Mrs. America (FX 2020)

 Mrs America

4 Kernels

Mrs. America is a series about a very controversial subject and period in American history that should not be forgotten. It focuses on a woman, who is titled here as Mrs. America. She was both loved and hated — Phyliss Schlafly.  It’s currently streaming on Hulu.

I want to first say that if you are screaming and kicking that you do not want to watch anything about Phyliss and you absolutely hate her guts, you’re going to miss out on the opposition in her life and the birth of the feminist movement, as well as the ERA.

In case you don’t know what the ERA is, it was a proposed amendment to the constitution – Equal Rights Amendment – which was drafted to guarantee equal legal rights for all American citizens regardless of sex.  Though written in 1923, it gained support in the early 1960’s by the women’s movement. However, not all women were pro-ERA.  In fact, there were many who saw the amendment as a threat to their lives as stay-at-home wives and mothers.  Some had irrational fears about the roles of women that today we wouldn’t think twice about, i.e. women fighting in the military.

Early in the series, the audience is introduced to Phyliss and her fight against the ERA. Phyliss was no ordinary housewife with six children. She was active in the political arena. Her Stop the ERA campaigns were ruthless, but so were the supporters of the amendment on the feminist side. This series gives equal and unbiased time to both pros and cons of the amendment and digs deep into what makes these individual women tick in real life.

Cate Blanchett is a Golden Globe contender for her performance. She plays a driven, staunch, singled-minded individual. Some called her anointed by God, while others thought her a devil.

If you have time, you should watch this series.  It’s educational for all women on both sides of the fence.  Frankly, I grew up during the 1960’s and heard nothing in my household about the ERA.  In fact, to my utter shame, I never heard about it until I watched this series.  My mother was a stay-at-home mom, and I grew up during that time period when it was a normal part of life.  I do remember, however, entering the workforce in 1970’s, during my early twenties, and the sexual harassment and passes received on the job.  Today, thanks to the changing attitudes, the boss who grabbed my breasts and the one who made a sexual comment about my pretty legs, would be on their ass out the door.

So, did the ERA ever pass and become an amendment to the Constitution?  Not, yet.  It’s taken years for all the states to ratify the ERA. It still languishes in litigation after all this time.  If you wish to read more about the ERA, visit good old Wikipedia.

I will caution you, however.  If you thought lines are drawn between Conservatives and Liberals nowadays, you will learn it’s been an ongoing battle long before you were born.  It’s a war.  A war for rights, beliefs, and winning government seats to have your ideals run the country rather than the other side.  Some viewers may be highly offended by the content and harsh words spoken. There is a lot of bigotry and nothing politically correct in the dialogue.  Be forewarned.  If you can handle it, then watch it.  It’s well worth the time.

Gold Digger (BBC One/Acorn TV 2019 Mini-Series)

3 Kernels

It’s every single woman’s dream at sixty years of age is to meet a handsome man half their age, who falls head-over-heels in love with you. The sex must be great.

Wait!  You say he must have ulterior motives?  What good-looking man would fall in love with a slightly wrinkled, slightly plump woman with three grown children and grandchildren? What could he possibly have in common with her, being twenty-six years younger?  Surely, he must be a gold digger.  Although Julia isn’t that rich, she is comfortable thanks to her recent divorce.  After all, she received the lovely country home.

Naturally, such a scenario doesn’t sit well with three grown children and an ex-husband who quickly judge Benjamin to be unworthy. He had a secret past, lives in a flat about to be evicted, occasionally gets caught in little white lies, and movies into the family home with mum as if he owns the place.

Well, the series leads you to believe that he is a gold digger like everyone concludes that he is.  Although all may not be as it seems, it isn’t until the last episode that you discover his motives.  Is he really a gold digger or a broken man, looking for a substitute mother figure and security?  That’s even creepier, in my books. Be ready for a on-again, off-again, on-again ride.

