Pemberley (Lyme Park, Cheshire)

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

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Call the Midwife Christmas Day 2014!


Call the Midwife is back on Christmas Day at 8pm on PBS for a Holiday Special, so set your PVRs! It is a fabulous episode (lucky me being able to preview it!). I highly recommend it for feel-good viewing over the holidays.


The actress who plays Jenny Lee has left the show, but we get to see Vanessa Redgrave as the mature Jenny instead of just having her as narrator. Wonderful!


And we have no nonsense midwife Patsy back (played by the gloriously named Emerald Fennell) and I am so digging Trixie's new shorter hair. And her gorgeous vicar beau for that matter!


Chummy is given a big part to play in this episode as is our sweet little Cynthia who has a big decision to make with Sister Julienne's help.


So make sure if you miss it on the telly, you go to PBS.org to watch it online after Christmas day. You will not be disappointed. And remember, Season 4 of Call the Midwife starts March 29th 2015 (after Downton Abbey ends).

Yippee! I do love these ladies.

Cheers!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Cozy Classics board books for Toddlers!


Cozy Classics "Emma"

My heart melted when I saw these amazing board books for toddlers. The brainchild of two brothers from Vancouver who were tired of reading boring books to their little ones, Cozy Classics distill classic novels down to 12 words and illustrates them with needle felted characters in realistic settings.

Cozy Classics- "It was badly done indeed, Emma!"

How a classic novel can be distilled down into 12 toddler friendly words is beyond me but these creative twin brothers have done it.

Cozy Classics Emma reads as...lady, man, goodbye, hello, why? surprise! carry, thanks, laugh, angry, sorry, happy.

I think the facial expressions and the body language are what bring these tales to life for little ones.

Cozy Classics- Emma and Mr. Knightley

I mean, not only does Emma look very sorry for her treatment of Miss Bates, but Mr. Knightley is looking pretty darned sexy. In felt!

Cozy Classics "Pride and Prejudice"

Here is our beloved Lizzy with her muddy hem and her eyes "brightened by the exercise". You can even see the wind blowing her shawl and her bonnet ribbons. Brilliant!

Mr. Bingley is so happy and Mr. Darcy is...well...Mr. Darcy!

Cozy Classics Pride and Prejudice distills down to...friends, sisters, dance, mean, sick, muddy, yes? no! write, read, walk, marry.

Yup that's it. P&P in 12 well chosen words. But look at those little faces!

"You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you"

So if you have little ones to buy for this Christmas (well, any occasion would do to justify these books!) you are all sorted! And don't think they are just for girls. There is a Cozy Classics version of War and Peace, Les Miserables, Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, Jane Eyre, Oliver Twist and Moby Dick. And Great Expectations is coming out soon. There is a photo of Miss Havisham looking a little burnt on the Wang brothers' twitter feed. They realistically use real fire to the occasional detriment of the felt figures!

And if there is a Star Wars geek in  your family, the Wang brothers are doing a "Star Wars: Epic Yarns" book to be released next year. Stay tuned for that and hopefully the rest of the Jane Austen novels. Please?

Sunday, November 2, 2014

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales From the Making of The Princess Bride

As You Wish: The Perfect Christmas Present from Cary Elwes!

If you are looking for a great Christmas gift this year for someone you love (or for someone to give to you), look no further. I am going to take a wild guess that The Princess Bride is one of your favourite films of all time. So you will definitely want to read As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales From The Making of The Princess Bride.

Grandfather: That day, she was amazed to discover that when he was saying "As you wish" what he meant was "I love you". And even more amazing was the day she discovered that she truly loved him back.

"As you wish"

This film is extra special for me as I saw it in the movie theatre (not many people did!) and it was the first movie date I had with my now husband of 25 years. We have watched it many times since, especially with our 2 now grown sons who love it as much as I do.

Vizzini: HE DIDN'T FALL? INCONCEIVABLE!
Inigo Montoya: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

"Inconceivable!"

This is a wonderful little book. You will wish it were longer, however there are lots of great stories about what a magical time it was making it. And how much fun they had. And lots of great pictures!

Inigo Montoya: Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.

Vizzini: No more rhymes now, I mean it!
Fezzik: Anybody want a peanut?

"You rush a miracle man, you get rotten miracles!"

Miracle Max: Have fun stormin' da castle!
Valerie: Think it'll work?
Miracle Max: It would take a miracle.

