Film/Dvd Reviews · Monday Musings

Brideshead Revisited DVD Review

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I am away on holiday this week so I decided to do something a little different for a few of the days.  Last year I visited Castle Howard the fantastic location for most of the series and in my head forever Brideshead, you can find the photos I took during my visit and a impression of my day from my note book here. You can also see the full album of photos I took on my Pinterest where I have recently created a board for them and am working on uploading lots of photos from previous trips, I will also at some point look at making them into a slide show on Youtube when I get chance.

So what I am going to do is do a basic overview of the series and then in other posts look more deeply into some of the issues raised in the series and discuss their relativity today 30 years after the series was aired and almost 70 years after Evelyn Waugh’s novel was first published.

The novel was based on Waugh’s own personal life and his connection with the Lygon family, and I think this is evident in the depths of complexities he uses to create the characters within the novel and that shows through the adaptation. The film like the book is about relationships, and where the bounds of friendship transgress into something more.  It is about families and how rather than giving love and support they can be destructive even if that is not the intention, and how expectations and loyalties clash against personal desires and ambitions.

Although created by ITV rather than the BBC it is nevertheless an brilliantly crafted and authentic period drama.  Though some padding has been done to turn the book into a serial it is very much true to the book and extra scenes in slip unnoticed with no jarring against the orginal material.

In some respects this production has aged, but by that I do not mean in terms of the actual story/adaptation but rather the production and filming does not really stand up in some ways to modern standards, and while it works well for the themes I can imagine new viewers to the series finding it a little off putting.  This is one issue I find frequently with younger generations, that the quality of visuals can put them off watching things they would otherwise enjoy, and may explain why Film and TV moguls feel the need to remake things that do not need remaking, I believe Bridesheads received this treatment in 2008, I put in the trailer for it here so you can compare it with the previous one.

Despite the same locations, the same story, the attempt to make it attractive to new audiences with this type of trailer really does not appeal to me and judging from the fact I did not know it existed until I went looking for the original trailer suggests it did not appeal to many others either.  I would hate to see this remade but possibly at some point in the future and digitally enhanced, spruced up quality of the original would be nice maybe for the 40th anniversary.

It is a long watch, and can be rather slow paced in places compared with modern serials, but I really enjoyed watching this, I was too young to really watch it when it was first on although I know I had watched bits of it subsequently and read the book, I give it a wholehearted 5 out of 5 and recommend it as one to watch over a long deary winter weekend curled up under a quilt, chocolates at hand.

Film/Dvd Reviews · Monday Musings

DVD Review – Pretty in Pink

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There are some films that will always transport you back to a certain time and place in your life and for me this is one of those films.

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As a teenager in the 80’s this film along with others such as The Breakfast Club and Lost Boys ensconced its self not only in the memory but also the heart.

Because obviously most of you know the film I am going to do the review a little differently but I hope it might be an interesting format to use doing these reviews of Classic films so let me know…

The Plot

As story lines go its fairly simple a teenage love triangle where class, wealth and status threaten to keep the main couple apart.  Andi is the girl being brought up by her rather useless father after her mum has left (I have to say that like Disney, American teenage films seem to like absent parents) and she has been forced to grow up before her time.  Lacking money, and a female role model, she has developed her own style which, of course, leads to her being ostracised by the cool kids at school. She and her best friend Duckie are outcasts in an environment where fitting in is considered important.

The Trailer

I have to say I don’t really recall the trailer and watching it now I have to say compared to modern trailers I am struck by how poorly the whole trailer concept was used back then, it was not so much a teaser as a plot outline and did not do the film any favours.

The Soundtrack

You can mock the hair and the clothing but the one thing you will never be able to mock any 80’s film for is the music.  The title track is so inextricably linked with the film I challenge anyone who has ever seen it not to think of Molly Ringwald as they listen to it.

Where Are They Now

One thing I do love about Youtube is that there are some great videos out there made by people who take the time to put together amazing fact files on the casts of your favourite films and what happened after the camera stopped rolling.  For this one I have actually chosen a reunion as it is nice to get a little insight from the actors themselves.

