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)

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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?

Monthly Roundup & Favorite Movie of June 2014

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Man, where has June go??! It’s nuts that this weekend is Fourth of July already which means we’re already halfway done with Summer 😦

I feel that this month is a blur already, I actually have a hard time just what in the heck I’ve been watching this past month. Well, one thing for sure, I’ve been doing more Toby Stephens marathon since May. When I say an actor is versatile, I truly mean it with Toby. The man can play virtually ANY role brilliantly and no matter what genre he tackles, the British thespian effortlessly fits right in. It pains me how underrated he is as immense talent + chameleonic ability is quite a rare combination in an actor, the fact that he’s SO easy on the eyes is of course icing on the cake.

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Clockwise from top left: Toby in Black Sails (2014), BBC Jane Eyre (2006), BBC Wired (2008),  and The Machine (2013)

So thanks to my pal Becky (aka Prairiegirl), I got to catch up on Black Sails! I’ve only got half of the 8-episodes of Season 1 and it’s pretty good! Of course I’m not going to lie that Toby’s the main reason I watched it and he’s definitely the BEST thing about it. I LOVE what The Guardian said about Toby’s role as Captain Flint: “Stephens’s Flint is every inch the modern anti-hero that those accustomed to the moral greys of Tony Soprano or Walter White will appreciate.” I’m impressed by the quality of the series though, it’s definitely not the clichéd pirate stuff that’s often depicted by Hollywood. Can’t wait to see more from Season 1 and Season 2 can’t come soon enough!! I’ll definitely be doing a review of it once I’m done with the first season. In case you have no idea what the show is all about, here’s an inside look video of season 1:

Ok, on to the monthly recap!

Posts you might’ve missed:

New-to-me Movies/TV/Miniseries:

Rewatches:

I just realized I watched quite a lot of period dramas this past month! I wasn’t planning on it, but hey, it’s one of my favorite genres 😀

  • Belle (2013)
  • BBC’s Jane Eyre (2006 miniseries)
  • Ever After – A Cinderella Story (1998)
  • Love, Actually (2003)
  • Mansfield Park (1999)
  • The Machine (2013)
  • Pacific Rim (2013)
  • Pride & Prejudice (2005)

Favorite Movie Seen in June 2014:

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I think Edge of Tomorrow is pretty darn good but I have such a soft spot for Hiccup, Toothless & co and this second installment definitely lives up to the fantastic original! Plus the soundtrack by John Powell is simply astounding. Stay tuned for a John Powell Music Break coming soon!


So, what movies did you get to see in June and which one is your favorite?

Weekend Roundup: Leap Year, The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond & a whole lot of Toby Stephens

If someone were to ask me, “What did you do this weekend?” Well, the short answer would be “Toby Stephens.” Ahah, well ok so it came out wrong, didn’t it? I meant, my weekend pretty much consisted of watching/listening/tumblr-ing about him, my long-lifeless tumblr has been set ablaze now by Toby’s fiery charisma.

I did manage to fit in a few movies… one of which is Some Like It Hot, a Billy Wilder classic that I mistakenly thought it’s one of my Blind Spot list.

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Oh well, the good thing is I finally watch that movie as it’s a lot of fun, but the bad part is that my Blind Spot post is going to be late. I’ll just have to post a double review next month then.

As for the other two movies I saw, here’s my quick thoughts on them:

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I really don’t know what came over my hubby and I that made me want to rent Leap Year. Well my friend Ashley and I were talking about Matthew Goode earlier in the week but I wasn’t intending to watch the movie this weekend. In any case, it turns out to be such a dud. For some odd reason, iTunes listed the Rotten Tomatoes rating as 100%, which was so surprising to us to see a rom-com got a high rating but as it turns out, the real RT rating is 21%!!! Ok so I don’t always agree with the critics but this movie is everything I dislike about today’s rom-com: vapid, banal, clichéd and immensely unfunny. There’s nothing romantic nor funny about this movie, gah!

