Thursday, July 19, 2007

Wings of the Dove

Wings of the Dove (1997)

Director: Iain Softley

Starring: Helena Bonham Carter, Linus Roache, and Alison Elliot

Description: Kate Croy's mother was born to wealth and privilege, but she threw it all away to marry Kate's father, a penniless opium addict who admits to having stolen from his wife. After her mother's death, Kate is offered an opportunity to return to the life her mother gave up. There is a condition, however: Kate must sever all of her old ties, not only to her father, but also to her lover, the muck-raking journalist Merton Densher, whom she has promised marriage. Kate reluctantly agrees to this, and in the meantime becomes friendly with "the world's richest orphan," Millie Theale, an American making the Grand Tour. Desperate to see Kate, Merton crashes a party that she and Millie are attending, and Millie is attracted to him. When Kate learns that Millie is dying, she comes up with a plan to have her cake and eat it too...but all does not go as planned.

Review: My first exposure to this movie was a small clip on Mystery Science Theater 3000 where they basically made fun of it. I was interested to see what the story was about. It was an interesting tale. There was definite chemistry between Bonham Carter and Roache. The movie started to drag a bit for me while they were in Venice. I could tell that this was indeed a Victorian novel by the depressing ending. Its not that I didn't like the ending, it was just really sad how things eneded up. But a good commentary on what is more important in life - wealth or love.

Score: 3 out of 5

Book Connections: Despite the inevitable dissenters, The Wings of the Dove has achieved one of the strongest critical positions of any of James' works. Ironically, one of the dissenters, at least to some extent, might have been the author himself. In his preface to the New York Edition, James spent much time confessing to supposed faults in the novel: defective structure, characters not as well presented as they could be, and a general failure to realize his initial plan for the book.

By and large, critics have regarded these faults as venial or nonexistent. Instead, they've concentrated on the magnificent central characters and supporting cast, and the superb technique that James uses in their presentation. James' "principal tragedy," as critics have called it, retains its ability to move readers with the classic emotions of pity and fear.

The Wings of the Dove by Henry James (1902)


Emma (1996) (TV)

Director: Diarmuid Lawrence

Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Mark Strong, Samantha Bond, and Samantha Morton

Description: Emma Woodhouse has a rigid sense of propriety as regards matrimonial alliances. Unfortunately she insists on matchmaking for her less forceful friend, Harriet, and so causes her to come to grief. Through the sharp words of Mr. Knightley, and the example of the opinionated Mrs. Elton, someone not unlike herself, Emma's attitudes begin to soften.

Review: I was curious to see the BBC version of this story. I have to say I was rather disappointed. There seemed to be little to no chemistry between Beckinsale and Strong. After watching the movie, I am curious as to why Emma and Mr. Knightly loved each other. Knightly is barking at everyone the entire movie. Its really hard to see why anyone would like him (perhaps his huge fortune). If the casting were different, it might have saved the production. I would rather watch the Hollywood version of this story.

Score: 2.5 out of 5

Book Connections: One of the many film adaptations of Jane Austen's novel Emma. This book was somewhat difficult for me to get into. I didn't find it as enjoyable as her other novels. I did get it on audio book and perhaps I will enjoy that better than reading it for myself.

Emma by Jane Austen (1816)

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)

Director: David Yates

Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint

Description: After a lonely summer on Privet Drive, Harry returns to a Hogwarts full of ill-fortune. Few of students and parents believe him or Dumbledore that Voldemort is really back. The ministry had decided to step in by appointing a new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher that proves to be the nastiest person Harry has ever encountered. Harry also can't help stealing glances with the beautiful Cho Chang. To top it off are dreams that Harry can't explain, and a mystery behind something Voldemort is searching for. With these many things Harry begins one of his toughest years at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Review: What an awesome movie! I was blown away by this adaptation. Yates did a good job with a difficult book. After I read this book I had no idea how they were going to make this into a movie. There was so much in the book, but I feel they covered the most important parts. Yes, some things were changed, but I did like the changes. They made the movie flow well. I think my favorite parts were the action towards the end. The battle in the Department of Mysteries was awesome. I nearly wet myself watching it. I have heard many complaints that so much was left out, but I felt the filmmakers kept the spirit of the story alive. Yes, this one is definitely dark as will the later installments be. Harry Potter is no longer for the little ones, but I think that is a good thing. All in all, an excellent flick.

