Texas Ranger Frank Hamer, celebrated in ‘The Highwaymen,’ took down Bonnie and Clyde – The Washington Post

Frank Hamer finally gets his due in the new Netflix movie, ‘The Highwaymen’

Source: Texas Ranger Frank Hamer, celebrated in ‘The Highwaymen,’ took down Bonnie and Clyde – The Washington Post

Now streaming on Netflix. Worth the watch.  4 Kernels.

Time in Between (Spanish Drama 2013)

timeI’m becoming an expert at reading subtitles flying quickly by in yellow.  Since I have a sparse Spanish vocabulary, I can pick up the usual things we all know – yes – hello – goodbye – thank you – and I can count to six!  (Pathetic, I know.)  Nevertheless, another well-done foreign period drama has caught my attention on Netflix entitled, El Tiempo Entre Costuras – “The Time In Between” or literally the time between seams. Huh?  Seams?  Well, let me clarify that the heroine of this story is a talented seamstress in Madrid.

The story starts in her childhood with a girl named Sira Quiroga played by Adriana Ugarte.  Her mother is a seamstress in a shop, and she learns the trade as she grows up.  In the early episodes, she meets a young man who is a government clerk.  He is kind and attentive, and she agrees to marry him though early on you see she has her doubts about whether she loves him.  Then by chance, he takes her to a shop to look for a typewriter to purchase so she can learn another trade.  When she meets the salesman, Ramiro Arribas played by Ruben Cortada. (He is so handsome it makes your knees weak with his dark and alluring eyes – just Google the guy). Naturally, she loses her senses and falls madly in love.

After breaking her engagement, she runs away with him to Tangiers, despite her mother’s objections. He ltime2ures into a business venture after Sira comes into quite a bit of money from her father (another storyline there) and convinces her to let him manage her wealth.  Well, let’s just say the man may be handsome, but he doesn’t have an ounce of moral character. He never marries her, and as the story sadly reveals, Sira finds herself abandoned and in dire circumstances.

During this time period, the civil war in Spain is waging. Her mother is trapped in Madrid.  On the other side of the coin, she is in trouble with the law, deeply in debt, and to make money, sets up her own dress shop. Her newfound business leads her into the lives of many other characters during 1939 and the verge of World War II.  In the end, Sira the seamstress becomes Sira the spy, leading her into danger and the arms of another man back in Madrid.

The story is an excellent production in quality and acting. Absolutely no complaints about this good period drama. It tells an intriguing tale about Spain and Morocco during the years 1934-1940’s.

time1The dresses that Sira makes for her customers, as well as the ones she wears, are absolutely stunning.  If you love the padded shoulders and sleek styles of this time period, the clothes alone, as well as the men, make this an absolute watch.  Here is a link to a good article as to why the fashions alone make this period drama worthwhile.  7 Reasons Why Every Period Period Costume Enthusiast Should Watch

Frankly, I have avoided a lot of foreign films because watching them takes patience to glue your eyes to the translations.  Luckily, in this production, there are English characters who do speak in English, while the subtitles translate to Spanish.  Since watching Seyit and Sura from Turkey and this gem from Spain, I have come to the conclusion that I am missing out on many excellent period dramas from different countries.  My viewing choices are definitely widening.

Upstairs Downstairs (TV Series 2010-2012)

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I watched this series this past weekend, and though some of it seemed familiar, I’m not sure I’ve seen all of the episodes before.  Nevertheless, I was able to enjoy it through fresh eyes unaware of much of the storyline.

Having not seen the original Upstairs Downstairs (the 1971 series set in the years 1903-1930), this version picks up in the mid-1930’s and continues pre-WW2 at the same location of 165 Eaton Place in the Belgravia neighborhood.  The master of the estate is Sir Hallam Holland (as I take a moment to relish the last name) and Lady Agnes who purchases the “ghastly old mausoleum” by cleaning and renovating the run-down interior.

