Thursday, January 31, 2008


A soft and romantic film about a great love between two poets in the mid 1800s, Christobel LaMotte (Jennifer Ehle) and Randolph Ash (Jeremy Northam), which is rediscovered through a chance find of some unsent correspondence by modern day researcher, Roland Mitchell (Aaron Eckhart). In his search for more information he visits Dr. Maud Bailey (Gwyneth Paltrow) who is distantly related to Christobel. She gets as excited by the finds they make as he does, and their relationship mirrors that of Christobel and Ash as they discover more of the poets’ story.

To add a little anxiety into the mix there are complications in both centuries – in Christobel’s with her companion Blanche (Lena Headey) and in Maud’s with past partner and fellow teacher Fergus (Toby Stephens).

Jennifer Ehle plays a haunting Christobel, Jeremy Northam an equally besotted Ash and they have a suitable on-screen chemistry. Aaron Eckhart is keen and Gwyneth is cool (even when excited) and although well acted, the screen hardly sizzles. Lena Headey was convincing as Blanche and Toby Stephens played a quite disagreeable character very well!

The story is sweet and touching and will satisfy those with romantic leanings – although don’t expect to heave lots of longing sighs, just expect a warm feeling.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Die Another Day

My second Bond film in a couple of weeks! Prepare to check reality at the door as you go on a trip into Bond-world with amazing stunts and special effects.

I have to admit that I happier with a Bond in the traditional mould (Pierce Brosnan vs. Daniel Craig) but I can be a bit of a traditionalist too. So in the tradition of Bond movies, this one takes you on a ‘fantastic’ journey for the 20th Bond film.

The movie begins in Korea where Bond attempts to kill nasty Colonel Moon and a terrorist named Zao, who are trading in banned diamonds and weapons. He manages to destroy their base and quite a few of the weapons but ends up being caught, imprisoned and tortured. Not a nice look for Bond and one of the few touches of realism hits the screen.

After an extended stay in prison and sporting a beard and long hair he is released and becomes a rogue agent as MI6 think he has deceived them. He continues his search for Zao in Cuba where he meets Jinx (Halle Berry) and then the trail leads him to London and the baddie, diamond mogul Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens) with his beautiful assistant, Miranda Frost (Rosamund Pike).

An interlude of swordplay and then it’s on to Iceland with some pretty amazing scenes in and around an ice palace. Finally some scenes on an Antanov, which of course gets destroyed (don’t they always!?). Of course, Bond wins the day, and the girl.

Pierce plays Bond in his usual cool way and is suave, sophisticated, capable and destructive, with an eye for the girls. Halle Berry is really very good as Jinx – she has some good one-liners and brings a touch of humour to the role along with her beauty. Toby Stephens plays Gustav Graves very well – he is an actor that brings much depth to the roles he plays and this is no exception. Of course being a ‘baddie’ is somewhat limiting, but he plays it to the hilt. Rosamund Pike is coolly beautiful as Ms. Frost and lets no emotion escape, as the part decrees. Judi Dench is of course M and her part seems smaller than some previous Bond movies, but what she is in is played true to form. John Cleese plays Q and brings a lighthearted touch to his scenes.

I wasn’t that keen on the Die Another Day song, which is by Madonna, but its quite a techno song, so I guess that’s why. Scenes in the movie – well the CGI is a bit over the top in a couple of scenes (eg. sea/wave with icebergs) but trying to do those scenes in reality would be impossible, so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt on that score. On the other hand there is a return to some of the big-budget look scenes (eg. the ice palace) and some nods to previous Bond films.

Overall, a good movie to watch if you like lots of action and a slip away from reality for a couple of hours.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Screen Actors Guild Awards 2008

The Screen Actors Guild Awards were announced today:

Oustanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
No Country for Old Men (winner)
3:10 to Yuma
American Gangster
Into the Wild

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role
Daniel Day Lewis in There will be Blood (winner)
George Clooney in Michael Clayton
Ryan Gosling in Lars and the Real Girl
Emile Hirsch in Into the Wild
Viggo Mortensen in Eastern Promises

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role
Julie Christie in Away from Her (winner)
Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth: the Golden Age
Marion Cotillard in La Mome
Angelina Jolie in A Mighty Heart
Ellen Page in Juno

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role
Javier Bardem in No Country for Old Men (winner)
Casey Affleck in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Hal Holbrook in Into the Wild
Tommy Lee Jones in No Country for Old Men
Tim Wilkinson in Michael Clayton

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role
Ruby Dee in American Gangster (winner)
Cate Blanchett in I'm Not There
Catherine Keener in Into the Wild
Amy Ryan in Gone Baby Gone
Tilda Swinton in Michael Clayton

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series
The Office (winner)
Desperate Housewives
30 Rock
Ugly Betty

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series
The Sopranos (winner)
Boston Legal
The Closer
Grey's Anatomy
Mad Men

