Can we all come to some sort of agreement, please? That we stop comparing contemporary crime thrillers to Agatha Christie? I know that she still has a reputation as a cosy crime writer but Christie is the type of writer that very few can live up to. She has a deep understanding of human behaviour and knows how to mislead her readers convincingly. I blame her writing for the fact that I so often guess book twists. She, and to some extent Arthur Conan Doyle, has trained me to start thinking too critically about everything I read. I’m always disappointed by modern crime books. Especially those super hyped ones that everyone loves. Like The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley. I’ve heard so many people praising it but I was not blown away. I’d guessed who the victim was from the start and it was super obvious who had killed them. So, I hadn’t intended to read her follow-up The Guest List. Until the ebook was on offer. It might not be a great read but at least it would dull the boredom for a while.
I had to take a quick break from my current anti-racist reading list to read my book club’s choice for this month. I’d put it off for ages because it was only short but we’re meeting over Zoom on Thursday. That meant I only had a couple of days to get through it. Thankfully, it’s only 170 odd pages and I managed to get in a quick read of Noughts and Crosses over the weekend first. This was the book that I voted for because I really did want to read it. I can’t say that I’m a massive fan of Nora Ephron’s films. I’m not a huge romantic comedy fan. I even disliked When Harry Met Sally and that’s a film that nearly everyone has seemingly agreed to enjoy. I admit, she certainly has a way with words and it’s not necessarily the writing that I dislike. Okay, that’s not true because the story is the writing. But it’s not a matter of quality, it’s just not my thing. I am convinced that she is a great writer and, provided I could find a story that I can get on board with, I was confident I’d enjoy it. So, why not this one? After all, people have been showing off their copies on Instagram for ages now. Although I have to admit, I hate the Virago Modern Classics diamond cover. I love a cover with texture but it doesn’t wow me. I tried so hard to track down the cover I wanted but it would have taken ages thanks to bloody Coronavirus. Of course, without Coronavirus, I wouldn’t have been in the book club anyway.
I’ll be honest, I needed a quick read again this week. I wasted most of the bank holiday and only had one day to finish a whole book. So, I went to my bookshelves to find the shortest book possible. It’s not my favourite method for picking which book I read next but, sometimes, you have to just get something done. I bought this book back in March because it sounded really silly. We’ve had horror versions of classics in the past so why not drag queen versions? And a drag version of Dracula had the potential to be an amazing thing.
The live-action Disney remakes are a curious thing. They’re making a shit-ton of money but, from what I can tell, nobody really likes them. I guess that not only means that we’re all suckers for going to see them but that Disney really is despicably good at business. We all love to get nostalgic and the curiosity of seeing how they’ve been updated is always going to get people buying tickets. It’s the reason that I initially bought so many of the books in The Austen Project. Of the live-action Disney movies that I’ve seen, only The Jungle Book really worked. I’m hopeful that Mulan will be amazing because it’s refusing to go down the musical line. It’s not that I don’t love a musical because I bloody love a musical. There’s a reason why my Spotify end of year round-up was mostly the Hamilton soundtrack. It’s just, Disney animated movies work as musicals because they’re animated. You don’t need to question why everyone’s singing because it’s not real. When the action starts to get realistic, that starts to be problematic. Stage musicals work in a similar way because you accept that you’re watching a play. Live-action films become a little tricky. It can work. I know I didn’t like Tom Hooper’s Les Miserables but, because there is no spoken dialogue, the singing at least makes sense. The live-action Disney movies raise too many questions. Especially when you add animals into the mix. So, when the new Aladdin film came out last year, I wasn’t convinced it would work for me. But, I have been a long-time lover of Will Smith’s musical career, so I wanted to give him a chance. It was time to find out once and for all.
The fourth book in Jacqueline Wilson’s Girls series was published 4 years after Girls Out Late. I’m assuming this is the reason that I never knew it existed. After all, it was only 2002 so I would have been 14. Surely that would have been the perfect age to be picking up this book. I would finally have been the same age as Ellie and her friends. But, for whatever reason, I have only just finished reading this book for the first time. I’m not sure what I was expecting but I was definitely hoping for something more inspiring than the previous novel. But, as we found on Monday, that wouldn’t take an awful lot.
