A Movie Review – Emma

This is not the first time I have seen a movie about Jane Austen’s Emma. The last one starred Gwyneth Paltrow who did a reasonable job of being the self-appointed matchmaker. In this new edition, the role of Emma went to Anya Taylor-Joy whom I thought was the better of the two.

In every one of these period pieces, it is always a treat to see who’s been roped into an acting role from a long list of old and new British television and film stars.

I was particularly pleased with Bill Nighy’s rendition of Mr. Woodhouse’s role, the running gag of searching for those invisible draughts, and strategic use of the fireside panels.

Rupert Graves, as Mr. Weston, the recipient of Emma’s matchmaking prowess (or otherwise) was also a welcome addition to what was an almost flawless selection of cast members.

But, other than the familiar plotline that included attempted matchmaking and the exercise of privilege, two things stood out. Johnny Flynn’s rendition of Mr. Knightley didn’t sit well with me as I kept going back to previous actors who filled the role, and who were in my opinion, better, and the other, the treatment of the clergy.

It seems to me that Jane Austen didn’t have much time for them because both in this and in Pride and Prejudice, the role seemed to require a buffoon rather than someone sensible. Perhaps it was best portrayed as such as it added some comic light relief from some of the more stodgy moments.

I give it a three out of five stars.

A movie review – Call of the Wild

It’s always a pleasure to go and see a movie with Harrison Ford in it, whether beating off a hoard of crooked treasure hunters or just being a grumpy old man.

In this, he was playing his grumpy old man.

But it’s the dog, Buck, a cross between a St Bernard and a Scotch Collie that steals the show.

And rightly so.

Everyone else came to see Harrison Ford, who comes in and out of the picture until the end.  I came to see the dog, whom I think might well be nicknamed ‘the great galuka’ though I have no idea where that name originated.

Certainly, for sheer size and energy he bounds his way across the countryside, from his home in California to the wilds of the Yukon and Alaska, from being a spoilt household pet, then a sled dog and part of a group of other dogs, delivering mail, then a sled dog for a cruel gold seeker, to finally becoming a companion for an old man, yes, Harrison Ford, who saved him from a certain death, who seeks to get away from everyone and everything.

The end is sad in one sense but uplifting in another, nor did I find any part of it slow-moving or boring.

Solid performances all round.

I give it four stars out of five.

Searching for locations: Driving in ice and snow, Canada

This morning started with a visit to the car rental place in Vancouver.  It reinforced the notion that you can be given the address and still not find the place.  It happened in Washington where it was hiding in the back of the main railway station, and it happened again in Vancouver when it was hidden inside a hotel.

We simply walked straight past it.  Pity there wasn’t a sign to let people know.

However…

We went in expecting a Grand Jeep Cherokee and walked out with a Ford Flex, suitable for three people and four large suitcases.  It actually seats 7, but forget the baggage, you’d be lucky to get two large suitcases in that configuration.

It is more than adequate for our requirements.

Things to note, it was delivered with just over a quarter of a tank of gas, and it had only done about 11,000 km, so it’s relatively new.  It’s reasonably spacious, and when the extra seats are folded down, there is plenty of baggage space.

So far, so good.

We finally leave the hotel at about half-past ten, and it is raining.  It is a simple task to get on Highway 1, the TransCanada Highway, initially, and then onto Highway 5, the Coquihalla Highway for the trip to Kamloops.

It rains all the way to the top of the mountain, progress hampered from time to time by water sprays from both vehicles and trucks.  The rain is relentless.  At the top of the mountain, the rain turns into snow and the road surface to slush.  It’s 0 degrees, but being the afternoon, I was not expecting it to turn to ice very quickly.

On the other side of the mountain, closer to Kamloops, there was sleet, then rain, then nothing, the last 100kms or so, in reasonably dry conditions.

Outside Kamloops, and in the town itself, there was evidence of snow recently cleared, and slushy roads.  Cars in various places were covered in snow, indicating the most recent falls had been the night before.

We’re staying at the Park Hotel, a heritage building, apparently built in the later 1920s.  In the style of the time, it is a little like a rabbit warren with passages turning off in a number of directions, and showing it is spread across a number of different buildings.

