selenak: (Ship and Sea by Baranduin)
( Jan. 25th, 2015 05:36 pm)
Season 2 is here! (If you need an s1 recap, here's my review.) I was not a little thrilled to hear Bear McCreary's score again.

Pirates, now with flashbacks )
So far, so well done. They kept the jumping between eras of Mantel's first volume - but imo at least, it was not difficult to follow which time period we were in at which point - , and for the first episode, focused on the fall of Wolsey as a unifying theme, with Cromwell not meeting Henry (as in, actually talking to him) until the very end. Naturally, there's a lot of exposition - this is where everyone gets introduced - but the only time it came across as "as you know, Bob" clumsy to me was when Wolsey summed up Henry's marital history with Katherine for Cromwell. All the other times the information felt like a natural part of the dialogue.

Mark Rylance is very good as Cromwelll, getting across the man's intelligence and constant observation of everyone else. Not yet the ruthlessness because at this point he hasn't had a chance to exhibit it yet, but the toughness. The first episode's main emotional emphasis was in his relationship with Wolsey (and they kept the flashbacks to Cromwell Senior's treatment of him until we're two thirds in, so the audience is allowed to conclude Wolsey is Cromwell's replacement father on its own before that) and with his wife and daughters. (If you've read the novels, the younger daughter wearing her angel wings willl make you wince for more than one reason.) By contrast, the various courtiers and later players are briefly sketched. Mark Gatiss wins for character with only a few lines yet completely getting the personality and type of relationship with Cromwell across, very memorable. (He plays Gardiner.) Damian Lewis is no slouch, either, in that last scene as Henry VIII., whom everyone keeps talking about in the course of the episode, so basically he's the Harry Lime of Wolf Hall with the heavily delayed entrace. Said scene paints Henry as intelligent, still having some residual affection for the Cardinal but also no intention whatsoever to save him, and quickly deducing Cromwell can be useful.

Scenes only of significance if you either are aware of history or have read the novels: Mark Smeaton (though the last name hasn't been spoken out loud yet). "You may not think of us, Mark, but we think of you" indeed. I wonder whether anyone is watching it unspoiled by both und what they make of them?

They've cast Thomas Brodie Sangster as Rafe, and he's adorable (again); I've never had much investment in Rafe in the novels, so that was welcome (considering Rafe is one of Cromwell's most constant dialogue partners in upcoming events).

Lastly, the look: is gorgeous. All the candlelight minus electricity when filming certainly paid off. The costumes certainly look authentic (especially when compared to, err, certain other productions set within the same era). Oh, and bonus points for a Katherine of Aragon who isn't black haired but auburn (which according to all descriptions she was). She still speaks with a Spanish accent, though, which personally I doubt she still did at that point of her life (I mean, the woman has lived in England since she was 16, now it's more than two decades later).
selenak: (Holmes and Watson by Emme86)
( Jan. 23rd, 2015 11:32 am)
In which Gregson must have an odd sense of deja vu in more ways than one.

Read more... )
Some Pottery tales, if you're in the mood for fanfiction:

Academic Pursuits: a great Snape portrait offering several aspects, and while covering all his life manages, rare in Snape stories that include his relatonship with Lily, to focus on the friendship they shared when young rather than on the later pining (sidenote: I always thought making it a MUTUAL childhood friendship before things went sour was really important in canon).
In a name more Lily and Snape friendship, same author

Respite: in which McGonnagall, just before the final battle at Hogwarts, finds out a few things from Dumbledore's portrait in the headmaster's study. Great Minerva throughout, and a killer punchline.

Censorship: a look at Hermione with her parents between school terms. The way she must have self edited increasingly as her life at Hogwarts grew ever more dangerous. Oh, Hermione.

Circatrix: the three Black sisters, Bellatrix, Andromeda and Narcissa. Beautiful and subtle.

