Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Alice Through the Looking Glass starring Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway ... a new hair-raising trailer

In the new trailer, the reimagining of Alice Through the Looking Glass looks deliriously, crazy good to me. I don’t know if this is what Lewis Carroll had in mind and I’m not sure it’s for your average kidlet but for any boomer who ever dropped a tab, this looks like a sweet trip down an insane memory lane. I’m pretty sure that’s what they did at the production meeting.

Alice Through the Looking Glass stars Mia Wasikowska as Alice, an insane asylum escapee plus Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Sascha Baron Cohen, Michael Sheen as the voice of the White Rabbit, Stephen Fry as the voice of the Cheshire Cat and another chance to hear Alan Rickman as he voices the Blue Caterpillar. Alice Through the Looking Glass opens May 27th. Are you going to go as Alice? 

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Trailer for True Deception is also the trailer for The Adderall Diaries starring James Franco, Amber Heard & Ed Harris

This poster is as disturbing as I hear the movie is!

Don’t be deceived. The trailer below for True Deception below is actually the trailer for The Adderall Diaries, but for some unaccountable reason the film is being released in the UK on April 22nd under the True Deception title. It’s slated for release here in the states on April 19th. Starring James (busy, busy, busy) Franco, Amber Heard, Ed Harris, Christian Slater and Cynthia Nixon, True Deception AKA The Adderall Diaries was scripted and directed by a woman, Pamela Romanowsky. The Adderall Diaries is based on the memoir by Stephen Elliott. 
Here’s the rundown on the story from the publisher, Grey Wolf Press:
In the spring of 2007, a brilliant computer programmer named Hans Reiser stands accused of murdering his estranged wife, Nina. Despite a mountain of circumstantial evidence against him, he proclaims his innocence. The case takes a twist when Nina’s former lover, and Hans’s former best friend, Sean Sturgeon, confesses to eight unrelated murders that no one has ever heard of. 

At the time of Sturgeon’s confession, Stephen Elliot is paralyzed by writer’s block, in the thrall of Adderall dependency, and despondent over the state of his romantic life. But he is fascinated by Sturgeon, whose path he has often crossed in San Francisco’s underground S&M scene. What kind of person, he wonders, confesses to a murder he likely did not commit? One answer is, perhaps, a man like Elliott’s own father. 
So begins a riveting journey through a neon landscape of false confessions, self-medication, and torturous sex. Set against the backdrop of a nation at war, in the declining years of the Silicon Valley tech boom and the dawn of Paris Hilton’s celebrity, The Adderall Diaries is at once a gripping account of a murder trial and a scorching investigation of the self. Tough, tender, and unflinchingly honest, it is the breakout book by one of the most daring writers of his generation. 

IndieWire has a review based on the film’s screening at Tribeca last year.

I Saw the Light starring Tom Hiddleston & Elizabeth Olsen: See it or Skip it?

I dunno. It looked pretty good to me. The trailer for I Saw the Light with Tom Hiddleston, everybody’s favorite Loki, taking on the portrayal of American country music classic, Hank Williams looked—and sounded—good to me.

Now the movie has opened and YIPES! those rotten tomato ratings are not looking good. The reviews reveal that while Tom Hiddleston–Hiddles as his fans affectionately dub him—is in fact great as Williams, the movie is not so much.

Glenn Kenny at gave it two stars:
While Hiddleston’s is the standout performance, and why not, the rest of the cast is formidable: Elizabeth Olsen, Cherry Jones, Bradley Whitford, David Krumholtz and a host of others do superb work in roles of spouse, mother, business associate, and so on. 
And yet the movie flounders.” 

Kenny blames writer/director Marc Abraham for not being able to put together a coherent story out of William’s woefully tragic and incoherent life. 