It doesn’t bode too well for this week’s film that I completely forgot what I was writing about. It clearly didn’t make much of an impression on me. Although, I wasn’t completely bothered about seeing this film. It never really seemed that promising from the trailer. I know its Michael Winterbottom and Steve Coogan together again but it just seemed too good to be true. Although, I am a sucker for a strong British cast and I do always love seeing David Mitchell in things that aren’t panel shows. So, why not give it a chance? I’ll be honest though, writing this review has been painful. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Either I’m having a bad time with lockdown or this film just sucked the inspiration out of me. Whatever the reason, there will be no denying that this review won’t be one of my best. One could argue that none of my reviews are of a good enough quality for this distinction to be necessary but that would just make me sad.
After the travesty of Love Wedding Repeat on Tuesday, I wasn’ quite sure to go with today’s TBT review. In the end, I decided to give Dean Craig a second chance. His Netflix film was his directorial debut, so it’s entirely possible that he just got a bit overexcited. I’d never seen any of his other films. I remember the 2010 remake of this film coming out and having absolutely no interest in seeing it. But would I have an interest in the original? It wouldn’t be the first time America had taken a British concept and destroyed it.
I’m not one to agree with film snobs like Steven Spielberg but there is part of me that wishes Netflix would stop making films. It’s not about watching films at home or on your phone. It’s about quality. To be fair, it’s not just a Netflix thing but they tend to have a pretty dire output. Especially when it comes to comedies. Whoever is in charge of greenlighting films needs to really take a step back for a minute. Yes, they’ve had a few epic hits in recent years but that shouldn’t erase all of the rest of it. I can’t name one of their comedies that has been worth a watch. So, I wasn’t holding out much hope even if it did star Taraji P. Henson. After all, Proud Mary taught us that she’s doesn’t necessarily make good choices all the time. It’s not just that the film is a Netflix original. The fact that it doesn’t even make it past the 90-minute mark is a clear sign of bad things. How many films go under an hour and a half these days? Only the ones that didn’t have enough jokes to fill a few more minutes. But with cinemas closed and films being postponed, I’m going to run out of recent films to review. I’m just going to have to bite the bullet.
I always worry when American actors take on roles in English period dramas. It just gives them free rein to use received pronunciation in that stereotype that they seem so keen on. The stuff of Downton Abbey. The kind of accent that doesn’t have a hint of geography or personal context. Add Gwyneth Paltrow to the mix and it makes everything even more uncomfortable. I’m still haunted by Sliding Doors where she tried to convince us she was British by saying the word “shagging” on repeat. It just didn’t do it for me, so the idea of her getting her Austen on did kind of fill me with dread. But I also felt like I should watch it. After all, I’d already reviewed Clueless back in 2015. As much as I wanted to rewatch that absolute gem of an adaptation, it felt like I was cheating a bit.
I keep reading articles posted by people in the film industry pleading with people to keep going to cinemas when the lockdown is over. Now I love going to the cinema and think it’s a great experience. Yet, there is a part of me that thinks all of this desperation is a bit misguided. It’s okay for people who work in the media or in the film industry to say all this but it perhaps also shows a misunderstanding of how “normal” people live. The truth is, it’s not always easy or possible for people to go to the cinema these days. And, if they do, the cost of taking a family might not be plausible for people. It’s also evidence of the cultural elitism that exists in London regarding the rest of the world. But that’s something that deserves a whole post to itself. As much as I don’t want cinemas to shut down, it’s definitely time that we start thinking about the future of cinema. So, when the Covid-19 forced Universal to release their new films online, I was kind of excited. Until I saw the price. £15.99 to rent Emma.? It’s clear that streaming new releases is the future but it can’t work at that price. Yes, they need to make their money back but that’s the price of a BluRay but for a rental. It’s insane and will most likely put plenty of people off. Especially during a time when so many people are worried about money. It seems particularly tone-deaf. But this is Hollywood. When have they ever given a shit about the people watching their films?