Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Pillars of the Earth, 2010

Cast:  Ian McShane; Donald Sutherland; Matthew MacFadyen; Eddie Redmayne; Hayley Atwell; Sarah Parish; Natalia Worner; David Oakes; Tony Curran; Sam Clafin;  Anatole Taubmann; Liam Garrigan; Gotz Otto; Jody Halse; David Bark-Jones; Alison Pill

plot summary:  This 8 PART mini series, based on a Ken Follett novel,  presents political conflict, grand passions and epic ambition, all fueling a 12th-century English story centered on Prior Philip's (Matthew Macfadyen) determination to see the construction of "Kingsbridge Cathedral". At the same time, civil war is roiling Britain as the result of a struggle for succession among King Henry's heirs, with the outcome of history hinging on a portentous secret. 

sez says: this was diverting.  The acting was fine. The story was complex and compelling. The production values were better than average. It stated off very strong--and anyone can pretty much guess was going to happen in the end.  "The Church" comes out looking really bad...which probably has plenty of historical president.  The 'Witch' was as little too good, and the naked women (at least one per episode) were a bit obvious. 

mjc says:  fun story, fun to watch ...good production values for a series

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Red Riding Trilogy: '74 / '80 / '83, 2009 (Grade B+)

this is three separate movies all tied together by an original crime
Directors: Jullian Jarrold; James Marsh; Anand Tucker
Any Awards? don't know of any
CAST: Andrew Garfield; David Morrissey; John Henshaw; Anthony Flanagan; Warren Clarke;  Jennifer Hennessy;  Peter Mullan;  Rachel Jane Allen;  Paddy Considine;  Rebecca Hall; James Fox;  David Calder;  Nicholas Woodeson;  Ron Cook;  Lisa Howard;  Chris Walker;  Shaun Dooley;  Jim Carter; Sean Bean; Sean Harris;  Steven Robertson
plot summary:  this sweeping trilogy traces the agonizingly protracted search for the mysterious Yorkshire Ripper and the rampant police corruption that impeded the investigation. Inspired by actual events and adapted from David Peace's Red Riding series of novels, this neo-noir epic that comes close to being great.
sez says:  well done, well acted, a few loose ends in the story --but overall it held together as a real 'who done it' that wasn't obvious--but never strayed from being believable.  Good guys get killed off a little too often--but another good guy always comes along and another thread is found and in the end all is made whole
mjc says  production values and cinematography provided an intriguing telling of a fictionalization of a series of murders on the north of England

Life with Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows, 2001 (Grade C+)

Director: Robert Allan Ackerman
Awards? Yes, Emmys for Davis and Blanchard
CAST:  Judy Davis; Victor Garber; Hugh Laurie;  John Benjamin Hickey;  Sonia Smits;  Jayne Eastwood;  Daniel Kash;  Alison Pill;  Aidan Devine;  Stewart Bick;  Tammy Blanchard;  Amber Metcalf
plot summary:  The triumphs and failures of actress and singer Judy Garland are presented in this sweeping biopic, which convincingly depicts her childhood career, breakthrough with The Wizard of Oz, struggles with addiction and failed marriages. Based on a book by Lorna Luft, Garland's daughter, this television film earned leading actress Judy Davis and supporting actress Tammy Blanchard Emmy Awards for playing the same role.
SEZ Says: I love Judy Davis and she, as always, did a fine job.  This is a little long but even so it didn't drag--even at 170 minutes.. Garland seems to be a topic of unending interest. Her life was not an easy one--her talent was large--and she was unstable.  Add to that a never ending problem with drugs and it is amazing that she lasted as long as she did.
MJC says:  Judy Davis was real--production values were limited.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Jury, 2002 6 part Mini-Series (Grade C+)

Director: Pete Travis
Cast:  Derek Jacobi; Sonnell Dadral; Antony Sher; Helen McCrory; Gerald Butler; Sylvia Syms; Sturart Bunce; Nina Sosanya; Michael Maloney; Nicholas Farrell, Gillian Barge; Paul Reynolds; Sarah-Louise Young; William Hoyland; Connor McIntyre; Billy Scott; Steve Sweeny; Mark Strong.

