ukxenafan1

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Reviews

Avengers: Endgame
(2019)

Good ending to the series but kind of over stuffed.
There was a lot to tie up with this film and there were lots of fan service-y bits. No surprise they managed to defeat Thanos and get back al, the characters killed off in the snap, and no surprise there were a few deaths - but slightly surprised by poor Natasha's demise. Personally, I'd have preferred the terminally dull Hawkeye went off that cliff!

It was sort of obvious Brie Larson films this before her solo Captain Marvel film as she hadn't quite got the character sorted - plus to be honest, has very little to do - apart from a butch haircut! A whole stack of underused female characters reappeared - Jane! Peggy! Tilda! Thor's mum! But really this was one for the boys with the core cast of the original movies getting the most screen time - chiefly Thor, Cap and Tony who are the heart of the early MCU but lots of Hulk too.

I found it pretty satisfying on the whole but that ending scene at the lake has absolutely appalling cgi - I didn't believe many of those actors were really there. Cumberbatch in particular looked very odd. In a movie this big, it stood out like a sore thumb for me.

What Men Want
(2019)

Taraji just about holds it together!
If you're a fan of Taraji P Henson, you'll probably enjoy this. However it's a flawed if intermittently enjoyable comedy. Unfortunately it is still rare to have a sexually unapologetic woman in her 40s, a black woman at that, as the lead in a romantic comedy. Henson's Ali is a sports agent who's being overlooked for promotion by the boy's club men at her firm. She's snarky and spiky, even with her friends. After an encounter with a kooky psychic she finds she can hear men's thoughts. The film lacks any subtlety but Henson knows how to deliver a comedic put-down. I kind of enjoyed the daftness of Tracy Morgan and Henson's love interest was a very pretty guy! Not a classic but ignore the sour faced one-star reviews, it's good fun.

Jane the Virgin: Chapter Seventy-Nine
(2018)
Episode 15, Season 4

I love you!
One of my favourite episodes of the season! Who would have thought when the series started that Petra would be my favourite character? The way they have built her relationship with Jane has been just lovely. Petra is still abrasive and blunt but can also be truly thoughtful - like dressing up as the tooth fairy and bringing Jane Czech soup. The way JR just doesn't like Jane and how this leads to Jane's big 'I love you' with Petra (and the semi-forced reciprocation) wasn't just so sweet and heartfelt. As Rafael said. Petra got a bigger I love you than he did! The way JtV handled Xo's cancer storyline has also been really strong. All credit to the writers and cast for making it emotional but still hopeful. After all this time, the show is still one of the most consistently entertaining on tv with a terrific cast - I truly love them all - and a pace and humour that is still firing in all cylinders.

Tully
(2018)

Surprising **spoilers**
I'd heard good things about this film and am a fan of both Theron and Davis. Add in the Diablo Cody/Jason Reitman double act whose Juno and Young Adult are a couple of my favourites. The film starts as a straightforward but well-observed portrait of a stressed out mum played by Charlize Theron, who has embraced this less than glamorous role by piling on the pounds - as she did for Monster. With 2 demanding little kids, a new baby arrives to expand the family and we wonder whether this addition will push Marlo over the edge. However evetually Marlo agrees to employ a night baby nurse and Tully (Mackenzie Davis) arrives.

SPOILERS

NOW

The first things that occurred to me as soon as Davis appears is how similar she looked to Theron - similar height, colouring etc. As it turns out, no accident, of course! The way the relationship is built between the two made me wonder if there was going to be a romance between them. There is an immediate intimacy and connection. Indeed, the scene when Tully dresses up in a waitress uniform and appears to seduce Marlo's pretty useless husband Ron Livingtone - apparently with Marlo's participation - seemed odd until you realise the twist of who Tully really is. The misdirect, that this might turn into a gay romance, continues as Marlo and Tully both refer to female flat mates who are clearly more than just a friend, but I must admit, I didn't guess that Tully was a representation of Marlo's younger self until the accident on the way back from a boozy night out. Tully is somehow a mermaid, Marlo is hospitalised and we learn her maiden name, yes, TULLY. Now it all makes sense - why Davis was cast for her similar physicality to Theron, why no one else ever saw Tully, that waitress seduction. We didn't really need the quick recap showing the highlights of the film but with Marlo alone where previously we had seen Tully. I spent the last few minutes rewinding it in my head and re-examining the events. Huge kudos to Charlize Theron, who fully embraces the role and puts her flab proudly on display. But her performance is more than the weight gain. Frazzled stressed out mothers have been seen on screen in everything from Bad Moms to Ladybird, but Theron sells it completely.

