Weekend Viewing Roundup: Sam Riley, Alternative Austen & Man Up (2015) review

I cannot fix the hour or the spot, or the look or the words which lay the foundation…I was in the middle when I knew it had began…

That was a quote from Mr. Darcy in Pride & Prejudice & Zombies and that pretty much applies to how I feel the same way about the actor playing him… Sam Riley.

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I fall even more under Riley’s spell now… [le sigh]

Ok, so yeah, about that weekend roundup, well the past couple of weeks has been filled with quite a few Sam Riley movies: Control (2007), Maleficent (2014), Byzantium (2012) and Franklyn (2008). I didn’t get to see Brighton Rock (2010) yet but hopefully later this week. I’m astonished at his chameleonic ability as an actor, my appreciation post on him will be quite massive let me tell you.


I did see one new release this past week, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, and got a chance to chat w/ the author of the book it’s based on, Kim Barker. Review & interview of that coming next week.

Ok, so these are my weekend viewing roundup, starting with…

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016)

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So this is the first 2016 movie I saw twice on the big screen… and I could’ve gone for a third if it’s still playing for another weekend. Alas, I’d have to settle for all the fun gifs and clips on Tumblr until the Bluray comes out. As you may’ve read in my review, I bloody love this movie and I enjoyed it even more the second time around. Sam Riley & Lily James are now my favorite Darcy & Lizzie pairing amongst the plethora of P&P screen adaptations.

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Austenland (2014)

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Ok so naturally, watching an alternative Jane Austen movie makes me want to re-watch one of my faves from a couple of years ago. As far an Austen-inspired films go, I actually think this one is even sillier than PPZ movie, believe it or not. Some of the supporting characters are so out there and freakishly bizarre that it made me cringe at times (though that Captain East is one spectacular eye candy). Jennifer Coolidge is a hoot but she went waaay over the top at times, yes even by her standards. But the romance of Darcy & Jane (JJ Feild & Keri Russell) is lovely and of course all the misunderstandings and repressed emotions are all the stuff Austen movies are made of. (my full review)
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Man Up (2015)

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This British rom-com has a rather unconventional pairing – Simon Pegg & Lake Bell, and that’s the reason I rented it. Bell played a single woman who inadvertently *stole* a stranger’s blind date, and the film took place over the course of a single night. Bell is a natural comedienne and here she gets to show her comedic chops, and also do a pretty convincing British accent.

It’s a pretty fun rom-com even though it doesn’t always avoid the trappings of the genre and is ultimately predictable, but the two likable leads made the movie feels fresh and genuinely funny. Rory Kinnear, who I often see in more serious movies so far, is so hilariously unhinged as Bell’s not-so-secret admirer. I LOVE the London scenery, both during the day and night, which adds to the film’s charm. The finale could’ve been a bit tighter and less verbose, but I think overall this movie is well worth checking out.

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Well that’s my weekend recap. So what did YOU watch this weekend? Anything good?

Weekend Viewing Roundup & Musings on BAFTA Awards 2014

Hi everyone! Did you have a nice weekend? It’s another long weekend for me as I got Monday off for President’s Day. It couldn’t have come at a more perfect time as Winter storm is brewing as I’m typing this, glad I didn’t have to drive in this Wintry condition.

Before I get to my thoughts on BAFTA, here’s a summary of what I saw this weekend:

How’s your Valentine weekend? Hope you didn’t have to endure see Winter’s Tale. If you’ve read my review, then consider it a warning. I know it’s early, but it could easily end up being one of the biggest duds of 2014.

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On V-day, my hubby and I opted for a simple dinner and a movie, home cinema to be exact. I’ve been wanting to re-watch Austenland since I saw it last August and so that’s what we did. I still enjoyed it and my hubby liked it, too, there’s a reason I love my man 😉

On Saturday night, we went to see RoboCop, a second time for my hubby as he went with Ted last Monday. He liked it well enough he didn’t mind seeing it again with me. Y’know what, I quite enjoyed it. It’s not as violent as the first one, and it’s not an all-out action movie either. In fact, there’s quite a lot of backstory for the character that made me care about the ‘man inside a machine.’ There’s a lot of heart in this reboot, the humanity aspect as well as his relationship with his family is explored quite well I think. Joel Kinnaman is pretty good in the lead role in that he’s got a commanding presence and effortlessly likable. I might actually give this 3.5/5 if I were to review it, and I agree with Ted that Gary Oldman is my favorite performer in the ensemble, he just always elevates everything he’s in.