sez says: It is a treat to see such great acting--and to a person this is very well done. The story--did he do it, didn't he do it, how can a jury member make a decision without evidence that is absolutely certain --is pretty well done too--but at times a little over done (reasonable doubt is after all the standard, so if you can't feel sure than you can't convict.)   High school students / racism / bullying / revenge/ are all topic ripe for a mystery --so that part was good.  And the attempt to weave the personal lives of the jury members was a good idea..but it fell short. The various transitions in their lives were choppy. In some cases we were eventually TOLD why one or another of them did want they did--but in some cases their was no good explanation.  So the STORY fell shot in doing the full job of working these peoples lives into the background of the trial.  Still, it was diverting, and well acted, and a reasonable mystery--so it easily called a 'good' show -- but it falls way short of being a great show. Grade C+

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Cast: Edie Falco; Eve Best; Peter Facinelli; Haaz Sleiman; Merritt Wever; Paul Schulze; Dominic Fumusa; Anna Deavere Smith; Daisy Tahan.

 sez says-- we like Edie Falco-- so we decided to watch this-- It starts off well--establishing complex characters and a setting with promise .. but then it fizzles. Once we are introduced to the characters, their contractions and demons it is as if the writers don't know where to go with the character  -- so they keep harping on the same things.. Jackie uses drugs, she is having an affair, her daughter is acting out in school so Jackie must worry. Her pals also have some depth --(not as much as she does) but over and over we see Jackie go in the bathroom and take some more drugs, hide her wedding ring, worry over her daughter's drawings...and...and...and we see her take more drugs, and take off her wedding ring (one whole show is about her having trouble getting her ring off) and worry some more about here daughter not smiling. We are not sure this will be worth watching another season -- they have some strong characters..and there is possibility here. but the story needs to go somewhere. Watching the same dilimma every week--maybe be like real life--but it is not compelling to watch --So far C+

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Anna Karenina, 2000, Masterpiece Theater (Grade B)

Director: David Blair
Cast: Helen McCrory; Kevin McKidd; Douglas Henshall; Mark Strong; Amanda Root; Paul Rhys; Paloma Baeza; Abigail Cruttendenl Sara Kestelman

sez says: We have watched every version of Anna Karenina  that we can locate to see how the way the story is told changes over time.  This version is well done and has wonderful production values The sets and costumes are marvelous.  It is possibly the strongest we have seen in depicting the emotional aspects of the characters. Part of that is the good acting--but part of it is focus. The DRAMA of the story is the story here. I rather doubt that is what Tolstoy had in mind. He being interested in bigger issues like God and the Social Order--these are woven into this version, but not at the central story. Via camera angle and wobbly cameras (to show a character's disorientation) --and intense close-ups we are invited to experience the feelings of our cast of characters.  An acceptable approach I guess.  But explorations of the characters beliefs, motivations, moral codes in conflict, are of more interest to me. But still well done. (Grade B)

Friday, June 18, 2010

Miss Marple: The Mirror Cracked From SIde To SIde, 2010 (Grade D)

Director: Tom Shankland
Staring Julia McKenzie, Lindsay Duncan; Gene Goodman

sea says: this is part of a Masterpiece Theater MYSTERY SERIES..and it is exactly what you would expect as such--great production values, settings, costumes, acting are all first rate. .. but I just can't get involved in Agatha Christy stories.they seem so, so,,well so tepid. not not--not cold--just flat. So I doubt that anyone could make one that I'd like--SPOILER ALERT- read no further if you don't want to know the who done it --  This one is about a Movie Star, who got the measles when she was pregnant, and thus her child was born damaged -- in an off-chance encounter she meets the person who exposed her to the measles --and so she goes on a murdering spree.  Then, her husband kills her so she won;t have to suffer any more  (Grade D)