Rental Pick: PIRATE RADIO (2009)

PIRATE RADIO

A period comedy about an illegal radio station in the North Sea in the 1960s.

PirateRadioPosterSo I guess not all *pirates* are bad. This Richard Curtis‘ comedy is [loosely] based on a true story in the 60s era Britain when the then-traditionalist British government deemed it illegal for radio stations to play rock music. I didn’t even know that this actually went on in England, but clearly, making something illegal would only make something even more popular. Kids and adults alike secretly flock to the radio, whether on their own or in a group, hanging on every broadcast and songs played by these pirate radios. The term pirate radio not only refer to the illegal nature of their broadcasts, but there were apparently pirate off-shore radio transmissions in those days. In fact, the original title of this movie was The Boat That Rocked, which I think is a better title.

I had wanted to see this for a while but given that it’s got Philip Seymour Hoffman in it made me want to see it more. He once again displayed his incredible versatility and keen ability to embody a role like no other. Hoffman played the lone American D.J. ‘The Count’ in a group of all-British staff on the Radio Rock station anchored in the North Sea, ran by Quentin (Bill Nighy). It’s quite a rambunctious but lovable bunch, and the arrival of Quentin’s godson Carl (Tom Sturridge) made for an even more interesting dynamic. He’s sent by his mother to spend time on the boat due to his problems at school, as if she thought he’d learn to be a good boy on THIS boat, ahah. The term sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll is really not far from the truth, surprise, surprise.

The arch nemesis of the group is Sir Alistair Dormandy (played with mustache-twirling kind of villain-y by Sir Kenneth Branagh) whose the quintessential hoity toity persona who thinks everyone beneath him has low morals. Branagh is pretty much chewing the scenery here as he instructs his subordinate, appropriately named Twatt (Jack Davenport), to find a way to somehow shut down Radio Rock.

PirateRadio_StillsWhilst continuing to dodge Alistair’s ruthless advances, the boat has its own shares of drama amongst its crews. The arrival of popular D.J. Gavin (Rhys Ifans) increases tension given the rivalry between him and The Count, not to mention his massive celebrity status also cost fellow DJ Simon (Chris O’Dowd) his new bride. January Jones pretty much just strutted around here, I never really liked her as an actress and her role here didn’t exactly change my mind. All the chaos are done in the spirit of fun however, it’s refreshingly not mean-spirited. And for a British film about rock ‘n roll, it’s not as foul-mouthed as one would expect, which is a pleasant surprise for me. It may appear that the filmmaker is demonizing the British government but really the focus is more on the ridiculousness of Alistair’s holier-than-thou attitude even towards his own cabinet members! There is a subplot about Carl finding about his real father that doesn’t get explored as well as it could, but his unabashed naïveté is pretty endearing to watch. His relationship with Nick Frost‘ character is hilarious but also quite moving.

As for the finale, it’s truly the kind of ending that made you want to get up and cheer! Yes, a little mawkish perhaps, but not devoid of wit and charm. The music here well, rocks, which is what one would expect. The who’s who of rock music in the 60s are on display here, from The Rolling Stones, Dusty Springfield, The Hollies, Jimmy Hendrix, Buddy Holly, etc. add to the feel-good fun vibe of the movie. There’s also no real protagonist in terms of one specific actor dominating the screen, I think the entire boat is the star and you could say even say the rock music is the protagonist. Though the narrative is far from being perfect, it’s still quite heartfelt and entertaining that I’d recommend this for a rental. It’s another fun one from Richard Curtis‘ filmography.


3.5 reels


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

November Movie-Watching Recap and Movie of the Month

HelloDecember
It’s almost time to say goodbye to 2013, can you believe it? I knew somehow November is going to go by like a breeze. It always feel that way when I went on a trip. Hence it hasn’t been a prolific month for blogging for me, nor a movie-watching one for that matter.

But hey, I got to spend Thanksgiving in Universal Studios which was a lot of fun! It was awesome spending some quality time with my BFF and took a stroll on Pacific Beach which was only minutes away on foot from her apartment. I also got to meet Fernando from Committed to Celluloid on the day I arrived in San Diego (read his post on our meet-up). What a treat that was, wish we had more time to chat but it was so lovely to meet one of my favorite bloggers!

Great company, scenery and awesome food, it was the best Thanksgiving ever!

SanDiegoTrip2013

Well, here are some of my posts this past month:

The amount of films I watched last month is embarrassingly low, I’m hoping December will be a much better month for movie-viewing, esp. since I’ve RSVP-ed for five movies I’ve been looking forward to: American Hustle, The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug, Saving Mr. Banks, Inside Llewyn Davis, and The Wolf of Wall Street, all taking place in the next three weeks! 😀


Movie of the Month:

FaveNovMovie_HER

This is an easy one as I was floored by Spike Jonze‘s latest film. I barely knew anything about it but I saw the trailer just days before I saw the screening schedule and it intrigued me. Well let’s just say this would VERY likely end up in my Best of the Year list. Such a unique love story and startlingly-honest character study, and also one of the most intriguing sci-fi drama in recent memory. Joaquin Phoenix is simply superb in an understated and soul-baring role. Oh and Scarlett Johansson‘s voice acting is worth all the hype, stay tuned for a Question of the Week post inspired by her performance.


