Monday, 31 January 2011

Rocky Horror: can't beat a classic!

Last night, after discovering that not one but TWO of my gals had not seen Rocky Horror, they were told to come over and bring the wine and choccies. The response was a mixed one. One loved the film and was very impressed while the other, a little stumped, wasn't actually sure if she liked it or not. Me and my lil big sis, having seen it on numerous occasions were of course forcing ourselves not to sing along (too much) and laugh before lines had been uttered.

As my sister rightly said, Tim Curry is quite simply the sexiest man ever to be seen in drag (his legs are envied by women the world over I'm sure!) and Richard O'Brien of Crystal Maze fame is fantastic as both the creative genius (he wrote the original stage play!) and Riff-raff. Other stars include Susan Sarandon and Meatloaf.

To explain the plot would defeat the point of seeing the film. It is beyond strange but has brilliant songs including the infamous TimeWarp and acting that has never been seen before or since that manages to be brilliant and cheesy and terrible all at the same time.

It's genius is in the outlandish outfits, un-PC characters (they hail from  a place called Transexual, Transylvania) and the fantastic one liners! "Dammit Janet, I love you", "It's not easy having a good time, even smiling makes my face ache", "That's a rather tender subject. Another slice, anyone?" and "I've been makin' a man, with blond hair, and a tan and he's good for relieving my tension."

The films title in Argentina translates to "Orgy of horror and craziness" a fairly accurate summary actually :)

So go and watch it as soon as you can and don't just sit around and wait in antici....

....pation :)

LE xx


Thursday, 27 January 2011

Whisper from an Angel by Christine Holohan

As a recent convert to the world of non-fiction, I understand the trepidation many readers might have about branching away from the fun-filled land of fiction and into the real world. What I would suggest to those who are a little hesitant is to start with a memoir or two. Memoirs are written in the same narrative style as fiction but with the added bonus of knowing that what you are reading is not made up. Someone out there lived what you are reading and that for me gives it meaning. Think of how many times you have watched a film and reached the credits only to find that it is based on a true story. Did it change the way you looked at the film?

Now the only thing you need to ask yourself is what are you interested in - what gets you excited in a book and in life? Some people may love the celebrity world and thoroughly enjoy biographies, while others may have experienced some form of abuse and are comforted to know they are not alone in the world, choosing to find solace and inspiration in books about abuse victims who have managed to triumph in one way or another. For me, I'm just interested in a gripping story. I admit I am a sucker for a happy ending or some sort of resolution but all in all, I need a good struggle and a way out of that struggle if a story is going to keep me interested.

...which leads me onto this book. Whisper from an Angel tells the story of its author, Christine Holohan, who has seen spirits as far back as she can remember and has communicated with them for most of her life. What makes the book so compelling is the incredible way this gift (or curse as she often sees it herself) has transformed her life in ways even she, a psychic, could not foresee. It is horrifying to think that she saw visions of people dying before it happened but was unable to stop it and that she was haunted by ghosts in her everyday life, affecting her attempts at work and relationships.

This reached its pinacle when she was visited by an angry female spirit who had just been murdered. Christine found herself trying to relay the details of the murder, which she had been forced to relive through the eyes of the spirit, to the sceptical police who were investigating the crime in an attempt to help them find the murderer. Her involvement in the case would not be as brief and resolute as she hoped and she would be plagued by its events for a long time after. In the midst of this horror she found comfort in family and friends who never ridiculed her for her abilities and remained loyal.

Christine writes in an incredibly open and honest way about her own personal struggles. I only found a tiny part at the end slightly preachy but it didn't bother me. Christine mearly shows the reader how her spirituality has helped her through her life and offers her opinion on guardian angels and how they are around us trying to guide us and keep us on the right path. Whether you choose to believe that or not is up to you.

Obviously, if you are something of a cynic and don't believe in anything you cannot see or touch then this may not be the book for you but I personally found its mix of spirituality, personal struggle and crime solving a winning formula.

Christine - I applaud you for such a brave book. Well done.

LE xx


Wednesday, 26 January 2011

The Black Swan

In case you have been living on Mars for the last few weeks, this is a fairly straight-forward plot. Natalie Portman plays Nina, the very talented ballerina on the cusp of becoming the prima ballerina - if only she could loosen up enough to play both the black and white swan in the company's production of Swan Lake, as the role is typically played by the same person.

