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Year of release: 2018

Director: Ol Parker

Writers: Richard Curtis, Catherine Johnson, Ol Parker

Main cast: Colin Firth, Pierce Brosnan, Julie Walters, Amanda Seyfried, Cher, Lily James, Dominic Cooper, Andy Garcia, Alexa Davies, Jessica Keenan Wynn, Christine Baranski, Hugh Skinner, Josh Dylan, Jeremy Irvine

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Genre: Comedy, musical

Highlights: Julie Walters steals the show, Colin Firth is getting more handsome by the day, the music

Lowlights: Fewer laughs, more poignancy, a lot of lesser well known Abba songs

Overall: An enjoyable sequel once you have got over the shock of the main character from the first film being dead (not a spoiler – this is revealed at the beginning)

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This is the follow-up to the huge success Kingsman film. Eggsy is now a fully fledged member of the secret agency and in this instalment, has to do battle with an evil drug dealer named Poppy (Julianne Moore). Channing Tatum pops up in a surprisingly funny role, and it’s great to have Mark Strong back as Merlin. As the poster shows, Colin Firth is also back as Harry, involving a rather amusing explanatory back story, and Halle Berry and Elton John (yes, you read that right) provide good support. Elton John is actually pretty hilarious and one of my favourite things about this movie. What really made it for me was having one of my all-time favourite actors, Jeff Bridges play a great (although too small, in my opinion) role.

Just like the last one, the plot is preposterous and entirely unbelievable, but there is so much fun to be had, that I just didn’t mind. The film never takes itself too seriously either which really helps. The reviews of this sequel have been less kind than the reviews of the first film, but if you did enjoy that first one, then I suggest you give this one a try too.

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Year of release: 2017

Director: Matthew Vaughn

Writers: Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn, Mark Millar (comic book), Dave Gibbons (comic book)

Main cast: Taron Egerton, Mark Strong, Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Jeff Bridges, Channing Tatum, Halle Berry, Elton John, Pedro Pascal

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This three part mini-series picks up six years after the finish of Pride and Prejudice.  Lizzie and Darcy are still happily married, and have a son, young Fitzwilliam.  As they are preparing for the annual ball at Pemberley, they are shocked when Lizzie’s younger sister Lydia arrives unannounced and says that there has been a shooting in the woods around Pemberley.  When Darcy organises a group of men to go and see, he finds his brother-in-law Wickham, cradling the body of Wickham’s friend Martin Denny.  Wickham is arrested for murder, and the Darcys look set to be dragged into scandal.

Modern sequels to much-loved classics can be very hit and miss, and I chose not to read the book by P D James, which this mini series was based on.  Partly because I like to leave Elizabeth and Darcy where the book finished – happy and in love – and partly because a murder mystery did not (to me) really seem in keeping with the themes of Pride and Prejudice.  Nonetheless, I was unable to resist watching the series, and for the most part, it was very enjoyable.

Matthew Rhys plays Darcy, who while still bearing the buttoned-up and formal demeanour of P&P, is clearly a devoted husband and involved father.  I really really enjoyed his portrayal, and thought that not only did he look exactly right for the part, but he also captured exactly how I thought Darcy should be.  Also, Matthew Goode (who I also really liked in Dancing on the Edge last year) was perfect as Wickham.  Dastardly, unfaithful, and untrustworthy – but a murderer?  Well, you’ll have to watch to find out, but Goode did make Wickham at least a somewhat sympathetic character.  Jenna Coleman was Lydia, and she too was excellent – I have always found Lydia to be an intensely irritating brat, but like Goode, Coleman brought some sympathy to the character.

I’m still not sure about Anna Maxwell Martin as Elizabeth – she is undoubtedly a terrific actress, but she doesn’t seem the right fit for Lizzie Bennet (Lizzie Darcy now, of course!) somehow; she looks nothing like how I would imagine Lizzie to look.  I liked the way the character was portrayed though – still with Lizzie’s strong spirit and healthy opinion, but also a loving wife.

The storyline was a bit hokey, and shifted the beloved characters into new territory, and a new genre, but it was entertaining enough to hold my attention for the three hour duration, and on balance, I would recommend it as a bit of enjoyable fun, rather than any kind of serious sequel.

Year of release: 2013

Director: Daniel Percival

Producers: Polly Hill, Ed Rubin, Joanie Blaikie, Rebecca Eaton, Patrick Irwin, P.D. James, Justin Thomson-Glover, Hugo Heppell, Eliza Mellor, Emma Pike, David M. Thompson

Writers: P.D. James (novel), Jane Austen (inspired by novel ‘Pride and Prejudice’), Juliette Towhidi

Main cast: Matthew Rhys, Anna Maxwell Martin, Matthew Goode, Jenna Coleman, Trevor Eve, Tom Ward, Eleanor Tomlinson, James Norton, Nichola Burley, Joanna Scanlan

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Click here for my review of the novel Pride and Prejudice.

Click here for my review of the 2005 film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.

Click here for my review of the 1995 mini series adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.

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This is the follow-up to the hugely successful ‘Freakonomics’, which I read earlier this year.  It basically follows the same format of taking various apparently unrelated situations and comparing them to see what they have in common.  They also look at certain problems in various communities, and how traditional reasoning failed to solve them, but a bit of imaginative thought did provide solutions.

Most importantly this book – like its predecessor – encourages people to look at things slightly differently, and not to be afraid of not always accepting the first and most obvious reasons for things being what they are.  It also points out that experts can overthink matters when trying to solve a problem – and very often the solution is easy, cheap and practical (for example in one chapter they discuss why there was such a high death rate in a maternity ward in Washington – until a doctor suddenly realised that just by the doctors thoroughly washing their hands before dealing with patients, this death rate could be drastically cut).

The most interesting chapter for me personally was the one which looked at apathy and altruism.  It cited the real life, well known case of Kitty Genovese – a woman who was brutally assaulted and murdered in New York in 1964, while several neighbours looked on and did nothing.  This chapter really illustrated how the media twist facts – or simply don’t do thorough research – and how as a result, their interpretation of events somehow becomes accepted as truth.  This particular chapter also described how altruism might not always be what it seems, and is very often not a selfless act at all.

The book is written, for the most part, in an engaging and lively style, so that you almost feel that you could sit down and have a chat with the authors over a couple of drinks.  However, there is a sense that this book could have been made up of parts which were written for the first book, and for whatever reason were not included in it.  Not that that makes it any less enjoyable. 

My only gripe with this follow-up was the final chapter about global warming.  While the authors seem to have an objective stance on more or less everything else in the book, they are considerably more subjective in this chapter, and it seems somewhat out of place alongside the other chapters.  (It actually felt like they were making a point of promoting a company called Intellectual Ventures – a company which invents products to try and combat problems such as global warming.)

Despite this however, the book is overall an interesting read, which makes you think.  Not as enjoyable as the excellent Freakonomics, but still worth reading if you enjoyed that book.

(Authors’ website can be found here.)

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