Thursday Movie Picks: BOOKISH films

ThursdayMoviePicksHappy almost Friday everyone! I’m a bit late to the TMP party but I love this week’s topic that I still want to participate. The Thursday Movie Picks blogathon was spearheaded by Wandering Through the Shelves Blog.

The rules are simple simple: Each week there is a topic for you to create a list of three movies. Your picks can either be favourites/best, worst, hidden gems, or if you’re up to it one of each. This Thursday’s theme is… BOOKISH movies.

I haven’t been able to participate on TMP lately but when I saw today’s topic I knew I had to take part! I guess this topic could be about movies based on books, but I see it as movies where books/literature play a central role or that the main characters love reading, so I’m going with that… and I’m choosing films set in England (because one day I’d love to shoot my feature film there!) Plus,  I have been reading quite a bit lately and I do LOVE movies about books!

In any case, here are my three picks:

The Bookshop (2017)

England 1959. In a small East Anglian town, Florence Green decides, against polite but ruthless local opposition, to open a bookshop.

Books can be a great way to escape your mundane every day life or a way to cope with a traumatizing event. In this movie, the protagonist Florence (Emily Mortimer) copes with the loss of her husband through books and decided to open a bookshop in her town, which somehow ends up facing fierce opposition from powerful local elites.

It’s a rather slow film but I quite enjoy the reflective nature and you truly feel the pain Florence is going through. The scenes when at the bookshop really makes me sad that there aren’t that many brick + mortar book stores anymore.


The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (2018)

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.

Matthew Goode as Juliet’s publisher + Lily James as Juliet

I have just rewatched this movie recently and it makes me wish I could visit Guernsey, an island in the English Channel off the coast of Normandy. The protagonist Juliet Ashton (Lily James) is a London-based writer who, upon receiving a letter from the The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (yep, that’s the name of the book club!), she decided to pay write a book about them and their experiences during the Nazi occupation.

I love that the film has a bit of investigative aspects as Juliet delved deeper into the lives of the book club’s members. Of course the book idea wasn’t exactly received warmly initially, and you get to figure out why that’s so. There’s of course a sweet romance between Juliet and Dawsey Adams (Michiel Huisman), the one who wrote to her in the first place.


Pride and Prejudice (2005)

Sparks fly when spirited Elizabeth Bennet meets single, rich, and proud Mr. Darcy. But Mr. Darcy reluctantly finds himself falling in love with a woman beneath his class. Can each overcome their own pride and prejudice?

Well, as a fan of Jane Austen, naturally I’d have to include a movie based on her books. But I chose Pride and Prejudice as the protagonist Elizabeth Bennet LOVES reading and there are scenes of her reading even as she’s walking about, not a care in the world as she’s so engrossed in the pages of her book. It makes me like her instantly and it’s a great way to distinguish her from her sisters… that she’d rather be lost in a good story than be bothered about ‘silly’ things like boys. That is of course until she meets Mr. Darcy.

I love that Lizzie’s first comment as she meets Mr. Bingley speaks about how much she loves reading…

The library at Netherfield, I’ve heard, is one of the finest in the country.

Now, Bingley’s own sister pretends to love reading when she said “I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library,” but she only said that to attract Mr. Darcy’s attentions.


What do you think of my picks? Have you seen any of them?

FlixChatter Review: Mary Poppins Returns (2018)

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Directed by Rob Marshall | Screenplay by David Magee

Starring: Emily Blunt, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ben Whishaw, Emily Mortimer, Julie Walters

There are few things I hold dear to my inner child’s heart, one of them being Disney’s Mary Poppins (1964) starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke. Regarded as a classic, the 1964 film succeeded on so many levels. There was Julie Andrews’ groundbreaking performance as Mary Poppins and Dick Van Dyke’s Bert the chimney sweeper is equally lovable (despite his fake cockney accent). There was innovative special effects and animation. There was song and dance and my, oh my, was there! Richard and Robert Sherman’s memorable songs took the film into new heights for a musical and it had so much heart in the performances and execution (never mind P.L. Travers’ objection to the film).