The whole thing revolves around a girl who flew from Boston all the way to Ireland to propose to her cardiologist boyfriend on leap year. Of course along the way she falls for someone else [yawn] Amy Adams‘ cute-as-a-button charm might’ve worked for Enchanted but here she comes across as dimwitted and shallow as her character is supposed to be. Goode seems bored throughout the whole movie and can’t say I blame him, his talent is utterly wasted here anyway. Right from the start, everything about the plot is so contrived that even the slight 1 hr 41 min running time was such a drug all the way to its predictable conclusion. I doubt even Toby Stephens could save this movie for me, though it’d probably make it a million times more watchable 😉

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We actually wanted to check out this one after we saw Captain America 2. Funny how Chris Evans often mention in interviews how bad his movies are, ahah. Well, this one is actually not horrible, but not exactly good either. Set in the 1920s, The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond is a societal drama about a rebellious Memphis débutante Fisher Willow who can’t stand the suffocating Southern tradition and the narrow-minded people surrounding her. Bryce Dallas Howard looks the part and she’s pretty believable in the role. Evans play the handsome but penniless suitor Fisher hired, passing him up as an upper-class suitor to her friends. He seems ill-suited for the part despite his best effort, not to mention his touch-and-go Southern accent, ahah.

The screenplay was apparently written by Tennessee Williams himself back in 1980, not sure why it took 28 years for the film to finally got released. Cat On a Hot Tin Roof is the only Williams’ work I’ve seen so far and this one definitely not as memorable, but the story is mildly intriguing. I just didn’t find Fisher’s journey as particularly engaging, the most memorable part is actually Howard’s scene with a dying woman played by Ellen Burstyn. There is an odd lighting technique during this scene where the whole room suddenly dimmed out and a spotlight appears on top of the two characters conversing on the bed. That’s really strange to see a technique used on a stage performance, not sure what that’s all about. Overall it’s not a complete waste as Leap Year, so I’d still recommend it if you’re a fan of Tennessee Williams.


Falling Madly…

Well, in case you missed my tribute from last week, I’ve been struck with a seemingly-incurable Toby-itis. Hence there’ll be a heck of a lot more Toby Stephens for the unforeseeable future 😉

I watched a myriad of Toby clips on Youtube, he’s had such a varied career, even starring in a Bollywood movie called The Rising: Ballad of Mangal Pandey where he’s sporting a Scottish brogue AND actually spoke Hindi.I’m not talking about a couple of sentences here, but he held multiple conversations with the Bollywood actors throughout the movie! My admiration for him just went through the roof!

The two clips I watched most were Jane Eyre 2006 and Black Sails, though both are period pieces, the roles couldn’t be more different from each other. And that’s what amazes me about his chameleonic quality.

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This interview on his role as talking about his role of Mr. Rochester has broken the record as the vid I’ve watched the most in a single weekend. Don’t ask me how many times, I’ve lost count already… This interview on his role as Rochester in Jane Eyre 2006 has broken the record as the vid I’ve watched the most in a single weekend. Don’t ask me how many times, I’ve lost count already…

Thank goodness for youtube where I get most of my Toby watching as it’s really tough to get access to most of his previous work. I’ve ordered a few dvds but it’ll take a week before those get here. I never thought I’d say this either but THANK YOU Michael Bay for hiring Toby as Captain Flint in Black Sails. Thank goodness for youtube where I get most of my Toby watching as it’s really tough to get access to most of his previous work. I’ve ordered a few dvds but it’ll take a week before I got my hands on those, so I had to turn to youtube to get my Toby fix.

Toby_Flint_BlackSailsI never thought I’d say this either but THANK YOU Michael Bay for hiring Toby as Captain Flint in Black Sails.


So that was my weekend. What did YOU watch folks, anything good?

