Cinderella – A Review

cinderella

It was my birthday yesterday and because of that my husband could not say no to me and I got to go to the movies! *Yay*  Not only did I get to pick the movie, but it could also be a movie that he would never normally agree to see with me (it’s my birthday after all) so I decided I wanted to see the new Disney adaptation of Cinderella.

I must preface this review by telling you that I am notoriously bad at writing reviews and also that I LOVE fairytales.  Whenever a fairytale movie is made, I want to see it.  There is something about them that appeal to me…give me fairy godmothers, handsome princes and big poofy dresses and I am in heaven.  But I also like to see the adaptations where a deeper meaning is brought out, where the heroine is a bit gritty and the story a little darker, these too make me happy.  As much as I am a big believer in strong independent women, there is also the little girl in me who wants to be swept off her feet.

With the recent retellings of Snow White (Snow White and the Huntsman) and Sleeping Beauty (Maleficent), I went into this movie expecting a different take on the traditional story, I expected a Cinderella with a bit of guts and spunk.  In fact, when I walked into the cinema and saw some young children waiting to watch the film, I worried for them, thinking that perhaps this wasn’t the sort of Cinderella film they should see.

But I needn’t have worried.  This adaptation sticks pretty much to the traditional story and once I got my head around that, I enjoyed it.  It wasn’t what I was expecting to see, it wasn’t want I wanted to see, but for a traditional retelling, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

If I had to describe this movie in three words they would be lavish, opulent and sumptuous.  The scenery is absolutely picturesque, full of rich, beautiful colours and breathtaking vistas.  The sets are incredibly lush and the palace is everything a princess could dream of (the chandeliers OMG!).  The costumes are decadent with bright colours and fabulous designs (oh, to be the costume designer on this film!).  Visually, this film is a feast for the eyes and the cinematography is wonderful.

lilyjames1As for the film itself, there is nothing notably new.  Lily James (Downton Abbey) plays Cinderella and she does a fair job of it, although I found her a little too sweet at times.  Her wide-eyed wonder and innocence was a little far-reaching, but she does embody the quintessential Disney Princess.  I would have liked her to get a little mad, at least once, with maybe a tantrum thrown in just to take the shine off her practically perfect princess routine.  And I can’t write this review without mentioning the furore surrounding her slim figure in this film.  There has been a bit a of thing about how tiny her waist is and I tend to agree with her arguments that although she has a naturally slim waist, with the added corset and large skirt it does have an optical illusion effect.  I also want to add that we, as a society, need to stop judging people by their CINDERELLAoutward appearance, whether they are too big or too small.

Prince Charming or Kit is played by Richard Madden (Game of Thrones) and he is delightful.  I love the relationship that he had with his father and that he was torn between obeying his father’s wishes and following his own heart.  It is refreshing to see a father/son relationship that is based on mutual respect and love.

CateBlanchett

My most favourite performance had to be Cate Blanchett (The Hobbit) as the Stepmother.  I love Cate and think that she is a phenomenal actress.  She is deliciously nasty in this film and it endeared her to me even more.  I love that she owned her nastiness, and set against Lily James’ too sweet Ella, it was a fabulous contrast.  She was unapologetic in her desires and ruthless about achieving them. She is also stunning in this film and her costumes are a wonder. I think she may have stolen the show for me.

helenaAnother fabulous performance was by Helena Bonham Carter (Great Expectations), who plays a wonderful villain (in Harry Potter and Alice in Wonderland to name two) but in this instance is a wonderful fairy godmother.  She owns this role and brings a bit of spunk to the film.  I didn’t like the use of the “Bippity Bobbity Boo” magic words, but apart from that, she was fantastic.

