Begorrathon 2017: Traveling through the movies

This is the latest in an ongoing series of posts about movies that make you want to travel somewhere. I’ve done Ireland before, with the movie Leap Year. This time, the movie is called The Boys and Girl from County Clare, released in 2003. The difference is that the movie hasn’t actually been filmed in Ireland for the most part, it was filmed mainly on the Isle of Man which is also a place I haven’t been and would like to go.

Here, then, is my review of the movie for this year’s Begorrathon, the month of Irish culture being held at Raging Fluff and 746Books.

John Joe and Jimmy meet for the first time in over 20 years. It does not go well.

The year is 1965. The place is Ireland. The event is an annual Céili  competition, traditional Irish music played in the traditional Irish manner on traditional Irish musical istruments. You get the picture. The competition is fierce and hotly contested. John Joe and his band have won the event the past three years but John Joe’s younger brother who’s been living in Liverpool and also has a Céili band, is determined to enter and win the competition this year. The brothers fell out years ago over a woman and each is determined to stop the other from attending. What follows is a comedy of errors with a family secret to be revealed at the end.

Anne, Maisie and John Joe

John Joe and Jimmy’s lives have taken very different paths, as has their third brother’s. Young and talented Anne in John Joe’s band has never been told the name of her father by her mother Maisie. You can kind of predict where this is going. Talented Teddy plays in Jimmy’s band and naturally, falls for Anne. While the brothers struggle to keep their bands traditional, the younger generation is beginning to be influenced by the 60s pop culture scene, Beatlemania and hippie culture being at their height. The Times they are a-Changing and all that.

Bernard Hill plays John Joe and Colm Meany plays Jimmy, two actors that will be familiar to you, I’m sure. Andrea Corr, who plays Anne, has a musical background, being a part of the Corrs. You may also have seen her in The Committments. The reviews have not been all that great and it’s fairly predictable, but I really enjoyed it. The antics made me laugh, the actors are ones I always like, the style of humour is dry and typically Irish, the traditional music is played with joy and enhances the movie perfectly, and the scenery as the bands make their way to the competition is a feast for the eyes.

As I said, the movie was filmed mainly on the Isle of Man and somewhat in Northern Ireland, both locations that are places I have never been and would like to go someday. As far as the Begorrathon tie in, well, even if the filming location wasn’t focussed in Ireland, the story and the music was.

Jimmy’s band at the All Ireland competition trials

John Joe’s band at the All Ireland competition trials

John Joe, Jimmy and their brother Father Padjoe

Links to lots more of the Begorrathon posts are here.

Traveling through television: Sherlock

Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square

Occasionally, I write a few lines about a movie or tv show that has great locations, shots that make me really want to visit somewhere. In today’s blog, it’s somewhere I’ve been quite a few times and it’s not so much a case of “I want to go there” but “I want to go back there” and that somewhere is London. I know I’ve featured London before in this series of posts but if you want a really good look at the city, not just the famous landmarks but the streets and neighbourhoods, the BBC series Sherlock is excellent.

We’ve been delving into a box set of Sherlock, the BBC series featuring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as Sherlock and Watson. It was filmed on location mostly in London with some locations in Wales that stand in for London. It was apparent right from the start that they were out and about in London itself because London has a distinctive look in spite of having a great many different neighbourhoods. You get a look at all the famous sites such as Trafalgar Square, Houses of Parliament (Westminster) and the Tower Bridge and Tower of London. You get to see the London skyline sometimes from a vantage point across the river to the Southbank. You watch Sherlock and Watson running through the streets of Covent Garden, Picadilly Circus and Soho at night.

Picadilly Circus from above

Picadilly Circus from above

We were part way through the second episode of Series 1 and both remarked at the same time that it was just like being back there. It’s always fun to watch for familiar views when you’ve been somewhere that a tv show or movie has used for filming and you can smugly point and say “I’ve been there”. We are enjoying the series as much for that as for the stories themselves.

