TBT – Stardust (2007)

films, fucking sweet, Mark Strong, meh, Michelle Pfeiffer, Neil Gaiman, review, Ricky Gervais, Robert DeNiro, rom-com, romance, TBT

When it comes to romantic comedies I can’t say that I’m a huge fan. I’m much too cynical and, if we’re being honest, it’s all been done a thousand times before. Boy meets girl. Boy tries to make girl fall in love with him. Stuff happens. Happily ever after. I just never find it an incredibly inspiring to sit down and watch them so I avoid them. However, if ever there was going to be a writer who could change my mind about the whole concept it would be Neil Gaiman. Gaiman is the much loved fantasy, horror, science fiction, anything else you can think of writer who has penned such notable works as The Sandman comic book series as well as numerous novels and short story collections. Stardust is, in a way, Gaiman’s own The Princess Bride  (incidentally, this is one of the few romantic comedies that I genuinely adore). Now, I’ve made it pretty clear that I’m a fan of Neil Gaiman’s writing and I would recommend his books to anyone. His writing is like magic. There’s nobody quite like him. Yet, I’ve never really been a massive fan of any adaptations of his work. Well, that’s not quite true. I like them but I can’t say I love them. I could read and reread Gaiman’s work any number of times but I don’t think I’d ever watch one his films or TV shows more than once. Except maybe Coraline because that was fucking awesome. There’s something that just gets lost in translation and I don’t have that same connection with them. It’s why I never rewatched this film until I needed something to review for today… and it’s why I’m in no real rush to watch it again.

We’re all pretty familiar with swashbuckling romances, right? A handsome young man goes off on an adventure to win his fair maidens heart and must overcome all the obstacles in his way. Stardust follows that basic plot but gives it a decidedly Neil Gaiman spin. The plot, adapted from Gaiman’s original novel, follows Tristan Thorne (Charlie Cox) a resident in a quiet little village called Wall.The village has been named for the stonewall than runs along it that, legend tells, separates merry old England from the magical realm of Stormhold. Tristan has fallen in love with the beautiful but selfish Victoria (Sienna Miller) but is about to lose her to his rival Humphrey. Until, after spotting a shooting star in the sky, Tristan promises to bring his love the fallen star in exchange for her hand. Unfortunately, this means a trip beyond the wall and into the unknown.

It also turns out to be rather difficult as the star has turned into a stubborn and sassy young woman, Yvaine (Claire Danes) and Tristan has a hard time persuading her to come with him. Then you have the added problem of a trio of witches, headed up by the vicious Lamia (Michelle Pfeiffer), who want to track down the girl, eat her heart and receive immortality. Finally, as if that weren’t enough, Yvaine has taken possession of a ruby that belonged to the recently deceased King of Stormhold (Peter O’Toole) who has declared that the first of his make heirs to find the stone will be the next rightful ruler of the land. All parties end up chasing down the hapless pair as they slowly make their way back to Wall before Victoria’s birthday.

That’s the main problem with Stardust really. There is a lot going on and it all gets a bit haphazard on screen. The plot manages to stay fairly faithful to the book but, in a desire to manage this, everything moves quite quickly. It gets pretty confusing and there are some liberties that are taken to ensure that some sort of narrative structure exists. Things don’t naturally fit into place and there are several awkward moments that are intended for the sole purpose of holding things together. It’s a tad messy and could easily have been fixed with a bit of careful editing.

There are plenty of star studded cameos throughout the film with supporting characters popping up to play their small part in Tristan and Yvaine’s epic journey. It is an inspired cast but some of these moments just feel unnecessary or uncomfortable. By far the best and the worst is Robert DeNiro as Captain Shakespeare, the man in charge of an airship that farms lightening. Though he has the reputation of a fearsome pirate, Captain Shakespeare is a campy relic that should have been left in the 70s. As fun as DeNiro is in the role his performance just feels a bit like an outdated relic.

Aside from that we have turns from fantastic British comedians and comedy actors which work in varying degrees. The ghosts of the the Kings dead sons, all of whom have fallen in the family tradition of brother killing brother in the race for succession, just about work as they hang around like Hamlet Snr. and weigh in on their siblings failures. Ricky Gervais’ time on screen just seems like a desperate attempt to let him be the same character he always plays. I could have done without it. Ultimately, it feels as though the sheer number of famous faces is a bit of a gimmick and it just adds to the already complicated nature of the film.