Stepmother

Other notable performances were from the Stepsisters.  I did spend all of the film trying to place the actress who played Drizella (who incidentally is Sophia McShera from Downton Abbey,the other actress is Holliday Grainger (Great Expectations)), but I loved their performances. They were just the right amount of vapid and spoiled and, OMG!, their costumes!  I can’t tell you how much fun it would have been to be the costume designer!

nonsoI can’t finish this review without mentioning Nonso Anozie (Game of Thrones) who plays the Captain.  He was a delightful character and it takes a special person to carry off those tights with such aplomb.  And of course, Alex Macqueen was great as the Royal Crier.

The CGI on this film was also done really well and added, rather than subtracted from the film.  The mice, lizards and goose were good comic relief without being too over the top.

The most poignant part of the film is at the end when Prince Charming finally tracks down Cinderella and finds her to be nothing more than a servant girl.  She comes to him as she is and asks him if he can still be happy with her knowing that she has no title or lands.  As the narrater says, there was no magic or fairy godmother to help her this time and the biggest risk we take is to be seen as we really are.  I think that is the perfect message to take away from this film.  It takes a lot of courage to allow others to see the real person inside of us without the masks and the smoke and mirrors that we all try to use.  We live in a world that constantly tells us we are not good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, thin enough, tough enough, rich enough and we all try, in some small way, to portray ourselves as more.  Maybe we can take a leaf out of Cinderella’s book and not be afraid to be who we really are.

So, in conclusion, I enjoyed the film.  It is not a masterpiece, it does not deal with the tough issues, but it is fun and magical and a delight to watch.  Admittedly it won’t be everyones cup of tea, but if you are looking for a bit of lighthearted entertainment that will make you feel good and give you an escape from the real world for a while, then I recommend it.

The Slow Regard of Silent Things

Slow-Regard

This started out as a review of a novella by Patrick Rothfuss named “The Slow Regard of Silent Things”, but became something else.

Before I begin my review, I need to out myself on a few things…

 slowregardFirstly, I am a Patrick Rothfuss fangirl (that is if a married 41 year old woman with two adult sons can even be considered a fangirl). I first read “The Name of the Wind” a few years ago and was unashamedly captivated by it.  I had only just started tentatively reading fantasy (previously I had been a strictly crime/political thriller reader…i.e. James Patterson, Tom Clancy, Patricia Cornwall, Dale Brown, Sue Grafton) and I had been intrigued by the books title…”The Name of the Wind”. They say to never judge a book by its cover, but to me the cover (especially in the fantasy genre) tells its own story and if it doesn’t interest me, then I’m likely to pass on the book.  I have read other books simply because the cover caught my eye (Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files is one such series, before they changed the covers which is a pet hate of mine, they were made to look like old files…kind of cool…and then there is Joe Abercrombe whom I read just because I liked his name), so with a title like “The Name of the Wind” I was definitely interested.  The story that was contained within that cover was even better than the name had hinted at.  Mr Rothfuss’s use of words, imagery and world building wrapped around me like a cocoon and by the end of the book I was converted completely to the fantasy genre. I have since re-read both “The Name of the Wind” and book two “The Wise Man’s Fear” (something I had never done until reading these books) a couple of times and have tried to get them into the hands of as many people as I can.  So, yes, I am a fan.

The second thing I need to be upfront about is that I am grieving.  My beautiful daughter-in-law died two and a half weeks ago (here is her story) and the world just hasn’t seemed the same since that day.  Many things in my life seem meaningless (vanity of vanities, all is vanity) and I even considered whether or not to write this post (but I have and I hope by the end of it you will understand why) and so it is under the very heavy grey cloud of mourning that I read this novella and now write this review.

And thirdly, this is not the book three that you are looking for.  Mr Rothfuss made it very clear in the lead up to and in the forward of the book that this was not Book Three of “The Kingkiller Chronicles”…this is a novella that expounds the story of one of the characters in it. It is an addendum to the original story, not a continuation of it.

So, with all that out of the way, let me get on with my review.