Lady Agnes hires a new staff and Rose Buck (Jean Marsh who played in the 1971 series) returns as the housekeeper.  Much like Downton Abbey, including an opening scene during the credits of the shiny chandelier, the story follows life upstairs and downstairs.  Sir Hallam is a diplomat, and his wife lives to run the household and be a hostess to high society on London’s scene.  As the years go by such famous people as the Duke of Kent, Wallis Simpson, the Kennedys from the U.S., and other royalty eat at their table.  Upstairs has its problems, of course, mostly centered around an out-of-control Lady Persephone, who is Lady Agnes’ sister.

Downstairs is the usual love/hate relationship between the staff.  The main focus is on the butler, housekeeper, cook, housemaid, footman, parlormaid, and chauffeur. Their secrets from the past often irritate and cause friction, much like Downton Abbey, while they live to serve the somewhat dysfunctional family upstairs.

The story is set pre-war and includes King Edward VIII’s abdication, and the numerous attempts to avoid war with Germany.  The first two seasons lead the audience through the years with interest, along with heart-wrenching scenes as England steps up to help the Jewish children fleeing the rising persecution of Jews. A little family scandal of an aunt being a lesbian causes a stir, as well as Persephone’s attraction and affair with a German officer.  Watching London prepare for a war they hope to avoid, helps to underscore the wounds that still abide from WWI and the fear of another looming on the horizon.

The cast is strong, the costumes well done, and the flavor of the 1930’s resonates throughout. Keeley Hawes who plays Lady Agnes is beautiful, as well as Claire Foy, her sister. Red lipstick, silk dresses, and wavy hair make them both stunningly gorgeous. Ed Stoppard, who plays Sir Hallam Holland, has the right uppity air for an aristocrat who is too busy to keep his marriage afloat. Downstairs you’ll quickly recognize Anne Reid as the cook, who plays in Last Tango in Halifax. She has the usual rough snippy edges about her personality. All in all, I found no complaint in the acting.

Season two, unfortunately, quickly ends in family tragedy for the Hollands.  War is declared, and everyone takes their part to do their duty.  Sir Holland is in uniform at the closing scene heading off probably to the war office, as well as his wife is in uniform telling her children she is off to help in the ambulance corps.  Unfortunately, the story ends here, but your interedownstairsst in each of their lives is not satisfied or brought to a happy ending especially when you know of the horrors that lie ahead for London.  As they march off to war, the audience is left with the uncertainty of what it will bring to each of the characters and leaves a very unsatisfying taste with no closure. From what I read, Season One had a booming audience, while Season Two slowly dwindled probably leading to its death.

You will see many similarities with Downton Abbey in this up and down tale of life for the upper and lower class.  It’s definitely not as good as others but, nevertheless, it’s worth the watch if you’re looking for the similar scenario filmed prior to the infamous Julian Fellowes’ soap opera regarding the Crawley family.  It’s now streaming on Hulu and available on Amazon Prime for free with the first episode The Fledgling

I Capture the Castle (Movie 2003)

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Streaming free with your Amazon Prime membership is one of my favorite stories, “I Capture the Castle,” starring one of my favorite period actresses, Romola Garai.  I was just thinking a few weeks ago how I would like to see it again and suddenly it appeared on Amazon for free.  Wishes do come true.

The tale, originally written in book form by British author Dodie Smith, is a classic. The movie unfortunately doesn’t start with the famous first line of her book that is often quoted, “I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.” Nevertheless, it does start with Cassandra Mortmain, who narrates the tale in literature as well as her character on screen.

Cassandra, played by Romola, is the daughter of James Mortmain (Bill Nighy), who is an author. The man wrote one bestseller twelve years ago and hasn’t had the ability to write a word since. During the heyday of his popularity, he rented a castle, thinking it would be the perfect place to write his next novel. Unfortunately, the inspiration never arrived.

Cassandra has two siblings, Rose (Rose Byrne) and Thomas. They have a helper around the house, by the name of Stephen Colley, played by a very young and handsome young man – Henry Cavill.

Cassandra loves to write everything in her journal, so as she sits in the sink you soon become aware of the family’s appalling state of affairs through her narration. They are broke. The rent hasn’t been paid in two years. James’s second wife Topaz, is a bit eccentric to say the least, played by Tara Fitzgerald. Everyone is frustrated at father because he won’t write and at least attempt to provide for the family since the royalties on his best seller have dwindled to zero.

