Monday, January 15, 2018

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

In two four words: I didn't like it.
Fortunately, I am not a big fan of the whole series, because had I been I would have been greatly disappointed. Not being  a fan I am just upset. I don't know what George Lucas was thinking about when selling the rights to the franchise to Disney, but under the guidance of the latter the episodes are becoming more and more distasteful...
I won't say anything about the actors (about both the new ones and the old ones, though I share a joke about the screenwriters overcomplicating their future tasks of writing new plots by "killing" and "leaving alive" wrong characters ))), but the authors of the plot should have read all the previous scenarios more carefully (or just read them once, because I'm not sure whether they actually did it). The universe created by Lucas was logical enough, viewers knew and thus could predict what the heroes could and couldn't do. In the new reality everything seems to be possible and thus illogical. For example, how did Luke achieve an ability to send his hologram to a place million kilometers away from him? He definitely didn't have such a skill in the previous episodes, and without any explanation such a twist of plot seems just "fabricated". How did Ray learn to move stones in just a couple of minutes, when for master Yoda it had taken weeks to teach Luke just to pick up a sword? And some scenes seemed to be awkward copy-pastes from the another episodes of the saga and other Hollywood movies.
Another problem is minor characters. I realize that in our time of political correctness for a "passable" it is necessary to have characters of both gender and different races, but IMHO in this movie there was too much of such a variety. This was a fantastic movie, not a picture about modern social problems, thus I think it might have been spared lots of character types.
Was there anything good in the movie? Well, there was a bit of humor, but it was almost not related to the plot. Scenes like Chewbacca eating strange chickens and a kind of a parody to James Bond movies were funny enough, but what on Earth did they have in common with Star Wars? (The authors didn't even invent some funny robots like they used to have in the previous episodes...)
To sum up - the movie turned out to be dull, boring and not worth to be watched at all. And it almost ruined any chances of the next episode to be seen by me, sorry ))

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Emily of New Moon by Lucy Maud Montgomery...

... and a couple of more words about the rest of her works.
In fact,  I first discovered not books of Montgomery but a TV-series based on her story of Anne Shirley (Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel). I liked them very much, so I went to great length to find and read all the books about Anne (in Russian). Later I re watched the series in English, and watching it I discovered that the was one more TV-series based on Montgomery novels, Road to Avonlea. I watched it and liked it even more than the one about Anne. And I also found and read the series which the main characters for the TV-series were taken from - The Story Girl.
What I really liked in Montgomery's books was her wit, her sense of humor, her heroes' ability to laugh and find positive things during different sad and unpleasant moments of their lives. But unfortunately, none of these things can be used as a description of the above mentioned book series about Emily of New Moon. There are two words only which IMHO thoroughly and wholly describe the series - gloomy and dull. The first book is gloomy, the second is openly dull, the third is somewhere between them, but still non the better...
 When I was reading the first book I was feeling enormous pity and empathy towards Emily, and hatred and disgust almost of the same size towards her aunt Elizabeth. How could a woman behave so cruelly towards her own niece? Marilla (from Anne of Green Gables) was much more human and kind towards Anne, a complete stranger to her, than this aunt Elizabeth towards Emily, who was her relative, the daughter of her sister...
However gloomy, the first book still had some "action" - Emily was growing up and thus expanding (with huge efforts) the degree of her freedom. In the second book, alas, there was nothing of this kind. Having gained her own room and a permission to go to college Emily kinda stopped fighting for her "rights". And all her adventures described in second book were bleak and unmemorable. Maybe the reason to it was that almost all the chapters were "pages" from Emily's diary, and she wrote them in such a wishy-washy style... (Even her awkward, childish, full of mistakes diaries from the first book were more readable and funny than those from the second one.) The best chapter (or, let's say, the only chapter I remember good enough) was IMHO the one written in a normal style, in the third person, about Emily going from Shrewsberry to New Moon and back during one winter night.
The third book... Well, it did have some action and a kind of culmination, but not of Emily's personal story... As for the action - it is present in the first third of the book, then ends abruptly with Emily's decision not to marry Dean Priest, and later returns only at the end of the book, with the announcement of Teddy and Ilse's wedding. (Frankly speaking, I might have been mislead by one of the annotations to the book, from the content of which I decided that the culmination would be in Emily's decision whom to marry, Teddy or Dean, thus Emily's break up with the latter seemed to me to be a very early and wrongly placed culmination. Anyway, this didn't improve my opinion of the book.) As for the real culmination - as I mentioned before, it was present in the book, but it was not about Emily and Teddy, but about Ilse and Perry. Ilse's escape from her wedding with Teddy and appearance in Perry's ward in the hospital was the culmination of her love-story with Perry. And it looked like Emily and Teddy themselves did nothing to be together... Their reunion seemed to result from the actions of the others, not from their own deeds. A rather dull end of a rather dull story...
Summing up - Emily of New Moon (with its two sequels) is definitely not the best (not to say the worst - because I haven't read all the books yet) work of Lucy Maud Montgomery. I know that it is much more autobiographical than the series about Anne, but I don't see the reason to write it in a way of somebody else's story. Had it been an autobiography all the gloomy details would have been justified, but in a fiction book... where an author can add whatever they like... such abundance of boring and gloomy details doesn't seem to be vindicated.
PS As far as I know there was as well made a TV-series based on this trilogy, so I hope it may be more brighter... But the degree of my hope in not very high, because it was made not by Kevin Sullivan, the author of the brilliant Anne of Green Gables and Road to Avonlea.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Dreaming about Cornwall