Staring Jula Ormand as “Julia” and Ben Barnes as “Benjamin,” you wonder why their names weren’t something different in the series. Jemima Rooper (our Lost in Auten gal), Archie Renaux, Sebastian Armesto play the suspicious and angry children, brooding over their mother’s obvious bad decision. The entire dysfunctional family can’t seem to come with terms with Julia’s ex-husband Ted, played by the talented Alex Jennings (who is the most talented in the series), that their father is a wife beater. Although he attempts to come across as a love-crossed reformed man, he eventually shows himself to be true to his own character rather than his new.

The series does tend to drag a bit here and there. Unfortunately, I didn’t find it as suspenseful as I would have liked but it’s also not predictable. From what I’ve read, the fans in the U.K. were a bit miffed the so-called bad boy didn’t turn out bad enough for everyone’s taste.

Well, it’s Acorn TV and British showmanship.  Give it a shot.  I could go for a guy in his mid-30s at my age. But since I’m not wealthy or good-looking enough to attract one to my bed, I’ll just write about it. Of course, if the story were flipped, let’s be honest.  Sixty-year-old man marries a thirty-four-year-old woman?  There isn’t anything wrong with that scenario.

 

The Great (Hulu 2020)

3 Kernels

I am almost embarrassed to give this series three kernels. If I had a shred of decency in me, I would give it one kernel and appear morally superior. This series is raunchy, filled with sex, swearing (including the F-bomb every sentence), possesses disturbing scenes, orgies, terrible morals, disgusting attitudes, and supposedly a comedy that has yet to make me laugh. Even though there are tons of sex scenes, you won’t see much skin. The skirts are voluminous during this time period, so it’s basically an up-the-skirt event. It contains a disclaimer that it is not exactly historically correct, although the underlying story revolves around Peter III and the young Catherine, his wife, who eventually becomes Catherine the Great of Russia.

It begins with the young Catherine arriving from Germany to Russia to wed the tsar. She kisses the ground, believing she is destined for greatness as the wife of Peter the III.  Filled with romantic notions about sex and ruling a nation, she soon discovers that her husband is an absolute soulless ass. He is ignorant and keeps the people in ignorance, thanks to the church who guides him in that direction. Catherine, however, has ideas on how to make a great country, educate the people, bring them an ounce of happiness, all of which Peter could care less about.

The court is filled with immorality and ignorant women, while Catherine is the only one who can read. Whenever she tries to assert her wishes to educate or make things better, her ideas are squashed. Her thoughts of happiness soon turn to unhappiness, leaving her with one recourse. She decides to initiate a coup and overthrow her husband’s reign, to become empress and rule Russia.

Frankly, I’m appalled at myself for continuing to watch this trash but can’t help myself.  I guess it’s the 44% Russian DNA in my veins. If Peter III was really such a disgusting fool, it was a good thing that Catherine did overthrow him, as the history books tell us, and take over the country.

If you decide to watch, do so with CAUTION.  If you are easily offended, this is not the show for you.  There have been so many stories about Catherine the Great, I guess Hulu decided to put a spin on it.  I find some of their shows difficult to stomach. I couldn’t get through Harlots and it appears they enjoy using the shock factor.  The only reason I have a Hulu subscription right now is to watch Mrs. America, which is currently streaming. I’ll no doubt cancel it after that show is over.

Okay, enough said.

 

Belgravia (2020 Epix Mini Series)

3 Kernels

Julian Fellowes, the creator of Downton Abbey, Dr. Thorne, Gosford Park, and many other fine television screenplays and books, has returned with this latest – Belgravia. Based on his 2016 novel, it’s titled after an affluent area in London of the same name, and a hidden secret regarding the man named Charles Pope.

The story starts out twenty-five years earlier, introducing viewers to the cast of James and Anne Trenchard, and their daughter Sophia. Trenchard is a tradesman who supplies the army during the war against Napoleon. Now facing the final battle at Waterloo, the families in Brussels enjoy one last night at a ball.  Sophia has fallen in love with the son of an aristocrat.  Her father, who hopes to rise ranks in society sees nothing wrong with her affections for the handsome Lord Edmund Bellasis, while her mother, Anne, is more realistic that nothing came come of the affair.

