Welcome to my blog!

Welcome to my blog!

Feel free to leave any suggestions or comments regarding music, books, films, TV, theatre or culture related news...

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Belle (Lesley Pearse)

Fifteen-year-old Belle, although raised in a London brothel, is an innocent. But when she witnesses one of the girls being brutally strangled by a client, she is cast into a cruel, heartless world.
Snatched from the streets and sold into prostitution, she is made a courtesan in New Orleans. At the mercy of desperate men who crave her beauty and will do anything to keep her, Belle's dream of home, family, and freedom appear futile.
Are Belle's courage and spirit strong enough to help her escape?
What will await her at the end of the long, dangerous journey home?


Quote: "Sometimes she felt so alone that she cried herself to sleep. The silence pressed in on her and made her feel threatened. There had been a couple of thunderstorms at night too, such heavy rain that it drummed on the tin roof, and such loud thunderclaps that she shook with fear. She got into the habit of going out for long walks, each time going further and further to delay going home, and making herself really tired so she could sleep when she got back."

My thoughts on this book: 'Belle' has the potential to be much more. The subject matter is interesting and uncommon, but Belle as the main character ruins it for me. Belle's mother, Annie, mentioned that young girls forced into prostitution rarely, if ever, get over the mental and emotional trauma. However, Belle does not seem to have changed one bit.
In terms of Lesley Pearse's writing - although I have not read any of her other novels -, it lacks spice and subtlety. It seems rather bland for such an exciting subject matter. To be honest, I think that the setting of New Orleans was the best among all the places in the novel.
The ending was a huge disappointment as, like I said in the beginning, Belle quickly forgot about her past and led a normal 'happy ever after' life.

Monday, March 21, 2016

The Lady in the Van (Directed by Nicholas Hytner; Written by Alan Bennett)

A man forms an unexpected bond with a transient woman living in her van that is parked in his driveway.

Starring: Maggie Smith, Jim Broadbent, Alex Jennings, Deborah Findlay, Roger Allam, Richard Griffiths, Dominic Cooper

Why I loved this film: Billed as 'a mostly true story', this is actually more like a commentary on how we treat those less fortunate and how we use others for our own gain - with a little humour added by the 'always amazing' Dame Maggie Smith.
Alan Bennett is a British playwright. He is also at the core of this story – every bit as much as Ms. Shepherd, the lady in the van. While living in upper crust Camden Town, Mr. Bennett offered to let Ms. Shepherd park her van in his driveway for a few weeks until she could make other arrangements. This van was also her home, and the years (as they are apt to do) came and went until this arrangement had lasted 15 years (1974-1989).
You might assume that Ms. Shepherd was an extremely appreciative 'squatter', but she was, in fact, quite a difficult woman. Maggie Smith brings a humanity to the role that she had previously owned on stage and on the radio. Throughout the film, we assemble bits and pieces of Ms. Shepherd's background: an educated French-speaking musician and former ambulance driver. She is also carrying a burden of guilt from a past tragic accident that keeps her going to confession on a consistent basis.
In this film, there are two Mr. Bennetts – the one doing the writing, and the one doing the living. These two Bennetts are a virtual married couple, continuously arguing over Ms. Shepherd. The living Bennett claims to be so full of British timidity that he could not possibly confront the woman junking up his driveway. The writer Bennett takes the high road and claims he would rather write spy stories than focus his pen on the odorous, obnoxious, transient living in his front yard. Of course, now that we have a play and a movie, it is difficult to avoid viewing Mr. Bennett's actions as anything less than inspiration for his writing.
Filmed at the same house where the van was parked for so many years, the film is a reminder to us that we should exercise tolerance and charity in dealing with the poor. Even Bennett's grudgingly-offered assistance is a step above what would typically be expected. While we could feel a wide spectrum of emotions for the two main parties here, it is Ms. Shepherd's character that says 'I didn't choose. I was chosen'.
However, I must say that, as usual, Maggie Smith lights up the scenes. Few are as effective at frightening young kids or putting the elite in their place.
After watching the movie, I actually looked up Ms. Shepherd's story, and I must say, today she would not have been as lucky.
This is definitely a 'must see'. If not for the moral, then for the laughs.

Monday, March 14, 2016

R.I.P. Nicolau Breyner

Morreu o ator e realizador, Nicolau Breyner. Tinha 75 anos.
Nicolau Breyner foi encontrado já sem vida, na sua casa.
O que dizer deste icon português que tantas memórias nos deixou e que parecia imortal.
João Nicolau de Melo Breyner Lopes nasceu em Serpa, a 30 de julho de 1940. Tornou-se conhecido do grande público pelo seu trabalho como ator, mas também assumiu funções de realizador, produtor e, até, de apresentador.
Para além do "Senhor feliz e senhor contente" com Herman José, lembro-me de um dos seus últimos trabalhos, com o magnífico Jeremy Irons: "Night Train to Lisbon".
Nicolau Breyner era muito mais do que um ator ou realizador. Ele era um ídolo, um modelo a seguir, e um exemplo do que é ser feliz, ou, como ele dizia, "mais vale estar sempre alegre do que estar sempre triste".
O teatro e o cinema português ficaram muito mais pobres!
Até sempre Nicolau Breyner! Até sempre Senhor Feliz!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Ride (Helen Hunt)



A mother travels cross-country to California to be with her son after he decides to drop out of school and become a surfer.



Starring: Helen Hunt, Brenton Thwaites, Richard Kind, Robert Knepper, Leonor Varela, David Zayas, Luke Wilson, Callum Keith Rennie, Elizabeth Jayne

My thoughts on this film: This is a down to earth movie about real life. It tackles with the quite odd relationship between a mother and her son. As a know-it-all person that likes to be on top of things, she follows her son to California and spies on him as he is trying to find himself and experience new things. Her ridiculous behaviour is really funny, and so are her interactions with the chauffeur she has hired to drive her around.
This is the story of a person who seems to be in complete control of her life, but then she is swept away by changes; so she must learn to trust others and embrace the unexpected. The film is both funny and sad, and very beautiful. I particularly enjoyed the surfing scenes.
This is not the best Helen Hunt movie, but it is very entertaining!

Monday, March 07, 2016

Hail, Caesar! (Ethan Coen and Joel Coen)

We follow the life of Eddie Mannix, a Hollywood fixer for Capitol Pictures in the 1950s, who cleans up and solves problems for big names and stars in the industry, until studio star Baird Whitlock disappears...

Starring: Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Alden Ehrenreich, Ralph Fiennes, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand, Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Alison Pill, Jack Huston, Agyness Deyn

My thoughts on this film: I guess, after all the publicity surrounding this movie, I went in expecting a lot more.
The main story was good, and there was so much they could have done with it, but it felt like they did not care much for the final result. They just wanted to get it over and done with.
The overall result was a strung together series of little set pieces that did not hang together as a whole.
Even the cast - made up of the best actors and actresses in the business - seemed tired and not doing their best.
I have seen worse, but, as I wrote at the beginning, I was expecting a lot more from the Coen brothers!