Movies

Movie Review: What a Girl Wants (Spoiler-Free)

Whatagirlwants.jpg

Rating: 6.0 out of 10 stars

Intro

This is part of a series of reviews on my friend’s childhood favorite movies. My friends and I have decided to “share our childhoods” with each other. They insisted I watch this movie with them.

Below I hash out the pros and cons that earned this movie 6 stars.

Background

What a Girl Wants, released in 2003, is based on a play called The Reluctant Debutante by William Douglas-Home. It falls into the category of Comedy and was intended for a teen audience.

The movie stars Amanda Bynes, Colin Firth, and Kelly Preston.

Summary

17-year-old Daphne Reynolds, a New York City gal who grew up without her father, decides to go on a trip to England to meet him for the first time. Hilarity ensues.

Pros

  • Charming, innocent plot
  • Likable heroine
  • Catchy music suited to the theme
  • Humorous dialogue

Cons

  • No surprises
  • Very cheesy and cliché

Review

Plot

While the plot is predictable enough, it was enjoyable to watch.

It started out with a story about Daphne’s parents, Libby Reynolds and Henry Dashwood. They met in Northern Africa, when Libby fell and rolled down a hill before being unceremoniously caught by Henry when she had almost reached the bottom. Ouch! (Seriously, Henry, try saving the damsel-in-distress a little faster next time.)

Apparently impressed by his heroically sloth-like rescue attempt, Libby predictably falls in love. Then the two were married in a possibly legally illegitimate Bedoin wedding.

Henry brings Libby home to his family, who are less than thrilled, them being typical rich snobs while Libby is the hippie singer type. Due to a misunderstanding engineered by an advisor who is a pain (is that why he is called Mr. Payne?), Libby leaves England for the United States without Henry ever finding out she is pregnant.

Daphne wants to meet her father desperately, so she travels to England alone, a fact that her mother seems completely unconcerned about.

I feel like half of me is missing.”

Daphne Reynolds

She soon meets a boy I will call Mr. Obvious Love Interest and sees her father the same day.

What a Girl Wants (2003) - Rotten Tomatoes

From there, things are pretty cookie-cutter fairy tale. She is foiled in most of her plans by Ms. Potential Future Stepmother and the Snobby Potential Future Stepsister. And it all ends…exactly how anyone would expect.

It is like many early Disney movies–incredibly cheesy and fun anyway.

The Heroine

What a Girl Wants (2003) - IMDb

Daphne is sweet, spunky, naïve…actually, listen to “Mother Knows Best” from the movie Tangled. The way Mother Gothel describes Rapunzel pretty much sums up Daphne.

Nevertheless, it is fun to see her flaunting convention in every way possible just by being herself.

Music

The music complements the movie and includes some 80s and 90s music. It also fits Daphne’s personality and upbringing well.

Dialogue

The dialogue is refreshingly humorous and light-hearted. Below I share two of my favorite comments from the movie.

No hugging, dear. I’m British. We only show affection to dogs and horses.

Jocelyn Dashwood

I don’t give a flying fart in space what you think!”

Henry Dashwood

Conclusion

This movie was fun to watch once, but I would be unlikely to watch it again. Pretty much, if you like cheesy Disney movies, watch it. If you want something deeper, keep looking.

Rating System

If you want to know how I rate movies, check out my rating system.

Movies

Movie Review: Enola Holmes (Spoiler-Free)

Enola Holmes (2020) - IMDb

Movie: Enola Holmes (2020)

Rating: 6.8 out of 10 stars

Intro

When I found out that there was a movie about the teenage sister of Sherlock and Mycroft, I was skeptical about it. How would it compare to other renderings of the Holmes family?

The answer: it doesn’t. While entertaining enough to be fun watching once, it failed to measure up. Read on to find out why.

Background

Enola Holmes was released in 2020 as a Netflix original. It is based on The Enola Holmes Mysteries: The Case of the Missing Marquess by Nancy Springer.

The film stars Millie Bobbie Brown, Sam Claflin, Henry Cavill, Helena Bonham Carter, and Louis Partridge.

Summary

Enola Holmes' Trailer: Millie Bobby Brown Is Sherlock Holmes' Sister |  IndieWire
Enola Holmes from Enola Holmes

The plot revolves around 16-year-old Enola Holmes, whose mother goes missing. When she becomes the ward of her brother Mycroft and he tries to force her into an oppressive finishing school, she escapes and concocts a plan to find her lost mother.