Well, young people will do what they do when in love or lust, and Edmund secretly marries Sophia in a private ceremony, which Sophia later believes to have been a sham. He is killed on the battlefield, and Sophia is left pregnant carrying his child. When she dies in childbirth, the male baby is placed with a vicar and his wife to raise. But, alas, not all is as it seems.

Fast forward in the story twenty-five years later when the paths of Anne Trenchard and Edmund’s mother, Lady Brockenhurst, cross paths. Unable to keep the secret any longer, Anne tells her that she has a grandson. The news sets in motion the events for the remainder of the story.

It wouldn’t be Julian Fellowes if he didn’t have antagonists that you’d like to strangle or antics of the downstairs servants to get under your skin. The story, of course, involves a budding romance between the daughter of an aristocrat, and the young Charles Pope, who is supposedly the illegitimate son of Sophia and Edmund. It’s a rather unpassionate romance, so don’t expect too much in the way of emotions as everyone remains very prim and proper.

The story is predictable, but it’s villains and worthless characters keep it interesting. The acting is somewhat dull, but the setting and costumes fill that period-drama need for the ladies. My biggest complaint was the soundtrack, composed by John Lunn. It sounded so much like Downton Abbey that it drove me nuts. I would have liked something a little more original. I’m not the only one to complain about that score. Read Here

I enjoyed the series but wasn’t exactly enthralled. While watching it, I read the book, and they match closely. I found Julian Fellowes writing quite interesting. His point of view is all over the place when it comes to characters, and you often have to switch it up to follow along.

Hopefully, the forthcoming The Gilded Age will be a delicious series with more meat to it. This one was sort of bland.

 

Deadwater Fell (Acorn TV 2020)

2-1/2 Kernels

Let us binge, let us binge, let us binge. My motto for the pandemic. I have three shows I’m religiously following each week, and this is the first to finish after four weeks. Leave it to the Brits to bring us a mystery.

Well, this one is a bit odd. I had no trouble with the acting, the mystery, but the conclusion was both creepy, a let-down, and slightly predictable — even if you didn’t want to admit it. Nevertheless, it’s an okay watch but not the best British mystery to survive a bag of popcorn.

Dave Tennant plays a dark and moody man, definitely with flaws being over-controlling and showcasing a compulsive obsessive disorder while in private. He is the victim of a tragedy — his wife and three children have died in a house fire, but his neighbor was able to save Tom Kendrick, the center of suspicion from that point onward.

The friendly families with children have their secrets, as well as affairs and questionable trysts. There are multiple flashbacks throughout the four episodes as each character reminisces about occurrences in the past, attempting to make sense of the horrific death of three children.  When the medical examiner tells the police that the wife and children were injected with a needle and died before the fire, the suspicion turns towards the husband, of course.  As the episodes progress and the secrets are revealed, you are made to wonder whether he did it or not. Everything points to him regardless of how many times he insists that he is innocent or washes his hands.

I cannot give this series accolades, but it’s worth the watch for whatever mystery you can squeeze out of it. Tennant does a great job acting the creep you think he is and the show at least has the merit of good acting.

I am also watching Belgravia and Mrs. America with weekly episodes. Actually, I’m enjoying those shows much more.  Stay tuned for reviews to come.

World on Fire (BBC/PBS TV Series)

3 Kernels

Well, stuck at home for 24 days now, I finished in two days on PBS Passport the series “World on Fire,” which originally aired on BBC and now is streaming each week on PBS Masterpiece. Series two has already been commissioned by BBC, and apparently, it could go on through six series in total if it gets picked up for the remainder.

The storyline is not a simple one. It involves a huge cast of characters situated in Germany, Poland, France, and England in the first seven episodes. Scenes flop back and forth between the lives of all these individuals set in 1939 just before Germany’s invasion of Poland. As the series progresses, you see the Nazis systematically invade Poland, Belgium and then France. As Europe falls into its clutches, the characters are taking their own journey during these turbulent times.

