Shakespeare in Love (1998)

4 Kernels

Stars: Gwyneth Paltrow, Joseph Fiennes, John Madden, Geoffrey Rush, and Ben Affleck

It’s been some time since I’ve watched this movie. I saw it when it originally came out, pretty much went on with life, and recently watched it again. Twelve years ago, I don’t think it impressed me as much as it did the last time I clicked play. It’s obvious that my life’s experiences over the years have changed my view of the movie. Does that ever happen to you?

In spite of the recent controversy stirred by the movie Anonymous over who really wrote the works of Shakespeare, one cannot help but honor the writer of the wonderful words he penned. I do know everyone screamed “foul” when Shakespeare in Love won the Oscar for best picture beating out Private Ryan. Perhaps the voters were in the mood for love, rather than entrails, blood, and gore. If you look at the reviews, you’ll see it’s really one of those love/hate relationships with viewers.

Frankly, I think there is a hidden brilliance behind this movie. It’s about the author who writes a love tragedy, while he lives out his own tragedy with the woman he loves. The affair between William and Viola ensues, and when it does, the well of inspiration Shakespeare thought had gone dry, suddenly springs forth renewed. Their scandalous affair leads to the penning of Romeo and Juliet.

As the story evolves, so does the tragic truth that they will never be together. He is bound by a previous marriage and lives a life of a lowly playwright and poet, while the woman he loves is bound by the Queen’s command and her father to wed another. The stage is set for a love affair that ends in loss and separation. When he realizes how their end will play out, he writes the tragic conclusion to the infamous play. Romeo is a man who cannot live without the woman he loves, much how William feels over his current situation.

When William’s debut of Romeo and Juliet is performed for the first time, by strange circumstances they play the roles — Will as Romeo and Viola as Juliet. Of course, in that day, women couldn’t be on stage, but Viola all along has violated that rule due to her desire to act. Their hearts are torn playing their parts, as they both know their lives will be torn asunder as soon as the play ends. She married that very day. Each are forced to follow another path — two star-crossed lovers unable to have one another. Alas, it was not meant to be.

As far as the stars, I wasn’t enthralled seeing Colin Firth act like a sod. Judy Dench was fine, as usual, in a short role of Queen Elizabeth I. She won the Oscar for best supporting role.

Gwyneth Paltrow and Geoffrey Rush were their usual on film. Gwyneth, for me at least, always seems the same on film, no matter what the role. Nevertheless, she walked away with an Oscar for best actress that year. Cate Blanchett was nominated for her role in Elizabeth, which I thought was far more deserving. :tosses in my two cents:

Joseph Fiennes as William Shakespeare makes for good eye candy. He plays well the role of the tortured writer, searching for his muse, passionate about life and storytelling. Fiennes’ eyes are very expressive. :tosses in another two cents:

Favorite Lines: (Hugh Fennyman) Who’s that? (Philip Henslowe) Nobody. He’s the author.

(Isn’t that the truth! LOL)

Bramwell (1995-1998)

4 Kernels
The Victorian Way of Life

Stars: Jemma Redgrave and David Calder

Type: British ITV Four Seasons (28 episodes)

Let’s get something out of the way. I love British TV. Seventy percent of what I’ll review has been filmed by the English. It fascinates me. They are great storytellers. Drama is their forte, as well as comedy–hands down.

Twenty-eight episodes later, you’ll be well educated in the Victorian way of life if you tune into Bramwell. I watched it originally on Netflix, but as you know stories come and go there. However, the DVD’s are available on Amazon.

The series is named after its main character, Dr. Eleanor Bramwell, a woman physician in 1895. Her father is a doctor, as well, and his daughter has decided to follow in her father’s footsteps. However, in 1895, women physicians struggled to be taken seriously by their male peers in the same profession. The series begins in a hospital, where after a heated argument with physician in charge, Eleanor embarks on opening a thrift medical center to treat the poor with the help of a financial supporter. Her father is appalled over the idea.

It’s here in this setting that the series embarks upon a variety of stories revolving around her patients and staff, interspersed with her home and social life in an upper-class environment. The medical cases are crude, such as treating women thought to be too hysterical by removing their ovaries to “calm them down,” to the early methods of surgery without the wearing of masks and sterile conditions. It’s a wonder anyone lived, frankly, through half the medical procedures. Nevertheless, it’s a time of learning and knowledge for the medical profession, even if they are still in the dark ages about some practices.


