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Come in Spinner

Impressive WW2 drama from a woman's viewpoint.
A rare look at the Australian home front during WW2 through the eyes of a talented trio of actresses. Lisa Harrow, Kerry Armstrong and Rebecca Gibney are uniformly excellent in depicting the trials and tribulations of women in Sydney during the war.The men in this series are a rather motley crew that will find little empathy with the audience. We end up with three heroines in vain search for an acceptable hero. Their final choices are tragic for one and hardly optimistic for the other two. I was surprised that the award winning performance of Rebecca Gibney did not result in acting offers in the U.S. where she is little known. She certainly deserved more recognition outside of Australia. Definitely worth watching to see the talents of a cast relatively unknown in the U.S.

We'll Meet Again

A missed opportunity, a major disappointment
I looked forward to this series with great anticipation as I like intelligent interchange between Americans and Brits. I found too many of the characters so stereotypical and lacking in believability. I enjoyed seeing some old pros like June Barry (Forsyte Saga) and Stuart Wilson (Anna Kerenina)again trying to raise level of the performances. The lead characters, the British doctor and the American Major lacked any chemistry in their vain attempt to bring some conviction to their relationship. The doctor's invalid husband raised the level of British stiff upper lip stoicism to absurd levels. Americans Mario, Hymie and Elmer were little more than cartoon characters. The series was further burdened by plot twists that strained credulity. It is obvious they borrowed a post war B-17 as their major prop. The problem was that their B-17, named Ginger Rogers, was an unpainted silver version, totally different than the brown versions used by the 8th Air Force. It stood out like a sore thumb alongside the actual bombers used during the war. It had a chin turret lacking in machine guns. Every time the silver streak returned to its base, you could anticipate the "wounded aboard flare" as it landed and you waited to see which of Lettie's boy friends would expire. In addition, can you believe that a German Me 110, with an inviting American base close by, would bother to strafe a farm girl in a field and a lonely cyclist on a country road? Can you believe an American airman, who bails out over Belgium and manages to stroll through German occupied France, cross the Pyranees into Spain and Portugal where he hops a British planes to return to his base? Can you believe a 15 year old American tail gunner who shoots down two German fighters on his first mission? While June Barry was excellent as the poor anxious mother and shopkeeper, her hairdo was the best of the entire female cast. She always looked like she just returned from the beauty parlor. If any series required a sequel, this one certainly did with so many plots left hanging. We can only ponder the final fate of the doctor and her two Majors, the Mundy siblings, the flirtatious Rosie and if the crew of the Ginger Rogers 2 would survive the war? We'll never know? Finally, "We'll Meet Again" was a very popular song during WWII by British songstress Vera Lynn. It would have added to this production.

I'll Get By

A Very Pleasant Musical Surprise
I had never heard of this film or seen it when it was released in 1950. I saw it on a movie channel and found it so refreshing with a most memorable and familiar score. Too many musicals of that era have all the songs written by one composer and lyricist and most of them are forgettable. It was great to see the talented cast performing so many familiar songs from that time. What an array of classic standards that recall many memories and provoke the cliché, "They don't write songs like that anymore." My favorite musical decade was the 1940's. There were so many great songs in the movies of that decade that each year the Academy Awards nominated 10 songs for the annual Oscar. Lawrence Welk once did a show titled, "Songs that didn't win the Oscar" and you would be surprised at the great songs that didn't win. In contrast, the Academy today nominates only five songs and in recent years they couldn't even find that many to nominate. I would recommend that people see this film if only to hear the music of an era. June Haver, Gloria DeHaven and Dennis Day do justice to the songs they are given and confirm that such melodies never die. I also enjoyed the surprise cameo appearances of Jeanne Crain, Victor Mature, Dan Dailey and Reginald Gardiner. If you seek a light musical with many memorable songs, I urge you to see "I'll Get By."

