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The Village - Series 1 [DVD]
The Village - Series 1 [DVD]
Dvd ~ John Simm
Offered by MusicnMedia
Price: £8.32

85 of 87 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable, but grim, 14 Aug. 2013
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This review is from: The Village - Series 1 [DVD] (DVD)
I thoroughly enjoyed The Village. The acting was top notch, the period setting well researched and executed, storylines authentic, the production values slick. The idea, I believe, is to chart the history of an unnamed village through the whole of the twentieth century through the eyes of one of its inhabitants - an epic undertaking which, I hope, runs its course.

The first series is set during the period 1913 - 1920, the same time period as Downton Abbey. Be warned though, for those of you expecting another pretty, well made, soap opera love fest between the classes in a period setting, The Village is as far removed from that as possible. This series is about harsh reality and imperfect people. And boy, is it harsh.

The Village is unrelentingly grim and heart-wrenching. I challenge even the most hard-hearted to not tear up at least once. No one in this village seems to smile. Everyone lives under a cloud of misery and drudgery - physical, emotional or both, regardless of whether they are the lords of the manor, the middle class villagers or the dirt poor farmers.

And that, really, is the one criticism I have of this show. I am well aware that life in those times was very difficult and it was often a struggle to stay alive and have enough to eat, but surely people found some happiness some time. Surely they still smiled and laughed on occasion; had some joy in their lives, however small.

It is for this reason that I have given this show 4 instead of 5 stars. If the idea is to show life the way it really was at the start of the last century, then the makers should show all facets of life, not just the grimness and misery. Everyone has problems, but we manage to find something to be happy about.

My verdict - I would definitely recommend it, but would also recommend to the makers that the second series lightens up a bit.

The Queen [DVD]
The Queen [DVD]
Dvd ~ Steven Mackintosh
Offered by A2Z Entertains
Price: £2.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting stuff, 14 Aug. 2013
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This review is from: The Queen [DVD] (DVD)
I am not a great fan of monarchy, but I have to admit that I admire Elizabeth II, and also feel a little sorry for her. I don't view being an heir to the throne of any country, or its monarch (especially if one is a constitutional monarch and a figurehead), as anything romantic or desirable - rather, I think it is a chore and a duty which you have to do and which don't have much say in. So to that extent, I think it is quite admirable for anyone to spend their whole lives in a job they didn't choose, where everything they say or do is judged by millions of people, and where they have no real freedom to let their hair down or have a glass of wine too many or openly discuss their points of view.

So, from that point of view, I found this DVD very interesting, to see the queen grow from a very young woman still holding on to the dregs of deeply ingrained Victorian morality to an old woman who has seen it all (dysfunctional family, war, political turmoil, death, love, hate) and reached a new acceptance of life and things.

The first, fourth and fifth episodes were, I thought, the most engaging, perhaps because so much has already been written and discussed about those times and the circumstances surrounding them, but the other two episodes were interesting as well. What I also liked was that the makers used a lot of photographs and news clips and items from the times, as well as interviews with people involved in the events, interspersed with dramatisations of the events in question.

The actresses who played the queen at various stages in her life did a good job (though I found Susan Jameson a little unconvincing in that role). Diana Quick looked the most like the queen even though she is several years younger than the queen was at the age she was during her particular episode. I must also mention Lesley Manville's turn as Margaret Thatcher. I thought she was brilliant. I have seen her in several startlingly different roles now, and I think she is one of the most underrated actresses around.

All in all, an interesting take on the life and times of Elizabeth II.

North and South [DVD]
North and South [DVD]
Dvd ~ Rosalie Shanks
Price: £8.80

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't compare it with the newer version, 14 Aug. 2013
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This review is from: North and South [DVD] (DVD)
The four stars I have given this DVD is on a purely stand-alone basis. If you compare this with the brilliant 2004 version starring Richard Armitage and Daniela Denby-Ashe (one of my favourites), it comes across as a poor country cousin, but considered in isolation, it holds its ground quite well. I will admit that one of the main reasons I was curious to watch this was because of the 2004 version, to see how the earlier version had been interpreted, but quickly realized that, were I to start comparing the two, I would not be able to do the older version justice.

Allowances must be made for the decade in which it was made - there are virtually no outdoor settings, and the sets all appear to have been constructed out of cardboard on sound stages - something which is fairly typical of the TV programming at that time. Production values are mediocre at best and there is also more emphasis on dialogue rather than action to move the narrative along, again typical of the times. Once you accept this and stop expecting a slick production, this version can be quite entertaining. There is a lot more focus on the Hale family, which was interesting. The ending was also more authentic to the book. Patrick Stewart, of whom I am a big fan, was engaging as John Thornton (though his accent was a bit strange - he sounded a little he was reciting Shakespeare with the odd 'Northern' vowel thrown in). And it was fun to see Tim Pigott-Smith, who played the father in the 2004 version, play his son, Frederick Hale, in the older version.

