Thursday Movie Picks: Period Dramas

ThursdayMoviePicksHappy almost Friday! It’s TMP time! The Thursday Movie Picks blogathon was spearheaded by Wandering Through the Shelves Blog.

The rules are simple simple: Each week there is a topic for you to create a list of three movies. Your picks can either be favourites/best, worst, hidden gems, or if you’re up to it one of each. This Thursday’s theme is… Period Dramas.

Ahhhh! This is one of my all time favorite genres and those who read my blog regularly knows I have a soft spot for Jane Austen, specifically Ang Lee’s Sense and Sensibility. But beyond that, I watch a TON of period dramas and so in order to narrow things down to just FOUR, I’m only selecting TV MINISERIES based on books. I actually love the miniseries (or limited series) format as it allows more time for character development and unpack the story in a deeper level. I happen to own ALL of these miniseries, that’s how much I love them!

So here they are in the order of release:

North & South (2004)

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North and South is a four part adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell’s love story of Margaret Hale, a middle class southerner who is forced to move to the northern town of Milton.

Call me old fashioned but I feel like a lot of romances these days are all about instant gratification. I think the pent-up passion, the waiting, the stolen glances, etc. are what makes period romances so irresistible to me. I’ve seen my North & South DVD countless times and it never gets old. The casting of Daniela Denby-Ashe (Margaret) and Richard Armitage (John) are superb and they have a palpable chemistry, especially towards the end. I’ve even dedicated a post for John Thornton character in this post.

Similar to Pride & Prejudice, Margaret and John didn’t get off on the right foot initially, there’s also a proposal that didn’t go over well, which of course adds to the drama! I love that this story is SO much more than just a love story (though it’s the best part about it), but it also shows the changing economic landscape of the north and south of England during the Industrial Revolution, hence the title.


Jane Eyre (2006)

JaneEyre-2006

A young governess falls in love with her brooding and complex master. However, his dark past may destroy their relationship forever.

There are a whole bunch of Jane Eyre adaptations both on films and TV. Up until 2006, my favorite miniseries is the 1983 version starring Timothy Dalton that I’ve talked about here. Now, there are parts I still prefer the 1983 version, but overall I think this is a more compelling adaptation with a much more superior production quality. I love the fact that it’s a female-driven series both in front and behind the camera–directed by Susanna White from a screenplay written by Sandy Welch, surely a first in a Charlotte Brontë adaptation.

I love Ruth Wilson as Jane and Toby Stephens as the brooding Rochester who wears his heart on his sleeve. He’s not as stiff and stoic as previous Rochesters (Dalton excluded) that I’ve seen previously, which makes for a more fun dynamic. The banters between the two are lovely to watch, and I can see how Jane falls for her much older boss despite her better judgment. Stephens often comes across as too playful in the role but somehow it works well here and the emotional scenes between them are really heart-wrenching. Jane says Rochester is the only one who’s ever treated her like an equal and the filmmakers did a good job showing that.


Persuasion (2007)

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Anne was in love with Frederick, who was rejected by her snobby parents 8 years ago. They’ve now hit hard times and rent out their mansion to his brother-in-law. He returns a Royal Navy captain. Will he remember Anne?

Persuasion is my favorite Jane Austen novel, which is her last novel she fully completed before her death. The main protagonist, Anne is considered ‘old’ at 27 and has lost her bloom, while the man she rejected eight years ago is now a war hero and a wealthy man. Now, I have to say that the 1995 version is a much superior adaptation, but this one has its charms. I like the way Sally Hawkins portray Anne and Rupert Penry-Jones as Wentworth, while Anthony Head is hilarious as her vain and stuck-up father obsessed with his status in society. The scenery is gorgeous as it was filmed on location in Bath. The direction by Adrian Shergold is a bit baffling in parts, I don’t know why Anne is the only character who breaks the fourth wall, and I wish he didn’t have Anne run all over town to see Wentworth in the end. Overall I enjoyed this adaptation though, and I love this scene when they meet in Bath by chance during a rainy afternoon.


