Author: Admin

English on my mother's side - Russian on my father's. I'm a lethal combination of drama and tragedy when I write.

Always (1989)

5 Kernels

Stars: Holly Hunter, Richard Dreyfuss, John Goodman, Brad Johnson
:Reaches back to the old movies on VHS:

“Always” will always been one of my all-time favorites for romantic movies. I still own it on VHS, and really need to update to DVD.

With all of the recent fires in Colorado and the pictures of planes dropping fire retardant chemicals upon the raging forests below, it’s a good time to dust off this movie and watch it again. It takes you into a world of aerial firefighters, who risk their lives to save the forest.

The story revolves around not only their jobs, but the love between a hot-shot pilot (Pete, played by Richard Dreyfuss) and his girl, Dorinda (played by Holly Hunter), who works with the crew. The analogy that love can either be a flash fire that burns quickly, or one that burns slowly and lasts forever, is part of the message buried within the story.

Steven Spielberg directed the movie, and it’s sort of a rehash of “A Guy Named Joe” from 1943. Instead of being set in WWII, it’s set in a war of a different type. The movie is a great comedy, with Goodman playing Al, who is another pilot who doesn’t take the fool-hearty chances that Pete does. Between the two of them, there are some great laughs when they taunt each other as best friends.

Pete is a terrible risk taker. Dorinda knows if Pete keeps up his antics of taking chances, one day his number is going to be up. She has that premonition and asks him to quit and take a job as a trainer instead. Reluctantly, Pete finally agrees, but not before one last flight that takes his life in a blazing explosion.

The remainder of the story is a fantasy-filled adventure of Pete haunting Dorinda and Al. Dorinda, can’t move on, and Pete can’t seem to let go. Al is crazy Al, only now he’s smart and teaching the younger generation to fly the planes above burning timber, rather than doing it himself. Audrey Hepburn plays an interesting role in the afterlife, which is actually her final film appearance.

It’s a moving and funny movie that I’ve liked for many years. Dreyfuss is at his best. Goodman is funny. Holly is heartfelt in her grief, and her cutesie new lover boy (Brad Johnson) is definite eye candy. The life and atmosphere of the men and women who risk their lives to put out forest fires is an educational watch and well worth the time on a recliner or couch.

Favorite Lines: (Dorinda) He’s too beautiful. He’s too much twisted steel and sex appeal. I can’t be with a guy that looks like I won him in a raffle. (Speaking of Ted Baker, her new love interest.)

(Pete) [Speaking to Dorinda after he’s dead] I know now, that the love we hold back is the only pain that follows us here. (Wow! What a line to think about.)

 

My Mom’s New Boyfriend (2008)

2 Kernels

Stars: Antonio Banderas, Meg Ryan, Colin Hanks, Selma Blaire

Type: Movie
(Straight to DVD in the US)

There was a time when Meg Ryan was America’s sweetheart on film. After seeing her in this movie with her Botox lips (some say implants) and a smile that makes her look like the Joker, I want to cry.

When the movie first started, I thought it interesting that the camera didn’t focus upon her face for a very long periods of time. Some shots were glancing seconds or side and back views. Now I know why. Even with makeup head on, and hair that kept falling into her face and obscuring her looks, it didn’t help to hide what had happened to Meg Ryan’s face. I wanted to grab her by the shoulders and cry “why?” It’s obvious that the cover for the DVD box has been Photoshop altered to repair the damage.

Looking beyond the physical changes to Meg, I cannot say that this movie had very many redeeming qualities rather than being a mildly entertaining romantic comedy. It played very limited worldwide, no doubt flopped, and then went straight to DVD in the United States. You’ve probably not seen it in theaters, that’s why.
It’s about a fat woman with low self-esteem, who has a dead husband that was a sod and in prison. One day her son, who turned out well and has a career with the FBI (played by Colin Hanks-Tom Hanks’ son), leaves on a hush-hush mission. Marty (Meg) flops on the floor of the airport after saying goodbye to drown herself with food and drink. Suddenly the light goes on that she needs to change after someone drops a quarter in her coffee cup as he walks by thinking she’s homeless. As a result of that one incident, she changes her ways and turns into a skinny rail with a protruding rib cage (the new look of beauty).

