Me Before You
A sheltered small town girl is hired to care for a sophisticated Londoner who has become recently paralyzed.
Will Traynor (Sam Claflin, who "Hunger Games" fans may recognize), a handsome and successful London finance guy who favors extreme sports, wakes up one day, heads for work in the rain, and gets hit by a motorcycle only to find himself a quadriplegic with no desire to live.
Enter Louisa Clarke, AKA as Lou, a small town girl who has just lost her job in a tea shop. She is hired by Will's parents (Janet McTeer and Charles Dance) to act as a sort of companion. Though Will is a terrible snob and finds Louisa's ebullience and choice of attire annoying, she grows on him and they form a bond. Lou doesn't have much ambition except to help her parents (her Dad lost his job) and she hasn't been anywhere or done much. Lou has never seen a movie with subtitles or gone to a classical concert, so Will starts to enjoy showing her some of his more sophisticated pursuits while Lou sings Will silly songs and generally throws her goodwill and happiness all over him. Will tries to encourage Lou and get her to live her life more fully. Ironically, Will doesn't want to live anymore, and when Louisa learns that Will plans to end his life, she devises a plan to get him to want to live.
Emilia Clarke, you know, Daenerys Targaryen from "Game of Thrones," stars as Louisa Clarke (no relation). If you were expecting to see Daenerys, you will be disappointed. You might not know this, but Emilia is not naturally a white-haired beauty whose sole purpose in life is to gain control of the Seven Kingdoms. Rather, she is a brunette beauty, and she is about as far from Daenerys as one can get. Emilia not only doesn't have the snow white hair, she isn't frowning all of the time or plotting how she will take back her kingdoms like she does in "Thrones." Clarke has said on talk shows that the character of Louisa is most like her real self, so she has shed her role as Kalisi to show us her real hair and her big wide smile, the smile rarely in evidence as Daenerys. Clarke also has the most expressive eyebrows I have ever seen. They should get their own billing.
Though this is a love story of sorts, it's Clarke's film as she plays the irrespressible Louisa who thinks by her joy and love she can will our guy to live. For a film like this to work, you have to really, really like the character and, though I found her a bit annoying at first, just as she grew on our hero, she grew on me too. Those eyebrows got to me. And her shoes! Well, you will just have to see them for yourself.
This film had all of the elements I enjoy in a film: cute leading lady who wears adorable clothes (and shoes!); a handsome leading man; the British countryside (it was filmed at Pembroke Castle in Wales, but I think we are supposed to believe it's in England); British actors I recognize - Dance and McTeer plus you Downton Abbey fans will recognize Mr. Bates (Brendan Coyle) playing Louisa's Dad and Joanna Lumley (soon to star in an AbFab movie) even has a cameo; there is romance - Clarke and Claflin have a nice chemistry; and an ending that will give you a good cry. What more could you ask for?
Directed by Thea Sharrock with a screenplay by JoJo Moyes from her novel, this sweet tearjerker is a welcome addition to the theatres after all of those X-Men, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Marvel Comics superheroes and sorority girls gone wild.
Rosy the Reviewer says...if you are tired of superheroes and animation and have been yearning for a romantic tearjerker, I give this one three hankies!
***Some Movies You Might Have Missed***
(And Some You Will Be Glad You Did)!
Now Out on DVD
A Royal Night Out (2015)
It's May 8th, 1945, VE Day. WW II is finally over in Europe and everyone is celebrating in London. Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret are allowed out for one night to enjoy the fun and even Princesses can get up to no good!
This is one of those "what if" films. What if the soon to be Queen, Elizabeth (she didn't know it then but would be Queen only seven years later) and her younger sister, Margaret, managed to steal away from their cloistered life in the castle for one night and hang out with the regular folk? That's what we have here, a "Roman Holiday-esque" film, but this time it's England's princesses playing hooky instead of Audrey Hepburn's princess. Rumor has it that the princesses actually did go out that night, though I doubt they got into the kind of trouble we see here.
Sarah Gadon plays the responsible Princess Elizabeth and Bel Powley, who wowed in "The Diary of a Teenage Girl," plays Margaret, the party girl and bon vivant. Funny how that all played out in real life. Elizabeth became Queen and settled into her life of duty whereas Margaret, denied the man she really loved (Peter Townsend) because he was divorced, fell into a more decadent life. Anyway, I am getting ahead of the story. Now the two are just young girls who want to get out amongst the regular folk "incognito" and party.
The girls beg the Queen Mother (Emily Watson, who seems to be a staple in supporting roles these days) and the King (Rupert Everett - I wondered where he has been) to be let out with the idea the girls will find out how the people really feel about the King and the King's up-coming speech. As you may remember from the film "The King's Speech," King George VI was a stutterer and giving speeches was a source of anxiety for him.
