My Top 5 Austen Adaptations

I’ve been in a really romance-y mood lately… which has led me down an Austen adaptation rabbithole. Watching and rewatching a crazy amount of these has got me thinking about which ones are my favourites and I thought it would be fun to share them with you lovely people. Quick note: it’ll be glaringly obvious to fans that Mansfield Park is missing- that’s not cos there aren’t any good versions, it’s cos (as is no secret) I’ve never liked the story. Now that’s out of the way, onto the list!

 

BBC Pride and Prejudice- to my mind, this is THE BEST adaptation of anything, ever! Yes, this is my completely biased view 😉 I tend to rewatch this every. year. (thank you Beebs for including this in your boxsets!) This is, in every sense of the word, PERFECTION. The acting, the first class writing lifted from the book, the wonderful choice of locations… this is always going to be my favourite.

BBC Sense and Sensibility- so, confession time: I’m not hugely fond of the movie version- though it has some sensational performances from the likes of Alan Rickman and Hugh Grant, I feel like the story could’ve done with a bit more space to breathe. Which is why I was so excited to check out the new(ish) BBC adaptation- and I wasn’t in the least bit disappointed! I watched this for the first time recently and almost felt the need to rewind and watch it all again. The acting and writing was brilliantly done- but most importantly this hit me right in the *feels*!

Emma 1996- this might be an unpopular opinion, because I think most people prefer the TV version (which is understandable, because that’s a great version too). In truth, I don’t know why I love this version so much- especially since I often prefer the TV serials for Austen, given they allow the stories to develop over a greater time span. That said, I simply LOVE the performances in this- particularly Jeremy Northam who is my definitive Mr Knightley (who, yes, just happens to be my favourite Austen love interest).

Northanger Abbey– even if this wasn’t the only Northanger Abbey version that I’ve seen, it’d make the list, because it’s a lot of fun! It’s completely different to a lot of other Austen adaptations, playing on some of the themes in quite a hilariously modern way, upping the imaginative gothic levels and heroines’ fantasies… and for some reason this rather tickled my fancy.

Persuasion 1995- I watched this most recently and I was delighted with it. I’d seen a more recent version and wasn’t quite blown away (especially disappointing because at the time I watched it I probably would’ve classed this as my favourite Austen). I was so happy with this version however and would definitely recommend it for those looking for an Austen fix! 

Have you seen any of these? Which are your favourite Austen adaptations? Let me know in the comments!

As Predicted, Good Omens was More Than Just “Good”

Well this was a thoroughly enjoyable read… about the apocalypse. Yup- you read that right. This a comedy about the end of the world. The likes of which only the combined genius of Pratchett and Gaiman could have come up with. Melding their equally sharp wits and sense of humour, they created one of the most entertaining books I’ve read in a long while. And obviously, it’s packed full with lots and lots of laugh out loud moments!

Brilliantly written, chock full of hilarious and colourful characters and with a great story to book- it’s no wonder this became a cult classic. Happily, there’s a great story as well. In an elegant fashion, we move from the beginning of the universe, right up until the point when it’s doomed to end. As you might expect, it’s an incredibly complex story, with a lot of layers, and the absolute worst thing you could do as a reviewer for such an ineffably multifaceted work is lose one’s notes… which is exactly what I’ve gone and done. Either that or I was too distracted by the book to write anything down, cos it’s just that good 😉

So, I’m working on the fly here, which is a little tricky when we’re talking about such EPIC scale things like god, global catastrophes and intriguing philosophies. Because of course this is more than just surface-level entertainment. As I’ve come to expect from these two powerhouses, this is a fascinating approach on the nature of good and evil, the shades of grey in between and whether angels can indeed dance on the head of a pin.

Ultimately, this small book packs a punch and is one I’ll more than happily reread (maybe next time I’ll manage to take notes 😉). Fortunately though, the fun didn’t stop there, because I managed to catch the adaptation on Prime!

Now, you’ve probably heard about the (patently absurd) scandal around this, which spectacularly backfired, so you might have already heard more sane people rising to the show’s defence and raving about how good it is!

Visually stunning and with a lot of great performances- especially from Tenant and Sheen (no surprises there)- this managed to both fully reflect the qualities of the book, whilst not being the exact same thing. There were changes- as expected- but nothing that was detrimental to the original. Some parts were streamlined and there were brilliant additions (I’ll get to in a moment), but most importantly, this captured the spirit of the original.