So when you have read the book, and watched the DVD again with all of the extras (if you don't have a copy with the extras, that would make another great Christmas present!) then you are ready for William Goldman's book. Yes, the book that the film was made from, The Princess Bride- S. Morgenstern's Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure-The "good parts" version- Abridged by William Goldman. There is a wonderful story in Cary's book about how many people in Hollywood had wanted to turn it into a film and failed (or failed to convince Goldman who was very jaded by 1987). But Rob Reiner loved William Goldman's book. By the way, there is no S. Morgenstern...it is all Goldman and I think as a screen writer, he could see how he wanted it made all along. And so of course he wrote the screenplay himself.

So there. Christmas is sorted for you all!

"When I was your age, television was called books!"

The Grandson: Grandpa, maybe you could come over and read it to me again tomorrow.
Grandpa: As you wish.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Death Comes to Pemberley: PBS Sunday Oct 26 & Nov 2

Matthew Rhys and Anna Maxwell Martin in Death Comes to Pemberley

I haven't seen a new Jane Austen adaptation in a while and boy did I enjoy Death Comes to Pemberley! I admit I was a bit nervous when I watched this, as I didn't really like the book, a murder mystery sequel to Pride and Prejudice by mystery writer P.D. James. The book was OK, but a bit of a yawn. Fan fiction by a 94 year old Jane Austen fan, albeit well written I suppose.

James Fleet and Rebecca Front as Mr. and Mrs. Bennett

However, add a few of my favorite actors (inspired casting to have Anna Maxwell Martin as our beloved Lizzy!) and set it at one of the all time top English Country Houses, Chatsworth, and I was hooked within the first few scenes. This is 3 hours of pure pleasure and I can't wait to see it again on my HD TV this time when Part 1 airs tomorrow. Having almost the entire three hours set in and around Chatsworth makes one realize how little we saw of it when it was used as Pemberley in the 2005 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.

Matthew Goode as the wicked Mr. Wickham

Many familiar faces and fabulous actors flesh out the other roles (other than Lizzy and the filming location, which might have been enough for me). Matthew Goode as Wickham played the role with some depth, as did Jenna Coleman as Lydia. What a great take on the relationship which none of us had much hope for, including Jane Austen! And the chemistry between Anna Maxwell Martin and Matthew Rhys as Mr. and Mrs. Darcy caused me to rewind a few sections just to see the love and playfulness a bit more. Mmmmm.

Mr. and Mrs. Darcy- great chemistry not apparent in this photo!

Then add in James Fleet (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Sense and Sensibility) as Mr. Bennett, Eleanor Tomlinson and James Norton as Georgiana Darcy and her love interest and the awesome Joanna Scanlon (Mrs. Dickens from The Invisible Woman) as Mrs. Reynolds and you have a winner.

Too bad they made my beloved Colonel Fitswilliam into a creep (plot related I understand but still!) and Penelope Keith as Lady Catherine de Bourgh sounded a bit more like Lady Bracknell from The Importance of Being Earnest but that is nit picking I suppose.

So just pour a cuppa and turn on the telly tomorrow and enjoy the ride. It might be a while before we get another one this good!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Peter Capaldi- Actor of the Week

Peter Capaldi as the new and very well dressed Dr. Who
Peter Capaldi is getting lots of attention lately as the new Dr. Who. But many of us have known about this fabulous actor for years now. First, I have to point out his wonderful recurring role in The Vicar of Dibley as Tristan Campbell, a love interest for our lady Vicar.

Peter Capaldi with Dawn French in The Vicar of Dibley

Not only does he feature as the handsome floppy haired producer in the Songs of Praise episode, he comes back in another episode to ask Geraldine to marry him! Heart stopping, until it is revealed that...(spoiler removed- go and seek out this episode now!)

Peter Capaldi with Lindsay Duncan in The History of Tom Jones
If there has ever been any doubt about Peter Capaldi as a comic actor, one only has to point to his very camp portrayal of the effete Lord Fellamar in The History of Tom Jones. His final scene after a run in with a pistol puts a smile on my face just thinking about it. Bravo!

In Dangerous Liaisons from 1988

Peter has been time travelling for decades via various costume dramas such as Dangerous Liaisons. Here he is Azolan, the valet of the Vicomte de Valmont.

