Review

Some delightful magic…

practical-magic-poster-01Practical Magic. Remember that one? One of those feel-good Sandra Bullock movies with a bit of magic and of course, romance. I came across it again last weekend. And thoroughly enjoyed it. Again.

There’s a curse around. A curse on the Owens witches. Passed from mother to daughter, generation after generation. All because of love. Or, rather the “agony of love”. Maria Owens, casts a spell that any man who is truly loved will die. And that’s exactly where the problem for sisters Sally (Sandra Bullock) and Gillian (Nicole Kidman) comes in. Sally falls in love, with detrimental effects and Gillian, well, she also meets a man but has other problems. Ending up temporarily living with the aunts who raised them, these problems needs solving and the two sisters are left to deal with it, and a handsome investigator mostly on their own. What results is a wonderful, feel-good movie of magic, spells, family, laughter and love.

Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman are perfectly juxtaposed as sisters – different enough yet still convincing. Who better to play the two wacky aunts, and wacky they are…chocolate for breakfast, no things as bedtimes or brushing teeth (eeuw), than Stockard Channing and Diane Wiest? They remind us of what we should do a little more in our lives…worry less about what others think and just be ourselves. Granted, that is not always easy, but honestly, I think rate others’ opinions of us far too highly. There are some other lessons to be learnt but I won’t bore you with that right now.

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Back in the late 80s and early 90s, romantic (comedies?) movies had something that just worked. They were light, delightful and just…well, uhm, romantic. Especially if you had Sandra Bullock and Aidan Quinn (remember him?) crossing paths. Aidan Quinn is Gary Hallet, the detective following a lead and finding himself face-to-face with the most disliked ladies in town. Ladies who are totally misunderstood.

So, if like me, you are way too scared to watch real horror movies for Halloween, give Practical Magic (1998) a watch. You’ll smile and you’ll feel good by the end.

And remember ladies, “There’s a little witch in all of us”. Well, that’s what the aunts think anyway.

Not so sleepy…but very creepy…

…and absolutely wonderful! Full of atmosphere and eccentricity. Oh, those worlds Tim Burton can submerse us in! Welcome to the town of Sleepy Hollow:

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Where the headless horseman is in search of such object. A head that is. So intent on his mission that body after body is found clean cut and cauterised, “as though the blade itself were red hot. And yet, no blistering. No scorched flesh”. Ah…”The devil’s fire”.

Or, maybe not. After all, that’s what the constable Ichabod Crane (Johnny Depp, who here reminds us that there once was a brilliant actor before Jack Sparrow) is here to prove. “Murder needs no ghost to come from the grave. We have murders in New York without the benefit of ghouls and goblins.” But Baltus Van Tassel (Michael Gambon) reminds him that “You’re a long way from New York, Constable”. Ichabod isn’t convinced despite shaking in fear that he can barely hold his cuppa “The assassin is a man of flesh and blood and I will discover him.”.

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So his investigation begins. With magic and sorcery and curses. Add some greed and other small town secrets and you’ve the start of a potion to behold. The key ingredients though are Tim Burton and the entire cast (Johnny Depp, Michael Gambon, Christina Ricci, Miranda Richardson, Christopher Lee and every single other actor and actress involved, with Christopher Walken topping it all off as the Headless Horseman.) Finally, Danny Elfman’s music makes this cauldron of art boil to perfection.

Sleepy-Hollow-Poster-202x300Tim Burton is just phenomenal with the fantastical words he creates for us. No matter which story he tackles, he weaves a gorgeous canvas that is utterly over the top yet at the same time moody and convincing. Don’t be misled by the seeming “lighter” parts he gives us – those bright and dreamy sequences that are as menacing as the dark and misty ones.

This Halloween, enjoy some Gothic Horror with Sleepy Hollow (1999). It is worth every millimeter of film.

And if that isn’t enough, there’s plenty more of the like over at Pale Writer and the bloggers of her Dark and Deep: The Gothic Horror Blogathon (here).

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Costumes and all the drama..

220px-Plunkett_&_Macleane…yep, we’re looking at costuming up within a costume drama…and some drama it is…with highway robbers and damsels (definitely not in distress). Let me introduce Plunkett & Macleane (1999). One of my favourites (thank you Paul).

Ah, what a wonderful movie. Plunkett (Robert Carlyle) and Macleane (Jonny Lee Miller) encounter each other one dark and dreary night during some grave robbing ruby retrieving activities. And what a perfect pair of (gentlemen) highwaymen they become…Macleane’s former socialite statues gets him back amongst the wealthy while Plunkett’s criminal know-how… well, you get the basic scenario. Add Lady Rebecca Gibson (Liv Tyler), who’s star-struck by our pair (well, one in particular) and finds it all quite daring and so much more exciting than being the prim and proper niece of powerful Lord Gibson (Michael Gambon). And definitely more adventurous than being “courted” by halitosis suffering General Chance (Ken Stott) who’s always (mostly) one step behind getting the pair behind bars. Ensuring some wonderful entertainment, Lord Rochester (Alan Cumming) and his cronies just round it all off. Especially on the costume side of things:

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“You forget something. I have morals” Oh please! The morals are long gone. Targeting the rich…not for the poor but for the grand plan of going across to America. For new beginnings. And gosh, the quotes are just wonderful. Actually, the whole movie is just great but if I tell you anything more you’re going to miss out on this gem (hmmm, no pun intended).

