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Power Rangers (2017)
Power Rangers (2017)
2017 | Action, Sci-Fi
When I first heard that The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers would be getting a film adaptation, I was a bit apprehensive. Hollywood has had a bit of trouble converting many of the themes and issues brought up in a variety of shows into films that stay loyal to their respective franchises.

Fans on social media have often expressed their dissatisfaction with films not staying true to the origin stories or their inabil;ity to retain much of the character and charm that endeared them to their fans. Power Rangers does not suffer from this dilemma. As someone who watched the series as it first hit American markets in the 1990s, I was unsure of how this story would transfer onto the big screen.

It wasn’t something that I was too personally invested in. It was a series in which I considered myself to be a casual fan understanding the background, characters, and general direction of the show. I wasn’t prepared for what the film version offered.
This adaptation is near perfect in the way that it is able to create a modern, mature version that incorporates many aspects into weaving their story.

The basics of the film are roughly the same as the show: it is based in Angel Grove, there are five teenagers serving the role of rangers whose goal is to save the world, and all the complexities that come with being a superhero who has a “real life.”
One of the more remarkable issues related to the film is how the writers and director are able to be inclusive with their characters without being condescending to their audiences old and new. We get a glimpse of a team that is more colorful and diverse. Where the original crew showed a group of youths of different races, the film version does not stop with race as demonstrating the variety that exists within our world. The film allows for the inclusion of people on the autism spectrum, as well as, allowing for the inclusion of the LGBT community. The film shows audiences that there are people just like them or people that they know in the superhero realm. It is not limited by race, gender, sexual orientation, or cognitive development.
Power Rangers itself is a fun movie with depth. As the film continued, I tried to look for areas to pick it apart and find those pieces that really detracted from the story. The film has its faults in a simply developing storyline, but that goes with the franchise. It isn’t supposed to be complex or overbearing. The humor ranges from sophomoric to sophisticated. The film is accessible to those who are new to the franchise and those who have been watching since its inception. Additionally, it is a superhero movie it is not insulting to its audience. It demonstrates the difficulties that exist with teen life, presents real problems that they have to deal with in contrast to the fantasy that they are living out as part of this team.
The film is beautifully shot and the CGI is nearly seamless (the film is not overly reliant on it, either). The fighting and action sequences are as much a part of the story as the characters themselves. Power Rangers allows for audiences to be entertained visually and comedically. Additionally, it allows for those of us who have not watched or followed the Power Rangers in a while to be a bit nostalgic and look back to when we ourselves could not get home quickly enough for “Morphin’ Time.” The film is updated, mature, and will have fans young and old beaming with delight.
  
The Hunger Games
The Hunger Games
Suzanne Collins | 2014 | Young Adult (YA)
10
8.4 (277 Ratings)
Book Rating
I finished this book for the second time around 15 minutes ago, and I’m still missing being part of its world. Yes, it’s that good. Actually, I read the whole book just today. The first time I read it, just before the film came out, I’d followed a friend’s recommendation to read the books first, and devoured all three in as many days. I then had to give up my Kindle for a few days so that my friend could read it, and she was just as enamoured. I know my American cousins loved it too. Safe to say, it was very popular in my circle of friends! I have heard a couple of dismissive comments saying it’s a rip-off of Battle Royale, but I haven’t read that yet, so I’ll reserve judgement.

Set in post-apocalyptic America, now known as Panem, the book very quickly sets Katniss, the protagonist, up as a fiercely protective older sister. <spoiler>So protective, she learnt to hunt, barter on the black market and generally help her family survive when their father dies and their mother is overcome by depression. So protective, she volunteers in her sister’s place for the practically suicidal Hunger Games.</spoiler> It’s not long into the book that the reaping takes place, but by the time it does, the reader knows all they need to about who Katniss is, where she’s coming from, and also sets the scene for her dilemma over the coming books. I was rooting for her all the way, and the way Suzanne Collins writes from Katniss’s perspective is extremely effective. I was constantly sympathising with her, while at the same time simply admiring how the cogs in her mind worked in helping her to survive. None of it seemed contrived.

