Tag Archives: England

Operation Mincemeat Movie Review

When it seems that every story about World War II has been told, the door opens to reveal additional narratives that have remained hidden.

The new Netflix film, Operation Mincemeat premiered last week. Based on a book by Ben Macintyre, it tells the story of a secret mission to end the war via a corpse and false papers.

Among those who are in on the secret are Ewen Montagu (Colin Firth), Charles Cholmondeley (Matthew MacFadyen), future James Bond creator Ian Fleming (Johnny Flynn), Jean Leslie (Kelly Macdonald), and Hester Leggett (Penelope Wilton). They know that if they succeed, it could mean victory for the Allies. But getting to that point requires strategy, timing, skill, and a little bit of luck.

For obvious reasons, the movie was a must-see. A cast chock full of Austen actors (including the two most popular Fitzwilliam Darcys), a spy thriller set in World War II-era England, and the fight for freedom against tyranny.

I have mixed feelings about it. What was good was that the main female characters were initially more than secretaries, love interests/spouses/female family members, and background characters. They were as important to the mission as their male colleagues. I also very much appreciated the subtle reference to the Holocaust and the destruction of European Jewry. It reveals that the Allies once again knew what was going on, but did nothing to stop it (which is another topic for another time).

What was bad is that about halfway through the film, I started to lose interest. It was as if the screenwriter(s) just gave up. The other thing that bugged me was the love triangle between Charles, Jean, and Ewen. It felt unnecessary. It also trivializes Jean, making her little more than the wannabe romantic significant other instead of an integral part of the group.

Do I recommend it? Disappointingly, no.

Operation Mincemeat is available for streaming on Netflix.

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Filed under Books, Feminism, History, Jane Austen, Judaism, Movie Review, Movies, Netflix, Pride and Prejudice

Throwback Thursday: The White Queen (2013)

Women have always been the power behind the throne. But for all of that power, we are still fighting for the right to be acknowledged as leaders.

The 2013 Starz ten-part miniseries, The White Queen, takes place during the War of the Roses in 15th century England. The prequel to The White Princess, the series follows three women who all vie for the throne. The first woman is Elizabeth Woodville (Rebecca Ferguson), whose marriage to Edward IV (Max Irons), is not exactly welcomed with open arms. The second is Lady Margaret Beaufort (Amanda Hale), the matriarch of the future Tudor dynasty. The third woman is Anne Neville (Faye Marsay).

As each woman battles it out for her right to the crown, the country is thrown into a bloody battle. Someone is going to walk away the winner, but not before lives are lost and history is forever changed.

The series was and still is, intriguing. Obviously, being an American, this subject was not part of the curriculum while I was in school. While the casting is spot on and I love that the women are front and center, I found that the ending lagged a little bit. Other than that, it is thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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Ridley Road Review

Hate, in all of its forms, is always around us. It is an unfortunate part of the human experience. Despite our advances in science, medicine, education, and technology, it remains ever-present.

The new Masterpiece series, Ridley Road (based on the book of the same name by Jo Bloom) premiered last weekend. The heroine of the series, Vivian Epstein (Agnes O’Casey) is the daughter of a Jewish family in England in the early 1960s. She is expected to live as her mother and grandmothers did before her: give up her job, marry the boy chosen for her, and take care of her husband and children. But Vivian wants to be more than a housewife and mother.

She follows her boyfriend Jack Morris (Tom Varey) to London. Jack is a part of the 62 group, an underground Jewish organization who are fighting against the growing fascism in the UK. Going undercover as a member of the neo-nazi group led by Colin Jordan (Rory Kinnear), both Vivian and Jack play a dangerous game of going along with their new identities while trying to keep their relationship alive.

I am absolutely loving this series so far. It’s James Bond meets a love story with a feminist coming of age narrative and a background of combating prejudice. What makes the program for me is that our heroes are ordinary people. It is, I think a reminder that change does not always come from the top. It comes from the person on the street who sees a wrong and does what they can to right that wrong.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Ridley Road airs on PBS on Sunday night at 9PM EST.

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Throwback Thursday: The White Princess (2017)

When we are told of fairy tales, of Princes and Princesses, of Kings and Queens, most of the narratives end in the same way. The reality of this world is not as black and white and far more complicated.

