Tuesday, June 29, 2010

42. Testament of Experience

By:  Vera Brittain
Rated 5 Stars
From Library

Testament of Experience picks up where Testament of Youth left off and covers the years 1925-1950.  While isn't as gut wrenching,  it's still an exceptional book by a very gifted writer.

From the back cover:

one of the most famous and best loved autobiographies of the First World War, Vera Brittain wrote both a heartbreaking record of those agonizing years and a loving memorial to a generation destroyed by war. In this sequel, she continues the story of those who survived. Once again Vera Brittain interlaces private experience with the wide sweep of public events. Personal happiness in marriage and the birth of children , pride in ther work as writer and campaigner are set against the fears, frustrations and achievements of the years 1925-1950. The depression, the growth of Nazism, the peace movements of the thirties, the Abdication, the Spanish Civil War, the horror and the heroism of the Second World War come alive again through the eyes of this remarkable woman, herself a testament to all that is best in the times she lived through.

41. Testament of Youth - Mini Series

By Vera Brittain
Rated 5 Stars
From:  YouTube

Last November I Read Testament of Youth by this same author and was so profoundly moved by it that I bought a copy.  It's just one of those books I needed to own.  Autobiographical, it covers the years 1913-1925.  Link to my Testament-of-Youth Journal Entry

 I found the BBC series A Testament to Youth on YouTube.  I was very surprised to find it there.  I only checked on a whim because I have been looking for it and all the versions I have been able to find on DVD are formated for area 2 and will not play on my DVD player.  I am watching this YouTube version on my laptop.  Of course it's been chopped up into manageable bits but that's fine with me.  I'm just happy to have found it in any watchable form.

This is a wonderful video, beautifully cast.  Link to Youtube episode 1 - 1/6   It may be awkward watching on a desktop but I watched it on my laptop sitting in my recliner and it was fine.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Regarding Henry - DVD

Rated:  3 Stars

From Amazon

Get shot in the head and become a better person. This 1991 Mike Nichols film stars Harrison Ford as a big-shot cold-hearted lawyer who gets a bullet in his brain during a holdup. The film de-emphasizes the traumas of recovery to focus on the title character's personality change after the fact. The canny Ford gets to work from his full, familiar palette of arrogance to boyishness, and even builds Henry from top to bottom after the wounded fellow awakens with no memory. But this is a slow and unremarkable film from Nichols, its sentimentality eclipsing all else, most of all profound insight.

Without a Clue - DVD

Rated 5 Stars

Product Description

Suppose for a moment that Dr. Watson was the real brains behind Sherlock Holmes? The result is anything but elementary! Academy Award winners* Michael Caine and Ben Kingsley deliver stellar performances as a delightful duo, an 1890s Odd Couple (Los Angeles Times) in this madcapmystery that's 'the most hilarious Sherlock Holmes adventure of them all ('sneak Previews )! Dr. John Watson (Kingsley) is secretly a crime-solving genius. But to protect his reputation as a physician, he hires bumbling, boozy, out-of-work actor Reginald Kincaid (Caine) to play the part of his fictional creation, Sherlock Holmes. The charade works until Watson mysteriously disappears, forcing the baffled, seriously inept Holmes to crack the biggest case of Watson's career on his own!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Possession - DVD vs. Book

Based on book by A. S  Byatt
Rated 3.5 Stars

I watched this movie when it first came out and loved it.  Jennifer Ehrl as Christabel Lamotte and Jeremy Northram as Randolph Ashe,  are both famous Victorian poets. Their passionate but doomed love story has a little mystery added in, beautiful 19th century costumes, some lovely settings.  Everything a romantic heart needs to make an excellent story.  Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Knightly, what's not to love?

Gweneth Paltrow (Maud) and Aaron Eckhart (Roland) play two modern-day literary scholars who are academic competitors unravelling the secret, passionate love affair between Christabel and Randolph,  and I guess, falling for each other in the process.  This would have been fine had the relationship between Maud and Roland been made entirely clear. As it was it left me a little bewildered. And the film was  not helped by the fact that there was absolutely no chemistry between Eckhart and Paltrow. But never mind, there was that beautiful and tragic love story between Christabel and Randolph so who cared?

