Monday, October 12, 2015

Poldark (Series 1)

Poldark is a 2015 BBC drama series on the first two books of Winston Graham's Poldark novels, debuting on March 8, 2015. Having long believed to be dead in the American Revolutionary War, Ross Poldark returns home to discover everything has changed.  

Aidan Turner as Captain Ross Poldark
Eleanor Tomlinson as Demelza Carne
Heida Reed as Elizabeth Chynoweth
Kyle Soller as Francis Poldark
Jack Farthing as George Warleggan

Ross Poldark returns home to Cornwall after fighting in the American Revolutionary War to discover that his father has died and left his estates in ruins and his sweetheart, Elizabeth, engaged to his cousin. As he tries to rebuild his life, he comes across Demelza Carne, a poor girl whose father has been beating her. He offers Demelza a job as a kitchen maid and she accepts.

Elizabeth and Francis marry. Francis's sister, Verity, falls in love with Captain Blamey, a man who went to jail for murdering his wife. Francis and Blamey duel leading to Francis being shot and Blamey departing, leaving Verity heartbroken. Ross saves Francis's life and Elizabeth reveals that she is pregnant.  

Ross Poldark opens his own mine but struggles to find copper. Ross discovers that his friend, Jimmy, has been poaching. Despite his best efforts to get Jimmy to stop poaching, Jimmy is caught red handed. Even though Ross tries to intervene, Jimmy is sentenced to two years in prison, leaving behind his wife and his newborn child. Ross and Dezelma become lovers and they marry.

Society is scandalized by Ross's mesalliance. Elizabeth gives birth to a son but her relationship with her husband soon deteriorates. Ross's uncle has a heart attack at his grandson's christening and he later dies. Verity makes friends with Demelza. Copper is at last discovered and Demelza reveals that she is pregnant. She gives birth to a girl who they named Julia. 

Ross's friend, Doctor Enys, arrives in Cornwall. Mark, one of Ross's miners, falls in love with an actress, Karen. She quickly becomes disillusioned by Mark's lack of means. Demelza brings Captain Blamey and Verity back together. Ross and cohort decide to start a smelting company in order to driver up the price of copper. 

Ross and Dr. Enys takes Jimmy out of prison and unsuccessfully tries to treat Jimmy but he dies. Depressed, Ross drinks himself silly at the Warleggan ball. There is discovers that George Waleggan's cousin, Matthew, has been cheating at cards. The same Matthew who "won" Francis's mines as the latter becomes an obsessive gambler and a whoremongerer. George Warleggan discovers that the miners are smelting their own copper.

Verity elopes with Captain Blamey and Francis blames Ross. Francis betrays his cousin by revealing the identity of the investors in Ross's smelting company, many of whom having debts to Warleggans. The Warleggans close down Ross's smelting company. Dr. Enys is seduced by Karen and in a fit of rage, Mark accidentally kills her. With the help of Ross, Mark flees to France. Demelza reveals her part in Verity's elopement.

Francis's family is struck with diphtheria. Without Verity to tend to them, Demelza comes to care for them. They all survive but Demelza and Julia soon come down with it themselves. Julia dies. The Warleggan's ship is wrecked off the coast and the townspeople come to take their loot. Matthew drowns. Ross is arrested for Matthew's death and wrecking. 

I give this TV series a 4.5/5. This series is fantastic! I watched the first two episode on Saturday night and finished it off Sunday afternoon. It has everything you want in a period drama love, deception and evil rich people! It is like the Game of Thrones of period dramas! The only problem I have with the show is that I don't fully believe in the Ross/Demelza romance. In the last episode when Ross said that Demelza was the love of his life, I was taken aback. Still, they are very good together and I'm rooting for them come Series 2. Poldark gets a total recommendation to me, go out and watch it now!  

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Scandalous Lady W.

The Scandalous Lady W. is a 2015 BBC production on the scandalous life of Lady Seymour Worsley, nee Fleming.

Aneurin Barnard as Captain George Bisset
Shaun Evans as Sir Richard Worsley

The story of the Lady Seymour Worsley is told through a series of flashbacks as she had her lover, Captain Bisset, runaway to London. All Seymour Fleming wanted in her marriage was to please her husband. On September 17, 1775, she married Sir Richard Worsley, a man whose needs are of a particular sort. Their marriage is consummated only after Seymour gives her husband a strip show through a keyhole. After a few years of marriage, Richard proposes that his wife bed his friend, Viscount Deerhurst, for his viewing pleasure. At first Seymour refuses out of love for her husband but eventually gives into to please Richard.

Worsley begins a criminal conversation against Bisset for the grand sum of 20 000 pounds. In 1778, Sir Richard befriended George Bisset and granted him access to Lady Worsley's bed. The two fall in love and produce a daughter, Jane, although the child is claimed by Sir Richard to avoid scandal. The case seems to be an easy victory for Sir Richard until Lady Seymour decides she is not worth 20 000 pounds. She calls upon all the lovers that Richard forced upon her, her doctor implies that she is infected with a venereal disease and the truth of Jane's bastardom is revealed. The famous incident of the bathhouse concludes the court case. Captain Bisset is to pay Sir Worsley the grand sum of a shilling for damages against his property.