My Favourite Scene

This was such a hard choice as there are so many I love, but I decided it had to be this one…

Happy Ending

Of course, teenage films always need to have a happy ending otherwise how would teenagers face the future, if we really knew the disappointments and struggles that lay ahead we would give up there and then.  The reason we loved these films was they allowed us to believe any thing was possible and the future was ours for the taking.

Overall Opinion

You can already tell I love this film, okay there are the odd things that I don’t like, I don’t like Andi’s prom dress, she takes a gorgeous 50’s style dress and destroys it, but I accept in the scheme of the film that’s what needs to be done.  I would also have loved to know more about why her mum left, it would not have taken much just a few minutes between her and Iona in conversation could have done it and that would have added a little more depth to why her dad was such a weak male character.

Marks Out of 5

5 out of 5 massive shoulder pads and an 80’s film can’t do better than that.

Film/Dvd Reviews

DVD Review – Dangerous Minds (1995)

220px-Dangerous_mindsNormally I would not think of worrying about spoilers for a film this old but it does actually strike me that there may be those out there who did not watch this film because of the age group it was marketed at.  I was twenty three when this first hit the screens and it was aimed at those younger than me, teenagers really caught up in the newly emerging rap culture which was making its way into mainstream UK from the US.  I watched it because I love Michelle Pfeiffer (though I wish she had an easier name to spell) and she was playing the main role in this film I will give you a taste for it by playing the trailer.

I think what fascinates me most with this film is knowing it is based on a real story Lou-Ann Johnson was a real woman who decided she could make a difference, she is the sort of person who needs to be not only teaching but actually implementing changes that make those from disadvantaged backgrounds believe they have a choice, that teenage pregnancy or crime is a career choice and the best one they can aim for.  Most of us as parents teach our children to reach for the stars, but who is there for the parents who can’t or don’t care, too many teachers are left in a position which no resources and no options other than crowd control in these situations we need more teachers like this to help give children hope when they have none.  I love the song from this film and I well up with tears listening to it because I have seen the film, if you have you will if not I hope it will inspire you to take the time to watch the full film.

For anyone who hasn’t watched the film but now wants too the link at the end of this will play the whole film.  I give this 5 out of 5, is it 100 percent true to the real story of course not this is the Hollywood version but the fact this woman exists and inspired not only the children but the film and millions of people around the world to stop and think about how things could be changed even if it was only for the length of the film is worth every star in the sky.

Film/Dvd Reviews · Flights of Fancy · Tuesday Reflections

Bonus Tv Review – Blakes 7

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It could be seen as procrastinating from picking the Mysteries of Udolpho up again but the reality is that one thing leading to another has brought us here last week I discussed my love of the Doctor and the podcasts that I listen to as a result, well I have been listening to back episodes of a couple and listening to one by The Ood Cast another of my childhood favourites was mentioned.  I am fully aware for non UK followers this programme may be unknown unless they have the geek gene but let me introduce Blakes 7.

Now I know that by todays standards it looks terrible it has aged badly when you compare it to CGI technology but it still has something, these characters made you love them or in some cases hate them, as kids we played Blakes 7 in the field behind where I lived, we ran round pretending to shoot each other with sticks that were our lasers, teleported by jumping, and of course we girls spent as much time rescuing the boys as they did rescuing us.  I have to say in many ways my childhood was far more enjoyable than that of my own children, we had far more freedom, places we could play safely and less pressure to produce results at school which ironically led to far more creativity.  Now we have almost gone full turn where people expect children to learn by rote rather than thinking, they have targets to meet rather than time to develop but that is another story for another day.

Of course all good stories need a bad guy or in this case a very bad girl.

She always wore the most fantastic outfits sadly as a bit of a tomboy I never appreciated them at the time I was always far more like Cally who was a telepath aswell as her other talents.

One thing I have noticed is the age of the actors, if this was made today they would all be played by people in their early to mid twenties, for potentially two reasons one of course being sex appeal but the other reason I think is partly down to how long a series can be spun out while it keeps making money, Blakes 7 in some ways is unique in that it has a very obvious limitation in its very title, Blake himself.  His companions can change and if fact Blake himself did not appear throughout all four series but even when not an actual screen presence he was very much still part of the story line, fan fiction has suggested the possibility of clones being involved at the end of the series for its continuance but we will come back to that at in a minute.