She stumbles across the missing Viscount Tewkesbury and becomes immersed in two mysteries: Who is it that is trying to have Tewkesbury killed? And where is her mother?

The movie Enola Holmes is both a mystery movie and a story of self-discovery.

Pros

  • Unique take on the Holmes family
  • Creative pop-up book illustrations
  • Costumes interesting, had a lot of thought behind them
  • Enola had a fascinating childhood
  • Enola is good at cracking codes, self-defense, hiding/disguises, memory
  • Will likely be appealing to an audience of preteen and young teenage girls

Cons

  • Constant breaking of the fourth wall
  • Henry Cavill is a terrible Sherlock
  • Mycroft is reduced to a disgruntled babysitter
  • This is definitely not going to satisfy Sherlock Holmes fans
  • Enola is not much of a mystery solver

Review

Concept

It is safe to say that movies and shows about Sherlock Holmes are overdone. But ones that focus on his family? Not so much.

This is not Sherlock’s story; it is 100% Enola’s story. The name Holmes is important in the title because of the legacy it carries of mystery, ingenuity, and creativity – not because Sherlock is a significant character.

This is a new take on the Holmes’ family – one that has not been overdone, and one that could create a worthwhile series of its own.

Pop-up Art

The choice to include pop-up animations to introduce the family was creative. These were also used throughout the film, along with journalistic illustrations that made the movie feel like Enola’s personal diary.

Costumes

Netflix's 'Enola Holmes' Quotes to Use as Instagram Captions
Enola Holmes from Enola Holmes

The costumes were designed by Oscar-nominated Consolata Boyle. According to Boyle, Enola’s red dress was chosen to represent courage. She also utilized ivory, as it is a color associated with the suffragette movement. Each costume was carefully chosen. To learn more, check out this article

Characters

Enola Holmes is a likeable character with many skills. She is good at cracking codes, self-defense, and disguises. Her memory for details is impeccable. Her courage and generosity is also notable.

Enola is not much of a mystery solver, however. She did not solve either mystery mentally, but instead by courageous action and being where the action was happening.

Sherlock from Enola Holmes

Sherlock is an ineffective character primarily because it seems like the actor is trying to be two things at once: the friendly, compassionate big brother and the emotionally detached detective. For instance, Sherlock says:

You’re being emotional. That’s understandable, but unnecessary.”

Sherlock from Enola Holmes

Yet he is so emotional that, according to Screenrant, Netflix was sued by the estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who claimed that this emotional Sherlock was based off Sherlock stories still under copyright.

Sam Claflin interview - Millie Bobby Brown is a "powerhouse"
Mycroft from Enola Holmes

Mycroft is reduced to a disgruntled babysitter who continuously fails in his attempts to control Enola. He has no redeeming qualities.

Breaking the Fourth Wall

I know this is a legitimate storytelling technique, but it was excessive in this movie. It strained one’s suspension of belief to the breaking point. Enola looks at the camera all the time, reminding viewers over and over that this is just a movie and that it’s all fake.

If you are looking for the escapist qualities of a good film, you won’t find them here. The constant reminder of the camera’s presence ruins any chance of the sort of realism that allows one to be absorbed in a story.

Conclusion

I gave this movie a 6.8 because it was better than the average movie. However, I would not be interested in watching it again.

While this movie is not for everyone, it is likely to appeal to an audience of preteen and young teenage girls.

Sherlock fans are likely to be disappointed. If you go into the movie without comparing it to other media that depict the Holmes family, you’ll be better off.

My Rating System

If you want to know how I rate movies, check out my rating system for movies.

Books

Book Review: Still Life by Louise Penny

Louise Penny: Still Life | D.K. Wall

Rating: 9.8 out of 10 stars

Intro

In my book reviews, I consider the literary merit of the book by examining aspects such as character development, world-building, illustrations, and storytelling.

Just as a precaution before you delve in – my opinion and preferences have an impact on the rating. When it comes to judging literature, it is impossible not to let personal biases interfere.

I will, however, honestly evaluate the aspects of the book to the best of my ability so my review can help you determine if it sounds like it’s the book for you.