I’m a really big fan of dystopias anyway, but I loved what this plot was based on. Collins has said that her idea for The Hunger Games came from reality TV, and what might happen if it got warped. In a society where it’s almost impossible to avoid reality television, the plot is really contemporary, whilst also having a definite mix of Orwell’s Big Brother in there. Having also read the next two stories before, I know it gets a lot darker, but I’ll review those another time. <spoiler>In the TV context, it’s also really easy to see how anything that boosted ratings (the “star-crossed lovers”) would be extremely powerful. It took me a while to get this, but actually, being torn between Gale and Peeta is quite understandable, given the different extremes she knows both under. I suppose comparisons could be made, but it’s definitely no Twilight.</spoiler>

The pacing of the book is done brilliantly (hence why I’ve read it twice, both taking less than a day!). Collins controls the twists and turns of the plot as adeptly as the gamemakers. The main characters are really multi-faceted, and the important themes – action, politics, and yes, even love – all come out in sometimes unexpected places.

Having also seen the film, I’m really impressed with how well it translated across. Obviously, no film can ever compete with the level of detail and the reader’s own imagination in a book, but it was good. I can’t remember what I thought of casting at the time, but I must admit, I did see Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson in my mind when reading the book this time. This may come across as a backhanded compliment, but Jennifer Lawrence seems to have the right level of awkwardness/social unease in front of the cameras that I associated with Katniss, and also fits the book’s description.

This review is also on my <a href="http://awowords.wordpress.com">blog</a>; - if you liked it, please check it out!
  
The Inexplicable Logic of My Life
The Inexplicable Logic of My Life
Benjamin Alire Saenz | 2017 | Fiction & Poetry, Young Adult (YA)
10
10.0 (3 Ratings)
Book Rating
<i>This ARC was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review </i>

Over the past couple of years, social media, particularly Tumblr, has been raving over Benjamin Alire Sáenz’s multi-award winning novel, <i>Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe</i>. As a result, I have wanted to read this book to see what the fuss is about. Unfortunately, libraries and bookstores in the UK do not appear to stock any of Sáenz’s novels.

When I saw an ARC of <i>The Inexplicable Logic of My Life</i> was available for request on NetGalley, I took the risk, having not read any of Sáenz’s work, and requested a copy. And I am truly glad I did. What, from the blurb and book cover, could result in a mundane Young Adult novel, turned out to be a thing of true beauty. The prose is almost poetic and full of emotion; it not only tells the story, it makes you feel it too.

The narrator, Salvador “Sal”, is beginning his final year at El Paso High School with his best friend Sam. Normally, the first day of school is something he looks forward to, however he feels differently this year. Something within Sal has changed, something indescribable but there all the same. Something that makes punching someone in the face an automatic reaction.

Sal’s dad is gay. Although not his real dad, Vicente adopted Sal into his extended Mexican American family after the death of his mother when he was three years old. He could not have asked for a better parent, but something is niggling in the back of his mind: who is his birth father?

Whilst Sal soliloquizes about his feelings, the reader is introduced to best friend Sam – a girl who, despite an erudite vocabulary, is not afraid to cuss and swear. Sam also understands what it is like to not truly know who you are, as does Fito, another friend, with terrible relations. Tragic events pull the three together, giving them a new chance at being part of a family despite not being blood related.

Sal, Sam and Fito try to help each other through their problems, ruminating together over their pasts and contemplating the unpredictable future. Despite each character suffering from grief, their friendship gives them a purpose and the encouragement to carry on.

<i>The Inexplicable Logic of My Life</i> covers so many themes it is impossible to categorize. Sam, Fito and Vicente are all encumbered with something that could ostracize them from society – their sexuality, race, drug addict parents – but they never let this get in their way. Sal, on the other hand, struggles somewhat, believing he no longer knows who he really is. He questions everything: how does he fit into the world around him? What right does he have to graduate and go to college?

With great efficacy, Sáenz explains through Sal’s voice, the importance of believing in yourself, letting yourself be loved, and accepting things for what they really are. All the main characters are trying so hard to belong; they do not realize that they always have belonged.