If you have not watched this and now have an urge to watch the full series stop here! No seriously stop! Go Away! Because I am abut to discuss the end of the series so if you think you might want to watch it toddle off now the full episodes are on You tube.

Now for everyone else…

Blakes 7 ended with a massacre.  There is no other way to describe it, and today in a society where we have come to terms with the idea of things lasting forever this seems strange, although there was the slimmest possibility of one or two characters possibly having miraculously escaped according to certain fan circles, the reality is that a story line would have to be pretty far removed from reality to allow it.

Part of me would love to see this series remade, but part of me would be scared of what they would do with it.  While I am sure they could do amazing things for the special effects I am not so sure they could re-capture the spirit of it and that they would stay faithful to the ending.

Film/Dvd Reviews · Monday Musings

Review – Get Your Geek On

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I can see the puzzled looks on your faces, wondering, from the fact it is a review what the title could mean, well let me explain.

I think at heart most writers are geeks, it comes with the territory, we have to dissect everything, know the back stories and worry about continuity, all the stuff most people will overlook if they are enjoying what they are watching or reading.  To an extent we can switch off and push these thoughts aside, the difference is for us they are always there and once we spot one the urge to proof read comes bubbling to the surface, I think that’s why I have yet to read a writer giving 50 Shades of Grey a good review.

My favourite geek out involves a man in a blue box! Yes, I am a huge Doctor Who fan to the point where I actually listen to several podcasts based on the show.  But for all I have taken from Doctor who as a simple viewer, as a writer the podcasts and new Who are helping me improve my skills.  This was my Doctor number four also known as Tom Baker the man in the scarf, growing up there were three companions  that resonated with me and not suprisingly all three were strong women in their own way, they needed to be to survive with my child hood Doctor.

The kickass warrior

The female timelord..

and the first of his companions and the one who has assisted more doctors than anyone else and will be sadly missed

Now I have to say I am not a full geek, I can’t store every detail of every episode ever made in my head but I love the Doctor which ever incarnation I am watching.  I love most of the companions, I love watching the way the characters develop, especially in the newer series where it could be argued that they get to play far more pivotal roles, likewise the relationships between Doctor and companion.

But above else the thing I gain most as a writer in a deeper appreciation for not only story arcs but the way the reader/viewer feels about them.  Fandom can get a little obsessive at times and some groups are very exclusive but Fandom in its wider context encourages discussion and healthy constructive dissection of plot, arcs and the mechanics of story telling.  That of course is not forgetting the whole concept of non linear storytelling which is perfectly demonstrated by the Doctor’s and River Song’s conflicting experiences of where they are respective to each other in their relationship.  The idea that a story does not need to be told in linear fashion is not a new one but no other story has ever taken it to quite the same lengths and sustained it over such a long period of time.  This year Doctor Who celebrates fifty years of regenerations, monsters and stories which have captured generations of followers and no doubt will for ever more my four year old is already developing the bug although he does believe mummy can buy him a working TARDIS and Sonic screwdriver at the supermarket so I think a few lessons in the difference between science fact and fiction may be required.

The science in early Who may be dated in some respects but the characters are developed enough that even watching now the bad special effects and amusing costumes can be forgiven because you care enough about them.

And as writers isn’t that what we want, others to read our words, for them to resonant, be discussed, and if we are really lucky to be enjoyed from one generation to the next.  Not every story has been brilliant but the good have far outweighed the bad enough to keep fans coming back, and not everyone will like every thing you write even those who do love your writing will seldom agree on your best story or characters.  The ne thing that it has shown me is that just because one story does not work you do not throw in the towel, you re invent, recreate if you take time away you find other creative outlets to keep your dreams alive.

I have no idea if in fifty years time anyone other than family will remember I ever wrote anything but I do believe that in my own way I will have if I am lucky made a mark somewhere, for someone, that I will have inspired someone or given them the support to pursue their dreams.

Think about the TV shows you love what have they taught you?

