Tag Archives: review

Book Review: The O’Hara Affair (Kate Thompson)

4 Feb


Image: Borders

Foraying into Kate Thompson’s west Irish world for the second time, I was not disappointed that I had decided to delve further. The O’Hara Affair is a sequel of sorts to The Kinsella Sisters, although you do not need to have read the latter in order to understand the former, they simply feature many of the same characters.

In The O’Hara Affair we return to the pretty Irish village of Lissamore, where a film is being produced about the life of Scarlett O’Hara’s father. The protagonist of this book is Fleur O’Farrell (who had only a minor role in The Kinsella Sisters), who is conducting a steamy love affair with the film’s executive producer, Corban O’Hara, as well as finding her way in the strange new world of social networking. The Kinsellas, prominent in Thompson’s last novel, also appear, particularly Dervla who, having given up her job as an estate agent, is now struggling to care for her elderly mother-in-law, Daphne. For the most part, Rio (the second Kinsella sister) plays only a minor role in this book, although she and her son Finn do appear from time to time, as does Finn’s father Shane, who is playing the romantic lead in the film.

This  is a book which attempts to have it all: drama, passion, mystery, and suspense. And, for the most part, it succeeds, although some of the supposed twists are more predictable than Thompson may have intended. I was also irked by the fact that a character was introduced in the prologue and then ignored until the final few pages, in what appeared to be merely an attempt to whet the reader’s appetite for Thompson’s next book.

It was certainly thought-provoking though, and quite uncomfortably so at times, with its messages on the dangers of online relationships and treatment of the elderly. For this reason, it would be ideal for a book club, and indeed in my copy there were questions included at the end to facilitate such discussion. Or for anyone who, like me, has fallen in love with Kate Thompson’s characters in The Kinsella SistersThe O’Hara Affair is sure to make an enjoyable read.

TV Review: We’ll Take Manhattan

1 Feb


Image: BBC

“I’ve never even been on an aeroplane before…”

“It’s like a 29 bus with wings! C’mon now!”

This is our introduction to photographer David Bailey and his lover and favourite model Jean Shrimpton in BBC4’s standalone drama We’ll Take Manhattan, and it speaks volumes about what is to come. We have already been informed that in 1962 “no-one expected to be famous who was not born rich and titled. And there was no such thing as youth culture. But then David Bailey and Jean Shrimpton went to New York”, setting the scene for a tale of social divides being overcome. But it is not only a tale with a moral (and one that the present day fashion industry could learn from, at that), but one beautifully told and shot, with the hazy lighting which is part and parcel of any programme set more than ten years in the past, and the acting interspersed with photographic stills, tying in with the theme.

Bailey, played by Aneurin Barnard, switches from charming and cocky to sullen and brooding in an instant, frequently clashing heads with Lady Clare Rendlesham (Helen McCrory) over every aspect of their New York Vogue shoot. She wants traditional photographs in the style of Cecil Beaton set against New York’s famously stunning backdrops, while he wants to shoot his model peering through fences and leaning against signposts. Jean Shrimpton (Karen Gillan, of Doctor Who fame) is delightfully awkward, never quite letting go of her country girl roots despite Bailey taking her under his wing (and indeed into his bed). The New York scenes (which make up the bulk of the ninety minute long drama) are also enhanced by the acting of Joseph May as Larry Schwartz, eager to help in any way possible but caught in the crossfire between Bailey and Lady Rendlesham. There are also stunning performances by some of the more minor actors, such as Robert Glenister as Jean’s overbearing father, and Anna Chancellor as Lucie Clayton, her agent.

Although it resolves the climactic tension a little too easily for my mind, perhaps struggling to fit within its ninety minute time frame, We’ll Take Manhattan was nonetheless a thoroughly enjoyable watch. And for those who are interested in youth culture, modelling, and fashion, this is undeniably a must-see.

We’ll Take Manhattan is available on BBC iPlayer until Thursday 2nd February.

Recap/Review: The Secret Circle Pilot Episode

30 Sep

Being a devoted fan of both the (relatively) new The Vampire Diaries TV series and everything ever written by LJ Smith, I was understandably very excited when I discovered that the CW had also picked up The Secret Circle. And when I say very excited, I mean practically falling down the stairs in the New York Metro. (Yes, I am a fangirl. No, I am not ashamed.) The first two episodes have now aired, and they certainly didn’t disappoint!

At the beginning of the pilot episode we are introduced to Cassie, the main character, and her mother, the soon to be ex-character. As Cassie fixes a flat tire on a darkened road, a mysterious man stands outside her house, does a lot of freaky things with his hands, and sets fire to it with her mother inside. Nothing like starting with a bang!

Cut to Cassie arriving at her grandmother’s house, unaware that her mother’s death was anything more than a tragic accident. She settles in to her mother’s old room, and discovers that, as in all American teen TV shows, there is a cute boy across the street. Except this boy takes the phrase ‘Peeping Tom’ to a new level, magically opening the curtains when Cassie closes them (of course, we aren’t meant to know it’s magic yet, but unlike Cassie we’ve seen the promos, so forgive us for not being fooled).