Her son, who hasn’t seen his mother in three years, returns home to find a changed body and a mother who is gone off the deep end. Rather than finding herself through traveling the world and studying various religions, as she tells him over dinner, I thought she lost herself instead. The woman has a loose screw. She’s running around dating various men, out at all hours of the night, and humping an 18-year old in her own home, who looks like he’s 16 with a mentality of a 14-year old. Frankly, it was crass.

Enters Antonio Banderas (Tommy), who we are led to believe is the “bad boy” art thief. He meets the family by accident, and suddenly becomes involved in their lives. Marty and Tommy fall in love, and supposedly have a hot scene in the bedroom playing itsy-bitsy spider. Well, I’d play anything in bed with Antonio myself, but the scene fails big time and is far from a tender moment of romance between two lovers – its’ a joke.

Everyone has secrets, it appears. Her son ends up investigating Tommy and is part of an FBI stakeout to watch his movements. The movie ends revealing he’s really not a bad boy after all. Ah, love. He kisses Meg’s Joker smile, and they live happily ever after.

I almost want to apologize for my lack in liking the movie. Instead, the only message I came away with it is this: Watch out for plastic surgery. It can kill a career.

On the lighter side, I’ve seen more recent pictures of Meg. She seems to be looking better as she embarks on her 51st birthday, and I’m not sure if that’s due to corrective surgery or not. However, she was so pretty to begin with, that I don’t understand why she had to mess with perfection and not choose to age gracefully like other stars.

What do you think ladies?


Favorite Lines:
None.

Favorite Scenes: The Credits

Serendipity (2001)

4 Kernels

Stars: John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale

Okay, okay. Every once in a while I get sucked into a sappy contemporary comedy. I even run out and buy the soundtrack. I will admit, this one rates high on my sap list.

There are a few harsh reviews on Amazon regarding the believability. Is it because in today’s society the idea of “soul mates,” “fated as lovers,” “you are my destiny” and “made for each other,” is pretty much dead? I suppose if they really existed, I don’t think the divorce rate would be as high. Serendipity, though, wants you to believe and have faith.

When a movie like Serendipity comes along and presents the notion there is more out there than what you’ve settled for, you have a choice. What if something in your gut tells you the chance of a lifetime slipped through your fingers on one cold winter’s night? You can ignore the tug upon your heart or make sure you’re not hallucinating. It’s a fantasy-filled love story of possibilities; or a bunch of idiotic trash depending on whether you wear those rose-colored glasses or not.

Where do I stand? I’m one of the disenchanted in the realm of love, but I still believe in soul mates, fated lovers, and the made for each other mentality. I do believe something can spark in the heart of two people who meet and instantly know they’d be good together, even if it’s only in one night. Enter Serendipity – that fortuitous happy accident, when the stars align and all is right with the universe.

However, like all movies there is a need for conflict to keep the ball rolling. Their fateful moment slips away, and years later they are attached to others and about to be married. Haunted by the possibilities, as they accept the less-than-perfect mates they are soon to wed (let’s hear a cheer this happens before they are married), they embark on finding that elusive individual they met years ago. Impossible? Probably. Hard to believe they did find each other? Yes. Yet, this is make-believe. It’s a movie, not reality, and is meant to leave you warm and fuzzy inside or disgruntled over the load of crap you just watched.

John Cusack, as usual, is terrific. The comedy is sweet. The frustration believable. That crazy book with the inside cover you’re waiting for him to flip over and see fated writing inside – priceless. Especially, when he receives it as a wedding present from his fiancee. Yes, two people get hurt, but better yet saved from marrying someone who carried doubts and unresolved “what if’s” into a marriage that probably would not have lasted anyway.