If you happen to disagree with my evaluation for any reason, feel free to leave a comment.

Background

Quick facts about Louise Penny:

  • She is a Canadian author who lives near Montreal.
  • Her husband of 22 years inspired her to write the character of Armand Gamache, Chief Inspector in her novels.
  • She was in her 40s when her first book was published.
  • You can learn more at her website.

Still Life is Penny’s fascinating debut. The story is set in Three Pines, where the elderly Jane Neal is found dead from an arrow wound. Most suspect that this is simply a tragic hunting accident, but Chief Inspector Gamache suspects it is murder.

Pros

  • Strong sense of setting
  • Rich character development
  • Suspenseful yet nuanced storytelling
  • Effective use of quotes and literary sources
  • Well-written poetry included
  • Did her research

Cons

  • Somewhat scattered beginning, a little hard to get into at first

Review

The Beginning

The book starts like this:

Miss Jane Neal met her maker in the early morning mist of Thanksgiving Sunday. It was pretty much a surprise all round…”

“She had fallen spread-eagled, as though making angels in the bright and brittle leaves.”

Still Life by Louise Penny
photo of dried leaves on soil

I enjoyed Penny’s language. I was bemused at the caricature of death she made by comparing a woman’s position at death with the idea of children making snow angels.

Then the story goes back in time to when she was supposed to meet her friend for coffee. After that, it explains how a group of local boys pelted a gay couple with duck manure.

It goes on to explain that Jane Neal is a shy artist who is just finally willing to show her art to the public eye. Only problem? Her masterpiece, Fair Day, is like a child’s drawing, or an ancient cave drawing.

All of that happens before 10 pages are up. Now, I am no great reader of mysteries. In fact, this is probably the first mystery I’ve read in 10 years. But I was thinking, hey, let’s go back to the snow-angel corpse instead of this odd series of occurrences that I’m frankly not interested in.

But I was wrong. Every detail of those first 10 pages was absolutely integral to the story. I just didn’t have the perspective of the whole story in mind.

As a result, I will say that it was not a novel whose beginning gripped me, but I will concede that these pages were necessary to the development of the drama of the novel.

Setting

The story is set in the village of Three Pines, which is compared rightfully to Narnia. There is certainly something magical about the personalities of the characters who live there. They have the glint of life about them, the engaging complexities of truly well-developed characters.

Olivier and Gabri’s Bistro and B & B are my favorite places in Three Pines. Each piece of furniture and decor in the Bistro has a price tag attached to it. People can buy the table they are eating at, the coat rack, the chairs! It is such a creative place for the characters to spend their time.

Antiques signage

“Each piece looked as though it had been born there.”

Still Life by Louise Penny

Character Development

Each of Penny’s characters has many facets to their colorful personality.

Gamache, for example is careful, pushy, kind, stern, intelligent, ignorant…

Clara is a woman who grieves for the loss of Jane but has an edge of steel in her at times. Her husband, Peter, can be cold as ice or warm and loving, easily offended but loyal.

Ruth is a toughie who raps her cane off the ground to shock people to attention, isn’t afraid to let her opinions be known, and has a penchant for poetry.

There were many more complex characters, but these were some of my favorites.

Storytelling

The storytelling was remarkable because of the way seemingly unrelated events and pieces of information came together in the end. Penny is clearly a master at foreshadowing without giving away the mystery, at providing both depth and forthright depictions.

This is not a thriller – the suspense of what might happen at any moment is not sharp. Instead, the book draws you into Three Pines, where the action is happening, and invites you to stay awhile. It promises a good story, without car chases, without shootouts, but with a certain compelling sense of danger and turmoil lurking just below the surface.

Quotes and Literary Sources

Penny is clearly well-read. She uses a host of references and direct quotes from Auden, Melville, and John Donne, as well as several others. One that stuck out to me as particularly well chosen was this one:

“Evil is unspectacular and always human, and shares our bed and eats at our own table.”

W. H. Auden

Poetry

Ruth Zardo is a poet in the novel, and Penny has included poems she has written for the character. I will say that they do give the impression of being by an actual poet. It’s convincing, that’s what matters.

