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Archive for April, 2014

This television movie is based on the real life story of Jennifer Corbin, wife of dentist Bart Corbin.  Jennifer was killed in an apparent suicide, but her sister Heather is convinced that Bart murdered her.  As events unfold, the truth about the Corbins’ marriage is revealed in flashback, and shows that Jennifer was having an internet affair, while Bart cannot deal with rejection.  It is only through Heather’s determination, and the tenacity of the investigating detectives that the truth is finally revealed.

I accept that this film does not break any new boundaries, and in many ways is a typical ‘Lifetime’ movie.  However, the great performances of the cast elevate it to much better than average.  Rob Lowe is such a talented, versatile actor, and here he plays the charming but controlling Corbin to perfection.  Lauren Holly also does a great job as Jennifer’s sister Heather, and Yannick Bisson (who I adore from TV’s Murdoch Mysteries) puts in a nice supporting performance as Bart’s brother Bobby.  Detective Roche, the lead detective in the investigation is well played by Michelle Hurd.  Jennifer herself is played by Stefanie von Pfetten.  She was a new face to me, but handled the part of the troubled Jennifer very well.

The story starts with Jennifer’s death, and all evidence points to suicide.  Having no knowledge of the actual tragic events behind this film, I was not sure whether in fact she had killed herself, or if as her sister suspected, she had been murdered – and if she had been murdered, then who was responsible?

Overall, I would say the film is engaging and certainly very watchable.  I would definitely recommend it to fans of Rob Lowe – it may not be his most popular or well-known role, but as always, he gives it everything, and is very convincing.

Year of release: 2009

Director: Norma Bailey

Producers: Scott W. Anderson, Stanley M. Brookes, Damian Ganczewski, Juliette Hagopian, Jim Head, Nicholas Tabarrok

Writers: Ann Rule (book), Fab Filippo, Donald Martin, Adam Till

Main cast: Rob Lowe, Lauren Holly, Michelle Hurd, Stefanie von Pfetten, Yannick Bisson, Mary Ashton, Marc Bendavid

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Okay, confession time.  First of all, I think my grammar and spelling are okay, maybe even pretty good.  (Actually, I don’t want to boast, but my spelling is good, due to lots and lots of childhood practice.  But just in case I’m sounding too pleased with myself, I’ll admit right now that I’m rubbish at science and maths.)  Anyway, I digress.  My confession is that I find when it comes to grammar, I tend to know what’s right and what’s wrong, but sometimes I don’t exactly know why something is right or wrong.

Kiss My Asterisk is described on the cover as ‘A Feisty Guide to Punctuation and Grammar’ and that sums it up pretty well.  Baranick is an English Professor, who teaches classes on grammar, and therefore she knows what she’s talking about, and she knows how to make it interesting.  There are 17 bite-size chapters, with titles such as ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bars: En Dashes, Em Dashes and Hyphens’, ‘Avoid Premature Ejaculation: Email Etiquette’ and ‘Missed Periods: Run-On Sentences’.  Each chapter is clearly explained and contains plenty of funny examples of when to use/not use certain punctuation, etc..  There are also exercises at the end of each chapter (don’t worry, they’re only very quick; it doesn’t feel like homework).

Baranick is very engaging and witty, and even if you don’t always need the advice she’s giving, it’s still fun to read.  I think this book would be ideal to keep nearby if you do a lot of writing, and ever have questions about grammar.  Definitely recommended.

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This modern day fairy tale stars Ioan Gruffudd and Toni Collette as Alec and Zooey Morrison, a couple who are struggling to conceive and who are finding that it is causing problems in their marriage.  After they talk about fostering a child, a seven year old boy named Eli turns up on their doorstep, saying that the foster agency has sent him.  As he becomes a part of their family, he brings happiness back into their lives, but Eli has one final surprise for them.