<i>The Inexplicable Logic of My Life</i> is a story of grief, death, family, friendship, fathers and words; a graceful, almost lyrical, narrative that gets to the heart of human existence and uplifts the spirit. The expressive language has a great emotional impact on the reader – have your tissues at the ready – and resonates within the soul. With quotable lines that you will wish you had written yourself, I guarantee you will love this book.
  
40x40

Mayhawke (97 KP) rated Bats In The Belfry in Books

Feb 26, 2018 (Updated Feb 27, 2018)  
Bats In The Belfry
Bats In The Belfry
E.C.R.Lorac | 2018 | Crime, Mystery
8
8.0 (3 Ratings)
Book Rating
A Cosy Crime sleeper worthy of resurrection
I’m a huge fan of Cosy Crime, I cut my grown-up reading teeth on Agatha Christie and Dorothy L Sayers, so it should be no surprise that I’m a big fan of the British Library’s inspired decision to republish lost Golden Age novels.

Fifty-one re-issues in and I’m still stunned at the number of authors who had stellar careers as crime writers, were fully inducted members of the Detection Club, and had publication lists to rival Christie’s but who, within a few years of their deaths, had just vanished from the pantheon classic crime novelists.

Such a writer was E.C.R.Lorac, author of Bats In The Belfry. In his introduction Martin Edwards describes the pseudonymous Lorac (real name Edith Caroline Rivett) as enjoying a “low-key career spanning more than a quarter of a century.” It also produced a catalogue of over seventy novels, yet, cosy crime fan that I am I had never heard of her until her book turned up on my work intranet.

Bats, British Library’s inaugural Crime Classic for 2018, is also the first of Lorac’s novels to be given the British Library treatment. It couldn’t have happened to a better book! One of the dangers of republishing books that have disappeared in the mists of time, at least if you are republishing them for the mass market, is that some of them will prove to have been ‘lost’ with good cause. Not that the writing need be poor or the plotting weak, but there are social aspects that can be critical to the development or fundamental premise of the story that change over the course of half a century. When that happens there is a danger that the reader will at best be disgruntled with a puzzle they were unlikely to be able to solve because they didn’t understand the clues they were being given, or, at worst, that the whole premise will seem beyond ludicrous to modern readers. Of the twenty or so BLCC’s I have read only one has fallen into the latter category, and whilst there have been one or two which were a bit plodding thanks to such issues they have largely been a pleasure to read, and I have been able to joyfully pit my wits against the authors’ intrinsic challenge to solve the mystery before the denouement.

Bats in the Belfry most definitely falls into this class of Crime Classic, so much so that it’s a surprise to find from Edwards that it was a bit of a non-starter when it was first published in 1937.

A failing writer, his actress wife, his ward and a selection of friends are collected one evening following the funeral of the writer’s cousin. Shortly thereafter the writer himself has vanished, his suitcase and passport left in a darkly sinister studio known variously as The Belfry, and The Morgue. The story is as dark and twisty as any you could hope for from a member of the Detection Club, and it plays nicely on themes of the time. Broken marriages, financially emasculated men, and the requisite ‘strange foreign man’ all appear, and even aarchaeology gets a look in. As the main characters sit and incautiously discuss ways to bump off someone and hide the body there is brief verbal tussle over the usefulness – and even existence of – dene holes, ancient subterranean storage areas that provided writers of the time with endless possibilities, most notably in Sayers’ The Nine Tailors. Lorac’s plotting is flawless and deceptively simplistic, and she leads you back and forth from suspect to suspect. She is brutally unsympathetic to her characters, and her writing bundles you along until you finally reach the conclusion, to discover how good you are at detecting. Or not.
  
