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?

Double Feature: Doctor Strange (2016) & A Little Chaos (2014)

Welcome to a much more star-studded double feature! It feels like I don’t watch enough mainstream films anymore but as I am trying to catch up with the few Marvel films that I haven’t seen, I landed on Doctor Strange a few weeks ago but just couldn’t find a worthy pairing for it until well, A Little Chaos the other day which is a period drama but still has the weight of a bigger film to match up. I am working on a few filns that are supposed to leave Netflix in June so those reviews should be coming up.

Doctor Strange (2016)

Doctor Strange

Director: Scott Derrickson

Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Tilda Swinton, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Mads Mikkelsen, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong, Michael Stuhlbarg, Benjamin Bratt, Scott Adkins

While on a journey of physical and spiritual healing, a brilliant neurosurgeon is drawn into the world of the mystic arts. – IMDB

I am not going to lie that I had my doubts about Doctor Strange, but it ended up being surprisingly good. I have my issues with Marvel that everyone else doesn’t always seem to have especially in terms of The Avengers and Loki. I find that Marvel movies in general suffer from weak villains who don’t have enough presence to make them threatening. But then can we really blame a superhero film because we know the named superhero will become victorious in the end. However, as much as I still dislike using a bunch of Western actors in source material Asian roles seems ridiculous, I honestly do love Tilda Swinton as an actress because she is unique and then the villain is Mads Mikkelsen who did a fairly decent job as well. To be fair, Doctor Strange is a fun role as Marvel injects a lot of humor in their franchise which is a good approach. Benedict Cumberbatch, known for his Sherlock Holmes role definitely had what it takes for it since those roles other than the deductive abilities swapped into a superhero abilities were quite relatable.

doctor strange

The action here was different mostly because it was about shifting and illusions, something like what you’d see in Inception. There are lots of great moments and some comedic moments to lighten up the mood. Apparently the world of MCU is always on extremes of being on the brink of disasters, luckily the heroes always find their strength to make it a little better and in Doctor Strange’s world and his manipulation of time, things can just reverse itself. I may sound sarcastic or maybe a little tired of superhero films, but Doctor Strange is okay. Its fun but nothing outstanding in the MCU realm. The feelings I have towards Doctor Strange are starting to feel lesser and lesser everyday as I start to feel it being forgettable. I enjoyed it more than I expected so that gets a lot of points there. Plus, that ending was all about setting up for a next film or at least an upcoming villain perhaps.

A Little Chaos (2014)

a little chaos

Director: Alan Rickman

Cast: Kate Winslet, Matthias Schoenaerts, Alan Rickman, Stanley Tucci, Helen McCrory, Jennifer Ehle

Two talented landscape artists become romantically entangled while building a garden in King Louis XIV’s palace at Versailles. – IMDB

I’m going to be honest that I love believe that Alan Rickman is a talented man however, I have a lot to catch up in his filmography. With that said, it came as a surprise to me that A Little Chaos was his work as a director. I’m a big fan of period dramas. One of the main selling points is the costume design. In A Little Chaos, it delivers very well especially highlighting the contrast between Kate Winslet’s Sabine De Barra being her normal non-royalty outfits where she gets dirty and they are very basic compared to say the extravagant French royalty with their wigs and big dresses. Matching with the beautiful costume designs is of course my favorite thing about period dramas and that is the score. From the moment the score started in A Little Chaos, I was in love with it. It was so beautiful and matched the scenes so very well. Kudos to Peter Gregson on a great job!

a little chaos

Another really great point of A Little Chaos has to be for those beautiful period drama settings. In this case, it is set in France and the King’s Gardens of Versaille. I’ve been to Versaille back in 1994 and to this day, I still remember a lot of the beautiful environments there and I was just 8 years old back then. This movie has a lot of focus on the whole gardening aspect and the passion for it and how this brought together the two main characters. The cinematography and production set of it all is done really well. Aside from this, the cast here is lead primarily by some familiar faces like the ever so elegant and talented Kate Winslet who is stunning as this female gardener who breaks the societal norms of this period. Paired with her is the also very talented Matthias Schoenaerts who I love so very much not just for his charming appearance but his acting chops. Of course, acting as both director and the King Louis XIV is Alan Rickman and well, we also somehow always get these little supporting roles with Stanley Tucci. The cast here does deliver quite charming and beautiful performances for their characters.

Now, where A Little Chaos loses its appeal is really in the story. For most of it, it feel disjointed and to be honest, it can be boring because there isn’t anything too extreme about it. The romance is quite subtle where its just exchanges of glances and small conversations. It jumps to events that happen that don’t really seem to make any big differences but to bring in some circumstance for people to meet up. There is never any huge turning point that happens. I know what was meant to be that moment but it never feels like it had enough build-up to make it worth it. It just felt rather flat and disjointed and if it wasn’t for these charming talented cast on screen dazzling us with their performances, this would have been a snoozefest. Sad to say, but if the script was a little better, the outstanding character created for Kate Winslet’s character Sabine de Barra and the hints of chemistry between her and Matthias Schoenaerts who plays Andre Le Notre, the King’s gardener would have been quite the romance to watch. Still, it fell short of its potential.