Death Comes Pemberley (2013)

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Elizabeth and Darcy, now six years married, are preparing for their annual ball when festivities are brought to an abrupt halt. An adaptation of PD James’s homage to Pride and Prejudice.

It’s Jane Austen meets Agatha Christie! Somehow Pride and Prejudice is one of those classics that’s quite extendable. Now, unlike Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, this one is pretty much a continuation of the story of Lizzie and Darcy, who somehow still can’t escape the shadow of the dastardly Wickham. I LOVE Matthew Rhys as Darcy, this Welshman is masterful in any role and here he portrays the more mature, conflicted Darcy brilliantly. I was a bit skeptical about Anna Maxwell Martin as Elizabeth but I’ve grown to appreciate her portrayal and the fact that she’s actually more plain-looking as Lizzie is supposed to be in the book. As P&P fans, it’s always intriguing to imagine the life of our beloved couple past their blissful wedding. The way the script explores the Darcys relationship during this tumultuous time is quite fascinating.

Now Matthew Goode as Wickham is absolutely perfect casting, esp. in displaying his vulnerable side as he stand accused of murdering his own best friend. He also never looked more ravishing in his red uniform, yowza! Jenna Coleman is quite irritatingly hilarious as the over-the-top Lydia, and I love the pairing of Eleanor Tomlinson (as Darcy’s younger sister) and James Norton who are besotted with each other. The production values are incredible, gorgeous set pieces, costumes, and especially the legendary Chatsworth House as Pemberly estate. I can’t recommend this enough for anyone looking for a good mystery and intrigue in a costume drama.


Have you seen any of these? Which are YOUR favorite period dramas?

My entry to the Five Senses Blogathon

FiveSensesBlogathonIn association with Dutch moviepodcasters MovieInsiders (who inspired this blogathon) and Karamel Kinema, who did the stunning logo, Nostra of My Film Views spearheaded The Five Senses blogathon.

Here’s the idea in his own words:

As you know the body has five senses (although some movies might suggest there is a sixth one): Sight, Sound, Taste, Smell and Touch.

So what’s the idea behind this blogathon? For each of these senses you will have to describe the movie related association you have with it. This can be a particular movie or even a scene, but also something having to do with the movie going experience (so for example the smell of popcorn in the theater).

So here are my pick of movies/movie related things I associate with each of the senses?

 

SIGHT

Avatar

Despite the lack of original story and other quibbles I have about this film, when it comes to visual effects, it’s tough to beat this one. I remember back in 2009 I got one of those advanced previews dubbed Avatar Day to see this and I was so excited! Seeing Pandora for the first time on the big screen was quite a thrill, but not until I saw the full film that my jaw was on the floor. I remember ooh-aahing during the chopper scene through those flying mountains… the reaction of Jake & his friend pretty much echo how we all felt in the movie theater.

But the most breathtakingly-beautiful scene of all, that remains a visual marvel to this day, has got to be all the night scenes in Pandora…

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SOUND

Jurassic Park

It’s no surprise this Spielberg film won two Oscars for Best Sound Editing AND Best Sound Mixing. The sound truly made the experience and I’ll never forget the first time the T-Rex made an appearance when the park’s electricity went kaput. Starting with vibrating water scene in the car, the mysterious thumping that gets more and more pronounced… all the way to that first roar. OH MY, that’s quite an adrenaline rush unlike any other.

The sound work in the kitchen scene is incredible as well. It REALLY made you feel as if you’re there with these poor kids! It’s hilarious but terrifying at the same time.

 

TASTE

The Hundred-Foot Journey

Naturally I pick a scene from a film about food, but I have to pick this under-appreciated one I saw recently. I LOVE breakfast food, especially Omelet, so I could practically taste the yummy-ness of this very scene.

HundredFootJourneyOmeletSceneI love Helen Mirren’s expression after she took the first bite, oh man, I was salivating as I was watching this!

