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Posts Tagged ‘romance’

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If you’re looking for a film that challenges you, surprises you and throws lots of twists at you…yeah, you’re going to need to look elsewhere. This film is exactly what you’re going to expect it to be, and you’ll know it from the first 20 minutes. BUT, that’s something that you tend to find with rom-coms – it’s not the ending that gets you, it’s the journey that takes you there. And as entertaining journeys go, this one is not half bad. I watched this on a Saturday night, after a busy week, when I wanted something undemanding and not in any way distressing to watch. If that’s what you want too, then this film is ideal.

Former best friends Faye and Lydia (Michele Scarabelli and Jennifer Juniper Angeli) have been at loggerheads for the past ten years, opening rival bakeries in Emeryville, Ohio, and competing against each other in the annual pumpkin pie contest. In the latest contest they decide that their children Casey and Sam (Julie Gonzalo and Eric Aragon) should take over their roles, compete against each other and pass the feud down to the next generation. But Casey and Sam start to fall for each other, and can’t reveal their romance for fear of upsetting their mothers.

I liked the film a lot, because I knew what it was going to be when I started it, and that was exactly what I needed. Yes, it’s predictable and a bit contrived, but it does have a particular charm that kept me watching. Julie Gonzalo was lovely as Casey and I could definitely identify with her lack of culinary skills! Eric Aragon was less convincing as Sam but this didn’t really detract from my enjoyment. What can I say? I like rom-coms, I like knowing what’s going to happen and I like a happy ending.

Overall, an enjoyable but totally unsurprising movie. Perfect for those nights when you want something entertaining that doesn’t take too much brain work!

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Year of release: 2016

Director: Steven R. Monroe

Writer: Nina Weinman

Main cast: Julie Gonzalo, Eric Aragon, Michele Scarabelli, Jennifer-Juniper Angeli

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Hotshot New York City Lawyer Ellen (Alison Sweeney) receives a letter that her late grandmother wanted to be delivered to a man in a sleepy town in Maine. Determined to fulfil her grandmother’s wish Ellen travels to Maine and finds a different way of life, where she learns more about her grandmother’s youth, and more about herself in the process.

Given that this is a Hallmark romance, if you don’t guess the outcome within the first 20 minutes, then I can only assume that you have never seen any romance in your life before! Seriously the ending is completely obviously almost from the beginning, but you know what? It doesn’t detract from the charm of this lovely story.

It’s your typical fish-out-of-water story, although ironically this fish falls into the bay in the first few minutes of the film, and is rescued by handsome local Roy Cumberland (Marc Blucas).

Naturally she and Roy keep running into each other and there is an undeniable attraction, but she has her own boyfriend, a successful young man with political ambitions – not to mention her pushy mother – waiting for her back home. Which way of life will Ellen choose?

What sets this story higher than others of a similar genre is a very likeable cast – I loved Alison Sweeney and Marc Blucas, and I also liked the rest of the locals in Maine (particularly Samantha Ferris as the feisty owner of the inn where Ellen stays during her vacation). Shirley Jones pops up as Alison’s late grandmother – don’t worry this is not a supernatural element, just imagined conversations that Ellen has with her from time to time. The scenery was also gorgeous and quite made me want to get away to the countryside and back to nature for a while.

If you’re not into romantic comedy-dramas, then this film is not for you! But if you want something to make you smile, with a sweet storyline, then give it a whirl, you might be surprised how much you enjoy this one.

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Year of release: 2016

Director: Kristoffer Tabori (as K T Donaldson)

Writers: Mary Simses (novel), Melissa Salmons

Main cast: Alison Sweeney, Marc Blucas, Shirley Jones, Samantha Ferris

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Dustin Hoffman is jingle writer Harvey Shine, in London for his daughter’s wedding, and feeling isolated. He has a strained relationship with his daughter and his ex-wife – who is now happily remarried – and his job is looking shaky. But then he meets lonely airport worker Kate Walker (Emma Thompson), who is jaded by her lack of love life and her mother’s stifling emotional dependence, and maybe, just maybe there might a chance of happiness for the two of them.

I felt that this was a lovely film – not really a comedy although there were some funny scenes, but very poignant and thanks to the two main leads, immensely watchable (it’s a fairly short film at just over 90 minutes, but seemed to pass by in half in hour!) Harvey is not an altogether likeable character – he can be brusque, and he has clearly not been there for his daughter when she has needed him – but Hoffman’s performance still makes you want to root for him, while acknowledging his flaws. In the hands of a different actor, Harvey could have been someone whose happiness meant little to viewers, but I wanted him to be okay and to get his second shot at happiness. And as for Emma Thompson – well, Kate was always the more sympathetic of the two characters, but Thompson’s acting is just sublime. You really felt what she was going through in each scene – the awkward blind date, where friends of the man her friend has set her up with gatecrash the evening, the awkwardness tinged with delight at finding herself at a wedding reception where she barely knows anyone, and the frustration of dealing with her mother (Eileen Atkins) who Kate clearly loves dearly but who obviously feels the need to unleash every thought on her daughter at any given time.

