Category Archives: Film/Television

The Magicians – CANADIANS SET YOUR PVR ALERT

MAGIC IS A DRUG

It’s been a long time since Harry Potter for a lot of us and if the Dresden Files just aren’t getting it done The Magicians may just be your thing. The previews look amazing and look out for a show versus the book review coming soon from teachergirl73!

Premieres tonight at 9 p.m. – January 25th on Showcase

S1 – Ep 1 Unauthorized Magic – Based on Lev Grossman’s best-selling book series, The Magicians follows Quentin Coldwater, a highly intelligent but socially withdrawn twenty-something secretly obsessed with a series of fantasy novels he read as achild about a magical land called Fillory. Beyond that, Quentin’s life is dull until he finds himself admitted to a very secret, exclusive college of magic in Upstate New York, where he receives a thorough and rigorouseducation in the practice of modern sorcery. However, magic doesn’t bring the happiness, adventure, and meaning that he thought it would…until he and his friends discover that Fillory is real.

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ABOUT THE BOOK

book-magiciansLike everyone else, precocious high school senior Quentin Coldwater assumes that magic isn’t real, until he finds himself admitted to a very secretive and exclusive college of magic in upstate New York. There he indulges in joys of college-friendship, love, sex, and booze- and receives a rigorous education in modern sorcery. But magic doesn’t bring the happiness and adventure Quentin thought it would. After graduation, he and his friends stumble upon a secret that sets them on a remarkable journey that may just fulfill Quentin’s yearning. But their journey turns out to be darker and more dangerous than they’d imagined.

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Poldark Series – Better Than Downton?

Better Than Downton?

  • RossPoldarkCover2015-2Title: Ross Poldark: A Novel of Cornwall
  • Author: Winston Graham
  • ISBN13: 9781447281528
  • Series: The Poldark Saga #1
  • Published: Published February 12th 2015 by Pan Macmillan (first published 1945)
  • Format: Paperback
  • Genre/s: Historical Fiction
  • Source: Puchased
  • Rating: A

SYNOPSIS – (From Goodreads) Tired from a grim war in America, Ross Poldark returns to his land and his family. But the joyful homecoming he has anticipated turns sour, for his father is dead, his estate is derelict and the girl he loves is engaged to his cousin.

But his sympathy for the destitute miners and farmers of the district leads him to rescue a half-starved urchin girl from a fairground brawl and take her home – an act which alters the whole course of his life . . .

Though it may not feel like it outside, we do live in Canada after all and the climate can be uncertain at best, the dog days of summer are fast approaching. The time of year that used to be a barren wasteland of reruns has now evolved into a trial period of sorts for new television programming some good and some bad case in point Under the Dome. To which my husband refers to ironically as our favourite comedy series but I digress.

This year, however I am waiting with bated breath for the latest adaptation from BBC One of Winston Graham’s classic Poldark saga. First published in 1945, it was a great favourite of my mother’s family and watching reruns of the original 1975 series are some of my best television watching memories.

http://www.radiotimes.com/news/2015-03-08/original-poldark-robin-ellis-looks-back-on-his-1970s-swashbuckling-2
Poldark (1975) Robin Ellis as Ross and Angharad Rees as Demelza on the Cornish coast.

Better than Downton, say it isn’t so. Shocking as the statement may be the answer is likely “yes”. Now don’t get me wrong I was so moved by Matthew and Mary’s trials and tribulations that I stayed up all night watching season three only to have the finale spoiled literally hours before I planned to watch it. Whereas the love triangle at the centre of the Poldark Saga is stuff of legend and by comparison Downton Abbey without Matthew is just a sad, sad thing that not even Carson and Mrs. Hughes engagement could revive.

I know many of us need another book series to read like we need another hole in the head but that never stops us from hoarding them all the same. The Poldark Saga consists of a weighty twelve volumes of which the first six focus largely on Ross’ exploits and the remainder concerning his decedents though I have not read them all I may have to revisit this compelling family in the near future. Regardless of whether I dive into those particular literary waters again, I for one will be watching Poldark when it premieres on PBS June 21st and if you are one of those people who has to read the story in advance there is still time!

About the Author

main.winston-portraitWinston Graham was the author of forty novels. His books have been widely translated and the Poldark series has been developed into two television series, shown in 22 countries. Six of Winston Graham’s books have been filmed for the big screen, the most notable being Marnie, directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Winston Graham was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and in 1983 was awarded the O.B.E..

