Sunday, November 29, 2009
Review: White Christmas, the musical
Irving Berlin’s White Christmas is one of the best musicals ever made – make that one of the best movies ever made. I absolutely adore it. This CD is the soundtrack to the stage version of the film. I so want to see this show. If the music is any indication, the show is an absolute blast. It’s chock-full of the classic Irving Berlin songs from the movie, with the addition of other Berlin classics such as “Happy Holiday,” “Blue Skies,” “How Deep Is the Ocean,” and “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm." The arrangements positively hum with energy – the music has a full, big-band flavor. And the principal vocalists, led by Brian d'Arcy James and Jeffrey Denman, are terrific – they don’t try to imitate their filmic predecessors Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera-Ellen. If they had, that would’ve equaled disaster. What makes this album work is that you are given top-notch Broadway singers performing timeless Berlin tunes with life and energy. They’re not trying to present a carbon copy of the film onstage – the show is more of a love letter to the film, if you will. The story's been tweaked, some of the movie's songs eliminated ("Choreography" is no great loss IMO) or rearranged, but the nostalgic heart of the film's story is vibrantly present. Check out the show's website at WhiteChristmasTheMusical.com.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Robin Hood 3.11: The Enemy of My Enemy
"The Enemy of My Enemy" is the beginning of the end for Robin Hood - only two episodes left after this, SOB!! There was a lot to like about this episode, starting and ending with the fact that Guy (Richard Armitage) is front and center. If the showrunners would have learned that lesson a long time ago, maybe the show would've survived cancellation...just sayin'. *sigh* Anyway, the show opens with Guy and Robin, together again, haha. I loved all of the scenes that show them working through the kinks in their new "partnership." You of course start out with a knock down, drag out fight, which leads to lots of sarcasm and hilarious quips flying back and forth. My favorite moment of the first phase (LOL) in their partnership is when Guy exclaims that he can never ask Robin's (Jonas Armstrong) forgiveness for killing Marian because he can never forgive himself. I confess, I swooned. ;-) That moment was superb & very much longed for.
We get to see a little more of the gang in this episode, sadly though most of those moments are either annoying or forgettable. Of course Kate (Joanne Froggatt) is so head over heels in love with Robin that she'll put up with Guy. But Little John (Gordon Kennedy) throws some sort of childish hissy fit when Robin brings Guy back to the gang's hideout, claiming he now trusts him. Seriously, what is it with Little John and acting like a stupid fool? VERY annoying. However, this did lead to a nice moment for Allan (Joe Armstrong), FINALLY, who's been criminally under-used this season. Allan had such a great story arc last season it's been extremely disappointing to see how they didn't do anything with his character this year, especially since the show's ended. However, it was nice to see him go after Little John and help him escape Sheriff Isabella's (Lara Pulver). Instead of the overused battle cry of "We are Robin Hood" this episode brought out the family side of the gang - a bit sappy but nice to see nonetheless.
So Robin and Guy's brother, Archer (Clive Standen) is a bit of a rake and a ladies' man, who apparently all of a sudden has knowledge of "powerful weapons from the East." That was a little lame, but whatever. The point here is that Archer is Errol Flynn reincarnated, and I'm now in luv with Clive Standen. The way he talks, the inflection of his voice, the gleam in his eye - it's Errol Flynn all over again, and in my little world that's a very good thing. :) If you've never seen The Sea Hawk or Captain Blood, check them out immediately - I could see Standen easily playing those roles. It's interesting to see, just in this introduction, how the Archer character is a sort of mash-up of Robin and Guy. He definitely has a LONG way to go in the self-sacrificing/altruism department, but I have no doubt that if the show had continued he would have come around, in the best Errol Flynn hero tradition. (Incidentally, I just realized that Standen appeared in 3 episodes of season 4 of Doctor Who.)
Guy and Robin have decided that Archer's mysterious weapons knowledge is necessary for them to defeat Isabella (who BARELY has a handle on this whole sheriffing thing), so they head to York to spring their errant brother from prison. I LOVED the little "planning" session they had in the pub, that was hilarious. They sort of trust each other, but they still have to fight over who's half-baked plan is the better option for freeing Archer. Boys, boys, boys. ;-) When Guy is the one who gets hauled off to jail to play the "inside man," the look on his face was priceless. As always Richard Armitage played Guy's scenes beautifully. He's got a long way to go but he's finally, FINALLY, acting more like the hero all of us Guy fans have been wanting to see since the beginning of the show.
Since Archer grew up dirt poor, he's developed this "must have money" fixation, which leads to a poorly thought out attempt to betray Guy and Robin even though they're the ones who just rescued him. Silly boy. He's foolishness only leads to all three brothers waiting to be hung, but of course by this time the gang has arrived in York setting up a big final showdown. I absolutely LOVED the "money shot" moment - when Robin and Archer set up arrows at the same time to break Guy's rope and free him, and the arrows hit the exact same mark. The look on Robin's face was priceless, absolutely hilarious to see. Archer, of course, is going to more than live up to his name. It also really warmed my heart to see Guy stepping up to rescue Little John from certain death and destruction. Beneath that black exterior beats a heart of gold. I always knew this but I suppose it's to be expected that Little John would be a little slow on the uptake. *sigh*
Part one of the two-part series finale airs tonight.
