Another Oscar Wilde play comes to life…this time in one that is funny and charming and lively and sometimes even wicked… Set in late 19th Century London, the story revolves around an up-and-coming young politician who gets blackmailed by a “lady” into changing his opinion on an upcoming parliamentary bill. She has some evidence of how he got his early influence…and is willing and ready to use it if he doesn’t meet her demands. OK, so that’s the main plot, but as Wilde always does, the plot is only the beginning of the story. The best parts here are the supporting players and the smaller storylines about romances and the search for husbands, etc. Those are the juicy parts that offer the best snippets of Wilde-esque dialogue, innuendo and puns. One of the leaders in this smaller storylines is Rupert Everett, who plays a cad who has made it is goal in life never to marry. His story interweaves perfectly with the main storyline about the blackmail (he is friends with the politician and used to date the lady who is blackmailing him) but on its own, Everett’s story is a perfectly solid work. His entire character could be pulled out and turned into a full-length play or film, since there is so much meaty dialogue and so many stories to tell about him. If you have liked Wilde’s work in the past (such as A Woman of No Importance, Lady Windemere’s Fan’s, and most notably The Importance of Being Earnest), An Ideal Husband is guaranteed to please and if you’ve never seen anything written by Wilde, this is the one to start with. Trust me…you will want to see them all!

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Not being a Johnny Depp fan, I avoided Finding Neverland as long as I could. Based on recommendations of several people whose opinions I value, I finally caved. I am very infrequently surprised by films. This one surprised me more than any other film in 2004. I was expecting a stuffy, highfalutin film about an author and his life (I have to confess—I hadn’t read any reviews to come to this opinion). Much to my chagrin, the film is not really about adults or adult problems (even though there are several adult issues). It is about children…being a child, holding on to your childhood as long as possible, never letting your child-like innocence and imagination go…etc. The film is based on the life of J.M Barrie, who was a semi-successful playwright in 1900s London…semi-successful only until he wrote the play Peter Pan. Depp plays Barrie in a very toned down way…quiet and introspective. We really never find out what’s going on in Barrie’s mind until it appears on stage through his plays. But, no offense to Mr. Depp, but the children steal this movie. Kate Winslet, as the widowed mother of four boys, including Barrie’s Peter Pan inspiration, and even a small, comic-relief role by Dustin Hoffman do not bring as much joy to the film as the children do when they are on screen. These children provide Barrie with his inspiration and also provide this film with its heart.

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For his final outing as the ever-clever MI-6 spy James Bond, Pierce Brosnan has a so-so script to work with but he does a great job, as usual, of keeping the lack-luster story alive. He is joined, this time, by a showy Halle Berry (who adds very little to the film) and some other less-than-exciting characters (with the exception of Rosamund Pike who plays a great friend then foe to Bond). So, even with the daunting challenge of keeping the movie entertaining despite obstacles, Brosnan comes through with a bang! He is really charged here as Bond, finally finding his 007 footing…he’s tough and charming and cynical, yet confident. It’s a shame that this was his last 007 film (though new Bond Daniel Craig is also good spy material, which he proves in 2006’s Casino Royale) but for four films, Brosnan brought life back into a fledgling series…just as he brings life to this fledgling movie.

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One of the funnier films I’ve seen in a long while. Set during their father’s funeral, two brothers (one MUCH more successful than the other) run the gamut of problems and family issues during the should-be-sorrowful gathering. From the wrong corpse in the casket to an alleged gay love affair, this movie really does have it all. It’s original and well acted…and most of the humor is above board (there were only a few times I wish the filmmakers hadn’t “gone” there). If you like British comedies, you MUST watch this one. And, even if you don’t normally like the humor of the Brits, try it anyway. It’s a hoot!

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OK – I’m a James Bond fan. So, right off the bat I’ll say I was leery. Leery of a blonde Bond. Leery about a relatively unknown actor jumping into the timeless role. Leery of an actor who might be a little too “hard” looking to play the über spy. But, enough of my fears…since this film and Daniel Craig’s performance put them all to rest, I will no longer focus on my apprehensions. What I will focus on is that this is a strong film in a series that has been through some hard times in the past…especially concerning actor changes. I will also focus on the fact that Craig makes a strong, determined Bond…different than all the others but made for the 21st Century. Could Connery be Bond today? Probably not. He would slap the wrong woman’s bottom and she’d sue him. Would Roger Moore? Well, no, because his series of quips would also land him in court for one thing or another. Pierce Brosnan was the perfect end-of-the-20th-Century Bond…debonair, striking, yet with a soft side. In Casino Royale, the 21st installment of the official Bond films (not counting 1983’s Never Say Never Again and 1967’s Bond spoof also based and titled on Ian Fleming’s first Bond novel, Casino Royale), Craig holds onto Bond’s soft side right up to the very end. His Bond is raw and harsh and more “action” and less “sophistication” than his predecessors. The plot is pretty simple, which is another departure from most of the recent Bond films that get mulled down with convoluted stories. Here, Bond needs to win a high-stakes poker game so a terrorist does not win money to finance his crimes. This film also goes back to the beginning of 007’s career…right after he has been granted his license to kill by Her Majesty’s Secret Service (this makes sense since this is the novel Fleming used to introduce the world to Bond). And, granted, the film could use a little editing (it is close to 2 ½ hours long) especially around the card game. But, what the film doesn’t need is another Bond search. The right actor has been found! And we can only hope that he sticks around for a while.

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Based on the bestselling book by Helen Fielding, this story of the classic “singleton” hits both dramatic and comic highs and lows while entertaining throughout. Texan Renee Zellweger strikes the perfect British tone as Bridget, a single, frustrated Londoner who looks for love in all the wrong places. Hugh Grant steals most of his scenes as the devilish Daniel, who once again fits Bridget’s bill as the “wrong” guy. Colin Firth’s Mark Darcy, on the other hand, might very well be the “right” guy, if Bridget would ever realize it before it’s too late. Well-adapted from its diary format, this movie runs the gamut of emotions while never seeming forced or fake, mostly due to Zellweger’s robust and daring performance as the ever-disappointed yet daffy Bridget.

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I wanted to LOVE this movie. After-all, I adored the first installment. So, naturally, I was VERY excited to see this one. And, I have to say, I was let-down some. Not because it’s not a cute, witty film (the first one was extremely witty), but because it’s not AS entertaining as the first. Sequels do have a lot to live up to and this one, like most, falls flat, in comparison to the first. But, looking at the film on it’s own, it is a sweet, funny romantic comedy that has a lot of problems (the jail scenes need to be MUCH shorter) but that basically is a cute, fun film. Starting from where the first film lets off (Bridget just snags Mark Darcy as her boyfriend and she’s no longer a “singleton”), Bridget once again is up to her old tricks. Now that she HAS Mark, she tries her best to “get rid of him” by letting her paranoia get the best of her. Bridget is a very appealing character. She’s like every woman. She’s nuts at time. She’s not bone thin. She makes a lot of mistakes. She’s VERY imperfect. Why Mark (a heck of a lot more perfect than Bridget) would be with her is a mystery but doesn’t every slightly chubby, less than gorgeous woman imagine Mr. Perfect on her arm. It’s a film about watching someone live out her fantasies…and I’m sorry but I wouldn’t mind doing that.

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A fun film about a small English town turned upside down when a hair styling contest comes to town. Yes, that’s right. I said a hair styling contest. Didn’t know there was such a thing? Well, this film will get your up to speed. Not anything deep or stylized (no pun intended)…just a fun, entertaining film. Some of the flamboyant hair stylists and the jokes about them are a little over the top, but all in all, a solid comedy with a little romance throw in for good measure.

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Julia Quinn’s books always seem to have a quirky element that makes them different. And I mean that in a good way. I’m trying to decide exactly what that is. It probably is a few different factors. She writes well, she has witty dialog between her lead characters, she lets her lovers get to know each other, and she sneaks in secondary characters that leave you wanting their story next. It sounds so easy. She makes it read so easy. But it is not. That my friends, is why her books work.

What Happens in London is her latest, and it features Olivia and Harry. Olivia is very lovely lady, but really has not found that special someone to wed. Harry meets her by chance and at first glance they do not really like each other. It probably doesn’t help that he thinks she is a beautiful twit and she’s heard gossip that he’s killed his fiancee. And it does not help that Olivia has taken to spying on him – since he’s next door – and has discovered he does have some secrets. Having your neighbor notice that you’re spying does make it a bit awkward the next time you meet them at a ball.

Harry does Russian translation for the British government and ends up being assigned to watch Olivia since her latest suitor seems to be a Russian prince that the government wants to watch. Hence, he ends up meeting with Olivia more than he ever intended. Their dialog of getting to know each other and to like each other – really sets this book apart.

Filled with a mix of various quiet scenes and some hilarity – the scene of Harry’s cousin enacting a Gothic novel for the Prince and the household is pretty funny – the future lovers grow to appreciate each other. And isn’t that what a romance is supposed to be about? A very good read.

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One of the more delightful surprises in fiction in recent years, this Keyes book was a beach read that turned out to be a little more than that. I’ve read quite a few of Keyes books before but this one is probably my favorite of hers…it’s fresh and engaging and simply delightful. Told from the POV of three London ladies: 1. Gemma, who has a neurotic mother and is still mourning the loss of her stolen-out-from-under-her-by-her-best-friend boyfriend…2. Lily, who is the best friend who stole Gemma’s boyfriend…and 3. Jojo, a literary agent who ends up representing both Gemma and Lily. I loved the way Keyes weaved all three stories together…yet giving each of the 3 enough space for us to get to know them all. Even though each change of character is marked with the ladies’ name before the chapter, towards the end, we knew each of the three enough to know whose part we were reading. A great way to tell a fun, entertaining story!

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