 

TOUCH

Hand-touching scenes in period dramas

I’m such a hopeless romantic. There’s something about hand scenes in period dramas that always gets me. Given how restrictive the customs in those days was, even the smallest physical expression means SO much. I felt a tingle in my own hands whenever I watched each of these scenes…

The first time Margaret & John’s fingers touch ever so briefly when she handed him the tea cup…

When Marianne’s and Willoughby’s fingers brush lightly against each other’s as they went up the stairs…

I’ve mentioned the ‘Mansfield Park’ one in this list, but it bears mentioning again because it’s just such a beautiful & emotional scene. Neither Fanny nor Edmund could speak of how they feel about each other, but a simple touch speaks more than a thousand words…

Of course the finale of ‘Pride & Prejudice’ has to be mentioned here… I love Darcy’s reaction when Lizzie took his hand and kisses it… no words need to be spoken to say how she feels about him.

 

SMELL

Coco Before Chanel

chanelno5I have to admit I struggled a bit to come up with this one, but for some reason I kept going back to this. As I was watching the film starring Audrey Tautou, I reminisced on the first perfume I was ever given. My globe-trotting auntie gave me a CHANEL No. 5 mini perfume when I was about 14 and it was the first perfume I ever owned. My late mother was a big CHANEL perfume fan and I still remember quite vividly how much I love the scent. I guess smell is such a sentimental thing, as it could really take you back to a certain time and place.

CocoBeforeChanelI’ve used many different perfumes since then, but this classic Chanel perfume will always have a special place in my heart. I even dedicated a post for the exquisite Chanel No.5 ads, inspired by the film.

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Well, that’s my picks for the Five Senses Blogathon, what do you think?

Weekend Roundup… and it’s FlixChatter’s 4th Blog-a-versary!

Hello everyone! I trust that you had a pleasant weekend, well I hope you do anyway. The Summer season is still so very elusive, I mean I still have to wear jacket and it’s June darn it!!

So yeah, watching The Kings of Summer a few days ago was quite frustrating, I mean, as soon as I left the theater, there’s no warm, sunny scenery to match what I’ve just seen on screen 😦 But hey, I’m not gonna be too gloomy about it, after all, FlixChatter hit a milestone this weekend, well today June 9th to be exact. Thanks to WordPress notification, apparently I’ve been blogging for about four years now…

WP_4thBlogaversary

I was quite unprepared for this blog anniversary, but I do want to take the time to …

ThankYou

Yes, THANKS to each and every one of you who’ve come and visit this week blog. To those loyal visitors and commenters (you know who you are), I’m especially grateful for your constant support.

Special thank you to Kevin a.k.a. Jack Deth and Ted S. for your awesome contributions here. I appreciate every single ‘likes’ and comment, as every blogger would tell you, it’s what makes all the work worthwhile. So keep ’em coming 😀

IpMan_posterWell, this weekend I only managed to see one new film and it was an excellent one. I’ve been wanting to see Ip Man with Donnie Yen, which is a a semi-biographical account of the first martial arts master to teach the Chinese martial art of Wing Chun. I was curious about it as the real Ip Man (or Yip Man), in which this film was loosely based on, was credited as one of Bruce Lee’s martial arts instructors!

Someone on Twitter also recommended Wong Kar Wai’s The Grandmaster with Tony Leung in the title role, too bad it’s not on Netflix! Anyway, I’m going to defer my review until I see the sequel, but I highly recommend Ip Man if you like great stories about an inspiring person, whether you’re into Kung Fu or not.

This weekend I’ve also been getting my period drama ‘fix’ if you will, with BBC’s North & South and Sense & Sensibility. Not only are these miniseries are so well-crafted and well-acted all around, both have such mesmerizing-ly beautiful leading men, Richard Armitage as John Thornton and Dan Stevens as Edward Ferrars, respectively. No doubt both are on my list of favorite period drama heroes 😀

DanStevensRichardArmitage

I’m glad I own both films as they just never get old and every time I need a little pick-me-up, I can just pop ’em in to my Blu-ray player, sit back and indulge in a wonderful story telling and gorgeous scenery.