Peter Travers at the Rolling Stone notes Americans might bitch about a Brit playing the American country star who died at age 29, his death fueled by alcoholism and addiction:
But haters should snap out of it. Hiddleston is a virtuoso and he gives the role his considerable all, including singing such Hank hits as "You're Cheatin' Heart," "Lovesick Blues" and the title song in a voice that persuasively suggests the real thing. It helps that he's singling live with a backup band. Hiddleston is not what's wrong with this movie. But damn near everything else is.
 Travers blames Abraham too:
Writer-director Marc Abraham has made the boneheaded decision to focus on Williams as a horndog boozer, leaving the creation of his music as an afterthought. Wait, what? You heard me. Instead of discovering something about the exhilaration Williams found in carving out his feelings in song, we get endless scenes of marital discord and drunken self pity.” 
Isn’t that a pity! If you could care less about the critics—my bff wants me to see My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 with her even though I’ve told her the critics have been less than kind— I Saw the Light is in theaters now. I’m thinking of trying o convince her to see I Saw the Light instead. 

Have you seen I Saw the Light? Should I see My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 with my pal, or try to persuade her to give Tom Hiddleston’s latest movie a go?

See it or Skip it? You tell me.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Grantchester starring James Norton is back.

I love it! Grantchester is back. I got addicted to the crime solving duo of vicar Sydney Chambers and detective Geordie Keaton last year in season one of Grantchester and now the show is back, on PBS Masterpiece here in the US, and shameless about getting the vicar out of his clothes! James Norton fans who felt short-shrifted while watching War and Peace should be thrilled.

Last night’s episode opened on a picnic scene that had the sexy pastor (the handsome as Robert Redford, (James Norton) and the cop (Robson Green) disrobing to their bathing suits before jumping into a small, chilly looking pond while Sydney’s housekeeper (Tessa Peake-Jones) and curate (Al Weaver) plus Geordie’s wife (Kacey Ainsworth) and kids sat by eating cucumber sandwiches. 

Geordie teases Sydney that he won’t always be so damn handsome and the whole party agrees what he needs is a woman. Except for the curate, (Al Weaver), who we all are pretty sure is gay, but deeply in the closet as this is Grantchester, a small English village in the vicinity of Cambridge in the 1950’s. 

The charismatic Norton and Robson are so good together—Sydney, compassionate, interested in what makes good people do bad things and Geordie, no-nonsense, let’s solve this crime now, no matter what—come to verbal blows as often as not, as they go about delivering justice, each balancing the other’s excesses. 

In last night’s episode, Sydney is accused of sexually-assaulting a love-starved teenage girl, an episode which allows us to look at the condemnation of women for having sexual natures, the punishment delivered for those sexual natures by the denial of birth control and legal abortion and the hypocrisy of the church as it moves its’ ministers along rather than see them get their punishment from secular society. 

Most episodes include at least one sigh-worthy visit to the unhappily married Amanda (Morven Christie), Sydney’s best friend and, as any Grantchester viewer knows, his true love. Geordie is right, Sydney does need a woman, and it’s crystal-clear the woman he needs is Amanda. The show follows the Sam & Diane, Ross & Rachel school of television writing, they know the delicious pleasure in watching the two resist each other, keeping them apart.

Originally based on a series of stories by James Runcie, this season is newly written for the screen. I’m watching on PBS Masterpiece at 9pm Sunday nights. If you need more James Norton, he plays a very different part on Happy Valley—this time he’s the sociopathic bad guy—watchable on Netflix which just started airing Season Two. 

Watch the Grantchester trailer, and tell me what you think.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

To Sir With Love starring Sydney Poitier: #SaturdayMatinee

A story as fresh as the girls in their minis ... and as cool as their teacher had to be.” That tag line’s impossibly heavy-handed now, but Sydney Poitier was, and remains, the epitome of cool. 

Poitier was the first black man I fell in love with. Black boys and men were a rarity when I was growing up in Canada in the sixties. In middle school in Niagara Falls, George Bell was the only black boy on campus, period, an outsider. It was 1967 and I was 13 when I saw Sydney Poitier in the now classic To Sir with Love. Everything about the drama called out to me. 

The tough London kids, girls with their white lipstick and cool clothes, the boys with their wild bravado. And this calm, classy man with the velvety voice, determined not to lose his temper, determined to break through. Like Judy Geeson as Pamela, I wanted to dance with Sir. Like Lulu as Babs, I wanted to send him my love in a song. Never mind the seething racial tensions, I was consumed with the unconscious seething sexual tension that comes with puberty.

At a time when the world was seething with racial tension, the true story of the black teacher who calls the kids on their bigotry, and changes their outlook, spoke to me with its portrayal of world so different from the safe suburban skies I lived under. 

