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Northanger Abbey

A witty and light adaptation
I've really enjoyed that adaptation. It's witty, charming and the necessary changes brought to the book narrative are clever and do not jar too much with the original. It made me reread the book, which I think should always be the effect of a good adaptation.

The actor playing Henry Tilney was charming (maybe more than the book Henry Tilney in fact) and all the others seemed to fit their roles. Carey Mulligan makes a very effective Isabella Thorpe and plays her part with subtlety while Felicity Jones looks just naive enough for the role of Catherine. I was only bothered by the choice of William Beck of Robin Hood to play John Thorpe. His physical appearance simply did not seem to fit the character. He is a very good actor but hardly attractive enough to make a valid love-interest for romantic Catherine.

The only reason I do not give it "10" is because of the absurd over-sexualisation of Catherine's dreams or the lending to her of "The Monk" by Thorpe.

This is taking incredible liberties with the historical period in order to "make it relevant" to 21st century viewers which TV film-makers must assume to be incapable of viewing anything with interest if it does not contain overtly sexual contents, though the contrary has been proved again and again.


A regrettable mixing up of different ingredients
The series lack historical sense and is a typical effort of reworking 19th century themes in order to make them more palatable to 21st century taste. But why not stick to adapting contemporary fiction then?

First the short-story "Lady Ludlow" takes place much earlier than "Cranford", in fact during the French Revolution. It's one of the "historical" works of Mrs Gaskell. Besides this, the character Lady Ludlow is already old-fashioned for those times, particularly in her opposition to "lower classes" learning to read. The short-story is both full of light irony (very Austen-like) and pathos (though a long melodramatic story within the story about the French Revolution mars it a little to my mind). But Lady Ludlow becomes annoying in the TV adaptation, because she's no longer in her historical time but transported to a much later time, at least 50 years later, where her prejudices become utterly ridiculous. She and the other people related to her tale seem artificially grafted into Cranford and simply do not belong.

As for "Mr Harrison's Confessions" which as a short-story is absolutely hilarious, I find the series only produced a pale imitation of it, only mildly amusing at times. Besides, if, in tone and period, it blends more easily with "Cranford" than "Lady Ludlow", Sophie's characterisation and her father's underwent a great change to make them acceptable to 21st century prejudices. For instance, since he's a clergyman, he has to be bland and cold in the series, yet he is presented as a sort of worthy example in the short-story: a type of the upright and balanced Christian who sometimes appears in Gaskell's fiction. In the short-story, the death of Walter is very moving and depicted as the death of a Christian child with Christian hope. Why was this turned into another occasion for questioning God's mercy and will in classic 21st-century fashion? This shows a total incapacity to even begin to understand the Christian beliefs of the time (which are still held by some).

What a pity adapters cannot see that 21st-century pet theories are in no way superior (or more logical or more consistent or indeed more interesting) than those of previous times.

All Creatures Great and Small

Very dated.
I was led to buy the first two DVDs from the glowing comments I read on this site and from having really enjoyed James Herriot's books which I've read and reread over the years. Well, books do not age or hardly but films (and TV films most especially) do. So I really do not recommend buying those DVDs unless one is nostalgic of static camera work, slow pace, bad special effects and mediocre acting from all but Robert Hardy, the actor portraying Siegfried (but I never pictured him that way from reading the book - I think he's described as tall, dark and elegant, and I imagined him much, much younger...). In fact neither I nor my children have been able to finish watching the 2nd DVD. I've seldom watched something so slow-paced. I suppose in any case that much of Herriot's humour comes from exaggeration and choice of words, and that's probably next to impossible to render on screen...


A very predictable film
Apart from the many anachronisms and lack of historicity of Braveheart, I'm very disappointed by how predictable the whole film turned out to be. Those directors must really think their public are idiots as they keep rehashing the same stories over and over again. It looked more like a Scottish western than any accurate portrayal of mediaeval Britain. What is more, all the villains were far too wicked and one-dimensional to seem realistic. It left me completely untouched and uninterested apart from the romance at the beginning of the film. The claim that Wallace fathered the future English king, that's farcical at best, one does not even need to check historical dates to know how preposterous this must be. What's the point of making a film about a real historical character and then rewrite history completely? Gibson should stick to fiction. But historical faithfulness is the least of his worries, he had his characters speak Latin in The Passion of Christ though historically they spoke Greek, Aramean and Hebrew. I give it three stars for the beautiful Scottish landscapes.


About lack of plot
I just discovered this video and I'm totally addicted. Some people complain on the lack of plot... well, what could they expect seeing it is based on a book of poems, and written for a child at that.

Cats is utterly enjoyable for the beauty of the songs and choreography, for the costumes and colours, for its energy, fun and gaiety. But if you're seeking intellectual stimulation, this is obviously not the show to watch, which is just fine as it is nice to watch undemanding shows like this from time to time.