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I completely missed seeing this LIVE yesterday. I was out and about that by the time I realized BAFTA’s on, it’s already too late. So this morning I was playing catch up on the winners via The Guardian. Let’s start with the acting honors:

Best Actor: Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
Best Actress: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Best Supporting Actor: Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle

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Thrilled to see Chiwetel Ejiofor and Cate Blanchett in the Best Leading Actor/Actress category. Both did a superb performance in 12 Years a Slave and Blue Jasmine respectively. I had been rooting for Sandra Bullock before I saw the Woody Allen film, but once I saw Cate’s performance, there’s no doubt in my mind that she should be sweeping all the awards. Classy Cate paid a tribute to Philip Seymour Hoffman … “Phil, your monumental talent, generosity and unflinching quest for truth in art and life will be missed by so many people. You raised the bar continually so very, very high and all we can do in your absence is try to continually raise the bar. Phil, buddy, this is for you, you bastard. I hope you’re proud.” [per Deadline] We truly missed a great talent, but it really took one to know one.

Congrats to Barkhad Abdi, what a year it’s been for the former Minneapolis limo driver! Though I think he did a fine job opposite Tom Hanks in Captain Phillips, I had wished that Daniel Brühl would get the honor. Same with Sally Hawkins who should win instead of Jennifer Lawrence who’s absent from the festivities. I’m more disappointed in that than Brühl not winning. I’m REALLY hoping the Academy does right by Hawkins and give her the well-deserved honor.

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Oh… one of my top 3 favorite British Dames Helen Mirren was honored the BAFTA Fellowship Award, yay!! I LOVE that Prince William joked that he should call her ‘Granny,’ referring to her award-winning portrayal in The Queen. I read about her charming speech in that she offered her gratitude to a great teacher who encouraged her to be an actor.

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Now to the question of Best Film of the Year.

Best Film: 12 Years a Slave
Best Director: Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity
Best British Film: Gravity

Seems that there still is no clear winner and come Oscar I think it’ll still come down to a thriller set in space and a slavery drama. Interesting that there’s a Best Film and Best British Film category, which went to 12 Years a Slave and Gravity respectively. As quoted by Deadline, Alfonso Cuarón said backstage that, “There are rules that make a film eligible for Best British Film. Gravity definitely has all the requirements, except a couple of Mexicans that came here — legally! — and a couple of American stars. It was shot in this country, developed in this country, and with cutting-edge technology developed by British artists.” I have no qualms about the eligibility stuff, obviously the BAFTA deems it eligible and that’s that. Gravity deserves all the kudos, it won six out of the possible 11 noms, including Best Original Score, Cinematography (Emmanuel Lubezki), Visual Effects, Sound AND Best Director honor for Alfonso Cuarón. It’s my number 1 film of the year so I’d be happy if it sweeps the Oscars as well!  

Other BAFTA winners I’m thrilled about: 

Best Documentary: The Act of Killing
Best Animated Film: Frozen
Best Production Design The Great Gatsby
Best Costumes: The Great Gatsby

BAFTA_JoshuaOppenheimerHuge congrats to Joshua Oppenheimer for winning Best Documentary!! It’s the only documentary that I included in my Top 10 films of the year, and Joshua was gracious enough to grant me an interview. I told him I would be rooting for him come award season, so I’m super thrilled that he’s also up for an Oscar! I love that he dedicated his award to his anonymous crew, “I dedicate this award to them. This film couldn’t be made without people who risked their safety and changed their careers to work on it. Professors, human rights leaders. … They stopped everything they were doing to work on the film, knowing they couldn’t take credit for their work.”  [per Deadline]

Yay for FROZEN, another one of my Top 10 favorites! It’s no contest they will win Best Animated Film at the Oscar, it’s a shoo-in at this point. The production design and costumes of The Great Gatsby are definitely the major highlights of the film so kudos to Catherine Martin! Seems that she’s gotten far more honors in her husband Baz Luhrmann‘s films than Baz himself.