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series
Alec Baldwin in 30 Rock (winner)
Steve Carell in The Office
Ricky Gervais in Extras
Jeremy Piven in Entourage
Tony Shalhoub in Monk

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series
Tina Fey in 30 Rock (winner)
Christina Applegate in Samantha Who
America Ferrera in Ugly Betty
Mary-Louise Parker in Weeds
Vanessa Williams in Ugly Betty

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series
James Gandolfini in The Sopranos (winner)
Michael C Hall in Dexter
Jon Hamm in Mad Men
Hugh Laurie in House MD
James Spader in Boston Legal

Oustanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series
Edie Falco in The Sopranos (winner)
Glenn Close in Damages
Sally Field in Brothers & Sisters
Holly Hunter in Saving Grace
Kyra Sedgewick in The Closer

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries
Kevin Kline in As You Like It (winner)
Michael Keaton in The Company
Oliver Platt in The Bronx is Burning
Sam Shepard in Ruffian
John Turturro in The Bronx is Burning

Oustanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries
Queen Latifah in Life Support (winner)
Ellen Burstyn in Oprah Winfrey Presents: Mitch Albom's For One More Day
Debra Messing in The Starter Wife
Anna Paquin in Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee
Vanessa Redgrave in The Fever
Gena Rowlands in What if God were the Sun?

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Directors Guild of America Awards 2008

The Directors Guild of America announced the winners of its awards today:

For Outstanding Directional Achievement in:

Feature Film
No Country for Old Men, Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Other Nominees:
Into the Wild, Sean Penn
Michael Clayton, Tony Gilroy
Le Scaphandre et le Papillion, Julian Schnabel
There Will Be Blood, Paul Thomas Anderson

Movies for Television/Miniseries
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, Yves SimoneauOther Nominees:
The Bronx is Burning, Jeremiah S. Chechik
The Company, Mikael Salomon
Oprah Winfrey Presents: Mitch Albom’s For One More Day, Lloyd Kramer
The Starter Wife, Jon Avnet

Dramatic Series
Mad Men, Alan TaylorOther Nominees:
Lost ‘Through the Looking Glass’, Jack Bender
Lost ‘The Brig’, Eric Laneuville
The Sopranos ‘Made in America’, David Chase
The Sopranos ‘Soprano’s Home Movies’, Timothy Van Patten

Comedy Series
Pushing Daisies, Barry Sonnenfeld
Other Nominees:
30 Rock ‘Rosemary’s Baby’, Michael Engler
30 Rock ‘Somebody to Love’, Beth McCarthy-Miller
Desperate Housewives, David Grossman
Entourage, David Nutter

Musical Variety
61st Annual Tony Awards, Glenn P Weiss
Other Nominees:
The Colbert Report, Jim Hoskinson
The Daily Show, Chuck O’Neil
Late Show with David Letterman, Jerry Foley
79th Annual Academy Awards, Louis J Horvitz

Reality Programs
The Amazing Race, Bertram van Munster

Daytime Series
One Life to Live, Larry Carpenter

Ghosts of Cite Soleil, Asger Leth

Production Company MJZ UK, Nicolai Fuglsig

Children’s Programs
Jump In, Paul Hoen

Gosford Park

I saw this for a second time last night and enjoyed it just as much as the first viewing. A wonderful cast including Maggie Smith, Kristen Scott Thomas, Helen Mirren, Michael Gambon, Jeremy Northam, Emily Watson and Richard E Grant bring this comedy-drama to life.

The setting is 1932 at a house party held by Sir William (Michael Gambon). The attendees of the house party are relatives or hangers-on mostly seeking money (in the form of allowances/jobs/deals etc). Of course they bring their valets/maids with them so the population of the house swells accordingly. An exception to the above is Ivor Novello (Jeremy Northam) who makes movies and has brought along an American, Mr Weissman (Bob Balaban), who is doing research for his next Charlie Chan movie. His valet (Ryan Phillipe) is actually an actor in disguise, doing research “below stairs”.

The stories of the house guests and those of their servants slowly reveals itself, particularly through Countess Trentham’s (Maggie Smith) maid, Mary (Kelly McDonald), who is new to being a lady’s maid and so everything she sees and hears is quite a surprise. Her naïvity is a wonderful foil for all the goings-on both above and below. Eventually there is a murder within the house and the majority of the guests and servants have a secret to hide – but did they have enough cause to murder someone?

Maggie Smith gives a wonderful performance as the Countess and although her part is not huge, she lights up the screen when given the opportunity. Helen Mirren is also wonderful as the very strict ‘perfect servant’ Mrs Wilson, the housekeeper. Kristen Scott Thomas plays the part of Sir William’s wife and is very easy to watch. Richard E Grant plays a snooty servant very well and Emily Watson’s maid Elsie is suitably subservient in public yet strongwilled and tired of the games in private. Kelly McDonald plays the naïve lady’s maid beautifully and has good interaction with her mistress, the Countess.

