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?

Trailer Spotlight: HBO’s THE NEVERS (2021)

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I LOVE period dramas and the superhero/fantasy genre, so The Nevers seems to have been made for me! I saw the teaser a few weeks ago and was like, WHOA!! It’s like Jane Austen meets Marvel… ok that’s an oversimplification as Jane Austen stories are set in Regency, not Victorian era… but in any event, you get the point.

So here’s the full trailer:

So apparently the original show-runner is Joss Whedon who left back in November 2020. Per Variety, he cited that he couldn’t meet the physical challenges of making such a huge show during a global pandemic. Well, can’t say I’ll miss him. He’s been replaced by Philippa Goslett, British screenwriter who’s developed shows for networks such as FX, BBC and Channel 4, but this marks her first time as a show-runner.

Thanks to HBO’s official show page, here’s the full synopsis:

August, 1896. Victorian London is rocked to its foundations by a supernatural event which gives certain people — mostly women — abnormal abilities, from the wondrous to the disturbing. But no matter their particular “turns,” all who belong to this new underclass are in grave danger. It falls to mysterious, quick-fisted widow Amalia True (Laura Donnelly) and brilliant young inventor Penance Adair (Ann Skelly) to protect and shelter these gifted “orphans.” To do so, they will have to face the brutal forces determined to annihilate their kind.

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Judging from the trailer, looks like it’ll be an action-packed series with [hopefully] some thought-provoking commentary about the societal issues of the time. Despite having a woman reigning as monarch, that is Queen Victoria women did not have the right to vote, sue, or own property… women are basically property of their husbands. So seeing them take charge and even banding together to save the world is surely revolutionary. The trailer show these women being persecuted, well, naturally the men would be threatened by powerful women and they’d do whatever it takes to maintain status quo (what else is new?)

The cast looks amazing!! I recognize a bunch of them from previous British series/movies: Olivia Williams, Nick Frost, James Norton, Eleanor Tomlinson, Ben Chaplin, and Tom Riley. (see below for the complete list). I also noticed Jodie Comer from Killing Eve, but her name is not on the list in Part 1 of IMDb. Now the reason for that is that this is a two-part series, which is similar to Netflix’s LUPIN.

Part One of the first season debuts on April 11, 2021 with six-episodes on HBO Max. Part Two’s six episodes will follow at a later date, to be announced.

There are SO many things to look forward to in this fantasy series! A terrific ensemble cast with a diverse set of women, beautiful costumes + set pieces, striking cinematography… and gadgetry? Well one of the main character is an inventor, so she might’ve invented this steampunk vehicle which would be handy to outrun all those nefarious guys trying to imprison them!

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So here’s the full list of cast + who they’re playing:

Olivia Williams (The Ghost Writer) as Lavinia Bidlow, the wealthy benefactress funding the orphanage for Amalia’s outcasts, who are also known as the Touched.

Nick Frost (Shaun of the Dead) as feared criminal overlord Declan “Beggar King” Orrun.

James Norton (Little Women) as Hugo Swann, the rich and irreverent proprietor of a den of iniquity.

Tom Riley (Da Vinci’s Demons) as Augustus “Augie” Bidlow, Lavinia’s sweet, awkward, younger brother with a secret of his own.

Pip Torrens (The Crown) as Lord Gilbert Massen, a high-ranking government official leading the crusade against our heroines.

Ben Chaplin (The Thin Red Line) as Inspector Frank Mundi, who’s torn between his police duties and moral compass.

Denis O’Hare (American Horror Story) as Edmund Hague, a deranged doctor searching for the source of the powers.

Amy Manson (Once Upon a Time) as the tortured, murderous Maladie, who derives power from pain.

Rochelle Neil (Terminator: Dark Fate) as the fire-wielding Annie “Bonfire” Carby, one of Maladie’s motley gang.

Zackary Momoh (Seven Seconds) as orphanage doctor Horatio Cousens, whose turn equips him with healing powers.