With a gentleman highwayman, ruby births (you’ll understand), gallows and balls…what more could you possibly want? Oh, you even get the costumes and the drama (and lots of comedy). I highly recommend.

Let the fireworks begin! Have fun! PlunkettMacleane8

And head over to Moon in Gemini for some other entries in this wonderful Costume Drama Blogathon (here)

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Kelly’s Heroes…good fun

Kelly's_Heroes_film_posterI’m not a big “war movie person” but with Kelly’s Heroes (1970) I make an exception. Because this movie isn’t just a war movie, no, it goes far beyond that. It is memories of those Super 8 movie days with my father. And of us quoting various scenes from Kelly’s Heroes by heart…

…for example “Sixty feet of bridge…” aah…but I get ahead of myself. Let’s backtrack just a little…I think I should give you a rough breakdown of the happenings first:

So, we have Kelly, of course, who hears about a stash of gold that would be good for the taking. Problem is, said stash is behind enemy lines. But, fear not, Kelly, being a tough soldier gets together his band of “heroes” with some added takers who end up in the group just because they happen to be in the “right” spot at appropriate time (think “Oddball” here”…I’ll explain later). And off they go…with all sorts of antics along the way. Remember, this isn’t a war war movie, no, it’s more of a comedy war movie (of course, with serious moments along the way).

Anyway, this became one of the most quoted movies in our household…mostly, because the memorable lines come from Donald Sutherland who was my father’s favourite actor. Like when all the bridges are being blown up just as our band of heroes want to cross. And Oddball, yes, Donald Sutherland (who else?) is tasked with finding a bridge…part of his telephonic negotiation goes along the lines of this:

Oddball: “…look baby, I’m kinda hung up. I need sixty feet of bridge.”

Bellamy: “Hey kid. They haven’t got you in the nut ward again?”

Oddball: “Ah Bellamy, for cryin’ out loud………I don’t need you. Sixty feet of bridge I can get almost anywhere. Schmuck!”

Oh boy, and the “negative waves”…always positive even when the bridge gets blown. As for his “battle tactics”:

Oddball: “These tanks are faster than any other tanks in the European Theater of Operations. Forwards or backwards. You see man, we like to feel we can get out of trouble quicker than we got into it.”

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And when Kelly asks if he has any other weapons:

Oddball: “Well yeah, man, you see, like, all the tanks we come up against are bigger and better than ours, so that all we can hope to do is, like, scare ’em away y’ know. This gun is an ordinary 76mm but we add this piece of pipe onto it and the Krauts think, like uh, maybe it’s a 90mm”

Further explaining that “We have a loudspeaker here, and when we go into battle we play music, very loud. It kind of…calms us down.” and “We got our own ammunition. it’s filled with paint. When we fire it, it makes… pretty pictures. Scares the hell outta people!”

But, it isn’t only Oddball who’s fantastic in this one. The whole bunch of heroes work so well with nobody out-shadowing the other. Clint Eastwood, is of course Kelly, all serious and leader of the group. Second in command, if you like, is Big Joe…ah, what a character – also his own entity and always shouting about as only Telly Savalas can. Crapgame, Don Rickles, is always wheeling and dealing in some way or other. And the list goes on making for a well worthwhile watch.

Another thing that always sticks out for me is the opening (well, not opening but the first piece) song “Burning Bridges” by the Mike Curb Congregation. Back in the day, before online shopping, I searched many a CD store (remember those?) for this title…and finally found it on a compilation CD. Here it is with some snippets from the movie (so, possibly spoiler alert):

Overall, a treat of a war movie.

Thanks to Maddy of Maddy Loves her Classic Films together with Jay of Cinema Essentials for hosting this Blogathon. Head on over to their sites for other great entries.

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Animal Farm…thought provoking

I’d always “known” about Animal Farm by George Orwell but it is another of those books that, embarrassingly, I’ve never gotten around to read. Until now…and I should have read it a long time ago. But then, I’ve always believed that a book finds you at the right time…

…you see, I’ve been on a serious reading drought for the last, hmmm, two years…but, recently a work colleague recommended it. Said it was a nice thin book that I’d get through quickly. Hmmm, ja, maybe, we’ll see…besides, I don’t like asking people for their books…but somehow I asked after all…

Well worth it. And yes, it is a quick and easy read, but by no means to be underestimated. It is thought provoking both while you are reading and long afterwards.

The story, is about a bunch of farm animals who are convinced of a cause. Of getting rid of humans and running the farm themselves. Such they do, starting off with reasonable ideals and living well as a community. But, from the get-go, you have an inkling around the cracks that are inevitably going to appear. Of course, as the story unfolds, these cracks get bigger and bigger and by the end, the initial cause is no longer recognisable, although, you saw this coming all along. It’s all so clear. Well, obviously not to the animals. Or maybe it was?

