Category: Starz Series

The Spanish Princess

I’ve watched The White Queen and The White Princess twice. Now comes Starz with The Spanish Princess. It’s the story of Catherine of Aragon, who married Prince Arthur and eventually Henry VIII (his first wife). It looks amazing! Starts May 5th, so renew your Starz subscription and mark your calendars!  Love period drama.

Howards End (Starz 2017-18)

Howards End4 Kernels

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.

Outlander Season 2, Ep. 205 (Untimely Resurrection)

Well, I remembered to tune in at nine p.m. last night, even though by Friday night at nine I’m feeling like a Zombie from a week’s work.  Nevertheless, for the sake of staying on top of the latest episode my Starz subscription Amazon gives me, I tuned in to watch the continuing Outlander saga.

I must admit that I waffle between bored and interested most of the time.  Frankly, I think because Season 1 (or at least what I watched) kept my interest by the premise of time travel and Claire’s journey back into the past.  However, I’m still struggling to keep my attention during this French portion, except for a few parts that poke at me to concentrate.  Episode 205 and the “Untimely Resurrection” of Jack Randall turned out to be a rather intriguing, if not entertaining, scene.

The earlier part of the episode deals with Mary Hawkins’ aftermath of rape, and Claire’s bid to try and convince the younger Mr. Randall not to marry the disgraced woman.  After all, Claire is now on a bid to make sure that Frank gets born.  It’s quite a conundrum because she loves Jamie, of course, but cannot bring herself to change the future enough to have never loved or married Frank.  What’s a time-traveler to do?

As the episode progresses and Claire and Jamie attend a horse-fair of sorts at Versailles, while Jamie is off checking the teeth of mares and studs, she takes a stroll with Annalise de Marillac.  If you remember, that is the young lady who knew Jamie before Claire.  It’s obvious by her remarks of how much Jamie has changed that she’s not too keen on Claire’s influence in his life.

Then it happens.  Off in the distance, dressed in his British red uniform, comes Black Jack Randall strolling toward her in all his glory.  Naturally, Claire’s jaw sets for the next fifteen minutes in the scene, while Randall enjoys the reunion immensely.  Once again, as much as I hate the freaking sadistic character, Tobias Menzies pulls off an excellent performance.  Unfortunately, Catriona‘s set jaw and words that were spoken through her clenched teeth fall short in comparison.

When the King arrives with his entourage, a rather amusing scene of the French degrading the English occur, while poor Randall endures the humiliation and insults. Better to bend one knee than to lose one’s head.

And then Jamie arrives upon the scene.  Both men place their hands on the hilt of their swords but restrain from carrying out a bloodbath in front of the King and Claire. After the French depart, Jamie challenges Randall to a duel.  Of course, if you didn’t know, dueling was illegal in France at the time.  I know because I researched it for one of my books.  However, duels still occurred in secluded places where one could draw first blood and be declared a winner or one could duel until death. (Extra notes below.)

When Claire learns of it, she becomes unhinged. Jamie cannot kill Randal or Frank won’t live!  Will she convince the young Scot to keep his sword sheathed or will Jamie draw it anyway to get his revenge?  You’ll just have to watch the episode and find out.  If you read the book, I’m assuming you already know.  “You have a choice! Him or me!”

Maybe I should take French lessons.  I might enjoy it better than reading the sub-titles.

The Duel

Of course, there are rules to the game, even if the game was illegal during this period. Nevertheless, duels continued, and not many were prosecuted over the act. If a man wanted to regain his honor from the offender, the first course of action would be the challenge or what is terms as, “throwing down the gauntlet.”

Once accepted, the location and weapons were chosen. Each man brought a representative to witness the act. The challenger set the rules as to location, weapons, and number of steps to pace off. It was his call. I noted, however, in this episode that Randall had the choice.  What I have read, that is not the case unless Starz took some creative liberty.

The type of duel could either be any of the following: (1) to first blood, which meant until one was wounded, (2) until severely wounded and unable to continue, or (3) to the death. Each pistol had one shot, and if there were misses the first round, the guns were reloaded and they would continue until one of the above conditions were fulfilled but usually no more than three reloads.

To learn more, visit Wikipedia.

Outlander Season 201, Ep. 202 (Not in Scotland Anymore)

Titanic Blood And Steel 2012I burned my popcorn in the microwave last night. Well, not literally. Only to say that I’m not scattering popcorn kernels after last night’s episode. I’m going to keep my kernels private, which is more than I can say for the body parts Starz loves to flaunt.

