Saturday, February 27, 2016

Period Drama Challenge: Risen (2016)

Written for the Period Drama Challenge hosted by Laurie over at Old-Fashioned Charm. ❤ 

Risen (2016, PG13)
starring Joseph Fiennes, Tom Felton, and Peter Firth

I'd been anticipating Risen since I saw the trailer in a showing of Captive (a film well worth watching) last year. I honestly thought I'd missed Risen in theaters because they changed the 2016 release date from January to February, but I did uncover the new release date, and in the span of that first weekend release, saw Risen twice in the theater. No, that's not my usual habit, but I loved it so much when I saw it on the 18th that I went with my sister and a friend on the 20th and then sent my parents to the theater for their own viewing on the 21st.

The premise is this. It is the resurrection story as told from the perspective of a Roman Tribune, one of Pilate's most trusted officers, one Clavius by name. When the body of the Nazarene goes missing, Clavius is tasked by Pilate specifically to find it before it decays and put an end to the rumors that Yeshua (or Jesus) has risen from the dead. Clavius conducts interview after interview, his interest piqued by the unswerving loyalty of the followers of Yeshua. He is certain that the body was, in fact, stolen, that is until he encounters Yeshua himself, sees the wounds on his arms and the hold in his side. Where then can his loyalty lie? What decisions must he make based on what he has seen?

I talked with a gal at work on the Monday following opening weekend. She was a chaperone for her church's youth group at a showing on Sunday, the same showing my parents attended as it happens, but she also took unbelieving neighbors with her. Risen made them think. At the end of the film, Clavius must make a choice. Can he continue on with his life, on the same path as before, or must he make a decision to change based on what he's seen and experienced? You can't just go along in life without making a decision and proclamation of faith, be it one way or the other. You have to decide. I love that Risen has the capability to make people think.

As for Risen being a period film, it undeniably is one, and one of the better Biblical films I've ever seen. My sister, the historic clothing fiend, absolutely LOVED the historic garments. And I admit, there was a definite aura of authenticity surrounding them. Like these people lived in their clothes, which they would have. 

I think that's one of the things I liked so much. I bought that these men and women were from the era of Jesus. They're grimy and careworn, with ragged and dusty clothing just like you would have found back then. The disciples were the same, especially Simon Peter who's a rugged Jewish man with a ring of grizzled hair that sticks out under his cap. They owned the roles and made me believe I was in ancient Judea.

I'll get it out of the way right now. Yes, Draco Malfoy is in this movie. No, it doesn't bother me, and no, I didn't see Malfoy every time that I looked at Tom Felton's character, Lucius. Just like I wasn't thinking of Shakespeare in Love every time I looked at Joseph Fiennes. However, having these actors in this movie elevated it to a level that most Christian cinema never reaches. Throw Peter Firth into the mix and you cannot ask for a better cast of British actors.

I'm mildly frustrated that I couldn't find a picture of Cliff Curtis as Yeshua when he isn't hanging on the cross. Oh well, the internet isn't infallible after all. But I will say that he is the first Jewish Jesus I've ever seen. Most of them, if you'll be honest, feel like they're Catholic. With perfect hair hanging down their back and almost white skin. Cliff Curtis is of Maori descent in New Zealand, with olive skin, dark hair and rich, dark eyes. He plays a very sympathetic Yeshua, compassionate and good-natured and one of the many highlights of this film.

A clever stylistic tool was casting British actors as the Romans then more exotic actors as most of the Judeans. It created terrific continuity for the film that my sister noticed and praised and I agree with her.

Friday, February 26, 2016

POSTPONED UNTIL JUNE 1ST- 3RD . . . Announcing . . . the Frank Langella Blogathon!

Look at me, I'm actually planning a blogathon out more than just a month! Shocking, I know. It's hard to believe it's actually been more than a year since my Goldblum Fest. I was planning my blog parties in February for some reason, but decided to change it up a little bit and try a new month.

Why Langella, you ask? Why not, I say!

My bff introduced me to Langella via Zorro waaaaaaay back in 2002 and I've loved him ever since. The great thing about Langella, though, is that he's not limited to just a single era or even genre. Yes, he played Dracula, but he also delivered an astounding, Oscar nomination-worthy performance as Richard Nixon in Frost/Nixon. He's done a little bit of everything and as such, deserves quite a bit of acclaim.

I know I'm announcing this almost 3 months early, but this gives everyone plenty of time to track down his films, plan their posts, and even share about the blogathon on your blogs if you'd like, which I would really appreciate!