Victoria Holt is one of my favourite writers (her real name was Eleanor Alice Hibbert, here is the link to her biography in Wikipedia), among her works I like most of all the series named Daughters of England (written under the pen name Philippa Carr). It's a family saga telling about almost twenty generations of women of one family. In several books the action takes place in Cornwall; and views and sceneries of this peninsula are described with such beauty and brightness, that I decided to have a look at them (at least how they look like in photos and pictures).

The heroes of the saga first get into Cornwall in the XVIth century.

Dominating the moonlit scene were the stark grey machicolated towers of a castle rising high on the rocky cliffs … and beyond, the sea. I stared at the lofty square-shaped structure with its towers on each corner. It was a fortress built for defence, with the protection of the sea on one side and the battlemented towers facing the land. <...> Paling has long withstood the force of the elements. It is as strong as it was when the first stone was laid. It needed to be. It had to hold off intruders, and fight the weather. It is of Cornish stone—hard and strong, and has provided a home for my ancestors for generations. The foundations were laid years ago during the reign of the Conqueror but later on castles had to be made habitable, something more than just walls in which to protect oneself and one’s family. <...> Castle Paling! My home! It rose before us, grim, forbidding but immensely exciting. I looked up at its grey stone walls which had stood for four hundred years and doubtless would stand five hundred more and even beyond that. There was an invincible durability in those strong walls. They had been built to defend and they would go on doing so. Those walls forming a plinth at the base were made to withstand the picks and battering-rams of an enemy. There were four towers, two facing the land and two the sea, battlemented and with their look-outs and their apertures for pouring burning pitch down on to the heads of intruders. The window-openings on the low levels were few—narrow slits which could be well guarded to prevent intruders.
St Mawes Castle
St Mawes Castle
Sometimes I would go to the ramparts of Nonna’s Tower and look through the battlements to the sea. There the great black rocks known as the Devil’s Teeth could sometimes be seen, but only when the tide was out. They were a group of cruel, sharp-pointed rocks. Teeth was an apt description, particularly if they were seen at some angles. Then their formation could be likened to a grinning mouth. At high tide they were not visible, lurking as they did just below the surface of the water. They were about half a mile out to sea and almost in a straight line with Castle Paling. Some people called them the Paling Rocks. The great wall of the castle on the sea side rose up starkly straight, and looking down at the surf below, I thought what a well chosen spot it was for a fortification. It would have been almost impossible to attack from the sea and there was only the landward side to be protected.
Bedruthan Steps
Bedruthan Steps in low tide
Bedruthan Steps in high tide
Next time the heroes (or, to be more precise, descendants of the ones mentioned above) appear in Cornwall only in the beginning of the XIXth century.
His house (Cador - sollanna2013) was like a castle, set high on the cliffs; it stood facing the sea, defiant and formidable as a fortress, and the gardens which wound down to the shore were a blaze of colour in the spring and summer; yellow gorse bloomed almost all the year round and in season there were the rhododendrons, azaleas and hydrangeas. The house was almost feudal. <...> We lived amicably in what was more like a castle than a house. It had been the family home of the Cadorsons for generations. Cador meant “warrior” in the Cornish language, so our earliest ancestor must have been a great fighter. I could well believe that. The house stood on a cliff, so that from the windows we could look out on the sea. Built of grey stone, it looked forbidding. It was like a fortress. It probably had been at one time. There were two turrets and a path along the battlements from one to the other. It was known simply as Cador.
Castle St. Michael
Castle St. Michael
Lamorna Village