Peter Capaldi as Samuel Kent in The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher
I would say he looks mighty fine in a top hat here in the dramatization of a true crime story The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: The Murder at Road Hill House. I haven't seen this 95 minute television special from 2011 based on a Scotland Yard investigation in Victorian London. Can anyone recommend this? It looks good!

As Caecilius in Dr. Who The Fires of Pompeii
And Peter Capaldi has even done a bit of Dr. Who work already, in the episode entitled The Fires of Pompeii from 2008.

As Cardinal Richelieu in the BBC series The Musketeers
Peter is very scary looking as Cardinal Richelieu in the BBC series The Musketeers. He certainly can do evil and severe can't he? Anyone seen this? I am embarrassed to say I haven't been able to check this one out but Peter would be a great reason to tune in!

Peter Capaldi with Nicole Kidman in Paddington 
Although we no longer have Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear in the new Paddington film, we have Ben Whishaw as our favourite bear's voice and Peter Capaldi as the bad-tempered and penny pinching Mr. Curry. I hope this one turns out well. Hard to say at this point but fingers crossed!

So hurrah for the new Dr. Who and please leave a comment with your fave Peter Capaldi role below. He has been in so many great film and TV roles, I could only feature a few.

Cheers!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Pinewood Studios Film Restoration Magic

Have you ever wondered what became of a favourite film from your childhood? One that you had loved at the time and then never saw again?  You might soon find out because at Pinewood Studios in Iver Heath England, the Film Restoration department is hard at work digitally restoring old films for redistribution to be seen again in all their original glory.
The film in question for me was a 1976 musical called The Slipper and the Rose, a live action re-imagining of Cinderella starring Richard Chamberlain with songs by the Sherman brothers (Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) and a supporting cast packed with stars of British film and stage.  At the age of 12, I had seen it in a Hamilton Ontario movie theatre and then never again. In the days before video and DVD, if a film didn’t make it to television after its theatrical release, it just languished in a vault somewhere.
            
As the author of this film blog, I was fascinated to learn that a recent restoration of The Slipper and the Rose was done at Pinewood Studios, where the film was originally shot in 1975. I was able to stop by Pinewood on a recent trip to England to find out how the remastering and restoration of these old films are done.
The Day The Earth Caught Fire from 1961, recently restored at Pinewood Studios
In a quiet little building behind the giant sound stages of the James Bond and Star Wars films sits the Pinewood Media Preservation and Restoration Department. When I arrived, they were screening a little Sci-Fi gem from 1961 called The Day the Earth Caught Fire for some British Film Institute execs for their new Sci-Fi series Days of Fear and Wonder. Although it had the look of an old black and white American Sci-Fi classic from the 1950s, the accents and the snappy dialogue were unmistakably English.  
BFI Sci-Fi film series
After the screening, I was able to talk with Charles Fairall, Head of Conservation at the British Film Institute about their collaboration with Pinewood. The BFI has an incredible wealth of vintage films in its archives which it is gradually preserving and putting on the internet to be rediscovered and enjoyed via their BFI Player or on the BFI YouTube channel
Film being digitally photographed frame by frame
Although most of these old films (some dating back over a century) are just digitized for access by the public, some such as The Day The Earth Caught Fire are meticulously remastered and restored first. 
Pinewood technicians restoring film one frame at a time
After the film is transferred to digital frame by frame, it then proceeds to the technicians in the next room where each individual frame is cleaned using software called PFClean.  A few deft clicks of the mouse by these skilled techs and then on to the next frame they go. The sound can also be restored so that the audio does justice to the restored visual.
Rude Boy film from 1980, recently restored at Pinewood Studios
In another part of this beehive of activity, they were putting the finishing touches on the restoration of the 1980 film Rude Boy, a partly fictional rockumentary about a fan of The Clash who leaves his job in a Soho sex shop to be a roadie for the band.
Jon Mann, Technical Restoration Manager at Pinewood Studios
Although I was in high school in 1980 when Rude Boy was first released, my tastes even then tended more toward period drama than rockumentary. So I was delighted when Jon Mann, the Technical Restoration Manager at Pinewood told me he had found an old box of Slipper and The Rose miscellany which I was welcome to peruse for my research. 
Original film score for The Slipper and the Rose
Although mostly consisting of folders of correspondence and documents relating to the film's distribution worldwide, there were old posters, colour and black and white stills from the filming at Pinewood and on location in Austria and even huge sheets of original film score, written in pencil (with erasures) which I assume was in the hand of Angela Morley who scored and conducted the Sherman brothers’ brilliant songs.
The Slipper and the Rose still photo (the bridge behind Cinderella and The Fairy Godmother is still in the back lot of Pinewood!)
When Jon came back to find me poring over a filming schedule from 1975, he suggested I might like to wander out to the Pinewood gardens where the bridge and pond appearing in the film still exists. Pinewood Studios was built on a former country estate which gave them a huge garden and an old stately home as well as the land to build sound stages, offices and storage spaces. Sure enough the bridge and pond were there, surrounded by acres of garden and with only a few Pinewood employees having an informal meeting over a picnic lunch.

