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Favourite actors: Tim Roth, Jeff Bridges, Dominic West, Jason Isaacs, Campbell Scott, Romola Garai
Favourite films: The Normal Heart, A Midsummer Night's Dream (1999), Longtime Companion, The Imposters, Before Sunset, Singing' In The Rain, Gridlock'd, My Beautiful Launderette, Broken
Favourite TV shows: Mad Men, Law & Order, Cheers, Gilmore Girls, Midsomer Murders
Pride and Prejudice (1995)
Wonderfully acted, faithful adaptation
This mini-series adaptation of Jane Austen's most popular novel was a huge hit, and made a star out of Colin Firth, who played Mr Darcy. It is a faithful retelling of the book, with Jennifer Ehle playing the headstrong Elizabeth Bennet to perfection (some viewers said that she looked too old for the role, and admittedly I did think that for the first episode, but after that I realised how wonderfully she inhabited the character of Lizzie, and enjoyed watching both her and Firth. I actually thought initially that a few of the actors – mainly those playing Lizzie, Jane and Lydia – were slightly too old, but by the end of the first segment, I had no such misgivings).
The series does an excellent job of portraying the pride and prejudice of the title (traits which are in no way restricted to the two main parts). There is a lot of humour throughout, and all of the characters are well drawn.
The rest of the main cast consisted of Crispin Bonham-Carter, who was a great choice to play Bingley, Adrian Lukis, who was the attractive but dastardly Wickham, Alison Steadman as Mrs Bennet (one of the most IRRITATING characters ever written!) and Benjamin Whitford as the laid-back – possibly too much so – Mr Bennet. Lizzie's sisters Jane, Mary, Kitty and Lydia were played respectively by Susannah Harker, Lucy Briers, Polly Maberly and Julia Sawalha. The acting was top notch throughout, and having nearly six hours to tell the story was a real benefit. (I found this far more enjoyable than the 2005 version, partly because I believe the casting here was so much better, but also because the story in the later film suffers from being squashed into just a couple of hours.) There was chance for various minor characters to be fleshed out, and for subplots to be explored in depth.
If you are a fan of the book, and are looking for a well acted adaptation, I think you could hardly do better than to start here. Well worth watching – and rewatching!
Daniel Radcliffe stars as a young doctor, who in 1917, is sent to a remote village hospital in Russia, where he has to contend with eccentric staff, few supplies, and his own growing morphine addiction. Not to mention the various conversations he has with his older self (played by John Hamm).
In parts, the show is quite gruesome - it certainly made me wince! - but it also manages to be extremely funny - sometimes guiltily funny, as I found myself laughing at the inappropriateness of certain comments and situations.
Daniel Radcliffe surprised me by being very good as the younger doctor, while John Hamm is just super as his older, somewhat wiser self, who tries to stop his younger self from the mistakes he is about to make. The supporting cast are excellent, especially Adam Godley as the dull (to his colleagues, certainly not to the viewers) assistant.
What I really liked is the inversion of the popular 'doctor as hero' storyline. This doctor is most certainly not a hero - he can be uncaring about his patients, filching morphine for his own use rather than for those who really need it, he is a coward at times, and incredibly selfish. And of course, he is able to see himself being all of those things, but is powerless to stop himself.
It's well acted, well-written, will make you laugh and make you squirm - and it's definitely worth watching!
Wonderful adaptation of a wonderful book
This four part adaptation of Jane Austen's novel, stars Romola Garai as the titular Emma, a precocious, well-meaning but interfering young woman, for whom matchmaking is a hobby. Jonny Lee Miller plays her long-time friend, and eventual husband (and brother-in-law) George Knightley, and Michael Gambon is her worrisome father, who is so frightened for the health of those he loves that he is scared to let Emma out of his sight.
I thought this adaptation was WONDERFUL, and thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. Romola Garai - an actress who is always watchable - was absolutely a perfect choice for Emma, and captured Emma's playfulness and personal growth exactly as I imagined it should be. Mr Knightley, who is probably my favourite Austen hero, because of his very essence of goodness and decency, can nonetheless sometimes come across as stern or unbending, but Jonny Lee Miller made him everything that Knightley should be and more. He clearly adored Emma - and the romantic love between them seemed far more natural and organic in this series than it has done in other adaptations - but was not afraid to stand up to her. But Miller also showed a more playful and witty side to Knightley. I also loved Michael Gambon who made Mr Woodhouse a sympathetic rather than a frustrating character - the affectionate relationship between him and Emma was very sweet to watch; Tamsin Greig as the silly but well-meaning Mrs Bates; and Robert Bathurst as their neighbour and friend Mr Weston.
