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+)

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