The English Teacher has potential, I think, as I’m thumbing my way through Netflix on a Friday night. Julianne Moore, Greg Kinnear, Nathan Lane. It looks like a romantic comedy that could work on an otherwise long evening.
I took a chance. I enjoyed it. I watched it all the way through. It wasn’t so terrible that I had to quit 10 minutes in, but it was definitely not as good a film as you might expect from Julianne Moore and the other exemplary members of this cast.
The plot was fine. Julianne Moore is an English teacher – one of her former students returns to town feeling like a failure because his play was rejected – she decides to get the play produced at her high school. Nathan Lane is fantastic as the high school drama coach. Michael Angarano is perfect as the talented but immature playwright. Greg Kinnear, who of course we know will be Julianne Moore’s love interest simply from reading the cast list, does a fine job as the father of the young playwright and eventually makes it to love interest category. The play gets produced with a few bumps along the way.
Maybe “bangs” along the way would be a better term. Michael Angarano and Julieanne Moore have a moment on the desk in her classroom which adds complications to the plot. Especially when he then moves on to the high school girl leading the play, Lily Collins. And, of course, there are the complications involved in getting Moore and Kinnear together after they get off to a rocky start.
Predictable plots are a romantic comedy staple and new approaches to the various plot changes are always appreciated. This film does fine at that.
No, it wasn’t the plot.
It was the cute.
There was too much cutesy voice over. (Voiced by Fiona Shaw, by the way.) That grew annoying. Also, there was the cutesy way the teacher graded men like they were an English essay and we saw her “notes” plastered on the screen as she talked to them. If I could magically sweep away the cute, I’d recommend this as a great representative of the romantic comedy genre.
Alas, I can only recommend it as an average representative of the romantic comedy genre. Which, of course, is why I watched it all the way through and found it entertaining. Let’s face it, if you’re into rom coms, you’re used to average.
Check out the trailer.
If you watch The English Teacher, I’d love to hear your opinion of the cute. Was it as annoying to you as it seemed to me?
If you can pry the TV away from the football fans, there are many good movies available for instant streaming that can be fun for a family holiday weekend. Here are a few ideas for your Thanksgiving viewing.
For the Grown-Ups
Robot & Frank is delightful. Frank, warmly played by Frank Langella, is a former jewel thief and second story man who is losing himself to Alzheimer’s. His son, James Marsden, gives him a robot butler to take care of him. The robot makes sure he eats healthy and takes his pills. Plus, the robot can carry on an interesting conversation. One problem – or bonus – the robot makes no moral judgements about theft. The robot is voiced with great charm by Peter Sarsgaard.
Robot & Frank appeals because of its older lead characters. Here’s another.
A more complex story with many more characters that would do well for the family over a holiday weekend is The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. The cast includes many of the world’s best actors, most of whom are over 50! There will be a part 2 of this delightful movie in the future.
For the Younger Crowd
If you plan on heading out to the theater to watch The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, why not watch the original The Hunger Games before you go to refresh everyone on the story?
Katniss Everdeen, played by Jennifer Lawrence, is an inspiring character that everyone in the crowd can root for.
There’s plenty of action in The Hunger Games, but another action-filled option for the late teen/young adult contingent would be The Avengers.
Everybody loves a good superhero, right?
For the Little Ones
Why not step back in time a bit to something the kiddos haven’t already watched 80 times in the last week. And why not pick something with enough humor to keep the adults interested, too. Once such choice is Cars.
Don’t be afraid to go way, way back to old classics. They always satisfy and keep the little ones glued to the floor until dinner is ready. How about Chitty Chitty Bang Bang one more time? You know you enjoy it.
Our modern world brings so much choice in entertainment into your home every day. Why not put some of these movies in your watch list for the holiday?
Coming in December, The Invisible Woman stars Ralph Fiennes as Charles Dickens. Fiennes also directed the film. The title character is Nelly Ternan (Felicity Jones), a young actress whom Dickens met at the height of his fame and had a secret affair with. The costume drama also stars Kristin Scott Thomas, Tom Hollander, Michelle Fairley and Joanna Scanlan. It opens on Christmas Day.
Judi Dench is not happy about the R rating Philomena received in the U.S. The rating was the result of a couple of utterances of the word fuck. According to Variety,
Harvey Weinstein geared up for a familiar ratings fight, appearing on “CBS This Morning” to announce that he and Philomena star Judi Dench are “in a battle” with the MPAA, since the drama was rated R, unjustly in many observers’ opinions, for using the F-word twice. Mr. W. gave the morning show the first look at a brief video with Dench as her M character from the James Bond series — with the M helping spell out the word “Philomena.” The 23-second spot is a teaser for an upcoming Funny or Die video.