A four hour mini-series will always be able to develop the characters and storyline at a more gradual pace than a two hour film, and it really worked here, with all the characters getting the screen time they deserved, and relationships being shown in all their stages, especially between Emma and Mr Knightley, with her realisation that she is in love with him seeming a natural development.
The series was moving at times, but also showed the wit in Austen's writing, with several very funny scenes. It was colourful and sweet, and for my money, probably my very favourite Austen adaptation. Just wonderful, and all fans of the book, or good period drama should watch it!
Amazing Grace (2006)
Definitely a 'must-see'
Well. You know how sometimes you watch a film, expecting that you will quite enjoy it – it might be a nice way to pass a couple of hours – and it totally exceeds your expectations, and eats into far more than a couple of hours, because you can't stop thinking about it? This is what happened to me when I watched this film.
It tells the story of politician William Wilberforce as he moved through Parliament in a determined effort to get the British slave trade abolished. While he had some loyal friends and colleagues, they faced an uphill struggle as many politicians favoured the slave trade and considered it a necessity. Together with his friend, prime minister William Pitt the Younger, Wilberforce never gives up in his efforts.
I cried throughout much of this film, because it was so incredibly moving, and ultimately uplifting to see people determined to create a kinder and better world. Wilberforce was played brilliantly by Ioan Gruffudd, who perfectly captured the man's intelligence and integrity. Benedict Cumberbatch was also excellent as Pitt, and the supporting cast contained many acclaimed actors. I liked Rufus Sewell as abolitionist Thomas Clarkson, and Albert Finney and Michael Gambon both showed off their extensive skills as respectively, John Newton who used to be involved with the slave trade himself, and was now filled with guilt; and Charles Fox, a politician who initially disagreed with Wilberforce, but subsequently came to support the abolition. Romola Garai played Wilberforce's wife Barbara, and was lovely in the role.
I keep finding myself thinking about this film – it was beautifully filmed and very emotional. The scene when former slave Olaudah Equiano, played by Youssou n'Dour, shows Wilberforce around a slave ship, and Wilberforce sees with his own eyes the mistreatment and abuse that the slaves suffer, stunned me. Although I knew about Wilberforce's campaign, and the eventual outcome prior to watching, I still found myself on the edge of my seat at parts of the story.
I would highly recommend this film (in fact I almost want to insist that you watch it!) It tells such an important story, and if anyone ever doubts that they can make a difference, or thinks that their efforts aren't worth it, this film tells the story of a man who can remind us just what can be achieved with hard work and determination. Wonderful. (And I have ordered an autobiography of Wilberforce – this is the kind of film that makes me want to learn more.)
Lost in Austen (2008)
Witty take on a classic
Well! I can see why some Austen fans did not like this mini-series (four episodes), because it totally plays around with the storyline of one of Britain's best-loved books. Although I do love P&P, I did find this series amusing, and thought it was, in the main, cleverly done. Jemima Rooper plays Amanda, who captured that 'fish out of water' feeling very well. Elliot Cowan certainly looked perfect for Darcy, and portrayed Darcy's discomfort and awkwardness in social situations. Morven Christie and Tom Mison played Jane Bennet and Charles Bingley respectively – although in this series, Jane ends up married to the odious Mr Collins (much to Amanda's – and Jane's – horror), and both were very much how I imagined the characters to be. However, the stand-out turns for me were from Alex Kingston, who was brilliant as the fussy, silly Mrs Bennet, and Hugh Bonneville as her long-suffering and infinitely more sensible husband. Both of these brought a lot of humour to the series, with Kingston stealing most of her scenes. Gemma Arterton played Lizzie Bennet, but only appeared in two episodes of the series, and in one of those, her appearance was a brief one. It's a shame, because I could really see her as Lizzie, and did feel that I would have liked to have seen more of her coping in modern day London – which is where she is while Amanda is at the Bennets' house – somehow the lack of Lizzie in London feels like a missed opportunity.
Chaos and laughter ensue as Darcy starts to fall for Amanda – as indeed does one other surprising character – and Wickham, far from being the dastardly charmer which he is in Austen's book, actually seems to be quite a lovely guy (helped by a charismatic performance from Tom Riley).