The Accidental Husband

Wasted talent on a plot that strains credulity
Does anyone really believe that an educated, attractive television personality like Uma Thurman would chuck all her advice to the lovelorn, give up compassionate erudite Colin Firth and settle down for life with an unshaven, course, whiskey swilling pool player like Jeffrey Dean Morgan? If you accept this fantasy, you might enjoy this film. They never explain how the firefighter managed to arrange that he was previously married to the lady? In order to annul this sham marriage, we are asked to believe with intelligent lady would get drunk in a pool hall and spend the night in his apartment? As a retired NYC firefighter, I was amazed at all the things this firefighter was able to do. To enlighten the public, a ladder truck tillerman does not have a public address microphone to speak to his girl friend in a supermarket. He can't walk past security in a high rise building by merely flashing his badge? He doesn't have a key to stop an elevator in a high rise building. An FDNY ladder company from Astoria, Queens cannot respond to a fire in a church in Great Neck (outside New York City), even if "requested?" The bride starting a fire under the sprinkler head in an adjoining room would not cause all the sprinklers in the church to rain on the guests. When the bride rides off to her honeymoon on the back of a ladder truck, you know this film did not have a FDNY technical adviser. Finally, Colin Firth has been ill served in most of his American films. I can't wait for "Darcy" to reunite with Jennifer Ehle again in a British period film due out later this year.

Anne of Green Gables: A New Beginning

Despite One Bravura Performance, Not up to Previous Episodes
After seeing the previous three episodes, I looked forward to the 4th installment of this beautifully photographed series. Unfortunately, it was a pale imitation of those that preceded it. However, I did not find fault with the outstanding performance of Hannah Endicott-Douglas as very young Shirley. Some have compared her unfavorably with Meghan Follows but I feel this is unfair since Follows was 13 when she initiated the role. Endicott-Douglas was much younger and the task was much harder for her. It was a bravura performance for someone her age. On the other hand, Barbara Hershey as the mature Anne was grotesquely miscast. She bore no resemblance at all to young Shirley and appeared uncomfortable in this role. I found it strange that she would weep at the grave of her late husband who was supposed to have died at Dieppe in 1942? Many Canadians were killed or captured at this ill-advised engagement but it was merely a raid, not a permanent invasion, so it is unlikely that a medical officer would have been there. If he had been killed there, I seriously doubt his body would have been brought back to Canada for burial? Those who died in the Dieppe raid are buried in France among the thousands of other Allied soldiers buried there. I thought Shirley MacLaine was adequate as Mrs. Thomas but I can understand the feelings of those who wondered why a Canadian actress could not have played the part. I agree and feel someone like Kate Nelligan would have been excellent in that role. I thought Rachel Blanchard was radiant as Luisa Thomas and a definite asset to the production. I thought she bears a striking resemblance to American actress Michele Pfieffer. I was very confused by the convoluted finale where mature Shirley was seeking her half-brother? What was Hepzibah, the housekeeper from hell, doing there? She was an old gray haired woman when Shirley was a very young child? Who was the man with her in that house? Why was Violeta the sole heir in Shirley's father's will and where was she? Where was her half brother at this time? A lot of loose ends unexplained. Finally, I agree with those who would have preferred a sequel of the period when Gil and Shirley were married and raising their two daughters and adopted son. Perhaps director Sullivan is thinking of following the example of "The Thorn Birds" and creating a new chapter titled, "Anne of Green Gables- The Missing Years." If so, he shouldn't try it without the original pair.

The Battle of the River Plate

A One Sided View Of a Famous Battle
While this film is well acted and historically fairly accurate, it contains one glaring oversight. While introducing Capt. Langsdorf as an efficient and likable officer, we know nothing of his actions during the battle. The film portrays all the actions aboard the three British cruisers but never shows what was occurring on the bridge of the Graf Spee. We know Langsdorf was under orders to avoid engaging enemy warships. What was his reaction when he sighted the three British cruisers? What caused his decision to engage them? What orders did he give during the battle? We know what the British captains did but nothing about what Langsdorf did? We know the extent of the British damage but nothing of the extent of the Graf Spee damage. From the time the British cruisers sight the Graf Spee, we follow the actions on the bridge of Ajax, Achilles and Exeter but nothing of what is going on aboard the Graf Spee other than the reactions of the British prisoners aboard? How effective would a film of the battle of Waterloo have been if it only showed Wellington's actions and ignored Napoleons? A film that far better addresses this problem was "The Enemy Below" starring Robert Mitchum as the American destroyer captain and Curt Jurgens as the German U-boat commander. Throughout the engagement, we know what each is doing and both adversaries are presented in a positive light. It should be added that the heavily damaged Exeter was a star crossed ship, later sunk by the Japanese in the Java Sea.