While the allegory is on the events leading up to the Russian Revolution and the following Stalinist era, I wouldn’t restrict it to that – reading it, many other situations/events came to mind. In fact, we can simply go down to a general human nature level with this book. I’m sure you too will be able to pick out people you know. Look no further than your circle of acquaintances (possibly even friends), people you engage with at work or just the community on the whole. Interestingly, Mollie, Boxer, Clover and Benjamin immediately brought known people to mind, even Moses seemed familiar. In fact every single animal or group of animals could be associated in some way or other in the current time.

As for the helplessness or inevitability of the situation…nothing more frustrating than being the outsider who just knows where it is all heading. And the signs are so clear. I just wanted to scream at the animals…can’t you see where this is all going? But so too I guess is the real life situation…frustration at why people just can’t see what is happening. Frustration at why people don’t change things, or why they don’t change things earlier. Why they allow themselves to be brainwashed, to become indifferent, to just accept things, to accept others’ egotistical goals and power kicks. It is seemingly easier for many to remain in a comfort zone, even if it isn’t an ideal one, than to stand up for things, to question, to challenge. To simply accept someone else’s “me, me, me” approach. And so often the gripes are vocalised (amongst the discontent) but never actioned upon because status quo appears to be better than to ruffle feathers. To just continue because “it is done” or because “what difference will it make”. But, this is a touchy subject, one that I will ponder some more, take it offline.

And on a different note, ahh, the book itself…visually, striking. I had it lying on my desk at work and the cover caught the attention of quite a few people.

Thoroughly enjoyed this one. Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984) looks really good too. Just bought it and can’t wait to get stuck into it!

Sexy, oops, I mean, Mean Villain…

…gosh, what’s on my mind? This is the Great Villain Blogathon…right? And I’d put my name down for Prince John from Robin Hood (2010)…right? And, my mind is clearly elsewhere because I got sidetracked…right? Wrong…because…actually, the real villain here is not Prince John (Oscar Isaac)…he’s merely being, should we say, gently guided, by the sexiest nastiest man with ulterior motives. Oooh….but there’s just something about Godfrey, who just wouldn’t be the same if played by any other actor than Mark Strong.

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I’d very quickly realised that Prince John is simply a spoilt brat who wants his way. And he’s too busy having his way (not with his wife) to really pose any threat. Yes, he might have his moments, purely out of having some sort of power kick, but Godfrey, he’s there ever so subtly, or not, steering things. Weaseling his way into everything. Being English “when it suits me” French when that works better.

Godfrey has this presence from the very start. He’s clearly not phased by airs and graces, so comfortable is he around Philip of France during their (and our) first encounter. With that introduction comes…a perfect piece of music that will forever be associated with him…this one:

…it is Godfrey for me…staccato, slightly evasive, yet with an underlying hardness, energy, gradually increasing in drive, just like this man…all to gradually crescendo to a point where he eats the human blood stained oyster. The things people do. He encourages his men to plunder from the dead and doesn’t hesitate a moment to yank on the lance embedded in a dying knight. All in a day’s work it seems. And he’s so smooth when he does this.

And if his initial presence isn’t enough, somehow the scar on his cheek from Robin’s arrow simply makes him meaner in terms of personality as well as looks. Oh, and according to seasoned expert Prince John, the “ladies will love you all the more” for it. It amplifies his sexiness, oh no, did I write that again? “villain-ness” while he’s always listening, always scheming:

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Addressed as “my Lord” by both the French and the English, this man will casually instruct his men to get rid of someone or patiently wait in the sidelines for an opportunity to present itself. Strategically positioning himself during court meetings, saying just the right things, while Prince John is too busy dealing his family and greed issues. Wait…isn’t that an ever so slight (sly) smile on his face as he is about to officially serve the crown? Nicely played Godfrey, nicely played:

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“Choose carefully the spot Godfrey, where you would place your dagger”, so obvious to everyone including William Marshal (William Hurt). A man to be wary of.

Villain Banners 2019This must be one of the most heartless villains…who gives an old man news of his son, proudly telling him that “I’m the one who killed him” (left in a French ditch)??? To entice a fighting reaction from a blind man…plain mean.

Yet, at the end of the day, things must come to an end for him. And, while cowardly trying to race from the battlefield, this villain has had lots of personality. He has a certain presence that doesn’t even need his “signature” theme music. You notice him in all the scenes he’s in. He’s so bad yet somehow I feel drawn to him. He has the blatant audacity to pursue his goals. The way he holds himself. Confident, almost elegant. And while I obviously don’t support his behaviour, it is this type of character, acted perfectly by Mark Strong, that allows that “guilty pleasure” of being drawn to the bad guy. Because, that’s what movies allow us. Escapism.

For my previous entries to the Great Villain Blogathon, pop past Villain, Villain on the wall (here) and Meanest of the Mean…Ma-Ma (here). I’ve also written a piece on Mark Strong as a character actor in A Strong Character… (here)

And of course all the other entries to the Great Villain Blogathon can be found here (Shadows and Satin), here (Speakeasy) and here (Silver Screenings).