Well, that’s my monthly recap folks. What’s YOUR favorite film you saw in November?

Music Break: Five great songs/theme from Richard Curtis’ films

AboutTimePosterI haven’t done a Music Break post in a while but today I might as well hit two birds with one stone to highlight Richard Curtis. Today the British writer/director turns 57 and his time-travel rom-com About Time starring Domhnall Gleeson & Rachel McAdams opens today in the US as well, so I thought why not highlight some of the music from his films.

You could say Mr. Curtis is the King of British Rom-Com, he’s also the man behind great comedic shows like Blackadder and The Vicars of Dibley (my personal fave). He often works with Rowan Atkinson (Mr. Bean) and Hugh Grant, in fact, all of the films I highlighted here have Grant in them! His films are quintessentially British, filled with wacky British humor and cultural references which I really enjoy, but another thing I love about his movies are the great soundtracks.

Here are five from some of my favorite movies written/produced by Richard Curtis:

She – Notting Hill

I’ve never even heard of Elvis Costello’s music before this one but I LOVE, LOVE this song and I like how it plays in the beginning to sort of introduce Julia Roberts’ movie star character. It has such sweet, melancholic melody that


Ain’t No Sunshine When She Goes Away
– Notting Hill

The song choice is just perfect for this scene, it’s as if R&B star Bill Withers knew exactly what broken-hearted William (Hugh Grant) is thinking at this moment as he goes through each season missing his sweetheart Anna. I’m not a huge fan of Hugh Grant generally but too is perfect for this role.


Love is All Around – Four Weddings & A Funeral

I remember playing this song over and over when this film first came out. The song was originally recorded by The Troggs but in this soundtrack it was performed by Scottish band Wet Wet Wet. Apparently it was so popular it remained at number 1 in the British charts for fifteen weeks and was then the ninth biggest selling single of all time in Britain (per Wikipedia). Playful and romantic, just like the movie!


PM Love Theme – Love, Actually

There are a lot of great themes in this film, I also love the Glasgow Theme but this one has such a swooning quality about it but not in an overly sappy way. It has such a rousing and ‘stately’ feel about it too that fits the fact that Hugh Grant’s character is a British state leader.


Have You Met Miss Jones? – Bridget Jones’ Diary

I initially didn’t realize that this song’s part of Bridget Jones’ Diary. I LOVE it, it’s so my kind of music as I was just telling Michael and Jack in this awesome music post. I had no clue that swing jazz is Robbie Williams’ genre, I thought he’s more of a pop star. Originally sung by Sinatra, of course it’s tough to beat the real deal, but still, it’s a lovely song that I can listen to over and over.


Hope you enjoyed the Music Break. Which Richard Curtis’ movie(s) are your favorites?

FlixChatter Spotlight: Vicar of Dibley Christmas Special

It’s what our local newspaper call a very Messy Christmas today with nonstop icky snow and sleet outside. There’s already at least a foot of snow already on the ground, our grill and plastic chairs on the deck are buried in snow, and so are most cars parked outside.

Some of you are spending time with family/friends or watching classic Christmas movies. I have yet to catch most of them on this list, but one I can watch any day of the year is the Christmas Special finale of BBC’s The Vicar of Dibley. I bought the DVD a few years ago and it’s certainly got a lot of play in my house.

Created by English writer/producer/director Richard Curtis, the man behind British rom-coms, such as Four Weddings and a Funeral, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Notting Hill, and Love Actually, as well as the hit sitcom Mr. Bean, The Vicar of Dibley starrs Dawn French as Geraldine ‘Gerry’ Granger, the Vicar of the rural parish of Dibley. It’s filled with typical British zany humor, largely due to the comic skills of the lead actress, but the supporting cast are equally great. You’ve seen some of them in other Curtis’ films, i.e. James Fleet (Tom in Four Weddings and a Funeral, Emma Chambers who played Hugh Grant’s oddball sister in Notting Hill). I LOVE everyone in the cast, they’re all such a hoot!

VicarOfDibley_DawnFrenchRichardArmitage

In the two-hour long Christmas Special called A Holy Wholly Happy Ending, the vicar who complained that she’s ‘always the vicar, but never the bride’ finally gets her man. Oh, and what a man indeed. The handsome stranger who swept Gerry off her feet is played by hunky Richard Armitage (star of BBC’s Spooks and Robin Hood series’ Guy of Gisbourne). You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, but one thing for sure you’ll fall in love with the mischievously endearing Vicar. Here’s a clip from the unexpected-proposal episode I can watch over and over again:

You have got to check out the hilarious rehearsal as well with Hugh Boneville‘s hilarious cameo as a fellow vicar who bears a longtime crush on Gerry. What a brilliant ending to such a witty and funny series!


Here’s hoping you all have a wonderful Christmas, wherever you are!