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#Droughtlander is Over…Finally! GUEST POST

GUEST POST – teachergirl73

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I think that for all of us who are fans of Outlander, the television series, we can all agree that the return of Outlander couldn’t have come soon enough. The second half of the series kicked off with a bang as we were brought right back to where we left off, at the garrison of Fort William where Claire was being held captive by Captain “Black Jack” Randall. This episode, named “The Reckoning”, was different from the first half of the season because there is a change in narration. The episode is told exclusively from Jamie’s point of view. It was a real treat to hear Jamie’s voice as the central focus since the novels are primarily written from Claire’s perspective. All along I’ve really enjoyed the changes that the show’s writers have made because I strongly feel like they have only served to enhance and improve on the storytelling. These changes have given a voice to the thoughts and actions of the other characters in the story. Whether it’s additional scenes, dialogue or even just a lingering focus on a character’s facial expression, the creativity of the show’s writers has filled out the story in new and wonderfully, unexpected ways.

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If you have read the book, then you are well aware that there are some traumatic events to come, and I know that I am eagerly waiting in anticipation to see how the show will deal with the developments between Claire, Jamie and of course, Captain Randall.  One sensitive issue was the spanking scene, which caused much speculation between die-hard fans.  In the book, Jamie had to deliver corporal punishment to his wife for putting all of the Mackenzie men at risk by disobeying his instructions to stay put when he left to confront a deserter from British army who might be able to help clear his name. When the Mackenzie men mounted the attack to rescue Claire from the clutches of Randall, she put everyone’s lives at risk. The show kept very close to the original plot line and I thought that both Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe did a fantastic job pulling off what must have been a difficult scene to navigate.

In Episode 10, “By The Pricking of My Thumbs”, we begin the lead up to a significant twist in the plot that changes the course for Jamie and Claire. There were some excellent scenes and dialogue added that were the perfect complement to the story, such as Dougal’s drunken meltdown upon hearing of his wife’s passing or Laoghaire’s stubborn refusal to accept Jamie’s marriage when Claire confronted her about the ill-wish. There’s also a scene where Claire stumbled upon Geilles conducting a very similar pagan ritual dance that she witnessed at Craigh na Dun the night before she disappeared from Inverness in 1945. We also finally understand how Jamie became involved in a duel, an event that does not occur in Outlander (but does happen later on in in the series). This scene had been in the previews for the second half of the season and it left me wondering how the duel actually came to be.

The episode wraps up with Claire being swept up in the drama surrounding Geilles Duncan, and so once again, Claire’s life is in peril because she didn’t listen to her husband’s advice to stay away from Geilles. Oh the would-have, should-have, could-haves that plague Claire! Even though, I’m well familiar with what is to come, I find myself waiting with great anticipation for the last half of the season to unfold.

Bitten Is Back…Should We Care? GUEST POST

GUEST POST – teachergirl73

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After reviewing the first season of Bitten last year, the television show based on the novel and characters created by Kelley Armstrong, I tried to keep an open mind to the inevitable changes that would come with the show’s re-interpretation of the story. The show’s writers killed off Antonio Sorrentino, who was Jeremy the Pack Alpha’s best friend and father to Nick, while choosing to keep Logan, one of the younger Pack members, alive. Both of these events are completely opposite to what happened in the book. Antonio is still alive in the series (to the best of my knowledge) and Logan, whose death in the novel was not only tragic and shocking to the Pack but more importantly it was a key catalyst for the war between the Mutts and the Pack.

Bitten-poster-Space-season-2-2015At the end of Season 1, the audience was left with a clear idea of how Season 2 would begin as Elena Michaels found the severed head of her former boyfriend, Philip, in her bed. Since Elena, had just come to terms with her wolf side and her tumultuous relationship with Clay, her mate, the grisly discovery of Philip’s remains pushed her over the edge. As Philip became one of the last casualties of the war between the Mutts and the Pack, this new twist in the story is bound to impact the reunion of Clay and Elena. We are also left wondering what will happen to Logan’s pregnant human girlfriend has she gets kidnapped by Jeremy Danver’s sadistic father Malcolm, the mastermind behind the Mutt attack on the Pack. As alpha, Jeremy is left cleaning up the mess left over from the Mutt attack at his family home Stonehaven, along with taking care of what is left of his Pack in the aftermath. For the most part, I thought the show improved over the course of the first season, and I found myself enjoying the story for what it was.

