What I’ve Been Watching During Self-Quarantine

Hello everyone! Happy Friday! Hope all of you are coping as well as can be expected during this strange and difficult time. My hubby and I have been working from home this past week until the end of the month, who knows it could be longer. Despite all this, I’m counting my blessings and keeping my spirits high as we ride out this Coronavirus pandemic!

Well, thank goodness we live in a world where we have streaming services available! These in-home entertainment helps during a time where social distancing has become the new normal. We have been watching a lot more shows/movies since we have been cooped up at home. I saw on TV Guide that some streaming services even extended their FREE TRIAL to 30 days!

So last weekend I binged on …

BEECHAM HOUSE

I’ve been a huge fan of Tom Bateman and had been waiting for quite some time for this UK show to finally make it to the US! It’s not available on broadcast, but I had joined PBS Passport member in order to watch Sanditon a month ago, so I’m thrilled this one’s finally available to watch in early March!

A look at the lives of residents living in a Delhi mansion during the cusp of 19th century.

Check out the trailer…

Set in the 1795, amidst the clashing forces of British and French militaries and the decline of the centuries-old Mughal Empire. It’s billed as Downton Abbey India, and it’s also got Lesley Nicol who played Downton’s longtime cook Mrs. Patmore, this time she’s playing one of the masters of the house as the protagonist John Beecham’s mother. Bateman is perfect as John, the conflicted former soldier who’s left the ruthless East India Company and made a living as an art trader.

I’m a big fan of filmmaker Gurinder Chadha as well, the creator of the show. I love that Beecham House is partly filmed in the UK and India, the sets in the latter is especially sumptuous, all the costumes, set pieces, actors, etc. all lend to authenticity of the show. Not to mention the opulent house itself with its magnificent details. I love the diverse cast, too! I’ve been crushing on Tom Bateman for some time (he’s terrific in Vanity Fair) and here, his charismatic yet mysterious presence has proven himself ready to be a major leading man.

Glad to see Leo Suter once again after seeing him in Sanditon… thankfully he’s got more screen presence on this show as I had complained how wasted his talents was there. He’s proven to be a versatile actor as his character is quite different from Sanditon, but I definitely fancy him more as a bit of a rascal! The Indian actors are equally fascinating. Pallavi Sharda and Shriya Pilgaonkar are both stunning as two headstrong ladies who refuse to be a shrinking violet (I say that as the English woman named Violet here is a rather silly woman). I love Viveik Kalra in Blinded By The Light, here he’s playing the house caretaker who’s loyal to John Beecham. I hope to see more of him in future projects!

I might dedicate a blog post for this show, but for now, let’s just say it’s absolutely binge-worthy!


The Mayo Clinic: Faith – Hope – Science

If you like documentaries, here’s one you should check out. It’s particularly intriguing to me because I live just an hour away from Rochester where the Mayo clinic is, but given their impact all over the world, it’s worth learning about just how they got started. It’s truly inspiring stuff!


Yesterday I wanted to see something light and funny, so we watched The Secret Life of Pets 2 on Netflix. It wasn’t as funny as the original, but still entertaining for the most part. My favorite bit is the one with the farm shepherd dog Rooster voiced by Harrison Ford. He’s so perfect for the part, a grumpy, adventurous veteran who’s teaching the city dog Max on how to overcome fear.


Thanks to that TV Guide link, I can finally watch this show on SundanceNow!

A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES

Diana Bishop, historian and witch, accesses Ashmole 782 and knows she must solve its mysteries. She is offered help by the enigmatic Matthew Clairmont, but he’s a vampire and witches should never trust vampires.

 

It’s been around since 2018 and I remember really wanting to watch it when I saw the trailer… I mean hello, Matthew Goode!! 😍He sure makes one heck of a sexy vampire, oh la la! Interesting that the series about vampires and witches are set in the field of academia, Oxford University to be exact, and it’s actually filmed on location in various parts of the world… Oxfordshire, Scotland, and Venice. It’s definitely a great escapism for the time being since we cannot be physically traveling to any of those countries until this outbreak dies down.

I quite like Aussie actress Teresa Palmer as well, interestingly enough the first time I saw her in was in Warm Bodies, a zombie comedy. She must have a thing for movies about the undead. She looks so much like Kristen Stewart too, and she’s on that massively popular vampire movies. Apparently this one is also based on a novel, The All Souls Trilogy, by a woman writer, Deborah Harkness. I wonder why they didn’t just keep that title, , rather than what the have now that’s so long and clunky.