Sherlock’s famous home, 221B Baker Street doesn’t actually exist in London. Standing in for it is 187 North Gower street, a bit further east, not far from the British Museum.

221B Baker Street (not really!)

221B Baker Street (not really!)

187 North Gower St.

187 North Gower St.

One of the scenes has Sherlock running through an antiquities museum. It seemed like a large place and I wondered why it wasn’t looking at all familiar. I’ve been in most of the big museums in London but it turns out that location is actually inside the Welsh National Museum in Cardiff. There are a few other spots and buildings in Cardiff they used as well including this one below, taken from the first series.

Actually a college in Cardiff

Actually a college in Cardiff

If you like London or want to go there, Sherlock is a great series to feast your eyes on the city’s streets and monuments. There are three series and only three 90 minute episodes in each. The stories are great, they’ve updated it really well. And then, there’s Benedict Cumberbatch! Arguments? Thought not.



Fangirlquest’s Sherlock location page

Britmovietours does a Sherlock location tour

There’s going to be a fourth series!

Traveling through the movies: London (Burnt)

BurntLondon is my favourite city and I really love watching movies that are shot there. In many cases you get the usual shots of famous landmarks but often you also get scenes filmed on London streets and markets, too. I watched a 2015 movie over the weekened called Burnt starring Bradley Cooper and enjoyed watching the exterior shots quite a bit.

The movie is about a top chef, Adam Jones (Bradley Cooper) who worked in Paris for a mentor, attaining two Michelin stars but ruined both his own career, the restaurant and a restaurant of one of his friends due to his addictions and diva-like temper. He cleaned up, shucked oysters in New Orleans and then came to London to get his career back. He persuades Tony (Daniel Brühl) who is running his father’s posh restaurant in a hotel to hire him back and gathers several other former coworkers as well to be on his kitchen team along with an up and coming female chef, Helene (Sienna Miller) who’s also a single mother. Emma Thompson has a small role as a psychiatrist that Adam must check in with on a weekly basis for drug tests as a requirement of his employment, due to mistrust and wariness Tony and his father hold for Adam.

In his quest for a third star, Adam proves to be as volatile as ever and since he still owes money to an old drug dealer, he’s kept on his toes trying to avoid a confrontation there as well. There is romance, sabotage and a lot of both arrogance and self pity and of course he learns a valuable lesson in the end. That’s not spoiling, that’s predictable. The movie isn’t bad and if you love food, it will really appeal.BurntLondon2I loved the exterior shots, and particularly a few of the night shots that really showed off London’s lights (though I couldn’t for certain say they were real or cgi, they did seem and feel real. I hate that about modern movies, you never really know at times if the background shots are the real thing).

London at night in the film Burnt

London at night in the film Burnt

There are some street shots that are typically London.  I try to identify streets and in this first one, the number 24 bus winds through Pimlico and Victoria station and up through Charing Cross Rd, Tottenham Court Rd and up through Camden. I think this section is probably Charing Cross/Tottenham Court area unless it’s north of Camden.


London streets with the number 24 bus


Emma Thompson and Bradley Cooper in Burnt, likely West End London

Then there are the typical shots of the landmarks. Billingsgate Market is integral to any story featuring a restaurant since buyers will go there at the crack of dawn to get the fresh fish for that day’s menu and we see exterior and interior shots.


Billingsgate Market, London

This shot seems to be taken just under or near London Bridge, with the view of Tower Bridge and the HMS Belfast. Looking at the map and using Google Street view, it seems like it’s probably “Hanseatic Walk”.


Tower Bridge

And two more shots, just for placement so you know where you are. The movie plays out a few minutes before the opening credits which happen when Adam arrives in London.

BurntLondon3 BurntLondon1

Traveling through the movies: Scottish Highlands

WWDOOH1This installment of “Traveling through the movies” takes us to the Highlands of Scotland, particularly the northwest coastal area. The movie is What We Did On Our Holiday, from 2014, staring Rosamund Pike, David Tennant, Ben Miller and Billy Connolly.