One final clip of one of my favourite Doctor’s bowing out.

Book Reviews · Film/Dvd Reviews · Monday Musings · Reading Challenges

Book & DVD Review – The Hours By Michael Cunningham

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Today I am cheating a little and doing a joint review as after reading the book again for my 1001 Books Challenge I pulled the film from the shelf and watched it again.

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In some way by now it is hard to imagine that anyone would not have read this but just in case I really will try to be careful to not give too many spoilers.

The book tell the story of three separate days, each set years apart and in different places but intrinsically entwined.  On a day in 1920’s London Virginia Woolf begins writing a new novel while in 1990’s New York Clarissa Vaughan plans a party and somewhere in between Laura Brown plans her husbands birthday dinner and reads her copy of Mrs Dalloway.

Before I start I need to say I am really biased as this is my favourite example of Intertextuality ever.  The film for the main part stays faithful to the book with only minor deviations so I shall discuss the actually book and DVD simultaneously then just add a little regarding the casting of the film.

Cunningham has woven a complex time-line jumping from one character to the next within the space of one day between what at first glance seem to be three totally separate events and time-lines. Three women who you believe would and could never meet yet two of the three will have their lives significantly affected by the third a woman dead long before they ever learned her name.  The common phrase now in use of ‘six degrees of separation’ is demonstrated so well in this book how the very writing of a book can change the life of the person who picks it up and subsequently effect generations to come.  In a very real way Cunningham perpetuates this by in turn creating a book which will lead you to meet not only his characters but to also delve into the world and works of Woolf which in turn will lead you back to reread this book armed with the new knowledge you have gained.  I came to this book with a knowledge of Woolf and the novel she is portrayed writing which is of course Mrs Dalloway another book telling the story of one day from a woman’s life a day which Cunningham mirrors in the events of Clarissa Vaughan’s day.

This story really does lend itself perfectly to the visual component of film, while it can occasionally take a line or two to establish which character is taking prominence in the book in the film it is of course immediately obvious, not only by character but by the cinematography which is altered slightly to create a real period feel for the different era’s.  I was a little concerned regarding the casting of Nicole Kidman for Virginia Woolf but I can hand on heart say that my concerns were totally unfounded.  The make up was amazing to the point where it was almost impossible to recognise her which allowed her acting talent to shine through and allow the viewer to forget it was an actress they playing the author were watching.  Meryl Streep and Julianne Moore put in outstanding performances as the other two lead characters but for me Kidman steals the show.

The book and the film both deal with the main theme of relationships and the ways which people lose themselves by trying to live for others, issues are raised regarding the ravages of both physical and mental illnesses both upon the sufferer and those who care about them.  I don’t think I give anything away when I talk about the point where Virginia Woolf dies this is an actual historical fact so we are all aware I should imagine of how it occurred I have to say that both the book and film deal with this subject beautifully, tragic yet poignant I confess that a few tears were shed at this point not just for the terrible tragic event itself but for us, for what we lost because mental illness destroyed such an amazing woman at such a relatively young age.  One can only speculate upon the works of genius she may have created had the dark shadows not descended so frequently and severely.

If by some strange chance you have been in a coma for years or have just arrived from another planet here is the trailer for the film.

I give both book and film 5 out of 5 and would give 6 if I could

Film/Dvd Reviews · Monday Musings

DVD Review – Dogville (2004)

I first saw this film just after my back problems started.  I woke in pain in the middle of the night and turned the tv on while I waited for my pain meds to kick in.   I caught just the last few minutes but it was enough to make me want to see more.

Now i have to say it is a very strange film to say the least.  Directed by Lars Von Trier and starring Nicole Kiidman and Lauren Bacall you may be forgiven for expecting a big budget hollywood blockbuster, however you would be wrong.  The whole thing is filmed on literally an empty lot with minimal set.  In many ways it looks a little like rehearsals for a play but the advantage of stripping away all the special effects and scenery is that you can really concentrate on the performances.  The first clip I have for you is from the trailer which gives you a taste of the story without giving too much away

I picked this next clip as it is one of my favourite parts of the film for numerous reasons which I am not going to tell you, I would but it would spoil things so you are just going to have to watch it for yourselves (the full length film is actually on youtube).

