Valentine’s Double Feature: The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society (2017) & How Do You Know (2010)

We are going along quite nice as we reach the 4th Valentine’s Double Feature. This time we’re at the G and H selection and both are very much choices out of the left field. Sometimes, these choices that show up like this are full of surprises. I’m going into this with a lot of optimism even though one of the two don’t seem to have good reviews.

Lets check it out!

The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society (2017)

guernsey literary

Director: Mike Newell

Cast: Lily James, Michael Huisman, Glen Powell, Matthew Goode, Tom Courtenay, Jessica Brown Findlay, Katherine Parkinson, Penelope Wilton

In the aftermath of World War II, a writer forms an unexpected bond with the residents of Guernsey Island when she decides to write a book about their experiences during the war. – IMDB

I love period dramas. They really are incredibly fantastic to watch. With an odd title like The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, its hard to really grasp how to take this movie (adapted from a novel). The movie does a great job and setting up how the society started right at the beginning with the World War II and the serious tone in that. I think what works here is that its more a drama with a bigger story than the romance as Lily James’ character Juliet finds out more about their story and the pains that WWII has brought for them as well as Guernsey.

However, looming in the background is a wonderful love story. One that starts with someone who reaches out to someone else with the same passion and finding where you belong . In many ways, Juliet had a past that isn’t delved into too much but enough for the viewers to figure out what she wants is a place that feels secure and belongs: a family and while its about her finding it in like-minded people in the Society, she also learns that from her interaction with Michael Huisman’s Dawsey. They have so much natural chemistry together and there weren’t even any romantic gestures and that is why I love period dramas which have a lot of things written between the lines and its so classy and elegant to watch.

On an ending note, as Michael Huisman pops up on more things I am watching, I am starting to find him more and more charming especially with the roles he takes.

How Do You Know (2010)

how do you know

Director (and writer): James L. Brooks

Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Owen Wilson, Paul Rudd, Jack Nicholson, Kathryn Hahn

After being cut from the U.S.A. softball team and feeling a bit past her prime, Lisa finds herself evaluating her life and in the middle of a love triangle, as a corporate guy in crisis competes with her current, baseball-playing beau. – IMDB

How Do You Know is a rather split one. On one hand, I liked it a lot for the characters but on the other hand, the story itself and the execution had its obvious issues which made it really weak. For once in this marathon, I have to say that the characters here all had their roles that worked for them, especially the main leads Reese Witherspoon and especially Paul Rudd.

I’ll jump straight into talking about the characters because it is one of the points that worked here. Can I say that Paul Rudd is a great actor? He always makes an average movie better. In this case, his character George is the one that works the best especially because of how awkward he is and somehow that works well with Reese Witherspoon’s character Lisa who doesn’t really know what and where she should be after she pretty much loses her career when she is cut from the team and its these two’s difficulties that bring them together because it brings out the essence of how they can be themselves with each other and accept each other without any pretending and how honest they are at the get-go.

Of course, the cast here has its weak links. Owen Wilson is always a hit and miss actor for me and in this one, I think I just hated the character that he played, rather than the interpretation. Anyone playing that role wouldn’t have sat well with me because in the end, the story didn’t quite hinge on him and if its to say that the character Matty is in love, its not easy to link it to the story. In that sense, it reminds me of a previous movie I watched in this marathon, Don’t Go Breaking My Heart. Aside from that, we also get Jack Nicholson who plays George’s father who supposedly is in denial. Jack Nicholson, well, he’s Jack Nicholson. He brings a lot to his character which only has a very little part but in some ways, its the lingering presence of the father and son relationship here that is highlighted.

Talking about that, this hinges on the last point I want to make about How Do You Know which was a turning point for me. While this one has some great moments between Paul Rudd and Reese Witherspoon and how their love built through something like acquaintances and friends through hardships and the support they have for each other which just worked along with the honesty and it works really well between them. Its the added aspect of all these hardships and other relationships from father and son relationship that adds new angles and dimensions but not too much that it feel disposable although sometimes it did feel a little disjointed. However, at the end of the day, this one is alright.

That’s it for this double feature!
Looking at two random choices for the G and H selection which both had its own charm!
Have you seen these movies? What did you think of them?

