Be Safe. Don’t Get Killed. Save Your Receipts.

The Librarian

First, a trilogy of movies put out by TNT; then developed into a television series.  It stars Noah Wyle (he was on E.R. for many years [no intention of watching] and he briefly appeared in an episode of Lab Rats) as Flynn Carson. Jane Curtin is Charlene and Bob Newhart (he’s popped up in other television shows like Big Bang Theory, and I had no idea he was the voice of Bernard in Disney’s The Rescuers movies) is Judson.  There’s a familiar face, David Dayan Fisher (bad guy in NCIS and National Treasure) in the first film, Quest for the Spear; and Gabrielle Anwar (the Queen in The Three Musketeers with Chris O’Donnell, Princess Margaret [Henry VIII’s sister] in The Tudors, Fiona in Burn Notice, and Victoria Belfrey/Lady Tremaine in Once Upon a Time) joins the second film Return to Solomon’s Mines as Emily Davenport.  The third film, Curse of the Judas Chalice, brings in Stana Katic (briefly glimpsed at the end of Quantum of Solace, and opposite Nathan Fillion in Castle) as Simone Renoir.

Quest for the Spear introduces us to Flynn Carson, who holds 22 degrees and intends to be a lifelong student.  Until his professors agree to cut him off and force him out into the big, bad, real world to find a job.  An invitation arrives at his home (he doesn’t see it until a pile of books drops on his head), to interview for a prestigious position at the Metropolitan Public Library.  He’s not the only applicant, the line wraps down the staircase.  He faces Charlene, who wants to know “what makes you think you could be the Librarian?”  And she means more than knowing the Dewey Decimal system; what makes him different than every other librarian.  His observational skills rival Sherlock Holmes and he can tell when Charlene broke her nose, when she divorced, and how many kinds of cats she owns.  Then another voice calls out “what’s more important than knowledge?”  Flynn echoes his mother’s statement that the things that make life worth living are not thought (in his head), but felt (in his heart).  Flynn wins the position and will begin a wondrous new adventure, from which he will never be the same.  Judson appears and leads Flynn downstairs, through a secret door and security guards, opening to a grand hall filled with shelves and display cases.

Judson explains that magic exists, but it is dangerous and must be kept out of the wrong hands.  That is the Librarian’s job.  And he must keep it secret [so I object to his mother’s dismissal of his job as simply shelving books…I wanted to become a traditional librarian at one point.]  That evening, Judson is knocked out at the Library; Charlene and Flynn find him the next morning and discover that the Serpent Brotherhood has stolen a piece of the Spear of Destiny.  The Serpent Brotherhood opposes the Library and wants to use magical artifacts to rule the world.  And the Spear was used by Charlemagne and Napoleon; Hitler had one piece; so if the Serpent Brotherhood has it, they can certainly control the fate of the world.  Flynn, as Librarian, is the only one who can go after them (which Flynn points out is a little sad).

Clues to the other pieces are in a book, written in the Language of the Birds, the universal language all people spoke before the Tower of Babble.  Flynn has to decipher it on his flight to the Amazon.  He succeeds in 7 hours and 26 minutes.  And the beautiful woman he meets on the plane is Nicole Noone (so when Judson says to “trust no one”…that’s what he meant), whose job is to protect the Librarian.  Nicole is a bit dismissive of Flynn at first, bodily dragging him out of danger, since the Brotherhood is chasing them.  But Flynn proves his brilliance; he memorized the globe as a child.  They uncover the second piece of the Spear, but are met by the Brotherhood outside, including the previous Librarian whom Nicole saw die.  He desires power now and plans to wield the Spear.  But he can’t read the Language of the Birds, so Flynn argues Edward needs him.  Oh, and the final piece of the Spear is in Shangri-La.  Edward forces Flynn to grab the spearhead, then the monastery begins to collapse.  Nicole grabs the spearhead and escapes with Flynn (and the helicopter is “horrible, horrible, high velocity pie of death!” Flynn discovers while trying to fly it).  Nicole kisses Flynn in his room in Mongolia, but she is gone when he wakes up. He has a brief discussion with Judson and realizes that the Brotherhood has to fuse the Spear back together at the pyramid display with the golden capstone that Flynn was working on at the university in the beginning.  “Call the Marines, Judson.  I’m coming home.”  But, clothes first.

Edward does manage to fuse the Spear and tests it on his minion [that bad guy we see a lot].  Nicole and Judson take on the other mooks, though Flynn does get to punch his former professor in the nose.  Flynn goes after Edward and gets beaten up a bit.  But as Flynn pointed out to the students earlier, if one stone is out of line be even one inch, the whole pyramid collapses; and Edward has been hitting stones trying to get Flynn.  Edward is crushed by the capstone and the Spear floats to Flynn.

Back at the Library, Flynn is worthy enough to pull out Excalibur and there is a new portrait hanging, featuring Flynn with the Spear.  Three months later, Flynn’s mother is still trying to hook his son up, despite hearing Nicole on the phone earlier.  Nicole zooms in on a motorcycle and kisses Flynn hello, then briefly introduced to his mother.  But they have to go (time-traveling ninjas are on the loose).

The opening of Return to Solomon’s Mines is very similar to the opening of Last Crusade; it takes place in Utah and Flynn interrupts someone digging up something that doesn’t belong to them.  Back at the Library, he receives a package while Judson instructs him that he has a lot to learn and that to be a truly great Librarian, one must sacrifice what one wants for the greater good.  Flynn stops by his mother’s house for a surprise birthday party for him and briefly speaks to his father’s best friend, Jerry.  Flynn’s father passed away when the man was thirty-two, which is the age Flynn is now.  His mother has saved some of his old drawings from bedtime adventures his father told him.  She pulls out a [Masonic-looking] medallion, which his father used to joke was their family crest.  At Flynn’s apartment, he discovers that he was mailed an odd-looking scroll, then is knocked out.  Judson wakes him and realizes that the symbol Flynn saw on the scroll leads to Solomon’s Mines, holding great treasure.  It also holds the Key of Solomon which can summon the undead.  Judson sends Flynn to Morocco.

Flynn meets Emily at her Roman dig in Morocco; she’s searching for evidence of the Queen of Sheba’s (the wife of King Solomon) rule there.  They discover the secret tomb and are briefly attacked after finding the legend piece.  But their attacker recognizes the medallion Flynn wears; it symbolizes a society bound to protect Solomon’s Mines.  More bad guys come and they are sent to Kenya to find the second piece.  Emily insists on accompanying Flynn; if she can find more items like the legend piece, her own research will be funded for years.  Emily also has 25 degrees (to Flynn’s 22), so they spend a great deal of their journey arguing history and archeology.  Then they come across a man buried in the sand.  For freeing him, he will take them to Gedi.

Bad guys have followed them to Gedi, but luckily they run into Jerry boarding a train.  He treats them to dinner, then Flynn and Emily discover the key to the map is playing the legend pieces like an instrument; the map is music notes.  It comes to life and leads them to another mountain.  Judson pops into instruct Flynn to return home; but Flynn and Emily continue on.  Flynn’s father’s bedtime stories lead the way to the oldest tree in Africa, underneath which is a temple.  They find the treasure, but bad guys interrupt their exploration, led by Jerry.  Jerry wants the Key, which Flynn found, so he can re-write history.  Jerry blames Flynn’s father for stealing his mother’s heart; Jerry should have had the family; and he was responsible for the father’s death.

Jerry incants from the book, opening a portal and beginning to raise the dead.  Flynn goes after Jerry and threatens to destroy the book, but Jerry tempts him with the idea that Flynn can bring his father back.  Flynn takes over the chanting, but Emily manages to distract him.  Flynn throws the book into the lava and Jerry jumps in after it.  Emily, Flynn, and the man they saved all manage to escape the explosion and Flynn is left to return home alone.  Judson encourages Flynn that he did the right thing in destroying the Key of Solomon; only a great Librarian would have done so.

Flynn is at an auction in the beginning of Curse of the Judas Chalice on Library business, but also trying to keep his girlfriend happy.  He battles against another collector to retrieve the Philosopher’s Stone.  He wins, but his girlfriend leaves him.  He’s depressed once he returns to the Library and Judson’s comment that he’s a celibate monk does not help.  When Flynn looks around the Library he doesn’t see artifacts anymore, he sees the bits of his life he gave up to retrieve them, like his college reunion.  Charlene suggests that Flynn use a few vacation days, then stops by his apartment later (a little drunk) to drop off travel brochures.  Flynn dreams of New Orleans and decides to give it a try (a woman called to him in his dream).  He hears the same voice singing and meets Simone.

Meanwhile, a former KGB Russian, Kubichek meets up with a Romanian history professor.  The professor is teaching a lesson on Prince Vlad Dracul, known as the Impaler, but all his students want to know is whether the man was a vampire.  Kubichek is interested instead with the Judas Chalice.

The Russians end up chasing after Flynn in New Orleans and Simone helps him escape, such as hitting a high C in an echo chamber.  Simone takes Flynn out for a night on the town and he perks up a bit.  Judson appears to Flynn (again; he has a habit of doing that) and explains that Flynn needs to go after the Judas Chalice.  The Chalice has the power to resurrect vampires, because apparently, Judas was the first vampire, cursed to walk the Earth for all eternity after he was hung for his transgressions.  Oh, and Dracula’s tomb has been stolen.

The bad guys grab Flynn, explaining that they want to use the army of the undead to bring Russia back to its former glory [seems like lots of Russians want to do that in these types of movies].  Flynn happens to know the Romanian professor and they decipher the lens that was found.  Simone drops in to help rescue Flynn, except she’s shot.  Flynn drags her out and briefly mourns her…turns out she’s not dead.  She’s a vampire.  She was turned in Paris in 1603 where she had been an opera singer for the royal court.  Now, she’s trying to hunt down the vampire who turned her and kill him.  (She also hints that Judson is a lot older than he appears and there is a larger battle to be had with the Library, between good and evil).

Flynn and Simone find the Chalice aboard Lafitte’s shipwreck [no, not Lafayette that many now know from Hamilton.  Lafitte was French as well, but was a smuggler based out of New Orleans in the early nineteenth century.  He did aid America in the Battle of New Orleans.]  The Russians interrupt the couple and Simone seems to know the professor.  The Russians trap them, but Flynn rigs a cannon to blow open a way out.  Simone leaves him behind and Flynn fears she wants the Chalice for herself.  When they meet up at the plantation again, turns out, no, she recognized the professor as the vampire who turned her.  And who turns out to be Dracula.  And he has no intention of actually helping the Russians.  Sure, he’ll raise the undead, but so he can rule the world.  Flynn goes after Vlad and the Chalice.  Simone helps fight Vlad, who drops the Chalice.  Flynn stabs him with a stake from an aspen tree.  Simone then watches the sun rise with Flynn, one last time.  Her duty to protect the Chalice is done now; she’s gotten her vengeance.  But she encourages Flynn to live out his destiny as the Librarian.