The basic premise is that Tennant and Pike are Doug and Abi MacLeod, a married couple on the verge of divorce, which has been very hard on their three children, ages about 4, 6 and 10 or thereabouts. Doug’s father, Gordie is turning 75 and as he is very ill with terminal cancer, the family is going to drive up to Scotland for a large birthday party, likely Gordie’s last. Gordie lives with his older son and family, Margaret and Gavin and Kenneth. Gordie is a bit tightly wound and Margaret is struggling with depression. Kenneth is struggling with his father’s high expectations. Gavin and Doug seem to have a long time rivalry.

WWDOOH2The day of the party dawns and Gordie and the three younger grandchildren head to his favourite beach for the afternoon to get out of the way of the party preparations. While watching the children, Gordie dies on the beach and the children decide to give him the Viking funeral he told them he wanted, rather than have a lot of fuss and warring family members. They build a raft, and, using a spare can of gasoline from Gordie’s truck, set him aflame and push him out to sea. The repercussions are many but the movie ends with Gordie’s friends and family celebrating his life under a spectacular sunset on the beach.


Red Point Beach, Wester Ross

The scenery is the real winner, here. There are shots of the car driving down roads with the mountains rising bleakly on either side. The beach is surrounded by hazy purple mountains but the water is blue and the sand white. It’s easy to see why this is Gordie’s “God’s country”. I’ve been to the Scottish Highlands a couple of times, and this movie certainly makes me want to go again, hop in a car and drive wherever the notion takes us. It’s a beautiful country, much of it remote and with single track roads the further north you go.


Billy Connolly as Gordie MacLeod

There are pleny of movies that are set in the Scottish Highlands but many of those are actually filmed elsewhere, Ireland being one of the favourite replacements. Many of the castles in Scotland are seen in films, including Eileen Donan (Highlander, The World is Not Enough), Duart on the Isle of Mull (Entrapment) and Doune (Monty Python and the Holy Grail and the tv series Outlander which has lots of other scenes filmed in the Highlands as well). A few examples that have scenes filmed in rural Scotland include Braveheart (Glen Nevis and Loch Leven), Prometheus (Isle of Skye), Skyfall (Glencoe),  and a new upcoming version of MacBeth.


Traveling through the Movies – A Monster in Paris

monsterTraveling through the Movies is an series of occasional posts wherein I talk about movies that I’ve seen with wonderful location shots, scenery that makes you want to travel to that location.

This latest movie is a bit different than the usual travel type movie. This one will take you to Paris but a Paris that is idealized, stylized and animated. Yep. A Monster in Paris is an animated movie.

The movie takes place in Paris 1910. A young film projectionist, Emile, and an arrogant inventor, Raoul, cause havoc in the laboratory of an absent scientist and a seven foot monster is created as a result. The monster, which turns out to be a giant flea, falls in love with a lovely young chanteuse, Lucille, who sings in the “Oiseau Rare” (The Rare Bird).
The “monster” is sympathetic. He didn’t ask for what happened to him and hates that everyone is afraid of him. Lucille takes pity on him and befriends him, helps to disguise him into an almost-pseudo Phantom of the Opera like get up so her friends can save him from the murderous Commissioner. There’s an underlying love story, too. Raoul and Lucille, who bicker and seem to be at odds are pretty much ensure that they will end up together. Emile and Maude who works near his cinema house are shyly awkward but you know they’ll find a way to work it out as well. It’s a bit of a mystery how the 7 foot tall flea turns out to be a guitar virtuoso and composer who also has an excellent singing voice and the ability to perform a very pretty two step, and some of the story is a bit far fetched even for an animated film but it’s fun to watch anyway.






It’s a good romp through the streets and skies of Paris. The artwork that creates the Paris of 1910 is exquisite. It’s delicate, misty, filled with little details. It looks like a storybook.



