Victoria Season 1

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The fabulous Maddy is doing a blogathon about the gems of the small screen and I just knew I had to take part. As I’m a sucker for historical dramas, I just knew I had to cover the first series of the elegant Victoria.

A lavish historical drama, depicting the ascension to the throne of Queen Victoria and the turbulence of her early reign, the first season of Victoria is a marvellous one that draws you in with its writing and acting.

England, 1837 and upon the death of William IV, his niece Victoria( Jenna Coleman) becomes Queen at the age of 18. She’s lead an extreme sheltered life up until this point, having grown up in Kensington Palace. Her time there has been almost that of a prisoner as her mother’s adviser Sir John Conroy(Paul Rhys) has attempted to dominate the young girl. He is an opportunistic man who has wrapped the Duchess( Catherine Flemming) around his little finger. With little in the way of guidance, Victoria is thrust into her role of Queen. While there are those who covet her position and think of her as a naive girl, with assistance and growing sense of strength, she succeeds at fulfilling her duties as monarch. There are difficulties along the way as she navigates power struggles, backbiting and doubts from courtiers and government. From this point on, she grows as a woman and ruler, destined to be remembered and revered. Still the path in front of her is a far from simple one as she takes residence in Buckingham Palace. There’s her dedication to Prime Minister Lord Melbourne(Rufus Sewell) that calls into question whether there is something improper going on. While there is some love that Victoria at one point thinks age feels( mainly one that resembles father and daughter approval), it’s a very platonic relationship between them. Her stubbornness to rearrange her ladies in waiting to make it seem she isn’t favouring one government over the other causes a scandal as well as other ways that she acts impulsively. Still trying to get a foothold into power is John Conroy, who employs dirty tactics to enable what he wants. Thankfully, Victoria manages to assert herself and banish him from her life as age gets more comfortable in her destiny. One of the biggest things is Victoria’s meeting and eventual marriage to Prince Albert(Tom Hughes). She chafes at first at the idea of wedding him as it is from the idea of her slippery uncle King Leopold of Belgium(Alex Jennings), but comes around and realises he is the man she loves. And downstairs contains just as much drama as upstairs in a highly entertaining historical series that will have you hooked.

Like most historical dramas, Victoria is a stunning feast for the eyes. The buildings and set design dazzle with colour and life, capturing the richness of palaces and country homes. Special mention must go to the costume department, who dress everyone in such finely designed clothes that you can’t take your eyes off. This is especially the case in what we see Victoria dressed in, which is nothing short of gorgeous. Just like in The Young Victoria, we are presented with a different perspective of the iconic Victoria. Here she is still very much a young woman who is alternately learning on the job and asserting her authority in the face of opposition. The writing, which covers the early years of her reign that aren’t quite as documented as the later ones, highlights the steps Victoria had to take to be seen as a strong and regal monarch. She was no ones puppet and slowly found her toughness to steel herself in a time that would bear her name. Many will say that Victoria is soapy and to an extent it is very eventful and dramatic, but that’s what makes it so compelling. There’s always something going on to keep the attention, both upstairs and downstairs. From humour and insight into palace life to the romance between Victoria and Albert, there’s no shortage of talking points here. In many aspects, Victoria resembles a mixture of Downton Abbey and Upstairs, Downstairs and is just as entertaining. It takes what made those shows great and runs with it, creating a series of fine drama and history. Not all of it may be historically accurate, but mind you what movies or television based on real events stick extremely loyally to what happened? A gloriously grand musical score backs up the pomp and ceremony of being a Queen and the romantic dramas experienced by the whole host of characters.

