Sunday, June 30, 2013

Review: Love's Labour's Lost (2000)

(This is the eleventh of my reviews for the Period Drama Challenge.)

Oh, Shakespeare... acclaimed playwright and poet of the Elizabethan Era. I've wanted so much to like his works, but I began by reading Romeo and Juliet and that was when I discovered that I'm definitely a "happily-ever-after" kind of girl. I was scared to watch Much Ado About Nothing after that, but when I found that it was actually a comedy, I watched it and greatly enjoyed it. Then we watched Shakespeare in Love (minus the parts Daddy skipped) and I didn't like that as much. Shakespeare faded from my interest again until Joss Whedon's Much Ado About Nothing was announced, and Sarah got very excited. I'm eager to see it, but we haven't yet. So we watched this adaptation of Love's Labour's Lost instead.

The King of Navarre and his three friends swear a very untimely oath to study and deprive themselves of food, sleep and female companionship for 3 years, directly before a visit from the Princess of France, and her three lovely ladies. Rather quickly, all four young men fall desperately in love and hilarity ensues. 

Dumaine (Adrian Lester), Berowne (Kenneth Branagh), Longaville (Matthew Lillard), and The King, Ferdinand (Alessandro Nivola
   I wasn't familiar with all of the cast, but the King (Alessandro Nivola) played Henry Crawford in the 1999 Mansfield Park adaptation; Berowne (Kenneth Branagh) we recognized from Masterpiece's "Wallender" and the aforementioned 1993 Much Ado About Nothing; Rosaline (Natasha McElhone) was in The Truman Show; Holofernia (Geraldine McEwan) we know as "Miss Marple"; and Armado (Timothy Spall) was in The King's Speech as Winston Churchill, and Enchanted as the wicked witch's henchman, Nathaniel. 

The Princess (Alicia Silverstone) and Maria (Carmen Ejogo). Rosaline (Natasha McElhone) and Katherine (Emily Mortimer) behind them.
I didn't include the cover picture, because it looks pretty inappropriate. I was surprised to find that this movie is rated PG. In general, I think it did fit PG, although the tango dancing scene did include some fairly crude moves and inappropriate touching (I recommend skipping that scene), and there were a few other scattered instances of things that I thought should have been left out.

The four couples.
The Shakespearean English was a little hard for me to follow, especially since some of the actors spoke a little too quickly for my southern ears. I barely had time to catch all the words, and I'm not used to "translating" Shakespearean. I caught enough to understand and enjoy what was going on though, and that without having heard anything about the story besides the brief synopsis on Netflix.

This movie is done in the style of a vintage musical, with several 1930's songs, like "I Get a Kick Out of You" and "The Way You Look Tonight." The dance numbers were mostly fun and a little cheesy. I kept forgetting that the movie was actually made in the year 2000! It feels a lot like an old movie. 

Another nice dance number with lovely dresses!
I have no idea how it compares to Shakespeare's original, but I thought this was a fun movie with a classic feel, light-hearted and funny, a little bit silly and totally enjoyable! I'm looking forward to seeing more Shakespeare adaptations in the future.


Friday, June 28, 2013

Review: Stardust (2007)

(This is the tenth of my reviews for the Period Drama Challenge.)

It's 1800 and something, and a curious boy in Wall, England wants desperately to explore the other side of a mysterious wall that's meant to protect the townspeople from a strange land. Dunstan Thorn bolts past the old man who guards the wall one night, and meets a beautiful woman. After his one little adventure, he returns home to live a normal life. Several months later, his baby son arrives at his door. His name is Tristan.

Tristan grows up to be even more adventurous than his father. He sees a star fall into the land beyond the wall, and promises it to the girl that he loves. When he finds the star in the magical kingdom of Stormhold, it's actually a lovely young woman named Yvaine. Also searching for the Star are three hideously ugly, old witches who want to eat her heart to restore their youth, and the remaining sons of the lately departed king who want to claim their individual right to take the throne by reclaiming royal necklace which flew and knocked her out of the sky. 

Tristan (Charlie Cox) is a sweet, gentlemanly young man, with a touch of silly fool. He's a little bit goofy, but with a totally good heart - a completely loveable hero for the story. He grows up nicely during the course of his adventure. And his hair looks a lot better later, too. 

See? I told you his hair looks better later.
Yvaine (Claire Danes) is funny and charming. Her ethereal looks make her perfect for the part of a living Star. At first she's a little sarcastic and cross, but that's understandable considering she'd just been knocked out of the sky by an enchanted royal necklace, and then bowled over by Tristan. "... this is where is got hit by a magical, flying moron!" I don't know if it was just the British accent, but I found that line amusing. She quickly becomes sweet and friendly.
Ethereal beauty.
Of the three witch sisters, the one who draws the "straw" to chase down the fallen Star is Lamia (Michelle Pfeiffer). She eats what remains of the last Star to become (almost) beautiful and young (ish) for the journey to find and kill Yvaine. 

