Monday, May 31, 2010

Shiny vs. substance

Maybe it's my job to watch film after film after film, but I can slowly feel my head begin to melt when I'm only fed mulch. I've recently been subjected to empty spectacles such as Prince of Persia and Clash of Titans, thankfully relieved that I never footed the bill. Who's fault is it? Believe it or not there is no one to blame except ourselves. So long as the general public demands cheap brainless fodder, Hollywood will deliver. Visual effects, glossy beautiful actors mouthing poorly written lines, and ridiculous stories are all that society demands. Don't think so? Well Sex and the City 2 and Prince of Persia are well on their way to proving my point.

Perhaps it's time to take a walk to the local video rental store or crack open the film cabinet instead of investing two hours for sub par storytelling for the unreasonable price of $15? There are other options of course. Many cities have review cinemas that showcase some of Hollywood's finest masterpieces. I managed to watch Lawrence of Arabia on the big screen before my favourite cinema closed down... it's now a popular fitness club for yuppies. Fortunately many stay in business, it's just a matter of riffling around to find one.

Sunday, May 30, 2010


Coming soon online... or on PBS Masterpiece theatre until June 6th
Marple: The Mirror Crack'd from side to side
clip here

Saturday, May 22, 2010

poirot continues

Official Poirot: Hallowe'en Party air date ala IMDB. which is usually correct... and has just recently been updated.

Wednesday May 26, 2010!

Murder on the Orient Express to be aired June 2, 2010... along with a number of Marple episodes. Can't wait!

Two more Ariadne stories to go...
Elephants can remember and Dead Man's Folly.

Friday, May 21, 2010


Sean Bean as Eddard Stark? He may not look the part, but similar to the Sharpe series, his unforgettable performances can persuade an audience to forget and simply enjoy...

Like Horatio Hornblower, it's essential to watch the series in order. Links below

Sharpe's Rifles (1993) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
Sharpe's Eagle (1993) 1 2 3 4 5 6
Sharpe's Company (1994) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
Sharpe's Gold (1995) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
Sharpe's Battle (1995) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
Sharpe's Siege (1996) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Sharpe's Peril (2008) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Thursday, May 20, 2010

lost princess

Helga de la Brache (born Aurora Florentina Magnusson) claimed to be the abandoned daughter of King Gustav IV of Sweden and his wife Queen Frederica of Baden. She is not the first, nor likely to be the last impostor to claim rights of the privileged and powerful. The most astonishing fact was that the fraudulent claim managed to convince the minister of justice, Nils von Koch, the parliamentary Anders Uhr and even persuade the King to allow her an annual pension from the foreign department, amounting to 2,400 Swedish riksdaler a year.

In reality her heritage was far from glamorous. Born in 1876-77 in Stockholm to a custom caretaker Anders Magnusson, she served as a maid to a bookkeeper Hedman in her youth. With a mind to "rise above her status" she would eventually find employment with a wealthy family in 1838. Was it her wild imagination? Her wit, charm and thirst for adventure? One way or another she managed to win the devotion of the family's daughter who would be her faithful companion and accomplice in her ambitious schemes. Flitting from Finland (1844) to Sweden, the two women lived a gypsy life, living in Turku, Orebro and Sala. It wasn't until the 1860s in Stockholm where they would begin their most audacious confidence trick.

Despite many disbelievers, such as the Prime Minister Louis De Geer and foreign Minister Ludvig Manderstrom, it wasn't until 1870 that a newspaper article by C. Norrby (a previous benefactor) would lead to their ruin. The trial in 1876 became a sensation, drawing unwanted attention to the royal family as the public devoured each new scandalous revelation.

There have been a number of other women/men claiming to be members of aristocracy.

Olivia Serres (1633-1659), claimed to be abdicated queen Christina of Sweden
Harry Domela (1905-1978), claimed to be heir to German Throne
Anna Anderson, claimed to be Grand Duchess Anastasia of Russia, lost daughter of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia. A claim that has more than a few impostors and a story that has spawned a number of films and fictional works.
Perkin Warbeck (1474-1499), pretender to the throne of England

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The gift of gab

Something they never teach you in school is the importance of networking. I hate that word. It's irritating and a nice justification for kissing sweet ass. Going out for drinks afterwards, the insincere hugs and the stilted boring conversation. A cousin of mine is a genius at this. Sports, politics, history, food, sex, books, random facts, celebrities, funny stories, all little tidbits you store in the bank to break the ice with a stranger. You study the person, noting their expressions and tone of voice for cues to keep them engrossed in the conversation.

Can you believe there are courses and tutors out there that can teach you this? Toastmasters takes things even further, a guide to teach individuals to communicate clearly and transform into eloquent social leaders.

Life has become a tiring whirlwind of online networking. I'm a freak since I have no facebook, twitter, or linkedin accounts. Most of my friends tirelessly update their online "Crackbook" persona with true diligence, a few have snagged leads for jobs and other opportunities.

Nothing beats a face to face conversation.

Regardless of all the photos or resumes tacked on Facebook I could never fully trust any of it. I've worked with professional deceivers all my life. Where do we find a lot of it? The internet. You can warp, destroy, and manipulate photos and documents, fabricate history, and create a believable story from nothing. Borrowed words, borrowed information, borrowed images.

Just a thought.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The confidence game

Most people are taught that it's wrong to lie.

Not embellishing the truth, I mean an outright deception of reality. Very few people have mastered the "skill" and those who can do it well are often rewarded. I was horrified to learn that a friend was swindled out of her savings by her boyfriend. She was smart, beautiful, with a great job and expensive taste. So what made her a mark?

A "mark" can be anyone, no matter how careful a person is they are always susceptible to a con. Using our own greed, vanity, naivety, kindness, cruelty, and of course, pride. I now cringe when I hear anyone "ridiculing" a person when they are at their most vulnerable. The natural reaction to such an incident is usually "how stupid", "what a fool", "they should have known better". Have you ever thought that? Told a person that? I have. I now check myself.

I recently received one of those letters from South Africa asking for a temporary loan so that they could get access to a large sum of money, promising a "cut" if I did so. After a nice laugh, I promptly shred the page. So what to do? Learn, forgive yourself, and learn. For the next month or two I'll be posting about one incredible "confidence man/woman/group" or another. Historical, modern, and across the globe. Maybe I'll learn a thing or too, and marvel at the gall of it all.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

digging your way out of hell

You stare at a blank wall, and all you think is ... did I just make the biggest mistake of my life? A few months ago I threw away my burgeoning career and decided to skew off course and into a ditch. I sold or gave away most of my possessions and at this very moment I'm still on a rampage. I've kept only what I can literally hold or carry on my back, and I've never felt more free.

I wonder if I've gone off my rocker.

Feel like getting rid of things? I've discovered that old books should be recycled, charities are picky as hell, and if it doesn't fit you now... it never will. Toss it. Toss it. Toss it. If you can, give it to the people who really need it.

Covenant House (Youth & homeless kids)

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Upsets in glory

For the past few years there have been some huge upsets in the foreign film category. Last year it was Argentina's excellent entry, The Secret in Their Eyes over Germany's favoured White Ribbon. This category shines light on what would normally be over looked brilliant films such as Rabbit Proof Fence, Cinema Paradiso, Departures... the list goes on and on. Legendary actress Meryl Streep may be one of the most acclaimed "loser", having garnered the most nominations. Yet could anyone argue that being a runner up dims any of her performances? Not a chance.

Upsets may happen but some of the best films are those that are passed over.

Here are a few:
Waltz with Bashir, Water, Raise the Red Lantern, I'm Not Scared, Hero, The Class, Children of Heaven.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Cops and robbers

From Killer, Hard Boiled, and Infernal Affairs (Departed is the North American knock off)... Hong Kong cinema knows how to keep the audience glued to their seats. Sweeping the Asian awards last year was the hit
Bodyguards and Assassins, an exceptional experience of both historical significance, action and suspense.

Blasting out of the gates, the violent story follows the days leading up to the arrival of revolutionary Sun Yat-sen in 1905 to discuss plans for revolution with fellow Tongmenghui members to overthrow the corrupt Qing Dynasty. Beginning with the assassination of one of Sun's supporters, the main storyline follow's Li Yutang, a wealthy businessman who provides financial support for revolutionaries such as his old friend chief editor Chen Shaobai.

Hong Kong, a colony of the British Empire at the time, ignores the political situation, giving the assassins free reign to plot the demise of Sun Yat-sen during his arrival in Hong Kong. Li Yutang, infuriated by the British authorities action to close the newspaper activities decides to declare his support of the revolution officially. LiYutang and Chen Shaobai lead the group to create a diversion during Sun Yat-sen's meeting, but not without painful sacrifices and losses. The meeting proved to be a pivotal moment in Chinese history, with changes in beliefs that have resonated through the generations . Extra kudos to the director and writers, for skillfully weaving a number of main characters into the intricate dance of political intrigue. Well worth the investment.

With the Good, The Bad, and the Weird being released in North America, it is only a matter of time before the West discovers this marvellous gem.

Watch trailer here

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A Traitor's life

Stumbling upon the unknown is always such a satisfaction. With upcoming movies such as Agent ZigZag and ITV's Foyle's War, here's a BBC series I have found called Cambridge Spies that tell's the other side of the story. It's probably old news to everyone across the pond but this is the first I've heard of it over here. Starring Tom Hollander, Toby Stephens, Rupert Penry-Jones, and Samual West.

"This is the story of the most notorious double agents in the history of spying. Four very British traitors". - Episode 1 opening

The Cambridge Five

Based on "The Cambridge Five" (also known as Cambridge Four, probably quite a few more members...), a group of spies who leaked information to the Soviet Union during World War II. Kim Philby (cryptonym: Stanley), Donald Duart Maclean (cryptonym: Homer), Guy Burgess (cryptonym: Hicks), Anthony Blunt (cryptonym: Johnson) composed the main four individuals. The fifth member has been identified by Oleg Gordievsky as John Cairncross (cryptonym: Liszt). Many of them were strategically positioned, Philby was a British Intelligence officer in Washington D.C., Burgess was the secretary of the British Foreign Minister of State, Maclean was the Secretary at the British Embassy of the Combined Policy Committee on Atomic Development, and Blunt joined MI5, the British Secret Service.

A good start to wet the whistle...

Episode 1 part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
Episode 2 part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Following footsteps

In 2008 a remake of Alfred Hitchcock's 1935 movie The 39 Steps will be aired on Masterpiece Theatre this year. Spooks star Rupert Penry-Jones plays a British secret agent Richard Hannay who returns to London in May 1914, just before the outbreak of World War I. Called by a freelance spy Franklin P. Scudder who has uncovered a German plot of the assassination of a Greek Premier.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Sharpe eyes

A friend said the series is similar to Horatio Hornblower... so I've given it a chance. After all, Sean Bean is no push over. "Sharpe's Challenge" and "Sharpe's Peril" will be aired for encore viewing for fans all across the world.

Sharpe is a British series about Richard Sharpe (Sean Bean), a soldier during the Napoleonic Wars as he climbs the ladder and carves his name in history. Quite a few recognizable faces throughout the series: Sir Arthur Wellesley (David Troughton and later Hugh Frasier), Major Hogan (Brian Cox) and Obadiah Hakeswill (Pete Postlethwaite).


Hosting Masterpiece Theatre Alan Cummings... link for upcoming 2010... trailer here

Dame Judi Dench returns as Matty Jenkyns in the two part sequel to the Cranford miniseries. Elizabeth Gaskell's (North & South) novels about a small village in 1840.