Eleanor Tomlinson (The Illusionist) as Mary Brighton, a broken and resilient performer pursuing her dream of singing on stage.

Elizabeth Berrington (In Bruges) as Lucy Best, adaptive and streetwise, her quick-wit and high spirits mask the pain of a tragic past.

Anna Devlin (All the Money in the World) as Primrose Chattoway who, at ten feet tall and a dreamy demeanor, wishes to be an ordinary girl not taking up too much space.

Kiran Sonia Sawar (HBO Max’s Pure) as Harriet Kaur, a young Scottish Sikh and aspiring lawyer, determined to live her life as she planned.

Viola Prettejohn (The Witcher) as Myrtle Haplisch, a middle-class girl rescued from a family who cannot understand her – literally, as she can no longer speak any form of language they understand.

Ella Smith (Ray & Liz) as Désireé Blodgett, a prostitute with a power that gets her in trouble and a six-year old son who never speaks.

Vinnie Heaven as Nimble Jack, a rakish and charming young thief and an expert at breaking and entering.

So yeah, I know what I’ll be watching in April!! Perfect timing as I need something to fill the void of LUPIN and Ted Lasso, two of my new favorite shows.


Are you excited for THE NEVERS?

FlixChatter Review: MR. JONES (2019)

I’ve always been a fan of journalism film and this film shed a light on a horrifying event that I wasn’t familiar about – the Holodomor, the man-made famine-genocide in Ukraine in early 1930s that killed many Ukranians. The story is told through the eyes of Gareth Jones (James Norton), hence the title, a Welsh journalist who uncovered this horrific, but at the time was unreported genocide perpetrated by the Soviet government under Stalin. Jones was renowned at the time for having interviewed Adolf Hitler, and thanks to his connection with a former British PM, he was able to travel to the Soviet Union to interview Stalin.

James Norton as Gareth Jones

I immediately find the film genuinely gripping as well as stylish, directed by Polish filmmaker Agnieszka Holland who’s no stranger to war-related dramas. Her historical drama In Darkness, set during Nazi occupation in Poland, was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film of 2011. The film plays out like an engrossing spy thriller under Holland’s superb direction that makes you invested in Jones’ journey right from the start.

Now, Jones’s original mission was to find out more about the Soviet’s economic expansion, but he ended up uncovering something truly sinister behind the success of the Communist Party’s economic plan. Ukraine was referred to as ‘Stalin’s gold’  and clearly Stalin’s government tried to silence anyone who tried to uncover what happened there. Two fellow journalists that Jones met along his journey have two different reactions. Ada Brooks (Vanessa Kirby), a British journalist, confirms that the truth about the famine is being repressed but she feels it’s too dangerous to speak about it. It’s understandable given an American journalist Paul Klebnikov turned up dead in Moscow while doing an investigative reporting on that topic.

Vanessa Kirby as Ada Brooks

The scenes in Ukraine where Jones saw with his own eyes the stark contrast between the prosperous Moscow and the stark villages in Soviet Ukraine is quite heart-wrenching. Set in the frosty Winter time, Jones was shivering as he walked on foot to see empty houses and dead bodies who have died of starvation. One of the most indelible scene is when he encountered a few kids and they took him to their home and gave him food. I won’t spoil it for you but let’s just say I’d have thrown up immediately like he did once I realized what I had eaten.

The solid script by Andrea Chalupa feels personal somehow, and likely because she was not simply documenting a horrific event in history, but her own grandparents had suffered the Holodomor during Stalin’s regime. In fact, Chalupa had recognized parallels between what’s written in Animal Farm, a seminal allegorical novella by George Orwell (portrayed by Joseph Mawle in the film), which speaks against totalitarianism and socialism. The humanistic approach was palpable and emotional, one truly sees the horrors in Jones’ eyes and his dismay that his story didn’t find the traction he hoped for upon his return. In fact, Walter Duranty (Peter Sarsgaard), the rather flamboyant chief of The New York Times’s Moscow bureau whom Jones had met in Moscow, vehemently denied his claims. It’s as if people knew what was happening but because of political and economical reasons refuse to let the truth come out. Worse, some people simply don’t care what happen to people they barely know about and it’s simply easier to turn a blind eye.