Review: Winter Tracks by Susan Egan
As the title of this CD suggests, it isn’t a Christmas album per se – the songs included cover Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year’s. Egan first skyrocketed to fame as the original Belle when Disney’s Beauty and the Beast opened on Broadway (she appears on the cast album). Her soprano is so crystal-clear and controlled it sounds as though it could cut glass. With Winter Tracks, Egan has delivered a laid-back collection of classics mixed with new material that evokes the warmth and comfort of the season like drinking a cup of hot cocoa on a cold winter’s day. The arrangements have a classic, orchestral feel to them and perfectly frame Egan’s sparkling vocals. My favorite tracks are Sondheim’s “We Are Lights” combined with the traditional “Shalom Alaychem” (absolutely beautifully done!) and “Silent Night/Greensleeves.” The newer tracks blend nicely with the more traditional fare – “The Turkey and the Stuffing” by producer Christopher McGovern gently skewers the stress the holidays can bring by suggesting a worry-free alternative – “Swansons and a six-pack,” while “Cold Enough to Snow” examines heartache around the holidays. Definitely worth checking out, Winter Tracks is one of the best offerings from a Broadway vocalist in recent memory.
Friday, November 27, 2009
Robin Hood 3.10: Bad Blood
Weeelllll, this was an interesting episode of Robin Hood. As the title implies, "Bad Blood" delves into Robin (Jonas Armstrong) and Guy's (Richard Armitage) complicated past. Let me get the best point of this storyline out of the way first - Guy and Robin are together at last, and they are the only members of the regular cast to appear in this episode. Hip, hip, hooray! Now let me get out a major gripe...after two and a half years of watching this show, all of a sudden Robin and Guy HAVE a past? They grew up together?! WHAT THE HECK?? Robin and Isabella never even let on that they previously knew each other at earlier in this season. Talk about pathetic storyboarding. This really drives home the biggest problem with the show this season - lack of focus. The Black Knights storyline in season 2 really gave the entire season focus and purpose, and the results were glorious. *sigh* I'm apt to get all choked up remembering the good ol' days... ;-)
Apparently Robin's widower father Malcolm, played by Dean Lennox Kelly, and Guy's thought-to-be widowed mother Ghislaine, played by Sophie Winkleman, started having an affair resulting in a pregnancy (more on that later). Kelly is a very familiar face to obsessive viewers of British TV like myself. :) He's appeared as Puck in ShakespeaRe-Told, Shakespeare in a Doctor Who episode, Cranford series 1, Being Human, and most recently in the fantastic Collision. Sophie Winkleman looked very familiar but she's only played in a handful of projects that I recognized: the "Five Little Pigs" Poirot episode, an episode of Inspector Lewis, and as the older Susan at the very end of the first Narnia film. I didn't recognize Guy's father at all so he's not worth talking about. LOL!
However, the return of Guy's father from the Crusades throws a crimp into Malcom & Ghislaine's plans, especially since he returns infected with leprosy and cannot possibly cover for the birth of their illegitimate child. And now to talk about this kid for a second...I know the show's already been canceled and all, but I cannot believe this is the direction the showrunners chose to go after the announcement at the end of season 2 that Jonas Armstrong was leaving the show. This would've been a PERFECT opportunity to turn Guy into the hero all of us Richard Armitage fans know he could've been. It would've been fantastic, a freaking dream come true. But NOOOOO, we to go the route of creating a third random person, mashing up the best qualities of Armstrong and Armitage (it's arguable that that's even possible, but whatever...LOL!). And to add insult to injury, this random Robin/Guy sibling is named ARCHER. That has to be some of the worst telegraphing EVER. *sigh*
It was marginally intersting to see youngish versions of Robin and Guy. However, what was with the selective recreation of their childhoods? Where were kid versions of Marian and Will? Why wasn't Little John living in the village in his pre-outlaw days? That's too much to ask for, obviously. *sigh again* Kid Robin was a jerk, it is easy to see where his need for a hero complex comes from. And kid Guy was quite a brooder back in the day, wasn't he? No shocker but I had much more sympathy for Guy's tortured past than Robin's, LOL! ;-)
So the episode ends with Robin and Guy going off to rescue their previously unknown brother. Oh, before I forget - the whole Robin's dead father suddenly reappearing thing - and the whole leprosy angle in general - that type of storyline just felt wasted. It's been done better before but what can I expect when the writers just decide to spring this kind of thing on the viewers? *sigh for the millionth time* The best thing about this episode was seeing Robin and Guy come to terms with each other and unite with a common purpose. That's been a long time coming, hasn't it?
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
The 2009 Masterpiece Contemporary season is now over, and I thought I'd be taking a pass on the entire schedule...but then I was reminded that Collision starred Douglas Henshall (the dearly departed Cutter on Primeval), so of course I had to watch. :) I am SO glad I did. This program was a real treat, full of intricate plot twists and fascinating characters. When I looked up the show on the IMDB, I was even more thrilled to discover it was scripted by Anthony Horowitz. In case you've never heard of Horowitz, let me tell you, for what it's worth I think he's some sort of freaking genius. It's my understanding that any book he releases is guaranteed to be a huge bestseller in England (you can check out his work on his website here - books, film, television, & theater credits!). The primary reason I love Horowitz though is because he created the absolutely fantastic, perfect, wonderful mystery series Foyle's War. I love, love, love that show and should write more about it in the future. Just warning ya. :)
So anyway, back to Collision. I'm not going to do my usual critique/spoiler-fest that normally accompanies any post I write about yet another British show I love and adore. ;-) Shocking, I know. But I really think this program is such a wonderful surprise, such an intelligent drama, that I would wish any new viewers to the story to enjoy the surprises as they unfold. Here's the brief story summary from the PBS website, just to whet your appetites:
Point of impact — Friday afternoon on England's busy A12 highway. Six cars collide in a terrible spectacle leaving two dead. Detective Inspector John Tolin (Douglas Henshall, Primeval) is called in to clean up, and quiet the cries of racism coming from the family of one of the victims. But a methodical investigation only scratches the surface of the ten strangers involved, and the surprising and touching ways they are transformed after the accident. Senior Investigating Officer Ann Stallwood (Kate Ashfield, Poirot), herself entangled with Tolin, joins the inquiry as allegations of corporate crime, infidelity, shameful secrets and murder slowly rise from the wreckage. Written by Anthony Horowitz (Foyle's War) and Michael A. Walker, Collision investigates human nature, fate and the intriguing ways the truths of our lives are revealed.
