Category: Reviews

Outlander – Season 4 (A. Malcom)

outlander-season-3-poster-bigLast evening at 9 p.m. PST, I tuned into Starz on my Amazon account to watch the highly anticipated reunion of Claire and Jaimie.  What I had hoped to be an emotional reunion of two lovers turned out to be a sex feast of epic proportions. Prepare yourself for plenty of breasts, rear-ends, low front shots, and sexual positions attempting to turn up the heat in Edinburgh.

Was I impressed?  Was I moved?  No, I was bored stiff.  Don’t shoot the messenger.

True to its former episodes, the producers have done their utmost to keep with the graphic sensation this series has brought from sex to torture.  Hey, I know what goes on in the bedroom, but does the intimate reunion of these two star-crossed lovers need to take fifteen minutes to undress one another?  Do we need to stare into each other’s eyes for sixty plus seconds?  Do I really need to see two people grunt and grind in moaning ecstasy?

Once again, having not read the books (shame on me), I suppose I anticipated too much from Claire’s return. Frankly, I had enjoyed Season 4 quite a bit until now. Besides Jamie fainting, the reunion left many unanswered questions, except to answer what is a zipper, what are photographs, what’s a bikini?  The emotional aspect that could have been was spread as thin as the coverings on their bodies.  Frankly, I felt cheated.

I have read that the producers have taken liberty with the book version to tweak it here and there.  Whatever possessed them to make this entire extended episode filled with grunting, kissing, and head-butting is beyond me.  Come on, guys!  You’ve left me emotionally starved though given millions of women an organismic moment with Jaime, who by the way is sick of being idolized as a sex object.  You’ve done the viewers and him no favors.

I’m done ranting.  I think I’ll go rewrite the scene for myself so I can have some closure. And, of course, we ended it with another possible rape scene–what else?

Thankfully, the fully clothed members of Poldark return this evening on PBS.

The Edwardian Country Home (2002 British TV Channel 4)

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Now streaming on Acorn TV is “The Edwardian Country Home,” (also known as The Manor House) a television series from 2002 that takes a group of individuals from 2001 and places them into another world.  As the synopsis says, “An Edwardian country house in Scotland is brought back to life in this real-life Upstairs, Downstairs. For three months, one family will live in the manor while another 12 individuals serve them, an immersive experience in the world of social inequality and class distinctions that defined the period between 1905 and 1914.”

This television program is a highly entertaining look into life much like the famously portrayed version in Downton Abbey years later. However, the difference is the heartwrenching reality of taking modern-day individuals and setting them into a world they find quite different.  The six episodes delve into the three-month period and how it challenges and changes those who play their roles upstairs and downstairs. Nothing is as peachy as it seems upstairs when life becomes boring, stifling, and rigid in its many mannerisms. Neither is anything peachy downstairs as servants give their lives to serve their masters.

What is unique about the program is that it spans the years as it would have been from 1905-1914, when at the onset of World War I that dramatically changes how the rich lived and the uprising of the classes striving for a better life. Some of the younger participants, such as the scullery maid, come and go when the harsh work overwhelms them and they are unable to deal with the authority of the butler.

They serve their masters in all of their needs to dressing them, dinner parties, hunting parties, shooting parties, and grand balls.  The housework and cooking is a never-ending circle of life and long hours. At times, they feel unappreciated, ignored, and live the stark reality of being lower class. Those upstairs cannot believe how they cannot do the simple task of even dressing without help but eventually get accustomed to the pampering.

The ending is quite emotional as they all prepare to leave the life they have grown to live over three months. Some of them are glad to put away their servant outfits, while those upstairs warily return to work, leaving behind their pampered lives.  The lady of the house believes she would be much more suited to living in the era she is now forced to leave. However, even if that were true, the era is disintegrating and passing away.  The wealth and opulence can no longer be maintained.

If you are a lover of period drama and historical romance, I highly recommend watching this entertaining series.  I enjoyed it far better than the recent one in the Victorian era on PBS.

4 Kernels

Our Souls at Night (Netflix 2017)

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Well, this is a first.  One kernel.  One lonely little kernel.  The first I’ve thrown at a movie or television series. This is probably the most boring movie I have ever watched, and since I’m 68, you would think that a love story about two lonely elderly people would perk me up rather than put me to sleep.

Robert Redford and Jane Fonda were once a dynamic duo in Barefoot in the Park, which was a movie I loved dearly over the years.  If you’ve never seen it, you must watch it.  The two have played together in many other movies, however, this one just puts both of them out to pasture in the most boring and uninteresting tale.  I literally had to walk away from it and then go back later to finish the movie.

