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Eloisa James – When Beauty Tamed The Beast

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Tale as old as 2011.

Publisher: Avon (HarperCollins)
Pages: 372
Type: Fiction
Age: Adult
ISBN: 978-0-062-02127-4
First Published: 25th January 2011
Date Reviewed: 13th January 2019
Rating: 3/5

Linnet is ruined; having chosen for a social event a dress that she didn’t notice bulged in a particular area, society now assumes she is pregnant, and not without reason – she’d been flirting with a prince. Now with a non-existent baby on the way, she has to marry fast, but who will have her? The sole option is the Earl of Marchant, an impotent doctor whose father is desperate for a grandchild and obsessed with royalty. But Marchant is known to be a difficult man, and Linnet decides she’ll make him fall for her swiftly and then she’ll try to get over the whole thing.

When Beauty Tamed The Beast is James’ 1700s (or so) romance adaptation of the classic story. The second of a series, it’s a standalone amongst other fairy tale re-tellings.

This book is split roughly 50-50 in terms of adaptation content, where half the time the story falls in line with the rest of James’ work, and the rest of the time is spent conforming to the adaptation enough that it switches between very-loosely-based-on and fairly-faithful retelling. It’s often funny, there are truly silly moments, it’s well-written, and time is spent developing the relationship. Some of the literary devices to create the fairy tale come naturally, such as the old castle, which James’ chosen time period gels with well, but there are a noticeable number of elements and scenes where the classic tale is shoehorned in, such as the hero’s exclamations of “I’m a/the beast!”.

‘Hero’ is open to interpretation here – many will love Piers, who is James’ bookish take on Hugh Laurie’s character, House; others will perhaps take a step back, often. (This reviewer had not seen House M.D. until reaching James’ acknowledgements, but 3 minutes on YouTube was enough to see that Piers and House are one and the same, history aside.) The Hugh Laurie context by itself works very well, and if you read the book with that in mind it may be easier, however with the romance and ‘uninspired’, so to speak, heroine, it may give you pause – Piers is not a great person, and whilst the backing of the fairy tale says a lot, he can go a little too far. Linnet, whilst not a great person to begin with, very quickly falls in beside Piers, so you’ve effectively got two not-great characters but with an added vibe to Piers that can be difficult to read about.

The inclusion of a physical disability, another aspect of House, is well presented in terms of reality, and James tends to balance the pain and upset (and, in this case, in keeping to the tale, anger) with your regular personality. There is a point towards the end where it gets a bit too… inspirational (and the heroine’s plight only adds to this), but that’s at least a short section. More to the point is the penultimate conflict towards the end, the chapters of illness and making the heroine ugly to help inform the balance of the relationship – unnecessary, given the conclusion is hardly going to end on a sad note. It’s also too long.

The best part of the book is the first half – though humour runs throughout, it’s in the first half that the story works well and the literary devices for the sake of the re-telling aren’t hammered home.

However, for all it could have been a bit more original in its re-telling – oxymoron intended – When Beauty Tamed The Beast succeeds in being an enjoyable quick read. Just consider Beauty and Beast to be a mere idea, the library (of this book) bog standard compared to Disney’s 1991 version, and replace ‘Tamed’ with ‘Gamed’ for a better fit.

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Reflections On Outlander Series One, In Context

A photograph of Caitriona Balfe as Claire Fraser/Randall in Starz' Outlander; here she is running along a road bordered by wildflowers

Photograph/screen shot from Outlander, copyright © 2014 Neil Davidson/Sony Pictures TV.

Following up the book with the TV show or film, with less than a day in between, tends to have drawbacks; the screen might not live up to the book, and with everything clear in your mind, it’s very easy to notice changes.

For me, Outlander didn’t follow that trend. I’d read the book when I did because I’d discovered the show on Amazon, and found the adaptation to be incredibly well done. It’s most often faithful to the book, but the times it’s not are handled with aplomb. By episode four, I knew I’d have to write about it, and this was an idea I enjoyed more than the idea of writing about the 1991 publication.

The show is not as long-winded as the book. It couldn’t be, of course. There is less time in which to tell the tale, and the audience – naturally including far more people than the original readers – wouldn’t be as patient, especially nowadays. (It makes a difference that the series arrived over 20 years after the first book was published.) The show is slicker for it. On her website (n.d.), Gabaldon says the series started by accident in the late 1980s when she decided to write a novel for “practice”, and that one of her goals was to learn what it took to write one. She continues:

In essence, these novels are Big, Fat, Historical Fiction, á la James Clavell and James Michener. However, owing to the fact that I wrote the first book for practice, didn’t intend to show it to anyone, and therefore saw no reason to limit myself, they include…

She lists a plethora of plot elements and genres. The statements match the content: lengthy, and sort of introspective and indulgent at times, considering Gabaldon was writing for herself. The show does away with a lot of the length and indulgence1.