Not a fast paced movie by any stretch, but very watchable if you have the time and peace to enjoy it.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Heath Ledger

I was saddened and rather shocked to hear this week of the death of Australian actor, Heath Ledger in New York.

A talented actor he was only 28 yet already had a large number of films under his belt. I haven't seen all of them but the ones I have seen I have enjoyed and his acting talent was obvious. He grew up in Perth, Western Australia in a normal household and attended the well respected Guildford Grammar school. He seemed kind and down to earth and was actually named after Heathcliff in Bronte's Wuthering Heights.

I didn't always agree with his film choices - but must remember they were only roles he was playing!

Here is a list of his films/tv:
Clowning Around - 1992 - lots of Australians in the cast (eg. Noni Hazelhurst, Ernie Dingo, Rebecca Smart) with the odd American thrown in (eg. Van Johnson). Filmed in Paris.
Ship to Shore - 1993 - an Australian comedy series for children.
Sweat - 1996 - an Australian drama series about a school of children with athletic pursuits. Aimed at children/teens and filmed in Australia.
Blackrock - 1997 - Drama aimed at teens, filmed in Australia. Nominated for a number of AFI awards, Mystfest and Film Critics Circle of Australia awards. Won an award for best feature film - adaptation by the Australian Writers Guild.
Paws - 1997 - adventure film aimed at family viewing. The dog of the film has the voice of Billy Connolly. Filmed in Australia.
Roar - 1997- an Adventure/Fantasy series filmed in Australia. Nominated for an emmy and a handful of other awards, some wins.
Home & Away - 1998 - Australian drama series.
10 Things I Hate About You - 1999 - A comedy/romance based on Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew. This was the first major role for Heath that I can recall. He starred alongside Julia Stiles. Received many nominations and Julia Stiles won two awards from this film.
Two Hands
- 1999 - A drama/crime with a few light moments, this Australian film starred Heath and well known Australian laconic actor, Bryan Brown. Nominated and won a decent amount of awards.
The Patriot - 2000 - Action/drama film where Heath played the son of Mel Gibson's character in this movie based on the American Revolution. Nominated for 3 Oscars. Heath won Favourite Male Newcomer by Blockbuster Entertainment Awards for this role.
A Knights Tale - 2001 - one of my favourite Heath films. An adventure/action/comedy/romance movie filmed in the Czech Republic where a peasant squire becomes a knight. Lots of nominations and a few wins for this easy to watch movie.
Monster's Ball - 2001 - A drama filmed in the US which starred Billy Bob Thornton and Halle Berry. This film won an Oscar and had many other wins and nominations.
Four Feathers - 2002 - another good film, although I don't know how popular it was. An adventure/drama filmed in England that also starred Kate Hudson.
Ned Kelly - 2003 - a gritty Australian film about the outlaw of the same name. Heath brought realism without the audience losing thier love of this folk hero. Also starring Orlando Bloom, Naomi Watts and Geoffrey Rush amongst the many. Lots of nominations including Best Actor for Heath from the AFI Awards and Films Critics Circle of Australia.
The Order - 2003 - I haven't seen this US/German action movie that was filmed in Italy.
Lords of Dogtown - 2005 - Filmed in the USA this action/drama brought Heath an Actor of the Year award and nomination.
The Brother's Grimm - 2005 - Another film I really enjoyed where Heath starred alongside Matt Damon. An adventure/fantasy filmed in the Czech Republic and directed by Terry Gilliam.
Brokeback Mountain - 2006 - I didn't actually like the 'idea' of this movie so have never watched it, although it won 3 oscars amongst an absolute landslide of nominations and wins. Heath was nominated for an Oscar for Best Peformance by an Actor in a Leading Role. The AFI awarded him best actor for an international film. He was also nominated for a BAFTA and a Critics Choice Awards.
Casanova - 2005 - An adventure/comedy with Heath in the lead role and fellow actors included Jeremy Irons and Sienna Miller. Filmed in Italy, the film had a couple of wins/nominations.
Candy - 2006 - I saw too many reviews and shorts of this film to want to watch, but it won a number of awards and Heath was nominated for best actor by AFI, Film Critics Cirle and IF.
I'm Not There - 2007 - This biography of Bob Dylan has won an Independent Spirit Award and is nominated for many other awards including an Oscar.

A film is still in production:
The Dark Knight - a batman movie in post-production where Heath plays the Joker.

One other film has started filming, called the Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus it is a fantasy directed by Terry Gilliam (he directed The Brothers Grimm). It is currently on hold while they decide if they need to recast Heath's part.

Condolences must go to his family, ex-partner Michelle and daughter Matilda.

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

I was sent this novel some months ago by my sister in law who thought I would enjoy it. As usual it languished on my bookshelf until we went away for a few days and I thought I should take a book with me to read, should I get the time. Luckily I DID get the time as it was a page turner from the very start!