Lamia (middle) preparing for her journey with her two sisters.
The seven princes, in their fight for the crown, have almost all been murdered, and their ghosts are sitting around watching the progress of the remaining princes, much like it's a show. They are hilarious, although a little disturbing, since they appear exactly how they looked when they died...

Most notable amongst the princes are Secundus (Rupert Everett) and Tertius (Mark Heap, "Thomas" in Larkrise to Candleford), Primus (Jason Flemyng, who is in Great Expectations as "Joe" - can't wait to see it!) and Septimus (Mark Strong).

Rounding out the fairytale are the appearance of a beneficent unicorn, and sky pirates who capture lightening. Captain Shakespeare makes a show of bravado for his crew, but really has a kind side, and helps Tristan and Yvaine as much as he can. As Tristan and Yvaine near the wall, and the end of Tristan's quest to bring back a star for the spoiled girl in his hometown, it seems like more than one week has passed in his life, he has changed so much.

This is a fun movie with plenty of good silliness and laughs. There are a few gross out scenes that I don't really like, and a couple of slightly inappropriate spots, but overall it's a cute story with a unique plot, full of adventure, sweet moments and complete with a fairytale happily-ever-after.

Friday, June 21, 2013

"Little Letters": June 2013

Dear Strawberries,
Thank you ever so much for having such a long, delicious season this year! We are incredibly happy to still be eating fresh, ripe strawberries!

Dear Potato Beetles,
Why do you eat tomato plants? I think you've got your funny little heads messed up. I will happily drown any of you who dare to eat our tomato plants, and I will not tolerate the laying of your gross little orange eggs. Surrender!

Dear Bluebird Mommy and Daddy,
I love watching you two diligently feeding your babies! Please don't be suspicious of me, I promise I mean you no harm. The cat on the other hand... watch out for her. But don't worry about that clicking camera sound, I'm just snapping some pretty shots of you!

Dear Udolpho,
I was so enjoying you, that I forgot to notice that I was 200 pages in before the first mention of the word "Udolpho." I am enchanted, amused and delighted so far!
 “‘While I have Udolpho to read, I feel as if nobody could make me miserable.’” - Catherine, Northanger Abbey

Dear Broken Camera Lens,
I'm sorry I wore you out, and it was quite unfortunate that you had to start buzzing and spazzing out during my sister's dance recital while I was trying to take pictures. But you may now enjoy retirement while I enjoy your more capable replacement.

Dear Godspell,
I'm sorry I prejudged you as a show I wouldn't want to do. I greatly enjoyed both of the performances I got to see last weekend, and I think I would have like to have been a part of it. A little silly you might be, but still great fun!

Dear Wedding Reception Guests,
I wouldn't really say I'm a last-minute person, so I am a little stressed to be preparing to play music for you tomorrow. Just know that I found out I would be playing about 2 days in advance, and have mercy if/when I make mistakes. I will do my best!

Dear Sourdough Starter,
I don't think I successfully followed any of the steps to activate you properly, yet you still bubbled delightfully for me yesterday. I'm very excited to try making sourdough bread sometime soon!

Dear God, 
Thank You for this beautiful morning! It's so refreshing and cool for a June morning. I'm drinking in every moment. 
"Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
    that we may rejoice and be glad all our days."
-Psalm 90:14


Monday, June 17, 2013

The Bathroom, Patience and Failure: Part 1

We have three bathrooms in our house: the master bathroom, the "guest" bathroom (which is also the most convenient bathroom for daytime use), and the upstairs bathroom. The upstairs bathroom is the one I think of as "mine." Well, mine and my siblings. It's the one we all stumble to in the middle of the night, the one where my sister and I brush our teeth, and wash our faces, and pluck our eyebrows and shower... I didn't realize how much I took it for granted.

On April 13th, I decided to really clean my bathroom. We'd had a sink leakage problem, and a toilet leakage problem and there was a funky mildew sort of smell starting to brew. The over-the-toilet storage shelf legs were damaged by the toilet leakage, so I removed it from the bathroom, hoping that the gross swollen pasteboard was the source of the smell.

I scrubbed the floor very thoroughly, and washed the baseboards while I was at it. Then I tried to reorganize under the sink cabinet, only to discover it was wet and the sink was leaking again. So I loaded all the toiletries, etc. into boxes and mopped up the water again, but there was pasteboard there, too, and I was afraid it had already soaked up too much water and was also damaged.

My towel rack started falling out of the wall (probably because I installed myself, and I had no idea what I was doing) so I took that down. Then, Sarah and I realized that the bathroom was almost completely devoid of things covering the walls, and we had been wanting to change the drab brown/beige wall color ever since we moved in - 11 years ago. So we picked up some paint on Monday the 15th and got to work.

After a few days and the fresh paint, with nothing in the bathroom but the vanity, I still noticed the nasty mildew smell. We checked, and so far as we could tell without taking the cabinet out, there was a good chance it was the mildew source. When we ripped it out of the bathroom, it was indeed moldy and mildewed underneath, and composed entirely of cheap pasteboard which soaks up water like a sponge. (I have a determined and adamant dislike for pasteboard.)

So the search for a new cabinet began. I had already begun to seriously miss the completely functional bathroom (even if it did smell something of mildew) and was absolutely desperate to get something in FAST. Unfortunately, there were no non-pasteboard options available ready-made at Home Depot or Lowe's, and after almost 2 weeks of searching, we finally gave up and ordered something custom to match the counter top, which we were going to keep. Daddy stacked up some cinder-blocks and temporarily reinstalled our sink so we could have a functional bathroom for the next month.

Daddy's genius cinder-block idea!
We decided to wait on hanging the mirror because it was a tight fit between the light fixture and the counter top, and we wanted to make sure to hang it correctly. Sarah and I didn't want to put an unnecessary hole in the wall for a little temporary mirror, so we prepared ourselves to make do without a bathroom mirror for the next few weeks.

Most of our toiletries were still living out in the hall because there wasn't much space under the sink with the cinder-blocks, (and the sink was still under suspicion for leaks) but I was relieved to have the sink back, and eagerly looking forward to the arrival of our beautiful new cabinet, and condoling myself with happy thoughts of how nice the bathroom would be once it was finally all finished!

Draped with a pretty sheet to hide the blocks.
 What does this all have to do with patience and failure? Coming soon in Part 2!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Review: War Horse (2011)

(This is the nineth of my reviews for the Period Drama Challenge.)

War Horse. What can I say? I didn't want to watch it when it first came out. I know how animal stories usually end. As a child, I loved Homeward Bound, and despite Mom's warnings that Old Yeller was sad, I wanted to watch it too. I was traumatized. I do not like unhappy endings, or movies that are depressing. This movie does have its downer moments, but thank goodness it's not a true story! (Then it would HAVE to be sad, right?)

The World War I part is true, but beyond that this is nearly a fairytale, disguised in mud and grime, in the form of a horse and his young master. Through nearly impossible obstacles, after being torn apart in a very heart-wrenching manner, will they find each other again... and live happily ever after?

Jeremy Irvine plays the young farm boy, Albert Narracott. Albert gets to train the colt that's he's admired since its birth when his father, Ted (Peter Mullan) buys the beautiful thoroughbred instead of a plough horse. Ted's wife, Rose (Emily Watson) is very displeased - spending money he can't afford on a horse he shouldn't buy and bidding against his landlord? Certainly not the brightest of ideas. But Albert is delighted to call the spirited young stallion his own, and he names him Joey.

Albert's parents, Ted and Rose
Albert and Joey's first obstacle is a rocky field. Remember the plough horse? Well, that's what Joey must be now. They must plough the field and sell the harvest to be able to afford the rent, so Albert puts a harness on Joey, and after a pitiful beginning, with the whole town watching, the rain helps them get it going, and they plough the whole field in one night through the rain. 

Unfortunately, their beautiful turnips are destroyed in a major rainstorm right about the time war breaks out. Ted takes Joey to town and sells him to a Captain without Albert's knowledge. When Albert discovers Joey's missing, he runs to town. Joey's new owner, Captain Nicholls (played by the awesome Tom Hiddleston!) is kind, but firmly resists Albert's pleas to let him keep Joey. Joey will be a war horse. Albert gets a few seconds to say goodbye, and then Joey's gone.

Major Jamie Stewart (played by another great actor, Benedict Cumberbatch!) is the Captain's superior. They both have fine horses, but in a training exercise, Joey beats the Major's bigger black horse, Topthorn. Joey and Topthorn become friends. 

Captain Nicholls and Major Stewart admiring their horses.
It's great to see Hiddleston and Cumberbatch in this movie, but you can't watch it for them. They die almost immediately in a surprise attack on a German camp. Both of their horses survive, however, and are taken by the Germans. Joey continues to change hands during the war, with his black buddy all the way. 

