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And I thought the first episode was amazing!

I'm not saying it got cheesier. I'm just saying that if I ran a drive-in movie, this would be the summer special.

These men are just confused that they are one of the few promo stills available and 80% of them haven't even appeared in the miniseries yet. Mostly because this miniseries is a battlefield they aren't on. You know who's on that battlefield? The people under this cut.

Five Things About Episode 2 of Pillars of the Earth. )
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This weekend, I saw Prince of Persia: the Sands of Time. It was exactly as good as people have said, which means it was a complete wreck.

The saddest thing is, even if you get over the whitewashed casting, and the nonsense plot, and the laborious action scenes (save the first big one during the city raid, which was genuinely exciting), there's still nothing there. It's all so calculated and flat and recycled.

The other saddest thing is watching this cast try to sell what they had to know was a total dog. Richard Coyle managed to do a lot in his three minutes of screen time, and Jake Gyllenhaal and Gemma Arterton were trying SO HARD, but it was just never going to happen. I'd like to see them in something else. (Particularly in something else that is not the sequel to this movie. Ever.)

Thing I can't find photo proof of but which is totally true: the Alamut CGI looks exactly like Mont-Saint-Michel.

Not sure why, but we'll go with it! (This was said a lot during pre-production, I expect.)

Check out the whole thing over at
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Generally, my movie-watching habits throughout life have been about 70% things I want to see, 30% things I saw under some social obligation. This has no bearing on their quality (obviously - I mean, look at me); it's just a baseline measurement. And weirdly, it doesn't change much even after I look at when I started to review movies for real. Sure, I would take back the two hours of my life I spent watching Repo Men (and Legion), but in most movies there is a nice moment, or a grain of truth, or some extra who is clearly overjoyed to be there, and even if not, I love movies enough to sit through a few hundred duds in my lifetime.

However, in the last two weeks or so, I have seen a disproportionate number of movies that are really, truly awful. Some were my fault. One was the fault of the person who won a review in the Carl Brandon auction, and made me watch one of the most unbelievable things ever, which you will hear about next week.

And one of them was No Reservations, which I watched for Fair Food Fight. It was awful, but the worst part is probably this, at a key moment in the third act:

Kate: [indicating kitchen] This is who I am.

Nick: No, it's not.


I handle this in the review (complete with killshot!), but I had to mention it here, just because I hate it so, so much.

I mean, pretty much any way you parse it, that is a loaded little conversation. (Keep in mind this guy is currently in a brand-new relationship with her, one in which he has addressed the problem of workplace authority by saying almost verbatim, "Well, you'll tell me what to do and I'll do what I want, just like always," and it is never discussed again and things actually play out that way. Plus, as I recall, they are having this conversation because he has just been offered her job and is treating her like a ridiculous harpy for being angry at this news.)

But beyond that (and as also discussed in the review), it's probably more than a little disingenuous to pretend that "chef" is the sort of job you try to rise above, rather than an actual Personage you hope to become, and that for a chef to say that about the kitchen is actually a statement of fact and career accomplishment, not some sort of romantic hangup to be overcome by some coworker you barely know who shows up on your doorstep late at night demanding you eat this unknown substance he made...while you're blindfolded.

Needless to say, my plan for this weekend will be heavy on movies I actually WANT to see. (Suspect Awesome British Actor Camp will feature heavily.)
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So, among the many graduates of Awesome British Actor Camp, there's a little subculture of actors who are probably perfectly nice people who enjoy things like accounting and pinochle. Unfortunately, they have a particular aura about them that make them look like escapees from a gang of creepers.

If they really were a gang, and nine of them were being chosen to go up to the Bronx to hear Cyrus give his big speech, Cillian Murphy would be the leader. Dude is an awesome actor, but no one is ever surprised when he turns into a total raging revenge murderer an hour into 28 Days Later, is all I'm saying.

Second one chosen would be Hans Matheson.

If you need more evidence than his face, it's under the cut. )
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One of my favorite things in the world is watching historical documentaries (generally biographies) that have extras in the background, looking historical and Very Serious. They're never allowed to talk, of course, but sometimes they get to "Peas and carrots" their way through something as historians explain things in the foreground. It's all extras, all the time, and it's awesome!