bitten-posterSo what do I think now that I’ve watched the first two episodes of Season 2? Honestly, I don’t know. There seems to be something missing in the chemistry between the Pack members, especially between Clay and Elena. The season begins with her seeking vengeance for Philip’s murder. Elena already felt guilty for turning Philip’s life upside down, but the responsibility that she now feels for his death is clearly taking its toll on her. In the novel, Elena chooses Clay when he is taken by the Mutts near the end of the first book. It becomes very clear that he is what she wants and that although they will never have a “fairytale” romance, Elena couldn’t deny that Clay was her mate any longer. In the novel, Elena felt badly because Philip got caught in the crossfire but he went on to live without her. In the show, she chooses Clay because she realizes that he bit her to save her being killed by Jeremy (a MAJOR deviation in story line from the novel) and that he took all the years of abuse from her because he was being loyal to his alpha.

The complication of Philip’s murder is not helping Clay and Elena’s relationship. Now, Greyston Holt, who plays Clay Danvers, might be the best part of the show for me, as he is beautiful to look at and one of the better performers on the show. Steve Lund, who plays Nick Sorrentino, is also quite gorgeous and suprisingly, I’ve found his performances to be much better than I expected. In the novel, Nick is fun and immature whereas in the show, they have matured Nick since the death of his father, and that has been interesting to watch.

The problem that I’m having is that I don’t think the show is being true to the relationships in the book. Character development was what I found to be the weakness in Season 1, so I guess it’s not that surprising this problem has carried over into the second season. The relationship between Clay and Elena is complicated, but ultimately, it is clear that they are meant to be together in the books. Yet, as I watch these characters who are supposed to be mates for life, it still feels like there’s something missing. As for the Pack, there’s no sense of “family” connecting its members. Jeremy still seems to feel the need to rule with a heavy hand to get everyone to do what he wants but that’s just not how the Pack operates in the novel. The Pack are a family, living together throughout the good times and bad, and that is something that the show’s writers need to work on if they want to project the same image.

A new problem for the Pack this season comes in the form of some new supernatural characters who also originate from Armstrong’s “Women of the Otherworld” series. These characters show the wolves that they aren’t the only creatures hiding in plain sight of the humans. My biggest concern with the introduction of these new characters is that the show’s writers already have enough “balls in the air” so to speak and I have little confidence that they can handle the addition of any more characters.

I will keep watching Season 2, if only to appease my curiosity, but if the show doesn’t improve the interaction between its characters making them more real and believable, I’m not sure there will be a Season 3 to watch.

Watch it Saturdays at 9e 10p or online at www.space.ca

 

 

Death Comes to Pemberley – Mini-Series Review

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GUEST REVIEWER – teachergirl73

I was very excited about the television adaptation of Death Comes to Pemberley which aired in early November on PBS’ Masterpiece Theatre. I had read the novel by P.D. James shortly after it was first released, and quite enjoyed the ode to Jane Austen mixed with a very well written police procedural that seemed fitting to the time.

71vOCbpMFoL._SL1280_Amazon.com – It is the eve of the Darcys’ annual ball at their magnificent Pemberley estate. Darcy and Elizabeth, now six years married, are relaxing with their guests after supper when the festivities are brought to an abrupt halt. A scream calls them to the window and a hysterical Lydia Wickham tumbles out of a carriage shrieking, “Murder!” What follows is the somber discovery of a dead man in Pemberley woods, a brother accused of murder, and the beginning of a nightmare that will threaten to engulf Pemberley and all the Darcys hold dear.

 

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I am a huge fan of Masterpiece Theatre and usually any import from across the pond is my cuppa tea, whether it is a period piece or contemporary drama. I fully expected to have the same feelings about Death Comes to Pemberley as I do about Downton Abbey or Sherlock. Sadly, instead of finding another great piece to satisfy my need for British drama, instead, I was left with disappointment. The scenery and setting were beautiful and the casting of Matthew Goode as Mr. Wickham and Jenna Coleman as Lydia Bennet was superb. Coleman’s performance as Lydia, might be the best interpretation of the character that I have ever seen.  It truly was a gifted performance. Goode’s take on Mr. Wickham was also very well done, pulling off the dashing, young cad beautifully.