Black Mirror  - Season 2
Black Mirror - Season 2
2013 | Sci-Fi
Be Right Back - 8

Hayley Atwell, best known as Captain America’s squeeze in the MCU, Carries the emotional weight of this episode in beguiling style. Not for the last time Black Mirror enters the territory of death, grief, loneliness and questions of a tech-aided afterlife. If it were possible to bring a loved one back in physical form, even though we knew it wasn’t really them, would we be tempted to do it? Entirely believable as a concept, considering the amount of data we are storing about ourselves on social media and in other digital ways. Although any kind of clone as good as Domhnall Gleason is a bit far fetched for now. What works here is realising that no matter how good a facsimile is, it is the myriad of tiny details that make a person that we miss the most, even the imperfections. Genuinely moving in its best moments, and a strong start to season 2 in 2013.

White Bear - 7.5

White Bear, the first of the “blind” episodes, where we as viewer are thrown into a situation with no explanation or context, was the first Black Mirror episode I ever watched. I remember being blown away by the dark concept, compelling nature of the minimal narrative, the cunning twist, and the boldness of the statement seemingly being made. So many themes are going on at the same time here: true crime as voyeuristic entertainment; the moral idea of an eye for an eye, brainwashing, and whether torture under any circumstance can be justified, for starters. Looking back, it isn’t the most rounded tale in the canon, or the best acted, but it is certainly very memorable. It also saw the birth of the White Bear symbol, which pops up in other episodes regularly, if paying attention. What is its meaning? The jury is still out!

The Waldo Moment - 6

The political apathy of a nation, and hatred of the personality flaws of our politicians could lead to a figurehead without real policies being elected and revered – it isn’t a very strange idea in 2020 at all. Many younger voters have been incited to demand change, without any idea of what that change should entail. So, in concept, this episode is right on the money. Trouble is it isn’t well written enough to sustain the drama or intrigue in the way the best of the canon do. The shock value is low, and therefore the reaction is “meh, fair enough”. For me, the first real blip in quality control for the series.

White Christmas - 8.5

This was the transition episode that saw Black Mirror make the big money move from Channel 4 to Netflix. Although now bundled into series two, it was a 21 month wait after The Waldo Moment before over 2 million of us settled down to this Christmas gift in 2014. It comes over as an anthology within an anthology, with John Hamm and Rafe Spall telling tales in front of the fire whilst on a “job” together in the cold wilderness of an unknown location. It is laden with ideas of technology back-firing, and is very satisfying in how quickly it moves through the plot points. The chemistry of the two lead men is great; the arrogance of one and the nervousness of the other allowing for some beautiful twists and turns. Essentially, the whole thing is either a re-working of ideas already used, or a precursor to future ideas that will be more fleshed out. Not that it really matters. This is the highest rated individual episode on IMDb, and the reason for that has to be its accessibility. The balance between being creeped out and entertained is just about perfect.
  
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)
2007 | Action, Drama, Family
Life for a teenager is never an easy thing. Between the constant insecurities about appearance, social standing, and other peer pressures,the teen years can be among the most traumatic in a persons life.

However when you are Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), and you have recently survived a one on one confrontation with the evil wizard Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes),
typical teen angst would seem a blessing compared to what is to come.

In the new film, “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” the classic 5th book in the series by J.K. Rowling has been transfered to the screen by Director David Yates, who shows that he has an affinity for the subject matter, and is not afraid to helm Harry and his friends into the darker chapters of their life.

The film opens with Harry and his cousin Dudley arguing as Harry has taken exception to the taunting over his recent nightmares and his dead parents. When an unexpected attack from dark forces forces Harry to use magic outside of Hogwarts to save their lives. While Harry is successful in his defense, he is shocked to learn that he is to be expelled for the action.

Soon Harry finds his way to a secret locale and is reunited with his friends Ron (Rupert Grint), and Hermione (Emma Watson), as well as his uncle Sirius (Gary Oldman).

Any joy from the reunion is short-lived as Harry learns that the locale is actually a secret lair for the Order of the Phoenix, a secret society dedicated to fighting Lord Voldemort.

Harry has learned that Minister Fudge (Robert Hardy), is using the press to descredit Harry’s tale that Voldemort has returned. In time, Harry is allowed to return to school and returns to find things have changed drastically.

The school has a new defense against the dark arts teacher named Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton), has instituted strict rules and changes at the school and backed by the Ministry, she soon becomes a tyrant to the students, especially Harry whom she punishes severly any time he brings up the fact that Voldemort is back.