I'll be hopping around on your blogs making invites within a couple of weeks! ❤

Claimed Topics

Hamlette's Soliloquy: Dave (1993)
Serendipitous Anachronisms: Frank and Robot (2012)
Defiant Success: Frost/Nixon (2008)
History!Chick: undecided

Topic Ideas (just to get you started)

The Twelve Chairs (1970)
The Mark of Zorro (1974)
Dracula (1979)
Those Lips, Those Eyes (1980)
Sphinx (1981)
Cutthroat Island (1995)
Eddie (1996)
The Ninth Gate (1999)
Good Night, and Good Luck. (2005)
Superman Returns (2006)
Starting Out in the Evening (2007)
Frost/Nixon (2008)
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010)
Robot and Frank (2012)
Muppets Most Wanted (2014)
Draft Day (2014)

His theater work (of which he did quite a bit)
Did you know he played Sherlock Holmes (you can find the filmed play)?
And also played Sir Thomas More in another filmed stage production of A Man for all Seasons?

For more film ideas, go to Frank's IMDB page.

Guidelines, such as they are:

1) If you care to join, please reply to this post with your name, your blog address, and the topics you intend to write (I don't mind double postings about the same film).

2) When the blogathon starts, make sure to share your blog post links to me here on this post!

3) Keep it PG rated, please (not the films but your post content).

4) Please upload one of the following photos linking back to this post in your blog widgets!

Audible trick so you don't spend a fortune!

For those of you who've never heard of it, Audible is a partner company with Amazon and it only sells E-audiobooks. That's its business. But one thing that makes it different is that the company evolves and offers specialized readings to its users, like a new offering of Alice in Wonderland performed by Scarlett Johansson or The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn read by Elijah Wood. Pretty cool, huh?

Well, if you're anything like me, when you find something you love, it can be addicting. Audible is the same as any other website, whether you have a "membership" with the monthly fee attached or not. It compels you to buy and before you know it you've spent hundreds of dollars that probably could have been put to better use on that new vacuum cleaner or a replacement dishwasher to bring your kitchen out of the 70s. Am I right?

But I discovered a brilliant trick with Audible!

A lot of the audiobooks have a partner Kindle book on Amazon. Sometimes, or actually a lot of the time, that Kindle book is listed for a really reduced price. Instead of the list price of $14.95, it's only $2.99 for a short time. Well, let's say the counterpart audiobook is $19.99 on Audible. BUT, if you purchase that Kindle book for $2.99 first, it will guarantee you a reduced price of the audiobook on Audible, going from $19.99 to perhaps as low as $3.99.

Or, in my recent case, I bought A Christmas Carol Kindle book for free and was able to buy the Tim Curry audiobook for $.99! Yay! Now that's what I call a bargain!

Just keep in mind that not all of the audiobooks work this way. If there is a discount available if you also own the Kindle book then Audible will tell you on the listing of the audiobook you're interested in. No muss, no fuss, just lots of convenience and dollars saved.

I hope you enjoyed this Audible trick and have fun listening, my friends! ❤

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Book Review: At Love's Bidding by Regina Jennings

At Love's Bidding by Regina Jennings
Bethany House Publishers

My Rating

❤ Goodreads Synopsis ❤

After helping her grandfather at their Boston auction house, Miranda Wimplegate discovers she's accidentally sold a powerful family's prized portrait to an anonymous bidder. Desperate to appease the furious family, her grandfather tracks it to the Missouri Ozarks and makes an outlandish offer to buy the local auction house if they promise not to sell anything until he arrives.

Upon their arrival, however, they discover their new business doesn't deal in fine antiques, but in livestock. And its manager, ruggedly handsome Wyatt Ballentine, is frustrated to discover his fussy new bosses don't know a thing about the business he's single-handedly kept afloat. Faced with more cattle than they can count--but no mysterious painting--Miranda and Wyatt form an unlikely but charged partnership to try and salvage a bad situation getting worse.

 ❤ My Thoughts ❤

I'm saddened to give At Love's Bidding such a low rating considering I enjoyed Caught in the Middle so very much. But this story just did not work for me. The synopsis, as I hope you read above, sounds intriguing, but once I really dove into the book itself I quickly realized that the story should have taken a different turn and even a different perspective on its lead characters.

I never understood why Miranda is so timid and shy, to never speak up for herself, and then why she chooses to start speaking up for herself, only at the wrong times and in the wrong, fairly insolent, ways. I wanted to like Wyatt, but there isn't enough meat to his character to really know him. Plus, his back story is too far-fetched to be believable at all.

