Birdsong Review: BBC unveils epic new war romance

Summary:

As an English soldier fights in the horrific trenches of northern France, he is haunted by the memories of his forbidden love affair with a French woman.

Cast:

Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Wraysford

Clemence Posey as Isabelle Azaire

Review:

As soon as I heard there was a new BBC period drama to be broadcast early this year, I was excited. I got even more excited when I saw the trailer and how gorgeous the whole piece looked. The actors looked yummy, the costumes looked yummy, even the scenery was breathtaking. Clemence Posey looked so flawlessly beautiful as Isabelle Azaire, it was hard to believe she was real. In fact the whole thing just looked spectacular and I just couldn’t wait to watch it.

Sadly, when I did sit down to watch it, I was far from impressed. Things started well enough as the series fades in on a war torn battlefield in 1916. Stephen, our hero tries to rallies his groups and then proceeds to remember events from his past-how he met a woman and slowly fell in love with her. These flashback scenes are intertwined with scenes of him trying to survive the war with his comrades.

The cinematography was gorgeous (everything was filmed in this soft, flattering light which made everything, including the gritty battle scenes look as if it belonged in a dream), the score was beautiful, the story was intriguing, the acting was great; it’s almost hard to believe how this could have gone wrong. But go wrong it did and the fault lay mainly with the screenplay and the pacing. This should have been a wonderful classic drama but my goodness, it was SLOW. Like agonizingly slow.

Let me give you a taste of what the pacing is like: Stephen and Isabelle are in a boat and she avoids looking at him for 5 seconds. He then slowly lifts his eyes to look her way (another 5 seconds) before she turns around and her foot lightly leans against his. His eyes flicker down and we get another 5 second shot of their feet touching before he raises his eyes (again for 5 seconds) and she avoids his gaze (again for another 5 seconds) before she finally (finally!) turns and they share a long, smouldering look. Ok, now I’ve got nothing against silent, smouldering looks from across a room (or a boat)-in fact I adore them; after all, who can forget Lizzy and Darcy’s smouldering looks shared over the piano in the 1995 BBC version of Pride and Prejudice?

The problem is you can’t make a whole movie (let alone a romance) out of a bunch of smouldering looks and moments from two very good looking people and have the audience care about them. Eddie and Clemence look good together and yet they had absolutely no chemistry. They barely spoke in the movie and me as an audience member simply could not get involved in their love story. I couldn’t see they shared anything other than good looks and a whole lot of L-U-S-T.

The battle scenes weren’t much better and the emotional effect of war on the soldiers wasn’t well shown at all. As a result, the war scenes ended up feeling un-necessary, just an excuse for a some action amidst all that slow, draggy romance.

So between the painful pacing and the complete lack of chemistry between these so-called lovers, this BBC series was a great opportunity wasted.

If only, if only…

Historical Drama Rating: 2 stars out of 5

Sexiness Rating: 3 out of 5

Eddie and Clemence are both gorgeous people but without chemistry, their scenes lacked fire and sexiness.

Broadcasting Information:

BBC One: Aired January 22 and 29, 2012

PBS: Due to air April 22 and 29, 2012

Click here to view the BBC page.

Click here to view the PBS page.

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Published in: on March 15, 2012 at 11:47 AM  Comments (2)  
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TV Rave: Great Expectations 2011

Summary:

An orphan boy meets an escaped convict, a crazed rich woman, a bewitching girl, and grows up to have great expectations of wealth from a mysterious patron, on Great Expectations, Charles Dickens’ remarkable tale of rags to riches to self-knowledge.

Cast:

Douglas Booth as Philip ‘Pip’ Pirrip

Vanessa Kirby as Estella Havisham

Review:

Imagine my delight when soon after finishing the famous novel by Charles Dickens, I found out there was to be a new BBC version to be broadcasted over Christmas.

I had just given hope getting hold of the 1999 TV version and seeing the modern version with Gwyneth Paltrow looked to be my only chance of seeing Pip and Estella’s story brought to the big screen.

So naturally I managed to get a hold of this new version and settled down to watch what I was sure to be a great adaptation of a great piece of classic literature. It is the BBC after all and they rarely get anything wrong.

And boy, was I right! This version of the novel perfectly managed to capture the spirit of the book, despite being only 3 hours long compared to the 6 hour version in 1999. The setting was right, the tone was right, the casting was brilliant, especially for Miss Havisham who was just downright creepy and ghostly. Yes, the dialogue was slightly modernized and shortened but considering the time constraints, it still managed to maintain the essence of the book and the characters personalities without completely being anachronistic. From the moment the drama opened with Magwitch threateningly rising out of the stream, I was hooked. The pacing was good and those episode cliff-hangers made me want more!