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Halloween 2018: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016)

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016)

pride and prejudice and zombies

Director (and writer): Burr Steers

Cast: Lily James, Sam Riley, Bella Heathcote, Ellie Bamber, Millie Brady, Suki Waterhouse, Douglas Booth, Sally Phillips, Charles Dance

Five sisters in 19th century England must cope with the pressures to marry while protecting themselves from a growing population of zombies. – IMDB

Parody novels seems to be a fairly new thing in the last few years. Its always risky business to mess with the Classics but the initial idea of adding zombies to anything usually works. Think about when I looked at the children’s novels collection the past few years called Fables of the Undead. Jane Austen, particularly Pride and Prejudice, is particularly close to my heart, as I’d imagine it is for many people especially with the strong-headed girl and the very misunderstood Mr. Darcy which gives a lot of the charms. As parody novel goes, I’ve never read this source material but in my mind, for this to work, there had to be a fine balance on keeping the original ideas and adding enough of a twist of balancing out how to integrate the zombies logically and well, Lizzie and Darcy. Does it live up to it? I’d say half and half.

pride and prejudice and zombies

Suffice to say that I think the story itself retains a lot of the original flow of events. It works for the fans of Jane Austen but the twist really is in the nature of the characters especially how the Bennet girls are trained in the high arts of fighting and weaponry as they live in this desolate world of zombies taking over the world. Was the world always like this? Why are they trained so strongly if not? There’s a lot of questions here of the set-up that leave a little to be desired. It would be what sets it apart but its really how the characters integrate and how the zombies can live in hiding until tasting human flesh that they truly turn and how the zombies work that give the extra twist. It also obviously pulls in the sly Wickham into the equation. Darcy, of course, is the no BS highly skilled fighter. The landscape is a little gloomier. The question is whether its set itself apart and the twist at times feels like its slightly forced. I like the fact that they kept to the script and a lot of the Pride and Prejudice popular stuff is kept in but it just felt like a very small change and I’m not sure if I’m completely down with the zombies aspect. Its probably why the film, after putting this together is categorized as an action thriller and not a horror (Oops..but zombies count for Halloween).

pride and prejudice and zombies

As for Darcy, I have nothing against Sam Riley. Honestly, I’m not sure what else I’ve seen him in but I didn’t really feel like his Darcy gave me anything special. He was just odd. Darcy is odd and awkward and misunderstood but somehow, maybe its because the Darcy’s before him are so iconic that I couldn’t really get into his character as Darcy. On the other hand, Douglas Booth has a thing for these kinds of roles. I’ve seen him before in a similar one with 2013’s Romeo and Juliet (Review). I haven’t quite decided whether I like him or not but as Bingley, somehow it felt like it worked.

All disappointments aside, I loved the fight scenes (slow motion or not) and the strength of the Bennet girls and how they enter the scene full of character. The setting and landscape and the tone to create the environment works well and its a nice piece to watch especially in the final act of the film. However, it was slightly lacklustre. Whenever I watch a movie like this, I want to catch up with the source material. Maybe it captures a little more than what was translated to the big screen. Its dangerous territory to tread and it just fell short of my expectations. Sad because it had all the elements that I like a lot.

Have you seen Pride and Prejudice and Zombies?

Cinderella (2015)

Cinderella is the best girls night out movie and that’s exactly what we planned weeks in advance.  We all rushed out of work and met up at the theatres on Tuesday night. Its felt like its been a while since I’ve been to the theatres and I’m wondering if I’m actually on track with my one monthly theatre visit goal.  I can’t remember and it doesn’t matter. If you missed my anticipated list for 2015, this is one of them 🙂

Lets check out Cinderella!

Cinderella (2015)

cinderella 2015

Director: Kenneth Branagh

Cast: Lily James, Richard Madden, Cate Blanchett, Sophie McShera, Holliday Grainger, Stellan Skarsgard, Helena Bonham Carter

When her father unexpectedly passes away, young Ella finds herself at the mercy of her cruel stepmother and her daughters. Never one to give up hope, Ella’s fortunes begin to change after meeting a dashing stranger.- IMDB

Does Cinderella still have its magic after so many years? How about after turning it (like many other fairy tales) into a live action? I went into this movie pretty much with those two questions lingering in my mind.  I’ve skipped out on a lot of live reimaginings of fairy tales and all that sort of stuff but Cinderella is possibly one of the most popular and has a ton of movies inspired by them.  Even the not so at par ones tend to make me fall in love one way or another. So how does this 2015 version fair?