The main family groups are the Bennetts, consisting of a father (Douglas) who has residual shell-shock syndrome from WWI, his daughter (Lois), and a son (Tom) who is in trouble with the law most of the time. Harry Chase and his mother, Robina, are the next family circle. Harry is initially Lois’ love interest. Harry travels to Poland and becomes involved in the Tomaszeski family, falling in love with the daughter. Then there is Helen Hunt, who is a war correspondent based in Berlin, and her nephew who is a doctor in Paris.

Audiences may find it difficult to keep track of the multiple storylines and the changes of scenes between each family group and location.  The series pulls no punches and paints the Nazis in the cruelest light possible in their invasion of Europe. No one is safe–Jews, homosexuals, people of color, or children with disabilities. It focuses heavily on the Nazi beliefs of the “master race.”

Some of the storylines do not quite make sense and backgrounds are not fully fleshed out. Lois’ feelings toward Harry had me scratching my head. Harry’s mother is a hard nut to crack. Tom is a pain in the neck. Nevertheless, despite some pitfalls it holds your attention.

Beware that the season finale leaves its audiences on a cliffhanger that is going to make you wait for another year or more to find out what happens next. Just as a point of personal ranting, I am finding this new trend of cliffhanger theatrics in a lot of series of late to be irritating. Just because the cliff is there, it doesn’t mean there will necessarily be a season two.  Sanditon and Beecham House are two series that cruelly left their audiences because of non-renewals. I’m not sure that viewers are going to continue to be forgiving if this trend continues in the hopes that just because they leave us on the edge of our seats it will mean they will return for another season.  BBC and ITV need to rethink this ploy.

If you are into WW2 movies/series, tune into “World on Fire.” Since it doesn’t look like Victoria will be returning, for the next few years, you can count on being dragged through war instead.

Stay safe. Stay healthy.  And for goodness sake, stay home and binge-watch television.

‘Greyhound’ The New Tom Hanks Movie, Check Out The Trailer

Tom Hanks can’t seem to get enough. His new movie ‘Greyhound’ sees one of America’s favourite Kings of Hollywood star as Navy Commander Ernest Krause,

Source: ‘Greyhound’ The New Tom Hanks Movie, Check Out The Trailer

Emma (2020)

5 Kernels

Each time a movie is remade, I inwardly moan…”not another one.” Let’s face it. There have been multiple versions of Jane Austen’s “Emma” to grace the movie and television screens. Yet, after seeing this version, I must admit that talented individuals can take an old story and put a fresh coat of paint on top to give it a different and delightful color. Such is this 2020 version of Emma, directed by Autumn de Wilde. I will confess, that in all the other versions I’ve enjoyed over multiple times, this was the first to make me cry at the end.

First off, let’s talk about the story by comparing the one I loved before with Jeremy Northam and Gwyneth Paltrow released in 1996. It was a joy in its own right and well done. The new Emma has put a new spotlight on old characters, bringing them to life in a slightly different way.  Emma has more of a bite to her personality and an edge, played by Anya Taylor-Joy. Her father is more lively but still worried about drafts and people getting stick. Who cannot love Bill Nighy? Harriet is a bit more empty-headed than former ones. Mr. Elton is an absolute hoot of a character, along with his mouthy wife. Kudos indeed to Josh O’Connor for his take on Elton. Miss Bates has a bigger heart to injure by Emma’s rudeness. Wonderfully played by Miranda Hart. Frank Churchill is a bit more of an ass in character, thanks to Callum Turner. Mr. and Mrs. Weston are par for the course. Jane Fairfax is duller than dull, except that she can play the piano like none other. And then there is Mr. Knightley, who stole my heart immediately in spite of my former crush on Jeremy Northam. His mannerism, his voice, his expressions, and emotions were over the top.

This version has grit, comedy, and heart galore, and acting that is wonderful. I cannot sing enough praises for Johnny Flynn’s performance of Mr. Knightley. What a difference in how he handled the role, making him a vulnerable, love-sick man that brings you to tears as he stands at the altar with Emma about to be wed. His voice and mannerisms were spot-on Regency. The funny thing about this version is the tit-for-tat dislike between him and Frank Churchill, who barely say a word to one another for an entire hour but cast looks of dislike back and forth.