Something lacking from the book that can be pinned on the fact that it is about Claire and Jamie’s relationship, is Frank. Claire doesn’t think of him all that much, but having him drop from the narrative completely means the time travel factor is somewhat lost. The show includes a few scenes of Frank looking for Claire. While totally made up for the show and quite possibly not on the timeline Gabaldon envisaged, these few scenes rectify the time travel problem. Frank’s inclusion enables the production crew to take the story further, showing how just the shortest nod to Frank – in his own right, rather than as a memory for Claire to discuss – changes the narrative for the better. It’s likely true we’re not meant to feel much for Frank, but having him off the page seemed a bit too easy.

The show doesn’t tend to specify dates, leaning more on seasons of the year. The book mentions specific days. (Whilst the section in the prison is horrific, I found literary happiness when I read that ‘tomorrow’ was 22nd December, and I was at that moment sat beside my Christmas tree on 21st.) The show simply moves the action at the beginning to a different season. This, whether planned with it in mind or not, neatly gets around the problem in the book wherein the days of Christmas come and go, at a monastery no less, without a mention. Christmas in the show is moved forward, and though not actively celebrated (likely a diversion too far) the rooms at Castle Leoch are decorated. The winter season is introduced with its own camera shot, snow falling in the Highlands.

I was impressed by the handling of the sex scenes, balanced between fidelity to the source and what would work on television; no less explicit but fewer in number; a couple of fade to blacks. Of that scene where Jamie punishes Claire and then may or may not have coerced her into sex depending on your interpretation, it seemed the crew had taken reader comments and criticisms on board, both those related to the action itself and those who were discussing the historical context. The historical context had been very brief in the book. After the initial argument between the couple, which was well done, I was actually surprised the next part of the story was included; the acting by Sam Heughan brought a lot more of the historical context into it, and the scene was scripted and filmed so that it goes straight to the fact of the matter and is careful in its visuals.

It’s great to hear from Jamie’s perspective; though only used in the ninth episode, The Reckoning, it was good to get out of Claire’s head and be able to see Jamie for himself. A reason for the change may well have been so that the crew could develop better a storyline Claire only heard about, but whatever the reason, it produced better content and a more rounded, historical, narrative. It also allowed for more historical and character context in the scene of resolution, post punishment.

Changes/elements I don’t think worked so well in general included the ending, which shortens a section considerably and changes the location of the monastery so that the sailing to France is the cliff hanger of series one rather than the conclusion of the section in Wentworth Prison. However, context matters here: it works as a ‘teaser’ for series two, it’s simply that the book ends in a way that’s both a minor cliff hanger and a fully-fledged ending.

As series one continues, the crew take more liberties. The Watch was unnecessary, an extra few characters for not much gain. But whilst lengthy, I liked Claire’s dinner with the British officers and her following dealings with Randall. It gave a fuller picture of him and succeeded in being suspenseful in its own right.

Where fidelity to the source is concerned and, I’d argue, good planning when changes are made, Outlander has to be one of the best adaptations I’ve seen. The acting is excellent, and the boldness in choosing what to keep, and, at times, what to expand upon when it comes to the explicit, is striking.

Footnotes

1 It’s interesting to note Gabaldon’s role in all this. The author is heavily involved in the production; credited as Consultant, she reviews all the scripts and watches the first cuts, checking for historical accuracy and anything that’s been changed from the book that could conflict with the storyline later on (Napoli, 2018). One such change for accuracy involved the scene wherein Claire joins a group of village women to dye wool; a fictional addition in terms of the book, the production crew had written a scene in which Claire walked down a cobbled street and joined a woman for tea and Bridge – Gabaldon scrapped the idea as it wasn’t representative of the era, describing instead a workaround which became the wool scene (Gabaldon, 2016).

About the differences in medium, the author said (ibid.):

I also know the constraints they were dealing with, which is that they have a limited number of 55-minute blocks, and within that block, you have to have a little dramatic arc.