The best of these I've seen was "The Real Jane Austen," which aired a while ago on PBS, and was amazing because it took the framework of a talking-heads biography with actors as the talking heads. It was narrated by Anna "I always play harridans for some reason" Chancellor, and starred a list of actors I can hardly believe managed to get in the same project just to make my life easier/worse: Gillian "Stuck in a Cookson" Kearney, Jack "Also stuck in a Cookson I haven't recapped yet" Davenport, Lucy "Becoming Jane" Cohu, Oliver "I had two lines in Lorna Doone" Chris, and Beth "Yes, I'm Kate's sister" Winslet.

(Oh, Awesome British Actor Camp, you always know just what to say!)

The one I'm watching at the moment is about the youth of Queen Victoria, with a narrator who seems to be reading her lines off cue cards she has never seen before, and the Queen Victoria extra's job is to look up off-camera and shake her head "No" every time we cut to her, and it's delightful. Also it's about history, I guess.

(If I ever have a month to myself, I should start Best month EVER.)
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So, The Young Victoria comes out today! I had the honor of seeing it early on a plane coming back from France. (I also had the honor of seeing it three times, because we sat for two hours on the tarmac and a bunch of other weird things happened. Maybe you guys want to have more than one watchable movie per flight, Air France? Cool.)

Anyway, after seeing it three times in a row, and realizing I always felt like I had dozed off for parts in the middle even though I hadn't, I had some problems. Then I realized if I watched it three times in a row and enjoyed it, then I had some OTHER problems, but we'll get to those some other time.

The point is, review and picspam below! Be warned, there's vague spoilery talk, though nothing that happens in the movie should come as a surprise, since it happened a hundred years ago and we've all had plenty of time to catch up.

In which there are more puffed sleeves than you can handle. )
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So, The Prisoner remake happened on Sunday. And apparently it's still happening? I fell asleep, so I don't really know, but I wrote it up at, with the headline, "I am not a number! I am a free bland!", which should pretty much give you an idea of what you're in for.

And now, an open letter to Ian McKellen!

Dear Ian,

I know none of this is your fault. I chose a production still where you look grumpy, specifically to highlight how much this is not your fault. You are doing a very good job with what you have, even if what you have is Jamie Campbell Bower, and for this I am very sorry, because that dude is a creepster who cannot act, and with Jim Caviezel as your leading man you're basically not getting ANY help on the co-star front. I feel for you.

To sum up; I hope we are still best friends. I will fly to England the next time you are in a play! I probably will not be able to get tickets to the actual play, but I will fly over there and sort of wave at the theatre as I walk past it, and if you are looking out the window at that moment you will know that I do not hold The Prisoner against you.

Yours sincerely,

P.S. I hope you got to take home some of those suits. You're the only guy I know who can wear a white suit and not look like an ice cream man.
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So, Damian Lewis (an amazing British actor who came to America's attention after Band of Brothers and Life) is in a stage play with Keira Knightley. He's also a diplomat. When asked what he thought of Keira's acting, he said:

Damian Lewis is positive that Keira Knightley will do a terrific job when she makes her debut on the West End stage.

..."She's got quite a successful acting dad and playwright mum, so she can handle herself - Keira is fabulous, she's an absolute sweetheart - she's looking forward to it as well so we're going to have fun," he said.

1. Dude, that is MASTERFUL.

2. That is exactly how I feel about Keira Knightley, and many other actors of her ilk. People try the "But she seems so nice!" angle, and that's hard to argue - Keira was in a domestic-violence awareness promo, she doesn't stagger around drunk a lot, she seems nice. That doesn't mean she can ACT, though! She is a bad actor! This is the profession she chose, and it's sort of her duty to be good at it, you know? People don't continue to hire shitty accountants.

(Liv Tyler is another one. She's a very sweet person and a good citizen and everything, but girl cannot emote to SAVE her LIFE. And Natalie Portman, who sometimes shows promise but can easily go through three movies in a year without acting even once! Sean Penn, Al Pacino, Angelina know what, this list will end up being eight hundred people long. I'm stopping.)

ANYWAY, I feel the same way about some of the Game of Thrones cast (which is nearly finalized, and which I wrote up for yesterday). Going down the names, which is like Awesome British Actor Camp Varsity, it's like, "Yes! Check! Check! Awesome! Go! Great one!...wait, really?"