Mistral's Daughter

A Turgid Soap Opera of Ageless Women and Patient Men
The only redeeming quality of this overlong miscast melodrama is the scenery of southern France and the voice of Nana Mascouri singing the theme song. Stephanie Powers is miscast and betrayed by a phony accent. As has been pointed out, she is too old to play an 18 year old and looks far too young as a grandmother with a college age granddaughter? Lee Remick is good although she also is ageless in her later years. The talented Joanna Lumley is under utilized and also manages to look forever young when her middle aged son (Robert Urich) finally marries Grandma Stephanie Powers. Stacey Keach's ceaseless arrogance makes you wonder what these women saw in him. Don't know how any viewer could relate to his excessive portrayal? The most credible performance is given by Ian Richardson, who makes the rest of the cast look like rank amateurs. It strains credulity that the handsome male suitors in this epic would remain ever single while they patiently await the subject of their affections to finally consent to accept them. Can anybody believe that handsome Robert Urich would remain single for decades waiting for Stephanie Powers to finally accept his endless marriage proposals? The WW2 engagement between the Wehrmacht and the Marquis is laughable. To begin with, the Germans did not occupy the Provence section of France until late in the war, it was controlled by the Vichy French puppet government. We see the French resistance staging a daylight raid on Mistral's villa to steal sheets after which they all lounge under a bridge waiting for a lumbering truckload of Nazi troops to surprise and annihilate them? If you want to see a well acted mini-series set in a foreign country, don't watch Mistral's Daughter. A far better alternative would be The Thorn Birds.

Closing the Ring

A Touching Film For Those Who Remember WWII
I had never heard of this film because it was never released in the U.S. I happened to see it in a DVD catalog and the story and cast interested me and I got it from my neighborhood library. Having lived through the WWII era, my wife and I really enjoyed this film. We thought the cast were uniformly good and perfectly presented the contrast between the 1940's and the 1990's. How the world has changed in fifty years. Shirley MacLaine and Christopher Plummer are two old pros who I am confident were a revelation to the younger cast members. Watching a DVD such as this in the comfort of your home is such a pleasure compared to going to a theatre to see most of garbage that passes for movies today. We would like to thank Richard Attenborough for bringing this moving story of another time to the screen. The theme of this film can be demonstrated by the lyrics of a very popular WWII song titled, "I'll Be Seeing You." They don't make films or write songs like that anymore.

A Rather English Marriage

Nobody Does It Like The Brits With A Little Help From American Music
I ordered the video of this film from the local library because the pairing of Finney and Courtenay intrigued me. I was not disappointed as these gentlemen both give bravura performances. It was fitting they both received BAFTA nominations. Originally shown on TV's Masterpiece Theatre, it features a fine introduction and conclusion by Russell Baker. There is also a fine supporting stint by Joanna Lumley as Finney's love interest. This story will especially appeal to those who remember the World War II era and its music. As previously stated, the final scene to the music of Glenn Miller's classic "Moonlight Serenade" was very moving. I have always considered that recording as the anthem of our generation.

The Edge

Good Performances Marred by an Unbelievable Plot
While the story is interesting, the acting good, the presentation strains credulity. Does anybody know how cold it is in Alaska, even in the summer, at night? What is the water temperature of the average lake in Alaska? After their plane crashes into a lake, they swim ashore with little clothing and no signs of hypothermia? How did they dry their clothes? They huddle in the pouring rain under a few twigs and afterward, how did they dry their clothes? After the pouring rain, how did they find dry wood to make a fire? Throughout the film, they hike endlessly without hats or gloves. No wonder that Hopkins caught pneumonia on this location. Finally, how likely is it to find a rifle and ammunition in pristine condition in an abandoned shack? Interesting fantasy survival adventure for the gullible.

