Monday, October 24, 2011

Voices: Favorite Actors On My Mind - Nicola Walker, Trevor Eve, Ben Daniels, Damian Lewis

Continuing the series that I call Voices I’m featuring this time four actors whose work I admire and who have recently been in my thoughts. Two of the actors starred in British television series that have now aired their final episodes, one left his role in a television series recently, and the fourth is starring in a new series for American cable television.

Nicola Walker

Ruth Evershed was the only woman in Spooks/MI5 that I could identify with. I still remember the thrill I felt in the series episode when Harry (Peter Firth) and Ruth (Nicola Walker) first go out to dinner and Harry confesses having a romantic “thing” for Ruth.  

Nicola Walker played Ruth to perfection, and if Harry was the heart of Spooks, Ruth was the soul.

I  also recently greatly enjoyed her funny and wonderful guest appearance in the UK series Being Human.

Nicola Walker started her career in the Cambridge Footlights, a theatrical club founded and run by students at Cambridge University.  She’s worked in films, television, theater, and radio.
Below you can listen to Nicola in a 2006 BBC Radio play called Gilly about Internet dating:

Trevor Eve

I can’t remember the first time I saw Trevor Eve on my television screen. Thanks to U.S. public television and now BBC America I’ve watched him now for a couple of decades.  He’s one of those actors that never seem to be out of a job, you can always count on him to give a good performance, but also  to always do it in his own special style. Some of my favorite series with Trevor Eve through the years have been Parnell and the Englishwoman (1991),  Heat of the Sun (1998) and Waking the Dead (2000-2011). He’s also appeared in films like Troy.

In Waking the Dead he played Detective Superintendent Peter Boyd, the head of the Cold Case Squad.  I was sad to see the final episode a few weeks ago on one of my local PBS (US public television) stations. Waking the Dead was another series, like Spooks, that I’ve followed from the beginning.

Below Trevor Eve reads an excerpt from Shakespeare’s sonnet “Is it for Fear to Wet a Widow’s Eye”:

Ben Daniels

No question that Ben Daniels has a lovely male voice that commands attention. He’s a graduate of LAMDA (London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art) and has appeared in several British television series,  and films, and has a distinguished stage career.
I know Ben Daniels for his role in the series Law & Order:UK as  Senior Crown Prosecutor James Steel.  For me he was the moral center of the series and the voice of justice. Daniels left the series this year and I miss him.

Below is Daniels as the Vicomte de Valmont  in Les Liaison Dangereuses with Laura Linney in a 2008 US  production.

Damian Lewis

Damian Lewis is playing another role as an American soldier in a fascinating new TV series, Homeland, on Showtime. Homeland can be seen on Sunday nights at 10:00pm, or on Mondays at the same time when I usually watch it.

However, my favorite Damian Lewis roles (before the current one) are in two British television series when he talked in his own native accent, as Soames in The Forsyte Saga (2002) and as Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing as part of the series Shakespeare Re-Told (2005).  Of course, audiences know him well from the HBO TV series Band of Brothers (2001) about World War II.

Below he reads a poem from the Great War (World War I) called "High Wood" written by Philip Johnstone (Lt. John Stanly Purvis) in 1918.


Do you have a favorite series or favorite actor that you miss seeing these days?  

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Adios to Spooks

One of my favorite TV series of all time, Spooks (or MI5 in the US) will air its last episode tonight in the UK. I've watched it from the start, and that's not an easy thing to do if you live in the US. I miss Tom Quinn, Adam Carter, Ros Myers, and most of all Lucas North. But the heart of the show has always been Harry Pearce (Peter Firth) - good job Harry!

As the old saying goes,  all good things come to an end.

So today an old video/slideshow of mine to say my goodbye's to Spooks.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Mao's Last Dancer - It Could Have Been A Contender

I was very interested in seeing the film Mao's Last Dancer (2010) after seeing an interview with the dancer himself, Li Cunxin.  The movie is based on his autobiography of the same name about his childhood in rural China, being selected to attend Madame Mao's Beijing Dance Academy, and his defection to the United States in 1981. Li was very compelling and charming in the interview and his story had tremendous potential to be a great film.

My first clue that it wasn't the film it should have been was when it didn't stay in theaters very long. Also being a ballet fan, I know that films about the ballet world tend to be somewhat melodramatic. So it was with some doubt that I decided to see the DVD at last a few weekends ago. 

The most successful part of this film are the scenes filmed in China, with what I understand from "the making of" documentary several non-actors.  The performances from all are compelling, especially Wen  Bin Huang who plays Li as a child.  At 11 years of age Li is literally plucked from his family to go to ballet school in Beijing. The family knows this is an opportunity of a lifetime, though it means not seeing him again. We get wonderful scenes of the school and the young dancers growing up. There are also great scenes of Li with his teachers.  

We also learn of the heavy hand of the communist regime, and especially the school's patron, Madame Mao. (She was Chairman Mao's last wife and played a major role in the Cultural Revolution.)   One redeeming quality of the film is that the story is told partially in flashbacks, so through much of the film we get the good scenes from China.  

But once our dancer Li comes to the United States as an exchange student with the Houston Ballet the film becomes a "movie of the week"  from the Lifetime channel.  The poor young man, now played by dancer Chi Cao,  has to play all the stereotypes of the naive foreigner just off the boat in the United States. From this moment on the film seems to lose any connection with the real story and the real man. The amateur performances by the professional actors are sometimes laughable. How sad that a story with such potential, and with noted director Bruce Beresford should fail in so many ways. 