I like Lena Headey as Sarah Connor, I do. I just don't know if she's so hot in the period-piece arena. A lot of actors aren't, and that's fine, but sometimes an actor doesn't know that until it's too late and they're like Ray Liotta in the Dungeon Siege movie, you know? That hurts everyone.
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Over at, I wrote about four reasons to watch League of Extraordinary Gentlemen as part of any steampunk immersion. Sure, one of those reasons is just to witness its horribleness, but I think we all know that I believe that suffering through bad movies builds character.

I will say that the movie is remarkable quotable for something that is, in general, so bloodless and banal. I think Stuart Townsend steals the show when, during Dorian Gray's fight with the vampiric Mina Harker, he moans, "We'll be at this ALL DAY," with the sort of over-the-top ennui that you rarely see in good movies.* It's the sort of make-the-best-of-it feel that only comes from realizing you are cast in one of the shittiest movies of the year. I salute you, brave b-movie veterans!

(Please note that this movie is an example of a particular subculture; Movies with Richard Roxburgh Running. He's the best runner in Hollywood. Yes, I'm serious. Yes, this is the kind of thing I think about.**)

* This is wonderful when you're stuck in department meetings. Just imagine him busting in, dropping that line, and swanning right back out.

** Best example - Mission: Impossible II, the scene as he's stealing the vials, running through the dark hallway. It's so effortless!
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The highlight of this weekend might have been the excellent Poe reading at the Montauk House - great stories by [ profile] deliasherman, [ profile] jplangan, and Greg Frost, and everything given the air of dark portent by the wood-paneled setting. The place was packed, the mood was surprisingly jovial in a vaguely sinister way. As highlights of a weekend go, this would be really hard to top.

Then [ profile] elavelle came to stay, and brought me a movie that topped it. That's a seriously amazing feat. It might well end up as an Abridged Classic, only because some of this stuff has to be seen to be believed. More on this later.

P.S. Man, nothing puts a cramp in your word count like having a life for a weekend! I'll have to be a hermit for a few days until I've caught up.

P.P.S. Really, fashion people? We're doing the furry vests for fall? I must have seen some version of this about a dozen times while I was wandering around:

It's very...Clan of the Cave Bear, no?
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So, FlashForward aired last night! My official review is up at

My unofficial review: when it gets better, someone call me.

This show lost me at the thirty-minute mark, when three characters are talking about the flashforwards in someone's office. Joseph Fiennes turns to his partner and the FBI director and says, "I saw something." CUT TO: The sunny atrium in the middle of FBI headquarters. The same three characters are there. The FBI director says, "What did you see?"

Any show where they interrupt a conversation so they can pop out to the atrium for a minute and get a nice quick-cut to build fake suspense is a show that has lost me. See you!

Then it lost me AGAIN at the forty-minute mark.

A brief spoiler, with British actors in it! )
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There was an era (and by "an era" I think I mean "a period of three years") when Disney set aside the cavalcade of animated princesses and made a couple of unusual movies. They were unusual because of their settings, unusual because of their gentle skew to the adult, and unusual because they were good. Perhaps the best, certainly the most adult of these movies, is The Rocketeer.

And by "adult" I mean, "Turn the Lech-o-meter down a notch, Tim Dalton, damn."

The Rocka-who? )
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Wow, it's been a long time since I visited a Catherine Cookson!

Ladies and gents, welcome to The Round Tower. It's a sweet little romance about an upper-class girl, a middle-class boy, and the bairnsketball that comes between them!

The Round Tower probably Cookson's most in-depth look at class differences in mid-century England and the turmoil caused by the idea of someone wanting to change their socio-economic strata through hard work. However, since most of those parts were filmed with the light from a single desk lamp, you can't really tell.

It also has some of the skeeviest lines of any Cookson. This poor, poor young lady.

Vital Stats:

Era: 1950s. And 1960s. And maybe 1970s. Also maybe 2150. They’re in some time warp where they never age and yet five hundred years of the viewer’s lifetime pass before their eyes as they watch!
Heroine: Vanessa Ratcliffe.
Siblings that require looking-after: Nope!
Illegitimate (Self or sibling): She gets a bairnsketball thanks to her father's skeevy friend. Does that count?
Asshole Father?: Oooh yeah.
Romantic interest(s): Angus Cotton, an employee of her dad's who marries her to save her reputation.
Bairnsketballs: Check. Thanks, creepy neighbor!
Fistfights: I started counting, but gave up. I think this entire movie is one huge slapfight.
Assaults: On our characters, no. On our patience, yes.

