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Archive for September, 2017

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Nancy (Lake Bell) is 34, single and fed up of trying to find Mr Right. On a train to her parents’ 40 wedding anniversary party she meets with another passenger Jessica (Ophelia Lovibond) who leaves the book she is reading – a self-help book called 6 Million People and You – for  Nancy, because she thinks Nancy should read it. However, it turns out that Jessica was going on a blind date, and both she and her date were going to hold a copy of the book so that they could recognise each other. Jessica buys another book but meanwhile her date Jack (Simon Pegg) sees Nancy with the book and assumes that she is the girl he is meant to be meeting.

Rather than put him straight, Nancy goes on the date and the two of them get along brilliantly. But of course, the truth must out and that’s when things take a turn. A run-in with a creepy former schoolfriend of Nancy (Rory Kinnear) and Jack’s ex-wife and new partner (Olivia Williams and Stephen Campbell Moore) complicate matters even further…

I really enjoyed this film. I think it’s fairly obvious from the beginning how it’s going to turn out in the end, and anyone who has seen a rom-com before will know what to expect. But getting there is good fun – and it is great to see a romantic comedy with believable characters and not a couple of 20 somethings that look like they have just sashayed in off the catwalk (not that the two main leads aren’t attractive, because they both definitely are, but they are also relatable).

Lake Bell nails the English accent – if I didn’t know that she was American in real life, I would have thought she actually was English. And Simon Pegg was ideal in the role of a  man who has been through a bitter divorce and is hoping to come out of the other end of a dark tunnel. Sharon Horgan is great as Nancy’s sister, and I really liked Ken Stott and Harriet Walter as her parents.

I did think Olivia Williams was slightly mis-cast as Jack’s ex-wife, although she takes only a small role so it did not detract from my enjoyment. On the flip side, Rory Kinnear was deliciously creepy as the obsessed schoolmate of Nancy, who knows the truth about her identity.

As mentioned before, the ending was always fairy predictable but I liked the way it was done. If you like rom-coms, or British comedy in general, I’d recommend giving this one a go.

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Year of release: 2015

Director: Ben Palmer

Writer: Tess Morris

Main cast: Simon Pegg, Lake Bell, Rory Kinnear, Sharon Horgan, Ken Stott, Harriet Walter

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This instalment of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple series opens with the elderly lady detective’s friends Colonel and Mrs Bantry awakening to the distressing news that there is a body in their library. And indeed there is – a young lady who neither of them have ever seen before.

After calling the police, Mrs Bantry calls upon Miss Marple to help with the investigation and that wily old lady picks through the various clues and red herrings, to get to the truth of the matter…

The first thing I would note about this story is that, as in The Murder at the Vicarage, Miss Marple is little more than a background character for most of this book. Indeed, the majority of the detective work is done by the police, who have numerous potential murderers to investigate.

The second thing I would note is that…this does not matter one jot! I enjoyed the book and I thought the mystery was very well put together. I am not going to give anything away, but I will say that I did not guess the culprit, and there were other twists – one in particular – which I also did not see coming.

Another solid instalment in the Marple series – I look forward to reading more!

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This production of King Lear was broadcast live from The Globe Theatre to cinemas around the world – the first time The Globe has done this, but hopefully  not the last. I went to see it at Showcase Cinema, Dudley, in the West Midlands.

King Lear is one of Shakespeare’s best loved tragedies – it starts with the title character demanding that his three daughters demonstrate how much they love him. While the eldest two, Goneril and Regan go over the top with waxing lyrical about how much their father means to them – all the while with their eyes on his riches – youngest daughter Cordelia refuses to bow to his vanity. She, of course, is the most loyal and loving of all three, but Lear, in his anger at her refusal to kowtow, banishes her from his kingdom and his life.

Meanwhile, Edmund, son of the Duke of Gloucester, is angry at his illegitimate state and plans to get rid of his older, legitimate brother Edgar. He tricks his father into believing that Edgar wants to overthrow him.

The play depicts Lear’s descent into madness, and his journey to actually becoming a better man. Kevin McNally, in the title role, was excellent. He was alternately terrifying and sympathetic, funny and pathetic. He plays Lear as a vain old man, blinded by his daughters’ words and unable to see past the deception of Goneril and Regan, who have cleverly played to such vanity.

