The Color Purple

The Color Purple Book Review

by H. Thomas

Rating: 4 out of 5.

It is almost impossible not to root for Celie and Nettie’s reunion, and for justice for the many mistreated black people in the story, due to race and even gender, which makes it all the more satisfying when that justice is served.

Author: Alice Walker

Plot Synopsis: Set in the American South between the First and Second World Wars, The Color Purple tells the story of Celie, a young black woman, through the letters she writes to God. Abused by her father, having had two children taken away and married off to a man she barely knows, Celie suffers another blow when she is no longer allowed to speak to her sister Nettie – the only person she had left. She begins to lose hope – that is, until she meets the glamorous singer Shug Avery, who teaches her about herself and shows her that love doesn’t always form in the ways expected, and that family – “your people” – are sometimes the ones you choose, as well as those who you are related to by blood.

Review: This book is certainly not for the faint of heart – it deals with extremely dark themes, with all types of abuse, racism, abandonment and death being explored. However, it also tells an amazing story, especially for the time of writing in the 1980s, breaching many taboo subjects and breaking societal norms for both the characters and the readers. It is almost impossible not to root for Celie and Nettie’s reunion, and for justice for the many mistreated black people in the story, due to race and even gender, which makes it all the more satisfying when that justice is served. Interestingly, even the characters who it feels impossible to forgive at the beginning, are redeemed at the end, and every single character feels human and complicated – each has a story and definition of character, even from the limited perspectives of Celie and Nettie. Overall, The Color Purple is a wonderful book which deals with harsh topics bravely and beautifully and creates characters who feel impossibly real at their best and worst moments, and everything in between.

The Color Purple is currently available at all good bookshops – including Waterstones in St Neots. Please be aware of the adult content in the book.

The Breakfast Club

The Breakfast Club Review

by K. Ralls

Rating: 4 out of 5.

‘Whether you were a teen in the 80s watching it for the first time, or a teen in the 21st century watching this classic, it is a memorable and highly likeable watch.’

Director – John Hughes

Cast – Molly RingwaldEmilio EstevezJudd NelsonAlly SheedyAnthony Michael Hall

Synopsis – The 1985 American teen drama classic follows five polar opposite high schoolers who find themselves in detention on Saturday. Discovering each other’s lives and personal stories, they find out that they have more in common than they expected.

Review – The Breakfast Club is an iconic 80s film that is loved by many. Whether you were a teen in the 80s watching it for the first time or a teen in the 21st century watching this classic, it is a memorable and highly likeable watch.

A brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal – we are presented with 5 very different characters who represent the various archetypes that are often present in high school. The general message of the film is that each of these characters are more than their labels and is a reminder to not stereotype people just for the way they present themselves. That is the main reason that I enjoyed this film – it presents the audience with a wholesome (yet quite cliché) message to never judge a book by its cover. Not only that but it covers important issues that some teens tend to face day to day, varying from suicide, depression, a variety of social classes within the characters and physical and emotional abuse. I feel that the representation of these social issues is essential in a teen movie as it is relatable to the main audience of The Breakfast Club – teenagers. I believe that is one of the reasons this film was so popular. These characters resonated with them. Also, of course, the film is an 80s classic that most people have watched so there is that element of nostalgia for the older audience and that element of interest into the 80s for a more recent audience.

(Spoilers)

However, there are some questionable aspects of The Breakfast Club. Some of the ways that Claire (the princess) was treated by John (the criminal) was extremely inappropriate, ranging from snarky comments to sexual harassment. The main problem with this is that despite John treating Claire in this disrespectful manner, they still kiss at the end of the film and he essentially has “got the girl” which does give the wrong message to teens. The actor of Claire, Molly Ringwald, has even spoken out about this aspect of the film, calling it quite “troubling”, especially in the age of the #MeToo movement. Additionally, it was quite underwhelming at the point where Allison (the basket case) gets a “makeover” by Claire. Rather than keeping Allison’s alternative style, they completely strip her of her individuality and make her into another version of “the princess”. This could, again, give the wrong message to teens who have an alternative style that the only way that they will get accepted into society is if they conform to societal norms.