Despite their victory over Richard, George and Seymour's relationship disintegrates. Seymour is sent to exile in France where she lives as an independent woman.

I give this television movie a 1/5. I really wanted to like The Scandalous Lady W., I really did but the highest compliment I can pay this movie is that the costumes and sets are breathtaking and Natalie Dormer is absolutely gorgeous. The script is absolutely horrendous, I felt like I was watching a lifetime TV movie. The script was riddled with many modern sayings that stuck our like a sore thumb. There were too many camera-pan-to-dramatic-stare moments in the show that as I write this I suffer from a horrid headache. They were largely ineffective. I do not know if it's because Natalie Dormer cannot pull off catching an emotion  in her face or lousy directing but it was so terribly awkward! THAT ENDING SCENE! I'm more inclined to believe the latter because there were a few moments when Dormer SPOKE that she shined as an actress. The use of flashbacks in this movie should be called abuse! We would get flashbacks of scenes we saw less than 10 minutes ago. The characters were really under developed for the 90 minute run time that the movie had. You could have replaced Aneurin Barnard with a twig and no one would notice the difference. Shaun Evan had an interesting character to play but the script and the direction caused him to flounder under long and awkward stares. The movie ends with a supposed feminist triumph of Lady Seymour against society but given what happens to her after the final scene concludes leaves much to be desired. I would only recommend this movie if you are a lover of period pieces and pretty dresses. 

Monday, August 17, 2015

The Accidental Empress

The Accidental Empress is a 2015 historical fiction novel written by Allison Pataki on Empress Elisabeth of Austria.

Duchess Elisabeth in Bavaria, "Sisi", lives a happy life in her family's ducal home of Possenhofen with her elder sister, Helene "Nene". Her idyllic life comes to an end when her mother, Ludovika, announces that Nene is to marry Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria. Helene is reluctant to marry the Emperor, preferring to live the life of a nun, so Sisi accompanies her to Bad Ischl to support her.

Almost upon their arrival, Nene makes a terrible impress on Archduchess Sophie, her aunt, and Emperor Franz Joseph. Helene is barely able to speak so it is up to Sisi to make small talk. Franz Joseph becomes enamored with Elisabeth, completely forgetting about Helene. Elisabeth is conflicted about falling in love with her sister's intended but Franz Joseph will have no other. Elisabeth and Franz are married on April 24, 1854.

From her very first moments as Empress, Archduchess Sophie makes Sisi's life a living hell.  Franz's occupation with his role as Emperor leaves Sisi wanting. Elisabeth gives birth to her first daughter, named Sophie after the Archduchess despite Sisi's wish to name the child "Helene" after her sister, 11 months after their wedding. A second daughter, Gisela, comes the very next year. Both children are taken from Sisi immediately after they are born and they are instead raised by Archduchess Sophie.

Elisabeth proposes that Franz take her and the children tour Hungary. Franz agrees despite his mother's protest that the girls aren't strong enough for the journey. In Budapest, the Empress meets Count Julius Andrassy. This idyllic period in Sisi's life comes to an end when both of her daughters fall in. Gisela manages to recover but little Sophie dies in her mother's arms on May 29, 1857.

Sisi falls into a deep depression after the birth of her eldest child. While pregnant with her third child, Elisabeth falls dangerously ill. She is saved only due to the intervention of her mother. On August 11, 1858, the Empress gives birth to a long awaited son, Rudolf. Again her happiness is short lived. Sisi learns of her husband's infidelity when she is infected with a venereal disease. The Empress decides to flee.

After years abroad, Empress Elisabeth of Austria returns to Vienna. While her relationship with her husband is frosty while her relationship with Count Andrassy is in full bloom. The Austo-Prussia war begins on June 14, 1866 but ends a scant seven weeks later. Because of Austria's defeat, the Hungarians press for a constitution. Sisi gives into Franz and he agrees to a dual monarchy. Their coronation occurs in 1867 and ten months later their four child, Marie Valerie, is born. Franz agrees to let Sisi raise the child in Hungary and she and Andrassy consummate their love.

I give this book 1.5/5. It is evident from page one that Allison Pataki  does not come from a history background. Every interesting aspect of Sisi's life has been so watered down that it's incredibly bland and boring. Sisi's wikipedia page is more informative than this book is. Pataki seems to forget the existence of Sisi's older brother, Ludwig! One thing that bothered me, is that Pataki gets all the titles incorrectly. It would not have bothered me as much as it is did if she was at least consistent with them! Is Ludovika Duchess OF Bavaria or IN Bavaria? The characterizations of all the characters are incredibly off. Sisi lacks any of the complexity that makes her a fascinating individual. Franz Joseph has no personality whatsoever. Archduchess Sophie wishes that Sisi was the elder but then she gets upset when Franz favours her above Helene? What? The person who got the short end of the stick in this category is Helene. She is so whiny that it's no wonder she was passed over for her younger sister. On the subject of whether or not Sisi and Andrassy were intimate with one another, Sisi once said that their relationship was never poisoned by love. Sisi was also not a physical woman. It is highly unlikely, at least on her part, that their relationship was anything other than platonic.