Here some impressions together with his theme song:

10 Things I Hate About You…

10_Things_I_Hate_About_You_film.jpg 10 Things I Hate About You (1999) is already (!!!wow, can’t believe it!!!) 20 years old yet it never feels that way…I still enjoy watching it as much as I did when it came out.

First things first, the plot: Cameron (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) transfers to Padua high where he is smitten on first sight with Bianca Stratford (Larisa Oleynik). Telling his new friend Michael (David Krumholtz) that he would like nothing more to date Bianca he finds out that she isn’t allowed to date. This due to strict dad-rules which unexpectedly change: Bianca has a sister Katarina ‘Kat’ (Julia Stiles) who everyone deems scary, anti-social, ant-establishment etc. So, “knowing” that nobody would ever think of even approaching Kat, dad allows Bianca to date if Kat does. And the challenge is on! Find a guy crazy enough to date Kat so that Bianca can do so. Enter Patrick Verona (Heath Ledger) the guy who has supposedly eaten a live duck, done time, donated his liver etc..

Based on Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, you know you’re in for a good one when a character is introduced accompanied by Joan Jett’s Bad Reputation. And that’s the refreshing part…Kat doesn’t care what anyone thinks about her and she is who she is, having “swore I wouldn’t do anything just because everyone else was doing it”. The reasons become clear during the movie but I really think this is such a valid point. As is Patrick’s comment to Cameron of “don’t let anyone ever make you feel like you don’t deserve what you want”. So there you have it…the guy who uses his flip knife in science to dissect a frog isn’t all that bad. Oh, and he even buys her a Fender guitar instead of flowers and chocolates to apologise for messing up:

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I never tire of watching this one. While it may be predictable, it is still a pleasure watching the characters fall in love. Julia Stiles and Heath Ledger have really good chemistry together and at the same time are convincing in their outward “mean and scary” demeanor yet showing their underlying true personalities in just the right quantities at the right time. But it isn’t just these two. Even Joseph Gordon-Levitt, David Krumholtz, Larisa Oleynik and Andrew Keegan (who plays stud Joey Donner) gel well together with their respective characters being absolutely believable. The magnitude of teen high-school problems and dilemmas come across perfectly.

So, if you haven’t seen this one yet, go give it a go. It really is worth the watch. And, after that, you could even give the series a go. I thoroughly enjoy it too (watching episodes here and there when the mood strikes) and it is a pity that it never got past the first season.

Head on over to Pop Culture Reverie and In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood for some more entries into this It’s a Young World Teen Movie Blogathon. And finally…enjoy the week ahead.rebelbanner

 

 

Some (ever changing) Thoughts: Adore (2013)

Adore-headerI’ve just finished watching Adore (aka. Two Mothers) for the umpteenth time (trailer at the end). And, as always, my thoughts on this change. Don’t you just love movies that make you think? Make you question? Make you come to different opinions each time?

Once again…I’m pondering the thought of this mother-having-a-relationship-with-her-best-friend’s-son-and-vice-versa. Hmmm….

Oh, before I go on, best I tell you what this movie is about. We have best friends (since childhood) Roz (Robin Wright) and Lil (Naomi Watts) who now have, almost, adult sons. They too are best friends as well as neighbours living on the beautiful coast of Australia. And somehow, it comes out that each son has feelings (beyond just those “normal” of a guy to his friend’s mother) for the other’s mother. Seemingly this has been the case for a while but it is only acted upon now (so that we have a movie, of course). What results is a very strange situation. And that is where my thoughts keep changing…

…so, while I don’t judge (and please don’t judge my thoughts here) people on their preferences in relationship and the age-gap (if it works, that’s fantastic) that comes with some of them, during this viewing it has kicked in that at the beginning of these relationships the sons are barely out of their teens (18/19 years old). And their mothers well into their 40s, if not more. So, for some reason, this has now made a difference on how I feel. In fact, Roz even says what I tend to agree with…that they as mothers should allow their sons to have girlfriends. Because, let’s face it, Roz and Lil are lovers, not girlfriends, to Ian (Xavier Samuel) and Tom (James Frecheville). She might have a point: There should be that option for the guys to experience their teens and how it is to fall in love then. Teenage love is different to that one later in life. They shouldn’t be pulled into this type of toxic  relationship just yet. Yes, much later in life, then fine, let them feel free to make up their own mind. Or…is love oblivious to age? Even for teens?

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And yet again, I’m wondering…are they already men enough at this stage to decide on the relationships they want to pursue? After all, a few years later, they both meet girls their age and as much as they feel they have to follow the “norm”, things just don’t work out. What point is there if they aren’t happy?

Ultimately, I guess they all need to make up their own minds but the hard part is watching them pull down those outside of their circle of four. The hurt they cause. You’ll wonder who is to blame for it all. Was it all necessary? Ian asks “why can’t you leave things as they are?”. Even though, at some point as a viewer there’s a feeling that they should just have followed their hearts all along. Or not. Gosh, I don’t know anymore!