Based on the book by Rick Braithwaite, a former Royal Air Force pilot and Cambridge-trained engineer, about his own experience teaching in the London slums, To Sir with Love got no love from the Academy. Back then an Oscar nomination for a black actor was as rare as a George Bell sighting in my neighborhood. 

Poitier, perfectly beautiful, talented Sydney Poitier, has won only one Oscar in his entire career, Best Actor for the 1963 film Lilies of the Field. He was the first black actor to win an Oscar, a feat that wouldn’t be repeated until 2001 when Denzel Washington took home the Academy Award for Training Day, 38 years later. 38 years! It makes me realize that #OscarSoWhite will stay a ‘thing’ until things really change.

Here's the trailer for To Sir with Love. 

Below is the final scene from the movie. If you’ve seen the To Sir with Love chances are that scene with Lulu singing the Grammy-nominated hit song will make you a little weepy. If you haven’t seen the film, it’s today’s Saturday Matinee, available to stream on Amazon, YouTube, iTunes, Vudu, and Google-Play. 

To Sydney Poitier, with love.


Friday, March 25, 2016

Despite the Falling Snow starring Rebecca Ferguson: My take on the movie

Despite the Falling Snow starring Rebecca Ferguson doesn’t have a US release date yet but it opened the L.A. Womens Film Festival last night. I’ve been antsy to see this movie ever since reading the book by Shamim Sarif a few months back. Sarif also wrote and directed the film so I was surprised at a couple of changes from the book. That’s the thing about movies though, they really are different from books and do demand different approaches.

Fans of Rebecca Ferguson should be pleased. The up and coming star—a standout in Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation—is on screen for most of the movie, playing both Katya, the Cold War spy, in 1949, and her look-alike niece Lauren in the 1992 storyline. As she did in Rogue Nation, Ferguson lights up the screen and I’m looking forward more than ever to see what’s next for the charismatic actress. She’s currently filming The Snowman with Michael Fassbender, based on Jo Nesbø’s crime thriller. The Girl on the Train with Emily Blunt & Florence Foster Jenkins with Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant are in the can. Life with Ryan Reynolds and Jake Gyllenhaal is in pre-production. 

I was disappointed that Charles Dance played a smaller role than the part his character played in the novel. On paper, the older Alexander is key, his character exciting as the hugely successful chef who heads a successful food empire much like Wolfgang Puck. Contemplating the sale of his business he finds himself drawn to the mother of his chief potential buyer—a bright young woman who becomes the love interest for his niece, Lauren— all while Lauren’s interest in her aunt, sends him spiraling back to the past. I was looking forward to seeing tall, handsome Dance whip up magic in the kitchen. And I was looking forward to the romance between the older pair. But that’s my older women’s bias. I can see that subplot would be a bit too convoluted a story to tell onscreen.

Instead, the lesbian love affair between Lauren and her uncle’s potential buyer—except now the buyer is a Russian journalist—is intensified in the film, replacing the old fuddy-duddy romance stuff today’s young audiences could care less about. In her scenes with costar Antje Traue as Marina, the newly-created journalist character, Ferguson crackles there too, the chemistry between the two believable and compelling. It was interesting to see a lesbian relationship within the confines of a mainstream movie, such a rarity that for me that it highlights how difficult it must be for LGBT audiences that their life experiences are so often left out of the media that mainstream audiences consume. 

Sam Reid (First Wives Club) is fine as the stalwart young Alexander. It’s a victory that he can share the screen with Ferguson without being eclipsed while Oliver Jackson-Cohen as the young Misha has no such problem. He’s magnetic and alive, incredibly watchable. One Brit show I’ve succeeded in avoiding is Mr. Selfridge; knowing Jackson-Cohen was in the cast may lure me to binge-stream it.

Cinematography was by David Johnson, the film looked beautiful, the falling snow casting a bit of magic. The music by Rachel Portman (Chocolat, Cider House Rules, One Day) perhaps a bit too heavy-handed with its themes of espionage and Russian overtones. 

For Rebecca Ferguson fans—and new Oliver Jackson-Cohen fans— Despite the Falling Snow is a must-see. Opening April 15th in the UK, no release date here in the US yet.

