn't as good as some of my favourites, "Robots of Sherwood" is undoubtedly the best episode in series 8 so far (can Mark Gatiss please replace Moffat now?). According to my dad, it was also the first episode in this series that the Doctor and Clara were actually in character. (I'm not good at noticing that type of thing, but I thought it was a good thought.)

What made this episode so good? For one, it was pure fun. I probably haven't laughed so hard at a Doctor Who episode since "Partners in Crime" (Series 4).

Sheriff [of Nottingham]: I’ll have you boiled in oil at the castle by sunset.

Robin: Can we make it a little earlier, because that’s a little past my bedtime.

Robin introducing Clara to his
Merry Men
For another, while the plot is borrowed from an old idea of the show (travelling back in time to meet a companion's favourite historical figure), it is done in a fresh and new way. One of the things that really irked me about "Into the Dalek" was that there were so many things that felt as if they were copied from previous Doctor Who episodes. This episode could easily stand on its own, spoon and all.

I thought the tie-in with the Half-Faced Man was really genius. I suppose I should have expected it (being a part of the season arch), but when it was revealed that the space ship's destination was the Promised Land, I definitely sat up a little straighter in my seat.

Doctor: I’m still having a little trouble believing your [story], I’m afraid.

Robin: Why is it so hard to credit? That a man born into wealth and privilege should find the plight of the oppressed and weak too much to bear? .... Until one night he is moved to steal a TARDIS and fly among the stars fighting the good fight.

The Doctor & Robin Hood

However, what I really loved was the story arch dealing with the myth of the Doctor compared to that of Robin Hood - especially, the ending, which was quite lovely and will be dear to anyone who loves the Doctor and wonders whether he truly is a good man.

Alyianna's rating: 9 out of 10

Robin: You are her hero, I think.

Doctor: I’m not a hero.

Robin: Well neither am I, but if we both keep pretending to be … ha ha … perhaps others will be heroes in our name. Perhaps we will both be stories, and may those stories never end.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Expect Hiatuses

This is just a little note to tell you all to expect hiatuses now that I am in school. In good time, I will be posting twice a week (at most). I will try to post at least once a week, but we'll have to see how that goes.

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Fault in Our Stars ~ movie review

Hazel Grace Lancaster (Shailene Woodley) and Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort) are two teenagers who share an acerbic wit, a disdain for the conventional, and a love that sweeps them on a journey. Their relationship is all the more miraculous given that Hazel's other constant companion is an oxygen tank, Gus jokes about his prosthetic leg, and they met and fell in love at a cancer support group. The Fault in Our Stars, based upon the number-one bestselling novel by John Green, explores the funny, thrilling and tragic business of being alive and in love.

I expected to hate this movie because it was a popular teenage romance film. However, I was very pleasantly proved wrong. The story of Hazel and Gus is definitely not a convential love story, nor is a cheesy one. It's a story just as much about friendship and living as romantic love.

At the beginning of the movie, I connected to the main character, Hazel, almost immediately. Her realism and sarcasm felt like a breath of fresh air compared to all the characters I've seen who are big dreamers (don't get me wrong, that's good, too, but I really needed a break from fantasy). I liked the friendship between Hazel and Augustus - and by mid-movie, I had been sold on the romance. The ending is so heartbreaking and yet also beautiful, the movie also had me crying at a certain character's death. This movie has great messages and lessons about life - and from the parts that I can tell are quoted directly from the movie, I know I NEED to read the book because this John Green guy sounds like a master with words.

However, I'm going to have to move the rating down a little from a 10 out of 10 because of some certain elements. There is some use of minor (and once or twice not-so-minor) language. God is mentioned a few times, but Hazel seems to dismiss the idea of Him as Someone who could help her. Then there's the scene when Hazel is surprised that Gus is still a virgin, and the other one when the two of them are talking while topless in a bed (we only see Hazel's back). The movie is great once you get past these two scenes, but it is something to contribute to my warning rating.

Alyianna's rating: 9.5 out of 10 (with one warning flag for minor language and sexual content)

Quotes & Images

"Make some friends!" Hazel's mom calls after her .
Pain demands to be felt.
- from Hazel's favourite book

Flight attendant: There is no smoking allowed on this flight - or any flight!
Gus: Oh... I don't smoke.
Hazel: It's a metaphor. He puts the thing that kills between 
his teeth, but doesn't allow it to kill him.
Flight attendant: Well, there are no metaphors allowed on this flight.

I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.
- Hazel

The world is not a wish-granting factory.
- Gus

I'm not a mathematician, but I do know this: There are infinite numbers between zero and one. There's point one, point one two, point one one two, and an infinite collection of others. Of course, there is a bigger set of infinite numbers between zero and two or between zero and a million. Some infinities are simply bigger than other infinities. A writer that we used to like taught us that. You know, I want more numbers than I'm likely to get, and God, do I want more days for Augustus Waters than what he got. But Gus, my love, I can not tell you how thankful I am, for our little infinity. You gave me a forever, within the numbered days. And for that I am... I am eternally grateful. I love you so much.
- Hazel

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Into the Dalek - Doctor Who Series 8

Spoilers galore in this review!

"Where the hell have you been? It's been three months!"

