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Disney, Dickens and the battle of the books: James King’s Week in Film

Our movie critic tells you what to watch from the comfort of your sofa

James King

What’s better: the book or the film? It’s an age-old argument. And with two literary adaptations arriving on your small screens this week, the debate is sure to keep going. Happy viewing, happy reading and happy arguing! 

New to Disney+

Artemis Fowl

There’s no expense spared on this glossy adaptation of Eoin Colfer’s bestselling adventure series. With a blockbuster budget, a cast including Dame Judi Dench and Colin Farrell, a lengthy production history and Sir Kenneth Branagh calling the shots, Disney need big returns from this fantastical story of a a twelve-year-old Irish boffin. Watching it feels like a big deal, that’s for sure. Yet ARTEMIS FOWL is actually better in its quieter moments. 

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WATCH: Artemis Fowl trailer

At its core, ARTEMIS FOWL is a story about a father/son bond and it’s that which stays with you more than all the CGI action scenes. The young title character (newcomer Ferdia Shaw) must search for his missing dad (Farrell) after the older man gets drawn into an underworld of fairies and goblins that he was secretly investigating. Think Fantastic Beasts meets Men in Black - a film jam-packed with gadgets, gizmos, whizzes and bangs plus a charming narrator (played by Frozen’s Josh Gad) who bears more than a passing resemblance to Harry Potter’s Hagrid. 

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Gad is (as always) great and Judi - playing an 802-year old raspy-voiced elf commander - is, well, let’s just say... interesting. Yet it’s clear that squashing the first two books of Colfer’s saga into one shiny ninety-five-minute film wasn’t the best idea, leaving certain moments feeling hurried and cluttered. More of the slower, heartfelt scenes about a privileged boy who has everything apart from the steady family life he really wants would have turned ARTEMIS FOWL from something perfectly decent into what it really needs to be: magical. 

READ: Top 7 Netflix shows that everyone is watching at the moment

ARTEMIS FOWL is streaming on Disney+ now

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New to Amazon Prime Video

The Personal History of David Copperfield

Charles Dickens’ own favourite novel gets a vibrant makeover from The Thick of It creator Armando Iannucci, telling the tale of young David and his drama-packed journey from riches to rags and back again. Whilst bookish types will find plenty to enjoy don’t be put off if you’re not usually a fan of wordy period pieces. This hundred and fifty-year-old romp has never felt so fresh. 

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Part of that sparkle is thanks to the dialogue, lines full of delicious quips and surreal wisecracks that feel more Monty Python than Victorian Britain. THE PERSONAL HISTORY OF DAVID COPPERFIELD also looks gorgeous, bursting with colourful costumes and backdrops that are a million miles away from more traditionally grey depictions of a bygone era. Using a few clever visual tricks to get from scene to scene helps too, turning a weighty paperback into a movie that really cracks along at a breathless pace.

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Mainly, though, it’s the cast who take things to the next level. With Dev Patel in the title role, Tilda Swinton as dotty Aunt Betsey, Benedict Wong as tipsy Mr Wickfield and Daisy May Cooper - so fabulous in TV’s This Country - as an especially loveable Peggoty, here’s a movie full of wonderfully eccentric, effortlessly diverse talent at the top of their game. Charles Dickens - an actor and performer himself - would be proud. 

READ: Meet Downton Abbey star Dame Maggie Smith's family – and you may recognise her sons

THE PERSONAL HISTORY OF DAVID COPPERFIELD [PG] is out to stream on Prime Video from the 13th June and to buy on DVD/Blu-ray from 15 June

Coming Soon

Bill & Ted Face the Music

Definitely not a literary adaptation, this one! Twenty-nine years since everyone’s favourite slackers went on their Bogus Journey, the boys are back on their continuing mission to ‘Party on!’ and ‘Be excellent to each other!’ Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter return as the title characters, a lot more middle-aged than they used to be, of course - but these dudes still know how to rock. 

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WATCH: Bill and Ted trailer

BILL & TED FACE THE MUSIC is released at cinemas on 21 August