Red Sparrow

mv5bmta3mdkxotc4nddeqtjeqwpwz15bbwu4mdaxnzgyntqz._v1_sy1000_cr0,0,674,1000_al_Jennifer Lawrence stars in Red Sparrow, an undoubtedly for grown-ups spy thriller, where she plays Domenika, a ballet dancer so badly injured in an onstage “accident” that she will not dance again, and as she just so happens to have an uncle who is senior in the Russian secret service she ends up recruited into the Red Sparrows, via a rather sordid piece of entrapment she is required to carry out as a favour for uncle and which goes spectacularly wrong, .

At the Sparrow Academy she is trained to submit her body for use by the state and is finally despatched to sort out a CIA agent and find out the name of a mole inside the Russian spy operation.

If you think this is going to turn out to be a female James Bond, with gadgets and cocktails and frocks and romantic seductions, you are going to be very wrong. This is a really grim, at times disturbing and unpleasant depiction of what this sort of thing might actually look like in the real world, and it is not at all pretty. There is rape, torture and general mayhem presented in very graphic terms but with a glossy sheen on top.

Now, I’m not going to pretend that I didn’t enjoy this film, despite some of the things I’ve mentioned above which made me uncomfortable while watching it, and even more so afterwards when thinking about it. There are some positives.

Jennifer Lawrence is pretty good in a rather unforgiving role, there are some wonderfully British Russians and much as I don’t normally warm to Joel Edgerton he is well cast as the CIA agent. The fact that the actor playing the really nasty uncle is made up to look more than Putin-adjacent is very entertaining.

And there is double cross piled on triple cross to the extent that until the very, very late stages I couldn’t tell what was actually going to happen.

It doesn’t entirely deliver but it’s good to see an action film with a decent budget aimed squarely at those of us no longer in our twenties.  I am still stunned that this wasn’t rated 18.

Grim and unrelenting so watch with caution.

Dazzling details: directed by Francis Lawrence (no relation), Red Sparrow is 140 minutes long and rated (shakes head) 15 for (takes deep breath) strong bloody violence, gore, sexual violence, sex, very strong language

How Old is the Bride?

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This incarnation of the blog may only be 5 months old but the Bride has been around since 20/21/22 January (depending on what source you consult) in 2007 which means that the Bride is 12.

Cue balloons and cake!

When I was actually 12 years old it was 1974.

  • Christian Bale, Amanda Abbington, Alyson Hannigan & Matthew Macfadyan were born;
  • Agnes Moorehead, Georgette Heyer and Mama Cass Elliott died;
  • Tiger Feet and Waterloo (all hail ABBA)charted, and Andy Williams’ Solitaire was number one on my birthday;
  • Jeff Goldblum made his first appearance on the big screen; and
  • three of my favourite films were released – The Towering Inferno (still the best disaster movie in my view), Young Frankenstein and Murder on the Orient Express (the Albert Finney one, with a huge starry cast and a suitably sized moustache)

Elsewhere we had Watergate, the kidnapping of Patty Hearst and the publication of Carrie, the book that got me into contemporary horror.

That was indeed a year.

Here’s to another 12 months of blogging. Hope you will stick with me 😀

 

Sunday Salon | 20 January

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So here we are, within spitting distance of the end of the first month of the year. An unpleasant image perhaps, but one that is sticking with me for now as I get excited about my birthday – more about that no doubt in my next Salon post.

But what about the books!?

Books read

Yes, I have finally finished a book! Not one that I expected to read at all but it caught my fancy and I’ll be writing about it soon – Notes from the Underwire by Quinn Cummings.

Currently reading

Still reading Global Crisis – I’ve hit the two chapters about the Civil Wars and the Stuart monarchy which I already know quite a lot about, so familiarity is holding me back a bit though I’m assured by the Book God that the author has much that is new to share

I’ve made quite a bit of progress with City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin, and will try to finish it this week. It’s a chunkster but a very enjoyable one. Also started watching the Tv adaptation of the first novel in the trilogy, The Passage, which is so far very promising.