49th Parallel

Good Actors Mired in an Endless Parade of Absurdities
Where do I begin reviewing this comedy of errors. A German U-Boat sinking ships in the Atlantic decides to sail thousands of miles to Hudson's Bay for supplies (Germany would have been closer). They sail to the far west side of Hudson's Bay where no U-Boat ever entered during WWII because they would find no shipping targets there. The U-Boat surfaces and raises the national flag instead of the German naval ensign. They send ashore six men for "supplies." For some fathomless reason, not one but three RCAF Hudson bombers are patrolling this area? They attack the U-boat whose captain fails to dive on their approach but instead chooses to fight them off by personally manning the lone machine gun. A fitting ending to the most ill-advised journey of any submarine. The Nazi invaders occupy a dwelling ashore with rifles and fixed bayonets, what cramped submarines carry bayonets? They shoot poor Laurence Olivier to put a merciful end to his horrible performance. The Nazis then skyjack a sea plane which conveniently one of them knows how to fly? They run out of fuel and crash into a cold north Canadian lake where all manage to swim ashore with no sign of hypothermia. There in the middle of the most sparsely populated area of Manitoba they find a commune of German speaking Christians, whom they promptly alienate? They then decide to "walk" over a thousand miles to Vancouver to board a Japanese ship. On the way they meet effete Leslie Howard in his canoe paddling to his teepee full of valuable paintings. Need I go on? This is the kind of film that gives propaganda a bad name. No wonder many Canadians found all the stereotypes laughable. A shame so many good actors were wasted on this total fantasy. The biggest joke is that the film actually won an Oscar for Best Screenplay. Were standards that low in the 1940's.

Rain Shadow

An American Perspective on the Outback
I obtained this DVD from my local library because I was curious as to what Rachel Ward has been doing since I saw her in "The Thorn Birds." I was delighted to see that this fine actress is as at home in Paringa as she was in Dragheda. It would appear that the occupants of both Australian locations dealt with a similar problem- drought. There are impressive performances by both Rachel Ward and Victoria Thaine as a pair of veterinarians serving a dreary landscape. They carry this film and their chemistry is obvious after a rocky introduction. Some will contend that the premise of a young girl from the big city having any interest in establishing a practice in such a dreary location strains credulity. However, this talented pair manage to make that unlikely premise believable. Unfortunately, the male characters are not as clearly defined and are upstaged by the two feminine leads. The film lags when the ladies are absent. We never learn what the mysterious Larry is up to and some will miss the fact that there is little or no sexual magnetism between the two ladies and any of the men in this story. It is hard to visualize Rachel Ward being celibate for 15 years. The film is overlong and the camera dwells too long on the the barren surroundings. We get the message, they need rain. However, I found the film educational and informative especially for Americans who don't recognize the Australia beyond Sydney harbor and Bondi Beach. While not as diverse and entertaining as the Thorn Birds, the brilliant performances of Rachel Ward and Victoria Thaine make it well worth watching. Go see it.

Anglo Saxon Attitudes

Well Acted but Depressing Tale
We saw the 229 minute 3 episode DVD version and it was very difficult to find a single character you could sympathize with. The performances are uniformly excellent but it is hard to identify with almost any of them. Richard Johnson is superb as the older Gerald Middleton as he carries the main burden and emerges the least despicable of all the cast. Standout performances are given by Douglan Hodge as the younger Gerald, Tara Fitzgerald as the younger Dolly and especially Elizabeth Spriggs as poor Gerald's irritating and overbearing wife. Many of the characters are homosexuals and they are portrayed as an extremely motley group that will cause many in the audience to cringe at their antics. Daniel Craig and Kate Winslet are mention on the DVD jacket, I suspect mainly because of their current prominence. However, they have minor roles especially Ms. Winslet whose brief appearance as a chubby young lady gives little hint to her future talent. My wife commented throughout, "What a bunch of sleaze-buckets." Though an attempt was made to neatly tidy up the story at the end with Gerald reuniting with the elder Dolly, impressively played be Dorothy Tutin and showing his wife with two of their dysfunctional children. We don't know the fate of the remaining son Robin and his wife? Fine performances are marred by a parade of sorry misfits that do not make for an entertaining evening of viewing.

Orde Wingate

Too Stagey for a Film Production
The lasting impression I got from this film was that they must have had a very low budget. It was like a filmed stage play with the same sets being used over and over. The set designer seemed to be obsessed with squares and cubes. Desert battles and other scenes were staged in the strangest modernistic settings that lacked any credibility. Hanging ribbons hardly passed for the jungles of Burma. Interspersing black and white newsreels with colored sets only added to the confusion. Barry Foster's depiction of Wingate, while impressive, hardly created any admiration for the man. Viewing this film in our current era of radical religious terrorism, his Wingate comes off as a Christian fanatic whom many of his colleagues could easily dismiss as mad. It didn't help that Wingate was clean shaven and in color in Africa and then bearded in black and white in Burma? Wingate had his admirers, including Churchill, Wavell and his Japanese adversaries, but he deserves a more convincing biography then this flimsy depiction.