I particularly loved how they handled Pip and Estella’s romance-bringing out a lot of the subtext and letting it take center stage. In the book, it’s implied that Estella returns Pip’s feelings but it’s never stated outright and this version does one better by showing that and in turn, making Estella a much more likable character. I swooned over their scenes together and was completely entranced. The only thing I will criticize is the actress playing Estella, while pretty, isn’t the stunner Dickens made her out to be. In fact, it’s a bit strange that the actor playing Pip is more good looking than Estella! But hey, I’m not complaining about his looks! I also loved those extra romantic ‘moments’ that were added, especially that sexually charged lake scene. 😉

I did think they shouldn’t have cut out one character, Pip’s childhood friend, as she played an important part in the book as a foil for Estella and another rival for his affections. The production didn’t suffer because of it but it could have been that much better. All the other characters were physically well-casted and were also acted very well. I ended up slightly crushing on Herbert, Pip’s best friend, who is played by the great-great-great grandson of Dickens himself, which was very cool to know.

All in all, this was a great adaptation, well directed, well-executed and well-acted. Even on it’s own it’s suburb drama and the BBC at it’s best. Well done BBC! 😀

Historical Drama Rating: 5 stars out of 5!!!

Sexiness Rating: 5 out of 5 :D

Ladies, we’ve got the gorgeous, blonde, model-worthy Douglas Booth (who plays Pip) who looks good even when he’s sad and brooding, and the unexpectedly cute Harry Lloyd (who plays Herbert) who you might all recognize as a villain in the HBO show Game of Thrones. He makes quite the turnaround here!

Guys… There’s the ice-queen beauty of Vanessa Kirby to keep you happy as you enjoy this mini-series.

Broadcasting Information:

BBC One: Aired December 27, 28, and 29 2011

PBS: Due to air April 1 and 8, 2012

Click here to view the BBC page.

Click here to view the PBS page.

TV Rave: The Pillars of the Earth

Summary:

The Pillars of the Earth is set against a backdrop of war, religious strife and power struggles which tears lives and families apart. In that time, there rises a magnificent Cathedral in Kingsbridge. Against the backdrop, love-stories entwine: Tom, the master builder, Aliena, the noblewoman, the sadistic Lord William, Philip, the prior of Kingsbridge, Jack, the artist in stone work and Ellen, the woman from the forest who casts a curse. At once, this is a sensuous and enduring love story and an epic that shines with the fierce spirit of a passionate age. Follett masterfully weaves these stories through political turmoil of 12th century England, creating a relevant and viable world for today’s audience and for generations to come.

Cast:

  • Ian McShane as Waleran Bigod
  • Rufus Sewell as Tom Builder
  • Matthew Macfadyen as Prior Philip
  • Eddie Redmayne as Jack Jackson
  • Hayley Atwell as Aliena
  • Donald Sutherland as Earl Bartholomew

Review:

Oh. My. God.

When I first heard of this show through a fansite for the actor Matthew MacFadyen, I was a bit blah about it. My preferred time period is the 18th and 19th century and this was a medieval drama. On top of that, it looked too gory for my taste.

So, a year went by… and my mother ended up buying it on DVD. She had watched the book and loved it and recommended the series to me. I wasn’t ecstatic but I thought why not? It was time I expanded my historical timeline. I also needed something to watch at that time so it seemed a perfect fit. So I popped it in my laptop and decided to be open-minded. Hey, at least I got to see Matthew MacFadyen again right?

Oh. My. God.

I couldn’t have imagined how much I would end up loving this show! I still cannot believe I discovered this show so late! Seriously, I cannot believe I deprived myself of the pleasure of this epic historical masterpiece!

The 8 hour show is set around the building of a fictional cathedral admidst a time of long drawn out war for the throne of England. But it’s not about the building so much as the lives of the people who are affected by it and the war for power. We are given multiple complex characters, some of whom are devoted to the building of the cathedral and others who are determined to see it fall.

From the first moment when it was announced the Prince was dead and there was no heir to the throne, I was hooked. And the plot didn’t let up for a minute. I was plunged into the lives of these people. I rooted for them, I cheered for them, I cried for them-I was totally, completely absorbed. That first night I was up until 4am to watching the first few episodes-The next night I abandoned all other plans to finish the whole thing up-it was just too addictive!

The plot was complex and I was in awe at the genius of the writer who came up with it! It unfolded so well and just worked on so many levels! It didn’t go right over the viewer’s head and you felt you were really seeing these people and living their lives. The acting was top-notch with some real great actors to be seen! Even the action scenes didn’t bother me as much as I thought they would. I got introduced to a new time in history which was fascinating although I definitely wouldn’t want to live in such a bloodthristy period.

This show really had it all-action, romance, passion, betrayal, murder, greed, ambition, sorrow, joy… I could go on! I don’t care if it’s 8 hours long! I’m definitely seeing this one again!

Historical Drama Rating: 5 stars out of 5!!!

Sexiness Rating: 5 out of 5 😀

Ladies, we’ve got the delicious-voiced Matthew MacFadyen, the scruffy sexy Rufus Sewell and the-too-cute for words Eddie Redmayne who sports some seriously sexy red hair and plays a romantic lead. *Swooon* 😛

Guys, Hayley Atwell is really too gorgeous for her own good and you’ll get to see more than her pretty face, wink wink 😉

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