I intended to watch one episode per week, but ended up watching the second, third and fourth episodes in one chunk, because I really wanted to see what happened. My only complaint is with the ending of the series. I won't say too much because to do so would be to give away big spoilers, but the final few minutes of the last episode did not turn out the way I either expected or wanted them to. But apart from that, the series was thoroughly entertaining, sweet, and funny. I would suggest that it is better to know the basic storyline of P&P before watching, because comparing what is supposed to happen, with what actually does happen, is part of the fun, but I would still say that it would be enjoyable to anyone who likes a bit of offbeat comedy.
Sense and Sensibility (1995)
Great cast, great adaptation
This 1995 adaptation of Jane Austen's novel, won Emma Thompson an Oscar for her screenplay. It also garnered six further Oscar nominations, including Best Actress (Thompson) and Best Supporting Actress (Kate Winslet – although this is a mystery to me, as she was certainly part of the main cast, and not a supporting actor. I imagine that Thompson and Winslet may have been put into different categories so that they did not end up competing with each other).
The basic storyline revolves around Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, two sisters who, after the death of their father, are forced to move with their mother and young sister Margaret, to a cottage. The two very close but very different sisters fall in love with two very different men, but the path of love does not always run smoothly.
As well as Thompson and Winslet (who at the time was not the huge star that she subsequently became), the cast features an impressive array of actors – Alan Rickman as Colonel Brandon, Hugh Grant as Edward Ferrars – to whom Elinor finds herself attracted – Hugh Laurie, Imogen Stubbs and Imelda Staunton, amongst others.
There are some differences to the book, but I think the film is certainly in keeping with the spirit of Jane Austen's novel. The story is sensitively told, and there are some moving moments, as well as some comical ones. It is also beautifully shot, with some gorgeous scenery, and a lovely soundtrack.
As expected from such a stellar cast, the acting is top notch, especially from Emma Thompson, Hugh Laurie and Alan Rickman. Kate Winslet also shows the talent which elevated her to A List status a few short years after this film was made.
Overall, I would highly recommend this film, especially for fans of Jane Austen, period films, or romantic stories.
Wuthering Heights (2009)
Very enjoyable, despite the changes
I can see why some fans of the book did not enjoy this adaptation - it does contain some changes, but I still thout that it captured the story in the main very well (and stayed faithful to the spirit of the book, if not the letter).
Tom Hardy was excellent as Heathcliff – it was easy to see how someone could fall in love with him as a young man, before loss and ill-treatment by other members of the family caused him to turn bitter and angry. He was charming and likable, but he was also entirely believable as an older Heathcliff, determined to make Cathy's family suffer for the misery they had visited upon him.
Charlotte Riley was lovely as Cathy – a beautiful young girl with a promising future, but who seemed destined for one path in life despite wanting to choose another. The chemistry between the two main characters was easy to see (and it's no surprise to learn that after meeting on this production, they became a couple in real life).
Support was provided by Sarah Lancashire, who was excellent as Nelly, Cathy's maid (and subsequently the maid to Cathy's daughter Catherine). Lancashire is a really amazing actress, who always brings her roles to life, and she made a big impact in this show. Additionally, Andrew Lincoln plays Edgar, who becomes Cathy's husband, but never the true love of her life. He is an actor who I sometimes find quite wooden, but he was very good here. Burn Gorman played Hindley, the brother of Cathy who always resented Heathcliff's intrusion in their lives, and he was superb. He totally encapsulated the cruel and spiteful nature of the character, and made me dislike him intensely.
The whole production is very atmospheric – which I think is very important in any telling of this tale – and the Yorkshire moors where the story is set is portrayed beautifully. There is plenty of emotion – love, happiness, anger, shock, grief – and it all makes for a very moving and enjoyable production. And it made me cry!
If you're a fan of the book (or even if you're not), and haven't seen this yet, I highly recommend that you watch it.
The Jane Austen Book Club (2007)
Based on the novel of the same name by Karen Joy Fowler, this film is about six Californians – five women and one man – who start a book club to discuss Jane Austen's novels. The various members are facing challenges in their lives, and the club and the books themselves prove therapeutic in helping them to deal with their own problems.