The lack of believablility really is this story's downfall. The wrong painting gets sold, Miranda and Grandpa travel to Missouri to track it down, Grandpa buys a desolate livestock auction barn, Wyatt is an employee of that barn and falls in love with Miranda and she with him, painting shows up on Wyatt's doorstep, leading him to clues about his supposedly wealthy blood relations since he was adopted. It just doesn't make sense and the story gets more outrageous as you go along.

It's not a difficult read. I finished it in a few days. But I wasn't invested and 70% of the time all I could think was how absurd it all was and was hoping the end would come soon so I could move on to something else. And once I realized that Miranda never wore gowns other than varying shades of brown and that she never handled the livestock herself, then even the cover of the book made absolutely no sense.

Faith-based elements felt forced and, honestly, wrong. Wyatt ponders forgiving Miranda for her behavior against him but then notes that he can't do that until she behaves as though she's sorry. No, we forgive whether the other person is ever sorry or not. Every Christian knows that part of Jesus' teaching.

Miranda's snotty attitude grated on me almost constantly. She lives so solidly in a world comprised of walls between classes that she can't imagine herself loving Wyatt because he is so far beneath her and then when it turns out he may be the heir to an enormous fortune, she realizes how hypocritical it would be to acknowledge her love for him now. She never really got over her issue of separation between classes which means she never really changed other than to become more outspoken than was healthy. Speak, yes, but make sure you pause and think first.

I like Regina Jennings as a writer. She has a fluid, easy style that makes for lighthearted books when you need something to give your brain a break. But the story still needs to make sense and sense was definitely lacking in At Love's Bidding.

* I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review, which I have given.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Audiobook Review: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens . . . read by Tim Curry

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
performed by Tim Curry

My Rating

Every year at Christmastime, the Amazon audiobook company Audible releases an audiobook as a gift to its members. In 2009 that gift was a dramatic reading of A Christmas Carol by Tim Curry.

I was essentially just browsing through Audible last night, bored you might say, and hoping to find something for a reasonable price that I hadn't heard before. I couldn't even retrace the steps that eventually led me to A Christmas Carol, but as soon as I saw Tim Curry's name attached to the title, I knew, absolutely knew, that I had to have it. This is one of the best audiobook buys of my life!

I'm making the grand and likely true assumption that 99% of the people who will ever read this review have watched, read, or listened to a version of A Christmas Carol sometime in their life. So I'm not going to bother with a synopsis.

This reading is all about how a single man is able to elevate a story from being merely narrated to nearly dramatized. Tim Curry is his own cast. He is now and always has been a masterful stage and screen presence, mostly due to his voice which renders the audience awestruck and dumbfounded by its nuances. A voice that lives up to each and every single expectation you might have of him in his performance of A Christmas Carol.

Exquisite shivers creep up and down the spine during Marley's interlude with Scrooge. You warm your toes at Bob Cratchit's fire and tenderly run a hand through Tiny Tim's hair. You quake with Scrooge as he awakens to the realization that no one will mourn him at his passing. And your heels may tap just lightly on the floor when Scrooge awakens to realize it is Christmas morning and he has been given a second chance.

This reading is glorious! It is alive and ripe with a multitude of voices and inflections and tones, all from the talented throat of one man . . . Tim Curry. He in no way over-dramatizes or embellishes the story, but merely lets his voice carry these characters through to their conclusion. He breathes life into Dickens' characters in a way that I never dreamed possible.

This is one audiobook that I recommend with all my heart! ❤

Sunday, February 21, 2016

FYI - Western Classics Giveaway on The Edge of the Precipice

My friend Hamlette of The Edge of the Precipice recently hosted her marvelous Shane read-along.

Now, as a finale to the read-along, she's offering a film giveaway that includes 4 different movies: Shane, Silverado, 3:10 to Yuma (1957) and the Whispering Smith.

The GIVEAWAY runs until February 26th. If you're interested in any of the movies listed, I encourage you to try your luck!

Friday, February 19, 2016

Book Review: The Shock of Night by Patrick W. Carr

The Shock of Night (The Darkwater Saga #1)
Patrick W. Carr
Bethany House Publishers

My Rating

❤ Goodreads Synopsis ❤ 

When one man is brutally murdered and the priest he works for mortally wounded on the streets of Bunard, Willet Dura is called to investigate. Yet the clues to the crime lead to contradictions and questions without answers. As Willet begins to question the dying priest, the man pulls Willet close and screams in a foreign tongue. Then he dies without another word.

Willet returns to the city, no closer to answers than before, but his senses are skewed. People he touches appear to have a subtle shift, a twist seen at the edge of his vision, and it's as though he can see their deepest thoughts. In a world divided between haves and have-nots, gifted and common, Willet soon learns he's been passed the rarest gift of all: a gift that's not supposed to exist.

