World on Fire (BBC/PBS TV Series)

3 Kernels

Well, stuck at home for 24 days now, I finished in two days on PBS Passport the series “World on Fire,” which originally aired on BBC and now is streaming each week on PBS Masterpiece. Series two has already been commissioned by BBC, and apparently, it could go on through six series in total if it gets picked up for the remainder.

The storyline is not a simple one. It involves a huge cast of characters situated in Germany, Poland, France, and England in the first seven episodes. Scenes flop back and forth between the lives of all these individuals set in 1939 just before Germany’s invasion of Poland. As the series progresses, you see the Nazis systematically invade Poland, Belgium and then France. As Europe falls into its clutches, the characters are taking their own journey during these turbulent times.

The main family groups are the Bennetts, consisting of a father (Douglas) who has residual shell-shock syndrome from WWI, his daughter (Lois), and a son (Tom) who is in trouble with the law most of the time. Harry Chase and his mother, Robina, are the next family circle. Harry is initially Lois’ love interest. Harry travels to Poland and becomes involved in the Tomaszeski family, falling in love with the daughter. Then there is Helen Hunt, who is a war correspondent based in Berlin, and her nephew who is a doctor in Paris.

Audiences may find it difficult to keep track of the multiple storylines and the changes of scenes between each family group and location.  The series pulls no punches and paints the Nazis in the cruelest light possible in their invasion of Europe. No one is safe–Jews, homosexuals, people of color, or children with disabilities. It focuses heavily on the Nazi beliefs of the “master race.”

Some of the storylines do not quite make sense and backgrounds are not fully fleshed out. Lois’ feelings toward Harry had me scratching my head. Harry’s mother is a hard nut to crack. Tom is a pain in the neck. Nevertheless, despite some pitfalls it holds your attention.

Beware that the season finale leaves its audiences on a cliffhanger that is going to make you wait for another year or more to find out what happens next. Just as a point of personal ranting, I am finding this new trend of cliffhanger theatrics in a lot of series of late to be irritating. Just because the cliff is there, it doesn’t mean there will necessarily be a season two.  Sanditon and Beecham House are two series that cruelly left their audiences because of non-renewals. I’m not sure that viewers are going to continue to be forgiving if this trend continues in the hopes that just because they leave us on the edge of our seats it will mean they will return for another season.  BBC and ITV need to rethink this ploy.

If you are into WW2 movies/series, tune into “World on Fire.” Since it doesn’t look like Victoria will be returning, for the next few years, you can count on being dragged through war instead.

Stay safe. Stay healthy.  And for goodness sake, stay home and binge-watch television.

Midway (Movie 2019)

midway4.5 Kernels

Sometimes I really don’t understand critics or what they expect. Thank goodness, I didn’t listen to them and went and saw the movie after seeing the high audience rating. I don’t think I’ve ever shed a freaking tear at the end of a war movie but I did at this one.

My father served in the south Pacific during WW2 in the army. He was fortunate to come home alive. However, watching movies like this really takes an individual into the center of the horrors of war and being able to see and deeply appreciate the brave young men who turned the tide of the war around in decisive battles like Midway.

Needless to say, the visual effects were stunning and those dive-bombing fliers were something else. What brave men! The lack of character development complained about by critics is pish-posh. They failed to apparently read the credits at the end about the real men portrayed in this movie and their character who saved our country from possible invasion had we lost. I didn’t really care about the script complaints either. What I did care about, was the reminder and deep sense of gratitude this move left me with at the end when I departed the show, thanking lives long gone.

RIP brave men of Midway.

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.

The Railway Man (Movie 2013)

Stars: Colin Firth, Nicole Kidman, Stellan Skarsgard, Hiroyuki Sanada (after the war); Jeremy Irvine, Sam Reid, Tanroh Ishida (during the war)

This evening I saw The Railway Man, which is still showing in a few theaters in my area. The movie is filled with Oscar worthy performances that are by far the best I have seen this year.
Let me preface this review by saying that the story is an emotionally charged depiction of war, some of which you may find deeply disturbing. The movie includes scenes of torture, beatings, captivity, and inhumane treatment.  Nevertheless, it is well worth the watch.  I saw it on a Friday night at 7:30 p.m., and there were a whopping seven people in the theater, all of which were my generation or older. Everybody else packed the fantasy movies, leaving the reality plenty of space. That tidbit of information leads me to my next thought.
As the generation of those who fought in WW2 die and are buried, I often think that new generations will never fully comprehend or appreciate what their parents or grandparents sacrificed to win this war. During the Second World War, over 60 million people were killed worldwide. It is termed the deadliest conflict in human history. In another twenty years from now, will we remember those who suffered–both military and civilian? Will the new generations even care?
Today, people are deeply entrenched in a make-believe, comic world of super heroes, endowed with special powers who save the day. It is fantasy and not the reality of true human suffering and sacrifice. The Railway Man is a stark reminder of what it means to be a hero regardless of the horrendous treatment received at the hands of the enemy.
Okay, I’m off my soapbox and onto the review.
The film is an adaptation of an autobiography of a British officer (Eric Lomax), who was a prisoner of war in a Japanese camp. He was captured when Singapore fell to the Japanese, and became part of a group of soldiers who were forced to help build the Thai-Berma Railway.
The movie is set during 1980, with multiple flashbacks to what occurred during WW2. Eric Lomax, played by Colin Firth as the elder character, suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. Though it has been decades since the war ended, he still suffers flashbacks of the torture he endured at the hands of the Japanese. He meets with others in his unit who survived the POW camp, but no one ever talks about what happened.
Lomax discovers that the Japanese translator who aided in his torture is alive. To his shock, he manages the war museum where he was held prisoner. To end the psychological torment he still endures, Lomax goes to see him for the purpose of revenge. When he meets his enemy, he discovers the man of today is not the enemy of yesterday. 
As far as performances, I was frankly astounded by Colin Firth’s portrayal as the older Lomax, and Jeremy Irvine as the younger Lomax. I would be extremely surprised if nominations are not forthcoming for this movie or its actors.
For me, it was a five star movie. It will leave you in tears and perhaps give you a ray of hope that after the most trying of circumstances, there can still be peace and forgiveness between enemies.