Vera (ITV 2011-Present)

VeraI cannot believe after searching through my reviews that I haven’t written a review about Vera. It’s probably because after watching seven seasons multiple times and now watching Season 8 on BritBox after it airs in the U.K., that I’m just forgetful, pet.

So let me take a moment to tell you what I think of Vera.  I love Vera.  I love the show.  I love DCI Vera Stanhope and Brenda Blethyn who brings her life.  I love the way she calls people “pet” and “luv” and wanders around the beautiful Northumberland landscape solving murders.  I love the way she barks at everybody on her staff and confronts every suspicious bloke on the block.  Needless to say, it’s a great show.

Based on novels of the same name, written by crime writer Ann Cleeves, Vera in herself is a complex woman.  Excellent in her job and ability to solve murders, on the personal side she is a very private and lone individual who doesn’t care to socialize.  She would rather retreat to her secluded home, once owned by her father, drink, and review case files at night by herself.

She has gone through two DS’s in the years, played by David Leon and Kenny Doughty.  Both have survived Vera’s demanding work schedule and barking orders to solve the mysteries.  Each episode runs 90-minutes in length, so these are deep-dive stories into the multiple suspects until Vera catches her killer.

As usual, British crime shows are the best.


Darkest Hour (Movie 2017 Review)

Darkest Hour5 Kernels

To give this film anything less than five kernels or five glowing stars, would be a travesty.  A very short period of history from May 8, 1940 to June 4, 1940 is portrayed on screen.  It focuses on the stubborn and determined man who refused to surrender and those who loved and hated him.

I don’t think I’ve seen a movie that has roused me to such patriotism even though I was born in the USA.  Perhaps it is my ancestral roots in England and the fact that my second great uncle once introduced Churchill at a meeting when he was a young conservative just elected in Manchester.  Whatever the reason, I felt profoundly moved.

The movie begins with the House of Commons calling for the resignation of Neville Chamberlain as Prime Minister due to his handling of the war.  Even though he wasn’t their first choice as a replacement, Churchill fills the position and even the King isn’t too keen to see him as Prime Minister. After accepting the position, he displays a much different view as to how Hitler should be handled. He organizes his war cabinet but soon discovers not many of them have the stomach for war and lean toward the idea of negotiating a peace settlement with Hitler.  Churchill balks at the idea but receives mounting pressure to agree or face being replaced.

At this point, I could kick myself that after two trips to London, having not visited the Churchill War Rooms after seeing this movie where much of it takes place.  Joining the cast of characters and giving strong support is Kristin Scott Thomas who plays Churchill’s wife and Lily James who plays Elizabeth his newly hired secretary.

One focused event is how Churchill came up with the idea on how to rescue the majority of British forces stranded at Dunkirk.  Later on, when faced with the decision to negotiate or stand firm, he takes the pulse of the common Londoner to see if they would rather surrender or fight.  Then he goes to Parliament to deliver his famous speech laced with the words below.  At the very end, he storms through the doors and the movie ends, making you wish you could jump to your feet and fight the war in the streets by his side.  At the end, I shudder to think what would have happened had Churchhill not roused England to stand firm.

Gary Oldman’s performance is so brilliant that mere wordy accolades are not enough. His transformation from the man he is in real life into Churchill in looks and mannerisms is astounding.  No doubt he will win many awards.

Though the latest Star Wars movie is the rage at the moment, I recommend you consider the past and the history of real men who fought against the dark side and prevailed.  It’s their character, determination, and courage that should be our true inspiration for the future.

We Shall Fight

Viceroy’s House (Movie 2017)

Viceroy's House3 Kernels

Streaming on Netflix is the Viceroy’s House, a little historical gem for those interested in a bit of history you may not know.  Released in September of 2017, it focuses on the 70th anniversary of Indian independence from British rule.

If you didn’t realize, at one time Britain ruled a quarter of the world, coining the term, “The sun never sets on the British empire.”  For any of you history buffs, I highly recommend watching BBC’s EMPIRE that aired in 2012.  I found it on YouTube and it consists of five episodes in documentary form.  Fantastic series.  You probably should check other streaming services too.

Okay, back to the Viceroy’s House.  Bit by bit Britain’s empire shrunk worldwide as countries they dominated won their freedom.  In 1947, a new Viceroy arrives, Lord Mountbatten played by Hugh Bonneville, to oversee the transition of power.  His wife and daughters accompany him.  Unfortunately, India is in religious turmoil, filled with violence, and no one has an idea how to bring the fighting factions together which consisted of Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims.  It is a sad state of affairs.

Unable to bring about the peace needed after much negotiation, Britain decides to split the country into two – India and Pakistan, which gives the Muslims their own country in Pakistan.  The result is absolute chaos as millions of people partition to either side.  The movie’s romantic undertones are between a Hindu and Muslim who fall in love and struggle with the impossible situation of being together.

Naturally, the story is filled with negotiations from all the factions involved, including Gandhi’s bid for a unified India that falls on deaf ears.  To mitigate further deaths and violence, Britain decides to move ahead with the partition. It leaves an unimaginable 11.2 million displaced persons in a massive population exchange.

It’s an interesting movie that looks into a critical time in history.  If you’re into these types of stories, I recommend you check this one out for educational purposes.  Of course, at the end, it leaves you scratching your head over why we can’t just live in peace with each other regardless of our faiths.

Victoria & Abdul (Movie 2017)

Victoria and Abdul3 Kernels

As usual with these not-so-wide distributed movies, I missed this one when it came to the theatre.  It’s finally up on Amazon to stream for $5.99.  Last evening I sat down and watched it, hoping for another entertaining look into Queen Victoria’s life.

The movie focuses on the relationship between Abdul Karim and Victoria. Abdul is brought to England from India to present the queen with a gift. After all, she is the Empress of India, and Abdul is proud to serve England. His attitude, of course, isn’t shared by all who are Indian.

Instantly, Victoria is interested in the handsome stranger and becomes enthralled over his engaging presence.  At this point in her reign, she is tired, bored, and lonely.  Abdul fills a void left behind that was once held by her dear husband Albert and subsequent friendship with John Brown that lasted for many years until he passed away. Abdul fills that void and becomes her friend and teacher.

There is a fascinating documentary about the real story of the relationship between Abdul and Victoria that can be found on YouTube called, “Queen’s Victoria’s Last Love Abdul Karim,” which I highly recommend.

Naturally, Judy Dench makes the perfect Queen Victoria and does a wonderful portrayal that is quite close to the one in Mrs. Brown, which is the movie about her relationship with John Brown on Amazon entitled Her Majesty, Mrs. Brown.

Of course, the queen’s new favorite is not the favorite of her family or the queen’s court.  She raises the commoner from India to positions that are not deserved as far as her family, the prime minister, and others with aristocratic airs are concerned. The hated for Abdul grows. Ali Fazal plays an exuberant friend to the queen, displaying his contagious joy that perks her up from depression.

The movie, though entertaining, doesn’t rank as highly in my favorites as Mrs. Brown.  It’s interesting, though, that both them men came into Queen Victoria’s life at important times to give her friendship and emotional support.  She was undoubtedly an extraordinary woman.




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