The story is based on a rather lonely woman (Margaret Lea) who grew up around books and took an interest in writing biographies of deceased writers, who is selected by a very popular author (Vida Winter) to write her biography before she dies. The story of Vida’s life is revealed piece by piece and you share Margaret’s breathless curiosity. But the story still has surprises even at its conclusion.

There are frequent references to classic, favourite books (Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, The Woman in White), a Brontesque sense of drama as well as a keen observation of twins and their language. (From a personal point of view, the author has written information on twin language that is virtually unobtainable from professional sources, but is indeed true as I have found from being the mother of twins!)

The story is heavily female oriented as the male figures only play minor roles, and there are strong relationship themes. The writing is rich and inviting and for anyone who loves books and reading, they will associate with part of it and will find it quite riveting!

Amazingly, this is the first novel of author Diane Setterfield – I look forward to the other treasures she will write if this story is any indication of her ability.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

A Good Year

I was looking forward to this movie as it has a favourite actor of mine, Russell Crowe, in the leading role, however I knew very little about it.

Russell plays Maximillian, a bond trader who is ruthless, vicious, a workaholic and at his core, and lonely - although he doesn’t realize it yet. He spent idyllic summers of his childhood in France at his Uncle Henry’s ‘farmhouse’ which in reality is a chateau with vineyards. This uncle (Albert Finney) taught Max many of the important lessons in life although, typical of a child, he never realized this.

In the midst of his frantic life he hears of Henry’s passing and finds that the chateau has been left to him as Henry’s nearest living relative and this necessitates a visit to France to visit the notare and see the house, with a view to selling it as quickly as possible.

He is reacquainted with Messr. Duflot (Didier Bourdon) who has been the resident vigneron for the last 20 years and memories soon flood back of those pleasant summer days. After an unforeseen minor ‘accident’ occurs, Max fails to make it back to London for an important meeting and is suspended for a week. Under his enforced stay in France, he starts to fall under the spell of the chateau and starts to show signs of the man that Henry hoped he would become.

A love interest is introduced in the form of Fanny Chenal (Marion Cotillard), a beautiful and sultry brunette. A complication is also introduced in the form of Christie (played by another Australian, Abbie Cornish), a possibly illegitimate American daughter of Henry’s, who also knows a thing or two about winemaking.

I was surprised that Crowe would be cast as an Englishman, as even though he is trying to speak with an English accent, as an Australian, I can’t but help hear his natural accent come through a little. Then I saw it was directed by Ridley Scott, who directed Crowe in his award winning role in Gladiator, so perhaps some connection had led to the casting. Nevertheless, Crowe does a great job as a nasty son of a b…. but really comes into the fore in the gentler moments. Albert Finney is a consummate actor and plays his part brilliantly. Didier Bourdon is entertaining and believable and the actresses play their parts true as well.

There are some very amusing moments throughout the movie, all in all resulting in a gentle comedy/romance which leaves you smiling and grateful that even the worst sods can be redeemed.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Golden Globes 2008

As any entertainment guide will tell you the Oscars are close and the countdown is on. This past week the Golden Globes picked its winners, although in respect to the current writer’s strike there was no “show” to go with the awards. Well, it was certainly quick with the press conference over in about half an hour!

Here is a list of the categories, nominees and winners. I have yet to see most of these so I can’t comment on the merits of those that won vs. those that were nominated (but will say I was disappointed to see that Ruth Wilson didn't win for Jane Eyre as I thought she was brilliant!).

Best Motion Picture, Drama:
Atonement (winner)
American Gangster
Eastern Promises
The Great Debaters
Michael Clayton
No Country for Old Men
There will be Blood

Best Motion Picture: Musical or Comedy

Sweeney Todd: The Demon of Fleet Street (winner)
Across the Universe
Charlie Wilson’s War

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama
Daniel Day-Lewis for There Will Be Blood (winner0
George Clooney for Michael Clayton
James McAvoy for Atonement
Viggo Mortensen for Eastern Promises
Denzel Washington for American Gangster

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama
Julie Christie for Away from Her (winner)
Cate Blanchett for Elizabeth: the Golden Age
Jodie Foster for the Brave One
Angelina Jolie for A Mighty Heart
Keira Knightley for Atonement

Best Peformance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy
Johnny Depp for Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (winner)
Ryan Gosling for Lars and the Real Girl
Tom Hanks for Charlie Wilson’s War
Philip Seymour Hoffman for The Savages
John C Reilly for Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy
Marion Cotillard for Mome, La (winner)
Amy Adams for Enchanted
Nikki Blonsky for Hairspray
Helena Bonham Carter for Sweeney Todd: The Demon of Fleet Street
Ellen Page for Juno

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture
Javier Bardem for No Country for Old Men (winner)
Casey Affleck for The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Philip Seymour Hoffman for Charlie Wilson’s War
John Travolta for Hairspray
Tom Wilkinson for Michael Clayton

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture
Cate Blanchett for I’m Not There (winner)
Julia Roberts for Charlie Wilson’s War
Saoirse Ronan for Atonement
Amy Ryan for Gone Baby Gone
Tilda Swinton for Michael Clayton