The sleeper awakes: how Percy went from supporting the Ministry to joining the resistance in the year of DH. I especially appreciate there isn't just one Eureka moment for Percy, but a gradual process.
With spoilers for all the books, so skip if you don't want to know. Having had to write Dumbledore meta during my December posting meme made me reread some Harry Potter - not books, I don't have the time, just a few select passages - and reminded me how much I like the (book) series. I don't actively dislike the movies, but I think they get some important things wrong - Ron comes immediately to mind - and by necessity of the format sometimes cut out some of the most interesting parts, definitely the backstory related ones. Prisoner of Azkaban missing the entire Marauder backstory, the "Snape's worst memory" flashback in Order of the Phoenix not including Lily (and thus missing why this particular encounter with the Marauders is Snape's worst memory), the entire Kreacher-related Regulus story, which makes for one of the most moving chapters in Deathly Hallows. (BTW, I love Snape as a character, but Regulus wins in the Death Eater redemption stakes. Turning against your dastardly Evil Overlord because he abused and tortured your house elf is far less likely than turning against him because he's threatening the love of your life. Mind you, Regulus then coming up with a suicidal plan to foil Voldemort all on his own was both brave and stupid, but no more so than some of the stuff other characters pull off.) Some of Dumbledore's backstory survives, but not all, and Harry has barely time to react to it where the book has him work through the realisation that Dumbledore was flawed and not always wise and right, which is a preparation for the final revelation re: Dumbledore's plans. It's something that works better in book format by its very nature - access to thought process of the pov character - but since they split up the final novel into two movies anyway, they could have tried to work more of this in.

An ongoing theme of the novels as Harry & Co. get older is what tv tropes calls "adults are people", by which I don't just mean "flawed", but complex, with histories, mistakes, and in the case of the villains, also virtues. Snape can be a horrible teacher who never emotionally gets over teenagerdom and an incredibly brave man who lived a lonely, tragic life. Remus Lupin, by contrast, is a wonderful teacher and lovely, nice man, but he also never mastered what Neville Longbottom did already in his first year at Hogwarts, standing up to your friends if your conscience disagrees with them. Sirius, like Snape, never grows out of emotional teenagerdom (unlike Snape, he has the Azkaban excuse), and is an incredibly loyal, loving friend. Narcissa Malfoy is a racist and quite likely murderous racist who at no point shows regrets for any of the victims and a dedicated mother risking it all for her son, in the full knowledge of what Voldemort would do to her if he found out and survived. Dumbledore, see December entry.

And here's one (of several) reason why I really like our chief protagonist: Harry may react with confusion and anger to some of this, but also with kindness and compassion. When he returns to Hogwarts in DH and thinks of Tom Riddle, Snape and himself as "the three lost boys" who found their home there, he doesn't yet know the truth about Snape, and acknowledges the commonality nonetheless; when Snape dies, Harry still doesn't know (though he's about to find out) but is there. And in his last conversation with Dumbledore, when he does know both the good and the bad the man has done, there is this short exchange which I love in how it shows Harry's changed perspective and position - when he tells Dumbledore something he, Harry, knows via his mental link with Voldemort, i.e. that Gellert Grindlewald died defying Voldemort when Voldemort was on the lookout for the Elder Wand. (The movies got that one wrong, too.) The is no reason to tell Dumbledore this but one: Dumbledore has just talked about his own guilt re: falling for Grindlewald in the first place. It's Harry providing comfort without declaring it as such. Whereas at the start of the book, when he reads the first of Dumbledore's obituaries, he finds it impossible to imagine Dumbledore as a youngster his own age, with a family and friendships, he's now responding to someone he can see that way: to the old man with a lifetime of regrets and the young man who fell in love both.
selenak: (Porthos by Chatona)
( Jan. 17th, 2015 03:19 pm)
In which there are subplots galore and really badly organized rescue missions, but on the other hand, the hostages do well.

Read more... )
selenak: (Holmes and Watson by Emme86)
( Jan. 16th, 2015 03:23 pm)
In which the show has me very worried indeed about upcoming events.

Read more... )
selenak: (Peggy Carter by Misbegotten)
( Jan. 14th, 2015 09:45 am)
Continues to be fabulous, and what's this I hear about no episode next week because of some presidential address? Woe!