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo – if you read my book haul post from earlier this week you will know that I can’t resist this sort of book. I’ve had this volume for ages and had always planned to read it this month, so anyone who accuses me of jumping on the KonMari bandwagon will be given a Very Hard Stare.

I am stuck with The Behaviour of Moths – I am going to give it another chapter and if it’s still not grabbing me I’ll set it aside.

New books

You would be forgiven for thinking that after the book haul I would not have been buying anything else, but come on, this is me we are talking about. So the following came into the house this week:

The Valentine House by Emma Henderson – “this deeply involving, intriguing novel tells the story of an English family through the generations and a memorable French woman, whose lives seem worlds apart yet which become inextricably connected” – bought because of the cover…

The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker – “Imagine a world where sleep could trap you, for days, for weeks, months… A world where you could, even, die of sleep rather than in your sleep.” – a pre-order and firmly in my wheelhouse

Heartsick by Dia Reeves – “A large creepy estate, mysterious twin brothers, family secrets, a diabolical invention known as the bone machine, and a young girl who is not at all human.” Likewise.

Long Live Great Bardfield by Tirzah Garwood – Tirzah, who has the Best Name Ever, was a very talented artist and wife of Eric Ravilious. I bought a Christmas card from Daunts with one of her haunting images on it and in finding out more about her came across this lovely autobiography published by Persephone. An actual physical book!

At the Existentialist Cafe by Sarah Bakewell – “Paris, near the turn of 1932-3. Three young friends meet over apricot cocktails at the Bec-de-Gaz bar on the rue Montparnasse. They are Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and their friend Raymond Aron, who opens their eyes to a radical new way of thinking…” Who hasn’t wanted a light and readable book about the key tenets of French philosophy?

So that’s it for this round-up. Hope you all have a wonderful reading week 🙂

 

 

Mid-January Book Haul

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As mentioned in my Sunday Salon post, I have already bought enough books by the middle of January to justify their own post, so here we are. Try not to be tempted too much – I clearly failed!

These aren’t in any particular order of purchase or preference, I’m just adding them as they come.

The Histories

Hitler & the Hapsburgs by James Longo – I didn’t know that Hitler, because he loathed the Hapsburg dynasty so much,  pursued the children of Archduke Franz Ferdinand (yes that Archduke Franz Ferdinand) throughout his time in power. I am fascinated by all things Hapsburg and this has been well-received

The Royal Art of Poison by Eleanor Herman – subtitled “Fatal Cosmetics, Deadly Medicines and Murder Most Foul”; I love all of these 😀

Who’s In, Who’s Out: The Diaries of Kenneth Rose 1944 to 1979 – from the bombing of London in WWII to the election of the Thatcher woman, this promises to be full of gossip; I can’t resist reading other people’s diaries and letters.

The Crimes

The Puppet Show by MW Craven – “A serial killer is burning people alive in the Lake District’s prehistoric stone circles. He leaves no clues and the police are helpless.” Sometimes you have to make your own entertainment

The Chestnut Man by Soren Sveistrup – “October, Copenhagen. The police make a terrible discovery – a young woman is found brutally murdered, with one of her hands cut off.Next to her lifeless body hangs a strange doll made of chestnuts . . .” Murder and crafting. Written by the author of The Killing which I loved, except for the ending of Series 3.

The Katherina Code by Jorn Hier Lorst – “Katharina went missing twenty-four years ago. Each year on the anniversary of her disappearance Chief Inspector William Wisting visits her husband, the man he could never help. He re-reads her files, searching for the answer he could never find. The code he could never solve. Until now.” Wisting is the new Wallander, according to Amazon at least.

