Archives for posts with tag: jane seymour

MV5BMjE5MTEwNjIxNV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwODk1NzYyMQ@@._V1_UY268_CR3,0,182,268_AL_Unsurprisingly, War and Remembrance the miniseries is the sequel to The Winds of War, as the novel is. The book is worse than Winds of War, but the miniseries is much, much better. It is no more faithful to the source material, but the screenwriting and acting are drastically improved.

Leading the charge here is the recasting of several major characters. Jane Seymour replaces Ali MacGraw as Natalie Jastrow and is so much better in the rôle it’s hard to believe. John Gielgud replaces John Houseman as Aaron Jastrow–this, too, is an improvement, though less marked (and is no real reflection on John Houseman). Finally, Hart Bochner takes over for Jan-Michael Vincent as Byron Henry, and he is better looking and more convincing.

The war is on, and Herman Wouk bows to statistical necessity and starts killing off major characters, although he still manages to pull some punches. The Henrys lose Warren (Michael Woods) on a bombing run in the Pacific, and his widow Janice (Sharon Stone! Sharon Stone!) starts messing around with Byron’s XO, even though Byron’s XO is terrible. Rhoda Henry (still Polly Bergen) takes this as an opportunity to have an attack of conscience about her infidelities and starts emotionally blackmailing Pug (still Robert Mitchum), so he, man-like, gets all guilty and Protestant. This makes poor Pamela Tudsbury (still Victoria Tennant) have feelings.

This is all largely to remind you that there’s a war in the Pacific and in Russia and sometimes in England, but the heart of the story is Natalie and Aaron Jastrow. It begins in their villa in Siena, and ends, via Marseilles, Geneva, and Theresienstadt, in Auschwitz. Avram Rabinowitz (Sami Frey) tries to get them to Palestine on a refugee ship, but under pressure of various kinds they decide against it, and a long, inexorable process is set in motion. In parallel with this, Byron moves heaven and earth in an attempt to find and rescue them. It is hideous to watch, but well done.

The production is overall more careful than the first installment, though there are inevitably bits on which they cheap out. The clothes are marginally better, although again we fall back on uniform and Natalie in rags. The main problem is that it is so, so long. Feature film length is a more palatable amount of the War. This is Wouk’s point, of course, so it’s not an accident.

Stray observations:

  • I suspect General Eisenhower is impossible to cast–his particular brand of funny looks is not common.  E. G. Marshall does not work for me. Ralph Bellamy as FDR and the recently late Robert Hardy as Churchill are better.
  • Obviously we have to deal with the Valkyrie plot. It’s not as good as the film, but Sky du Mont is an acceptable Stauffenberg.

Director: Dan Curtis
Rating: TV-MA
Length: 27 hours
Score: 4/5

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In an attempt, apparently, to give my brain whiplash, I followed up Inside Llewyn Davis with a movie that may be its opposite in every way, and, well, it’s never that enjoyable to watch a movie in which everyone involved is embarrassed. This is no exception. Austenland is a sad pastiche of Austen clichés and the inevitable American-in-Britain nominally hilarious garbage. At least, this time, the idiocy happens mostly at a theme park, so it’s slightly more bearable. Although the four hundredth time a person says “tally-ho,” you do sort of want to scream.

Anyhow, sad single Keri Russell as “Jane” goes to an Austen theme park, where she gets to act the part of the poor relation. There, she is surrounded by veterans of BBC period productions (Georgia King of Little Dorrit, JJ Feild of Northanger Abbey, and, in a slightly charming stroke, the chap who plays Bingley’s drunk brother-in-law in the Colin Firth Pride & Prejudice, in an identical rôle), who play other sad ladies or actors meant to help them live out their sad lady fantasies. For some reason, Bret McKenzie is also around, and Jane is too ignorant to notice that his accent is not British (this really bothered me; if you’re that into Austen, you probably have enough ambient anglophilia to spot a Kiwi a mile away). None of this bodes especially well. But the worst thing is the tragic waste of Jennifer Coolidge’s comic talent. She’s just loud and crude and large. I know this is what she has been doing for some time, but to reduce her to a vulgar caricature is cruel and pointless.

The movie does, amazingly, sort of keep you guessing about the final upshot, though that’s the only thing that shows any care at all. Even within the artificial and insane confines of the theme park, nothing makes a great deal of sense. It’s supposed to be a super-authentic Regency experience, so naturally the women go out shooting.

Also, whatever personal growth Jane achieves, she starts out the movie as an insane person. It literally spells out “Darcy was here” in wooden letters above her bed. What does that even mean? In what fevered imagination is that reasonable, cute, or funny? I ask this of the film-makers. You can be single, thirty, and a little depressed about it and/or fond of Jane Austen without being deranged.

 

Stray considerations, as usual:

This movie deploys “Bette Davis Eyes.” Not well, but points for the song regardless.

James Callis, like everyone else, looks embarrassed, but also as though he might be enjoying himself, so that’s…a plus, I guess.

 

Director: Jerusha Hess

Rating: PG-13, for non-innuendo

Length: 97 min., and I kept checking how much was left

Score: 2/5