Have a gander at the trailer


Thursday, March 24, 2016

Let It Snow: 3 Stories from Maureen Johnson, John Green and Lauren Myracle Coming to the Screen

This sounds cool. Let It Snow, a collection of three interconnected love stories from John Green (A Cheertastic Christmas) Maureen Johnson (The Jubilee Express) and Lauren Myracle (The Patron Saint of Pigs) are finding their way to the screen. I think it’s safe to say they should be at the multiplex by Christmas Holiday 2017 although the script has already been written so if they hustle up to Buffalo, I suppose it’s possible the movie could come out this year. 

The genius writing duo of Scott Neustadter and Michael M. Weber— 500 Days of Summer, The Spectacular Now, The Fault in Our Stars and the upcoming Where’d You Go, Bernadette—revised the original script by Kay Cannon (Pitch Perfect, 30 Rock, New Girl).

What’s most interesting to me is the idea of three separate stories intersecting, written by three different writers, all with humorous but distinct voices. At 360 plus pages, the stories are novellas, really, not short stories.

Maureen Johnson’s entry, The Jubilee Express starts the collection off, with Jubilee starting her story off by explaining that, despite having the name Jubilee Dougal, she is not a stripper. She's a sixteen year old girl who sings in choir, attends mathlete events and plays field hockey—“which lacks the undulating, baby-oiled grace that is the strippers stock and trade.” Not that she has anything against strippers, her “major concern, stripage-wise, is the latex.” She thinks it’s probably bad for your skin because it doesn’t allow it to breathe. She’s probably right. 

So that’s a fresh, funny start, erasing any misconceptions you have about the sappiness of a holiday romance, right? 

Have you read the stories in Let it Snow? Talk to me about casting.

Luke Snellin, a director of Brit TV comedies—Fried, Mad Fat Diary, The Job Lot and Banana as well as a BAFTA nominated short, Mixtape will make his feature film debut with this one.

Let’s have a look-see at the director’s BAFTA winning short.  

Comments? Because I think it’s lovely, sweet but not saccharine.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Meet Kalden from the Circle by Dave Eggers: John Boyega


When she was finished, she opened the door to find the man in the same place, now looking out the window.
“You look lost,” Mae said.
“Nah. Just figuring out something before, you know, heeding upstairs. You work over here?”
“I do. I’m new. In C.E.”
“Customer Experience.”
“Oh right. We used to just call it Customer Service.”
“So I take it you’re not new?”
“Me? No, no. I’ve been here a little while. Not so much in this building.” He smiled and looked out the window, and with his face turned away, Mae took him in. His eyes were dark, his face oval, and his hair was grey, almost white, but he couldn’t have been older than thirty. He was thin, sinewy, and his skinny jeans and tight long-sleeve jersey gave his silhouette the quick thick-thin brushtokes of calligraphy.
He turned back to her, blinking, scoffing at himself and his poor manners. “Sorry. I’m Kalden.” 
page 91, The Circle 

And so we meet Kalden, the mysterious man who keeps popping up in Mae’s life at The Circle. In the movie starring Emma Watson as Mae, Kalden is played by Star Wars’ John Boyega. He’s not immediately the character as written by author Dave Eggers — thin and sinewy—and probably white so I’m excited that director James Ponsoldt looked beyond the externals to find his man. I’m looking forward to seeing the interplay between Watson and Boyega onscreen; in the novel their chemistry is a key component, their relationship secret and sexual. 

The Circle stars Emma Watson as Mae along with Tom Hanks as Eamon Bailey, Patton Oswalt as Tom Stenton, Karen Gillan as Annie, Ellar Coltrane as Mae’s former boyfriend Mercer and Bill Paxton (unknown).

I’m waiting for a release date, which is supposed to be sometime this year. While the book was ever so slightly heavy handed and repetitive, I think it’s going to make a heck of a film, especially if you like sci-fi thrillers. I’ll add it to my guide to Movies Based on Books 2016 when I get a firm date!


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

And over on my personal blog site ...

I’m interrupting the normally scheduled book-to-movie posting to ask you to consider giving this piece over on Sim Carter: Past Tense: Perfect/Imperfect a listen. Or a read.