The “I Can’t Believe You Haven’t Read That Yet”

The Road to Perdition by Max Allan Collins – in my defence I have seen and loved the film and toyed with the graphic novel but when my husband, a huge Collins fan who has been trying to get me to read his stuff for years, pointed out that there was a “new expanded novel” I finally agreed.

The Stuff That Only I Find Interesting

If you find this sort of thing interesting too, then you are my kind of people.

Declutter by Debora Robertson – “the get real guide to creating calm from chaos” Nigella Lawson said she needed this book and who am I to gainsay Nigella? Real solutions for real people. I am looking forward to reading this and comparing it to Marie Kondo’s approach (I’m reading her book at the moment and being irritated by many of the hot takes on Twitter). Whether I will actually declutter is yet to be seen.

L’art de la Liste by Dominique Loreau – I love lists and have been making them for as long as I can remember. I can’t decide if always writing things down has led to my memory becoming a little wonkier because I no longer rely on it so much, or whether I’m just getting older (I suspect it’s the latter). ” The humble list has the power to change your life. In its immediacy, its simplicity and its concise, contained form, the list enables us to organise, to save time and to approach facts with clarity.

Rituals for Every Day by Nadia Narain – “Let rituals bring you back to yourself.” I’m always looking for things to help me structure my day as a retired person, knowing that otherwise I would spend my life on the sofa reading. According to the Sunday Times this is non-patronising and authentic. I hate the word authentic in this sort of context but let’s give this a go.

Everything Else (otherwise known as the Bride gets bored with categorising)

Dr Jekyll & Mr Seek by Anthony O’Neill – “This brilliantly imagined and beautifully written sequel to one of literature’s greatest masterpieces perfectly complements the original work.” One of my favourite authors, Ronald Frame, thought this was fiendishly ingenious.

In an Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire – A fourth entry and prequel to the Wayward Children series. I enjoy her stuff immensely. This was a pre-order.

Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee – I found this by going down one of those Amazon ‘customers who bought that also bought this’ rabbit hole. “When it begins, it begins as an opera should begin: in a palace, at a ball, in an encounter with a stranger, who you discover has your fate in his hands . . .  She is Lilliet Berne. And she is the soprano.” I know nothing about this at all. Liked the cover though.

The Violent Century by Lavie Tidhar – alternative-history novel, love those, and Tidhar is an extremely interesting author, so looking forward to this one very much.

Thornyhold by Mary Stewart – “The rambling house called Thornyhold is like something out of a fairy tale. Left to Gilly Ramsey by the cousin whose occasional visits brightened her childhood, the cottage, set deep in a wild wood, has come just in time to save her from a bleak future. With its reputation for magic and its resident black cat, Thornyhold offers Gilly more than just a new home. It offers her a chance to start over.”

So that’s it. For now at least 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mary Poppins Returns

step_payoff_poster3_united_kingdomThose of us who were children in the 1960s will have strong, and in my case very fond, memories of Julie Andrews as Mary Poppins, so when it was announced that a new film was going to be made I was a little anxious about how it would turn out. Once Emily Blunt was cast as the lead I relaxed a bit, and began to be excited about seeing the film.

And before I go into more detail, I am pleased to be able to say that it is really lovely and charming and highly entertaining.

Mary Poppins Returns is set in the Depression, several decades after the original, with the Banks children all grown up. Jane has followed her mother into political activism (hands up anyone who’d forgotten that Mrs Banks was a Suffragette) and Michael is a recent widower with three children, a job in the bank at which his father worked, and financial difficulties which may lead to the loss of the family home.

Cue the arrival of Mary Poppins.

If the original film was all about saving Mr Banks (and if you haven’t seen that film with Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks then you really should), then MP Returns is definitely about saving Michael. I will fight anyone who says it isn’t.

It is fair to say (as others already have) that this is less of a sequel and more an exercise in revisiting the original film. Not sure?

