Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘witchcraft’

0141188979-01-_sx142_sy224_sclzzzzzzz_

This book centres around three women – Alexandra, Sukie and Jane – who live in the fictional Rhode Island town of Eastwick in the early 1970s. They are all divorced and/or widowed, and they all just happen to be witches. Their close friendship is threatened by the arrival in town of the base, bawdy, but hugely charismatic Darryl Van Horne. And…that’s about it. More does happen, but the storyline here is really pretty slow, centering more on the interactions between the main characters.

I must confess that this was not what I expected it to be at all. Having recently watched the film again for the first time in years, I expected the book to be of much the same tone – quirky, funny and colourful. It wasn’t, and while it did eventually draw me in somewhat, quite often I found myself looking for something else to do rather than pick up the book, and certain parts did feel really tedious.

I didn’t find any of the characters believable, although to an extent maybe they weren’t meant to be. Indeed out of the three women, the only vaguely likeable one was Alexandra (until it was revealed that she had used a spell to kill a puppy out of sheer spite; that takes some getting past). The prose was undoubtedly eloquent in places, but I always felt that Updike was inserting descriptions where they weren’t required, and was forever flying off at tangents.

The fact that the three women were witches – and were not the only witches in Eastwick – was not treated as particularly surprising to other members of the community, although it was repulsive to some of them, and some of the things that happened because of their spells (such as unusual items coming out of people’s mouths while they were talking). There was not an awful lot of humour in the story, but a lot of simmering malice. In short, for me this book was something of a let-down. I can sort of see why some people would love it, and there were flashes of great enjoyment sandwiched between the weirdness, but as it turned out I was just relieved to get to the end of this one.

Read Full Post »

This adaptation of Ira Levin’s novel seems to have attracted some negative reviews, but I liked it.  This may be in part due to the fact that I haven’t read said novel (horror is not really my genre), and neither have I seen the acclaimed 1968 film adaptation, starring Mia Farrow (because, well…horror is not really my genre).  I only watched this latest adaptation – released as a two-part mini-series (four parts in the UK) because it starred Jason Isaacs, who I always find to be a very talented and versatile actor, but I enjoyed the production on its own merits too.

Briefly, the story – which apparently does have some differences to both the novel and the 1968 film – revolves around a young woman named Rosemary Woodhouse (Zoe Saldana), who moves to Paris with her husband Guy (Patrick J. Adams), after suffering a devastating miscarriage.  They become friends with a wealthy and influential couple named Roman and Margaux Castavet (Jason Isaacs and Carole Bouquet respectively), and suddenly their lives seem to take an upward turn.  However, when Rosemary falls pregnant again, matters take a sinister turn…

I thought the cast were all very good, although the stand-outs were definitely Jason Isaacs and Carole Bouquet, who both had just the right mixture of charisma and menace.  Zoe Saldana was great as Rosemary (and looked incredibly beautiful), and Patrick J. Adams did a fine job as Guy.  I also particularly enjoyed Olivier Rabourdin as the Police Commissioner, who Rosemary enlists for help.  Christina Cole was good (as ever) as Rosemary’s friend Julie, although she did not have as much to work with as some of the other characters.

Paris was the perfect setting for this mini-series (although I understand that the neither the novel nor the 1968 film were set there).  The dark atmospheric filming made it both creepy and beautiful, and on a personal  level, I am very fond of Paris and always enjoy looking at it and seeing it in films or television shows.

Having read other reviews, it seems that this series was better received by people who are not familiar with the book or earlier film, so if you haven’t read/seen these, I would definitely recommend that you give this production a go.  The only thing that let it down slightly for me was that a few plot points in the last hour felt a bit rushed, but overall I liked this a lot.

Year of release: 2014

Director: Agnieszka Holland

Producers: Zoe Saldana, Mariel Saldana, Cisely Saldana, Andrew Balek, Robert Bernacchi, Joshua D. Maurer, Stephane Sperry, David A. Stern, Alixandre Witlin, James Wong, Tom Patricia

Writers: Ira Levin (novel), Scott Abbott, James Wong

Main cast: Zoe Saldana, Patrick J. Adams, Jason Isaacs, Carole Bouquet, Christina Cole, Olivier Rabourdin

Read Full Post »

The same year that James Stewart and Kim Novak starred together in Hitchcock’s classic ‘Vertigo’, they also starred in this romantic comedy.  Kim Novak is Gillian Holroyd, a beautiful young woman who hates her publisher neighbour Shepherd Henderson’s (James Stewart) fiancee, so casts a spell to split them up.  But then Shepherd falls for Gillian, unaware that she is a witch.  Jack Lemmon also stars, as Gillian’s adorable warlock brother Nicky.