Flynn returns to the Library in a better mood and ready to fight the larger battle that is coming.  As he and Judson walk away, it is revealed that the walkways of the Library create the Tree of Knowledge.

I love these movies.  I want the Librarian job.  Again, it makes learning fun.  History is not dry and dull [well yes, at times it is], but hunting for artifacts uses so many aspects of knowledge.  And I appreciate that the three different women who help out Flynn are all strong, independent women.  Yes, they have brief romances with the lead man, but they are also smart in their own right.  Nicole is the one to kick butt.  And they don’t look down on Flynn for being a bookworm.  Being a bookworm actually saves their butts occasionally.

Next Time: The adventure continues with the first season of The Librarians

“Cry God, for Harry, England, and St. George!”

Partaking in something that satisfies both the historian in me and the English major: Shakespeare.  Now, I believe I have mentioned before that I am not a dutiful English major; I don’t like Shakespeare, well, I don’t like reading Shakespeare.  It’s boring and most teachers pound it into our skulls by analyzing it to death.  I hate that.  But, BBC put together a phenomenal cast and put Shakespeare’s histories on screen (which I am aware has been done before, heck, I tried to watch a version of Macbeth starring Patrick Stewart and couldn’t make it through it.  Now, there was a slightly modern version of Hamlet done with David Tennant that was fantastic).  They timed the first arc to coincide with the 2012 London Olympics; this arc included Richard II, Henry IV parts I and II, and Henry V.  Their second arc included Henry VI and Richard III in 2016.

Gut reactions?  Richard II was a bit odd.  Henry IV was wonderful to see and Henry V is utterly magnificent.  Henry VI is simply everyone changing sides and the start of the War of the Roses and is interesting to see from this perspective.  As for Richard III; I remember doing a segment on the historical accuracy of the play in a British history course in college and I can certainly see the Tudor propaganda in the play (oh, they all cut out and condense history, but then, these are plays, not true histories…actually, I’d like to see historical documentaries on these people), yet I now see what all the hype is about.

Above all, these are a veritable who’s who in British acting.

Richard II stars Ben Whishaw (Q in Craig’s James Bond and Michael Banks in Mary Poppins Returns) as the king.  Opposite him is Rory Kinnear (also appears with Whishaw in Skyfall, and Spectre as Bill Tanner, which he briefly played in Quantum of Solace as well) as Bolingbroke, who goes on to be crowned Henry IV.  The great Patrick Stewart appears as John of Gaunt.  If Thomas Mowbray, who argues with Bolingbroke, looks familiar, that’s because he’s played by James Purefoy, who portrays Colville aka Edward, the Black Prince of Wales in A Knight’s Tale [making this a bit funny to a historian, because Edward, the Black Prince of Wales was Richard II’s father: his father was King Edward III, but he died before his father did and so thus, his son inherited the throne].  David Morrissey appears as the Earl of Northumberland.  He’s also been the Duke of Norfolk in The Other Boleyn Girl [uncle to Anne], and has appeared in a 2008 episode of Doctor Who, “The Next Doctor”.  We briefly see David Bradley (Filch in Harry Potter and Walter Frey in Game of Thrones) as the gardener and Lindsay Duncan (also appeared in a 2009 episode of Doctor Who, “Water of Mars,” she was the mother in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, a queen in two episodes of Merlin, and Lady Smallwood in several episodes of Sherlock) as the Duchess of York.

The very gifted Jeremy Irons (Scar in The Lion King [the animated classic], Tiberius in Kingdom of Heaven, Brom in Eragon, Aramis in The Man in the Iron Mask, and Alfred in several of DC’s newer Batman movies) takes over as the older Henry IV.  Tom Hiddleston (we love him as Loki in the MCU) shines as Prince Hal.  Julie Walters (Mrs. Wealsey in Harry Potter and Rosie in both Mamma Mia movies) is Mistress Quickly, Robert Pugh (he’s Craster in Game of Thrones, amongst other roles in Kingdom of Heaven, The White Queen [which also depicts the War of the Roses], and Master and Commander) is Owain Glyndŵr [that is the proper spelling, IMDB lists him as Owen Glendower; a real Welsh rebel that I’ve got a book on].  Oh hey, there’s Michelle Dockery (Mary in Downton Abbey) as Kate Percy, and Harry Lloyd (Baines in 2007’s Doctor Who “Human Nature” and “The Family of Blood,” Will Scarlett in BBC’s Robin Hood, and insane Viserys Targaryen in Game of Thrones) is Mortimer, and Joe Armstrong (Allan a Dale in Robin Hood) is Hotspur.  His father, Alum Armstrong (he’s had roles in Van Helsing, Braveheart, and Patriot Games amongst others) plays Hotspur’s father Northumberland, and Iain Glen (Jorah Mormont in Game of Thrones, Sir Richard Carlisle in Downton Abbey, and 2010’s Doctor Who “The Time of Angels” and “Flash and Stone”) pops up as Warwick.

Of course, Prince Hal graduates to King Henry V in the next installment.  This was the bit that makes me almost like Shakespeare.  Tom Hiddleston delivers some of the best known speeches with such quiet passion.  “Once more unto the breach,” stirs my blood, and he got the role of Henry V with “St. Crispin’s day,” which includes that famous line: “we few/ we happy few/ we band of brothers.”  One almost cries.  And his wooing of Katherine…if a dashing man ever said those words to me, I’d be weak-kneed.  I remember rehearsals for faire, male cast members are encouraged to woo female patrons (worked on me when I was a patron), and so they practiced on female cast members; I was just happy some guy was saying nice words to me, I didn’t really care what he was saying.

If Corporal Nym [grrr, I hate his name’s “Nym,” because I want to use it for a headstrong female character in my saga] looks familiar, he’s Tom Brooke and he’s appeared briefly in a few Sherlock episodes.  And look, there’s Richard Griffiths (Vernon Dursely in Harry Potter, King George in On Stranger Tides) as the Duke of Burgundy [this was one of his last roles].  The ever talented John Hurt (the dragon Kilgarah in Merlin, the War Doctor of Doctor Who, Ollivander in Harry Potter, Professor Oxley in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Montrose in Rob Roy, and other roles going back to the 60’s)  acts as the chorus [and he just passed away in 2017].  Some other familiar faces join us in Henry V; Anton Lesser (Qyburn in Game of Thrones, an episode of The Musketeers, Harold Warne in Miss Potter, and other roles) as Exeter [he’ll stay on through Henry VI and Richard III] and Owen Teale (part of some older Doctor Who episodes, The Last Legion, and the Headmaster in Tolkien, but I’m sure we recognize him as Thorne in Game of Thrones ) as Captain Fluellen.

Tom Sturridge takes up the mantle of Henry VI.  Sophie Okonedo (Liz Ten in “The Beast Below” and “The Pandorica Opens” in 2010’s Doctor Who) joins him as Margaret of Anjou, and Hugh Bonneville (Robert Crawley in Downton Abbey, Monuments Men, several episodes of Doctor Who as a pirate captain, he was even in Tomorrow Never Dies) is so encouraging as Gloucester.  Michael Gambon (Dumbledore in Harry Potter, Lord Charles Fox in Amazing Grace, and he’s even appeared in Doctor Who 2010’s “A Christmas Carol”) briefly appears as Mortimer.

In the second part, Benedict Cumberbatch (Doctor Strange, Sherlock, Khan in Star Trek: Into Darkness, amongst other roles) pops up as the Duke of York [called Plantagenet in Shakespeare as a claimant to the old royal dynasty]’s son Richard.  Phoebe Fox (the Duchess of Savoy in The Musketeers) is Anne Neville.  James Fleet as Hastings has been in several period pieces.  And say hello to the appearance of Andrew Scott (C in Spectre and Moriarty in Sherlock) as King Louis of France.  Somerset is played by Ben Miles (Peter Townsend in The Crown), and George, the Duke of Clarence is played by Sam Troughton (Much in BBC’s Robin Hood).

Benedict takes center stage in Richard III.  He is brilliant in the role.  I dislike the character of Richard, but Benedict delivers exquisitely.  Let me go on a little historical accuracy rant: historical evidence proves that Richard was not a hunchback; he may have had a slight difference in shoulder height, but is regarded to have been a tall, broad-shouldered man.  Nor was he the “Machiavellian villain” Shakespeare depicts him as, at least, no more than any other man of that time.  Shakespeare wrote him as a villain to please the Elizabethan court in order to paint her grandfather as a benevolent conqueror.  As another historian pointed out to me, if Richard had the princes of the tower in his custody, he could have produced them in order to throw suspicion off himself.  We also get the addition of Judi Dench as Richard’s mother, Cecily.

Historical note: there are several “Duke of Gloucester” throughout the plays and throughout history, because it is a title, typically a relative of the monarch.  Same as the Duke of York, and Mortimer is a title (which I got confused a bit, seeing a Mortimer in Henry IV and one in Henry VI.)  I swear, one needs a family tree to reference when watching these histories.  I’ll try to explain the central plot of the War of the Roses as best I can.  Edward III had several sons, the eldest of which was Edward, the Black Prince of Wales.  His third son (his second died young-ish) was John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, his fourth son was Edmund, holding the title Duke of York, and his fifth son was Thomas, the Duke of Gloucester.  The Black Prince’s son was Richard II.  The way that Bolingbroke claimed the throne was that he had a right to it as the son of Edward’s third son (hence, Richard and Bolingbroke were cousins and until Bolingbroke’s exile, they were close).  Bolingbroke became Henry IV [Lancaster], who has at least four sons, the eldest of whom became Henry V.  Henry V died tragically young and his son, Henry VI, assumed the throne incredibly young, only nine months old.  England was ruled by the Lord Protector, his uncle, Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester (one of Henry V’s brothers).

Then along comes Richard, Duke of York (the great-great-grandson of the Edward III’s second son by way of Lionel, Duke of Clarence’s daughter, then grandson, then great-granddaughter).  Just like Bolingbroke challenged Richard II for the throne due to ineptitude, the Duke of York [white rose] challenged Henry VI [followers wore a red rose].  The Duke of York’s son, Edward took the throne, becoming King Edward IV.  He had three children with Elizabeth Woodville; Elizabeth of York, Edward (briefly Edward V), and Richard (also holding the title Duke of York).   Edward IV has several younger brothers, including George, the Duke of Clarence, and Richard, the Duke of Gloucester.  Once Edward IV and George were dead, Richard declared Edward IV’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville unlawful, making his offspring with her illegitimate.  He took the throne as Richard III.  There’s the York contingent.

