Pemberley (Lyme Park, Cheshire)

Pemberley (Lyme Park, Cheshire)
Oh, to be in England...

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Music and Lyrics 2007

Music and Lyrics 2007

Music and Lyrics is one of those films which makes me laugh out loud. I first saw this movie on a plane and people were staring at my screen to see what was so funny because I couldn't control my giggles when Hugh Grant started dancing. If you have seen him in Love Actually, you know what I mean.

Drew Barrymore and Hugh Grant in Music and Lyrics

Hugh Grant plays a former 1980s pop music idol (think Wham! or Duran Duran) who tries to revive his flagging career by writing a song for the latest teenybopper pop diva. He hits a wall with the lyrics and ends up convincing the girl who waters his plants (Drew Barrymore of course) to collaborate with him. And romance blossoms.

Scott Porter and Hugh Grant as PoP!

If you haven't seen this one and you have one of those evenings where you need a little pick me up and a film that doesn't take itself too seriously, this one is perfect. Especially if you can remember the 1980s!

Drew Barrymore as Sophie Fisher in Music and Lyrics

Drew Barrymore is her usual cheery smiling self with her rays of California sunshine. Hugh Grant is the damp cloud of English fog determined to bring her down. The yin and yang really work here and they look like they had a blast working together. And now for a taste of the slightly cheesy pop lyrics:

I've been living with a shadow overhead
I've been living with a cloud above my bed
I've been lonely for so long
Trapped in the past, I just can't seem to move on


All I want to do is find a way back into love
I can't make it through without a way back into love
And if I open my heart to you
I'm hoping you'll show me what to do
And if you help me to start again
You know that I'll be there for you in the end

Kristen Johnston in Music and Lyrics

Kristen Johnston deserves a shout-out for her wacky role as the sister of Drew's character. A little older, she was apparently a big fan of the group PoP! in the 1980s and I always seem to enjoy her sense of humour.

So here is the trailer with Mr. Grant shaking his booty with a truly ridiculous hairstyle:



I hope that got a giggle out of you. Nobody does that brand of Rom-Com like Hugh Grant! Cheers!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Domenic Cooper- Actor of the Week

Domenic Cooper

Domenic Cooper is a hot commodity right now and seems to pop up everywhere these days. I think a lot of people would recognize him as the love interest of Amanda Seyfried in Mama Mia.

Domenic Cooper and Amanda Seyfried in Mama Mia

Good choice for the smouldering, mostly shirtless fiancee in Mama Mia. He has that slightly exotic bad boy look to him and of course that gorgeous accent, having been brought up on the outskirts of London in Greenwich.

Domenic Cooper as Charles Grey in The Duchess

I think his best role so far is as Charles Grey in The Duchess opposite Kiera Knightley. He was very intense and sexy in this part and the chemistry between his Charles Grey and Kiera's Georgiana was electric. I'll admit it, I cried during this film. Quite shamelessly I might add.

Domenic Cooper and Charity Wakefield in Sense and Sensibility

OK, I know I am going to get some flak on this but I just couldn't quite get into Domenic as Willoughby in the 2008 miniseries Sense and Sensibility. I adore Andrew Davies and I do think this entire production is really good. I guess Emma Thompson has just ruined me for other versions. To be fair, I should watch this one again as it is quite lovely. I just didn't love Domenic as much as Charity Wakefield's Marianne did. Mind you Willoughby is one of my least favourite Jane Austen male characters so maybe it has more to do with that.

Domenic Cooper in Tamara Drewe

If you haven't seen Tamara Drewe, it is quite a great flick. A little bit dark for a comedy but highly entertaining in an oh so British kind of way. Lovely little village for the location too, which never hurts. And Domenic is hilarious as a dopey rock star bad boy. I mean look at that face. It just mirrors the dog's face!

Rosamund Pike and Domenic Cooper in An Education

As affluent wheeler dealer Danny in An Education, Domenic plays a very different kind of bad boy. This film was riveting on many levels. I could certainly watch it again as all of the performances were remarkable and I loved the script by Nick Hornby about a girl trying to choose the course of her life.

Domenic Cooper in My Week With Marilyn

I haven't seen My Week With Marilyn yet so I can't comment on Domenic's role as Marilyn Monroe's photographer and business partner Milton H. Greene. Actually, I almost watched this last night but instead watched The Muppets, which made me very happy. Can anyone else tell me how they liked My Week With Marilyn?

So watch out for lots more Domenic Cooper in the future. He has 8 upcoming films listed on IMDb, including Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. So look out!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Cambridge University Weekend Courses! Who wants to go?