Last night’s episode started off graphically with hot lovemaking between Claire and Jamie. With the young Scot dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder, it’s no wonder the lad is having nightmares. Well, you will be privy to that horror as the face of Claire morphs into the face of Jack Randall underneath Jamie, moaning with pleasure. Jamie loses it, grabs a knife, and repeatedly stabs Jack in the chest until he’s killed the bastard. At first, you fear he’s done in Claire during a moment of madness, but Jamie jolts awake dripping in sweat. This is your gory welcome to Episode 202 – you will be drenched in blood.

The things I avoided in the last half of season one, are apparently going to be shoved in my face by Starz regardless of my distaste. I would really like to get through this series, but if my complaining gets on the nerves of the die-hard fans, I am surely going to be hanged, disemboweled, and quartered.

After the shocking start of the episode, we get to the crux of the matter – they are not in Scotland anymore. I will give Starz credit for one thing – they have done a fantastic job with costumes and scenery. They have spared no expense to give its fans a time-travel trip into 18th century Paris. Jamie and Claire are living the life of luxury, wearing beautiful clothes, and making acquaintances so they can get an inroad into the royal court.

However, along with the greatness above, comes the vulgarity (love that word) of the French in the eyes of its visitors. As one scene unfolds in a brothel, while Jamie meets the Prince, you will be entertained by a few shocking scenes of prostitutes with decorative imitation penises and flashy nipples that give Jamie and Murtagh a shock.

I suppose you could call the lighthearted scenes of Claire’s new upper-class friend getting her legs and honey pot waxed slightly entertaining. You’ll later find out that Claire has tried the hairless trend herself and crawled into bed with Jamie. Poor Jamie, however, still sees the face of his enemy underneath and cannot perform.

The remainder of the show deals with Claire and Jamie attempting to infiltrate the court and rub shoulders with the individuals who can help their cause. Episode 202, not as moving as 201 with Claire’s return, pushes the story along. It jumps from nightmarish scenes, lighthearted bantering and hair removal, to dull, watching the king attempting to have a bowel movement, and an unexpected revelation at the end.  Jamie suggests eating porridge in the morning to the king as a means of fiber, since Scots don’t have that problem.  If anything, I can attest that one bowl of oatmeal does the job for me.

As I’ve stated before, no, I haven’t read the entire series in book form. I’m a virgin to the story, so I see this series televised from a different viewpoint. Unfortunately, Starz is apparently going to push those scenes I’ve attempted to avoid into my face nevertheless. Hence, my popcorn burned last night, and I’m keeping the few kernels that escaped to myself.

Oh, and once again, by 11 o’clock Friday night, the episode was posted for watching. At least I’m getting the value of my $8.99 a month Starz subscription. Thanks Amazon.  Here’s hoping Starz stops the flashbacks of terror and moves on with the show.

The White Queen (Television Starz 2013)

4 Crowned Kernels

When learning about England and their kings and queens, I’m often overwhelmed about how vicious, greedy, vindictive, immoral, and conniving these royals were about their family dynasties. The crown seemed to be the focal point of life, and killing, clawing, and stealing to sit upon the monarch’s chair and wear the jewels made monsters out of most of them. Loyalties shifted like the weather, and to keep one’s head, you either went with the flow or paid the price of treason. Of course, every faction could be praying to God at the same battle for victory, believing they were the chosen and only one anointed to rule. However, you never really get to know what God thinks about it all.

The White Queen is another entertaining look into one portion of history, which made me grab for my reference book regarding the real story of kings and queens in England. The series is a great binge watch for anyone who wants to get swept away into the world of dukes, earls, princes, kings, and queens. It contains just the right amount of intrigue to keep audiences tuning in to the next episode.

As far as the cast, they do a plausible and fairly convincing job in their roles. Every time I see James Frain play another scoundrel in the realm of royalty, I find him convincingly irritating to say the least. Of course, he usually loses his life in one way or the other.

All in all, the series is good. I don’t think it is as well as The Tudors, but it’s right up there with it. I’d give the show four crowns rather than four kernels.

Outlander Review (Episode 2 – Castle Leoch)

Last night I tuned into Episode 2 (or EP 102 as Starz calls it) of Outlander. After finally getting my cable box to work with my new 32 inch television in my bedroom, I’m able to watch the show. I’ve also read most of book one, roughly about 80%. Some of the chapters I skipped out of personal preferences.