This is a really lovely gem of a movie – it has no explosions, no special effects, just solid performances throughout, and lots of emotion (honestly it had me in tears a few times).  Gruffudd and Collette were terrific as a couple going through a very hard time – their pain was almost palpable.  There was a twist at the end which I feel obliged not to give away, but suffice to say that while I don’t always enjoy such twists, it fitted perfectly here.

In addition to the three leads (Maurice Cole is adorable in his debut role as Eli), there is great support from Richard E. Grant, as a mysterious man who seems to know all about the Morrisons, and Anne Reid and Hayley Mills as Zooey’s mother and the foster home manager respectively.

This seems to be a little known film, but if you get the chance to watch it, I would definitely recommend that you do!  Not only is it very moving, but at the end, I had a big smile on my face.

Year of release: 2011

Director: Jonathan Newman

Producers: Hale Coughlin, David Mutch, Alice Dawson, Deepak Nayar

Writer: Jonathan Newman

Main cast: Ioan Gruffudd, Toni Collette, Maurice Cole, Richard E. Grant

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The Touring Consortium Theatre Company present this superb adaptation of the 1996 film.  The story is narrated by Shane, the son of miner Phil and his wife Sandra, and tells of events in the early 1990s in the northern town of Grimley (the story is real events in the town of Grimethorpe), where the mine is under threat of closure, with all the employees facing unemployment.  Enter Gloria, an accomplished flugelhorn player, who joins the colliery brass band.  However, she doesn’t tell them that she is back in her home town of Grimley to complete a report on whether or not the mine is worth keeping open.  Matters are further complicated when she rekindles a childhood romance with bandmate Andy Barrow, one of the miners who will lose his job if the mine should close.

Meanwhile, Danny Ormondroyd, the band leader and father of Phil, sees all the misery of the miners, but only seems concerned with the bands success; he points out that the band has been going for more than one hundred years, and has outlasted previous closures and two world wars.

Against the backdrop of the band’s music, the lives of the miners and their wives are played out, as the threatened mine closure causes poverty, marital problems and at one point, an attempted suicide.

Despite the sometimes grim subject matter, the play has a lot of humour.  There are some wonderful one liners, and the scenes showing the drunken antics of two miners and their wives are literally laugh-out-loud funny.  However, it was also very moving.  John McCardle had the unenviable task of taking on a role immortalised on film by the late great Pete Postlethwaite, but McCardle was more than up to the task, and he was wonderful as cantankerous band leader Danny.  Andrew Dunn was also excellent as Danny’s son Phil.  The rest of the cast were just as good, namely Clara Darcy as Gloria, Rebecca Clay as Sandra, James Robinson as Andy, Kraig Thornber and Andrew Roberts-Palmer as Phil’s friends and colleagues Jim and Harry, and Gilly Tompkins and Helen Kay as Jim and Harry’s wives Vera and Rita.

The production is using local brass bands from each town or city where they perform, and for their run at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre, the band was Jackfield Brass Band from Ironbridge.  They were excellent, and the music which featured in the show was by turns rousing and moving, providing the perfect ‘soundtrack’ for a play that had lots of belly laughs, but which was also telling a very upsetting and true story of shattered lives and broken dreams.

This excellent production is still touring – if you get the chance, go see it!

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This book has two timelines, the first of which is in 1972, when two seconds were added to time.  Those two seconds proved disastrous for Byron Hemmings when he believes that they are the reason an accident which caused his mother to have a breakdown.  Byron and his friend James start a campaign called Operation Perfect, to rescue Byron’s mother from her downward spiral.

The second timeline is set in the present day, and concentrates on Jim, a man in his 50s, who suffers with chronic OCD, and is haunted by the events of his past.

I enjoyed the book for the most part – the writing was lovely and the story flowed well.  The characters were believable, and Byron’s helplessness as he watches his mother sink into depression, which is not helped by the manipulative character of her new friend Beverly.  This storyline was probably the more interesting of the two, as there was more happening.  However, the character of Jim in the present day storyline, was well drawn – his crippling and debilitating OCD was wonderfully described, and it was impossible not to feel sorry for him, and to hope that things would get better for him.

