Links of Import

Thursday, July 21, 2011

North and South (2004)

North & South is an adaption of Elizabeth Gaskell’s novel (not the American North v. South TV series, although easily mistaken for it in conversation.) I set out to review the series, but found myself focusing on Thornton. So here ya go! A Thornton review.

I think I read Richard Armitage saying in an interview somewhere that he didn’t believe that Thornton was a very romantic character. To you, sir, I say right on. Right. On. You obviously do not know how attractive you are, and I admire that in a super-famous dude. Not that Mr. Thornton is a creeper, but good looks do wonders for making otherwise weird, brooding characters really compelling to female audiences.

Exhibit A) Eddie Cullen

“Aaah, I’m super creepy, but you can’t tell ‘cause I’m so hot.”
 Um, the DEAD, very-elderly guy who likes high schoolers? WTF dude. I’ve been out of high school for one year and I don’t like high schoolers.

Exhibit B) Not needed. Exhibit A was pretty convincing.

The viewer eventually learns that Thornton is not as cold-blooded as Margaret initially believes. He's even sensitive. Crazy mother + Thornton conversations revealed as much. Admittedly, his initial meeting with Margaret, which consisted of him beating one of his workers, did not make a great impression. But let’s just dismiss his unfortunate tendency to get extremely anger and beat people up. That could not possibly interest someone living with him. The reason for his action was something to do with punishing people now so that he can save lives later. Anger justified. Next!

Movie characters have this tendency to have very few friends, or having only a single one that they favor in particular. Unless they have many friends to make a point, no one wants to meet that many extras for the viewer not to care about. So it's not that odd. Girls have their bosom buddies and guys have their best pals. Thornton has...

These guys? Well, they're more like his business acquaintances.

I’ll be your friend, Thorny! He does have Margaret’s father, who is also his tutor / mentor. They share a love of Plato. Other than that, Thornton doesn't really have anyone to confide in other than his mother. She is... difficult. In a starched, "my son is the best and the most worthy" kind of way, not in the Bennett family kind of way.

Eventually, in the miniseries, as in the book, Thornton redeems himself. Richard Armitage plays him well, with some signature dark looks and an extremely deep voice.

Daniela Denby-Ashe as Margaret, on the other hand, drove me nuts with her bashful half-blinks. My mistake was seeing the miniseries a second time, because it didn’t even strike me the first time around. I really wanted to like her, but it stood out so blatantly once I recognized it. It’s like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s roar-gargle. It’s just part of the whole “I'm saying all these clumsy things. How dear and embarrassing.” No, it's not dear at all. :l

Excepting Daniela Denby-Ashe, the rest of the cast was excellent. Thornton Mother and Sister were so unpleasant that I don’t wonder why Mr. Thornton wanted to trade them in for a different female. Yeah, Thorny, you trade those women-folk.

"Marry you? Freck no."

I also loved learning about the differences between the North and South of England. I didn’t think much about that before reading Gaskell’s book and watching this miniseries. Although filters can be overused, I thought they were appropriate in showing the difference between the bright South and the gray city of Milton below:

Margaret's house in the South of England

The land surrounding the house
Stairs of Scary in the Hales' new home (Milton)
Thornton's factory (where he also lives... O_O)
A walk through the park graveyard

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Monday, July 18, 2011

Plunkett & Macleane (1999)

Full Cast

Talk about some great, grimy, 18th-century action. I really enjoyed this film. My romanticized perspective: a bromance about scam artists (of the 18th century, “Stand and Deliver” variety.) Less romanticized perspective: a dark comedy / adventure film with sword fights, one diabolical fiend, highwaymen, blood, punching, and some special quirks.

Basically, these two are cutthroats, one a little more gentile than the other (that’d be Macleane), and they have this plot to go to America and pass Macleane off as a gentleman there. Their scheme is this: Get all the inside info about who is rich and who is not by dressing Macleane up as one of the upper crust, and then ROB THE BUGGERS! <--- Very exciting business.

Why I Loved This Movie:

1) Jonny Lee Miller as Macleane & Robert Carlyle as Plunkett = Awesome & Awesomer

If I were an 18th century, male lowlife, I would definitely cash in with these guys. Three musketeers! Macleane, Plunkett, and the Snarky Victorian. Except no, because they would be out robbing people at gunpoint and then sharing Piña Coladas under the full moon. It would be like tagging along on a platonic date between robbers.

2) Alan Cumming as Lord Rochester – Taking the 18th century makeup-wearing, wig-donning fashion to whole new levels. He’s Macleane’s connection into the world of the gambling upper-class hordes (but really only, like, a few dozen families, amiright?) 

3) Lord Rochester’s two Chav friends. That's right. Chav. At a gambling soiree, Rochy introduces them to Macleane, and they say...

Guy 1: Awriiigght!
Guy 2: Gieser!
Guy 1: Nicely!

If it sounds like a string of exclamations, that’d be correct. And then the one on the left did that extremely annoying thing kids did in my high school, where they snap their two fingers together. Argh, I hated it.

(Just to note, Plunkett is literally waiting out in the pouring rain the entire time. Someone needs to send some love to Plunkett. He doesn't get a girl, and I think he should.)

4) The 1999 Background Music – The folks doing their 18th century jigs to the tunage of some ’99-sounding music. I don’t know what kind of music that was, but it was slammin’ / bangin’ (points for 90s slang.)

5) The fact that the whole upper-class society is completely thrilled by the Gentleman Highwayman and the Guy He’s Always With. What? Two men are robbing our kind on the way home or possibly at private celebrations? That's terrifically entertaining. Moar!

So far I’ve only focused on the comedic, sword-wielding-duo aspects of this movie, but it’s pretty clear within the first few minutes that this film has its share of cringe-worthy scenes. Is “thumbing out an eye” a phrase? Check out the first five minutes and decide whether you too would like to get your precious stones by digging up corpses / old partners in crime.

Again, let me stress that there is a big adventure aspect to this film. Gunfights, gunshots, near-rapes, punching, stuff like that.

Liv Tyler, as love interest and then (spoilers alert) the third musketeer, is pretty good. As always, I am shocked by how pale her skin is, but that has absolutely nothing to do with this review. Her constant cool basically makes the character, so I will let it go. Not everyone could be so excited about going from clean and pretty to dirty and ... well... yeah, dirty.

I can appreciate how eager she is to join in because, even as a modern girl with the expectation of female involvement in violence, I would run the other way. Highwaymen are like the gang members from West Side Story. They sing and have great dance moves, but then they get you killed (Or kill you.) Unless you’re Liv Tyler and, while I sometimes react to my family members like she does to her assy father, that I am not.

Any campier, and I might have started toting around Plunkett & Macleane badges on my clothing. But although there are some good Plunkett-Macleane moments, this is not a Disney film. It’s not all banter. It's pretty dark. And I enjoyed that.
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