As if this were not bad enough, it seems as if a large portion of the school is weary of Harry as they are weary of his claims about Voldemort, and are starting to believe the negative things that have been written about Harry by the Ministry.

Undaunted, Harry and his friends soon begin their own training as Harry instructs them on ways to protect themselves from the dark forces assembling. During this time, Harry also grows closer to fellow student Cho
Chang (Katie Leung), and experiences his first kiss as he transitions from school boy to young man, with the weight of the world upon him.

What follows is an intense adventure as Harry and his friends race against time to save the day from the ever closing darkness, with their very lives hanging in the balance.

This Potter is darker and more mature than previous films and the dark tone and mood of the film is evident from the early scenes.

While there is still some humor in the film, the tone is set by Harry who has become a darker and more torubled individual and the events surrounding him do not
lead to much charm and merriment that was present in the earlier films in the series.

The cast does a good job and the FX work is solid if not spectacular. My biggest issue with the film is that it dragged in many segments and that the finale was not as exciting as I had hoped for. Many times during the film and after, I got the impression that I was watching a two and a half hour commercial for the next film and final book, as there was little in the film for me that drove the story or the mythos forward.

That being said, there were many scenes that I enjoyed in the film, I just wish the pacing of the film could have been better.

The film like Harry transitions into more mature themes and experiences,it just stumbles a bit getting there.
  
Downsizing (2017)
Downsizing (2017)
2017 | Comedy, Drama, Sci-Fi
This little film has big shoes to fill
Alexander Payne was clearly vying for Oscars attention when it came to penning the screenplay for Downsizing. And why not, he’s certainly got form in the awards department. A two-time Oscar winner with a further three nominations, his films have been bold and topical.

That topical trademark shows no signs of dissipating with Downsizing, as Payne takes on the themes of overpopulation and the effects it’ll have on us in the future. But is the resulting film one of his best works? Or are we looking at a bit of a dud?

When scientists discover how to shrink humans to five inches tall as a solution to overpopulation, Paul (Matt Damon) and his wife Audrey (Kristen Wiig) decide to abandon their cash-strapped and stressed lives in order to get small and move to a new downsized community — a choice that triggers life-changing adventures in more ways than one.

The film certainly gets off to a good start before it even begins. Just look at the cast! With Matt Damon, Kristen Wiig, Laura Dern, Christoph Waltz, Neil Patrick Harris and Jason Sudeikis being just some of the actors on the roster here, there’s certainly a lot of talent about. And things continue to look very good indeed.

Downsizing starts out great. In fact, it has one of the best first acts of any film I’ve seen as we are introduced to the concept of downsizing and the lives in which its partakers lead. Damon is a magnetic leading presence and oozes charm throughout the film. It’s also genuinely funny with a script that knows how to garner laughs from the audience without delving into unnecessary slapstick.

To look at, Downsizing is really rather lovely. Filled with clever special effects, it’s a pleasure to watch and fascinating to sit there and think about all the camera trickery required to pull it off. Watching a miniature ship pull bottles of vodka is strangely satisfying.

And then, about 45 minutes in, things start to go rapidly downhill. So downhill that I left the cinema wondering how on earth a movie that began so positively, could result in a middle and final act so disappointingly ordinary. On the journey home, I used that time to think of the reasons.

That promising script from the first act becomes so muddled it becomes nearly incomprehensible towards the end
Firstly, that talented cast I spoke about earlier is completely and utterly wasted. Outside of Damon, each of the brilliant actors is given a glorified cameo that makes little-to-no difference on the final outcome. Laura Dern is in the film for less than 3 minutes – in fact, her scene is exactly what you see in the trailer. Christoph Waltz plays a bizarre Serbian playboy who is funny and irritating in equal measure and the less said about Kristen Wiig’s part the better.

Secondly, the story just doesn’t do enough with its fascinating premise. We get a vague environmental message about the beauty of nature and the fragility of life, but the idea of downsizing and the beautiful residences of “Leisureland” are merely a shell for Damon to go from scene to scene. His adventures with Hong Chau, which make up the bulk of the overstuffed 132-minute runtime, are pleasant enough, but we want to see more of the people who have decided to shrink themselves.

