Archive for the ‘England’ Category


March 14, 2018

How do you take a British mystery show starring a group of great actors such as Michael Kitchen, Sophie Okonedo, and Phyllis Logan and make it crappy? By turning it into a B-movie horror show the moment the tension begins. Such is the fate of Alibi, a British series on Acorn TV available through your public library’s hoopla platform. I was hoping for fun, for suspense. Instead I was gifted with schlock. What a waste of talent. 1 out of 5. Next.


God’s Own Country

January 30, 2018

Call Me By Your Name may be taking up a lot of space in awards season buzz, but I challenge its status as a gay film. It’s a bi film. It’s a pan film. It’s a fluid film. It’s a questioning film. And it’s a mediocre film. If you want to see a beautiful, gritty gay male love story, catch God’s Own Country now out on disk and streaming. It’s springtime in Yorkshire. It’s lambing season. Young farmer Johnny Saxby resigns himself to a lonely life on his parents’ farm tending livestock. Johnny spends his nights getting pissed in the local pub which remarkably for this small town leads to hook-ups with other men. And while at least one of the young men want more from Johnny, it’s not until the arrival of Romanian farm hand Gheorghe Ionescu, that Johnny glimpses the possibility of a full and complete life, something he never dared dream. The leads Josh O’Connor and Alec Secareanu exude a natural chemistry and grit in their performances. The only warning I’ll make in this film is the brutality of farm life. Animals are auctioned off, off-spring born, animals die. Farmers experience life like no other profession. And in the middle of the mud and cold, a beautiful lamb is born. God’s Own Country gives us the kind of quiet, respectful film we deserve. The stark West Yorkshire scenery becomes its own cruel character. Even the interior shots seem bitter cold to me. But the love between these two men slowly starts to thaw everything around it. 4 out of 5 for God’s Own Country.

Darkest Hour

January 18, 2018

Gary Oldman’s tour de force as Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour should garner him an Oscar nomination for Best Actor. No doubt Oldman’s performance was captivating. Astonishing in parts. Unfortunately, the rest of the film faded into the background. I realize Darkest Hour is a biopic. I just hoped for more balance. More characters fleshed out. Great supporting cast featuring Kristin Scott Thomas, Ben Mendelsohn, Lily James, Samuel West, Roland Pickup, and Stephen Dillane. Certainly not a Bechdel Test film. And in a year where “Time’s Up” rules the culture of the film industry, that’s embarrassingly unfortunate. Darkest Hour frames a decent film with an outstanding performance by its lead actor. 3.5 out of 5.

Heat and Dust

January 6, 2018

Watched the Cohen Media Group’s restored version of Merchant Ivory‘s 1983, Heat and Dust today. For me this next line will be Merchant Ivory heresy. I did not like the film. I turned it off after 30 minutes. Shudder. The horror. I know! I am so ashamed. I simply could not get into it, understand it, or enjoy it. It wasn’t awful. It was flat and meandering. I’m still shuddering. Take away my lifetime membership card now. Someone quick, beat me with an old VHS of Howards End. For the record, I still consider Merchant Ivory’s quartet of films, A Room with a View, Maurice, Howards End, and The Remains of the Day beginning only two years after filming Heat and Dust to be four of the most perfect films every created. Meanwhile 2.5 out of 5 for Heat and Dust.

Victoria and Abdul

December 26, 2017

The wonderful British film director Stephen Frears creates another beautiful film, Victoria and Abdul based on the relationship between Queen Victoria and her Munshi (spiritual teacher) Abdul Karim. Frears treated us to such classics as The Queen, Mrs. Henderson Presents, High Fidelity, The Grifters, Prick Up Your Ears, and My Beautiful Laundrette. He continues to weave his charm with the delightful Victoria and Abdul. Often these biopics have no sense of humor. Frears injects humor throughout and it is only in the end where Victoria’s death brings sadness and chaos to Karim’s life. Let’s face it, Judi Dench could read the phone book and I’d sit there watching. Ali Fazal is effervescent as Abdul holding his own with Dame Judi. Victoria and Abdul recreates a bizarrely sweet moment in British monarchy history. I don’t care how accurate the film was, it made me laugh and held my interest throughout. 4 out of 5 for the luminous Queen and her Munshi.