The coleus under Bob and Helen’s front porch window are looking a little scraggly, nothing but tall leggy stems bending in their bed of dry cracked earth. I think how the gardener wouldn’t let them go like that if Bob hadn’t been so sick. If he’d been up and around, those plants would be standing tall, their leaves firm and perky, the ground blanketed with a soft, moist layer of mulch. Well tended, that was the best way to describe Bob’s garden, and come to think of it, Bob too. 
I try to remember if I even saw the gardener this past Wednesday, his usual day to come mow and blow. After all, who will notice if Bob’s plants die now? Not Bob while he’s sick in bed. Not Helen who uses a walker and rarely ventures outside. Bob told me once Helen wouldn’t allow him to get her a wheel chair, she couldn’t stand the idea of looking like an invalid. That sounds like Helen, the kind of woman that old-fashioned words like proud and stubborn apply to.
Read the rest of  the story, Undying Love

Or listen on SoundCloud

Hologram for the King: Comic Relief on a sad day.

—Okay. A husband and wife are getting ready for bed. The wife is standing in front of a full-length mirror taking a hard look at herself. ‘You know, dear,’ she says, ‘I look in the mirror, and I see an old woman. My face is all wrinkled, my hair is grey, my shoulders are hunched over, I’ve got fat legs, and my arms are all flabby.’ She turns to her husband and says, ‘Tell me something positive to make me feel better about myself.’ He studies her hard for a moment, thinking about it, and says in a soft, thoughtful voice, ‘Well, there’s nothing wrong with your eyesight.’
Alan Clay,  Hologram for the King, pg 114

That’s one of several jokes that Alan Clay tells his driver/ guide in Dave Eggers Hologram for the King. I woke up this morning to the news of the Brussels’ attack. Looking for something to make me smile, I remembered this passage from the novel. Hoping it makes you smile too.

Hologram for the King is headed to the multiplex in a movie directed by Tom Twyker and starring Tom Hanks as Clay, this April 22. You might have noticed it on the guide to Movies Based on Books 2016. Stuck in Saudi Arabia, a tech salesman for an American company, waiting and waiting for a meeting with King Abdullah, Clay has little to smile about. Nor do we, in this real world picture of how many of our country’s jobs have fled the country to cheaper shores. The occasional jokes that Clay tells his driver Youssef are more than welcome.


Monday, March 21, 2016

The Jungle Book ... Le Livre de la Jungle [bande annonce]

Le Livre de la Jungle, better known to those of us who didn’t make it past French 101 as The Jungle Book, opens here in the US on April 15th. Boasting big name voices like Scarlett Johansson, Idris Elba, Christopher Walken, Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley and Lupita Nyongo —each and every one with a unique, compelling sound— Le Livre de la Jungle hits France a couple of days before that, on April 13th.


Linking up with Paulita for Dreaming of France 


Sunday, March 20, 2016

The trailer for Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is a viral video hit. But WHO is singing that song?

I shared some enticing looking images from Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children from Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children earlier this month but somehow the trailer release on March 6th, slipped by me. Did it slip by you too?
No worry, it’s my Sunday Slacker video.

And I must say, I’ve been seeing the #StayPeculiar theme on twitter and liking the outsider appeal. We’re all oddballs, different in our own way, cheers to that!

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children stars Eva Green as Miss P. with Asa Butterfield as Jacob. Ella Purnell (we’ll be seeing her as young Jane in the upcoming Tarzan) Emma Bloom is the girl who sucks all the air out of a room—or something like that. The cast includes Samuel L. Jackson, Chris O’Dowd, Judi Dench, Terrence Stamp and Allison Janney, and looks less creepy than I’d thought, and curiously compelling.


Matthew Margeson and Mike Higham are the guys behind the music, not Burton’s usual composer of choice, Danny Elfman. I’m loving the song, There’s a New World Coming which I spent more time trying to track down than I did compiling the rest of this blog post and I still don’t know who the haunting voice belongs to! If you do, please, leave word in the comment section below.

Tim Burton. Sans Johnny Depp and Danny Elfman. Looking good. September 30th. 

You can follow Miss P. on twitter at @PeregrinesMovie 
On the web  and 
On Facebook: 

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Saturday Matinee: Blow-Up Starring David Hemmings, directed by Antonioni

Originally posted 3/21/15. 