Online References

Gabaldon, Diana (n.d.) The Outlander Series, Diana Gabaldon’s website, accessed 10th January 2019

Gabaldon, Diana (2015) Interview: Diana Gabaldon on Sam Heughan – ‘I was sitting there typing, “this man is grotesque, what are you thinking?”‘, The List, accessed 11th January 2019

Gabaldon, Diana (2016) ‘Outlander’: How author Diana Gabaldon really feels about Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe, Entertainment Weekly, accessed 11th January 2019

Gabaldon, Diana (2018) So… four years!, Diana Gabaldon’s Facebook page, accessed 16th January 2019

Napoli, Jessica (2018) ‘Outlander’: Author Diana Gabaldon reveals which line Sam Heughan didn’t want to say and more, TV Insider, accessed 11th January 2019

 
If Long-Awaited: Possibilities

It was the melding of ideas that made Ana and Iris’ long-awaited reads month compelling, the combination of books that had been languishing, together with starting the new year with books you’d not yet read. It’s been a good few years since the Month ran officially but nevertheless, whether I opt to ‘use’ it or not, come each January I’ve got the concept in mind.

Looking at my books I found myself creating three categories – books that, if I’m being honest with myself, I’m probably not going to read for ages if at all; books I expect I’ll read but have no idea when; and books I’d like to read in the near future. This made creating a basic idea of which books I might like to add to this year’s reading a lot easier – I’m listing only books in the third category. I also stuck to physical copies; I’ve too many free books downloaded on a whim.

I wanted to post something on the subject of Long-Awaited without harping on, so this will be it – suffice to say if I happen to review any of the books below within a few months, I probably read them in January, not forgetting the basic timeline my round-ups provide. Brick Lane, carried over from last year, is also technically Long-Awaited – a book I’ve had for 18 months or so that I had been wanting for a few years more than that.

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Anna Hope: The Ballroom (early 2016)Loved the debut, bought the second novel. This was one of those occasions where I was raring to read my brand new book but decided to finish the one I was currently reading, and we all know what can happen when you don’t immediately start a book you’re wanting to immediately start.

Barbara Kingsolver: Flight Behaviour (mid 2013) – I went looking for The Lacuna – that door stopper I’d heard was slow but nevertheless wanted to read – and when I couldn’t find it I shrugged my shoulders and decided a different book by the same person was good enough. Of course it never is – while I do want to read Flight Behaviour, the reason I haven’t is simple – it’s not the book I’d been wanting.

Deborah Levy: Swimming Home (early 2016) – I remember reading a review and putting this on my list, then hearing Levy speak at a Peirene Salon, and deciding that yes, I should indeed buy it. It’s a very short book, it’s still on my list simply because I know it’s quite literary and I’m looking for that impossible perfect moment. For the past couple of years I’ve been working on the idea of ‘done is better than perfect’ – I haven’t yet added books to that and need to.

Eowyn Ivey: To The Bright Edge Of The World (Christmas 2016) – Although I loved The Snow Child, I hadn’t been following Ivey’s writing career, and it was only when this book appeared on blogs that I found out about it. Like Ivey’s debut, it is about Alaska, and already knowing I wanted to revisit the area in fiction, I added it to my list. I made a brief start on it last year but it’s very different to her previous, and because I’d thoughtlessly expected a fair similarity, I decided to move on to another book and revisit it when looking for the sort of book it actually is.

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Lauren Owen: The Quick (Christmas 2016) – A book widely lauded by bloggers, I stayed away from spoilers and put it on my list, eventually listing it as a Christmas gift idea. There’s no real reason as to why I haven’t read it – it’s fairly long but hardly a tome compared to others.

Haruki Murakami: Norwegian Wood (early 2016) – This was always the Murakami I knew I wanted to start with, for no reason other than the previous cover intrigued me more than the rest and I reckoned starting with a shorter book was best. Picking the short book hasn’t helped the daunting feeling, however.

N M Kelby: White Truffles In Winter (mid 2013) – The idea that this might be about Christmas and chocolates, warm and cosy, and that combined with the foodish alliteration, drew me in. It’s a different story to what I had in mind, and indeed may well be about the more savory truffles, but when the nights draw in I often find myself thinking about this book, all its possibilities. I need to get around the difference between my early expectations and the reality.

Robert Galbraith: The Cuckoo’s Calling (mid 2013) – I bought this for the same reason as everyone else, and purchased the hardback because I’d enjoyed reading The Casual Vacancy in that way and the cover was, is, gorgeous. Expectation is the only reason I’ve not read it – I’ve the second and third in hardback, too.