Cador was situated about a quarter of a mile from the little town of West Poldorey, which was divided from East Poldorey by the river which cut through the wooded hills to flow into the sea. The two towns were connected by a bridge which had stood up to the weather for five hundred years and looked as if it would last as many more. Old men liked to congregate there and lean over the stone parapets contemplating life and the river. A great number of those men were fishermen and there were always boats lying in the little harbour.

Boscastle village
Boscastle village
Boscastle village
Boscastle village
It was wonderful to live near the sea. On hot days Jacco and I would take off our shoes and stockings and paddle in the cove just below Cador. Sometimes we would get one of the fishermen to take us out and we went sailing out of the harbour and along the coast towards Plymouth Sound. Sometimes we caught shrimps and baby crabs and we hunted for semi-precious stones like topaz and amethyst along the shore. We often saw the poor people down on the beach collecting limpets which they used for some sort of dish, and perhaps buying the last of the fish which the fishermen had brought in and which had failed to find buyers among the more monied folk.

Cornish coast
Lizard Rocks
Cornish Coast from the Lizard
Gerrans Bay
On this particular day we walked down to West Poldorey to the ancient church which stood close to the sea. It was small, dating back to Norman times. West Poldorey was very proud of it and East Poldorey a little envious because it wasn’t on their side, for people from far off came to look at it and it was said it should never be allowed to crumble away.
Belvintor Church, Bodmin Moor
St-Ives Church, St-Ives
Third time the heroes turned out in Cornwall in the 1930ies.

He told us something about his house in Cornwall. It had been in the Tregarland family for hundreds of years. In fact it was called “Tregarland’s.” It was built of gray stone; it faced the sea and received the full blast of the southwest gales. But it had stood up to them for centuries and it seemed would continue doing so. It had towers at either end and its gardens sloped right down to a beach which belonged to the house but there was a “right of way” through it; otherwise people walking along the shore would have to climb the cliff and go round the house and descend again if they wished to continue along the beach.
Elizabethan manor-house, Trerice
Сottage in Сharlestown

Wildflowers on rugged cliffs, Tintagel

Tintagel Old Post Office

...we decided to sit in the gardens. It was very pleasant there with the house behind us and the sea facing us. Paths wound down to the private beach. <...> When I returned to the house, I went to the garden which sloped down to the sea and the private beach <...> I stood for a moment, letting the faintly scented air gently caress me.
Scene at Lamorran house gardens in St Mawe
Kitchen garden door at Trevarno Estate