Early in the film the two girls attend a party full of old fogies arranged by their mother. They manage to escape their chaperones, Margaret via a conga line, and the two get separated. Elizabeth, or Lilibet as her family called her, spends the entire film roaming the streets of London trying to find Margaret. Elizabeth meets a soldier, Jack Hodges (played by Jack Reynor) on a bus and they join forces to find Margaret and a sweet and very chaste romance ensues.
Jack shares with Elizabeth that he is disgruntled about the war and what he experienced and has gone AWOL. The two rescue Margaret from a speakeasy where her drink was spiked. The girls eventually end up back at Buckingham Palace, but outside with the crowd, where they learn about the people's admiration for the King and Queen, because they did not abandon London for safer ground during The Blitz, but stayed on in London to offer support to the people.
Written by Trevor De Silva and Kevin Hood and directed by Julian Jerrold, it's all very "fish out of water" - Elizabeth doesn't know how to ride a bus or use a public loo - and it all ends how you would expect. They all know their roles and their destiny, but for that one night, the girls could experience what it was to be "ordinary."
The expected audience for this small film would be people like me - those who are fascinated with the Royals - but it's also just the story of two sheltered girls who have a chance to kick up their heels, so it should have a wider appeal. And knowing what we know about the Queen and how Margaret's life turned out, the film is lots of fun.
Rosy the Reviewer says...Elizabeth declared their night out "The most extraordinary night of my life!" and you will enjoy it with her.
Somm: Into the Bottle (2015)
"Ten stories about wine."
I raved about the first "Somm" film, but don't expect director Jason Wise's follow-up to be like that first one. The first film followed sommeliers who were trying to pass the Master Sommelier exam. This time around it's just about the wine, but it is just as entertaining and some of the same faces from the first film are in evidence.
What do you do when you look at a wine list and you don't see any wines you recognize?
That's the role of the sommelier - to save you the embarrassment of not knowing what the hell you are doing when presented with a wine list, or so says this documentary.
Through a series of ten sequences where ten bottles of wine are opened, we learn all about wine.
Wine One - The Winemaker
Winemakers in Austria, Italy, France and the Napa Valley talk about the adversity of growing grapes for wine and how difficult it is to translate those grapes into a wonderful glass of wine. The sun, the wind, the land, all play a role and they can be fickle. "Winemaking is relentless."
Wine Two - The Vintage
All about what "vintage" actually means.
Wine Three - The History
"History gives wine heart and soul." This is all about the great Old World wines and their history. Winos, rejoice! Wine has been with us since the beginning of time.
Wine Four - The Wars
You don't think about how a war can affect wine but vineyards were destroyed during WW II and that's why there are no European wines from 1938 and 1939.
Wine Five - The New World
This section focuses on wines and winemakers from the "New World (U.S., South America, Australia, New Zealand and the Middle East)," and how everyone these days seems to want to have a vineyard. The focus here is on Robert Mondavi. In the U.S. when prohibition ended, we would have been dominated by Spain and Italy if it had not been for Mondavi. He opened his winery and took on the French winemakers and the Napa Valley came into being.
Wine Six - The Cost
Don't feel guilty about buying a $20 bottle of wine. Think of all the people who were employed so that you could enjoy that wine - the grower, the picker to the people who made the barrels and the labels, the cork maker, the shipper, sales people and on and on. Up until the cork is pulled, 100's of hands have been involved.
Wine Seven - The Barrels
Here the film focuses on how the barrels are made and why - wood vs. metal and all of the pros and cons. It's only in the last 25 years that oaky wines have lost their popularity - Yay! It seems that the vanilla flavor that is imparted from the oak obscures mistakes. Huge debates have ensued about oak vs. metal barrels.
Wine Eight - Point Scores
What do those wine points mean that magazines like "Wine Spectator" and "Decanter" give out? The rating system was set up to help the consumer, but in this film, they are not deemed relevant to sommeliers.
Wine Nine - The Sommelier
Finally, we are back to the sommeliers. Sommeliers help you pair your wine with your food to make your dining experience better: muscodet and oysters, chianti and lamb, sauterne and fois gras, and champagne goes with everything. Good to know. But popcorn and chardonnay? However a sommelier can also be a hindrance if he or she is too opinionated (translate snobby), but the upside of using a sommelier is that you might get a wine you never knew existed in a price range that won't break the bank.
Wine Ten - The Memory
Like The Knowledge, the test a London cab driver must pass to be licensed to drive a cab in London, becoming a Master Sommelier requires the same rigorous training and massive amount of knowledge (see the first film and you will understand). Fred Dame, who played a big role in the first film, was the first Master Sommelier and started it all.
But the bottom line is that you don't have to "understand" your wine to enjoy it, so whether it's Two Buck Chuck or a $1000 bottle of Lafitte Rothschild it's all about the experience around that bottle.
"Your perception is what makes it special. Only one thing matters. Is it delicious?"