Tell me about your day )

Now about that final image... does that mean Madame Kali/Evelyn is really a historical personage who entered pop culture ). Alternatively, "when Lucifer fell, he didn't fall alone" could of course mean that the obvious )
Briefly, as Darth Real Life is pursuing me:

1.) Managed to finally catch up with The Good Wife. The show continues to be in high form. Good to see the writers address the spoilery motivation question for Alicia )

2.) Also managed to watch the first two episodes of season 2 of Broadchurch . Colour me impressed that Chibnall actually found away to explain why team Miller & Hardy are still in Broadchurch after the previous season's events. And Olivia Colman & David Tennant continue to make a great on screen duo. Also I'm pleased the new characters so far are four women and one man, as opposed to the reverse, not to mention the casting: Charlotte Rampling! Meera Sysal! Didn't know the lady playing the defense attorney before, but so far she's good. And hello again, Eve Myles, I HAVE MISSED YOU on my tv screen. If we're doing "one step from Doctor Who", then so far it's DT as D.I. Hardy, of course, Reverend Rory Paul, Chibnall as writer and now Eve Myles as Claire. In further news of "it's a small British actors world", the one new male is played by James D'Arcy, who also currently plays Edwin Jarvis in Agent Carter.

3.) And last month I watched the first two seasons of Rev., a British sit com consisting of half an hour episodes. It's still a small British acting world because Olivia Colman is in that one, too, as the lead's long suffering wife Alex. Said lead, the Reverend Adam Smallbone, is played by Tom Hollander, whom I last saw as the villainous Cutler in Pirates of the Carribean. Now all I know about the Church of England I learned from fiction - Susan Howatch's Starbridge novels and Anthony Trollope's Barchester novels - but I still felt amused and touched by this series, which manages to build up a good ensemble around its premise of a vicar with an inner city London church and all the problems you'd expect. It manages to make its lead flawed but sincere (with compassion and kindness) while also using satire and tackling actual social problems. Adam's Archdeacon, whom at one point he dubs "the dark lord", is a master of the constant sardonic put down and could be straight out of both Howatch and Trollope. (Or, if you're a Blake's 7 fan: think Avon working for the Church of England, but with the same Chris Boucher written dialogue.) He's not a caricature, either, and has excellent spoilery taste in something ). Other guest stars include Amanda Hale as a curate, Ralph Fiennes as the Bishop of London and Hugh Bonneville having a blast as an oily tv personality vicar, Adam's arch nemesis, but it's really the ongoing ensemble that makes the show: Adam and Alex (who is a solicitor), Nigel, Adam's grumpy No.2, who thinks he could do the job much better, Adoha the parishioner with a kink for men of the cloth, Colin the homeless guy whom Adam regularly shares a smoke with and Ellie the headmistress.
This is the most extensive article on the upcoming tv adaption of Hilary Mantel's Cromwell novels I've read, and the first one which mentions a significant change between source material and tv version. To wit: Straughan the scriptwriter and Kominsky the director ship Thomas Cromwell/Anne Boleyn, which Hilary Mantel did not. To quote from the article:

Nevertheless, in condensing a thousand pages into a six-part drama, Straughan had to give weight to certain strands over others. He chose a revenge plot as the spine of it – Cromwell avenging the death of Wolsey – and complicated that by making the relationship between Cromwell and Anne central. Where the books – which will become a trilogy with the eventual publication of Mantel’s third volume, The Mirror and the Light – trace the relationship between Cromwell and Henry, Straughan’s adaptation has a slant of suppressed sex and power.

This shift is so marked that when I ask Kosminsky if he wishes he had waited until all three books had been written, he barely hesitates before saying no. By way of illustration, he shows me an early cut of a pivotal scene in episode three (the episode that ends with Anne’s coronation). Anne and Cromwell observe Henry from a window in Whitehall as Thomas More hands over the chain of office. Cromwell is watching her. He looks at her chest rise and fall as she breathes. He imagines kissing her neck. The moment is brief but the electricity and complicity in it are extraordinary. ‘Although Henry hangs over the whole thing as the superpower,’ Kosminsky explains, ‘for me, the drama is about the evolution of the relationship between Cromwell and Anne Boleyn, which ends with her death.’