Overall the series is wonderful portrayal of Victorian life, manners, courtship, class differences, evolution of medical knowledge, and a woman’s place in society. Eleanor Bramwell is a feisty woman, who at times I wish I could knock up side the head. Her character is stubborn, independent, and bull-headed. However, she was born in a time when women were spreading their wings and demanding better treatment. Eleanor, however, is so opinionated in her vie for change, that she thinks she is always right – about everything. On the other hand, her treatment of the poor and attitude toward the sick is her redeeming quality.

Every other character that came and went throughout seasons one through three, were great additions to the story. Eleanor is unmarried, but has a main love interest in her life, another doctor. The man is frankly a scoundrel, as far as I am concerned. Even in all of her self-professed intelligence, Eleanor didn’t have an ounce of sense when it came to men.

Seasons one through three are wonderful. Season four falls flat on its face. Many of the main characters are gone, including her father. My suggestion is skip four, and save yourself the pain. It sorely lacks the brilliance of the first three. Read a synopsis instead to satisfy your curiosity.

If you like the Victorian Era, this is the series for you.

A Dangerous Method (2011)

7489a-dangerous2bmethod1 Kernel

Stars: Keira Knightley, Viggo Mortensen, Michael Fassbender

R Rated Review

Okay, the disclaimer is up. It’s a shocking movie. If you’re a psychologist buff who has studied the works of Jung and Freud, this movie could be your cup of tea. If you’re an individual who has been beaten and sexually abused, hide the play button. It could resurrect repressed memories you had hoped to forget. Watch at your own risk. On the other hand, if you read Fifty Shades of Grey and liked it, this movie could be right up your alley.

This movie is supposedly based on a true story. Enters Sabina Spielrein – painfully played by Keira Knightly, I might add. She arrives at the mental institution, Carl Jung (played by Michael Fassbender) is her doctor. He sits in a chair behind her and starts to embark on the method of psychoanalyzing a disturbed woman. Sabina contorts into all sorts of physical language from her face to her toes, and confesses to her doctor that she’s been abused, beaten, and likes it. In today’s language that would be translated into kinky sex. She enjoys being naked, tied up, and beaten as a result of what her father did to her as a child.

As her treatment progresses, Carl meets his idol, Sigmond, and they discuss her case. However, Sabina, as she becomes more stable, entices her doctor into a relationship. Married and about to commit professional suicide, Jung has an affair with her anyway. If that isn’t bad enough, he satisfies her sexual needs by binding her and beating her with a belt. The act portrayed on screen is far too long on screen, as you watch her contort in pain but enjoy it sexually. The man who is suppose to cure her ends up reinforcing her behavior instead. The outcome is disastrous.

Jung becomes as addicted to her and their affair (even though at one point he tries to break it off), as she is addicted to her behavior. He gives you the impression he loves the dominant male position of spanking her bottom with his belt as much as she loves it at the receiving end. Whether Jung really did go that far in real life is questionable, since he’s well known and revered in his work. From what I’ve read the affair was real, but I’d like to believe the remainder is Hollywood contrived.

The interaction and professional discussions between Jung and Freud are interesting to watch. Surprisingly, Sabina eventually goes on in life to become a psychiatrist herself. Jung helps her achieve that goal. The affair eventually ends, the two part, she marries and finds her own successful career, while Jung wallows in regrets.

Frankly, I had high hopes for this movie, but it turned out rather discouraging and convoluted to watch. The timeline jumps from one period to the next. Scenes happen that make no sense and are followed with no explanation. For example Freud suffers what appears to be a heart attack or stroke in one scene, the next he’s perfectly fine. Huh? The acting on Kiera’s part can only be described as painful to watch earlier in the movie, and bland by others.

Not my cup of tea, especially standing in their bedroom watching drawn out scenes of Sabina tied to the bed and beaten with a belt for sexual arousal. I didn’t count the number of times; I only remember saying to myself, “Enough already, I get the point.”

Refund please.

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.

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