I loved this gem of a movie. It had some very funny moments, but mostly it was sweet, utterly charming and moving. The cast had terrific chemistry, and the lifelong friendship between dog-loving control freak Jocelyn (Maria Bello) and recently separated Sylvia (Amy Brenneman) was completely believable. The remaining members of the cast – Maggie Grace as Sylvia's daughter daredevil daughter Allegra, Kathy Baker as the matriarchal six- time divorcée Bernadette, Emily Blunt as the buttoned up and discontented French teacher Prudie, and Hugh Dancy as the absolutely adorable Grigg – all fitted perfectly into their roles, and the main cast is rounded out by Jimmy Smits, as Sylvia's philandering husband Daniel, Marc Blucas as Prudie's insensitive husband Dean (although I thought Dean was a more likable character than Prudie!), and Kevin Zegers as a student who Prudie falls for. Jimmy Smits was actually my main reason for wanting to see this film, as I think he is rather lovely, but I was charmed by the whole cast, and Hugh Dancy has a new fan!
I would heartily recommend this film, whether or not you are a fan of Jane Austen (you do not need to have read the novels to watch this film) – it's a definite keeper for me, and one I shall be watching again.
As You Like It (2006)
There are some excellent synopses of this story online, but in essence it concerns the love between Rosalind, the daughter of Duke Senior, who is usurped from his court by his brother Duke Frederick. Rosalind is forced to leave the court – accompanied by her friend Celia, daughter of Frederick – and live in the forest, where Orlando, who was lovestruck from the first moment that he met Rosalind, is trying to find her. As with many of Shakespeare's plays, mistaken identity is a factor – Rosalind pretends to be a boy named 'Ganymede' and offers counsel to Orlando, to help him get over Rosalind. Around this central story are other sub-plots of love, romance, and the search for happiness and meaning.
In this version, the story is transported to Japan – this was a move which received mixed reviews. For my part, I thought it worked beautifully, affording some wonderful scenery, which was photographed beautifully. Bryce Dallas Howard was beyond stunning as Rosalind – she was luminous, and it was easy to see how Orlando became so entranced by her. Romola Garai played Celia, Rosalind's best friend, and was great in the part, amply demonstrating why she is carving out a career as a respected actress. In truth, it is hard to select just one member of the cast as stand-out, as they were uniformly excellent. Brian Blessed starred as both Duke Senior and Duke Frederick, and made the two characters very distinctive, showing the harshness and cruelty of Frederick, and the kindly gentleness of Senior. Kevin Kline shines as a melancholy lord, and Alfred Molina puts in a great turn as Touchstone, a court fool (jester of sorts) who accompanies Rosalind and Celia when they leave the court. Other terrific performances include David Oyelowo as Orlando and Adrian Lester as Oliver (Orlando's brother).
I also loved the epilogue in which the fourth wall is well and truly broken in a lovely way. Overall, this was a delightful, colourful, romantic adaptation of one of Shakespeare's comedies, and I highly recommend it both to fans and non-fans of the Bard.
Sunset Blvd. (1950)
Superb and disturbing
You know when occasionally you watch a film, and you think it sounds okay, but then it totally exceeds your expectations and you're just blown away by it? Well, Sunset Boulevard (aka Sunset Blvd.) was just such a film for me.
William Holden – who also narrates the film – plays Joe Gillis, a small-time screen writer, down on both money and luck; as we find out right at the beginning of the film, Gillis won't be alive by the end of it. He meets former silent movie star Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson), who cannot and will not accept the truth that her star has long since faded into obscurity and she has been all but forgotten by both the film industry, and movie-goers. Determined to have another hit film, she hires Joe to help her edit her self-penned script, but she soon becomes obsessed with him, and Joe finds himself less a guest, more a prisoner, at her dilapidated home, with only Norma and her mysterious butler Max for company.
As you may have guessed, I loved this film. The storyline is a caustic and witty dig at a fickle Hollywood. The fact that viewers are informed by Joe's voice-over right at the start of the film, that he will not survive to the end, fills the ensuing scenes with a bitter sense of doom, and the contrast between Joe the narrator, who knows his fate, and Joe the character who we see on camera, who is unaware of what will befall him, is very effective (A similar idea was used years later in American Beauty, also with excellent results, although Sunset Boulevard was, for me, a much better film.)
Gloria Swanson was excellent as Norma Desmond, and at times was difficult to watch. I disliked her character, but couldn't help feeling great sympathy for her. Deserted by her fans and her colleagues, she is losing her grip on reality. At times, she was manic and unpredictable; at other times, she showed tenderness and extreme vulnerability (the scene where she entertains Joe by dressing up as Charlie Chaplin is both sweet and disturbing, as her happy mood turns to anger). Swanson was nominated for an Oscar for her performance; the same year Bette Davis was nominated for her role in All About Eve – both lost out to Judy Holliday for her role in Born Yesterday, which also starred William Holden. He was also nominated for Sunset Boulevard.