That was back when she was pure. Untouched. )
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I talk about the newest Game of Thrones casting over at Casting spoilers, obviously, if you click.

All I can say without spoiling anything is that casting is absolutely key when you're gearing up for some epic fantasy. The normal rubric of "this person is a good actor" doesn't work. You know who is a very good actor? Anjelica Huston. Also, Joan Allen. Also, Hans Matheson. And yet, DID YOU SEE MISTS OF AVALON? That shit was AWFUL.

Epic Fantasy Actor Camp is a very tricky beast, people! Godspeed to all involved. Glower and pine as you've never glowered and pined before!
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So, Ridley Scott and Company have hinted that Leonardo DiCaprio is pretty much a lock for any role he wants in the Brave New World adaptation. Word on the street is that he wants Bernard. I talk about how the casting might go down over on

I didn't mention my ideal cast in the post, so I'll do it here, and then play a quick game of Awesome British Actor Camp*:

Bernard: Damian Lewis
Lenina: Nina Sosanya
Mustapha: Ian McKellen
John: James McAvoy
Linda: Julie Walters

It will be interesting to see how much the studio will actually influence the movie. On one hand, Ridley Scott has a decent track record and is also a man, so maybe the studio will let him do what he wants. On the other hand, studios tend to get skittish around thinky sci-fi, especially sci-fi that critiques anything Hollywood itself loves. It will maybe surprise them at some point that the constant availability of mind-numbing entertainment is one of the things Huxley demonizes most in Brave New World. I'm sure they'll just blow up that bridge when they get to it. Literally. (Watch out for a huge helicopter chase! Through a volcano!)

* ABAC: Damian Lewis and Nina Sosanya worked together in a BBC adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing; James McAvoy and Damian Lewis worked together in Band of Brothers; shockingly, I don't think Julie Walters and Ian McKellen have ever been in a movie together.

Emma 2009

Jul. 12th, 2009 09:29 pm
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In case you didn't catch the last fifteen Austen adaptations on the BBC, they're tackling Emma later this year.

Good news: Romola Garai, Johnny Lee Miller, Jodhi May, Michael Gambon, Blake Ritson (poached from Mansfield Park!), Rupert Evans, and Head Bitch in Charge (Except in Hex Where She Died) Christina Cole means that place is Awesome British Actor Camp. Plus, Emma wears a collar during the day! Progress!

Bad news: Johnny is much too young and cute to really capture the ridiculous WHEN YOU WERE NINE skeeve of Mr. Knightley. The adaptation with Kate Beckinsale and Mark Strong comes closest to the age differential, where she's seventeen and he's SIX HUNDRED YEARS OLD. Not that I don't love Mark Strong - he's quite foxy! - but Austen really highlighted the fact that he decided to express his romantic feelings for her, which he's had since she was LESS THAN THIRTEEN, by acting like her dad and telling her that's what he's doing. Ah, romance!

Preview! Spoilers for people who haven't read the book; though, let's be fair, you've had since 1811 to get on that.

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[Previous episodes of The Catherine Cookson Experience here.]

This week, the CCE delivers my biggest letdown so far: Ciaran Hinds and Amanda Root, stars of the Persuasion (best Austen adaptation ever), team up again!

And man, they suck.

Welcome to The Man Who Cried, which is about a good-looking dude (Ciaran Hinds: well cast, casting person) who keeps tripping and falling into ladies, which disgusts him, just disgusts him. Why won't these women stop getting with him, damn? He spends four hours being emo about how he just wants to be Left Alone with some other woman than the one he's with at the moment. (Doesn't matter which woman he's with; he wants a new one.)

Vital Stats:

Era: 1930s, just before WWII
Heroine: Ciaran Hinds.
Siblings that require looking-after: His ten-year-old kiddo.
Illegitimate (Self or sibling): He begets one! Nice job, Ciaran.
Asshole Father?: Yeah, Ciaran.
Romantic interest(s): Every woman on the planet.
Bairnsketballs: Yup...CIARAN.
Fistfights: Largely nonviolent, except for ladies lunging at Ciaran and attempting to climb him like a tree.
Assaults: See above. SIT DOWN, LADIES.

