Category: Reviews

Howards End (Starz 2017-18)

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Howards End is not new to the screen, having been adapted by the book written by E.M. Forester’s into a movie in 1992 staring Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins.  Starz has a new series out that expands on the movie version in four parts, starring Hayley Atwell and Matthew Macfayden.

It’s a slow moving and somewhat odd story of three families in the scheme of English society, focusing on the middle-class Schlegels, a wealthy family named the Wilcoxes, and a poor working class family named the Basts.

The Schlegel family, who consist of three siblings, meet the Wilcoxes, and through various interactions and visitations become acquaintances. Margaret Schlegel forms a friendship with Mrs. Wilcox. At her death, she leaves her family home, Howards End, to Margaret.  The children and Mr. Wilcox decide that the bequest scrawled on a piece of paper during her illness should not be honored.

As time passes, Mr. Wilcox forms an attachment to Margaret.  In the storyline enters the Basts, who have an integral part to play in the tale of the three families.  Frankly, it’s a convoluted intersecting of all involved.  The story is filled with conversation in every scene, which requires your attention to understand the characters and their motivations for their behavior.

Having watched the 1992 version and this mini-version, I am inclined to prefer the latest Starz television production.  It’s well acted, with good choices of those who played the parts of each of these complicated characters.  The story is definitely not for everyone, and probably enjoyed more by those who love the Edwardian era before WWI.  The sets and costumes are done very well, which helps to immerse the audience into the times and values of the day.

I’ll throw four kernels at the screen for this one.

Bodyguard (Netflix 2018)

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Thank you, Netflix for purchasing the rights to show the BBC drama Bodyguard. No this isn’t a remake of the Kevin Costner/Whitney Houston hit. Rather, it’s a BBC One production that grabbed the United Kingdom audience and now gets to grab you wherever you are.

It stars the talented Keely Hawes and Richard Madden (who takes a while to understand his accent). Fantastic acting by all the cast, a nailbiting, tense thriller to keep you guessing and on the edge of your seat.

Richard Madden plays the character of David Budd who is assigned as bodyguard to protect the Home Secretary Julia Montague played by Keeley Hawes.  She’s a high and mighty politician while he is a former soldier dealing with residual PTSD but packing a gun. The story revolves around tense political scenes, terrorists around every corner, broken marriages, and love affairs. To top it off, it’s the usual well-done British show with the tense music in the right spots.  Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, the plot twists in a surprising direction.

Great British television!  There’s nothing like it, and this is one of the best.  Just read the reviews online, and you’ll see many agree.

Woman Walks Ahead (Movie 2018)

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I grew up watching cowboys and Indians on television and in the movies. In fact, when I think back about how many pictures I did watch, that’s probably why I cannot stand to see another one as an adult.  However, in my Prime email from Amazon this morning, this was advertised.  I knew it to be recent and I like Jessica Chastain, so I thought I would check it out.

It’s a true story about a widow from New York who came out west to paint Sitting Bull. Hollywood portrays her as a childless widow, when in fact in real life, Catherine Weldon did have a son.  In 1890, she boards a train from the big city and travels to the plains of the Dakota intent on meeting the infamous chief.  Her one mission is to learn about him, his people, their treatment, and paint his portrait.

It’s a well-acted and soul-searching look into a time period when the United States didn’t play fair when it came to the Indians. A lot of hatred existed between the white and the Indians on the reservation, and Catherine does her best to help with the intent of making waves in Congress for better treatment.  Unfortunately, she also is hated by the locals for her sympathies toward the Lakota tribe.

Michael Greyeyes, who plays Sitting Bull, is much younger and more handsome than the real man who walked the earth. Romantic undertones by Hollywood are mixed into the story, focusing on his relationship with Catherine.   Jessica Chastain is a fine actress who plays a wide spectrum of characters well.

If you have Amazon Prime, I recommend this movie as a freebie. It didn’t garnish great reviews though.  In the end, a bit of history comes up on the screen, but you may have to hit stop to read it as editing doesn’t give you more than a few seconds to speed read the content.  I was unaware that this time period in the movie is a precursor to the massacre at Wounded Knee, where over three hundred men, woman, and children Lakotas were killed in 1890.

Suffragettes with Lucy Worsley (2018 BBC)

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I don’t usually blog about documentary shows, but my female readers (and males too) might really eat this one up like candy.

Perhaps since we’re facing mid-terms in the United States this November and it’s time to vote again, this might give you the incentive to register and get out to exercise your right.  Even though this is about the British woman who campaigned for the vote in England, it is no less poignant to realize the sacrifices many women made to bring change about in a man’s world.

Our wonderful Lucy Worsley, is an English historian, who does fascinating shows from the King’s Bedchamber, Six Wives, Empire of the Tsars, Tudor Treasure: A Night at Hampton Court, and many other wonderful documentaries.  This particular one is probably the best I’ve seen with re-enactments and personal testimony of the ladies who fought.  Frankly, it’s far better than the recent movie in 2015.

