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Posts Tagged ‘comedy’

(Audiobook narrated by Alex Tregear)

Imogen is a single mother with a demanding job, who hasn’t had a holiday in years. So when her friend Meredith wins a luxury break in Barcelona, the two of them and their other best friend Nicola decide to take full advantage. After all, Meredith is pregnant, so who knows when they will get the chance again. However, things start to go wrong from the start, with Imogen having to sort out work problems despite being on holiday and coping with her demanding mother’s phone calls. And then there’s Harry – the fellow holidaymaker who is the first man to pique Imogen’s interest since Roberto, the father of her daughter.

I have listened to Jane Costello before and have previously enjoyed her books. Initially I enjoyed this one too, but I must admit that after a while, it started to grate on me somewhat. It is narrated by Imogen, and honestly…I just wanted to shake her and tell her to stop being such a doormat. This woman is on holiday for the first time in several years, and she receives several telephone calls a day from her boss and other colleagues, expecting her to sort out a problem that was not caused by her in the first place!! And she just puts up with it.

Additionally, I had to ask just how many ridiculous mishaps can happen to one person? It made it really hard to believe in the story when embarrassments and clumsy mishaps happened to Imogen time and time again, supposedly for comedic effect.

Anyway the ending was predictable, and well signposted, but I find that’s usually the case with chicklit.

I would listen to more by Jane Costello, but that is based on my previous experience, rather than this particular read. It’s not awful but it’s certainly not great either.

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Walk, Don’t Run was Cary Grant’s last film, and (unbeknown to me prior to watching) is a remake of an earlier film The More The Merrier.

Grant is William Rutland, a British businessman who arrives in Tokyo during the 1964 Olympics and is unable to find a room to stay. He has arrived two days early, meaning that the hotel room he had booked is not yet available. He finds a room to let in the apartment of a young woman named Christine Eaton (Samantha Eggar). Christine had advertised for a female flatmate but reluctantly agrees to let Rutland stay as she feels it is her patriotic duty. Rutland then invites a young athlete named Steve Davis (Jim Hutton) to also stay at the apartment, in the hope of playing cupid for Christine and Steve.

The two youngsters are very different people but eventually start to get along fairly well. However there are obstacles to their romance, not least Christine’s stuffy diplomat boyfriend Julius Haversack (John Standing).

This film has one major point in it’s favour, that is Cary Grant. Grant himself declined to play a romantic lead at this point in his career as he felt that he was too old to be believable in such a role. He subsequently retired from acting to raise his daughter. In all fairness, Samantha Eggar and Jim Hutton are also both very good in their roles. The film itself though is ultimately something of a let-down. It’s not bad, but it starts with a bang and ends with a whimper.

Still, as a fan of Cary Grant, that alone makes it worth the watch, so while I wouldn’t recommend it necessarily, I wouldn’t mind if I had to sit down and watch it again.

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One Touch of Venus is a lighthearted romantic comedy starring Robert Walker and Ava Gardner, with support from Eve Arden, Tom Conway, Dick Hayes and Olga San Juan.

Walker is Eddie Hatch, a worker in a posh department store who is asked to fix a curtain behind which is a statue of Venus (Gardner). He impulsively kisses the statue and is astonished when Venus comes to life and starts to follow him round. Hatch is already in a relationship with Gloria (San Juan) so chaos and comedy ensue when he tries to keep Gloria and Venus from meeting, while also coming under suspicion from his boss Mr Savory (Conway) who believes that Hatch has stolen the now missing statue.

The 1980s film Mannequin clearly borrowed heavily from this film, and while I enjoyed Mannequin, I think One Touch of Venus is superior. Ava Gardner certainly is goddess-like, and Walker has a gift for physical comedy and they carry the film well together.

San Juan was great supporters were Conway and Dick Hayes (as Hatch’s friend Joe). However Eve Arden, as Mr Savory’s personal assistant stole most of the scenes she was in, with her acerbic and witty comments.

This film had slipped under my radar and I only spotted it by accident. I’m glad I did though, and would recommend it to fans of classic old movies.

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Vivacious Lady stars a young James Stewart as botany professor Peter Morgan and Ginger Rogers as the title character – a nightclub singer named Francey. When Peter and Francey meet, it’s love and first sight and they impulsively get married. However, Peter is then faced with the prospect of telling his conservative parents – not to mention his fiancee Helen! – what he has done. Lots of comedy ensues as he struggles to find the right time, and the couple have to hide their romance.