Overall, despite some of the questionable plot choices in areas of the film, including harassment and the idea of having to conform, I feel like we can challenge them now and actually speak about these issues whilst watching the film. This could include talking about sexual harassment and the treatment of girls with the younger audiences, teaching them that this treatment and the idea of not being able to be yourself is a negative. The leading message of the film, however, is a positive feature as it encourages people to not judge you, no matter how you present yourself and how you live your life. Of course, I recommend The Breakfast Club.

The Breakfast Club is currently available to stream on Prime Video. It has a 15 Age Rating.

Inside No. 9 – Simon Says

Inside No.9 Week: Simon Says Review

by B. Saunderson

Rating: 4 out of 5.

‘The minor key diminuendo in both the soundtrack and the storytelling is almost the pinnacle of the writer’s exploration of jealousy and the battle for control.’

Director: Guillem Morales

Cast: Steve Pemberton, Reece Shearsmith, Lindsay Duncan & Nick Mohammed

Synopsis: Simon Says, the second episode of the sixth season of this self-proclaimed dark comedy is a complex exploration of the more sinister side of fandom, entangled in mystery and suspense.

Review: This episode was one of the first written over Zoom in lockdown and it is profoundly personal. The magnificent soundtrack, composed by Christian Henson, plays a major role in this intimate portrayal of obsession and the struggle for power within an imaginary world. At first, the music feels deeply conflicting to the setting, as the small stage of a city flat feels restrictive for the epic string orchestration that fills its walls, but it soon becomes clear that this episode is hardly one set in a conventional context but is rather one rooted in artifice and is a liminal space between fantasy and reality.

The episode begins with a vast musical painting of the inside of Spencer, the protagonist’s mind and mental state. This alongside Spencer’s frantic attempt to remove blood from his hands, sleeves and the floor, sets the episode up as a classic crime plot but this is soon met with several twists that send Spencer and the plot into a spiral of obsession and loss of control. Simon, the episode’s names sake appears one evening with a threat wrapped in fan infatuation and turns the course of Spencer’s career as a writer on its head, twisting the storyteller into submission as the power balance between writer and fan soon seems to shift uncontrollably.

Although at times the twists can become somewhat confusing, the soundtrack pulls the audience through, relaying the emotions of fast paced scenes as it so powerfully projects an inner narrative adding to the deeply personal feel of the episode from inside the protagonist’s mind.

Despite the criticism the ending has faced for its surface level lack of drama, this is hardly the case. The minor key diminuendo in both the soundtrack and the storytelling is almost the pinnacle of the writer’s exploration of jealousy and the battle for control. It is a dark depiction of the delusion that can so easily stem from discipleship.

Every episode of Inside No.9 is currently available to stream on BBC iPlayer.

Inside No.9 – Bernie Clifton’s Dressing Room

Inside No. 9 Week – Bernie Clifton’s Dressing Room Review

by K. Silverthorne

Rating: 5 out of 5.

‘Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith’s performances were incredible, depicting their characters in a way that makes the audience love them both, despite their differences.’

Director: Graeme Harper

Cast: Reece Shearsmith, Steve Pemberton & Sian Gibson

Synopsis: In the 70s, Northern double act Len and Tommy (also known as Cheese and Crackers) stormed the stages, but then Tommy walked out of the duo and they have not seen each other since. Now they are reunited for one last time for a final gig in front of an invited audience.

Review – SPOILER ALERT

Inside No.9 is back with another episode – Bernie Clifton’s Dressing Room leaving no viewer with a dry eye. The episode captures the relationship between a double act as they reunite after 30 years, showing how far they have fallen apart since they last met. Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith’s performances were incredible, depicting their characters in a way that makes the audience love them both, despite their differences. Whilst watching the episode, you become sucked into the mystery as to why the duo separated, and what actually happened in the dressing room.