However, there are plenty of unanswered questions about this film. Is it a portrayal of post-partum depression? Is the twist too much of a cheat? Does the film pull another con by making the husband quite so oblivious? For me, this was a surprising but fascinating film. That twist totally kicked the legs out from under me and I was really taken in. I was also super impressed by Theron's range - shaven headed action hero in Mad Max Fury Road, she shows again that she will do anything for a good role. I love her lack of vanity and commitment to characters with depth. Not a big box office hit, I'm glad to see Theron in the awards conversation for this film. Diablo Cody and Jason Reitman are turning into one of my favourite combinations too.

The Golden Compass
(2007)

How to ruin a classic book!
Not sure who has to shoulder the lion's share of the blame for this damp squib of a film. The omens were good - terrific casting. Who could argue with Daniel Craig as Asriel and Nicole Kidman as Mrs Coulter and so many other great actors, well cast. One problem is Dakota Richards as Lyra who is pretty wooden but the main problem is the entire world of Pullman's novels is explained in voice over in the first seconds of the movie. Imagine Harry Potter explaining all the rules of magic, the reason Harry was special and the truth about Snape in the intro! Underestimating your audience, forgetting the world building and laying out the plot as if we were 5 year olds is insulting!

In the books Lyra is pretty headstrong but here she is just obnoxious. The book is rich and almost Dickensian in its vast array of characters - but it's all so rushed in a 2 hour film. It was always going to be tough adapting this book into a film but they just totally missed the boat here in this dumbed down but deeply disappointing movie

Venom
(2018)

A Right Mess!
No idea why this film has done so well. Maybe it was low expectations, love of Tom Hardy but the film is all over the place. Hardy starts off as a hard bitter journo and ends up mugging and pulling faces like Arnie in his comedy phase! On the plus side, it doesn't take itself too seriously and there is some fun. However a bloated mess.

Sisters
(2017)

Very enjoyable Aussie comedy/drama
Knowing literally nothing about this series, I came across it on Netflix and the trailer made me smile so I started watching. I ended up bingeing the whole thing and really enjoyed it. Not knowing any of the actors, I had no preconceptions. It deals with a young woman, Julia, who finds out her ailing doctor father used his own sperm in IVF treatments and she has potentially hundreds of siblings. However, it largely focuses on the lives of just two others - children's tv presenter with a thing for pills, Roxy and uptight lawyer Edie, a former friend of Julia's going through some bumps in her marriage - along with Julia herself, who is amiably but slightly aimlessly drifting through life What makes this work for me are the characters, who I really came to care about. The tone is a nice mix of comedy and drama and it's nice to see a quality show from down under getting some exposure. OK so some of the twists and turns are pretty daft but the show is a lot of fun, the acting good and I definitely want Edie's apartment!

The Truth About Lies
(2018)

Male fantasy rubbish!
So you are a lazy loser dorky guy, of course it is your mothers fault, your girlfriend doesn't appreciate you but super hot Odette Annable will love you so telling lies endlessly is perfectly ok. I must admit I 've always found Fran Kranz smarmy and irritating ever since Dollhouse, however this film relies on everyone finding him totally adorable and irresistible - so if you're a Fran fan, you'll probably have a very different opinion. To me it was a male fantasy - an doofus getting the high powered job and the hot girl - while actually being totally undeserving. We are seeing the world totally though his eyes and supposed to root for him while I just wanted to give the smug git a slap!

X Company: Remembrance
(2017)
Episode 10, Season 3

Satisfying Series Finale for X Company
Series finales can be tricky things. People look forward to them as momentous events, but this can sometimes lead to expectations not being met (Lost, for example) or developments that fans don't like and have no further chance to have fixed! (I'm looking at YOU Xena: Warrior Princess!!)

For me, X Company really got gripping and enthralling in season 2 once the Fabers became a bigger part of the mix, and this season has been pretty damn stellar in terms of drama and the moral quandaries in which our heroes have been placed.