Illustration by Nate Taylor

Auri – Illustration by Nate Taylor

Quite simply, I loved it…but I know that not everyone will.  Mr Rothfuss admonishes us in the forward that this book is not for everyone, and I agree, not everyone will understand it.  This story breaks a lot of rules and there are some people that will find that hard to deal with, but again, we are warned of this in the beginning.  To be perfectly honest, I don’t think anyone could fully tell this story without breaking the rules. Auri is not a character that can be explained by conventional means, she is an enigma and so too is her story.  And, quite frankly, I don’t think everybody should read this book.  I think that something like this should only be read by those that will appreciate it; people who get Auri, who are maybe even a little bit like Auri.  It almost seems indecent to expose Auri to the unwashed masses, those that only wish to impose their will on the world and are not at all interested in being changed by something or someone else.  If nothing else, then this is a story for those of us who have known great loss and have been forever changed by it.

This short story spoke to the part of me that was broken, the part of me that now looks at the world and wonders why.  Although we don’t find out the why of Auri, we do get to know the who.  In very cold and clinical terms, Auri would be considered obsessive compulsive, but in my bruised and battered frame of mind, I see beyond that.  I’m sure that if a psychiatrist got a hold of Auri, they would have a field day and in doing so would destroy her. To me, Auri, through her brokenness, has found a deeper meaning.  She looks only for harmony, she desires only for the things around her to be in harmony with each other. I envy her.

You may think it strange to envy a character who is quite obviously damaged, but it is her very damaged-ness that makes her enviable.  She is no longer consumed by the trappings of materialism, she no longer feels the need to impose her will and desire on the world around her and she takes delight in the simple things.  We have become a world of cynicism and disdain and we have lost the most sacred of emotions…wonder.  Where is the childlike wonder of imagination?  The powers that be have reduced our lives down to scientific theories and financial facts totally disregarding that part of us that calls to the deep mysteries of life.  Children have lost their childhood and adults have forgotten how to dream.  Our world has been broken by the very things that we created to fix it and yet we keep trying to fix it with the same things.  We need more wonder in our world and Auri shows us a glimpse of wonder and my heart yearns for more.

So, perhaps this isn’t a book review at all, but more a study on finding meaning in life when you are broken.  Auri’s world is not perfect, she is still broken, but her brokenness is beautiful. As I grieve the loss of a beautiful person in my life, I look at Auri and I see that there can still be life after loss, not just existence and there can be beauty in brokenness even though it looks different.

Outside of a dog…

Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend.  Inside of a dog, it is too dark to read – Groucho Marx

I am always a little disappointed when I read the final sentence of a book.  I always want to know what happens next! I want the story beyond the happily ever-after, which is probably why I read so many series.

If you haven’t already guessed, I am a little obsessed with books.  I am happy, even a little proud, to admit that I am a prolific reader.  I currently have over five hundred physical books in my library and nearly seventy iBooks.  I will say that I haven’t read all of them, but the ones I haven’t read could be counted with my fingers and toes.

I am a discerning reader…there are some things I just refuse to read and other things that I have no interest in.  I have a very defined sense of why I read and I am protective of it.  My reading time is my escape time, it is my safe place, my recharge time and my de-stress space and I don’t allow just anything into it.  I refuse to read 50 Shades of anything, I am adverse to soppy Mills & Boon type books (although I do admit to reading them in the past) and I am not a fan of autobiographies and non-fiction material.  I also don’t read horror, but that’s more because I am a scaredy cat rather than because of my literary snobbery.  I will also confess to an avoidance of vampiric sagas although not of the entire Young Adult fiction genre, and I do try to read the classics, but sometimes the writing styles and language make it more of a chore than an enjoyment.  I read for fun, not to be “well-read”.

So you may be wondering why, after having read so many books, that I haven’t tried my hand a reviewing them.  I have Grade 7 English to blame for that.  I was required to write and then give an oral book review and the experience left me quite scarred.  In the interest of being thorough, I over did it and bored everyone to tears – and gave away the plot.  Consequently, I have been reluctant to repeat the performance…until now.

