Archive | July, 2011

Agatha Christie- N or M?, The Body in the Library, Five Little Pigs

29 Jul

N or M?- The third Tommy and Tuppence novel. They’re middle-aged in this one, set during WWII, and feeling useless. They jump at the chance to do some spying to help in the war effort. They have to track two spies, N (man) and M (woman) at an inn. I thought it was cute to see an older Tommy and Tuppence, but the book was nothing special.

Solved it? I guessed M, which was rather obvious, but not N.

My Rating: 6/10

The Body in the Library- The third Miss Marple book. The body of a bleach blonde young girl is found in Miss Marple’s friends, the Bantrys’ library. I absolutely loved the first two Miss Marple books and while I liked this one, it paled in comparison to those two.

Solved it? No…I had my own theory all worked out but it was no good.

My Rating: 8/10

Five Little Pigs- Carol Crale seeks Poirot’s help. Her mother was convicted of killing her father sixteen years previously and died in prison. She sent her daughter a letter insisting on her innocence. Poirot interviews everyone involved in the case to find the real culprit. I really enjoyed this book and its somber feel.

Solved it? Yeah, I was right on track with Poirot and picking out the clues!

My Rating: 10/10

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Georgette Heyer Reviews- Death in the Stocks, These Old Shades, Devil’s Cub

29 Jul

Death in the Stocks- A man is found dead, locked in the stocks on a village green. It turns out he was a jerk and just about everyone he knew had motive to kill him. Georgette Heyer’s mysteries aren’t as intricately plotted as Agatha Christie’s, nor are her characters as well-drawn as Dorothy L. Sayers’s, but I still find them enjoyable. They have the same comedic, charming quality as her Regencies. This one was no exception- very light-hearted and funny, despite being about a murder. The victim’s younger half-siblings and their whacky antics in this were hilarious. It’s not something to turn to if you’re looking for deep and meaningful material, but it’s still a fun book. My Rating: 8/10

These Old Shades- This is one of her earliest works, set in the Georgian era. It’s a reworking of a lot of the characters from The Black Moth, which she wrote as a teen. The title refers to the characters being “shades” from that book.The hero in this book, Justin Alistair, the Duke of Avon, is a reworking of the villain from The Black Moth, a “bad” man past forty. The heroine, Leonie, is a nineteen year old girl who has lived as a boy since she was twelve. I was pleasantly surprised by this book because, frankly, my expectations were very low. The age difference was a bit squicky but I still found it amusing and fun. My Rating: 7/10

Devil’s Cub-This is actually a sequel of sorts to These Old Shades, dealing with Leonie and Justin’s son, Dominic, the Marquis of Vidal, a man even wilder than his father had been. Vidal is sent to France to avoid scandal after killing a man in a duel. He is determined to take Sophia Challoner, a girl he’s infatuated with, along to be his mistress. Mary Challoner, determined to save her sister from ruin, goes in Sophia’s place to try to trick Vidal, but he makes her go. I actually liked this book in the beginning, but it quickly went downhill for me. Vidal’s taking Mary because any slut would do for him and then repenting once she shot him and he realized she was actually respectable actually didn’t bother me that much because it’s not meant to be taken seriously. But I never bought into the romance. The characters didn’t even interact enough for me to buy their falling in love. And seriously, how terrible were Leonie and Justin as parents if their son ends up even worse than Justin was??? My Rating: 6/10

Jane Eyre 1944

25 Jul

If I recall correctly, the 1944 version of Jane Eyre is considered a classic by many. This is my first time watching it, though. My first impression- it was very gothic. Quite dark and ominous with eerie music adding to the look and feel. This was quite a stark contrast to the 1934 version, that’s for sure! It was much more faithful to the novel than 1934, but it still changed quite a bit as well.

The Characters

Joane Fontaine as Jane Eyre

She was very…subdued. Too much so, in fact. Her performance wasn’t horrible but she played it as just too restrained. And of course, although she claimed to be plain, she’s clearly beautiful.

Orson Welles as Edward Rochester

His Rochester is pretty jerky and really stresses the dark, “troubled” side of his character. His joking/humorous side is not brought into play at all.

Peggy Ann Garner as young Jane

Her British accent wasn’t perfect but I thought she did a decent job.

Elizabeth Taylor as Helen Burns

Yes, that’s Elizabeth Taylor. She was uncredited for some reason, but her face looked so familiar when watching that I had to look it up. Wasn’t she so gorgeous already at a young age? Her piety was cut out from this (I think it is in every version!) but she did a good job with the character’s kindness and selflessness. And, as is common in the adaptation, she is the one to get her hair cut.