This show is a veritable who's who of British acting talent, so without giving too much away I do want to give a couple of casting shout-outs:
- Douglas Henshall (DI John Tolin) - This show was a really, really smart move - showed a completely different side of his personality than the one I came to love on Primeval. And check out his dorky "everyman" hair - adorable. :)
- David Bamber (Sidney Norris) - When isn't it fun to see Mr. Collins (from the 1995 version) make another appearance on TV?
- Lucy Griffiths - Also known as Maid Marian from Robin Hood. (Moment of silence for the dearly departed, please!) Since season 2 of RH has turned out to be the show's creative high-water mark, I no longer think Lucy was completely nuts for wanting to leave the show to pursue other projects. In fact, crazy blonde hair dye job nothwithstanding, I think it's brilliant she got to play in Collision because she got to star opposite...
- Paul McGann - I freaking love Paul McGann. We go WAAAAYYYY back, starting with his appearance as Lt. Bush in the Hornblower films (still bitter about how that series ended, A&E!). His voice will just make you melt, I kid you not. And while his character is not as admirable as one could wish for, dang it the man has never looked better. Wowzers. *swoons* It was SO nice to see Paul in a major project that actually got the chance to air in the US. Made me positively nostalgic for the ol' Hornblower days... ;-)
Sorry, didn't meant to get carried away there. ;-) Those four actors are just a small sampling of the faces I recognized in the cast. The show is a true ensemble piece, superbly scripted and executed. This is a story that will leave you thinking about the ripple effect our lives have on each other, and how the smallest actions - or inactions - can have enormous consequences. It's a fascinating program. The DVD releases December 15th.
Here's a short video interviewing some members of the cast:
Monday, November 23, 2009
*swoon* Proving that 10 minutes of Guy footage are worth more than 10 hours of everybody else on that crazy little show. :)
Review: Me and Orson Welles by Robert Kaplow
By: Robert Kaplow
About the book:
“This is the story of one week in my life. I was seventeen. It was the week I slept in Orson Welles’s pajamas. It was the week I fell in love. And it was the week I changed my middle name – twice.”
With this beginning, Robert Kaplow sweeps readers into a breakneck romantic farce that reads like a Who’s Who of the classic American theater. At center stage is the twenty-two year old Orson Welles, about to launch his debut production of Julius Caesar. Enter Richard Samuels, an achingly sincere teenager who literally walks into his first acting job. What he finds is a whirlwind of comedy and pathos, self-absorbed celebrities and their outsized egos, art and love. Me and Orson Welles is a joy.
When I saw the trailer for the upcoming film Me and Orson Welles, I knew I had to read the book on which the movie is based. The story looked tailor-made to cater to my tastes – the clothes, the music, the theater of the time period, I love it all. With the book, Robert Kaplow has crafted a witty and insightful coming-of-age story that doubles as one of the best love letters to a bygone age that you could wish for. (Just a heads up, there is some off-color language in this book – I would’ve preferred a less, but if you can get past that the story is that the story is terrific!) In the late 1930s, America was in a depression with no thought of the war to come, and master songsmiths like Irving Berlin and Cole Porter were making their contributions to what would become known as the Great American Songbook. It was a “golden age,” when American films featured stars like Gary Cooper and Cary Grant, and the theater was peopled by the likes of the Barrymores and young Orson Welles.
Into this glittering theatrical world, seventeen-year-old Richard Samuels literally stumbles upon his first acting job – a bit part in Welles’s fledgling Mercury Theatre production of Julius Caesar. Full of big dreams and hopelessly idealistic, Richard has no idea what he’s gotten into when he joins the production and finds himself in Orson Welles’s starry orbit. Welles is a star on the rise and he knows it. The man is a pompous jerk but the allure of his genius is irresistibly strong and undeniable. In one short week, Richard probably learns more about life, love, and his own purpose and self-worth than many people do in an entire lifetime.
Richard’s voice just shines and makes this novel a joy to read. He’s worldly-wise yet naïve, sarcastic yet sweet – in other words, a typical teenager made up of all the confusion and contradictions that accompany that time of one’s life. Kaplow also excels at building his setting – he absolutely nails NYC. The city itself is as much of a character as Richard or Welles, and reading the descriptive passages in the novel made the sights, sounds, and smells of the city come alive. This book is also one of the best mash-ups of fiction and historical fact that I’ve ever come across. I’m a huge classic film fan, so reading about Orson Welles’s theatrical beginnings, or learning that actor Joseph Cotten was a member of the Mercury Theatre troupe, were absolutely fascinating. While I could never claim to be a Wellesian scholar, based on my perception of Orson Welles’s character from his films that I’ve seen, Kaplow has done an excellent job of capturing the essence of the man. Every time Welles spoke on the page, it was his unmistakable voice that I heard in my head while reading.
