Movies/TV


Downton Abbey returned to the British airwaves last night.  Episode 3.1 was, in my not-so-humble opinion, rather interesting and I liked it.  Yes, even Shirley MacLaine.

The episode begins in 1920, just before Mary and Matthew’s wedding.  The household is in a tizzy getting ready, but Robert is called away to London to speak with the people who oversee his investments.  It appears that he made some very bad decisions during the war, and invested a huge amount of money in a railroad company that is now about to go bankrupt.  As a result, he’s lost most of his and Cora’s money.  He tells Cora and Mary (who, of course, tells Matthew), but nobody else in the household knows anything. It should be interesting to see how Robert and Cora manage without all that money going forward.  I wonder if Martha will do something for them.  Edith needs to marry Sir Anthony soon so that they won’t need to continue supporting her anymore.  And how will Violet react to there being no money?  That should be interesting, to say the least!

So Mary and Matthew do manage to get married.  Obviously, it won’t go completely smoothly (otherwise they could end the entire thing now!), but they’ve at least crossed one hurdle.  I am looking forward to seeing what happens with Mr. Swire’s money.

Shallowness alert — how Bates manages to look adorable even in his prison uni is beyond me, but he does.  And poor Anna — all those ideas for how to get him out.  My heart really goes out to her.  Bates’s cellmate is rather creepy, and, of course, I think something will happen because of this.

Another plot element that could be interesting is seeing O’Brien and Thomas’s relationship fade away.  She has Alfred (her nephew, who’s been hired as a footman) to focus on now, and you can see that Thomas is more than slightly resentful.  I honestly don’t think he’s smart enough to plot on his own, so this could definitely be interesting going forward.

Sibyl and Branson, er, Tom come over from Dublin.  At first, nobody knows who sent the money, but then we find out it’s Violet.  It’s rather fitting, but also somewhat surprising.

As an aside, here is the press pack from ITV.  I see that Lady Rosamund (Samantha Bond) will appear in the series.  I’d heard that she might have left the show.

OK.  That’s my take.  What about yours?

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Just over 2 years ago, I reviewed Pride and Prejudice: A Latter-Day Comedy.  It’s a movie I really like, and I watch it periodically because I do find it to be so entertaining.

I bought my copy from an LDS (Mormon) website and, as a result, I get emails and other promotions from that site to this day.  That site, DeseretBook.com, sent me an email this morning offering me the chance to buy the movie at the price of $9.99.  The email said that this price is good for today only (but the website itself doesn’t say that), and that it won’t ship for a couple of weeks.  But this movie is hard to find, so I wanted to make sure that everyone who wants a copy is able to order one for their own collection.

Good luck and, if you do buy a copy, please let me know whether or not you liked it.

 

Updated July 22, 2012:  the movie now costs $12.99.  It’s still less than the list price of $19.99 and less than Amazon’s price of $17.01.

I just got back from a vacation to Los Angeles.  We had a family function out there and I was very, very happy to go.  But, when I first made my reservations, gas was averaging around $4 per gallon, and the airlines wanted far more money than I was willing (and able) to pay.  So, I decided to use some of my saved-up miles.  I had around 60,000 of them in my account, so I planned on using 25,000 of them on round-trip coach seats.

Alas, it was not to be.  My dates were not flexible in the slightest so, when I realized that there were no steerage, er, coach seats available, I found myself making the reservation for first class tickets at 50,000 miles for a round trip.  Ouch.

Anyway, the last (and only) time I flew in first or business class was in 1998, when I was upgraded on the red eye home from San Francisco because they needed my coach seat for someone else.  It was a lovely experience featuring wider seats, better food and the opportunity for an actual nap (normally, I cannot sleep on planes).  But my flight to LA this year was so much better.  The plane I was on is, apparently, used regularly for international travel, and it was the nicest flight I have ever been on.  The seat was in a sort of pod, and it had the ability to flatten out to 180 degrees so the passenger can take a real nap.  We were delayed in Florida by thunderstorms for over an hour, so I got to watch 2 movies on the flight AND take a 2-hour nap.  The food was very good and, even though I slept through the chocolate chip cookies, the flight attendant made sure I got some before we deplaned.  It was a truly memorable flight.  If I’d had the money to pay for this flight, I’d have paid for it in a heartbeat.