You know, reading this, I'm on board with the change. (Though it cracks me up when everyone in this article mentions The Tudors as an example of a "bad" historical tv series - not that I disagree, but The Tudors may be the first version to introduce some UST between Anne and Cromwell as they go from allies to enemies, and guys, give inspirational credit where due. You didn't get this idea from Hilary.) Anyway, the reason why I'm on board with it is that it makes Cromwell a bit more fallible and less chess master supreme if he has an unspoken attraction to Anne even while condemming her. (And I certainly prefer it to getting constant snide asides about how Anne is losing her looks in the second novel.) The actress playing Anne Boleyn also in the article is quoted with a spirited defense of her:

When Claire Foy read Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, she loved the books. Yet she soon found that her position as a reader was no use to her as an actress. ‘I understood it from Thomas Cromwell’s point of view,’ she explains. ‘So if they’d asked me to play Thomas Cromwell I’d have said, “Yes!” But because you only ever see Anne observed by him, you only have his impressions of her – that she was pinched and mean, gnarled and nasty. But she’s not like that, it’s just how she seems to him. So I had to do the research for myself.’

Eventually, Foy says, she felt angry on Anne’s behalf. ‘She could have been remembered as one of the greatest women in history. Where she came from to become Queen of England was extraordinary. She was clever, she was bright, she was vivacious, she was witty, she was political. But she was also slightly manic, irrational, emotional. And those characteristics were perfect for a political figure at the time. As a woman I felt she was blighted by her reproductive system.
selenak: (Alex (Being Human)  - Arctic Flower)
( Jan. 12th, 2015 10:49 am)
Because the fannish mind sometimes does quirky things and makes you ponder something years later: back when Being Human finished, I had problems with the ending which the additional scene on the dvds largely resolved. To spare you the trouble of looking up the original review, my spoilery problem and why the additional scene mostly fixed it )

Now, ever since watching the scene, I assumed it meant spoilery stuff ). Having rewatched the last episode for the first time since it was originally broadcast, I changed my mind as to the timing and some other stuff. Spoilery musings ensue )

Which is why I'm now revising my theory about the implications of the additional scene. New headcanon: is spoilery as well. )
selenak: (Porthos by Chatona)
( Jan. 11th, 2015 04:28 pm)
In which at the start I wondered whether, considering part of the production team is the same, we'd get a Musketeers twist on the Merlin episode The Once and Future Queen (also 2.02.), and as it turns out...

Someone to blame )
selenak: (Holmes and Watson by Emme86)
( Jan. 11th, 2015 10:43 am)
In which Alfredo is back, and so are Sherlock's wake-up habits.

Read more... )
selenak: (Katniss by Monanotlisa)
( Jan. 10th, 2015 12:52 pm)
Breaking Bad:

Article about R.J. Mitte, the young actor who played Walter Junior/Flynn in Breaking Bad. The other day I've come across a wisecrack again that Junior/Flynn gets no characterisation in the show beyond liking breakfast, and that's rubbish. He's not a main character, but he's a part of what made Breaking Bad great - here's a very good discussion of what the show does with him - and acting wise, I can think of no higher compliment than by the time we get to Ozymandias in season 5, R.J. Mitte is able to hold my attention for his character and his character's reactions in what is arguably the show's finest hour when all the main characters and their actors bring on their A-Game.

Buffy and The Hunger Game:

Katniss, Buffy and the cost of heroism

and the earlier:

Mockingjay and Season 6:

Both have spoilers for the entire Hunger Games book trilogy, so if you're a movies only fan and don't want to be spoiled for the second half of Mockingjay, beware. Otherwise, good posts pointing out the thematic similarities. I don't agree with all the points re: the movie adaptions, but these posts are very thought inspiring.

Doctor Who:

And lastly, a fun viewing: Dancing to the Doctor Who theme at the Cardiff airport in 1979!
That started promisingly.