Best Director – Motion Picture
Julian Schnabel for Le Scaphandre et le Papillion (winner)
Tim Burton for Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Ethan Coen, Joel Coen for No Country for Old Men
Ridley Scott for American Gangster
Joe Wright for Atonement

Best Screenplay – Motion Picture
No Country for Old Men , Joel Coen & Ethan Coen(winner)
Atonement, Christopher Hampton
Charlie Wilson’s War, Aaron Sorkin
Le Scaphandre et le papillon, Ronald Harwood
Juno, Diablo Cody

Best Original Song – Motion Picture
Into the Wild “Guaranteed” (winner)
Enchanted “That’s How You Know”
Grace is Gone “Grace is Gone”
Love in the Time of Cholera “Despedida”
Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story “Walk Hard”

Best Original Score – Motion Picture
Atonement: Dario Marianelli (winner)
Eastern Promises : Howard Shore
Grace is Gone: Clint Eastwood
Into the Wild: Michael Brook, Kaki King, Eddie Vedder
The Kite Runner: Alberto Inglesias

Best Animated Film
Ratatouille (winner)
Bee Movie
The Simpsons Movie
Best Foreign Language Film
Le Scaphandre et le papillon (winner)
4 luni, 3 saptamani si 2 zile
The Kite Runner
Se, jie

Best Television Series – Drama
Mad Men (winner)
Big Love
Grey’s Anatomy
House M.D.
The Tudors

Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy
Extras (winner)
Pushing Daisies
30 Rock

Best Mini-Series or Motion Picture made for Television
Longford (winner)
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee
The Company
Five Days
The State Within

Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture made for Television
Jim Broadbent for Longford (winner)
Adam Beach for Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee
Ernest Borgnine for a Grandpa for Christmas
Jason Isaacs for The State Within
James Nesbitt for Jekyll

Best Performance by an Actress in a Mini-Series or a Motion Picture Made for Television
Queen Latifah for Life Support (winner)
Bryce Dallas Howard for As You Like It
Debra Messing for The Starter Wife
Sissy Spacek for Pictures of Hollis Woods
Ruth Wilson for Jane Eyre

Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy
David Duchovny for Californication
Alec Baldwin for 30 Rock
Steve Carell for The Office
Ricky Gervais for Extras
Lee Pace for Pushing Daisies

Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy
Tina Fey for 30 Rock
Christina Applegate for Samantha Who?
America Ferrera for Ugly Betty
Anna Frield for Pushing Daisies
Mary-Louise Parker for Weeds

Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series – Drama
John Hamm for Mad Men (winner)
Michael C Hall for Dexter
Hugh Laurie for House M.D.
Bill Paxton for Big Love
Jonathon Rhys Meyers for The Tudors

Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Drama
Glenn Close for Damages (winner)
Patricia Arquette for Medium
Minnie Driver for The Riches
Edie Falco for The Sopranos
Sally Field for Brothers & Sisters
Holly Hunter for Saving Grace
Kyra Sedgwick for The Closer

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
Jeremy Piven for Entourage (winner)
Ted Danson for Damages
Kevin Dillon for Entourage
Andy Serkis for Longford
William Shatner for Boston Legal
Donald Sutherland for Dirty Sexy Money

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
Samantha Morton for Longford (winner)
Rose Byrne for Damages
Katherine Heigl for Grey’s Anatomy
Rachel Griffiths for Brothers & Sisters
Anna Paquin for Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee
Jaime Pressly for My Name is Earl

Coming up:
Directors Guild of America – winners announced January 26
The Screen Actors Guild Awards – winners will be announced on January 27
Producers Guild of America – winners announced February 2
Writers Guild of America – winners announced February 9
BAFTAs – winners announced February 10
Independent Spirit Awards – winners announced February 23

Sunday, January 20, 2008

100 books every child should read

I stumbled upon this wonderful recommendation in the Daily Telegraph of 100 books every child should read:

Younger Children:
The Twits, Roald Dahl
Burglar Bill, Janet & Allan Ahlberg
The Tiger Who Came to Tea, Judith Kerr
Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak
The Tale of Samuel Whiskers, Beatrix Potter
Yertle the Turtle, Dr. Seuss
Fungus the Bogeyman, Raymond Briggs
The Story of the Little Mole Who Knew It Was None Of His Business, Werner Holzwarth & Wolf Erlbruch
Room on the Broom, Julia Donaldson
The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Eric Carle
The Cat in the Hat, Dr Seuss
Charlotte’s Web, EB White
The Story of Babar, Jean de Brunhoff
Winnie-the-Pooh, AA Milne,

