Weekend Roundup: Thoughts on STARZ series ‘The White Queen’ (2013)

It’s been quite a weekend, it’s so sad to hear what happened on Saturday night in Orlando, FL. My thoughts and prayers are with those affected in this horrific act.

The cast of Broadway darling Hamilton, led by Lin-Manuel Miranda paid tribute to the victims in a powerful gesture:


On a positive note, it’s wonderful to see many performers of color win Tonys this year, with Hamilton and The Color Purple with its diverse cast swept the awards.

Wish I had been able to see Hamilton whilst I was in NYC before Miranda left. Ah well, I’d love to see it one day!


As for my weekend, I spent most of my time outside as my good friend is in town. So I didn’t see a single movie but on Sunday night, I did watch three episodes of a 2013 series I’ve been wanting to see for some time.

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I’m such a sucker for period dramas as you already know, and British royal families are ripe for an engrossing drama filled with royal lust, love, seduction, deception betrayal and murder. I love that the series is female-centered. Told through the perspective of  three different, yet equally relentless women – Elizabeth Woodville, Margaret Beaufort and Anne Neville.
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Hale, Ferguson & Marsay

Rebecca Ferguson plays the beautiful Lancastrian commoner Elizabeth, and Janet McTeer played her strong-willed mother Jacquetta. Apparently Tom Cruise chose Ferguson to be his co-star in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation after he saw her in this mini-series. She certainly is versatile, as she seems as fitting in 15th Century England as she does in a modern spy thriller. I’m not too fond of Amanda Hale‘s acting style as Margaret, but Faye Marsay as Anne is quite intriguing. So far though, my faves are Ferguson and McTeer. Those two actresses are the main draw for me to see this series and they certainly outshine the boys.

In the first episode, Elizabeth won the heart of the House of York ‘s young King, Edward IV (Max Irons, yep Jeremy’s hunky son). There’s a bit of a Romeo & Juliet factor here the fact that The House of York and The House of Lancaster are bitter enemies. Edward owed his throne to his cousin, master manipulator Lord Warwick (James Frain) who resented Edward’s choice as it spoiled his own plan for power. It’s a wonderfully-tragic tale of England’s earliest civil war.

The quality of this Starz production is top notch. Beautifully-shot and wonderfully-acted, it’s not as violent as the European series BORGIA, but still pretty gritty. Based on British historical novelist Philippa Gregory‘s novel, it’s definitely a must-see for fans of period dramas!


Out of all the men, Frain is the only one who made an impression to me as the scheming ‘Kingmaker.’ He’s a terrific character actor who’s been in so many different films/tv work. Irons is pretty good but he doesn’t quite have the same screen presence as his dad, but perhaps that’s unfair to expect that. David Oakes and Aneurin Barnard played Edward’s brothers George and Richard, respectively, both are easy on the eyes as well, and Barnard resembles my crush Sam Riley so much it’s uncanny!

I’ve only seen three episodes and boy am I hooked! Thankfully there’s only one season so far which I can’t wait to finish it. The sequel, The White Princess, has been green-lit by Starz and is currently in production (per Deadline).


So that’s my weekend recap folks. How about you? Seen anything good?

Rental Pick: Woman in Gold (2015)

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Maria Altmann, an octogenarian Jewish refugee, takes on the Austrian government to recover artwork she believes rightfully belongs to her family.

Let me start by saying that Dame Helen Mirren is one of my favorite actresses I’d watch in practically anything. She’s easily one of the best things of any film, including this one.

As a woman whose torn apart from her family in Vienna, Maria Altmann is given the chance to take back what’s rightfully hers, but she must also face her dark past in the process. Woman in Gold has a historical significance, but what drew me to the story is the personal connection.
WomanInGold_Mirren_MaslanyFollowing her sister’s funeral, Maria discovered letters dating back to the 40s that prompted her to reclaim her family’s artwork. She enlisted help from an inexperienced lawyer who happened to be the son of a friend, Randol ‘Randy’ Schoenberg (Ryan Reynolds). I have to admit I’m not enthused on Reynolds’ casting and in the end, his performance confirmed my dread.

The film utilizes several flashback sequences of Maria’s once-blissful life with her affluent family. It’s a close-knit Jewish family but she’s her aunt Adele’s favorite (Antje Traue), who was the subject of famed Austrian painter Gustav Klimt. The Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I (also called The Woman in Gold, hence the title) is practically the Mona Lisa of Austria. Though the monetary value is clearly substantial, the personal value is what’s priceless to Maria. I find myself more drawn to the flashback scenes, I was quite impressed by Orphan Black’s Tatiana Maslany as the young Maria. That goodbye scene with her parents was such a tearjerker.

WomanInGold_Antje_PaintingIn fact, it felt like a different film entirely as the tone is far more serious and emotional. In fact, the scenes where Maria and her then husband Fritz (Max Irons) were chased by the Nazi officers was pretty intense. In contrast to the contemporary scenes in both L.A. and Vienna, the tone is rather whimsical and at times it didn’t seem to have the gravitas the story deserves. Now, I don’t blame Reynolds entirely, as it’s more of a writing and directing issue, but his casting doesn’t help. He’s fine when the role requires him to be whimsical, but I find him entirely unconvincing in the emotional scenes. I just don’t think he’s got dramatic chops, though I suppose I should give him props for trying. It’s quite infuriating to see a perfectly capable actor like Daniel Brühl [as the Austrian journalist who helped Maria’s cause] not given much to do.

