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The War Bride
The War Bride
DVD
Price: $7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Anna Friel shines as the War Bride, January 31, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The War Bride (Amazon Video)
THE WAR BRIDE takes an interesting perspective of the WW II experience: that of a young English woman who comes to Canada after marrying a Canadian soldier in WW II. The couple meet in London, England and after a whirlwind courtship get married. Lily (Anna Friel), the young woman in question is caught up in the romance of her story and together with her best friend, Sophie (Julie Cox) look forward to a better life in Canada, having bought the story of how well-off their Canadian beaus are. After a hasty wedding and having an infant daughter, Lily and Sophie (who has also married a Canadian soldier) get invited by the Canadian government to move to Canada and they happily do so.

Once Lily arrives in Canada, however, she is in for a rude awakening. Her in-laws, consisting of dour mom-in-law, Betty (Brenda Fricker) and resentful sis-in-law Sylvia (Molly Parker), don't quite give her the warm welcome Lily expected and she is in for even more of a shock when she finally arrives at the family "ranch" which consists of a several run-down wooden buildings out in the middle of nowhere. The family lives a very modest life, but Lily soon overcomes her misgivings and tries to make the best of it.

It is this joie de vivre that keeps Lily going and she tries to lift the spirits of all those around her, despite feeling lonely and out of depth at times. When husband Charlie (Aden Young) returns after several years, he is a changed man and no longer the carefree guy Lily fell in love with. The movie doesn't really explore the effects of PTSD in depth and things feel sort of rushed in the end, but overall, I give this period production 4 stars because for 2/3 of the film, the story flows well and Anna Friel's nuanced performance deserves credit. I'd recommend this to fans of period war dramas.


Meet the Patels
Meet the Patels
DVD
Price: $4.99

5.0 out of 5 stars In pursuit of a happily-ever-after, Patel style!, January 24, 2016
This review is from: Meet the Patels (Amazon Video)
"Meet the Patels" is a heartwarming and funny portrayal of the pursuit of matrimony as seen through the eyes of Ravi Patel, a 30--year-old American Indian man who is torn between being true to his own feelings and pleasing his family, especially his parents who above all, wish for him to settle down with an ideal girl, only their idea of the ideal girl is a girl of Indian origin with traditional values. This docu-drama (filmed by both Ravi and his sister Geeta Patel) traces the parents' efforts in match-making their only son, an adventure that takes them to India and back.

I loved the cultural portrayal of matrimony as seen by the Indian community - throughout the docu-drama, Indian couples, both young and old, attest to the effectiveness of matchmaking, and many couples seem perfectly content to have been match-made. But Ravi and his sister, Geeta (who is also unmarried), just can't seem to get into this cultural tradition. They are both educated and have spent their lives in America and have come to accept the duality of their existence: part of them identifies strongly with being Indian and they are perfectly happy with this, enjoying the camaraderie and closeness that comes from being part of a larger community that is close-knit and loyal; and the other part, which embraces being American and having friends who are of diverse backgrounds.

Ravi's openness to having his parents matchmake for him is countered by his agonizing over the break-up of his relationship with his long-term girlfriend, Audrey, who happens to be white, and whose existence is kept secret from Ravi's parents for most of the film. There was much in this film that resonated with me - since I too am Indian, though female, and chose a less conventional path in pursuit of personal happiness, just like Ravi did. The beauty of the film is its ultimate message of acceptance and tolerance and the acknowledgment that in the end - it is one's personal happiness that is important and the deciding factor in the choices one makes. Funny, ironic, and heartwarming, "Meet the Patels" is recommended!


In the Heart of the Sea
In the Heart of the Sea
DVD
Price: $19.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Call me Ishmael", January 17, 2016
I've been wanting to watch "In the Heart of the Sea" and finally got a chance to see it tonight, at our local dollar theater. It didn't take very long for this film to make it to the dollar theater, and its commercial failure is a great pity, for I found this film to be a compelling narrative with striking visuals (I did not watch it in 3D, but it was still visually arresting) and excellent casting. Director Ron Howard does not disappoint and delivers a soul-stirring sea epic of man vs. nature/ creature.

Being a fan of Herman Melville's "Moby Dick" since a young teen, I was eager to see Howard's interpretation: in the film, author Melville (Ben Whishaw) visits innkeeper Tom Nickerson (Brendan Gleeson) and offers him money in exchange for Nickerson's tale of having survived the ill-fated whale-hunting vessel Essex's last voyage. Initially reluctant, the tortured Nickerson finally spills his story and hence unfolds the tragic epic of the voyage that pits man against whale and the elements.