I’ve seen four episodes so far as of today, and I like it more and more. Story-wise, there’s enough going for it to keep me watching… there’s the enigma and mystery surrounding the Congregation which is comprised of representations of demons, vampires and witches (though the person who takes care of the location is a human, ha!)… and these species live under some strict rules.

The acting is a bit uneven, but the two leads Goode and Palmer are great and they have a good chemistry. An important factor given the core of the story is a forbidden romance, a bit like Romeo + Juliet but with warring species, not just families. I do have some issues with directing choices and the use of modern songs that kind of cheapen the show a bit, it just doesn’t jibe with the elegance of the setting. Oh, and what’s with these vampires not being affected by sunlight or even Crucifixes, and they go about like humans in their daily activity… eating, drinking, playing with their cellphones, etc. Seems all too convenient to me since they can live for hundreds of years!

In any case, I have four more to go in season 1, and I just learned that season 2 has been greenlit but according to this article, they have wrapped filming. But given some of the filming is in Italy, there might be a major delay if they have to do some more shooting done over there given the Covid-19 situation.


So that’s just a sampling of what I’ve been watching the past week and a half… 

How about you? What have YOU been watching during self quarantine?

 

FlixChatter Review: Blinded By The Light (2019)

When American rock star Bruce Springsteen wrote the lyrics to his song Blinded by the Light, as a part of his 1973 debut album Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J., Springsteen probably didn’t think that his lyrics would be inspiration for a British teenager of Pakistani descent, growing up as an immigrant in 1987 Britain controlled by Margaret Thatcher’ ruling Conservative Party. Yet, this is precisely what happens to Javed (Viveik Kalra) as he is growing up in Luton, England, amidst the racial and economic turmoil of the later 198o’s Britain. Javed has a very traditional family, with his strict, blue collar father Malik (Kulvinder Ghir), his stay-at-home-but-working mother Noor (Meera Ganatra), and his two older sisters Shazia and Yasmeen (Nikita Mehta and Tara Divina).

Directed by Gurinder Chadha (Bend It Like Beckham) and co-written by Sarfraz Manzoor, who’s critically acclaimed personal memoir Greetings from Bury Park: Race, Religion and Rock N’ Roll details Javed’s struggles of writing poetry as a means to escape the intolerance of his hometown and the inflexibility of his traditional father. But Javed feels too ashamed to share his poetry with anyone, including his amiable teacher Ms. Clay (Hayley Atwell), until his friend Roops (Aaron Phagura) introduces him to the music of The Boss – the one and only Bruce Springsteen! The lyrics have a profound effect on Javed, as he consistently quotes Bruce’s lyrics, with his other friend Matt (Dean-Charles Chapman) who is not quite as impressed with Springsteen’s music as Javed. He doesn’t only find solitude and release from the stresses of daily life listening to The Boss, but also the confidence to fight for the things he previously didn’t believe were worth fighting for. Example: Javed has a fight with his activist girlfriend Eliza (Nell Williams) but learning to control his own emotions so he doesn’t let it be a justification to become selfish, Javed wins back Eliza, who’s always been in his corner.

Viveik Kalra does a wonderful job making you believe that Javed is hearing Bruce Springsteen’s music for the first time, and you feel immediately drawn to his character. He then masterfully articulates just how it is affecting him and his trajectory in life. His tearfully delivered speech towards the end of the film, with his parents watching with tears of their own, is one of highest points of emotion for Javed, his family and the viewing audience alike. He embodies a person who is very easy to root for, despite his faults, sometimes minor, other times much larger (i.e. running away from home and disrespecting his father).

Blinded by the Light is also very true to the way people in 1987 Britain were living under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. There were very few jobs to be had and some naturally born Brits were less than welcoming to other minorities who had immigrated to Britain, especially those who were of Muslim faith and came from Pakistan. Javed’s father loses his job at a car factory in Luton, and this mother is left to do double to in home work, just to support the family. There is also tension between Javed and his father when he tells Javed that he must get a job (and stop listening to the music of Bruce Springsteen, whom he believes to be Jewish (probably because of the last name).

Overall, Blinded by the Light takes the music and lyrics of Bruce Springsteen to a whole new country and it’s embraced by the next generation of young people who can resonate with it. Especially for Javed and Roops, who pops Javed’s “Bruce cherry”, they feel empowered by the music and lyrics enough to confront a group of white nationalist teenagers at a restaurant by quoting one of Springsteen’s words (in this case it was lyrics from the song Badlands). The culmination of Javed’s efforts come to be when he delivers that speech (referenced earlier) to his classmates and his family. He tells them; “My hope is to build a bridge to my ambitions but not a wall between me and my family.” We also get the pleasure of seeing Javed and Roops take a trip to America – specifically to Asbury Park, Long Branch and other part of New Jersey. The pleasure seen in their eyes is clear and the joy the experience during this trip makes everything that they’ve fought to overcome worth it in the end.


