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

Valentine’s Kiss

OTT Domestic Drama

This is an excellent drama for those in the mood for an emotional roller coaster of consequences when the husband of a parenting guru asks for a divorce. Our heroine has made many mistakes in her marriage and as a mother, but she is still someone you root for. The cheating husband is, unlike his soon to be ex-wife, not a nice person to put it mildly. It has everything in it but the kitchen sink: Wedding, unplanned pregnancy, several career crises, break-ups, reconciliations, adultery, comeuppances, romance, friendship, estrangement from children, custody battles, alimony, lawyers, and of course a satisfying and happy ending for the people we like. Adding to the overall appeal of the film are the considerable talents of John Hannah, Rupert Graves, Eileen Atkins, and Caroline Catz of Doc Martin fame. It’s nothing like Rosamunde Pilcher would have written, but I found it very entertaining.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

March 18, 2020

Unknown Heart

Flawed but Still Entertaining

This was a pretty enjoyable drama and love story. A woman receives a heart transplant and falls in love with the doner’s widower. My enjoyment was tempered by my thorough disapproval of the heroines actions and the actions of the “other man.” I don’t like adultery in my heroines unless it is excused by bad behavior by the husband and in this case it is not excused. I didn’t like any of her choices until the end. The fact that getting an organ from another person would cause one to reject a loving husband and become attracted to the grieving widower of the donor was just too preposterous for me to swallow. This was much better done in Return to Me with Minnie Driver and David Duchovny.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

March 9, 2020

Four Seasons

A Guilty and Totally Preposterous Pleasure

A very enjoyable soapy family drama “inspired by” Rosamunde Pilcher’s gentle family dramas. LOL. Domestic Abuse, Cheating boyfriend v. lovable boy next door, suicide, long lost grannies coming home, shocking twists, evil grandpa, and financial shenanigans, a stunning last will and testament, plus much much more! Senta Berger shines as the wise and attractive grandmother who gets a second chance at love with a charming and funny Tom Conti. I couldn’t take my eyes off her nose though. The director could have chosen more flattering angles. Michael York is very effective as the powerful older son of the family patriarch who oozes menace out of every pore. What made this 4 part yarn hold together though, in my opinion, of the sweet young daughter played by Emma Watson look-alike Paula Kalenburg. She had to endure many jolts to the system both good and bad but carried on with aplomb. Confrontations and promises of confrontations abound keeping tension and suspense in play. There are two major shocks in the last two parts that put the icing on the cake.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

March 9, 2020

The Other Wife

Supposedly Associated with Rosamunde Pilcher.

I thoroughly enjoyed this soapy family drama. Nothing like Rosamunde would have written, but still it is domestic and romantic. Two wives of the same man, both nice women, betrayed by John Hanna, the conflicted bigamist. The collision course they are set on kept the tension dialed up to medium high and when the truth is finally revealed it was suitably dramatic. Throw in an estranged father, a plane crash, bankruptcy, a boyfriend stealing sister, a war-hero love interest lurking in the background, a cheating lying brother, financial shenanigans, a daughter jealous of her mother, a heart attack, and a gold mine and I’m all in. Also ballerinas! Seriously what more could you ask for?

Rating: 4 out of 5.

March 7, 2020

The Crossword Mysteries: Abracadaver

I Came Here to Solve a Mystery

I couldn’t figure out why I didn’t remember watching this movie, because I know I would not have missed it. I really like the Crossword Mystery series and have it set up to record on the DVR. After relentless promotion, the movie never aired. Well now I know I’m not crazy. What the what Hallmark? ***finally saw it, after a 3 month delay.*** This installment was a disappointment although, in general, I think the Crossword series is going to be my favorite mystery series by Hallmark. Brennan Elliot’s investigative skills leave a lot to be desired. They consist of asking everyone in sight, “did you see anything unusual/out of the ordinary/strange?” Lacey Chabert is really starting to get on my nerves with her little “Heh-Heh” giggle after what seems like every other line she delivers.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

October 27, 2019

The Secret of Crickley Hall

Listen to Your Youngest Daughter!

**Major Spoilers**

Excellent ghost story. Not scary, but the family drama and suspense are the focus here, not jump scares. Many involving mysteries, slowly revealed, and a good side story involving Maisie Williams as the oldest daughter. Great job in developing the youngest daughter, who is the shining light of truth and insight in a suffering and confused family. I really liked that though there were some conflicts between the husband and wife, it did not split them apart. Although it is revealed that the son is in fact dead (and how could it be otherwise?) the family remains in tact and the ghosts are set free, so it was ultimately a hopeful happy ending for a horror story. Especially as we learn the fate of the main orphan, Stephan. I wish we had had more details about him. Also we know that Cam was kidnapped from the beginning, so there was a loose end there, as the family never learns how he came to drown, and neither does the audience.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

September 4, 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

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

Flambards

Beloved Mini-Series from the Olden Days.

I don’t remember how this old series from 1979 came to my attention-probably it was praised on one of the Facebook sites I frequent dealing with period drama or British series and shows. After I read the glowing to hyperbolic reviews, I was thrilled to find it at my library. I did enjoy it. It was very good. I loved the time period depicted-1909 to 1918-what a watershed period of history! So much going on.

We follow the likable, plucky, if a little barmy Christina as she is deposited at Flambards a debt-ridden estate owned by her brutish and bitter uncle. By the bye, his hairstyle makes him look like the Devil. I wonder if that was intended.

Watch Flambards Online | Season 1 (1980) | TV Guide
Uncle Russell

 He has two sons. The handsome older brother, Mark, is equally brutish and as horse-mad as his father, and the youngest, William, is the complete antithesis of both of them: brilliant, forward-thinking, ambitious, hard-working, and kind. He couldn’t care less about horses, in fact he hates and fears them after an accident that left him a little lame. His passion is airplanes. He is continually treated with harshness and injustice by his brother and father, but he could not care less. I loved William. His father is no father to him, so he finds a substitute: An older gentleman who is his friend and mentor to his aeronautical ambitions. Christina and William become great friends even though she still gets on with Mark and his father most of the time, due to her own love of horses. William tells her right off the bat, by way of a warning,  that she is meant to marry Mark for her fortune so he and Uncle can buy more horses and continue their aristocratic and wasteful lifestyle. Pay their debts? Develop their land? Restore the estate? Invest in the future? Please.  Thanks to William, Christina has their number right away, and together William and she are an unbeatable team. They are adventurous, brave, and dauntless.

This approximately 12 hour series is divided into 3 parts. The first part ends with Christina and William escaping to London so William can follow his dreams but not before Christina carries on a flirtation with a devoted stable-hand and gets him fired by involving him in her desperate scheme to save her beloved horse from being slaughtered. Admittedly a noble cause, but still. Christina is impulsive but has good instincts. The second section involves their London adventures with William trying to break in to the airplane industry and their close friendship with a like-minded young couple. They are a fearsome foursome, if you will. WWI breaks out and William joins up and becomes a pilot.

In the last section, the resilient Christina takes over Flambards, determined to repair years of neglect, and bring it in to the 20th century. She is reunited with an old friend, and again has to deal with troublesome Mark who returns from the still on-going war.

Although tragedy and tough times are certainly part of Christina’s journey, overall, It remains upbeat and optimistic from first episode to last. I think this is because it is based on a trilogy of books aimed at young teens. Serious issues are addressed, bad things happen, but we soon realize that we are not going to be thrown to the wolves, so to speak. To add to the appeal we are treated to more than two nice love stories. Always a big plus. The strange musical score by David Fanshawe, I did not like or understand. But I can’t get it out of my head. **8 stars out of 10**

May 21, 2021