The latter part of this third season's McGuffin, Operation Marigold, was not that important except that it provides the motivation for our team. They aren't ending World War 2, so it can't be as huge as the Dieppe landings or assassinating a major Nazi figure - not if the show is to remain believable. So the WHY is not that important. What matters is Neil is in prison and the team's mission to kill the scientist behind Marigold is in danger of failure because of him, but even more so, because Faber is wavering. This leads to a tense finale where Aurora, Faber and Schmidt come (sort of) clean with each other at the barrel of a gun! I especially liked the call back to episode 1, where Aurora dons a yellow dress (great with Evelyne Brochu's colouring!) for her mission at Nazi HQ. Aurora has been just a phenomenal character throughout the run of this series. I only started watching X Company after becoming a fan of Evelyne Brochu's work on Orphan Black. Yet I really fell in love with Aurora. She has been thrust into perilous situations time and again, has been torn by the things she as had to do, yet she is strong and resolute throughout. I loved that at the end of the episode, when we see briefly where the characters end up, Aurora is back out in the field in Belgium undercover. Brochu has been fantastic at portraying Aurora's choices and their consequences. I was glad we had a nice little resolution to her friendship with Sabine, and how Sabine was altered. And while the Aurora/Alfred fans enjoyed the liaison between them last week, this finale showed her endgame was not to settle down with a man, but to keep fighting for the cause. A true hero. In terms of characters, Franz Faber comes a close second on my list of favourites. We saw him go through so many changes of heart in this episode alone. During the series we have seen him act incredibly brutally, shooting people without qualm, torturing Alfred and more. Perhaps it isn't a good thing to sympathize with a Nazi, but we feel at heart, he has good in him. At the opening of this episode, he and his family are in danger of being exposed so he decides to hold back and is prepared to sacrifice the team. Faber owes nothing to them and despite not supporting the gradually revealed atrocities being committed by the Nazis, he isn't willing to die for no reason. Therefore the climax of the episode (where Aurora reminds him of his Downs son Ulli and why fighting with them is the right thing to do) is pretty heart breaking and powerful. Faber's sacrifice makes sense in that of all the characters - with the exception of Sabine's father Schmidt - he is the one with most blood on his hands left. He is not going to start working openly as a resistance fighter and it is unlikely he would escape a war crimes trial with the people he has killed. Quite honestly, I was a bit surprised Aurora, Alfred, Neil and Krystina all survived. Surprised but pleased. Too many series finales feel they need big sacrifices to end a show, however, having lost 4 original team members over the 3 seasons, there has been a fair death toll that no more deaths was pleasing.

As a series finale this one was very satisfying, although I would argue better dramatic episodes have come before it. These last 2 episodes have been directed by series creator Stephanie Morgenstern, and while I applaud her step behind the cameras - there aren't enough women directors and she has been at the heart of the show - I think visually they were not as striking and beautiful as some. However, emotionally and performance-wise, they were as good as the show at its best.

I'm sorry to say goodbye to Aurora, Alfred and Neil. I think there are many more stories that could have been told by the show. Still, this particular chapter and particularly the compelling stories with the Fabers were probably done. I hope in years to come other fans around the world will find this show and enjoy the exciting and involving stories of a fascinating time in history.

X Company: Friendly Fire
(2017)
Episode 9, Season 3

The end is nigh...
With just one more episode to go in the show, this episode sets up quite a few things, but is a bit of a lull in the tension after a run of amazingly taut and tense episodes. Now in Berlin, the team must bargain with Faber who is holding Sinclair's son. He arranges to trade him for the tape of Sabine incriminating herself. However Franz has even more going on, as his Nazi bosses have uncovered his dealings with Sinclair and the gang. Franz convinces them he is cultivating them for information but is clearly losing control of the situation as Neil, Sinclair and his injured son are captured. Meanwhile Krystina (yes, she's on field assignment finally!) is buttering up a nervous art dealer whose exhibit is about to become a booby trap so the team can kill the scientist at the heart of operation Marigold. Aurora and Alfred 'discuss' things - one for the shippers there - while Sinclair makes the ultimate sacrifice as he knows he will not be able to hold out if his son is tortured in front of him.

