Sunday, 25 December 2011

Austen Week extended due to Christmas!

I know I said I would do one week of Austen but I realized there are far too many sequels to cover in one day, particularly with Christmas. Therefore I have decided to postpone the sequels until after Christmas with the giveaway at the start of the new year when we are all back at our desks. For now I shall settle down with my mums cakes, family, lots of noise and the Christmas episode of Downton Abbey. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Austen Week: Merry Christmas!

With Austen Week at a close, Mark Darcy/Mr Darcy wishes you all a Merry Christmas!



Friday, 23 December 2011

Austen Week: The men of Austen

It's Friday! What better time to share some eye candy and look at a selection of some of the Austen men portrayed over the years.
Who is your favourite portrayed in each film?

Mr Darcy


George Knightley


Henry Tilney


Frederick Wentworth


Edmund Bertram


Edward Ferrars

Austen Week: Jane Austen's novels

With the film reviews out of the way, it's time to get back to the books! Instead of giving you repetitive reviews that have been given time and time again over the years, I am simply going to give you my comments on the books before I get down to the Austen sequels by other authors. Apologies for them all being penguin covers, I simply prefer their designs.

Pride and Prejudice

Definately my favourite of the Austen novels. A timeless classic story following the Bennet sisters and the relationship between Mr Darcy and Elizabeth. Elizabeth has so much wit, she is strong, independent and you just expect her to find the greatest love in the world as she seems to be the only normal girl at the time. Jane Austen could not have written this book any better, it is simply flawless.

Amazon UK | Amazon US




Sense and Sensibility

Sense and Sensibility is a story about the life and loves of two sisters, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, as they struggle to find happiness, particularly after they, along with their mother and younger sister are forced to leave their home when their father dies and the estate is passed to their half brother John. I really enjoyed this book, although the relationship between Marianne and Col. Brandon frustrates me as I just want Marianne to realise how good of a man he is for her much faster. As seen in all of Austen's novels, she is always consistent with how she develops relationships  between characters, and sadly there is always a scumbag that comes along and hurts one of the main female protagonists.

Amazon UK | Amazon US


Northanger Abbey

Another of my favourites. Following the story of Catherine Morland, a 17 years old girl that allows her obsession with Gothic novels to run her life. It unfortunately gets her into a bit of trouble, but then again you expect a book lover to wish they lived in their favourite books. She has a wild imagination and is a bit clueless when it comes to society. She is blinded by her honesty and purity and is shocked to see that people really do lie and play games. I loved this book because Austen writes about a young girl who for once isnt going crazy over finding a husband. I also adore Henry Tilney, a decent and kind young man who reminds me of my best friend - loves to play jokes with you but when it comes down to it, cares about all those close to him.

Amazon UK | Amazon US


Mansfield Park

Jane Austen loves to write about shipping girls off with other relatives or friends every once in a while. Mansfield Park is exactly that. Fanny Price, being from a poor family is sent off to be raised by her rich uncle and aunt, Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram, at Mansfield Park. She is raised with her cousins who don't care much for her, apart from Edmund who she comes to love. I rather dislike Fanny as she is very weak in comparison to the female protagonists in Austen's other novels. She is very dull, shy and honestly isn't a real heroine.

Amazon UK | Amazon US



Persuasion

While being extremely open to the powers of persuasion, Anne Elliot allows her family to control what she does and who she can marry. Persuased by her friend and mentor Lady Russell, along with her baronet father, she gives up the man she loves due to his lack of fortune. You wouldn't blame her love, Frederick Wentworth for holding a grudge, even after he becomes a wealthy captain. It is a brilliant story about Anne and the test of love and how she must grow to be her own person and stop others from controlling her. It is a real man after all that can accept a woman a second time round after years of wondering how his love could simply throw it all away because someone told her to.

Amazon UK | Amazon US


Emma

Mr Knightley! Thats all I need to say. Emma is a wonderful story about a wealthy, smart yet extremely naive young lady who decides to be a matchmaker. Unfortunately she isnt the best matchmaker in the world and is bound to make a few mistakes, particularly where friends are involved. The highlight of this book is her relationship with her dearest friend, Mr Knightley. He is like an older brother, a mentor and simply the perfect friend... you can't expect a relationship like that not to blossom. An absolute treasure!

Amazon UK | Amazon US

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

As Austen Week is nearly over and I am preparing to spend time with the family, I wanted to take this opportunity to wish you all a Happy and beautiful Christmas. It has been a pleasure to blog with you all over the past few months. I have gotten to know some amazing people who have given me great tips and simply been amazing to chat with about the most random things. I look forward to our adventures in the New Year! Have a safe and happy holidays!