Research

man holding archer statue

Penny did her research, and that’s part of what makes the novel so intriguing. This is notable in the section of the book where Gamache is trying to figure out the details of hunting with a bow. Penny uses Gamache’s ignorance as an excuse to reveal beginner’s hunting mistakes, the differences between bows, common myths about hunting with bows, and all the little details of this topic.

Final Comments

This book is one of the best I have read in recent years, which has earned it the rating of 9.8 out of 10 stars.

Books

Book Review: Artemis Fowl: The Graphic Novel

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Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

Intro

In my book reviews, I consider the literary merit of the book by examining aspects such as character development, world-building, illustrations, and storytelling.

Just as a precaution before you delve in – my opinion and preferences have an impact on the rating. When it comes to judging literature, it is impossible not to let personal biases interfere.

I will, however, honestly evaluate the aspects of the book to the best of my ability so my review can help you determine if it sounds like it’s the book for you.

If you happen to disagree with my evaluation for any reason, feel free to describe your point of view in the comments.

Background

Artemis Fowl: The Graphic Novel is based on the novel Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer. Andrew Donkin created the illustrations for the graphic novel. It was published in 2007, six years after Colfer published the first Artemis Fowl novel.

The titular character, Artemis Fowl, is a twelve-year-old criminal mastermind. Artemis Fowl wants to expand his family fortune by getting his hands on fairy gold.

To do so, he seeks out and finds a book of fairy secrets that he uses to exploit the People (a name for fairykind). He kidnaps a fairy officer named Holly Short to use as leverage.

Along with his bodyguard Butler and Butler’s sister Juliet, Artemis attempts to pull off the amazing feat of separating fairies from their gold, which few have managed to achieve before.

Pros

  • Mostly faithful to book despite being shorter
  • Strong storytelling
  • Color themes matched mood and tension

Cons

  • Ugly artwork
  • Unnecessary changes to character appearance
  • Inconsistency in fairy culture

Review

Any fan of the Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer will notice upon reading this graphic novel that it is faithful to its source. There are even sentences that are word-for-word copies of sentences in the original novel.

The storyline likewise remains unaltered. There are no nasty surprise changes in plot like in some novel adaptations. That’s a relief.

As a result, even in this truncated version of the original, the storytelling is vibrant and engaging. I was hooked from the first page and read the whole graphic novel within an hour.

To provide a sense of mood, Donkin created color themes for different scene that reflected the atmosphere. This was unrealistic, but I recognized that it was an artistic choice that added rather than subtracted from the narrative.

Some of Donkin’s other artistic choices were poor ones. The artwork was ugly. It just was. I get that he has artistic license with how he can portray the characters and scenes, but this was too much.

For example, look at Foaly.

Foaly | Artemis Fowl | Fandom
Foaly from Artemis Fowl: The Graphic Novel

He’s blue and looks elderly. He’s not wearing his customary tin hat. Nothing is right about this picture except that he is still a centaur.

If you read the original novel, is this how you pictured Foaly? It’s not how I did. He came off to me as young and geeky, and somewhat comical. Not geriatric.

Butler is even worse. He looks like a disproportional mountain of flesh. In the original series, he was described as a “man mountain,” so I understand where Donkin was coming from. But he looks horrible, and I imagined him as a large muscular man with some style, not just sheer immensity.

Artemis Fowl | Epic Heroism for the 21st Century: a Multimedia Web ...
Butler and Artemis from Artemis Fowl: The Graphic Novel)

Also, can I just say that Artemis’s eyes are supposed to be blue? Not brown. Blue.

10 Best Artimus Fowl images | Fowl, Artemis fowl, Artemis
Holly Short from Artemis Fowl: The Graphic Novel

Also, Holly is supposed to have “nut-brown” skin. Instead her skin is this sallow shade of white. Why? That was an entirely unnecessary change. There was not a single person of color in this novel, to its detriment. There was no need to whitewash the novel.

Also, I will explain why I think the fairy culture in the graphic novel is inconsistent. In Haven City, the billboards were all written in English rather than Gnommish even though fairies look down on humans. The fairies would never have adopted English for their advertisements and daily life. It’s a silly little mistake, but worth noting.

Conclusion

Based mostly on the story and on some (very few) good artistic choices, I rated this graphic novel a 7 out of 10. Artistic choices including character appearance were its biggest downfall, but I was able to stomach that because of the rich storytelling.