Anyway, stay tuned for my review of ‘The Kings of Summer’ coming tomorrow. So, what did YOU watch this weekend, anything good?

Desert Island DVDs: 8 flix I’d take with me if I were stranded on a desert island

Oh the dilemma! Thanks to Andy from Fandango Groovers, in the past month, a whole bunch of us movie bloggers have been inflicted with an amusing predicament. Apparently, Andy was inspired by a UK radio program called Desert Island Discs where guests are invited to imagine themselves cast away on a desert island with only eight pieces of music. The twist for us cinephiles is we’re instead asked to simply pick eight DVDs instead. My initial reaction is thinking about those that might actually help me survive and find ways to get off the island, of which movies like Cast Away would be I’d wish I had in my stash. But really, if you were really stranded and fighting for survival, movie-going experience probably isn’t going to be your top priority. So in this case, the word ‘deserted’ is really up for interpretation. I figure the island could be one that’s been ‘deserted’ by the owner – in Indonesia, if you’re wealthy enough, you can actually buy a piece of an island and make it your own resort. So the island I’m stranded in happens to be previously owned by some Richard Branson-type tycoon who’s forced to abandon it due to some tax evasion scandal – hence the top of the line outdoor theater system 🙂

So without further ado, here are my eight picks (in alphabetical order) that I wouldn’t mind seeing over and over again. Well, that is until the yearn for civilization ultimately beckons.

1. Batman Begins
Why not The Dark Knight, you asked? Well, I do like both movies — and one might argue that TDK is the better one of the two — but I’ve always loved origins story and truthfully, I find this one to be more enjoyable for repeat viewings. Besides, this is truly a movie where Bale’s caped crusader is front and center, instead of being sidelined by a terrific villain in the form of Heath Ledger’s Joker. I wish Maggie Gyllenhaal had been cast as Rachel here though, but at least the rest of the stellar cast well more than made up for Katie Holmes. There are plenty of memorable scenes in Chis Nolan’s first foray to superhero flick, but this spectacular batcave scene where Bruce Wayne conquers his biggest fear is iconic and poignant, plus the music is downright perfect. Gives me goosebumps every time!


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2. Bride & Prejudice (narrowly edges out Moulin Rouge*)
I never thought I’d put this one on my list but when I came across a picture of it, I remember how much I enjoyed seeing this entertaining Bollywood [loose] interpretation of the Jane Austen classic Pride & Prejudice. Director Gurinder Chadha infused this movie with humor and amusing culture-clash scenarios, you can’t help but laugh and have fun from start to finish. Bewitching Aishwarya Rai as the ‘Elizabeth Bennet’ character Lalita anchors the movie with her beauty and charm, of course just like Keira Knightley in the latest adaptation, she’s far too gorgeous to play the supposedly plain heroine. Martin Henderson as Darcy isn’t quite as ‘irresistibly tormented’ as Colin Firth, but he shares a pretty believable chemistry with Rai that the relationship still works. The Indian supporting cast is fantastic, most notably Naveen Andrews as Balraj (Mr. Bingley) and the hilarious Nitin Ganatra as Kohli (Mr. Collins).