Speaking of parts not in the book (told you I’d get there), the opening to episode three, which explored Crowley and Aziraphale’s relationship in full was beautifully done. While taking up half the episode’s run time, it was so seamlessly integrated that I almost felt like I must have read it. What I liked best about it, however, was how it felt like a tribute to Pratchett and Gaiman’s friendship- and it felt all the more poignant for that. In fact, the whole backstory of how this show ended up being made makes me pretty emotional.

So, let’s hop skip and a jump to that final showdown before I tear up again! And gosh, it was done well. While a little different to the book, I did love the show’s twist ending and it certainly did its job of keeping me on my toes.

Gotta give these both 5 bananas- meaning ten in total- after all there’s no need to be stingy since they saved us from the end times…

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Have you read or watched this? What do you think of them? Let me know in the comments!

Monkey at the Movies: TV Roundup!

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Don’t worry, for all of you who are afraid of more Game of Thrones rants, I’m pressing the big PAUSE button on that! Instead, I wanted to talk about some shows I’ve watched in the last few months that I actually liked. Now, it takes quite a bit for me to finish a series/continue watching a programme these days (I’m a serial TV show quitter) so it’s no surprise that what I did finish got *all the bananas* from me! Starting with…

The Last Kingdom (Series 3)– once again, I am half monkey, half Dane! It’s no secret after my post last year how much I FRICKIN LOVE THIS SHOW! It is an excellent example of an adaptation done well. Still, I managed to forget how much this packs in. The story is both eventful and emotional and just keeps getting better and better! Certain promises from the writer in earlier seasons (though not all) are delivered with fatal blows. *This* is exactly how you give the audience what they want; this is the best example of set up and payoff in TV right now. It was even more twisty and exciting than the first two series- and that’s saying something, given how much I loved those too! Once again, the characters are amazing and worth getting invested in. I especially love that Uhtred doesn’t always do the right thing- he’s smart, but impulsive, and he often pays the price for that. It does wrap things up rather well, implying there wasn’t going to be another series- but luckily for us, it’s been renewed and there is plenty of room to continue. Forgive my boundless enthusiasm, but this is the kind of show that makes me squee every time! The only *frankly appalling* thing about the Last Kingdom is that every season comes to an end and I WANT MORE. No doubt I’ll be renewing my Netflix subscription just in time for season 4 😉

Umbrella Academy (Series 1)– this was one hell of a wacky, fun, bonkers ride- and I loved every minute of it! I don’t even know where to start with this show. The moment I knew I *had to* watch this series was when I saw the dance like no one is watching clip on Youtube. It so aptly sums up what makes this show so bloody marvellous- the humour, the poignant emotion and the characters. My goodness- the characters! They are so fabulously original and I think everyone can find someone to root for here- my favourites were poor old Klaus and dubious Diego. Oh and 5 is awesome!  From the hilarious script, to the brilliant soundtrack and world-ending plot- this is definitely one of Netflix’s best new additions. Definitely worth checking out if you like superheroes/are looking for something a little bit very different.

The Good Place (Series 3)– this is another show I’ve mentioned on my blog before. I discovered it through Kat’s amazing blog and I REGRET NOTHING. I will freely admit it’s not as good as the first season, or even the second, but it is always worth a watch regardless. Super thought-provoking and funny, this is one of those rare shows *everyone* (and I do mean EVERYONE) can get something out of- and I don’t say that lightly. I’ve seen people of all different backgrounds and beliefs coming together over this philosophical sit com- and that is quite the testament to what a work of genius it is. I’m also incredibly proud of myself because I figured out the twist for this season 😉

Angel (Series 1-2)– this might come as a bit of a *shocker* but I haven’t actually seen this before- despite rewatching Buffy many times. I know, I know, I should’ve given it a chance sooner, but I never cared much for the character of Angel or had much interest in the (seemingly) minor ways it linked up with Buffy. Well, I stand completely corrected. This show is great! It ended up being super emotional, action-packed and with fab characters! All those people you think “eh what do I care about them?” after they leave Sunnydale, suddenly get a new lease of life in LA. I really liked the evil law firm as Big Bad as well (and the minor antagonists along the way totally work!). I’m glad I finally watched this and look forward to sinking my teeth into series three!

So, have you seen any of these? Do you plan to? And have you watched any amazing TV lately? Let me know in the comments!