  • Non-cockney Cockney? Check.
  • Cartoon sequence? Check.
  • Really good songs? Absolutely, though only time will tell if they will last as long as, for example, Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious or A Spoonful of Sugar. But let’s give it time.
  • Lessons to be learned even in the middle of surreal situations? Yep.

Everyone will rightly talk about Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda but for me, Ben Whishaw was one of the best things in the movie. The children were also excellent and there were some very enjoyable cameos. And a special shout-out to Colin Firth’s moustache which made me very suspicious from the outset as to his intentions.

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Mary Poppins Returns was clearly made by people who actually love the original. It looks very familiar but also totally fresh and really manages to retain the spirit of the original film. And has made me want to re-read the books.

Highly recommended; it’s super.

Dazzling details: directed by Rob Marshall, MPR is 130 minutes long and rated U for everyone if you are OK with very mild threat. I feel I may have said this recently about something else….

Sunday Salon – 13 January 2019

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Not very much happened this week apart from lots of post-Christmas chores including (finally) taking down our Christmas tree which was only a week later than planned. So lack of activity means a short Salon post this week.

Books read

None finished but I made progress with…

Currently reading

Global Crisis – still working my way steadily through the 17th century; things that stuck in my head from the two chapters I read this week (Iberian Peninsula & France) :

  • The Portuguese rebellion was the only one in mid-seventeenth century Europe to become permanent
  • In 1639 Arthur Hopton, the British ambassador in Madrid, predicted that the ‘unquietness’ of Portugal ‘is not yet settled, the minds of the people being as ill-disposed as ever’
  • The King of Spain intensified the impact of climate change more than any other seventeenth century ruler by making appalling policy choices
  • Anne of Austria, Queen Regent of France, managed to overlook the danger of (as described by Cardinal de Retz) “lifting the veil that must always cover what one might say and what one might believe concerning the rights of the People and the rights of kings, which always keep the best harmony when silent”
  • Also Olivares was a twit and a total liability (my considered opinion)

The Behaviour of Moths – didn’t read any of this novel this week, just wasn’ty feeling it for some reason

The City of Mirrors – the third in Justin Conin’s Passage trilogy; I started to read this (which I’ve had for a while) becasue a TV version arrives later this week

New Books

I may have been on a bit of a Kindle spree, so much so that there will need to be a separate post. Have pity on me, I am a chronic tsonduko sufferer 🙂

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Other stuff

We binged the last half of season one of Berlin Station. Loved it. I gather there are two more series and I will be looking out for those.

 

A Christmas Carol @ The Old Vic

aac-18-017A Christmas Carol is my absolutely favourite Dickens work and probably one of my favourite stories of all time. I have seen so many versions on film (my favourite of course being this 1951 version with Alastair Sim, and the most recent A Muppet Christmas Carol which *gasp* my husband had never seen) but it has been a long time since I saw a version on stage, so when I relaised that the Old Vic was repeating its hit from 2017 I bought tickets for us to see the production, which we did on 4 January.

It was totally worth it.

A Christmas Carol was written by Dickens in just 6 weeks during 1843, fueled by his rage and disgust at the poverty he saw around him and the lack of care, sympathy and, most importantly, practical help from those in society who were signifcantly better off. Or, as Dickens himself put it in a letter to a friend, the

sleek, slobbering, bow-paunched, overfed, apopleptic, snorting cattle

The staging in this production is nothing short of magical, with mince pies and satsumas being handed out as you enter the auditorium and lanterns hanging from the ceiling – I took a picture when we arrived which you can see on my Instagram feed.

The story has been re-worked but is still essentially that which we know and love, and the changes both make sense and are successful which is all that you can ask for, really. Stephen Tompkinson takes on the role from Rhys Ifans (whom I would have loved to have seen, having just caught him on TV as Hector in season one of Berlin Station) and is really very good indeed in the role. The use of music is wonderful, with everything from Christmas carols to handbell ringing, adding up to a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

It’s on until 19 January I believe, so if you get the chance do go and see it 🙂