So, when Disney announced a sequel, I was excited, cynical and partly in disbelief. After all, this was the tallest order of the highest magnitude. I came in with low expectations. But that changed a bit when Emily Blunt was cast as she looked ‘practically perfect’ (referencing the perfect nanny herself) in the title role. This time around, Poppins has returned to look after the Banks children 25 years after the events from the 1964 film. Michael Banks (Ben Whishaw), now an adult with 3 young children, is working at the Fidelity Fiduciary Bank like his late father before him.

Disillusioned by the loss of his wife a year prior and financial ruin and the threat of losing their family home literally knocking at their door, Michael, along with sister Jane (Emily Mortimer) search in vain to try and find a way to pay off Michael’s loan before the bank (Fidelity Fiduciary mind you) takes their house away. Whishaw is quite good in his early scenes singing A Conversation a touching lament to his late wife. Mortimer looks quite a likeness to the younger Jane Banks so that was a nice touch. However, we don’t see much of her throughout the film. She plays a labor activist, an homage to the elder Mrs. Banks who was a suffragette.

Lin-Manuel Miranda plays Jack the lamplighter in parallel to Van Dyke’s chimney sweeper. Like Bert in the first movie, he plays Mary’s counterpart on their adventures and performs the opening song and rudimentary lamplighter army sequence (Trip A Little Light Fantastic). Miranda is an accomplished performer and it shows especially with the opening (Underneath the) Lovely London Sky.

Emily Blunt is stunning as Mary Poppins. She holds her own in her rendition of the title character (even to unfair comparisons to Julie Andrews) and also does justice to the material in front of her. Her shining moment is the sweet The Place Where Lost Things Go. Blunt’s dance number with Miranda on A Cover Is Not a Book is exceptional as is the choreography and production. Her performance is noteworthy in this regard and is rewarding to watch.

Mary Poppins Returns is an entertaining, albeit a templated version of the original film down to the character and plot-lines. Its predictability isn’t a total downside as we all know things will turn out all right in the end. But it does feel a bit lacking I suspect from Disney’s too-cautious efforts to make it right. The film is well-crafted down to a T but that meticulousness and dare-I-say bombastic-ness of its musical approach may be its weakest points. Marc Shaiman’s music and Scott Wittman’s lyrics do all they can to match the vivaciousness and grandeur of Richard and Robert Sherman’s work on the first film. But they weren’t able to capture that heart and subtlety that so permeated the original Mary Poppins. There’s no heart wrenching performances like the younger Jane and Michael’s The Perfect Nanny”nor the touching nostalgia of Julie Andrew’s Feed The Birds. This may be an unfair assessment as I believe Mary Poppins Returns stands on its own. But the things that made the original a classic just isn’t quite there.

The filmmakers gathered a great cast but Meryl Streep’s turn as cousin Topsy probably should have been given to Julie Walters, another great actress who plays Ellen the Housekeeper, in a wasted tiny role. But perhaps that is due to too many greats on set. In effect, it’s a valiant effort by everyone involved from the writers, actors, and songwriters. Memorable were the performances but the songs not so much. It’s a great looking film but not the classic that it could have been.

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So what do you think of Mary Poppins Returns? Let us know what you think!

FlixChatter Review: Dear Frankie

Firstly, a confession: I never would’ve known about this movie had it not been for Gerry Butler‘s involvement. Right after I fell for him in Phantom of the Opera, I knew I had to watch everything else he’s in. Boy, am I glad I did as I LOVE this movie and it holds up really well with each repeat viewing.

The story takes place in a picturesque little town in Scotland. It centers around a single mom, Lizzie (Emily Mortimer) who hires a “dad” for a day for her deaf son, Frankie. The family of three— Lizzie, her mom and Frankie— have been constantly on the move since she left her husband. Over the years, Lizzie has been pretending to be Frankie’s dad through the letters she writes to him (thus the title). It’s all good until the made-up ship where he supposedly sails on actually existed and is about to dock in their town. Frankie makes a bet with his friend that he’d finally meet his father, forcing Lizzie to find a man to fill that role.

