The Invisible Woman (2013 Movie)

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Three years late watching this movie, I finally sat down and streamed it last night on Amazon for $3.99 – The Invisible Woman.  Frankly, I had forgotten it existed until the Period Drama Appreciation Society on Facebook brought it up as a suggestion.  By the way, it’s a great group of 8,500 (probably mostly women) who are crazy about period drama from all over the world.  It’s a good group to join to get recommendations.

Charles Dickens.  A name known by many, and an author who has gone down in history.  Married and having sired ten children of his own, his now fat wife no longer interests him in spite of the fact he’s an older gentleman.  His treatment of her in the movie is atrocious, and whether fully true, I’m not sure.  He announces in the paper that he has separated from his wife.  At home, he has a handyman board up the door that adjoins their bedroom.  His wife is well aware that his affections have turned toward an 18-year old young lady, who is an actress and a mediocre one at that.

The movie, having received a not-so-warm reception upon release, is a bit odd.  Directed and starring Ralph Fiennes, I will admit he did quite well portraying the exuberant writer who loves his audience. His joy in life is telling a good tale that makes people think and tugs at the heart of its readers.  Nevertheless, on a personal note, his pursuit of the young Ellen “Nelly” Ternan is born from her admiration of his skill and love of his work.  Apparently, his fat wife does not possess the ability to adore him for his pen and brilliant mind, unlike Nelly who gushes with girlish adoration.

Of course, this is the Victorian era and men had mistresses.  Nevertheless, the obvious truth behind closed doors was not flaunted because society and religion knew it to be a scandal and sin.  Thus enters the “silent woman,” who cannot tell the world of her affair with Dickens.  She is kept hidden and well-cared for by the author, splitting his time between her and his adoring fans.

The movie portrays his mistress, Nelly, as a pining and broken hearted woman who looks upon her past with sadness.  Now married and with a child of her own, her lover has died and life has gone on physically.  The movie attempts drags us through her depression by multiple long walks on the beach as it flips back and forth between the present and the past.  The flips don’t always work, and perhaps it’s the way the tale focuses on her “blues” that makes it irritating.  Dickens’ coldness toward his wife and treatment is an abomination to watch, which takes your likeness of him as a man and turns it stone cold.  There are extremely slow and painful scenes of intimacies between the two, which itch your finger toward pushing the fast-forward button.

Nevertheless, the scandalous tale of Dicken’s true-life romance with an eighteen-year-old girl when he was forty-five, is an interesting peek into a man that many admire.  What is the truth behind it all?  If you read some of the reviews on Amazon, you’ll discover quite a few historical corrections regarding the affair and how it all played out in real life.  As for this version, I felt no empathy for Nelly or Dickens.

If you’re a period drama movie junkie, you might enjoy and then again you might not. I gave it 3 Kernels for your lovers of the Victorian era.

Stranger Things (Netflix 2016)

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Right now at the season of horror and suspense, if you haven’t watched the new Netflix Series, Stranger Things, you better tune in.  It’s strange all right, and the program sort of reminds me of Lost.  You remember, don’t you?  The plane crash, the strange island, the strange things happening.  Well, welcome to the little town Hawkins where strange things are afoot in a town where nothing interesting happens.

It starts out scary enough with a young boy returning home from spending time with his best buddies.  They’ve been playing Dungeons & Dragons for ten hours in the basement.  On the way home, strange things happen.  Something creepy is stalking Will Byers in the woods and right into his house.  He runs out into the shed in the backyard to load the family rifle, but before he can defend himself he vanishes into thin air.  The story starts and so do the crazy things in this sleepy town turned literally upside down.

The premise of the story is (spoiler) alternative universes.  The show is filled with all those unanswered and mysterious questions, including a secret government installation.  In their captive is a child with special psychokinetic abilities, who escapes her life as a Guinea pig of sorts (played by Millie Bobby Brown, a very talented young lady).  However, while her story continues on one wave length, it is strangely intertwined with the story of the missing boy.  The show has it all – drama and mystery.  If that isn’t enough, add the element of horror, because out of this alternative universe comes a resident monster into our universe preying upon the town and going for blood.

There are quite a few characters to follow in this story.  And, yes, at times you feel as lost as you were watching Lost.  However, the cast is one huge roller coaster of emotion, including Winona Ryder, the mother of the boy who has disappeared.  Her portrayal of grief, terror, and determination is probably worth an Emmy.  Other great performances are from the family members, hormonal driven teenagers, and David Harbour, who plays the Sheriff in town dealing with all the crazy occurrences and trying to make sense of it all.stranger-things-season-2

There are three young boys who try their best to find their friend, Will, who has disappeared.  One of them befriends No. 11, the young girl who escaped her life from the government crazy people.  The three kids are a comedic release as they banter back and forth.  They are the science geeks of the school and played upon by the bullies, until No. 11 (or L) teaches them a lesson.

If you’re looking for an entertaining, I can’t figure it out show, tune in to Stranger Things.  It will make you scratch your head, jump when the monster appears, and give rise to a thousand questions of what in the world is going on.  After eight episodes of Season 1, we are left hanging for answers until Season 2 rolls around.


Lilies (2007 BBC One TV Series)

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It was a dark and stormy night, so I binged watched Lilies streaming on Netflix. This is an older BBC One eight-episode series regarding three young girls growing into womanhood in Liverpool after the Great War (that’s WWI in case you need to know).  The series was not renewed, and as a result, the last episode leaves you with many unanswered questions regarding where do their lives go from here.