Right now, the Kelby and Ivey are calling to me most; it’s likely I’ll finish my current read, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, and head on over to my bookcase.

Which unread book have you had on your shelves the longest?

 
Diana Gabaldon – Outlander

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Make certain the period you are researching was peaceful…

Publisher: Arrow (Random House)
Pages: 851
Type: Fiction
Age: Adult
ISBN: 978-1-784-75137-1
First Published: 1st June 1991
Date Reviewed: 8th January 2019
Rating: 3.5/5

Reunited after WWII, Claire and Frank travel from Oxfordshire to the Scottish Highlands. It’s part second honeymoon, part research trip to find out more about Frank’s six-times great-grandfather who was a British officer for the army in the 1740s. Early one morning, the couple visit an ancient stone circle to witness a pagan ritual and it’s an interesting enough event, but when Claire decides to spend more time at the circle and touches the centre stone, she is whisked inside it; upon waking she is once more in the stone circle but there’s a battle going on outside between a band of kilted men and a small English patrol of Red Coats.

Outlander is an epic historical fantasy romance1 that takes a 1940s nurse back in time to the period her husband is researching. Creating for Claire a new life, including a second marriage, and written from her perspective, it stays exclusively in the 1740s.

The first in what is currently a series of eight books with another in the works, Outlander is a lengthy work, and mostly focused on the relationship Claire has with Highlander Jamie. This is to say that while it is a time travel and includes a lot of historical information, the romantic element is paramount and thus the aspect of fantasy far less used.

The history here is very good; whilst not always completely accurate, and not always developed where you might expect it to have been, Gabaldon’s research is evident. Often the reason any one section is slow – there are a fair few of these sections in the first half of the book – is due to the author’s focus on either information or the wish to detail the day-to-day of Claire’s new life as she settles in (or, rather, settles in whilst still planning to escape back to the stones). There is little info-dumping in the book – Gabaldon includes information well – and apart from the few issues with language the history in the book is enjoyable.

In terms of the language it’s 50/50 between highly believable conversation (word choice and phrasing for the time periods) and not so well written in terms of grammar and general phrasing. There are some sentences that use modern phrasing from across the pond that likely skipped through unnoticed, but overall Claire’s descriptions read well. There are a few Gaelic words and Scots words included, the former not necessarily meant to be understood, the latter easy enough to pick up in a short amount of time.

Looking at descriptions, it could well be said that the book would have been better had it been written in the third person. Claire isn’t particularly compelling – in fact she’s often downright irritating – and because Gabaldon sticks to her perspective, lots of elements you might have expected to be included are very short on the ground. Claire doesn’t often compare her new life to her old one or find any difficulties with it; apart from the times when she decides she wants to escape what is otherwise being developed by the author as a comfortable, romantic, new life, and apart from the handful of times when she knows the medical treatment she is giving to a patient won’t actually help, she doesn’t she think of Frank, the 1940s, or modernity anywhere near what you would expect.

Due to all this, you never once hear about how Frank is doing back in the 1940s – once Claire time travels, he drops out of the story, to be referred to only in thought. This means that the development of Claire’s relationship with Jamie is a lot easier. Another literary device comes in the form of Jamie’s lack of sexual experience, which neatly side-steps the requirement to discuss STIs, which would surely have otherwise entered Claire’s medical mind.

Romance, but mainly the sexual aspect, is a huge part of the book and generally included ‘just because’ rather than to advance the story. The book is essentially an erotic romance, extremely explicit in places, rarely leaving anything to the imagination. As the book continues, it goes further than consensual sex, with scenes of dubious consent, and graphic, violent, rape (the non-sexual violence is also extreme, and there comes a point near the end when it could be called intolerable2 (and means that something minor in terms of story but crucial to the historical context is left out3).

For this then, then, it is difficult to say that Outlander is a general romance, and it’s not only the concentration on lust at the expense of love but the fact of perspective to blame here. Is there romance in the book? Yes, and a fair amount, but given Claire’s indecision, the romance is mostly in Jamie’s court where development and content is concerned. With no time for Jamie’s perspective, this all has to be filtered through dialogue. (Jamie’s perspective, and more historical context, would have helped explain the clash of cultures that forms one of the common criticisms of the book, which cites a man’s punishment of his wife.) The chemistry between the characters is evident, but not portrayed as well as it could have been, especially as Jamie has no real competition due to Frank’s exit stage right.