But back with John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, his second marriage produced several generations, to John Beaufort, the Earl of Somerset, then his son John, then his daughter Margaret Beaufort, who married Edmund Tudor, the Earl of Richmond, and then had Henry, who in Shakespeare was called Richmond, thus making him the Lancastrian claimant.  [Edmund Tudor was the son of Owen Tudor (a Welshman), who married the widowed Katherine (wife of Henry V)…as for Henry V’s claim of “I am Welsh, as you know,”…well, he was Prince of Wales and born there, but not actually Welsh by blood; I would guess it was a line Shakespeare inserted to play to Queen Elizabeth’s Welsh ancestry].  Henry Tudor became Henry VII and he married Elizabeth of York (remember, Edward IV’s eldest daughter) and uniting the Lancastrians and Yorkists and ending the War of the Roses  From here, we should know how things go from there for a bit.

This is the sort of stuff that fascinates me as a historian; how the different lines come together and play out.  And I understand Shakespeare’s language a bit better watching it performed, more of a dialogue rather than verse.

On a different note: I highly recommend Netflix’s Enola Holmes film.  Millie Bobby Brown is precisely the female heroine we need; smart and not afraid of action.  Henry Cavill is a calmer Sherlock Holmes, but I greatly desire to see more of these characters.  I may just check out the novels the film was based on.

Are They Fighting or Are They Dancing?

The Mask of Zorro

Another of the swashbuckling movies produced in the nineties, like Three Musketeers and Prince of Thieves and like those two, it’s very well done.  Stars Anthony Hopkins (a classic Welsh actor who is Odin in MCU Thor, famous as Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs [and I refuse to watch that movie, I do not need the nightmares], was Van Helsing in 1992’s Bram’s Dracula, was in A Bridge Too Far with the other great actors of that time) as Don Diego de la Vega, Stuart Wilson (an older Robin Hood in Disney’s Princess of Thieves) as Don Rafael Montero, Tony Amendola (Marco/Geppetto in ABC’s Once Upon a Time series amongst other TV series) as Don Luiz, Antonio Banderas (this is probably his most famous role) as Alejandro Murrieta and Catherine Zeta-Jones (who is actually Welsh, and married to Michael Douglas since 2000; this was her breakthrough role, and she went on to win an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 2002’s Chicago) as Elena.  This is not the first appearance of the character Zorro; he dates to 1919 and was originally supposed to be a one-time character, then the popularity of the 1920 movie had the author create dozens of further stories.  However, this is probably one of the more well-known iterations.

The story begins in 1821 as Spain is leaving Mexico due to a rebellion led by General Santa Anna.  The last governor, Don Rafael Montero is ordered to leave, but has one last piece of business to take care of.  He gives his friend Don Luiz orders to distribute the Spanish land amongst themselves and pay taxes to Santa Anna, thereby maintaining their wealth.  Montero is planning to execute three innocent men amidst a protest.  Two boys are waiting for the legendary Zorro to appear and he does not disappoint.  The boys even save Zorro from a trap and in return, he gifts them with a medallion.  The crowd cheers for their hero and protects him from the guards.  He confronts Montero and marks his neck with a “Z”, three slashes for three men.  Montero would murder a hundred innocent men in order to kill Zorro.  But Zorro rides away.

There is a lair beneath his estate (the original Bat cave; in fact, Zorro is considered an influence to Batman); Zorro remarks to his faithful black steed that they are both getting too old for their activities.  Zorro without the mask is Diego de la Vega and he visits his infant daughter in her nursery and tells her stories about his escapades.  His wife, Esperenza joins the pair.  They are interrupted by Montero and his guards.  Montero has an inkling at this point that de la Vega is Zorro and pressing on his arm reveals a bloody scratch de la Vega received during the fight that day.  He attempts to arrest de la Vega as a traitor to both his country and his class, and oddly apologizes to Esperenza.  Turns out, Montero loves Esperenza and is upset that she married de la Vega; but now, he probably is thinking with de la Vega out of the way, he can claim Esperenza.  But Esperenza tries to protect her husband during his duel with Montero and a guard accidentally shoots her.  Montero dispatches the guard, and de la Vega goes for his crying daughter; a fire has started during the scuffle.  Montero knocks de la Vega out, puts him in chains, and claims his daughter.  Montero leaves with young Elena for Spain and de la Vega is taken away to prison to rot; Montero’s parting words to de la Vega: you must “live with the knowledge you have lost everything you hold dear,” and “your child should have been mine.”  (This of course, takes away the notion of Esperenza’s own choice; she seems very happy with de la Vega and aware of his secret, most likely meaning it was a love match, so no, Elena should have never been Montero’s child.)  de la Vega swears to Montero, “you will never be rid of me!”

Twenty years later: the Murrieta brothers have been caught…well, actually, they were in on their capture so they could steal the guard’s money and redistribute it to the poor (a la Robin Hood).  But there is a new Captain in town, Captain Love from Texas; he ends up shooting Joaquin and capturing Jack.  Alejandro escapes, but watches his brother shoot himself instead of being captured.  Alejandro collects his brother’s medallion, then tries to barter it away for a drink.  In the meantime, Montero has returned to California.  His first stop is the prison, in order to be sure that Zorro is dead.  Several prisoners claim they are Zorro (like the famous “I’m Spartacus” scene), but Montero doesn’t believe any of them.  He walks right by an old man with an eye patch, pauses for a moment, but dismisses him.  He deduces Zorro is dead.

Wrong.  That old man is de la Vega and he manages to free himself and get smuggled out of the prison by impersonating a dead body; meaning he then digs himself out of the grave.  He will exact his revenge on Montero.  He attends Montero’s official arrival the following day, where Montero plays to the crowd, insulting the other Dons so he can claim he works for the people.  Obviously, de la Vega knows better and starts to make his way to the former governor, until Montero’s “daughter” arrives, Elena.  This halts de la Vega.  He must rethink his plan.  On his way to his hideout, he comes across Alejandro and his old medallion as Alejandro prepares to barter it away.  He easily bests Alejandro in a fight, but offers to train the young man.

mask of zorroAlejandro is eager to start fighting, though his answer of “the pointy end goes in the other man, [sounding like Jon Snow or Arya Stark]” shows de la Vega that he must start with the basics.  The master has a new apprentice.  de la Vega has Alejandro bathe and trim his hair.  After disarming the old fox once, Alejandro figures he is skilled enough to capture a black Andalusian, like Zorro’s Tornado.  Alejandro, in a mask, encounters Elena and she is quite taken by the dangerous man.  When his plan goes a bit awry, Alejandro hides in the church and ends up hearing Elena’s confession, that she is starting to have thoughts about the masked man and her heart is too wild for her father’s liking.  Alejandro manages to escape before Captain Love appears, but he leaves the “Z” mark to let them know Zorro has returned.

de la Vega, expertly using a whip to extinguish candles (Hopkins could do that trick and was added into the movie), is not pleased with Alejandro; Zorro serves the people, not himself.  Alejandro is tired of the lectures and demands de la Vega duel him.  The older man holds up a spoon.  Alejandro must have the polish of a proper gentleman, and needs to spy on Montero.  The two men attend a gala held at the estate, de la Vega masquerading as Alejandro’ s servant, who goes by the title Don de Castilio.  Alejandro is properly presented to Elena, but his gentleman charm does not impress her, though he is impressing Montero.  However, when Alejandro has to stall Montero, he dances quite passionately with Elena (it is a wonderful and lively dance).  Alejandro gains an invitation with the rest of the Dons and Montero reveals his plan; he means for the Dons to claim California.  They will buy it from Santa Anna with gold from a mine on his own land that he is unaware of.  Santa Anna will take the gold because a war with the United States is expensive.  Montero shows off the mine the next day and Alejandro discovers that poor Mexicans who have gone missing have been taken to the mine.

Elena has a conversation with de la Vega the next day in the stables, only knowing him as Alejandro’s servant.  But de la Vega remarks that she looks like her mother.  Elena has been told that her mother was very proper.  And de la Vega’s voice is familiar.  Then, in the market, her former nursemaid makes a gift to her, recognizing her as the daughter of Esperenza de la Vega.  Elena tries to tell the woman she is mistaken and that she was born in Spain.  But she’s already encountered native Californian flowers she remembers the scent.  Montero’s tale is starting to unravel.

de la Vega gifts Alejandro with a proper Zorro mask and instructs him to sneak into Montero’s office; they need the location of the mine.  de la Vega sets a flaming “Z” on the hillside as a distraction, but Alejandro still encounters Captain Love and Montero and even duels them both.  he escapes through the stables and faces off with Elena, who is skilled in sword fighting as well (I love that she’s an action woman).  He does delicately cut her clothes off her as a way to stop her (her hair covers her top).  Alejandro still has hilarious issues with his new horse, but does demonstrate that he is a good rider.  de la Vega returns that evening to confront Montero and demands that Elena be brought out.  Montero’s tale fully unravels; the name “de la Vega” is a clue from the woman in the marketplace and the truth comes out.  She persuades de la Vega to put down his sword to save himself from being shot.  At this point, Elena must be wondering what did Montero do that he was able to take her from de la Vega and what truly happened to her mother.  Then she later frees him from the cellar he’s been thrown into and they race off to help Zorro.

zorro dance

Zorro sneaks into the mine and discovers the people are locked in.  Captain Love’s suggestion is to blow up the mine once all the gold is out and kill the people as well so there are no witnesses.  But when Zorro shows up, Love cuts the fuse so he has time to deal with the nuisance.  de la Vega confronts Montero again as Elena watches.  Montero seems willing to kill her to stop de la Vega, but he wouldn’t actually hurt the woman he views as a daughter, though it gives him the chance to shoot de la Vega.  Zorro dispatches Love, even after being stabbed and unmasked, then Montero is caught behind the wagon as it falls.  Elena goes to rescue the trapped people and the fuse has restarted.  Zorro helps her with the last cells and they save the day!  Alejandro holds de la Vega as he bids his daughter farewell; she has the same spirit as her mother.  He even blesses Alejandro and Elena, then passes away.  Elena mourns de la Vega; not Montero.

There must always be a Zorro; it is a destiny and a curse, for there is always another battle.  But both Zorros have loved Elena.  And now Alejandro tells the story to his son.

In 2005, there was a direct sequel to this film, The Legend of Zorro, bringing back both Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones to reprise their roles.  Rufus Sewell (Knight’s Tale, Tristan and Isolde, Victoria) joins as Armand, a former friend of Elena de la Vega’s when she grew up in Spain.  This film is not nearly as good as Mask of Zorro.  The premise is that California is voting to become part of the United States in 1850, but there is a secret organization attempting to block it.  Zorro is doing his best, but since he is gone often, his marriage is strained and he’s missing out on seeing his son grow up.  His secret is found out by mysterious men, who blackmail Elena into working undercover for them.  She divorces Alejandro and he must make a choice between being Zorro and saving his family.

Of course, several of the fight scenes are still good and Elena retains some of her action-girl status.  But there are several glaring errors.  California at that time was Catholic; divorce was not allowed and Elena’s status would have surely suffered.  Mentions of the Confederacy are inaccurate since it didn’t form until 1861.  The inclusion of nitroglycerin is just barely factual; it was invented in 1847 as an explosive, but to me, still seems a bit farfetched.  The overall feeling I get from the film is that they were trying too hard.  The villains are flat.   Of course, the son learns who his father is, and the marriage is put to rights.  I argue how could Elena say to Alejandro “we were never meant to be together?”  You married him knowing full well who he was and what he did.  That was what attracted you to him.  There was a more logical way to deal with the matter.

So, definitely watch Mask of Zorro, it is a classic.  Hopkins is excellent and I actually would love to see more of him in that role.  Antonio is charming and this is why Puss in Boots in Shrek is a takeoff on Zorro, since Antonio voiced the cat (despite the tale being French).  As I’ve stated before, I love a good sword fight.

Next Time: Top Gun

She has a Friend, Every Time She Paints

Miss Potter

A romantic bopic of children’s author, Beatrix Potter. It stars Renee Zellweger as Beatrix, Ewan McGregor as Norman Warne, her publisher (the two appeared opposite each other in Down With Love, which is coming up soon in my posting schedule). Emily Watson (she was in Testament of Youth [that WWI movie I watched with Kit Harrington] and War Horse) plays his sister, Millie. Beatrix’s father, Rupert, is played by Bill Paterson; we’ve seen him in Amazing Grace and Outlander.

This film beautifully showcases the Lake District of England and is a huge reason why I want to personally visit the scenery at some point in my life. It opens with Beatrix’s voice-over telling us when writing the first words of a story, one never knows where one will end up. We see her struggle to publish a children’s book and be taken seriously as a single, unmarried woman in 1902 London. Her publishers fob her off onto their younger brother who is making a nuisance of himself; if it gets mucked up, it’s no real loss. However, she is determined to look upon this as an adventure and encourages her illustrated animal friends to do the same. There is a flashback to her childhood, showing that she was a talented artist and making up stories even then.

Luckily, Norman loves Beatrix’s book and quite enthusiastic to work with her on it; everything can be done to her specification. Another flashback shows us that when Beatrix was young, her family started vacationing in the Lake District, where Beatrix got a lot of her inspiration. There was even a young man in the area who liked her stories, Willie Heelis. But Beatrix’s mother despairs of her ever marrying, or at least, marrying properly. She has introduced a string of suitable suitors to her daughter, but Beatrix wants none of them. Meanwhile, she and Norman make a good team publishing her book, and Norman encourages her to produce more stories. The first book, Peter Rabbit, is a success. Norman takes Beatrix to meet his mother and sister and Millie is determined to be fierce friends with Beatrix, bonding over their unmarried states.

In turn, Beatrix invites Millie and Norman to her family’s annual Christmas party. Her father comes to her rescue when her mother disapproves of their “tradesman” status. Beatrix’s present for Norman is a new Christmas story, which the party insists she share. She is a bit scandalous, showing Norman her bedroom, but they are chaperoned and Norman leads her in a sweet dance [I saw this movie before Down With Love or Moulin Rouge and was unaware that Ewan could sing]. Norman proposes, but Beatrix’s answer is interrupted. Then she confers with Millie if she minds. Millie encourages her friend to take a chance on love. Beatrix tells Norman yes. The next day, he visits her father. Unfortunately, Beatrix’s parents disapprove, her father mainly on the point that it is too sudden. They compromise; Beatrix can accept in secret. Their family will vacation in the Lake District for the summer again. If the couple still wants to marry at the end after some time, they will give their blessing. Norman bids farewell to Beatrix at the train station in the rain and they send letters back and forth.

Then, Norman’s letters stop coming. Millie writes, informing Beatrix that Norman is ill. She returns to London, sadly to discover that Norman has died. Millie was the only one who knew Norman and Beatrix were engaged. Oh, I cry every time during this part of the movie. Beatrix returns home, utterly depressed. She tries to draw, but her friends run from something. Millie comes to her rescue. Beatrix must get out of the house. She ispotter cottage quite wealthy now with the royalties from her books; she buys Hill Top Farm in the Lake District, from her old friend, William Heelis. Slowly, Beatrix comes back to life. She draws again and has new stories buzzing about. She reconnects with William, and they share the notion that the landscape of the Lake District needs preserved, farms should be kept farming, not bought out by developers.

The film ends back at the beginning, with Beatrix sitting down to write. We are told that eight years after moving to the Lake District, Beatrix married William Heelis and she donated 4,000 acres of farmland to the British people through a land preservation trust.

Miss Potter is not a terribly dramatic movie, which makes it a good movie to put on when I don’t want to have to think too hard on something. The scenery is gorgeous and I love Millie Warne’s views on unmarried ladies. I want a home someday like Beatrix’s cottage; it’s so cute. I have always loved bunnies (though I am quite content to let the bunnies that live in our backyard be as close as I get to having a pet), so I’ve always liked Beatrix’s illustrations.

Up Next: Titanic

A Tale of Woe

Jane Eyre

Another classic novel that has had many film versions made of it; I’ve only ever watched the 2011 film, and that was due to the cast. Mia Wasikowska (opposite Johnny Depp in Disney’s live-action Alice in Wonderland movies) is the titular Jane Eyre. Michael Fassbender (young Erik Lensher/Magneto from the prequel X-Men films) is Mr. Rochester. Judi Dench is Mrs. Fairfax. Holliday Grainger (we saw her in Disney’s live-action Cinderella movie as one of the stepsisters) is Diana Rivers alongside Tamzin Merchant (Georgiana Darcy) as her sister Mary Rivers. And if Mr. Brocklehurst, the overseer of that horrid boarding school looks familiar, he is played by Simon McBurney. He wasn’t terribly nice as Father Tancred in Robin Hood and not exactly nice as Charles Fox in The Duchess. Harry Lloyd (Will Scarlet in BBC’s Robin Hood series, Viserys Targaryen in Game of Thrones, and he appeared in two episodes of Doctor Who as well during David Tennat’s tenure) is Richard Mason. This film did encourage me to read the novel and it wasn’t too bad. Charlotte Brontë is not an author I will rush to read more of, but I see why it is renowned.

The film jumps around the timeline; we begin with Jane running away, laying down and crying when she sinks to the depths of despair, and being taken in by the Rivers, headed by their brother John. Then Jane recalls her childhood, brought up in her aunt’s house after the death of her parents and uncle. Her aunt cannot stand to have her in the house, so makes it out that she is a wretched child and sends her to a boarding school that encourages beating the girls. Jane makes one friend, who comments that Jane is surrounded by an invisible kingdom of spirits. Sadly, the other girl dies. When we jump back to the present, Jane is looking for work. John Rivers finds her a small parish school and Jane recalls fondly her farewell from school and her beginning at Thornfield Hall.

The house is kept by Mrs. Fairfax and Jane is the new governess for Mr. Rochester’s ward, a young French girl, Adele. Jane settles into Thornfield rather well, but still wishes for some adventure. Mrs. Fairfax sends her on an errand, and Jane manages to startle a man and his horse on the road. When Jane returns to the house, she discovers the injured man is her master, Mr. Rochester. Rochester asks if she was looking for her people, the fairies. He is intrigued by Jane and they speak frankly with each other. He toils alongside his help, but is changeable. One night, Jane hears something outside her door. She goes to investigate and discovers smoke in Rochester’s room and saves him from being burned alive. He thanks her, but also cautions her to say nothing. The next morning, he has left again. Then abruptly returns with wealthy guests. Mrs. Fairfax surmises that he will propose to Miss Ingram soon.

After enduring the wealthy guests, Jane leaves the drawing room. Rochester follows, but their conversation is interrupted by a visitor from Jamaica, Mr. Richard Mason. Rochester oddly asks Jane if she would remain his friend even if he faced disgrace. She would. Richard greets Rochester warmly and the two men speak. Jane is woken that night by a scream, as are the other guests. Rochester sends them back to bed, but asks for Jane’s help. She is to keep an eye on Mr. Mason while Rochester fetches the doctor; Mason has been stabbed. But both are ordered to not speak to each other. Jane discovers a hidden door in Rochester’s room, but the man returns before she can investigate further.

Come daylight, Rochester opens up to Jane about a woman who revives him. Jane believes he speaks of Miss Ingram. In truth, “what would Jane Eyre do to secure myjane eyre happiness?” He tucks a small flower in her hair. Later, news comes that Jane’s cousin has committed suicide and her aunt requests she return home. Jane acquiesces, only for her aunt to reveal that she lied to Jane’s other uncle when he inquired of her whereabouts, wishing to bequeath his estate. Jane returns to Thornfield Hall in good spirits, though she is greeted by the rumor of Rochester’s engagement to Miss Ingram. She informs him she will seek a job elsewhere. She and Rochester share a confusing conversation about their souls before Rochester asks her plainly to be his wife. The sun shines brightly and the couple are happy.

Unfortunately, their happy day is interrupted by Richard Mason again. Rochester pulls Jane back to Thornfield and reveals that behind the hidden door is a hidden room containing his wife, Bertha, Richard’s sister. He had married her fifteen years prior in Jamaica, but she turned wild. Jane returns to her room and removes her wedding gown. Rochester pleads with her that night, but she will not marry him while he is married to Bertha. She flees come morning, bringing us back to the beginning. Rochester’s shout of “Jane” echoes through the rest of the film.

Jane imagines in her little cottage that Rochester has been searching for her and finds her, planting a searing kiss on her. Sadly, no, ’tis only John Rivers with news of Jane’s uncle. He has since passed and left her a considerable inheritance. Jane desires to share the money with the Rivers who were kind enough to save her life. But John wants more than friendship and a sibling relationship. He wants her to marry him and become a missionary wife in India. She refuses to marry him and goes searching for Rochester. In her absence, Thornfield has burned. Mrs. Fairfax informs Jane that Bertha lit another fire and Rochester wouldn’t rest until everyone had been rescued. He even went back in for Bertha, but couldn’t prevent her from jumping from the roof. Jane searches for her dear Rochester. She finds him underneath a tree, now blind, but he recognizes her hands. Jane kisses him, the sun shines again, and the movie ends.

While the tale is relatively depressing most of the time, there are some rather tender moments between the two main characters. The film is well acted. We can see how Jane wants Rochester, even before she knows his feelings, without her having to say anything. Not the most romantic movie, but there are others that get me feeling all warm and fuzzy inside.