The story focuses on six main characters:

  • The widowed father who is a grumpy, angry man, yelling at everyone in the household.  When he drinks, he becomes violent.  He is called “Dadda.”
  • Billy the son, who is a closet homosexual.
  • Iris the eldest daughter who takes care of the household.
  • May the middle daughter who gets in “trouble” (the pregnant kind of trouble), having an affair with her married employer.
  • Ruby the younger and outspoken lass of the group, who frankly I had a difficult time understanding due to her heavy accent. However, she gives you a wonderful education on corsets.
  • A Catholic priest, Father Melia, who falls in love with Iris and is sent away.

The story follows each of their lives during eight episodes focusing on their various jobs that come and go, as well as love interests for the three girls.  The series is not the best, and since it was not renewed, obviously it didn’t do well overseas.  If you’re looking for a period drama, it does have entertainment value even though it won’t be at the top of your absolutely love-it list.  Apparently, it’s loosely based on Heidi Thomas’ mother’s story about life in Liverpool after the war.

The last episode leaves a huge number of questions about where their lives end up afterward.  Does Billy finally come out?  Probably not due to the times and the fact it was a crime.  Does the priest return as a priest?  Does he tell Iris he loves her and leaves his calling to marry her?  Does May’s lover finally return to marry her and be a father to the baby?  Does Ruby end up marrying the German butcher she first hated and move to Russia?  Does Dadda finally get to find happiness?  Alas, we shall never know.


Versailles (2015 TV Series – BBC Two, Canal+)

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Finally, streaming on Amazon is Versailles.  The first three episodes are up to devour.  New episodes are posted weekly.  Is it worth the $2.99 per episode (first one free with Prime)?   Episode 1  Absolutely.

Versailles begins in 1667 with the 28-year old King Louis XIV on the throne. Tired of Paris, he wishes to remove himself and build his kingdom palace at Versailles, which was once a hunting lodge.

The series introduces you into the maturing young king as he attempts to control the nobility who are against him and establish his power in France.  As any other reign, his bid for supremacy is threatened by those who would overthrow him.  The life at court is filled with the usual intrigue that includes those loyal and those disloyal to the throne.

What makes this show work for me is George Blagden, who plays the young Louis XIV. He is the center stage in the entire production, playing a convincing role of a young monarch who is coming into his own among the wolves who surround him. At first, he appears unsure of himself, and then as time progressives, he shows that he can be as ruthless as his enemies, tender as any lover, and merciful when it’s to his advantage.  Blagden is a convincing monarch and a perfect choice for the role.screen-shot-2016-08-10-at-1_47_17-pm

The costumes are lavish, the settings rich with grandeur, and the story believable though probably not one hundred percent historically accurate.

My only caution is beware of the over-the-top sexual scenes including the king’s affairs with his mistresses and occasional intercourse with this wife. On the other side of the coin, there are homosexual scenes involving the king’s brother, Philippe, Duke of Orleans, played by Alexander Vlahos. Sex is not a silent subject in this production.

You might find this article and interview with George Blagden by The Guardian of interest on the filming.

The rugged heartthrob is about to be very big indeed – after landing the part of the spiffily dressed Sun King in this scandalous tale of sex, violence, and sublime shoes

Source: George Blagden on dressing up for Versailles: ‘Heels do wonders for your confidence!’ | Television & radio | The Guardian

The violence so far as been tame in comparison to other shows. It appears most of the intrigue is in the king’s court and in the bed of the women he makes loves to, siring all sorts of children in his lifetime.

Nevertheless, if you’re looking for a good period drama, I suggest you tune in and watch Versailles. It’s enjoyable indeed to see the lavish lives of royalty before their subsequent generations lost their heads on the guillotine.

Timeless (NBC 2016)

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Let’s face it – I love anything to do with time travel – well most everything.  The Time Machine (1960 Movie with Rod Taylor) sticks in my mind as my first adventure across time and space.  However, when Stephan Hawking announced that time travel really isn’t possible, it broke my bubble. Nevertheless, we have plenty of books, comics, movies, and television shows to tell us otherwise.  Just look at this list of time-travel related entertainment!  CLICK HERE

The newest on the horizon to mess up the time/space continuum is Timeless, a new NBC network show.  I caught the first few episodes on Hulu, since I missed them on television due to my out-of-the-country vacation in timeless England.  Anyway…

Enter the cast – Lucy Preston (played by Abigail Spencer), a professor of history, who gets sucked into time travel thanks to the bad guys stealing the time machine that no one knew existed (except the good guys hiding it not so good from the bad guys).  Because of Lucy’s impressive historical knowledge, she is engaged by Homeland Security to save America’s future. Along for the ride is Wyatt Logan (played by Matt Lanter), who is the gun-packing hero bringing the heat.

Lucy’s first encounter with the past for the pilot is the the Hindenburg disaster, which occurred on May 6, 1937. It was the German passenger airship that caught fire and plunged to the earth killing most of the crew and passengers. The bad guy, Garcia Flynn (played by Goran Visnjic) and his team has returned to change how the accident plays out.  Of course, the audience is kept in the dark as to why and what he’s trying to change in the future.  Their second encounter is President Lincoln’s assassination, which is a rather good and emotional look into that incident.

Of course, like any other time travel scenario, when you change the past you change the future. The little incidents gone haywire in the past have changed Lucy’s situation in the first two episodes, and no doubt this occurrence will continue in Timeless as things get screwed up in the past.  Perhaps it’s a good thing that we can’t time travel.

The show seems promising, and I will continue to tune in on the future episodes airing on Monday nights.  However, for some reason deep down in my gut I don’t think this new show is going to last for years on end – my prediction for the future.