The funny songs, Skimbleshanks, Mungojerry and Rumpleteazer are really great fun to watch and contrast with the sad nostalgic songs. John Mill's performance is very moving and as for Elaine Paige, she is just unforgettable. The DVD is worth buying if only to just watch and re watch her singing Memory. The only performance that did not enthuse me was that of Rum Tum Tugger and his slithering hip moves.

All in all, a great show I'd have loved to have seen on stage! This is great family entertainment.

Between the Sheets

Excellent performances from Julie Graham, Richard Armitage, and Alun Armstrong
I'm one of those people who bought Between the Sheets just to see Richard Armitage in another role.

I had some misgivings because of the explicit sexual contents but after watching it once, I can say I liked the series overall and though I would definitely have preferred less sex scenes, I could appreciate their significance and how they made the story progress, except those in Peter's club, which to my mind have only been included to shock or allure viewers. I would recommend the series however to people who already have experienced the difficulties of relationships in couples, as I think it might be a little boring and/or dark for a young single person.

The main story between Hazel (Brenda Blenthyn) and Peter (Alun Armstrong) is given much prominence and could have been shortened, I think. Hazel's sexual hang ups are rather tedious after a while and she leads such a privileged life that I find it difficult to pity her character. Her high and whiny voice is very annoying, too. Was she meant to be annoying or is it just me?

Alona (Julie Graham) is the link between Hazel and Peter which she sees professionally as a therapist and the second story, that of her own marital difficulties. Richard Armitage as Paul Andrews, Alona's live-in boyfriend, gives a very good moving performance, subtle and multi-layered, which led me to wonder a lot about his character's motivations and moral make-up. I don't think he and Julie Graham together get enough screen time and it's a pity the Hazel-Peter story is given so much. But he still has enough time on screen to make it worthwhile to buy the DVD in order to see his performance. Julie Graham gives an excellent multi-layered performance and Alun Armstrong is remarkable as Hazel's less than perfect but very patient and loving husband. Well done to the two younger actors, Vinette Robinson as Tracy and Adam Scourfield as Alona's son.On the whole, great acting!

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

A tale of love and mystery based on Anne Brontë's novel
I bought this adaptation because I really liked Anne Brontë's novel when I read it some time ago and usually particularly enjoy BBC dramas. But I'm very disappointed, I never thought it would be as bad as that: the whole series made me laugh much more than moved me as the novel had.

First of all, the music (and songs) seems totally out of place in a period drama (sounds as if it's been written for a contemporary horror film)and like another commentator, I was particularly annoyed by the way the cameras spun and spun round the actors. I've seen some scenes filmed that way in "North and South" and it seemed all right there but in The Tenant, it's definitely overdone and simply annoying. Camera movements cannot make wooden acting lively.

Most of the second roles were difficult to distinguish at first and the script lacked clarity. None of the characters were properly introduced at first. The little boy gave a very good performance, he's very cute and the best feature of the film.

SPOILERS Tara Fitzgerald's characterisation of Helen Graham made her appear cold and harsh, letting no emotion pass through. She doesn't seem to be able to cry at all in a realistic way. I just couldn't believe Markham could have fell for her and I'm not mentioning the awful hairdo she was given. I could not help feeling some sympathy with her husband! Fancy being married to such a virago... Besides, he was the only main actor that sounded right to me. Toby Stephens I found just OK, Helen Graham's brother not very good.

Maybe it's difficult to adapt a novel that deals with such bleak subjects as alcoholism and cruelty. Besides, what is only hinted at and left to the reader's imagination in the book is dwelt upon with complaisance in the TV adaptation: making some scenes both gross and comic, (like when Huntingdon's eye starts bleeding) and others far too sexed up for a period drama! I mean, don't we get enough of those bed scenes in contemporary dramas?


Very moving story of passionate young love
I really enjoyed this movie.

I found it riveting and had to watch the 3 episodes in a row: Sarah Smart (Carol) is particularly excellent, the pace is fast, the dialogues are well written, the whole cast is really good, including the two young actresses who play Lisa as a child and then as a teenager - Carol's father (Alun Armstrong) is particularly convincing.

I only have this reserve which prevents me from rating it as 10/10 that,to me, Joe MacFadden (Andrew) seems less convincing towards the end, when he starts breaking down. I found him more annoying than heart-breaking and I think it's a pity that the script didn't have his character be more honest with his wife about his past (and present) relationship with Carol. Maybe it is "The Wuthering Heights" influence. Maybe "Sparkhouse" might have been even better without this inspiration.

As for Richard Armitage as John Standring, it was difficult to recognise him at first. He gives a very good performance. This character is so far from his other roles. I loved seeing his transformation in the 3rd episode! This DVD is certainly worth buying.