Jenna Coleman is an inspired choice to play the young monarch, taking her first steps as queen and learning quickly the responsibility of it. She has a playfulness and alternating will that showcases the often portrayed Victoria as full of life and passion, steel and vulnerability. Strength, girlishness and intelligence all come across in her work, twinned with sympathy for her as she adjusts to the sudden shift in her life. It’s safe to say Coleman makes for an ideal Victoria by making the role her own. There are plenty more stars in the big ensemble cast. Tom Hughes makes for a handsome and excellent Prince Albert. Our main knowledge of Albert is that his death completely devastated Victoria, so it’s nice to see a portrayal of the young man as one of many things. He’s smart yet awkward, reserved but very passionate and immensely forward-thinking. It is very good to witness more of an insight into Albert rather than just him as simply the Queen’s husband. He and Jenna Coleman share a very nice and gradually romantic chemistry that highlights the deep love that grows between Victoria and Albert. On hand for great charisma and understanding is Rufus Sewell as the skilled and supportive Lord Melbourne. Sewell plays him as a man who has been around for a long time and knows the score when it comes to the relationship between Crown and Parliament. His immense likability ensures we buy into the way he interacts with Victoria and steers her on her way to greatness.

A highly entertaining performance comes courtesy of Alex Jennings, who portrays Victoria’s uncle King Leopold of Belgium. He may be someone whose always finding ways to lurk about and influence matters to his own benefit, but damn if he doesn’t look like he’s having fun doing it. Catherine Flemming is easily influenced and distant from her daughter, hoping that it will be changed sometime in the future. David Oakes is on dashing ground as Albert’s womanizing brother Ernest, who enters into a flirtation with Harriett, Duchess of Sutherland (as played by the luscious Margaret Clunie )and close friend to the Queen. This beginning sows the seeds of more to come from these two. In roles of government, there is a disapproving Duke of Wellington and at the opposite end a slowly more respecting future Prime Minister Robert Peel. Both are played in style by Peter Bowles and Nigel Lindsay. In his short tenure in the show, Paul Rhys is appropriately slimy and scheming as John Conroy. So it is very satisfying when Victoria finally cuts him down to size and makes it possible for herself to be heard as a woman of power and influence. A lot of that is down to how well Paul Rhys plays the role that we dislike Conroy so intensely.

And the downstairs is well represented too. Daniela Holtz is endlessly severe but mainly well meaning playing the loyal Baroness. She’s often picky and constantly on the lookout for something to smooth over, but it’s often out of a desire to do well by Victoria. is a character who is both caring and staid, a balance that is well observed by Holtz. Nell Hudson is the pretty new dresser to the Queen named Skerrett, one hiding a secret and attempting to keep it fully under wraps. Eve Myles is effectively dowdy and reliable as the main ladies maid of the household who isn’t above a bit of grousing about conditions. With a flair and sense of amusement, Ferdinand Kingsley is the palace chef with an eye for Skerrett. One of my favourites characters is Penge, the Steward who is lazy and overly cynical. Portrayed by the watchable and fun Adrian Schiller displays of eye-rolling indignant and sarcastic comments add humour to the mix of things going on in Victoria. Tommy Knight plays his underling, who always has a smile on his face and impish charm to spare.

Sumptuous costume drama that effortlessly fills the Downton Abbey void in your life, Season 1 of Victoria delivers great historical drama goods with style that has me yearning for the second series.

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It would appear that my comments are ending up in various people’s spam. So I will ask you all if you would check your spam sections to see whether my comments are there. Thanks for everything.

Viceroy’s House

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Film Title

Viceroy’s House

Director

Gurinder Chadha

Starring

  • Hugh Bonneville as Lord Louis Mountbatten
  • Gillian Anderson as Lady Edwina Mountbatten
  • Manish Dayal as Jeet
  • Huma Qureshi as Aali
  • Michael Gambon as Hastings Ismay
  • Simon Callow as Cyril Radcliffe
  • Om Puri as Ali

A bittersweet movie that takes on the final months of British rule in India and the following Partition, Viceroy’s House greatly finds complexity and emotion in what is undoubtedly a difficult part of history to present.

The year is 1947 and Lord Louis Mountbatten has been made Viceroy of India. He, along with his wife Edwina and daughter Pamela, make their way to the Viceroy’s House in Delhi where they will live. Mountbatten is to be the last Viceroy and is charged with overseeing the handing back of India from British rule. This is going to be far from a straightforward task as political issues and opposing stances on what should happen to India. The chief thing to  consider is whether India should be independent and still one nation or the move for Partition and the creation of Pakistan. Meanwhile, downstairs a star-crossed love story is developing between newly arrived valet Jeet and the pretty Aalia. Their union is complex due to the fact that he is Hindu and she is Muslim, though Jeet wants to overcome the odds and be with her. Aalia doesn’t want to disappoint her blind father who has already got a husband in mind for her, but she finds it difficult given her feelings. Back upstairs, and although he has to remain neutral over his opinion in what will happen, with oppositions appearing in what he sees, Mountbatten edges towards the idea of Partition. Yet with violence breaking out across India from different factions things come to a head as the prospect of Partition looms large.

