Hamilton

Grateful for the Captions, the Pause Button, and Wikipedia

I started watching this out of curiosity and to say I have seen it, being the cultural touchstone that it is. At first, I was a little detached, not liking the songs too much, and thinking I would probably just skip through to end in a minute. I couldn’t stop watching and it really sucked me in. I have to say, I’m not sure I would have enjoyed it at all, live in the theater. I benefited greatly from the captions and the ability to put it on pause to consult Wikipedia from time to time. The lyrics were so clever and really told the story. I ended up very moved and almost cheering at the end. Of course, now that I am familiar with the story, I would love to see it live and would enjoy it immensely. But I would strongly recommend this for a first time viewing. I will definitely re-watch. And probably again and again.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

July 4, 2020

Echoes

Weird Ending

Based on a Maeve Binchy novel and set in 1950s Ireland, I enjoyed this miniseries very much until the ending. The actors were great and I liked the story and the romance. But the ending was strange. They kind of didn’t give us closure. It was not a sad or tragic end, it just left us hanging a bit. We are pretty sure our heroine will make the good decision eventually, but the writers didn’t see fit to show us that. And there didn’t seem to be a good reason for it. Without the weird ending, I would have given this a 7.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

April 20, 2020

The Scapegoat

Much Better than the Depressing Book

Excellent story using Daphne Du Maurier’s novel as inspiration. Brilliantly re-formulated to use QEII’s coronation as a metaphor for how we are at the mercy of fate and chance. And how we should make the best of it. Although the initial idea of doppelgangers changing places was Du Maurier’s, this adaptation makes a more satisfying and intriguing plot. Loved it.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

April 13, 2020

A Tale of Two Cities

Not Perfect, but Very Good and Enjoyable

Marvelous adaptation of the Dickens adventure, which I discovered quite by accident. This was a Hallmark Hall of Fame production and was produced in Great Britain. Alice Krige is perfect as the angelic Lucy Manette, filmed one year before her breakthrough role in Chariots of Fire. She somehow manages to make the young Lucy sweet and innocent without making her insipid. I felt Chris Sarandon was rather mis-cast. His features are too strong, dark and heavy for the role of a French Aristocrat masquerading as an gentlemanly but lowly English tutor. He fares a little better as Sidney Carton, but conversely he seems too “strong” for the role of dissolute but weak Sidney. He just does not convey that he could be so chastely yet so completely infatuated with the fainting prone Lucy. He rather muffs one of the greatest last words/hurrahs ever in English literature. Miss Pross, Lucy’s loyal nursemaid who proves her mettle at the last is played by the great Flora Robeson and it is her next to last role. The rest of the cast does well, particularly Peter Cushing as Dr. Manette and Pre-Hercule Poirot David Suchet. Well scripted and adequately directed except for Sidney’s last final scene.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

April 4, 2020

The Littlest Horse Thieves

A Heartbreaker!

Although the movie’s conclusion is upbeat and and hopeful regarding the miners and the main families and all but one of the horses, the fate of that most beloved horse (who is blind) is heartbreaking and poignant. When one of the boys father comments about the sadness, the boy reminds him that up above in the fields he knew he was blind, but in the lightless mine pit he was a hero who knew the way. OMG OMG OMG. The performance of Chloe Franks was a standout, the most affecting of a strong cast. Alistair Sims performance made the character of the Lord who owned the mine profoundly creepy with his giggling. What was he thinking? All in all a top notch Disney drama with more darkness than expected, but which made it even more memorable. But I could never watch it a second time.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

June 26, 2019

The Count of Monte Cristo

Beaucoups de Libertes!

I enjoyed this version of one of my most favorite books, hence my rating. I loved Bertuccio, who even added some unexpected humor to the proceedings. Another character that was given way more screen time than in the book was Camille who was gorgeous and had a quirky personality. Actually this character was not even in the book. Odd that they shortchanged one of the most important and exciting characters, the Abbe Faria, but had the time to insert a character that was non-existent in the classic novel. Same with Haydee, who was the Count’s fascinating mistress. At least she was included, although her most powerful scene in the courtroom was cut out.

Unfortunately, film makers are incapable of ending this story without Edmund Dantes getting back with Mercedes, instead of using the poignant yet fairly happy ending that Alexandre Dumas wrote. Also, the actor playing Ferdnand Montego was horribly miscast, looking like a clown instead of the proud hateful husband of Mercedes. Thus his downfall is not as effective as it should have been.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

June 18, 2019

Swashbuckler

Pederast!

