film, not a book

Not a Book: Enchanted

Oh yes. The sequel has just dropped on Disney plus so how could I resist talking about another Disney movie – and another opportunity for me to tell you how much I love a movie musical. Also this is a mad displacement exercise because this weekend is the start of a World Cup that I feel deeply conflicted about as well as the fact that this is Not The Right Time Of Year for a major football tournament and it is also the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix aka the last race of the F1 season, aka the first anniversary of the most controversial F1 race of all time and I really can’t deal with the stress of it all and also the fact that as the MotoGP season has already finished we’re about to enter the period of the year where there is no motorsport for me to watch. Anyway… Lets start with the original trailer for those of you who haven’t seen it…

Yes, Enchanted is a Disney princess movie and a very meta one. Unlike Mary Poppins or Bedknobs and Broomsticks where you start in the real world and have an interlude in animation, this one has the animated people visiting the real world and I love it so much. It subverts some of the princess tropes, reimagines others and it works for kids and adults. It’s also funny, the songs are great and the big production numbers are fabulous.

And that’s all before you get to the fact that that the cast is amazing. If you only know Amy Adams from her Oscar nominated stuff, it might be a shock to you, but this was her first big success as as leading lady. She had already got her Oscar nomination for Junebug at this point and my memory says that even then this seemed like a risky move. But she’s amazing in this – playing wide eye naiveite brilliantly without making you want to punch her for being so sunny and optimistic and irritating. Patrick Dempsey was pretty much at the peak of his McDreamy Greys Anatomy fame when he was cast as the real world leading man and he’s brilliant, as is James Marsden – who came off the back of playing Cyclops in three X Men films, to do two movie musials in 2007 – he’s also in Hairspray (which I also love). And of course before she was the voice of Elsa in Frozen, Idina Menzel was in this too. I’m a big West End/Broadway musical person (have I told you all that before?) and by the time this came out, Menzel was already a Big Deal on Broadway but hadn’t done a lot on screen so this felt like a big moment for her – especially because she didn’t sing in it. She was the original Maureen in Rent (she’s in the film of that too, but I can’t really recommend it unless you’re a mega Rent fan) and then originated Elphaba in Wicked, which she won a Tony for. I saw her play Elphie when she opened the West End production in 2006 and can confirm that it was epic.

If I haven’t convinced you to watch it yet, then I don’t know what will. I love the original so much, I hardly dare google the reviews, but I probably will to see if it’s going to be worth watching or if it’ll spoil my memories of the original. But all four of the two original couples are back and the trailer looks promising – even if the fact that it’s going straight to Disney + is a concern – although of course post covid, that doesn’t mean the same thing as it used to.

Have a great Sunday everyone.

film, not a book

Not a Book: Addams Family movies

I’m finishing the Halloween-y themed posts with two of my favourite films of the early 90s that also happen to be very weird and the perfect films to watch at this time of year – whether you’re an adult or a kid.

So the films in question are the early 1990s live action Addams family movies, which I think are pretty much the perfect kids scary movies where there is something for the adults too. My favourite is Addams Family Values, for reasons which I will come to but they are both pretty blooming brilliant. I had watched some of the black and white TV series (although I think I had seen more of the Munsters than the Addams) but never read any of the actual cartoon strips so the characters existed to me already – but these movies are the way I see them in my head. Angélica Huston and Raul Julia are Morticia and Gomez to me and their relationship is a perfect alchemy of creepy and nuts about each other.

The plot of the first film sees the reappearance of Gomez’s long lost brother Fester – or is he? He’s in train with two con artists who have designs on the Addams’ house and wealth. I nearly said that the plot is quite thin, and that it does a lot of establishing of the characters, but there is actually quite a lot of plot it just doesn’t always seem to hang together very well, but it does keep you guessing about whether “Fester” is or isn’t the long lost brother.

Now to the sequel, and first the plot: Morticia has had a new baby and brings in a nanny to help. Uncle Fester falls in love with the nanny, but is she all she seems? Each strand of this is great – Fester and Debbie, Debbie and the kids, the kids at summer camp. I prefer the sequel partly because it has a better plot and I think it has better one liners, but also because I think the holiday camp section is just brilliant – it does everything you could want if you have ever read a book about an American summer camp (or watched the Hayley Mills Parent Trap). I defy anyone to come away from this without having laughed at something.

These are on tv fairly regularly – and I think they will be in the next few days, but you can rent them from some of the steaming services too. You won’t regret it. And here’s some summer camp to show you what I mean!

film, not a book

Not a Book: The Eyes of Tammy Faye

Today’s post is the latest instalment in my very loose collection of stuff about religion, which had previously featured stuff like Under the Banner of Heaven (now a tv series that I haven’t watched yet!), Murder Among the Mormons, Educated, Lula Rich and Unfinished: Short Creek.

Tammy Faye Bakker was a televangelist. Starting in the 1960s she and her preacher husband Jim were regular features on Christian TV channels – including founding their own network: The PTL network (PTL stands for Praise The Lord). This is a biopic of her life, following her from her childhood in Minnesota through the highs and lows. I don’t know how much I should tell you about the rest of the plot, because I don’t know what’s common knowledge and what’s not because I’ve read a lot about this sort of thing over the years! Jessica Chastain is Tammy – and was nominated for a bunch of awards for it. In fact the makeup department won the Oscar – and if you watch it, you’ll see why. Andrew Garfield is Jim and he’s very good too, although her performance was the one that was picked out.

It’s two hours long – and I think it’s a good watch, even if you’re not interested in the American religion nexus like I am. If you want to watch it, you’ll need Disney + in the UK – there are various trials around, and of course if you do get one, you can also watch The Dropout!

Happy Sunday everyone

not a book

Not a Book: Hot Fuzz

Happy Sunday everyone. Another movie post today, because why not! It’s been the sort of week where I fancy watching a film that I know is going to make me laugh, and Hot Fuzz is one of my favourites from more recent times. And yes, I know that it’s closer to 20 years old than it is to ten now and I’m desperately trying to ignore that fact.

Hot Fuzz is the second in Edgar Wright’s Cornetto trilogy and is a comedy buddy cop action film. When overachieving PC Nicholas Angel is promoted to sergeant, it comes with a move to a small town in Gloucester. When he gets there, he’s frustrated by his new colleagues and their lazy ways and focus on keeping crime stats low rather than enforcing the law. Then a series of gruesome murders takes place and he starts investigating, dragging his reluctant new partner (and son of the Inspector) Danny along with him.

This references so many cop films you wouldn’t believe. And I know I haven’t spotted all of them because cop movies aren’t one of my main genres. But it’s incredibly funny even if you haven’t. There are so many lines from this that will just stick in your head for ever more. The trouble is, most of them have swear words in them so when I was trying to pick one for this post it got tricky. In the end I picked this one and had to leave out who says it because that’s a slight spoiler!

You’re not seriously going to believe this man are you? Are you? He isn’t even from round here!

Hot Fuzz

It’s one of those movies where once you’ve seen it, if you come across it on TV you’ll just end up watching it again. And you can find it on an ITV channel every other week. Although we did discover when we found it on Sky Movies that there are a few shots that the ITV edit leaves out – mostly in the mug shot sequence near the end. It’s also got an amazing cast: Simon Pegg before he was in Star Trek, Olivia Colman long before she won an Oscar, Jim Broadbent, Timothy Dalton, Martin Freeman and possibly the most famous Cate Blanchett cameo in film! Oh and there’s chases like this:

Anyway, if you’re having the sort of week where you need to watch lots of shootings in incongruous settings with plenty of one liners, this is my choice.

We just sat through three hours of so-called acting constable and their kiss was the only convincing moment of it.

Nicholas Angel

Happy Sunday everyone

not a book

Not a Book: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

God I love a movie musical. Here we are for the latest in my series of films I love.

Marilyn Monroe! Jane Russell! Do you need to know any more? Ok well if you do, Marilyn’s Lorelei is on the hunt for a rich husband. Russell’s Dorothy is her best friend who is looking for love. They’re both show girls and over the course of the movie we follow them from New York to Paris while being trailed by a private eye hired by the father of the rich idiot that Marilyn is engaged too. There are song and dance numbers, there’s comedy and there’s true love. It’s delightful.

I know everyone always talks about Marilyn Monroe, and I get it, but god I love Jane Russell. I first saw her in the French Line on a Sunday afternoon about 20 years ago and I’m still not over it. Anyway, for me this film doesn’t work without her. Her wise cracks balance out Marilyn’s dizzy, ditsy gold digging and make everything better. The songs are great, the script is funny and the Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend number has been copied so many times since that it’s worth watching to see the original of that alone!

Happy Sunday!

not a book, romantic comedy

Not a Book: The Philadelphia Story

This Sunday I’m treating you to the latest instalment in my occasional series about films I love is the Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn comedy The Philadelphia Story.

Hepburn plays Tracy Lord, the daughter of a wealthy Philadelphia family, who is about to get married for the second time. Days before the wedding, her ex-husband turns up, with a tabloid reporter and photographer in tow. C K Dexter Haven (Grant) has been working for Spy magazine in South America since his marriage to Tracy broke up (she didn’t like his drinking, he drank because he didn’t like her criticisms of him) and is inveigled into taking Maccauley “Mike” Connor (James Stewart) and Liz Imbrie (Ruth Hussey) the the wedding with a threat that if he doesn’t then a scandal about Tracy’s father will be published instead. Thus the scene is set for a love square as Tracy finds herself drawn to Mike and to her ex husband all while she’s preparing to marry George.

There’s more to it than that of course, but that’s the best potted plot summary I can come up with. It’s very funny and is managing to skirt the production code rules of the time by being a comedy of remarriage (see also Bringing Up Baby and His Girl Friday among others) and it’s full of snappy, witty dialogue as well as a few nice bits of physical comedy. If you’re a fan of movie musicals, you’ll recognise the plot as it was later turned into High Society (with Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and Grace Kelly) but it started as a stage play -written for Hepburn – and marked her comeback after being dubbed Box Office Poison after a string of flops. I didn’t know any of the Hepburn-y background when I first watched it on a DVD in my hall of residence at university. I just thought it was clever and funny and something a bit out of the normal run of the black and white movie classics I was renting (from LoveFilm!) at the time.

That said, it does fit perfectly into the types of romantic comedies – films and books – that I love. It’s got a smart heroine (as well as a smart hero), it’s got plenty of banter and the comedy doesn’t come from humiliation – see also When Harry Met Sally, Jane Russell in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Shall We Dance (the Fred and Ginger film) and authors like Jennifer Crusie, Susan Elizabeth Philips, Julia Quinn and Lucy Parker (although those last two are more witty than comic).

Anyway, this is the sort of film you’re most likely to come across on TV on a Sunday afternoon – and if you do, you should definitely stop and watch it.

not a book

Not a Book: Some Like It Hot

A couple of years ago, when Doris Day died, I wrote a whole post about my love for the Hollywood icon. In it, I mentioned that my top five films of all time are Pillow Talk, Some Like It Hot, The Philadelphia Story, Mary Poppins and the Hayley Mills Parent Trap. I stand by that list, although I will say that leaving the Sound of Music out makes me anxious, so today, I thought I’d write about why I love Some Like It Hot.

If you’ve never seen the film, you can get a pretty good idea from the trailer, but basically, after two jobbing musicians witness a mob shooting in Prohibition Chicago they try to escape retribution from the gangsters by posing as women called Daphne and Geraldine and joining all-girl band. They promptly both fall in love with the band’s singer (and ukulele player) Sugar. High jinx ensue, especially when a millionaire falls in love with Daphne and the mob turn up for the “Friends of Italian Opera” meeting. Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis are Daphne and Geraldine, and Marilyn Monroe is Sugar. If I haven’t sold it to you by now, I should add that the director and writer is Billy Wilder, who was also behind Sunset Boulevard and the Apartment.

I honestly can’t remember when I first watched it, but I do know that I’ve had the DVD in my collection for about 20 years now, and I have it recorded on both the upstairs and downstairs TiVo – because you never know when you might be poorly and need to watch a film in bed to cheer you up. Especially in Covid times. It will reliably cheer me up and is also probably the only film with Al Capone-style mobsters that I will watch! It’s just funny and so fun that you manage to forget that two men pretending to be women and using the knowledge they gain in disguise to help them get a girl is a bit of a problem. But it seems in films it’s one of my favourite things – see also Pillow Talk and You’ve Got Mail, and also Lover Come Back and Sleepless in Seattle.

I know I said this is not a post about books, but there are a couple of books on my favourites list with cross dressing main characters – on the historical romance front there’s Georgette Heyer’s These Old Shades and The Masqueraders, but there’s also Terry Pratchett’s A Monstrous Regiment. There’s a bunch more that I’ve read, but those three are the one’s I’ve come back to over and over. I think it’s easier to pull off in print because you don’t have to worry about needing to make the illusion convincing – the reason that Some Like It Hot is in black and white is because the amount of makeup needed for Lemmon and Curtis made their faces look green (Drag Race shows that beard/stubble coverage make up has moved on a long way in the last sixty years) and you can leave it all to the reader’s imagination – going the other way, I’ve never thought that Imogen Stubbs makes that convincing a boy in the film of Twelfth Night, for all that I love that movie (and not just because it has Toby Stevens in a bath at one point) and in fact the play.

Anyway, if you’re looking for a Sunday afternoon film to watch, why not watch this today – not only is it hilarious, but it’s also right up there on most of the greatest film lists, which given how serious a lot of the others on those lists are, surely makes it worth your time. And of course it has one of the greatest last lines ever. If you don’t know what it is, I’m not going to spoil it for you though!