It might seem straight-forward on the surface but this plot is anything but. You will by now have heard all the Oscar talk and let me just say it is deserved. Natalie Portman, who can do no wrong - let's be honest, has never been this good. She is jaw-droppingly good in this and her gradual descent into the land of crazy is gripping and intoxicating.

But (yes there is a but) what the people failed to warn us poor innocent viewers is that this film is grotesque! I am not easily shocked but had to look away on a number of occasions as graphically violent and vulgar scenes unravelled before my eyes. It still makes me shiver thinking of her pulling at the skin she has cut by her finger. Certainly not for the faint-hearted. Or perhaps if you are faint-hearted and really want to see it then take someone who has seen it already and they can warn you when to look away.

Let me just say that despite its moments of grotesque, this film is the best film I have seen in YEARS yes years! I was gripped from start to finish, compelled by whether what I was seeing on screen was really happening or was simply in Nina's head. By the end, I was past caring either way - it was just that good to watch. Much like Nina, I was left hungry and thirsty for more. It certainly stayed with me long after I left the cinema *I currently have the Swan Lake score playing on Spotify!*. Oh and the ballet sequences are spectacular too!

What made The King's Speech so brilliant was it's phenomenal cast and personable characters. The whole film was very real and character based. In total contrast, what makes this film so brilliant is it's descent into the imagined, the sinister, the theatrical and the very very dark mind of Nina.

Helping her along her journey into darkness is the fantastic Mila Kunis (more widely known as the voice of Meg in Family Guy!) who is funny and brilliant in her own right. She easily captures the black swan role from the outset, being as good as Nina but more relaxed, more cool, less clinically perfect. Nina finds herself both drawn to her new rival and angered by her as she sees her as her threat and how their relationship develops is simply incredible on both parts.

So brace yourselves but definitely go and see it - go and see it right now and then go home and put on the soundtrack and then perhaps go and see a ballet - they're not appreciated nearly as much as they should be.

LE xx

P.S Little footnote to the boys - if you get 'dragged' along to this by lady friends, reluctantly agree because that's just how nice you are - there's a nice little treat for you in there, trust me :)

Rating: 5 out of 5 FOBLES 

Songs of a Humpback Whale by Jodi Picoult

Picoult has, by a large, found a niche and stuck with it and it has not failed her. Her books always raise ethical and moral dilemmas and explore what different people might do in different situations. Over her many books, she has explored religion, heart transplants, murder, choosing between children and even rape and abuse.

So, having read My Sister’s Keeper, I found it interesting to go back to where it all began – her first book. And it did not disappoint. Songs of a Humpback Whale has all the trademarks of a Picoult – brilliantly written and totally flawed and relatable characters within a complex plot with a strong emotional pull.

The main difference is that this book is much simpler in its drama. There is no massive life or death dilemma. The action, as it were, has already happened. We learn early on that Jane, the main protagonist, was abused as a child by her father and escaped into marriage at a young age. The reader also discovers at the very beginning that their daughter Rebecca survived a plane crash, aged 3. These two massive events are what, directly and indirectly, lead to Jane leaving her husband with her daughter in tow and that is when the book really begins. Her husband is a workaholic (a leader in his field of Whale song - hence the title) and has spent years neglecting his family with his absence. After a fight, Jane has had enough and runs.

Picoult is more subtle in this book, but equally brilliant. She explores in great depth the relationships between family members and the hazards of believing first impressions. She jumps perspectives from character to character and time, leaping between past, present and future events - but the fundamentals are not lost along the way. The characters are so well written that they leaped off the page and became my friends - ultimately I just wanted to know how their lives were going to pan out.

The book is more adult than I was expecting, as both Jane and Rebecca learn about new loves and go on their own paths of self-discovery in a very detailed and often explicit way so perhaps not for much younger readers.

Personally, I think it is a true testament to the readability of a book that even when the end is revealed in the middle, the reader still wants to continue reading simply to discover how it reached that point. And I did. It is that compelling.

A must for any Picoult fan, and for any readers who want to try her it would be a great place to start.