One of the most unintentionally funny lines ever! It’s never good to hurl an insult that the intended target might need to look up in the dictionary. This is a fun pirate movie with a stellar cast. Critics hate it and it goes on my list as one of my guilty pleasures. It is a very long list, I admit. Major crush developed on Robert Shaw, even when I was a college student when I first saw this movie almost 40 years ago. I remember I bought another ticket the next day to see it again. It’s a shame he died so young. At the time, A pirate movie was way off the zeitgeist of the time, and as a girl who was raised on swashbucklers on film and on the page, I was totally hooked.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

March 27, 2019

Stranded

A More Mature and Serious Take on the Disney Classic

Stranded is a top notch re-telling of the Swiss Family Robinson story. It takes a more serious approach where lives are threatened , tragedy is always around the next corner, and death does occur. This is not a Disney version, with its humor, slapstick, and rollicking tone. Yet it retains the values of family, religion, and love. With its 3 hour length, it has added a welcome subplot which follows the life of the youngest son, Jacob, separated from the family during the shipwreck and raised by pirates. It also devotes time to the transformation of father David Robinson from a stubborn, controlling religious fanatic to a loving and supportive father who learns to widen his worldview on the little deserted island. It also adds to the mix, a young daughter who grows up on the island, and a native who visits occasionally and helps them through some life threatening events. Happily, it also includes a romance when the daughter of a sea captain escapes from pirates, and meets up with the Robinson family. Equally happily, it also includes the climactic battle between the Robinsons and the pirates. All ends well in a very satisfying ending, where each family member chooses to go or stay in order to fulfill their bliss. The cast includes some actors very familiar to fans of British cinema and television. Ginny Weasley is even it! This is superbly entertaining family movie that deserves to be much more well known that it is. It has something for every one. **9 out of 10 stars**

May 5, 2018

Emma

A Worthy Production Crippled

I have seen this version of Emma at least 3 times, and on this viewing, bumped my rating up 2 stars. The casting of Doran Goodwin is still a major sticking point. Though she gives Emma more complexity and is the truest to Jane Austen’s portrayal, her older looks, pasty complexion, and lack of charm, fight with the positive. She is not helped by an unfortunate choice of hairstyle: severely scraped back to an inch of it’s life with tight ringlets pulled out and sometimes glued against her forehead. Ugh. The other main problem I have with this production is two poorly done major scenes. The picnic on Box Hill is a waste. Practically meaningless with several important characters missing in action, it has none of the drama or importance in character development of any of the recent remakes. The second scene is Emma and Mr. Knightley’s conversation after Mr. Knightley rescues poor Harriet from Mr. Elton’s rudeness. It is crucial in the relationship building between Emma and Mr. Knightly in all of the other remakes. It is almost meaningless in this one due to the direction the actors were given. The ending is way too drawn out as well. Never thought I’d say that about a movie. I usually love my endings to be long and detailed. Of course, filmed in 1972, almost 50 years ago(!) it is stagey, claustrophobic, and the production values are not what we are used to, these days. I don’t count that against it. **7 stars out of 10**

April 30, 2018

Pride and Prejudice

David Rintoul’s Performance Costs this 1980 BBC Production

This is an excellent version of Pride and Prejudice second only to the lauded and beloved 1995 production. Elizabeth Garvie’s “fine eyes” and bright performance is a standout. She is lovely and likable. I would put it on par with Jennifer Ehle’s interpretation. Unfortunately David Rintoul’s performance is a real hindrance. He is as stiff and expressionless as a board. He moves through the film as a Zombie. This would have been fine for most of the production, but he almost never unbends to show us his true colors at the end. He only smiles when he is inviting Mr. Gardiner to go fishing, and even then he looks like his face would crack from the effort. Darcy must be shown to have evolved into someone Elizabeth could love and like. Colin Firth revealed Darcy to be shy as well as proud and it was a charming portrayal. Mathew McFayden was almost heartbreaking in the 2005 version. For much of his portrayal, I was looking forward to the change when Darcy finally melts. I was very disappointed. What a lost opportunity! It was very vexing! All of the other actors stand up quite well to the classic, especially Jane, and Mr. Collins. Jane is, in this version, much more the beauty she is described to be. Susanna Harker in the 1995 version is attractive and interesting looking but she is not really a beauty, in my opinion. I do prefer the more comedic performance of Alison Steadman as Mrs. Bennet. The wonderful Julia Salwaha killed as Lydia, and unfortunately, Natalie Ogle’s performance was not up to snuff by comparison.

I have watched this multiple times and it stacks up against every version of this classic of the Austen genre, which is unusual as it was made in the days of stage-like production values. It would have taken just an extra 5 seconds to make this almost perfect. If only…. **8 out of 10 stars**

August 4, 2017