So this is the last major award ceremony before the Oscars on March 2nd. BRING. IT. ON!


So what did you see this weekend? Thoughts on the BAFTA winners?

10 Favorite Romantic Films Directed by Women

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Firstly, HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY, everyone! I wish you love, good health and good movies… today and every single day of the year 😀

Now, this list is long overdue, but lately I’ve been thinking about all the romantic films that I love… and you know what, a lot of them are directed by female directors! When I mean romantic, it doesn’t always mean a romance genre or rom-com, though many of them certainly are in this category, but it could be from other genres so long as there is some kind of love story involving the protagonist. As with list of this kind, obviously it’s not complete, there are a bunch from female filmmakers I still haven’t seen yet, i.e. Across the Universe, After the Wedding, Monsoon Wedding, etc. That’s where YOU fellow bloggers and dear readers come in, I ask that you recommend one or two of your own picks.

1. Austenland (2013) | Jerusha Hess (full review)

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I know the critics aren’t fond of this but I had such a blast watching this. The entire theater seems to have a good time as well, even the male moviegoers around me were laughing constantly. It’s a Disneyland-type resort for Jane Austen fans, filled with one hilarious scenario after another. I’m not saying it’s a perfect movie, some of the mindless slapstick stuff are indeed cringe-worthy, but I was caught up in its fluffy buoyant spirit, and the ending is pure escapist romance any Darcy fan would appreciate. All things considered, it’s a pretty good debut from Jerusha Hess who was a writer of Napoleon Dynamite and Nacho Libre.

2. Bride & Prejudice (2004) | Gurinder Chadha

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Another Austen-related movie that offers a fun twist to the classic period drama. I first saw Chadha’s Bend It Like Beckham which was fun, but I REALLY love this one and Aishwarya Rai is absolutely stunning. Yes she’s obviously too gorgeous to play the supposedly plain-looking Elizabeth Bennett-inspired character Lalita, but she made it work somehow. Martin Henderson is surprisingly endearing as Mr. Darcy, his dimples made me forgive his rather stiff acting style, ahah. If you need a mood-lifting movie, I can’t recommend this one enough! Watch out for the Snake Dance scene 😉

3. Dear Frankie | Shona Auerbach (full review)

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Ok, this is not a romantic film per se but the relationship between Frankie’s mother and the Stranger alone is enough to make this one eligible for this list. Emily Mortimer has a scorching chemistry with Gerry Butler [in one of my all-time favorite roles] despite their rather icy first meeting that’s not exactly a *meet-cute* variety. But man, that doorway scene… slo-burn romance doesn’t get more tantalizing than this. I also love that the ending is open-ended which makes it even more intriguing. Not sure why British director Shona Auerbach hasn’t made another film since. Now if only Butler could find another script as good as this, likely buried under a pile of rubbish he’s constantly picking on lately 😦

4. Little Women (1994) | Gillian Armstrong

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I love this story of four sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March. The cast is fabulous, including a young and vivacious Christian Bale (before he went to the brooding and dark side) and Gabriel Byrne as dashing professor Friedrich Bhaer. On top of the sweet and poignant love story of the four sisters, it’s also a warm celebration of family as they endure trying times in times of war. This reminds me I need to check out more works by miss Armstrong, most notably Mrs. Soffel and Oscar & Lucinda.

5. Lost in Translation (2003) | Sofia Coppola

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I’ve only seen two Sofia Coppola films so far but I think this would likely remain my favorite. I’ve always been fond of unlikely pairings in movies… a faded movie star and a neglected young wife hits it off as their paths crossed in a foreign land. The Tokyo backdrop gives the film a quirky yet strangely melancholic mood that works well for the story. I can see that it’s not a film for everyone as my friends have said it bored ’em to tears but I find it delightful and hilarious.