Albert, watching Joey as a colt, before his dad buys him.
Jeremy Irvine was good in this role, and I can't wait to see him in Great Expectations as Pip! He was very sweet and boyish in this role, but in searching for pictures of him, I found this shot too. With his hair swept off his forehead in this manner he looks like he could play a suave sort of "bad" guy pretty well. Interesting.

In other fun tidbits, Albert's best buddy Andrew is played by Matt Milne, Downton Abbey's "Alfred." (Wow, lots of 'a's!) 

Joey was played by 14 different horses during the film. He is the star, of course, and he was a very intelligent horse with some very human-like moments.

An intelligent look.
I'm always tempted to do a full synopsis and give away every single plot detail, so I will force myself to cease now, and leave you wondering how the story resolves. Just know from a lover-of-happy-endings and with a tender spot for animals that this movie has a satisfactory ending, and is certainly worth watching at least once!

The music was composed by John Williams, and was, of course, quite wonderful. The scenery is also gorgeous. The only scenery I really don't enjoy is at the end, unfortunately, which leaves me a little disappointed. The lighting looks strange and unnatural, probably because it was filmed in the middle of the afternoon, and edited to look like sunset. 

Ditsworthy Warren House on Dartmoor became the Narracott's farm.

The farm gate.
 Castle Combe was used as the village.

Overall, a beautiful, enjoyable movie!


Monday, June 3, 2013

Feeling 22

We had a break from almost all of our usual activities, so we scheduled a few days to spend at the beach, encompassing my sister's and my birthdays (we're 1 year and 361 days apart). I was so excited to spend our birthdays at the beach, because we used to go visit Nana at the beach sometime near our birthdays every year when I was younger, until Nana sold her cottage. It was wonderful!
Yummy coconut cake!
Since we had things to do on Monday and Tuesday, our birthday celebrations began on Sunday, when Joel made Sarah and me a scrumptious coconut cake, and we opened our birthday gifts from Mom and Dad: a cozy throw blanket, a beautiful scarf and a book each.

 After two days of tasks and packing, we left fairly early on Wednesday, which was Sarah's 20th birthday. We got settled into our rental and went to eat at our favorite beach restaurant, and had key lime pie for dessert. David bought Sarah and me each a pair of earrings from the pier shop. As we walked back from the pier, we found out that the gray seal that had been appearing on the beach was right in front of our house! This is a rare sighting this far south.


Thursday was a nice, relaxing day. The seal was relocated to a more suitable beach farther north in our state, so I was glad we got to see him before they took him away! We spent a few hours visiting the local aquarium in the middle of the day, since we are all too fair for much sun and don't use sunscreen. Then we went out to dinner again. We try not to eat out a lot usually, so when we go on vacation we splurge. 

On Friday I rediscovered boogie boarding. I tried it a lot as a child, but never got the hang of it, and I gave up even trying for the past few years. But Sarah and David enjoy it so much, I decided to try it again, and it finally clicked! I had so much fun riding the waves with them. After dinner we walked to the pier and played pool, air hockey and fooseball.

Saturday I went boogie boarding again with Sarah and David. I wanted to stay out longer, but we were getting too much sun, so we came in. We played with the stray beach cat that was hanging around our rental house. The landlord had left cat food for us to give her if we wanted, and our neighbor was also feeding her. He called her "Kitty" but we decided to call her "Savvy" because she wasn't fooled by David's laser flashlight like our cats. We went to the pier to play more pool, and on the walk back in the almost total darkness we saw some Noctulica, commonly known as Sea Sparkle. It was very neat, but unfortunately very difficult to photograph.

We stayed in the left side of this great duplex.
 Yesterday we had to leave the beach, but our landlord very graciously allowed us to check out of the house whenever we wanted, so we didn't have to rush. Sarah, David and I got up and went out boogie boarding one more time. We ate breakfast leisurely, packed up most everything, fixed a quick lunch and left around 2pm. It was a dreamy trip, beautiful weather the entire time, and exactly what I needed to clear my mind from a busy, somewhat stressful spring.

The view from our cottage. That's a drain, but shh, it's very picturesque!
I've heard of birthday "weeks" before, but we've never been a family that celebrates birthdays in an extravagant manner, so I thought it was funny when I realized that's kind of what we did this year. It was so much fun, it made turning 22 almost painless! I had a wonderful week, and a delightful birthday. Now I'm ready for summer!

This is one of my favorites, David searching for sharks' teeth.



Mom on a sandbar.


P. S. I'm still trying to decide if I actually like Taylor Swift's "22" or if it's just because I am now 22, and I like the beat. Most of the lyrics don't really resonate with me. But I've been enjoying Alex Goot's cover with some of his friends here: