Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Newest Addictions (cont'd.)

BBC Murder Mystery
  • Sherlock: Season 1 --  I love Sherlock Holmes, and I love almost every one of its adaptations.  This newest one is no exception.  In fact, it may be my favorite so far.  Starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as a perfectly matched Holmes and Watson, this modern retelling of Conan Doyle's detective is witty, fun, and exciting.  With both actors currently involved with the filming of The Hobbit, the second season had to be postponed.  But I know it will be worth the wait if it is even half as good as the first.  (A)
  • Case Histories: Season 1 -- This murder mystery series just aired on PBS this past month, and despite many negative reviews, I liked it.  The mysteries and characters are interesting, the dialogue is good, and the settings and scenarios are realistic.  Some call it depressing, but I think they may have only watched the first episode.  I personally think that the episodes get less dark and morbid as each time, as if it symbolizes the progression of the main character's life and perspective.  Except for a few awkward scenes that could've been edited out, it was a good series.  (A-)
BBC Period Drama
  • Small Island --  This miniseries that takes place in England in the 1940s deals with the racial drama that occurred when the Jamaican soldiers tried to make better lives for themselves in "Mother England."  The story centers around Queenie, a white woman in London whose husband goes to war but doesn't return home immediately after.  In order to survive, she takes on boarders, including black Jamaican soldiers.  These characters' lives are forever entwined, and the racial hatred in 1940s England makes things extremely difficult for all of them.  The characters are genuine and interesting, and the story is both heartwarming and heartbreaking.  Definitely worth a watch.  (B+)
  • Jane Eyre (2006) --  Once, I thought the only good version of Jane Eyre was the 1997 TV movie with Ciaran Hinds and Samantha Morton.  And then I saw this miniseries, and every other version pales in comparison.  Thanks to the benefit of having more time in a miniseries, many of the details often left out in other adaptations are able to have a place here.  Plus, the eeriness and darkness is definitely felt in this version.  And the chemistry between Jane and Rochester is amazing.  I still love the 1997 movie, but this 2006 version is now my favorite.  (A+)
  • North & South --  My love for this miniseries is slightly biased, due to Richard Armitage playing one of the main characters.  But even if he hadn't starred in the series, I still would love it.  It's another Pride & Prejudice, only it takes place in more modern times (at least modern compared to Austen's time) and also focuses on the lives of the mill workers and their plight as they strike.  The characters, the dialogue, the settings, the costumes- this miniseries embodies everything that I love in a period drama.  And I love all romances that build over time and adversity, rather than the "love at first sight" kind.  Now that I'm thinking about it, I may just have to go home and watch it right now.  (A+)
  • Wives & Daughters --  I watched this miniseries at the beginning of the summer, and I think the one overall impression I had for it was "Wow.  There are a lot of whiny people in this series."  The father whines about the son, and vice versa.  The stepdaughter whines about her love life.  The stepmother whines about her ungrateful daughter.  Luckily the main character is not a whiner; she actually seems to be the only levelheaded one amongst her family and friends.  Unfortunately, she also happens to be the quietest one.  (B-)
  • The Way We Live Now --  Definitely not my favorite miniseries.  First, Matthew MacFadyen as the bad guy?  Shirley Henderson's shrill voice?  Cillian Murphy and Miranda Otto as a couple?  Miranda Otto with a cowgirl accent?  What were they thinking?  This miniseries ended with maybe one happy couple and lots of miserable people.  I think this show's only saving grace was David Suchet's amazing performance as the villainous Melmotte.  (B-)
  • Northanger Abbey --  The 2007 TV movie adaptation is such a sweet and funny movie that you don't have to know Jane Austen's book to enjoy it.  The dialogue is fresh and witty, and the two main characters seem to have real chemistry.  This is the one Austen book I haven't read yet, and now I'm going to have to read it to see if it's as fun as its adaptation.  (A)
  • Downton Abbey: Season 1 --  A superb series, worthy of every Emmy it earned.  The show starts with the main family, the Crawleys, receiving news of the sinking of the Titanic.  Two of their relatives (the heirs of their estate) perished on board, and it changes their lives forever.  Meanwhile, the family's staff of maids, footmen, cooks, butler, and housekeeper have their own dramas and lives that are intertwined with each other and their employers.  The actors are fantastic, and the story dramatic.  Each character has a story to be told, each as interesting as the next.  I cannot wait to see what is in store for them in the next series as they enter World War I.  (A)
  • Little Dorrit --  I know my sister did not appreciate this miniseries as much as I did, but I can understand why.  The story takes forever to get anywhere.  You have to have a great deal of patience to stick with anything written by Dickens, and this adaptation is as close to the book as you can get.  Fortunately, the plot does eventually start to gain momentum, and the many storylines reach satisfying resolutions.  The acting is also superb with such a great cast: Matthew MacFadyen, Andy Serkis, Claire Foy, and James Fleet.  (A)
  • Under the Greenwood Tree --  What could have been a great romance turned out to be an awful movie simply because they rushed it.  This movie felt so fast from beginning to end that all the characters and relationships were undeveloped and two-dimensional.  If they'd spent more time on character development before throwing everyone into a ridiculous love triangle, and then wrapping the whole thing up in 90 minutes, this could have been a great love story.  (C+)
  • Cranford --  This miniseries focuses on the small town of Cranford and the women living there, and how the approaching railroad affects their community.  The small romances that happen here and there are sweet, and the messes and mix-ups the characters find themselves in are fun and humorous.  The only downside is how many of the great characters they kill off.  Maybe if they'd let a few more of them live, I would have given the miniseries an A+.  (A-)
  • Return to Cranford --  While the first half of this Cranford story was sweet with a few sad parts, this second half is sad with a few sweet moments thrown in here and there to keep it from being depressing.  Within the first few minutes of the show, they kill off one of the best characters and her unborn child.  And it just gets worse from there.  So many more people die, or have their lives screwed up.  Sure, there are a couple of romances, and a small family is reunited in the end, but that's about as good as it gets.  (B-)
  • Lark Rise to Candleford: Season 1--  And now for the most recent of my addictions.  This series is about two neighboring towns in England, one a tiny hamlet of farmers, the other a small but wealthy town, and how these two communities interact.  The story is told by a girl who grew up in Lark Rise and has now moved to Candleford to work at the post office with her mother's cousin.  You see the lives of all these people through her keen eyes.  The series is very much like Downton Abbey, with the two classes being both separate and intertwined, and with each character having their own story and well-developed personality.  That's what makes both of these series so amazing, the character development.  I've also noticed something else that Lark Rise, Downton Abbey, and North & South all share-- Brendan Coyle.  He's a fantastic actor who plays similar roles in all three of the series, but he plays them extremely well, and is one of my favorite characters in all of them.  I love this first season so much, I've bought the boxed set of the complete series, and I'm dying for a free Saturday when I can curl up in bed with a cup of tea and watch the whole thing, beginning to end.  (A+)