Next Time: Miss Potter

“Your Hands are Cold”

Pride and Prejudice

Again, this is the 2005 rendition of Jane Austen’s most famous work and is full of familiar faces. Keira Knightley (Pirates of the Caribbean) leads as Miss Elizabeth Bennett. Rosamund Pike (the femme fatale of Die Another Day) is her elder sister, Jane. Jena Malone (one of the contestants in The Hunger Games series) is one of the younger sisters, Lydia. Donald Sutherland (who also appears in The Hunger Games and the original MASH movie amongst his illustrious career) is their father, Mr. Bennett. Opposite Keira is Matthew Macfadyen (Athos in 2011’s The Three Musketeers, star of BBC’s Ripper Street [which I have only caught commercials of during Sherlock and The Musketeers, don’t really have a desire to watch], The Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood with Russell Crowe, and also starred opposite Keira Knightley in Anna Karenina in 2012 [my mother and I sat through that movie, neither of us ever having read the book and were thoroughly confused. That is the movie that led us to creating our twenty-minute rule with any movie; if we are not interested in the movie within the first twenty minutes, we shut if off; because that was three hours of our lives we will never get back]) as Mr. Darcy.

Kelly Reilly (Mary Morstan in Robert Downey Jr’s Sherlock Holmes movies) is Caroline Bingley.  Darcy’s younger sister, Georgiana is played by Tamzin Merchant (she was the young Catherine Howard fated to be beheaded as Henry VIII’s fifth wife in The Tudors series, and even shows up in our next film, Jane Eyre).  The Bennett’s cousin, Mr. Collins is played by Tom Hollander (he showed up in two of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies as Cutler Beckett).  The formidable Lady Catherine de Bourgh is played by the as formidable Dame Judi Dench (M in several of the more recent James Bond films).  And another relative of the Bennett’s, Mrs. Gardiner, is played by Penelope Wilton (Harriet Jones in Doctor Who and Isobel Crawley in Downton Abbey).

The story opens with Mrs. Bennett informing her husband, and her daughters overhearing, that Netherfield Park, a grand estate, has been let at last to a very wealthy young aristocrat. He must see that one of their daughters should marry this Mr. Bingley, but first, Mr. Bennett must visit Mr. Bingley so the women may then visit. Mr. Bennett has already visited Mr. Bingley. There is a ball, where the Bennetts are enjoying themselves when Mr. Bingley arrives, with his sister Caroline, and dear friend, Mr. Darcy. Mr. Bingley is immediately taken by Jane. Elizabeth seems a little interested in Mr. Darcy; her sister has just warned her “one of these days Lizzie, someone will catch your eye, and then you’ll have to watch your tongue,” but Elizabeth then overhears Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy speaking and Darcy comments that Jane is the only pretty girl in the assembly, Elizabeth is passing enough. She lets on she overheard him when they speak later. Elizabeth also has to put up with her mother speaking rather crassly.

The next day, a letter arrives for Jane, from Caroline, inviting her over. Mrs. Bennett, hoping it was from Mr. Bingley, insists Jane ride instead of taking the carriage to Netherfield. It begins to rain and Jane falls ill. Elizabeth walks over herself to check on her sister. Mr. Bingley already seems taken by Jane. Caroline attempts to make friends with Elizabeth and is quite comfortable around Mr. Darcy. They discuss women’s accomplishments and Darcy reveals that one of his faults is “my good opinion, once lost, is lost forever,” but Elizabeth cannot fault him for that. Then her mother and younger sisters traipse in for a visit and all return home. Mrs. Bennett is quick to point out the expensive furnishings and young Lydia insists the Bingley’s hold a ball. Mr. Bingley helps Jane into the carriage and Darcy helps Elizabeth, though he quickly walks away after.

Mr. Collins, the cousin who will inherit, visits. He is a preacher and his rectory lies near the estate of Lady Catherine de Bourgh, who acts as his patroness. He reveals to Mrs. Bennett he intends to marry one of her daughters. She informs him that Jane is expected to be engaged soon, so he settles for Elizabeth. Though it looks like Mary wouldn’t mind marrying Mr. Collins. Meanwhile, the young ladies meet the officers of the regiment that is lodging in town, a Mr. Wickham in particular. Elizabeth is charmed by the young officer, but it quickly becomes known that he and Mr. Darcy have a past. Wickham tells Elizabeth that Darcy’s father loved Wickham better and Darcy never got past that and threw him out.

The Bingleys do hold a ball at Netherfield. Elizabeth hopes to see Wickham, but gets stuck with Mr. Collins who stares at her and bluntly states he intends to remain close to her for the evening. Mr. Darcy surprises Elizabeth and asks her for a dance. She is trying to overcome the different accounts of Darcy she has heard in order to make out his character. He hopes he can provide more clarity in the future. There is an interesting part of the dance when the other dancers seem to disappear and it is just Darcy and Elizabeth together. Mr. Collins, who just interrupts Mr. Darcy, reveals that Darcy is Lady Catherine’s nephew (see the similarities with Becoming Jane? A nephew to a powerful patroness). We also witness the rest of Elizabeth’s family in a competition to make fools of themselves; Mary would rather play piano than socialize, Mrs. Bennett speaks loudly that she is sure Jane will be engaged shortly, Kitty and Lydia are rather too social, and Elizabeth’s friend, Charlotte Lucas remarks that Jane needs to pluck Mr. Bingley up; being too shy will not let him know she is interested.

Mr. Collins asks for an audience with Elizabeth the following morning. She mouths to her father to stay, but they all abandon her. Mr. Collins proposes. Elizabeth heartily declines and firmly tells the man that she will not make him happy and she is certain he will not make her happy. This puts Mrs. Bennett in a kerfuffle, she enlists her husband’s help in making Elizabeth change her mind and accept, in order to keep the house, or else she will never speak to her daughter again. Mr. Bennett tells Elizabeth that she will have to be a stranger to one of her parents then, for he will not see her if she does marry Mr. Collins. Turns out, Charlotte Lucas accepts Mr. Collins, figuring she will get no other proposal (after Collins has already insinuated to Elizabeth that she will receive no better offer). Sadly, the Bingleys have left as well.

It seems some time has passed; Jane visits their aunt and uncle and Elizabeth accepts a visit to Charlotte. There, she meets and dines with the great Lady Catherine. Darcy is there, as well as a Colonel Fitzwilliam. Elizabeth is seated next to Mr. Darcy, and then Lady Catherine quizzes her on her accomplishments. After dinner, she is ordered to play the piano (she does so poorly, as she told the lady.) Darcy visits Elizabeth briefly, and awkwardly the next day. But Fitzwilliam informs Elizabeth that it was Darcy who split Mr. Bingley from Jane, due to objections to the family. Darcy finds Elizabeth in the rain and proposes, well, not the best proposal. Not wise to start it with saying you love someone against your better judgment. Elizabeth questions him on Jane and Bingley and informs Darcy that Jane is shy; she doesn’t even always reveal her heart to her sister, let alone a man. Darcy throws back that the rest of Elizabeth and Jane’s family are fools, but the two eldest daughters are excluded. Elizabeth also questions him about Wickham. They part angry, but Darcy leaves a letter. He (somewhat) apologizes for separating Bingely and Jane and tells Elizabeth what really happened with Wickham; he essentially gambled his inheritance away and when Darcy refused to give him more money, seemed to fall in love with Darcy’s very eligible younger sister and planned to elope. Darcy informed him he wouldn’t receive a penny of the dowry and so Wickham left, and Darcy’s sister was broken hearted. Elizabeth returns home very confused.

Lydia is invited to go to Brighton with family friends and Elizabeth’s aunt and unclepeak district invite her to accompany them to the Peak District (which seems absolutely stunning). Elizabeth attempts to persuade her father to not let Lydia go or else she will become the most determined flirt. Mr. Bennett simply wants peace and feels that Lydia is too poor and insignificant to get into too much trouble. Elizabeth and her relatives break down near Pemberly (where Mr. Darcy lives) and decide to visit. Elizabeth wanders and discovers Georgiana playing, and Mr. Darcy. She flees, but Darcy follows. He then calls at their lodgings and invites them over the following day. Georgiana is a cheerful young lady and is determined to be friends with Elizabeth; it is clear Darcy dearly loves his sister. Their lovely day ends in despair when news arrives that Lydia has run off with Mr. Wickham. Darcy feels it is his fault for not outing Wickham sooner; Elizabeth feels at fault for not sharing her knowledge with her family. The men of the family set out after Lydia. News returns home that Wickham will marry Lydia for a pittance.

She flounces in as a happy bride, showing off her ring to her family. Lydia inadvertently reveals to Elizabeth that it was Mr. Darcy who discovered her and Wickham and paid for everything; “he’s not half as high and mighty as you,” she remarks to her elder sister. Shortly after, Darcy and Bingley return to the Bennetts. After their brief visit, Elizabeth is on the verge of telling Jane she may like Darcy. We see Bingley rehearse, then he bursts back in and requests and audience with Jane: “first, I must tell you I have been the most unmitigated, incomprehensive ass…” Jane accepts his proposal: “yes, a thousand times yes” (which is what I imagine the most romantic proposals end with). Jane wants her sister to be as happy as her, but Elizabeth cannot bring herself to tell Jane of what almost was with Mr. Darcy. Their night is interrupted by a visit from Lady Catherine de Bourgh, who speaks to Elizabeth, demanding she does not accept any proposal from her nephew, Mr. Darcy. He is intended to marry her daughter, a match planned since infancy. Elizabeth then orders Lady Catherine out and runs from her family, refusing to speak on the matter.

darcy mistShe takes another early morning walk and meets Mr. Darcy in the mist (an utterly breathtaking scene). She attempts to make amends, for judging him so harshly. Darcy tells her, she must know, it was all for her. His affections have not changed; she has bewitched him body and soul [another line I desire in my own proposal]…”I love, I love, I love you and never wished to be parted” (and this is why we love Jane Austen). Elizabeth gently kisses his hands and their foreheads meet as the sun rises. They return to the Bennett household to get permission from Mr. Bennett. He is confused; they all thought she didn’t like him. Elizabeth tells her father she was utterly wrong about him; they are so similar, and so stubborn. In short, she loves him. She also explains how Mr. Darcy has already helped their family, but he would not want Mr. Bennett to respond.

I adore the ending of this film, even though it is not how the book ended. Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy are enjoying an evening together and discuss what endearments Mr. Darcy may use. he inquires when he may call her Mrs. Darcy, when he is cross? No, “only when you are completely, perfectly, and incandescently happy.” He proceeds to kiss her, murmuring “Mrs. Darcy,” he time, until their mouths meet. …sigh, swoon!