There is much to recommend this film: the visuals are striking and beautifully filmed; the period details (1800s) seem authentic; but above all, the narrative is compelling and draws the viewer into the story of these whale hunters and the trials they endure in search of that precious commodity - whale oil. Chris Hemsworth aka Thor shows us he can do more than just play a superhero, portraying first mate Owen Chase, a man who aspires to be a captain of his own vessel and desires to make a mark in the world of whale hunting, despite having to leave behind his pregnant wife while he sails for years on end. Benjamin Walker plays the uppity greenhorn Captain George Pollard who carries a chip on his shoulder and feels a need to put down Chase, envying Chase's skill and camaraderie with his crew mates.

As the film unfolds, the antagonism between Chase and Pollard gives way to something much bigger in the form of the great whale that plagues the men from the Essex. The scenes where the whale attacks the ship and stalks the men are riveting but one scene that stands out to me is the one where Chase and Pollard, at their most vulnerable after being stranded on an uninhabitable island share a rare moment of insight that captures the essence of the film. If you care at all for period films with great storytelling, then this is a must-watch.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 21, 2016 7:21 PM PST


Atlas of Secret Europe: A guide to sites of magic and mystery
Atlas of Secret Europe: A guide to sites of magic and mystery
by Charles Walker
Edition: Hardcover
26 used & new from $4.89

5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent guide to the ancient repositories of mystery and magic, January 10, 2016
I came upon this title at my local public library and truly enjoyed reading it. I enjoy reading about historical sites that also reflect the secret practices and occult beliefs of people long ago. Author Charles Walker compiles his research into this topic in this coffee-table sized hardcover, covering various places throughout Europe that portray the blend of myth and legend as well as history.

The book is divided into several chapters: Heretics and Knights; Demons and Witches; Planets, Zodiacs, and Stars; Heavenly and Earthly Lines; The Rosicrucians of Europe; Stones and Magic Symbols. Throughout the book, photographs (black and white and color) enhance the narrative, and the author also includes archival documents to further enhance the reader's understanding. Recommended for those with an interest in the subject.


Haunted House Album (A Ghostly Register of the World's Most Frightening Haunted Houses)
Haunted House Album (A Ghostly Register of the World's Most Frightening Haunted Houses)
by Hans Holzer
Edition: Hardcover
42 used & new from $0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, albeit brief accounts of haunted homes around the world, January 10, 2016
Hans Holzer is one of my favorite authors of the paranormal. He is sadly no longer with us as he passed away in 2009, but his legacy is in the numerous books he authored as well as shows on the paranormal. I came across this title by chance at my local public library and of course I had to check it out. The book collects stories and photographs of some of the more famous as well as lesser known haunted homes around the world. Keep in mind that this book was first published in 1971 (I read the 1992 re-printing) so it could do with some updating in terms of the photographs (better quality would be most appreciated), but I can't complain. Holzer's narrative that accompanies each place featured makes for entertaining reading. Definitely recommended for those who enjoy this genre.


The Haunting of Radcliffe House [DVD]
The Haunting of Radcliffe House [DVD]
7 used & new from $8.07

4.0 out of 5 stars Suspenseful haunted house story, January 2, 2016
"The Haunting of Radcliffe House" (UK title) was released in the US as "Altar". It features Olivia Williams as Meg Hamilton, an expert in restoration work who moves her family, comprising her artist husband Alec (played by Matthew Modine), and their two children, Penny and Harper from their home in London to an old, abandoned mansion called the Radcliffe House out on the Yorkshire Moors. The house has a reputation because of its grisly history and the local townspeople are not keen to help Meg work on restoring the mansion. Having no choice but to carry out the work on it by herself, Meg discovers strange things in the house, including a tiled floor in the root cellar that depicts an image attributed to the Rosicrucians. Teenager Penny gets eerie visitations by a female spirit who is all scarred, but none of the adults will believe her, attributing it to nightmares.

Over a period of time, even Meg begins to see and experience strange things although the skeptic in her tries to rationalize away her experiences. Then husband Alec begins to really go off the rails, working in secret at all hours on a new project that he refuses to let anyone else see. What exactly is happening to the Hamilton's?