It tries desperately to let the narrative survive but it comes at the expense of good storytelling. There are obvious comparisons to The Princess Bride and the work of Terry Gilliam but Stardust neither has the original of Gilliam nor the heart and soul of Rob Reiner’s great romantic adventure. Stardust is a sweet and perfectly enjoyable film. There are some great moments and, thanks to Pfeiffer and Mark Strong, couple of incredible villains to amp up the tension. However, it loses itself in the scope of what it is trying to achieve. It’s trying to be a bit of every genre it can think of and it tries to flit between drama and comedy without any real thought. It’s silly but neither it’s not quite silly enough. It’s scary but not quite scary enough. It’s romantic but not quite romantic enough… oh, you get the idea. It’s not a bad film. It’s just not a great one either. I mean, it’s not a great sign when the thing I love most about this film is the Take That song that plays over the credits.

Tuesday’s Reviews – Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

books, fucking funny, fucking weird, Loki, myths, Neil Gaiman, retelling, reviews, Thor

I have had this book sitting on my shelf since the day it was released and I had only read bits and pieces until this month. It’s that I wasn’t excited to read it but I just felt that there were other books that needed reading first. This was surely going to be too much of a treat for myself and, with the speed at which I’ve been reading recently, I didn’t deserve one. I certainly didn’t deserve to gorge myself on Neil Gaiman’s retelling of the Nose Myths when I have books that are still on my TBR after 4 years. After all, Gaiman is one of those authors who could write anything and I’d enjoy it. He has that universal appeal that do many authors crave and he’s so goddamn nice as well. Of course, it also helps that I kind of have a thing about myths and legends anyway. I remember reading about Greek, Roman and Norse mythology when I was younger and loving it. It’s the Greek and Roman stories that have become so ingrained in our minds but the Norse myths were always the most exciting. I cite my love of those tales and Shakespeare as the reason that Thor is one of my favourite comic book characters. Obviously, there is a lot of difference between the Marvel representation of Odin’s son and that is something Gaiman is keen to point out at the start of his own retelling. However, with Thor: Ragnarok coming out later this year, it is a great time to get further into the tales that started everything off and I was lucky enough to do so with Neil Gaiman himself narrating them into my ear holes. It was blissful.

Neil Gaiman is an author who spans the literary genres but, as is evident throughout all of his work, he has been hugely influenced by ancient myths and legends. He has managed to forge an image of himself as the great storyteller and his works all have a certain amount of grandeur to them. His books often bring aspects of ancient mythology and present them in a modern setting. He has become so interlinked with this aspect of literary history that Norse Mythology would seemingly be the next logical step. Although, it is something of a departure for the writer. Instead of reimagining the stories of the Norse Gods, Gaiman is instead simply retelling them but in his own, incredibly readable and lovely manner. It is a project that part of me is completely fangirling over whilst the other point is trying not to ask “why?”

When it comes to Norse Mythology, there is a limit to what remains of the fables. The tales never really stuck in the way that other civilisations’ stories did. Most of the characters will be recognised more for their place in the comic book world created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Thor looks like Chris Hemsworth instead of the traditional red-headed powerhouse he once was. I’m not saying this is a problem and am sure that there are many people who’s interest in this area has been encouraged by the comics and films. After all, as Gaiman himself is quick to point out, it is through the Marvel comic books that he first encountered the Thunder God. It was the stories of Lee and Kirby that pushed him into reading more.

It is this lifelong love that has got us to the point where the writer has set down 15 tales in his own words in the hope that he can bring some of the joy he once experienced to a new audience. There is no real narrative structure but everything is culminating towards to the great finale: Ragnarok. The final undoing of the Gods and their creation. The chapters are essentially short stories featuring as cast of players that is set out to us at the start. Gaiman has taken the stories that remained and fleshed them out with his own style. He exaggerates a few characterisations, such as Thor’s limited intelligence and his Loki is more of prankster than the evil supervillain Tom Hiddleston has turned him into. He takes the bare bones of these fables and makes them unquestionably Gaiman. He adds his own humour to everything and isn’t afraid of modernising a few things when the need arises.

They are simple and written as if they are to be read aloud to a child. In his own way, Gaiman in trying to reignite the tradition of storytelling in which these tales would have first sparked people’s imaginations. It’s why I’m so glad that I listened to Gaiman’s narration instead of finishing the book myself. It really brings the characters to life and lets the humour really hit home. Every moment when the author himself slips into the narrative to make a sarcastic or slightly mocking comment on the proceedings is heightened when read in his own voice.