This film is a sparkling delight from start to finish. James Stewart is just so bloody likeable and sincere in everything he ever did, and Ginger Rogers had perfect comic timing, which made her shine in a hilarious fight scene. Not that she has the monopoly on physical comedy in this film – Stewart’s character getting drunk is terrific (he does a splendid drunken scene two years later in The Philadelphia Story) and there is a wonderful dance scene with Rogers, James Ellison as Peter’s cousin Frank, and Beulah Bondi as Peter’s mother Martha.

With Charles Coburn playing Peter’s father, who takes an instant dislike to Francey, and great turns from Frances Mercer as Helen, this is a great cast who all seem to be enjoying themselves. And this certainly translates to the viewer, because I can’t imagine anyone finishing this film without a smile on their face.

In short, this is called a classic for a very valid reason. If you like films from this genre, then don’t miss this one!

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Nick Hornby has always been what I would call a reliable author, by which I mean that I might not have loved everything he has written, but I have found some enjoyment in everything of his that I have ever read. But actually I did love this book, and think it is his best yet.

Set in the 1960s, it tells of Barbara Parker from Blackpool, who wins the title of Miss Blackpool, promptly decides she doesn’t want it, and heads off to London to realise her dream of becoming a comedienne like her heroine, Lucille Ball.

Before long, Barbara has become Sophie Straw, landed a lead role in a new, successful tv sitcom, and the world – or the UK at least – is at her feet. She becomes part of a close-knit team, with her co-star, writers and director and life is wonderful for a while. But as they grow older and wiser and real life starts to get in the way, they have to rethink just how long the show can continue.

As I mentioned above, I really enjoyed this book. I liked Sophie so much – she was quick-witted, intelligent and full of fun – and I also liked the team she worked with. The writers, Tony and Bill, both gay men at a time when homosexuality was illegal and both dealing with it in very different ways; the director Dennis, gentle, kind, cuckolded by his awful wife Edith; and co-star Clive, who should have been easy to dislike with his womanising, his unfaithfulness and his professional jealousy, but who nonetheless was charismatic and made me laugh.

Hornby weaves real people in and out of the narrative, and I liked this; the prime minister and Lucille Ball both make an appearance amongst others. The tone is light and humorous, but never superficial. I felt as though 1960s London was brought to life.

Definitely a thumbs up from me for this one – I highly recommend.

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Ghost Town stars Ricky Gervais – in his first Hollywood role – as Bertram Pincus, an irascible, antisocial dentist, who has little interest in other people. However, after a standard hospital operation he suddenly finds that he is able to see ghosts. Everywhere. And they all want something from him. Recently deceased Frank (Greg Kinnear) is desperate to stop his widow Gwen (Tea Leoni) remarrying, and begs Pincus to help break up her relationship. Pincus agrees merely to get Frank off his back, but starts to realise that not only is Gwen’s finance a decent man, but that Bertram himself is developing feelings for her.

Whether or not you enjoy this film is going to depend largely on whether or not you enjoy watching Ricky Gervais. For my money, he is a superb comedian and I’ve never watched anything he has done without thoroughly enjoying it. He’s irritable but also very relatable and brings pathos to the role of Pincus, especially towards the end of the film. Tea Leoni and Greg Kinnear are also both excellent in their roles. There is a lot of humour to be found here, and when the film ended I had a big smile on my face.

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Okay, this was another audiobook which I listened to over a few long runs. I mention this because I find that books I can quite like as audiobooks are often books that I know I wouldn’t enjoy if I read them as a physical book and this is one of those. The reason is because when running, I want something to divert me and keep me occupied while exercising. When I’m reading a physical book I want it immerse myself in it; it’s not a diversion from something else I’m doing. For this reason I can listen to chick-lit audiobooks but I rarely actually read one. This was narrated by Gerri Halligan, who did a good job, although I did find her American accent slightly questionable (but not enough to annoy me).

The story is narrated in alternate chapters by three characters…

Gemma Hogan is still smarting from her ex-boyfriend Anton falling in love with her ex-friend Lily. Life only gets more complicated for her when her father leaves her mother after 35 years of marriage, causing her mother to go to pieces. Gemma finds herself having to babysit her mother at the age of 32.

Lily is blissfully happy with Anton and their daughter Emer, but she can’t help feeling guilty about Gemma, and is convinced that karma will catch up with her and Anton at some point. She writes a book which is a runaway success, but the publishing world is a fickle business.