Begorrathon Movie Review: The Grand Seduction

GSposterHere’s another Brendan Gleeson movie review, posted for Begorrathon, a month celebrating all things Irish. It also gives you a great view of the rural coastal area of Newfoundland, should you want to travel to this gem of a Canadian province.

The island province of Newfoundland, in Canada, is still dotted with small fishing villages around the coast, many of which are still only accessible by boat. These fishing villages are dying out due to the collapse of the fishing stocks on the Grand Banks and the population is either abandoning the villages for work in the cities, or trying to attract new businesses if they can. The movie is about the fate of Tickle Head, a village that has suffered. Most of the residents are collecting welfare aside from the few that own or work in local businesses such as the small bank or the post office or local pub. But there’s a chance that they can attract a petrochemical factory, with jobs and a new lease on life for the village and it’s residents. They only thing they need to have in order to put in a bid for the factory is a resident doctor and therein lies the problem. They haven’t had one of those in 8 years.

Gleeson’s character, Murray, is the driving force behind the search for and persuading of a new doctor. Meanwhile, Murray’s wife has left him for a job in St. John’s, the capital city of the province and we also notice that the Mayor and his family do a midnight flit to the city as well. How to find a doctor? Well, coincidentally, a young and arrogant city doctor is changing flights in St. John’s and is caught with cocaine. The security guard just happens to be that former mayor and he sentences the doctor to spend a month in Tickle Head, working for free and he charges Murray and the rest of the residents to do their best to make Tickle Head seem like a really great place to work, hoping that the doctor won’t want to leave but without telling him the real reason why they need him.

To get out of the drug charge, Dr. Paul Lewis agrees. Now, Paul is a cricket player and fan and one of the funniest scenes in the movie has the residents trying to figure out how to play cricket and cobbling together white uniforms. As the new doctor is being ferried into the harbour by boat, he sees a cricket match being played on the rocky hillside and is astonished and he insists on joining them. Oh no! Seeing as they really have no idea what they’re doing, will they be caught out? I won’t spoil it!

GSCricket GSCricket2

Other shenanigans include having the telephone operator spy on Paul’s phone calls, gleaning more likes and dislikes so that they can fine tune their Grand Seduction. Murray makes friends with Paul and most of the rest of the villagers stumble through their deception.  The factory company throws a bit hitch in the plans and that adds to the overall difficulty. It’s a rocky road as the village struggles to survive while their brighter future is tantalizingly close yet just out of reach.

Watching Cricket when they'd rather be watching the hockey game!

Listening in

This movie is actually an English remake of a 2003 movie made in Quebec. It stars the venerable Canadian actor, Gordon Pinsent, and the Irish Brendan Gleeson. The humour is wry and dry and so typical of the wonderful down to earth natives of Newfoundland, one of Canada’s beautiful provinces. The movie was shot in Trinity Bay which you can visit by road, rather than boat. I thought it was a lovely little film, not really an unusual plot by any means but the characters are wonderful, the humour is a treat and the ending is, of course, happy. It’s available on DVD and BluRay.


Newfoundland is a grand province to visit. If you are into outdoor activities, the fishing and hiking are amazing. There’s a lot of history in this province, reportedly one of the earliest North American places founded by John Cabot over 500 years ago. The Vikings had a settlement here as well, even further back and you can visit the site a L’Anse Aux Meadows. Wildlife and bird watching enthusiasts will enjoy it here and the city, St. John’s, is a wonderful place to visit as well. (but mind the steep hills!) Outside of the city, you’ll probably need a vehicle as there isn’t a lot by way of public transportation.

The Grand Seduction on IMDB
More Begorrathon.

Traveling through the movies (Paris) – My Old Lady

MOLPosterKevin Kline is one of my favourite actors. You can always be sure you will enjoy any film he’s in. Given the added bonus of Maggie Smith and you’ve got a winner. I discovered My Old Lady and the story sounded interesting. A middle aged man inherits a Paris apartment from his father, a man that he didn’t get on with and had been estranged from for some time before his death. He is divorced and spends his last penny on a flight to Paris, intending on selling the apartment for a small fortune. But he discovers that the method of the original purchase of the flat is a “viager”. The law in these types of real estate transactions is very old and it dictates that he must pay the sitting tenant (former owner) until she passes away before he can sell the apartment.