Enjoy! LE xx


Tuesday, 25 January 2011

The Ghost (writer)

A clever, well written political thriller with Pierce Brosnan and Ewan McGregor as the two male leads and the fabulous Olivia Williams and Kim Cattrall supporting. Ewan's character is enlisted to be a ghost writer for Brosnan's ex-Prime Minister and his soon to be released memoirs after his previous ghost-writer mysteriously commits suicide. Clever plot + and great cast = success... right? Wrong.

Annoyingly, the powers that be decided that Ewan should have a cockney-esque London accent and Pierce Brosnan, the well spoken Brit, apparently needed to sound more upper class so was given a weird twang that wasn't quite the Queen but seemed to try. To rub salt into the wound, they then decided to make Kim Cattrall British. Oh dear.

I can appreciate that you can be so set on having a particular actor in a role that you disregard the fact that they are a different nationality to the one in the script. And normally, this is not an issue. Ewan was tolerable as Obi-Wan and even kind of cute in I Love you Philip Morris. And there are actors who can do very good accents and it works brilliantly. Brosnan himself did a fab American accent (Americans may disagree) in Remember Me, as did Robert Pattinson in the same film. In fact, the films main cast were British and Australian but they all did fantastic American accents and it wasn't remotely distracting.

In this film, however, it was all I could focus on for the first half hour! I spent the first ten minutes trying to figure out where Ewan's character was meant to be from. My issue is that I don't understand why they bothered? It's not based on a true story (well not officially anyway!) and he needed to be British not a Londoner. So what is wrong with his natural (and very sexy) Scottish accent? And why change Brosnan's accent when he is so suave and typically British that he managed to play a very convincing Bond in his 50s?! Why change so many things that are wholly unnecessary when all it does is distract from the plot?

That being said, once you get past this point you start to appreciate the subtle brilliance of this film. The plot is actually very good and offers everything you might want from a political thriller - intrigue, backstabbing, volatile and sneaky personalities, car chases and the long-suffering but totally loyal assistant to the man in charge. It keeps you guessing right up to the very end and is compelling as Ewan takes the viewer along his road of discovery.

Olivia Williams remains, in my humble opinion, one of Britain's most understated and brilliant actresses in a manipulative and unhinged role which should have been nominated for an Oscar, had the film done better on general release.

Certainly worth a watch - but perhaps wait for TV.

LE xx


Saturday, 22 January 2011

Heath Ledger Tribute (1979-2008)

I was shocked this morning to see that it has been 3 years today since Heath Ledger's untimely death. He was a rarety amongst young actors, doing a bizarre mixture of film genres and roles within them and all his fans were expecting great things from him in the years to come. So it came as a great shock to discover that he had died aged only 28.

Ledger first hit the big screen back in 1999 in the modern take of a Shakespearean classic 10 Things I Hate About You with Julia Stiles. Since then, he has managed to captivate audiences in (among others) A Knights Tale, Brokeback Mountain and perhaps most famously The Dark Knight, where his role as the joker was talked about as the greatest role of his career and rewarded with numerous awards and nominations (all sadly received posthumously by relatives).

For me, my favourite of his roles is that of William Thatcher in A Knights Tale where he, a pauper, is told by his father to "reach for the stars". His quest to make something of his life and become a knight against all odds was both medieval and modern, sad and funny. And when others would have given up, Thatcher never ceased in his efforts and was ultimately rewarded for his persistence. It is a brilliant film with a fantastic supporting cast, including the phenomenal Paul Brittany, and managed somehow to make a soppy period romance cool and hip.

Ledger was clearly adamant that he didn't want to be type-cast as the pretty boy, choosing to take on roles that showcased his acting talent and not just his pretty face (though for this fan, the pretty face certainly helped) and dealt with serious roles with a maturity many other young actors would not have been able to pull off.

So here's to you, Heath Ledger, and all the brilliant films you should have made.

LE xx

Friday, 21 January 2011

Worst film ever made/book ever written?

So far, all my blog entries have been upbeat and merely offering my 2 cents on the books and films I have been enjoying - and whether I think you might like them or not. But today, my mood is evidently a little darker than usual as all I can think of is the worst films I have ever seen.