Peter Sarsgaard as Walter Duranty

Norton is a perfectly-cast as the idealistic journalist who strived to uncover the truth, even risking his own life to do it. Glad to see him in lead role in a feature film, after seeing him in mostly tv work and small supporting roles in movies. He’s definitely got the charisma and talent, so I hope to see him in more films. Kirby isn’t in very many scenes but she was memorable in the scenes she was in; while Sarsgaard is a reliable actor and he plays an unsympathetic character believably.

Mr. Jones is an important story that’s told brilliantly. It’s suspenseful, thrilling as well as emotional, filled with dread when it needs to be, without making the entire film feels gloomy or dejected. In fact, it has a lively pacing and uplifting tone, and in the end it is an uplifting film (though truth comes with a price).  The cinematography with bold, dynamic camera work by Polish DP Tomasz Naumiuk is simply stunning and has that eerie, atmospheric feel that’s perfect for this story.

If you’re a history buff, or even interested in a captivating story about a topic most people don’t know about and rarely portrayed in cinema, I definitely recommend Mr. Jones. Upon further research about Gareth Jones, he was inevitably banned from Soviet Union and ended up killed in 1935 by the Soviet secret police. His story certainly deserves to be told and this film is one of the most chilling but effective political thriller that’ll stay with you long after its opening credits.


Have you seen MR. JONES? Well, what did you think?

Trailers Spotlight: Radioactive + Mr. Jones

Hello everyone! I know the mood is grim as the world is grappling with the Coronavirus outbreak. As disappointing as seeing films we’re anticipating getting canceled, when put into perspective, it’s a small inconvenience for us filmgoers… though of course my heart goes out to filmmakers/festival organizers/artists and  businesses affected by this pandemic.

But hey, they can’t stop me from still being excited about films that would get to our screens eventually… and both of these are based on real historical figures AND directed by female filmmakers.

RADIOACTIVE

The first film I’m highlighting here is actually pretty timely and relevant given Marie Curie’s instrumental discovery in cancer treatment.

A story of the scientific and romantic passions of Marie Sklodowska-Curie (Polish scientist) and Pierre Curie, and the reverberation of their discoveries throughout the 20th century.

I’m immediately sold on this based on the two leads, Rosamund Pike and Sam Riley (who’s so criminally underrated!) as Marie and Pierre Curie. I love the role choices Pike continues to do, she’s definitely got the chops to play brave, headstrong, intelligent women in male-dominated fields. She was terrific in A Private War, interestingly it’s also based on a real life war photographer that’s also named Marie, Marie Colvin to be exact. I’m so glad to see Sam Riley in a prominent role (it breaks my heart to see him wasted as a silly raven in those Maleficent movies!!).

Per IMDb, this film is based on the graphic novel Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie: A Tale of Love and Fallout by Lauren Redniss. It’s Iranian director Marjane Satrapi‘s first film based on a graphic novel that she didn’t write herself. Two of her films Persepolis and Chicken with Plums are both based on her own graphic novels. That fact alone made this film all the more intriguing!

I don’t know much about Marie Curie’s life aside from her legacy in science and being the first female scientist to win a Noble Prize in Physics (albeit a shared prize with her husband), and later in 1911 she won another Nobel Prize in Chemistry. I can’t wait to see this one and hopefully it’ll arrive in Amazon Prime soon as Amazon Studios has bought the distribution rights.


MR. JONES

Here’s another based-on-a-true-story about a topic I’m not familiar with. Though there are numerous films about WWII and the Holocaust, I don’t think I’ve seen a film about the Holodomor genocide, a man-made famine in Soviet Ukraine in 1932- 1933 that killed millions of Ukrainians (per Wiki).