I want to see Philomena, and I want to see the rest of this Funny or Die video! What a tease.
Funny or Die has released more of the video. Here you go:
Watch the trailer for Philomena here. It’s a film that looks perfectly wonderful with no violence, gun battles, overt sex or any other taboo you might worry about for younger kids, unless you’ve somehow managed to protect them from ever hearing the F-word uttered.
Updated Again. It worked!
The fight to get the rating lowered in the U.S. to PG-13 was won. Go see this great movie with your kids.
Philomena is a tale about an Irish woman searching for the son she was forced to give up. It stars Judi Dench and Steve Coogan and will open in late November in theaters.
In a month full of superhero releases, Philomena is one bright spot of a human-sized story about a real woman and her lifelong quest to find her son. If you’ve been thinking of scheduling a movie into your time off for Thanksgiving weekend but don’t want to see Thor or some other violent fantasy hunk bash people, Philomena looks like a wonderful choice.
Bomb Girls was a Canadian series, canceled after 2 seasons. It was a WWII story about women who worked in a bomb factory called Victory Munitions. It ran in Canada on Global TV and in the U.S. on Reelz. It’s available on Netflix.
The show had a huge and enthusiastic following. After it was cancelled, a #savebombgirls campaign started on social media, especially Twitter, lobbying for a movie. The campaign worked!
The original cast, including Jodi Balfour, Charlotte Hegele, Ali Liebert and Canadian Screen Award-winning actress Meg Tilly, are all back for the movie, which is set in spring 1943. The workers at Victory Munitions are tasked with making newly developed sonar equipment, but there may be a saboteur in their midst.
To celebrate the upcoming TV movie, I decided to rewatch the entire series on Netflix. I am up to season 2, episode 6, “Where There’s Smoke,” which is the episode these screen shots came from since that’s what I was about to watch when I started writing this post.
The series focuses mainly on a few of the many women who work at Victory Munitions. They are led by Meg Tilly as Lorna Corbett. Meg Tilly so seldom appears in movies or on TV, and she is so wonderful when she does. It’s worth watching this series just to see her in action.
Lorna has grown children – played by Natasha Greenblatt and Brett Dier – and a husband crippled by his service in “the great war,” WWI. The husband is wonderfully played by Peter Outerbridge. Brett Dier does a great job as the son, a tail gunner home from the war to go on a Victory Bond tour as a hero, but he suffers from what we now call PTSD.
Lorna is the “floor matron” and mother hen to all the young women who come away from their former lives to work in the bomb factory.
Part of the story deals with the fear and ostracism of Italian and German Canadians who were sent to camps as soon as Canada entered the war. Lorna’s character is involved with trying to get a particular Italian, Marco (Antonio Cupo) fired from the bomb factory as a security risk. Marco is a handsome Italian and is a temptation to Lorna as well as several other women in the story. I don’t want to give you any spoilers about Marco, but he is important to many storylines in Bomb Girls.
The theme of prejudice and bigotry appears in other ways in Bomb Girls, with German POW’s, Italian internment camps, Japanese-American soldiers, and an Indian doctor that Lorna’s daughter falls in love with.
Jodi Balfour plays the rich Gladys Witham. Her parents own Witham Foods, an important supplier of rations to the soldiers. Gladys is engaged to an American (Sebastian Pigott) who her father (James McGowan) is bringing into the company. When America, enters the war, Gladys’ fella enlists.
Gladys is a rebel and wants to work in the factory, on the floor, making bombs. She does this, although it causes a lot of family conflict. She becomes friends with the other girls who work on the floor. She also rebels against the sexual standards of the day in ways that her parents think “could ruin her.” She rebels against her parents view of the war as a great opportunity to make huge profits. If one member of the cast could fill the role of what modern women were set to become after the war, Gladys would fit the bill.
Tahmoh Penikett joins the cast as factory security head toward the end of season 2 and gets Gladys involved in security. This storyline apparently continues in the movie, because Tahmoh Penikett is in the movie and the mention of saboteurs would fit his and Gladys’ part of the story.
Charlotte Hegele is Kate, a runaway from her oppressive and abusive father. She’s using an assumed name and trying to find a new life. She’s a wonderful singer and performs a number of songs as the stories unfold.
One of the times Kate performs, she’s part of a trio doing a jingle for Victory Munitions. In those days, women’s trios all sounded like The Andrews Sisters, but Kate also sings jazz, religious songs, and ballads.
Kate spends a lot of time hiding her real identity and name, a habit which causes her problems when she finds a steady boyfriend.
