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381
4.7 out of 5 stars
The Hollow Crown - TV Mini Series [DVD]
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158 of 167 people found the following review helpful
on 26 July 2012
The Hollow Crown is the best drama shown on the BBC for many years. Every aspect of the production was first rate, particularly the top notch cast and wonderful cinematography with beautiful landscapes. In Richard II Ben Whishaw gave a fine performance as a king tormented by his own insecurities and finally deposed. Each subsequent drama seemed to reach a higher plane than the last, culminating in a superb final rendition of Henry V. I agree that cutting the conspiracy scene (crucial) and enlarging the role of the Duke of York in Henry V were mistakes. However, Simon Russell Beale and Jeremy Irons were both excellent as Falstaff - showing the character's more reflective side as well as his roistering - and the ageing King whose dreams of the crown turn to bitter reality. But I have to single out Tom Hiddleston's performance as Henry V as quite exceptional, I totally disagree with those reviewers who disliked it. Some of the speeches such as the Crispian's day one were low key and pensive, but all the more moving for that I would argue, and his courtship of the Princess showed a wonderful light touch. This Henry V starts off as a dissolute young man who matures into a courageous leader of men but also a profound thinker who is fully aware of the horrors of the war that he unleashes. If Hiddleston does not win many awards, I will be surprised - he is one to watch. I can't wait to get the DVD now.
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167 of 179 people found the following review helpful
on 11 July 2012
If you buy any DVD of a TV production this year, it has to be 'The Hollow Crown'. I have watched countless film and television versions of Shakespeare's plays in the past and I can honestly say there have been none like these versions. Forget David Tennant's edgy, modern-day 'Hamlet' (hard, I know, as it was pretty unforgettable): these new history plays are simply stunning.

I think what is rarely touched upon in reviews is how accessible these new films make Shakespeare. I watched 'Richard II' with my mum hoping she would not get bored by the long, philosophical speeches, but she thoroughly enjoyed it. Even for a literature student Shakespeare isn't exactly a walk in the park and having not approached 'Richard II' before, I was thinking, as I sat down to watch it, that I should have made an effort to skim-read the play in my Collected Works, just to get a gist of the plot. I'm glad I didn't. Watching the film was like looking into Shakespeare's world through a new pair of Specsaver glasses: everything came startlingly into focus. I promise you, if you are attentive and ready to engage, 'Richard II' is as accessible, exciting and fun to watch as any other epic action film you are likely to see.

I can't praise the settings, cinematography and costume of the first instalment enough. And I would certainly run the risk of sounding gushy ('you already are, dear') if I started on Ben Whishaw's performance as Richard. But this guy is incredibly good. This film is incredibly good. The handing over of the crown scene literally took my breath away. Whishaw excels so much here that it is by far the most sublime part of the film. And Rory Kinnear makes the scene happen too: his Bolingbroke may have nothing much to say, but is appropriately humiliated and wary, setting off Richard's clever and beautiful kaleidoscope of emotions.

With 'Henry IV, part 1', the scale is mostly a lot smaller as Shakespeare deals with the domestics of father and son relationships and the carnal realms of the Boars Head tavern. Inevitably, we are not treated to the gorgeous settings of 'Richard II' and spend much of the time in the confines of the tavern set, which (though necessary) feels like a step down after such a treat. But the production is still impressive, imaginative (the initial interchanges between the court and the Boars Head are bold and new, if a little clunky) and very well cast.

Falstaff is brilliant - every inch the show-stealer the play-write purposed him to be - and Simon Russell Beale puts on the most hilarious performance in the prince/king role-play scene. Tom Hiddleston - who I'm sure will soon be a household name, if not already - has bravely made his Hal a less likeable prince than those of other productions. He is less vivacious, more cruel. As a result, Hiddleston has the tricky task of making us warm to his character; but he succeeds, and in 'Henry IV part 2' he produces some touching scenes as he contemplates the crown.

I'm thrilled we have a version of the less popular 'Henry IV part 2' to enjoy, particularly because the king-Hal scene, when the prince is woefully misunderstood, has some of my favourite lines in the tetralogy. Some scenes with Falstaff's cronies inevitably may not translate well for modern audiences, but there are fun moments.