Now there have been many films that I have patiently sat through waiting for the plot to improve and then reached the ending still waiting for an improvement. Others have been - well in the words of Simon Cowell "forgettable" (and of course not one springs to mind).
There is, however, one film that sticks in my head because it is the only film that has ever made me want to leave a cinema - sadly I chose to stay. That film is AI. 

What started as a dark look at technological advancement in the not so distant future turned into a search by a little robot boy for his mamma.  Sadly, the original director Stanley Kubrick, died while making this movie and his friend Steven Spielberg took on the role. 
What resulted was quite clearly 2 completely different takes on the same plot merged into one abysmal film - shocking as that may be as both directors are legendary and have done some of the best films in American cinema history! But here's why it flopped in my eyes...

Kubrick saw it as dark because in his vision, humans were replacing their children with robots. The couple in question have a dying child so decide to replace him (charming!) with a robot child. Then *oops* their real child starts getting better and doesn't take too kindly to his rival. So the robot boy goes a bit doolally trying to get the attention and affection he craves from his human parents.

Spielberg (genius that he is) saw it a little differently. He imagined that the real plot lay with the poor little robot boy, shunned by his human parents, desperate to be loved and accepted and on a quest to become a real boy (Pinocchio anyone?!) - so he takes the abandoned boy on a journey to find his creator.

There is a clear shift half way through and it is unsettling to watch it go from one to the other. To this day, it angers me that I will never get those 146 minutes back.

LE x

Thursday, 20 January 2011

The Karate Kid (2010 remake)

As I was about to start watching this last night, a friend of mine told me to bear with it as doesn't really get going until a little way into the film. Very true. The first half hour was boring. In less than a week, 12 year old Dre played by Jaden Smith (mini Will as I will call him from now on) moves to China with his mum, meets a girl, gets his butt kicked by a group of mini kung fu experts and goes on a school trip to the forbidden city. Busy week.

It is not till the kung fu bullies decide to enlist some big strapping lads (who are probably in their twenties in real life!) to help beat up little Dre that the genius that is Jackie Chan steps in… and then the fun starts. There are impressive scenery shots of the Great Wall of China and other spectacular Chinese landscapes and the sequences where Jackie Chan and mini Will practice are very good.  The ultimate fight scenes at the tournament are also surprisingly well done (I was wincing through most of it). Oh and taking the infamous "wax on, wax off" to "jacket on, jacket off" is pretty funny.

Try to forget that it is set in China, not Japan, and Dre learns Kung Fu, not Karate, and you might be OK. It won't win any respectable awards and certainly won't go down in history as one of the best films ever made… but not every film can be Oscar worthy - it doesn't make them unwatchable. If you fancy watching something silly where you don't need to concentrate too much and you can marvel at yet more Jackie Chan moves (and mini Wills impressive skills by the end!) then get it. If I had seen this at the cinema, I might have felt cheated - but on DVD?... I'm OK with it.


LE xx

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Top 5: Foreign films

Foreign films became a passion of mine for two very different reasons. Firstly, two old school friends used to come over to my house and watch scary Japanese films with me, freaking my poor big sister out, who would sit in her bedroom next door and hear our intermittent squeals and screams (and often giggles!) and wonder what on earth we were doing.

And that was the start of my love for Japanese horror - Battle Royale, the Ring Trilogy and Audition were the favourites but we were also highly amused by the Tartan Extreme trailers that would come at the beginning of the DVD. Hard Boiled had the funniest (unintentionally!) trailer of Chow Yun-Fat cradling a baby and shooting everyone around him. Then came Hard Boiled 2 with its new tagline (which we created!) of more guns, more blood, more death and more eggs!

Then at university, I started to learn Spanish. And I started to take trips down to the local Phoenix cinema to watch the latest Spanish releases. Then I started to buy DVDs. It was at this point that I started to expand my foreign film viewing to other languages besides Japanese and Spanish. And I got to see the joy that is Amelie and the stunningly beautiful Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon.

Spanish films are still my favourite overall. Only in a Spanish film could Penelope Cruz play an HIV positive, pregnant nun and keep the plot plausible (All About my Mother) or Antonio Banderas play an ex-mental patient who kidnaps a porn star and still be funny (Tie me up, Tie me down).