Agnes Moorehead as Mrs. Reed

Her role was cut down quite a bit. I don’t think her daughters are in it at all, and John hitting Jane is only dealt with after the fact. Jane goes back to Gateshead after leaving Rochester and Mrs. Reed does not have the book conversation with her. She just wants Jane to stay with her as she’s dying.

John Sutton as Dr. Rivers

Not St. John, Jane’s cousin, but Lowood’s kindly doctor who counsels Jane as a child and again as an adult. He kind of takes the place of Miss Temple. Um, why? They didn’t have time for the whole Rivers coincidence at the end? I dunno.

Edith Barrett as Mrs. Fairfax

Her role was pretty minimal. That’s all I got to say.

Henry Daniell as Mr. Brocklehurst

His character was pretty much true to the book, but he never lost any power at Lowood in this. Like 1934, he’s still in total control when Jane is grown up. In this one, he offers her the job as teacher but she refuses.

Hillary Brooke as Blanche Ingram

I thought she was fine in her limited role, but her and Rochester’s falling out was changed. It’s all shown on screen and Rochester directly confronts her for going after him for his money.

Margaret O’Brien as Adele Varens

I thought she was very cute, sweet, and innocent, although a bit of a coquette.

Final Thoughts

This version was certainly more faithful than 1934 and much better made on the whole, yet I’m afraid I don’t share the love a lot of people seem to have for it. It still changed a bit too much for me and was at times overly dark.

My Rating: 7/10

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2- Second Viewing!

24 Jul

If you recall, my first impression of Deathly Hallows Pt. 2 was less than stellar. I liked, but did not love it. I’m a little late in posting this second review (I saw it over a week ago at the midnight showing). So, how did my second viewing go?

Well, sadly to say, my opinion is largely unchanged. Once I got over the shock of it, I felt a little more forgiving, but on the whole…I still find it a bit of a let-down. I know I’m really in the minority in this. This film, more than any of the others in the series, has received hugely positive feedback. Yet I (and most of my family members who saw it, plus one friend) still prefer Part I.

SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!!!

My main complaint is that the film was too rushed. It was the shortest in the series, yet it didn’t need to be. This was the ending, so I feel like they could and should have taken all the time possible to make it perfect. A lot of the key points and characters from the book are in there, but for a split second! Hardly anything made much of an emotional impact on me because it was just BANG, move on to another scene without any time to digest anything. The moments that moved me the most were The Prince’s Tale and The Forest Again, because they were slower pace. Like a lot of Part 1, they gave the scenes time to breathe so I could actually digest what was happening.

I was so disappointed with the lack of the side characters. They were all brought back and there was all this build-up in the beginning leading the audience to believe that they would be featured in some epic battle scenes. But they weren’t! We saw a couple cool shots of them getting ready for the battle and a couple seconds of them fighting, but that was it. Lupin and Tonks had one nice moment reaching their hands out to each other, but that was it before we see their dead bodies. We never learned about their son, so when Harry mentions it in The Forest Again, instead of being an emotional moment, it’s just a head-scratcher. The same goes for Fred Weasley. The twins have a nice but waaay too brief scene on the roof and Fred’s only line in the movie is “yeah.” I was so mad we didn’t get the wonderfully written, abrupt, and tragic death scene in the book- or at least have him featured in the movie a bit more! Lavender Brown is clearly brutally killed, but it’s never mentioned again. Hagrid is mysteriously absent during the whole movie until he suddenly shows up as the Death Eaters’ hostage in the forest. How did he get captured? What was he doing the whole time?

My next big complaint also has to do with battling- namely, the handling of the Molly/Bellatrix and Harry/Voldemort duels. Where were the audiences during these scenes? Molly vs. Bellatrix is over in a second with no one watching. The intensity of the book scene is totally absent because it’s over in a split second and it wasn’t treated as as big of a deal. Mrs. Weasley just smiles in satisfaction to herself afterward, which I felt was totally out of character. Harry and Voldemort’s duel, on the other hand is terribly drawn out to be made more “cinematic.” I didn’t really care to see them falling over the side of the castle or the Dragonball Z-esque long-ass shot of their spells colliding. And then Voldemort just disintegrates once Neville kills the snake? Okay, I get that all his horcruxes are gone, but he still actually has to be killed! I never saw the spell actually hit him. And once again, like Molly and Bellatrix, no one is watching. And afterward- where’s the reaction from everyone? They’re all just chilling in the Great Hall waaay too casually. No cheers and whoops or sobbing and laughter? It was too toned down.