Chengwu Guo as Li

In addition to the scenes filmed in China, the ballet scenes that are interspersed throughout the film are worth watching.  We see Li (played at different ages by dancers Chengwu Guo and Chi Cao) dancing Swan Lake, the heroic communist ballet's of the Cultural Revolution, and modern classical choreography in the U.S. with the Houston Ballet. 

Li enjoys the artistic freedoms he experiences with the Houston Ballet and falls in love with an American dancer.  When he requests to stay longer in the U.S. his request is denied. That leads to a standoff  inside the Chinese Consulate by Li, his sponsors in the ballet, and his American lawyer with the Chinese diplomats.  He has to then make a decision that will affect his personal and professional life forever. 

In conclusion I would advise skip the film and read the book. I  haven't read Li Cunxin's autobiography yet, but I'm positive it is better than the film. In all honesty I can't say I hated the film, I'm disappointed that a great true story about the triumph of the human spirit was made into such a mediocre film. 

The real Li Cunxin

Monday, October 17, 2011

Films and Museums in Partnership

Johnny Depp, "The Rum Diary" Premiere at the Los Angeles County Museum Of Art

There's an interesting article today in about how it is getting increasingly difficult to find art house audiences for certain films and how museums are also finding it difficult to attract crowds to certain events. They blame the "information inundation" for distracting audiences who even open their laptops during a film screening.

This has resulted in a partnership between the film industry, movie stars, and museums:

While fears persist that dramas, foreign-language and older movies by master directors may be crowded out of theaters, most curators remain confident that, over time, nothing will replace the collective experience of seeing a movie on a big screen. They say museums are the perfect place for that. 

But just showing a film is no longer enough. For the premiere of  "The Rum Diary" Johnny Depp not only made an appearance, but he took part in a panel made up of the film's director, Bruce Robinson, and museum curator and former film critic Elvis Mitchell. 

Will audiences stay home in the future watching films on their individual laptops over getting together with like minded strangers in a dark theater to share the experience?

To read the entire article click HERE.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

More Fun with Richard Armitage and Coffee - Video Part Deux

I hope Richard Armitage is enjoying some good coffee and tea in New Zealand to help him get up at dawn to get into makeup and costume to play Thorin. Lately I've been thinking of him in the morning and wandering how he spent his day.  I may have to read The Hobbit again because I can't remember if Thorin drinks coffee. I hope he does. 

When I'm having problems getting up early I have coffee with Lucas North, and maybe later in the morning a cup of tea with John Thornton.  Today I needed even more of my favorite RA Java Jive moments to start my day:

I think he needs to make  a coffee commercial. 

Looks like RA is enjoying good coffee in Wellington:

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Sean Bean Film Windprints on US Cable TV in October

Windprints is one of Sean Bean's early films and a difficult film to find since it is not (yet) available on DVD.

U.S. Cable Channel Starz will be showing the film in October on their Starz in Black channel. I don't know if Starz is available in other countries, so check your cable provider.  The film will air on October 6, 10, and 22.  Check on link below for times:

Back in 2010 I posted  a mini-review of the film, and I'm revisiting it here:

 "Windprints" (The Killing Wind) 1991 - is a politically charged mystery that took a snapshot in time of the political realities of apartheid in South Africa and Namibia. The film was written and directed by South African director David Wicht. This film is unique because the political story is told through the story of mysterious Nhadiep (Lesley Fong), who may or may not be terrorizing white farmers, and his own people, the Nama. This film is almost impossible to find since it’s not out on DVD and the video is difficult to find. I was lucky to finally see it a couple of years ago when one of the US cable channels showed the film for a few weeks.

Sean plays Afrikaner Anton van Heerden, camera man and journalist conflicted about his role in fighting the injustices in his country. He joins jaded veteran British journalist Charles (John Hurt) to cover the story. I believe the plot was based on a real story, and the mystery and the characters’ lives end in a rather unresolved way, just like real life. Sean’s character, Anton, is the conscience of this film, and he proves his ability to transform himself in a role, South African accent and all.
 If you want to read my original post, including a review of another early Sean Bean film, "Stormy Monday", go to the link below:

If you've seen "Windprints" or any of Sean Bean's early films, would love your comments :)

Sunday, October 2, 2011

King Richard Armitage Website Special Fan-Art Event for October

Calling All Artists

King Richard Armitage Website and all of us participating bloggers are celebrating Richard III of England's birthday this October by launching a Fan-Art Event and a Fan-Art Page on the Website.

The fan art form and format that you create is up to you, video, paintings, sculpture, all is art and much more. What is art has had different definitions throughout time, but I like the descriptions on the Everyday Art website for a class discussion of the question. If interested, you can find the page HERE.

Britannica Online describes art as: -- "the use of skill and imagination in the creation of aesthetic objects, environments, or experiences that can be shared with others"  

A living work of art, for example:

Of course, the art work you submit must have a connection to Richard Armitage and  Richard III.

Below are the details from the King Richard Armitage website. Please note the great offers to artists that submit their work during the month of October:

Fan-Art Event (October 2011):

What we have to offer to those brave participants:

* a presentation of the fan-art (form is open and up to you) on the KingRichardArmitage-Website

* promotion on participating blogs

* an interview with you (if you like),

* an analysis of the fan-art (if you like) from Servetus on Me+RichardArmitage.

Only condition:

Topic must be related to Richard Armitage and Richard III in some way.

For more details about the Fan-Art Event and King Richard III's Birthday go to the website:

Don't Miss right hand sidebar! Richard Armitage on the cover of Cine Premiere October 2011 Issue!
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