If you’ve seen the television show Slings & Arrows, Me and Orson Welles comes as close as you could wish to capturing the humor, angst, and life found in the theater. Me and Orson Welles is a breezy, insightful, laugh-out-loud funny love letter to a golden age in American entertainment.
Here's the movie trailer:
I cannot WAIT to see this movie!! The last time I checked it opens in NY and LA over Thanksgiving, and then wide release December 11th. I just hope those dates don't change (unless they move the wide release opening up...I would totally go for that). ;-)
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Robin Hood 3.9: A Dangerous Deal
Thornton is a terrible piece of work to say the least, and when you see the fear in Isabella's eyes at his appearance you can't help but have compassion for her situation. She is obviously a victim, but she hasn't lost her ability to use her past circumstances to manipulate Robin. This of course plays right into Robin's biggest weakness - the need to be the hero/savior. *sigh* Robin needs to get a grip.
And now for talk about the best Guy scenes EVER! *swoon* Guy is in prison awaiting execution, and let me tell you, NO ONE can rock the whole dark, brooding, facing death yet unbelievably appealing thing like Richard Armitage. Excuse me while a swoon some more for a second (AGAIN!). :) He's thrown into the company of Meg, a self-proclaimed man hater who Isabella automatically connected with - but sadly Izzy's plans for her new BFF are going to fall through BIG TIME. Because no one in their right mind can resist the allure of the dark knight that is Guy. :) (Except of course the crazy sibling...)
Meg and Guy's scenes are fantastic. Because they're both in jail they're on equal footing, and Meg isn't afraid of speaking her mind and calling Guy out on everything from his attitude to his past actions. This is the kind of self-reflective time and turning point moment that I have wanted to see from Guy ever since he snapped and killed Marian in the finale of season two. He's just not supposed to be that guy who can do something like that without suffering consequences and repercussions. As he tells Meg, (referring to Marian) she believed in the better side of him, believed he could be a good man, and he let her down. When he says death means nothing because he's already in hell, you know that's true, because until he met Meg, he'd destroyed the only other person that believed in him at all. When Meg defies Isabella to try and free Guy, for the first time in ages, if not ever, his first thought is to save her instead of himself. There's no ulterior motive, no desire to play the system. He's reached a point of selflessness and heroism that I always knew was there, and I was just dying to SEE it. So thank you, Richard Armitage, in the midst of the mess that is season three, for giving me this performance.
Since we already know that Robin Hood's been cancelled, it's a bit pointless I guess to wish for what might have been. But I can't help but wish that the showrunners had wanted to develop the Meg/Guy relationship a bit further. Granted, her death scene was gut-wrenching, and having Guy actually break down and cry was a fanastic moment to witness. I'm going to pretend to read Richard Armitage's mind here, but who cares? ;-) (Isn't that what an obsessed RA fan would do? It feels right...haha!!) I felt like Armitage wanted to convey that Guy was crying for more than just Meg's death - it was for all of his character's lost opportunities. So tragic, yet so loverly to see. :) I thought Grainger and Armitage had great chemistry together, and I loved how Meg was not a character who was going to give Guy and inch. She was quite a spitfire, and their relationship would've been a lot of fun to watch develop (much more rewarding than the Robin/Kate debacle). I look forward to seeing Grainger in more shows (she's appeared in an episode of Merlin, to name one recent credit).
This was a beautiful, fantastic Guy-centric episode and it's definitely a highlight of the season - one ep that will be getting rewatched a lot in the future once the DVDs release. ;-)
Check out this link for some great Guy wallpapers!
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Robin Hood 3.8: The King Is Dead, Long Live the King
For episode eight of this season, the writers of Robin Hood drag out the ol' is the king dead or is he not plot, and can the usuper successfully stage a coup/fake coronation (any guesses as to how that always turns out? ). The episode opened with an assassin/knight called Lord Sheridan (who just happened to train Robin back in the day) played by Robert Pugh. He looked very familiar so I checked out his IMDB page - turns out he's appeared in Marple, Poirot, Bleak House, The Virgin Queen, and Torchwood, to name a few appearances. The fact that Sheridan's joined John's camp is a textbook chance for Robin (Jonas Armstrong) to act all brooding and angsty. Why oh why doesn't the whole world see things Robin's way? Poor guy. *sigh* Two things about this first segment of the episode - did anyone think it was weird/odd that such skillful wax artisans were around in King Richard's day? Maybe I am just not up on my history in that era. Also, is it weird that Isabella (Lara Pulver) would be making a play for the position of sheriff? Also - three things, I lied - part of me really loved how over-the-top hammy Prince John's (Toby Stephens) response to the news of his brother's "demise was - Stephens seems like he's really had a heckuva lot of fun with this role and it shows. He's in on the joke - I only wish Prince John had been able to make an appearance in season two, which for my money was the most consistent and well-scripted run of episodes.