The story takes place in a church hall, surrounded by abandoned drama props and costumes and starts with Len walking in, seeing a clearly uncomfortable Tommy. From there, the duo discuss what has happened to them and the circumstances of their reunion. This creates a sense of pity for Len as he appears to be more excited about the event than Tommy.

However, the episode is almost split into sections, as it follows a pattern of them performing an old sketch of theirs and then revealing a piece of information about themselves/the falling apart. The audience gets whiplash from being entertained by the outdated performances to suddenly being told vital pieces of revelatory information.

Ultimately, the final moments of the episode are the best out of the episode, as Tommy finally snaps and tells Len the real reason why he left – to help him escape his alcoholism.

The revelation at the end of the episode that Len has actually passed away blows the audience away, due to all the pieces and hints finally fall into place. The episode, however, ends with a heart wrenching dance between the two to the tune of ‘Tears of Laughter’ – a staple in their old acts.

Overall, the episode is an excellent piece of TV, depicting a whole range of emotions and I would definitely recommend this to all readers.

Every episode of Inside No.9 is currently available to stream on BBC iPlayer.

Inside No. 9 – The Riddle of the Sphinx

Inside No. 9 Week: The Riddle of the Sphinx Review

by L. Arrowsmith

Rating: 4 out of 5.

‘The audience would have to watch the episode twice to fully understand everything revealed.’

Director: Guillem Morales

Cast: Alexandra Roach, Steve Pemberton & Reece Shearsmith

Synopsis: Nina thinks Professor Squires has all the answers, when actually, neither has a clue what the future holds. With deadly intent, they commence a battle of wits to solve the puzzle and reveal the guardian of their fate.

ReviewThe Riddle of The Sphinx tells an excellent story of mystery and deceit. The scene is set as the episode opens on a woman (Nina) sneaking through a dimly lit apartment, accompanied by an eerie score. The introduction of Professor Squires suggests to the reader that something is off, however, Morales does an excellent job of misleading the audience.

The episode repeatedly builds suspense, only to defuse the intensity of the moment with unexpected humour. This method allows the audience to drop their guard, and Morales uses this to install shock in the moments that we least expect it. The episode plays with cliches often found in this genre of entertainment, leading the audience on and then twisting them away, all the while leaving clues for the audience that make us wonder how we could not see what was coming.

Despite this, the feeling of satisfaction at the episode’s conclusion may not be understood by all audiences. The unexpected plot twists are perfectly explained and yet the sheer amount of them leaves the audience rather confused by all the information crammed into such a short episode. The audience would have to watch the episode twice to fully understand everything revealed.

This, however, would not be unfortunate as Morales, Shearsmith & Pemberton have produced a riveting and intimate tale. If you are a fan of dark and twisted stories such as American Horror Story, this is the episode for you.

Every episode of Inside No.9 is currently available to stream on BBC iPlayer.

The Personal History of David Copperfield

The Personal History of David Copperfield Review

by H. Thomas

Rating: 4 out of 5.

‘The cast is incredibly diverse in terms of race, without this affecting the plot at all, a perfect example of how to cast representatively even in the most classic of stories.’

Director: Armando Iannucci

Starring: Dev Patel, Tilda Swinton, Hugh Laurie & Peter Capaldi

Synopsis: A comedic, diverse retelling of the classic Dickens story, this film follows the life of David Copperfield, written in his own words as a supposedly fictional story for publishing. We follow the story from the moment he is born, in a rags-to-riches (and back and forth again) style tale, following his happy childhood, his less happy factory employment and his escape from it, and all of the eccentric people who he meets along the way, writing down words and lessons from every one of them in his box of papers – the only possession he carries throughout his entire lifetime.

Review: As someone who hasn’t actually read the original story, this film portrayed a tale I was previously unfamiliar with, beautifully. The cast is incredibly diverse in terms of race, without this affecting the plot at all, a perfect example of how to cast representatively even in the most classic of stories, and each part is played wonderfully – both the ones you love and hate! It also adds a comedic twist to the story, making each character as much of a caricature as possible while still retaining the plot, and each one is complex and has times in which you both like and dislike them. A story which may seem to have far too many twists and turns, at first, becomes believable, and relatable, due to the performances of the actors involved. Overall, the film is absolutely brilliant and definitely a recommended watch!

