Monday, 14 November 2016

Movie Review - The Blue Castle

Read the title of this post.  Read it? Excited? Well now I must let you down gently and explain that whilst there is as yet, no physical film of LM Montgomery's phenomenal The Blue Castle, in honour of The Great Imaginary Film Blogathon, I will be reviewing one of the great films that never was.  Complete with director, casting and all those important details, settle yourself in for the read of your my dreams and perhaps start drafting a letter to Warner Brothers to consider my post.  The more they get, the better my chances are of this dream becoming a reality, right?

I don't know about you, but I consider the above to be my tour de force. Sincere apologies to any owners of individual pictures and to the New York Times to whom I have attributed an entirely imaginary quote - but I'm sure it would be entirely true if this were indeed an actual film. And now, my friends, to the review!

The Blue Castle by the one and only LM Montgomery tends to be overlooked somewhat in comparison to the Anne of Green Gables and Emily of New Moon series. Yet, it's one of my absolute favourite LM Montgomery's and with an older (comparatively) heroine, it just gets more and more relatable. Naturally, this means that the most exciting movie release so far of 2016 is this Warner Brothers version of The Blue Castle, directed by Australian Baz Luhrmann (The Great Gatsby 2013) and starring Tom Hiddleston (War Horse) and Michelle Dockery (Downton Abbey).

Other casting choices include:

Robert de Niro as Roaring Abel

Goldie Hawn as Mrs. Stirling (Valancy's domineering matriarch)

Ashley Benson as Olive Sitrling

Clémence Poésy as Cecily Gay

Not wishing to change a good thing, Warner Brothers have kept the name of the film the same as the name of the book - a great start.  The film itself runs fairly true to the book but omitting some of the more detailed sections - Valancy's large extended family is severely cut down with only a handful of relatives making an appearance. Other noticeable changes include combining the characters of Uncle James and Uncle Benjamin - a decision Warner Brothers said they made to "simplify the confusing family logistics presented in the novel" and having writer John Forster awarded with the Lorne Pierce Medal for literature in a "surprising twist to the end".

As in the book, the story begins with a downtrodden single 29 year old Valancy still living at home with her mother and mother's cousin, "Cousin Stickles".  In a society where marriage is the life goal for every woman, Valancy is scorned and snubbed by her mother, Cousin Stickles and other members of her extended family and the rest of her home town. When she secretly finds out she has only a year to live, Valancy decides to live life her own way.  She begins by caring for the shunned daughter (Clémence Poésy) of the local drunkard "Roaring Abel" (Robert de Niro in a fantastic performance) who is dying of tuberculosis and committed the unforgivable sin of birthing an illegitimate (and now deceased) son a few years previously. Following a dramatic death scene, Valancy continues to live life adventurously - proposing to none other than the shady and devastatingly mysterious Barney Snaith. After a very passionate kiss (which wasn't exactly in the book!), Barney agrees to the proposal since Valancy only has a year to live and an unconventional marriage begins.  For those of you who have not read the book, I shan't spoil the ending by going further but overall I would give this imaginary movie 8/10 for its portrayal and similarity to the spirit of the original.

What I liked: Michelle Dockery as Valancy Stirling. For those of you acquainted with Michelle from Downton Abbey, fear not, she has mastered a convincing Canadian accent. Certain "Lady Mary" characteristics are certainly on play here, seen in Valancy's obstinate, passionate stand for making her own life and again in her dry humour weaving in and out of the story. The very un-Lady Mary like crushed and downtrodden personality at the beginning displays Michelle's incredible versatility and ability to truly become the character.

What could be improved: Now, whilst I think Tom Hiddleston makes a good Barney, I don't think he's quite right.  Then again, no actor is really quite right for Barney.  The main problem with Tom is that in the book, I'm sure I remember Barney flicking his hair off his forehead and well, Tom doesn't exactly have the hairline to do that, does he? There were a few deviations to the story, most of which I have already mentioned. They weren't too major but being a true "the book is better" person, I feel justified in continuing to stick to that maxim.

Rating: M for some crude language and suggestive material. It seems to be impossible to find a modern film without a sketchy scene in it these days and The Blue Castle stays true to form. The main scene which some viewers may wish to skip plays whilst Cecily Gay tells Valancy her story which led to the illegitimate birth. There is also some vulgar language and mild swearing during Roaring Abel's drunken scenes.

I really enjoyed creating this movie so massive thanks to the gals at Silver Scenes for hosting the blogathon and for coming up with such a great idea! Thanks also to my sister who came up with the idea of Tom Hiddleston as Barney (from someone else's casting she saw) and Michelle Dockery as Valancy Stirling.