Jojo is the literary agent who takes on Lily as a client. Jojo is a strong independent and successful woman – who just happens to be in a relationship with her married boss. She is in a cutthroat business and has a complicated love life. Will her career ambitions and her clandestine romance clash?

I found the story somewhat diverting and it did hold my attention for the most part (it seemed to drift along aimlessly for a little while in the middle, and I think the book would have been more effective if it had been shorter). There’s no doubt that Marian Keyes can write humour very well; however for me the main problem was that I didn’t like many of the characters. Gemma was my favourite out of the main three. She was funny and hapless but obviously intelligent. She was also, in my opinion, far too good for Anton and wasted way too much time feeling sad about him.

I didn’t really like Jojo or her boss Mark. I didn’t like that he was cheating on his perfectly lovely wife, and treated his children like a liability that stopped him from having fun with his bit on the side. I didn’t like that Jojo was complicit in that deception. She was portrayed as a tough woman who takes no s**t, but she was happy to wait around for her cheating boyfriend to let her down time after time.

And Lily!! Don’t get me started. She was supposed to be sweet and sensitive but she came across as such a wet weekend. I felt like shaking her and telling her to get a bloody grip. And Anton just annoyed the heck out of me. Feckless with money and generally  irresponsible, he was full of pipe dreams, which Lily was expected to finance. I kept wanting her to find a backbone and chuck him out.

With all that said, there were things about this book that I enjoyed; I preferred the first third, which featured Gemma’s job a lot more than later, and there was a side character (Johnny) who I enjoyed hearing about.

I remember reading some of Marian Keyes’ other books many years ago – I loved them. This one was not as enjoyable, but whether that’s because of the book or because of my changing tastes, I’m not sure. I probably would give another book of hers a go, as it was pretty undemanding, but it wouldn’t be top of my list.

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I first saw The Book of Mormon at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre on Broadway, New York. This time it was in Birmingham, UK, a lot closer to home.

I’m trying to link to my previous review, but at the moment WordPress won’t let me, so here it is in it’s entirety:

“If you haven’t heard of this musical, then all I can say is, where have you been hiding for the last  few years?! Causing fits of laughter, receiving accolades and plaudits aplenty and managing to offend a few people along the way, The Book of Mormon has carved out a huge name for itself, not least because it was written by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone.

I was lucky enough to be able to see this show on Broadway in New York, and wow! What an experience! The story is fairly straightforward – after a brief intro explaining what The Book of Mormon actually is – we are plunged into the narrative of two young Mormon missionaries, Elder Price and Elder Cunningham, who are given the task of preaching the Mormon religion in Uganda. However, when they arrive in the remote Ugandan village, they discover the inhabitants are more concerned with their own problems, such as famine, AIDS and trying to escape the tyranny of the local warlord.

As Elder Price becomes increasingly frustrated with his inability to get through to the locals, as well as his annoyance at being teamed with the misfit Elder Cunningham, it is in fact the said Elder Cunningham who gets through to the villagers in a most unconventional manner, leading to chaos – and much hilarity.

It must be said – as if everyone didn’t already know – that this is most definitely not a show for children or for the easily offended. It relentlessly takes the mickey out of organised religion (there is a song in it called F*** You God), there is a hefty dollop of swear words throughout, and references to all kinds of lewd and illegal acts. So there are plenty of reasons to think that this show wouldn’t have been a huge success…and there are plenty of reasons why it is absolutely a success and is now in its sixth year on Broadway.

In the production we saw, Mancunian actor Don Simpson played Elder Price – he was excellent, and had a wonderful singing voice and perfect comic timing. The more eccentric Elder Cunningham was played by Brian Sears, who was hilarious and had the whole audience rooting for him, bringing a sense of vulnerability to the character.

Nabulungi, beautiful daughter of the Ugandan doctor and the villager who is most enthusiastic to learn more about The Book of Mormon is played by Kim Exum. She too had a gorgeous voice and was exactly as sweet yet feisty as the role demands. The aforementioned Doctor Mafala was played by Billy Eugene Jones, and has the honour of getting to sing the last – and possibly the funniest – song lyric in the whole show (I’m not spoiling it for you here). The evil General was played by Derrick Williams, complete with yellow cowboy boots and utter confusion at Elder Price’s attempts to convert him.

There are some excellent songs in the show, and although I didn’t know any of them prior to attending, they were all very catchy – my favourites being the opening number Hello!, as well as You and Me (But Mostly Me), Sal Play Ka Siti, and Spooky Mormon Hell Dream, which accompanied an incredibly funny scene set in hell, as the title would suggest (complete with the characters of Hitler, Jeffrey Dahmer, Genghis Khan and…Johnny Cochran.)