The Personal History of David Copperfield is currently available on Prime Video. It was rated PG by the BBFC.

The Secret History

The Secret History Book Review

by E. Stevens

Rating: 4 out of 5.

‘The most impressive aspect of this book was that despite how incredibly unlikeable every single character was, I was still completely engrossed by the story.’

Author: Donna Tartt

Synopsis: Arrogant teenager Richard Papen makes the decision to move to an elite New England college on the spur of the moment. When he arrives, he falls in with a curious group of classics students who appear to be set apart from the rest. But when he unearths their secrets, his life takes on an entirely new meaning.

Review: The Secret History follows the story of Richard Papen, a snobbish young scholar, dissatisfied with his dull town in California. He makes the spontaneous decision to move to Hampden College in New England, where he hopes to find a sense of purpose in his life. There, he is intrigued by a group of outcast students who seem to be almost revered by their peers. Taught solely by an enigmatic classics professor Julian, their mysterious Greek lessons are a source of fascination for Richard. After abandoning his previous subjects and joining their exclusive lessons, he befriends this group of misfits: exceptionally clever but reclusive Henry, secretive Francis, charming twins Charles and Camilla, and Bunny, a jokester who is also strangely deceptive. At first Richard enjoys his new surroundings, but after a tragedy occurs their lives are changed profoundly.

The most impressive aspect of this book was that despite how incredibly unlikeable every single character was, I was still completely engrossed by the story. The protagonist is clearly written to be despised by the reader: Richard Papen is arrogant, snobbish and self-absorbed, and the other characters are equally despicable, some rude and some downright prejudiced. However, despite this, the novel still manages to be completely absorbing, and it is no wonder that Donna Tartt’s novel is so widely recognised as a masterpiece. The only aspect of the book that I didn’t enjoy as much was Julian’s character. It was implied at first that their professor’s influence would be an extremely significant part of the story, but in actual fact he only appeared in a handful of scenes. I felt that his teaching style and supposedly controversial opinions could have been developed further, and this would have given more meaning to the students’ decisions. But despite this, The Secret History was an incredibly atmospheric and engaging read that I would highly recommend.

The Secret History is available at all good book retailer, including Waterstones in St Neots.

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before: Always and Forever

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before:

Always and Forever Review

by M. Lowe

Rating: 2 out of 5.

‘The film missed every opportunity to create even a crumb of drama. It felt like watching a feature length montage of its deleted scenes.’

Director: Michael Fimognari

Cast: Lana Condor, Noah Centineo & Anna Cathcart

Synopsis: The third and final instalment of Netflix’s ‘To All The Boys’ series follows Lara-Jean and Peter as they navigate their relationship through college applications in their last year of high school.

Review: I was honestly a little conflicted about this movie, having enjoyed the first two. Was it an appropriate ending to the franchise? Yes. Did watching it fill me with excitement? Not in the slightest.

The reason I took issue with this movie was largely due to its lack of any, and all, conflict. It seems that I wasted nearly two hours of my life waiting for something (anything) to happen. To no avail. The film missed every opportunity to create even a crumb of drama. It felt like watching a feature length montage of its deleted scenes. Perhaps I should have expected this level of tedium from a title like Always and Forever: that’s pretty much how long I felt it lasted. And I’m shocked to say so, but by the halfway mark I was practically willing Lara-Jean and Peter (who I had once loved together) to break up, just to provide some action. If someone had told me beforehand that I would have to sit through Noah Centineo’s victory dancing more than once in a two-hour period I’m not sure that I would have even bothered watching.

I do understand – however – that for fans of the original trilogy, it must have been a satisfying and true-to-the-book adaptation. As can be said for the first two, the visuals of this movie were very aesthetically pleasing. The opening scene was particularly beautiful (set in Greem Café, Seoul) and I felt that the cartoonish style emulated Lara-Jean’s fairy-tale expectations of love. The saving grace of the film was probably Lara-Jean’s younger sister, Kitty, who had a love interest of her own this time around. I enjoyed her witty dialogue and sardonic attitude throughout: it acted as a refreshing contrast to Lara-Jean’s sweet nature. I also must admit that while the sheer volume of couple scenes was truly unbearable, there were individual moments that I did find cute. The performances of both Centineo and Condor each led me to believe that they were in fact a real couple in love.

