Tag: Period Drama

Our World War (BBC Series 2014)

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5 Stars for Bravery

Yeah, yeah, I know most of you don’t like documentaries.  This one is a little bit different because it’s a well-acted re-enactment of three significant events for the British Army during World War I.  The episodes are based on written accounts by the soldiers who lived and survived to tell their stories and the men with which they served.

What can say about it? It’s emotional. It’s heartwrenching.  It’s shocking.  Well done, except for the oddity of the rock music in some of the scenes. The series actually puts you — the viewer — into the battles as if you were with the men and hearing the bullets whiz by your head.  The tension prior to and in engagement with the enemy is palpable. Perhaps that is why this program will undoubtedly leave an impression on you.  And if you lost distant cousins in the war like I did — six of them the ages of 18 to 42 — you will appreciate their sacrifice and you will draw closer to their memory as the young lads who served their country.

The first episode focuses on the first day that the British army encounters the German army in August 1914. Unprepared for the onslaught of Germans and their brutal advance, it’s difficult to watch the slaughter.  The second episode is about the Manchester Pals, as they called them, who served at Somme.  A few of my cousins were from Manchester.  The third episode is about the invention of the tank, and how the British turned the tide of the war toward victory by these new machines.

As a caution before you watch, you might find the lads extremely difficult to understand with the myriad of different British accidents, along with Irish and Scottish.  Hang in there and don’t surrender.  Keep calm and carry on through the end.

If you possess a soul, you might end up a bit tearful watching this series.  As the trailer says, “Modern warfare is brutal. 100 years ago it was unimaginable.”

Check it out – now streaming on Netflix. Read about the series at BBC. (Especially the pages of Interactive Episodes.)

My Cousin Rachel (Movie Review 2017)

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“Rachel, my torment. “

Do not expect to have a definitive answer at the end of the movie if Rachel is good or evil. You will leave pondering that question for some time and for good reason. She is an intriguing character, tormenting you as you sift through the lies and innuendos to find the truth.

I came into this movie unfamiliar with the outcome never having read the original novel by Daphne du Maurier.  Clueless as to the ending, I was quite satisfied as I left the theater asking the other four patrons around me, “did she or didn’t she?” Their responses I shall keep silent.

If you’re a period movie junkie, no doubt you’ll be running to watch this suspenseful tale of a very different kind of woman.  She, too, is a wonder woman of sorts, as you’re dragged along wondering about her motives through the entire film. It borders on the Gothic melodrama with enough suspense to keep you guessing.

It begins with the narration of Ambrose Ashley’s cousin and how he takes in Philip to raise him after his parents die.  Ambrose is like a father to him, but he becomes ill and goes to Italy to “take in the sun.” (This is England, you know, dark, gloomy, rains a lot, has gray clouds, etc.).  Ambrose writes often and eventually announces he has met a woman named Rachel, who he marries.  When Philip receives a disturbing letter from his cousin, asking him to come to him, he leaves. By the time he arrives, his cousin is dead and Rachel has left. Thinking that she had inherited his estate and land, he is surprised to discover that his cousin left everything to him in an unchanged will, which he will inherit upon his twenty-fifth birthday.

Rachel finally arrives in England. Philip, determined to confront her on the allegations she may have poisoned his cousin, discovers a very different female than he anticipated. With a charismatic personality and beauty, he falls desperately in love to the point of obsession. He rewrites his will and leaves everything to Rachel — his inheritance, the estate, and all the family jewels.

The relationship between the two individuals unfolds in a strange way.  The insinuation constantly lurks that she plans to kill Philip because she’s always brewing strange cups of tea that taste disgusting. Philip’s godfather warns him about her rather questionable character, but he refuses to believe anything until they begin to have contentious periods after she allows him to make love to her.

The film slowly unfolds but it is needed to build up the questionable suspense as the characters’ personalities are revealed and begin to interact. Beautiful daytime landscapes and candlelight in the evening add to the authenticity of the times.  It feels period perfect in the sense of costumes and scenery, but it’s difficult to come to a clear conclusion of who Rachel is underneath the black veil.