The sitting tenant is, of course, Maggie Smith and her daughter, played by Kristin Scott Thomas, lives with her. Kline’s character, Mathias, falls for Kristin’s character, Chloe while he wheels and deals trying to raise the money he must pay the old lady, Mathilde. He then discovers a secret. Will he manage to sell the house? Will the secret affect his new relationship?

MOLParis1This movie takes place in Paris. The apartment is in the neighbourhood near the Place des Vosges in the Marais district. There are wonderful shots of the streets of Paris in addition to some of the more well known sites including the riverbanks of the Seine.  It’s particularly poignant as we were planning to stay in the Marais when we had planned to visit Paris last year. Our holiday had to be cancelled but if we manage to get there again, this movie is definitely inspiration!


Kevin Kline (Matthias) on the banks of the Seine


Another view of the Seine


Notre Dame at night


The Streets of the Marais


My Old Lady on IMDB

Traveling through the movies – Southwest France

I recently watched a movie that was filmed in the beautiful area around Toulouse, France which is in the southwest area. It’s called The Hundred-Foot Journey. There were a few small villages that were used as locations but in general, that whole area probably looks very similar once you are outside of the city itself. Little villages, stone buildings, cobbled squares and narrow lanes set near a river in a little valley beneath rolling hills. Lovely!

The movie is about an Indian family from Mumbai who have lost their restaurant and the mother of the family in a fire. They live in London for a short while then decide to move on to the continent. Their van breaks down outside of a small village, Saint Antonin, with a suitable building for sale that Papa (played by Om Puri) decides could be renovated into a restaurant, a curry house. Unfortunately, it’s also across the road, one hundred feet,  from a grand restaurant that has a Michelin star, run by a snooty woman whose greatest desire is to achieve a second star. Neither is about to give in and it’s war!

Meanwhile, one of the sons, Hassan, is a gifted chef and he falls for one of the sous chefs, Marguerite, that works for Madame Mallory (played by the wonderful Helen Mirren). That makes things difficult! He ends up working for Madame who discovers that he is a natural talent and nurtures the talent. Eventually, Hassan moves to Paris and becomes acclaimed. It’s based on a true story though I haven’t read the book but I really enjoyed the movie, directed by Lasse Hallstrom, not just for the scenery that makes me want to visit that part of France. The story and the main characters are wonderful, though the rest of the Indian family really doesn’t get much of a look in at all.

Here’s a few screen captures:
100Yard 07m55s square

100Yard 15m55s village

100Yard 15m58s58

100Yard 23m18s carAlley

100Yard 42m45s maison mumbai

100Yard 49m19s winter

100Yard 55m06s valley

100Yard Paris

Paris in the winter

100Yard Paris sculpture

A view through the courtyard at the Pompidou Centre

100Yard Paris sunset

Paris at sunset

According to IMDB, some of the locations used were Castelnau-de-Lévis, Tarn, Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val, Tarn-et-Garonne, Saint-Jory, Haute-Garonne, France

There’s a trailer here. And Here’s the official movie website.

Traveling through the movies – London and Venice

Wings_of_the_dove_ver1Wings of a Dove – 1997

This is a period piece, based on a Henry James novel, it takes place in Edwardian England, 1910.  Helena Bonham Carter plays a poor relation, Kate, who has been taken in by her well to-do aunt after her mother dies. Her father is an alcoholic and drug addict. Kate’s in love with a radical and political journalist, Merton, played by Linus Roache but now that she’s the ward of her rich aunt, he will never do as a husband. Meanwhile, her aunt is trying to arrange a marriage for her  with a rich man, Lord Mark, rather than let her make the same mistake her mother did, marrying a lower class man. Aunt Maud puts her foot down and forbids Kate and Merton to see each other.