Then I read the book.  Oh dear!

This movie barely resembled the book.  The real, and beautifully written love story was all about Maud and Roland.  Christabel and Randolph were revealed as a couple of rather weak, self absorbed persons with very little if any self control who confused lust with love.  I didn't like either one of them.  And as for Randolph's stupid wife?  Someone needed to slap her silly!

Isn't it amazing how the movie folks can take a book and totally flip the story?  This was, by the way the only book by Byatt I have ever liked.  

Monday, June 14, 2010

Zulu - DVD

Based on a real Battle
Rated 5+ Stars

Fans of Richard Sharpe are sure to love this movie.  I found it at my local supermarket on a display rack of discounted movies.  I think I paid either $2.99 or $3.99 for and bought it because Michael Caine was in it.

It was his first starring role and he was absolutely wonderful.  But so was every one else.  Everything about this film very well done.  Filming. writing, musical score and the narration at the end by Richard Burton but especially the casting. Everyone in it was believable.  I felt like I was right there with them which, I might add was pretty scary at times.

If your interested in what actually happened at Roark's Drift  from the British point of view I have provided this link to an interesting site.

Battle at Roark's Drift

I haven't found a site that provides the Zulu's point of view.  But since they lost they don't get to have a point of view do they?

From Amazon Description:

A towering cinematic achievement. An astonishing true story. Zulu is a thrilling account of one of history's fiercest battles! As a terrifying war chant echoes across the majestic African plains, 4000 Zulu tribesmen rise up from the tall grass that hides them. Furiously beating their swords against their shields, the warriors descend upon a small garrison of English soldiers. "Usuto! Usuto! (Kill! Kill!)," they cry as they launch into a battle with the vastly outnumbered English militia who must manifest incredible skill and incomparable bravery just to survive.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Hamlet - DVD

By:  William Shakespeare
Rated 5++
From:  Beth

Thank you so much Beth for loaning this marvelous version of Hamlet Starring David Tennant and Patrick Stewart.  Although Kenneth Brannaugh's version has long been my favorite this one is, I think equally as good.  It's a far crazier  Hamlet than I have seen before and I loved the way the modern clothes and weapons were juxtaposed with 14th century armor and settings, not to mention 17th century English.  Such a crazy blend but for me it all worked beautifully.

Oliver Ford Davis played a fabulous Polonius.  I personally thought he reached out and snatched at least two scenes from Patrick Stewart who played Uncle Claudius.  Snatching scenes from Stewart is not an easy thing to do. In fact, he even stood toe-to-toe with Tennant in one scene while Hamlet was being over the top manic. Hamlet's Mother Gertrude was played beautifully in all her Royal Shallowness by Penny Downie  and  Mariah Gale did a very creditable job of Ophelia.  However, to my mind there is not another actress on the planet who can touch Kate Winslet with a ten foot pole when it comes to Ophelia.

Selfishly I hope that David Tennant keeps his talented fingers off Henry V and lets Kenneth Brannaugh reign supreme on that stage.