*Moulin Rouge comes thisclose to being on this list, but I feel that though some of the scenes of Ewan & Nicole together are totally repeat-worthy, I find that I keep ffwd-ing a lot of the beginning parts of the dvd. So overall, B&P is much more enjoyable for me as a whole.
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3. Casino Royale
I don’t mean to be disloyal to my hero Timothy Dalton here, but I didn’t really agonized too much on choosing this over his first Bond flick The Living Daylight. Mostly because I’m just not impressed at all by Maryam D’Abo as the Bond girl. Now, Daniel Craig is a formidable Bond that surprised everyone – including me – and he benefits from such a well-written script and amazing direction from Martin Campbell. Not to mention the smartest and classiest Bond girl ever, played by the ravishing Eva Green. Vesper Lynd is hands down my favorite, and the scintillating banter scene of the two of them on a train is proof that a Bond girl can be ever so fetching without having to take her clothes off. This is just one of many scenes in the movie I’ll never grow tired of, hence its inclusion in this particular top 20 list.
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4. Dear Frankie (narrowly beats Phantom of the Opera*)
It’s hardly surprising to a lot of you that I’m going to have a Gerry Butler movie, the question is which one? Though I fell for the Scot in Phantom, and yes I do still watch that from time to time, I feel more inclined to include the little-known tiny gem about a little deaf kid whose mother had to lie in order for him to have a father-figure for a day. Butler is only in the movie for 25 minutes or so, but oh quality definitely makes up for quantity. From the second he sits down in front of Emily Mortimer’s Lizzie and orders his coffee ‘Americano, strong’ in his husky, Scottish brogue, we’re done for. The postcard-worthy charm of Scotland scenery, the soulful soundtrack and fabulous acting all around makes this one a flick that rewards you with each repeat viewing.

*Butler owns the screen and cast a spell on women the world over as the half-masked tormented hero, but Joel Schumacher’s direction of Phantom is far from perfect that keeps me this from being a classic movie. Though I’ve seen this flick more than a couple dozen times by now, I don’t know if I necessarily want to see it over and over in a short time span.
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5. Gladiator (narrowly edges out Ben Hur)
I told Andy earlier I’d include Ben Hur on my list, but despite being one of my all-time fave, I feel that if I only had that one and Gladiator, I’m more likely to reach for this Ridley Scott movie. In a way, the two compelling heroes share a similar fate of being condemned to die despite their innocence and face such insurmountable plight. They’re both redeemed at the end as well. Though it seems as if the main theme is vengeance (especially in this ‘My name is Maximus’ scene), by the end of the story, he’s fighting for Lucilla’s future… and ultimately for the people of Rome. Crowe’s performance alone is enough reason to keep re-watching this, but there are plenty of great acting all around, most notably Joaquin Phoenix as the ‘terribly vexed’ arch enemy Commodus. Add the gorgeous cinematography, lush costumes and the much-copied, stirring soundtrack, I’d say yeah, I’m definitely entertained! Oh, as I own the extended-edition dvd version, the special features section will definitely keep me busy for at least a whole week!

6. Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade
Indy is the one franchise my whole family love. I remember watching Raiders of the Lost Ark with my brothers and we’d always find something to cheer about. The John Williams’ score alone is such a rousing piece that’s practically synonymous with great entertainment. I’m not crazy about the second and the latest installment, but this third one is a real gem. Harrison Ford as the sole hero is enticing enough, now add yet another highly charismatic actor in the mix and you’ve got one heck of a jovial ride you can’t wait to get on again as soon as it’s over. Ford and Sean Connery make for the most perfect father-son duo, and the witty and whimsical script and full-on action scenes keeps you on your toes and far from ever being bored. There are themes of friendship, family, faith, and loyalty that makes this such a satisfying movie-watching experience.
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7. BBC North & South
Ok, I must admit this choice is an indulgent one. But hey, you’re stranded on a remote island with nothing but eight movies to keep you entertained, do you blame me? Besides, I’m normally not a ‘beach-person’ anyway, so by the second day I’d be sick of the warm sunny skies and I’ll be dreaming of the cold, moody climate of Northern England (yes, call me crazy but I’m originally from a tropical country who moved to Minnesota, remember?). Oh, and of course having dreamy Richard Armitage as the Darcy-esque Mr. Thornton can’t hurt either. There are 4 parts of this 235-minute miniseries that center on the captivating slow-burn love story between Mr. Thornton and Margaret Hale, but there’s more to it than just romance. In fact, I’m also drawn in by the history of the cotton mill business and their quandary, as well as the complex relationship between the mill owners and the workers. All that provides a compelling backdrop to what the hero and heroine must go through until the moment they finally ‘find’ each other. Oh, and what a moment it is! Just take a look at this train station scene (#16 on the list) and you’ll know why I had to include this movie!