At the helm of this movie is director Gurinder Chadha, who manages to tackle a very touchy subject and not make everything look all rosy. Viceroy’s House is obviously personal to Gurinder Chadha, as we find out in the credits that she had relatives who survived the events following Partition. Her greatest skill is how she presents how difficult and conflicted the process of change was; it was far from easy for anyone involved in it. There’s a refreshing bluntness to her movie that takes the time of the British Raj and views it through a more critical angle than most historical dramas. There’s no real romanticising of the time, instead it discovers more darkness and machinations than that. Yes it can seem like a more exotic version of Downton Abbey in the early stages( which to be honest isn’t a bad thing at all) but Viceroy’s House has much bigger fish to fry in its running time. The movie is careful not to demonize either the side that wanted to leave and form Pakistan and those who wanted Indpendent India. That’s what makes it interesting, there is no easy or straightforward answer to it all. The love story and various parts may have benefited from some expansion as the story it takes on is big and important on a lot of levels. The romance angle drags the film down somewhat, but there’s still some small virtues to be had despite the melodramatic treatment of this chapter. But by and large, Viceroy’s House succeeds in what it sets out to do. I’ve read some quibble that the film doesn’t quite play to the facts and simplifies events( I am no expert on the topic, so can’t really judge how soundly truthful the movie is), but even so it is very gripping viewing. On a visual level, this is a movie where the words sumptuous and gorgeous come out.

Hugh Bonneville is on familiar but fine ground as Lord Mountbatten. He has a way with projecting an air of dignity and class, tempered with uncertainty about the future. Mountbatten, in this incarnation is painted as a man attempting to make things as peaceful as possible but struggling with the inevitable fall out. Supporting him is a great Gillian Anderson as his open-minded wife, the strong woman behind the man. She exudes a witty yet caring demeanor that is a breath of fresh air in a time of unrest and Anderson rises to playing the part beautifully. Despite their story being the thing that sags in Viceroy’s House, Manish Dayal and Huma Qureshi still have a nice rapport with one another. Reliable British thespians Michael Gambon and Simon Callow are on hand for great supporting roles. Om Puri, in one of his last film appearances, projects a quiet sense of worth and heart despite having suffered in his life.

A movie that is deeply felt, despite a few shortcomings, Viceroy’s House dramatises it’s events in manner that thankfully doesn’t sweeten or brighten anything for the audience. Rather, it strives and largely succeeds at discovering depth in a time in history that has been somewhat ignored on screen and presented with both effectiveness and bluntness.

Blogs You Should Follow Part 19

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Another round of delightful blogs you simply must follow and read.

John Rieber; This fun and adventurous site concerns itself with food and movies from all genres. John is an approachable and witty guy who is always great to converse with on most subjects.

Touch My Spine Book Reviews; Dani is an open book of information and lover of all things literature. Her blog is sure to get you in the reading habit. A truly unique individual. 

 

Who Are Your Movie and Television Crushes?

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I recently came across The Darling Buds of May airing again on television. And while I wasn’t born when the show was originally on, I remember as a kid upon seeing it developing a crush on a young Catherine Zeta-Jones. I mean just look at her;

And this got me thinking about movie and television crushes we have over the years. So who for you is a crush from movie or television? It can be a recent crush or one from years ago.

More of mine include;

  • The four Charmed Ones in Charmed
  • Buffy Summers
  • Beyonce
  • Jennifer Garner
  • Jennifer Lopez
  • Gemma Atkinson

R.I.P John Mahoney

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I woke up this morning to the news that John Mahoney had passed away at the age of 77. For me he was a great actor, the role I’ll most remember him for is as Martin Crane in Frasier. As the blunt and sarcastic father of the title character, he would often steal the show with his witticisms. He will be dearly missed by so many and Frasier will live long in the hearts of fans everywhere.