The Newest Addictions

Over the summer, I developed new addictions that took over my movie, TV, and book preferences.  The first addiction is everything BBC & Masterpiece.  I am absolutely in love with the British and their dramas.  The second, somewhat related addiction is period dramas.  Anything taking place in the past, especially the Jane Austen era, is an absolute must.  And the final addiction is the murder mystery.  Just consider my TV schedule.  Castle, Unforgettable, Psych, and Grimm are all murder mystery shows.  Of course when the addictions overlapped - such as a BBC murder mystery - that was the absolute best.

BBC (non-period drama/murder mystery)
  • Primeval Season 4 -- After hearing that this dino-themed sci-fi series was going to be continued after its original cancellation, I was sadly disappointed when the fourth season finally arrived.  While it wasn't terrible, it didn't live up to the first few seasons.  Part of the problem is that they killed off most of the original cast, and the new characters just don't fill those voids.  The other part of the problem was that the show seemed to become overly sensational, like they were compensating for the lack of character development and chemistry with over-the-top, end-of-the-world scenarios.  Will I still watch season 5 if they ever decide to air it?  Yes.  (B-)
  • The Last Enemy -- This miniseries starring Benedict Cumberbatch showed just how scary an Orwellian, "Big Brother is watching" government could be.  Mathematician Stephen Ezard returns home to England from China to find his homeland has changed radically since recent terrorist attacks.  Cameras on every corner, ID cards containing your entire life, and computer chips embedded in your skin that can track your every move.  It's a very thrilling story that really makes you think.  Unfortunately, the British seem to hate happy endings, so don't watch this movie and expect to feel good afterwards.  But I'd still recommend this miniseries (best seen as a companion to 1984 by Orwell and A Brave New World by Huxley) simply as a means of opening people's eyes to a possible future.  (A)
Period Dramas (non-BBC/murder mystery)
  • Jane Eyre (2011) -- I have seen many versions of Charlotte Bronte's book since it's one of my favorite romances ever.  This most recent movie version, starring Michael Fassbender and Mia Wasikowska, is a poorly done remake.  While the filmography might be called artsy, the story itself was sadly undeveloped and contained huge holes.  Plus, the eeriness that's felt throughout the book is missing completely from this movie.  Another complaint I have is that Fassbender's Rochester is too calm and gentle.  Edward Rochester is supposed to brusque, brooding, and somewhat violent.  But I could have forgiven all of that had it not been for the ending.  Bronte wrote one of the best endings ever; it's sweet, romantic, and funny.  But this movie version destroyed it, and for that I cannot forgive them.  (D)
  • The Duchess --  So depressing!  Kiera Knightley and Ralph Fiennes star in this period drama about a loveless, arranged marriage.  The Duke marries a young woman of good family in order to have an heir, but he doesn't love her and continues to sleep with every other female.  Including her best friend.  The Duchess falls in love with a young politician, becomes pregnant with his child, and has her child forcibly taken away from her.  She then goes home to live with her husband, his mistress, and all of their children as one big family.  After watching this movie, even though I'm tired of them, I had to watch a silly rom-com just so I could watch something happy.  (C)
  • Venetia by Georgette Heyer --  I love Georgette Heyer's regency romances, and this one was great.  Venetia is a young woman who is about to resign herself to spinsterhood, when her rakish neighbor, Lord Damerel, returns home and swoops her off her feet.  At first he only does it out of boredom, but he soon discovers that Venetia doesn't fall for his tricks and games, which intrigues him.  He soon realizes that he's fallen in love with her, but as his bad reputation will ruin hers, he refuses to let anything come of it.  But Venetia doesn't intend to let him go so easily.  This story made me smile so much because the bantering and flirting between Venetia and Lord Damerel reminded me so much of the relationship between Castle & Beckett.  This is a fun romance with surprising ending.  (A) 