Follow Friday


Taking a short break from Austen Week for a few minutes, I thought I would finish the year with Follow Friday. Follow Friday is simple, you answer the question posed by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read and follow a whole bunch of awesome bloggers.

Q: If you had to spend eternity inside the pages of a book which book would you choose and why?

A really tough one.... you would think I would pick an Austen novel since I am doing a whole week for her, but I don't think I would survive it. If I was a teenager I would go for Twilight, Hush, Hush or Fallen just because of the whole teenage love stories...
In all seriousness (as serious as this question gets) how can I not go with Harry Potter! I absolutely love Hogwarts and while I would prefer to live in a magical world without dying at the hands of Voldemort and his evil sidekicks, It is still my favourite choice. After all I live in London, I love school (especially Hogwarts), am regularly at platform 9 3/4 and I want to play Quidditch and do magic! So yes I dont want to be a muggle and I want to run away with Oliver Wood and live in a gorgeous 5 level white stucco Victorian house in Kensington!


Thursday, 22 December 2011

Austen Week: Film Adaptations (Part Three)

In the final part of my Austen film reviews, I will be looking at the Austen inspired genre. They are a mix of films, from taking a few ideas from the novels to copying the storyline but adapting it for a modern audience. There are plenty more films, some less known, however the list below are the ones I thought would be of interest.

From Prada to Nada (2011)

This film was actually rather enjoyable. It is a romantic comedy based on Sense and Sensibility. Thankfully it doesn’t follow the novel front to back, it simply takes clues from the novel. It follows the story of two rich and spoiled sisters who have been left without a cent after their father passes. They are forced out of their home to live with their estranged Mexican aunt in East LA, an area rich in Latino culture that they have ignored their entire lives, despite the fact they have Mexican heritage. Just like in Sense and Sensibility, the sisters learn to be happy with love and family without the need for money. The only difference being, these sisters are also learning a new language and embracing their Mexican heritage. There is a great young cast including Camilla Belle, Alexa Vega (Spy Kids), Wilmer Valderrama, Kuno Becker (Goal!) and April Bowlby (Drop Dead Diva).


Where to buy: Amazon.

Lost in Austen (2008)

Lost in Austen is an ITV four part series loosely based on Pride and Prejudice. it is about a girl named Amanda pride, who is from present day Hammersmith. She is obsessed with Jane Austen and somehow discovers Elizabeth Bennet in her bathroom. Obviously, we would all be curious, so Amanda enter the secret doorway that Elizabeth used and finds herself in Longbourn, at the Bennet house. The series follows as Elizabeth is trapped in 21st centyr London and Amanda is doing her best to make sure the novel continues on track. Unfortunately the task for Amanda is extremely impossible as she finds she can't cope with the way they live and ends up changing large portions of the story. It is honestly an entertaining series and while it is a bit of a mess, it does turn out well it is fun to watch how a modern day girl would survive in Regency, England. For those watching Downton Abbey, Hugh Bonneville also starts as Mr Bennet.

Where to buy: Amazon.

Becoming Jane (2007)

Obviously not an adaptation of an Austen novel, Becoming Jane is a historical and popular film about Jane Austen herself. It is inspired by Austen’s life and her relationship with Thomas Lefroy.
With a brilliant cast, including Anne Hathaway as Jane Austen, James McAvoy (as Thomas Lefroy), and Maggie Smith, this film did very well in the box office.
Where to buy: Available in-store or on Amazon



Bride and Prejudice (2004)

A unique adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. This is a Bollywood romantic and musical film in English, based on the novel. Some characters names have changed for the films, such as Lalita instead of Elizabeth and Jaya, Maya and Lakhi as her sisters. Mr Darcy obviously didn’t change. The story follows the same plot as the novel, with obvious adjustments. We see Lalita fall for Will Darcy, a rich and handsome American who she meets at a wedding.  As it is a Bollywood film, there are also a few dance productions. I didn’t expect to enjoy it, but surprisingly it was rather good. There are some well known names, such as Alexis Bledel (Georgiana), Ashanti and Aishwarya Rai.

Where to buy: Amazon.

Pride and Prejudice: A Latter-day comedy (2003)

A bit of an odd version of Pride and Prejudice. To put it simply, it’s a film based on the Mormon culture that used the plot of Pride and Prejudice and spins it around for a modern audience. You will see the same characters, such as Elizabeth and Mr Darcy, however Elizabeth no longer has sisters, instead Jane is now simply a friend named Jane Vasquez. Elizabeth is played by Kam Heskin, who is known for her role in the Prince and Me 2 and 3. Since it’s a modern version, a lot of the script obviously had to change but all in all it is a decent light film to watch when you have nothing else.