Madingley Hall, University of Cambridge

Who knew that anyone could go to a weekend course at the University of Cambridge (yes, the one in England) and stay in a 16th century country house? Anyone at all. All year round. Let the daydreams begin!

Madingley Hall with gardens by Capability Brown

How does this sound?
Accommodation- With pleasant views over the woods, gardens and courtyard, the bedrooms are warm, welcoming and comfortably furnished.
Food and Drink- Our award winning chefs provide fresh, locally-sourced food of a quality that’s second to none, served in our elegant dining hall.
Gardens- Visitors are encouraged to explore our gardens, designed by Lancelot 'Capability' Brown in 1756.

Stuart Room at Madingley Hall

Some of the courses that caught my eye were:

Thomas Hardy: poetic realist?
Survival and revival: the country house in the 20th century 
Victorian myth and medievalism: the later Pre-Raphaelites 
Tracing the origins of the British using genetics, linguistics and chroniclers 
In and out the workhouse: Victorian and Edwardian poverty issues 
Pride and Prejudice Part Deux: adapting and rewriting the classics 
Comedy on the 18th Century English stage 
The Sherlock Holmes phenomenon 

But there are so many more! Philosophy, Shakespeare, Languages, Ancient Civilizations, Classical music, History, Geology...I'll bet you will find something to appeal to your tastes.

Dining Hall at Madingley Hall

OK, it's not free. First you have to get yourself to England. Then there is the £350.00 fee but that includes tuition, two nights of accommodation and all meals from Friday night to Sunday lunch. Not bad when you consider that one night in a good London Hotel could set you back that amount. By the way, Madingley Hall is not right on the campus of Cambridge, but it is only about 4 miles away.

There is also a Literature Summer School at Cambridge where you can study 4 courses over a two week period. Personally, I kind of like the sound of the weekend courses. Combined with at least a 2 week trip around England of course! Well, at least I know what I am working towards now. Perhaps I should set aside a little cash each week for a "Cambridge Fund". Yes, I like the sound of that.

Friday, May 18, 2012

The World of Downton Abbey: Companion Book to the Series

World of Downton Abbey
Just a quick post today as I am off to cottage country for the Victoria Day weekend. In Canada, we celebrate Queen Victoria's Birthday (which is May 24th) but the holiday is always placed on the Monday before May 25th and is known as the weekend for opening cottages and planting annuals in our coldish climate. We used to call it firecracker day when I was a kid, but this has largely been supplanted by the fireworks on July 1st (Canada Day), which is much warmer for evening celebrations!

Lavinia from World of Downton Abbey

My wonderful men got me the book The World of Downton Abbey for Mother's Day. I have been so busy that I have only been able to flip through and read a few pages. And drool over a few photographs. As you can see from the photographs, this is a gorgeous hardcover book with lots of detail in the photos and tons of information on the period and on the production itself. Written by Jessica Fellowes with an introduction by her uncle Julian Fellowes, it is unusually well done for something put together quickly to cash in on Downton fever.

Sybil in The World of Downton Abbey

A must have for all of us suffering from "Downton Withdrawal", a medically recognized condition which worsens on Sunday nights, this will ease the pain of the wait until next January for season two. My bloggy buddy Kate from Leeds (who now has her own blog) has been raving about this book since she received it as a birthday present I believe. I now know what she has been talking about! So off I go to be bitten by blackflies and to snuggle up with my new book. I love staring at those dresses, never mind the settings inside and outside of those wonderful country homes like Highclere Castle. Byeeeeeeee!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Bill Nighy- Actor of the Week


Bill Nighy is now one of the greats of British cinema, having achieved fame late in his career. This high school drop-out tried being a writer first before attending acting school at the urging of an old girlfriend. He eked out an acting career for decades doing some fairly prestigious stage work. And then came Billy Mack...

Bill Nighy as Billy Mack in Love Actually

If you are like me, you got to know Bill as the rather eccentric over the hill rock star Billy Mack in Love Actually.

Billy Mack: When I was young and successful, I was greedy and foolish, and now I'm left with no one. Wrinkled and alone. 

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Billy Mack: Hiya kids. Here is an important message from your Uncle Bill. Don't buy drugs. Become a pop star, and they give you them for free!

Laura Fraser and Bill Nighy in He Knew He Was Right

As the seemingly lecherous Colonel Osborne in He Knew He Was Right, Bill Nighy is spot on, reveling in the attention he receives when perceived as a womanizer. Poor Laura Fraser's character Emily Trevelyan, does not realize that her father's friend is not acting in her best interest.