An appreciation + belated birthday tribute to Toby Stephens

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Ok, here we go again. Some of you who follow me on Twitter might’ve already known about my new crush but I want to make it official here that I’ve been suffering from Toby-itis. This kind of *infection* happens once in a blue moon… the last time this happened was with Gregory Peck nearly three years ago. With Toby, it appears to be a slo-burn kind of crush as I’ve noticed him a while ago and have always liked him on and off… but ever since The Machine, this casual admiration has turned into a full-blown obsession. Well, since he just turned 45 a few days ago on April 21, this post doubles as a belated birthday tribute for my new crush.

Yes, it seems I have a type… like most of my crushes, the London-born Toby is drop dead gorgeous, massively talented, incredibly versatile yet sadly VERY underrated… plus he’s both an eye + ear candy… Toby’s smooth voice is absolutely to-die-for. He definitely would’ve made my top 10 actors with smoothest voice list. I LOVE this fan-made vid that highlights my sentiment perfectly:

Though he has a lot in common with my other crushes, there’s a lot of *firsts* with my crushing on Toby…

  • He’s the first red-head I’ve ever had a crush on… but with those glass-cut cheekbones, his freckles are downright adorable.TobyStephensHotRedHead
  • First actor whose mother I’m actually a huge fan of… Dame Maggie Smith, one of my three favorite British Dames. His dad is the late Sir Robert Stephens.
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    Toby with mum Maggie Smith backstage after a Coriolanus play
  • He’s also the first living actor I have a crush on who’s married with little kids. In fact he’s been married for 14 years which in this entertainment business is pretty impressive!

You know you’ve got it bad when you’ve practically watched every clip of him posted on youtube, scoured every tumblr on said actor, read every single interview you could find… and still you can’t get enough. Oh and my tumblr is on fire once again 😉 I don’t drink so this must be what being intoxicated feels like. I finally ordered three Toby dvds from Amazon today: Jane Eyre (2006), The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1996) and Cambridge Spies (2003). Can’t wait to watch ’em all!

I’ve always loved actors with theater background and Toby attended LAMDA and has performed with the Royal Shakespeare Company. In fact, back in 1994, he won the Sir John Gielgud Prize for Best Actor and the Ian Charleson Award for playing Coriolanus at RSC. [per IMDb] I stumbled upon this clip of an RSC workshop where young Toby (who resembled Tom Hardy a bit then) did a reading with a bunch of famous actors, see how many of them you can spot in this video. It’s always fun to think about the career trajectory of these actors.

How do I love Toby? Let me count the ways …

Oh where do I start? Words fail me to describe how I feel about him right now. I’m having heart palpitations every time I watch him, whether he’s being goofy, intense, sad, angry … he’s always magnetic.

I think the word most apt to use here is awe. I’m in awe of Toby’s sheer screen presence and incredible versatility. Of course I say that about a lot of actors I like but some actors seem to suit a certain genre more than anything, but Toby seems comfortable playing ANY role, whether it’s comedy, drama, action adventure, he always fits right in effortlessly. I think even the most famous Hollywood actors of today aren’t remotely as versatile. Oh and he can master any accent too, as you can see in a couple of clips below, his American accent is quite flawless.

The more I watch his performances, the more I think ‘why isn’t he more famous??’ just like I always say about Richard Armitage. But at the same time, I admire him for being a working actor, an artist who cares about his craft rather than clamoring for the fame and fortune.

SmilingTobyHe tells the DailyMail: I’d like to keep it at the “I’ve seen you in something, not sure what” level. Having a life and being grounded is really important to me. In this business, especially for guys, you can become so obsessed with where you’re at and where you think you should be that you get angry and screwed-up, and forget to value what you have.’

Beautiful AND sensible. That is quite a rarity in this business.

This year alone, he’s juggling theater work in Noël Coward’s Private Lives with Anna Chancellor on London’s West End. Oh how I’d love to see this live, his comic timing is impeccable!