A Dance to the Music of Time

One Decade Too Many
I obtained this four DVD series from a local library. I saw it advertised in a catalog and recognized some of the performers so I thought it might be interesting. My impression was that the first three decades were almost totally divorced from the final decade. We liked the performance and narration by James Purefoy of the lead character Nick Jenkins but I felt the series would have ended satisfactorily when he returned from WWII to his wife and child. I stared in disbelief at the final episode when the main characters of Nick Jenkins, his wife Isobel and his former lover Jean were now all portrayed by different performers? I suspect the original actors might have read the script and wisely decided that sordid episode was not for them? Few of the characters in the final decade have any redeeming qualities whatsoever especially poor Pamela. You didn't care any longer about the fate of most of them. When you thought you have seen enough decadent characters, a new one shows up. Simon Russell Beale as Widmerpool managed to be be alternately amusing, pompous, entertaining, ambitious and comical during the first three episodes. In the final decade he became too pathetic to watch. I also felt there were far too many characters to try to keep track of with many popping in and out of the saga at different times with no apparent rhyme or reason.

We really liked the first three decades, especially the music which represented accurately the mood of the times. When Jenkins entered the Ritz Hotal to meet with the ex-husband of his former mistress, the pianist was playing two Vera Lynn chestnuts- "Room 504" and "That Lovely Weekend" which I haven't heard since my WWII days. Perhaps, I enjoyed the music of the initial decades because so much of it was American and familiar. The final decade was totally devoid of any music which made it too ponderous and ugly to bear. My suggestion would be to enjoy the bravura performances and music of the first three episodes and terminate your viewing when Nick Jenkins returns home to his family to another Vera Lynn melody- "It's A Lovely Day Tomorrow." Spare yourself the discomfort of watching the tawdry final episode. Finally, much of the nudity was jarring and unnecessary and probably as embarrassing to the audience as it appeared to be to many of the characters.

A Month in the Country

Brilliant Acting Cannot Overcome a Plot That Fails To Deliver
I am usually a great fan of British films and when I saw the cast of this one, I obtained a copy from my local library. The description of the film on the jacket caused me expect a lot more. After watching it, I wondered if I might have missed something? The jacket stated "Birkin ignites long denied passion within the pastor's young wife." If so, it was the most understated passion I have ever seen in a film. They never touch despite numerous times alone together? She walks with him through the woods and nothing happens between them. She goes to the belfry to say goodbye and gives him apples? She picks up his book and you assume she will open it and see the rose she gave him? But no, she puts it down and leaves? I kept waiting for her "long denied passion" to finally ignite but it apparently never does. Finally, the jacket states, "The quiet of their rural haven erupts in conflict and confrontation..." I saw no eruption, no conflict or confrontation, did I miss something. Everything about this film is so understated as to be almost immobile. Admittedly, the cast is brilliant in striving to convince you that something memorable is about to happen, but it never does. I have enjoyed Firth, Branagh and Richardson much more in other performances and I expected much more from this film which at the end left me wondering where the three main characters will go from here?

These Foolish Things

A Pleasant Evening's Entertainment
We watched this film at home from a DVD and found it a pleasing alternative to the garbage being shown at the local multiplex. Since we obtained the DVD from a local library, saving $20. and avoiding the cell phones in a theatre was an added bonus. We thought Zoe Tapper was endearing in the primary role and the other Brits supporting her all did a stellar job. We thought the American additions Angelica Huston and Lauren Bacall contributed little and would have preferred Judi Dench and Francesca Annis but that's reaching for the stars. Always enjoy the films of the World War II era because their music is so far superior to what passes for melody in contemporary "music." Finally, we had the bonus of the special features showing the director and cast commenting on the production of the film. If a sentimental couple is seeking nostalgia in their evening's entertainment at home, this DVD is a good choice.

The War Bride

A Good Idea That Falls Short
This little film has an interesting premise that fails to meet its potential. The story of a British war bride's displacement to Canada should have made an interesting film but it too often sags in spots. I felt the excellent cast was wasted. When Lily (Anna Friel) arrives at that desolate farm in Alberta, my first thought was- wait till she experiences an Alberta winter in that shack. Unfortunately, though she is there for a long time waiting for her husband, it seems to be endless summer, never a hint of snow. The English and Canadian stereotypes are too pronounced and almost comical at times. Finally, the ending was too contrived and I found hard to believe that cosmopolitan Lily would ever be happy in that environment.