The supporting cast were all wonderful too – Emily Bruni and Sirine Saba as Goneril and Regan were standouts, and I also liked Burt Caesar as the Duke of Gloucester. Joshua James and Ralph Davis put in strong performances as Edgar and Edmund respectively. Finally Saskia Reeves put in a terrific turn as Kent, Lear’s faithful friend (a male character in the original play), who is also banished from the realm when she expresses anger at his treatment of Regan.

Played out in modern dress, I found this production relatable and enjoyable. It was also surprisingly funny in parts, which I wasn’t expecting given the nature of the play.

Overall I would have to highly recommend seeing this King Lear if you get chance.

 

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In Amsterdam in the late 17th century, 18 year old Nella has been promised as a wife to successful merchant Johannes Brandt, but when she arrives at her new home, he is still away on business. Instead, she is met by his prickly sister Marin and staff Otto and Cornelia.

When Johannes does arrive home weeks later, things do not improve – he seems uninterested in being a husband to Nella, and there is constant tension simmering under the surface between all members of the household. Johannes presents Nella with a gift – a cabinet sized version of their house and instructions to furnish it. For the task, Nella engages a miniaturist to supply furniture for the small house, but the miniaturist sends much more – models of the inhabitants which seem to predict events in the future.

Who is the mysterious miniaturist, and how does she know so much about the Brandts? And what secrets lie within the walls of Nella’s new home?

It is difficult to say much more about the plot without giving away significant plot points. I will say however that I did really enjoy this book and can certainly understand the hype surrounding it’s release. The characters all seemed well drawn and believable, and if some of the events took me by surprise, with hindsight they were perhaps obvious and inevitable. Such is the skill of Jessie Burton’s writing however, that they only became so obvious once they had happened (if that makes sense).

Burton does have a lovely turn of phrase and a beautiful way of describing events and scenes, without being overly verbose. The story flowed well, even with the tense atmosphere throughout. The prologue was perfect once I reached the end of the book, and unlike many reviewers I was not disappointed in the ending at all.

Overall, this book gets a definite thumbs up from me and I have already bought Burton’s follow up novel, ‘The Muse’ on the strength of this.

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Full disclosure: I was on a long flight and simply looking for an undemanding film to pass a couple of hours. I stumbled across Table 19, which I had never even heard of before; however, it featured Lisa Kudrow and Stephen Merchant and I thought it might be worth a watch. Also, I like films that play out in real time or at least over the course of one day or night, so I put this on, not sure what to expect.

The story opens with Eloise (Anna Kendrick) who has been ousted from her role as bridesmaid at her friend Francie’s wedding, due to being unceremoniously dumped by the best man Teddy – who is also Francie’s brother. Deliberating whether or not she should still attend the wedding at all, Eloise eventually decides to go and finds herself seated at Table 19. It soon dawns on everyone at the table that they are the people who nobody really wanted there, the people who were invited out of a sense of duty, the people who should have had the common sense to say they couldn’t attend.

As well as Eloise, there are Diner owners Bina and Jerry Kepp (Lisa Kudrow and Craig Robinson), Facebook friends with the groom’s father, who owns a chain of diners; Francie’s childhood nanny Jo (June Squibb), Renzo Eckberg (Tony Revolori), whose family are distantly acquainted with the wedding party and who has come to the wedding with the hope of finally getting a girlfriend; and Walter Thimble (Stephen Merchant) who is a nephew of the groom and currently on parole.

After an awkward first meeting, the group get to know each other – secrets are revealed, truths come to light – and they start to actually quite like each other. Eloise meets an enigmatic stranger named Huck, but he may not be all he seems…

This film was a very pleasant surprise, and I’m not sure how or why it slipped under the radar and is so little known. Of course I picked it because it was the sort of film I like, but I don’t think I expected to like it quite as much as I did. All of the characters were very well played, and I ended up liking and finding sympathy for each one of this mismatched crew of new friends.

It mixes comedy with poignancy very well and I liked the ending a lot too. Yes, it’s a bit quirky and certainly not the kind of thing everyone likes – if action movies are your thing, then this is probably not the film for you. But if you like a bit of human drama and characters who aren’t afraid to foul up sometimes and laugh at themselves, give it a try!

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Year of release: 2017

Director: Jeffrey Blitz

Writers: Jay Duplass, Mark Duplass, Jeffrey Blitz

Main cast: Anna Kendrick, Lisa Kudrow, Craig Robinson, June Squibb, Stephen Merchant, Tony Revolori, Wyatt Russell,

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