Let’s not even get started on the mothers…is it love? Is it lust? Or just a means of confirming that they still have what it takes to be attractive? Lil could have the attention of a man her age yet she is not interested. Granted, she turns him down (multiple times) even before the relationship with Tom starts. Next thought is if they (Tom and Lil) get things going purely because Roz and Ian do so or would they have done so eventually regardless?

This movie throws so many questions out there. Here are my thoughts from a previous post (Adore…Friendship on a different level). At the end of it all, right or wrong, I will watch this one again despite the negative reviews it received. It isn’t a feel-good movie, but it is good. And a thought-provoking one leaving you with the image below together with thoughts on what the situation is from here on out (quite different from the similar image of the poster at the start of this post, which is taken from early in the story):

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Here’s the trailer (not for sensitive viewers due to nature of some content):

Fonda…the bad guy…

fondathon-2-text1Once Upon a Time in the West (1968), one of my favourite Westerns. And the perfect entry to focus on Henry Fonda for The Fondathon, hosted by Sat in your Lap.

Fonda is Frank. Totally ruthless. What more proof do you need when his “introductory” scene is one of gunning down a whole family…even the little boy frozen to the spot who you’d hope would be saved? But no…not Frank.

He’s got his orders. The family that he’s just disposed of…well, the land is in prime railway territory and business is business. Railroad baron business. Problem is…there is a young widow around. And she’s on her way to the exact piece of land. The killings are pinned on outlaw Cheyenne (Jason Robards) who befriends widow Jill McBain (Claudia Cardinale). Together with Harmonica (Charles Bronson), he sets out to find the real killers. Of course, there’s more to this than meets the eye…Harmonica has his own motive…

Henry Fonda is just excellent. He has this perfectly calm coldness to him. Accentuated by the eyes. Especially in the close-ups. And there are plenty of those. Sergio Leone presents us with such wonderful visuals in this one. In fact, I believe those eyes are what the director really wanted to stand out. To be recognisable. As Fonda. From what I’ve read, Fonda arrived on set with a fake moustache and brown contact lenses…and that didn’t fly with Leone.

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“People scare better when they’re dyin'”…what a ruthless character. And once again…he’s so casual around the unexpected business events. Things he didn’t plan on. And Fonda is absolutely, totally convincing. The real, nasty bad guy.

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What I hadn’t realised until now (my lack of Henry Fonda knowledge) was that this role didn’t fit in with what he was typically cast as. He was always the good guy. And here’s something interesting I found on IMDB: Henry Fonda originally turned down the role of Frank. Director Sergio Leone flew to the United States and met with Fonda, who asked why he was wanted for the film. Leone replied, “Picture this: the camera shows a gunman from the waist down pulling his gun and shooting a running child. The camera pans up to the gunman’s face and…it’s Henry Fonda” (until then, with one exception, Fonda had only been cast in “good guy” roles. Leone wanted the audience to be shocked).

But, not knowing this in the first place, I was still shocked at how ruthless a man can be. Fonda or not. I guess…at the end of the day, the actor totally managed to convince me . What sheer acting brilliance.

So, this being my first Fonda film, to me, he’ll always be the bad guy stereotype and I’ve yet to discover him as the nice guy. I’m sure I’ll be shocked…

For my other thoughts on this one…head on over here…here.

Now…head on over to Sat in your Lap for the other Fondathon entries here.

In a Nutshell: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (2018)

the_guernsey_literary_and_potato_peel_pie_societyI’m often amazed at how single events or encounters can change so much. In The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, a “simple” letter inquiring after a book changes Juliet Ashton’s (the wonderful Lily James) life altogether taking her from a comfortable (but unfulfilled) London to Guernsey. All because of the resulting letter exchanges.

In Guernsey she meets the people in the titular society and is drawn into their lives. Intending to write about them (she’s a successful writer) and their experiences under former German occupation in World War II, she doesn’t only find these people, but also herself. Sounds cliché, yes, but it really is a lovely movie and not as soppy as you’d think. Heartbreaking at times but also uplifting in terms of the will of humans and what they do to survive. Or the ultimate sacrifices made to make a small difference to someone else. But…not heavy either.

Absolutely well worth the watch. It stars Michiel Huisman, Matthew Goode, Katherine Parkinson, Jessica Brown Findlay, Tom Courtenay, Glen Powell and Penelope Wilton. You’ll even be treated to Bronagh Gallagher we all remember from The Commitments.

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Peaky Blinders…series 3 excellent as ever

peakyblindersseries3I just can’t get over how brilliant this series is. From the very first episode in series 1 right to this last episode of series 3…all I can say (and do say to everyone who’s looking for something great to watch) is…”watch it”.

Ok…so I’m way behind with watching (I’ve had the Series 3 DVDs waiting since their release, series 4 too) but I just haven’t had time. I guess that is rubbish because the moment I had a chance to watch the first episode of this series I was hooked (as per series 1 and 2) and finished all episodes in two days. I guess time can be made.