Even the CREDITS are crying, you guys. )
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So, after last week's happy-go-lucky tale of nice girls with the memory capacity of a goldfish, we get into the gritty reality of what life was like for the ladies of the 1850s. (Answer: sucky.) Behold, The Girl!

Note: There are Cooksons worse than this, but few Cooksons duller. We will be skipping over large portions of repetitive, depressing malarkey. The point Cookson is trying to make: sucks to be a lady in the 1850s who had to make a good marriage Or Else. Point we take away from it: sucks double to be a lady whose only options are your rapey husband or that dude down the street who gets drunk and insults you. (Also, you fall in love with the second guy, which means in this scenario you probably have a concussion. I'm sorry to hear that.)

Era: 1850
Heroine: Hannah Boyle, the young illegitimate daughter of gentleman Mr. Thornton. OR IS SHE?
Siblings that require looking-after: She has three half-siblings who mostly suck, but in case she's the one that requires looking after, because oh my lord, girl gets beat on.
Illegitimate (Self or sibling): Hannah. Sort of. Whatever.
Asshole Father?: Uh, not to Hannah, but uh, wow.
Romantic interest(s): Ned. Fred, who marries Hannah, is not a romantic interest. It gets gross. *shudders*
Bairnsketballs: Hannah gets one, though technically it's legitimate since she's married. Even though it's not her husband's. It's all very Jerry Springer.
Fistfights: Yep. And caning. And bear traps! And they burn someone's finger off.
Assaults: Innumerable; we see one, and one other that's interrupted by one of the best conversations the world has ever known.

You're trouble! )
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Gillian Kearney was in The Tide of Life, and I liked her because:

1) She is a sweetie, and
2) She has leftover goodwill from being in The Forsyte Saga, where she was repeatedly whacked with the short end of the stick.

But she should just be lucky that she made very few bad decisions in that miniseries, which made her the only one.

When I saw The Forsyte Saga back in 2004, I wrote it up for Defenestration, because I was amazed that you could yell, "What a terrible plan!" at EVERY character you saw EVERY time ANYONE did something and it would ALWAYS be right. I saw it again last year, and seriously, it's like a How Not To Do This of bad decision-making.

(Disclaimer: At the end of Forsyte Saga: To Let, I cried so hard I basically bruised a lung. So don't think that just because I'm snarking means the miniseries isn't good. It's good; Damian Lewis and Amanda Root carry even the dull parts of the original series, and Damian Lewis pulls the entire second series basically by himself, and his performance is good. It's really good. It's so good it bruises your lungs when you sob like a nerd through the end credits.)
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So, there are two or three more really dismal installments of The Catherine Cookson Experience coming up, and I thought that before I hit all the marital rape and spouse-slapping, everyone could use one that's pleasantly absurd. Behold, The Tide of Life!

Here's the thing about this miniseries; Gillian Kearney is a really good actress. She worked her ass off in The Forsyte Saga, and I really love the sort-of-documentary biopic she did on BBC, and – she's not the poor soul who played Cissie Brodie, is what I'm saying. She has genuine charisma, and you root for her.

The problem with The Tide of Life is that while she seems perfectly sweet and capable of making normal-person decisions, she agrees to go steady with any dude who enters the frame, so you end up wondering if she has a concussion. Also a problem: the title sounds like a tampon ad. (Not Cookson's fault; just saying.)

Era: early 1900s
Heroine: Emily Kennedy, housekeeper and concussion victim
Siblings that require looking-after: One sister, also a concussion victim
Illegitimate (Self or sibling): Shockingly, all the major characters are legit.
Asshole Father?: Nary a dad in sight.
Romantic interest(s): Sep, her first employer; Larry, her second employer; Nick, who wanders into frame in the last twenty minutes.
Bairnsketballs: One for our heroine, one from an extra, plus a tumor everyone thinks is a bairnsketball. (Nobody in this movie is very bright, come to think of it.)
Fistfights: Hell yes. Also, murder, pistol-whipping, chasing someone into the ocean, and lighting a houseful of stuff on fire.
Assaults: Two (attempted)

That's what you are - NOWT! )


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Genevieve Valentine

September 2010

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