Where to buy: Amazon.

Bridget Jones's Diary (2001)

An obvious choice, this film is one of my favourites. The film is said to be based on Pride and Prejudice, including the 1995 adaptation with Colin Firth - hence the reason he also plays Darcy in both. For those not familiar with the film, it is a romantic comedy based on the novel by Helen Fielding.  It follows the story of Bridget, who is single and in her thirties and constantly worrying about everything, including her weight, smoking and men. She starts to write a diary to keep track of her mistakes and attempts at fixing her problems. There is a fun little love triangle with Mark Darcy and Daniel Cleaver which ends up being the main part of both films.
It has a brilliant cast with Renee Zellweger (as Bridget), Colin Firth (as Mark Darcy) and Hugh Grant (as Daniel Cleaver). Simply a wonderful film to watch!

Where to buy: Available in-store or on Amazon.

Clueless (1995)

Clueless is an American comedy loosely based on Emma. Set in Beverly Hills, it follows Cher Horowitz in her attempt to do good deeds, find love and be a matchmaker. Cher is the attractive, rich and popular girl in school who lives alone with her father, just like Emma. Her matching begins with her lonely teachers who she sets up so they will give her better grades. Realizing she enjoys helping others, she starts on the path of good deeds and adopts a new girl at school in a bit to make her popular. All in all, it is a fantastic teen film that has become a classic with my generation. There is a wonderful cast, including Alicia Silverstone as Cher, Brittany Murphy, Wallace Shawn, Donald Faison and Paul Rudd.

Where to buy: Amazon.

If you have any favourites, or would love to share some others not on the list, feel free to comment below.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Austen Week: Film Adaptations (Part Two)

To continue on from my last post, I have been going through Austen adaptations and sharing short reviews... Today's includes Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion and Mansfield Park.

Sense and Sensibility

Sense and Sensibility (1981)

Sense and Sensibility is a story about the life and loves of two sisters, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, as they struggle to find happiness, particularly after they, along with their mother and younger sister are forced to leave their home when their father dies and the estate is passed to their half brother John and his wife. The entire novel shows love, romance, heartbreak which is the focus of all the films.
This version is a BBC adaptation of the novel. It was before my time but my aunt gave me a copy a few years ago which allowed me to give it a chance. As it is an older tv serial, it is very dated and may not appeal to a younger audience. I am not familiar with the cast, with Irene Richard as Elinor and Tracey Childs as Marianne. While it does stick close to the novel, it is very sedate and feels more like a slow video I would have watched in English class. The photo on the right explains the mood.

Where to buy: Amazon.

Sense and Sensibility (1995)

This film adaptation of the novel is my favourite of all. It received great international success and went on to win several awards. It was just simply brilliant. Directed by Ang Lee, it was packed with an all star cast that went on to become known for their roles in the film. Some of the popular cast members include Kate Winslet (Marianne), Emma Thompson (Elinor), Hugh Grant (Edward Ferrars), Alan Rickman (Col. Brandon) and Hugh Laurie (Mr Palmer). Some of the scenes have become particularly memorable and I just love when Col. Brandon is taking care of Marianne, even after all the drama and rejection. He may be creepy Snape in Harry Potter, but he 100% chivalrous and handsome in this film.

Where to buy: Available in-store or on Amazon.

Sense and Sensibility (2008)

This is a more recent BBC serial adaptation of the novel. While it doesn't have the big cast seen in the 1995 version, it still does have some recognisable names, such as Domic Cooper (Willoughby) and Daniel Stevens (Edward Ferrars) who you may recognise from Downton Abbey as Matthew Crawley. Reviews have been mixed as it was said to be more sexually charged in comparison to the novel. The one thing that is always difficult, is to follow up from another adaptation, which is why I was highly disappointed with the choice of actor for Col. Brandon after seeing the performance by Alan Rickman. Nevertheless, it is still a great version and would probably suit a younger audience who are just starting to read Austen's novels.

Where to buy: Available in-store on on Amazon.