I wouldn’t bring this film up in conversation, but fans of the books and viewers of the last two films will undoubtedly find Always and Forever a charming ending to the beloved series.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before: Always and Forever is now available on Netflix and was rated 13+.

Behind Her Eyes

Behind Her Eyes Review

by H. Thomas

Rating: 4 out of 5.

‘This show can be summed up in one word: unpredictable.’

Creator: Steve Lightfoot

Cast: Simona Brown, Eve Hewson, Tom Bateman & Robert Aramayo

Synopsis: Behind Her Eyes follows the story of Louise, a woman who meets, and falls for, a man new to her area in a bar – a man who turns out to be her new, married boss. Louise, who only days later literally bumps into his wife Adele, has to lead a double life in the eyes of each of them, while discovering Adele’s disturbed history and strange lucid dreaming abilities, to work out what has made their seemingly perfect marriage so fractured for the two of them.

Review: This show can be summed up in one word: unpredictable. Every episode seems to bring multiple new revelations for each character, and it is incredibly hard to form opinions on any character as more and more of their history is revealed through Adele’s flashbacks. While this may be confusing to begin with, once the ever-changing perspective is accepted, the amazingly written story is revealed, full of amazing character construction and backstory. Every single character second-guesses each other, leading the audience to do the same and never be quite sure who to trust, which makes for an exhilarating watch. The two stories that play out the same time – Louise’s experience with the Ferguson couple, and Adele’s memories of her life with Rob in rehab – help build up the story and let the audience make their own guesses, while still never revealing enough for the fantastic, shocking ending to be predictable. This show, in only six episodes, creates an astounding story unlike anything else, bridging the gap between dreams and reality to make anyone’s head spin in the best way.

Behind Her Eyes is currently streaming on Netflix and is rated 15.

Twist

Twist Review

by H. Thomas

Rating: 2 out of 5.

‘the acting leaves much to be desired, without much emotion or feeling – it appears that the relationships between the characters have been overlooked in order to force in more action, such as the many free-running scenes’

Director: Martin Owen

Starring: Raff Law, Rita Ora, Lena Headey & Michael Caine

Synopsis: This modern retelling of Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist tells the story of orphan and graffiti artist, known by his surname of Twist, being taken into a gang of those similar to him, trying to do good for their leader, Fagin, using their criminal skills and knowledge. Twist has to assist his newfound family in enacting revenge on Fagin’s old art dealer partner, all while falling for Red, his fellow gang member, and trying to rescue her from the grasp of her abusive girlfriend and ringleader Sikes.

Review: When looking at the premise for this film, it certainly seems intriguing – a modern retelling of a much-loved story designed to tell of the lives of a group of orphans who become a family in spite of the way their lives have turned out. In a way, the plot is well-executed, with effortless diversity – changing the characters of Dodger and Sikes to women, as well as having both a gay and bisexual character, certainly makes for a more representative, up-to-date story. However, the acting leaves much to be desired, without much emotion or feeling – it appears that the relationships between the characters have been overlooked in order to force in more action, such as the many free-running scenes and unrealistic number of runs from the same policeman. Even with well-known, well-respected actors such as Michael Caine, the plot becomes jerky and all tension is removed as the plot appears to be sped up for the sake of getting to the ending. The decision to have the one gay couple in the movie as a toxic, abusive relationship also feels strange, as if Red “escaping” from Sikes and falling in love with Oliver has some underlying message. Overall, this film absolutely had the potential to be inspiring and representative, a perfect retelling to this generation of a classic story, but it ended up feeling rushed and incomplete, leaving an underwhelmed audience.

Twist is currently available on Sky Cinema and was rated 12 by the BBFC.