6. Return to Me (2000) | Bonnie Hunt 

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I’ve dedicated a post for this a couple of years ago and it pains me that a lot of people still haven’t seen this. I’ve re-watched it recently and I’m still in love with it. The story starts out pretty sad but not in a depressing kind of way, in fact, you want these two characters to find love again after what they’ve been through. Thank you Bonnie Hunt for making an unabashedly romantic movie that’s genuinely heartfelt, enchanting and funny. I love the effortless chemistry between David Duchovny and Minnie Driver, and the supporting cast of James Belushi, David Alan Grier, Carol O’Connor and miss Hunt herself are delightful.

“When she met you, her heart beat truly for the first time. Perhaps it was meant to be with you always.”

Oh that line gets me every time. You’ll know why when you see the film. I also have to mention the lovely soundtrack with the likes of Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. In fact the movie is named after Martin’s song of the same name.

7. Sleepless In Seattle (1993) | Nora Ephron

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Oh how I miss Nora Ephron. This is the first film of hers I saw and I fell in love with her witty dialog and fun but relatable characters. Of course the genius is in the casting of Tom Hanks & Meg Ryan, even when the two protagonist barely have a screen together, we are so invested in them and really root for them to be together. I have seen this countless times and I also fall in love with the city it’s set in, not to mention the timeless music that fits the film so perfectly. The supporting cast is wonderful, even Hanks’ own wife Rita Wilson has a scene-stealing hilarious moment when describing the finale of An Affair to Remember. This movie is chock-full of memorable scenes!

8. Water (2005) | Deepa Mehta

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This is the last film of Mehta’s Elements Trilogy, set in 1938 when India was still under British rule. The film deals with a heart-wrenching topic of gender inequality for women, especially widows, who must live their lives abandoned in an ashram. There is so much cultural and political depth to this film that was tough to process at times, but it’s definitely worth a watch as it’s such a powerful and beautiful story. There’s a theme of unlikely friendship and forbidden romance, especially the relationship between a beautiful young widow Kalyani (Lisa Ray), who’s forced to prostitution to support the ashram, and Narayan, an idealistic follower of Ghandi from a higher caste. Mehta’s films are rife with controversy, there were intense protests when she was filming this that she had to relocate to Sri Lanka to work on this film. It deservedly earned an Oscar nominated for Best Language Film.

9. What Women Want (2000) | Nancy Meyers

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Regardless of what one may think about his personal life, Mel Gibson was undoubtedly one of Hollywood’s bonafide movie star in his prime. He can effortlessly do action, drama AND comedy. This role shows his movie star charm as a chauvinistic advertising exec who gains an ability to hear women’s thoughts following a fluke accident. Ok so the premise is wacky but this part fantasy, part war-of-the-sexes comedy does deliver the laughs and there’s actually more substance to the story than meets the eye. Helen Hunt is utterly believable in the tough but vulnerable female exec and makes for a great sparring partner for Gibson.

10. You’ve Got Mail (1998) | Nora Ephron

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Another winner from miss Ephron. It has the spirit of rom-coms of the 40s and 50s like Howard Hawks’ Bringing Up Baby or even Vincente Minnelli’s Designing Woman with the two eventual lovebirds’ bantering with each other. Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks reunited five years after Sleepless in Seattle and actually share lots of screen time together this time around.

I actually saw the original movie it’s based on, The Shop Around the Corner, and though I enjoyed that one, I didn’t love it as much as this one. Again, I love the witty script, thanks to the Ephron sisters Nora and Delia, and of course the two leads are as charming as ever. It’s also beautifully shot in New York City, which almost become a character in itself, especially during the gorgeous Christmas season.

Honorable Mentions:

• Mansfield Park | Patricia Rozema
Top10MansfieldParkThis is a serious oversight on my part, it should’ve been on my MAIN top 10 list instead of Honorable Mentions. Thank you Dave for mentioning it, I can’t believe I’ve forgotten about that one. It’s one of my favorite period dramas of all time, I LOVE the tentative love story between Fannie Price (Frances O’Connor) & Edmund Bertram (Jonny Lee Miller). It’s a darker tone of a Jane Austen adaptation as Fannie challenges Edmund’s father of his dealings with slavery in the Regency era, but ultimately, it’s a lovely and compelling love story that holds a special place in my heart.