Bill Nighy in I Capture the Castle

As the father of two girls played by Romola Garai and Rose Byrne in I Capture the Castle, Bill Nighy is a novelist in 1930s England with long term writer's block after a first successful novel.

Cassandra: Father. 'Jacob Wrestling' was a wonderful, groundbreaking book. There was never going to be a sequel overnight!
James Mortmain: Meaning?
Cassandra: Meaning, it will come!
James Mortmain: How old are you?
Cassandra: Seventeen.
James Mortmain: And you still believe in fairy tales.

Bill Nighy and Romola Garai in Glorious 39

In the thriller Glorious 39, again playing the father of Romola Garai's character (typecasting?) Bill Nighy is a member of the House of Commons in 1939, on the cusp of WWII. I haven't yet seen this one but it looks fascinating. Written and directed by Stephen Poliakoff, this one also has a fantastic cast including Jenny Agutter, David Tennant, Hugh Bonneville, Julie Christie and Jeremy Northam among others.

Bill Nighy in The Boat That Rocked (Pirate Radio)

The Boat That Rocked (known as Pirate Radio on this side of the pond) is about a bunch of DJs in the 1960s running a pirate radio station off the coast of Britain in order to get around the British censors. Who better to play Quentin, the eccentric head of the floating radio station than Bill Nighy?

Quentin: So... expelled?
'Young' Carl: That's right.
Quentin: What for?
'Young' Carl: I suppose smoking was the clincher.
Quentin: Drugs or cigarettes?
'Young' Carl: Well, both.
Quentin: Well done! Proud of you. So your mum sent you here in the hope that a little bracing sea air would sort you out?
'Young' Carl: Something like that.
Quentin: Spectacular mistake.

I loved this one, directed by Richard Curtis by the way. Emma Thompson makes a great cameo as Young Carl's mother. And Jack Davenport and Kenneth Branaugh are quite memorable as the stiffs at the BBC.

Bill Nighy in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

We finally get to see Bill Nighy as a true nice guy in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Not eccentric, not evil but just a really great guy. How refreshing! As Douglas Ainslie, a retired government worker who has invested his entire next egg in his daughter's dot-com start-up and hence has to live cheaply, he and his wife played by Penelope Wilton move to India. Yes, it's far fetched, but just enjoy the film and don't look too closely for plot holes. It's a wonderful film.

"Everything will be all right in the end... if it's not all right then it's not the end." 

Now I had to leave a lot of Bill's best films out of this list or my post would have been really long! Did I miss one or more of your faves?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for Mother's Day


For Mother's Day I was taken to see The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Not by my children of course, but by the man who made motherhood happen, The Squire as he is affectionately known. And it was wonderful. Magical one might say.

Ready for adventure at The Marigold Hotel

A group of British retirees who cannot afford to live well in England decide to "outsource" their retirement to India. And mayhem ensues.

Based on the novel These Foolish Things by Deborah Moggach (screenplay writer of Pride and Prejudice 2005) one wonders why director John Madden (Shakespeare in Love, Mrs. Brown) didn't have Deborah adapt her own book for the big screen. I think she might have done a better job, but I am quibbling here. I loved the film and I will definitely purchase it, to be watched on very hot days and on very cold days!

Judi Dench and Celia Imrie in Marigold Hotel

Judi Dench plays a recent widow who had trusted everything to the husband who left her without a home or enough money to live on in the end. Of course, she ends up landing on her feet and blogging about it!

Judi Dench with Tom Wilkinson and Bill Nighy in Marigold Hotel

Tom Wilkinson's character was not in the book but was introduced into the story to hint at India's British colonial roots. A High Court Judge (one assumes he could afford a better hotel and is slumming it) who grew up in India but has never returned since he left in disgrace to attend University in England. I won't tell you any more but his story is a lovely addition to the film.

Dev Patel with Tena Desae

Dev Patel's character Sonny is the scatterbrained dreamer who is trying to make his father's vision of the hotel come true. Beautiful girlfriend from a different social class, disapproving mother...you know how it goes.

Maggie Smith in Marigold Hotel

Maggie Smith is delightful as a bigoted Brit who has to travel to India to avoid a six month wait in England for a new hip. I think I loved her story the best and she obviously had fun with the role.

The Squire loved Bill Nighy the best, quite rightly. What a joy to watch. He is such a character!

Ravla Khempur, the real Marigold Hotel near Udaipur

The real hotel, called Rayla Khempur is apparently much nicer than it is portrayed in the film and is available for stays if the film made you want to see the beauties of India. Wild Frontiers (wildfrontiers.co.uk) has put together a 10-night Marigold Hotel Rajasthan Tour which takes in locations from the film, as well as Agra, Pushkar and Delhi.