Netflix A-Z: Far From the Madding Crowd (2015)

Hello Period Drama! Its been a while, hasn’t it? I love period dramas.  Love them to absolute bits. I’ve read some pretty good reviews on Far from the Madding Crowd last year so I was waiting to get access to this one.  There was no doubt when I embarked on this 2015 catch-up phase that this would be the F selection. I haven’t seen a lot of Carey Mulligan but from what I’ve seen, she is rather talented. As some of you may know, I’ve read very little Classics so I haven’t actually read Far from the Madding Crowd before or even heard of it. That being said, I knew nothing about the story. I still believe that is the best way to see a movie 😉

Let’s check it out!

Far from the Madding Crowd (2015)

far from the madding crowd

Director: Thomas Vinterberg

Cast: Carey Mulligan, Matthias Schoenaerts, Tom Sturridge, Juno Temple, Jessica Barden, Michael Sheen

In Victorian England, the independent and headstrong Bathsheba Everdene (Carey Mulligan) attracts three very different suitors: Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoenaerts), a sheep farmer; Frank Troy (Tom Sturridge), a reckless Sergeant; and William Boldwood (Michael Sheen), a prosperous and mature bachelor.-IMDB

 Far from the Madding Crowd is a really well-crafted character development sort of romance.  While I can’t compare the classic to this adaptation, I truly appreciated it in a whole.  It had beautiful music and great cinematography.  It seems like we are watching Bathsheba Everdene grow in all her independent manners, and while it seems like she is on top of her feelings and able to control her own emotions and motivations, we know whether her choices are good or bad.  I think that is what is so great about classic stories.  It makes us involved in a truly simple journey of a character, at the same time, we are smarter than the character as she learns through bad decisions and triumph with her when she wins, except in a situation like this one, we all root for one character or another who we want her to be with.  It was no doubt who I wanted her to be with and that the story was giving us all the signs that he was the best man even if he wasn’t comparable to the other two in other qualities or accomplishments.

far from the madding crowd

With such a character-driven story, the cast has to be absolutely competent and I’m happy to say that they are. Carey Mulligan is a fine actress and has the elegance to portray a character that is strong and independent in a world, especially that of the farming business where its ruled by men like Bathsheba Everdene.  She has the motivations and toughness to make her own decisions.  However, she is still a lady and there are moments when the character drove me a little crazy but made me admire her stand.  There were realistic moments where while I knew it was a bad decision (if you’ve seen it, you’ll know what I’m talking about), I could understand why she would do that. Over the almost close to 2 hours of runtime, there were a million feelings and thoughts that ran through my head as I grew to really connect with her character.

far from the madding crowd

In a way, what makes Far from the Madding Crowd so great was the relationship it took the time to build between Bathsheba and Gabriel Oak.  He was the first man that proposed to her and I always mean to go back to see there was an actual rejection on her part. Gabriel Oak is played by Matthias Schoenaerts and I’m telling you, this man is amazing.  He embodies the character of Gabriel Oak and is just that really amazing man who is right there quietly. I’m swooning, I’m sorry. He is just so perfect.  All the moments he shares with Bathsheba even if its just discussing or talking is really fun or mesmerizing, whatever the word is for them.  The chemistry is through the roof for them and I loved it so much.

far from the madding crowd

What is excellent about this movie is that every character by its outstanding cast has a different style and charisma to give them each an individuality in their characters.  It helps us determine whether Tom Sturridge’s Frank Troy is truly reckless and/or broken.  Or whether Michael Sheen’s William Boldwood is respectable and/or hopelessly in love. It gives them traits and faults just like Matthias Schoenaerts’ Gabriel Oak is also human because he also has faults..  Who is suitable for Bathsheba, right? When and how does she determine whether she needs a husband? What I’m trying to say is that a great movie makes us care for the characters and I definitely did.  In the last scenes, I was all sorts of emotional (partially because I’m been super stressed and tired so

Overall, Far from the Madding Crowd is a great period drama.  The way the cast does a fine job at portraying the character that the story itself builds with a great performance by Carey Mulligan as Bathsheba and Matthias Schoenaerts as Gabriel Oak.  Their chemistry was absolutely captivating to watch.  With the lovely music and beautiful location and cinematography, this movie was an absolute pleasure to watch from start to finish!

Have you seen Far from the Madding Crowd? What did you think of it? If you’ve read the classic book, how does it compare? 

Resolutions 2015: Anna Karenina

No post today up till now?
Yes! Thats because I was waiting for Cara at Silver Screen Serenade’s Resolution series to go up. Today was my contribution.

A huge thanks to Cara for thinking up this genius idea and putting it together. My choice for Resolutions is a movie I have owned in my collection for over 2 years and have never found the moment to watch until this series came around. That movie is period drama and movie adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s novel with the same name, Anna Karenina. Head over to Silver Screen Serenade and check it out. I did enjoy it quite a bit and you can see why.

While you are there, remember to check out the other Resolutions series posts from other bloggers and remember to look around a little. Cara writes amazing reviews of movies, TV and has thought up a few segments that are pure awesomeness! 🙂

Happy Wednesday!!

Silver Screen Serenade

anna karenina resolutions

Another day, another film resolution conquered! That’s right, I’ve got another guest here today for my Resolutions series, which is going swimmingly so far! Today’s resolution fulfiller? That would be the lovely Miss Kim of Tranquil Dreams, a blog which is officially celebrating its FOURTH ANNIVERSARY!! How awesome is that?! Congrats, Kim!!

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