A World Apart

A disappointing film
I saw this film in 1988 when it first came out. I was looking forward to seeing it on DVD but I must confess I was very disappointed. I found it excessively slow, with few dialogues, and in fact, plain boring. It should be at least 1/2 hr shorter.

True, there are moments of real poignancy in "A world apart" and Jodhi May is an excellent actress but there just doesn't seem to be much going on for most of half the film. Maybe the fact that apartheid has been defeated and that so much has happened in S. Africa since makes it less momentous.

For anyone interested in S. Africa, I recommend watching "Cry Freedom", "A white dry season" or even "The power of one" instead. These films at least seek to explain their characters involvement with the anti-apartheid movement. In "A world apart", there's no such character growth so far as the mother is concerned. Her involvement has to be taken for granted.

Ultimate Force

Armitage fans, don't bother!
I bought this DVD to see Richard Armitage as Captain Macalwain and was very disappointed. There is plenty of action and occasional humour but the script is of a very poor quality : the relationships between the characters and their actions are most of the time too predictable and then suddenly all becomes highly improbable and unrealistic. It conveys antisemitic clichés (a Mossad agent depicted as arrogant and all powerful).

You hardly get to see Captain Macalwain for 5 minutes in the whole series and his character is underdeveloped with no depth - not that the other characters are much better.

The series seems to be exclusively geared for a male teenage audience, no disrespect intended to them, only warning others.


An excellent adaptation
I've really enjoyed this adaptation of "Emma".I have seen it many times and am always looking forward to seeing it again.Though it only lasts 107 minutes, most of the novel plot and sub-plots were developed in a satisfactory way. All the characters are well-portrayed. Most of the dialogues come directly from the novel with no silly jokes added as in Emma Thompson's Sense and Sensibility.

As a foreigner, I particularly appreciate the perfect diction of the actors. The setting and costumes were beautiful. I find this version quite on a par with the 1995 miniseries "Pride and Prejudice" but then the producer and screenwriter were the same. Kate Beckinsale did a really good job portraying "Emma" of whom Jane Austen said she would create a heroin no-one but her would love. She is snobbish but has just enough youth and inexperience to be still likable. Mark Strong was also very good at portraying Mr Knightley, not an easy part, I think, though he has not the charisma shown by Colin Firth's Mr Darcy in Pride and Prejudice. Even the end scene (the harvest festival) which does not happen in the novel provides a fitting end except for when it shows Emma being cold and almost unpleasant with Frank Churchill whereas in the novel she was thoroughly reconciled with him, even telling him that she would have enjoyed the duplicity, had she been in his situation. A strange departure from the faithfulness otherwise shown throughout the film. I find the costumes more beautiful and elaborate than in other adaptations from Jane Austen's novels.

Sense and Sensibility

The spirit of Jane Austen
This 3-hr miniseries seems to me much more faithful to the novel than the 1995 film by Ang Lee and Emma Thompson. the characters were as I pictured them while reading the novel. I find Edward a credible character and the love affair between him and Elinor skilfully and sensitively portrayed. (They make a much more convincing couple than stuttering Hugh Grant and Miss Thompson...) Best of all, the relationship between the two sisters : their tenderness and love in spite of their very different temperaments is convincingly depicted. I just felt the 1995 adaptation missed that aspect which made Elinor hysterics at ill Marianne's bedside all the more absurd and ill-timed. In this miniseries, there are no such hysterical scenes during Marianne's illness, Mrs Jennings is there just as in the book. The dialogues are almost word for word from the novel. The slow pace is suitable because so is the novel. Just one flaw : the end which seems a bit abrupt, as if they were running out of time. A really lovely series.

Sense and Sensibility

Not faithful to the novel and most characters not well portrayed
I find this adaptation of Jane Austen's novel disappointing. It isn't at all as faithful as the BBC Miniseries Pride and Prejudice. Elinor is only a 19-yr old girl in the novel, so Emily Thompson is far too old to portray her and Hugh Grant makes a really silly Edward (and what silly 20th century jokes are added that weren't in the book at all). Elinor's mother in the book is as romantic and emotional as Marianne whereas the film portrays her as much stricter. I find only Marianne, Sir John and his mother in law well portrayed.

Besides, though the Dashwoods were in reduced circumstances, Jane Austen never portrayed them as poor as the film makes them. It's downright silly to have them say they won't buy sugar or beef, whereas the novel shows them entertaining Sir John Dashwood and his family on a regular basis or being so called in their cottage (that doesn't look at all like a cottage) when they invited Edward or Willoughby to stay with them.

The only good points are straight from the novel (the witty dialogues), but all that's been added (and subtracted) is of poor quality. Edward and Elinor's romance is not credible, and (but I did not find it credible in the novel either), the male characters don't seem real and the love affairs, except for Marianne and Willoughby's, appear contrived.

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