North and South

Overlong Civil War Soap Opera
It felt like this series was longer than the Civil War. We got the DVD mainly to observe the progress of Georgina of Upstairs/Downstairs (Lesley-Anne Down). She didn't disappoint and proved to be the best thing about the series. The major problem lies in the fact that the plot strains credulity to such an extreme as to become laughable. The two leads Patrick Swayze and James Read are competent given the impossible tasks they are required to perform and the sappy dialogue they are too often burdened with. Who can accept the following plot lines: A South Carolinian and Pennsylvanian become buddies at West Point while confronting a demonic and sadistic upper-classman named Bent, played with irritating histrionics by Philip Casnoff. After they manage to get the monster dismissed from the academy, our two Lieutenants go to the Mexican War where their nemeses is now their Captain? This series features the greatest number of chance meetings of major characters, often in the midst of battle, than any series in television history. Orry Main (Swayze) is severely wounded in Mexico while George Hazard (Read) survives unscathed, a feat they would repeat in the Civil War where both are called to serve as generals on opposite sides? How these two lieutenants rate such promotions is never explained? Then we see the two generals riding alone at night confronting each other and withholding fire when recognizing each other in the dark and sitting down to chat about the war? Orry later frees George from a Richmond prison, puts him in a canoe alone in his Yankee uniform to paddle back to union lines where he miraculously arrives in time for Christmas Eve at home? Two Main and two Hazard family members meet in the turmoil of the bloody battle of Petersburg and all manage to survive while hundreds die all around them. At the end of the war they all arrive safely at Mount RoyalPlantation to apparently live happily ever after. Too bad it didn't end there. Unfortunately, Book 3 titled "Heaven and Hell" provided little heaven in a murderously hellish script. When I saw a DVD photo of George and Orry's wife Madaline (Down)in a affectionate embrace, I thought does George cheat on Constance, does Madaline cheat on Orry? The author preserves their honor by bringing the arch villain Bent back from the dead so he can sadistically murder Orry and George's wife in the first episode of book 3. For Orry to survive all his horrific battles and die at the hands of a lesser man will not endear many viewers. One should be suspicious of the final book when so many of the original players, including Swayze (you don't see his face in his final scene), failed to reprise their original roles. To have Bend kidnap Charles Main's (Kyle Chandler)son and then walk into a barn where the boy's father is sleeping is another in a long list of unlikely encounters. It goes downhill from there and George and Madeline should not feel comfortable in their final embrace since evil sister-in-law Ashton (Terry Garber), who made Scarlett O'Hara look like a Sunday school teacher, is still lurking in the wings. Too bad the author didn't hang her alongside Bent as she surely deserved the same fate as poor over-zealous abolishonist Virgilia (Kristie Alley). I suggest you enjoy the first two books and skip the third. It's a passable Civil War history if you ignore the totally implausible adventures of the leads. It was nice seeing old pros James Stewart and Robert Mitchum in cameos. Sadly, they both died on the same day after the series was made. Worth watching if only for the performances of Simmons, Down, Alley and Garber who act rings around the men. I felt that this Wolper production was not up to the standard of his previous "The Thorn Birds."

The Cazalets

Upatairs/Downstairs in the Next War
Once again, Masterpiece Theatre presents a winner. We really enjoyed the various characters portrayed so well by an outstanding cast. Once again we find, "Nobody does it like the Brits." What a welcome respite from the bland American TV fare. The family is as diverse as most families with brothers different like upstanding Hugh and despicable Edward. The women are a rainbow of differing emotions, all interesting and well portrayed. We always enjoy seeing familiar faces in new roles demonstrating their versatility. Former Upstairs/Downstairs maid Daisy is now the cook much like Mrs. Bridges. Anna Chancellor, formerly an unpleasant sister in Pride and Prejudice now shines as Edward's mistress. Emma Malin, Fleur in the latest Forsyte Saga, excels as young Louise, an aspiring actress. Lesley Manville, recently in Cranford, shows he handles modern drama as well as period pieces as Villy, Edward's long suffering wife. Just a few of an excellent cast of which Florence Hoath as young Clary was the most impressive. Others have pointed out minor flaws which do not distract in our enjoyment of this series. We found it strange that Edward spoke of serving in the trenches in WWI and now in WWII he is an RAF Squadron Commander, who never flies, sails a boat to Dunkirk to evacuate troops and seems to spend most of his time seducing young WRENS? The non-conformist artist Rupert, similar to young Jolian in the Forsyte Saga, joins the navy and we seem him departing on the train in the uniform of a Lt. Commander? When he returns on leave, he is now a believable Ensign? The final episode did leave quite a few loose ends- will Rupert ever return to Zoe? Will Villy finally recognize Edward's many shortcomings? Will Louise ever forgive her father? Will pacifist Christopher ever be accepted by all Cazalets? In summary, I must recommend this series as an example of professional, polished and superb Briish drama. Finally, the cherry on the cake is the nostalgic musical score throughout. The wonderful songs of that era which endure to this day and provide a pleasant contrast to what passes for music today. Enjoy the Cazalets.