Now Willet must pursue the murderer still on the loose in Bunard even as he's pulled into a much more dangerous and epic conflict that threatens not only his city, but his entire world--a conflict that will force him to come to terms with his own tortured past if he wants to survive.

My Thoughts

First off, you should know that despite my love of Tolkien, I don't read all that much fantasy. So my mind tends to wander when I pick up a fantasy book, which is what, unfortunately, happened with The Shock of Night. It had nothing at all to do with the author's work, just my lack of attention span for this novel.

Have you ever read The Lord of the Rings? How about the Cadfael books by Ellis Peters? Somehow, and I'm not sure exactly how, Patrick Carr managed to create a nearly perfect combination of the two concepts. So if you're wondering how The Shock of Night feels, well, there you go. It's a really good mixture, very enjoyable. I will say the story itself lagged just a tad in the middle, but I forced myself past the slow part and the action got going again.

The story does tend to wander a bit, which didn't help with my attention problem. I'm not sure the story was ever quite as clear as the author intended. Sometimes the characters had those profound "Ahha" moments that should have been obvious to the reader, but it took me a few times reading the paragraph to finally grasp what had just happened and why it was important. The author skirts around out and out mentioning what just happened, leaving it to the reader to make an educated guess, which is fine, but a little bit of extra clarity would have been very helpful.

Then there's the names. Pellin. Dura. Bolt. Volsk. Toria Deel. Ealdor. None of these are easy names to remember. The only reason I remember Dura and Bolt is because they're the lead characters, Dura especially and so you kind of HAVE to remember them. But some of the others, well, they're easy to forget if you don't encounter them for a few pages. Easier names would have proven themselves most helpful. Just because Tolkien loved to make up his own names doesn't necessarily mean every other fantasy writer should do the same thing.
As for the story, it's funny that Carr would use the concept of spiritual gifts in such a way. Where they're tangible things that you can actually feel in how a person interacts with you. The gifts make you stronger, smarter, faster, gentler, more compassionate, etc. And then you have the use of the mind palace, locking memories away, delving minds for information, breaking vaults in someone's mind. These are all very popular elements with the modern audience today, partially thanks to Sherlock I'm sure.

Also, I've heard a few arguments that this isn't a Christian story and shouldn't be marketed as such. A Christian man wrote it, but I agree, the church in Carr's story is not a whole reflection of Christ's followers. This is a fantasy world, so while you might see a little bit of allegory, it's not intended to be a blatant copy of the Christian church. That said, there is enough comparison, especially dislike among denominations and fractures that result from that dislike. Carr may have used the fractures in an extreme way, but the church in his story does serve as a reminder that believers should never see one another as the enemy.

On the whole, the book was entertaining. It's the first in a series, but I do think it felt more like the second in a series. As if there was part of the story missing, which left me with a slightly disjointed feeling, hence the 4 stars. I rather wish I'd read the short story first, since there is one called By Divine Right and I suspect it fills in some gaps. But you shouldn't need a short story to fill in gaps that the book itself is missing.

A good read, but I'm not sure I'll continue with the series. Bolt was pretty awesome though. I almost wish the story had been from his perspective. Bodyguards are almost always the coolest!

* I received a free copy from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review, which I have given*

Thursday, February 18, 2016

1940s Week: The Human Condition in Casablanca (1942)

Written for 1940s Week hosted by An Old Fashioned Girl. ❤

For at least 15 years I held off on watching Casablanca. It's one of my parents' favorite movies, my dad's especially, but I never really appreciated or even liked Humphrey Bogart until just a couple of years ago and even then I limited myself to his films with Lauren Bacall. Casablanca just was not on my radar, at least, not until a few weeks ago when my folks talked me into watching it with them.

It utterly enthralled me.

Go to my Classic Hollywood page to find all my Classic Hollywood reviews!

Some movies you watch once and that's more than enough, or you may watch it again, but only because it's entertaining or fun for one reason or another. Casablanca is both of these and yet neither. It is . . . eternal, overflowing with dilemmas and heartaches that are relevant no matter the era. If a film could ever be called timeless, it is Casablanca.

I was hardly 1/2 an hour into watching it before ideas and thoughts started jumping around in my head regarding the ramifications of the moral choices made by these characters. Oh my goodness, it can be so HARD to do the right thing! I know that I've felt it and I'm sure all of you have felt that pull towards the "dark side," sometimes giving in and sometimes resisting poor moral choices. It's a part of the human condition brought on by sin.