My Favorite Lines: (Sara) You don’t have to understand. You just have to have faith. (Jonathan) Faith in what? (Sara) Destiny

 

Cheri (2009)

3 Kernels


Stars: Michelle Pfeiffer, Rupert Friend, and Kathy Bates
Type: Movie

 

Since I’ve written a book myself about 19th century legalized prostitution in France and the way things were, an acquaintance recommended I watch this movie. After all the research I’ve done on prostitution, mistresses, lorettes, and the like, it was interesting to see the life of an aging, though gorgeous, woman in that profession. Of course, let’s be honest ladies, Michelle Pfeiffer never ages. :inserts sneer of jealousy:

Cheri, based on a novel of the same name, is set in 1900 France. Lea, the aging courtesan, falls in love with the son of another courtesan. Both ladies are rich from their years of sexual trysts with high society men and aristocrats. Factually, that’s quite true that courtesans were showered with gifts from their benefactors of money and jewels.

The question remains — what happens to those women when they age? Well, Cheri, is a good example of one woman clinging to her youth through a man (named Fred, but nicknamed Cheri), who is old enough to be her own son. She let’s herself fall in love, when she really knows better than to get emotionally involved, and he falls in love with her against his better judgment. A six-year affair ensues, even when he marries another. The outcome of their relationship is heartbreaking.

I thoroughly understand the desperate attempt of a woman who wants to keep their attractive youth and need to be desired. After all, she’s spent the majority of her life been desired, sought after by important men, and pampered. Yet it was quite sad to think after all she’s attained monetarily in life, she’s never obtained the true riches of a lasting love and relationship. She may die rich and good looking, but no doubt she’ll die alone.

The premise was interesting, the acting so-so, the pace a bit tiring, but Michelle’s wardrobe was to die for (along with her figure). Rupert Friend portrayed his character quite well, and good old Kathy Bates is always great in whatever she does.

Favorite Lines: (Lea de Lonval): I’m probably making a fool of myself… but then again, why not? Life is short!

The Young Victoria (2009)

4 Kernels

Stars: Emily Blunt and Rupert Friend

Type: Movie

Once again, like a magnet, I’m drawn to another historical movie regarding the British and their monarchs. If you’ve watched Judy Dench play Her Majesty, Mrs. Brown, as Queen Victoria in her later years, you’ll find this opposite end of Victoria’s life just as fascinating.

It’s a story of Victoria coming into her own person as a young lady and Queen of England. Her life is played like a game of chess by her mother and advisers, while the world around her moves the pieces to places of power and alliances. The story focuses upon Victoria meeting the handsome Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. Even though the match seems to be cleverly orchestrated, the two fall in love. I thought it quite interesting that the Queen had to propose, and Prince Albert could not.

Victoria’s love of Albert is touching, though you have to wonder what it was like for a man to play a subservient role to his wife, the Queen. Though she puts him in his place on one occasion through a heated argument, they eventually learn to be one together during the early years of her rule.

Of course, it’s Hollywood, filled with a script of conjectures and probably void of reality. Nevertheless, I found the movie entertaining and interesting. It was well acted, the lavish life of the royals, the period costumes, and the coronation in all it’s pomp — it’s what the British do best.

My only complaint was the ending of the movie. It seemed rushed and all too quick. (Of course, I shouldn’t complain, since I’ve received that same comment in a review of my first book.)

Also, if you liked this movie, but haven’t seen Mrs. Brown, I highly recommend that you do. You’ll see the brokenhearted Queen still in love with her dead husband, who finds an unusual friend in another man.

Favorite Lines: Princess Victoria: Do you ever feel like a chess piece yourself? In a game being played against your will.
Prince Albert: Do you?
Princess Victoria: Constantly. I see them leaning in and moving me around the board.
Prince Albert: The Duchess and Sir John?
Princess Victoria: Not just them. Uncle Leopold. The king. I’m sure half the politicians are ready to seize hold of my skirts and drag me from square to square.
Prince Albert: Then you had better master the rules of the game until you play it better than they can.