Still, as lovely as the experience of listening/reading this book was, I still can’t quite get over that niggling voice still asking “why?” I mean, there is nothing wrong with the way this book is written but I just feel that, with his own literary history, Gaiman could have reimagined these stories in a much more exciting way. There is something about reading him tell someone else’s tales that just feels off. It is the same voice that we are used to but the images and situations just don’t feel as Gaiman as they should. He has used the Norse Gods for his own purpose in the past in as Loki and Odin play a part in American Gods. It would have been interesting to see what he could do with the rest of them. As wonderful as this book is, it kind of feels like going to see a band who insists on only playing covers of author singers. You’ll ultimately enjoy it but it won’t feel right.

Top 10 WEN-sday – Top 10 Books I’d Rather Be Reading Than End of Watch

books, George RR Martin, list, Man Booker, Neil Gaiman, sci-fi, Stephen King, tbr

I’m currently still reading the final book in Stephen King’s Bill Hodges trilogy, End of Watch, and I’m hating every moment of it. I can’t wait to finish it and, I have to be honest, I’ve looked ahead to find out how it ends. It’s not great but I’ve spent so much time on it that I feel like I have to finish. This always happens to me, I start a book and try so hard to finish it that I just keep going despite knowing it won’t be any good. Obviously, as I’m struggling to read it not only makes it harder to finish but it’s also highlighting how many other things I could be reading. As you know from my weekly rundowns, I have a problem with buying too many books so I have plenty to be getting on with. They all sit looking at me as I struggle to give a shit about Brady’s fucking psychic powers and Bill’s cancer. So I’ve compiled a list of the books I’d rather be reading than this shit. 

Ten: Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

It’s not been that long since I last read Neverwhere but finding the amazing illustrated edition recently has awoken all of those familiar Gaiman feelings. As I sit and write this list I can see it on my bookshelf. It calls to me and begs to be picked up. I wouldn’t say that it’s my favourite Gaiman book but I can’t help but fall into the world he helped to create. 


Nine: Jurassic Park by Michael Chrichton 

Just like Jaws, Jurassic Park is one of my most-loved films but I’ve never thought about reading the original novel. I just never really felt the need when Spielberg’s adaptation was so good. Plus, the idea of a version of Jurassic Park without Jeff Goldblum and Richard Attenborough just seems wrong. Still, it was so interesting getting through Jaws that I decided it was time to give it a go. I’m not saying it will replace the film in my heart but it’s always fun to see where things come from.
Eight:  Purity by Johnathan Franzen

This is another book that I’ve been wanting to read for a while but I’ve been put off by massive hardbacks. Also, I’ve heard some bad things amongst all of the praise it’s been getting. I’m not exactly familiar with Franzen but this certainly sounds interesting. I reckon it’ll be tough read, which is why it’s so high on this list. Still, I like the idea of the mystery surrounding Pip’s father and the Julian Assange sounding Andreas Wolf. 

Seven: Sexus by Henry Miller

 A book that I’ve wanted to read ever since I found such a gorgeous copy on Amazon. You’ll have seen it on my Instagram if you follow me because I was obsessed. This is the first in The Rosy Crucifixion trilogy featuring a fictionalised account of his life. It’s goes into discussions about sex, love and happiness. It was also banned in the United States. Who doesn’t want to read a banned book every now and then.

 Six: A Dance of Dragons by George R.R. Martin


 Season 6 of Game of Thrones was fucking amazing. Now that the show has overtaken the books then it’s been great to sit down and watch things I don’t know anything about. It’s also got me excited about The Winds of Winter, which, fingers crossed, will be released early-ish next year. However, reading A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms has shown me that I’ve forgotten how to read Martin’s prose. I need to re-familiarise myself with his style and try and remember what the fuck happened at the end of book 5 before I’m supposed to jump into the next part. 

 Five: Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky

I spent absolutely ages going through the bookshops in my town trying to find a copy of this book but to no avail. I guess nobody in Ilkley really gives a shit about which book won the Arthur C Clarke award. So I did something I don’t like doing and bought it on Amazon. It should be arriving in the next few days and the wait has made me super fucking desperate to read it. The only reason it’s so high up is simply because I don’t actually have it yet. 


Four: Battle Royale by Koushun Takami


Another story that I’m familiar with but have never read the source material of. There’s a pattern emerging in this list. I love the film Battle Royale and am really interested to see how the issues it explores are dealt with in novel form. I’m expecting more than The Hunger Games but I don’t know if it’ll live up the violent brilliance of the film. Still, it’ll be better than the shit I’m currently reading.

