Grantchester (Season 5 – PBS Masterpiece)

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Well, I couldn’t wait for the next five episodes and binged watched on PBS Passport the entire new season five of Grantchester. The former vicar, Sidney Chambers, has left, during a lackluster and lousy last episode in Season 4.  Now we have our new man of God by the name of Will Davenport.  He rides a motorbike and uses a cappuccino machine.

The usual cast of characters have returned. Detective Inspector Geordie Keating and his wife, along with Mrs. C and Leonard. A new love interest, Ellie Harding has entered the scene, who is a journalist for the local newspaper that shows up at every murder or shortly thereafter with her pen and pad in hand to get the latest scoop. A spark of interest ignites between Will and Ellie that begins an up and down roller coaster relationship, thanks to Will’s struggle to remain celibate.  Poor man — all those raging hormones stuffed inside.

Will, like Sydney, is a complicated character. He wants to be perfect, but he has his own flaws that haunt and tempt him, such as guilt and anger. To make matters worse, his relationship with his mother is strained. He appears to be absent at the vicarage constantly, except for Sunday morning to give his short thoughts about life and God. The rest of the time, he’s running around with Geordie attempting to solve the latest murder.  I think he made a career choice that doesn’t suit him very well.

Mrs. C and Leonard have smoothed things over, and Leonard is becoming bolder with his sexuality.  Each episode has its side plots beyond the usual murders and who-done-it scenarios.  I will say that Geordie has some dinger one-liners this season that had me laughing out loud. The last episode will give you a smile as he plans to tease Will relentlessly about one point (no spoilers here). Geordie seems to have a more agreeable relationship with Will than he did with Sydney, which was volatile in some episodes.  There is more of comradery and jabbing jokes, making their relationship on the lighter side.

I cannot give the show glaring accolades. It fills Sunday night and is mildly entertaining just because most want Granchester to continue.  Hence my three kernels but no butter.

The Mallocra Files (BritBox 2019)

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How is your geography these days? Did you know Spain has islands in the Mediterranean? Ever heard of Mallorca? Well, I never have, until BritBox started streaming this enjoyable police series set in the colorful and very beautiful island. It’s a BBC One creation from 2019 and  Season 2 has been commissioned.

If you’re looking for another dynamic duo, meet Julian Looman as Detective Max Winter and Elen Rhys and Detective Miranda Blake.  Max is German – Miranda is English – they are part of the police force on this picturesque island, reporting to a colorful character by the name of Ines Villegas, who is chief of police. Miranda doesn’t like her by the way, and she doesn’t like Miranda.

You will soon discover that Max is the cool, frankly gorgeous looking blue-eyed detective, who is rather laid back. Miranda, however, is from the UK and everything about her is procedure this and forensics that when it comes to solving crimes. They are regular go-getters solving murders, and boy do they run a lot chasing the bad guys.

I have watched six episodes so far and am enjoying the tit for tat relationship between the two. Max has a girlfriend, but Miranda has no romantic interest. No doubt, this is going to turn out to be one of those shows where they fall in love, but nobody is going to confess it to the other.  There is humor between the two characters, which keeps the series on the lighter side rather than serious.

The murder mysteries are not too long since each episode runs for 45-minutes. The storylines are pretty good, and I haven’t come across any rehashed tropes to bore me. There are a variety of actors from European countries which gives it a good blend of talent.

So, head over to BritBox to get lost in Julian Looman’s blue eyes.  Unfortunately, the poster for the show doesn’t show how blue his eyes really are. I wonder if they are for real or colored contact lenses.  You never know what is genuine these days when it comes to good looks.

Mrs. America (FX 2020)

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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.

Belgravia (2020 Epix Mini Series)

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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.

 

Emma (2020)

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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