The Gisborne siblings sure are messed up, aren't they? Despite the fact that Isabella jumped the shark and became completely unhinged in episode seven, I loved the nuance that Richard Armitage gave Guy's character in their first scene together. Sure, Isabella ends up smooth-talking her way out of imminent danger by offering reconciliation and promising to speak to the prince on Guy's behalf. But for a few brief moments, it seems like Guy hesitates killing Izzy because he's changed, because he can't quite make himself cross that line and kill family. The Marian thing still haunts my favorite dark and brooding anti-hero. ;-) He's still got a LONG way to go though, as he walked right into that whole drugging and betrayal scenario, didn't he?
You know I've got to say, it cracks me up that Robin & Co.'s bright idea for stopping Prince John is stealing the crown so there can't be a coronation. Seems flimsier than usual, even by this show's standards, but what do I know? *rolls eyes* I do have to say, though, that I got a kick out of Robin navigating the obstacles in the booby-trapped strongroom. Just like the good ol' days of Indiana Jones-style action in season two. ;-) Speaking of crowns and coronations, I have to call out the actor playing the archbishop - Ian Gelder. He was most recently seen as Mr. Dekker in Torchwood: Children of Earth.
Love, love, loved Guy going off on Isabella and Prince John ("I can't be disfigured for my coronation!!" - HILARIOUS!). This is what I've wanted to see since the beginning of this show, practically - Guy exploring his potential good side and being forced to realize that the corrupt, power-hungry people he's banked on don't care about him, they only care about him as long as he's useful to them. However - in case you haven't figured this out yet, the showrunners really dropped the ball on running the show this season in my opinion, the lack of focus directly leading to the cancellation of the show. Tragically SQUANDERED potential. *sigh*
You know what this episode really made me miss? Storylines that actually made me interested in the various members of the gang. Storylines like Allan's (Joe Armstrong) betrayal in season two, that made me care about his character more than every other one in the show (save Guy, of course). Now all Allan and Much (Sam Troughton) are good for is crushing on Kate (Joanne Froggatt), and all she's good for crushing on Robin and engineering a play for a little upward social mobility. Even when Marian was at her most annoying, she had Kate beaten by a mile.
A few words about the coronation scene. First - the outlaws' play to stop the proceedings by impersonating Richard behind shiny shields? Completely lame. LOVED Guy's appearance and how he and Robin seem to be able to set aside the past to some degree and recognize that for the first time ever, they have common enemies. Also got a chuckle out of the fight turning into a fist fight after the archbishop threatens anyone who draws blood in the church with eternal damnation. Way to work around that little problem. ;-) Final verdict: this episode had one or two good moments, but it's one of the weakest of season three so far.
Friday, November 20, 2009
Robin Hood 3.7: Too Hot to Handle
A drought's hit Nottingham in episode 7 of Robin Hood - a potentially deadly situation exacerbated by Prince John's need to be loved by the people. Robin (Jonas Armstrong) and Isabella (Lara Pulver) still have a thing for each other. I mean you know its real when Robin waltzes into town to bring his lady luv strawberries. The double entendre in that scene had me rolling, LOL! But I have to say, how freaking stupid do you have to be to stage your little strawberry rendevous in full view of Prince John's (Toby Stephens) window. Yeesh. *rolls eyes*
So Prince John sees Robin and Isabella together and orders Guy (Richard Armitage) to follow the two of them around to determine her where her loyalty lies. At this point like there's any question about that, but whatever, I get it, it's not like there's no precedent on this show for characters being really dense. I loved every single scene Toby Stephens appeared in, the man's portrayal of Prince John is everything I wanted and then some. It could be a bit disturbing to analyze how easily he plays characters that are so in love with themselves, but where would the fun be in that? ;-) I also enjoyed Guy's interaction with the Prince - poor Guy, he obviously thought getting rid of the Sheriff would mean great things for him right off, but that dream has not played out according to plan (huuuugggge shocker, right? LOL). And maybe I'm reading too much into Guy's expression, but Armitage gives the performance a layer that almost, almost makes you believe he feels bad about the whole situation with his sister.
I've got to give credit to the fight choreographers for the way they staged the three-way fight between Guy, Robin, and Isabella - with Robin and Isabella shackled together, no less! (Seriously, Robin is losing his touch - to let Guy sneak up on them like that is tremendously pathetic.) But I thought the fight scene was quite entertaining. And once again Richard comes through as the finest actor on the show by making it seem just barely possible that he wants Isabella to choose him over Robin. Does he not want to lose his one remaining family member? Does Izzy remind him of Marian? Am I completely and overly obsessed with every nuance of Richard Armitage's facial expressions? The questions are endless.
So once Robin and Isabella escape Guy (for now), Robin reveals just how seriously deluded he is about the whole Marian/Guy relationship. I cannot believe he actually tells Isabella, with a straight face, that Marian never gave Guy a reason to feel anything for her. What planet was he living on for the last two years?!
Anyways...Robin & Isabella manage to make it to where the water is blocked, followed (of course) by Guy who locks them in and leaves them to drown. Poor Guy is once again missing a critical principle of this show, that is, if you don't kill someone right off they will always find a way to escape. In the ensuing scene Isabella reveals just how badly she's pinned all of her hopes for escape & a new life on Robin, and not-so-shockingly Robin begins to cave under the pressure. He just can't go there because of the whole Marian debacle - as an outlaw, he can't have it all. Poor boy. So after this revelation, Isabella goes all Gisborne on us and turns on Robin, who has never learned the idea that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. As brilliant as he likes to think of himself, Robin is not the brightest star in the sky, is he?
One of my favorite Prince John quotes: "Oh please, don't go all enigmatic on me Gisborne. Are they dead?"