Favorite Scene: Waltzing at the ball, of course!

North and South (2005)

5 Kernels


Stars:
Daniela Denby-Ashe, Richard Armitage and Tim Pigott-Smith

Type:
BBC Television Series

 

Based on 1855 Victorian novel North & South by Elizabeth Gaskell, which I have read, comes the wonderful television adaptation by the British. I’d be a dunce not to give this series less than five kernels, because frankly it ranks as one of my favorites. The perfect story of two personalities who clash, but can’t help falling in love with one another. The stern businessman, John Thornton, and the feisty and independent Margaret Hale. The dichotomy of their worlds collide in this wonderful series.

Margaret’s father, a former vicar, for reasons of conscience moves his family from the south of England to the northern industrial town of Milton. His wife, daughter, and housekeeper follow him without question, but are faced with the difficulty of acclimating to a world far different from the one they’ve known.

Since I have English family members who came from northern England (Manchester) and were business tradesmen (brick makers) during the Victorian era, as well, I found this series fascinating. The struggle of the poor working men, women, and children, compared to the hard and strict owners of the mills portrayed the struggle of each class in their bid to survive. The mill owners are trying to make enough to keep open, while the workers are starving and dying from poor working conditions and low pay. The rise of unions, strikes, and hardship tug at your heart throughout the story.

Richard Armitage was broodingly dreamy! Daniela Denby-Ash was a perfect fit for Margaret. The pair made a great iron-upon-iron relationship that finally blends together in perfect harmony. Needless to say, I loved the series. The ending was heartwarming, and the final relenting kiss of Margaret’s lips upon the hand of the man she loved was priceless.

Favorite Lines: “I wish I could tell you how lonely I am. How cold and harsh it is here. Everywhere there is conflict and unkindness. I think God has forsaken this place. I believe I have seen hell and it’s white, it’s snow-white.” (Margaret Hale)

“One minute we talk of the color of fruit, the next of love. How does that happen?” (John Thornton)

Favorite Scene: The train station at the end where Margaret finally expresses her feelings and Thornton kisses her tenderly. Sigh… Let’s just relive it here.

Tess of the d’Urbervilles (2008)

3 Kernels

Stars: Gemma Arterton, Hans Matheson, Ruth Jones, Jodie Whittaker, Eddie Redmayne and others.

Type: BBC Television Series

 

People complain about The Price of Innocence being a book that touts the message “life is a bitch and then you die,” well you can add this story to the list. Talk about depressing. This is BBC’s four-hour adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s book (which I have not read, by the way).

It was one of those stories that breaks your heart through the majority of the series, as you watch young Tess struggle through a life of poverty during the Victorian era. She could have been a woman of potential in spite of her lot in life, but bad choices, poor circumstances, and the men she encounters is enough to make you go for a Skinny Cow after the bag of popcorn.

I found it to be well portrayed in acting, setting, and costumes. I must say you get caught up in each of the character’s lives. You feel terribly sorry for Tess’ life and struggle of survival. I found myself becoming very angry at her unforgiving husband, who frankly I blamed just as much for the outcome of her life. As far as the man who manipulates her to destruction, well, I could have killed him too.

If you can handle the outcome of the story, it’s a good watch. But if you’re looking for an uplifting story to leave you feeling great, move on elsewhere. Otherwise, you’ll overeat during this sitting. It’s hard to toss a TV across the room because the story dragged you down.

I’ll skip the favorite character, lines, and scenes in this one.

Lost in Austen (2008)

5 Kernels

Stars: Jemima Rooper, Elliot Cowan, Hugh Bonneville, Alex Kingston and many other wonderful individuals.