So please go and see the film. Just look at the amazing cast and you know you will love this film. Yes the ending is a bit pat and cliche but you want a happy ending right? If you are like me you will leave the theatre with a smile and a craving for Indian food. If you are like The Squire, you will love the film but shudder and say that you will never ever travel to India (or indeed China he says). :)

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Helen Mirren- Actor of the Week

Helen Mirren

Dame Helen Mirren is my actor of the week in a little nod to the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. This lady has done some pretty amazing period work in her illustrious career. Of Russian and British descent, Helen (born Ilyena Lydia Vasilievna Mironoff) has portrayed both QEI and QEII in film.

Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II in The Queen

As the beloved Queen of England during one of her most trying times right after Princess Diana's death, Helen Mirren shone. I have seen this film perhaps three times now and each time I marvel at her skill as an actress. She certainly deserved the Oscar she won for The Queen. Helen famously commented that the Queen had much better legs than she has. That may be true but as for the rest of the package, that bathing suit photo a few years ago would tip the scale in Helen's favour!

Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth I in Elizabeth I- The Miniseries

In another powerful role as the original Queen Elizabeth in Elizabeth I, she proves her gravitas again. She won both an Emmy and a Golden Globe for playing the Virgin Queen in this miniseries. Looking at the photo above, I wouldn't mess with her, would you?

Helen Mirren as Sofya Tolstoy in The Last Station

Riding a roller coaster of emotion as Sofya Tolstoy, wife of Leo, she nabbed another well earned nomination for a lead actress Oscar for The Last Station. This one is a gem with Christopher Plummer, Paul Giamatti, James McAvoy and Anne-Marie Duff all adding to the wealth of talent in this film.

Helen Mirren as Ayn Rand in The Passion of Ayn Rand

Who better to portray the sexy yet smart Ayn Rand than Helen Mirren in The Passion of Ayn Rand? Of Russian extraction, she can do a Russian accent perfectly and the sexy/smart thing is in the bag. I haven't seen this one but it looks awesome!

Helen Mirren as Chris in Calendar Girls

I have to admit that Helen's role in Calendar Girls may be my favourite of her many wonderful films. This film is funny and touching and just highly entertaining. I drag it out every year or so. CiarĂ¡n Hinds as her husband is pretty easy on the eyes, as is the Yorkshire countryside. Oh, and did I mention that this one is really funny? Yes, I guess I did.

Helen Mirren as Mrs. Wilson in Gosford Park

Her role as Mrs. Wilson, the perfect servant, in Gosford Park may be a close second for my fave role of Dame Mirren's. A small but crucial part in this ensemble piece, Mrs. Wilson always has me crying at the end.

Helen Mirren as Detective Jane Tennison in Prime Suspect

Many viewers first got to know Helen Mirren as no-nonsense Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) Jane Tennison in the long running ITV series Prime Suspect. Tough and yet still sexy is what Dame Helen does best. My sister's husband has seen all of the Prime Suspect episodes and I don't think it is entirely because of the storylines, wink, wink, nudge, nudge, know-what-I-mean, say no more!

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So hat's off to Helen Mirren. She is busy filming Hitchcock right now as Alma Reville (otherwise known as Lady Hitchcock) with Anthony Hopkins as the man himself and Scarlett Johansson as Janet Leigh (?!). I hope Dame Helen Mirren has many more wonderful films ahead of her. And just to prove that she really does have a sense of humour, Check out this short from 2011 called When Harry Met Sally 2 with Billy Crystal and Helen Mirren on YouTube.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Sherlock vs Elementary

Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman

Sherlock: Series 2 starts tonight on PBS Masterpiece Mystery. Yay!!! If you haven't seen this modern version of Sherlock Holmes set in present day London, it is well worth a view. Benedict Cumberbatch is razor sharp as the borderline austistic/Aspergers Sherlock Holmes who uses computers and smart phones as well as his usual observational sleuthing to solve crimes. Martin Freeman as Dr. Watson is the perfect foil for Holmes who would get irritating if he were not humanized by his sidekick. I find it fascinating that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle originally wrote Dr. Watson as a physician recently returned from the Anglo-Afghan war in Afghanistan, so that shows you how long foreign forces have been fighting there.