So you have Humphrey Bogart's character, Rick Blaine. He's embittered by past disappointments and runs an Americana nightclub in Casablanca, Morocco in an attempt to what? Forget. Maybe, but it can be any one of a number of different reasons why he's gone so far away from what most Americans would consider a normal life. He’s running from his past, not because he was a criminal or anything like that, but because of memories.

Monday, February 15, 2016

1940s Week: The Philadelphia Story (1940)

Written for 1940s Week hosted by An Old Fashioned Girl. ❤

Instead of focusing on fashion or strictly the era in this post for The Philadelphia Story I decided instead to focus on the characters and the plot. Yes, it's 1940s, and I admit that the guys are gorgeous in their suits, but the story itself is what needs to be discussed. Although I will say that Katharine Hepburn wears one of the most bizarre hats that I've ever seen in her scene in the library. It's just weird.

I am warning everyone ahead of time that this post is a bit of a harsh critique against The Philadelphia Story. So if this movie is one of your favorite classic films of all time, you may want to skip reading my post. I would hate to truly offend anyone, but I also am not going to hide the fact that this movie disturbs me on many levels and that, for me, it's not a comedy.

Go to my Classic Hollywood page to find all my Classic Hollywood reviews!

Fortunately, there are many other films from the 1940s and I've recently discovered that I LOVE Casablanca so I'll be writing on that film sometime this week, so stay tuned. ❤

Back to the post at hand, I've finally done something that I've been meaning to do for the last decade, but held off on doing because I didn't like it the first time I tried it. I've finally finished The Philadelphia Story.

Unfortunately, all I've managed to do is prove to myself that my dislike of a decade ago is justified.

BUT, I also discovered that my appreciation for James Stewart as a versatile and skilled actor is also justified.

Whereas Cary Grant always plays himself in every role I've ever seen him in, Jimmy Stewart proves himself, time and again, to be a character actor of the highest caliber. And, as it stands, he plays the only character in The Philadelphia Story that I genuinely liked, well, apart from Ruth Hussey in a secondary role as Liz Imbrie and little Virginia Weidler as Dinah, Hepburn's younger sister. This is, of course, nothing against Cary Grant as an actor. There is a certain comfort in knowing an actor will always be who you expect him to be, no matter the era or role, and I love Grant for that steadiness.

As for the film itself, are you familiar with it?

If not, the story goes something like this. Rich socialite (Hepburn) has a divorce under her belt (Grant) and is planning to marry a second husband (John Howard) only to have ex-husband show up two days before her wedding with a reporter (Stewart) and a photographer (Hussey) in tow from a local magazine to do a story on the proceedings, all because of blackmail, of course.

This movie is one of the most highly renowned in classic Hollywood history and I'll be hornswaggled if I know why. If you like it, my deepest and most profound apologies to you, but I can't understand it.

The majority of the film is spent with an extremely selfish young lady who has no moral compass whatsoever, and yet three men appear to be crazy in love with her. I suppose I could feel sorry for the poor little rich girl, but I don't, although I am happy to report that she and Grant's character do end up together again at the end of the film. Good because they deserve each other.

Yet even Stewart falls for Hepburn's high-brow attitude, drinks more champagne in a single evening than most people do in a year, and ends up nearly taking Hepburn to bed, a major part of the plot that becomes a big issue. The night before her wedding? I can't imagine why. This film is such a good example of an immoral lifestyle and makes no apologies for it.

I'll give kudos to the screenwriter, Donald Ogden Stewart, for two things. He wrote an extremely sharp, witty screenplay and alluded to illicit sex. I'm sure the daring immorality is what makes The Philadelphia Story so popular, even today. I, on the other hand, prefer to call a horse a horse, so even though Hepburn's and Stewart's characters did NOT actually sleep together, I was a bit amazed the script went as far as it did in intimating they might have. This isn't, after all, A Streetcar Named Desire, which was filmed over a decade later, and even then had to be tempered from the original play.

Yes, the comedic moments, what there were of them, were hilarious. The comebacks are quick and bright and so the dialogue lacked nothing. My sister even laughed, since I pleaded with her to watch it with me, and I didn't expect her to be that entertained. But about halfway through our interest started lagging, my eyes started drooping, and I couldn't believe anyone had paid Cary Grant $137,000 to simply perform as himself, regardless of whether he donated the money to British War Relief or not.

If viewers don't mind an immoral montage of modern marriage in 1940, then I'm sure The Philadelphia Story will delight. At least in A Streetcar Named Desire, immoral behavior is still immoral behavior and is supposed to leave a greasy, disgusting feeling in the pit of your stomach. But here we're supposed to gaily laugh and move on as if nothing had happened.

