Pride and Prejudice and Zombies!

OK, the horror/zombie/gruesome movie genre is not for me! I have enjoyed an occasional gruesome movie, like Inglorious Basterds and I have even liked the Hannibal TV series to a certain degree, but only the Richard Armitage as Francis Dolarhyde storyline (the rest really was too gruesome for me). What I do love is all things Austen and all things Pride & Prejudice. My fave P&P adaptation is, of course, the 1995 BBC one with Colin Firth. So combine one of my favourite things with the (for me) worst movie genre and what do you get? Pride and Prejudice and Zombies! I was so torn on whether I wanted to see this or not but in the end I very recently did… and to my great surprise I actually enjoyed it!

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OK, the zombies still aren’t my thing and there is the constant threat of zombies throughout the movie but somehow this whole zombie scenario is so absurd, it’s just… funny! The movie is tongue-in-cheek, with zombie references strewn everywhere in the story – it’s just funny to see that juxtaposed with this whole Jane Austen world! Not laugh out loud funny  but very amusing nonetheless. So, despite blood and gore (and really, it wasn’t too bad – I thought Hannibal was worse or in any case creepier and scarier!), I truly enjoyed the film. It’s not my fave movie ever, but it’s fun! It had also a lot to do with the performances of the actors – they were good!

I don’t think I’ll ever be a Lily James fan (I wasn’t too fond of her in War & Peace and I really didn’t like her in Cinderella) but in this, for the first time, I liked her; she made a good Elizabeth Bennet. Lizzie really is a bit of a kick-ass character anyway and now, with her battling zombies, she was even more so! I also thought Sam Riley was a very good Mr Darcy and the two of them worked well together. I did need to get used to Sam Riley’s raspy voice, though. He sounded like he could use a lozenge… I don’t know if he always sounds like that, I’ve never seen him in anything else before, but I got used to it. One highlight Darcy and Elizabeth scene was the first proposal scene – that was really fun to watch! Not only verbal fireworks there, it got very physical too.

Bella Heathcote is a pretty and more tough Jane Bennet, and Douglas Booth as Mr. Bingley is sweet with a little more backbone, but neither can hold a candle to Lizzie and Darcy, of course.

For me, the greatest revelations in this movie were Matt Smith as Parson Collins and Lena Headey as Catherine De Bourgh.

Matt Smith was just absolutely delightful as useless Collins, in his silly quest for a wife and his love for Darcy. He literally stole every scene he was in and just cracked me up! The laugh out loud moments I did have all involved him. Lena Headey I didn’t know at all (apparently she is in Game of Thrones but I don’t watch that) but she was one cool Catherine de Bourgh, the best and most feared zombie slayer out there.

Yeah, the story of P&P was somewhat condensed and the plot twisted to fit in with zombies. Not all characters were as clearly drawn as in other Austen adaptations but the essential Lizzie and Darcy stuff was all there. Except for their dance at Netherfield… I really missed that one. It is one of my favourite scenes in the 1995 adaptation, the sparks fly between Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle…

And it would have been a perfect sexual tension build up in Zombies  as well! I do think such a scene was filmed. Lizzie is in mid-annoyance with Mr Collins when Darcy steps in and asks her to dance. She impulsively agrees and then introduces Darcy and Collins…

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… but after that they get distracted by zombies and the dance never actually happens! It must have been filmed, though, because I found this still:

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I do hope to see that scene sometime, I am very curious!

From the trailer you’d think that 90% of the movie is battling zombies but it isn’t, there’s a lot of ‘regular’ P&P in there as well. And even the battles – yeah, there’s blood and splashing but not everything is shown in such detail, sometimes it’s more the sound than the actual visual effect that’s disturbing. It really is P&P with a twinkle in the eye. Don’t adher to the original too strictly and don’t mind the slashing too much and you may just enjoy this! I know I did. 🙂

War & Peace @ the BBC

The BBC are showing their adaptation of Tolstoy’s War & Peace right now – 6 episodes, and next Sunday is the finale. I have been watching it religiously every week and am very much enjoying it. It was adapted for the screen by Andrew Davies (from 1995’s Pride and Prejudice fame).

I won’t go into the plot here, Wikipedia can tell you much more than I can. Suffice it to say that it is set at the beginning of the 19th century in Russia and it involves 3 main characters with of course many characters surrounding them. I never read War & Peace, the prospect has always been a litle too daunting. I did see the 1950’s movie version with Audrey Hepburn, which I remember quite enjoying but it’s so long ago since I watched that, I don’t remember too much of it. Going into this BBC series I did have expectations, though. I expected to be rooting for the main female character Natasha and for Prince Andrei and I hoped to like the character of Pierre. Now, 5 epsiodes in and almost at the end, I find I am rooting for two different characters than I expected to!

