Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Spring Fashion Trends 2015: Kimono Style Trench Coats

Neiman Marcus, Real Talk Open-Front Floral Trench Coat

The trench coat has a very utilitarian history, being originally created to be used by soldiers in the trenches of World War I. It is typically a raincoat made of water proof, heavy duty cotton or gabardine. 

Nau, Synfill Kimono Trench Coat
As it was adopted by the world of fashion it often kept its protective, heavy duty material while evolving aesthetically. This spring the trench coat is infused with a kimono style look that adds beauty, delicacy, and the sharp, wide, geometric cuts of traditional Asian fashion.

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Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Gunman

Muscles, Mayhem & Murder
Directed by: Pierre Morel

Cast: Sean Penn, Javier Bardem, Idris Elba, Ray Winstone, Mark Rylance, Jasmine Trinca, Peter Franzen

Review by James Colt Harrison

According to reports, Sean Penn insists he is not becoming another Liam Neeson and switching over to hard-core action films as opposed to starring in heavy dramas. If this isn’t an action picture we don’t know what it can be called!

The title alone gives you a clue as to what may be expected in the content of the film. Penn is certainly not playing a West Hollywood interior decorator. Screenwriters Don Macpherson and Pete Travis adapted the novel The Prone Gunman by French writer Jean-Patrick Manchette and assigned the part of hired assassin Jim Terrier to Penn. It’s impossible to relate the plot of the movie without giving everything away as it is, as usual with these action films, convoluted and complicated and not a simple Disney-type theme.

Penn’s character Jim Terrier is sent to the Congo as part of an assassination team set up by international mining interests. When a local Minister of the Mines tears up all international mining contracts, he is targeted to get snuffed out and Penn’s character inherits the job. Terrier was a former bad guy who wants to go legit, a story as old as Methusela. Penn is believable as the tough guy—although he still has a likeability about him---but we know he has a nasty job to do and he does it with skill.

Penn has buffed up for the role and has the body of a 25 year-old and a world weary, wrinkled-as-a-prune face to go with it. Could he have had a body transplant? Never mind, we get to see plenty of skin in his token love scenes with pretty Jasmine Trinca, a medic with Doctors Without Borders and, in her case, Doctors Without Clothes. Rival Javier Bardem plays jealous Alex, the civil liaison for the foreign mining companies. One look at Bardem’s smoldering eyes and snorting nostrils and we know he is going to be the villain. The only thing he lacks is the twirling moustache.

Enter former cohorts in the assassination plot who are now living in Europe. Burly Ray Winstone is a pal of Terrier and can be counted on to protect him. Bless his heart, but Winstone’s accent is thicker than Congo mud and not one word of his is understandable. Mr. Cox (Mark Rylance) who was a member of the original assassination team, lives  a posh life in London. Why? You have to see the movie to figure it out. Actually, you don’t have to see the movie to figure it out.

We don’t get to know any of the characters very well enough to really care for them. So that leaves us a little uninvolved. However, the action, the evil characters that float in and out of the film (Idris Elba as an Interpol operative excels in a cameo), the beautiful scenery in London, Barcelona and Catalonia, and Penn’s innate charisma carry the film through an unsurprising climax. Despite all the flaws, we genuinely enjoyed the film, the exciting thrills, and Penn’s new turn as an action star---despite his protests.

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Monday, March 16, 2015

Fashion Trends Spring 2015: Gingham

Forever 21, Belted Gingham Shirtdress
Gingham is such a cozy material. It is made out of simple, woven cotton or linen cloth with a check or plaid pattern. The colors are commonly blue/white or red/white. It can vary from very small, checkered pattern to very large checks. It is normally associated with comfort and imply a rustic, country-style, laid-back look.