Outlander definitely has its good – excellent, in fact – moments, and there are patches of terrific humour to be found as well as a steady sense of duty, family, and kin, but it does spend a lot of time on moments that do not move the narrative forward and on things that don’t inform the premise of the story (there are well over 40 sex scenes in the book, both fully consensual and not) and would have been better edited down by a few hundred pages; suffice to say that when Gabaldon returns from the bedroom to the narrative, the effect on proceedings is immediate, and the story continues well. And the positives do out-way the negatives.

Footnotes

1 The author has noted both that as she was writing the book for herself she didn’t limit what she included (Gabaldon, n.d) and that the book has been shelved in shops under a vast variety of genres (Gabaldon, 2016).
2 On page 735 of the novel, Gabaldon does say the following, through Claire, which goes a fair way towards explaining the reason for the inclusion:

One never stops to think what underlies romance. Tragedy and terror, transmuted by time. Add a little art in the telling and voilà! a stirring romance, to make the blood run fast and maidens sigh.

3 Due to the focus on violence, Christmas comes and goes, indeed the days are spent at a Catholic monastery, with absolutely no mention of it by anyone.

Online References

Gabaldon, Diana (n.d.) The Outlander Series, Diana Gabaldon.com, accessed 9th January 2019
Gabaldon, Diana (2016) Outlander, Diana Gabaldon.com, accessed 9th January 2019

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Second Half Of 2018 Film Round Up

In the last six months, I have seen more films than ever. When, in August, I realised I’d not watched anything since April, I started making it a priority, and as the months went on I looked for Indian films I’d wanted to see (thank you, Amazon!) and films from industries I’d not yet encountered. Here are the films I watched for the first time in the latter half of 2018, with my thoughts added in italics:

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13 Going On 30 (USA, 2004) – Her wish to be 30 immediately fulfilled, 1980s teenager Jenna finds herself in the new century – a magazine editor and best friend to the leader of the ‘cool’ girls pack from high school. But this adult life is missing childhood friend, Matt, the person who was always there for her. A lot of fun and Thriller.

Christmas With A Prince (Canada, 2018) – A paediatrician on a tight budget is offered the chance of funding if she will accept an injured royal onto her ward – a prince she used to know. Very much a TV movie but also an unintentional bookish watch; I was pleasantly surprised to see ‘based on A Harlequin novel’ in the opening credits – it’s an adaptation of a Sarah Morgan book.

Le Concert (France, 2009) – Andreï, a Russian conductor who failed to save the Jews in his orchestra, intercepts an invitation for a conductor to perform in Paris. Andreï searches with his friends for various past members who may or may not hold up their end of the bargain once in France, which isn’t going to go down well with the famous soloist who agrees to join them. A comedy drama in French and Russian, this film is a lot of fun but also very poignant. The full Tchaikovsky piece is included.

Despicable Me (USA, 2010) – A man who has been cruel since childhood hatches a plan to steal the moon but ends up stealing it back from someone who gets there first. Part of Grue’s plan involves adopting children to serve as a ruse and instead of distance he finds himself becoming a father. Very funny. I liked the Annie context, even more when they credited it in the film.

Despicable Me 2 (USA, 2013) – Grue is invited to join an anti-villain operation and gains a partner, who often makes things worse. As good as the previous film.

Despicable Me 3 (USA, 2017) – Grue, Lucy, and the children travel to meet Grue’s twin brother who desperately wants to do something villainous. Good. Loved the screaming goat reference.

Fallen Stars (USA, 2017) – A man with a mundane life meets a girl who seems equally fed up. Excellent, bookish, film. I reviewed it here.

Florence Foster Jenkins (UK, 2016) – Based on a true story, an American woman with a terrible singing voice nevertheless finds fame. Very average. Would’ve been better if they’d started a little earlier in her life and if they hadn’t fictionalised Hugh Grant’s character in regards to relationships (the real man was Florence’s loyal partner).

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Happiness Is A Four-Letter Word (South Africa, 2016) – Lawyer Nandi is mostly happy with her fiancé, she’d just like a bit more say in where they go in life, but when her ex hires her to help his business she’s tempted; Zaza leads a wealthy life but her husband travels a lot and, missing him, she has an affair; artist Princess meets a photographer and while there’s an artistic culture clash, she believes it will work. This is an adaptation of the novel by Cynthia Jele. The acting and execution here is pretty great and it all comes together to make a really good film.

The Incredibles (USA, 2004) – With super heroes made illegal, a family full of powers try to live normal lives until the father can’t take it any more and starts moonlighting as a saviour. Very good.