So Isabella turns on Guy and Robin, and Guy just can't believe the sister he sold would throw him under the bus, but whever. This leads to not only another solidly staged and entertaining fight scene in the dungeon, but some freaking hilarious humor courtesy of Prince John. One of the strongest points of this episode are John's scenes - Stephens gets the chance to throw around some really funny, dry one-liners over and over - LOVED it. Now that Isabella has screwed up Guy's plans for royally-sanctioned power and position, he's got to go rogue...that makes me very happy. Just sayin'. :) I think it could be way healthier for Guy and Robin to bond over being dissed by Isabella (as opposed to the whole Marian mess).
Every scene with the rest of the gang bored me to tears - Tuck (David Harewood) comes off as really pompous and annoying to me, and Much (Sam Troughton) is just sad with this hopeless crush he has developed on Kate (Joanne Froggatt). I have to give Kate some credit for annoying me less this episode than she has in all of her previous appearances. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that her hairstyle has changed? I don't know, but don't worry, I'm not about to jump ship and become a Kate fan. ;-)
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Masterpiece Classic DVD update!
According to this link, Return to Cranford releases on DVD January 19th. There's no Amazon listing yet, in case you were wondering. :) If you've never watched Cranford, be looking for your PBS station to re-air the first miniseries beginning sometime mid-December, or Netflix it asap!
While the new Emma has apparently received very mixed reviews, I'm excited about it (a lot of that has to do with the presence of Jonny Lee Miller, just sayin'...). According to this link, Emma releases on DVD February 9th. No Amazon pre-order link available yet for this release, either.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
The Accidental Husband
The Accidental Husband made a blink-and-you-miss-it appearance in theaters earlier this year, and if I'm being honest here it's not hard to see why. It certainly doesn't break any new ground romantic comedy-wise, but for the novelty factor of seeing Mr. Darcy - I mean Colin Firth - play the thwarted lover, I knew I'd have to check out this movie at some point. And I'm so glad I did - definitely worth the rental. It's silly and implausible but it made me genuinely laugh more than once, and that was needed today, let me tell you. ;-)
This movie is sort of an odd cross between The Wedding Planner and Bride and Prejudice. I totally wasn't expecting this movie to try and go all Bollywood as often as it did, considering Jeffrey Dean Morgan's character, Patrick, just lives in an apartment above an Indian restaurant. It got a little random, but I was amused, what can I say? And speaking of Jeffrey Dean Morgan - he's a doll. :) The elevator scene came *thisclose* to reminding me of Rufus Sewell in ShakespeaRe-Told's version of The Taming of the Shrew. If you've seen that little piece of fantastic-ness (Lori!!), you know what I mean...haha!! I sort of feel like making this comparison is heresy, but I have to call it like I see it blog readers. :)
Most of Colin Firth's scenes in this movie are HILARIOUS, especially the moments where his stress eating compulsion kicked into high gear. This was a decent little turn for him as he does a good job balancing being the obsessive-compulsive wrong guy but still being a stand-up character in the end. Shockingly, Uma Thurman didn't get on my nerves at all. She does a good job and has some nice on-screen chemistry with Morgan. I absolutely loved the little scene they share at the very end of the movie. Her character's come a long way and seeing the payoff was nicely done. Oh, and one last acting mention - Ajay Naidu as Patrick's friend Deep - freaking hilarious!!!
I enjoyed An Accidental Husband way more than I expected. It's not destined to become a classic or anything like that, but it was a fun way to while away a couple of hours. I'll definitely watch it again.
Friday, November 13, 2009
Fall is here, which means it's the best time of year for Oscar-bait films and - drumroll, please - foreign indie films! Woo-hoo! ;-) After Lori brought this movie to my attention several weeks ago, An Education FINALLY opened in my area today (have I mentioned lately how much I HATE limited release schedules?!). I wasn't sure what to expect from this film, exactly - after all, this May-December romance had the potential to end very badly for our heroine. But based on the cast, strong reviews, and the almost complete & utter lack of anything that I think is worthwhile actually paying to see in the theater, I knew this would be a must-see for me.
The verdict? I was incredibly impressed and thoroughly enjoyed this movie. Carey Mulligan, a Masterpiece veteran from productions ranging from Bleak House, Northanger Abbey, and My Boy Jack to one of the best Doctor Who episodes ever ("Blink"), wows with tour-de-force turn as Jenny. If she's not a serious contender for a Best Actress Oscar, I will be completely shocked & disappointed. I've enjoyed her past work, but this performance was a revelation - I didn't know she had it in her to so convincingly play an innocent yet incredibly saavy and worldly-wise teenager on the cusp of adulthood. Mulligan fits into the 1960s time period perfectly, and more than once channeled Audrey Hepburn quite convincingly with her delicate balance of innocence and maturity.
Alfred Molina and Cara Seymour (I totally didn't recognize Seymour from her turn as Gillian in You've Got Mail until I looked her up on the IMDB) are perfectly cast as Jenny's parents. Molina especially was fantastic in this movie - he was funny and sincere and touching, all rolled into one. Jenny's parents are an interesting couple to watch - kind of caught in the middle of the traditions of their parents and the feminist movement - they push Jenny to meet her potential, create a future for herself by going to college - but it's a future that will be easily set aside the second suitable husband material comes along. I wouldn't be at all displeased to see Molina get a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his performance in An Education - he had this tendancy to steal his scenes. :)
Peter Sarsgaard plays David, the December to Jenny's May, and oh is he a smooth operator. He positively oozes charm and it's easy to see why Jenny would fall for him. And when he plays her parents - those scenes were priceless! I thought the evolution of his performance was interesting to watch - he begins so smoothly, so confidently, and then that confidence begins to crack a bit as he realizes he doesn't want to let Jenny go. Only when a certain secret comes to light does the worldly facade crumble and you see David as he truly is - a shallow, selfish little boy who never quite grew up character-wise.
