Classic Film Review – Cleopatra (1963)

SUMMARY (Spoilers)

This film condenses almost two decades of Cleopatra’s life into it’s four hour run time.  In 48 BC, Julius Caesar arrives in Rome to mediate between the Egyptian queen and her co-ruling brother.  Cleopatra persuades Caesar to help her regain the throne as the sole monarch. In the process, the two begin an affair which produces a son. The birth of Caesarion  encourages Cleopatra in her ideas of building a world empire.

Eventually she travels to Rome where she is very unpopular with the people due to her influence with Caesar. She meets Marc Antony, the general of Caesar’s army, who helps her return to Egypt after Caesar’s assassination.

Even though Caesar named Octavian as his successor, the Roman Republic is split among Octavian, Lepidus and Marc Antony. Octavian and Marc Antony eventually neutralize Lepidus’ power. Their power struggle forces Marc Antony to turn to Egypt for support where he meets Cleopatra again. The two fall in love and begin an affair which is ultimately the downfall of them both. The film ends with their deaths in 30 BC.

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Book Review – In Spite of Lions by Scarlette Pike

SUMMARY

After a lifetime of abuse, Anna leaves home, but not to run away. Rather she runs towards freedom when she heads to Africa. On her journey there she befriends Mary Livingstone, the wife of missionary David Livingstone. Upon her arrival on foreign shores, she follows the Livingston family into the African interior to help with their work.

“It is necessary that you work against the pain of the body to make it stronger so that you may be a strong African woman,” she explained. “It will hurt, Miss Anna. But does that make it bad?”

However, Anna’s previous life has left her unprepared for the challenges of her new life. Though, she is accepted by the tribal chief, the villagers greet her with suspicion. While learning the basic tasks of daily survival, Anna also finds herself in the center of political conflict between the Boers and her new African family. And all the while she is still haunted by a past she hasn’t come to terms with yet.

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Film Review – Tolkien (2019)

The world of a J.R.R. Tolkien story is one of mystery, magic, romance, friendship, wars and meaning filled journeys. But what was the world of the real Tolkien like? How did a British born Catholic orphan who survived by the good will of others create not only languages, but a fantastical world which still enchants millions today? These are the questions that the new biographical drama Tolkien attempts to answer.

ABOUT TOLKIEN

After the successive deaths of both of their parents, the custody of John Ronald  and his brother is given to a Catholic priest. This man ensures that the two boys receive scholarships to a Birmingham school and lodging in the home of a wealthy widow.

In both these places he meets people who will influence and change his life. Despite Tolkien’s initial reluctance to be grafted into their circle, he soon forms a strong bond with students Geoffrey Smith, Robert Gilson and Christopher Wiseman. Together they form a club with the goal of changing the world through their artistic endeavours.

Tolkien also forms a strong attachment with his fellow boarder Edith. She relates to his orphan status and dependence on the charity of others.  With her, he is himself, able to discuss his world of fantasy creatures and languages.

As it always does, life intervenes, first through the reality of Tolkien’s reduced circumstances, the expectations of his guardian and finally the advent of a World War. But it is the memories of these valuable relationships which sustain and inspire him.

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Series Review – Mrs. Wilson (2018)

There’s a saying that truth is often stranger than fiction. That certainly proved to be the case for the family of actress Ruth Wilson. Wilson plays the role of her own grandmother Alison Wilson in this short series. Mrs. Wilson is based on Alison’s marriage to the enigmatic British spy and author Alexander Wilson.

SUMMARY

After twenty years of wedded bliss and two children, Alec unexpectedly dies in Alison’s arms. Alison is devastated by his death. She goes through the motions of comforting her sons and planning Alec’s funeral until she receives another unexpected shock. An older woman arrives on her doorstep to collect Alec’s belongings. She claims to be Mrs. Wilson.

Seeking answers, Alison tracks down Alec’s intelligence handler Coleman. Alison is adamant that Alec was divorced from the first Mrs. Wilson before marrying her. Coleman is not so sure. This leads Alison to question every thing she ever knew about their life together. Not only does she explore her own memories of her past with Alec, but she also begins her own investigation into Alec’s private and professional life.  She is stymied at every turn by an agency who wants to keep Alec’s work secret. Nor does she receive any help by those who knew Alec personally. As she slowly uncovers her husband’s secrets, she discovers a man she barely knew.

For the full review, please follow me over to The Silver Petticoat Review.

Foreign Film Friday -The Red Queen (2015)

SUMMARY

She was referred to as “Soviet Sophia Loren” and “the most beautiful Kremlin weapon.” But who was the Red Queen? Was she the queen of the catwalk or a KGB agent seducing foreign diplomats? How did she manage to succeed and what was the price she had to pay? The life of Regina Zbarskaya, the most famous USSR, is full of mystery and drama.

In 1950’s Communist Russia, a family tragedy leaves Zoya Kolesnikova a stigmatized orphan. Leaving her home town, she heads to Moscow to escape her past. While there she adopts the name Regina. With the help of a benefactress,she reinvents herself through education and determination.

Initially she pursues her mother’s dream of becoming an accountant, but a chance encounter leads her into the world of fashion. Regina works hard not only to become a clothes model but also to overcome past mistakes. Eventually, she realizes success not only in Russia but also world wide. But past traumas still haunt her and a life of fame has its’ price. Continue reading “Foreign Film Friday -The Red Queen (2015)”

Film Review -Lion (2016)

If you haven’t at least heard of this film, you may have been living under a rock. Lion is the Oscar nominated film based on the true story of a young Indian boy who becomes separated from his family.

SUMMARY

Little Saroo finds himself in Calcutta over 1200 miles away from his small village in western India. Unable to speak the regional language and not knowing his mother’s name or the correct name of his village, Saroo eventually finds himself adopted by an Australian couple and adapting to a completely new way of life.

As an adult he experiences a strong desire to locate his family and his home in spite of being hindered by his lack of pertinent details and the decades which stretch his childhood memories. Continue reading “Film Review -Lion (2016)”

Foreign Film Friday -The African Doctor (2016)

A French film originally titled Bienvenue a Marly-Gomont, The African Doctor tells the true story of Seyolo Zantoko, a Congolese native and his struggles to serve as a doctor in a small French village in order to obtain French nationality and to expose his family to wider world.

SUMMARY

The tale begins as Seyolo graduates from a French medical school. He is offered a prestigious job in his homeland of Zaire/Congo working for a corrupt government official. Despite the money and the perks attached to this position, he has heard instead of a small French village which has been seeking a doctor for its citizens for many years with no success. He decides to take this job in the hopes that it will allow him to become a French citizen. When phoning home with the good news to his wife and children, the family is thrilled due to the mistaken impression that his job is in Paris. Needless to say, they are all in for a shock when they arrive in France and find themselves feeling like fish out of water, in a very rural community which is not happy that their new doctor and his family are black foreigners. Continue reading “Foreign Film Friday -The African Doctor (2016)”

Film Review -Hidden Figures (2017)

Hidden Figures is a biographical drama which tells the story of three brilliant African-American women who worked at NASA in the early years of the space program and their struggles and success in contributing to that program in an era of segregation.

I often lament the fact that “they” just don’t make movies like they used to. Today’s films often seem short of a good story and rely too much on special effects and obvious, sometimes gross humor. The development of the characters is often lacking as well as interesting and witty dialogue.

When I envision what a good movie should be, Hidden Figures is exactly what I am talking about. A quiet story about ordinary people of courage who are persistent in the face of rejection and defeat, who live their lives with integrity and honor while also challenging the status quo. Continue reading “Film Review -Hidden Figures (2017)”