Suffragette

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To celebrate 100 years of women getting the right to the vote in the UK, I decided to review the drama Suffragette.

Film Title

Suffragette

Director

Sarah Gavron

Starring

  • Carey Mulligan as Maud Watts
  • Helena Bonham Carter as Edith Ellyn
  • Anne-Marie Duff as Violet Miller
  • Brendan Gleeson as Steed
  • Ben Whishaw as Sonny Watts
  • Meryl Streep as Emmeline Pankhurst

A deftly done movie that blends fiction and truth, Suffragette charts the rise of the foot soldiers in the fight for women to receive the vote. Well acted and personal, it’s a movie that really strikes to the heart of the cause and what it meant for future generations.

The story begins in 1912, London. Women have for some time peacefully campaigned for the right to vote but their voices have gone unheard. We meet a working class laundress named Maud Watts. She’s had a tough life of abuse and turmoil from men , though she has some comfort at home with her husband Sonny and son George. One day, she is caught up in a demonstration by suffragettes who break all the windows in the West End. Although she doesn’t know it yet, this event and further ones will have a big impact on her. For more demonstrations and talk of women getting the vote takes place, also featuring brutality from the police and the authorities. Having been so downtrodden in her life, Maud gradually aligns herself with the local firebrand Edith Ellyn. After hearing a speech by Suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst, Maud is now fully involved with the cause. This in turn earns the scorn of those closest to her and her husband refuses to let her see their son, but these sacrifices stiffen Maud’s spine and further her desire to fight for the vote. For Maud and the women she marches with are determined to gain equality, no matter what the cost.

There’s a real urgency and immediacy to the direction of Sarah Gavron. She excellently showcases the shared strength of women and employs a camera that always seems to be moving. It captures the whirl of events and the gathering storm of demonstrations that the suffragettes take part in, from smashing windows to hunger strikes and blowing up postboxes. Abi Morgan’s script finely dramatizes the struggles of women at the time and how through actions, they were gearing up to have the same rights as men. The main story is fact-based here and is inspiring as well as important in what it depicts. Suffragette features fictional characters interspersed with real life figures in the movement, such as Emmeline Pankhurst and. The biggest message of Suffragette is how far these brave women were willing to go in order to get the vote and eventually equality. These were women from all walks of life who were united by a common goal and were prepared to go the extra mile to have their voices heard. What they went through was extraordinary and often brutal. We see women beaten, humiliated, force-fed and in the course of Suffragette. It’s not easy to watch, but that’s the idea. Women fighting for the right to vote went through a lot and this movie is a testament to them. This is an important story that needs to be told and in this very way. Alexandre Desplat is the person providing the building score that gains in momentum as events take flight and the fight begins to increase in steam and volume.

Carey Mulligan is the lead in Suffragette and boy does she deliver. She has this ability to be totally unaffected and filled with conviction without resorting to histrionics. Her face, that speaks so many volumes, is a marvel at depicting Maud’s shift from bystander to fighter and makes us feel every beat. Helena Bonham Carter shines as a leading member of the group and one of experience, while Anne-Marie Duff is fine as the forceful and agitator of the suffragettes. Then we have Brendan Gleeson as a police inspector caught in between sympathizing with the women and enforcing the law. Ben Whishaw, finding some depth and unpredictability than some parts he is given, displays both a caring attitude to his wife and then a deep coldness when he feels she has shamed him. It’s something I’m not used to seeing by Whishaw, but damn if he doesn’t do it well. Though I expected to see more of Meryl Streep as Emmeline Pankhurst, her cameo is satisfying and provides a rallying cry to Maud and a whole host of women.

An unflinching and inspiring movie that never sugar coats the brutality and resistance that was met by women campaigning for the right to vote, Suffragette has much to recommend in its reels.

The Hitch-Hiker

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To kick off the female filmmakers series I am doing this February, we have The Hitch-Hiker. Be sure to tune into more female directed movies this month and see if any catch your interest.

