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Archive for August, 2015

Just finished watching the first half of Season 1 of the Outlander series and am now waiting (impatiently) for the second half of the episodes to be released. Seriously, next to Black Jack Randall himself, the producers of this series are the biggest sadists ever. Who the heck does 16 episodes and then–after they’ve all aired, mind you—releases them to the public a dribble at time? Sassenach bastards!

Well, as I chew the scenery impatiently, I thought I might just give a little shout out to the supporting cast. Most of the media attention has been on the main characters, Claire (Caitriona Balfe) and Jaimie (Sam Heughan). However, as it often the case, it’s been the secondary characters that have caught my eye.

Lotte Verbeek Geillis

Lotte Verbeek as Geillis

When we first met Geillis Duncan, I was completely mesmerized by her eyes. I couldn’t think of what they reminded me of at first, but then it hit me. She has the eyes of a cat–a big, predatory cat. Lotte gives Geillis a very feline aspect in her movements as well and once we see her red shoes (which she probably got by feeding Dorothy a poison apple), we know for sure that she’s a witch.

Simon Meacock as Hugh Munro

Simon Meacock as Hugh Munro

As a mute, all of Hugh’s dialogue essentially consists of “ungh” interspersed with gestures, so it’s a credit to character actor Simon Meacock range of facial expressions that we get a glimpse of the lively, intelligent man behind the beggar’s coat. More Hugh Munro, please.

Dougal Mackenzie

Graham McTavish as Dougal McKenzie

If Jaimie is the Disney Prince of this series, then Dougal “MacDaddy” Mackenzie is the wicked uncle of the piece. Actually, that’s a much too simplistic description of Dougal’s complicated character, played with infinite finesse by Graham McTavish. Dougal is by turns both a hero and a villain and you can never tell which one will crop up next. And can we take a moment to appreciate just how many irons Dougal has in the fire? This guy has a wife at home, is carrying on a torrid affair with Geillis Duncan, hitting on Claire every chance he gets, and doing all of this while he’s raising money for the Jacobite rebellion at the same time.

Tobias Menzies Jack & Frank

Tobias Menzies as Jonathan Wolverton Randall/Frank Wolverton Randall

Honestly, where is this guy’s acting award? Tobias Menzies plays two related characters, neither of whom is entirely what they appear. On the surface, Claire’s husband, Frank, is just a mild-mannered historian, but during the war Frank worked for military intelligence and he still retains his special skills. On the surface, Black Jack Randall is a proper British officer, but the truth is that he’s a sadist who enjoys making examples out of anyone unlucky enough to fall into his clutches. Tobias is one of those actors who can tell you a lot by the look in his eyes and these dual roles are a lot of fun.

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George Martin Gif 1

George Martin Gif 2

George R.R. Martin reveals his true agenda …..:-)

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Outlander music composer, Bear McCreary, explains how he was finally able to make us of his lifelong obsession with bagpipes in this amusing video. I feel you, dude. I, too, love the pipes. Also the mizmar which is sort of a Middle Eastern oboe. Just something about that high pitched droning sound I like.

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Ran across this song on the ‘Net and have become completely obsessed with it, possibly because Hobbiton is going through a period of Scottish weather now that we are heading into autumn. The song is an amalgam of the “Skye Boat Song” and Robert Louis Steven’s poem, “Sing Me a Song of the a Lad That is Gone”, both of which talk about Bonnie Prince Charlie’s flight from Scotland after his defeat at Culloden Moor. Composer Bear McCreary has tweaked the lyrics slightly and changed “lad” to “lass” to make the song about Claire. Check out the bagpipes at about the 2:40 minute mark.

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And now the Pretty Darn Funny comedy troupe pays a heartfelt little tribute to the BBC, covering Downton Abbey, Jane Austen, and North and South  ….

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Undoubtedly, my favorite Jane Austen-related music video. Keri Russell and the cast of Austenland get down to “Hot in Herre.”

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Pride and Prejudice

It all started when I watched Andrew Davies’ 1995 adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice starring Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennett and Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy.  This particular version of Pride is considered to be a modern classic and is responsible for launching Colin Firth’s career as a heart throb. I have to say that its classic reputation is well deserved. The series is six episodes long and each one leaves you wanting to see more which is no mean feat when adapting 18th century literature. Most of the media attention focuses on Firth, but Jennifer Ehle gives a very warm and winning portrayal of Elizabeth Bennett. Many familiar BBC faces appear.

Lost in Austen

Both Lost in Austen and Austenland (below) riff on the 1995 adapation of Pride.  In Lost in Austen, Jemima Rooper plays Amanda, a modern woman, who’s tired of her workaday life and slobby boyfriend and longs to escape into the world of Pride and Prejudice, her favorite book. Amanda gets a chance to do just that when she changes places with Elizabeth Bennett via a magic portal in her bathroom. Once back in time, however, Amanda discovers that life in the 18th century doesn’t agree with her. Not only aren’t there any proper toothbrushes, but the characters don’t want to play the roles Austen has designated for them. And is that icky Mr. Collins making a play for her? Hugh Bonneville co-stars as Mr. Bennett and the delightful Alex Kingston is Mrs. Bennett.

Austenland

In Austenland, the setup is somewhat different. Keri Russell plays Jane Hayes, a 30-something woman who is fixated on Jane Austen and Mr. Darcy, so much so that she arranges a dream vacation to England to what can best be described as a Jane Austen fantasy camp. However, Jane’s experience at the resort isn’t quite as advertised in the brochure. Mrs. Wattlesbrook (Jane Seymour), the resort owner, openly favors the richer guests and Jane finds herself playing the role of poor relation. Jane also finds herself attracted to one of the resort workers, the raffish Martin (Brett McKenzie) and courted by one of the staff actors, Henry Nobley (J.J. Feild). As the lines between what is real and what is scripted become blurred, Jane has to ask herself what it is she really wants.

Verdict: Not as successful as Lost in Austen. If you have the DVD version of this movie, take a look at the deleted scenes which give more body to the script and improve the overall film. (If you don’t have the DVD version, check out YouTube). Do the male leads appear strangely familiar? That’s because J.J. Feild played Henry Tilney in Northanger Abbey and Brett McKenzie was Lindir in The Hobbit films.

Jane Austen Book Club

Jane Austen’s novels take center stage in The Jane Austen Book Club, an excellent film about a group of women who form an all-Austen, all-the-time book discussion group in order to cheer up their friend, Sylvia (Amy Brenneman), whose twenty-year marriage has suddenly dissolved. Kathy Baker plays the warm, much-married Bernadette, Emily Blunt is the high-strung Prudie, Maggie Grace is Allegra, Sylvia’s lesbian daughter, Maria Bello is Jocelyn, a dog trainer who avoids men in favor of her animals, and Hugh Dancy is Grigg, the lone male of the group, a techie guy who joins the book club because he’s attracted to Jocelyn.

As the group works their way through Austen’s novels, their lives begin to mirror those of the characters. A warm, wonderful story about true love and second chances.

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