8. Sense & Sensibility
Ahh, last but definitely NOT least. Anyone who knows me realize this one is a shoo-in. On any given Sunday afternoon when I’m not blogging, I almost always reach for this Ang Lee-directed Jane Austen period drama. Thanks to my cousin Rani who first introduced me to this more than a decade ago. I wasn’t instantly blown away by it, but it just kept growing on me each time I watch it — and the fact that I watch this A LOT makes me like it even more! I’m glad Emma Thompson won Best Screenplay for this, though I think her performance is equally noteworthy alongside Kate Winslet. This is one movie where I pretty much have to have the remote on hand in order to rewind some of my favorite scenes, and there are so many of them, especially those involving Col. Brandon, played with amazing subtlety and grace by the always-terrific Alan Rickman! The part when he first beheld Marianne and fell for her is heart-wrenching, and I shan’t ever forget the scene when Marianne murmurs the word ‘thank you’ after he escorts her mother for her. The expression on his face is priceless! I can go on and on about this movie, so maybe a full review is in order. But suffice to say, this is one dvd I simply can’t live without.


Ok, that’s it. I’m kinda glad it’s only eight as this post might’ve gone to a second page by now! To see what my fellow movie bloggers pick, check out Fandango’s blog. You might wonder that I picked my selections out of my Fave Scenes list. Believe me, it’s not intentional, but obviously the two are related. So if anything, I guess I’m pretty consistent in my choices 🙂

So what do you say, readers? Would you care to share what 8 dvds you would pick if you were stranded? Let’s hear it!

Good news for Richard Armitage fans!

Richard as John Thornton
Richard as John Thornton

With all the sci-fi stuff swirling around in my head ever since District 9, I just had to take a break and watch something entirely different. As you know, my taste in movies span across genres, and one of my all time favorite period film is Elizabeth Gaskell’s novel adaptation North & South. Thanks to a Youtube clip I found randomly (oh how I survived without that site before I’ll never know), I immediately rented it and had to have it for my collection. Set in the mid-19th century, the story exposes the industrial North and its conflicts from its heroine Margaret Hale’s point of view, an outsider from the South. But the heart of it is a love story between its Margaret and the dashing mill owner John Thornton, much like Pride & Prejudice where the lovebirds didn’t get off on the right foot from the start.

This is the movie where I discovered British actor Richard Armitage, who played the role of John Thornton so brilliantly mesmerizing it made Colin Firth’s Darcy as exciting as an A&E Saturday afternoon special. No offense to Mr. Firth, though he never did tickled my fancy, but Richard’s gaze and gravely voice definitely give his Darcy a serious run for his money.

In my previous post, I suggested Richard for the role of  futuristic Robin Hood, having just played his nemesis Guy of Gisborne in the BBC series about the medieval hero. Now that series’ run has ended, his IMDB profile still doesn’t list any future project in the works for him. But perusing his forum did produce a glimmer of hope! A director/producer by the name of Mike Ogden is currently producing a film called Charlie, and Richard’s been tapped as the lead. Check out the premise:

Southern Italy, 1943. An on the run Allied prisoner of war – Charlie – encounters Marco, the teenage son of an executed partisan leader, out for revenge. Charlie wants nothing to do with Marco or his friends who have also run away. As the German commander ‘Schwarz’ ruthlessly sweeps the valley searching for him, Charlie finds he has to rely on the help of the children to survive until Marco discovers Charlie’s secret, one that could tear their fragile trust apart.

According to its official site, pre production will start in October 2009 with filming taking place during January/February 2010 in Italy.

All I can say is hurray!! I hope this will find a distributor in the US, but even if it’s released on DVD, it’s better than nothing. Oh well, I guess that’s what happens when your taste run in the obscure when it comes to actors. I found Gerry Butler far more intriguing when he was lesser-known. I did wish one day people will discover him and I wouldn’t have to search hard and might just to find a picture of him in a magazine. Oh well, be careful what you wish for I guess.

In the meantime ladies, here’s a clip of Richard as the fabulous John Thornton for your (and my) amusement: