Over the Christmas weekend, Tom and I saw five movies he borrowed for free from our wonderful local library. We’d never seen any of them before so each movie was a new experience.
Blythe Spirit” (2021) Based on the classic Noӗl Coward’s play, a best-selling, financially successful crime writer in 1937 suffers a terrible (and hilarious) writer’s block while writing a screenplay based his own story. His second wife strives to keep him on track: she herself wants to move from London to Hollywood. The writer invites Madame Acarti (a marvelous Judi Dench), a mostly fraudulent spiritualist medium to hold a private séance at his house. Madame Acarti turns out to have some real psychic power after all and summons the ghost of his deceased first wife, who may have given the writer most of his award-winning ideas. (There is a joke about “ghost writing”) The ghost isn’t happy about the presence of the quite-alive second wife living in her house and sleeping with her husband. Laugh-out-loud funny and witty, the plot turns darker toward the end. Recommended for viewers who enjoy a sophisticated comedy (without profanity).
Pompeii” (2014) I just read a fascinating article about the Pompeii ruins in recent days in The New Yorker so Tom picked up this movie. Set against the volcano about to erupt two thousand years ago, this tells the story of slave (a boy formerly from the Celtic Horse Tribe taken prisoner by Roman invaders) who becomes a gladiator in the arena of Pompeii and falls in love with a wealthy merchant’s daughter (and she with him). The luxurious ancient city DID have gladiators fight to death in a magnificent arena. The story is derivative of one of my favorite movies, “Gladiator,” but that didn’t spoil our enjoyment. Spectacular special effects as the volcano erupts, which was witnessed at the time and written about by Pliny the Younger. A tragic ending. (There were preserved corpses in the layers of volcanic ash who were kissing with their last breath.) Recommended for serious viewers of historical drama.
“The Magical Legend of the Leprechauns” (1999) For a delightful change of pace, this complex fantasy interweaves a romance tale between an American man (secretly a developer who is scouting rustic properties to develop) and an Irish woman with a romance tale between a leprechaun boy and a fairy girl. The latter romance causes a war between the leprechauns and the fairies reminiscent of “Romeo and Juliet”. No plot spoilers here! There are two brief scenes with Irish tap dancers (who I could watch for hours!). But the ends of all the interwoven tales are happy. Whoopi Goldberg as the Grand Banshee is wonderful. Recommended for all fantasy viewers.
Mary Shelley” (2018) Elle Fanning well plays the teenage Mary Shelley (the actress resembles the historical figure), the daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft, a famous 18th century feminist, writer, and advocate of “free love,” and an anarchist writer-philosopher father, William Godwin who owned a bookshop in London. Mary is always writing as a teenager. She’s close to her step-sister and distant from Godwin’s second wife (Wollstonecraft died within a month of giving birth to Mary). At one of her father’s literary salons, she meets the dashing poet Percy Shelley (Douglas Booth, who also resembles the historical figure). They fall madly in love, but Percy is more an advocate of “free love” than Mary. As a writer, I find it fascinating to see the many influences on the author to create a literary work, including the infamous weekend in Geneva with Lord Byron (drugs, sex, and ghost stories). Mary Shelley went on to write six novels, including a science fiction and an historical, and short stories, but the work she is best known for is “Frankenstein or Prometheus Unbound” written and published when she was eighteen years old. A bit slow, but recommended for serious viewers who are interested in writers’ lives.
The Bookshop” (2017 ) Rounding out the weekend with TWO bookshops and TWO writers, this film (based on a novel) tells the true story of a widow, in 1959 England, coming to a conservative seaside town with a dream in her heart of opening a bookshop. Against all odds, she succeeds in opening a charming bookshop and is popular among the town people, including an old reclusive widower who loves books. She stocks Ray Bradbury and Vladimir Nabokov, among other controversial titles. But (for no good reason, other than jealousy perhaps) she draws the ruthless opposition of the local grand dame who seeks to destroy her shop. Slow but recommended for serious viewers
So there you have it, my friends. A lot of good movies were made some years ago, you only to find them.
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