In this installment of the BBC crime drama, a wedding serves as a kickoff for business (what else would you expect?) and so the Shelbys get involved with the Russians, their jewels and weapons. A dodgy Father John Hughes has his share in a whole lot of dirty negotiations and Alfie Solomons is brought back into the wheeling and dealings. If you know the series so far, then you know that you’re in for lots of backstabbing, corruption, family disagreements (and agreements) and the works. Even the women surprise you in this one.

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The story is always intriguing and you never see the twists and turns coming. Accompanied by an excellent soundtrack and stunning cinematography, this is one of the only series that I’ve ever watched and not given up on (the other being Rome).

Just be warned…you will sit there in disbelief as the last scene plays out…

…and now I just have to start series 4. Tommy Shelby…what a bastard you are.

Here are some thoughts after Series 1: Peaky Blinders – a work of art and how Tommy Shelby is totally crush material: Sexy Crush…Peaky Blinders’ Tommy Shelby

In a Nutshell: La Reine Margot (1994)

la_reine_margotBased on the novel by Alexandre Dumas, La reine Margot (Queen Margot or Die Bartholomäusnacht) is quite a movie.

On the evening of the forced marriage between Margot (Isabelle Adjani) of France and Henri de Navarre (Daniel Auteuil) in a political move amidst the religious war between Catholics and Protestants, what is meant to be a wedding party is turned into a massacre (well, the guests were strategically invited) of the Protestants.

Margot finds herself under house arrest and struggles to juggle the agendas of her brothers and mother, keeping alive her husband and satisfying her own lover La Môle (Vincent Perez).

Coming in close on 3 hours, this is definitely not a light watch with Catherine de Médicis (Virna Lisi) instigating trouble wherever she can with poisonings, incest, murder and so on. With graphic violence and sex, this may not be for sensitive viewers.

In a Nutshell: Venom (2018)

venomWell, well, well…I never thought I’d ever watch this one. And I can’t tell you why I even switched it on…maybe holiday boredom…but actually…

…not at all what I expected. Not as bad as I expected. So yes, at the beginning I was thinking that this is just another action movie. Besides, I’m not really a supporter of villains. But little by little, I was won over…not sure if it was by Tom Hardy’s Eddie Brock (or just Tom’s acting) or the dry humour that slowly seeped through. I quite enjoyed the Eddie/Venom combo.

Oh…the story…Eddie, a hard hitting journalist loses everything for a potentially big story but gains a symbiote (I have since learnt that this is a Marvel race who require a host with which they become one entity). Of course, the reason he picks up this “parasite” (ah, love that constant argument) is because of some power-hungry guy wants to exploit the possibilities and create a new life form and so brings these gooey gunky extraterrestrial things back from a mission. Naturally they escape…naturally, things go wrong…

…but, sit back and enjoy. Don’t think. Don’t reason. Just sit and watch.

Just love that final dialogue scene about eating the bad guys…not the good guys.

Have fun!

In a Nutshell: Lawless (2012)

lawless_posterWow…what an excellent movie I’ve just watched. And to think I avoided it…somehow it just hadn’t appealed but for some reason I was meant to watch it these holidays.

Let me introduce Lawless. The story of three bootlegging brothers and their fight with the law. In Franklin County, Virginia, the Bondurant brothers have always managed to get by with their illegal Depression-era business with even the local law contributing to sales…until corrupt Special Deputy Charlie Rakes (Guy Pearce, oh how shady he can be), comes along and makes it very clear that “I’m the one who’s going to make your life real difficult from now on if you don’t tow the line, country boy”. And that he does. What a bastard. But the Bondurants don’t just give in like the rest of the residents. Nope…and boy does it get brutal.

Based on a true story, Nick Cave brings alive Matt Bondurant‘s novel about Jack, Forrest and Howard played by Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy and Jason Clarke respectively. Joining the cast are Jessica Chastain,Mia Wasikowska and Gary Oldman amongst others. All to make for one impressive performance by all involved.

Absolutely brilliant. Just don’t expect light escapism…

Here’s the trailer:

 

 

Before…Sunrise, Sunset, Midnight

Back in 1995 Before Sunrise totally passed me by. Never heard of it…therefore, never seen it.

But then, somewhere around 2004 (probably 2005/2006 by the time it was released down in the far southern hemisphere), I watched Before Sunset and really enjoyed it. It has Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Céline (Julie Delpy), who met 9 years earlier in Before Sunrise, meet again as Jesse promotes his latest book in Paris. They spend time together casually catching up about their lives as they became and slowly their encounter those years before comes to the surface again. I remember people commenting that this movie was boring but somehow I felt not. It was so real, a reflection of two people remembering, mulling over decisions made and the pathes taken. For me, the real-time story (Jesse has only an hour before he is due to catch a plane) adds to the realism.

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Naturally, I had to go find Before Sunrise. The story that started it all. How Jesse and Céline met in Vienna. How that wonderful night, that first encounter, inspired the bestselling book being promoted in 2004.