Although the storyline might be considered a bit corny, the stellar cast of Novak, Stewart and Lemmon, who are ably supported by Ernie Kovacs, as an author of books about witches, who is a bit too fond of bourbon (or whisky, or whatever else is on offer) and Elsa Lanchester as Gillian’s aunt Queenie, who is also a witch, raise the standard of this film.  Let’s be clear – the witches are above all endearing and definitely not frightening (nor are they intended to be!)  Lemmon is just adorable – but when isn’t he? – as Nicky, and Novak is, if you’ll excuse the expression, completely bewitching.  It’s hard not to imagine Shepherd falling for her with or without the use of witchcraft to move things along.

James Stewart pretty much stopped playing the romantic lead type role after this film, feeling that he was too old for it.  He was indeed 25 years older than Novak, but somehow I hardly seemed to notice – they had great chemistry together.  The story was amusing, if not laugh-out-loud funny (the funniest parts were courtesy of Lemmon and Lanchester), and very sweet.  Special mention for Gillian’s familiar, the lovely cat Pyewacket (Novak ended up adopting the cat after filming was completed).  The ending is fairly predictable, but there are a few surprises in store along the way.

All in all, I would say that this is not the best film in the back catalogue of any of these actors, but it is an enjoyable and heartwarming story, and a lovely way to spend a couple of hours.

Year of release: 1958

Director: Richard Quine

Producer: Julian Blaustein

Writers: John Van Druten (play ‘Bell, Book and Candle), Daniel Taradash

Main cast: James Stewart, Kim Novak, Jack Lemmon, Elsa Lanchester, Ernie Kovacs, Janice Rule

 

Read Full Post »

This book is aimed at young adults, but can definitely be enjoyed by older readers too.  Weaving fiction with fact, it tells the story of Mary Chase, a young girl living in Salem, Massachusetts, in the late 17th century, at the time of the infamous witch trials.  Mary and her mother and brother are horrified as a group of young girls accuse various members of the community of committing heinous supernatural deeds, and call them witches.  After being given only the flimsiest of trials, the women, and some men, are punished by hanging.  Despite their upset and anger, Mary does not initially know just how close to home the terror will strike, and when it does, she has to act fast to save those she loves.

I liked this book, partly because the subject itself is so fascinating, and also because there was actually a great story in there too.  The characterisation is not as strong as it maybe could have been, and the story did not always move quickly, but in a way that was a good thing – there was this creeping sense of terror, as it slowly dawned on people that they might be the next accused.  Also, some people found to their cost that to speak out against the accusers and the way the accused were being treated was also dangerous.

Although Mary and her family, and some of the other characters are fictional, there are many characters including the accusers and most of the victims of the persecution who were real people, and whose fates did transpire as they do in the book.  It would be an interesting introduction to the subject of the Salem Witch Trials, for anybody who wants to learn more the subject, although it is worth bearing in mind that some place names and dates have been changed (there is an author’s note at the back where she explains such changes).

Read Full Post »

Towner Whitney moved away from Salem, Massachusetts, years ago, after her twin sister Lyndley died.  Now Towner’s great-aunt Eva has gone missing, and Towner goes back to the place where she said she would never return.  The town is shaken by her arrival, and as Towner investigates both the disappearance of her great-aunt, and a young girl who her great-aunt was helping, the secrets of Towner’s own past start to unravel…

I enjoyed this book – on the whole.  I did like the character of Towner, and although I thought I had worked the ending out, as it transpired, I was off the mark.  While it’s always nice to be surprised by an ending of a book, I actually felt that the book fell apart slightly in the last 30 or so pages, and the ending, while satisfactory, was not as good as I had hoped or expected.

Much of the book is narrated by Towner, but at times it switched to a third person narrative – probably in order to tell events from the view of Rafferty, a Policeman who helps Towner, and who himself is searching for the truth behind the mysterious disappearances.  There is also a chunk of about 60 pages which is told by Towner, in the form of a short story she wrote when she was a teenager.  For me, these shifts in perspective did not really help the storyline, and I would have preferred the whole story to have been in either the first or third person, rather than changing between the two.

However, there were plenty of things to like about the book.  I very much enjoyed reading about Salem, and found it especially interesting as I will be visiting Salem later this year.  I loved reading about the traditions, stemming from the witch trials of the 1600s, and I thought that the author did an excellent job of describing the place, so that I could really get a sense of the atmosphere and setting of the story.

There was a definite undercurrent of tension throughout the book, which simmers nicely and adds an edge to the story.  Overall, I would describe this book as an interesting read, and would be interested in seeking out more books by Brunonia Barry.

(Author’s website can be found here.)

Read Full Post »