Thirdly, the tone is an absolute mess. Is it a comedy? What about a drama? Perhaps a rom-com? Who knows! That promising script from the first act becomes so muddled it becomes nearly incomprehensible towards the end.

Finally, the ending is absolutely dreadful and one of the worst ever put to film. I’m not sure if Payne thought it would be a good idea to leave the movie open to a sequel but there is absolutely no payoff to the previous 130-or-so minutes whatsoever. It just falls flat.

Overall, Downsizing has a brilliant premise and a wonderfully talented cast, but each of those is wasted and that’s unforgivable. What starts out as a clever piece of social commentary about the issues we, as a species, currently face, ends up becoming one of the most ordinary films you’ll ever see and a bit of a misstep for the usually superb Alexander Payne. It’s certainly his worst film to date.

https://moviemetropolis.net/2018/01/27/downsizing-review-this-little-film-has-big-shoes-to-fill/
  
The Water Babies
The Water Babies
Charles Kingsley | Children
6
6.0 (2 Ratings)
Book Rating
<i>This eBook was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review </i>

This year (2017), Calla Editions are printing a new hardback version of the original 1863 children’s classic <i>The Water Babies</i> written by the Anglican clergyman, Charles Kingsley (1819-75). Subtitled “<i>A Fairytale for a land-baby</i>” the book was intended for Kingsley’s youngest son and therefore was targeted at a juvenile demographic. However, as a result of the 1800’s vernacular and particularly deep themes, it has become more appropriate for older readers. With full-colour illustrations by Jessie Wilcox Smith (1863-1935) from the height of the golden age of illustration, this edition promises to be a collector’s item.

Charles Kingsley, the founder of England’s Christian Socialist movement, was exceedingly interested in the plight of the working class, particularly of the abuse and protection of children. This is reflected in his story about Tom, the ten-year-old London chimney sweep, who suffers ill-treatment at the hands of his employer. Tom, who has known nothing but the sooty streets of London, is embarrassed after scaring a beautiful young girl with his grimy appearance. Running away through a countryside he is unfamiliar with, Tom dives into a river to wash, however, falls asleep in the water.

On awakening, Tom discovers he has been transformed into a water baby; he can live and breathe amongst all the fishes and other mystical water creatures. Forgetting his horrible past, Tom is soon frolicking with the characters he meets, teasing and provoking unsuspecting individuals. But the fairies in charge of water babies are determined to teach him many lessons about truth, mercy, justice and courage.

<i>The Water Babies</i> is a morality fable with fairy-tale-like qualities. It educates young readers about the consequences of their actions but also enlightens them about the cruelty of some adults. Kingsley often talks to the reader (in this instance his son), drawing them into the story and making the scenarios as relatable as possible. The magical underwater setting is merely a veil to hide the lessons Kingsley is attempting to preach.

For the adult reader, Kingsley has a much more political message. Written at the time of political and scientific advancement, particularly in respect to the concept of natural selection, Kingsley attempts to ridicule the ideas of thinkers such as Charles Darwin by producing a satirical narrative. He suggests that scientists are fools who use unnecessarily long and foreign terms, evidenced by his use of the made-up subject of <i>Necrobioneopalæonthydrochthonanthropopithekology</i>. He also goes as far as to mock the majority of adults and appears to be completely anti-Irish people.

In some instances, Charles Kingsley goes too far in his satire, resulting in something that would not be accepted by publishers today. In order for Tom to be the hero of the story, adults need to be viewed as less than good – people who need to be punished for their discourteous treatment of children, which in this instance, they are, and quite graphically. But the most controversial theme explored is death. The more naïve may not cotton on to the fact that Tom falling asleep in the river equates to drowning, yet that is exactly what happened. Only through death can one become a water baby. To make matters slightly more alarming, Kingsley does not see this death as a bad thing; he describes Tom’s new life as something far better than life on earth – coming from a clergyman this is understandable – which suggests that death is better than living for an abused child.