In truth, I believe I fell asleep the first time I watched the movie; it is one that needs time and a few watching’s to grow fond of. Mr. Darcy improves with each viewing. I did manage to read the novel after watching the film in college. A quick skimming of the ending enforces why I prefer it in film format; it is much easier to digest, dispensing of some of the flowery language. But as Becoming Jane comments, both sisters ended up with good matches and lived happily. The visual artistry of the film is gorgeous. I do like the soundtrack to this film, much better than the last batch of movies; I actually own it. It is mainly piano pieces, which are played by various characters throughout the film. And the dance tracks are lively pieces.

Up Next: The Gothic romance Jane Eyre

 

jane austen dressAn added treat: this is me in a Jane Austen inspired gown that I wore for Halloween one year at college; made by my talented mother (I did not inherit that talent).  I still have the dress.

 

“No sensible woman would demonstrate passion”

Becoming Jane

Portrays Jane Austen’s life before she became a famous author and some experiences she may have had that influenced her writing. Stars Anne Hathaway as Jane Austen, James McAvoy (Mr. Tumnus in Chronicles of Narnia, and young Charles Xavier in the prequel X-Men movies) as Tom Lefroy. Julie Walters (Mrs. Weasley) is Mrs. Austen, opposite James Cromwell. Dame Maggie Smith (Professor McGonagall and Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham, among her other roles) is Lady Gresham. Anna Maxwell Martin plays Jane’s older sister Cassandra, but the actress also portrays Elizabeth Darcy in the TV mini-series, Death Comes to Pemberley.

Jane spends the early morning hours writing and puzzling through the proper way to phrase a passage. When she figures it out, she rejoices by spiritedly playing the piano, quite early on a Sunday morning. Which her father comments on during the sermon, along with what a lady’s proper place is; at this time point, married with children and obeying her husband. After church, the Austen family visits Lady Gresham; her nephew is slightly captivated by Jane, which would be a boost to the Austen family for he will inherit well. Cassandra is engaged to be married to a young man bound for an expedition to the West Indies as chaplain. The Austens also have two boys, though one seems to be disabled of some sort, and they have their cousin visiting as well, a French comtess fleeing events in France.

In the bustling city of London, Tom Lefroy engages in boxing matches when not studying the law under his constraining uncle. He is friends with the elder Austen son, Henry, who is in the militia. Tom’s uncle wants him to learn to settle down; his sister, Tom’s mother, married for love and now lives in near poverty in Limerick with more mouths to feed than she can handle. So, Tom is sent to spend time with his country cousins, where he encounters Jane Austen. Their small community is delighted by her writing, but the higher educated Tom Lefroy sees areas where she can improve and truly be equal to the greats.

Jane is not terribly impressed with Mr. Lefroy upon first introduction. They end up dancing together at a ball, after Mr. Wisley (Lady Gresham’s nephew) trods on her toes. Tom quietly tells her, “I think that you, Miss Austen, consider yourself above the company…secretly.” That line has always stuck with me. It’s a bit like the theme of Pride and Prejudice; even those of lower means may feel pride; at least we’re better than someone else, or at least we don’t act a certain way. The two young people get to know each other through other encounters. Jane is good a cricket (and she and her cousin make to follow Tom and Henry when they go dashing off for a swim; at least, until the young men strip naked and the young ladies retreat). Tom and Jane meet accidentally in the Lefroy’s library (oh, to have a library like that!) and Tom offers Jane a book to widen her horizons (several re-watchings and age have pointed out the innuendo reading Tom gives).

Later, they discuss the book. Jane disapproves of the morality. She argues that a novel must show how the world truly is; good people do not always succeed and bad people prosper. “A novel should somehow reveal the true source of our actions.” Mrs. Austen personally hopes that Jane will settle down with Mr. Wisely, but Mr. Austen doesn’t want his daughter to sacrifice her happiness. By now, Jane is starting to look at Tom more favorably. Lady Gresham visits the Austens and Mr. Wisley strolls with Jane and proposes. She does not answer immediately, which draws her mother’s ire. Jane must marry well, there is no money for her. Yes, it is ideal to marry for “affection” (they don’t say love), but money is essential. Lack of money can wear away and ruin a marriage. Jane desires to live by her pen, but her mother doesn’t support that notion. Her father asks her to at least consider the proposal; it is likely to be her best offer.

Jane’s French cousin, the Comtess, has also developed affection for Henry Austen. She is more aware of the world and not hemmed in by conservative notions. Yes, Henry is younger and poorer than her, but they love each other, so what does it matter?

Lady Gresham holds a ball (I love the music) and Jane dances with Mr. Wisley again, though Tom joins partway through. Anyone watching can see the difference in Jane between Wisley and Lefroy; she smiles when she sees Tom and can barely take her eyes off of him. Lady Gresham deigns to speak to Jane. Against her own better judgment [oh, there are times that Lady Gresham is reminiscent of Countess Grantham, though Downton Abbey is a few years off], she implores Jane to accept her nephew; Lady Gresham feels that Jane is beneath Wisley, but she is the one that her nephew desires. Outside, as Jane ponders all of this, Tom meets her. Such a romantic meeting; I seriously want my future potential fiancé to propose to me saying: “I am yours, heart and soul,” because I simply melt at that statement. Jane kisses Tom, wanting to have gotten a kiss right just once in her life. He begs her to marry him instead, but he has to persuade his uncle.

becoming jane proposal

So, the couple concoct a plan. Jane, her brother Henry, and cousin Eliza will visit Cassandra on the coast, but stop in London, where Lefroy will host them. The uncle is impressed with the Comtess, but not Jane. Nevertheless, Tom takes Jane to meet Mrs. Radcliffe, a married woman to a man with some money, who makes her own living by writing Gothic novels (played by Helen McCrory, another Harry Potter alum, she portrayed Narcissa Malfoy). Mrs. Radcliffe cautions Jane that society frowns upon a wife who has a mind of her own. That evening, Jane begins drafting First Impressions (the first draft of Pride and Prejudice). Tom speaks with his uncle the following morning, but a letter has arrived prior; the contents of which we do not hear for certain, but they do not speak favorably of Miss Austen and Tom’s uncle denies Tom’s wish to marry Jane. They part brokenhearted; Tom relies on his uncle for money and cannot go against him.

Soon, all the Austens are back home and again at Lady Gresham’s home. Word is delivered that Cassandra’s fiancé has died. Jane and their mother attempt to comfort her that evening. Cassandra cheers a little watching her younger sister write and Jane summarizes her idea for Pride and Prejudice; two sisters, better than their means, eventually make happy marriages. Sadly, Tom is back in town for a brief visit, and is engaged. Jane in turns accept Wisley’s proposal, though walks away after giving the gentleman the news. In the woods, Tom comes upon Jane and her brother George. The couple shares a passionate kiss and plan to run away. Cassandra tries to talk her sister out of it, but gives in.

The two lovebirds’ carriage gets stuck on the way, necessitating Tom removing his coat, which holds a pouch of letters. Due to be his wife, Jane reads one, discovering it is from Tom’s mother, thanking him for the money to support his family. Things begin to clarify for Jane. Once the carriage has stopped for a short break, she tells Tom she found the letter and cannot be the ruin of him. She returns home, only to be greeted by Henry’s more dour friend, John, who has known Jane for years, and he too proposes. She of course rejects him, “are there no other women in Hampshire!” then realizes that he wrote the letter destroying her hopes of marrying Tom. She makes to strike him and he shrinks away.

Mrs. Austen is simply pleased that Jane returned home. Lady Gresham on the other hand refuses to be near the Austens in public, for they are tainted with suspicion. Wisley, having grown a bit of a backbone, defies his aunt’s wishes and speaks to Jane. They part as friends; he would rather not marry simply for his money. He seems to support Jane’s intention to write, as she cannot seem to marry even for affection, much less without. He inquires, “will all your stories have happy endings?” “My characters, after a little bit of trouble, will have all they desire.”

Henry and Eliza marry and are seen together, with Jane years later at a concert. Afterwards, they catch sight of a familiar figure and Henry returns with Tom Lefroy, and a young girl, his daughter Jane. Young Jane is a great admirer of Miss Austen and precociously asks for a reading. Henry explains that Jane does not read in public in order to remain anonymous. But Jane relents, for her new friend. Tom looks on; it seems he still loves Jane Austen as well.

Jane Austen is not my favorite author, though she may be my favorite classic author. But I do what I have read of her. This gives us a glimpse at the woman behind the beloved stories and shows that she may not be so different from her characters. I see so many echoes of this tale in Pride and Prejudice. This film did make me fall in love with James McAvoy a little; I love how passionately he speaks to Jane. As already stated, I swoon at his proposal. It is a movie I like to watch around Valentine’s Day.

Next Time: Pride and Prejudice (the 2005 film with Keira Knightley. I know the mini-series with Colin Firth is well regarded, but it is longer. I feel the film is easier viewing)

I Probably Share Qualities with Jo

Little Women

This will primarily focus on the 1994 film. I’m aware there are older versions and there is a wonderful new version out (unfortunately, not on DVD yet so I can do a closer watching), but I will insert little quips from what I can remember from the theatre. In grade school, Little Women was my best friend’s favorite book; I did finally read it and it is on my shelf. I remember it being well written and the characters fully realized. But what truly drew me to the 1994 film was the fact that Christian Bale (Batman in Christopher Nolan’s universe, we’ll see a young version in Newsies once we get to musicals, he was also the voice of Thomas in Pocahontas, and has won awards for some of his other roles) as Laurie. Winona Ryder (star of Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, and Bram Stoker’s Dracula [refuse to see either of the first and I’ve only caught bits of the last]; she also made a brief appearance in 2009’s Star Trek as Amanda Grayson, Spock’s mother) stars as Jo March, a character very much based on author Louis May Alcott. Claire Danes (we saw her in Stardust) is Beth March and Kirsten Dunst (same age that she was in Interview with a Vampire [another film I have not seen]) is young Amy March. Susan Sarandon plays their mother, Marmee. Mary Wickles (the housekeeper in White Christmas, and Sister Mary Lazarus in Sister Act, amongst other roles) pops in as Aunt March, and Gabriel Byrne (D’Artagnan in The Man in the Iron Mask; he also introduced a concert between Irish groups the Coors and the Chieftains [he is Irish…though it was a bit of a shock to be watching a video on YouTube and pondering “where have I seen that guy?” and realize]) as Professor Friedrich Bhaer.

march women
The March women: Jo, Meg, young Amy mother Marmee, and Beth

Little Women is set in New England, specifically Concord, Massachusetts during the Civil War. The March’s father is away, leaving the women to make do. This film opens on Christmas, narrated by Jo. We see early on that Jo is an avid writer. The four girls make their lives a merry one when possible. Meg still yearns for nice things, like they had before the war. Amy desires to marry well. Beth is shy, but loves the piano. And Jo is fiery. Led by the example of their mother, they donate their Christmas breakfast to a less fortunate family. They catch a glimpse of their next door neighbor, Theodore Lawrence and his grandfather. At a dance, Jo encounters Theodore hiding in another room; they quickly strike a mutual friendship. He gallantly comes to the rescue when Meg sprains her ankle at the dance.

