Monday, 25 April 2011

Books into Movies {1}

"Book into Movies" is a feature where I will review movies I've seen recently that were based on or inspired by a book. 
It's not a recap based weekly or monthly but rather a random review system that is dictated by how often I get to the movies and how many are book related. 
Grab some popcorn, hope you enjoy!

Playing Now:

Opened: April 22nd, 2011
Director: Francis Lawrence
Writers: Richard LaGravenese (screenplay), Sara Gruen (novel)

Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Robert Pattinson & Christoph Waltz

Based on the novel of the same name by Sara Gruen.

Admittedly this one is a little out of what will become the norm as I have not read the novel. It is included in this feature though because I really enjoyed the movie and it made me want to read the book. The basic rundown is this: During 1930's prohibition when America is suffering from the Great Depression, Jacob Jankowski leaves his hometown after his parents tragic death and hops on board a travelling circus train. He becomes the circus's vet and quickly falls in love with Marlena, the "star attraction". The book goes into much more depth about the severe animal cruelty which became a growing practice in circus's of the time. The Benzini Brother's Circus is the most "spectacular show on earth" and its owner August is determined to best the rival Ringling Brothers at their own game when he acquires Rosie, a talented Polish Elephant. What transpires in the film is both harrowing and horrific and definitely not for the faint of heart when watching some of the harsher treatment of all the circus animals. I cringed several times when I saw the abuse meted out and came to tears when Rosie faced cruel beatings. The magic of the movie is in the characters though and I was captivated by the 1930's atmosphere, the background of Prohibition and the goings on of the circus antics themselves. It really is very interesting to learn about some of the darker secrets of these types of circuses - Red Lighting, hazing and the mob type mentality that once you are in the circus you can never get out. The scenes which incorporate the various circus acts and the players behind them were really well done and gave a  view into the lost souls who joined the circus to find a home. The acting was really well done, and I was pleasantly surprised by the leads as I am not a huge fan of Reese Witherspoon's. I was also wary going in that the chemistry between Robert and Reese wouldn't be enough to carry believable emotion and convincingly portray love between these two characters. From the first moment Jacob sees Marlena it is clear he is enamoured but Marlena is far more reserved given her brutal husband's possession of her. As the story progresses, though these two do discover one another through their love of the animals and especially Rosie - who forms the 3rd and arguably most adorable part of their love triangle. Rosie was superb and lived up to her name as "star attraction". At once believed to be stupid, this elephant provided much needed comic relief when slowly proving to both the audience and Jacob that she is much smarter than she appears. She speaks Polish afterall and couldn't understand the English commands! I could have done with just a few more scenes that showed Marlena and Jacob, because although you go with it during the movie, I wondered after if I was truly convinced that these two were so in love.
Even though I think Twilight is probably the worst movie ever made I really do think that Robert Pattinson has a nice career ahead of him after the Twiheart mania subsides. He showed himself capable of larger and more serious leading roles and I really enjoyed his portrayal of Jacob. Christoph Waltz was a compelling and twisted villain whose bursts of sudden and violent anger was exorcised on the animals, including a horrifying scene with Rosie that had the entire audience gasping. Although I have yet to read the book, the movie was enough to peak my interest and that's a complement considering I rarely read books after I've seen the movie version. 

Overall rating: 8/10 buckets of popcorn!

Opened: March 11th, 2011 in select theatres
Director: Cary Fukunaga
Writers: Moira Buffini (screenplay), Charlotte Brontë (novel)
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Mia Wasikowska & Judi Dench

Based on the novel of the same name by Charlotte Bronte.

I love the Classics. I've read most of Jane Austen, loved North & South have tempered with Hardy, although I can't stand the depressing stories..but I have had a life long love of the Bronte sisters. I am admittedly a bigger fan of Emily and her darker work Wuthering Heights but there is something very compelling about Mr. Rochester and the gothic tale of love and personal triumph. I saw this movie version on my birthday a few weeks back and it was the perfect story for the rainy day that it was!

I've seen quite a few versions of Jane Eyre over the years and it seems for every new generation there has to be a new rendition, but I have to say that this one by director Cary Fukunaga is so beautifully touching. I was not at all convinced that Mia would be able to pull off the classic and beloved title role, but boy did she surprise me and surpass my expectations. She brought a subtle vulnerability and wonderful poetic strength and depth of feeling to the lead role. She was such a sincere heroine. I agree with a lot of critics who've said that Mia brought life and depth to Jane Eyre that had been missed in previous versions. She had such expression and range of subtle emotion that it became hard to look away from the screen whenever she was on it. Michael Fassbender who I totally and completely adore hit his stride again as the dark and brooding Mr. Rochester. He is the quintessential dark hero with carefully hidden secrets to boot. Michael is a superb actor who I first saw in his harrowing role as Bobby Sands, IRA member and lead protester in the 1981 Northern Irish hunger strikes in Steve McQueen's directorial debut Hunger. I come from an Irish background and did my minor in Irish Studies so I loved this movie although it is VERY hard to watch,. Fassbender is Irish so automatically I'm a fan :p but Fassbender's talent can't be denied. He is a true talent to have played such a remarkable role in 2008 and he had me glued to the screen once again in Jane Eyre. He was emotional, striking, maddening, dark and frightening but ultimately so passionate a vulnerable. Fassbender and Wasikowska played off one another so well and had great chemistry given their age difference. The scenery of the film was suitably gothic and the moors were appropriately a part of the story as was the shadowed atmosphere of Thornfield Hall.
Honestly if you haven't seen any film version of this classic novel, or have yet to read the book and don't really want to (although I would recommend you do before watching any movie version) this is the version to watch. It's easy to follow, very well acted and the setting comes to life through design and film techniques. A wonderful tribute to Charlotte Bronte's most notable work. 

Overall rating: 10/10 buckets of popcorn!

See you next time...I'll save you a seat ;)

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