Score: 5 out of 5

Book Connections: David Yates brought the magic of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix to the big screen. The first time I read this book I didn't like it as much. Harry was so full of angst. He was so very angry throughout the book and to be honest, he annoyed the crap out of me. In subsequent reading, I have begun to like to book more. I think this is one of the most action packed book to date, but we shall have to see with the new one coming out. So, not my favorite, but definitely worth a second look.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling (2003)

Saturday, July 14, 2007

American Psycho

American Psycho (2000)

Director: Mary Harron

Starring: Christian Bale, Reese Witherspoon, Samantha Mathis, and Willem Defoe

Description: Patrick Bateman is handsome, well educated and intelligent. He is twenty-seven and living his own American dream. He works by day on Wall Street, earning a fortune to complement the one he was born with. At night he descends into madness, as he experiments with fear and violence.

Review: I think I enjoyed this movie way too much. It is quiete disturbing and yet I laughed so hard. I guess it was the social commentary on the times (80's). It was amusing to look at what was deemed more important (materialistic needs over morality). The absolute star of the show was Christian Bale. He did such an outstanding job. This movie is not for everyone. It is quite graphic and violent. If you can get over that aspect, I highly recommend seeing it.

Score: 4.5 out of 5

Book Connections: The book was originally to have been published by Simon & Schuster in March 1991, but the company withdrew from the project due to the novel's content. Vintage Books purchased the rights to the novel and published an edited version of Ellis' original manuscript. Some say the book was not changed all that much, while others have contended that the version that is in circulation today is significantly toned down from Ellis' original work. Feminist activist Gloria Steinem was among those opposed to the release of Ellis' book because of its portrayal of violence towards women. Steinem is also the stepmother of Christian Bale, who portrayed Bateman in the film adaptation of the novel. This irony is mentioned in Ellis's mock memoir Lunar Park.

American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis (1991)

Friday, July 13, 2007

National Treasure

National Treasure (2004)

Director: Jon Turteltaub

Starring: Nicholas Cage, Diane Kruger, Justin Bartha, Sean Bean, Jon Voight, and Christopher Plummer

Description: Benjamin Franklin Gates descends from a family of treasure-seekers who've all hunted for the same thing: a war chest hidden by the Founding Fathers after the Revolutionary War. Ben's close to discovering its whereabouts, as is his competition, but the FBI is also hip to the hunt.

Review: I thought it was a fun movie. Your typical summer popcorn flick. I did have a good time watching it. The acting was okay and some of the situations were a little hard to believe. I did like the inventions of the founding fathers in hiding this treasure. I thought that was really interesting. One thing it does is make history look fun. I would say its pretty safe for younger kids and would be a good way of introducing them to American History (at least not making it to be boring). All in all, a fun little summer flick.

Score: 2.5 out of 5

Sunday, July 8, 2007


Evening (2007)

Director: Lajos Koltai

Starring: Claire Danes, Toni Collette, Vanessa Redgrave, Patrick Wilson, Hugh Dancy, Natasha Richardson, Mamie Gummer, Meryl Streep, and Glen Close

Description: Evening is a deeply emotional film that illuminates the timeless love which binds mother and daughter -- seen through the prism of one mother's life as it crests with optimism, navigates a turning point, and ebbs to its close.

Review: I thought the movie was okay, but nothing to run to the theater to see. The acting was really good, but the story wasn't all there. I felt they left too many unanswered questions and the character development was sort of poor. Overall, a decent production, but nothing special.

Score: 2.5 out of 5

Book Connections: This movie is based off of the novel of the same name by Susan Minot. I have not read the book, but have been told that there are more answers to my questions in the book. It does sound a bit more depressing, but the characters are more defined. So, if you are looking for a depressing book, this is the one to read.

Evening by Susan Minot (1999)

Saturday, July 7, 2007


Orlando (1992)

Director: Sally Potter

Starring: Tilda Swinton

Description: Young nobleman Orlando is commanded by Queen Elizabeth I to stay forever young. Miraculously, he does just that. The film follows him as he moves through several centuries of British history, experiencing a variety of lives and relationships along the way, and even changing sex.

Review: Definitely a different movie. I have to say this was one of the more strange movies that I have seen in a while. I think Tilda Swinton did quite a good job with this role. All of the other characters just seemed thrown in the mix in an odd sort of way. It makes me want to read the book just to see what the story really was about. I don't think that Sally Potter really gave enough information as to what was going on. I don't think I would really recommend this movie.

Score: 1.5 out of 5

Book Connections: Sally Potter attempted to bring the novel (of the same name) by Virginia Woolf to the big screen. I have not yet read the book, but I think I will just to see what the real story is all about. The idea is interesting and I really want to see where Virginia Woolf was going with it.