I thought this was a pretty decent, highly atmospheric haunted house ghost story. The chills are there although they could have been better done. The story itself is nothing new except for the references to Rosicrucianism. There are parts of the story that reminded me of "The Skeleton Key". The cinematography of the serene yet eerie Yorkshire countryside is beautifully done and the house itself is a central character in the story and I enjoyed watching the story unfold in various key rooms in the house. The suspense factor is well built and the pacing for the most part is good. Final verdict: a bit derivative but the performances of the cast and the suspense do make for an engaging viewing experience.


The Folio Jane Austen: Mansfield Park, Emma, Pride & Prejudice, Sense & Sensibility, Persuasion, Northanger Abbey & Shorter Works; 7 Volume Boxed Set.
The Folio Jane Austen: Mansfield Park, Emma, Pride & Prejudice, Sense & Sensibility, Persuasion, Northanger Abbey & Shorter Works; 7 Volume Boxed Set.
by Jane Austen
Edition: Hardcover
3 used & new from $68.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful 1991 Folio Society boxed set of Jane Austen's novels, January 1, 2016
This Folio Society boxed set of Jane Austen's works was re-printed in 1991 and comes in an attractive red slipcase containing seven volumes of Jane Austen's works:
Persuasion
Northanger Abbey
Shorter Works
Sense and Sensibility
Mansfield Park
Emma
Pride and Prejudice

All of the books contain an introduction by Richard Church and wood engravings by Joan Hassall. The cover of each book is not completely bright red as implied by the photograph here. The spines are in the same rich red as the slipcase, but the rest of the covers (for all seven books) are in a pretty white and red leaf print. They truly are beautiful to look at at and hold. In this age of e-reading devices, I must say I still have a soft spot for print books, especially those that have been manufactured with such attention to detail. This boxed set has pride of place in my home, and will enhance the library of any Austen fan.


Gemma Bovery
Gemma Bovery
DVD
Price: $12.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Light-hearted take on a classic with amazing performances by the lead actors, December 21, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Gemma Bovery (Amazon Video)
"Gemma Bovery" was a pleasant find on a dull Sunday afternoon. I have watched numerous screen adaptations of Gustave Flaubert's "Madame Bovary" and was curious to see what this French film had to offer. It is a more light-hearted take on Flaubert's original and once you get past that and don't go looking for deeper undertones, this turns out to be quite wonderful indeed.

Gemma Arterton portrays the bored title character, who together with her older husband, Charlie (Jason Flemyng) uproot themselves from London and decamp to bucolic and provincial Normandy where Charlie focuses on his antiques' restoring business. Their neighbor across the street is baker Martin (Fabrice Luchini) who also happens to be a diehard Flaubert fan and can't get over the similarities between the novel and the real life couple across the street. He also becomes infatuated with Gemma and the scenes between him and Gemma are some of the highlights of the film - the banter, the end of Martin's self-confessed "10 years of sexual tranquility", "erotic" scenes in the bakery, and more. The dialogue between the two gets hysterical at times with one particular scene involving Gemma saying "suck me" to the stupefied Martin, meriting repeat viewings for its comical attributes.

Of course, this being after all a take on Flaubert's work, our titular character soon gets embroiled in a passionate affair with the dashing young local squire, Bressigny, both indulging in steamy encounters at Bressigny's seen-better-days' chateau. And just like in Flaubert's work, it all comes crashing down eventually, but not quite in the manner of the original. I've watched this twice now, not because it's a faithful adaptation of Flaubert's classic (it is decidedly not), but because I so enjoy Luchini's wonderful performance (his facial expressions and hang-dog looks simply speak volumes) and of course Gemma Arterton's ethereal portrayal of a modern-day equivalent of the bored and unfulfilled wife. Highly recommended.


Madame Bovary
Madame Bovary
DVD
Price: $4.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finely nuanced story of an adulterous wife, December 21, 2015
This review is from: Madame Bovary (Amazon Video)
I admit I've never quite managed to get through Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary, and have only watched one other screen adaptation in addition to this 2000 adaptation, which has been only recently released (2012) as a Region 1 DVD. 1976's Madame Bovary - The Complete Miniseries may seem outdated in terms of production qualities, but I highly recommend it for the stellar casting, especially Francesca Annis' compelling portrayal of the wayward Emma Bovary. Then there's this 2000 adaptation starring Frances O'Connor as the ambitious, passionate Emma Bovary. Emma has humble beginnings, starting out as an indulged farmer's daughter who gets a quality education (in comparison to other girls of her station) at an Ursuline convent. She catches the eye of the local village doctor, Charles Bovary (Hugh Bonneville of Masterpiece Classic: Downton Abbey (Original UK Edition), some may also remember him as the villain in Daniel Deronda) and after a brief courtship, the pair get married.