Film Title

The Hitch-Hiker

Director

Ida Lupino

Starring

  • William Talman as Emmett Myers
  • Frank Lovejoy as Gilbert Bowen
  • Edmond O’Brien as Roy Collins

A taut and very tense noirish thriller from Ida Lupino, The Hitch-Hiker, thanks to her sure hand keeps events ticking over with a real sense of suspense and possible terror. Taking basis from a real-life serial killer and his reign of terror, The Hitch-Hiker keeps you constantly invested and intrigued as events go on.

Friends Gilbert Bowen and Roy Collins are on their way to a fishing trip in Mexico with nothing in the way of eventfulness planned. Little do they realise that their planned fishing trip is about to take a possibly deadly detour. For they come across one Emmett Myers, who they think has just broken down and needs a ride. Offering him a lift, they soon discover he is a wanted criminal who has murdered a number of people who he has hitched a ride off. At gunpoint, Myers forces Gilbert and Roy to take him into Mexico and into the desert filled areas. He is attempting to evade the authorities and wishes to get to the town of Santa Rosalia in hopes of escape. Myers constantly toys with both men, tormenting them with his disregard and hatred for humanity. Both men try to think of ways to escape from the clutches of Myers, but it proves difficult. Chief among the struggle is the fact that Myers has one eye that never closes, making it incredibly hard for Roy and Gilbert to flee. Can both men manage to not be worn down and discover a way to survive what promises to be deadly if they don’t cooperate?

Ida Lupino, who was at the time of the film’s making one of the only female directors in the business, acquits herself well with this unnerving thriller by taking a simple premise and making it gritty and appropriately grim. She taps into the shared fear of strangers and what they could possibly hide or bring to you in unexpected circumstances. As well as this, we get the uneasiness of how events that take place in The Hitch-Hiker could very well happen in real life. Being stopped by someone you don’t know in a place you are unfamiliar with is a very real terror that I’m certain everyone has thought of in their lifetime, enabling The Hitch-Hiker to be all that more successful at the taut vision it is going for. And speaking of real life, The Hitch-Hiker takes influence from a case of murders committed by Billy Cook. He was the man behind a 22 day spree of murder before he was captured and sent to the gas chamber. Knowing that this has influenced the movie itself, we watch as Lupino fashions a claustrophobic noir that instead of featuring a big city, uses the vast deserts of Mexico for its setting. Taking place in the mountainous regions and for the most part in the car that is hijacked, we feel like we’re in just as much of a jam as Gilbert and Roy find themselves in. And even though noir was often seen as a masculine genre, Ida Lupino shows herself to be just as good as her male counterparts in directing. It’s truly great to see a pioneering lady in action behind the camera. And the pace of the film, which clocks in at just 71 minutes, is economical and straight to the point of things in terms of the suspense. The climax may lack that bit of oomph, but everything else is right on the money and very taut. On the visual front, the looming surroundings and the tightness of the car provide ample opportunities for style in the noir fashion. A suitably tense score highlights the uneasiness of both men as they are nearly broke down by Myers and his evil.

Sweaty, sleazy and nasty evil is exuded by William Talman as the eponymous killer. Talman just has something sinister about him right from the first moment we clap eyes on him. This pays dividends as his performance is extremely mercurial and sly; watching him attempt to break the friendship between is genuinely creepy viewing. Frank Lovejoy and Edmond O’Brien underplay things nicely, with a realistic terror and sense of hopelessness, tinged with the possibility for both to save the day if they can. Both actors are stalwart performers who you really believe as regular Joe’s caught in a most alarming and dark situation.

A grim, dark and well-paced movie, The Hitch-Hiker displays the talents of Ida Lupino as a director to be reckoned with.

Aladdin

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The quite fabulous and ever so lovely Gill and splendid Crystal asked me to partake in a blogathon to honour the talents of Robin Williams. I simply couldn’t refuse this offer as I’m such a huge fan of Williams. For my choice, I decided to review the wonderful Disney flick Aladdin.