Despite these controversies, Kingsley’s prose is humorous and entertaining - far more mind-boggling than you may initially expect. With characters named Mrs Bedonebyasyoudid and Professor Ptthmllnsprts, there is plenty to make readers laugh. Some of the hilarities may go above the heads of children since the jargon is no longer used in today’s society, however, adults will be able to appreciate the comical aspect.

Over 150 years old, <i>The Water Babies</i> has remained a classic. It reveals the political, scientific and social situations of the mid-1800s, yet it contains wisdom that is still relevant today. As Kingsley’s daughter Rose says in the introduction, “What a fine thing it is to love truth, mercy, justice, courage, and all things noble and of good report.” No matter how peculiar this novel is, it says a lot about the virtues of our character.
  
The Water Babies
The Water Babies
Charles Kingsley | Children
6
6.0 (2 Ratings)
Book Rating
Worryingly Controversial
This eBook was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

This year (2017), Calla Editions are printing a new hardback version of the original 1863 children’s classic The Water Babies written by the Anglican clergyman, Charles Kingsley (1819-75). Subtitled “A Fairytale for a land-baby” the book was intended for Kingsley’s youngest son and therefore was targeted at a juvenile demographic. However, as a result of the 1800’s vernacular and particularly deep themes, it has become more appropriate for older readers. With full-colour illustrations by Jessie Wilcox Smith (1863-1935) from the height of the golden age of illustration, this edition promises to be a collector’s item.

Charles Kingsley, the founder of England’s Christian Socialist movement, was exceedingly interested in the plight of the working class, particularly of the abuse and protection of children. This is reflected in his story about Tom, the ten-year-old London chimney sweep, who suffers ill-treatment at the hands of his employer. Tom, who has known nothing but the sooty streets of London, is embarrassed after scaring a beautiful young girl with his grimy appearance. Running away through a countryside he is unfamiliar with, Tom dives into a river to wash, however, falls asleep in the water.

On awakening, Tom discovers he has been transformed into a water baby; he can live and breathe amongst all the fishes and other mystical water creatures. Forgetting his horrible past, Tom is soon frolicking with the characters he meets, teasing and provoking unsuspecting individuals. But the fairies in charge of water babies are determined to teach him many lessons about truth, mercy, justice and courage.

The Water Babies is a morality fable with fairy-tale-like qualities. It educates young readers about the consequences of their actions but also enlightens them about the cruelty of some adults. Kingsley often talks to the reader (in this instance his son), drawing them into the story and making the scenarios as relatable as possible. The magical underwater setting is merely a veil to hide the lessons Kingsley is attempting to preach.

For the adult reader, Kingsley has a much more political message. Written at the time of political and scientific advancement, particularly in respect to the concept of natural selection, Kingsley attempts to ridicule the ideas of thinkers such as Charles Darwin by producing a satirical narrative. He suggests that scientists are fools who use unnecessarily long and foreign terms, evidenced by his use of the made-up subject of Necrobioneopalæonthydrochthonanthropopithekology. He also goes as far as to mock the majority of adults and appears to be completely anti-Irish people.

In some instances, Charles Kingsley goes too far in his satire, resulting in something that would not be accepted by publishers today. In order for Tom to be the hero of the story, adults need to be viewed as less than good – people who need to be punished for their discourteous treatment of children, which in this instance, they are, and quite graphically. But the most controversial theme explored is death. The more naïve may not cotton on to the fact that Tom falling asleep in the river equates to drowning, yet that is exactly what happened. Only through death can one become a water baby. To make matters slightly more alarming, Kingsley does not see this death as a bad thing; he describes Tom’s new life as something far better than life on earth – coming from a clergyman this is understandable – which suggests that death is better than living for an abused child.

Despite these controversies, Kingsley’s prose is humorous and entertaining - far more mind-boggling than you may initially expect. With characters named Mrs Bedonebyasyoudid and Professor Ptthmllnsprts, there is plenty to make readers laugh. Some of the hilarities may go above the heads of children since the jargon is no longer used in today’s society, however, adults will be able to appreciate the comical aspect.