So, overall I consider The Philadelphia Story to be overrated and apparently a desperate attempt made by Katharine Hepburn to redeem her flagging career since she'd delivered several box office bombs prior to The Philadelphia Story. Yes, she gives an authentic performance, but I wouldn't wish that character on anyone. The one guy I think she should have married is the moral, upstanding man who was horrified that his bride-to-be may have slept with another man and can't remember. But, of course, he's the one she doesn't choose. Instead, she returns to the man who shoved her to the floor on his way out the door. No thank you.

My takeaway?

Jimmy Stewart is a genius. I loved every element of his performance, start to finish, and I can see why he won Best Actor at the Oscars that year. He deserved it.

As for the movie itself, at least I can say I watched it. And will say, in all honesty, never again. Not even for Jimmy Stewart.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Happy Valentine's Day!

Movie Review: The Meaning of Self-Worth in Sabrina (1954)

A friend of mine mentioned the other day how she's giving up self-criticism for Lent since the season just started. And it got me thinking about the importance of self-worth, which kind of goes hand-in-hand with the concept of self-criticism.

Oh my gosh, when I think of all the hours I've spent doubting my own self-worth, I'm tempted to cringe a little bit. But I don't think I really had a clear vision of what lacking self-worth looks like until I rewatched Sabrina from 1954. If you watch classic movies then you've probably seen it, especially if you love Audrey Hepburn like I do.

But I'll be honest, the film never sat really well with me. Apart from the total miscasting of Humphrey Bogart (who I also love) and William Holden (meh) as Sabrina's love interests, the story itself always gave me a resulting sense of melancholia.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Period Drama Challenge - January Tag Questions

Yes, I confess to being a good, ohhhh, 11 days late in responding to this, but better late than not at all with these types of things. Plus, I thought it would be fun, which it was rather!

January Tag Questions:

1. What period dramas did you view in January?

I watched Beyond the Mask and Oliver Twist. Both of which I liked very much.

2. What is your favorite Charles Dickens film adaptation?

Mmm, I'm extremely fond of Little Dorrit with Matthew MacFadyen, but I also love A Muppet Christmas Carol. It's hard to beat Kermit as Bob Cratchit!

3. Would you rather visit Pemberley (Mr. Darcy's residence) or Downton Abbey (Crawley family residence)? Why?

I'd rather visit Downton Abbey simply because Pemberley can be any one of numerous houses depending on the version of Pride & Prejudice that you're watching. But Downton is formidable and stays absolutely the same through the entire series. Plus, it's gorgeous.

4. If you could be any character in a Jane Austen novel for a whole day who would you be and why would you want to be that character?

Surprisingly, I would like to be Emma Woodhouse. I'm not all that fond of her, to be completely honest, but she at least speaks her mind and doesn't really let fear dissuade her from doing something. It would be interesting to be her for a day and just experience the fortitude that must come with knowing one's own mind so completely. It's weird disliking a character somewhat and yet admiring them too.

5. What period dramas are you looking forward to viewing in February 2016?

Mmmm, I haven't actually given it much thought. Probably Murder Rooms and The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Although I am going to watch Risen on the big screen next Thursday, the ONLY night that it's playing in a theater near me. I've already blogged about Risen HERE, if you're curious. ❤

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Period Drama Challenge - Ladyhawke (1985)

Written for the Period Drama Challenge hosted by Laurie over at Old-Fashioned Charm. ❤

Ladyhawke (1985, PG13)
starring Matthew Broderick, Rutger Hauer, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Alfred Molina

Just looking at the cover of this movie is making me melt and want to watch it again. And I've already watched it 3 times since the start of 2016! Which, I do admit, is in excess and more than I usually watch it. But I watched the DVD with my family in early January before discovering that it was released on BLU-RAY (can I get an AMEN?!). So I bought the blu-ray, watched it myself, then grabbed my mom and sister and demanded they watch it with me. So I'm halfway 2/3 of the way through it for my 3rd time in under 2 months.

You know those movies that people recommend and you end up either hating or loving? There is no in-between range of emotion? Ladyhawke is one of those. It is undeniably one of the most hauntingly filmed movies I've ever seen, but it's also blessed with one of the absolutely strangest soundtracks that I've ever heard. It makes or breaks the film. You'll see what I mean when I get to that section of this post, but first of all, the plot itself!

❤ The Plot ❤

Ladyhawke is set somewhere in 11th century France, definitely after the Crusades and most assuredly during the feudal system. 

Alarm bells in Aquila clang, announcing the escape of a prisoner from the vile dungeons that belong to the Bishop of Aquila (pretty much the spawn of Satan) who also happens to be an outcast from the established Church.