And finally I have picked a clip from an interview with the director and lead, you will notice I haven’t really actually said much about the film but I really do think this is one you should watch without someone else telling you too much in advance.

I love this film and give it 5 out of 5, it is not always easy viewing and if you spend some time actually thinking about the messages contained within it regarding humanity, greed and the desire corrupt for selfish purposes then it can be quite depressing but it is as wonderful as it is brutal.   The performances are exceptional especially given the way it is filmed and I really hope that one day the trilogy is made.

Film/Dvd Reviews · Monday Musings

DVD Review – Tony Robinson’s Crime and Punishment (Box set 2007)

Originally aired on Channel 4 here in the UK as a series Tony Robinson once more wears his history hat rather than that of the comedian and leads the viewer on a journey through the origins of British Law.

The series moves swiftly through the ages and deals only with major incidents which shaped British History.  The fact that Tony Robinson is not an actual historian works in this case, his enthusiasm for history shines through and as those who have watched his Time Team programmes will know it is a passion which illuminates him on the screen.  He uses visual re-enactments of certain elements to demonstrate some of the issues raised as well as visiting many places of historical events.

If you are a real history buff this may not be detailed enough for you but if you have a teenager you want to get interested in history this may be the way to do it.   Robinson uses his natural gift for humour to provide vivid descriptions of torture methods of times past without the need for graphic illustrations.   He is witty and what information given is done so in such a way that it does not feel like studying.

I give this 3.5 out of 5 as I personally think a longer series with a little more detail could easily have been justified.

Film/Dvd Reviews · Monday Musings

DVD Review – Jeeves & Wooster (Box set 1990-1993)

I will state first of all that it does require a certain type of humour to fully appreciate this series, and it may very well not be everyone’s cup of tea but I love it.

The full series based on PG Wodehouse’s novels only lasts 23 episodes and revolves around the misadventures and intrigues of a group of upper class friends who come to rely upon Bertie Wooster’s unflappable valet Jeeves to step in and save the day.  Are the plots a little ridiculous? Well yes but that does not detract the enjoyment.

In the world of PG Wodehouse it does appear every woman’s intention is to bag a husband and every man’s intention is to avoid being bagged by the one who wants to bag him.  Affections are changed frequently much to comic effect and poor Wooster finds himself frequently in danger of matrimony.

Excellent casting in the main roles has Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry playing the title roles and I really must say if you haven’t watched this then give it a go.  For none Brits it may be a little off putting at first but stick with it and you will soon find yourself laughing at the sort of men who once ruled our country (and from whom those running it today are descended) if nothing else you will appreciate why we Brits need a good sense of humour and why we find it so easy to laugh at ourselves.

5 out of 5 stars.

Film/Dvd Reviews · Tuesday Reflections

DVD Review – Jane Eyre (2006)

In keeping to Udolpho’s gothic theme in the absence of a post on the book a review of another gothic style classic.

Originally broadcast between 24/09/06 and 15/10/06 I have to say behind Pride and Prejudice that this is my favourite BBC adaptation.

Okay I have to say straight off that Mr Rochester is possibly one of the sexist male characters ever written in literature.  Yes Darcy would be the choice for a husband but Rochester would be the one who would lead you astray and break your heart.  This adaptation skips through the early chapters of the novel dealing with Jane’s childhood and her time at the Lowood School and takes up the story where is really begins upon her arrival at Thornfield.

The back story of the mad woman in the attic has been wonderfully explored in Jean Rhys Wide Sargasso Sea and one must question what would we have done in Rochester’s place? He keeps her, shut up admittedly, but it would have been easy for him to have abandoned her overseas or to have had her shut away in an institution or concealed in another location.  I may even suggest that other men may have easily have ensured their wife met with an accident to rid themselves of the inconvenience of a deranged spouse.

Bronte’s characters are well acted by an excellently appointed cast Ruth Wilson plays the meek Jane perfectly while Toby Stephens is the ideal Mr Rochester mixing just the right quantity of mystery with rugged attraction.

This gets a huge 5 out of 5 .