Then life changes when two American young men inherit the land and hall from their ancestor. Rich, young, and handsome, the pining young beauty Rose, Cassandra’s older sister, sets her eyes upon the boys determined to marry wealth and leave the squalor of her life behind. The tale ensues, romance arrives, while the reasons behind Cassandra’s broken father are revealed and finally healed. Of course, a few heartbreaking situations occur before everything comes to culmination. It is a great story.

The book is filled with iconic lines, some of which I have absolutely loved, that made their way into the movie.

“I said I would never fall in love; I said love was a murderous thing; And it is, and I’m floating on air.”

“There is only one page left to write on. I will fill it with words of only one syllable. I love. I have loved. I will love.”

If you’re looking for a decent 1930’s period story and are not familiar with this particular one, you may enjoy it.

The Last Tycoon (Amazon Pilot)

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You watch.  You vote.  Will the pilot go on or will the story die a quick death?  Well, that decision is in your hands.

Based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s tale of studio politics in early Hollywood, it is actually another adaptation. The Last Tycoon, was filmed in 1976 starring Robert DeNiro and Tony Curtis (also on Amazon for rent). This remake stars the handsome Matt Bomer and not-so-handsome Kelsey Grammer, plus a host of young ladies, including Lily Collins, with glaring lipstick, harsh makeup, and stylish clothes.  Add the men in hats and suits from the thirties and you have early Hollywood.

Nearly the entire pilot is shot on a Hollywood set, except for a few scenes.  Set in the fictitious studios owned by Pat Brady (Kelsey Grammer), it includes his slick producer Monroe Stahr (Matt Bomer).  Matt is looking rather debonair in his slick-backed hair, but also noticeably thinner than the con artist he played on White Collar.

For a quick background of the story, Monroe is a grieving husband whose wife died tragically in a home fire.  All the girls at the studio gush at his feet hoping they will be his next love, including the bosses’ daughter, Cecilia Brady.  Monroe pretty much roams from set to set throughout the pilot giving orders, instructing writers to rewrite, complaining or approving about sets, picking out costumes, etc.  Everyone jumps at his beckon call, but he does some sparring with his boss who agrees with the German embassador’s demand for no Jews in movies or on their payroll in Germany, so that Hilter can continue to enjoy Hollywood in his spare time. Monroe is a Jew, so the tension between keeping the German market happy and the studio going bankrupt is a no brainer for its owner, who is afraid of going bankrupt during the depression.

My first take on this pilot is…wait for it…blah.  I dTycoonon’t know why.  Sometimes I wonder if it’s my mood or what I had for lunch.  As much as I enjoy looking and handsome Mr. Bomer, something about him in this role just doesn’t sit right with me.  I don’t know if it’s his character, his lines, or his acting. He seems stiff and unnatural.  Perhaps, I’m just used to seeing Neal Caffrey instead. As far as Kelsey, he can be the usual grumpy and moody older man, but his performance is par for the course — nothing special to make you really like or dislike the guy.

The only thing that gave me a small smirk at the end was the illicit affair you learn about between Monroe and the bosses’ wife.  She’s waiting for him in a nightgown when he comes home from work.  He says that their meeting must stop.  She says but it can’t, and lays down on the bed. Tauntingly, she asks, “Does that make you angry?”  He goes to the curtain and gruffly closes them in front of the audience and says, “Yes.”  She replies, “Good.”  The only thing I could think of were the millions of women who wished he had played Christian Grey in Fifty Shades.  Well, you get a tiny peak of what could possibly happen with Matt Bomer being in that role!

So I voted – gave it three stars.  I suppose if they continue it, I will watch the other episodes.  However, I have a sneaking suspicion that if it stays as flat as the pilot that it probably will not be a weekend binge watch by any means.  As usual, whatever floats your remote…

Go watch it.  It’s free on Prime.  Cast your vote while Amazon gives you the chance to put in your two cents worth.