The way home was, however, a totally different story.  I spent 5 hours in a seat that was not much wider than that in coach.  The food was ordinary (the menu said “breakfast quesadilla,” yet I was served Rice Krispies), the flight attendants bordered on surly (not quite as surly as your average coach flight attendants, but definitely worse than the flight attendants from the flight out to LA) and the only movie available was “The Lorax.”  The seat itself was better than what one gets in coach, to be sure, but overall, if I’d paid full price for this flight I would not have been happy that it cost the same as the first one.

As for the movies available to me on the way to LA, it was a tough choice.  I ended up watching 2 — The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Midnight in Paris.  I thoroughly enjoyed both of them.  Best Exotic Marigold Hotel had a lot to live up to since I cannot imagine a movie with Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Celia Imrie and Penelope Wilton being anything but wonderful.  Yes, I did guess some of the plot twists, but I still loved it.  When it comes out on DVD, I will definitely watch it again.

Midnight in Paris was terrific.  I admit I was leery about a movie starring Owen Wilson, but I really did like the movie.  I loved Woody Allen’s early work, but his more recent movies have left me cold.  But Midnight in Paris was just wonderful.  The premise, that a 21st-century American man travels back in time to 1920s Paris, could have been weird, but this was not.  We get to meet Hemingway, the Fitzgeralds, Picasso, Dalí, Toulouse-Lautrec, etc., etc., etc.  Yes, some suspension of disbelief is required, but I had no trouble accepting the story as presented.  It’s already on my Netflix queue and I am genuinely looking forward to seeing it again.

Last year, I posted the Declaration of Independence in its entirety.  This year, I give you “The Signing” from one of my favorite movies of all time, 1776.  No, the Founding Fathers did not sing and dance their way through the Revolution, but there are still enough facts in this play/movie that it cannot be called “mindless entertainment.”

This scene gives me chills each and every time I see it.  If you ever get a chance to watch this movie, I cannot recommend it highly enough.  It’s on TCM this evening at 5 Eastern time.  Enjoy!

I first saw this movie via DVD a couple of years ago and I loved it.  Being that this is Memorial Day weekend here in the US, it’s been on the various HBO channels and I made time to watch it again.  I freely admit that I sobbed off and on during the entire film.

Taking Chance is the true story of Lt. Colonel Mike Strobl, a Marine who worked at the Pentagon (he has since retired), and who wrote the screenplay for Taking Chance.  One day, he was reading the casualty list and saw the name of Pfc Chance Phelps, a 19-year-old Marine who died in Anbar Province.  Phelps died protecting his colleagues and was posthumously promoted to lance corporal.  Strobl asked his superiors if he could escort Phelps’ remains to his hometown in Wyoming, and permission was granted, even though men in Strobl’s position did not usually perform this task.

The movie is the story of Strobl’s trip from Virginia to Wyoming to take Chance Phelps home to his parents.  It is gut-wrenching, it is powerful and it is beautiful.  I cannot recommend it highly enough, on Memorial Day, Veterans’ Day or any other day.  It’s an outstanding movie, and all Americans should see it.

Here are a couple of links that will add to one’s knowledge of the real events that inspired the movie:

And, last but certainly not least, to all of the men and women who have put their lives on the line to protect and defend the rest of us, I say “thank you.”

I spent part of last weekend with the local JASNA chapter in Clearwater, where we watched a Latina version of Sense & Sensibility called From Prada to Nada.  It stars nobody I’ve ever heard of and I went into it with no preconceived notions whatsoever.  The group I was with had a lovely time, and we thoroughly enjoyed the movie.