Kate meets a young American heiress, Milly, who is alone in the world aside from a companion, played by Elizabeth McGovern (currently known as Lady Grantham on Downton Abbey). Milly is very, very rich and finds herself attracted to Merton. Lord Mark, though,  he does love Kate, needs to marry Milly because he needs her money after she dies.  It turns out she is tragically and fatally ill. Kate persuades Merton to make a play for the heiress, let her fall in love with him in order to inherit her millions so that they can be together after Milly’s death. As you might expect, things don’t go according to plan.


Arriving in Venice at night

Knebworth Hall standing in for Lord Mark's shack

Knebworth Hall standing in for Lord Mark’s shack

The scene moves from London to Venice when Milly decides to go traveling.  Kate goes with her and Merton is persuaded to go llater and meet up with them there. Kate soon leaves them, thus all the better to get Milly to fall for him but she is jealous and paranoid, suspecting Merton is developing feelings for Milly as well.

London's Serpentine Gallery in Hyde Park

London’s Serpentine Gallery in Hyde Park


Venice Sunrise


A small back alley in Venice

There are good location shots in various London parks and streets  and in the underground, fitted up with an old train rather than the new ones. The joy really comes when the location moves to Venice. There are beautiful shots of the bridges, piazzas, canals and buildings, with wonderful early morning and evening light much of the time. There is a costume party on a street at night, there are romantic midnight rides  in gondolas, there are sunrises and sunsets over the wonderful Venetian skylines. We see Venice in all types of weather and it makes me want to walk the narrow streets myself.


Merton arrives in Venice


Corner of the Doge’s Palace looking towards the lagoon


Down the Grand Canal


Another Grand Canal shot, you can just see the Rialto bridge at the back


Santa Maria della Salute


San Marco

Traveling through the movies – Light in the Piazza (Italy)

Florence - Piazza Signoria

Florence – Piazza Signoria

Here’s another in the occasional blog posts about movies that have great location shoots. Light in the Piazza is an older movie from 1962 starring Olivia de Havilland, Rossano Brazzi, Yvette Mimieux and George Hamilton. A pretty woman in her 20s, Clara, is traveling through Italy with her mother. They meet a handsome younger Italian man, Fabrizio, and the young couple fall in love. Fabrizio is smitten with Clara and turns up everywhere they go. He’s got the hotel manager on board and the manager lets him know where the object of his affections will be, you see. Is Fabrizio merely in love or is he a gigolo, after a young woman that he thinks is an heiress?

Piazza Signoria - Florence

Piazza Signoria – Florence

Mama Meg is afraid. You see, Clara had an accident as a child and her head injury has left her with the maturity level of a 10 year old but she’s bright enough, bubbly, pretty and full of the joys of life. Fabrizio thinks she’s just refeshingly naive but her mother doesn’t want Clara to be hurt. Seems other men in the past have rejected her when they find out about her condition and Meg wants nothing more than that Clara have a normal life. Fabrizio really does seem sincere in his affections for Clara and Meg starts to think, if he doesn’t find out the truth, Clara could be happy.

Spanish Steps - Rome

Spanish Steps – Rome

Much of the movie was filmed in Florence with a bit in Rome and during a train journey between the two, we get some views of Italian countryside as well.

Italian countryside

Italian countryside


Streets of Florence


Overloooking the Arno in Florence with de Havilland and Mimieux

Luckily, with older European cities like Florence and Rome, very little changes in the historic city centre so what you see on a screen from 1962 isn’t so very different from what you would see if you go now. The movie opens in Florences Piazza Signoria which is filled with statues and a big fountain in the middle. We get to see great views of the Arno river and some of the bridges but not really the famed Ponte Vecchio as much. We see the great Duomo and the narrow streets. It’s a great “walk” through Florence. We also get a bit of Rome including the Forum and Spanish Steps.

Another movie definitely worth watching for the wonderful locations in Florence and the movie itself is pretty good, too.