Next morning I could not resist going along to have a look at Cliff Cottage, There it was, as Jowan Jermyn had described it, set on the west cliff, looking down on the town. It was very neat, with white net curtains at the windows and a front garden which was clearly very well tended. <...> I crossed the ancient thirteenth-century bridge to the west side and started to climb up the cliff. It was steep and I paused every now and then, not so much to get my breath as to admire the weird formation of the black rocks with the waves gently swirling around them. I came to Cliff Cottage. It looked as neat as ever. Boldly I opened the wooden gate and went up the short path. There was a porch on which were stone containers in which flowers grew.
Farmer house near St Keverne
Port Quin, Near Polzeath
A Cornish Harbour
We went through a village with stark gray stone cottages and a plain rather dour-looking building which I took to be a church. The trees almost met across the road, making a roof for us to pass under; there was lush foliage growing everywhere; and the luxuriant beauty of the country made up for a lack of architectural elegance. Then I saw the sea and black rocks about which the waves broke rhythmically, sending up white spray into the air. “Not far now,” said Dermot. “Down there…” He indicated with his head “…is the little town. A fishing village, really—not much more; the river divides it into two, West and East Poldown, joined by an ancient bridge which was built five centuries ago. There are a church and a square…and the quay, of course, and there you’ll see the fishermen mending their nets or bringing in the catch while their boats are bobbing up and down in the water. We don’t have to go down into the town now. Actually, it’s only about half a mile from the house. We can see it from the windows.” <...>  When I came down the east cliff into Poldown and walked along the harbor I saw the fishermen there mending their nets. Some people were buying fish that had come in that morning and the gulls were screeching wildly, looking for tidbits which, for some reason, could not be sold and were flung back into the river, where they were immediately seized on by the swooping birds.
Harbour in Polperro
Cadgwith's harbour

Harbour in Mevagissey

There was a slight breeze bringing with it the smell of seaweed. The path along the cliff was uneven. One went downhill and then up again. Tom Smart, the groom, had said: “ ’Tis a bony road along they cliff paths,” and I knew what he meant. In places the path was narrow—not safe for children—and in parts there was a direct drop to the sea. Farther along, I knew, there was a section where the path was particularly narrow and the drop exceptionally steep. A fence had been erected there since, Matilda had told me, one day an elderly man had slipped on an icy surface and plunged over the cliff to his death. I stood still for a moment to fill my lungs with the invigorating air. Few people used this part of the cliff. It was very rugged and particularly beautiful.
Arch on the north side of Tor Bay
Deep in thought, I went on. I came to a barrier of rock which went out into the sea. I scrambled over it and found that I was in a kind of cove. There was another rock barrier which shut it in. The high cliff protruding over it made it look rather cosy, shut in by the rocks on either side as it was. .<...> I rose and went to the barrier rock. I was about to scramble over when, to my dismay, I realized that while I had been sitting there, the tide had come right in. I had failed to notice that the cove was on much higher ground than the beach on either side of the rocks, and if I stepped over them I should be waist high in water. I looked about me and saw that the sea had crept well into the cove itself while I had been sitting there. I must have been there for nearly half an hour. I ran to the other side. The sea was splashing about the rocks. It had come in a considerable distance; and even in the cove now there was only a narrowing strip of dry sand. I was panic-stricken. What could I do? I could not make my way along the beach. The tide was coming in rapidly. In a short time the cove would fill. I was not a good swimmer. I looked up at the overhanging cliff. I could not climb that. It was unscalable. There were a few clumps of valerian to cling to, but how strong were they? And in any case they were too few and far between.
Mullion Cove
Ripples in sandy beach in Porthcothan near Newquay
The Lizard
Slowly and very cautiously we moved upwards. The rocks were damp with seaspray and slippery. “Hold tight,” he cautioned, and I clung to his coat with all my might. It seemed a long time before we reached that spot where the rock had formed itself into a ledge which was like a narrow seat. It was just a freak in the formation. The rock must have been broken away there, and on the resulting ledge four or five people could have sat huddled together.
Beach Scene
Thurlstone rock
Mullion Rocks