Emma has romantic notions of what life should be like and has the airs and graces of someone above her station. Soon after their marriage, Emma begins to chafe at the provincial and dull life of a village doctor's wife. Though her husband absolutely dotes on her, he can't seem to satisfy her need for romantic passion or fulfill her ever increasing material desires. As Emma nears an emotional breakdown, it is decided that a change of scene might be best for the fragile Madame Bovary's constitution. The couple settle in a larger town where Emma meets a young law clerk Leon (a very young Hugh Dancy) and the pair form a close bond, appearing to be true kindred spirits. Leon shares Emma's passion for the arts, something Charles could never relate to. However this passion for each other remains platonic because of Emma's ambivalent nature, and Leon soon departs for the big city. Eventually Emma bears Charles a daughter. Even motherhood proves too overwhelming for Emma, and she performs her duties in a perfunctory manner, hardly ever taking notice of her beautiful little girl. Only her formidable mother-in-law, Marie Louise (a credible portrayal by Eileen Atkins who can be seen in Episode 1 - Cranford [HD]) sees Emma for what she truly is - a spoiled, petulant, selfish woman concerned only with her own needs and desires.

When a rich nobleman Rodolphe catches sight of Emma, the rake is bent on seducing her, and succeeds beyond his wildest expectations. In Rodolphe, Emma is able to unleash all her pent-up passions and the pair engage in a long-term, torrid affair. How Charles, the cuckolded husband is ignorant of his wife's shenanigans is beyond my understanding when everyone else in town seems to suspect what is going on! The story continues until Emma's inevitable and tragic downfall, though I must say I wasn't the least bit sorry to see it happen.

Emma Bovary is one of the most unsympathetic characters I've come across on screen or in literature (at least in Anna Karenina, I felt much empathy for Anna). At certain points during the drama, Emma's inner monologue says, "This is not my choice." Yet, she doesn't try to find a way out of her dull, listless marriage or rejuvenate it as a sensible woman would. After all, unlike the female protagonist in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Emma is not in an abusive relationship. Her husband loves her and cherishes her, and yet all she does is hurt him and bring about his ruin. How is one to sympathize with a woman like this, so bereft of love, care, and sensitivity? The callous manner in which she treats her own father, her husband and her daughter makes her a repulsive character to me. Frances O'Connor deserves credit for giving a compelling portrayal of Emma Bovary, with finely nuanced acting that eclipses her fine turn in the much maligned 1999 adaptation of Mansfield Park (which though far removed from Austen's novel, is worth a watch for O'Connor's performance as Fanny Price).

In addition to the film, there's also a special feature documentary titled "A Complex Heart: Gustave Flaubert" which takes a look at the influences on the author and his works. The film runs 158 minutes approx. with the option of English subtitles. I'd recommend this to all fans of well-made period dramas.


They Watch [VHS]
They Watch [VHS]
VHS
9 used & new from $4.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Engaging and suspenseful supernatural film dealing with loss and grief, December 20, 2015
This review is from: They Watch [VHS] (VHS Tape)
I remember watching this film on TV years ago and was glad to find it on Youtube. "They Watch" also has the alternate titles of "They" and "Children of the Mist". It has notable performances by Vanessa Redgrave and Patrick Bergin. The story focuses on a family comprising a busy professional (played by Patrick Bergin) who always misses out on his young daughter's dance recitals. One fateful night, he misses another performance and his daughter is upset with him, so much that she refuses to go with him in his car on the way home, choosing to leave with her mom and younger sister. There's an accident and the daughter is killed.

Bergin's character is devastated and he finds it difficult to come to terms with the loss, especially since he is wracked by guilt for not being there enough for his family. This takes a toll on his marriage and his relationship with his younger daughter. Then strange things start happening, all of which lead him to think he is going insane. However, a discover of a drawing by his daughter, of a historic antebellum home, leads him to the home of a blind woman, Ms. Florence (Vanessa Redgrave), where the skeptical man is forced to face his fears and doubts and come to terms with the fact that his daughter's spirit is earth-bound due to his unwillingness to let go and come to terms with her death.

There is enough suspense and good acting to make up for other flaws such as a drawn out second half of the film. Ms. Redgrave never disappoints and portrays the otherworldly blind Southern woman with amazing credibility and a touch of the ethereal. The film addresses the issues of loss and grief, and the supernatural with sensitivity and makes for an engaging watch.


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