The Wickhams as protrayed by Matthew Goode and Jenna Coleman in Death Comes to Pemberley

As for the lord and lady of the manor, from almost the beginning, I found that the relationship between Mr. Darcy and his wife Elizabeth, played by Matthew Rhys and Anna Maxwell Martin lacked any real connection. They were not the happily married couple with a young family that we found in James’ novel and as we would expect to find in the years following the original story of Pride and Prejudice. Instead, I found the relationship between Darcy and Elizabeth without any passion, and once the crisis hit, Darcy’s attitude towards his wife was simply unbelievable. To say that it was ungentlemanly would be a severe understatement.

After the first part of the series aired, I was very puzzled by the direction that the creators of the show decided to take, but I still held out hope that in the second night, the series would pull it together and demonstrate a credible reason for the disintegration of the Darcys’ marriage. It did not, and when at the end the writers decided it was time to wrap up everything with a nice, neat, tidy little bow, the reconciliation between Darcy and Elizabeth was not even remotely believable. In the novel, Darcy and Elizabeth stand together as a united front in the chaos that followed the aftermath of a murder on the grounds of Pemberley right through to the subsequent trial.

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James, P.D. Death Comes to Pemberley, Toronto: Vintage Canada, 2012, p. 105.

Even if you hadn’t read the novel prior to watching the mini-series, I still feel like most Pride and Prejudice fans would be confused with Mr. Darcy’s openly hostile behaviour towards his wife throughout most of the show. This point prevented me from getting any real enjoyment out of the series because it felt so false.

The Darcys as protrayed by Matthew Rhys and Anna Maxwell Martin in the series.

So, you win some and you lose some…I’ll just have to wait for the return of Downton Abbey on Sunday, January 4th, 2015, and in the meantime, I’ll just re-watch Pride and Prejudice over the holidays.

 

Outlander S1, Ep. 8 “Both Sides Now” Mid-Season Finale

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GUEST REVIEWER – teachergirl73

Episode 8 – Both Sides Now

It’s hard to believe that we won’t be getting anymore Outlander until next spring. To be exact, April 4th in the U.S. on Starz, and for those of us living in Canada, Showcase has posted on their website an ambiguous “April 2015” return date. All I can say is that I hope we don’t have to wait an extra three weeks to watch the second half of the season like we did with the first half, but I know that I’m just deluding myself to think otherwise!

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In this mid-season finale, I finally get an answer to the question that I asked 15 years ago, which was “But what about Frank?!”. In her review of Episode Seven, “The Wedding”, Andrea discussed how her feelings about how difficult it must have been for Claire being torn between Frank, her husband back in the future and Jamie, the husband of her present circumstances. As the story progresses, we know that Jamie and Claire were meant to be together, and that the relationship that she has with him has a greater depth than the one she had with Frank. But we never really get to see what it was like for Frank after his wife disappeared. I think that was likely done intentionally so as not to detract from Claire and Jamie’s story. Although, perhaps Diana Gabaldon did have plans for Frank and that part of the manuscript ended up on the editing room floor? Regardless, I really enjoyed the show’s interpretation of what might have happened to Frank.

Outlander_108_Frank

The episode opens with Frank desperate and desolate at the police station in Inverness. As Frank makes another attempt to get the detective to work harder to find Claire, it becomes clear that the police no longer believe that she is missing but rather that she has run off with her lover. After Frank reported that he caught a man the night before Claire disappeared gazing mournfully up at her window, the police decided that Claire and this mysterious Highlander must be lovers and that Frank needed to accept that he had been dumped.  Later that night, as Frank drowns his sorrows at the local pub he is approached by a woman who supposedly has information about the “Highlander” suspect that Frank has been searching for. I have to say that if Frank fell for the ploy of “come meet me in a dark alley after midnight and don’t forget the money!” I might have had a few choice words for my television, but as it was, Frank was clearly not that overcome with grief to see the con for what it was. We get to see a little of that “Black Jack” streak when Frank comes face-to-face with his would-be attackers. As he nearly beats a man to death and roughs up the woman sent in to lure him in the first place, we see that perhaps Frank has more backbone then we think. The mild-mannered Frank, was not so mild and certainly not very well-mannered.  Reverend Wakefield gives Frank a cautionary pep talk about “drinking from the poisoned cup” and that Frank should never let himself sink so low again.