Bude Beach
Bedruthan steps
Mullion Cove
Coastline at Bossiney, near Tintagel
Coastline, Bude
Bedruthan Steps
Watergate bay, near Newquay

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Cadfael Chronicles by Ellis Peters and its TV adaptation

Long long ago I read this book series in Russian. Then I was able to find the TV series made on its basis. Alas, there was no Russian translation and that time my English wasn't good enough to understand everything in original, but nevertheless, I did watch all the series without translation. And I can say that that time I liked it.
About a year ago I decided to re read the book series, this time in English. Simultaneously with reading I was re watching the corresponding episodes of the TV series, and frankly speaking, this time I was greatly disappointed in it. It looks like the previous time my poor English played a nasty trick on me, depriving me of ability to understand what this or that hero was in fact saying. The other reason was that some time had passed since I had read the books and that is why their events didn't stand so clear and vivid in my mind. Thus though I still can say I like the book series, I can't repeat the same words about the TV adaptation.
Derek Jakobi as Brother Cadfael
The first difference between the latter and the books is that the books, in spite of their events happening in one of the darkest pages of English history, are "cozy". The Middle Age shown in them seems to be rational and even comfortable as much as possible, bright and nice, smelling of wood and fresh bread. The Middle Age in the TV series is filthy, bloody and dangerous. But such a difference it's not the main problem. (And I can't help but agree that the Middle Age was in fact not so cozy as it may seem from the books.)
The second problem is that some plots were changed, and changed significantly (I can say even 'maimed'). Names were changed, orders of the events were changed, in some cases even the main villains were 'switched'. Some scenes were deleted (and there even were some 'added'), there were many 'romantic' lines cut - Philipp Corviser and Emma, for example, or Sulien Blount and Pernel Otmere and even Hugh and Aline's story was rather shortened. (Aline wasn't shown after One corpse too many at all, and nothing was mentioned about them being together). Some books were omitted, including the latest one, Brother Cadfael's Penance. (May be it was for the better, because thus they didn't have a chance to 'maim' it ))) However, the events of the episode where Olivier, Hermine and Yves were shown, The Virgin in the Ice, fortunately were not modified (having little alterations only). 
And the main problem was in 'atmosphere'. Hugh and Cadfael, who in the books very quickly became soul mates, in the TV series had more than lukewarm relationship (in the episode Saint Peter's Fair Hugh even wanted to kill Cadfael when the latter didn't want to give him the letter). Abbot Radulfus, who was strict but fair in the books, seemed rather to have a dislike for Cadfael. And Prior Robert and Brother Jerome,  who just 'reservedly disliked' Cadfael in the books, in the adaptation openly hated the former crusader and made all possible to expel him from the monastery. Such an atmosphere of hatred and grudge was completely different from the one of the books.
So my verdict is - the TV series doesn't worth to watch. If you are very very interested - watch the best episode, The Virgin in the Ice, but do not  touch the rest.
PS Having finished the last book a question came into my mind. As far as I know Ellis Peters herself considered this book to be the last one. All lines are resolved etc. But Cadfael's grandchild, Olivier and Hermine's son (or daughter) in the end of the book wasn't yet born. Why? Why not allow this creature to come into the world and thus leave the readers in the complete certainty about its fate.
And the second question - why didn't Peters continue the story further, into the middle 1140-ies? Was she to ill to continue working? (This book was published in 1994, and the writer died in October of 1995.) There were at least two years more before prior Robert became Father Robert (this happened in 1148), and thus during these two years Cadfael was 'safe' enough in his 'adventurous' life in cloister (after that he'd better die or lie very quiet). Was Peters tired of her character? Did she think he had had enough adventures? All points to this except one fact - Hermine's not born child...

Thursday, June 8, 2017

American Léon VS Polish Leon

Do you know that the Poles were impressed by Luc Besson's Léon to such a degree that 3 years after its release they made "their own" version of the story (named Sara, Leon there is a name of the main male character, a former commando)?
I have finally re-watched both movies (or, more exactly, watched them wholly for the first time because before I had watched them both in snatches only) and now I am ready to share with you my opinion of them. Unfortunately, both Léon and Sara turned out to be movies making better impressions when watching them in snatches (though Léon in a lesser degree than Sara).