Elementary with Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu

Across the pond, CBS has decided to cash in on the modern Sherlock Holmes idea by making their own version called Elementary starring Jonny Lee Miller (Eli Stone, Emma) as Holmes and Lucy Liu as Watson. Hmmmm. This is either going to be brilliant or horrible depending on the writing and the direction. It takes place in NYC (natch) instead of London but you will notice that Sherlock's looped scarf is the same, as is the posh accent on it's lead character. They are both gorgeous English actors which doesn't hurt with the female demographic and I suppose changing Watson into an attractive female takes care of the male demographic too. Again, good in theory but I reserve judgement until I see the finished project.

The last time American television tried to adapt a Steven Moffat/BBC production, Coupling, was a disaster. The British series is like a sexed-up version of Friends and is hysterical, but the Americanized Coupling was just...well...it shouldn't have been aired at all!

Sherlock with violin

So go with the sure thing for now and watch Sherlock on PBS for the next three weeks. If you miss it, it will be online for the next month or so. Tell me how you liked it!

And let's hope they give Jonny Lee Miller a good script for Elementary. He deserves it, and I would love to see what he does with the character.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Hugh Grant- Actor of the Week

Hugh Grant
In honour of his new animated film The Pirates! Band of Misfits or The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists depending on your side of the pond, my actor of the week is Hugh Grant. I will admit to a bit of a weakness for Hugh's films. If you take a look at his IMDb page, you will see why I had trouble narrowing down my choices for this post. So if I just limit myself to period films first,we have...

Hugh Grant in Sense and Sensibility
Although a little stiff-necked, Hugh Grant is wonderful as Edward Ferrars in Sense and Sensibility. One of his best roles!

Hugh Grant and Tara Fitzgerald in The Englishman who...yada yada yada
In The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill and Came Down a Mountain, he plays an English cartographer who has to tell a Welsh village that their mountain is only a hill. I'm going to have to see this one again, as I have been to Wales since I first saw the film (it is breathtaking) and as I recall, the film was pretty darn good.

Hugh Grant as Reginald Cardinal in The Remains of the Day
In The Remains of the Day, he has a small but wonderful part in this riveting film which is now almost 20 years old!

Hugh Grant and Judy Davis in Impromptu
In Impromptu as Chopin and opposite the luminous Judy Davis as George Sand, he is sweet and funny. Not a serious take on Chopin, this one is right up my alley. I love a spot of comedy! Emma Thompson has a riot as the loopy Duchess in this one as well. Love her!

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Ok...now for the non-period films of Hugh Grant's which I absolutely adore. No, they are not high art but they always entertain.

Bridget Jones's Diary
Bridget: Apparently, I used to run round naked in his paddling pool.
Daniel Cleaver: I bet you did, you dirty bitch.

Love Actually
Prime Minister: Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion's starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don't see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often, it's not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it's always there - fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge - they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I've got a sneaking suspicion... love actually is all around.

Music and Lyrics
Alex Fletcher: The best time I've had in the last fifteen years was sitting at that piano with you.
Sophie Fisher: That's wonderfully sensitive... especially from a man who wears such tight pants.
Alex Fletcher: It forces all the blood to my heart.

Four Weddings and a Funeral
Fiona: There's a sort of greatness to your lateness.
Charles: Thanks, it's not achieved without real suffering.

About a Boy
Will: I couldn't possibly think of a worse godfather for Imogene. You know me. I'll drop her at her christening. I'll forget her birthdays until her 18th, when I'll take her out and get her drunk and possibly, let's face it, you know, try and shag her. I mean, seriously, it's a very, very bad choice.
Christine: We know, I just thought you had hidden depths.
Will: No. No. You've always had that wrong. I really am this shallow.

Two Weeks Notice
George Wade: I own the hotel, and I live there. My life is very much like Monopoly.

Notting Hill
Keziah: No thanks, I'm a fruitarian.
Max: I didn't realize that.
William: And, ahm: what exactly is a fruitarian?
Keziah: We believe that fruits and vegetables have feeling so we think cooking is cruel. We only eat things that have actually fallen off a tree or bush - that are, in fact, dead already.
William: Right. Right. Interesting stuff. So, these carrots...
Keziah: Have been murdered, yes.
William: Murdered? Poor carrots. How beastly!

Nine Months
Rebecca Taylor: Sam! My water broke!
Samuel Faulkner: Well, we'll get you another one! 

OK, that last one seems very appropriate since Hugh Grant has finally become a father to a little girl Tabitha with Chinese actress Tinglan Hong. Who knew he had hidden depths?

Did I miss any of Hugh Grant's films that you really love? I left out the film Restoration with Robert Downey Jr. and Sam Niell, because I had never heard of it but which looks awesome. Can anyone recommend it?

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