Amy gets into trouble at school with a deal over limes; the girls trade them, but they’re against school rules, so the teacher strikes her. Jo is now in charge of her education. Jo also sits with her Aunt March as her companion, reading most of the time. But when the elderly lady dozes off, Jo rummages through her other books for subjects more to her amusement. The four sisters produce their own newspaper and imitate a gentlemen’s club. They put on Jo’s plays. And Jo soon wants to include “Laurie,” or “Teddy,” and Jo sometimes calls him. He is loved as a brother.

While the four sisters all love each other, tensions and anger have their place as well. Amy is upset that Meg and Jo get to go to the theatre and not her. She cannot persuade Jo to help, so yells as the older sisters leave, “you’ll be sorry, Jo March!” To extract her revenge, Amy burns her older sister’s recent manuscript. When Jo next goes to jot something down, she discovers is missing, then in the fire. She screams at her sister and they have to be separated. She refuses to forgive Amy. Later, Amy follows Jo and Laurie as they ice skate, but Jo ignores her calls and neglects to tell Amy of the thin ice. Amy falls through and Laurie and Jo rush to save her. Jo is now apologetic to her little sister and there is a cozy scene of all four little women curled together, working on re-writing Jo’s manuscript.

Meg attends Sally Moffat’s coming out. She has strong opinions on slavery and the silk industry, but allows the other ladies to dress her up. She flirts with the gentlemen in attendance and Laurie is displeased with what he sees; this is not the Meg he knows. And he tells her. Later, he apologizes and Meg apologizes for her own actions. Then Laurie is off to college and the March’s father is wounded. Jo can’t face going to Aunt March for money, so sells her own hair. At night, she cries a little for her loss. Beth, continuing their mother’s request to check on the poor Hummel family, catches scarlet fever. Amy must be sent to Aunt March so she doesn’t catch it and Teddy and his grandfather come to the rescue, along with his tutor Mr. Brooke. Teddy promises Amy that he will kiss her before she dies. Beth worsens and they are forced to recall Marmee, who had gone to care for her husband. Beth recovers in time for Christmas; the elder Mr. Lawrence gifts her a piano in memory of his own daughter who died young, and they are blessed by the return of Mr. March.

We jump four years to Meg and Mr. Brooke’s wedding (the hymn they are singing is For the Beauty of the Earth, which I have sung in church and is very easy to get stuck in your head). Teddy and Jo talk; Teddy proposes. Jo refuses; she does not love him that way. They both have tempers, they’d only quarrel. But Laurie wants her. She insists she can’t be a wife. Both are broken hearted after the encounter. Jo cheers slightly when Amy informs her sisters that Aunt March is going to Europe, but her spirits drop again when Amy points out that she is Aunt March’s companion now and will be the one going. Marmee arranges for Jo to board in New York City with a friend and teach the daughters. There, Jo encounters Professor Bhaer and other scholars. She even tries her hand at publishing. But she and Friedrich disagree over what material Jo should be writing. She goes for the sensational stories that newspaper editors tell her people want to read and they pay for. Friedrich believes she should write more from her soul. For a while, they manage as a couple, but they still disagree. Then Jo receives word that Beth has taken ill again and leaves for home.

In Europe, Amy encounters Laurie. She dislikes the changes in Laurie; he whiles away his time and money and does nothing productive. Meanwhile, she is being courted by Fred Vaughn, an old schoolmate of Laurie’s. Laurie begs her not to accept Fred. But he is determined to prove himself worthy of the March family. He receives word of Beth’s passing (which is utterly heartbreaking) from Jo and goes to comfort Amy. They must wait to journey back; Aunt March is ill as well. When she dies, they return home.

Aunt March left Jo her home, Plumfield. Marmee remarks that a home that large is only really good for a school. Jo begins thinking. She also starts writing about her family in memory of Beth. Meg has twins. Laurie finally returns home, with Amy as his wife. Jo is surprised at first, but gives the couple her blessing. Jo’s novel is published. She notes a card from Friedrich and inquires who left it. The housekeeper accidently sent him next door, with the news that Miss March had married Mr. Lawrence. Jo runs after her professor and clears up the confusion and they admit their love for each other.

The newest rendition, released on this past Christmas day, exactly twenty-five years after the 1994 version, stars Saoirse Ronan (she was Mary Stuart in the recent Mary Queen of Scots movie, which I tried to watch, then shut off because it just didn’t seem to jive) as Jo March, Emma Watson (famous as Hermoine Granger in Harry Potter and wonderful as Belle in the live action Beauty and the Beast) as eldest March sister Meg. Laura Dern leads as Marmee March and Aunt March this time is played by veteran Meryl Streep. I adored the film and eagerly await its release on DVD. There is a BBC miniseries of the book that I want to check out at some point.

The 2019 film jumps in time period when telling the story, so you need to be at least familiar with how the story is supposed to go. For instance, they play both times Beth is ill on top of each other. So we first get the happy recovery, then Jo wakes up again and our stomach drops when we realize that this time won’t be happy. I liked that elder Mr. Lawrence appears more in the new film and his character is further developed. Overall, I feel the 2019 film better showcased all the characters, not just Jo. We see a scene from the book involving Meg that was not included in the 1994 film, when she uses money they were saving for something else to buy a nice gown because she misses pretty things. We see faults in all the girls, as well as their triumphs.

jo and lauriePersonally, I have always liked the pairing of Laurie and Jo; they get along so well, it seems only natural. I can understand her hesitation, that being too similar will not work well as a marriage, but Laurie is such a charming lad. (This is why it makes a good Valentine’s film, well, Christian Bale’s portrayal a little more than Timothée Chalamet…oh, if a man would offer to take me to London and support my writing…[but alas, it hasn’t, so I make do with my books and my writing and my movies and shows]). But I utterly adore how Jo is portrayed as a writer in the 2019 film. I recognized so much of what I do in her. And her conversations with the publisher; I was set on seeing the film when Jo commented in one trailer that if she was to sell her characters and writer’s integrity, she would get some of the profits.

I like the ending scene of the 1994 rendition, between Jo and Friedrich; it is very touching and romantic. But I also like the take in the 2019 film *Warning: Spoiler* that Jo does not marry, very much like Louisa May Alcott herself. And Jo turning Plumfield into a school and all of her loved ones there was heartwarming.

Do you lot have a favorite version? What are some of your favorite romantic movies?

Up Next: Becoming Jane

“It will turn out well.” “How?” “I don’t know; it’s a mystery.”

Shakespeare in Love

This movie would have been helpful in high school so I might actually be interested in Shakespeare, but since it’s rated R, that didn’t happen. It also has a cast and a half! A veritable “I’ve that person before.” Geoffrey Rush (Barbossa in Pirates of the Caribbean) owns the Rose theatre, and yes, one of the thugs trying to burn his feet in the beginning was in A Knight’s Tale. Dame Judi Dench (M in several Bond films is only a small part of her long filmography) won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress as Queen Elizabeth, although she’s only on camera for less than ten minutes. (Ironically, she went against Cate Blanchett that year in the same category; Cate was nominated for playing Elizabeth I in Elizabeth, which also featured Joseph Fiennes [his brother is Ralph, also known as Voldemort amongst other credits] as her lover Robert Dudley. Here, he is the titular William Shakespeare). The film as a whole won Best Picture, beating out Saving Private Ryan. Future Harry Potter faces are Mark Williams (Arthur Weasley) as the stutterer and Imelda Staunton (Dolores Umbridge) is Viola’s nurse; her real-life husband Jim Carter (Carson the butler in Downton Abbey) is the actor who plays the nurse. Gwyneth Paltrow (before she was Iron Man’s Pepper Potts) is Viola, and Colin Firth (far more romantic in Pride and Prejudice) is Lord Wessex. Ben Affleck is even in the movie, as an actor who plays Mercutio. Whew, you need a map to make sense of all this!

At the film’s opening, Shakespeare is suffering from writer’s block and searching for his muse. He is being asked to deliver his newest play, but honestly has not written anything. He claims it is all locked away; well, it’s so well-locked, it hasn’t even occurred to him. He happens to peek in on a performance of one of his plays for Queen Elizabeth. In the audience is a woman who loves his work. The woman later explains to her nurse “I will have poetry in my life. And adventure. And love. Love above all.” [Lots of women want that. I want that. Still searching.] The young woman goes so far as to wish to be in plays; not something that was done at that time, women’s roles were played by prepubescent men.

Shakespeare is finally forced to start his latest production (with a little nudging from contemporary, Christopher Marlowe). At the end of auditions “Thomas Kent” takes the stage and speaks with such passion that Shakespeare is impressed. Thomas runs and Shakespeare gives chase, all the way to a manor home. We discover that Viola is pretending to be Thomas Kent in order to perform. A wrench is thrown in the works when pompous Lord Wessex takes interest in Viola, well, more her money than anything else. He arranges it with her parents and spots Shakespeare at a dance held at the home making eyes with his new intended. Shakespeare gives him Marlowe’s name. But Shakespeare hangs around to speak to Viola at her balcony. (By now we can see where some of this is going; it centers around the creation of Romeo and Juliet.) Shakespeare has found his muse in Viola and begins writing feverishly.

viola and shakespeare

Even more good news, the lead company of actors have returned, including the typical lead Ned (played by Ben Affleck) and the usual “woman.” “Thomas Kent” is given the role of Romeo; Ned is told his part of Mercutio is actually the lead. But Ned tends to be supportive of Shakespeare, though he’s aggravated by some of “Thomas’s” ineptitude. Away from the stage, Shakespeare speaks to Thomas to find out information on Viola, which leads to a rather awkward kiss between the two “men;” there are some scholars who theorize that Shakespeare was gay, or possibly bisexual. Luckily for Shakespeare, when he follows “Thomas,” he discovers that “he” is Viola. Who has just discovered from Lord Wessex that they are to be married in two weeks. Viola takes Shakespeare to her bed (the nurse has to sit in a chair in front of her door and stave off other servants) and discovers that there is something better than a play. Now when they are both at the theatre, the couple makes out backstage.

In order for Viola to marry Wessex, she must appear before Queen Elizabeth. The queen recognizes the young woman from attending plays put on for the queen, but cautions Viola that poets cannot write true love. A wager is called out, can a poet portray true love? As Wessex and Viola leaves, Elizabeth tells Wessex that she can tell that Viola has been “plucked,” since last she saw her. Wessex suspects “Marlowe.”