No doubts, Léon is very touching but if to look closely at the main male character - Léon Montana, the hitman - there begin to appear some shortcomings making him not so "professional" as it may be seen. (As for the main female character - 12 year old girl named Matilda - though her actions are sometimes very stupid nevertheless she behaves just as one can expect from a girl of such age.) First, he let Matilda into his flat when there was shooting in her own. Ok, he had his principle not to touch women and children and that is why he wasn't able both to leave Matilda helpless when her family was being killed and to kill her later, when she was sleeping in his flat. (Though a real pro would have done this.) But later, having rescued Matilda from DEA office, why didn't he leave town? Or at least his flat? And next morning he shouldn't in any case let Matilda leave the flat alone! Such an indiscretion led to his death (though he was able to kill a main villain and a lot of innocent policemen). So if before watching the movie I considered Léon to be a real pro then after my opinion of him has worsened. Being expert in killing people he was rather ignorant in usual life and his illiteracy (which was "cured" by Matilda) together with keeping all his saving in the pocket of Tony, his mafioso boss, adds even more to the picture. And I can even say that his ignorance was the thing that eventually killed him.
As for Matilda - her unwillingness to go to school was initially the thing that put her personally into this bloody drama. Had she been at school both she and Léon should definitely have stayed alive. And in the end Matilda had to return to the same school, with Léon dead (though all that happened might teach her something).
Summing up: Léon: The Professional is a touching story, indeed, but stupidity of its heroes takes away a huge part of warm feelings towards them. Was there something more good there? Yes, beautiful views of New-York, Roosevelt Island Tramway and Twin Towers still standing.  

In comparison with Léon Sara has a happy ending which, in fact, again makes it less touching. Together with the rest details of the plot (an adult man, a former commando, in love with a 16-year-old girl) this turns the movie into a kind of cheap melodrama. Anyway, the outset is catching enough (and I was rather surprised to learn that Poland did have its own "hard 90ies") but almost all the intrigue disappears when in one scene Sara is trying unsuccessfully to seduce Leon, her bodyguard, and in the next one they are already in bed. Why did the authors skip that IMHO very interesting psychological moment - a man passing from denial into acceptance of an affair with a girl at least twice younger than him and, in addition, the daughter of his boss?? Without these "omitted" scenes it's impossible to fully understand Leon's character and thus he looks like a plain hero of a typical soap opera.
The second third (from the scene in bed till the scene when Sara's father finally learns about her affair with Leon) has almost no sense load. There are some beautiful scenes (like tango in the restaurant) but they add nothing to the plot. The ending is rather dynamical (and sometimes rather touching, for example, when Sara's father's people kill Leon's father) but as I mentioned before this happy ending kills all the pathos. (Btw, in the long perspective the ending is not so happy as it may seem. I am not sure whether Sara and Leon would be as happy a couple of years later as they were in the end of the movie ...) So a person who knows only the beginning of the story and who have seen only some scenes (tango and some shooting) IMHO has a much more better impression of the movie that one who saw it wholly. But I am glad that thanks to Sara I "discovered" Bogusław Linda (he played Leon) and I hope in future to watch more movies with him.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Russia House