Japanese theatre poster for The Slipper and the Rose

After a last look at an amazing Japanese Slipper and The Rose poster, I thanked both Jon Mann and Patrick Wilbraham (Technical Operations Manager) who had graciously given me their time and access to their archive. I expect this part of Pinewood Studios will get ever busier as so many old and beloved films wait like Cinderella for their magical transformation.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

The Slipper and the Rose: The Story of Cinderella 1976

The Slipper and the Rose original film poster- leave a comment to win it!
The Slipper and the Rose, if you aren't already a fan, was basically the last of the big original musicals which was filmed at Pinewood Studios UK (and on location in Austria) in 1975 and released in 1976. It has been recently restored and remastered, mere steps away from where it was shot, at Pinewood's Media Preservation, Restoration and Archiving Facility. Having been gorgeously restored to it's original glory, the original UK edition is now available on Blu-ray, with extras including A Cinderella Story: The Making of Slipper and the Rose (narrated by executive producer David Frost) and I Can't Forget the Melody: The Sherman Brothers on the Making of Slipper and the Rose.
I first saw it in the theatre in 1976 and loved it, although I hadn't seen it since. What a thrill to see that it is just as wonderful as I remember. Possibly more so! So what is the story behind this under-appreciated film which is only starting to be rediscovered?

Richard Chamberlain as Prince Edward and Christopher Gable as John

Apparently the Sherman brothers (Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) were approached by David Frost and asked to write the songs for a live action Cinderella musical. Although they initially declined, they rethought the matter when they realized that they could put a new twist on the story by telling it from the prince's point of view. It certainly crossed my mind that Prince Charles was in the same fix as our Prince Edward of Euphrania at the time this was made, having to choose an aristocratic virgin bride. Well we all know how that turned out! No Camilla in this story however.

Richard Chamberlain and Gemma Craven

Richard Chamberlain was a wonderful choice for our Prince Edward as he is definitely a triple threat! We all knew he was a great actor but his singing and dancing are superb! Gemma Craven was an unknown plucked from the British stage in a Cinderella story of her own. She is quite adorable, especially when her eyes well up with tears. I have to admit, I was blinking back a few tears of my own. She is a true natural, considering this was her first film.

Michael Hordern, Annette Crosbie and Kenneth More

Michael Hordern as the King and Kenneth More as the Lord Chamberlain show the amazing talent available in Britain at the time. And Annette Crosbie rather steals the show as a hilarious new kind of fairy godmother. You may recognize Crosbie from her recent work in British TV, but I know her as the dog lady from the Calendar Girls film!

Dame Edith Evans with Julian Orchard and Polly Williams

Speaking of stealing the show, an 87 year old Dame Edith Evans sings, dances and throws out the odd hilarious line as the Dowager Queen. She looked like she was having a ball...at the ball...sorry about that one!
This film is a true English/American hybrid, although the wonderful funny bits thrown amongst the more serious scenes are so British and apparently were insisted on by Bryan Forbes. Bravo! And there is a twist at the end (not your usual Cinderella ending!)


If you love Mary Poppins you will very likely enjoy The Slipper and the Rose. Just don't judge it by today's standards. It was already dated in 1976, which is likely why it had only modest success in the UK and very little success in America. However if judged against the musicals of the 50s and the 60s, it holds up quite well. I still love it as much as I did when I was 12!

So by all means, grab a copy while you can. Share it with your sisters, your daughters and your grand-daughters. You will laugh and cry again and again. This Blu-ray won't languish in your DVD collection!



I will be adding an account of my trip to Pinewood Studios to visit their Archive, Preservation and Restoration facility soon, so stay tuned. In the meantime, please leave a comment below as well as your email address to win a copy of the cinema poster for The Slipper and the Rose pictured at the top of this post. I will draw a random name at the end of October.

Cheers and good luck!



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