Orlando by Virginia Woolf (1973)

Wednesday, July 4, 2007


Transformers (2007)

Director: Michael Bay

Starring: Shia LeBeouf, Megan Fox, Josh Duhamel, Rachel Taylor, Anthony Anderson, Jon Voight, and John Turturro

Description: High-school student Sam Witwicky buys his first car, who is actually the Autobot Bumblebee. Bumblebee defends Sam and his girlfriend Mikaela Banes from the Decepticon Barricade, before the other Autobots arrive on Earth. They are searching for the Allspark, and the war on Earth heats up as the Decepticons attack a United States military base in Qatar. Sam and Mikaela are taken by the top-secret agency Sector 7 to help stop the Decepticons, but when they learn the agency also intends to destroy the Autobots, they formulate their own plan to save the world.

Review: An awesome summer movie! I felt like a kid again watching this movie. All of my memories of the original cartoon came back as I was watching the movie. Honestly, I was a little concerned how they would make a feature length movie about the Transformers, but was pleasantly surprised by a believable storyline. I also loved that they brought back the original voice of Optimus Prime. The only real negative thing about it was the length. It was nearly 2.5 hours long. Other than that, I thought it was really good, especially the special effects. It really looked like they were transforming in real life. All in all, a great summer movie.

Score: 4 out of 5

Monday, July 2, 2007

North & South

North & South (2004)

Director: Brian Percival

Starring: Daniela Denby-Ashe, Richard Armitage, Tim Pigott-Smith, and Sinead Cusack

Description: This series operates on many levels. At the heart of the series is the tempestuous relationship between Margaret Hale, a young woman from a southern middle class family who finds herself uprooted to the north, and John Thornton, a formerly poverty-stricken cotton mill owner terrified of losing the viability of his business. Around them are class struggles between the workers and mill owners and ideological struggles between the industrial North and the agrarian South. After moving North, Margaret's father befriends his student Mr. Thornton. Margaret has already formed her opinion of Mr. Thornton independently after seeing him treat his workers harshly. As the series progresses, she and we the audience begin to learn that his strict treatment is due to an overarching concern for his mill and by extension, his employees. John Thornton, on the other hand, is attracted to Margaret's independence and position in society as a well-educated Southerner. As in "Pride and Prejudice" the marriage proposal comes in the middle of the series and is rejected by Margaret. Contrary to "Pride and Prejudice" it is mirrored in social upheaval as the entire town is brought to its knees by a strike. The latter half of the series is an unraveling of the former misunderstandings ending in a romantic reconciliation which is again mirrored by reconciliation between workers and mill owners.

Review: I was completely blown away by this production. I am left with such emotion after watching this. The actors did such a wonderful job at bringing these characters to life. I felt like I was right there with them during the story and hoping things would turn out better. The cinematography was wonderful as well. Everything looked beautiful... even the dirty Milton. I highly recommend that anyone see this movie.

Score: 5 out of 5

Book Connections: This production was based off of the book of the same name by Elizabeth Gaskell. I confess that I had not heard of this book, but now after seeing this movie I feel that I need to get myself a copy of this book. Uptdate: I have now read the book and absolutely love it. For a full review, click here.

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell (1855)

Sunday, July 1, 2007

The Way We Live Now

The Way We Live Now (2001)(Mini)

Director: David Yates

Starring: David Suchet, Matthew MacFadyen, Shirley Henderson, Paloma Baeza, Cillian Murphy, and Miranda Otto.

Description: At the centre of the story is Augustus Melmotte (David Suchet), a European-born city financier, whose origins are as mysterious as his business dealings. Trollope describes him as 'something in the city', but the "something" part is not always clear. Within weeks of arriving in London, he announces a new company and promises instant fortune to those who join him in this scheme. Melmotte is surrounded by a circle of decadent aristos, scheming widows and nouveau riche businessmen, all trying to get a piece of the financial pie. His disobedient daughter, Marie, is played by Shirley Henderson, while Cheryl Campbell, Matthew Macfadyen and Paloma Baeza bring to life the aristocratic but impoverished Carbury family.

Review: What an outstanding production. This was a very good costume drama. The acting was very well. David Suchet was outstanding. I already love him as Poirot, but he was just excellent as Mellmotte. I found Matthew MacFadyen to be so alive. He seems so stiff in some other roles, but here he was outstanding. The rest of the cast just made this movie so fun to watch. I also waneted to check this movie out to see what kind of director David Yates was. I found the production so delightful that I can't wait to see what he does to Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Overall, this is a mini-series to see.

Score: 5 out of 5

Book Connections: This mini-series was based off of the novel of the same title by Anthony Trollope. I had no experience with this novel, but I find that I am definitely intrigued by it and will have to check it out. From reviews I have read it appears that this production stayed close to the book, but I will have to judge that for myself.

The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope (1875)