Watch Return to Cranford
Part 1 here

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Wilde for Gray

Never got a chance to see the film in the theatres, how surprised I was to find it online... for now. Acting dynasties will certainly be dominant forty years from now. Jeremy Irons' son, Max Irons plays Lucius in a small role (his "breakthru role" said to be The Girl with Red Riding hood opposite Amanda Seyfried, Gary Oldman, and Julie Christie).

Dorian Gray part 1 here (starring Colin Firth, Rebecca Hall and Ben Barnes) in the youth beauty's life of debauchery and indulgence.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Crossing the lines

Perhaps the line is less determined in the United Kingdom and Canada? In America there is a distinct division between "film actors" and "television actors", swapping between the medium is an unspoken "no-no".

Maggie Smith, Cillian Murphy, Sean Bean, Alan Cummings, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Jeremy Irons, Ian Holm, Christopher Plummer, Emma Thompson, Donald Sutherland, Kelly Macdonald are just a handful of thespians who have been able to successfully traverse the borders of film, television and theatre. Are actors afraid that they will be pigeon holed? That the audience will think less of them? Hopefully not, because many of the greatest characters have been written for television and theatre and being on the big screen doesn't necessarily translate to achievement.

Working with great people, pushing their craft, and enjoying the ride... that's all a person remembers in the long run.

Newest find? David Suchet, Matthew Macfadyen, Miranda Otto or Cillian Murphy watchers should enjoy BBC mini-series "The Way We Live Now" made in 2001. Watch here

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Mason's Mysteries

Perry Mason, written by Erle Stanley Gardner in the mid forties and fifties, another good option if "you've seen it all". A rather hard boiled defense attorney, Perry Mason influenced a number of television hits to follow such as Law & Order and The Good Wife. Featured in over eighty novels and short stories, the popular mystery series grew to even wider circles on the tube starring Raymond Burr from 1957 to 1966.

Similar to Poirot, Mason is a character who thrives on the hopeless case. Frequently accepting difficult cases, he mines through the lies and confusion until he discovers the truth. Like many popular detectives, their personal life remains rather vague, avoiding family members, education, or even relationships.

The younger generation may recognize the television movies in the late eighties and nineties also starring a much older Raymond Burr (as a judge).

Monday, May 3, 2010

the countess

Released in 2009, The Countess is a different spin on the myth and legends of Erzebet" Báthory starring Julie Deply, Daniel Bruhl and William Hurt. Previous post concerning the "infamous" accused serial killer here. It has been done in various languages, German, English and French Trailer here.

A double life

I happened upon this book in the library and thoroughly enjoyed it. Agent Zigzag: The True Wartime Story of Eddie Chapman, Lover, Betrayer, Hero, Spy. A handsome, yet not overly unique face of an Englishman, Edward Arnold Chapman born November 16, 1914 was headed on a path of crime and years of imprisonment before the second World War.

Stuck in jail for theft, the prison soon became occupied by the Germans who would later transfer him to Fort de Romainville in Paris. And the rest is history... Playing the dangerous game of a double agent, he was first recruited by the Nazis to commit acts of sabotage against his home country. During his almost "fantastical" career he would manage to gain not only the trust and admiration of the Nazi party, but serve as a double agent for MI5, funnelling mis-information into the Axis camp.

Reputed to never get his stories crossed, he was an excellent liar, capable of diverting suspicion during the most compromising situations. The ultimate playboy, he could charm the opposite sex with astonishing ease, maintaining separate relationships to two fiancées on opposite sides during the war, Freda Stevenson in England and Dagmar Lahlum in Norway.

A James Bond in real life! I'm not surprised to learn that Tom Hanks has acquired the rights to the book for a film adaptation. I can't wait.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Off with her head!

Wrapping up the Tudors, Showtime presents the fourth season of Henry VIII's reign during his dark decline into madness. Watch the trailer here... They have already aired the first three episodes and Episode 4 shall be aired May 2nd... supposedly the same day Poirot's Hallowe'en Party is to be shown?? Have to wait and see!

Poirot's ticket

The release of the trailer for
Murder on the Orient Express is out! It looks fantastic!

Take a look.... here An interview here