This is a lovely film, which seemed to slip under the radar at the time of release – watch it for the novelty of seeing a film about romance between two people who are over the age of 30 and who don’t necessarily look like they have just sashayed off the catwalk. Watch it for the incredible acting. Watch it to find yourself really caring about these believable, flawed people. Whatever your reason, just watch it!

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Year of release: 2008

Director: Joel Hopkins

Writer: Joel Hopkins

Main cast: Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson, Eileen Atkins, Kathy Baker, James Brolin, Liane Balaban

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Set in Seattle in the grunge era of the early 1990s, Singles is a romantic comedy about a number of 20-somethings, many of whom live in the same apartment block, and their various relationships and entanglements.

There’s Janet (Bridget Fonda), a coffee stop Barista, who is in love with Cliff (Matt Dillon), lead singer of a grunge band which is far bigger in his mind than in reality. Then there’s Linda (Kyra Sedgwick), who meets Steve (Campbell Scott), who has just sworn off relationships to concentrate on his career.

This film is now a shocking 24 years old! However, it still feels totally watchable and the characters are completely relatable. Most viewers will be familiar with the different games people wittingly or unwittingly play when they meet someone new, and the heartache of discovering that someone is not who you thought they were. Linda for example tells her best friend how happy she is to have met someone who isn’t playing any kind of angle, at precisely the same time as Steve is asking his friends exactly how he should play things with Linda!

There’s more than comedy here though – a completely unexpected development in Steve and Linda’s relationship hits them hard, only for a sudden and unforeseeable event to happen while they are coming to terms with their situation (fear of giving away spoilers prevents me from giving more details).

The acting is great – Kyra Sedgwick and (in particular) Bridget Fonda are believable and likeable. Matt Dillon provides a fair amount of comedy as the deluded wannabe rock star, and Campbell Scott is perfectly cast as Steve – he strikes the perfect note between completely ‘normal’ for want of a better word, and being charismatic enough to attract Linda.

Overall, this is a little gem of a movie – perfect if you want something entertaining, relatable and undemanding.

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Year of release: 1992

Director: Cameron Crowe

Writer: Cameron Crowe

Main cast: Matt Dillon, Campbell Scott, Kyra Sedgwick, Bridget Fonda

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“Joy in it’s purest form,” says the poster for this show – I think that’s an understatement. This show is simply delightful, and absolutely flawless.

For anyone who does not know the story, it is set in New York in the 1950s. Gambler Nathan Detroit (here played by Maxwell Caulfield) is trying to find a location for his floating craps game, but is struggling to find the$1000 dollars he needs to pay a local gangster the rent to use his location for the game. To add to his woes, Adelaide (Louise Dearman), Nathan’s fiancee of 14 years has got tired of waiting for them to get married and is putting the pressure on.

Enter compulsive gambler Sky Master (Richard Fleeshman), who Nathan sees as his ticket to $1000 – knowing that Sky can rarely resist a bet, Nathan bets him that Sky can’t take a girl of Nathan’s choosing to Havana for the night. The rub is that the girl that Nathan picks is Sarah Brown (Anna O’Byrne), a local missionary who has little time for gamblers and sinners, and is certainly not someone likely to fall for Sky…

I don’t mind admitting that I had extremely high expectations for this play – I love the film, which featured Marlon Brando as his most beautiful as Sky Masterson, and Frank Sinatra is fine voice as the seedy but loveable Nathan Detroit. This production exceeded all my hopes – I can honestly say that I loved every minute. The four main leads were all excellent- Sky is a character who is both something of a bad boy, but who is also a gentleman and reveals depth of character. Richard Fleeshman was perfect in the role – lovely to look at, with a super singing voice, and perfectly embodied the character of Sky. He was paired perfectly with Anna O’Byrne who had the most beautiful voice, and was wonderful as Sarah Brown.

Maxwell Caulfield and Loouise Dearman were also both excellent and extremely funny as hopeless gambler Nathan (who needs to be both exasperating to his long-suffering fiancee, and endearing to the audience) and ever hopeful Adelaide. In fact, were it not for the fact that the rest of the cast were so terrific, Louise Dearman would have stolen every scene. She has a great voice, spot-on comic timing and the warmth the character needs.

Special mention to Jack Edwards as Nicely-Nicely Johnson, who delighted the entire audience with his spectacular rendition of Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ The Boat – just one of the many musical numbers which featured splendid choreography, excellent singing and so much colour and energy that you couldn’t help but be swept along.

If there was one thing I could change about this show, it would be that I wish I had bought tickets for more than one performance. Simply fantastic on every level.