The aforementioned escapee is Phillipe Gaston, played by none other than the so-cute-it-hurts-to-look-at-him Matthew Broderick. It was 1985, OF COURSE HE WAS CUTE!

Running just so far that he feels safe, but definitely not far enough, Phillipe the Mouse pauses to refresh himself at an outdoor tavern (not that I knew they had those in feudal France).

But he can't just eat. Oh no, he must talk too, which leads to the unveiling of the Bishop's soldiers whose very lives are likely on the line if they don't catch the escaped prisoner.

After all, you can't have an escape-proof dungeon if someone has . . . well, escaped. DUH.

Just as a sword is swinging for Phillipe's jugular, an arrow pierces the hand of the sword-holding knight, having been shot by a mysterious man in black *cue dramatic music for Rutger Hauer's entrance*

Navarre, for that is the name of the dramatic man in black, rescues Phillipe, sort of, depending on your point of view.

I'm not sure you or I would consider it rescuing if you were being chased down by an intimidating man in black riding the world's biggest stallion who also happens to be named Goliath.

Phillipe has literally no choice at this point, but he's already noticed things are a bit on the odd side where Navarre is concerned. After all, who keeps a hawk for a pet and Navarre is decidedly attached to his hawk?

Stopping at a cozy stable run by psycho axe-wielding murderers (no, I'm not kidding), the two men, well boy and man, decide to stop for the night, with Navarre fiercely warning Phillipe to not disturb his slumber or he might take his head off without fully realizing it's him. Yeah, that's comforting.

Out collecting firewood, Phillipe determines to make his escape because, as he puts it, "He wants something from me. I can see it in his eyes. Well, whatever it is, I'm not going to do it. I'm still a young man, you know! I've got prospects!"

An enormous mangy wolf puts in an appearance, chasing Phillipe back to the stable where he can't find Navarre, but manages to grab Navarre's crossbow only to have the arrow snatched away before he can fire at the wolf.

And snatched away by none other than a stunning woman with porcelain skin and piercing blue eyes, cloaked all in black. Yes, it's Michelle Pfeiffer and at her most gorgeous.

As Phillipe watches, she joins the wolf outside, and as he's pondering aloud whether he's dreaming, she calls back calmly, "You are dreaming."

Phillipe panics as any practical person would, crawls up into the loft where he watches the woman and the wolf head into the forest together and proceeds to plead with God, who he talks to every single day, "I've not seen what I've just seen. I do not believe what I believe, Lord! If these are magical or unexplainable matters than I beg you not to make me a part of them."

Are you intrigued yet? If you aren't, you absolutely should be because I've only covered maybe 30 minutes of a 2 hour long movie. Trust me, it gets progressively better!

❤ What Makes Ladyhawke Awesome ❤

Many, many movies, too many to count, take themselves too seriously. They have an agenda, a message to be preached, and they forget that you can have fun at the same time that you're sharing the message.

Ladyhawke is NOT that movie.

Oh no.

You've probably already caught on by Phillipe's quotes that the dialogue for this movie is different. Humor abounds! The dialogue is snappy and just plain fun. Ladyhawke is not one of those looooooong, boring period drama. It is alive and breaths life into the audience with the charisma of its actors and the talent of its screenplay writers.

Now I will say there isn't anything wrong with serious period dramas. They certainly have their place and I love many of them. But I love Ladyhawke because it isn't one of those period dramas. I'm sure it helps that Richard Donner directed seeing as he's the man who brought the world the hilarious Lethal Weapon movies as well as Maverick starring Mel Gibson and James Garner. There's a man who doesn't take life too seriously which made him PERFECT to direct Ladyhawke.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Read Jack Schaefer's Shane with Hamlette!

I'm sure that most fans of classic film have at least watched Shane and while it's been at least 20 years since I've seen it, I am participating in this delightful read-along of the original novel hosted on Hamlette's blog. If you're anything like me you had no idea there even was a novel, but there was, written by a man named Jack Schaefer, and it's quite excellent. Not very long, only 16 chapters and my personal copy is 119 pages. We're going chapter by chapter, uncovering little nuggets and thoughts along the way, and it's delightful. We're up to chapter 10, but it's not too late for you to join in, which I heartily encourage people to do. I'm delighted to admit that I'm enjoying the novel so much since the film never really spoke to me. Of course, I was barely a teenager at my last viewing so I might want to give it another try. ❤

Book Review: Unleashing Mr. Darcy by Teri Wilson

Unleashing Mr. Darcy by Teri Wilson
Harlequin Publishers

My Rating

❤ Goodreads Synopsis ❤ 

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single woman teetering on the verge of thirty must be in want of a husband.