Over 150 years old, The Water Babies has remained a classic. It reveals the political, scientific and social situations of the mid-1800s, yet it contains wisdom that is still relevant today. As Kingsley’s daughter Rose says in the introduction, “What a fine thing it is to love truth, mercy, justice, courage, and all things noble and of good report.” No matter how peculiar this novel is, it says a lot about the virtues of our character.
  
Network (1976)
Network (1976)
1976 | Comedy, Drama
All time classic
"I'M MAD AS HELL, AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANYMORE!"

One of the most famous lines in film history is as impactful today as it was when it was first uttered by fictitious news anchor Howard Beale in Paddy Chayefsky's (seemingly) parody of where TV and TV news is heading, 1976's NETWORK.

The astonishing thing about this terrific motion picture is how prescient it is. News is now entertainment. Appeal to the disaffected masses. Drive our message to the viewers. Be provocative. The 6:00 news had "less than 1 minute of hard news, the rest was sex, scandal, brutal crime sports, children with incurable diseases and lost puppies."

Sound familiar? This isn't from today, it came from this movie that was made 42 years ago as a cautionary tale of what might happen.

Besides the social ramifications, how does this film hold up? Quite well, indeed. A rare 10 star BankofMarquis film. Starting with the great Paddy Chayefsky's Oscar winning Screenplay. This was the capper on a brilliant career from Chayefsky - who also won Oscar's for his screenplay for 1972's THE HOSPITAL (I'll have to check that one out) and 1956's MARTY.

What does a terrific screenplay do? It attracts top-level talent clamoring to be in this - and they all deliver. Start with Faye Dunaway who won the Lead Actress Oscar for her role as Entertainment Head Diane Christensen - a driven, work hard, play hard individual who has the idea to make news "entertainment". Lost in the fog of time (and MOMMIE DEAREST) is the fact that in the mid-1970's, Dunaway was, perhaps, the greatest leading actress of the day and her skills are in sharp display in this film.

Joining Dunaway in terrific supporting turns are Robert Duvall, following his turns as Tom Hagen in GODFATHER I and II, as network head, Frank Hackett, Ned Beatty as Ned Jennings, President of the company that owns the network - he has a speech towards the tail end of this film that is as good - both in performance and in the way that it is shot - as anything put upon the screen - it was masterful. Speaking of masterful, Beatrice Straight won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in one of the shortest performances to ever win. She is in this film for about 6 minutes in total - but she won her Oscar for a 5 minute scene that is, most definately Oscar-worthy.

And then there are the leading men. William Holden gives one of the last great performances of his extraordinary career as the "voice of reason in this film". He is our everyman caught up in the bizarre, absurd circumstances that evolve around him. It is his effort to try to make sense of this insanity that jumps off the screen. Holden was, deservedly, nominated for a Best Actor in a Leading Role Oscar, but lost (rightfully so) to Peter Finch's turn as crazed newsman turned prophet, Howard Beale. His maniacal (but not over the top) turn is one for the ages. If you do nothing else, see this film for his performance (but there is so, so much more to love here). Unfortunately, Finch passed away from a heart attack in between his Oscar nomination and win, and was the first posthumous winner in an acting role (sadly, Heath Ledger would join this "club" years later).

Finally, enough cannot be said about Sidney Lumet's direction. A movie like this would not succeed without a sure, steady and seasoned hand at the helm - and this is how I would describe Lumet's direction. He lets the camera roll and lets the actors and the screenplay take center stage, not drawing attention away, but adding to the themes of the film throughout - especially in Beatty's speech at the end.

NETWORK was nominated for (but did not win) the Oscar for Best Film of 1976. Did it lose out to other nominees ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN or TAXI DRIVER? Nope, it lost to ROCKY.

Let that sink in.

If you get a chance to watch (or rewatch) this film, I highly recommend you do so. For me, it was GREAT to watch this on the big screen with an audience, one of the reasons I love - and will continue to attend - the SECRET CINEMA series of films.

Letter Grade: A+

10 (out of 10) stars and you can take that to the Bank(OfMarquis)