Now it's your turn, guys, what do you think of my casting and plot? What would you do differently?

Tata xx

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Old Hollywood Celebration - An Affair to Remember

Thanks to Rose, of An Old Fashioned Girl, this week is celebration of old Hollywood week! I am linking up to her celebration and have chosen to review a much loved old Hollywood film of mine, An Affair to Remember.

Oddly enough, even though I grew up with many of the old Hollywood classics, I actually didn't see this one until last year. It's already become one of my favourite classic Hollywood movies and I'm delighted to be able to review it for you all!

The title sounds a little immoral but fear not, this movie is family friendly. Staring the inimitable Carey Grant and Deborah Kerr, this film blends humour, tragedy, and love into one compelling package.  Terry (Deborah Kerr) and Nickie (Carey Grant) are individually on a cruise where they meet  An immediate attraction forms between the two of them but there's one problem - both are engaged to other people (conveniently not on the cruise and conveniently rich whilst Kerr and Grant are poor!). Grant and Kerr struggle between their attraction to each other and their loyalties to their engagements whilst simultaneously enjoying an amazing cruise which includes a visit to Italy to see Nickie's grandmother.  Just look at the scenery!
In Italy, they meet Nickie's grandmother who used to be a concert pianist.  She plays and Terry sings the theme song of the movie.  It's one of my favourite scenes not only because the song itself is beautiful but also because it's played on my favourite instrument (piano) and sung beautifully by Deborah with a wealth of emotion and feeling.  The picture below is a bit poor in quality I'm afraid but it was the only one I could find which shows that scene - Grandmother at the piano, Terry singing, and Nickie looking on and really falling in love with Terry in that moment.
Once the cruise is over and the ship is about to dock at New York, Terry and Nickie realise that they have fallen in love with each other. Looking up at the Empire State Building, they make a promise - they will go their separate ways for 6 months and try to earn enough money to make a living in that time.  In 6 months, if and only if, they still feel the same about each other, they will meet at the top of the Empire State Building and never be parted again. It seems so simple when they say it but at this point, the movie is only half over so clearly things don't pan out quite how they're supposed to. I can say no more specifically about the plot because spoilers! but the ending is a bit of a tear jerker!

Why do I love this movie so much? I'm a sucker for romantic / romantic comedy films and this one ticks all the boxes - timeless actors, beautiful scenery and music, and a sentimental storyline budded with touches of humour along the way.

For whom would I recommend this movie? It's a family friendly classic that wears well with age and would suit all ages. It's been a little while since I watched it but as far as I can remember there were no issues with language etc.

All in all, it has a kind of charm and sweetness to it that makes it very memorable. I am a fan of both Grant and Kerr's acting anyway but together there is a chemistry which shines through the screen.  Do yourself a favour and watch it! :)

Meet you in 6 months, Nickie xx

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Life Update

 Hello there to anyone reading this! :) It's been a little bit of a while since I've posted here due to real life being Busy with a capital b. So, what am I up to these days?

1. Work

Finally having a full time job in my area of expertise is a relief and very enjoyable when I look at my bank balance but it does take up most of my time. Almost a year after I graduated from university, I am working as a dietitian (that's dietician for you USA readers who misspell things ;)) and loving it.

The above picture is too true by the way - particularly the last picture! I definitely enjoy chocolate as much as anyone else. Working full time does mean that I am tired in the evenings and cramming my social life into the weekend leaving less time for blogging.

2. Nano

November means one thing, folks, Nanowrimo is here again.  I'm doing my second Nanowrimo (following two Camp Nanos and a Nanowrimo last year) and since this is my first time doing it on top of full time work, I'm not setting very high expectations for myself. Does anyone else find that listening to music distracts you from writing because you're singing along to the song in your head but when you switch the music off you have no inspiration? I can see this is going to be my biggest problem this November.

If you've never done Nano before, I highly recommend it.  It's a writing exercise that will teach you to just write a first draft and leaving all that editing to later on and it's an excuse to write and practise writing which is so important.  If you're a first time Nano-er, don't feel discouraged if you don't get far! I only wrote 12 and bit thousand words last year which is tiny but it was something and then in Camp Nano I wrote 45 thousand so there you go.  You don't know what you can do until you give it a shot.  Experienced Nano-ers, I have no advice but I'd love yours! What's the most valuable piece of information you can give us newbies?

I'll likely be a bit quiet round here for the next month but I'll try and pop by every now and then :) Feel free to leave ideas on what you'd like to see me tackle in a post - I've some thoughts of my own but I'd love to know what my readers want to see!

Wish me luck with Nano guys! xx