Nitpicky Review of Big Little Lies TV Show

*All the spoiler warnings, cos I’m really gonna sink my teeth into this one… enjoy!*

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I made no secret of the fact I was MASSIVELY fond of the book Big Little Lies. So I knew it would be hard for any adaptation to live upto that. The problem I often find with loving something that much is that desire to nitpick an adaptation’s every flaw, even if it’s totally fine. That said, I don’t think I could deny how frustrated I was with this version. While it was a nice take, it simply didn’t bring the book to life for me. By transposing the story from a small town in Australia to glitzy American coastlines, it failed to capture the claustrophobic and intense feel of the original. More than that, it felt like the narrative had a distinctly Hollywood makeover. It no longer felt like a unique and different tale; rather it was boiled down to a generic TV drama. Though I think the cast did a magnificent job- so much so I almost didn’t regret the change of scene for the price of such excellent acting chops- ultimately the characters morphed into nothing more than Hollywood actresses. The spunky individuality of the heroines was lost and the personalities were gutted to make way for extra glamour.

madeline big little liesThe closest the adaptation came to reaching the original’s panache was with its interpretation of Madeline. However, there were still some decisions made for her story arc that I could only respond to with a big fat WHYYYY?! And the answer always seemed to be ***forced drama***. Of course, there were slight changes, like writing out Madeline’s son, which I didn’t totally object to, yet there were some aspects that basically butchered her role as a mother and a wife. For starters I HATED what they did to her mostly-functioning relationship with Ed. One of the best things about the book was that it showed a realistic, lovely (second) marriage. It didn’t present it as perfect- but I totally loved the way their personalities meshed and how they acted as a team. Book Ed himself was intuitive, worthwhile and one of the good guys- a fact that was so important for the ending when it reaffirms Madeline’s love for him. Here he’s a doormat to be cheated on. Yup- one of the big secrets is *they had an affair*- oohh big whoop, like we’ve never seen that one before. All the interesting parts of their marriage were gutted for this cheap, generic drama.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t the only relationship lost its complexity. Because of the affair takes centre stage, the mother-daughter relationship is forced out of the limelight. Abigail’s resolution is inserted earlier in the plot, so as not to detract from the *ahem* important stuff. To add insult to injury, Madeline’s focus on her child is sidestepped, since this whole subplot ends up centring on the fact she’s still in love with Nathan (umm why). Where in the book she still feels the sting of betrayal, it’s not like she puts their failed marriage on a pedestal and the fear she’s losing her daughter is the most important thing to her.

renata big little liesOne of the best parts of the book was its focus on mummy drama- and this never quite translated into the show. There were some attempts to broaden the conversation, such as fleshing out Renata’s character, which I appreciated, but ultimately this ended up sending out the oh-so-empowering message that all women ought to fit into a certain mould. Gone was the tension of being a career mum vs a stay at home mum, because in this TV show, like everything Hollywood pumps out, the *correct* choice is career mum. Everyone just admires Renata and wants to emulate her life… which is a slap in the face to people who don’t make that decision. What I liked about the book was that it essentially showed that it didn’t denigrate either choice, while showing the friction between the two. Here, it felt like the sting was taken out of that clash far too early because heaven forbid there would be some tension between the female characters.

celeste whatDon’t get me wrong- the female friendships were one of the best things in the book- and that was executed really well here. Even so, the showrunners couldn’t resist changing things. Instead of exploring Celeste’s misplaced shame and how she deliberately hides the abuse, this has to make her more open. This was important in the book, since it emphasised the idea that it could happen to anyone and no one really knows what a marriage is like behind closed doors. The secrecy was also a way for the narrative to show Celeste’s slow her slow realisation just how dangerous her marriage is. Some parts of this were still done really well- Perry was more controlling for one thing and Kidman did a fantastic job of portraying Celeste’s stress. Nonetheless, it wasn’t perfect and I felt it managed to make a mockery of the therapist (since Perry literally admits to her that he hits her… and she does nothing).

jane big little liesThis was far from the most impactful change. Personally, I felt it was really powerful in the book that the reader had to wade through murky waters to find out what had happened to Jane. The book dealt with her shame, her gratitude for Ziggy and her trauma in a far more multifaceted way- especially since it was never clear if it could be classified as rape. That technicality was significant, since it addressed the fact that sometimes the lines between a crime and human suffering don’t always match up. It was a bold move for the book to deal with these grey areas and it showed how hard it was for Jane to recognise her pain in the midst of all that ambiguity. Her uncertainty added to her distress. Here, there was no such subtlety. With the usual desire to show women as strong all the damn time in TV, Jane is a far more certain, angry and put together character. She lacked the vulnerability and agreeableness of her bookish counterpart- so much so I didn’t see them as the same character at all. This sucked out the possibility for her growth and recovery- because, like Celeste, she doesn’t get to make these conclusions in the course of the show, she’s already there. Every part of the story is laid out, since Jane is far more open and so the intriguing Saxon Banks element is stripped in favour of a far more simplistic *I just want to confront this dodgy fellow* plot point.