Also worth mentioning are the other two members of David's "fast" set - Helen, played by the always lovely Rosamund Pike (a.k.a. Jane Bennet in Pride and Prejudice 2005), and Danny played by the brooding, dangerous-looking Dominic Cooper (a.k.a. Willoughby in Sense and Sensibility 2008). Pike fits this era perfectly - the clothes, the mannerisms, are all pitch-perfect. I had no idea she could play vapid and empty-headed so well, or come across as so funny! Likewise Cooper fit the role of David's friend and co-conspirator well. This wasn't a role that really stretched his repetoire IMO, but I like him well enough and I have to say, he looked good in the suits. ;-) I should also probably call out Emma Thompson and Olivia Williams' appearances. If this movie is any indication Thompson is a lock to play Margaret Thatcher in any upcoming biopics. ;-) While I have to call Thompson out because she's one of my favorite actresses, Olivia Williams definitely plays the more interesting and critical role in my view. If you look at her IMDB page, she's had quite a varied career, but I have to say that her turn as Jenny's teacher is one of her most striking and memorable. She's definitely channeling "average" here - and it's interesting to see how driven she is, perhaps because she hopes to see some of her unfulfilled dreams live out in her most capable pupil? Thoughts to ponder...
I HAVE to mention the look of the film - the sets and costumes are simply gorgeous! Each frame of film is chock-full of glorious period detail and authenticity. The scenes in Paris, where Jenny sports the fantastic gown seen in the above poster, are like something straight out of Roman Holiday or Sabrina. Those associations only reinforce any Audrey Hepburn/Cary Mulligan comparisons too. And the music - the music was just fantastic. I love it in period dramas like this when the music, whether it's score or songs, is an ideal partner to the action on-screen. The songs - from classics by Mel Torme and Brenda Lee to new recordings by Beth Rowley and Melody Gardot - are sublime. The whole pop/jazz sound of the movie is tailor-made to appeal to my musical sensibilities (Thank you, smart filmmakers! LOL!).
Jenny's story is actually told quite powerfully, and the hope in this story is an element I wasn't quite expecting. Let's face it, Jenny's "education" by the much older David could have ended very badly for her. But she's a girl who doesn't have it in her to simply give up and accept a situation. She's blessed with really supportive, very understanding parents, but what I liked best was how she had to choose to pull herself up by the bootstraps, so to speak, and to use the time she spent with David & his friends to make her stronger. Things could have ended very unpleasantly, or bitterly, but Jenny is a character who makes the conscious choice to learn from all experiences and mistakes - and while that certainly doesn't negate the pain the life throws one's way, it just struck me as a great reminder of the power of choice.
Just a note on the rating - for a coming-of-age film made in today's Hollywood, I thought An Education showed some surprising restraint as far as the intimate side of Jenny and David's relationship goes (a fact I appreciated - you know what happens, but this isn't a gratuitous or exploitive film in that regard).
An Education is a smartly scripted, fast-paced, funny, heart-wrenching, thought-provoking little film - I'm so glad I FINALLY got the chance to check it out.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
A Prisoner of Versailles by Golden Keyes Parsons
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
In her deep plowing of the heart, moving from tears one moment to laughter the next, Golden will touch your heart with her dynamic Bible teaching, combined with her vivid personal examples, moving from tears one moment, to laughter the next, all the while communicating the message that God is faithful--keep trusting Him. She has a passion to communicate the Word of God in such a manner that will lead to godly living.
Golden, and her husband, Blaine, have just retired as pastors at Faith Mountain Fellowship Church in Red River, NM. They have three grown daughters and eight grandchildren. Her testimony and myriad of life experiences lend a touch of authenticity to her teaching. She loves to speak for women's conferences, seminars, luncheons, retreats and Mother/Daughter events.
If deep Bible teaching that brings the Scriptures alive is what you want, Golden is the speaker you need.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Madeleine's faith puts her at odds with an intimidating rival: King Louis XIV.
Having fled their homeland of France because of the persecution by Louis XIV, the Clavell family seeks refuge in Switzerland. However, the king is not about to let the recently widowed Madeleine, his childhood sweetheart, escape that easily. He sends musketeers to kidnap her and her oldest son, Philippe, holding them captive in his opulent palace. King Louis is suspicious that Philippe could be his son, and he's enraged by the growing affection of one of his courtiers for Madeleine.
Will Madeleine escape the king with her life or lose everything that she's fought so hard to keep?
If you would like to read the first chapter of A Prisoner of Versaille , go HERE
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Fit to Be Tied by Robin Lee Hatcher
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Robin Lee Hatcher discovered her vocation as a novelist after many years of reading everything she could put her hands on, including the backs of cereal boxes and ketchup bottles. The winner of the Christy Award for Excellence in Christian Fiction (Whispers from Yesterday), the RITA Award for Best Inspirational Romance (Patterns of Love and The Shepherd's Voice), two RT Career Achievement Awards (Americana Romance and Inspirational Fiction), and the RWA Lifetime Achievement Award, Robin is the author of over 50 novels, including Catching Katie, named one of the Best Books of 2004 by the Library Journal.