Kate and Betty (Ali Liebert) live in the same rooming house, work the same shift at the factory, and soon become fast friends. Betty’s feelings for Kate run to love, not friendship. Kate is not able to return Betty’s feelings in the way Betty wishes she would, which causes some conflict between them. Even so, Betty is very protective of Kate and helps her escape from her father for good.
One of Betty’s ploys to try to fit in at the factory was to have a boyfriend – a very unsatisfactory relationship for her. About midway through season 2, episode 6 to be exact, Betty meets a soldier named Teresa (Rachel Wilson) who makes it plain very quickly that she understands Betty’s sexual inclinations and shares them.
When Betty is with Teresa, she finally has her first sexual experience that feels right to her. Betty is what might have been called “a tough cookie” in the 40s, yet she is complex and vulnerable in surprising ways.
Anastasia Phillips as Vera is the final major female character in the story. She is injured while working the line and has a terrible scar.
The scar affects Vera’s self-esteem in interesting ways – it brings her near suicide, but she comes out of it. She uses sex to help heal herself on the inside as the scar heals on the outside. In her job at the factory, it turns out she’s really smart and capable and she ends up bringing all sorts of good ideas to Victory Munitions. Vera is the kind of woman who probably went on to run a business of her own after the war.
Themes of friendship and feminism permeate the stories in Bomb Girls. All of the women in Bomb Girls teach each other lessons and offer each other strength. They also teach their male bosses, boyfriends, and families exactly how vital and important women are to the war effort. It was an exciting time for women in Canada and everywhere, and their stories explain how women’s early steps into feminism and the workplace happened.
Rosie O’Donnell does a turn as a newspaper reporter who inspired Lorna to ask for raises for herself and the girls, making equal pay another theme in the series.
You may not be old enough to remember how things looked and sounded in the 40s, but I am. The details in Bomb Girls in costuming and sets and props and music and radio broadcasts and magazines and every other way are perfect. And all those women’s hats! It’s a complete treat to watch just for the way it looks and sounds.
If you haven’t watched this series about women’s lives during a pivotal period of history, I think you’ll enjoy checking it out.
Angel, Spike, Xander, Mal Reynolds, Jayne, Dr. Horrible, Victor, Topher Brink, Tony Stark, Agent Coulson. Great characters. I enjoy them all. One thing they have in common is that they are some of the on-screen characters under the guiding mind of Joss Whedon. He uses some great characters in his stories – at least half of them are men.
I don’t care about any of those guys. Why? Because everybody writes great male characters for film and TV.
Joss Whedon does something that everybody else doesn’t always do. He writes great female character, too. Speaking as a woman, I can testify to the fact that women are desperate to see great female characters on their various screens. When someone like Joss Whedon gives us that with brilliant consistency, women notice. I pay homage to him today.
Here’s a little treat in the form of a few of the women Joss Whedon invented for the screen, with Joss’s fuzzy and warm face right in the middle. I’m not going to name characters and shows to match up with the faces below. If you don’t already know those facts, you need to embark on a study of Joss Whedon’s filmography immediately.
I love you, Joss, and every woman you ever created.
Whedon on Whedon Women
This is an old speech, from 2006 and Equality Now, but I know Joss Whedon still gets the same question everywhere he goes. It’s worth listening to his answer one more time.
Joss is right. Instead of asking him why he’s doing it right, we should start asking everyone else why they’re doing it wrong.
On 4 November, Equality Now will honor award-winning writer, director, producer and Advisory Board member, Joss Whedon, for his work on gender equality at an event in Beverly Hills, California. Chaired by Board member Gloria Steinem and hosted by Paul Reiser.
Tatiana Maslany got so much attention for her amazing work in Orphan Black. The series Orphan Black received rave reviews. Orphan Black looks and smells like success and money. How you gonna jump on the Orphan Black bandwagon?
Noomi Rapace is set to play 7 different sisters in What Happened to Monday? The premise of this dystopian sci fi future world is that overpopulation has limited the number of children allowed per family to one.
There are the rules, and then there are 7 baby girls. Seems we have septuplets on our hands. They are hidden away and only allowed to be seen one at a time.
The What Happened to Monday? director is Tommy Wirkola of Hansel and Gretel. Rapace played Lisbeth Salander in the Millennium series films – the original Swedish versions, not the American one – of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest. She has also been in several American productions.
There’s more good news for the 7 sisters in What Happened to Monday? They were originally supposed to be 7 brothers, and Wirkola decided Rapace was perfect for the part. So, maybe they are cloning the clones, but they have a good star and what could be a good idea.