Here's something for a Saturday afternoon: Blow-Up. Antonioni's first English language film earned the director (L'Avventura, La Notte) the Palme D'Or at Cannes and Oscar nominations for Best Director and Best Script written directly for the Screen—even though it was actually based on a short story by Julio Cortazar "Las Babas del Diablo".
 A mod London photographer seems to find something very suspicious in the shots he has taken of a mysterious beauty in a desolate park.
A tough movie to get out of your head. Just as compelling as the cool graphics and the very sixties trailer. Plus the clothes. I mentioned Hemming's style in my recent Steve McQueen, the McCoolest of all post.

The park at the top of the hill, a swathe of green and the ominous oooosh sound of the blowing of the leaves sticks with you forever. Watching David Hemmings, fashion photographer, blow up his photos of what he sees in the park is so curiously compelling. Click. Click. Click.
Haven't seen it? It's available to stream it on Google-Play, Amazon and Vudu and you really should.

Friday, March 18, 2016

THE LEGEND OF TARZAN: Alexander Skarsgård reveals his wild side

“Your husband’s wildness disturbs me” 

Edgar Rice Burroughs might not recognize it but the newest iteration of Tarzan is indubitably visually arresting. Alexander Skarsgård and Margot Robbie star in the 'me Tarzan, you Jane’ dynamic with Christoph Waltz playing true to form as some sort of villainous guy. The cast includes Samuel L. Jackson, Djimon Houssan (Blood Diamonds), Jim Broadbent and John Hurt.

A first class cast but the big stars of the film are the CGI artists who monkeyed around to pretty awesome effect—if you like that big sweep of angry apes rushing through trees and hordes of—what are they, water buffalo?—storming the plateau, and breaking through buildings. Looking like a page right out of the upcoming The Jungle Book, and a fun summer flick, The Legend of Tarzan appropriately comes out July 1st. 

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: My Take on the movie #THURSDAYTHROWBACK

March 17, 2016
I’m quite busy with John LeCarré right now, currently finishing up Our Kind of Traitor. The film version starring Ewan McGregor, Naomie Harris, Damian Lewis & Stellan Skarsgård hits the UK on May 13, no word on a release date here in the US yet. That being the case I’m going to revisit Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.  The film, fabulous from its’ period perfect clothing to Oscar nominated screenplay is currently available to stream on Amazon, YouTube, iTunes, Vudu, GooglePlay and Netflix. 

Here’s my piece, originally posted November 30, 2011:

Late yesterday afternoon, my husband and I took a beautiful drive from our Los Angeles suburb up the coast to Santa Barbara. He had an invite from Focus Features for an industry screening to see Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Having recently read the book, I couldn't wait to see it and I'd asked him to watch for the screening announcement in the mail. 
At this time of year our mail is full of envelopes from the studios who screen their award season contenders at multiple locations and times through the end of the year. Sometimes they are held in small private screening rooms at a studio, other times they're at public theatres. Mark's DGA card entitles him to entry with a guest. By the time he actually plowed through the stack of envelopes and called the RSVP line, all the Los Angeles screenings had been booked up. Hence the lovely drive up the Pacific Coast Highway at sunset, the sea glimmering to the west, Ventura, Carpenteria, Summerland, Montecito and Santa Barbara to the east, green and lush, the small mountain range hovering in the background. I always love this drive; had the film turned out to be a bomb, the hour each way in the car would have been enough. It wasn't a bomb, but it may be box office wise.

The screening was held in a small theatre, the Plaza de Oro; The Descendants and The Way were Now Playing. Pedro Almadovar's The Skin I Live In was Coming Soon. There were less than twenty of us in the audience; Santa Barbara being a satellite location, they hadn't expected a throng. Mark and I were the youngest people in the theatre, it was clear the rest of the group were insiders with at least a nodding acquaintance with each other, driving over from tiled roof Spanish style homes in the tony town of Montecito, weekend getaway of the quietly rich and sometimes famous.

The film started, sans the usual previews, typical for a screening. While the studio screening rooms don't have a snack bar, this theatre did but we passed on the popcorn and soda. The other notable thing that happens in a screening is most of the audience actually stays to watch the credits, something that never happens on a Saturday night at your local movie house. It's not just a sign of respect; you search the names looking for old friends and colleagues or because you were so wowed by the makeup you have to know who keyed it, where was it shot, who played that small but spectacular part?