Neiman Marcus, Splendid Long-Sleeve Gingham Shirt

This spring gingham is leaving the "strictly comfort" look behind and going a little more upscale, trendy, and hip. Very popular on the fashion runways this spring, gingham reminds us that it can be very bold and graphic as well as fashionable. 
Tess Giberson, Long Skirt w/placket
H&M Balconette Bra

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Friday, March 13, 2015


Classic Fairy Tale with Laughs & Romance
Director: Kenneth Branagh

Cast: Lily James, Richard Madden, Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham Carter, Stellan Skarsgaard, Derek Jacobi, Ben Chaplin, Sophie McShera

Review by James Colt Harrison

Director Kenneth Branagh has gone from Shakespeare to Cinderella, which only proves his versatility in the theatrical arts. Branagh is a national treasure in England, where he is a classically trained actor. Guiding the actors with a light-hearted touch proves delightful and fun. Everybody knows the story of Cinderella, so there is no surprise there. And, of course, the happy ending is expected as in the original story. But we’re not here for the story but more for how it is told.

Disney always loves to mix comedy with drama, giddiness with pathos, and the updated version of the classic Cinderella tale is no exception. Little Ella is only 10 years old when she loses her mother (Haley Atwell). Daddy (Ben Chaplin) remarries (Cate Blanchett) and presents Ella with two dreadful stepsisters ( Holliday Grainger and Sophie McShera of Downton Abbey fame). Of course, there would be no story if he didn’t die himself. Little Ella is left to contend with her Wicked Stepmother, who treats her as a lowly servant. Cate Blanchett does some serious overacting but is missing the campier elements of such a character. Perhaps Joan Collins would have been a better choice. Being a far better clothes-horse than Blanchett, Collins is campy just standing there and doing nothing. Blanchett looks chic in Sandy Powell’s costumes, but Collins would have looked more like an overdressed drag queen and would be far funnier.

Anyone who is not familiar with the Cinderella saga must not yet be born or grew up in the Borneo forests with hedgehogs and no Disney theme park. When Cinderella accidentally meets the handsome prince (a dashing young Richard Madden of Game of Thrones) while horseback riding, we know she will automatically fall in love and he will also be smitten by the mysterious young girl. Madden is a good choice for the Prince as he exudes the charm, likeability, and solid build of a young Scotsman (b. June 18, 1986). Madden seems to have the acting chops he earned at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama.

Pretty and innocent Lily James is the grown-up Cinderella. We’re all familiar with her as Lady Rose in her TV hit Downton Abbey. She brings the youthful exuberance and fun-loving nature she displays as her character in Abbey to her iconic Cinderella. Born Lily Thomson in England April 5, 1989, she is a graduate of the 2010 class at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London.

The movie has a gorgeously lavish look, partly due to its being shot on film and in widescreen process by Cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos. Production Designer Dante Ferretti has done his usual outstanding job, and costume designer Sandy Powell has dressed both the ladies and men in form-flattering, colorful period pieces.

The new Cinderella is a harmless and fluffy piece of charming entertainment with some laughs, romance, and drama that should be pleasing to the entire family.

The movie will appeal to those who love fantasy and laughter.

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Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Elephants & Laughter
Director: John Madden

Cast: Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Dev Patel, Richard Gere, David Strathairn, Celia Imrie, Penelope Wilton, Diana Hardcastle, Ronald Pickup, Tamsin Greig, Shazad Latif, Tina Desai, Lillet Dubey

Review by James Colt Harrison

Oh, what joy there is in watching outstanding actors at the top of their profession! No screen actors today can match Judi Dench and Maggie Smith when it comes to scene stealing. It’s done with such ease, such cleverness, and just a little slyly without malice. But, there it is---one can’t look at anybody else on screen, and pity the poor actor who must appear in a scene with either of them.

In a second helping of the Marigold Hotel saga that is imaginatively called The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, the story continues about the snow-on-the-roof-gang who has moved from England to India to run and live in a hotel owned by young Indian star Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire). Maggie Smith, as Muriel, runs the front desk with an iron will. She’s just as pungent with a razor-sharp quip here as she has proven on television’s Downton Abbey.