(For my review of the 1955 film, please click here.)

 

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This RSC production of Shakespeare’s delightful comedy (one of my personal all-time favourite plays) is nothing is not ambitious. As well as professional actors, it also features several amateur drama groups taking turns playing the rude mechanicals – themselves amateur actors – for a number of performances at a time. Schoolchildren from various schools also feature as fairies in the forest. Rehearsals with the amateur groups were often done via the internet rather than in person, so all in all definitely an unconventional way of putting a performance together.

Having played in Stratford initially, the play then toured the country before returning for another run at Stratford, which is where I was lucky enough to see it. So does the experiment work? Well…yes, most definitely.

This play actually incorporates three separate but interlocking stories – the young lovers Lysander and Hermia run away together to the forest, having been banned from marrying by her father, who wants her to marry another young man named Demetrius. Demetrius is in hot pursuit of the couple, but he himself is pursued by Helena, who is in love with him despite his lack of interest.

Meanwhile, fairy king Oberon and fairy queen Titania are at loggerheads and Oberon decides to cast a spell on her, which results in her falling in love with a most unexpected character…

And the rude mechanicals, a bunch of amateur performers are rehearsing a play which they hope to perform in front of Duke Theseus and his new bride Hippolyta at their wedding. But when Oberon’s right hand ‘man’, chief fairy Puck gets involved, events take a strange (and hilarious) turn.

First of all, a note about the Rude Mechanical actors – if anyone has any fears that amateur means not very good, then fear no more. The Tower Theatre company, who were the company on stage for the production we saw, were more than able to hold their own against the professionals in this production. The play within a play that the mechanicals perform is farcical and it must be hard to play at being incompetent. However, these actors completely won the audience over, and also generated some of the biggest laughs.

The staging is wonderful – with costumes and a set that suggest a 1940s period, minimal but very clever scenery and some wonderful jazz music provided by live musicians on either side of the stage, it is a visual delight.

I loved the four young lovers – Jack Holden, Mercy Ojelade, Chris Nayak and Laura Riseborough as Lysander, Hermia, Demetrius and Helena respectively are all wonderful. If I’m nitpicking I would perhaps say that Laura Riseborough delivered some of her lines so quickly that it was occasionally hard to understand what she was saying, but generally speaking all the scenes with the four of them (or any combination thereof) were extremely funny, particularly the aftermath of Puck mistakenly causing Lysander to fall in love with Helena, where Demetrius and Lysander face off against one another, while Hermia and Helena find themselves at loggerheads.

Chu Omambala was a terrific Oberon – slinky like a cat, with a melancholy demeanour (after all, he and his beloved Titania are having some serious relationship woes) – he cut a fine figure in his classy white suit. Ayesha Dharker is beautiful and radiant as said Titania, and I loved the chemistry between the pair at the end.

Another relationship with amazing chemistry was that of Oberon and Puck – played by Lucy Ellinson in a scene-stealing performance. Ellinson prances and dances her way about the stage, with wide-eyed mischief and playfulness. Truly, it’s hard to take your eyes off her when she is on-stage, as she channels 1920s silent film stars such as Charlie Chaplin with her exaggerated but graceful movements.

Overall, this was a hugely enjoyable production, and one which I would highly recommend to fans of Shakespeare, or indeed anyone with a passing interest.

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

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It may be easy to forget nowadays, but Liza Minnelli could stun an audience with her loveliness and her incredible dancing and singing. This film is proof of that.

Minnelli is Mavis Turner, a former Broadway dancer, who has moved to New York State and teaches a tap dancing class, made up of a group of very different women (Julie Walters, Jane Krakowski, Sheila McCarthy, Andrea Martin, Carol Woods, Ellen Green, Robyn Stevan) and including one man, Geoffrey (Bill Irwin). Shelley Winters is the stern pianist Mrs Fraser.

The class allows the group to bond and find confidence in themselves and each other, and when they are given a chance to star in a large stage show, they have to pull together to make sure that they put on a terrific performance, despite being convinced that they are not capable of doing it.

Meanwhile, each of them have their own personal problems to deal with and overcome.

I adored this film. Truly adored it. Liza Minnelli was not only lovely as Mavis, but blew me away with her stunning solo dance halfway through the film. The rest of the cast were also wonderful, especially the incredible Bill Irwin, as the shy Geoffrey.

For fans of tap dancing such as myself, this is a real treat, and the finale is a joy to be viewed and viewed again.

Highly, highly recommended.

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Year of release: 1991

Director: Lewis Gilbert

Writer: Richard Harris

Main cast: Liza Minnelli, Julie Walters, Shelley Winters, Bill Irwin, Carol Woods, Jane Krakowski, Sheila McCarthy, Andrea Martin, Robyn Stevan, Ellen Green

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