What Was the Best Downton Abbey Christmas episode? (Heroes and Heartbreakers)

December 25, 2017

Naz Keynejad over at Heroes and Heartbreakers reviews every Downton Abbey Christmas episode. Beginning with Season 1 which never officially had a Christmas episode and ending at the #1 spot with Season 2’s final episode which reveals Daisy’s connection with her father in-law, Thomas’ treachery over Isis, Bates’ guilty verdict, Rosamond’s indecent suitor, and finally, finally Mary and Matthew’s proposal – the one that actually got them to the finish line.

Hat tip to my dear friends Nina and Joe who spoiled me this year with a surprise of the complete series on Blu-ray. I watched this episode tonight, Christmas 2017 with great joy. The audio flaunted power as well as the stunning visual detail in the video – smoke in the fireplace, the black shadow of Bates in prison, the place settings after the hunt, and the depth of the snowflakes as Mary says yes to Matthew. Blu-ray continues to astound me making Downton Abbey sparkle.

See the full reviews over at Heroes and Heartbreakers.

The Crown: Season 2

December 21, 2017

Loved The Crown when it premiered last year on Netflix. The sophomore season waffled a bit for my taste. When it was good, it was outstanding. Overall, I thought it spent too much time focused on the Queen’s family with mixed results. The Princess Margaret episodes worked beautifully thanks to fascinating true stories and excellent acting from Vanessa Kirby and Matthew Goode. Where it faltered happened in the episodes featuring stories on Philip’s childhood, Charles’ childhood and the ghastly appearance of the Kennedys in Europe. Good lord, I didn’t think it possible for Michael C. Hall to hand in a bad performance, but his JFK along with Jodi Balfour as Jackie made me cringe through that entire episode. What happened? I gave Season 1 a 4. The Crown is good costume drama comfort food, but if this isn’t normally a go-to genre for you, feel free to skip it. 3 out of 5.

The Crown: Season 2 drops

December 8, 2017

A reminder the lavish British monarchy series, The Crown drops Season 2 today on Netflix. Looking forward to new cast members Michael C. Hall and Jodi Balfour as Jack and Jackie Kennedy, and Matthew Goode as Lord Snowdon as we careen into the 1960’s. Who’s binging this weekend?

Read Reel Charlie’s review of The Crown: Season 1.
Watch the trailer for The Crown: Season 2 on YouTube.

Broadchurch: Season 3

December 7, 2017

My love of Broadchurch and has waxed and waned. I gave Season 1 a 5 out of 5. Then I gave Season 2 a 3.5 out of 5. Season 3 redeemed itself solving yet another crime and finally making peace with Danny’s murder from Season 1. David Tennant and Olivia Colman are back and in top form. Colman is a force to be reckoned with. I look forward to watching her career post-Broadchurch. This time, Season 3 investigates a rape. Because of the nature of the crime, the series focuses most of its attention on gender and a woman’s place in the world. There are lots to digest and consider. And in the middle of it all, Danny’s murder from Season 1 finally finds, if not some closure, a bit of peace for his parents and siblings. Jodie Whittaker (the new Doctor Who) and Andrew Buchan share outstanding acting moments as Danny’s estranged parents Beth and Mark Latimer. Heavy stuff. The beauty of the landscape helps temper the seriousness of this crime drama. I’m leaving Broadchurch with a 4 out of 5 for Season 3.

Read Reel Charlie’s review of Broadchurch: Season 1.
Read Reel Charlie’s review of Broadchurch: Season 2.

Murder on the Orient Express (2010)

November 14, 2017

In anticipation of the new Branagh 2017 Murder on the Orient Express, I ordered the British television 2010 version for the library. I had a blast watching this adaptation. It stars David Suchet as Poirot and includes a strong supporting cast featuring Eileen Atkins, Jessica Chastain, Barbara Hershey, Hugh Bonneville, David Morrissey, Brian J. Smith, and Samuel West. Without even seeing the remake, I know it’s a simpler film than Branagh’s big budget release. As a result, the film relies on the talents of the director, writer, and cast. Murder on the Orient Express offers real comfort food whodunit excitement. 4 out of 5 for this Agatha Christie classic adaptation.

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