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Movie Review: “The Big Four”

Based on the book by Agatha Christie. [see my book review here]

Version: 2013; starring David Suchet.

Genre: mystery

Plot Summary: [from IMDb] As the threat of world war looms large, Poirot seeks the help of friends both old and new when he is pitted against a dangerous group of dissidents responsible for a series of violent murders.

My Review: When I read Agatha Christie’s The Big Four, it wasn’t the best mystery I’d read by her; but it wasn’t the worst either.  I guess I’d rate it around midling.  I think the thing that turned me off from rating it higher was probably the ending which did not seem very believable to me.  I didn’t really see how this story would be filmable.

When I watched the movie version starring David Suchet I could see where they took liberties with the story, and I didn’t really blame them.  It needed to be within the realms of the believable and not feel like a dated story line.  Many of the same characters were kept, but the motives and ending were changed.  I still can’t say it’s one of my favorites, though.

I don’t remember alarming content material here, however since it deals with murder and the regular mayhem I would say there is some moderate worries for children.

 
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Posted by on April 10, 2019 in Movie Reviews

 

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Book Review: “Cranford,” by Elizabeth Gaskell

Genre: classic

Plot Summary: [from goodreads:] “A portrait of the residents of an English country town in the mid nineteenth century, Cranford relates the adventures of Miss Matty and Miss Deborah, two middle-aged spinster sisters striving to live with dignity in reduced circumstances. Through a series of vignettes, Elizabeth Gaskell portrays a community governed by old-fashioned habits and dominated by friendships between women. Her wry account of rural life is undercut, however, by tragedy in its depiction of such troubling events as Matty’s bankruptcy, the violent death of Captain Brown or the unwitting cruelty of Peter Jenkyns. Written with acute observation, Cranford is by turns affectionate, moving and darkly satirical.”

My Book Review: I am one of those who likes to read the book first before they watch the movie.  However, there are some exceptions to the rule, especially if I think I have no interest in reading the book but might bare to find out what it’s about through watching it’s screen adaptation.  Sometimes I am pleasantly surprised, and am inspired to go on to read the original.  And that is exactly what happened with “Cranford.”

How interesting could a story be about a small town filled with elderly women? No—I’d loved Elizabeth Gaskell’s “Wives and Daughters,” (both book & film), and I’d planned to read and watch “North and South” (which I did), but Cranford looked too boring.  But I was hard up for a costume drama and had heard good reviews, so I finally caved and immediately fell in love with the movie’s charm.  The music, the characters, the humor… all was to be found in this beautifully directed film, starring Judi Dench and Eileen Atkins.  It was completely darling* and I was converted, determined to read the book.

I realize that the film series is actually based on a collection of Mrs. Gaskell’s smaller works of literature, and I intend to go on to read Mr. Harrison’s Confessions and My Lady Ludlow.  But in Cranford, I enjoyed reading about the many characters portrayed on screen and all of their eccentricities and habits of living.

“’…as Deborah used to say, we have always lived genteelly, even if circumstances have compelled us to simplicity.’”

One of my favorite parts was reading about Miss Matty’s visit to an old suitor, Mr. Holbrook. The description of his favorite comfortable room is a pleasant takeaway:

“The rest of the pretty sitting-room—looking into the orchard, and all covered over with dancing tree-shadows—was filled with books. They lay on the ground, they covered the walls, they strewed the table.  He was evidently half ashamed and half proud of his extravagance in this respect.  They were of all kinds—poetry and wild weird tales prevailing.  He evidently chose his books in accordance with his own tastes, not because such and such were classical or established favorites.”

SPOILER ALERT: It’s a shame Miss Matty never married him. END OF SPOILER. Obviously the poor lady suffered from a lot of codependence throughout her life, dependent on her parents and her strong-willed sister to make all decisions for her.  She is stretched beyond her comfort zone in an early plot twist that I’ve always regretted as I loved one of the characters who dies unexpectedly.