The one area in which this version disappointed was that you didn't really get a sense of the building attraction and then love between John Thornton and Margaret Hale. They acted completely matter of fact and normal throughout, and would suddenly declare 'oh, I love him / her'. Patrick Stewart, at least, managed to infuse a modicum of passion in his declarations, but Rosalie Shanks seemed to express her feelings in the same manner as if she were asking for a cup of tea. Also, the story arc where she becomes a witness in an investigation into a suspicious death (which John Thornton shields her from to save her reputation despite knowing what he does, or thinks he does) is omitted. Considering this is really when when Margaret starts acknowledging her feelings for John, it was a little disappointing, and another reason why her change of heart at the end seems so sudden and out of context.

In conclusion - I enjoyed this version, but as soon as it was over, dug out my copy of the 2004 version and re-watched it (again!) and felt very thankful for the progress in technology and in film-making (and, of course, Richard Armitage!).
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 27, 2013 3:07 PM BST

First Princess of Wales, the
First Princess of Wales, the
by Karen Harper
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.00

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars As silly as its original name, 22 July 2013
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I bought this book base on reviews I had read on Amazon and now wonder if the readers who gave it glowing reviews read the same book I did. I am obviously in the minority here, but I found the book unbearably silly. After buying the book, I discovered that the original title of the book was 'Sweet Passion's Pain' (a phrase which is annoyingly used every so often in the book!). Had I known that, I would not have bought it - the book was as silly as that title. One of the biggest problems I had with the book was the portrayal of Joan itself. The real Joan was undoubtedly a fascinating woman. She was the first cousin of Edward III (making her Edward, the Black Prince's aunt, and two years older than him). She came to court and at the age of 12, secretly married Thomas Holland. He then went on crusade and she, in the meantime, was married off to the Earl of Salisbury. When Thomas came back, he petitioned the Pope, who annulled her second marriage. She then lived happily with Thomas Holland for many years and bore him 5 children. When he died, she married the Black Prince and bore him two sons. When her young son became king at the age of 10, she became the de facto power behind the throne.

In the book, however, she comes across as silly, immature, misguided, delusional and changeable. The author gives her the cliched 'headstrong, impulsive' character so loved by sappy romance writers, but for me it just didn't work. In fact, everytime she appeared on the page, I wanted to smack her. I couldn't understand Joan's personality or way of thinking at all (I don't think she had one in the book, to be honest). The ludicrous 'revenge' plot was so ridiculously contrived that I actually laughed at places. She is happy to sleep with the Black Prince on occasion, but when she is actually free to be with him (something she has pined for through all 600 excrutiating pages), suddenly feels she cannot do so. All in the interest of setting up another cliched 'romantic twist'.

Another issue is how the author has liberally rewritten facts to fit into her vision of a romance novel. The first meeting of the two is a case in point. Joan sees the Black Prince at jousting practice and is (naturally!) overcome by his manliness, his strength, his power etc etc (you know the rest!). Considering that she would have been about 11 or 12 at the time and he 2 years younger than her, it's all rather creepy. The author has essentially reduced a fascinating period of history into random encounters between her two chief protagonists complete with heaving bosoms, unlikely sexual encounters and trite exchanges with the Black Prince overpowering the 'trembling with fury and passion' Joan, whilst spending a page or two in between on the major events of the time, like the various wars with the French, the Black Plague, court politics etc. I understand that historical fiction is 'fiction' and that one has to interpret or invent certain facts to tell an interesting story, but if a book claims to be a true story, it should at least try and stick to the known facts.

The match between the Black Prince and Joan was, historically, a love match, but I doubt it was this long drawn out, contrived battle of the sexes with liberal dashes of revenge, forced marriages and pining separations. The Black Prince had several mistresses before he married her, and Joan obviously loved her first husband enough to be asked to be buried next to him and not next to the Black Prince when she died, even though the Black Prince had built her a tomb next to his own. It is OK to love more than one man, after all, and to remarry once your husband has pased away!

Frankly, the only reason I managed to finished the book was because the few portions not relating to Joan and her inexplicable thought processes and actions, i.e. those relating to the actual history of the time, were somewhat interesting. This book and its subject matter had so much potential, and i was so looking forward to it, that it was really disappointing to find nothing better than a run of the mill romance novel in a medieval setting with hints of fact. if you like sappy, cliched, predictable romances novels, then give this a go, but if you enjoy intelligent historical fiction then save your money and buy something worthwhile.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 20, 2015 9:24 AM GMT

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