It is fresh on the Tomato Meter with a fine performance from Rachel Weisz (as Rachel) and Sam Claflin (as Philip).  Though some reviewers term it as a romance, I disagree with that analogy. There is no romance.  He loves her but there’s no reciprocation on her part.  It’s a questionable relationship between two very different people whose personalities don’t blend together in love. Instead, there is obsession and suspicion that makes for a surprise ending that you do not see coming.

 

 

 

The White Princess (Episode Two Recap)


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Some historical events and characters have been altered in the film for dramatic purposes.”

You’ll quickly miss this statement as the ending credits roll by the screen. Keep that in mind, as you watch Episode 2 of The White Princess.

So far, the production is holding its own. King Henry is facing his challengers to the throne from a ten-year old boy, a mother-in-law who practices witchcraft, a wife who plots with her mother, and a kingdom in the midst of the sweating sickness plague, blaming him for God’s wrath upon the nation. If that isn’t enough trouble, he has the diehard York faction attempting to assassinate him as he puts forth an effort to visit his newly conquered corner of England.

Princess Elizabeth of York provides decent counsel to Henry, defying his mother’s often ploy to run the country on his behalf. As he begins to have a mind of his own in matters, Margaret Beaufort tightens her authority over the York ladies in the household. Poor ten-year-old Edward Plantagenet, 17th Earl of Warwick, is sent to the Tower of London, which sent me off to Google to discover that eventually he loses his head at the age of twenty-four.

The production remains lavish in costume and sets, including the locations. However, much if it was not filmed where the  historical events occurred.  Here is a good reference article on the filming locations on Atlas of Wonders, with screenshots.

The series continues on a 4-star kernel rating, but I hate waiting each week for new episodes.  If you’re a binge watcher, best to take it in all in one sitting. Hey, what’s a mere ten hours in front of the television?

In honor of Henry’s visit to the city of York, which you really do not see in the series, I thought I would post my video taken last year. I, as a lowly commoner, sat outside the cathedral and recorded the bells.  Enjoy!

UPDATE: June 11, 2017 – Well, the series has ended after eight episodes, and though I may have been a bit gushy when writing the review above, I cannot in all honestly say it was as good as The White Queen. Perhaps the problem lies in the deviation from history, the rapidly moving timeline, and the characters themselves. Though semi-historically accurate about Henry VII’s personally (so I’m told by others), he came across as such a weak and insecure individual, that it was difficult to be loyal to the series. Does that sound odd?  Well, I suppose it’s “off with my head.”

The Moonstone (2016 BBC TV)

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Ah, BritBox!  My second series to binge upon was The Moonstone, which is a five episode drama based on a  detective novel by Wilkie Collins written in 1868.  This tale is a classic who-done-it that will keep you guessing until you find out who-did-it.

The moonstone is actually a yellow diamond that has been stolen by a corrupt British officer while in India. The stone is revered, precious, and outrageously big.  When he dies, he bequeaths the stone to Rachel, his niece. Unfortunately, with that gift comes problems, greed, and danger.

Upon her eighteenth birthday party, Franklin Blake, Rachel’s cousin, has been entrusted to give her the stone now that she is of age. Once again we are faced with cousins romantically entangled with one another in the series as two vie for Rachel’s affections. She has a large birthday party celebration where everyone in attendance gets to see the fabulous diamond and handle it. Insistent that she merely keep it in a drawer in a cabinet in her room overnight, she discovers in the morning that it has been stolen.

The story is an interesting premises where the audience is brought along to remember the occurrences of that evening as reflected upon a year later. Franklin returns to England, hoping to win back Rachel’s heart, but he knows he must find the stone in order to do so. An interesting group of characters are all suspects, including Rachel, and the whereabouts of the stone and its current location remains a mystery. Even traveling Indian Hindu priests wanting to return the stone to India are suspects in the missing stone.

Of course, we are back in the Victorian era of cousins falling in love with cousins, and this time Rachel has two quite dashingly handsome men wanting her hand in marriage. If anything, the story kept me intrigued trying to figure out who stole the diamond, and the end has a few surprising twists and turns as the mystery is solved.

Apparently this is the second time this series has hit television, with Greg Wise being Edward Blake in an earlier BBC version in 1997. There is even another movie version in 1934, which is an American mystery film.  Who knew?  Apparently, not me because I’ve never heard of this gem (no pun intended) until I subscribed to BritBox.

Okay, I’m off my soap box.  It’s worth the watch.

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