I think the easiest thing to do is list the rest of my quibbles/complaints.

  • Angle of Ron/Hermione kiss scene- All you could see was the back of Ron’s head.
  • Draco apparating into the castle- why couldn’t they all just apparate away then?
  • Luna randomly appearing in the Room of Requirement when she had been at Shell Cottage earlier that day.
  • Voldemort hugging Draco- no,  just no.
  • Awkward/forced Harry/Ginny- always big fail in the movies.
  • Random Neville/Luna
  • No explanation for the end of Wormtail. He was clearly alive at the end of Part 1, yet nowhere to be found here. Did Voldy kill him in rage at some point in between?
  • Young Lily clearly has brown eyes. No one caught this?
  • I wasn’t crazy with Harry telling Ron and Hermione he was going into the forest, but their reaction pissed me off. Hermione hugs him and offers to go with him, but Ron does not and they don’t hug?
  • Harry breaking the Elder Wand and not repairing his old wand.

Ah, my expectations were just way too high for this. The wonderful book and Part 1 just got my hopes up so much. Part 1 was so faithful and let the story breathe. This didn’t have the same feel for me and of course I was let down. My rating is up, but not by much.

My Rating: 7/10

Deathly Hallows Part 2- First Viewing

13 Jul

I was fortunate enough to win tickets to an advanced screening of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 yesterday evening. I can’t even describe in words how much I was looking forward to it. Deathly Hallows is my favorite Harry Potter book, and Deathly Hallows: Part 1 is my favorite Harry Potter movie. All of the trailers and featurettes and early reviews made the movie sound absolutely amazing. I try usually not to let hype get my expectations up too much, but in this case I couldn’t help it. I was fully expecting the series to go out with a bang

Let’s start with my general, spoiler-free opinion. Were my high expectations met? Sadly…no. It was a big let-down, actually. It didn’t feel like part of DH 1. It was more similar in tone to the Half-Blood Prince movie to me for some reason. It was too short and just felt chopped up. Like HBP, it seemed like a lot more was filmed, but then it was hacked in the editing room. And then I read that this was exactly the case…All of the actors, practically, from the previous films are back- for mostly blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameos. The battle was lackluster and anticlimactic. At points it felt rushed, at other points too slow. A lot of the dialogue was changed and didn’t feel right. The relationships were handled awkwardly. This is just my purist side, but a lot was changed from the book. I didn’t think it would be that way, after Part 1. It really let me down.

Was it a terrible movie? By no means. The acting was good, the special effects were great (though I wouldn’t pay the extra money for the 3D), and some of the scenes did hit the mark.  I know I bashed it pretty hard up there, but, really, the majority of my complaints are based only on the changes from the book. I’m judging it not really for the movie it was but for the movie it could have been, the movie I wanted it to be. The hype definitely ruined things for me. I feel like I would have liked it better if I hadn’t read the books. But then again, my brother, who has only seen the movies, was also let down. He was disappointed by the lack of a bit epic battle scene that he was expecting there to be.

I’m seeing the movie again at the midnight release tomorrow night. I’m hoping with another viewing, I’ll get over my shock about all the changes and my feelings will mellow. I doubt it’ll ever be my favorite of the series, but I really want to like it more. So, I’ll post another, more in-depth review after the second time and see if I’m any more positive.

My Rating: 6/10

 

Latest Agatha Christies…

10 Jul

I read three Agatha Christie books in the last week- that makes up half of my total read books for the week! I’ve been trying to make a point to alternate- one Christie, one other, etc. They’re just so addicting!

Sad Cypress- I got shades of Dorothy L. Sayer’s Strong Poison in this. A woman is on trial for murder, and a man in love with her tries to find evidence of her innocence. Lord Peter Wimsey helped Harriet Vane, but in this case, country doctor Peter Lord (see the names?) enlists Poirot’s help for Elinor Carlisle. This book was kind of on the sad side. Elinor was obviously depressed, her aunt died and her fiance fell in love with another woman. Then the other woman dies and Elinor is accused of both her murder and her aunt’s. It had romance in it but unlike some of Christie’s other books it has a much more realistic ending- nothing cheesy here.