Persuasion

Persuasion (1995)

Persuasion follows the story of Anne Elliot, who falls in love with a handsome and intelligent naval officer names Frederick Wentworth. Unfortunately as he is poor, her father (a wealthy baronet), sister and mentor Lady Russell persuade her to break off the match, leaving Anne alone for several years. The novel and films follow as Anne, several years later, re-encounters Wentworth, when her family vacates their estate and his sister and brother in law move in. Wentworth is now a wealthy captain, still holding a grudge against Anne for her rejection. It is honestly a brilliant story about the test of love and how a young woman persuaded by others is left to build the courage to live her own life for once.
To be honest I don't remember this adaptation clearly as I don't have a copy, but the one thing I did like about it was the casting of Ciarian Hinds as Captain Wentworth, who also plays Edward Rochester in Jane Eyre. He has a mysterious quality about him that intrigues me and seems to work well in the roles he plays. While the rest of the cast is not as well known, it received several awards and is known to be a brilliant portrayal of the novel.

Where to buy: Amazon.

Persuasion (2007)

A more current ITV adaptation of the novel. I thought it was brilliant. At first I thought Sally Hawkins portrayal as Anne was horrible, but then I realised she acted rather well considering Anne is a woman constantly persuaded by others to do things she doesn't want to. They couldn't have built a more perfect cast of actors. There was superb acting by Rupert Penry-Jones (Captain Wentworth) and Anthony Head (Sir Walter Elliot). It is very fast pace, entertaining and follows the novel well. There wasn't a single thing that disappointed me about it and I was very fond of the ending, which provides a perfect touch to Anne and Frederick's relationship.

Where to buy: Available in-store or on Amazon.

Mansfield Park

Mansfield Park (1983)

Mansfield Park is a novel about a young girl named Fanny Price. Fanny is from a poor family, sent away to be raised by her rich uncle and aunt, Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram, at Mansfield Park. Here she is raised with her cousins, Tom, Edmund, Maria and Julia. Unfortunately for Fanny, she is always seen as inferior by her cousins, apart from Edmund, who becomes a close friend and eventual love interest. She spends years trying to be accepted and when she finally does, she throws it all away to reject a handsome philanderer named Henry Crawford.
For an older adaptation, I actually enjoyed it and thought it was portrayed very well. While it is a bit dated and dry, it is still great to watch, as you are able to watch the relationship between Fanny and Edmund develop and blossom.

Where to buy: Amazon.

Mansfield Park (1999)

This novel has always been a more difficult one to pull off as Fanny is a hard character to play well. Fortunately, Frances O'Connor was a perfect choice for the role. Johnny Lee Miller also played a convincing role as Edmund and you really get a sense of the brother/sister relationship and how it develops into a romantic one.
The one thing that was thought negative at the time is the emphasis on the slave trade and how Sir Thomas made his wealth. This was not something that Austen would have gone indepth with, yet they chose to pursue it. Thankfully it did not completely ruin the story, it just gave us more of an insight into their lives, no matter how harsh it was. Definately one of the best adaptations.

Where to buy: Amazon.

Mansfield Park (2007)

It is always enjoyable to see BBC battle against ITV for an Austen adaptation. However, since this one is several years after the BBC version, it is difficult to compare. I was not too pleased with Billie Piper as Fanny as she is supposed to be quiet, delicate and appear hidden when among others. Billie Piper is quite the opposite. This version skips some important parts of the book, which I know was critisized when it come out.
On a different note, Joseph Morgan who plays Klaus in Vampire Diaries on ITV also plays Fanny's brother William in this version. Obviously he was in this first, but it is an interesting change in scene.

Where to buy: Amazon.

Part Three: Austen Inspired films

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Austen Week: Film Adaptations (Part One)

With every great Jane Austen novel, there is a film or tv serial adaptation. I thought I would take a look at various film adaptations and some Austen inspired films. Keep in mind, this is not the complete list, it is only the more recent ones and those which I have seen.

Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice (1940) B&W

This film is by far the oldest adaptation I have seen. It follows Jane Austen's novel closely, however the difference being, the period of the film is set at a later date, with gorgeous large gowns and elaborate costumes. The film is relatively spot on, however you may notice one minor change towards to end of the film, which I would prefer not to spoil.
The characters are well played and I am particularly fond of Laurence Olivier's portrayal of Mr Darcy. Similar to Colin Firth in the 1995 film, he has a certain charm about him, although since this is set at a later date, he seems a little bit odd and eccentric.

Where to buy: various regions on Amazon.

Pride and Prejudice (1995)

By far the most famous adaptation of the novel, as a BBC production. This version is very long, which allows for the film to stay faithful to the original story without skipping important scenes and plays host to a brilliant cast, with Colin Firth as Mr Darcy and Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet.
One of the most famous scenes from this verson is the lake scene, where Darcy emerges wet and not properly attired. It became one of the most unforgettable moments that can also be seen in modern Austen inspired films such as Lost in Austen. This was not written in Austen's novel, however it made for great entertainment. I am not sure what Jane Austen would have thought though.

