Saturday, November 24, 2007

Foyle's War

It's 1940 and England is at war. DCS Christopher Foyle (Michael Kitchen) wants a transfer to the war effort, but denied, and has to confront the crimes, in a society where everybody is taught how to kill. With the help from his driver, Sam (Honeysuckle Weeds) and Sgt Paul Milner (Anthony Howell), who lost a leg in the war; Foyle tries to solve murder cases in Hastings.

I had wanted to saw Foyle's War for a year, when someone from one of the mailing lists I was joining in, recommended it. I wondered what the difference between Foyle's War and Midsomer Murders, except that Foyle's War was set in WW2 and Midsomer Murders in present time, since both series are created by Anthony Horowitz. I have only watched the first season of Foyle's War, and from the 4 episodes, I could guess easily whodunit in 3 episodes. So 'A Lesson in Murder' is my favourite. First began with the death of David Beale in police custody. Beale was a brilliant writer and placed in custody after being refused conscientious objector status, and a judge at the hearing, received threatening notes, but a refugee boy from London who stayed at the judge's house died in his place. Interesting also to see that everyone seems to forget about Sgt Milner's lost leg, except his own wife, who treats him like a cripple.

I also like The White Feather episode because 1) There is Charles Dance in it 2) The heroic story of Dunkirk is included. It moved me when David Lane's father's boat landed with 15 soldiers.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Black Book

I saw Black Book in the list of best spy movies ever, also saw the trailer when I went to the theatre to see The Invasion - it looked great and so I wanted to see it. Last night I did.

Black Book (Zwartboek) is one of the best movies I've ever seen. Set in 1944, about the Resistance in Holland. After her hiding place is bombed, a beautiful Jewish woman, Rachel Steinn tried to leave Holland for Belgium, but she is betrayed and her whole family are murdered in front of her. She later has a new identity, joins the Resistance and falls in love with a high ranking Nazi officer. While trying to free the Nazi prisoners, the Resistance fighters are betrayed and they think Ellis de Vries (Rachel's new identity) is the traitor. With the black book Ellis will prove who the real traitor is.

This movie has a lot of twists and very gripping. The long running time (145') didn't bore me at all. I didn't know any of the actors, but both leads, Carice van Houten and Sebastian Koch, are very good.

A must see!

The Tudors season 1

Another movie about the life of Henry VIII. This series starts with Henry's relationship with Bessy Blount and ends with Cardinal Wolsey's death. Since Queen Katherine cannot give him a male heir, Henry tried to annul his marriage and marry Anne Boleyn. The Pope has given him a dispensation before, so he can marry Katherine of Aragon, who was his older brother's widow. Henry says the fact that he has no living son is a proof that God disapprove of the marriage, because it is written: "Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy brother's wife" and the punishment is childless. I do not understand why he has to ask the dispensation from the Pope, because I think God disapprove if the brother in question is still living. Arthur is dead. In the Bible, there is a story of Onan, Judah 2nd son, who marries his brother's wife and God kills him because he refuses to give his seed to the widow since the offspring he can't claim as his own (Genesis 38).

I also don't understand why Gabriella Anwar's character is called Margaret instead of Mary. Margaret was the one sent to Scotland and Mary Stuart and Henry Lord Darnley were both her descendants. Mary was sent to France to marry Louis XII (and not to Portugal) and later after the king's death married Charles Brandon. In this movie, Margaret acts more like a common woman than a princess for her face is horribly sad when she is doing her state duty: marry the old king of Portugal.

In this series Anne Boleyn is used by her father & uncle to destroy Wolsey. No sign of her fiance Henry Percy (the relationship had been encouraged by her father). Anne was in love with Percy and furious when Wolsey separated them and she destroyed Wolsey because of this hatred.

Jeremy Northam's Thomas More is different from other actors played the character (Paul Schofield, William Squire). He is more witty and humorous. This is also the first time I saw More burning heretics, makes me wonder why he is called a saint.

The sweating sickness scenes are interesting.