Middle Years:
Stig of the Dump, Clive King
Ballet Shoes, Noel Streatfield
Howl’s Moving Castle, Diana Wynne Jones
Just So Stories, Rudyard Kipling
The Borrowers, Mary Norton
Struwwelpeter, Heinrich Hoffman
The Magic Faraway Tree, Enid Blyton
Danny, the Champion of the World, Roald Dahl
George’s Marvellous Medicine, Roald Dahl
Underwater Adventure, Williard Price
Tintin in Tibet, Herge
The Complete Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales
Erik the Viking, Terry Jones
When the Wind Blows, Raymond Briggs
Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, TS Eliot
The Iron Man, Ted Hughes
The Owl and the Pussycat, Edward Lear
The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Graeme
The Worst Witch Collection, Jill Murphy
Peter Pan, JM Barrie
Mr Majeika, Humphrey Carpenter
The Water Babies, Charles Kingsley
A Little Princess, Frances Hodgson Burnett
I’m the King of the Castle, Susan Hill
The Wave, Morton Rhue
Pippi Longstocking, Astrid Lindgren
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl
Bambert’s Book of Missing Stories, Reinhardt Jung
The Firework-Maker’s Daughter, Philip Pullman
Tom’s Midnight Garden, Phillippa Pearce
The Phantom Tollbooth, Norton Juster
The Silver Sword, Ian Serrallier
Cue for Treason, Geoffrey Trease
The Sword in the Stone, TH White
A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursulla K LeGuin
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, JK Rowling
The Chronicles of Narnia, CS Lewis
His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman
The BFG, Roald Dahl
Swallows and Amazons, Arthur Ransome
Clarice Bean, Don’t Look Now, Lauren Child
The Railway Children, E Nesbit
The Selfish Giant, Oscar Wilde
Black Beauty, Anna Sewell
Just William, Richmal Crompton
Jennings Goes to School, Anthony Buckeridge
Comet in Moominland, Tove Jansson
The Bad Beginning, Lemony Snicket

Early Teens:
Call of the Wild, Jack London
Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll
The Outsiders, SE Hinton
I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, Joan Aiken
To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
The Owl Service, Alan Garner
The Hound of the Baskervilles, Arthur Conan Doyle
Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte
The Diary of a Young Girl, Anne Frank
Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry, Mildren D Taylor
A Kestrel for a Knave, Barry Hines
The Hobbit, JRR Tolkein
War Horse, Michael Morpurgo
Beowulf, Michael Morpurgo
King Solomon’s Mines, H Rider Haggard
Kim, Rudyard Kipling
The Road of Bones, Anne Fine
Frenchman’s Creek, Daphne Du Maurier
Treasure Island, RL Stephenson
Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
Anne of Green Gables, LM Montgomery
Junk, Melvin Burgess
Cider with Rosie, Laurie Lee
The Go-Between, LP Hartley
The Rattle Bag, edited by Seamus Heaney & Ted Hughes
The Song of Hiawatha, HW Longfellow
Watership Down, Richard Adams
Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain
True Grit, Charles Portis
Holes, Louis Sachar
Lord of the Flies, William Golding
My Family and Other Animals, Gerald Durrell
Coraline, Neil Gaiman
Carrie’s War, Nina Bawden
The Story of Tracy Beaker, Jacqueline Wilson
The Lantern Bearers, Rosemary Sutcliffe

Hmmm, I’m not doing too well. I always thought of myself as a voracious reader, but maybe I read the wrong sort of books LOL. Out of the above list I only recall reading about 30 which may mean my essential reading is a bit down on the average. I did read more Dickens, Bronte and Durrell than they mention and I also read quite a bit of Austen, so maybe that ups my list a bit!

One book on the list, Comet in Moominland, brought back quite vivid memories of reading the whole series of these books. I don’t know how old I was but I clearly remember the books themselves and their illustrations. I may have to seek those out again for my children!

I don’t know if all these books are easily available here in Australia, but I am going armed with this list to the local library in a fortnight when school resumes and will see what I can locate.

I need to jump on the younger readers quickly as the girls have just turned seven! I also need to encourage my son to read more. He was a poor reader until the last couple of years when he has worked his way through The Secret Seven and The Famous Five. Having read all the volumes in these series that he could find, he was searching around for a book and saw The Golden Compass, which he is attempting to read. It is more of a novel for an older child – the print is small, the book is thick and the style of writing he is unaccustomed to, but I am happy to let him try.

How many of the above list have you read? Have they missed out on any books?

See the comprehensive listings with a short synopsis of each book here:

part 1 (younger children)
Part 2 (middle years)
Part 3: (early teens)

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Coyote Ugly

A fun movie that gets you grooving with good music and some pretty impressive dancing and barwork antics.

Small town (New Jersey) girl and hopeful songwriter, Violet (Piper Perabo) moves to New York to hopefully make it in the music industry. She quickly finds polite doesn’t work and that the city and its inhabitants are ‘harder’ than she thought.

After her flat is broken into and her spare cash stolen, Violet goes to an all night café and sees some good looking girls (played by Izabella Miko, Bridget Moynahan and Tyra Banks) with plenty of cash, still in partying mode, farewelling one of their number. She finds out they are “coyotes” and she tracks down the Coyote Ugly club and proprietor, in the hope of a job to boost her dwindling resources. The proprietor, Lil (Maria Bello) gives her a chance and literally throws her into the deep end.

