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Archive for the category “Reviews: Miniseries”

Miniseries Review: The Moth (1997)

The Moth (1997)
BBC Miniseries, 152 minutes (3 fifty minute episodes)

based on the novel by Catherine Cookson

Have Downton Abbey withdrawal? A bunch of BBC miniseries by Catherine Cookson appeared on Netflix recently, and since I’m an absolute sucker for costume drama, I went trawling the web for some tips on which one to try. By all accounts, The Moth (set in 1913, Northumbria, England) got the highest marks, and away I went.

The Premise

When his father dies, carpenter Robert Bradley (Jack Davenport) takes a job offer from his uncle, a furniture maker in rural England. But Robert’s handsome face and charming ways soon land him in hot water with his uncle’s family. Wrongfully accused of getting his cousin pregnant, Robert leaves the family and takes the only job he can get: an odd-job servant position on the local landowner’s estate. There, he strikes up a friendship with ‘The Moth’—the gentry family’s wandering, childlike daughter—and engages in a war of longing looks with the girl’s older sister, Sarah (Juliet Aubray).

The Pain

Multiple subplots get lost in forgotten-ville, and the production values are not the greatest. Don’t go into this expecting Downton-caliber writing, sets, or acting, and you should be pleasantly entertained.

The Payoff

Get ready for a dose of delicious ‘Brits in love’ restraint, complete with stolen glances, and a steamy forbidden kiss that lands this one solidly in three arrow territory.

By the way, once you’ve watched the miniseries, treat yourself to reading this hilarious screen-cap rehashing by someone far more British, and far more witty than I. Bairnsketballs indeed.

3 out of 5 arrows

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Miniseries Review: Emma (2009)

Emma
BBC Miniseries, 240 minutes (4 one-hour episodes)
based on the novel by Jane Austen

Every few years, someone in the movie industry decides it’s time to remake an Austen film. Hollywood did it in 2005 with the Kiera Knightly version of Pride & Prejudice—or, as my friend Katie calls it, “Emily Brontë’s Pride & Prejudice.” Naturally, filmmakers want to try their hand at the biggest women’s franchise ever (try to argue Twilight has eclipsed Austen, I dare you).

Sometimes, I wish they’d do something other than P&P or Emma. There isn’t a decent Northanger Abbey, and though I adore the Amanda Root/Ciaran Hinds Persuasion, there’s ample room for another entry there, too. But did I say any of this when Katie invited me to a “new Emma” viewing party? Of course not. It’s a new Austen film, yay!

The Premise

For the uninitiated, Emma is about a smart, wealthy young lady in 1810’s England who decides she’s a brilliant matchmaker and proceeds to meddle in the lives of her friends and neighbors—with funny and sometimes disastrous results. Her behavior puts a strain on her friendship with Mr. Knightly, who is her only intellectual equal. Emma may think she’s a great matchmaker, but she knows nothing about her own heart.

The Pain

Most women my age picture Jeremy Northam (from 1996’s Emma) as Mr. Knightley, so Jonny Lee Miller (aka Edmund Bertram in 1999’s Mansfield Park) takes some getting used to in the Mr. Knightley role. The Brontëan darkness shoehorned into parts of the miniseries stand at odds with Austen’s usual social satire. Lastly, Emma’s occasional anachronistic behavior will be jarring to anyone familiar with the mores of the period.

The Payoff

As Emma, actress Romola Garai is an elegant imp who has so much fun with the story that I almost forgave her those anachronisms. As Emma’s father, Michael Gambon is fabulous, and even Jonny Lee Miller comes through on the romance.

Rating:

4 out of 5 arrows

Miniseries Review: North and South (2004)

North and South
BBC Miniseries, 235 minutes (4 one-hour episodes)

based on the novel by Elizabeth Gaskell

From the way people describe this story, you’d think it was called Pride and Prejudice and the Industrial Revolution in Victorian England. To a certain extent, that’s an accurate pigeonhole. The romance is of the “I hate him, I hate him, I hate him, oh crap I love him!” variety—one of my personalfavorites—and instead of satirizing society (Jane Austen’s forte), Elizabeth Gaskell goes after issues of social conscience, contrasting the stark differences between pastoral, agrarian southern England and the bustling, hardscrabble mill towns transforming the north of England in the 1840’s.

The Premise

When spirited middle-class southerner Margaret Hale (played by Daniela Denby-Ashe) has to move with her family to Milton, a sooty, every-man-for-himself northern city that’s nothing like the beautiful village she’s known all her life, she hates everything about it. The city’s dirty air hurts her mother’s health and the people are pushy and hard. To her, attractive mill owner John Thornton (Richard Armitage) epitomizes everything that’s wrong with the North, and when she befriends one of his workers, a girl whose health has been damaged in the mills, Margaret knows exactly who to blame. If you’re wondering how The Man could possibly be a sympathetic hero, all I can say is Gaskell knows her romance.

The Pain

A drab gray palette suffuses nearly every bit of the movie. You keep expecting spring to arrive, and with it some color, or flowers, or something, but it would seem that there are no beautiful days in the North.

The Payoff

Is John Thornton. He’s full of restrained passion and out-smolders Darcy, if you can imagine that. I highly recommend.

5 out of 5 Arrows

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