Not true for Manhattanite Elizabeth Scott. Instead of planning a walk down the aisle, she's crossing the pond with the only companion she needs; her darling dog, Bliss. Caring for a pack of show dogs in England seems the perfect distraction from the scandal that ruined her teaching career, and her reputation, in New York. What she doesn't count on is an unstoppable attraction to billionaire dog breeder Donovan Darcy. The London tycoon's a little bit arrogant, a whole lot sexy, and the chemistry between them is disarming. When passion is finally unleashed, might Elizabeth hope to take home more than a blue ribbon?

(I deliberately chose to NOT write a synopsis because I didn't want to actually take the time for a book that had so much potential and which I ended up disliking so intensely.)

❤ Now, on to the good stuff . . . my opinion. ❤

It is the opinion of this reviewer that Mr. Darcy, the real Mr. Darcy, would denounce Donovan Darcy as a womanizing cad devoid of honor.

The facts are these. Jane Austen's Elizabeth and Darcy were restrained individuals of decorum, Darcy mostly, but Elizabeth certainly. Their relationship focused on that restraint. In Teri Wilson's Unleashing Mr. Darcy the entire story is about breaking restraint, unleashing passion, etc. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but it was not a complete and total reversal of character. Turning Mr. Darcy into a teeming sea of sexual passion set my teeth on edge as did upending Elizabeth's character so she seems more foolish than sprightly.

Literally, the tipping point was almost exactly at the halfway mark. Up until then there was some actual plot, some substance, albeit fluffy, to the book. After halfway, everything was about Donovan and Elizabeth stealing moments together so he could back her into a wall, kiss her breathless, and get his hands either under her skirt or on her blouse. Not to mention the absolutely ABSURD moments in the dog judging ring when he can't keep his eyes off her while she's bumbling around, making an absolute idiot out of herself because she's so distracted by the perfect Windsor knot in his tie.

Oh, but wait, they're not entirely sure they love one another. Because it's possible to be sexually attracted to a man you despise, not that I ever fully understood Elizabeth's so-called stance against the wealthy. Who cares if you lost your teaching job because of a wealthy man's attempts to abuse his power? NOT ALL WEALTHY MEN ARE LIKE THAT! Plus, am I wrong or weren't the Bennet family attempting to find wealthy husbands for their gaggle of daughters?! Pride & Prejudice to my recollection really didn't involve the evils of wealth. It has been quite a few years since I've read it, although I'm going to have to reread it now, just to get the bad taste of this pathetic retelling out of my mouth and off my brain.

Don't get me wrong. There were moments at the beginning when I found the story enchanting, simplistic and pure fluff, but still very engaging and fun. Up until the moment when every single encounter they had ended with Donovan being aroused and Elizabeth conflicted on whether she hated the man or not. I'll be honest, there is nothing more disturbing that an "aroused" Mr. Darcy who can focus on nothing but her "pillow pink lips." I'm shuddering in horror just remembering.

The much-dreaded SCENE occurs in chapter 21. To be honest, I'm amazed they got that far with their chastity still fairly in place with so much steam rising off the pages. I skimmed it just to see how graphic it would be and to be fair, Teri Wilson avoids certain words and descriptive phrases during the scene. But it was still a sex scene and all I could think of was how mortified the original Darcy and Elizabeth would be at such immodest and immoral behavior that cared so little for their reputations and honor. Who knew that a version of Darcy could ever become Wickham in my estimations, which he did. When Elizabeth describes the affront she felt when Grant Markham made insinuations against her, held her arm firmly, and kept his gaze wrapped around her breasts, Darcy is green with rage. Yet he does the exact same thing to her. Why is one man acceptable and the other isn't when the behavior of both men is equally insulting?!

I suppose the inclusion of dialogue from Austen's masterpiece was intended to warm my heart and draw me closer to this poor rewrites. But it did not. Instead, my blood boiled at the injustice of having Austen's work so maligned. Remarkable as it might sound, I might be more interested in a story about Darcy and zombies where they at least get the characters right. And while I know Hallmark for some UNKNOWN reason has made this book into a movie, I fully intend to skip it. Why would I waste my time?

Unleashing Mr. Darcy is a travesty. Avoid it at all costs.

❤ Horror Worthy Quotes ❤

"This isn't the nineteenth century. Just because we slept together doesn't mean you  have to marry me." - the soooooooo respectable Elizabeth Scott

"Whatever the two of them were feeling wasn't real. It could only be an illusion - just part of the afterglow of really great sex." - another agonizing quote by Elizabeth Scott

I'm leaving out all of the painful quotes about Donovan's fascination with Elizabeth's perfectly pink little tongue and her plump little lips.