The Incredibles 2 (USA, 2018) – Still ruled illegal, Helen/Mum/Elastigirl takes a secret hero job while Bob/Dad/Mr Incredible looks after the children until they are inevitably all required to be there. My favourite part of the first film was the subtext that the baby was going to be the most powerful of them all, and so I loved this film much more for the development of the idea.

Kites (India, 2010) – Told in a mix of Hindi, English, and Mexican Spanish: Jay, an American immigrant who has married many women so that they can get green cards and he can get money, finally gets to where he wants to be when the daughter of a wealthy casino owner falls in love with him. But the family have vast connections and criminal backgrounds and when Jay discovers that his future brother-in-law’s girlfriend is the one woman he liked – his last wife he’s not yet divorced – and that she is being abused, he is forced to go on the run with her. Strictly okay – the action is understandably unrealistic, but the ending is a big disappointment.

The Lake House (USA, 2006) – Upon moving out of her beloved home, Kate leaves a letter for the next resident; when Alex finds the letter and replies to her, the pair discover that their time line is reversed. The Hollywood adaptation of a South Korean film, the changes made – few – work well to make this its own product.

A Little Chaos (UK, 2014) – Half based on a true story, the architect of the Sun King’s gardens employs a budding female botanist who has visionary ideas. Nothing breathtaking but well worth seeing. Sadly, Kate Winslet’s character is completely fictional.

Love And Friendship (UK/Ireland, 2016) – This is actually an adaptation of Austen’s Lady Susan rather than Love And Freindship; a less-well-off-than-before society lady moves from house to house, creating gossip, helping people in their infidelities, and causing misery for her daughter whom she regards as a problem. The acting and script are superb – they’re both very funny and show off well Austen’s cleverness. The rest of the production isn’t as good.

Minions (USA, 2016) – The story of the Despicable Me Minions from the prehistoric period to the present day. Not sure why this went so wrong but the villain really needed to bow out a lot sooner, and the jokes were far and few between.

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Namastey London (India, 2007) – Jazz, a young British Indian woman, agrees to date Indian men, but messes it up on purpose because she likes her British boss. After a few rounds of this, her parents take her to India to see if they can arrange a marriage because whilst the boss is wealthy, he’s already been married 3 times in 2 years and even his own parents are dissuading Jazz from marrying him. A potential match comes in the form of a family friend, who is willing to wait. Features every Bollywood stereotype to fun, 90s effect. It’s a good story and the acting is okay but whoever added the audio track did a terrible job.

New Year’s Eve (USA, 2011) – The story of several people’s lives as the clock ticks towards midnight. There’s nothing new here that other films of the same type haven’t already done, but it’s a fair choice if you want easy viewing.

One Small Hitch (USA, 2012) – His father in failing health, a man asks the sister of his best friend to pretend to be his fiancée, to make his family happier in the days ahead. This is an independent film and so aspects of it aren’t particularly polished, but the humour and acting are very good. (It’s available on Amazon.)

Paddington 2 (UK, 2017) – Paddington tries to catch a criminal but is arrested himself and the family have to clear his name. Not as good as the first, but still fun.

The Royal Hibicus Hotel (Nigeria, 2017) – Quitting her job as a chef in London, Ope returns to Nigeria to take on her parents’ hotel’s kitchen. What she doesn’t realise is that her father is planning to sell the hotel and the rather handsome man she bumped into at the airport is the prospective buyer. It’s pretty slow which means less character development, but the acting, and the plot, are good.

Step Up (USA, 2016) – A young man who helps to wreck a stage set-up in a prodigious arts school is sent back there for community service, and there he meets a girl who needs a rehearsal partner for her final project. The dancing isn’t as slick as in other dance films but there’s more to it than most films of this genre.

This Beautiful Fantastic (UK, 2016) – An aspiring writer with OCD who hates her garden is told she must tidy it up or leave her rented flat. Superb. A little bit of The Secret Garden, and a hint of Alan Bennett. I reviewed it here.

West Is West (UK, 2010) – George becomes concerned that youngest son, Sajid, is too British, so he takes him to Pakistan to learn about his heritage, moving back into the home of the first wife he left 30 years ago. There are fewer members of the original East Is East cast here, so it’s not the same, but it’s still very funny.

Given my lackluster book statistics, I won’t be placing such an emphasis on films this new year, but I am going to continue to look for those I’ve wanted to see for a long time as well as recent literary adaptations, repeating the idea if not the same thoughts as to quantity.

What films did you see over the last few months that you would recommend?

 

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