However, I did find the ending, where the connection between the two story lines – hinted at many times earlier in the story, but not fully explained – was a slight disappointment, and the slight twist was not really necessary.

So overall, I would say that Perfect is not perfect, but it’s an enjoyable and absorbing read.

(Author’s website can be found here.)

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This stage adaptation of the popular Julie Andrews film comes courtesy of Willenhall Musical Theatre Company.  They may be an amateur dramatics society, but they clearly have a lot of talent within their ranks, and have put a lot of hard work into this production – and it paid off.

Briefly, the story revolves around Millie Dillmount (Abbie Rai), a young modern woman who comes to New York to find a job with a single boss who she can marry.  For Millie, marriage is not about love, but then she meets penniless Jimmy Smith (Will Phipps), and her plans go awry when despite her intentions, she starts to fall for him.  In addition there is a worrying trend of young women going missing in New York and being sold into white slavery.

This production is jam-packed with lovely songs, and they were performed wonderfully by a great cast.  Abbie Rai was adorable as Millie – and what a voice!  Will Phipps also sang wonderfully as Jimmy Smith.  Daniel Haddon was extremely funny as Millie’s boss Trevor Graydon – he has a couple of terrific songs – and Jenna Guest was perfectly cast as Millie’s friend Miss Dorothy.  The villain of the piece, Mrs Meers, was played with panache and humour by Kelly Ashman, and a special mention for Jenni Rullan as  Head Secretary at Millie’s workplace, Miss Flannery.

The staging was superb – the scenery was wonderfully effective and clever, representing Manhattan in the 1920s, and the scene changes were handled very efficiently.  The song and dance numbers were a joy to watch – I haven’t tap danced for years, but this show really made me want to start again.  I must mention the numbers where all the secretaries were wheeled on stage with matching orange wigs and bright pink tights.  Very cleverly choreographed, and brilliant to watch.

Also, as the play is set in the 1920s, it meant that there were many beautiful and glamorous outfits on show – I don’t know where the company found all those beautiful dresses, but I loved them.

One thing that surprised me was that the ending of the story was changed from the film version.  I have to admit that I personally preferred the film ending, but that is only a very very minor niggle, and didn’t detract from my enjoyment.

Overall, a terrific production with great performances and lots of laughs.

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Click here for my review of the 1967 film.

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The classic 1954 MGM musical is brought to the stage in this fabulous production starring Sam Attwater and Helena Blackman as Adam Pontipee and his his new wife Milly.  When Milly marries Adam after just one brief meeting, she is dismayed to discover that he has six unruly brothers who she is expected to look after.  She sets about improving their appearance and manners, and help them to find wives of their own.

This show is a wonderful adaptation of the film – it captures all of the films high energy, laughter and colour.  The cast, led by a charismatic Attwater and the adorable Blackman, were all wonderful, and there were loads of laughs to be had throughout.  The dances – particularly the barn dance, with the whole cast involved – were the highlight of the show.  Incorporating acrobatics and ballet, the routines made me feel breathless just watching them.

I also loved the scenery, which slid on and off the stage as the scenes dictated, and which perfectly set the stage for the action to unfold, and there were a few lovely new songs added to the show, alongside old favourites like Wonderful Wonderful Day, Sobbin’ Women, and my personal favourite Bless Your Beautiful Hide.  Attwater may be more of an actor than a singer,  but he handled his songs well.  Blackman has a truly lovely singing voice, and both she and Attwater were well suited to their roles.  A special mention also to Jack Greaves, who played the sweet youngest Pontipee brother Gideon, and Georgina Parkinson as Alice, the girl with whom Gideon falls in love.

Wonderful fun, wonderful songs and incredible dancing made this a truly wonderful show, and I defy anyone who sees it to leave the theatre without a huge smile on their face, and a big spring in their step.

(For more information about this production, please click here.)

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Click here for my review of the 1954 film.

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