Overall, I really enjoyed this show, and the rest of the packed auditorium also seemed to love it. I would dearly like to see this show again and am already looking into the possibility of seeing it in London’s West End.

Highly, highly recommended (but not if you are easily offended!!)”

Everything I said above about the show still stands – it’s hilarious and the cast (entirely different and listed below) were equally as good. I loved the show and highly recommend it.

Elder Price was played by Robert Colvin

Elder Cunningham was played by Conner Peirson

Nabulungi was played by Nicole-Lily Baisden

Elder McKinley was played by Will Hawksworth

Mafala Hatimbi was played by Ewen Cummins

The General was played by Thomas Vernal, who also played Satan

 

 

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After her boyfriend cheats on her, Martha (Anna Kendrick) is devastated – until she meets Francis (Sam Rockwell), a man who seems perfect for her in every way. Well…in almost every way. Because Francis is a hit-man. But he’s a charismatic hit-man who is bored with the lifestyle, believes murder is wrong and now has a penchant for killing those people who hire him.

Unfortunately, Hooper (Tim Roth), an old colleague of Francis, is determined to kill our hero, and things are further complicated by a mob family who want to hire Francis to kill the leader so that the stupid younger brother can take over.

Reading the above synopsis, you would be forgiven for thinking that this film is a drama, or a thriller. You probably wouldn’t expect it to be a rom-com, but that’s what it is. There is a lot of violence, so if thats off-putting to you, then you might want to give it a miss. But there’s an equal amount of comedy to balance it out, and I did genuinely laugh out loud several times.

I love Tim Roth – he is just electrifying to watch – and his role here was extremely funny, and he sets the precedent for this in the first scene. Sam Rockwell is also brilliant, and ideal for the role of Francis. We can understand why Martha is so drawn to him, even after she realises what he does for a living. And Anna Kendrick was a delight too. I won’t mention all of the supporting cast, but there was not a bad performance among them.

I really enjoyed this film and would definitely recommend it. (Special shout out to the excellent use of the song ‘My Type’ by Saint Motel – great track used to great effect).

 

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This was an audiobook from Audible, which I listened to over a number of runs during one week. It is narrated by Juanita McMahon, who did a great job overall. There were seven main characters, and she did give voice to them all.

The story concerns three couples – Chris and Beth, Tony and Sarah, and Marie and Duncan. The women have been friends for years, and the men are therefore friends by default, and all six of them meet up once a month at each other’s houses, for a dinner party. Then one night, Chris invites his friend Simon along; Simon is gorgeous – and heartbroken because his wife has just left him for another man.

Having another person in the mix soon changes up the dynamic of the group, as the men feel their territory threatened (with the exception of Chris) and the women are intrigued by the new face.

Throughout the year and the various dinner parties, Simon’s role in their lives means new alliances and new animosities are forged and created and eventually everything culminates in one unforgettable dinner party at his house…

On paper, there is a lot going for this book, and I would say I enjoyed it – for the most part. For the first 45 minutes I had severe doubts though, and considered giving up on it. Repetition can be quite funny, but at times throughout the book, and especially in the first part, it seemed as though Bloom had had some kind of bet to see how many times she could shoehorn a particular word in. In the first part for example, we see just how obsessed with dips Chris is. He loves his dips, and we are hit over the head with this fact as the word dips is trotted out too many times to count. Later on the same thing happens when Beth laments that people find her cuddly. How many times do we need to hear the word cuddly to realise that it annoys her? (It annoyed me too!)

The characters are a mish-mash, and for the most part, not particularly likeable. Chris is so relentlessly cheerful, but yet completely oblivious to what is going on around him (and his failure to pick up on social cues is annoying) that he just comes across as shallow and stupid. I did love him for one scene though, which I won’t reveals here as it would be a potential spoiler.

Tony is pompous and chauvinistic and goodness knows why Sarah put up with him!

Marie is the worst of all. Vacuous, self-absorbed, vain and insensitive, I couldn’t stand her and was amazed that she had managed to find two friends and a nice man who wanted to marry her (I liked Duncan most of all).

What I would say is that the writing flowed well, and it was an undemanding listen/read. I’d give it a  middling score which is to say that I didn’t think it was brilliant, but it kept me entertained enough while I pounded the streets.

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