The next day Cassie starts school, meeting the headmistress, who is a little too enthusiastic about her former friendship with her mother (naturally, my mind screams lesbian subtext, but we’ll ignore that for the time being), and several of the students. So far, so Sabrina the Teenage Witch. What sets The Secret Circle apart is the next scene, when Cassie arrives at a local restaurant. Raven, the owner, is a little less subtle about his prior relationship with her mother, which weirds Cassie out somewhat, but things really hot up when the school bad girl, Faye, arrives with her friend Melissa. The pair are suitably perky and fake, and waste no time in letting Cassie know who’s in charge. “Don’t let her smile fool you,” says Faye, in regard to her mother, the principal. “She can be bitchy.” Something tells me she’s not the only one.

And I’m about to be proved right, because as Cassie exits, Faye gazes ominously at her car, which immediately bursts into flames. “Come on, Cassie. Put it out,” Faye murmurs under her breath as Cassie struggles to escape from the burning vehicle, eventually being rescued by (unfortunately spoken for) resident hot guy Adam. Cue obligatory scene in which protagonist knows that something isn’t right, but no-one will tell her what’s going on. You’d think that with the amount of supernatural dramas on television these days that the kids would work it all out quicker, but no! Tension must be created.

However, Cassie’s smarter than some, because the next day she’s badgering Diana, her new best friend, for answers. Diana (having spent the previous evening vying with Faye for the position of HBIC), is happy to oblige, taking Cassie to an abandoned house, where she kills her, thereby ending the series halfway through the pilot. What actually happens is that every teenager that Cassie has met thus far is in the house (including her voyeuristic neighbour) and they (well, Faye) explain to her that they are all witches, and that she is the final witch needed to complete the circle. Naturally, Cassie freaks out at this, and runs off through the woods, pursued by Adam. Trying to explain the situation to her, he takes her hands and together they make water droplets rise into the air in a magnificent display of CGI magic. This doesn’t last long however, as Adam realises that he’s in close proximity to a hot girl and moves in to kiss her, terrifying her for the second time that day.

“You did magic with her!” Diana (who just happens to be Adam’s girlfriend) accuses later. If only she knew. However, for now she’s just concerned with binding their powers before they get out of hand. But Faye, being Faye, decides that she doesn’t want to comply with this and that she’d rather summon a storm. A big one. One that she isn’t able to stop. Luckily, Cassie steps in at this moment, proving that if anyone is in the running for HBIC, it’s her.

Elsewhere, the adults are playing their own power games. Adam’s father, the town drunk, is convinced that his and Cassie’s families are destined for each other, and that her father was a bad man. There’s definitely one bad man in the show though, and that’s Charles, Diana’s father, who cements his reputation by killing Cassie’s mother, almost drowning Adam’s father, and plotting evilly with Faye’s mother all in one episode.

So what have we learnt from the pilot? The kids are witches, the adults are witches, and a lot of s**t is about to go down in Chance Harbor!

Film Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

20 Jul

(This is a review, therefore references to events in the film will be made and if you haven’t seen it you are liable to be spoiled. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!)

Last week I saw the last Harry Potter film. Harry Potter being something which my friends and I grew up with, we naturally decided to go to the midnight showing on July 14th (we would have also gone to the world premiere in Trafalgar Square, were it not for WB’s ridiculous wristband policy and the fact that we weren’t quite dedicated enough to camp in the rain without a tent). The experience itself was fantastic: some people screamed, lots of people dressed up, and everyone applauded at the end. But once the hype had faded, what did we think of the film itself?

Reactions from my friends varied from “my childhood is now complete” to “I really don’t care about half a book”, but the most apt description I heard was that “it was a good film, if you ignore the book.”

This, in my opinion, is good advice when watching any of the films. No matter how close they stay to the films, there will always be changes made, scenes cut (and invariably the ones which you most wanted to see come alive on the screen), moments added for the sake of extra drama. If you go into the cinema determined not to enjoy the film unless it is a carbon copy of the book then, quite frankly, you’re wasting your money. And missing out on what could be a very enjoyable two hours.

The highlight of the film is, of course, the adult characters. Someone (and I’m afraid I really can’t be any more specific than that) once described the films as a club for veteran British actors, and it’s certainly these actors that make the films for me. In this film it was Alan Rickman who stole the show as Snape, although Maggie Smith as McGonagall came in a very close second. And of course Helena Bonham Carter (who I could write an essay about usually, so be grateful that she doesn’t appear more in this particular film) as Hermione-pretending-to-be-Bellatrix, along with Julie Walters, David Thewlis, and a whole host of others.

The younger cast members usually irritate me, but in this installment I found them less annoying than usual (although the scene in which Harry and Ginny are re-united did grate a little). Rupert Grint and Emma Watson managed to make their kiss look much less awkward than any of Daniel Radcliffe’s on-screen attempts, and Evanna Lynch sparkled as usual, managing to make Luna Lovegood even more dippy and endearing than in the books.

Although the plot has been adapted for the purposes of what can only be described as cinematic showing off (as anyone who has seen the part of the trailer in which Harry and Voldemort appear to fall off a building will know), on the whole it remains true to the books. Unfortunately, this includes the epilogue, the only redeeming feature of which is the comedy beards which all the men are now sporting. But in general it was a wonderful film, and a great conclusion that this particular chapter of my childhood.