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And that was that for a while. I was satisfied how the two stories worked together.

Then, the 2013 Before Midnight came out. Once again Jesse and Céline and their current lives. 9 years after their second encounter, which was 9 years after their first encounter. While this one left me slightly despondent it still worked for me due to the elapsed years since the previous one and thus the contemplation around how time impacts relationships. The realism of it all.

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What makes this “Before trilogy” stand out is the approach in terms of the number of years that have passed both within (or should I say, between) the stories but also within the actual filming/release times. It adds a genuine touch. That we grow up or mature with the characters and the actors.

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But, I think this wouldn’t have worked if we didn’t have Richard Linklater writing and directing all three of them. And, we consistently have Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy as Jesse and Céline. They also add their writing skills to Before Sunset and Before Midnight. So, from viewer to director to writer to actor to character…we’ve all grown together, we’ve all changed but our core is still the same.

If you would like something slightly different, something where you feel like you are accompanying a couple sharing their thoughts, something thought provoking, then give these three movies a go. In chronological order though.

Head on over to MovieMovieBlogBlog for the Year after Year Blogathon where the entries have to deal with a time span of at least one year.

 

Proof of Life…Meg in a different role

meg-blog3Way back when, Meg Ryan was the light-hearted romantic lead. And she fitted it perfectly. Any RomCom that came out with her in it was an automatic “watch”. Well, that was the case for me and my circle of friends. And tucked in somewhere between the delightful You’ve Got Mail and Kate & Leopold was a more serious Proof of Life.

And you know what? She pulled off this role very well. I really enjoyed her out of that light-hearted stereotype we’d gotten to know her as.

Here she is Alice Bowman, living in South America with her husband Peter (David Morse), who is kidnapped by guerillas opposing the pipeline plan he is working on. Desperate to get him back, she hires negotiator Terry Thorne (Russell Crowe) to try secure Peter‘s release.

Having had some marital tensions leading up to the kidnapping, she is placed in a full stress situation of getting him back but at the same time spending many long hours with Terry. This stirs up some interesting situations. Which Meg Ryan pulls of so convincingly. What I enjoy about her role here is how she manages to pull us into her conflicting emotions of being the concerned wife but also feeling an attraction to the rescuer. And not once do we “see” her RomCom persona in Proof of Life as can tend to happen when actors focus on one type of role. This just shows how wonderful Meg Ryan was as an actress (“was” because I haven’t seen her in anything since Kate & Leopold).

That final scene always leaves me wondering how things would have turned out if circumstances had been different.

So, here’s to you Meg Ryan. Wishing you a very Happy Birthday for Pfeiffer Pfilms and Meg Movies “The Meg Ryan Birthday Blogathon”.

The Greatest Film I’ve Never Seen…

the-greatest-film-ive-never-seen-blogathonRephrase that…”I’d never seen”. “Greatest”, that I might need some convincing of but hey, I’ll get back to that later.

Who doesn’t at some point or another say, in a deep, creepy Schwarzeneggerian/Terminatorian voice…”I’ll be back”? Come on, admit it. And if you aren’t going to, then at least just come out with it that you’ve heard that line used many a time. I’m just going to come straight out and admit it. Together with…I’d never seen The Terminator (1984) until today. Yep. It’s true. Although, funny enough, because it is deemed such a, dare I say, classic, I have had the DVD for a number of years now. Cellophane still on. And I finally watched it.

What was I expecting? Actually, I don’t really know. I’d obviously picked up from pop culture musings that there was a terminator (yes, yes, cyborg, I know) who wrecks some havoc on earth. Why and where and how everything unfolds, well, there I had no clue. Like most of us, I think, all I had was this:

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Right?

And then maybe this…

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..which I have since learnt is a cyborg. A cybernetic organism covered with living human tissue. In this case, a Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger). It has been sent to earth to terminate Sarah Connor. Sent to protect her is Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn). That’s pretty much the jist of the story. But there’s a catch to it…a really good one. One I didn’t see coming and one that I’ve been mulling over the whole day. Or rather, trying to get my mind around the whole day…almost a chicken and egg situation. I won’t ruin it for anyone who hasn’t seen this movie. Besides, I need to ponder the situation a bit more.

Anyway, all-in-all, not a bad movie. One I’m enjoying more and more as I rewind it in my mind and as I re-watch snippets of it. Knowing the end (a very tender one for me), the events leading up to it take on a new dynamic which wasn’t there on first watching.

Is it one of the greatest movies I’d never seen? Well, I’m not sure yet. It definitely wasn’t bad. And definitely deserves its status. I’ve been told I need to see the next two in order to better appreciate it. But whatever it is (or isn’t), I did actually enjoy it (80s feel and all) and must thank Moon in Gemini for hosting this Blogathon without which I probably still wouldn’t have gotten around to watching this one.

For more revelations on movies that hadn’t been seen, head on over to Moon in Gemini. You’ll be amazed that you are not alone with some of them. Whew. But one thing is for sure, I need to catch up with more of these “greatest” movies I’ve never seen.