Three: Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann

If you follow me on Instagram then you’ll probably have seen my copy of this novel. I love it. It’s all black, gold and neon pink. Beautiful and simple. Utter perfection. This is a story I’m familiar with but I have never actually read the novel. It tells the story of Hollywood starlets getting caught up in a cycle of drugs and alcohol to cope with the stresses of the entertainment industry. Despite being 50 years old this remains a relevant book and I think it’s about time I read it. Certainly, 
the cover is urging me to open the pages every time I glimpse it. 

Two: His Bloody Project by Roderick Macrae

This was one part of my latest book haul and I’m beyond excited to read it. One of the longlist for the Man Booker Prize 2016, it tells the story of a multiple murderer in 1869. It explores the mind and motivations of a guilty man as everyone tries to understand why he killed so many horrible crimes. I’m not normally a fan of crime thrillers but this one sounds different. Plus, the nomination speaks positively for it. Still, they did also nominate the hardly spectacular Us by David Nicholls in 2014. 

     

One: Anything

To be honest, at this stage I don’t even fucking care. I’d read anything if it meant I was done with this awful book. I thought the point was for Stephen King to play with the crime genre so why have we just fallen into another forgettable novel where King plays with the paranormal? It makes no sense and I absolutely hate how it upsets the flow of these novels. Unless there’s some big thing I’m missing I just can’t wait to finish this book. Although, from the look of reviews, I’m the only one that thinks so.  

SUNDAY RUNDOWN – THAT’S WHAT SHE READ

book haul, books, currently reading, Harry Potter, J K Rowling, Neil Gaiman, Netflix, recently watched, Roald Dahl
This week feels like a victory because not only have I finished 1 book but I finished a second only a day after finishing the first one. Of course, since then I’ve done barely any reading but we can gloss over that. It hasn’t helped that all of my shifts got changed this week and I’ve had over a week of 7am starts. It’s really fucking with my sleep patterns and I’m finding myself going to bed at Grandma standard times. I can’t even make it through a whole chapter of a fucking children’s book before my eyes start to droop. Is it too much to ask that I find a job will more sociable hours? Oh, and one that won’t continually scar me and fuck up my nails and skin. As you can tell, I’m so tired that I’m in an extra ranty mood. I’ve been a joy to work with.
Just Finished
  • The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso
It’s a fucking miracle. I’ve finally finished this book. Looking back on my previous rundowns then it will feel like I was doing this forever. However, it’s done now and I’ll try and write a proper review on Tuesday. It was supposed to go up last Tuesday but I accidentally started and finished another book before I started writing it. 

  • The Cursed Child by by J.K. Rowling and Jack Thorne
Bought this on a whim despite telling myself that I didn’t want to read it. Anyone who wants to read my full thoughts on this then feel free to read my review from Tuesday. Suffice it to say that I have a lot of feelings that I needed to work out. However, we all know that JK Rowling and I have a history. 

Currently Reading
  • The BFG by Roald Dhal

As I mentioned on Thursday, I am desperate to see Spielberg’s adaptation of The BFG. In preparation for the film I decided it was time to reread the novel. So I bough a cheap eBook and started it as soon as I finished The Cursed Child. It’s proving to be a lovely trip down memory land and it’s pretty easy to read. I’d hoped to have it finished by now but, having only worked on the early shift this week, I end up falling asleep before I can read at the moment.

Recently Purchased

  • Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
Found a beautiful edition of this book in a charity shop and fell in love with it. I haven’t read a great deal of Bradbury but have enjoyed everything I have. So I guess I was just waiting for the right novel to land in my lap to really start my exploration. No doubt you’ll see it on my Instagram some time soon.
  • Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
I couldn’t resist this absolutely beautiful copy of Neverwhere. It’s the new illustrated hardback edition and I love it. Probably won’t read it any time soon as I reread the novel a year or so ago. Still, it’s classic Gaiman and it never hurts to have a few copies just lying around the house. I hope that more of Gaiman’s books get this treatment. There’s nothing better than finding a book soulmate, is there.

Recently Watched
  • OITNB
Finally finished the latest series and I’ve been in tears ever since. Okay, that’s a tad hyprbolic but the final couple of episodes were fucking heartbreaking. Poussey was one of my faves from early on. The flashbacks in the final episode were just perfection. I’m officially hooked on this show. Wish I hadn’t waited so long.