• Bend It Like Beckham | Gurinder Chadha
• Bright Star | Jane Campion
• ‘Bastille’ segment in Paris, Je T’aime | Isabel Coixet



• The Holiday | Nancy Meyers


This Cockeyed.com article shows a great list of female filmmakers and their movies. We obviously need more of them in Hollywood!


So is your favorite romantic-themed movie on this list? Please do add YOUR own picks that you’d recommend!

First Question of the Year: Which 2013 movie(s) do you appreciate but wouldn’t watch again?

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It’s been a bitterly c-cc-cold start to the new year here in my neck of the woods! I know I seem to be obsessing over the weather a lot but really, you’d understand when the *high* only reaches -2˚F (that’s -18˚ C!) and I’m super excited that Friday is going to hit 20 degrees (woot woot!) Yeah, it’s pathetic!

But hey, it’s not a weather blog so let’s talk about movies! As I’ve been writing some reviews of 2013 releases the past few days (stay tuned for my review of Nebraska later this week), it made me think of how I view some of those films now that it’s sunk in. More often than not, the reaction right after seeing the movie is pretty different than how I feel days or weeks later. There are some films I rate highly that I wish I’d watch again, sometimes right away (Frozen comes to mind, and on varying degrees HER, Nebraska, Austenland, and of course Pacific Rim, which I had watched twice since its theatrical release).

On the flip side though, there are films I appreciate and truly respect, but not something I’d ever want to see again. This question is kind of a different twist to what I posed a couple of years ago in regard to The Hurt Locker. A couple of movies that comes to mind (which sort of sparked this post), are Inside Llewyn Davis and The Wolf of Wall Street. In fact, I was originally going to title this ‘Movies I Appreciate but NOT Love.’ That’s perhaps an equally appropriate question, though there’s perhaps other reason why you don’t want to watch something a second time around. Interestingly, those two films come from beloved and celebrated filmmakers (the Coen Brothers and Martin Scorsese) whom I respect but their work are not exactly my cup of tea. In any case, both are good films, some would even call a masterpiece. But for me, I can only appreciate some aspects of the film (i.e. the performances) but as a whole, it’s not something I’d want to see again.


What about you folks? Which movies you saw in 2013 that you’re glad you saw but wouldn’t watch again?

FlixChatter Review: Austenland

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Oh Mr. Darcy. He’s certainly the most popular period drama hero, and not just the ones from Jane Austen’s imagination, mind you. Even those who don’t care for this genre would probably know who Mr. Darcy is, though they might confuse him with the one in Bridget Jones’ Diary, ahah. Now, he’s not exactly my favorite Austen hero, but I find stories about girls being obsessed with him so wildly amusing. I saw the miniseries Lost in Austen not too long ago and it might as well be called Lost in Darcy. Despite the similar theme, Austenland is not a fantastical tale where the characters from Pride & Prejudice actually comes to life. The title refers to a Disneyland of sort for the Austen-obsessed, as the ad says, the resort in a lush English countryside offers the world’s only immersive Jane Austen experience.

Keri Russell plays Jane Hayes, an Austen superfan whose obsession with Mr. Darcy practically takes over her day-to-day life. Her apartment rivals even the Austen museum I went to in Bath, complete with a cardboard cutout of Mr. Darcy in her living room. Her love life suffers not for lack of suitors, but it’s just the modern guys just can’t possibly live up to a dashing literary hero. I always remember the quote from the Sabrina remake of 1995: Illusions are dangerous people, they have no flaws. Thus, when an opportunity suddenly presents itself for Jane to actually live out her fantasy, naturally she jumps at the chance.

