Saturday, 18 March 2017

Film Review: Beauty and the Beast

I have been looking forward to this film for so long. No surprise then that I booked tickets for the very first screening at my local cinema yesterday morning. I wasn't disappointed, if anything it was actually better than I was expecting! It's been a long while since I saw the original cartoon of Beauty and the Beast, so I can't do a direct comparison, but in my mind this live action adaptation surpasses it. When you want to watch a film again immediately after the credits have rolled you know it's a good one.

Let me just start out by praising the musical god that is Alan Menken. At least 50% of my musical soundtrack Spotify playlist is accredited to him, and if he could score every movie for the rest of my life I would be a very happy girl. He scored the original Beauty and the Beast, so it would have been rude, and foolish, not to invite him back for the remake. This time acround the soundtrack is even more breathtakingly beautiful and enchanting, and together with the original lyricist Tim Rice, Alan has even added new songs into the mix. These new songs, Evermore in particular (I'm currently obsessed with that song), fit seamlessly into the film, and feel as if they've always been a part of the story.



Emma Watson pleasantly surprised me as Belle - the trailers really don't do her justice! Almost instantly I forgot I was watching Hermione Grainger, and her singing voice isn't half bad either. Dan Stevens is a great choice for the Beast too, in the transformation scene I don't think there's any other actor who looks as like the cartoon prince as he does. There's a really interesting article here on how they made Dan into the Beast - including motion picture and CGI of course, but also stilts and a muscle suit. Yes he learnt to waltz on stilts. Give that man an award right now.

Much as I adore Emma Thompson (and I really do), she did fall a little short as Mrs Potts for me. I think this is largely down to the fact that Angela Lansbury's rendition of Beauty and the Beast during the ballroom scene is so iconic that no one could ever come close. I wasn't at all keen on the new design of the character in teapot form either. But I did love Ewan McGregor and Ian McKellen as Lumiere and Cogsworth. Ewan doesn't sing enough in films for my liking (I fell in love with his voice in Moulin Rouge), and dodgy French accent aside he did a great job on Be Our Guest.

If there's one man who was born to play his role though, it's Luke Evans as Gaston. He is FANTASTIC. His West End experience shines through as he absolutely owns every scene he is in, and his singing voice really packs a punch. He made Gaston a villain that I really loved to hate, and loved to love a bit too.

The settings are stunning and almost characters in themselves, from the quaint country village to the freezing forest teeming with danger. Then there's the castle. It's a full on crumbling Gothic fantasy, a romantic's dream. Don't even get me started on that incredible library. I felt Belle's squeals of delight when the Beast gifted it to her, I'd be exactly the same!

If you're planning on seeing Beauty and the Beast in the cinema, which I highly recommend that you do, I would suggest bringing food supplies, and maybe even a blanket. At over two hours long it is a film you can truly immerse yourself in, but at the same time it feels overlong. The flashbacks to the Beast's youth for example, and he and Belle's excursion to Paris feel entirely unnecessary and cast a bit of a sombre shadow over the story.

That aside I loved every minute of this film. Even though I knew exactly what was going to happen I was still laughing at the Beast's gruff manners and jokes, crying when the last petal fell, and on the edge of my seat during the final fight with Gaston. There's nothing particularly groundbreaking about it - Josh Gad does a brilliant turn as an openly gay Le Fou but even this is subtle. Critics will no doubt go to town on how traditional it has remained, but I'm completely fine with this. All I wanted was to be enchanted by the film, to enjoy it for what it is, and in this regard it is absolutely a success.

Whether reliving your childhood or experiencing Beauty and the Beast for the first time, either way you're in for a treat.



Check out my other film reviews, including the live action remake of Cinderella, here!

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Review: The Last Piece of my Heart by Paige Toon

***Firstly, massive thanks to Simon and Schuster and Books and the City for surprising me with a proof of this novel - and for the adorable jigsaw that accompanied it!***

Meet Bridget, a successful travel journalist with ambitions to turn her quirky relationship blog into a novel. But, after numerous rejections from publishers, she accepts an alternative proposition: Nicole Dupre died leaving behind a bestselling novel and an incomplete sequel, and the family need someone to finish it. Bridget is just thankful to have her foot in the publishing door. But as she gets to know Nicole’s grieving family, and the woman behind the writing, Bridget’s priorities begin to change …

As a rule, I don't like chick-lit and I don't much like children. Imagine my surprise then when I really loved this book! Maybe my tastes are changing now that I've hit my mid-twenties...

The premise is simple - if every person you've ever loved has taken a piece of your heart, can you ever love someone wholeheartedly? Travel writer Bridget aims to find out. She's visiting her exes one by one and compiling a popular blog from her experiences. As a result of her success, she is drafted in to ghostwrite the sequel to The Secret Life of Us, a bestselling novel written by Nicole 'Nicki' Dupre, an author who died tragically young. Six weeks living in a caravan in Cornwall whilst working from Nicki's home is no mean feat, especially when you take into account the grieving family Nicki left behind - her widow, Charlie, and their baby daughter April.

I was so, SO in love with Charlie by the end of this book. Not only was he gorgeous both inside and out, but he was also the most adorable dad. The pain he was going through was clear to see, and it broke my heart in places. Bridget herself was a lovely character too. She wasn't afraid to go after what she wanted, to chase her dreams and risk her heart in the process. It has to be said that April stole the show though. She was so sweet and such an integral part of the story.

The plot is fairly predictable, but this is by no means a bad thing - knowing vaguely what's going to happen takes the stress out of reading so you can just sit back and enjoy. The settings are beautiful and make you long for a holiday yourself; Cornwall and Thailand are like characters in themselves. I'm so grateful that we got an epilogue too - so many writers forgo them and I hate unfinished business - and the last few sentences in particular were just the perfect way to end it all.

Another thing I loved about this book was Paige's use of music. I love novels that have a soundtrack to them, and Bridget's eclectic taste in songs and artists is great! Including a tracklist at the end of the novel was a brilliant touch; I had actually intended to flip back through the pages to make a note of some of the unfamiliar songs anyway so I'll definitely be checking them out!

My one criticism would be that the cover really doesn't do this novel justice! I almost certainly would have passed this by in a library or bookshop - even though I know you shouldn't judge a book by its cover.

This is my first book by Paige Toon, but it certainly won't be my last. The Last Piece of My Heart is a heartwarming novel of love and loss that will leave you with a big smile on your face.