I have been hanging around the Outlander Series Facebook Group, with a whopping 28,448 members. Frankly, I feel like a time traveler trying to get the lay of the land.  Just like any other fan group I’ve been involved in online, emotions are high. There are opinionated Highlanders, disgruntled Highlanders, starry-eyed Highlanders, Jamie worshiping Highlanders, along with complainers, critics, and newbies to the story. For the most part, I’ve kept to myself only making a few comments.

After reading most of book one, I do have my own strong opinions about the story. Personal preferences play a lot in what we like and don’t like. As for me, I’m more into the emotional side of storytelling, and I avoid and find disturbing violent scenes. In Outlander, there are many, which is part of the history of the Scottish and English during this time period. What I’ve seen in reviews from other readers it appears that some can handle it, but others cannot.  I think because I’ve had my own share of abuse from men in my life, I tend to want to look away or skip the difficult parts. At this point in time, I don’t plan on reading the remaining books in the series. I can’t be writing three books at once and then taking the time to read seven more. It just doesn’t mesh with my own goals.  Since the show has been renewed for Season 2, I’ll catch the story as it goes along.

As far as Episode 2, it has its lighthearted moments, tender moments, and disturbing moments. Claire arrives to a very muddy castle, filled with grubby Scotsman, and archaic scenes that starkly contrast her 20th century world. She is more or less standing around trying to acclimate herself to her situation, when Jamie finally introduces her to Mrs. FitzGibbons or Fitz for short.

Finally a Weak Moment from Claire (Copyright Starz)

She enters the castle and tends to Jamie’s wounded shoulder, and finally breaks down into tears thinking about Frank. It’s the first hint of weakness from Claire, who for the most part has been outspoken and defensive. Jamie comforts her in his arms, but when she becomes aware of their closeness she draws away. He tells her not to fear as long as he is with her, but of course “it’s not a pretty thing to be English” amongst the Scottish.

The next morning Mrs. Fitz arrives to give her some decent clothing, and a humorous moment comes as Claire exposes her bra.  Definitely not the corset of the day.  Mrs. Fitz dresses her in layers of clothing, no doubt because it’s a cold and damp castle with drafts.  Afterward, she takes Claire to meet the Laird, Colum MacKenzie, and conjures up a story of how she came to be alone running about the woods in a shift and nearly raped by Black Jack Randall.  It seems that no one is really buying her story, and they think she is an English spy. Dougal MacKenzie, the laird’s brother, is not exactly pleased with Claire’s presence.

With a feigned promise of being escorted back to Inverness in five day’s time, Claire tries to lay low. She spends time getting to know Jamie a bit better, while she tends to his wounded shoulder. She watches the barbaric judgments in the hall, where Jamie takes the place of a young girl who was to be beaten for her morally loose behavior. It’s a world unlike her own, and as much as Claire would like to speak out over the barbarous treatment, she’s advised to stay silent.

In the end, just when she thinks she’ll be taken back to Inverness so she can return to the stones and Frank, Colum tells her she must stay. Claire’s personality is one of a kind, frankly. Had it been me, I would have dropped to my knees and begged him to let me go. However, she has this way of pursing her lips, sticking out her chin, and spewing out her displeasure. She is by no means a weak woman, but as the episode closes she stands alone dealing with the realization that for now she is a prisoner of the past.

On a closing note, let’s just say that Black Jack Randall is a sadist. Be forewarned that you will see much of his behavior that will turn your stomach, which will be the parts I will probably close my eyes. I just don’t like disturbing violence, and unfortunately that is part of the dark side of Outlander you will be able to handle or not.  The story has been coined a “bodice-ripper type” novel, much to the chagrin of some fans.  But let’s face it, when Black Jack Randall rips open the bodice of Jamie’s sister to expose her breasts, what else would you call it?

Kudos to Starz for the fantastic sets, costumes, and filming of this series. It’s probably going to garnish a few awards for the detail they have put into Outlander.  I’ll tune in next week and let you know if Claire shows an ounce of weakness, or if she keeps that proverbial English stiff upper lip.

In summary:
Most tender moment:  Jamie comforting Claire

Most humorous statement:  Claire to Jamie, “Try not to get flogged or stabbed today.”

Most disturbing moment: Anything Black Jack Randall says or does

Here’s the Preview to Episode 3 – The Way Out

Meanwhile, on the set of Poldark, they have signed Aidan Turner to a five-year contract. Will Starz follow suit with Outlander and the remaining books? My guess is, if the Outlander frenzy continues among the lasses, they won’t be far behind.

Link to my thoughts on Episode 1 of Outlander

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