Like many others, I knew about the protests, the arrests, the forced feedings while incarcerated, but I didn’t appreciate the years and ingenuity these ladies used.  Yes, perhaps much of it turned radical and violent out of anger and frustration because no one cared to listen. Parliament ignored and pushed the women to their limits. Violence brought about the attention they craved, but ultimately it took a World War to bring about change.  You may judge them for their violent tactics, but some of their other schemes were down-right brilliant.  Who knew that Edwardian women understood the power of branding?

The show is currently streaming on BritBox.

It’s even got 100% on the Tomatometer.

Kate & Alfie: Redwater (RTE One & BBC One 2017)

kate and alfie3 Kernels for the Show – 1 for the Stupid Ending

I don’t think I’ve ever watched a television series that has left me so bleeping mad that I cursed at the end and screamed, “what the hell?” BEWARE, before you tune into this BBC mystery now streaming on BritBox. They canceled the bleeping show and left everyone hanging at an extremely critical point in the story. Before you invest yourself in six episodes, please be aware it’s going to cause you to swear at the end.

After saying all that, it’s a story about a woman who returns to find her long-lost son who she gave up for adoption 32 years earlier.  Apparently, it’s based on characters from the soap opera EastEnders, which I haven’t watched. It’s filmed in Ireland.

As the story unfolds, it’s a fairly good mystery with a few surprising twists that kept my interest through the six episodes. It’s the ending that leaves you hanging, but apparently the question of “survival” is answered upon the return of the characters to EastEnders, which I’ve not seen.  I can only say it’s a rotten way to treat the audience and poor planning for those who are not invested in the soap opera or its characters.  Frankly, it’s down-right cruel RTE One and BBC One.  What were you thinking?

If you want to read more about the show and episodes before investing the time to watch it with the full knowledge of the outcome, I suggest you travel over to old Wikipedia.

 

Mystery Road (Acorn TV 2018)

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My first thought at seeing the landscape in this Australian outback setting brought a question to mind.  How do people live in such a harsh environment? Wonderfully shot with some stellar overhead views of the vast scenery comes a crime mystery about two missing men on an outback cattle station.

Judy Davis plays a sassy middle-aged policewoman (Emma James) who is reluctantly paired with Aaron Pedersen (Jay Swan), an over-zealous detective.  Emma is quirky and knows the town/area like the back of her hand, while Jay saunters in as the gun-slinging Aussie cowboy type in boots and a hat ready to get dirty and solve the crime.

The six episodes of what happened and who-done-its keep audiences well engaged in a mystery that unfolds bit by bit.  Like a slow peel of an onion, the more layers stripped away in this mystery down a dusty road, the stinkier the core becomes. It’s a great show, well acted, and engaging.  The Aussies are giving the Brits a good run for their money on this outstanding series.

Interspersed between the main crime are the sideline stories of father and daughter problems, as well as a drinking estranged wife. Add that to the brother and sister relationship and secrets from centuries past regarding their ancestors who settled the land before them, you have some good side plots.

Check out the series but bring bottled water.  After a few hours of the dry Outback, you may get thirsty along the way or need a dish of ice cream to cool off.

 

 

The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society (Netflix 2018)

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I have been overdue for a good period drama and waiting patiently for the release of this film. In anticipation, I ordered the book but found it to be a compilation of letters and not written like a regular novel so I put it aside.

After seeing the trailer for the movie version, I’m so thankful it’s finally out.  There’s no disappointment whatsoever in this touching story staring Lily James.  As usual, I find her adorable, and her performance goes well in this sometimes heartbreaking story that eventually has a happy ever after.

The story is about Juliet Ashton, an author from London, who receives a letter after the war in 1946 from a peculiar group of people who calls themselves The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society.  They are a book club that was formed on the Isle of Guernsey (a British island in the Channel), during the German occupation.  Curious about the group, Juliet travels to the location to meet those who make up the book club. In doing so, she learns of the years of occupation in which they endured and a very sad story about one of their members.

The story jumps back and forth from the present to the war, giving insight as to what actually happened to the characters now speaking to her in 1946.  Juliet wants to write about their experiences, but the club would prefer that she does not because of the pain it represents in their lives.

The others who star in the movie are some of your favorites, such as Tom Courtenay, Katherine Parkinson, and Penelope Wilton who does a wonderful job in her role. Add to the cast is Matthew Goode, and you have a well-rounded, experienced group of seasoned actors.

Though you may find the movie a bit slow in parts, it’s worth the scenes to take the slow walk on the beach or run around the pig pen to get the feel of the location and its people.  If you’re a period drama junkie or enjoy WW2 stories, check it out on Netflix.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018)

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This past weekend, and a few weeks late, I finally went to the theater to see the newest Jurassic World movie along with my son and five-year-old grandson.  He was a brave soul during dino chomping episodes.

I will say that I enjoyed it but something was missing. The last movie, in my opinion, was much better.  As my big toenail taps against the floor like Blue’s, attempting to figure out why, I’ve decided to blame it on one word — predictability.  The movie needed more teeth.