Forgive me, Robert.  Forgive me, Jane.  And Matthias Schoenaerts, what are you doing wasting your talent on this slow-moving snail of a tale?

Perhaps all the interest in the release has been the reunion of these life-long friends on screen again.  A fairly good-looking old woman lands on the doorstep of a fairly good-looking old man and suggests he sleep with her.  But we don’t mean sex here – we mean sleep.  She wants a body next to her in bed, and after considering the offer, Louis Waters agrees to Addie Moore’s suggestion. and climbs in between the sheets.  Yawn.

The story turns into a bedtime tale of two people who begin to talk about the weather and end the movie talking about the weather.  In between the nights together, the town gossips, friends die, a grandson is weaved into the story, and along with their respective daughter and son.  Eventually, a romance of sorts ensues, and Lewis thinks he remembers how to do it.  Unfortunately, I hit the fast-forward button on this sleepy tale more than once.  Jane’s hair looks like a poorly made grey wig, while Robert walks around like an old bow-legged man.  Oh, and let’s throw in a broken hip just to make it exciting.

Forgive me for my harshness.  You may love it.  You may yawn.  You may throw one popcorn kernel at the screen.  As for me, I would have walked out but I had nowhere to go since I was already home.

The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu Series 2017)

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Eventually, the multiple Emmy awards, the constant streaming of advertisements, and the general hype about The Handmaid’s Tale sucked me into a disturbing futuristic world created by Margaret Atwood.  This sometimes savage story about totalitarian theonomy that has taken over the United States is enough to make you nauseous.  There were times I wanted to turn it off but felt imprisoned to watch the outcome much as the poor handmaidens are kept enslaved.

Written in 1985, the book has won multiple awards, including the series itself. It’s based on the story of a woman who was once known as June who narrates her tale in the given name of Offred. The plot summary is rather detailed, including the Republic of Gilead and how it works in the scheme of this new world.  Because the future has left an immoral and out-of-control society, a fundamentalist group of men rise up and gain enough power to bring about change.  The revolution kills the leaders of the free world, takes away the rights of women, disbands the Constitution, and initiates a social order based on Old Testament theology, sprinkled with a few verses from the New Testament, and extreme religious fanaticism.  Thinking these people are Christians could not be further from the truth. It’s a new religion of sorts, while they destroy the old beliefs and tear down churches.

In addition, the world has been polluted and diluted from disease to such an extent that the population is diminishing. Women are infertile; men are sterile; few women remain who are able to bear children.  To breed, the higher caste who run the government inslave fertile woman, calling them handmaidens of the Lord. They base their practice upon the Biblical story of Jacob’s wife, Rachel, who entreated her husband to impregnate her handmaid since she was barren.  The new society turns it into a rather disturbing ceremonial ritual that leaves you appalled.

Because this new society of Gilead is so detailed in its workings you should head over to Wikipedia and read the explanation of who plays what role in this caste society.  Even their dress and colors have various meanings, as well as their names. I must admit that Margaret Atwood’s fantasy-created world is seriously distressing but genius storytelling.

This series has done an excellent job on many levels, which despite the story that gives you the shivers, does deserve its accolades as well.

  • First and foremost the acting is phenomenal for all involved.  I cannot rave enough about Elizabeth Moss’ performance and well-deserved Emmy win. It’s not often that an actress can portray such hopelessness, fear, and loathing with such intensity that you experience the same emotions during the scenes.
  • The music adds to the terror and tenseness of the plot with expert precision.
  • The awards speak for themselves:  Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series, Best Drama Series, Outstanding Guest Actress, Outstanding Supporting Actress, Outstanding Writing, Outstanding Cinematography, Outstanding Direction, etc.

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My warning about this show is that you may find it deeply distressing.  The story may shock, grieve, anger, and bring you to tears.  It will incite in your heart fear and make you question whether something like this could ever happen in our lifetime.  It will cause you to ponder how a group of people could gain dominion and control over society with such force.  It is religious fanaticism forced upon the masses at its worse.  You will wonder if faced with the same scenario, would you give in and obey or would you never let the bastards win.  Perhaps that is the purpose of this story — to leave you troubled and vexed for a good reason.

As most of us know, there are pockets of such societies that sadly exist upon this earth today.  To make matters worse, some groups are still intent on imposing their beliefs and controls upon others elsewhere in the world.  Let us pray, if you do pray, that nothing like Sons or Jacob or Gilead ever rises to power in our lives.

In the meantime, if you have enough courage, head on over and immerse yourself in the frightful scenario of the land of Gilead.

 

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