The old gang is still here---with the exception of Tom Wilkinson who had an early demise in the first film--- and all are seeking different things for their Golden Years. Dev Patel plays Sonny Kapoor, the overly exuberant proprietor of the previously shabby Marigold Hotel. We see it a few years after where the first film left off, and there have been some physical improvements made. His ambition has never flagged, and now he seeks financial help to expand his empire by buying another hotel with the advice of an American banker, played smoothly by Oscar® nominated David Strathairn. Patel’s character of Sonny is also enmeshed in the very complicated process of an Indian marriage to his long-time fiancĂ© Sunaina, as played by famed Bollywood dancing star Tina Desai.

Sonny’s scheme of buying another hotel and planning his marriage are all throw into an uproar with the arrival of Guy Chambers, played by silver fox Richard Gere, posing as a novelist. Sonny believes he is a spy planted by the investment firm that will approve his application for money. In what is almost a French farce, plans go awry when Chambers meets and becomes smitten with Sonny’s gorgeous mother, veteran Indian superstar Lillet Dubey. Mom, of course, doesn’t approve of anything, least of all Sonny’s ambitious plans. She is open, however, to a little romance with the handsome Mr. Chambers. Sonny is horrified his mother has any romance left in her, and reacts hilariously to her newly-awakened sexual needs.

Everything dissolves into an uproar as the wedding plans overwhelm Sonny. Evelyn and Douglas (Dench and Bill Nighy) can’t decide to throw caution to the wind and have an affair, and Norman and Carole ( Ronald Pickup and Diana Hardcastle) wade through the choppy waters of matrimony. Old maid Madge (Celia Imrie) comes into her own with two gentlemen persuing her. With the cast having many years of training on the London sage, each and every character portrayed is a gem of subtlety and depth.

There are many laughs in the film as it is essentially a bright and cheerful story. There are moments of pathos where appropriate, but in general our spirits are lifted by the youthful enthusiasm of Sonny’s ambitions and by the wisdom of the elder cast members. As a bonus, we are treated to the obligatory Bollywood musical sequence at the end as it celebrates Sonny’s elaborate marriage to Sunaina. Dance! Dance! Dance!

Dame Judi Dench is Britain’s treasure. She’s also globally loved for her iconic performances in such world-wide hits as the James Bond thriller Skyfall in which she played agent M, and Philomena, in which she played a mother looking for the son she had given up at birth. It was an Oscar®-nominated role directed by Stephen Frears. She was nominated for an Oscar® for her role as Queen Victoria in Mrs. Brown and won the Academy Award® as Best Supporting Actress in Shakespeare in Love. The current Queen Elizabeth recognized Dench’s numerous contributions to the theater and films by bestowing the Order of the British Empire in 1970 and the DBE (Dame of the British Empire) in 1988.

Maggie Smith has captured world-wide attention as the matriarch and Dowager Countess on TV’s hit series Downton Abbey, which has brought her new young fans. She, herself, claimed the prestigious DBE when she became a Dame in 1990. Her stage debut was at the Oxford Playhouse in 1952 and her Broadway appearance in New Faces of 56 brought her to the attention of American audiences. She appeared in many British stage productions with Laurence Olivier and appeared in many plays at the National Theatre of Great Britain. When she starred in the hit 1969 20th Century Fox film The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, it kicked off her long and varied film career both in the United States and in Britain. For this part she won the Oscar® and BAFTA Awards. She also picked up another Oscar® as Best Supporting Actress in 1978’s California Suite.

Young Dev Patel gathered rave reviews for his performance in the  Academy Award®-winning hit Slumdog Millionaire from director Danny Boyle. The film won Best Picture and Best Director among it’s 8 wins in 2009. Patel was singled out for Best Breakthrough Performance by the National Board of Review and the Broadcast  Film Critic’s Choice Award for Best Young Actor. After starring in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Patel turned his interest toward television and starred with Jeff Daniels in the HBO hit The Newsroom.  His next film is Chappie with Hugh Jackman and Sigourney Weaver.

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