With just one episode left, there is a bit of moving of people into place while having Aurora and Alfred reconcile and be together smacks a little of fan service. Confession time, I've never cared for Sinclair, so his story line with his son and his death didn't really move me. However, I appreciated the story implications. The boss of the team is gone and his sacrifice made sense. We now have Neil in custody, Faber's allegiance unclear and Aurora, Alfred and Krystina on their own with a task that seems impossible.

I'm guessing there may be at least one more death to come. Will Neil be the one? Alfred? I'm going to be very upset if it is Aurora!

X Company: The Hunt
(2017)
Episode 7, Season 3

Moral Tortures!
Wow, what an episode! Aurora is put in a real moral quandary about how far she will go to maintain her Nazi cover and is forced into a pretty terrible act! The horror of the Nazis plans are even more to the fore in this episode as their policy of 'clearing' Polish villages is put into action. Meanwhile Livia's father seems even more taken than ever with Aurora under her German cover as Helena, and invites her to Berlin.

I'm not sure which is more horrifying; the classification of the children in a Polish school as potential Aryans or the hunt of the title that turns into a literal man hunt or the 'gift' Livia's father brings to his daughter near the end of the episode. We also have a rather shocking last scene in Faber's office as Aurora, disgusted with herself, can't face Alfred and Neil and gets into a rather heated discussion of morals with an equally self-hating Franz, who had been forced to face the fact his is just as bad as the Nazis soldiers he commands to kill women and children. Their desperate clinch is seen by dah-dah-dah, the villainous Heidi, still smarting over being usurped as Nazi lady of the hour. This was one of the most tense and nail-biting episodes of the season, with our team forced to do terrible things and try to prevent even more terrible things! Evelyne Brochu and Torben Liebrecht are especially good in this episode. I am not that familiar with the actions of the Nazis in Poland, the rugged resistance and the way the Nazis treated them so the drama was compelling - as always.

X Company: Naqam
(2017)
Episode 8, Season 3

Just Desserts!
I have really enjoyed the addition of Madelaine Knight as Heidi this season. She has been a fascinating but dangerous character that Aurora has had to handle carefully, cultivating her friendship to get to the inner circle and working with her. However, after the scene as the end of episode 7, Heidi knows there is more to Aurora and this episode deals heavily with Aurora and Heidi's relationship as things come to a head.

All of this is happening as the team are preparing to head to Berlin and the McGuffin of the season, Operation Marigold and its plan to manufacture synthetic fuel.

The confrontations between Heidi and Aurora in the jail cell and their ultimate fight in the woods are especially satisfying. Aurora shows her strength physically as well as mentally as she manages to keep Heidi from discovering the truth, while ultimately letting her know her true identity. Thanks Madelaine Knight, but Heidi really did get what she deserved from badass Aurora! I just don't get why this show isn't popular all around the world, more than just in Canada. I'm a Brit and I think many people here would enjoy it. Great drama, super acting and characters you really get invested in. Yes, even the Germans!

X Company: Supply and Demand
(2017)
Episode 6, Season 3

The plot thickens
After a run of highly tense and dramatic episodes, this one is more of a plot build up one as the pieces are being moved into place for later in the season. Heidi is turning out to be the monster we might have suspected as she plots the 'clearing' of nearby towns, working out which of the locals can be German-ized and who is heading for the camps. She also disposes of the Jewish office workers with barely a thought. Meanwhile, Sinclair's decision to send to green rookies to Poland to help the team maddens Krystina, although when the true reason emerges, it is pretty chilling.. Albert is getting friendly with the local station master and his attractive daughter to try to track shipping in the area, while Faber tries to find out what Operation Marigold is. Sabine finally seems to be coming on side after realising the locals did not 'donate' their clothes to the needy Germans!

The show has set some very high standards for tension and drama, but this episode's best moments were less high stakes. The unfolding horror of Heidi's work, the realisation that the young raw recruits were sacrificed for the mission, Harry getting a letter from his niece. A quick shout out to Morten Suurballe who plays Sabine's father, Schmidt and is really effective as a scary Nazi!