The 2017 Hulu miniseries, The White Princess (based on the Phillipa Gregory book of the same name), is the story of the marriage of Elizabeth of York (Jodie Comer) and Henry VII (Jacob Collins-Levy). It starts off as a marriage of convenience, to end a decades-long civil war. The obstacles are many: Henry’s controlling mother, Magaret Beaufort (Michelle Fairley), Elizabeth’s love for another, and the belief that a missing York heir could unseat Henry from the throne.

If this union cannot bring England together, it could mean another generation who will know nothing but bloodshed and death. When a young man appears, claiming to be Elizabeth’s brother and the rightful heir, the fate of the nation rests on the shoulders of the young Queen. Does she follow her heart and the husband whom she has fallen in love with? Or does she choose her family over Henry?

This series is so good. The acting is superb, the drama is nailbiting and the power behind the throne is the women. What they lack in rights and a voice, they make up in intelligence, fortitude, and a backbone is nothing short of badass.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

The White Princess is avaliable for streaming on Hulu.

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Around the World in 80 Days Review

When we travel, we do more than step out of our comfortable bubbles. We see the world from another perspective and perhaps learn from that perspective.

The new Masterpiece/PBS series, Around the World in 80 Days, is an eight-episode miniseries based on the Jules Verne book of the same name. The program stars David Tennant as Phileas Fogg, Ibrahim Koma as Passepartout, and Leonie Benesch as Abigail “Fix” Fortescue. Their goal (as explained by the title), is to travel to different parts of the globe and return to England within 80 days of their departure date.

To be clear, I have not read the book. I have heard of it, but it has yet to be on my TBR list. This review is based solely on the television program.

The problem is that whatever it is that should hook me in is missing. Maybe it’s because I’m not really a fan of Verne or his books. Or maybe it’s that I was just bored.

Do I recommend it? No.

Around the World in 80 Days airs on PBS on Sunday nights at 8PM.

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Mansfield Park Character Review: Edmund Bertram

*The schedule for the Character Review posts will be changing to Friday (or Saturday at the latest from now on).

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the novel Mansfield Park. Read at your own risk if you have not read the book or watched any of the adaptations. There is something to be said about a well-written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front of us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations. Idealism is a wonderful thing. It allows us to see the world as we would like it to be. But, as great as it is, it must be tempered with realism. In Mansfield Park, Edmund Bertram is an idealistic young man who must learn to take the rose-colored glasses in order to see the truth.

His initial appearance occurs when he is a young man. His cousin, Fanny Price, has just been taken in by his parents. While the rest of his family mocks and looks down upon Fanny, he is the only one to show her kindness. His initial treatment of her is that of an older sibling. He encourages her to use her natural-born intellect and provides the confidence she needs to stay sane.

As a younger son, Edmund knows that he must find employment. Primogeniture was both the custom and the law of the land. His older brother Thomas, by virtue of being born first, will inherit the whole kit and caboodle. The most common professions for men in his situation are either the military, the law, or the Church. His choice is to become a man of the cloth.

When his father and brother leave England for Antigua, Edmund is the unofficial man of the house. He tries to take his role seriously. But his intentions don’t exactly come to fruition due to the engagement of his sister Maria and the entry of Mary and Henry Crawford into their lives. When Thomas returns home without their father, he decides to put together a family theatrical, much to his brother’s dismay. But Edmund eventually agrees, trying to keep some semblance of propriety. The early arrival of Sir Thomas ends the play before it has the chance to begin.

Edmund begins to fall for the vivacious and outgoing Mary, in spite of her numerous attempts to convince him to choose another line of work. During the ball for Fanny, he drops the idea of proposing to Mary, finally realizing that she will never accept him for who he is. He also does not recognize that Fanny is in love with him.

After Fanny rejects Henry’s marriage proposal, he tries to get her to see reason. On paper, Fanny could do a lot worse in terms of a husband. But she still refuses to change her mind and is sent back to her parent’s house. During this time, Thomas gets dangerously sick and Maria elopes with Henry. Mary attempts to comfort the Betrams by assuming that Tom will die and Edmund will be the heir.

Whatever visions of his future with Mary disappear. They are incompatible and will not live happily ever after. The book ends when he sees that the person he is meant for, Fanny, has been there all along.

To sum it up: Learning to see the truth vs. what we want to see is not easy. It requires knowledge and courage, specifically when the experience may be painful. But Edmund is able to get through all that, marry the woman he loves, and have a satisfying career.

Which is why he is a memorable character.