  • Sylvester, or the Wicked Uncle by Georgette Heyer --  This book has now caused my three-way tie for best Heyer book to become a four-way tie.  Funny, exciting, romantic- an all-together amazing read.  Sylvester is an aloof duke looking to get married.  His godmother suggests her friend's daughter Phoebe, so he decides to meet her.  Phoebe is an interesting young woman who wants more than anything to publish a novel, which she ends up doing successfully.  Unfortunately, the villain in her story is based off Sylvester himself, and as the two end up growing closer after a series of adventures, her book ends up causing the relationship a great many more hurdles and adventures to overcome.  I loved this book so much, I could not put it down or stop laughing as I read it.  (A+)
Murder Mysteries (non-BBC/period drama)
  • And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie -- I read this book because my sister was taking a detective literature class, and both she and my mom liked the book.  It was so amazing!  Absolutely intense, gripping, and mind-bending.  I had no idea who the murderer was; every theory I had was completely wrong.  Definitely one of the best murder mysteries out there.  (A+)
  • Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot series --  I started reading these mystery novels after finishing Christie's And Then There Were None.  I loved the television version of these novels, starring David Suchet, so I figured the books would probably be even better.  They were.  The best of all them was Murder on the Orient Express.  Christie is gifted when it comes to keeping her readers on their toes.  In every one her books, I was completely amazed by the ending.  (A to A+)
  • Heat Wave by Richard Castle -- This first book from the fictional TV author isn't bad, but it's definitely not one of the best mystery novels I've read.  Honestly, I didn't expect it to be amazing, since it is from a TV show..  It was like reading the script for an episode of Castle, except the mystery wasn't that quirky or exciting, and Castle & Beckett's counterparts end up together.  I'll probably stick to the TV show rather than read the rest of the Heat series.  (B)
  • Castle: Season 3 -- What can I say about this show that I haven't said already?  It's still just as amazing as ever, but I'm starting to agree with my sister about the Beckett's mom story arc.  Could they just solve it and move on already?  The more twisted it gets, the more I lose interest.  The rest of the season was great however, especially the steampunk episode.  And nothing could have prepared me for that season finale.  Now that the 3rd season's out on DVD, I can't wait to get it and rewatch all the Castle/Beckett awesomeness.  (A+)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

My favorite season

Fall is absolutely my favorite season of the year.  The temperatures are no longer hot & humid, but cool & crisp (with the exception of the freak blizzard this past Halloween weekend).  The leaves are beautiful reds & yellows, and Nanowrimo threatens to take over my life.  But best of all, the fall TV season has brought me wonderful & addicting new shows.

This fall, I have a TV show to watch almost every night of the week, which is a first for me.  I used to just catch up on a couple of shows on Hulu, or wait for a series to come out on DVD before seeing it.  But this lovely new satellite TV we have has made way too many shows and channels available to me.  My current schedule is:

  • Once Upon a Time (ABC, 8pm)
  • Various Masterpiece specials (PBS, 9pm)
  • Leverage (TNT, 9pm)
  • Pan Am (ABC, 10pm)
  • Terra Nova (FOX, 8pm)
  • Castle (ABC, 10pm)
  • New Girl (FOX, 9pm)
  • Unforgettable (CBS, 10pm)
  • Psych (USA, 10pm)
  • Person of Interest (CBS, 9pm)
  • Chuck (NBC, 8pm)
  • Grimm (NBC, 9pm)
SaturdayI'M FREE!!!