Sunday, November 11, 2007


Today I watched Hairspray The Musical - the movie version. It was a fun movie and very entertaining, as what a movie should be. John Travolta was lovely as Edna, although it seemed he was almost in tears most of the time. He is a very handsome man, but in my opinion as a woman he wasn't very pretty. I would like very much to see Michael Ball in the same role on stage.

Nikki Blonsky as Tracy Turnblad, the heroin, is very good. Short and overweight, she might be the last person ever to get into the Corny Collins show; but her superb dancing makes her lovable by many people. Her effort is not without barrier, because the TV station owner, Velma Von Tussle, wants her daughter Amber to be the star of the show and crowned as Miss Hairspray; so she tries anything to get rid of Tracy. Set in the early 60's in Baltimore, there is also racial problems. Most of the songs are very energetic (some remind me of Grease) and I liked the moments when they were sung. Zac Efron as Link Larkin also reminded me of Cliff Richard in the 60's - I think it must be the hair style and the costumes.

Monday, November 5, 2007

The Devil's Laughter

Having been so impressed with Frank Yerby's An Odor of Sanctity, I bought another one of his works: The Devil's Laughter (1953), which was set during The French Revolution. Compared with Odor of Sanctity, The Devil's Laughter was a thin book, only some 300-pages, and I hope it had more details about the French Revolution. I found myself, when reading the book, was in blank sometimes because I forgot who the Jacobins, who the Hébertists, who the Girondins, etc.

The hero was Jean Paul Marin, a lawyer and a son of a wealthy merchant in the 18th century, who dreamt about a better France and published revolutionary writings; but when the revolution did happen and France was heading to a worse end, he begans to regret his involvement in it. Jean possessed a terrible laughter which 'was filled with mockery for all things under heaven and earth.' - thus the title: The Devil's Laughter.

Those who are familiar with Yerby's works will know that his works use histories as a background, with violences and love stories. There were 3 women in Marin's life: 1) Lucienne Talbot, whom he was going to marry but left him for a richer man and came back to betray him again; 2) Nicole la Moyte, a beautiful blonde girl who loved him and was loved by him but married someone else when she believed Marin was dead; and 3) Fleurette, a blind flower girl, who under his care finally became a real woman.

While reading this, I suddenly remembered to my La Revolution Française recording (by Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil), so I listened to it again. It is one of my favourites and although the genre is rock opera, but in my opinion it has some of the most beautiful songs ever written. I mean the melody. My favourites are: Charles Gauthier and L'horrible assassinat du citoyen Marat par la pérfide Charlotte Corday, but overall I like all the songs. As for the lyrics, well, L'horricle assassinat du citoyen Marat tells about the murder of Marat; and Charles Gautier tells that he is a son of a shopkeeper who goes to Paris as a representative for the Third Estate.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Amazing Grace

Amazing Grace is the story of William Wilberforce and his campaign in the late of 18th and early 19th century to abolish the slave trade, at least in Great Britain. After hearing stories how bad the Africans had been treated after being taken from their native land, the bad sanitation on ships and the chains, also the fate awaited them in the plantations; Wilberforce decided to bring the horror to public awareness. He was inspired by John Newton, the writer of the famous song, Amazing Grace. Newton, an ex slave trader, at first refused to co-operate, but in the end had his confession written and published.

To abolish slave trade at that time meant the end of the British Empire, at least that was the lords on House of Commons said. Wilberforce finally got his way when the war with France after the revolution was over.

I think the song Amazing Grace is about how great God's love is and that He saves us sinners from hell. Using the title for this movie, apart from the usage of the song, which is sung three times if I'm not mistaken, I wonder what it means. Is Wilberforce some kind of god who has deliberated the Africans from slave trade? In the movie, James Stephen went to West Indies to take notes and more testimonies from first hands, and back in England, he told his friends a story about a woman and her child and how the mother said that someone came across the sea to save them and that his name was King Wilberforce.

Directed by Michael Apted, and starring good actors like Iaon Gruffudd, Albert Finney, Michael Gambon, Benedict Cumberbatch, Romola Garai, Youssou N'Dour, Rufus Sewell, Jeremy Swift, Toby Jones, and Ciaran Hinds; Amazing Grace is a worth film to watch, especially if you like history.