X Company: Promises
(2017)
Episode 4, Season 3

Another one bites the dust!
SPOILERS AHEAD! The team head for Poland and have a highly eventful rail journey. While Aurora tries to build bridges with Sabine, her friend Heidi appears, but before long, the train is attacked by Polish resistance fighters. They take Franz hostage, demanding the release of captured resistance members. Meanwhile, Harry, Alfred and Neil are loaded into a cargo wagon with Jews being shipped to labour camps. Faber's plans to take them from the wagon as a way of getting them to Poland is thwarted as he is now a prisoner himself. After the women and children are unloaded and more Jewish men are loaded, it is clear the train is heading for the death camps. After working with the other prisoners to escape, many are shot down by the Nazis - including Harry! I must admit I always found Harry pretty obnoxious, especially after his revolt against Aurora last season, but I was still surprised to see his demise in this episode. For the show to have any semblance of realism, the casualty list has to be high. Not sure how many resistance agents survived for long, but not that many I would assume. The standoff between the Polish resistance and the Fabers, Aurora and Heidi on the train was very tense and exciting. Aurora had to try not to give herself away on several fronts. Heidi shows there is more to her than just a feisty society girl. She recruits Aurora for a job being 'the pioneers of the new Germany.' Will she be an ally or (more likely) a dangerous enemy?

X Company: Frontiers
(2017)
Episode 5, Season 3

Great drama!
X Company has really ramped up the tension in the last 2 seasons and this is another tense and exciting episode. With Faber in the hands of the Polish resistance, Alfred and Neil have to tread carefully to keep him safe but not give away their secrets. With the recent loss of a team member, Neil especially struggles to keep himself on task. Meanwhile, Aurora's new job with the rather mysterious Heidi sounds pretty shady - resettling newly arriving German into now empty houses in Poland..

As always, this show is beautifully acted. I don't get why X Company isn't a bigger hit outside Canada as the storytelling is well paced and the characters very engaging. You get the feeling there could be big trouble ahead for Aurora if suspicion fall on her. Livia's father clearly has a soft spot for her, and maybe that will help keep her safe. Faber's commitment to helping the resistance will be shaken after his treatment at the hands of the Polish fighters, so will be continue to be an ally for the team? Look out for a cameo from TV genre legend Amanda Tapping as one of the agents training the newbies back at Camp X.

StartUp
(2016)

Clichéd and dull
This show appeared on my Amazon Prime recently. I knew nothing about it and hadn't read any reviews, however as it had Martin Freeman I thought I'd give it a go. While I just about made it through the pilot, I won't be watching any more! They are clearly trying to be 'edgy' and 'daring' with so many sex scenes in the first episode. However I am so bored with crime show featuring appalling men we are supposed to find so fascinating. Yes there is an equally horrible female character too, but everyone talks like they think they are The Wire or True Detective, yet the show did nothing to make me invested in these characters. The plot didn't draw me in, the sex scenes were repellent, most of the characters were unlikable and clichéd.

No idea if it gets better and don't care to find out. There are so many fantastic shows around now, a derivative and unlikable one like this doesn't do enough.

Supergirl
(2015)

Benoist is super charming!
Now starting its second season on The CW, Supergirl is one of my favourite shows. Its chief strength is Melissa Benoist as Kara Danvers aka Supergirl. I found her kind of annoying when she was on Glee (although she has a terrific singing voice) but Supergirl is perfect for her. Benoist imbues the character with a dorky adorable charm, yet also sells the action scenes.

A big strength of the first season turned out to be Calista Flockhart as Cat Grant, whose snarky wit yet ultimately decent heart turned out to be a winning combination. The relationship between Cat and Kara (and Cat and Supergirl!) was really well handled.

All of the supporting characters are charming and likable - although I still don't think they have done enough to make James Olsen anything more than eye candy yet. His upcoming season 2 story line as vigilante The Guardian isn't filling me with confidence.

Chyler Leigh as Alex Danvers is high on my list of favourites, and the bond between the Danvers sisters is the real heart of the show. Leigh and Benoist work well together.

Early episodes did show one of the ongoing weaknesses - and one common to the Berlanti verse DC shows and that is bringing in a villain for a episode, only for them to be defeated without leaving much of an impression. There have been a few duds on Supergirl too, and the ongoing season 1 arc with the Fort Ross aliens, Myriad and Astra and Non was only partially successful. (I miss Astra and Laura Benanti!) Already, Brenda Strong as the mysterious Doctor from Project Cadmus is shaping up to be a menacing foe.