But my real love of foreign cinema is their ability to be completely un-Hollywood. The American remakes of foreign films always leave something lacking (see review) - case in point: The Ring, Vanilla Sky etc. The characters do not always walk off into the sunset, nobody is shy about sex or violence, the plot is not thinned for the viewing public and the ends do not always tie up in a neat little bow. And for all that, I thank you foreign films, from the bottom of my slightly twisted heart.

Here are 5 you absolutely must see:
  • Amelie (French) - beautiful, romantic without being cheesy, heartwarming for the deepest and darkest cynic.
  • All About my Mother (Spanish) - to explain it would ruin it. Just watch it!
  • Battle Royale (Japanese) - a class of Japanese school children are put on an island and forced to kill each other. Violent but very very clever!

  • Ring Trilogy (Japanese) - Still creepy, will stand the test of time as one of the greatest horror films ever made!
  • Pans Labyrinth (Spanish) - visually stunning and incredibly acted. Magical and very dark all at the same time.

And if you fancy a giggle - try "Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down" (Spanish). Antonio Banderas is hilarious and if you can get past the graphic sex scenes it's absolute comedy genius.

LE xx

Top 5: Funny films

Last week I was asked what my Top 5 films are. An easy question you might think - but not to me. That depends what you mean by top 5... because the top 5 films ever made (in my humble opinion - Shawshank Redemption, Pans Labyrinth, To Kill a Mockingbird, Singing in the Rain and It's a Wonderful Life) are not my favourite five films of all time. And then there are films which I have seen thousands of times but I still wouldn't class them as my top 5 favourites.

I came close to deciding but it then became top 10 because other favourites kept popping into my head and I couldn't choose between them. It was marginally easier to class my top 5 films by genre. Top 5 80s movies, top 5 funny films, top 5 animated, foreign, horror (you get the point!)

So here is today's question: what are your Top 5 funny films of all time?

Mine are:

  • Monty Pythons Life of Brian (genius, in film form)
  • Airplane (Leslie Nielsen and co deliver some of the funniest lines ever uttered on the big screen!)
  • Top Secret (80s classic with a very young Val Kilmer)
  • Zoolander (come on, you know you've done blue steel in photos!)
  • Monty Pythons Holy Grail (most random of all MP films but has the best one liners of them all)

LE xx

Friday, 14 January 2011

Can a film ever be as good as the original book?

Many people believe (as do I more often than not!) that when a book is turned into a film it is done so badly. The characters are lost, the complex plots trivialised, favourite parts are removed due to time constraints and the imagery you had when reading the book just doesn't translate onto the big screen.  The Harry Potters, for example (though I still watch them all!) have nothing on the books, have removed fights that lasted for chapters, important plot points and changed endings. When people claimed that making the 7th book into 2 films was simply a marketing ploy, I breathed a sigh of relief and was pleasantly surprised to see the film do the first half of the book justice (See review)

Other flops include Memoirs of a Geisha (probably because the book was so popular to begin with!) and the disastrous My Sister's Keeper. The film version of the fantastic Jodi Picoult book got so many complaints from her fans that she had to put a link to the producers website on her own site to say that she did not authorise the ending change (they kill the wrong person!) and if you wanted to make a complaint it should be with them not her.

However, there are a few exceptions that I can think of - though the film never surpasses the book it is on a par with it by staying true to the original.


  • The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (though the end is changed slightly, the point of the book is not lost and the end works well in the film version).
  • To Kill a Mockingbird (both phenomenal!)
  • Battle Royale (both versions are in my top 10!). Highly recommend!!!
  • Shawshank Redemption (the book was short so perhaps this explains why they were able to pull it off).
  • The Godfather (haven't actually read this but my sis has and she said it was just as good as the film).
So what do you think? Can a film ever really do a book justice or should some books just be left well alone?

LE xxx

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

To explain the uphill struggle that this book has been needs an analogy - and the closest that comes to mind is what I imagine climbing Mount Everest would be like (a hell of a lot easier on the way down than on the way up!). 

I can completely see why this book was shortlisted for the Booker Prize but I'm stumped as to what Richard and Judy were thinking when they named it their winner for Best Read of the Year. This is not summer reading.  By any stretch of the imagination, I cannot see someone plowing through this in a couple of days while sunbathing on their holidays. However, I do believe this book will stand the test of time.  I can see people in years to come studying this book and its view of the future in great depth. And if you have the patience and commitment for a book like this then give it a try and see how you do.