Hilarity ensues almost straight away. From the moment Jane steps out in her empire-waisted dress and bonnet her best friend gifted her just for the occasion, she draws giggles and stares as she makes her way through the airport. Then she meets a wealthy American woman (later known as Elizabeth Charming, her pseudonym at the resort) who apparently never read Austen but signs up for the trip because she knows she’d look good in those ‘wench dresses.’ Both girls are so in for a treat, or so it seems. No more ‘unlucky in love’, the owner of the Regency era resort (a bitchy Jane Seymour) promises her vacationing guests that their romantic fantasies would come true at the end of their trip, courtesy of the handsome actors on her staff.

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Sadly, Jane (or Miss Erstwhile, her given pseudonym at the resort), has unknowingly bought the Copper package, even though she’s cashed out all her savings for this trip! So poor Jane gets the dowdy clothes and her room is in the servants wing. But she’s determined not to let that ruin her trip. In no time, Jane gets entangled with one of the staff-members Martin, who actually wasn’t hired to do the ‘oldies’ stuff, that is to pretend to be from the Austen era to woo the guests. But just as she’s fallen for Martin, the resort’s designated Mr. Darcy (aptly named Henry Nobly) provides a delightful distraction. Everyone is not who they say they are, and the characters are caught between fantasy and reality. Just like what you’d expect in a real Austen story, there are misunderstandings, romantic disenchantments, and of course, the vice of preconceived notions. But hilarity is never far behind. I love how hysterical this movie is, there’s thigh-slapping moments from start to finish and I could tell the whole theater was having a blast along with me.

Jerusha Hess, who’s no stranger to writing comedies (Napoleon Dynamite, Gentleman’s Bronchos and Nacho Libre), tackled the writing and directing task for this one. She co-wrote this film with Shannon Hale, who wrote the novel of the same name where this movie is based on. I think they did a fine job in delivering an amusing escapism, funny without being mean-spirited. There’s a lot of laughs to be had here, but romance is still in the air and the cast is quite charming. I think the tone is more Emma than Sense & Sensibility, so by no means it’s not a deep movie nor is it trying to be.

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I don’t normally see Keri Russell in a comedic role, but ever since Waitress, I knew she has a decent comic timing. Here she portrays the awkward and starry-eyed protagonist believably, even if she might be too pretty in the role, just as Keira Knightley was as Elizabeth Bennett in the 2005’s Joe Wright’s adaptation. One thing for sure she’s instantly likable, so it was easy to root for her character, no matter how absurd.

Jennifer Coolidge is her usual hilarious bawdy self. Her blatant ignorance of anything Austen (or the Regency era for that matter) and her riotous attempt at a British accent never fails to draw uproarious laughter. She’s a natural comic actress who doesn’t even need to open her mouth to be funny, so of course she steals scenes in more than one occasions. James Callis (who’ll always be Battlestar Galactica‘s Gaius Balthar to me) provides comic relief as the flamboyant Col. Andrews who’s the object of Coolidge’s Elizabeth Charming’s affections. Hunky Ricky Whittle and fellow Brit Georgia King also provide memorable supporting turns in some of the funniest bits of the movie.

JJ Feild, once an Austen hero himself in Northanger Abbey, is suitably sullen as Mr. Nobly. He provides a nice contrast to the more outwardly flirtatious Martin (the Mr. Wickham in the story). I’m surprised to learn that Bret McKenzie who played Martin is the same guy who plays the elf Lindir in The Lord of the Rings & The Hobbit, AND he’s also the songwriter who won an Oscar for Best Song for The Muppets! Wow, no wonder he looked familiar but I couldn’t put my finger on it where I had seen him!

Final Thoughts: I really enjoyed this one, it’s perhaps one of the most fun I had at the movies of late. I also appreciate the scenery and gorgeous set pieces/costumes. I don’t even mind the mindless slapstick stuff, especially in the farcical mock-theater scene towards the end. There are some cringe-worthy moments and use of vintage pop songs don’t always work well, but it’s hard not to be swept away by its buoyant spirits. The romance might be predictable, but it’s certainly not without its giddy charm. Certainly period drama fans would get a kick out of this movie, but even if you’re not, I’d say there’s enough going for it here to keep you amused and entertained.

Three and a half stars out of Five
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What do you think of this movie? Are you a fan of any of the cast?