Type: Four-part 2008 British television series for the ITV network

 

If you’re obsessed with accuracy and looking for a perfect Jane Austen rendition, move on. But if you’ve ever read the book, saw an Austen movie, and closed your eyes and wished that you could go back in time and live in Austen’s time period, this is story for you. How many of us wish we could be part of Darcy’s world? Meet a man with manners or live in a world without TV’s, iPods, computers and learn what the true intercourse of conversation meant? Our modern lifestyles would actually make it very hard for us to adapt into a time and place we merely romanticize about in our minds. How odd those characters would think our mannerisms were in return!

The series does just that, only Amanda’s arrival sort of “buggers” up the story, if you get my drift. One night as she reads her favorite Austen book of Pride and Prejudice, the fantasy begins. Elizabeth Bennett enters through a door in her bathroom, of all places, and comes from the past into the future. After their first encounter, Amanda chalks it up to delusion and needing a break. When Elizabeth shows up again, her life takes a turn toward fantasy. Amanda hadn’t planned on going back in the past, but Elizabeth loves the future. She shuts the door behind her and leaves Amanda to enter the book world of Pride and Prejudice – right at the very beginning. The door back into the future remains locked. She tries to acclimate herself to the times, which often is quite humorous. The plot goes haywire, and Amanda tries to fix the story.

Darcy, of course, is wonderfully attractive, the absolute snob, who can’t figure out why he’s “tormented” and attracted to a woman he frankly considers vulgar–Amanda. It’s fiction living inside of fiction – a phenomenal idea.

All I can say to the die-hard Austen fans, is lighten up folks! It’s meant to be fun and enjoyable, not a perfect rendition of the original. It’s called creative liberty. What always amazes me about obsessed fans of certain genre, is that they treat the originals as if they were written by the finger of God on stone, and we’re not to change, alter, or enjoy it in any other manner. That, I think, is a great shame.


Favorite Character: Darcy, of course! Duh…Elliot Cowan is extremely dreamy in the role and has become my favorite Darcy (sorry Colin).

Favorite Lines: Mr. Bingley: [after Amanda sings ‘Downtown’] Brava, Miss Price! And whenever life is gettin’ me down, I shall be sure to go ‘downtown’. Eh, Darcy? (Unfortunately, Amanda’s singing of “Downtown” was removed from the DVD collection. Bummer.)

Favorite Scene: Darcy dipping into the pond and coming up with his white shirt clinging to his sexy body, just so Amanda can relive Colin Firth’s role in P&P.

NOTE: At one time, Lost in Austen was going to be made into a movie set in New York City, rather than in Britain. Nora Ephron is noted as the Director, filmed by Sony Pictures, and there is still reference of a 2013 release. I cannot find anything that says the movie has actually gone to production.

Goya’s Ghosts (2007)

3 Kernels

 
Stars: Javier Bardem, Natalie Portman, Stellan Skarsgård, and
Randy Quaid

Type: Movie (Disturbing Images)

Not much leaves me speechless when it comes to stories, but I must say this one for me personally ranked in the deeply disturbing row. I like historical films; and, yes, history isn’t very pretty at times. The Spanish Inquisition, as portrayed in this film, and the human suffering of innocent souls sickened me. This movie is not for the faint or tender of heart.

As far as the quality of the movie, it was well acted and directed. Natalie Portman’s portrayal of an innocent woman was spot on. Your heart breaks for her suffering and her plight of being locked up and tortured for turning away a pork dinner. Yes, you read that right. The defenders of the faith thought she was a Jew, because she turns away a bite of pork while dining out. Imprisoned, tortured, and raped, she is released after 15 years of being locked up like an animal to emerge as an unrecognizable woman who has lost her mind, all for the sake of religion.

I do not enjoy watching the “dark side” of humanity in centuries past, and the ignorance the church portrayed as messengers of a loving Christ by torturing individuals when “put to the question.” However, when I compare the cruelty and inhumane acts of men past to what is being done in the name of God today, I don’t think we’ve really evolved much as humans since the inquisition.

The three stars for a movie worth watching if you like history of this sort, but be warned you’ll not feel very happy when the credits roll by at the end. In fact, I had a knot in my stomach for days after it ended.

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