Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Stormbreaker: The movie

I've posted these comments here because some of you may be intending to see the movie and not want to know beforehand what happens in it !

Anthony Horowitz wrote the screenplay to the movie of his book, Stormbreaker, and I would say he's done the job of adapting the book for the screen pretty well. I enjoyed this movie quite a lot; I thought Horowitz got all the major plot points in and then developed it into a fast paced movie. The only thing I really disliked was the "cat fight" between Frau Vole and Jack Starbright - it was far, far too silly.

There were some excellent stunts and special effects, and I felt Alex Pettyfer did a good job of playing Alex Rider - it's just a shame he won't be working on the next film; since Alex Rider is still 14 and Alex Pettyfer is now 16, they will replace the actor in a rather Bondesque manner !

It was interesting (but unsurprising) to see Alex's games device was updated to a Nintendo DS (I believe it was a Gameboy in the book) since the boy he was supposed to be was a computer geek - therefore it made sense for him to have the very latest games device. I loved the fact that Alex got pretty much all the gadgets that were in the book (from what I recall - it's been several months since I read the book) - and his walking-down-the-wall with the aid of the yo-yo was an awesome stunt.

Andy Serkis was incredibly menacing - far scarier as Mr Grin than he was as Gollum - the very fact that he didn't have a single line of dialogue just added to the menace, I felt ! Bill Nighy was delightfully nasty and unemotional - just how I saw Alan Blunt; also totally clueless (Talking to Mrs Jones about Alex: "Take him for an ice cream. He deserves a treat" !), and Mickey Rourke was just as slimey as he should have been !

I would have liked to have seen more of the characters played by Stephen Fry and Robbie Coltrane (and Ewan McGregor if it comes to that) - just because they're great actors and watching them never seems dull !

Sabina Pleasure had very little to do, unsurprisingly since the character isn't even in the first book (but of course Alex had to have a girl, as a "junior Bond" character).

This is a stonking good film that I am sure will storm (ho, ho !) up the blockbuster charts and give Captain Jack and his Pirates a run for their money...

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Forever X - Geraldine McCaughrean

What interested me the most about Geraldine McCaughrean's Forever X, is that the story is as much about Mel, as it is about Joy. It looks in detail at the reactions of a 4 year old boy suddenly confronted with a place where it is always Christmas. Mel quite happily accepts that FC is Father Christmas, even when he isn't wearing a bushy white beard. Felix Cox is quite simply the essence of Christmas at Forever Xmas, as Holly explains to Joy after Felix's death – the B&B would not have continued in business without him; indeed it does not survive after his death, since Holly's parents decide to change the name and theme of the B&B to Forever England, based on their great interest in the Second World War.

Mel's simple acceptance that Mr Angel's job and his name are the same, ie. that he is an angel in charge of Health, rather than an environmental health inspector, is also interesting – and it leads to confusion. Mel approaches Mr Angel to ask him to make FC well again, when the latter is feeling the effects of his angina. But Mr Angel misunderstands (largely because he doesn't have the patience to discover just what Mel is asking of him), and when Mel repeats FC's remark that it must be something he ate that's making him feel poorly, Mr Angel assumes the worst (food poisoning) and establishes that the turkeys are undercooked (p. 57).

The confusion caused by Mel's literal interpretation of Mr Angel's name continues when the latter, finding himself locked in his room by Joy (who believes Mel has told Mr Angel that the wanted criminal, Mr Starr, is at the B&B with his son), climbs out his window onto a tree, only to discover he cannot climb down to the ground. When Mel notices Mr Angel is in the tree, he assumes that Mr Angel has flown up there, or is resting there after flying back from seeing God. Mr Angel attempts to make Mel understand that he is stuck and Mel goes inside to tell guests that "the Angel's on the tree", but everyone assumes he's referring to the model angel on top of the Christmas tree in the dining room.

When Mel sees the police approaching the B&B shortly afterwards, he believes they have come for Mr Starr (as his sister had told him), and runs away onto the moor, not realising that the police have brought Joy back to the B&B from the seaside where she had accompanied FC as he took the Starrs to a safe haven. Mr Angel finally manages to scramble down from the tree and reveals that Mel has run up onto the moor; it is then that he discovers that Mel believed he was a literal angel and he feels the full burden of his name for the first time.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

There's a Boy in the Girls' Bathroom - Louis Sachar

I re-read Louis Sachar's There's a Boy in the Girls' Bathroom again yesterday. It's a lovely book about 5th grader Bradley Chalkers. As the book opens, everyone in his class (including the teacher) dislikes Bradley. He sits on his own in class, he doesn't pay attention in class, he doesn't do his homework, he cuts up his test papers and sticky tapes them to other bits of junk in his desk. He's aggressive and unfriendly. Then one day, two new people arrive at Bradley's school: Jeff Fishkin, a new 5th grader who is obliged to sit next to Bradley. Jeff is a friendly boy who automatically says "Hello" to people who say "Hello" to him, and he tries to befriend Bradley. The other new person in school is Carla Davis, the school counsellor. She meets with Jeff (because he's new) and with Bradley (because no one knows what to do with him). She has the best line in the book: "I won't tell you what to do. All I can do is help you to think for yourself.". Unfortunately this is going to prove to be a difficult stance for Carla to maintain after various parents misinterpret her ideas - one even tells Carla that it's not necessary to keep promises to children after Carla refuses to repeat to a parent what one of the children had told her, because she had promised she would not tell anyone else. (An attitude - the parent's, not Carla's - I found absolutely strange !)

Each time Bradley visits Carla, she greets him with the words "Hello, Bradley. It's a pleasure to see you today. I appreciate you coming to see me." Eventually, between the efforts of Carla and Jeff, Bradley starts to become both a better person and a better student. The big breakthrough comes when he and Jeff are invited to a birthday party by one of the girl's in class. Unfortunately, just before Bradley goes to the party, Carla is asked to leave the school, because of the objections parents have to her working with their children, and this causes Bradley to panic that he'll turn back into the horrible person he used to be. Carla does her best to persuade him this won't happen - and fortunately she's right.

Despite the fact that Bradley's a fairly unsympathetic character for much of the book, I did like him; I felt sorry for him and I wanted people to find the good in him, so the book was very satisfying in that respect.

I also liked Carla a lot - I loved the fact that she respects the children with whom she deals, and I really loved the way she loaned her books to children: she lends Bradley Uriah C Lasso's My Parents Didn't Steal an Elephant (which unfortunately doesn't appear to be a real book) and she lends Colleen (the girl who invites Bradley to her birthday party the very real Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters by J D Salinger. This books is very much a book about the power of friendship, but it's also a book about the value of reading and learning to think for oneself. I recommend it heartily.