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Belfast Movie Review

In theory, childhood should be a time of innocence, fun, and protection from the grey areas that we experience as adults. But as much as our parents and grandparents would like to shield us from the wider world, it will still find its way in.

The new movie, Belfast, takes place in a working-class neighborhood in the Northern Ireland city of Belfast in 1969. Shot in black and white, the film opens on an ordinary afternoon. Children are playing while adults do their errands and go about their business. When a Protestant mob takes over the street and starts destroying the homes and property of Catholic residents, the life of a young man named Buddy (Jude Hill) is forever changed. His father (Jamie Dornan) works in England in construction and comes home on weekends. His mother (Caitriona Balfe) is doing the best she can to raise Buddy and his older brother Will (Lewis McAskie) on a limited income. When Buddy is not at home or at school, he is in the company of his grandfather (Ciaran Hinds) and his grandmother (Dame Judi Dench).

With the political and religious tension ratcheting up, the family has to make a choice. Do they stay and find a way to live as normally as possible? Or do they take a chance elsewhere?

Written and directed by Kenneth Branagh, the praise is well deserved. Hill’s performance is equally innocent and charming. When we talk about war and prejudice, it is often seen through the eyes of one who is no longer a child. But when it is seen through the eyes of a young person, the perspective is completely different. There is still hope, even when it is tinged by fear or anxiety.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Belfast is presently in theaters.

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Flashback Friday: The Sword in the Stone (1963)

A good origin story, when well done, can fill in the gaps and answer questions about a character’s back story. When we know where this person has been, it allows the audience to understand them and perhaps, not be so judgemental about where they are going.

The Sword in the Stone (1963) is Disney‘s answer to the origin story of King Arthur. Based on the book by T.H. White, the movie follows a young boy named Arthur, also known as Wart (voiced by Rickie Sorensen, Richard Reitherman, and Robert Reitherman). Young, orphaned, and poor, he is looked down upon by those around him. When he meets Merlin (voiced by Karl Swenson), Arthur goes on an emotional, psychological, and physical journey that will eventually lead him to the throne of England.

Animation-wise, this is Disney at its best. The technical abilities to bring this movie to life is awe-inspiring. But the narrative is rather simple. Granted, I have not been the target audience for a very long time. But as an adult, I would prefer a little more complexity and less in-your-face-ness. I would also appreciate it if the female characters (who are limited in number compared to the male characters) had been given the opportunity to move beyond the 2D boxes they were kept in.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

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Throwback Thursday: Howards End (1992)

The appeal of adapting a beloved novel for the stage or the screen is never easy. It has to be as true as possible to the original text. However, there may be the necessity of some changes, which may not or may not please those who love the story in its original form.

The 1992 film, Howards End, is based on the book by E.M. Forster. It is the story of three different families from three different social strata in early 20th century England. The Wilcox family is firmly entombed within the upper class. The Schlagels are middle class and believe in helping others who are not so fortunate. The Basts are at the bottom of the barrel and doing their best to survive. Starring Anthony Hopkins, Emma Thompson, and Helena Bonham Carter, it is a story of class, breaking boundaries, and getting to know someone beyond where they are in the social hierarchy.

This movie is amazing. Not only is this BPD adaption loyal to the book, but it is well written, well acted, and thoroughly engaging. It immediately hooks the audience, taking them on a ride that is unexpected and not forgotten anytime soon.

Do I reccommend it? Yes.

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The War of the Worlds Review

Every genre has its founding work and author. In science fiction, that seminal work is The War of the Worlds and the author is H.G. Wells. His story of alien invasion has both thrilled and scared audiences for generations.

One of the most recent adaptions was released in 2019. Starring Eleanor Tomlinson, Rafe Spall, and Robert Carlyle, this version takes place in Edwardian era England. George (Spall) and Amy (Tomlinson) are living happily in un-wedded bliss. Shunned by most of the people around them because he is still married to someone else, their spent much of their time with Ogilvy (Carlyle). Ogilvy is a scientist whose methods and reputation are considered to be questionable by the establishment. George and Amy’s bliss is interrupted by an alien invasion from Mars. Now it is a question of survival, not just for them, but the future of the human race.

I truly enjoyed this three part miniseries. It was suspenseful, riveting, and extremely engaging. I haven’t read the book yet, so I can’t speak to what changes have been made. But I can say with certainty that if this is one of the definitive adaptations (with the most famous being the 1938 radio broadcast by Orson Welles), it has piqued my curiosity about the original text.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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