Do not expect the story to play out in the same scenes as the 1996 version, as they are all new in their own right. It takes nothing from the older version, except to give the viewers a newer perspective of where those conversations took place. Then there is the overall feel of the movie and its beauty and setting. The indoor lighting of candlelight is amazing in some scenes with no artificial hint of the modern-day. The outdoor country and country homes are gorgeous. Each detail is to perfection, like the scene where Mr. Knightley professes his love to Emma who is standing in front of a beautiful tree in bloom, in a white and green dress, with ribbons, that matches the beauty to perfection behind her. It’s what makes the movie visually stunning in scenes like these, almost taking your eyes off the characters. The costumes for both males and females are to die for, as well as the hats. The soundtrack is great from classical to quirky for each scene matched appropriately.

Oh, yes, you’ll see naked Johnny Flynn’s backside being dressed by his valet in a few quick seconds, and Emma lifting her dress to expose her bare bottom to the fireplace behind her (which bottom you do not see by the way). And a quite surprising nosebleed at the most inopportune time.

There isn’t a badly done note in this version, and I plan to see it again to enjoy it once more.  Well done!  Well done, indeed.  I hope that Autumn de Wilde decides to redo a few other Austen versions to give them a different flavor and new life. It will be a blessing for the generations to come.

 

If you want further reading, on the reasoning behind the characters and scenes, this explains a lot. “How Jane Austen’s Emma got the rock-star treatment it never knew it needed,” by FastCompany

1917 (Movie 2019)

5 Kernels

1917 is a winner and must-see movie of 2019. It’s a World War I story of two soldiers, Lance Cpl Schofield and Lance Cpl. Blake. Summoned from a sleepy moment in a grassy field, they are tasked by their commanding officer and given new orders. They must cross enemy territory and deliver a message of utmost importance.  If they fail, the lives of sixteen hundred men are at stake, including the brother of Lance Cpl. Blake.

The film is a masterpiece of cinematography, musical score, and acting that grips the audience from the moment the orders are received until they are miraculously delivered, averting a catastrophe. Directed by Sam Mendes, the film deserves its recent Golden Globe awards and no doubt soon to be received Oscars. There are cameo appearances from Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch, Richard Madden, Mark Strong, and a host of other famous faces that may surprise you. Dean-Charles Chapman and George MacKay play to two servicemen in an outstanding performance that must have been grueling and physically challenging to film.

The filming of the show gives the audience a unique perspective as the crew unendingly follows the two men, attempting to deliver a message. You feel as if you’re running through trenches, walking in mud, crawling in mud, climbing over dead bodies, and dodging enemy bullets. Some of the scenes are so eerily portrayed, such as nighttime in a destroyed city with flares bursting overhead, that it keeps you in awe of the screen. The musical score is also riveting and so well done. Of course, there is death all around.  Young men killed in the prime of their lives. A war that some don’t understand why they are fighting. The movie tells it like it was, and reminds us that even today they are still discovering bodies buried in the mud of Belgium and France.

Highly recommend the film. As of writing this post, it has won:

  • Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture
  • Golden Globe Award for Best Director
  • Critics’ Choice Movie Award for Best Director
  • Critics’ Choice Award for Best Editing
  • Critics’ Choice Award for Best Cinematography
  • Satellite Award for Best Cinematography
  • Producers Guild of Ameria Award for Best Theatrical Motion Picture

If you would like to read more about the making of the film, visit ScreenRant.Com.  Also, this YouTube video with these behind-the-scene shots.

 

Vera Season 10: Release Date & Where to Watch  

Vera returns for Series 10 in 2020. Yeah!  Four episodes coming our way.  Season 10 begins airing   January 12 in the UK and January 21 on BritBox for us USA folks.  Read more below.

Source: Vera Season 10: Release Date & Where to Watch – I Heart British TV

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