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Overall I enjoyed this film, there are some emotional as well as fun moments sprinkled throughout. Yet, whenever the film hit a particularly poignant note, the next scene strikes an entirely different note that it seems rather jarring. I understand that perhaps director Simon Curtis injected humor to make the film less heavy-handed, but the movie became so uneven in the process.

That said, if you’re intrigued by the story, this is certainly worth a rent. It’s not exactly a work of art by any means, but I definitely like it more than Monuments Men. Of course having Helen Mirren in the lead makes the film all the more fascinating. I’d still recommend this one if you like historical dramas, I find the flashback scenes in Austria to be especially compelling.

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Have you seen Woman in Gold? What did you think?

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Five for the Fifth: APRIL 2015 Edition

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Welcome to FlixChatter’s primary blog series! As is customary for this monthly feature, I get to post five random news item/observation/poster, etc. and then turn it over to you to share your take on that given topic. You can see the previous five-for-the-fifth posts here.

1. Since this months’s edition falls on Easter Sunday, I think it’s the perfect time to highlight films with redemptive themes. They don’t have to be spiritual films per se, it could be from any genre, so long as it contains films where the character realize the error in his ways and become a changed person. Some of the ones that have memorable redemptive themes Road to Perdition, Michael Clayton, Schindler’s List, Gran TorinoLéon: The Professional, Children of Men, Star Wars, those are just at the top of my head.

But the one that I always find profoundly moving is the finale of Ben-Hur

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Judah: Almost at the moment He died, I heard Him say, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Esther: Even then.
Judah: Even then. And I felt His voice take the sword out of my hand.

It’s a perennial favorite around Easter time, but really, I’d recommend one of the greatest epics in cinema history any day of the year.

Which film(s) with redemptive theme resonate with you most?

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2. Check out the FIRST LOOK of Steven Spielberg‘s WWII drama Bridge of Spies.The name refers to a bridge across the Havel River in Germany used by the Americans and Soviets for the exchange of captured spies during the Cold War.  

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This marks the fourth Spielberg – Tom Hanks collaboration and the Coen brothers are apparently polishing the script originally written by Matt Charman. Wow, with such a pedigree and an intriguing premise, I can’t wait to see this! 

Too bad John Williams won’t be scoring the film though, apparently due to “a minor health issue that’s now been corrected,” (per EMPIRE) and replaced by Thomas Newman. The article also provides a caption of the image we see above: James Donovan (Hanks), a lawyer who was pushed headfirst into the Cold War during the 1960s when he had to negotiate for the release of downed U2 spy plane pilot Gary Powers after the airman was shot down over Russia. Alongside him is Mark Rylance’s Rudolf Abel, a suspected KGB spy who was defended by Donovan in a US courtroom in 1957.

What’s your initial thoughts of Bridge of Spies?

3. I just read this over at Slash Film that series creator Steven Moffat wants a crossover of Doctor Who and Sherlock. Now, though I’m not obsessed with either show, I totally get the appeal and I think both are fun and well-written. Crossover ideas are nothing new in pop-culture, we’ve seen ’em in a lot of comic-book adaptations like CW’s Arrow and The Flash, and of course the DC and Marvel Cinematic Universe are full of them.

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Photo courtesy of Geek Tyrant

Well, apparently Moffat is the only one excited for the crossover idea as the lead cast Benedict Cumberbatch & Martin Freeman, as well as the series’ co-creator Mark Gatiss aren’t keen on the idea, saying “Look, it will never be as good as they think it’s going to be.” You know what, I kind of agree with them. It seems like a fun idea, but whether it’ll actually work or not is another story. Though if there’s anyone who could somehow make it work, it’d be Moffat. So never say never I guess.

What do you think of this Sherlock/Dr.Who crossover or other crossovers on film/tv?

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4. This question is inspired by my recent roundtable interview with the two lead cast of The Longest Ride: Britt Robertson and Scott Eastwood (I will post the transcript next week). Also, I saw A Woman in Gold last week in which Max Irons has a supporting role (I first noticed him in The Riot Club trailer) and Colin Hanks was just on MPR’s Wits, a live public radio show filmed here in town. Well, just looking at the last names, you might be able to deduce that all three have famous dads who are practically screen legends: Clint Eastwood, Jeremy Irons and Tom Hanks. Boy, they all seem to be splitting images of their dads, aren’t they?

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Scott Eastwood, Max Irons, Colin Hanks

Now, I haven’t seen enough of their work to judge their talent as an actor, but they seem to have a decent career so far in Hollywood. It made me think of other famous Hollywood actors’ offsprings who’ve made it in showbiz. There are no shortage of them, and some have even match or even surpass the success of their parents, Angelina Jolie, Michael Douglas, Jeff Bridges, those are just a few that come to mind.

So I’m curious, who are your favorite famous actors’ offsprings?

5. This month’s Five for the Fifth’s guest is Stu from Popcorn Nights blog!

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The Final Cut of Blade Runner has just been re-released in cinemas in the UK, and stands as Ridley Scott’s definitive version of the film, and far better than the 1982 cinema release. Here’s the trailer:

Which director’s cut of a film do you think is the biggest improvement on the original work?


Well, that’s it for the April 2015 edition of Five for the Fifth, folks. Now, please pick a question out of the five above or better yet, do ‘em all! 😀