Outlander 2014Back in the 1740’s, Claire and Jamie are enjoying the “honeymoon” period of their new marriage. All seems to be going swimmingly well, until the happy couple are set up some red coat deserters  as they are in the middle of an intimate moment in a meadow where they were suppose to be searching for medicinal herbs. Claire is forced to save herself from being raped and from Jamie having to watch at gun point by using her newly acquired self-defense skills with a dagger.  In the aftermath of the incident, it is clear that the honeymoon was over, as Jamie and Claire struggle with their feelings about what happened. Jamie feels impotent and Claire is angry at him for letting them get into that situation in the first place. This incident is key to the next poor decision that Claire makes…and for those of you haven’t read the book yet, trust me, Claire makes many more bone-headed moves in her lifetime! She is unceremoniously left behind as the men ride off to try to get some witness testimony that might help clear Jamie’s name. It is at this point that the book and show take very different paths to get to the same point.

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In the book, Claire willingly makes the decision to walk away and try to find Craigh na Dun but in the show it appears to be less of a choice and more of a coincidence that she finds herself back where she started. The split screen technique of Claire and Frank both heading towards the stones that could reunite them, was very well done. The cinematography and music to the calling to each other through time was exquisite, then to have Claire come within reach of returning to Frank only to be taken by some red coat soldiers was simply the icing on the cake. We see Frank leaving, dejected and heartbroken, while Claire is hauled off to her inevitable meeting with Captain Jack Randall.

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The details of Claire’s confrontation with Randall vary slightly from the book, but the essential parts are there. Claire tries to bluff her way out of an interrogation by Randall, which as usual fails miserably. We are left with Jamie bursting through a window demanding that Randall “take his hands off” his wife just as he was about to torture Claire. This is where we leave our not-so-happy couple until next April. Sigh.

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After many conversations with friends who have read the book, there was much speculation about where the story might leave off for this mid-season finale, I have to say that I thought we might have made it farther through the story, and now I don’t see how book one of the series can be completed in only 16 episodes which means we will likely see this book stretch into Season Two. There’s certainly enough story to go around, so now the question is just how far will they get in the next 8 episodes? The good thing about having the season split in two is that it gives us time to savour the episodes.  You may also want to check out the free pod-casts on iTunes to hear Ronald D. Moore’s commentary of each episode. I have listened to the first episode podcast and found it very interesting to hear Moore’s reflections as the episode unfolded.

Outlander: The Official Podcast  https://itunes.apple.com/ca/podcast/outlander-official-podcast/id910631883?mt=2

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29d5959d53924a4acabf65e21a5e6756In that moment, the reason for my bitterness became clear to me. I wasn’t angry at Jamie or the Redcoat deserters. I was angry at myself for forgetting about my plan to make my way back to the stones at Craigh na Dun, my plan to return to my own time, to my husband, Frank. – Claire Fraser, Both Sides Now

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“Death Comes to Pemberley” Miniseries

GUEST REVIEWER – teachergirl73

Death Comes to Pemberley book cover 2

Beginning Sunday, October 26th, the first episode of PBS’ Masterpiece Theatre, Death Comes to Pemberley, will air. The two-night miniseries event is based on the P.D. James 2011 novel of the same name. I’m looking forward to watching the mini-series to compare it to my thoughts on the novel. I felt that James did a very good job of marrying a story line worthy of Austen herself with that of a modern-day police procedural drama.  The setting of the story takes place in and around the grounds of the Pemberley estate, and we have our expected cast of characters such as Mr. D’Arcy, his new wife Elizabeth Bennet, her sister Jane Bennet and her husband Mr. Bingley. Where the story takes off is almost right at the start with the unexpected and not really welcome late night arrival of a hysterical Lydia Bennet and her good-for-nothing husband Mr. Wickham, who have managed to become embroiled in a murder.

the wickhams

 

I’ll not say anything more about the plot, but if you are a fan of Pride and Prejudice, then you might want to check out this very interesting continuation of the story.

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Another interesting note is the social media promotion that PBS will be launching tomorrow night, encouraging viewers to live tweet during the show. Check out the link below for more details on what hashtags to use  http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/masterpiece/programs/features/twitter-event/death-comes-to-pemberley-twitter-event/

And if you need a refresher, there’s a very succinct update here:

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/masterpiece/programs/features/catch-up/death-comes-pemberley-s1-pride-prejudice-refresher/

The conclusion of the series will run on Sunday, November 2, 2014.