William Holden shows his real talent for acting here. A not altogether likable character at the beginning of the film, he nevertheless gets the audience on side, as he and they come to realise the untenable situation in which he has found himself. He imbues his character with passion, tenderness, ruthlessness, and resignation – oh, and he's darkly funny too.
Eric von Stroheim is perfectly cast as Norma's taciturn and mysterious butler – this role could easily have been a caricature in different hands, but he plays the part brilliantly.
The main cast is rounded out by Nancy Olsen as Betty Schaefer, a young writer who wants Joe's help on a script; she is perfectly cast as a feisty but tender young woman who is dragged into Joe's nightmare world.
In short, my opinion for what it's worth, is that there is absolutely nothing wrong with this film. It's gripping – I felt unable to turn my eyes away from the screen; it's sad, it's tragic, and it's bleakly funny. It was a real victory for director Billy Wilder, and it's the best film I've seen in a long time. Very highly recommended.
Much Ado About Nothing (1993)
Hey Nonny Nonny - wonderful adaptation
This Shakespeare play revolves around two pairs of lovers – Claudio (Robert Sean Leonard) and Hero (Kate Beckinsale), who find that because of the deception of others, the path of true love does not always run smoothly; and Beatrice (Emma Thompson) and Benedick (Kenneth Branagh), who have an antagonistic relationship and fall in love almost against their own wills.
Kenneth Branagh directs, co-produces and stars in this adaptation, and what a truly wonderful adaptation it is. It is full of colour and life, and left me with such a feeling of happiness afterwards, that it should be available to view on prescription! Denzel Washington has never looked more handsome than he does here as the Spanish Prince Don Pedro, Richard Briers as Hero's father Leonato and Brian Blessed as Leonato's brother Antonio are both wonderful in their roles, and Kate Beckinsale is sweet and lovely as Hero. It hardly needs to be said that Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson are both note-perfect as the squabbling Benedick and Beatrice, making perfect use of Shakespeare's sharp and witty banter. It's worth mentioning Michael Keaton's small but important part as police constable Dogberry, which he certainly makes the most of, stealing most of the scenes he is in. The casting isn't perfect – Keanu Reeves is an odd choice for the villain Don John, who leads Claudio into mistakenly believing that Hero has been unfaithful, and Robert Sean Leonard is rather wooden as Claudio. However, there is so much to enjoy in this film that it hardly matters.
Although it does contain dark themes – the aborted first wedding of Claudio and Hero is upsetting, particularly as the viewer knows that Hero has been slandered – it is mainly cheerful with a happy tone throughout. I'd recommend this to fans and non-fans of Shakespeare alike. It is definitely one of my favourite Shakespeare adaptations.
Relative Values (2000)
Wonderful and witty
This film, based on a Noel Coward play, stars Julie Andrews, as Lady Felicity Marshwood, who is upset to learn that her son, Lord Nigel (Edward Atterton) is engaged to be married to Hollywood film star Miranda Frayle (Jeanne Tripplehorn). However, the situation soon becomes even more complicated when Nigel plans to bring Miranda to meet his aristocratic family, only for the family's maid Moxie (Sophie Thompson), to announce that Miranda is in fact her sister! Throw in Miranda's co-star and former lover Don Lucas (William Baldwin) who is coming to England to try and stop the marriage, and Colin Firth and Stephen Fry as respectively Nigel's cousin Peter, and the family butler Crestwell, and the stage is set for a fine comedy!
I loved this film – it did remind me somewhat of another Noel Coward adaptation – Easy Virtue, which like Relative Values, also starred Colin Firth, and which also featured the son of an upper-crust English family bringing his vivacious American girlfriend to meet his relatives, but the films play out quite differently (I loved easy Virtue too).
All the cast were excellent – in particular, Thompson, Andrews and Firth. Stephen Fry was playing a role which could have been written for him, and although he is one of the supporting rather than main cast members, he certainly makes the most of his screen time. Baldwin is also very funny as the often drunk Lucas, who throws a spanner in the works of Miranda's plan to transform herself from a starlet to a Lady of the Manor. And Moxie, who is transformed from a maid, into a wealthy family friend (so that Miranda won't recognise her) is the centre of one of the funniest scenes, when Moxie gets drunk to try and overcome her fear at meeting her sister who she hasn't seen for some 20 years. Colin Firth is just adorable as Peter – it could have been a nothing role in the wrong actor's hands, but Firth is perfect.
The plot itself is rather daft – why didn't they just tell Miranda that her sister was working for the family, rather than try and cover up the fact (and surely Miranda would have recognised her own sister!), but I think that it's just something that you need to go with, accept, and enjoy. Overall, this was a very funny and hugely delightful film. At just under one and a half hours, it never gets boring, the cast is top-notch, and I would certainly recommend it.
The Taming of the Shrew (1967)
Taylor and Burton are wonderful
This 1967 film, based on Shakespeare's play of the same name, was perfect for Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, who were three years into their marriage when they made it.
Due to the nature of the storyline (man tames independent woman and turns her into a meek and subservient wife), this is one of Shakespeare's most controversial plays, but it is also – for my money – one of his funniest. I consider myself to be a feminist, but that doesn't preclude me from enjoying this play immensely – and happily I loved every minute of this adaptation.
Liz Taylor plays the wild natured Kate, and Richard Burton is the lusty, arrogant Petruchio, who determines to marry her for the dowry, and tames her by treating her badly – his methods include refusing to allow her to eat, turning up to their wedding in ragged clothes, and taking off soon after the wedding. However he starts to genuinely fall for her, and actually ends up being tamed himself.
Burton was used to the classics, and had performed in Shakespeare adaptations prior to making this film. It shows – he fitted right into the part and carried it off with ease. Taylor had not done anything like this before, and was apparently very nervous. She certainly pulled it off – as beautiful as she undoubtedly was, I never really rated her as much of an actress, but she captured Kate's wild spirit, and later her more peaceful demeanour, perfectly.
The supporting cast are excellent – a young Michael York is Lucentio, the man who hopes to marry Kate's sister Bianca, who is forbidden from marrying any young man until her sister is married, and Cyril Cusack is great as Grumio (Petruchio's friend), and Victor Spinetti as Hortensio – another potential suitor to Bianca – is extremely funny.
The film is very colourful, and extremely witty, with genuine laugh-out-loud moments, and lots of physical comedy. I enjoyed it thoroughly from beginning to end, would certainly recommend it, and will definitely watch it again in the future.
A Midsummer Night's Dream (1999)
This 1999 movie was Hollywood's take on one of Shakespeare's most popular plays. It boasts an impressive cast – Michelle Pfieffer, Rupert Everett, Anna Friel, Dominic West, Christian Bale, Calista Flockhart and Stanley Tucci among them.
Until fairly recently, I did not enjoy reading Shakespeare's work – it seemed very 'dry' when written on a page (to me, at least). However, when his words are acted out on stage or screen, it all falls in to place, and it's much easier to appreciate the wit and intelligence of Shakespeare.
In this case, I would suggest that some knowledge of the storyline of the play is helpful before watching (it does cover three interlinked stories), but it is certainly not necessary to have studied or read the play in any detail.
Briefly, Egeus (played by Bernard Hill) wants his daughter Hermia (Anna Friel) to marry Demetrius (Christian Bale). However, Hermia is in love with Lysander (Dominic West). When she is given the choice of marrying Demetrius, being sentenced to death, or living as a Nun for the rest of of her life, Hermia and Lysander decide to run away together. Hermia's friend Helena (Calista Flockhart, in a fantastic turn) is in love with Demetrius, but he loves Hermia.
Meanwhile, King of the Fairies Oberon (Rupert Everett) is estranged from his Fairy Queen Titania (Michelle Pfieffer); she has taken over the care of a changeling boy, after the death of the boy's mother, who was one of Titania's worshippers. Oberon wants the boy to work for him. He summons his mischievous but loyal fairy servant Puck to sprinkle a magic flower on Titania's eyes while she sleeps – the spell it casts causes the sleeping person to fall in love with the first living thing they see upon waking. Oberon believes that Titania will fall in love with a creature of the forest (where the fairies all live) and while she is distracted, he can take the boy.