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It turns out that Prince Andrei (James Norton on the right), while brooding and sexy, is a little too depressing for me. James Norton does do a great job as Andrei and I already liked him in Death Comes to Pemberley but I find the character a little too down. Natasha (Lily James) goes from bubbly to sobered up and while the acting is great – I don’t know, Lily James just does not do it for me (she didn’t do it for me in the Cinderella movie either. I never saw her in Downton Abbey so I wouldn’t know about that). No, the one I love most in this adaptation is flawed, searching, idealistic Pierre (Paul Dano on the left). He has a vulnerability, insecurity, warmth and yes, dorkiness about him that is just so touching. I liked him from the get go and then, at the end of episode 3, when he watches Andrei and Natasha dance (which really is a magical dance scene!) and later urges his friend Andrei to ask for Natasha’s hand in marriage – that sealed the deal for me!

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Andrei and Natasha, yes, they’re fine together, but what I love more is Andrei’s and Pierre’s friendship! When they are on the screen together, talking about life and it’s challenges, that’s when War & Peace becomes magical to me.

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I am not the only one who thinks Paul Dano is a revelation. A Radio Times piece states exactly the same thing! I quote:

“While it was a lovely moment when Andrei (James Norton) revealed that he was in love with Natasha (Lily James), it was Pierre’s “go get her” speech that really gave us goosebumps. Because as he smiled at his friend’s happiness, the glimmer of grief in his eyes, the pain of unrequited love, was almost unbearable. And this week, when Pierre, bleary eyed and unfit for war, abandoned his idealism to bathe in Napoleon’s bloodbath, he was the most mesmerising character on-screen.”

The female character that I find I am rooting for most is Prince Andrei’s long suffering sister Marya, who is really treated very harshly by her father. She is played beautifully by actress Jessie Buckley, who I recently saw at the cinema in the National Theatre Live production of A Winter’s Tale (with Kenneth Branagh and Judi Dench). I really liked her in that too. She’s someone to watch out for!

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Due to her austere father Marya has escaped into a reclusive, hyper religious life, taking care of her little nephew (Prince Andrei’s son from his first wife who died). Now that her father is dead, she seems to be blossoming a little and the beginning of that transformation is beautiful. I can’t wait to see how that develops over the next (and last) episode.

So, yes, I am enjoying War & Peace but for different reasons than I imagined! Oh, and the acting from everyone in this is really excellent. Well worth a watch!

30 Day Movie Challenge – Day 11

Day 11 – Least favourite movie of your favourite director

When I was converging two movie challenge question lists into one list, I should have substituted/scrapped this question! I do know directors whose work I generally don’t like so much but I just have no idea who my favourite director actually is! Billy Wilder? Steven Spielberg? Alfred Hitchcock? Peter Jackson? Kenneth Branagh? Danny Boyle? Ang Lee? Aaargh! I don’t know! However, while listing all these directors one recently disappointing movie of one of these directors did spring to mind, so I guess I’ll go with that…

I generally enjoy Kenneth Branagh directed movies, he has a way of storytelling that I like. He really showcases characters in his movies and I am a sucker for good character driven stories. So, when I heard he was directing a new Cinderella movie, I had high hopes. After all, I remember not expecting much of Thor but when I finally did see it, I really liked it very much and I just know that was because of Kenneth Branagh’s touch. So, why not trust Branagh to make a great Cinderella movie, right?

In March, just two weeks after my dad died, I went to see the new Cinderella in the hopes of it cheering me up a little.

While the movie was alright, very much a Disney princess movie, it was nowhere near as good as I had expected it to be, despite the many positive reviews and reactions I had read. I’m not really sure why I didn’t warm to it. Was it because I was watching it during a very difficult personal time, would I have liked it better if I had watched it at a different time? Were my expectations just too high (I love a Cinderella story, after all)? Was I comparing it too much to my favourite other Cinderella movie? It’s probably all of the above but most of all I think it was because I just could not warm up to the leads. Something about both Lily James and Richard Madden in the title roles just annoyed me! Lily James’s constant look of innocence and girl-wonder maybe? Or Richard Madden’s tights that were distracting, along with his too toothy smiles? And the story… I don’t know, I guess I just expected some extra twist or take on the tale. I thought Cate Blanchett as the evil stepmother was the best thing in it and that was pretty much all the higher praise I could give it. Oh, and Cinderella’s dad, played by Ben Chaplin, was nice to look at (I guess it shows my age when I fancy the dad more than the prince?).

It’s the highest grossing Branagh movie to date and has garnered a lot of praise, yet I could not love it as much as I wanted to. The movie just made me long for the old The Slipper and the Rose Cinderella-movie , which I quickly proceeded to re-watch and helped cheer me up far better than this Cinderella adaptation could.

Sorry, Ken, this is not my favourite of your movies…

(30 Day Movie Challenge – the full list of questions)