I thought Saturday's episode was good, but not great. The episode started out well with Clara back in her normal life with the Doctor having abandoned her in search of "something interesting". I like that the subject of the Doctor's morality was touched on again in this episode; however, I didn't like how the concept was covered.

For backstory - the Daleks are Doctor Who's most feared and most powerful villains. They are the very pinnacle of evil, reminding one of the Nazis. In this episode, the Doctor comes across a Dalek that is "good" - or is it really?

It turns out that the Rusty the Dalek's judgement was clouded by radiation sickness, which allowed it to see the beauty in the birth of a star. When the Doctor cures Rusty, it goes back to its original function of exterminating everything and everyone in sight. The Doctor helps Rusty to remember the beauty that it saw in the birth of that star.

HOWEVER, I don't like the way that this was done at all. The Doctor lets Rusty see into his soul, where Rusty see beauty, divinity, and hatred of the Daleks. The Doctor goads on Rusty to hate his own race. I know that the scene where Rusty exterminates the other Daleks who are attacking a group of soldiers is supposed to be a stand-up-and-cheer moment, but all I could think of was that Rusty was killing its own kind... which reminds me a whole lot of the Doctor's regrets about what he did to his own people (up until "The Day of the Doctor"). When Rusty decides to stay and help the soldiers kill the rest of the Daleks, I felt as if the Doctor had tricked Rusty into deciding to do the work of the soldiers.

So Rusty's line, "No, I am not a good Dalek. You are a good Dalek" was another of those stunning, chilling lines. Other fans seem to think the opposite of me, but I am reminded of the "You would make a good Dalek" from "Dalek" in the Christopher Eccleston era. I agree with Clara that the Doctor tries to be good - but does that make up for his dark moments?

"You are a good Dalek."

However, there were a couple of really great moments during this episode. I loved all the parts with Danny Pink (played by Samuel Anderson), and I'm starting to love him already. Actually, I think I like him almost as much as I did Rory - which I thought was impossible. His chemistry with Clara is great and the scenes touching up on his regret for his past as a soldier reminded me a little of John Smith from "Human Nature"/"Family of Blood".

"Did you kill anyone who wasn't a soldier?"

What I really loved was the scene with Missy (played by Michelle Gomez). The instant that I realized that Gretchen was still alive, I had two ideas in my head: Did the Doctor somehow save her the way he saved River? or Is it Missy's heaven? Missy's appearance definitely surprised me. Her character is so delightful and I am very curious who she will turn out to be. Only's the Impossible Girl story arch has excited me as much as the Missy arch this series.

Here's to a (hopefully) great episode this coming Saturday! 'Stay tuned' for my review of "Robots of Sherwood" next week. You can read my review of "Deep Breath" here.

Alyianna's rating: 7 out of 10

Monday, September 1, 2014

Literary Video Blogs: Jane Austen

I have recently become interested in literary video blogs. I was introduced to this corner of YouTube through vlogs based on the writings of Austen. Today I am going to talk about two of my favourite vlog series - The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and Emma Approved.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

LBD was my first introduction to these type of vlogs. It is an adaptation of the story of Pride and Prejudice in a modern setting. Usually, I deeply dislike these type of adaptations. However, I found these vlogs to be delightful and very entertaining. Jane is just as sweet as she is in the books and Lizzie's portrayal of her mother is hilarious. There are obviously a whole lot of changes since the story is now set in the modern world; however, these changes are very believable and fit in with the new setting perfectly(and there are a lot of nod-to-the-book moments). For example, one of the major themes of these vlogs is the creation of videos for the web, so Mr. Darcy's beautiful house from the books becomes a big company that deals with web-based content. There are a few other changes that weren't as necessary to change in the new modern setting, one of these being that the number of Bennet sisters is cut from five to three (Jane, Elizabeth, and Lydia); however, the other two sisters are dealt with in the vlog series in interesting ways. Another change is that Lydia is changed for the better by her encounter with George Wickham and is no longer the immature, boy-crazy young woman she once was. I, for one, really like that Lydia is redeemed in The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, so I fully support this change.

from Lydia Bennet
Lizzie on Darcy

Emma Approved

My viewing of EA was slightly different from that of LBD because I actually watched the vlog series before I read the book Emma. However, I enjoyed EA just as much as LBD (which actually was the reason that I watched the whole series before I finished reading the book - it was too good for me to have to wait!). As with LBD, the book is set in the present day and has various changes to adapt with the new setting. Emma is the boss of her very own matchmaking company and Mr. Knightley is her financial guy. The vlog series also brings in a character that will be very well-known by Pride and Prejudice / LBD fans, which was a really great addition, and, in my opinion, actually improved the story. And can I just say, Mr. Knightly is even better than he was in the book?!

Sounds like Emma, right? :)
Emma & Mr. Knightly

Mostly... There is one phrase at the beginning of Emma Approved that I can remember not being the most appropriate. The Lizzie Bennet Diaries also go into a topic that isn't exactly family friendly. The said topic deal with Lydia Bennett, which will be understandable to anyone who is a fan of the book. But other than these few issues, both vlog series are very clean. My younger sister is actually watching Emma Approved at the moment and she loves it, even though she usually hates anything that deals with romance.

Alyianna's rating (of both): 9 out of 10