Directed by Jason Wise who directed the 2012 "Somm" for which this film is the follow-up, wine lovers will enjoy this and the first one, but I recommend seeing this one before the 2012 film. What the sommeliers go through in the first film to pass the Master Test will make more sense after seeing this film.
Rosy the Reviewer says...And you thought you knew all about wine, right? Well, you will after these 90 delicious minutes!
***My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project***
249 to go!
Have YOU seen this classic film?
Dersu Uzala (1975)
A Russian surveying team is sent to Siberia where they meet and befriend a local tribesman who becomes their guide.
The film opens in 1910 where Captain Arsenev (Yuriy Solomin) is searching for a grave in a forest that is being cleared for development. He utters the word "Dersu" and the film flashes back to 1902, where Arsenev is leading a band of men on a mapmaking expedition in Siberia. There they meet an old, bow-legged peasant and they recruit him as their guide. He is Dersu Uzala (Maksim Munzuk). He starts out as a source of amusement to the men. They think he is a barbarian and not very smart, but as the expedition encounters difficulties, Dersu proves his worth time and again and even saves the Captain's life. A strong bond forms between Dersu and Arsenev.
Five years later, Arsenev returns and discovers that Dersu is in poor health and going blind. Arsenev tries to help him by taking him to his home, but Dersu is not suited to civilization. Dersu saved Arsenev but Arsenev cannot save Dersu.
Akira Kurasawa has distinguished himself as one of the most important and influential filmmakers in the history of cinema. This was his first non-Japanese language film and his first movie filmed in 70mm. It won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1975.
Why it's a Must See: "This film distringuised Kurasawa as a "genuine master, not just a skilled maker of action-oriented samuai entertainments...It's about the vulnerability and hardiness of men in the vastness of creation, but it gets to its huge theme through a buildup of little details."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"
This was Kurasawa's only film made outside of Japan. Kurasawa had always wanted to film Vladimir Arsenyev's book and was able to do so because of a partnership with a Russian film company that financed the arduous, two year filming in the Siberian wilderness.
If you are like me and you like romantic films or films about women in beautiful costumes like Scarlett O'Hara in "Gone with the Wind," this is not a particularly pleasant film to watch. It's more "The Revenant" than "Gone with the Wind." Like those films, this is an epic, but unlike "The Revenant," it's not a revenge film. It's a film showing men enduring harsh conditions, but Munzuk's characterization of Dersu is poignant and the message is important. As civilization encroaches on the wilderness, so too, people like Dersu find there is no place left for them.
Rosy the Reviewer says...a beautifully photographed and poetic tale of a friendship and the end of a way of life.
(In Russian with English subtitles)
***Book of the Week***
The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney (2016)
A family saga about four siblings and "the nest," the money they hoped to inherit. But you know how it is when it comes to families and money, right? Right.
As Tolstoy said, "All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." And the Plumb family is one unhappy - and highly dysfunctional - family.
Leonard, the Plumb family patriarch, had set up a trust fund for his children. Called "The Nest," it was earmarked to be passed to the children when the youngest child, Melody, turned 40. That time has come, but unfortunately, Leo, the oldest and a bit of a lothario and all around ne'er-do-well, has gotten himself into a bit of trouble. He crashed a car while having sex with a 19-year-old waitress and the waitress was injured, so Francie, the Plumb family matriarch, decided to pay off the waitress and send Leo to rehab using the money from "The Nest."
Needless to say, "the kids" were not happy.
The kids: There is Melody, a Westchester suburban wife and mother who has money troubles and twin teenage daughters who are headed to college. Jack, an antiques dealer, has borrowed money against the beach cottage he shares with his husband, Walter. Walter doesn't know. And Beatrice, a once successful author, has fallen on hard times. And then there is Leo. Now they have all gathered to confront Leo, who has just been released from rehab. They all have their problems and have been counting on "The Nest" to rescue them and now they want Leo to pay them back.
In so doing, they are all forced to look back on their lives, the choices they made, and come to grips with their secrets and failures. It's an entertaining story about what money can do to relationships, but it's also about the power of family.
It all takes place in New York City and some subplots involve a pregnancy, 9/11, some teen experimental sex and a stolen art work, the latter reminiscent of "The Goldfinch," which I reviewed back in 2014.
This is Sweeney's debut novel and I must say, she has a way with dialogue. It's a fast read that would do nicely this summer out in the sun with a cocktail (or two).
As you all know, I don't read a lot of fiction. Reading this, I was reminded why. Though I enjoyed the book, I realize that fiction is more difficult to read at the gym on the elliptical while listening to music. Nonfiction is easier to concentrate on with all of those distractions. Seriously, though, I am going to continue to widen my horizons and bring you some hot fiction from time to time. Now I am off to the gym to read Bobby Brown's juicy tell-all!
Rosy the Reviewer says...If you like stories about dysfunctional families , you will enjoy this.
That's it for this week!
Thanks for reading!
See you Tuesday for
Some Things To Do
And Think About"
Some Things To Do
And Think About"
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