bonnieNaturally, this ended up having a massive impact on the conclusion. The motivations were stretched thin and subplots (like the French nanny) were discarded altogether. To me, one of the most disappointing changes wasn’t that it was a collective effort to overcome Perry, it was that half the characters who should’ve been there weren’t on the balcony. However, the main problem was still with the characterisation. Like some of the other representations, Bonnie simply wasn’t Bonnie. This meant that the last scene didn’t have the right impact at all. The shift from the sickly sweet hippy to lioness defending her own never happens- so we don’t get to see how kickass this character actually is. It goes back to what I loved so much about the book: the characters were all so much larger than life, and yet so real. In this show, they were all squeezed into conventional types. Worst of all, they all became distinctly unlikeable. In the book it was such a balancing act to find the good in them and I eventually found every one of them sympathetic. Their hidden depths took me by surprise- whereas this adaptation did everything by the book.

Phew- I hope people will forgive this rant. It’s not that this is a terrible show by any stretch of the imagination. The production value was great, it was beautifully shot and the soundtrack was amazing. I was just aggrieved with the direction it took and it didn’t live do the book justice in the way I’d hoped- but as the final song in the note the show ended on says: you can’t always get what you want…

And yes, I went with the Rolling Stones version, cos the original is always the best 😉 Anyway, no banana rating since it’s hard to determine where this lies between its quality and my *feels*. But dare I ask- have you seen this? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments!

Movies (and TV shows) That Were Better Than The Book

So I mentioned a few days ago that there are a fair number of movies I like better than their book counterpart and I thought I’d share them with you! I should probably say, first of all, that these are adaptations I personally prefer- not that they’re actually better- to each their own and all that jazz. Anyhoo, let’s get to this:

Princess Diaries– to be fair, I really really dislike these books. The main character is whiny, most of the other characters are pretty loathsome and basically this book got on my last nerves. The movie, on the other hand, is a lot of fun (I think the books did get more bearable, imo, although the second film was… ehh).

Stardust– I feel like this comes up in every “better than the book” list ever. And there’s a reason for that- and it’s not that the book is bad- it’s just that the movie is seriously A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! I get all light and happy when I think about it!!

Oliver!- well for one thing, Fagin comes across as slightly less of an anti-Semitic trope in the musical (I’m not even sorry for pointing that out, cos if you think a money grubbing, dirty Jew character that preys on children isn’t anti-Semitic, then maybe have a long hard look in a history book). I do like Dickens, but that last statement should probably explain why I’m not the biggest fan of this book. On the positive side for this musical, it’s practically perfect in every way, so there’s also that. And yes, the musical is more chocolate-boxy than the book, but I prefer it that way.

Game of Thrones– this is a curious one for me to include, because I’m increasingly realising how well these work in tandem. What worked best (imo) was the TV showrunners cutting the fat from the original books. And boy, is there a lot of fat. In fact, some of this is literal- why on earth there needs to be long, tedious descriptions of feasts and food, I have no idea. Add to that a bunch of characters in later books I had limited interest in and, yeah, I’ll happily admit to liking the TV show more (most of the time, when characters aren’t going north of the wall wearing impenetrable plot armour and fighting zombie bears… man that was dumb)

Lord of the Rings– ermm I think I’m about to have my Tolkien-fangirl card revoked for saying this… I just prefer the movies! I’m sorry! Don’t get me wrong, I really love the books- only the LOTR movies are probably my favourite movies ever. The way I see it, the LOTR movies streamline the story and deliver the emotional punch of a lot of the backstories and are simply full of epic awesomeness- okay? (I do however much prefer the Hobbit book, not just because it’s up there as one of my fave books, but also cos the Hobbit movies suck- and yes, I will fight you on that *catch me outside*)

The Last Kingdom– this is another one that might piss of fans of the books. Hear me out, I did actually really enjoy reading the first four books (and am waiting on number 5 at the library) I just think the TV show got my blood pumping with *even more* fervour than the books did. And I also frankly adored the portrayal and slight changes to Uhtred’s character, which made him even more likeable.

Bleak House– poor Dickens isn’t getting very nice treatment from me today, because the main reason why I prefer the tv version is that I saw it first, and that ruined a lot of the book’s impact for me. I do think this translated so well to the small screen and it’s one of my favourite adaptations, while, like many of the others on this list, it’s not one of my favourite books.

Okay, that’s my list! It’s not very long, because I usually like the book better. Anyway, what movies do you think are better than the book? Let me know in the comments!

And thank you so much for your brilliant responses to my last post- I’m still going through them and I’m thoroughly enjoying every single one! 😀