I have not yet seen the last production, but when I do I will hopefully update this review with the news that it was just as good as its precursors.

**UPDATE**: 'Henry V' was fantastic. There were some bold cuts from the text - notably the traitors scene early on - but they were totally the right cuts. The film should be admired for its very definite vision, its ability to move, and for the fine performance from Hiddleston - his Harry lets you into his insecurities and is perfectly pitched for today's audience.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 23 November 2014
The perfect gift for history enthusiasts is THE ROMA VICTRIX WINE BEAKERCalix Imperium, Roma Victrix Pewter wine beaker

The Hollow Crown brings the plays Richard II, Henry IV and Henry V to viewers in a very comprehensive manner. While each director offers their own take on their respective serial, it really does feel like a unified body of work here, a dramatic telling of the history of the British monarchy.

Ben Whishaw, Jeremy Irons and Tom Hiddleston each portray the titular kings, but they are not the only big names here. Patrick Stewart, Julie Walters, Geraldine Chaplin, John Hurt, Richard Griffiths, David Morrisey, and others show up. This is a project that certainly attracted a high calibre of talent and for good reason.

These are solid adaptations of Shakespeare historical dramas Or tragedies, depending on your point of view and school of thought. If you' re not sure if you're a fan of "the bard? this probably isn't the best place to start. Henry V might be pretty accessible, but in the context of watching it after Richard II and Henry IV, it is much more interesting.

"The Hollow Crown" is couched in production values that lend an air of authenticity to all proceedings, from the use of appropriate locations around the UK to the gritty realism of Danny Cohen, Ben Smithard and Michael McDonough's cinematography as well as Odile Dicks-Mireaux and Annie Symons' striking period costumes and the I-can-feel-the-castle-drafts production designs of Andrew McAlpine, Donal Woods and Alan MacDonald.

Although it's a shame Henry V doesn't quite match the earlier parts of this four-play Shakespearean extravaganza, The Hollow Crown is still a wonderful achievement, bringing the Bard to vivid life and really showing what a great writer he was (and not just because your English teacher told you so). Highly recommended.
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33 of 37 people found the following review helpful
on 5 August 2013
I am Brasilian so I grew up watching only the most popular Shakesperean plays. Only Henry V ( the movie with Kenneth Branagh) I knew a little. It was very good for me to watch these historical plays that comprises the group of Shakesperian plays that covers the history of the War of the Roses. I liked it very much and Jeremy Irons was superb as Henry IV. Tom Middleton as Henry V in the play of Henry IV was little more than a playboy and he played the part very well. As Henry the V his part grew and so his gravitas as a King. I loved his scene with Catherine of Valois, very playful and spoken in French (the original play asks it of the actors). RIchard II I did not knew at all but loved how the actor played the misguided King. The figurines were superb and the castles and rooms looked as I think they should have looked in the 15th century. And as a plus: Subtitles. For a non-english, subtitles for Shakespeare are a necessity. I think that even persons that are born in England these days do not understand the 16th century language of Shakespeare so subtitles are very good to study the language and to not lose itself in the melée of the dialogues. Very aptly titled: THE HOLLOW CROWN, after the monologue in the first play (Richard II), it describes the fight of men that are cousins and desire above anything to be king (to put the crown of England in his head). But this crown is HOLLOW, so I understand, the Power that it confers is transitory and very bitter. Very wise and very sad because as the war of roses continued, we see these powerful cousins destroying each other to end with a wasted land and many years of civil wars. Beautiful played Shakespeare. ( I ask forgiveness if I mispelled the name of some actor in this review, because my english is not very good, please check the review of Amazon for the names of the actors)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 7 November 2012
An absolutely beautiful production featuring a flawless cast. I originally bought this set because Tom Hiddleston stars as Prince Hal/Henry V and those DVDs featuring him are the only three I watched so I cannot comment on any of the performances in Richard II, yet. Jeremy Irons is amazing as a King reaching the end of his life and feeling the weight of his reign upon already frail shoulders. That coupled with dealing with an unruly heir, you watch as Henry deteriorates before your eyes which was done with such believability by Irons.