War and Remembrance

Overlong and Overwrought
After watching the Winds of War, I looked forward to War and Remembrance. I found the sequel far more depressing and less entertaining than the original. Perhaps that was its intent but it is difficult for the average viewer to sit through so many hours of endless anguish. Not for the faint hearted. That having been said, the acting is excellent and far superior to the original. I could not see the wise cracking Ali McGraw playing the holocaust scenes in the camps. Jane Seymour was superb and it is probably the finest thing she has ever done. John Gielgud demonstrates why he was one of the foremost actors of his century. Mitchum was effective in serious scenes involving war and politics but unconvincing and without passion in his scenes with the very desirable Victoria Tennant. I thought the portrayal of Hitler, as in the original was a characterture and clownish and difficult to take seriously. Hardy Krueger was more realistic as Rommel and a pleasant contrast to all the stereotypical German villains. While I recognize it is difficult to accurately portray military events of WWII in the 1980's, some obvious inaccuracies were evident to any WWII veterans or history buffs. A scene of Roosevelt aboard the cruiser Baltimore was obviously filmed on a battleship. As a former submariner, I found the interior submarine scenes accurate and realistic. However, the exterior scenes showing depth charges repeatedly exploding within feet of the submarine would have been unsurvivable. The final surface engagement between Bryan's submarine and a Japanese destroyer was totally ludicrous. No attempt was made to fire any torpedoes at the approaching destroyer and choosing to exchange broadsides under those circumstances would have been suicidal. The submarine did more damage with one shot from its deck gun than the destroyer was able to do with far more firepower. As the submarine blithely sailed away from the burning destroyer, it strains credulity as it ignores the considerable talent and élan demonstrated by the Japanese navy throughout the war. The death of Bryan's former skipper was an accurate portrayal of an actual incident as was the machine gunning of Japanese survivors which did occur during the war. War and Remembrance might be an informative narrative for a history student unfamiliar with that era, but it is not for the squeamish seeking television entertainment.

The Grand

Upstairs/Downstairs Relocated in Manchester
What really struck me about this series was the numerous similarities between the characters in The Grand and Upstairs/Downstairs. As the Grand characters developed, I easily linked them to similar characters in the original classic U/D. Immediately evident is the sharp class distinction between the rich and poor. The Bannermans upstairs so resembled the Bellamys in U/D. Both husbands were well meaning oafs too busy to recognize the problems of their family members. They each had a despicable brother. Both wives had an affair though they claimed to love their husbands. Both sons were severely damaged by WWI and both owned a pistol. Both daughters were rebellious. Four members of each family with a strong grandmother showing up periodically. The roles of both head porter Collins and Head Butler Hudson were almost interchangeable. Both very observant, often shocked yet always subservient to their masters. Mr. Collins had Clive and Hudson had Edward as their loyal assistants. Head maid Kate was much like head maid Rose in U/D, always looking after the problem peers Monica and Sarah. Both series had one of the downstairs girls dying at the end of a rope. Each series had a villainous character downstairs, tormenting Monica at the Grand and Sarah in U/D (Lady Marjorie's ladies maid). The main difference in the two series is that few of the characters in the Grand were likable. Poor Susan Hampshire labored mightily for us to empathize with her Madam character but even her immense talents could not make Esme likable. Marcus Bannerman was a classic villain, well played by Mark McGann. While one can easily watch Upstairs/Downstairs repeatedly, The Grand is just too sordid for more than one viewing. The acting is excellent, the settings impressive and while it captures the essence of the period, it's not worth a second look.