The story pretty much picks up when the Lizzie meets the Stranger (Butler), a man with no past and no future, at a coffee shop. Butler’s magnetic presence pretty much grabs you the moment he orders his coffee (“Americano, strong!” in that irresistible Scottish brogue of his). The two days they spend together is truly the heart of the movie. The chemistry between him, Lizzie and Frankie is wonderful, and surprises abound as they discover each other. The moments between the Stranger and Frankie are incredibly touching as well, most of them happens without hardly any words being spoken as they stroll the beautiful Scottish locales together.

The father and son relationship, albeit a pseudo one, is heartwarming. The bond they share in such a short amount of time makes you wish they were a real family. There’s also a little romance mixed in, but it’s done in the most delightfully subtle way. My all-time favorite part in this movie is the doorway scene with the longest pre-kiss moment in movie history! Love is sweetest when you least expect it… as it catches both Lizzie and the Stranger completely off guard.

Director Shona Auerbach not only picked the right actors for the roles, but allowed them to shine in them. Young Scottish actor Jack McElhone is quite a revelation in the title role, convincingly portraying someone with a hearing disability. As he barely had any speaking lines, he had to act mostly with gestures and facial expressions, but he pulled it off remarkably. Mortimer is hugely sympathetic as the lonely single mother who’s still haunted by her dark past. You know Lizzie way over-protective of Frankie and her decision may be questionable, but you can’t help but feel for her. She’s definitely one of my all-time favorite movie moms. In the dance scene between her and the Stranger, her vulnerability and yearning for something special in her life is palpable. I also want to mention Sharon Small who’s also wonderful as Lizzie’s compassionate friend, Marie.

As for Butler, after following his career for 5+ years now, this is one of my all-time favorite performances. It’s a quiet and understated role that truly shows his dramatic chops as well as his on-screen charisma. What I love about Butler as an actor is how expressive he is. When he learns of a devastating secret about Frankie’s deafness, he deftly conveys his emotion with his eyes and subtle gestures. I would love to see him do a role like this again and find a director who knows how to capture his full potential.

The beautiful performances are harmonized with an evoking soundtrack and gorgeous scenery (set in Greenock, Scotland, near where GB grew up). I especially love Damien Rice‘s song Delicate used in the ‘skipping rock’ scene. I can’t recommend this film enough. Anytime you need a break from mainstream Hollywood fares, rent this tiny but poignant indie pronto!

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For those of you who’ve seen this film, I’d love to hear what you think.

Casting and Misc. News: FlixChatter’s Highlights

Happy Friday, everyone! I haven’t done a news post in a while and there have been some interesting developments of late, so let’s get to ’em, shall we?

  • Terrence Malick’s Untitled Love Story
    The notoriously reclusive and meticulous director Terrence Malick is reportedly been gathering up a cast for his yet untitled love drama. And what an impressive cast that is. So far Christian Bale, Javier Bardem, Rachel McAdams and Olga Kurylenko have signed on to star in what’s been described as a “powerful and moving love story.” Malick is perhaps the opposite of the workaholic Ridley Scott, as he often goes for years in between films. He’s only got eleven movies under his belt, and was nominated for best director and adapted screenplay for The Thin Red Line.

    I confess I have never watched Bardem in anything, for some reason none of his movies interest me, yet, nothing against him personally. I’m most excited to see Bale here, as the first time he’s in a romantic drama under Malick’s direction was in the Pocahontas story The New World, it turns out to be one of my favorite role ever. He might be famous for his bad-ass roles where he’s either heroic or deranged, but his quieter, more vulnerable side is just as compelling, if not more so. He was great in the indie drama Metroland with Emily Watson, so a return to such a genre is definitely welcomed in my book.
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  • Solaris meets Wall-E starring Keanu Reeves?
    That combo description is courtesy of /Film, which is the impression they got about this sci-fi project called Passengers and its potential director. Here’s the synopsis: Passengers is set in the future on a spacecraft making a centuries-long interstellar voyage to a new planet. Due to a computer glitch, a single passenger (Reeves) awakens from cryogenic sleep 90 years before anyone else. Faced with the prospect of growing old and dying alone, he, in turn, awakens a beautiful woman.