While there are aliens and bad guys to battle, the tone of Supergirl is generally fun and cheerful. Kara is a delightful character, although the series highlight for me is the season 1 episode 'Fallen' when Kara becomes infected with Red Kryptonite and becomes much LESS of a sweetie! Benoist was fantastic as the mean girl Kara.

X Company
(2015)

Getting Better and Better!
I came to this show as an Orphan Black fan wanting to see what Evelyne Brochu was up to but gradually got drawn in by the great plots and surprisingly good acting.

I had heard of the SOE based in Britain during WW2 and seen films like Carve her Name with Pride starring Virginia McKenna in the past. There are also the French Resistance dramas like Secret Army (and 'Allo 'Allo I guess!) but hadn't heard of the Canadian special operations group. I was surprised and interested to read some of the stories about the real X Camp on the show's website/FB page.

As for this show, the team took a while to bed in and the actors to settle into their characters. As a fan of Evelyne Brochu I of course loved that she got so much to do and Aurora is a fascinating character. I was kind of glad they bumped off her romantic interests Rene so early on...apparently! Jack Lasky as Alfred the memory man was an odd character at first, but he's grown on me a lot. Indeed going into season 2, the changing character dynamics definitely made me more interested in all of the team. (Boo hiss Harry!) Season 2 was very strong with the emphasis on the Germans Franz and Sabine Faber and I was not surprised to see Torben Liebrecht had won an award for this role as Faber is a really interesting character - although I am curious to see what they do with him next after the season finale! Whereas season 1 had quite a few 'missions of the week' I think the longer story arc of season 2 really made the show take off. Some great tense drama and some really fascinating plot twists.

Having come for one actor, I really have grown into a fan of the show and am looking forward to season 3.

You're the Worst: LCD Soundsystem
(2015)
Episode 9, Season 2

Dark stuff!
The on-going story of Gretchen's depression has been handled in a very unusual way for TV, and especially for a TV comedy. There is no snap-out-of-it crap and no easy answers. Jimmy trying to cheer her up was totally in character for him, but the show hasn't gone for the easy fix.

In this dark, dark episode we follow a couple who could have been Gretchen and Jimmy a few years ago until they settled down and now have kids, mortgage etc. Has it all worked out well for them? Gretchen seems kind of fascinated and stalks them. Interestingly, the show gives up a Rashoman style episode with the couple's PoV first before we see Gretchen's. Is she stalking them? Is she going to steal their baby? (And btw, they should fire that nanny for giving the baby to a total stranger in the drugstore with barely a second thought!!!) The final act, where their happiness is shown to be bogus when the guy hits on Gretchen within minutes of them being alone and her subsequent devastation as Jimmy prattles on were very painful. This show has been jet black in terms of humour lately but I love that it has taken risks.

Persuasion
(2007)

Enjoyable, but not as good as the 1995 BBC version
OK, so I am biased. The Amanda Root/Ciaran Hinds Persuasion is one of my very favourite films and Persuasion is my favourite Austen book, and I was wondering if they would mess this up as ITV pretty much messed up Mansfield Park. Firstly Sally Hawkins was a very good Anne. A likable and quietly confident Anne, although what on earth was all that running around at the end about? Was the director a fan of Run Lola Run??!

I was less impressed with Rupert Penry Jones. Very pretty, but he didn't look like a sailor to me. He was rather wooden in his acting and I found the modern haircuts on the men distracting too. I disliked the changes too - the silly ending, but the way they changed the crucial scene with Wentworth over hearing Anne and writing her a letter was a real mess up.

I quite enjoyed the programme, largely due to Sally Hawkins, but I re watched that 1995 production afterwards to compare, and it is superior in almost every way - casting (Ciaran Hinds, Fiona Shaw, Sophie Thompson, Corin Redgrave, Phoebe Nicholls, John Woodvine, Catherine Schlesinger, Sam West, Simon Russell Beale - all much better than their counterparts) the atmospheric filming - loads of candlelight in the 1995 one, that lovely opera song. Only really the poorer picture quality and the 4:3 DVD picture were bettered in this new production.

However, both production had on the street kisses, which were quite inappropriate for the times, although I guess they can't resist having SOME action!!