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That same year he also portrayed Captain Flint in STARZ’s series Black Sails, a role that combines tremendous physicality to do the action stunts as well as dramatic chops.

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My colleague was the first one who told me about this show and though it’s not really my cup of tea, I’ve been watching clips of the show. I’ve never seen him so battered, bruised and covered in blood, yet I can’t take my eyes off him. I love how the show’s lighting made his green eyes sparkle against his pale, freckled skin.

Highlighting some of my favorite Toby performances

 

It pains me that most people only know him as the Bond baddie Gustav Graves (he’s the youngest actor to play a Bond villain) in the worst possible Bond movie ever, Die Another Day. I mean, Gustav is supposedly a Korean who’s been genetically grafted into being a Caucasian. Say what?? Even Toby himself said how exceedingly silly that role was, and how he had to *disappear* from Hollywood for a few years as he’s only getting offered villain-y roles.

So in case you’ve never heard of him or only seen him in a couple of things, I’d like for you to acquaint yourself with Toby’s amazing body of work. Here are just a small sampling of his multifaceted career in both TV and movies:

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Jay Gatsby – The Great Gatsby (2000)

Ok so I’m not crazy about this adaptation but at least it didn’t put me to sleep like the 1974 version with Robert Redford. Toby certainly has dashing, refined but enigmatic charm, more swoon-worthy than Leo any day. I only wish they don’t have him grinning too much here. As much as I love his beautiful teeth, it just gets creepy after a while. Still, Toby is never NOT fun to watch and I enjoy listening to his flawless American accent. Paul Rudd is pretty decent too as Nick Caraway.

Mr. Rochester – Jane Eyre (2006)

My pal Becky is laughing at me as I used to have a very different opinion on his performance as Rochester in Jane Eyre, as I’m so partial to Dalton’s portrayal, but now I’ve fallen for his passionate and decidedly more sexual take of the character. I couldn’t decide which scene I should include here, there are way too many highlights, but I find Toby’s voice so intoxicating in this very scene where he explains the story of his Parisian mistress Céline Varens.

“You do not know how it feels to the very beat of someone’s heart within one’s breast …” The way he looks at Jane… and THAT voice… it’s a potent combination if there ever was one.

Prince John – Robin Hood (2009)

The only character who manages to avert my eyes away from Richard Armitage’s Guy of Gisborne. Now, if you know me at all, that is quite something. It’s funny but I’d be watching the exact same Robin Hood clips but this time I couldn’t take my eyes off the deliciously hammy, caddish Prince John. Toby at his naughtiest best.

Frank Arlington – Strike Back (2010)

It’s amusing to see Toby and Andrew Lincoln are now stars of American cable shows. I sure hope Black Sails will have as huge following as The Walking Dead and that it will bring him more opportunities in Hollywood. Toby’s talent needs to be seen, people!! Erm, in any case, Toby’s sporting American accent once again, as a CIA agent no less.

Detective Jack Armstrong – Vexed (BBC Two – 2010-2012)

I LOVE LOVE his goofball performance as the lazy, immature and irreverent cop. The show itself reminds me of Moonlighting with all the bantering between him and his clearly-superior female partner. It’s too bad there are only two seasons, I could watch this all day! Lucy Punch is great in the first season, too bad she didn’t stay on for the second. But Toby is a hoot, he’s really the only reason to watch the show for me.

… and finally, here’s a clip from The Machine (2013) that I’ve already reviewed here. First time I saw him in a sci-fi but again he fits the role of a mad-but-compassionate scientist perfectly. Once again he plays another tortured soul like Gatsby and Rochester, which is definitely his specialty.

I could go on and on… as right now all I want to watch and talk about is Toby. Thanks for letting me indulge on my new crush. I better just stop here … I can always blog about him again in the future 😀


So, what do you think of Toby Stephens? What movie/TV series did you like him in?