There are some discrepancies between book and movie. And fortunately in most of them, the movie’s changed elements were for the better.  For example, early on in the book the character of Captain Brown dies whereas in the movie he is a lovable, solid, male character that anchors the episodes.  I was sad to be deprived of him in the book.

However, many of the book’s details (even minute ones) remained intact throughout the series, as indeed much of what makes up Cranford is the beautiful, charming, small events of life. Sucking oranges, lace, and the conservation of candles are recognized and honored.  In fact, I believe I am glad I watched Cranford first before reading the book because it helped me understand some of the historical aspects that I would not have understood from just reading alone.  Conversely, reading about why the ladies went to their individual rooms to eat their oranges made much more sense in the book than watching it.

I mentioned I haven’t read the other two books in the Cranford Chronicles, and since I haven’t I do not know how much of the movie was added to with other characters and plot situations. But it certainly was in keeping with the spirit of Gaskell.  So much so that I can positively say I enjoyed the movie over the book.  Whenever anyone asks me what my favorite movie is, my answer is “Cranford.”

*However, it can always be possible to milk too much of a good thing which is what I believed happened to the second series and I didn’t enjoy it half so much.

Have you seen/read “Cranford”?  What did you think?

If you liked this book, I also recommend…

 

 
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Posted by on March 5, 2019 in Book Reviews

 

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Father Brown stories – BBC Audio Drama

In the mood for some cozy mysteries?  I discovered Father Brown is playing on BBC Radio 4 and wanted to post a notice.  I haven’t listened to them yet, but I am hoping they are much more intellectually stimulating and truer to the books than the recent BBC tv series (I was disappointed with those).  These only play for a limited time, so make sure you act on it soon!  Ta-ta!

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2019 in Audio/Radio Dramas

 

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Book Review: “Strong Poison,” by Dorothy L. Sayers

Genre: classic; mystery; 1930’s

Playlist…

Plot Summary: Lord Peter Wimsey is thoroughly engrossed in the case of accused murderess Harriet Vane.  He knows she didn’t do it– now he has to find the proof!  With a few well-placed friends at his disposal, he sets about proving the young woman’s innocence.  But time is ticking, and perhaps the murdered man committed suicide in order to take revenge out on his ex?  This makes the mystery even harder to solve.

My Book Review:  The Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries have been around for a great while.  I remember trying to read them on the recommendation of my Aunt E when I was teenager, but never could get a hang for the characters and their dialogue.  It does take a little bit of getting used to.  I think this was one of those rare cases where watching the movie first helped to read the book later.  I never knew I wanted to try any more Wimsey until I watched Dorothy L. Sayer’s Lord Peter Wimsey: Strong Poison [this BBC series was made into a trilogy, all featuring Harriet Vane].  Although the Wimsey mysteries are available in short stories and novels, and Strong Poison is the 6th novel in the series, it really can be read standalone as the beginning of a miniseries within the series—the trilogy surrounding Wimsey and Vane’s romance.  These are the only books I am currently interested in reading by Sayers.

As I remarked earlier, Sayer’s writing style is hard for me get used to, being that it is very old-fashioned British and upper class conversations with very little description and action.  It’s also why I prefer to watch Jeeves and Wooster over reading the books.  But once you get the swing of the spirit of the thing, it can be accessible.  It has its own flavor: dry and witty.

I think because this book is #6, I am not as well acquainted with the main character (Lord Wimsey) than I might be if having started at the beginning.  That was a drawback and hard to get to like him.  It felt unbelievable that he would so quickly fall head over heels for a woman practically on death row without any proof, and on top of that there is no explanation provided for his attraction to her.

I enjoyed the suspense and the treasure hunt-aspect of the plot.  It’s been a long time since I felt excited over such a mystery—probably since Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys!  And there are lots of different characters to make each chapter interesting.  It makes one feel that any normal person (with observational skills and a little guts) could be a sleuth!