Mansfield Park
(2007)

Oh dear...
Mansfield Park is probably the dullest Jane Austen book, and Fanny definitely the dullest heroine. When I first read the book I was almost shouting at her to "do something!" ITV tried to fix this by casting Billie Piper, but she is totally wrong for any Austen production, as she is just too modern looking (I read somewhere they considered asking her to dye her eyebrows blonde! Might have helped..)

The 1999 Frances O'Connor film tried to liven things up by having Fanny be slightly sly and arch, and while it was not at all faithful to the book, was quite entertaining. This was just a yawn. The supporting cast were equally bad. It is quite alarming how badly the formerly dishy Douglas Hodge is ageing! Nice to see Jemma Redgrave, although was Lady Bertram that nice? I don't think so.

The ITV casting policy of pretty young things gives us shallow actors in frocks and breeches that are little more than eye candy. However, the Northanger Abbey and to an extent, the Persuasion in this series were more successful. Avoid this Mansfield Park - awful!

The Advocate's Devil
(1997)

Entertaining TV movie
As a big SVU fan, I checked this one out for Mariska Hargitay pre-Olivia Benson! As a TV movie thriller, it was quite good fun, although the director's habit of putting the camera at an angle all the time was VERY annoying! The plot is pretty much standard TV movie fare, defence lawyer Ken Olin gets a high profile client off, only to realise he was guilty. Cue the dramas.

For Mariska fans, she has a fair bit of screen time, and isn't JUST the Girlfriend. She's an investigator, although we don't get to see enough of her investigating sadly. The young girl playing Olin's daughter is a bit of a Natalie Portman lookalike, and is annoyingly perky at times.

Good Sunday afternoon viewing on the Hallmark channel!

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit: Doubt
(2004)
Episode 8, Season 6

Unusual SVU ep
I haven't seen every episode of SVU, but this was a very unusual one in the way they ended it - basically not telling you the verdict in a rape case.

To be honest, the case as presented was very hard to decide on - again, usual on the show, but reflective of many real life cases I guess, where it is basically one person's word against another. I was suspicious of Billy Campbell as he always seems to play shifty characters these days, but the girl was also rather untrustworthy..hmm, who is telling the truth?

A really good Olivia ep - I adore Mariska!! Chris Meloni also does a great job.

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit: Charisma
(2004)
Episode 7, Season 6

Brilliant episode!
This is one of the best SVU eps I have seen. It deals with the insane leader of a cult (Jeff Kober- ALWAYS crazy!) and the deaths of children who may or may not be his.

What makes this episode so good is that for once on SVU we get a really emotional story. The detectives are forced to undergo counselling after witnessing the death of the children, and deal in different ways. Stabler's increasing anger with the world will continue to make its presence felt in the future. Mariska Hargitay is especially wonderful, in showing Olivia's struggles to deal with the appalling crime, her confrontation with the wife of the cult leader, and the climax of the episode with the cult guy and his teen bride (sort of).

Benson is the ideal woman! Compassionate, strong, beautiful. They have made her pretty much perfect...ah Olivia!! We love you!

Xena: Warrior Princess
(1995)

Classic Action/Adventure with more to it that meets the eye!
I'm a huge fan of Xena:Warrior Princess, which ran for 6 seasons, ending in 2001. The show tells the story of former bad girl Xena, who was a warlord for years before being reformed by Hercules. She is now trying to atone for her past as she travels the known world with her sidekick Gabrielle. That's the simple synopsis, but Xena:Warrior Princess was a cult hit for much more than that.

It's hard to talk about the show's success without mentioning the lesbian subtext. From about halfway through the first season, there was a real bond between the ladies, that at times seemed to indicate they were more than just friends. The love between the characters, whether platonic or not, was one of the biggest strengths of the show. Xena and Gabrielle saw each other through so many dramas over the years.

Another of the reasons for the shows popularity was the tongue in cheek humour and light hearted action. The shows could go from broad comedy to real child-murdering Greek tragedy. But at its centre, was the amazing Lucy Lawless. Could anyone else have been Xena? Statuesque, with a brilliant Clint Eastwood glare, Lucy throws herself into the action scenes with gusto - although the stunt team deserves a mention.

Renee O'Connor had many fans as Gabrielle, the character who changed the most over the years. Bruce Campbell, Ted Raimi and Hudson Leick were welcome guest stars. XWP also helped launch the careers of Karl Urban, Marton Csokas, Kathryn Morris, Gina Torres and others.

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