It's to director Gregory Doran's incredible credit that his staging of that most familiar of English-language plays, Shakespeare's Hamlet, should be completely reinvigorated by a modern interpretation of the tragedy as a true psychological thriller. This Hamlet, filmed in 2009, presents the inner torment of the Danish prince Hamlet as a believable, relatable controlled explosion of emotions, each more unmanageable than the last. Besides the director, the casting is also brilliant, including the Scottish actor David Tennant (Doctor Who) as Hamlet and Patrick Stewart as Hamlet's uncle Claudius and the ghost of Hamlet's father--who, Hamlet becomes convinced, was killed by Claudius. The direction is brisk, and the acting is first rate. Tennant plays a heartbreaking Hamlet, whose paranoia and weird inner reflections are given a modern spin by the lush, shiny mirrorlike surfaces in the palace, as well as by small but excellent details, like a closed-circuit camera system. And Stewart is menacing but completely collected as Claudius, and unnerving as his brother's ghost. Other strong performances are contributed by Penny Downie as Hamlet's mother, Gertrude; Mariah Gale as Ophelia (who's not quite up to par with the rest of the cast, until she goes mad; then boy does she ever go mad); and Oliver Ford Davies as Polonius. But it's Tennant as the mad prince who is riveting in Hamlet. His "To be or not to be, that is the question" soliloquy--perhaps the best-known speech in English theater--is delivered in a hushed, anguished, all-too-believable manner--occasionally addressing the camera, which is fixed close on Tennant's face. The DVD also includes a must-see documentary on making Hamlet, which includes great interviews with director Doran, cast members and the art directors, set designers and others who give this Hamlet a fresh, polished sheen--while keeping the ages-old tragedy of Shakespeare's words and the explosion of needless death close to the original. The impact is unforgettable; this Hamlet is a terrific achievement. --A.T. Hurley

Gosford Park - DVD

Rated 4.5 Stars
From:  Owned

This movie was beautifully filmed and cast.  Jeremy Northram as Ivor Novello, popular British composer, singer, songwriter in the twenties, Maggie Smith as the malicious Countess Trentham, Helen Murrin and Clive Owen just to name a few.  The whole movie was really well done.  Especially if you like these kinds of period pieces, which I do.

Amazon Description:

The Academy Award winner for Best Original Screenplay, Gosford Park is a whodunit as only director Robert Altman could do it. As a hunting party gathers at the country estate, no one is aware that before the weekend is over, someone will be murdered - twice! The police are baffled but the all-seeing, all-hearing servants know that almost everyone had a motive. This critically-acclaimed murder mystery features a who's who of celebrated actors. With a diverse cast of characters - all with something to hide - it'll keep you guessing right to the surprising end. Gosford Park proves that murder can be such an inconvenience.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Lord Peter Wimsey - DVD

Based on Novel's of Dorothy L. Sayers
Rated 5+

Publisher's Description:

Three Dorothy L. Sayers mysteries involving amateur sleuth extraordinaire Lord Peter Wimsey and the lovely Harriet Vane are realized to perfection in these 1987 BBC adaptations.  In Strong Poison Harriet (Harriet Walter) is on trial for murder. Lord Peter (Edward Petherbridge) becomes enchanted by her and decides she cannot possibly be guilty. What follows are the twin stories of Lord Peter's search to find the real killer and his romantic pursuit of Harriet. Both are charming. As always, Sayers has plotted her story brilliantly, with a satisfying mystery and a sly comic touch (a gentle poke at the spiritualist movement is particularly fun). The period atmosphere is pulled off naturally and with close attention to detail, and the adaptation has a careful reverence for Sayers. The performances are all remarkably strong. Petherbridge is perfect as Wimsey, revealing his brilliance and allowing him to be hopelessly in love without ever damaging his dignity. Walter plays Harriet with rich nuance, saying as much with her silences as she does with her lines, and Richard Morant is quietly fantastic as the remarkable Bunter.

Harriet, fresh from the trial, tries to get away from it all and ends up stumbling over a recently killed body in Have His Carcass. Unable to resist a crime (or, for that matter, Harriet), Lord Peter is soon on the case.

In Gaudy Night, Lord Peter is still proposing at frequent intervals, and Harriet, though unable to say yes, is also unable to send Lord Peter entirely away. But enough with the romance. As Wimsey heads off for some foreign service work, Harriet visits her Oxford alma mater and lands smack in the middle of a poison-pen scandal. Harriet's status as a mystery writer, naturally, means she's the one who should investigate. Sayers clearly had fun writing this one, using Harriet to gently tweak her own profession, at the same time both parodying and defending the cloistered life at a women's college.