Firstly let me say that David Mitchell is nothing short of a genius - the man manages to compile six narratives that on the surface have nothing to do with the others and not only link them but construct them linguistically to show the different eras.  And no I don't just mean using 1920s English and modern day English - the man goes into the future with a servant robot who says things like "Last nite" (no that isnt a typo!) and "xperimental" and "thru" and then even further into the beyond where the language was so difficult to understand it reminded me of Joseph's rants in Wuthering Heights.

And then he takes you back again. Through 529 pages, Mitchell transports his readers to the past, present, future, back to present and then back to the past. He does so using a diary, letters, an interview, and standard narrative - and what a brilliant ride home. By the second half, I have to admit that I had entirely forgotten who half the characters were because I have been reading this for a few weeks now and excuse me for not remembering a secondary character that was last mentioned 400 pages ago. But it doesn't matter. I stopped trying to retain information and just decided to go with the flow, skimming over text that didn't really make sense to me and not being concerned with why I couldn't remember who that guy she just mentioned was. And then it got really good. As often is the case in both books and films, when the plot is complex and the millions of loose ends start to tie up in neat and tidy little knots, the confusion evaporates - and evaporate it did. I laughed out loud while reading one part on the train and was gripped in others to the point of almost missing my stop.

There are a select few books which are not easy reads but are well worth the effort - Wuthering Heights, Lord of the Rings and War and Peace spring to mind - and I can now happily add Cloud Atlas to that list.  I think in a couple of years I may try it again and realise all the points I missed this time round.

But for now... I think I need to go and lie down. My head hurts.


LE xx

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

The King's Speech

In a time of blockbusters, 3D, car chases and stunning dream sequences (see review for Inception! (Review) it makes a welcome change for a film buff like me to see something a little more character-focused. Of course, the Oscar people were all over The King before he'd even made his speech, lavishing high praise on its stellar cast - Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, Guy Pearce, Michael Gambon and that hilarious little girl from Outnumbered to name but a few... - but hey we have dibs!!!

Of course, you couldn't get more quintessentially British than having a cast of British celebs acting their stiff upper lips off in a tale about our very own royal family. Factor in that it's about the underdog stuttering prince who we all know becomes the King who leads the British people through the second world war - well if you don't please go and read a history book! - and you've got yourself a film.

Watching the relationship develop between the prince and his vocal coach makes for brilliant viewing especially when the King-to-be tries the different techniques which seem to get ever more comical as the film progresses. And Colin Firth has never been greater than as the stuttering royal, taking the audience along with his awkwardness, making us will him on and feel his pain.

For those of you who, like me, thought Colin would never be better (or more compelling viewing!) than his Mr Darcy back in 1995 (oh that wet shirt...), there's a brilliantly funny reunion in this film when the King meets the wife of his vocal coach, played by Jennifer Ehle (who starred alongside Colin as his Elizabeth Bennet in the TV show) that had me grinning from ear to ear.

I'm sure there will be BAFTAs and Oscars a plenty for this film but for now, just get yourself a cup of tea, put on your finest hat and get yourself down to your local cinema and watch it.

LE xxx

Tuesday, 11 January 2011


The latest DVD to arrive on my doorstep (thanks LoveFilm) I was told great things about this film but that I might need to watch it more than once because it's so complex and quite confusing at times. So I chose to watch it when I wasn't too tired, prepared to be confused.

Well the good news is that I wasn't. Not once did I get totally lost with the plot. Though I did need to pay attention throughout, the film easily takes you on a dark but visually stunning ride through people's dreams as the still fantastic Leonardo DiCaprio and his partner in crime Joseph Gordon-Levitt (who I still picture as the awkward teenage boy in 3rd Rock from the Sun) invade people's dreams and steal the secrets buried within them.

To explain the plot would be pointless because it wouldn't make any sense - so all I will say is you need to see it to believe it. The cast are all amazing and the dream sequences are mind blowing. Unlike most Hollywood blockbusters, the plot is so brilliant that you will have no idea what is about to happen, right up to the final scene! Would appeal to male and female cinema fans - just make sure you watch it when you are awake and paying attention! 

I can see why it has been dubbed the best film of 2010 - a title it clearly deserves!


Enjoy :)