Have you seen Blinded by the Light? Well, what did you think? 

10 Favorite Romantic Films Directed by Women

RomanceFemaleDirectors

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)

Top10Austenland
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

Top10BridePrejudice
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)

Top10DearFrankie
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

Top10LittleWomen
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 

Top10ReturnToMe
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

Top10SleeplessInSeattle

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

Top10Water

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

Top10WhatWomenWant

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

Top10YouveGotMail

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!

Rental Pick: Bride & Prejudice (2004)

This review is part of Impassioned Cinema‘s Romance February Event. Check out this hub page for more romance films’ reviews from other bloggers.

As a fan of the Austen’s most celebrated novel, naturally my interest is piqued when I first heard about this project. I’m actually not a big fan of Bollywood musicals, even though it’s massively popular in my home country, but as Roger Ebert put it, this is not a Bollywood movie, but a Hollywood musical comedy incorporating Bollywood elements. It’s an amusing review as Mr. Ebert seemed to be distracted by miss Aishwarya Rai‘s beauty as he’s writing it, but really, who can blame him??

Former miss Word 1994 Rai lights up the screen as the Indian Lizzy Bennet, she gained 20 pounds to play this role in order to look more ‘plain,’ though like the Keira Knightly in the Joe Wright version of Pride & Prejudice, she is a far cry from being a plain jane. Despite that, I think Rai is able to capture the strong-willed as well as vulnerability of Lizzy Bennet and there’s certain warmth about her in the scenes with her sisters.

I like Gurinder Chadha’s previous work, a soccer rom-com Bend It Like Beckham, which also deals about bending the rules of society. This time Chadha takes on Austen’s classic tale, in which the protagonist’s mother is eager to find suitable husbands for her four unmarried daughters. Chadha stayed pretty closely to the original story, even the Indian names for the characters are somewhat similar – the Bennets are now the Bhakshis, Mr. Collins is Mr. Kholi, and Bingley is Balraj, etc., only Darcy and Wickham are the only names kept for the original.

This is the first time I saw miss Rai on film as it’s her first movie done entirely in English and found her to be very charming and stunning beyond belief. I think Julia Roberts once called her the most beautiful woman in the world and it’s a fitting title. New Zealand actor Martin Henderson with dimples to die for is convincing enough as Mr. Darcy though he doesn’t have the charisma of Colin Firth or even Matthew MacFadyen. Still I think the two protagonists have a sweet chemistry.

Another thing I love about this movie is the hilarious supporting cast, especially actors playing Mrs. Bakshi and the Bakshi’s distant relative who’s matched up with Lalita, Mr. Kholi (Nitin Ganatra). Ganatra is especially hilarious as the Westernized businessman who prides himself in his success as a hotelier in L.A. The way he’s trying to woo Lalita will have you in stitches! Fans of the TV series LOST and ROME will recognize Naveen Andrews and Indira Varma playing brother and sister. Naveen is such a charismatic actor and a pretty awesome dancer as well!

One thing that wasn’t done as well is the relationship between the devious Mr. Wickham (Daniel Gillies, you might recognize him as Kirsten Dunst’s fiancee in Spider-man 2) and Lalita. Chadha took much more liberty on that storyline what with the chase that involve the London Eye and scuffle between Darcy & Wickham, but still the essence of the story about him running off with Lalita’s younger sis was there.

The filmmaker doesn’t take things too seriously, silly moments of grandios proportion are done in tongue-in-cheek fashion, such as the scene on the beach when Darcy and Lalita took a stroll, suddenly a ridiculously large gospel choir serenading them, joined by a group of California surfers swaying their surfboards! The hilarious cultural comedy when Lalita’s youngest sister performed the cobra dance that almost gave Darcy a heart attack is a hoot, too!

Any fans of Austen should be entertained by this movie. It’s a classic comedy of manners done in the most jubilant way. The script is skillfully written to account for not only the class systems. If you think the poster looks vibrant and festive, the movie lives up to it. There are quite a few song and dance sequences and characters do burst into song and dances in the middle of the scenes, but they’re balanced by a witty script and a dynamic pace. Incredibly colorful and unabashedly effervescent, no matter what mood you’re in, it’s tough not to be buoyed by the feverish energy of this movie. I like this movie so much that it’s one of the 8 movies I’d bring if I were stranded on a desert island.

Check out the trailer below:



Have you seen this movie? Well, what did you think?