Agnieszka Holland’s thriller, set on the eve of WWII, sees Hitler’s rise to power and Stalin’s Soviet propaganda machine pushing their “utopia” to the Western world. Meanwhile an ambitious young journalist, Gareth Jones (James Norton) travels to Moscow to uncover the truth behind the propaganda, but then gets a tip that could expose an international conspiracy, one that could cost him and his informant their lives. Jones goes on a life-or-death journey to uncover the truth behind the façade that would later inspire George Orwell’s seminal book Animal Farm.

 

 

I’m not familiar with Polish director Agnieszka Holland but she has quite an extensive resume in film and TV, including acclaimed series such as House of Cards, The Killing, etc. I’m particularly intrigued by the fact that its screenwriter, Andrea Chalupa, has been inspired by her own grandfather who’s from eastern Ukraine to write about Stalin’s genocidal famine (per Guardian‘s rave review). So there’s definitely something deeply personal in the part of the filmmakers.

I’ve been a longtime admirer of British actor James Norton for some time, I’m glad to see him in the lead role! He’s a terrific actor and looks pretty convincing as an idealistic journalist. Nice to Vanessa Kirby in a prominent role here as well. As a big fan of journalism movies, especially those based on real-life events, I’m definitely looking forward to seeing this.


What do you think of these two trailers?

Weekend Viewing Roundup: Eddie the Eagle, Midnight Special + BBC’s War & Peace miniseries

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How was your weekend everyone? Hope it was a nice one. Well this past week ended up being a pretty busy one in terms of movie watching. I finished The White Queen on Tuesday and was so obsessed with the whole War of the Roses history, especially Richard III that I’ve re-watched some of the episodes again! I’ve also ordered three books on the much-maligned monarch and am currently reading Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time.

BFGOn Thursday I went to a screening of Steven Spielberg’s The BFG, which I thought was just ok. I never read the children’s book by Roald Dahl so I wasn’t all that enthused about it. It’s kind of slow going and I find the story to be more simplistic than some of Disney’s animated features, such as the recent Zootopia, that has a pretty compelling story.

On Friday and Saturday night, my hubby and I watched two recent releases we missed on the big screen: Eddie the Eagle and Midnight Special, respectively. Both are enjoyable, but the latter is especially impressive and I’d rate that as one of the best 2016 films so far. I really wish I had seen that on the big screen, but it was well worth the wait. Jeff Nichols is on a roll right now and I’m glad we have a talented filmmaker like him working in Hollywood right now. I was so impressed with his third film Mud, but I still need to see his first two films Shotgun Stories and Take Shelter (both starring his muse Michael Shannon). I shall have my review of Midnight Special later this week.

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My hubby and I’ve also decided to restart our HULU subscription so we could watch BBC’s 8-part miniseries War & Peace. We’ve only managed to see one episode so far but we like it enough we’ll keep on watching. The mostly-British cast is excellent. I’ve always liked Lily James but it’s Paul Dano & James Norton in the first episode who’ve made an impression so far. Nice bonus to see my new crush Aneurin Barnard in a small role here too. No no, I haven’t abandoned Sam Riley completely, this young Welshman is just a nice distraction 😉

Speaking of which, I also started watching this British indie comedy Hunky Dory that reminds me a bit of Sing Street. I’m a big fan of Minnie Driver and she plays a drama teacher in the mid 70s, putting on an end-of-term version of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Like Sam, Aneurin can also sing!! #BeStillMyHeart

Suffice to say I’ll try to catch up on more of Aneurin’s work. I’d probably spontaneously combust when I see him AND Sam together on screen in BBC’s SS-GB!! Having read the book, I knew they both will share a scene together, wahoo!


So that’s my weekend recap. What did YOU watch this weekend, anything good?