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Monday, December 4, 2017

The Man Who Invented Christmas is one that authors will relate to

Here is my newest movie review and a film I think many authors will be able to relate to!


Movie Title:  The Man Who Invented Christmas

Grade:  A-

Rating:  PG, 104 minutes

In a Nutshell:   I admit it.  I loved this movie, because I'm an author.  

I have a particular fondness for movies that peel back the curtains on the life of a successful author and reveal the painful writing process, including writer’s block, muses, and taking notes of people’s names (I do all that too.)  In this case, Charles Dickens is the author and the book that he struggles to write in less than 6 weeks is the famous, beloved A Christmas Carol: Original illustrations by John Leech.

I love that he was inspired by life around him.  Charles Dickens’ father warns, “We must not disturb the poet when the divine frenzy is upon him.”  True THAT!  When I’m writing and “in the zone”, it makes me crazy when I get interrupted, so I got a kick out of watching Charles Dickens deal with the constant knocking at his door.

Based on the book, this family friendly film is perfect for almost all ages and will leave you with the desire to do something kind for someone this Christmas season.  In fact, after A Christmas Carol: Original illustrations by John Leech was released in 1843, charitable giving immediately surged.  I hope this movie gets the same reaction.




 
Uplifting theme: 
  • “No one is useless in this world who lightens the burden of another.” –
  • “Christmas…the hope that our better natures will prevail.” - John
  • Are you fettered by chains that you have made in life?  Jacob asked, “Do you know the link of the chain you bear yourself?”
  • Poor vs. rich

Things I liked:
  • Dan Stevens and those blue eyes!  If you wanted to see more of him since you first discovered him in Beauty and the Beast (2017) (Theatrical Version), you’ll love watching him star in this movie as Charles Dickens.
  • Christopher Plummer was perfect as Ebenezer Scrooge. 
  • The set pieces, furniture, and costume designs are really great.  I loved the details like the oil lamps for street lights.  Speaking of sets, some of the pieces from the TV series Penny Dreadful: Season One were used to make this film.  Despite the fact that you really feel like you’re in 19th Century London, most of the filming was done in Ireland.
  • Some well-placed humor.
  • The audience laughed when Charles Dickens’ publisher said, “There’s not much of a market for Christmas.”
  • While A Christmas Carol addresses the spirit of Christmas more than particular Christian beliefs, Charles Dickens’ book The Life of Our Lord: Written for His Children During the Years 1846 to 1849 where he bears testimony of the Savior of the world and shares his Christian beliefs.
  • We don’t often see PG live action movies, so this was refreshing to see playing in theaters.
  • I love how the characters in Charles’ books come to life for him and through him and are a part of the cast in the film.  In fact, Charles explains, “Get the name right and the character will appear.”  I write non-fiction and have always been fascinated with how the writing process works for fiction authors who create characters and worlds.
  • There are several references to Shakespeare and, in fact, most of the cast in the film are trained Shakespearean actors.  In real life, Charles Dickens adored “The Bard” and acted in some of his plays.  Many of them had also previously worked on other adaptations of A Christmas Carol.




Things I didn’t like:
  • It’s a little slow moving.
  • Neither the title of the movie nor the original book are properly explained during the movie.
  • Some of the flashbacks were shown at odd times and might be a bit confusing for children.
  • While a biopic of sorts, some of the story is fiction.  We honestly don’t know as much about Charles Dickens’ writing process as we would like to!

Interesting quotes:
  • “Debt is an ogre.  If you’re not careful, it can eat you up.” – Charles Dickens
  • “People will believe anything if you’re finely dressed.” – John Dickens (Jonathan Pryce) 

Funny lines:
  • “I’m the author here!” – Charles Dickens
“Allegedly.” - Scrooge





Tips for parents: 
  • If your kids have never heard or read Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, then you’ll want them to become familiar with it first.
  • Kids will be surprised to learn that Christmas wasn’t always so commercial as it is now.
  • Kids also won’t know about “debtors’ prison” in England, where people were sent when they couldn't pay their bills.  That always seemed strange to me, because there would be no possibly way for them to earn the money they owed while in prison!
  • Work houses in England are also mentioned several times.  Poor and destitute people were encouraged to go to work houses to live and earn money.  The conditions and stigma were so terrible that people would rather die than go there.
  • I heard profanity twice. One of those times was the British swear word “bloody.”
  • Some words your kids may not know are “nappies” (British word for “diaper”) and “necromancer” (conjurer).



@trinaboice 

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Agatha Christi comes to life in a new version of her best-selling Murder on the Orient Express

As an author, I'd love to write a book that becomes a classic and endures through the years.  

Agatha Christie's murder mysteries are timeless.  She was alive during the 1974 filming of Murder on the Orient Express.  I wonder how she would have liked this new version.  

Here's my movie review!


Movie Title:     Murder on the Orient Express: A Hercule Poirot Mystery (Hercule Poirot Mysteries)

Grade:  B

Rating: PG-13, 1 hour 54 minutes

In a Nutshell:  With an incredible A-list cast, this is a well-made, stylish “Who-dunnit” mystery directed by Kenneth Branagh, who also stars as the Belgium inspector Hercule Poirot.  

It’s extremely picturesque and beautiful, yet slowly fizzles with a disappointing reveal of who the murderer is.

 
Uplifting theme: 
  • “We seek the truth from within, not without.” – Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh)
  • “Sometimes the law of man is not enough.” – Pilar Estravados (Penelope Cruz)
  • “poison of deep grief”, healing, peace
  • Revenge 
  • Right vs. wrong and everything in between
  • Truth


Things I liked:
  • The period pieces and costumes of the 1930’s are beautiful.
  • You don’t often see movies that take their time telling the story.  Both the time period and the style of movie-making seemed old-fashioned.  It was shot in 65 mm and really immerses you in the various environments.  The sets are incredible.
  • The all-star cast includes the talented Johnny Depp, Josh Gad, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Penelope Cruz, Michelle Pfeiffer, Leslie Odom Jr., Daisy Ridley and Derek Jacobi.  Kenneth Branagh was absolutely outstanding. You might wonder how old Judi Dench is…She was born in 1934, making her 82 years old.
  • There was some humor, although the tone was a bit inconsistent, beginning with a very light feel and then remaining mostly dark for the rest of the film.
  • There were some really great camera sequences.  One scene was shot from above the characters as they talked.  Another scene was shot from outside the train as it scanned the people walking down the hall through the windows.  You really feel the movement of the train and feel like you're on one.
  • There is a reference to a murder on the Nile, possibly a sneak peek into a sequel, but definitely a reference to another one of Agatha Christie's books called Agatha Christie's Poirot: Death on the Nile.  Speaking of the author, Agatha Christie's Poirot: Murder on the Orient Express was her best-selling novel.
  • The movie begins at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem with some gorgeous vistas and a funny sequence.  One of these days, I'm going there.
  • There are some beautiful vistas in Istanbul.  One of these days, I’m going there too. 
  • Michelle Pfeiffer sings "Never Forget", which was co-written by director/actor Kenneth Branagh. Wow, he was really busy with this film.
  • The photo of Katherine, Hercule Poirot's lost love, is actually Emma Thompson, Kenneth Branagh's real ex-wife.




Things I didn’t like:
  • Some say it grinds to a halt, rather than get more intense.  Yeah, it's true.  The ending is anti-climatic.
  • In the 1974 version of Murder on the Orient Express, the star-studded ensemble had equal moments of importance; whereas this version doesn't have much character arc and kind of fizzles.  A lot of movie critics are comparing it to the movie Clue which was able to develop characters much better.
  • Daisy Ridley’s character is way too young for her character, who should be much older.
  • Sergei Polunin is a famous ballet dancer in real life, but we don’t get to see him dance at all!  Instead, we get to see him beat up some people.
  • All of the actors were great, but felt underutilized.  So much talent wasted.
  • I heard a lady sitting near me say, “That mustache has to go!” Hercule Poirot’s double-decker mustache is ridiculous, but his mustache mask is even worse.  Ha ha   When the 1974 movie of Murder on the Orient Express  Agatha Christie was still alive and she commented on how much she didn't like Albert Finney's mustache on his Hercule Poirot's character.

Interesting lines:
  • “Romance never goes unpunished.” – Hercule Poirot
  • “To a man with a hammer, everything is a nail.” – Mary Debenham (Daisy Ridley’s character is actually quoting Mark Twain.)
  • “There is right.  There is wrong.  There is nothing in between.” – Hercule Poirot  (He learns about grey areas.)
  • “Vice is where the devil finds his darlings.” – Pilar Estravados (Penelope Cruz) 

Funny lines:
  • “Did we die?” – Hercule Poirot 

Tips for parents: 
  • Young children may get bored, as it’s a “talking” movie that unfolds slowly.
  • There are some subtitles when two people speak German.
  • French is spoken, but there are no subtitles.


MOVIE REVIEW MOM

@trinaboice