With very few exceptions, the skeleton of S&S is still intact.  Nora and Mary Dominguez are the daughters of a rich man in LA.  One day, he suffers a massive heart attack and dies.  At the reading of the will, they learn 2 very surprising things.  First, that they are destitute, since their father was in bankruptcy and second, that he’d had an affair years earlier and they had a half brother named Gabe.  Gabe (= John Dashwood) and his wife, Olivia ( = Fanny Dashwood) buy and sell houses for a living, so they buy the Dominguez home and Olivia kicks out Nora and Mary.  The girls end up moving in with a maternal aunt (= Mrs. Jennings?) in East LA, where they experience massive culture shock.  They are Mexicans who don’t speak Spanish, so they are like the proverbial fish out of water in that part of town.

Mary is a college student, and she falls head over heels for a rich Mexican TA named Rodrigo ( = Willoughby).  He turns out to be married and buys Mary and Nora’s childhood home for his wife.  Nora falls for Olivia’s brother, an attorney named Edward Ferris (close, but no cigar to “Ferrars”), and ends up working for him at his law firm (she quit law school when she learned she was poor).  The Colonel Brandon character is a local gardener named Pablo; we do not get to know him well enough to learn if there is any young Eliza in his life. Mary almost dies in a car accident when she learns of Rodrigo’s behavior, but we never see him again, and he certainly never “apologizes” for what he did.  Nora drives Edward away because he does not fit into her “10-year plan,” but she realizes how much she loves him when he gets engaged to Olivia’s friend Lucy (who is not a villain here).  Of course, she gets him in the end, but the way this happens was a little awkward.

There is a subplot about Nora and Edward providing pro bono legal assistance to some Mexican janitors, but that neither adds nor detracts from the story being told.  One twist that is not from the original story is that Gabe realizes just how awful his wife is, so he dumps her and ends up becoming friends with his sisters.

So, yes it’s a modernized version of the story, and yes, the fact that it is less than 2 hours long means that much of the story is gone, but this is still a very entertaining movie and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I’m looking forward to seeing it again, and this time I’ll watch the various making-of features that are on the disc.

In between streaming the first 8 episodes of Wish Me Luck, I have been renting the 5-disc set of Tom Hanks’ epic series From the Earth to the Moon.  The series came out in 1998, and I honestly cannot remember why I never saw it before.  I will say that, as someone who was alive on July 20, 1969, it is a series I have always wanted to watch, but I somehow never got around to it.  Well, as they say, better late than never.

From the Earth to the Moon is a 5-disc set with 12 episodes plus a disc with bonus features, including a “making-of” featuring many of the actors and crew from the series.  It is, in a word, outstanding.  Some of the cast members are familiar (Tom Hanks, Peter Scolari, Tim Daly and Elizabeth Perkins, to name but a few), but the majority are people I have either never seen before or who are not instantly recognizable.  And that’s OK.  In fact, I really like it when movies based on real events have actors I don’t know because the actor’s persona doesn’t get in the way of the character he or she is playing.  I know this isn’t always possible to do, but I do appreciate it.

The stories aren’t always told in a linear fashion.  For example, one of the later episodes deals solely with the wives of the astronauts, and the episode shows us their perspective on events that have already been covered in other episodes.  So we see the Apollo 1 tragedy twice — once from the perspective from NASA and its employees, and then we see it again from the perspective of Marilyn Lovell, who was with Gus Grissom’s wife when she learned that her husband had died in the fire.  Another episode focuses on the lessons in geology that the astronauts received later on in the Apollo program. One episode is entirely from Alan Bean’s (Apollo 12) perspective.  It sounds rather hodge-podge, but it really works.

The bonus disc is also worth watching.  We get to see some of the real astronauts interacting with the men who played them.  We get to see how they recreated the scenes on the Moon.  This was a well-made, compelling series, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

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