Violet has no idea what the whole idea of the bar is and is somewhat shocked to find that she has to be rough, tough, fun and sexy and the requirements of the job include barmaid AND dancing on the bar for the entertainment of the patrons. The bar comes across as one big party with everything at high speed all the time. The “Coyotes” themselves vary considerably – everything from mean to sexy to coquettish. The boss, Lil is tough but encouraging of her ‘girls’.

One music industry employee advises her to attend an open-mic night – where industry talent scouts often go. She attends one club to make enquiries and sees a good looking bloke, Kevin (after all he IS Australian, so I will use the Aussie vernacular here!), played by Adam Garcia of “Bootmen” fame. After a case of confused identities and a bit of old fashioned persistence by the good looking Kevin, they become a couple.

Violet reveals to Kevin that she has a problem singing her songs in public – and as their relationship develops, Kevin does a lot to encourage Violet out of this mindset.

At the bar one night, a fight breaks out with a “Coyote” unable to get out of the fray, and in desperation Violet gets up and sings a song along to the jukebox. Everyone is so shocked that the fight stops, the "Coyote" is saved from harm and Violet has a regular “gig” on the bar singing along to other’s songs.

I had better not tell you anymore to ruin it for you all, but be assured it has a happy ending!

Violet’s dad is played by John Goodman, and he makes a very good single-dad who plays brave and hurt as required. Piper Perabo plays Violet very believably although I did find her accent or ‘twang’ grated just a little by the end of the movie. Adam Garcia is good looking, plays the part of Kevin from the heart and there is a bit of a connection between him and Piper which is nice to see. Mario Bello plays Lil to perfection and the “Coyotes” are beautiful, sexy and great dancers, as they should be!

One to enjoy without having to think too much.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Twelfth Night: Or What You Will (1996)

A fun romp with Shakespeare! A stellar cast brings the story to life whilst staying true to the writer's ideal.

The story line is simple…yet complex! Major players are:

*a set of twins, Viola and Sebastian that are separated after a storm at sea. Viola (Imogen Stubbs) masquerades as a young man called Cesario to protect herself from harm. She ends up a close companion of Orsino and woos the Lady Olivia on his behalf.
*the Duke of Illyria, Count Orsino (Toby Stephens) head of the military force, who is ignoring his duties in his lovesick pining for the Lady Olivia and finds himself strangely attracted to the faithful Cesario .
*the Lady Olivia (Helena Bonham-Carter) who has sworn off men, but who falls for Cesario - who is really Viola.
*the clown, Feste (Ben Kingsley) who watches all and marvels at all the goings-on.

Smaller storylines include:

*a self-important servant, Malvolio (Nigel Hawthorne) enamoured of his mistress, the Lady Olivia.
*Sir Toby Belch (Mel Smith) a relative of the Lady Olivia who favours Sir Andrew in his endeavours to win Olivia’s hand and who has an eye on Olivia’s housekeeper, Maria (Imelda Staunton). Sir Toby also seeks revenge in the form of embarrassment and madness on Malvolio for his high and mighty behaviour.
*Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Richard Grant) who is hopeful of wooing the lady Olivia, but is continually out of luck.

Imogen Stubbs is the main player and does very good work in being both girl and boy, a sister mourning her brother and is kept busy wooing Olivia whilst being enamoured of Orsino. Helena Bonham-Carter is magnificent as Olivia – she shows wonderful comic acting and you just have to smile watching her.

Toby Stephens is incredibly good looking (no two ways about it, just have to say it!!) and is a wonderful Shakespearian actor. The dialogue falls naturally from his lips and he has just the right amount of emotion for each scene – nothing is over or under acted and the result is impeccable. My only gripe is that his part is too short!

Ben Kingsley relishes his part as the rather wise fool. He sings as well and the folk songs are quite haunting.

Nigel Hawthorne shows his brilliance and you see a bit of magnificent unhinged behaviour as he displayed in The Madness of King George. Superb acting.

Mel Smith plays a great Sir Toby – wine sotted and full of glee. Richard E Grant is suitably wimpish as Sir Andrew and makes his part quite believable. Imelda Staunton, plays a small but strong part as the housekeeper. Sebastian (Steven Mackintosh) has a smaller part, but delivers it well.

Shot on location in Cornwall, the scenery is quite beautiful and along with a fun story and superb acting, it will leave a smile on your face all the way through and for hours afterwards! Enjoy!!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Casino Royale (2006)

Lots of action, as you would expect from a Bond movie, but I am afraid that Daniel Craig left me cold. He seemed to have the look of a thug/hitman/killer in this portrayal and rarely came across as I expect Bond to be - cool, calm and collected. If anything, his appearances at the premiere of this movie and at awards ceremonies (when I assume he was being himself) seemed more in the Bond character than he did in the movie!