Film Title

Aladdin

Directors

Ron Clements and John Musker

Voice actors

  • Scott Weinger as Aladdin
  • Robin Williams as Genie
  • Linda Larkin as Princess Jasmine
  • Jonathan Freeman as Jafar
  • Gilbert Gottfried as Iago

A joyous and energetic take on Arabian Nights from Disney, Aladdin is chock full of stuff to enjoy and be a part of.

In the streets of Agrabah, Aladdin is a young urchin who along with his monkey sidekick Abu, must steal to survive. Although he must rob, he is an inherently decent person just attempting to make it from one day to the next. His life is about to get a whole lot more eventful very soon. He meets Jasmine; a spirited girl who is actually the daughter of the Sultan and therefore a Princess. She has run away from home because according to a law, she must be married to a prince very soon. So far, she doesn’t like any of the suitors that have been selected for her. She feels stifled by royal protocol and wishes to marry for love. On their brief meeting, Aladdin falls in love with her, but fate has other plans.  Also involved is the villainous adviser Jafar, who wants to have power and never-ending domination over everything. He has identified that Aladdin is the person who can get him what he wants. That would be a magic lamp hidden within a magical cave. After imprisoning Aladdin, Jafar disguises himself as someone else to lure him to the place in the sands that is known as the Cave of Wonders. Inside, Aladdin and Abu accidentally upset the order of things and end up trapped. Upon rubbing the lamp, an energetic and fast-talking Genie emerges, ensuring Aladdin that he has three wishes that he can grant. There are limitations to what he can wish for, though Genie and Aladdin develop a friendship and Aladdin promises Genie that he will set him free as a final wish. Helping them out the cave and with Genie’s help, Aladdin masquerades as a famous prince in order to woo Jasmine and ultimately stop Jafar in his evil tracks.

From the opening of swirling sands, Aladdin looks gorgeous and magical. The vivid colours used in the animations are something to marvel at as Aladdin finds himself in an adventure and fantasy. The visuals are all in place for us to admire as well as many other key ingredients that make Aladdin a great movie. The briskness of pace bring out the fun right from the start, never letting any flab or dull moments sink in because of its fastness. The humour and adventure appeal to both grown-ups and children because it covers a wide range of styles. This is especially prominent once Genie enters the picture and all the great pop culture references and nods are in full abundance. The music is another ace high point of Aladdin with many numbers standing out. The sublime and romantic ‘A Whole New World’ is a great match for the visuals of Aladdin and Jasmine taking a magic carpet ride, while the bombastic ‘Prince Ali’ and ‘Friend Like Me’ are a perfect summation of Genie and his antics.

The assembled voice actors do extremely well with the characters they have and are all well-suited. Scott Weinger has the right amount of fun and charisma for the title character, which goes a long way with how much we like Aladdin and his journey. But its Robin Williams and his voicing of Genie that truly makes Aladdin that something to treasure. His endless impressions, vocal acrobatics and wildfire delivery are scene-stealing in a completely amazing way that is very much to Williams’ style of comedy. Genie is a character who brings an already great movie into the levels of excellence it achieves. With Williams the man behind it, it is quite impossible to not laugh along with Genie as he helps shape Aladdin with his wisdom and zany antics. It simply wouldn’t be the same movie if Williams wasn’t a part of it. Linda Larkin has a sweet but strong voice that is just perfect for Jasmine, while Jonathan Freeman is appropriately slimy and nasty as the main villain of Jafar. His voice is very snake-like, which comes in handy with such a foul and evil character. Just as Aladdin has a sidekick in Abu, Jafar has the loud-mouthed parrot of Iago, voiced with relish by Gilbert Gottfried.

A bundle of hip fun for all ages, Aladdin is dazzling movie making from the animation, music and voice acting. But best of all, it’s a showcase for the talents of Robin Williams and a special one at that.

Please Check Your Comment Sections

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It appears that the issue of my comments on other blogs not giving notifications to my followers is happening again. I had thought it had resolved it, but obviously the blogging stratosphere has other plans. So I ask you all to check your comment sections to see my comments, I do apologise for any inconvenience this is causing. I hate for anyone to think that I’m avoiding them as that is not the case at all. I love talking with you all over a variety of subjects, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that this pesky issue will eventually leave me alone.