As I said, Tom Hiddleston was the real reason behind my purchase and he did not disappoint. Honestly, there are not enough adjectives to describe how brilliant he was. His performance made me love Shakespeare. It was so effortless, every move spot on, I just can't even describe it. And the scenes between him and Jeremy Irons were my favorites. Each holding their own through some of the most powerful scenes in the movie, playing off of each other beautifully. The final scene between Hal and his father was so captivating I found myself, after it was finished, leaning towards the screen, hand propping up my chin completely entranced.

Henry V was my favorite though featuring a more mature Hal who is now leading his country to war against France and dealing with those consequences. And of course there is the Battle of Agincourt where the outnumbered English kick some serious French ass. For all the romantics out there, the scene where Henry woos Katherine is one of the most endearing you'll ever see. The awkwardness of this new King approaching a woman he loves as a simple man, not as the invader of her homeland (awkward), was so sweet she really had no choice but to say yes.

And ladies (and some gentlemen), there is a sauna scene with him in a towel, if that doesn't have you clicking the buy button I don't know what will.
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34 of 39 people found the following review helpful
on 23 July 2012
Stunning production, well worth buying on DVD. I greatly enjoyed watching it over four consecutive Saturdays on BBC HD. Brilliant performances throughout, bringing the History Plays to life for a modern audience, particularly Tom Hiddleston, who I knew from his appearances as Loki in Thor and The Avengers. He really should be a household name by now (future big screen Doctor Who, anyone?). However, I am disappointed that there seems to be no blu-ray release. The whole production looks even more glorious in high definition. Worth the extra expense, I would say. Anyone bemoaning the lack of special features might be interested in ordering the Prefaces To Shakespeare DVD, a documentary which features tributes including Derek Jacobi on Richard II and Jeremy Irons on the Henrys and complements The Hollow Crown perfectly.
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52 of 60 people found the following review helpful
A pleasure to see, a rare experience nowadays on the BBC. This is one of the finest production on the BBC for years and years. This is a definite must have DVD set - just a pity all the history plays are not part of the series (or will there be a season 2?)

Just about forgive the BBC for shifting the Henry IV Part 1 to 10.00 (to show the Women's Doubles - glad that was more important than one of the best shows in the last 10 years or so - certainly up there with the I, Claudius etc)

I've always found the history plays the least inspiring of Shakespeare's plays, but not now, I will now watch them (at the Globe etc) with more enthusiasm.

Now, I hope the BBC will put on some modern plays (as with Sky Arts - if only the BBC was as good as that channel) as well as some Jacobean / Restoration / World Drama / Chekov / Ibsen and others .. Hollow Crown deserves to be followed by some more great drama
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 31 December 2013
I got this for Christmas and was blown away! This is BY FAR the greatest Shakespeare on screen that I have ever seen, which is saying a lot! Each director approaches the often-underloved texts with great care, getting the most out of each line and word and thus keeping the action fresh and interesting at all times. The scenery and sets - a lot filmed on location - are breathtakingly beautiful and really add an authentic feel to the historical plays. And finally the acting is just unbeatable.

I could list every single legendary British actor - actors including Patrick Stewart, Jeremy Irons, Rory Kinnear, Linsday Duncan, Julie Walters, Simon Russell Beale, Richard Griffiths, and John Hurt - who lends his or her talents to the roles, but the standout performances come from Ben Whishaw (as Richard II) and Tom Hiddleston (as Hal/Henry V). Whishaw makes Richard as pathetic, impetuous, and unwise as his performative antics suggests but ultimately gives him a dignity and grace that makes his downfall heartbreaking. And Hiddleston is magnetic as the youthful, energetic, commanding prince and king.

I cannot recommend this highly enough. The Hollow Crown is a must for any Shakespeare lover.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on 22 July 2012
I'm not normally a fan of Shakespeare (and to be clear, this is a new BBC production of 4 Shakespeare plays Richard II, Henry IV parts 1+2 and Henry V). However I caught a bit of Richard II and had to watch the whole thing. I can only say I was captivated from the 1st moment to the last. There was a bit of a dip in Henry IV though still good. Henry V is superb and a great way to finish.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 24 July 2013
Fantastic, though SRB's Falstaff didn't work for me and they copped out of the killing of the boys in Henry V. That could have been more powerfully conveyed without being gruesome I thought. However, I'm is nit picking. A wonderful series.
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