Where to buy: Available in-store or on Amazon.

Pride and Prejudice (2005)

The most recent film, I have heard mixed reviews. Mostly positive, however the odd few who arent too fond of Matthew Macfayden's portrayal as Mr Darcy as they are stuck on Colin Firth. Nevertheless, if you put personal opinions of actors aside, for a big time film adaptation, it was fantastic. The one thing that disappoints me is the different endings in the US versus the UK. It ends abruptly in the UK version, where as the US have a sweet ending between Darcy and Elizabeth, which ofcourse was not included in the book. If however you buy the DVD, some UK editions have the US ending in the bonus features so you will not miss out. The film features an all star cast of popular actors such as Keira Knightley, Matthew Macfayden (Spooks), Talulah Riley (St Trinians), Judi Dench and Donald Sutherland.

Where to buy: Available in-store or on Amazon.

Northanger Abbey

Northanger Abbey (1986)

Northanger Abbey is an early work of Austen's. It is oddly one of my favourite as I love Henry Tilney. It tells the story of Catherine Morland, a 17 year old girl obsessed with Gothic novels. Her life tends to revolve around the books she reads as she has a wild imagination. Catherine is taken to Bath with family friends where she meets new friends, attends balls, is persued by men and falls in love. Henry Tilney is a rich young man and the love interest in this novel. Catherine finds him extremely fascinating and the adventures all start when she reaches Northanger Abbey, the Tilney estate which is wrought with a sadness. Catherine takes her knowledge of Gothic tales and expects the estate to be full of the same horrors and mysteries of the books.
This adaptation of Northanger Abbey, while close to the book is rather slow. As it is dated, it is hard to judge it as I would only be comparing it to the more recent version. Henry Tilney is not as attractive in this version and Catherine isn't as youthful as expected. The cast is not as well known, with the exception of a young Peter Firth (Spooks) as Henry Tilney.

Where to buy: Amazon

Northanger Abbey (2007)

This is my favourite version of Northanger Abbey. As it is a new adaptation, the cast are young, the music is more suited to the film and we get a better sense of Catherine's understanding of Gothic novels and how she connects them with her version of reality. Throughout the film, we are given short scenes from the gothic stories Catherine is reading, making the setting more intense. Felecity Jones plays the part of Catherine Morland extremely well as we can tell she is naive, yet desperate to understand life and love. JJ Feild also makes a fantastic appearance as Henry Tilney. He makes more sense for the character as he is young and intelligent and it is easy to understand why Catherine is so intrigued by him.

Where to buy: Available in-store or on Amazon.

Emma

Emma (1996)

Emma is a story about Emma Woodhouse, a rich, smart, yet naive young lady who has the goal to create romantic matches in her community. While her heart is in the right place, she can only seem to make one decent match, followed by numerous failed attempts. Thankfully, with fate in the cards, most of Emma's friend make a great match and Emma finds herself in love. The film is perfect in my opinion and I was very pleased that they cast Jeremy Northam as Mr Knightley. He always does a superb performance in period films and this simply shows why is he always cast for such a role. Gwyneth Paltrow is cast well as Emma and they are joined with an outstanding cast including Toni Collette (an Australian actress who was ironically born in my neighbourhood), Alan Cumming and Ewan McGregor. Even though this is from the 90's, It is enjoyable to watch over and over again.

Where to buy: Available in-store or on Amazon.

Emma (1996)

Released the same year as the Gwyneth Paltrow film, this version is a television adaptation. With a strong cast, including Kate Beckinsale as Emma and Mark Strong as Mr Knightley. This was a decent version, however if you watch Emma with Gwynth Paltrow, this may be a slight let down. Both 1996 versions are similar, with a few changes and varied scenes. The interesting this about this is that Emma is a brunette, where as she is a blonde in the other. It probably doesnt make a big difference but it did for me.

Where to buy: Available in-store or on Amazon.

Emma (2009)

This is a more recent BBC adaptation of Emma. Unlike the others, I do not stock this in my collection as it was not a favourite, although I have seen it on television. While it did pack an all star cast, it didn't seem to go down well with audiences. In a way, it was like a copy of the 1996 film. Cast included Romola Garai as Emma, Jonny Lee Miller (Eli Stone) as Mr Knightley and Michael Gambon (Dumbledore-Harry Potter). After the performance by Jeremy Northam in 1996, Miller simply failed to match up, lacking in the same charisma, charm and wisdom that Mr Knightley is meant to have.

Where to buy: Amazon.

Part Two is next... including Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion, Mansfield Park.