It has the original Otis elevator that can take a maximum of four passengers, and a sign on the wall that says “no horseplay inside the elevator” which is a rather interesting expression that only someone of my vintage would understand.  And, for those without a sense of humor, you definitely couldn’t fit a horse in it to play with.

The thing is, how do you find a balance between keeping the old world charm with modern-day expectations.  You can’t.  Some hotels try valiantly to get that balance.  Here, it is simply old world charm, which I guess we should be grateful for because sooner rather than later it’s going to disappear forever.

In my writer’s mind, given the importance of the railways, this was probably a thriving place for travelers, and once upon a time, there were a lot more hotels like this one.

Searching for locations: Driving in ice and snow, Canada

This morning started with a visit to the car rental place in Vancouver.  It reinforced the notion that you can be given the address and still not find the place.  It happened in Washington where it was hiding in the back of the main railway station, and it happened again in Vancouver when it was hidden inside a hotel.

We simply walked straight past it.  Pity there wasn’t a sign to let people know.

However…

We went in expecting a Grand Jeep Cherokee and walked out with a Ford Flex, suitable for three people and four large suitcases.  It actually seats 7, but forget the baggage, you’d be lucky to get two large suitcases in that configuration.

It is more than adequate for our requirements.

Things to note, it was delivered with just over a quarter of a tank of gas, and it had only done about 11,000 km, so it’s relatively new.  It’s reasonably spacious, and when the extra seats are folded down, there is plenty of baggage space.

So far, so good.

We finally leave the hotel at about half-past ten, and it is raining.  It is a simple task to get on Highway 1, the TransCanada Highway, initially, and then onto Highway 5, the Coquihalla Highway for the trip to Kamloops.

It rains all the way to the top of the mountain, progress hampered from time to time by water sprays from both vehicles and trucks.  The rain is relentless.  At the top of the mountain, the rain turns into snow and the road surface to slush.  It’s 0 degrees, but being the afternoon, I was not expecting it to turn to ice very quickly.

On the other side of the mountain, closer to Kamloops, there was sleet, then rain, then nothing, the last 100kms or so, in reasonably dry conditions.

Outside Kamloops, and in the town itself, there was evidence of snow recently cleared, and slushy roads.  Cars in various places were covered in snow, indicating the most recent falls had been the night before.

We’re staying at the Park Hotel, a heritage building, apparently built in the later 1920s.  In the style of the time, it is a little like a rabbit warren with passages turning off in a number of directions, and showing it is spread across a number of different buildings.

It has the original Otis elevator that can take a maximum of four passengers, and a sign on the wall that says “no horseplay inside the elevator” which is a rather interesting expression that only someone of my vintage would understand.  And, for those without a sense of humor, you definitely couldn’t fit a horse in it to play with.

The thing is, how do you find a balance between keeping the old world charm with modern-day expectations.  You can’t.  Some hotels try valiantly to get that balance.  Here, it is simply old world charm, which I guess we should be grateful for because sooner rather than later it’s going to disappear forever.

In my writer’s mind, given the importance of the railways, this was probably a thriving place for travelers, and once upon a time, there were a lot more hotels like this one.

A Movie Review – Emma

This is not the first time I have seen a movie about Jane Austen’s Emma. The last one starred Gwyneth Paltrow who did a reasonable job of being the self-appointed matchmaker. In this new edition, the role of Emma went to Anya Taylor-Joy whom I thought was the better of the two.

In every one of these period pieces, it is always a treat to see who’s been roped into an acting role from a long list of old and new British television and film stars.

I was particularly pleased with Bill Nighy’s rendition of Mr. Woodhouse’s role, the running gag of searching for those invisible draughts, and strategic use of the fireside panels.

Rupert Graves, as Mr. Weston, the recipient of Emma’s matchmaking prowess (or otherwise) was also a welcome addition to what was an almost flawless selection of cast members.

But, other than the familiar plotline that included attempted matchmaking and the exercise of privilege, two things stood out. Johnny Flynn’s rendition of Mr. Knightley didn’t sit well with me as I kept going back to previous actors who filled the role, and who were in my opinion, better, and the other, the treatment of the clergy.