Robin enjoys being with her family, spending time in the beautiful Idaho outdoors, reading books that make her cry, and watching romantic movies. She is passionate about the theater, and several nights every summer, she can be found at the outdoor amphitheater of the Idaho Shakespeare Festival, enjoying Shakespeare under the stars. She makes her home outside of Boise, sharing it with Poppet the high-maintenance Papillon
ABOUT THE BOOK
Cleo Arlington dresses like a cowboy, is fearless and fun-loving, and can ride, rope, and wrangle a horse as well as any man. In 1916, however, those talents aren’t what most young women aspire to. But Cleo isn’t most women. Twenty-nine years old and single, Cleo loves life on her father’s Idaho ranch. Still, she hopes someday to marry and have children.
Enter Sherwood Statham, an English aristocrat whose father has sentenced him to a year of work in America to “straighten him out.” Sherwood, who expected a desk job at a posh spa, isn’t happy to be stuck on an Idaho ranch. And he has no idea how to handle Cleo, who’s been challenged with transforming this uptight playboy into a down-home cowboy, because he has never encountered a woman succeeding in a “man’s world.”
Just about everything either of them says or does leaves the other, well, fit to be tied. Cleo Arlington knows everything about horses but nothing about men. And though Cleo believes God’s plan for her includes a husband, it couldn’t possibly be Sherwood Statham. Could it?
Their bumpy trot into romance is frustrating, exhilarating, and ultimately heartwarming.
If you would like to read the first chapter of Fit to Be Tied , go HERE.
Watch the book video Trailer:
Saturday, November 7, 2009
I'm so, so glad I finally got around to watching Stage Door - the film is a gem and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I can so see why it was nominated for Best Picture in 1937 - the honor was well-deserved in my opinion. Loosely based on a play by Edna Ferber (Giant, Show Boat) and George S. Kaufman (You Can't Take It With You, The Man Who Came to Dinner), this is a movie full of humor and heart, striking just the right balance of comedy and melodrama. It's a great example of 1930s Depression-era escapism, with every character doing their level best to get by and catch a break. The story centers around a group of aspiring Broadway actresses that make their home at the Footlights Club boarding house. They're a fairly tight-knit group, and include a brash dancer played by Ginger Rogers, a "kept" woman played by Gail Patrick, a brilliant actress who can't catch a break played by Andrea Leeds, and some wise-cracks and sarcasm provided by Lucille Ball. There's also a noteworthy turn by a 14 year old Ann Miller, remarkably holding her own and not out of place in the least opposite actresses ten years or more her senior. The equilibrium of the house is disrupted by the arrival of the "uppity" Tracy with a secretive past, played by Katharine Hepburn, who doesn't seem to know her place. The role of Tracy fits Hepburn like a glove, and watch for the moment when she delivers the line "the calla lilies are in bloom again" - it's priceless! While Rogers and Hepburn are clearly the stars, the rest of the cast is given ample opportunity to shine - this is a great ensemble picture, very nearly flawlessly constructed in how it gives each actress their moment in the spotlight. The film is fast-paced, with never a dull or lagging moment, and the dialogue positively sizzles with electric energy. The final scene is breath-takingly well played - life at the Footlights Club, with all of the triumphs and tragedy that occurs, will, like "the show," always go on. I think the DVD transfer here is fantastic, with an extremely crisp & clear picture. There are a few extras - the musical short Ups and Downs is really pretty cute, and fun for the novelty of seeing an extremely young June Allyson in only her third role, nearly unrecognizable as a platinum blonde. For fans of the classics, you can't do better than Stage Door's expert balance of comedy and drama. It's a definite keeper.
Dance, Girl, Dance
I caught part of Dance, Girl, Dance on TV a few months ago, so I was glad to find this movie was on DVD so I could finish the story. This film is a really interesting look at working-class women making their way in a “man’s world,” and actually has some pretty striking feminist sensibilities, considering it was made in 1940. This is probably due in no small part to the fact that the film was directed by Dorothy Arzner, one of the only major female directors from Hollywood’s “golden” age. The story follows two members of the same dance troupe – Bubbles (Lucille Ball) and Judy (Maureen O’Hara) – as they strive to hit the big time. The two friends are a study in opposites – Bubbles is all sass with a heart of gold and knows what she wants (money, and lots of it) and isn’t afraid to do whatever it takes to reach her goals. The conservative Judy loves to dance, not as a means to an end, but because dancing is her passion. Lucy really seems to relish playing the vampish Bubbles, and dominates every scene in which she appears. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Maureen O’Hara play such an innocent ingénue like the role of Judy – however, when Judy snaps and tells off all of the patrons of a burlesque club, it hints at the feisty, strong-willed personality O’Hara exhibited in her later films (particularly those opposite John Wayne). The subplot involving Louis Hayward, whose marriage is on the rocks, is pretty interesting – Judy’s interested because he’s hurting and she wants to “fix” him while Bubbles sees dollar signs. I only wish that Steve’s (Ralph Bellamy) character and relationship with Judy had gotten a bit more screen time. The DVD picture is crisp & clear, and the disc is padded with two extras – the short “Just a Cute Kid” and the cartoon “Malibu Beach Party.” I was pleasantly surprised by how well this movie has endured, and with it’s unusually strong exploration of women’s roles circa 1940, it’s a flick I see myself revisiting in the future.