As expected, there were plenty of fast action sequences and the body count rose dramatically as the movie progressed. One of the first action sequences included the amazing athletism of a bomber (played by Sebastien Foucan), attempting to escape. I believe what he did was Free Running – apparently a new ‘sport’ in Europe/UK (the British car show, Top Gear did a segment on it recently).

I guess Daniel had a big job playing the part of Bond and wanted to make it his own. I think he succeeded in making his Bond dissimilar to the others, and not just in appearance. He was muscular and ‘square’ whereas I have always thought of Bonds as athletic but slim. Admittedly he did look extremely fit when he was only wearing swimshorts, although the obvious display of his body and the filming of the shot(s), was reminiscent of a good look at a Bond girl, rather than Bond himself! I also found the love scenes left me cold. Craig had the look of ice about him most of the time, with the one exception of a scene towards the end of the movie, in Venice. My husband, who watched this with me, told me when I expressed disappointment in the love scenes, that “it’s a Bond movie – they don’t have to act!” I guess he’s right!

The Bond girls were suitably attractive, although not heart-stoppingly so. Vesper Lyn (played by Eva Green) played her part well, although I felt was not spectacular. I did see Christina Cole (from BBC’s Jane Eyre 2006 – she played Blanche Ingram) in a small part as a receptionist and she looked suitably beautiful.

M (Judi Dench) was her usual wonderful self – no fault on the acting there. There were a few other familiar faces including Ivana Milicevic (she had a small part in Love Actually), Jeffrey Wright (from Lady in the Water), and Tsai Chin (from The Joy Luck Club and Wendy Wu, Homecoming Warrior (my children made me watch it!!!),

Baddie, Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen) had the psychotic look of someone rather unbalanced, but didn’t give me the feeling of being bad to the bone/evil.

Interestingly I thought the movie had ended a couple of times before it actually did, so I suppose they did still have a surprise or two in store. The ending was probably the best shot where at least Bond was attired in a suit and uttered his famous line “Bond, James Bond”. Apart from the huge gun he was carrying of course – that seemed a tad out of character.

Then again, this movie was supposed to be the precursor to Bond - a kind of how Bond became Bond, so perhaps we can forgive the brutish behaviour and believe that he mellowed into the sophisticated action hero of the later movies.

All in all, I wouldn’t watch this movie again. But, as a Bond movie, there is no harm in experiencing it - just don’t expect too much from it. What was your take on it?

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Devil Wears Prada

A romp into the world of fashion magazines, this was an entertaining movie, but one that leaves a slight feeling of discomfort. Discomfort at the vanity, self-importance and determination at any cost to make it to the top, that some people in the fashion industry maintain.

Meryl Streep plays the part of Miranda Priestly, editor of Runway magazine, to perfection – she is cold, distant, humorous in her own, superior way and determined to stay at the top of her game. Her character only displays an occasional glimmer of humanity before it is quickly suppressed – she is what ‘everyone’ aspires to and she makes a good show of it.

Miranda takes, as her 2nd Assistant, a hopeful young journalist Andrea/Andy (played by Anne Hathaway) who is frumpy and unfashionable but at least clever. After a testing time Miranda raises Andrea to be her invaluable assistant and protégé.

Andrea, who is quite comfortable in her skin at the beginning of the movie, realizes that if she is to make a success of her time at Runway magazine, she must conform. She does so, but almost loses her ‘soul’, her humanity, in the process.

Whilst not a life changing movie, it is nevertheless worthwhile viewing. Should you jest at the fashion world, this movie will give you a glimpse of what makes fashionistas tick.


Hello! My name is Annette, I am a mother of three younger children, wife of a farmer and pilot and a keen maker of jewellery.

I have always enjoyed reading, starting with reading the newspaper at age 4 on my father's lap. (He had not learned to read until he was an adult, so was very keen on making sure I knew how as soon as I could!) Whilst travelling through Europe at the age of 12/13 with my parents, the classics were the only types of books I could get in bookstores that were in English, so I would often be found reading Dickens, Austen and Bronte - all of which are still favourites. As a teen I found the fantasy genre and became quite addicted - unfortunately there are a lot of books in this style that are really not very good!

I also like to watch films and good TV shows. I do have a liking for British-made period pieces and quite a few British shows, but the American film industry has made some great movies too. Being located in Australia I also watch Australian films and they are often quirky and the majority are surprisingly good. Of course, there are "duds" everywhere, so we all end up watching some of those too! I appreciate good actors that can draw you in and transport you to their 'world' and may show a preference for these in my film selections!

I would love to see live shows, but the tyranny of distance means that this is not possible, except in the rarest of cases.

I hope that you enjoy reading my reviews - they may not be terribly current or that organised, but I hope they will encourage you to read/see something that you may not otherwise venture towards, or in other cases give you fair warning of some not so select choices! I will always welcome your comments, so please leave a message.