Why does this keep happening? )
First world problems: no Good Wife or Agent Carter yet for me (come through, Itunes, come through!). Also Darth Real Life keeps me really busy these days. Still, I have had an unexpected attack of Vir (from Babylon 5) feelings. He really is one of the most endearing characters ever, and one of the few where the balance between loyalty/friendship and individual conscience works just perfectly for me. Vir's affection for Londo at no point means he accepts Londo's rationalizations for wrongness. And he doesn't just have scruples, he does something about this (as in: actively helping, see Abramo Lincolni). Conversely, he never gives up on Londo, and imo that's a big part of why many a viewer doesn't, either. And lastly, the fact that it's Vir who makes Londo finally turn around and face himself/his deeds/G'Kar in The Very Long Night of Londo Mollari is possibly my favourite part in my favourite dream episode: "I'd miss you." "And I suppose I would miss you", and he turns around; still one of my favourite examples of two characters saying "I love you" without using these words.

In another fandom entirely: Neat article by Russell T. Davies and Aidan Gillen on the creation of QUEER AS FOLK.
After a series of mysteries known collectively as Roma Sub Rosa, starring Gordianus the Finder and taking place in the last decades of the Roman Republic, author Steven Saylor in his last book switched genres, so to speak, and did something of a reboot that isn't a reboot, in that he took his main character back to said character's youth (uncovered by the previous mystery novels) and basically wrote an entertaining travel book, The Seven Wonders, which I reviewed here and in which a young Gordianus does the grand tour of the ancient world.

Now, it turns out this was merely the beginning of a new series, because Saylor has published Raiders of the Nile, which is a jolly good adventure story. (I have one nitpick, about which more in a minute, but hey.) Still starring a young and thus much more naive Gordianus, who now lives in Alexandria (where we left him in The Seven Wonders), and goes through the type of plot that if you're familiar with Shakespeare's Comedy of Errors and a few Plautus plays will resonate doubly, because Saylor has great fun paying homage to same: pirates, treasure, twins separated and reunited, assumed identities, and a grand climax with recognition scenes and every player showing up. What it isn't is a mystery, but then it never claims to be. In his afterword Saylor mentions needing an escape from the vicious world of Roman politics Gordianus is entangled with as a mature man, and I suspect he also needed a break from the mystery formula, because the last novel he wrote starring an older Gordianus, The Triumph of Caesar, was barely one and the case solution owed nothing to detection.

Anyway, Raiders of the Nile, like its predecessor, feels like a breath of fresh air. My one nitpick/complaint is continuity related, and it's not about the content as it is about what I missed. Because at the end of The Seven Wonders Gordianus has just encountered Bethesda, the slave he'll later free and marry in the other series, and at the beginning of Raiders of the Nile, they're already an established couple, and since the plot of Raiders is kicked off by Bethesda getting kidnapped in a case of identity confusion, she's not very present in the rest of the novel, either. Because Bethesda is a vivid character but one that exists in a series of cameos in the Roma Sub Rosa novels, I would have liked to get one novel where she shares an adventure as a major character, and I also can't help but feel Saylor is cheating a bit in letting young Gordianus angst somewhat through the novel on getting sexually and emotionally involved with a slave, something his father warned him against, but because Bethesda his hardly present in the novel avoiding her pov on this.

This being said, on its own merit, as mentioned, Raiders of the Nile is simply great fun. It's also the third or so novel I've read where someone has designs on the body of Alexander the Great; I tell you, that man's corpse must have been the most irresistable for bodysnatchers in the ancient world. (And yes, our hero and the band of pirates he has to go undercover with in order to rescue his beloved have to break into the tomb first, which I can tell you because it's the opening scene of the book. Among other adventure tropes, "heist" is covered in this novel as well.) You can read it without knowing the Roma Sub Rosa series, or even The Seven Wonders, just on its own account. If you are familiar with Saylor's other books, you'll recognize some archetypes - the charismatic, seductive yet also unreliable and ruthless leader (Catilina and Caesar say hello), the clever slave boy who becomes Gordianus' sidekick, for example - but circumstances are sufficiently different that this familiarity doesn't mean you'll know what will happen with these types. And Ptolemaic Egypt a few decades before the Roman takeover is such a fascinating place, which Saylor has great joy in conjuring up. Lastly: there is a scene where Gordianus has to choose between a crocodile and a lion. Because that's the type of novel we're in. Perfect if you need some distraction in historical surroundings and aren't in the mood for something heavy.


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