And so it began. And right off the bat, it was different from LeCarre's gentle start with Jim Prideaux arriving at the school in its bucolic setting. Instead we are taken to the Circus right away. If I thought for a moment that the film might be leaving LeCarre's quiet suspense behind in favor of a more modern taste for fast action I was wrong. The film moves slowly but steadily along, with frequent flashbacks from this spy or that to explain what they knew, when they knew it, and who they told, thereby explaining the intricacies of the plot.

But do they? Having read the book, I had a pretty good handle on who the fairly large assortment of spys and counterspies were and what they were doing. And yes, in this somewhat tidied up version, a few of those names were lopped off; I wonder how easily the storyline is followed by someone who hasn't (heaven forbid) read the book first?

All the key players are that special brand of British actor—every movement solid and believable, no false notes. John Hurt as Control was every bit as wild and paranoid as his literary counterpart. I wonder if he will be considered for a Best Supporting nod.

I do think it wouldn't have hurt Gary Oldman to have picked up a pound or two to pad his girth so he could more readily be LeCarrés fat barefoot spy, and I admit to examining the lines on his face from one scene to another to determine their source, makeup or life. Makeup I think. Having said that, I thought he was quite wonderful in his patient, calm, quiet reserve on the exterior, George Smiley. He isn't really called upon to do much more than that though, with a couple of exceptions, one being where he sees his wife in the arms of another man. (Won't say whose arms for those who haven't read it) so I don't think it has the histrionics needed for award season.  The director has all but hidden the elusive Ann from our eyes, perhaps so we can create the perfect fantasy woman that Smiley holds her to be? There is a lovely moment when we view George from the back, as he sees Ann, his legs barely buckle at the sight. It's a very subtle and perfect touch.

Tom Hardy is sensual and gives us the touch of sex we all secretly crave but he's more than his full, almost pornographic lips. His recounting to Smiley of the Irina adventure is one of the most endearing and emotional scenes in the film.

Mark Strong isn't at all what I pictured when I read about Jim Pridoux and they've changed a bit about his role in the plot (in the book it's a little more action-oriented!) and I would have loved some more sweet moments with Bill Roach and the other boys but he won me over; his eyes tell a thousand tales. I really feel the need to imdb him and see everything else he's been in. My husband worked with him on Tristan and Isolde starring James Franco and says Strong is just a terrific guy, classically trained, brilliant and intensely likable.

Colin Firth, the film's resident movie star, as Bill Haydon was quite as charming as LeCarré intended but isn't he always? That mix of swagger and vulnerability, the offhand smile; he's quite deadly.

Benedict Cumberbatch will no doubt fetch a ton more 'cumberbitches' after this one, I think. He knows how to wear those 1960's clothes and he's a fantastic ally for good ol' George.

The director, Tomas Alfredson, is a Swede who has done mostly nordic television work so I can't quite fathom how he landed such a plum job. He did helm the vampire flick "Let the Right One In" which has a huge cult following. Bridget O'Connor and Peter Straughan wrote the screenplay together as they did Sixty Six,  a film I've never heard of. BUT Straughan also wrote The Debt and Men Who Stare at Goats so the writing assignment does make sense.

Grey and gloomy London, Budapest and Istanbul, the Circus with it's soundproof modules, tatty old English homes and Control's crazed hoarder's flat all read beautifully and authentically thanks to Maria Djurkovic's production design, and Hoyte Van Hoytema's cinematography. The costume design by veteran Jacqueline Durran was perfect in its imperfection, just what you would expect from someone who did the wardrobe for Atonement, Pride and Prejudice and Vera Drake. Her latest film is Anna Karenina (what? again?) with Keira Knightly and Jude Law; period pictures are clearly her element.

In the end, I thoroughly enjoyed the film while finding some of the English accents a bit muddled even for the daughter of a couple of Brits. I found its slow pace, revealing the ins and outs methodically, compelling. I'm just not sure if the film will find its audience; mature, appreciative viewers and readers who don't mind doing a bit of work following along to get to the end. No visual tricks, barely a gun shot. An ending that's a bit more telling than the book's and ultimately a bit more satisfying for those who like things tidy. I just found out from imdb John LeCarre is uncredited as a party guest. See if you can spot him.

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