Long ago I promised you that there would be more posts in this blog on the topic of The Cold War. But having watched the next point in my list of movies, "The Russia house", I decided to read as well the book it was based on and it took me to finish it much more time than I had expected. Nevertheless, the book is finally read an
d I am ready to tell you my opinion of both the book and the movie.
First, it was rather unusual experience for me to read a book the movie is based on after after watching the adaptation itself. (As a rule, I read first and watch the adaptation only after.) That is why when I was reading I was seeing Barley with Sean Connery's features and Katya - with Michelle Pfeiffer's ones (though in the book Katya's hair was described as long and black). Also I think that the name given to the Soviet physicist-detector in the movie (Dante) suited this character much more than the name from the book (Goethe). These were almost all the major differences between the book and the movie. Almost but not all. The movie does have a happy ending - after Barley had "exchanged" "the shopping list" to Katya and her family's freedom the latter successfully came to him to Lisbon. In the end of the book Barley is still waiting for the USSR to release Katya and her family, he still has hope that Soviet's will allow them to leave the country. And though I like the movie's happy end the "open" one of the book seems to me much more probable. Even the fact that the KGB didn't arrest Katya after getting all the details of the shopping list from Barley seems rather improbable, not to mention exit visas for the whole family. From the other hand, the action was set not in the 1930-ies, and nor in the 70-ies but in the late 80-ies. The KGB's vigilance that time was not so strict as it used to be, and there was a probability that they decided to hush up Goethe's detection and not touching Katya was the part of the "disguise". And in the 1993 exit visas were abrogated and there appeared a chance for Katya to leave Russia for good.
That's all about the plot. As for the movie I can't help but mention that it was the first major American mavie filmed substantially in the Soviet Union - that is why the images of the Soviet life shown there were so persuasive and veritable. (This may be the additional explanation why the movie touched me much more that the book -  the soviet life shown in almost all the movies made before this one looked to those familiar with it unauthentic and even sometimes ridiculous.) And I liked the mature Sean Connery as usual (in the episodes of Bondiana he IMHO was too young; in my opinion he may be compared with brandy - the older he is the better ))), and I even liked Michelle Pfeiffer though I am not a fan of her. But nevertheless, I am not sure whether I'd like to re-watch the movie or re-read the book in the nearest time. And for the time-being I think I'll stop watching movies about the Cold War...

Monday, April 10, 2017

A street cat named Bob (the books and the movie)

First I wanted to write a post about the movie only but then I found out that I had never written anything about the books about Bob that is why the post will be devoted both to the books and the movie.
I had read the books of James Bowen about 4 years ago (when my English reading skills were not so great ))) and I remember reading them chapter by chapter, like a consuming a delicacy. Some chapters were funny, some - sad (the biggest part, IMHO), but nevertheless it is always pleasant to read how a person struggles out of difficulties. (And I am very happy for James that he had met such a great character as Bob who helped him to overcome troubles and to  return to normal life.) However, what surprised me most was the rehab program for people wanting to stop using drugs (and the rest of the people got in troubles). I had heard about methadone therapy before I started to read the first book, but I'd never imagined that people "in trouble" who don't have any dwelling to live in are given free apartments for themselves only, without any neighbors etc. Neither had I heard about "The big issue" magazine which was created especially to help very poor people to earn means of living.
The books, though written in simple language and describing sometimes not very happy events, were rather cozy and I having read the first one I was very glad to know that there was one more. And I would be delighted to read about Bob and James more and more, if James would have continued to write.
Returning to the movie... Its plot has been rather simplified in comparison with the books, but it was expectable. What I really liked was how they showed Bob there! (Btw he was played by more than half a dozen of cats, including himself.) He was so talkative meowing and purring like talking to James and to himself. Also it was an ingenious trick to show some scenes from Bob's perspective, like he would see them for his height and position on the screen. And have you noticed that James Bowen himself did appear in one of the latest scenes, playing a reader taking an autograph from Luke Treadaway's hero? ;)
And I'd like also to mention that I heard some stated that the book adaptation was wrongly given a genre of a family movie, because drugs, deaths and life on streets is not what children should see. As for me I completely disagree with the statement. Yes, this movie is not for young children to watch alone, without parents, but family movie means for me a film to watch by all the family. And it will do children good to look at consequences caused by using drugs, being homeless etc (btw in my opinion all the bad and sad parts were shown as mild as possible). And if something is unclear to children parents (watching the movie together with their kids) are always able to explain incomprehensible things to the latter.