Did I solve it? Yes, I figured practically EVERYTHING out.

My Rating: 10/10

One, Two, Buckle my Shoe- Poirot’s dentist is found shot in the head. Was it suicide, or is it something larger at play? This book wasn’t bad, but it’s far from being one of my favorites. I found Poirot’s thoughts while at the dentist’s office to be really amusing, but like I’ve said before- I’m just not that crazy about her books that take on international intrigue. I like ’em straight and cozy.

Did I solve it? Not really. I played with different ideas, and the correct solution was one of them, but it doesn’t really count.

My Rating: 6/10

Evil Under the Sun- Poirot vacationing at the seaside. None of his vacations are ever free from murder. Like Death on the Nile and Triangle at Rhodes, this one concerns a love triangle where beautiful wife is murdered. This was an enjoyable read, but I thought it was a bit too similar to the other stories I just mentioned. They’re not all carbon copies of each other or anything, but I guess I just needed more time in between these books to appreciate this one more.

Did I solve it? Partly.

My Rating: 8/10

Agatha Christie Finished!!!

1 Jul

Not that I’ve finished reading all of Christie’s books, but with this post I’ve caught up with reviewing all of the ones I have read.

Cards on the Table: An eccentric rich guy invites four murderers and four sleuths to a party. While the two groups are in separate rooms playing bridge, the rich guy dies. This is very different from her other novels where everyone is a suspect- only four people could have done it. This was an excellent, tightly plotted book. I enjoyed seeing four detective characters work together- Poirot, Ariadne Oliver, Colonel Race, and Superintendent Battle.

  • Did I solve it? Yes, but not using the bridge game like Poirot did. I know nothing about bridge so it was all over my head.
  • My Rating: 10/10

Dumb Witness- Poirot gets a letter from an old woman, but by that time she’s dead. The dumb witness refers to the woman’s dog, Bob. Hastings has a few cute “conversations” with Bob, but this book was nothing special to me.

  • Did I solve it? Yes, I had one theory at first that was totally wrong but I picked up on the same things that Poirot did.
  • My Rating: 7/10

Murder in the Mews- Four long short stories featuring Poirot. This book wasn’t that great. The three murder stories I felt would have been better fleshed out as full-length novels. The theft story I thought was boring and totally obvious from the very beginning.

  • Did I solve it? I solved one of the stories, “The Incredible Theft.”
  • My Rating: 6/10

Death on the Nile- A couple on their honeymoon in Egypt is being stalked by the husband’s ex-fiancee. Then the wife turns up dead. Poirot and Colonel Race are both on the boat. I loved this mystery even though I had an inkling of what was going on the whole time. I thought Colonel Race’s subplot of finding a spy was extraneous and totally obvious, and perhaps there are a bit too many characters to keep track of (for me at first, at least!)….but I loved it.

  • Did I solve it? Yes. I went back and forth between A and B…then realized C was the best answer. I also guessed the spy character, because it was totally obvious and it didn’t really fit within the book either.
  • My Rating: 9/10

Appointment with Death: A sadistic woman who maintains total control over her family is murdered while vacationing in Petra. Poirot just can’t catch a break. I really liked this book and the characters, but I do have to admit the ending was kind of cheesy.

  • Did I solve it? No…total fail.
  • My Rating: 8/10

Hercule Poirot’s Christmas: A locked room mystery with Poirot- a rich but cruel multi-millionaire invites his family for Christmas and is killed in his room. The whole family had a motive to kill him. I thought I would like this one more than I did. The actual mystery and the solution were interesting but it was very dialogue heavy. A lot of it was just the detectives questioning the family members, and then discussing those interviews and various possibilities. The parts were stuff was actually happening were good, but there weren’t enough of those.

  • Did I solve it? Well, I played with the idea in my head but it wasn’t until the end that I took it seriously…so kind of.
  • My Rating: 6/10

The Regatta Mystery- A series of kind of random short stories. There are two Parker Pynes (one diamond theft, one relationship one), one Miss Marple, five Hercule Poirots (all murders, I think), and one totally unrelated one. The latter, “In a Glass Darkly,” has supernatural elements- a man sees a woman being strangled in a mirror, but it’s a premonition, not a real reflection. It was…quite weird and very unlike Agatha Christie. Of these, I liked the Poirot stories the best because they were murders. I found it a weak collection on the whole.

  • Did I guess it? I guessed most of the Poirot ones.
  • My Rating: 6/10