The catalyst of my change of heart was a bad review I read of a book I enjoyed.  The review was quite scathing and it made me realise that not everyone has as well a developed understanding of why they read as I have.  I know that not every book I read is going to be a masterpiece and I am ok with that.  There are times when I want to read something I can really get my teeth into and then other times when I just want to read fluff.  With that understanding it lets me (and the author) off the hook and I can enjoy a book for what it is – my escape.

So you are probably dying to know what book I am talking about.  Firstly, let me set the scene…I had just finished reading the entire ‘Wheel of Time‘ series by Robert Jordan (and Brandon Sanderson).  It took me a good four months to complete the series…this is a long time for me as I have been known to read a couple of books per week.  To be fair, there are fifteen books, nearly 12,000 pages and over four million words in the series.  Needless to say, by the end of it I had a severe book hang-over.

Not being one to be without a book for long, I immediately read a book that was given to me for my birthday.  This wasn’t a book or an author I would normally read, but I gave it a go and actually enjoyed it.  It was Whiskey Beach by Nora Roberts if you wanted to know.

Anyway, after finishing that, I was still suffering from the after-effects of WoT and couldn’t face another epic so early, so I went looking for something else to read and came across ‘The Heist‘ by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg.  I know and like Evanovich’s style and have read almost all of her books (the Stephanie Plum books being a favourite) and knew that this book would be perfect for me and I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed it.  After reading it, I went online to Goodreads to read what other people had thought about it.  Mostly the reviews were good with a few not so good ones, but one bad review stuck out to me.  The reviewer complained about one dimensional characters and bad plot development.  They also drew comparisons to TV shows and likened it to a bad screenplay.  It made me wonder if we had read the same book.

Here’s the thing…I knew what I was in for when I picked up the book.  I have read Evanovich before and I know the way she writes.  Going in to this book, I knew what to expect.  This is not a deep, thoughtful, realistic book.  This book is light, casual and definitely unrealistic.  This is the first book in a series, it is only 300 pages long, you are not going to get full character development with this. But because I knew this going in AND I knew why I was reading this book, I was able to dismiss all of that and just enjoy the story…and I did enjoy the story.

Kate O’Hare is an FBI Agent who has spent the last five years on the trail of con-artist Nicholas Fox. Ex-Navy Seal (there is a disclaimer about this at the beginning of the book explaining that, yes, the authors know there are no female navy seals, and no, they don’t care), Kate is well disciplined and fiercely dedicated to seeing justice prevail.

When she finally catches him, her very precise world is tipped on it’s ear and she is forced to question her own belief system when her superiors do a deal that leads to her working alongside the one man she has dedicated the last five years to putting behind bars.

This was a fun book to read. It is not a masterpiece, the background characters are a little interchangeable and the plot is a bit unrealistic, but it is funny and an enjoyable read.

Kate is likeable and I could identify with her ‘all work and no play’ lifestyle (being a busy career woman myself).  I liked her easy relationships with her sister and her protective but not overbearing father.  Nicholas is a charming rogue with a sharp mind and I couldn’t help but like him and wonder if there was a way he could be brought onto the straight and narrow and leave his life of crime behind. The plot kept me entertained and the supporting cast helped bring it altogether.  There is plenty of scope to further develop these characters in the forthcoming books.  Like the reviewer said, it did remind me of a screenplay, but my thoughts were more along the lines of, “Ooh, this would make a great TV series”.  All in all, I look forward to the next installment and to seeing where this strange partnership goes.

If you are looking for a book that is light-hearted, comedic and intriguing with slight romantic overtones and a promise of more to come, then you, like me, will enjoy The Heist.  If you are looking for something with a bit more tooth, then give it a miss, or better yet, save it for when you need something lighter.

The Heist (O'Hare and Fox #1)