A Memorable and Enjoyable Television Series
Bally K is the kind of quality television series I never tire of watching. The acting by an ensemble cast is first rate as is the script. I thought it gave foreigners an interesting picture of life in an Irish town. I thought the series lagged a bit after the initial two characters (Father Clifford and Asumpta) left but still had enough to continue interest. I noticed a strange commonality between almost all the main characters. Did anybody else note what all these pivotal characters had in common: Asumpta the local bar owner, Brendan the local teacher, Siobhan the local vet, Dr. Ryan, local yokels Liam and Donal, entrepreneur Quigley, storekeeper Kathleen, Garage owner Padraig and his successor in the later series, father O'Comnnell's sister Orla, Eamon and his elderly replacement and stable owner Avril? Not one of them was married? Rather unusual for a "typical" Irish town. Finally, one can wonder why Ireland, a country that sends priests all over the world, has to import them from England and Australia? I do recommend the series as an example of quality television, all too rare on local schedules.

The Forsyte Saga

You Can't Improve On Perfection
I totally agree with all the previous viewers who lauded this original television masterpiece which gave birth to the many great mini-series that followed. The recent 2002 color version pales in comparison. How can anyone even attempt to replicate the brilliant performances of Eric Porter, Nyree Dawn Porter, Kenneth More and Margaret Tyzack in the original. Eric Porter well earned his Best Actor BAFTA award as Soames Forsyte and I found Damien Lewis' red haired, smirking Soames portrayal in the recent version irritating. What can you say about the enduring beauty, radiance and performance of Nyree Dawn Porter as everyone's Irene. I felt sorry for poor Gina McKee trying to even attempt to equal the original and quintessential Irene. The two unrelated Porters will always be remembered as Soames and Irene. My only quarrel, a minor one, is the strange disappearance of two rather important characters. Annette, Soames second wife, who is never seen in the final episodes, either at her daughter Fleur's wedding or at the birth of her grandchild. The grandson Kit, is never seen after his birth. He was often mentioned but never seen. I urge everyone who have only seen the 2002 version to look in on the original. The DVD contains many excellent special features including critical debate (Soames vs Irene), cast comments and public reaction.

The Forsyte Saga

A Pale Imitation of the Original Classic Version
I couldn't agree more with previous reviewers overseer 3 and housemouse. It is obvious that almost all the reviewers who raved about this production never saw the original 1967 classic. I urge them to watch the original (available at most libraries) and compare. Almost every member of the cast gave a far superior and convincing performance in the original. While Damien Lewis was excellent in "Band of Brothers," his rendition of Soames was awful when compared to the brilliant Soames of Eric Porter in the original version. Lewis' slicked down red hair was very distracting, did you notice any other Forsyte with red hair? He had a constant smirk on his face that was very annoying. Gina McKee as Irene projected none of the beauty, radiance and talent of Nyree Dawn Porter who was unforgettable and created an Irene that will never be bettered. While Rupert Graves was the best of the current cast, I still felt Kenneth More was more believable. The actors who portrayed old Jolyon, Winefred, Helene, Frances, Holly and June were also more convincing in the original 1967 version. Finally, the costumes worn by the ladies in the original, over 3,000, were stunning and truly representative of all the decades covered by the saga. I was surprised how abbreviated the second season of this series was compared to the original. It ended with the marriage of Fleur and Michael Mott. The original series dealt with their marriage at some length and also the marriage of Jon to an American girl. What I found unbelievable was Damien Lewis' pathetic smirks, tears and sulking depression when Irene left him. I don't think Eric Porter shed a single tear or showed any weakness in his lengthy portrayal of a more resolute Soames in the original. While Gillian Kearney gave a good performance of June, her excessive affection for Irene at the end, considering their history really strains credulity. I also found the costumes worn by Irene to be very unflatering and drab compared to those worn by Nyree Dawn Porter in the original. I would be remiss if I did not mention the aspects of this sequel that I thought were superior to the original. The color and music, sorely missed in the original, was a big plus. I also preferred Ioan Grufford's portrayal of Philip Bossiney and especially Beatrix Batarda's performance as Soame's second wife Annette. She was present for Fleur's wedding unlike Annette in the original version. Finally, I would urge all those who enjoyed this version to obtain a copy of the original 1967 version, now on DVD, at any library. It is far longer and more detailed and ends with the death of Soames. Sadly, Nyree Dawn Porter, the luminescent Irene of the original, was scheduled to play one of the elder three Forsyte sisters in this sequel but she suddenly died before filming began.

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