    Italian director Gabriele Muccino directed Will Smith in The Pursuit of Happyness and Seven Pounds, and was known for directing romance and family dramas in the home country. The first time I heard of Muccino was when there’s news circulating that Gerard Butler is interested in working with him in a baseball drama Slide. Not sure if that’d happen now that Butler’s signed to do Machine Gun Preacher. As for Passengers, the role of the beautiful woman hasn’t been cast, and the casting agent in me thinks someone like Eva Green, Romola Garai, Olivia Wilde or Emily Mortimer would be nice, instead of going with more famous faces.

  • Did you know that John Malkovich – yes, that John Malkovich – has his own fashion label?
    I read about it a long while ago in CNN, in which he says “I’ve always had an interest in it and always loved doing it. I like design, I like details, to me it is just another form of self-expression.” His brand of eccentricity apparently also carries over to his fashion design, as this article by someone who knew him revealed “… [he] produce an elegant line in men’s clothing and also to name the collection after political tyrants or psychopaths. There is, for instance, the mini mullah coat, an ironic tribute to the former Taliban spokesman Abdul Salam Zaeef.” He was in Florence last month to promote his Technobohemian (say what?) fashion line in his Autumn/Winter 2010-11 collection. ”Technobohemian is a clothing line dedicated to the modern man,” he said to LifeinItaly.com. O-kay. If you’re curious what the heck his clothes look like, you can take a peek here, or as worn by Halle Berry’s gorgeous model partner Gabriel Aubrey.

    The 56-year old actor doesn’t stop there, he also owns a budget hotel called The Big Sleep Hotel in Eastbourne UK, because his friends and neighbor in Provence who’s a chocolate-heir-turned hotelier. Wow, I’d never guess that about Mr. Malkovich, but that’s cool!.
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  • Carrie Underwood’s film debut in Soul Surfer
    The country singer is joining other singer-turned-actress in her film debut in an inspirational biopic about Bethany Hamilton. According to NY Daily News, the movie will tell the tale of how the Hawaiian native Hamilton, now 19, returned to professional surfing just months after losing her arm in a shark attack six years ago. Underwood plays Sarah Hill, a youth counselor at Hamilton’s church whose friendship and support played a huge role in the surfer’s unlikely comeback. Anna Sophia Robb (Race to Witch Mountain) will play the devout Christian teen surfer, with Dennis Quaid and Helen Hunt as her parents, and Jack Nicholson’s daughter Lorraine will play Hamilton’s best friend, who was with her at the time of the attack. Underwood will begin the shoot in the Hawaiian island of Oahu following her scheduled gig to sing the national anthem in this year’s Superbowl.
  • Johnny Depp back in the directing chair
    It’s well-known that Johnny Depp’s performance as pirate Jack Sparrow was inspired by the rock legend, and now he’s going to chronicle his life in a documentary. In the Fandango blog, he was quoted as saying: “Now that I’m wiser, and that enough time has passed, I can experience directing again. Already next week I’ll start working on a Keith Richards documentary. While I’m in Drvengrad, my editor is already working on kilometers of archive footage and footage of his concerts. I’m very touched that Keith agreed to show up in front of my cameras.”I didn’t know Depp directed a movie before, but according that blog, he not only directed but also wrote and starred (alongside Marlon Brando!) in The Brave, about an American Indian who is released from jail and given the opportunity to star in a snuff film. I’d be curious to see his directing skills, and how honest the documentary will be about the Rolling Stones’ guitarist’s drug abuse and other shenanigans.