After seeing Demetrius and Helena arguing, Oberon also orders Puck to sprinkle the magic flower on Demetrius's eyes so that he will see and fall in love with Helena. Puck however has never seen Demetrius and when he stumbles across Lysander asleep in the forest (he and Hermia have stopped there for the night before continuing with their escape), he sprinkles the magic flower on Lysander instead. Helena then comes across Lysander and wakes him, and Lysander falls in love with her immediately. When Puck's mistake is discovered, he also sprinkles the magic flower on Demetrius's eyes, and Demetrius too sees and falls in love with Helena. The two young men argue over who should be with Helena, while Hermia accuses Helena of stealing Lysander's love.
While all this is going on, a group of workers in the village are practicing a play to put on at the wedding of the Duke Theseus and his bride to be, Hippolyta. During their rehearsals in the forest, Puck sees Bottom (Kevin Kline) and casts a spell giving Bottom an ass's head, which naturally terrifies the fellow performers. They run away, and Bottom falls asleep. And then he is the first thing that Fairy Queen Titania sees when she awakes
The plot sounds complicated, but it all plays out beautifully. The action is moved from Ancient Athens to Italy at the turn of the 19th century. The reason for this is not made clear (and the script retains its references to Athens), but it doesn't matter – Italy looks lovely – the film was shot on location, large in Tuscany. The fairy forest is enchanting, and even the cast are beautiful – in fact the whole film looks as though it has had its own sprinkling of fairy dust!
The cast are all terrific. Stanley Tucci – always under-rated – excels as Puck, and really seems to be having fun with the character. Kevin Kline also makes the most of his part and gives a great performance. Puck and Bottom are probably the two funniest characters in the script, and I thought Tucci and Kline did great justice to the roles.
The script is actually very very funny – I laughed out loud on a number of occasions – and very romantic and sweet too. The interlinked stories tie up together well and the ending is perfect – well, there must be a reason that Shakespeare is so revered centuries after his death.
Overall, this is a very amusing, and beautiful looking film. Even if you're not a fan of Shakespeare, I'd recommend giving this film a watch.
Lots of fun, and looks gorgeous
I happened upon Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries quite by accident. I'd never read (or even heard of) the books, but the programme drew me in, and is now one of my favourites. It's set in 1920s Melbourne, and although as the title says, each episode is concerned with a murder, it's lots of fun, and not too gory at all. Because of the time it is set in, there are no sophisticated forensic techniques to be handily applied to push the story forward (such as in CSI and numerous of its copies). It's basically good old sleuthing by Phryne Fisher and Inspector Jack Robinson. I love Essie Davis and Nathan Page as Phryne and Jack - the chemistry between them is almost palpable.
The period is reproduced beautifully, and the programme is simply gorgeous to look at. (I covet Phryne's wardrobe with every episode that I watch!) I also really enjoy Phryne's maid and friend Dot, and Jack's constable Hugh. who ably help them in their crime-solving.
It's great to see a series with such a strong, intelligent and independent female lead, and Davis plays the character wonderfully.
I would definitely recommend this series to any fans of period drama or crime drama, especially if you like a dash of playfulness added to your viewing!
What You Will (2012)
Very enjoyable - deserves to be better known
This (sadly little-known) drama-comedy mockumentary follows the fortunes of a travelling theatre company, who are performing a modern and subversive adaptation of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. It's a behind-the-scenes look at the main players, including the egotistical and rather unpleasant Greg (Ferdy Roberts), and the heavy drinking and irresponsible, but ultimately likable 'Oz' Oscar (Oliver Dimsdale), who started the company. The characters are all too believable, with the sometimes tense and claustrophobic atmosphere that one can feel when cooped up with the same people day in, day out, clearly shown. I liked Suzie (Sandy Foster), the understudy, who despite being the only person who had to audition to join the company, is never given her chance to shine (with Greg giving his own non-actor wife a part in the play rather than offer it to Suzie), and the other understudy Tony (Alex Avery), who is given a chance to shine, despite not being up to the part.
With actors Dominic West and Romola Garai playing themselves, giving their opinion on the company and the play, the realism is heightened. There are moments of comedy and some moments of pathos, mainly courtesy of Oscar, and it ends on a somewhat downbeat note, although that does not detract from the general enjoyment of the film.
I would say that a basic knowledge of the play Twelfth Night would help when watching this, although it is probably not a necessity. However, do not watch it expecting to learn what Twelfth Night is about, because it probably won't help!
This is definitely a film for fans of Shakespeare, and even more so for fans of theatre in general, and how things operate after the curtain comes down. I really enjoyed it, and will certainly be watching it again in the future.