Instead of the plot thickening, the plotline stayed thin.  The bad guys were not out to save the dinos from another extinction event.  They were out to save their pocketbooks and line them with untold millions, selling off the dino livestock to evil dudes in black suits.  In the next war, rather than nukes, a horde of dinos will be unleashed on enemies.

Regardless of its shortfalls, the latest franchise version will take its place in the lineup of dino movies.  Our fascination with these creatures hasn’t ended.  Remember, we have new generations seeing them.  My son was eight the first time Jurassic Park came out.  His son sat next to him at the age of five and saw the dinos for the first time on the big screen.  No doubt, these roaring movies will continue like the ones that take us to the stars.  Apparently, some moviegoers want to travel the universe, while the rest of us want to return to the earth’s origins when these creatures roamed the planet.

Nevertheless, our favorite stars returned this time around — T-Rex and Blue. (Yeah, I know, Chris Pratt … insert swoon.) They are always the staple of Jurassic movies since the first time T-Rex and those raptors scared the crap out of us in 1993.  Who doesn’t love the roar of the T-Rex or the call-call-call of the raptors?  Blue has such lovely teeth too, while T-Rex has a big mouth.

Naturally, a new bad-dude dino has been cooked up in the test tube thanks to the mad scientist.  I will admit, this dino got on my nerves!  He was relentless, but thankfully Blue saved the day.  Oh, Blue, Blue. I love you too. Your dino teeth, your color, your chew.  (Gee, I didn’t know I was such a poet!)

The breaking news is mankind is not going to die from an asteroid, World War III, or some ghastly plague.  Instead, we’re all going to get eaten in the end.  If I had my choice, I guess T-Rex would make it a quick kill.  A raptor would probably just chew on me like an appetizer.

My hero…

Hero

 

 

 

SAFE (Canal+ and Netflix 2018)

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How does one feel safe in a neighborhood? Does fencing in the community help keep the boogie-man out or does it actually keep the boogie-man safe within? It’s a question that comes up in this interesting series entitled SAFE, which was done by Netflix and Canal+. It’s a pretty intriguing mystery with a surprising twist at the end. Just don’t Google the answer if a certain character makes it or dies before you finish all eight episodes. You are liable to read the spoiler about the end. Ruined it for me!  Dang-it.

The series is set in England and involves an English doctor with two daughters, one of which goes missing after a wild house party she attends. The daughter of one of the parents in the fenced neighborhood has a wild drinking and drug party while her parents are away. Unfortunately, when the host steps outside for a breath of fresh air, she finds a dead body of one of the male attendees floating in the swimming pool.

The deceased is the boyfriend of Tom Delaney’s elder daughter, who hasn’t come home from the night before. As the police deal with the who-done-it questions about the dead boy, Tom is out searching frantically for his daughter.

His search uncovers all sorts of mysteries surrounding his deceased wife, and everything become very convoluted as the web of neighborhood deceit becomes stickier than ever. There are a few subplots along the way regarding others neighbors, and a huge secret that answers all the questions is glossed over early in the series.

It’s a good mystery.  Worth the watch.

 

An Inspector Calls (BBC 2015)

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Now streaming on Amazon is “An Inspector Calls,” which is probably the most profound and emotional story I’ve seen in my life.  Frankly, I never heard of it before.  Written by J. B. Priestley, it was apparently a play first performed in Moscow in 1945 and then in the UK in 1946 and has been on stage multiple times. I guess according to Wikipedia, it’s hailed as a classic. Apparently, it’s been in film and television also throughout the years.

The story is set in 1912 and revolves around a rich cotton mill owner Mr. Birling.  They are at home at dinner with his wife, son, daughter, and her fiance.  After dinner, a gentleman arrives at the door and introduces himself as Inspector Goole from the police.  He is led into the dining room where Mr. Birling and his son and Mr. Croft are talking, while the ladies are in the parlor.

It begins with him asking Mr. Birley if he recognizes a woman in a picture that he shows him, and he denies knowing her.  When pressured why the questions, he states that she has committed suicide and he’s investigating the circumstances that lead up to her death.  Naturally, Mr. Birley asks what does this have to do with us? Eventually, he confesses that she did work at his factory and the story begins.

Well, I cannot tell you the rest because it would ruin it for you.  I think I gasped a few times, got overly emotional, felt my own shame at the end, and sat there dumbfounded after the show ended.  So what’s it all about?  Here’s a short quote that might give you a hint:

We don’t live alone upon this earth. We are responsible for each other.  And if mankind will not learn that lesson then the time will come when he will be taught it in fire and blood and anguish.

You’ll discover, too, that Inspector Goole isn’t everything he appears to be.

I highly recommend it because he stabs the audience at the core. It’s also intertwined with the classes of society, how we deal with each other, and the outcome of our actions that can affect others.

It’s currently streaming on Amazon Prime for free.

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