 

 

An excellent evening with Dada (Ante Portas)…

…ah, wow…that was so awesome! Such a fabulous concert. Don’t you just love those small, cosy venues? Those where you feel a band is playing just for you and a select few?

Oh man…it took forever for Sunday night to arrive (and funnily enough, it went past way to fast)…my tickets for “An evening with Dada” were fiiiiiiiinally valid. Whew…what a wait. For a band that I’d only recently discovered but who have been around for 22 years. How do I know this (aside from Googling)? Well…they told us…

…in this very unique evening. The band chatted and played us through their timeline. How they met (school sandpits are wonderfully social), how they thought they’d never get far at a band competition where everyone but them had “soundchecks” (along with lots of important looking pre-performance checks), the confusion between “Holland” and “Roland” (yes, a voucher for (to) Holland would have been awesome), personal space on stage in other countries and so much more. I had a big grin on my face from start to finish – it was sheer fun listening to their stories and music (acoustic). Gosh, did we all have a good laugh. And it all came across so natural. Perfect. No other words needed.

We were about 180 people (those few empty seats missed out big time) and had a vibe and atmosphere like no other. I’d say it will be a long time until I experience another concert (is this really a concert?) on this “niveau”. If at all, actually. There was something so special and so unique that repeated by someone else just won’t be the same.

If you get the chance to watch these guys – don’t hesitate, just go for it!

Der Rote Baron (2008)…on this 100 Year Anniversary…

Red-baron_movie-posterI’m totally, emotionally drained. My mood is sombre. I’m quite angry…at the futility of war. It is just disgusting.

I tend to avoid watching war movies, not because I want to ignore that fact that these things happen but because I struggle to watch the atrocities, the lives being wastefully taken, the horror of it all…and the list goes on. But, as World War I ended 100 years ago today and Maddy from Maddy over at Maddy Loves Her Classic Films is hosting the World War 1 Blogathon, I decided to watch a movie I’ve long wanted to see…Der rote Baron (The Red Baron). I’ve just finished…hence my tender emotional state…but…it is an excellent movie.

The Red Baron is about the ace fighter pilot Manfred von Richthofen (superbly played by Matthias Schweighöfer) who, as a child dreams of the freedom he might find up in the air. Born into aristocracy, he has the opportunity to follow this dream and so, during The Great War, finds himself using his skills for his country. We find ourselves following his ascent to the skies in his red plane but also in his status. He is known as the Red Baron not only because of his skills and abilities but just as importantly, because of his camaraderie with those around him. Initially, this is more a game for him…a means to live out his passion for flying, he even mentions that the objective is “..to bring down aeroplanes, not men”. At the beginning of the movie the atmosphere is lighter, with our young pilots having quite a number of cocky one-liners. As our story and therefore the war progresses, von Richthofen‘s eyes are opened to reality. This largely initiated by Käte (Lena Headey), a nurse desperately helping those less fortunate on a daily basis. As more and more of his pilot friends fall from the skies it all starts hitting home.

Excellent acting from all involved…so much so that you’ll find yourself sitting there feeling the losses, the decisions, the horrors of war. Der rote Baron doesn’t give many gruesome battlefield scenes but I think the emotional ones, the conscious decisions given and orders taken, those scenes are as powerful as any. It also tends to stay away from taking any sides but rather focuses on what would have been experienced by anyone, regardless of which side they were on.

 

Written and directed by Nikolai Müllerschön, it also stars Til Schweiger, Joseph Fiennes, Maxim Mehmet, Hanno Kofler and Volker Bruch amongst others.

When watching these things, I mourn the general destruction and loss of life…not only the human ones but also that of the environment, the fauna and flora. It makes me hope like crazy that at some point someone will learn from the past so that nobody ever needs to experience something like this again.

It is only fair that we honour the real man behind the movie too (along with everyone else fallen in battle).

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For more entries to Maddy’s Blogathon head on over here.

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In a Nutshell: The Ballad of Lefty Brown (2017)

BalladLeftyBrownLefty Brown (Bill Pullman), “a man who never got anything right”, happens to be alone with his friend and partner Edward Johnson (Peter Fonda) when Edward is shot down. Lefty swears to bring the murderer/s to justice but, on returning to the Johnson ranch is accused of the heinous crime. With the help of his friends, Lefty proves that some people are not who they seem and more importantly, that he does, actually, get some things right.

Having a few shootouts, this isn’t a wild, raucous western but rather a wonderfully paced character study showing how outward appearance/behaviour is not what we should judge on and that circumstances will drive people do to anything…be it good or bad.

Bill Pullman is absolutely superb as Lefty who is by no means as incompetent as people think he is. What a brilliant piece of acting he does. Tommy Flanagan as Tom, Jim Caviezel as Jimmy and Diego Josef as Jeremiah are all Lefty’s friends, while Kathy Baker is Laura Johnson. Excellent acting all round. What a pity these type of movies don’t get a bigger audience.

Thoroughly enjoyable. Well worth the watch. And watch out for that haunting but beautiful ending song “The Ballad of Lefty Brown” by Maiah Wynne.