This live version Cinderella is almost an exact imagining of the Disney animated version that I love a lot.  It has the fairy godmother, the glass slippers, a gorgeous blue gown, mice, pumpkins, evil stepmother and two untalented and not very appealing stepsisters and of course, the Prince.  The only thing that;s different might be that Cinderella starts out as Ella and that we see her parents and living out her mother’s wishes to “have courage and be kind.” Even though you probably know exactly what is going to happen next, the magical appeal of Cinderella is still as apparent as ever, infecting me with lots of laughter and love and all those awesome feelings.

Cinderella 2015

This Cinderella may not have the songs in the animated version, but the soundtrack and sweeping score was absolutely beautiful. I’d buy it in a heartbeat and listen to it all the time.  It added to the magic.  While we are on the magic, the CGI was gorgeous, enforcing the whole enchanting experience.  That was a huge part in making this as wonderful as it was.  Just the whole fairy godmother sequence, transforming and preparing Cinderella for the Royal Ball was maybe THE best part ever! I’m sure a ton of you caught this but Cinderella keeps singing Lavender Blue Dilly Dilly and that is also a song from a 1940s Disney film.  I’ve never actually heard the whole song but it was kind of nice to see it here.

Cinderella 2015

Live action also means we can talk about the acting.  We already are well familiar with Cinderella’s characters.  First of all, no Disney princess story is memorable without the right villain.  In this one, the evil stepmother, Lady Tremaine, played by Cate Blanchett was stunning and so mean.  Those expressions and tones for her dialogue was so convincing. At the same time, this one also added a little extra for her character as to why she’s the way she is.  As small as it is, I like this version of the evil stepmother.  Nothing made me laugh more than how the stepsisters are actually just extremely spoilt and untalented. The idea of bringing back the singing off tune and saying stupid things really works for Drizella and Anastasia because thats the character we know, simply shallow and undesirable.  Oh, and their outfits don’t make you laugh and cringe at the same time.  I loved it!

Cinderella 2015

My last point to talk about are the couple: Ella and the Prince.  That is the essence of the story.  Before the movie, one of my girl friends was telling me how she didn’t find Richard Madden handsome.  In fact, sometimes the Prince isn’t that handsome, the person himself maybe, but its the character the he embodies that we fall in love with.  I’m not going to discuss whether I find Richard Madden handsome but I guess I’m simple as well but that man has a lovely accent in his voice and the way he captured the Prince stole my heart from the first time him and Ella met.  Suffice to say, I bought his Prince very much.  To be honest, I’ve never watched either Richard Madden or Lily James before this.  No, I haven’t seen Game of Thrones and no, I haven’t gotten to Season 5 of Downton Abbey (before you ask). Lily James as Ella kind of bothered me when I was watching the trailer.  I wasn’t completely sold on it but as the movie went along, she grew on me.  It may be because she’s so simple and pure-hearted yet courageous and strong.

cinderella 2015

And these glass slippers! OMG! 🙂

Regardless of the reasons, Cinderella is a simple love story and this version remembers to keep the elements of the original animated version except giving us a live version full of wonderful performances from cast.  It introduces lots of sharp colors, breathtaking location/set, beautiful CGI and an enchanting score to enforce the magic.  Sure, its not exactly as memorable as the animated Disney Classic but there’s still a lot to love about this. I’d gladly watch this again and get the Blu-ray when it comes out.  My suggestion, if fairy tales are your cup of tea, head out to the theatres to see it because its worth your time and money just to capture the true beauty of it.

Fun fact (paraphrased from the Cineplex magazine, March/April 2015): More than 250 metres of fabric was used in the making of the blue gown worn by Lily James.  Three time Oscar winning costume designer Sandy Powell also used more than 10,000 Swarovski crystals and three miles of stitching to complete the dress.  Impressed? Multiply those numbers by nine.  Nine copies of the ball gown were created for the shoot.

Have you seen Cinderella? Are you planning to? Just out of the blue, which Disney princess do you like best?