If you’re looking for a bit of English fun and excitement, I think you’ll enjoy trying this one.  …And then go ahead and watch the BBC movies, starring Harriet Walters and Edward Petherbridge.  They are highly recommended and some of my favorites!

….

I also recommend:

 
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Posted by on February 22, 2019 in Book Reviews

 

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BBC AudioDrama: “The Club of Queer Trades”

There isn’t much time left to listen to these; I only just discovered them on BBC Radio 4.  The drama is G.K. Chesterton’s “The Club of Queer Trades” and stars Martin Freeman.  I’ve found the two episodes I’ve listened to so far to be entertaining and very much like the book.  My favorite story out of the bunch is the first one, “The Tremendous Adventures of Major Brown.”  If you have some time, give them a try.  I’ve been listening while working on making valentines.

 
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Posted by on February 7, 2019 in Audio/Radio Dramas

 

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Movie Review: “Jamaica Inn”

Based on the book by Daphne du Maurier

Version: 2014; starring Jessica Brown-Findlay

Genre: classic; suspense; costume drama

Plot Summary: [from imdB.com:]  A young woman moves in with her aunt and uncle and soon discovers unsavory happenings in her new home.”

My Review: Disclaimer*: I have not read the original book, so this review will not by comparing it to that novel.  Only as a story in and of itself, totally unrelated to the book. “Jamaica Inn” has been made into a movie at least three times (Alfred Hitchock- 1934; 1983, starring Jane Seymour; current review) and I have seen all three.  This is not because I especially love the story, but because I was usually bored with nothing else particularly appealing to watch.  The 2014 caught my attention because of Jessica Brown-Findlay playing the lead character.  I have to say that out of all three, this most recent version is my preferred version.

For those who may not be aware, the story is very dark and tense.  What I liked about this movie was the way it kept it tight and the viewer guessing; there is also a lot of texture, wind, and weather.  Watch it for the moody atmosphere if nothing else.  But the acting is pretty well done, and there is interesting cinematography, too.

Unfortunately, there is a pretty racy scene between Mary and love interest Jem.  There is some amount of foul language as well (lots of rough and rowdy fellows and drunken tavern scenes).  An attempted assault is made on Mary, but her uncle defends her.  There are several scenes of murder and some gore.  Obviously, this film is not for sensitive folks.

SPOILER: I often get weary of the church as being painted as the villains in movies.    However, if this storyline has started to lose its shock-and-awe value it is because we live in an age where #metoo has reared its ugly head within the church and the reality is that one mustn’t take even religious leaders for granted.  Even so, we have a pervading sense that this is not the way it is supposed to be—injust, mercy-less and hypocritical so-called “Christians.”  It is not supposed to be this way because Jesus Christ was not this way and deep down the world recognizes the contradiction.  The Bible says that the man who says, “I know Him,” but does not do what He commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him.  Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did.  (1 John 1:4-6)  Rev. Davy appeared to be living God’s commands, yet his life was full of darkness, control, and death.  Whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness.  But whoever is truly a Christ-follower lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble.  END OF SPOILER. 

Is Jamaica Inn worth the watch?  I think it can be thoughtfully viewed and learned from.  Some themes to talk over include addiction, codependency, fear and control.   How does each character’s choices come back to haunt them in the end?  It makes for interesting dialogue.  But it’s certainly not a family movie.

 
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Posted by on December 12, 2018 in Movie Reviews

 

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More Barchester… Doctor Thorne on BBC

How ironic!  I am just finishing up the Anthony Trollope novel, “Doctor Thorne” and BBC is airing their dramatized version of it!  To listen to it free for a limited time, you can click here.  “Doctor Thorne” is #3 in the Barchester Chronicles series, but I found that it stands on its own pretty well.

 
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Posted by on July 26, 2018 in Audio/Radio Dramas

 

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