It seems to me that Jane Austen didn’t have much time for them because both in this and in Pride and Prejudice, the role seemed to require a buffoon rather than someone sensible. Perhaps it was best portrayed as such as it added some comic light relief from some of the more stodgy moments.

I give it a three out of five stars.

Not your average to be read list

A long time ago, when I was 17 or 18, I used to do a lot of reading.  It was a long ride in on the train from home to work, and back again, and I did, then, have the time to read.

Having my own money, I was able to buy my own books, and these generally ran to mysteries and thriller, and naval stories.  The later took my interest for a while because I had notions of becoming an Ensign until I realized I needed better educational qualifications and a higher level of fitness.

So much for those aspirations, so I just read about what it would be like.

However…

I worked with a number of interesting characters, including one, a chap who was about 25, really old and wise to a 17-year-old, who deplored my reading choices.

It seemed Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, Brian Callison, Hammond Innes, and Alistair Maclean didn’t quite fit the reading profile he thought I should follow.

Well, I hadn’t been to university, and I hadn’t realized there was such a thing as English, or any other, literature.  He was adamant that if I wanted to call myself a ‘man of books’ I had to read ‘proper’ books.

So, what eventuated, was a reading list.

If I wanted to converse with him on literature, I had to read every book on the list.

And I wanted to appear, at least, slightly more sophisticated, that the reader of penny dreadfuls.  I didn’t know what that meant, and in those days there was no internet, so it remained for a long time a phrase of mystery.

But, the reading list,

‘Hard Times,’ and ‘Bleak House’ by Charles Dickens

‘Seven Pillars of Wisdom’ by T.E. Lawrence, yes, that famous man who was better known as Lawrence of Arabia

‘Tess of the D’Urbervilles’ by Thomas Hardy, which fuelled a desire to read most of Hardy’s books

‘The Day of the Triffids’, by John Wyndham, a rather strange addition to the list since it was science fiction.  I suspect he was a closet Trekker.

‘To the Lighthouse’, by Virginia Wolff

‘Pride and Prejudice’ by Jane Austen

‘And Quietly Flows the Don’ by Mikhail Alexandrovich Sholokhov.  I had great fears that I would have to learn Russian, but that wasn’t the only shock, so was the size of the book

‘War and Peace’, talking about long books, by Leo Tolstoy

‘One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich’ by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, and thereby concluding the Russian classics

Of course, your definition of literature can change, and as a result of reading all of these books, and it took quite some time, and this led to selecting a more interesting collection of books to read, which he, in some small measure, took the credit for.

I discovered R.F Delderfield, and the trilogy, ‘A Horseman Riding By’, which led to ‘The Headmaster’, ‘The Avenue’, and ‘God is an Englishman’

C.S. Forester and the Hornblower series, but who also wrote several mysteries

F. Scott Fitzgerald and ‘The Great Gatsby’ as well as several other classics

Eric Ambler, master of thrillers from the ’30s and ’50s, particularly spy novels, and was probably the one who introduced me to the world of espionage

and last but not least, Dashiell Hammett’s ‘The Maltese Falcon’.

 

 

A movie review – Call of the Wild

It’s always a pleasure to go and see a movie with Harrison Ford in it, whether beating off a hoard of crooked treasure hunters or just being a grumpy old man.

In this, he was playing his grumpy old man.

But it’s the dog, Buck, a cross between a St Bernard and a Scotch Collie that steals the show.

And rightly so.

Everyone else came to see Harrison Ford, who comes in and out of the picture until the end.  I came to see the dog, whom I think might well be nicknamed ‘the great galuka’ though I have no idea where that name originated.

Certainly, for sheer size and energy he bounds his way across the countryside, from his home in California to the wilds of the Yukon and Alaska, from being a spoilt household pet, then a sled dog and part of a group of other dogs, delivering mail, then a sled dog for a cruel gold seeker, to finally becoming a companion for an old man, yes, Harrison Ford, who saved him from a certain death, who seeks to get away from everyone and everything.

The end is sad in one sense but uplifting in another, nor did I find any part of it slow-moving or boring.

Solid performances all round.

I give it four stars out of five.

A Movie Review – Emma

This is not the first time I have seen a movie about Jane Austen’s Emma. The last one starred Gwyneth Paltrow who did a reasonable job of being the self-appointed matchmaker. In this new edition, the role of Emma went to Anya Taylor-Joy whom I thought was the better of the two.

In every one of these period pieces, it is always a treat to see who’s been roped into an acting role from a long list of old and new British television and film stars.

I was particularly pleased with Bill Nighy’s rendition of Mr. Woodhouse’s role, the running gag of searching for those invisible draughts, and strategic use of the fireside panels.

Rupert Graves, as Mr. Weston, the recipient of Emma’s matchmaking prowess (or otherwise) was also a welcome addition to what was an almost flawless selection of cast members.

But, other than the familiar plotline that included attempted matchmaking and the exercise of privilege, two things stood out. Johnny Flynn’s rendition of Mr. Knightley didn’t sit well with me as I kept going back to previous actors who filled the role, and who were in my opinion, better, and the other, the treatment of the clergy.

It seems to me that Jane Austen didn’t have much time for them because both in this and in Pride and Prejudice, the role seemed to require a buffoon rather than someone sensible. Perhaps it was best portrayed as such as it added some comic light relief from some of the more stodgy moments.

I give it a three out of five stars.

A movie review – Call of the Wild

It’s always a pleasure to go and see a movie with Harrison Ford in it, whether beating off a hoard of crooked treasure hunters or just being a grumpy old man.

In this, he was playing his grumpy old man.

But it’s the dog, Buck, a cross between a St Bernard and a Scotch Collie that steals the show.

And rightly so.

Everyone else came to see Harrison Ford, who comes in and out of the picture until the end.  I came to see the dog, whom I think might well be nicknamed ‘the great galuka’ though I have no idea where that name originated.

Certainly, for sheer size and energy he bounds his way across the countryside, from his home in California to the wilds of the Yukon and Alaska, from being a spoilt household pet, then a sled dog and part of a group of other dogs, delivering mail, then a sled dog for a cruel gold seeker, to finally becoming a companion for an old man, yes, Harrison Ford, who saved him from a certain death, who seeks to get away from everyone and everything.

The end is sad in one sense but uplifting in another, nor did I find any part of it slow-moving or boring.

Solid performances all round.

I give it four stars out of five.

The thing about ‘must read’ lists

And that is, you don’t have to read any of the books on it.

Who really cares if you do or if you don’t?

It’s just a list of books that a particular writer, journalist, or editor puts together simply because they liked them and think you might also.

And sometimes weight of sales numbers will dictate popularity, and therefore some basis to any particular list.

Of course, this doesn’t work if all you read is comics or romance books like Mills and Boon.  Hey, that’s fine.  You’re reading and this is one of the most important aspects of life, to read, and sometimes, to learn.

I know that my life changed dramatically when I read books, lots of different sorts of books.  I’ve never recommended anyone read the dry, dusty tomes about neurosis for psychiatry, or a history of the Roman Empire simply because of it something I was interested in after I saw the film, Ben Hur.

In a similar manner when we go to school, the curriculum sometimes dictates we read certain books, whether this is to give us an understanding of life centuries before, or that there is some deeper, more sinister, meaning to it all, but some of those books I had to read, back then, the meaning was lost on me.

But should I not read them?  I know most of the kids in the class didn’t because they considered reading a waste of time.  There were more important things to do like chase girls and play a sport.  And torment the teachers.  From what I hear, little has changed.

But the point here is, in my case, I’m just giving you the drum on what I read to improve my literary understanding, of life, and of the world, and perhaps in a small way, help with my writing.  After all, writers must read, particularly in their genre so they have some idea of what readers want.

But again that two-word phrase ‘Must read’ is an unfortunate and often misused heading.  We do it all the time.  Ten films you ‘must-see’, ten things you ‘must-have’, ten places you ‘must go’ usually before you die.

It amuses me to see books with a 1000 somethings you must do before you die.  I will no doubt be well and truly dead before I get halfway through even one of those lists, that is, if I actually took any notice of them.

But, what’s more interesting is that I like to see how many I haven’t done, which is probably the reason why we buy the book, usually off the sale table.