A fight breaks out between the two theatres and acting companies; Shakespeare told one man he could have the play, but has given it to this man, etc, etc. Shakespeare and his troupe triumph and celebrate at a pub. During the festivities, Viola finds out that Shakespeare is married (he was, though he was living away from his wife and they were not on best of terms). She leaves and Shakespeare goes to follow, but discovers that Marlowe had just been killed. He blames himself, figuring that Wessex had killed Marlowe, thinking it was Shakespeare. Wessex meets Viola the next morning to give her the good news that her poet is dead. She is despondent at church, until Wessex spies Shakespeare, who had spent the night pleading to God for his crime. Wessex runs out of church, alarmed. Viola is happy and she and Shakespeare speak. While they love each other, they cannot be together. Shakespeare is married and Viola is engaged to be married; she must marry someone and if she cannot have Shakespeare, why not Wessex? Even though they will move to his plantation in Virginia.

Now a bit heartbroken, Shakespeare finishes Romeo and Juliet, even having a full copy written and given to Viola. Unfortunately, a boy happens to see Shakespeare and Viola making out and reports it (remember, ladies were not allowed on stage). The production is put to a halt by the Master of Revels when Thomas is outed as Viola. This is after Wessex attacks Shakespeare. They duel and Shakespeare calls Wessex out for murdering Marlowe. In that case, it had been a tavern brawl and Marlowe accidently got his own knife in the eye. Wessex had been pleased with the news, again thinking it was Shakespeare. The competing theatre offers its stage as a way for them all to thumb their nose at the Master of Revels.

Romeo and Juliet premieres the same day as Wessex’s and Viola’s wedding. Viola sees the ad and leaves the carriage before Wessex enters. Ironically, the young man who is to play Juliet had his voice break that day. They now lack one of the stars of the play. And the first performer to go on stage has a stutter. He overcomes it and delivers a commanding introduction. The two theatre owners are discussing their dilemma where Viola overhears. She whispers she is Thomas Kent and knows every word of Juliet’s part. She is rushed backstage and comes out right on cue. Shakespeare is most surprised, but pleased; and most fortune for he is playing Romeo in “Thomas Kent’s” place.

shakespeare finaleIt is a wonderful performance. The whole audience is in tears by the end. The standing ovation at the end is interrupted by the Master of Revels, again stating that Juliet is a woman. (Most everyone can see that). “Have a care with my name, you’ll wear it out,” Queen Elizabeth states from the audience. She takes in Juliet and judges the mistake an honest one. “I know something of a woman in a man’s profession. Yes, by God, I do know about that.” She calls out Wessex on the wager; Romeo and Juliet accurately depicted true love. As Queen, none can contest her word. She tells Viola quietly to say her farewells, she is still bound in matrimony to Wessex and must accompany him. And she wants a new play, for Twelfth Night, from Shakespeare. Something happier. It is a sad parting between Shakespeare and Viola, but she remains his muse for his next play, involving a shipwreck and a woman masquerading as a man.

The costumes are stunning in this film and well casted. Dame Judi Dench commands the scene when she speaks as Elizabeth. This shows a greater range for Gwyneth Paltrow than as Pepper; she shows such passion as Viola. Joseph is an artistic Shakespeare without being overbearing. They share great chemistry together. Not the best role for Colin Firth. Overall, it’s a nice romp for Valentine’s Day.

I have often mentioned that for an English major, I do not like Shakespeare; not written anyways. I enjoy his plays much better when performed, as they were intended. As many high schoolers, I read Romeo and Juliet in English class and found it dull and analyzed to death. Even MacBeth was slow. I think because everyone is trying to find some hidden meaning in Shakespeare’s words. Plays do not read the same way novels do. I also struggle with writing screenplays; it was one English course that I did not excel in in college. I am better suited for writing research papers or novels. Now, BBC’s Hollow Crown movie productions of some of Shakespeare’s plays are phenomenal. Tom Hiddleston is an excellent Henry V. I still need to watch the production with Benedict Cumberbatch.

Do any of you have a favorite Shakespeare play?

Up Next: Little Women

The Adventures Continue

Sherlock – Season Four

The final season of Sherlock, so far. Not terribly sure we’ll get another season, since Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch are both busy with other projects. This is not my favorite season, but I guess the ending is somewhat satisfying. The Six Thatchers picks up where season three ended, Sherlock is back in England to solve the final Moriarty mystery. In the meantime, while he waits for clues, he continues to solve cases. And Mary and John’s baby arrives, a little girl they name Rosamund Mary, “Rosie.” I adore the scene where Sherlock is minding Rosie and speaks in eloquent sentences that boil down to: “If you’d like to keep the rattle, than don’t throw the rattle.” To which Rosie promptly responds by throwing the rattle back in Sherlock’s face!

Sherlock is put on the case of the mysterious death of a young man in a parked car in England when he was supposedly on vacation a week prior. Turns out, he wasn’t gone, he had hoped to surprise his father at his birthday the week prior, but had suffered some sort of stroke or something and died in the midst of the surprise and wasn’t discovered for a week. But what fascinates Sherlock is a smashed plaster bust of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. A slew of alike busts end up smashed. He stakes out the final bust and confronts the criminal, thinking it’s connected to Moriarty. It’s not, it goes back to Mary and her past as an agent. Her team was betrayed on their last mission and the only other survivor thinks it was Mary’s fault. it wasn’t, but Mary doesn’t want to put John and Rosie in danger, so she sneaks away, using her old skill set. Sherlock and John track her down and the old teammate dies when the police interrupt their discussion.

Sherlock promises to keep Mary safe and they all return to England. Sherlock first suspects Lady Smallwood, then realizes it was her secretary. He confronts her, as does Mary. The woman essentially did it for money, pulls a gun on Sherlock and Mary and hopes they will let her go if she promises to stop. Sherlock annoys her, but Mary jumps in front of the bullet. Mycroft, Lestrade, and John are on the scene. Mary apologizes to Sherlock for shooting him last year; they’re even now. She dies in John’s arms. John’s anger and grief are a bit hard to watch (meaning wonderful acting).

At home, there is a disc that arrived for Sherlock, labeled “Miss Me?” We all think it’s from Moriarty. No, Mary, getting Sherlock’s attention. She has one last case for Sherlock, save John Watson. Except, John doesn’t want to see Sherlock.

This carries over to The Lying Detective. John has gone to another therapist and during his session, a fancy red car shows up. Then we jump to Culverton Smith (played by Toby Jones; we’ve seen him in Ever After, Amazing Grace, The Hunger Games and the Captain America movies as Dr. Arnim Zola. He was the Dream Lord in an episode of Doctor Who during Matt Smith’s stint as the Doctor; he has also voiced Dobby in Harry Potter) hosting a gathering of his friends; he wants to confess something. Honestly, he creeps me out from the start. From there we see that Sherlock is not doing well separated from John. Smith’s daughter approaches him; she wants Sherlock to stop her father, he wants to kill someone. But Sherlock is off his game, he’s not able to keep up with his brain. Though he comes around in time to stop the woman from killing herself with the gun in her purse; and gives an excellent message (still reeling himself from Mary’s death):

Taking your own life. Interesting expression, taking it from who? Once it’s over, it’s not you who’ll miss it. Your own death happens to everyone else. Your life is not your own, keep your hands off it.

And Sherlock, well, Benedict, is rather impressive quoting Henry V‘s “once more unto the breech” speech. At that point, Mrs. Hudson coerces Sherlock into the trunk of her red sports car and drives to John, bringing us back to the start of the episode. Then they meet Culverton Smith and follow his day to a hospital, where the man creeps everyone out asking about serial killers (Sherlock had accused him of such on Twitter earlier). Sherlock hopes that Smith’s daughter will help put the nail in the coffin of his accusation, then it turns out the woman he met was not Smith’s daughter. Sherlock is very high at the moment. Smith won’t press charges, but he’ll take care of Sherlock.

John (after he beats up Sherlock a bit, Sherlock is fine with he, he did kill Mary) meets up with Mycroft in Sherlock’s flat. Mrs. Hudson takes control of the situation; she understands Sherlock where the other two men do not. Sherlock is emotional; that’s why he shoots the wall and stabs a problem. There is another disc, waiting for John. She orders Mycroft’s team out, and even Mycroft Holmes himself: “Get out of my house, you reptile.” John watches her message to Sherlock (he’s been seeing her ever since her death. It’s rather funny when “Mary” points out what Sherlock is doing to John and that what she is saying is John’s own brain). For Sherlock to save John, he must go to Hell; John will save him and in saving Sherlock, will save himself.

Back at the hospital, Culverton Smith has snuck into Sherlock’s room. Sherlock reveals that he wants Culverton to help kill him; increase the dosage on the drugs. But that takes too long for Culverton; smothering will be quicker. John bursts in at that point. Sherlock has managed to capture Smith’s confession in a listening device in John’s cane. Once in Baker Street again, “Mary” urges John to remain with Sherlock. Emotions come out and are dealt with. John reveals that he was cheating on Mary; he was texting a woman from the bus. It never went farther, but he wanted it to. And John urges Sherlock to respond to Irene Adler because he knows there is no guarantee how long you have with someone. John breaks down and Sherlock hugs his friend.

sherlock hug john

Things are better. Sherlock and John solve cases, Sherlock wears the hat. There may be a “thing” between Smallwood and Mycroft, interesting. John visits his new therapist again. She brings up the secret Holmes sibling that has been hinted at for years. Turns out the therapist was the woman that Sherlock met and talked out of suicide and she was the woman from the bus that was texting John. She is Eurus (the East Wind), the Holmes’ sister. The episode ends with her holding a gun on John.

The Final Problem is Eurus. Sherlock gives his elder brother a fright in his own home in order to make deductions (part of that may have been influenced by John). Though we do discover that inside Mycroft’s famous umbrella is a sword! Then a pistol! (Though, why is there a clown?) Mycroft reports to Baker Street the next day and finally reveals that Eurus is indeed the youngest of the Holmes’ siblings. But Sherlock doesn’t remember her. Childhood trauma, Mycroft explains. Sherlock blocked it. Eurus is a quantifiable genius, but she didn’t process things the same way as most people. She locked up Redbeard and wouldn’t tell anyone. Then she set fire to the family home. She had to be locked away. Mycroft eventually told his parents that she started another fire and died. Instead, she’s in Sherrenford, a maximum security prison. A drone flies into the flat with a motion sensor grenade. The three men wait until Mrs. Hudson is out of danger, Sherlock even brings up the possibility of John calling his daughter but there is no chance, then they move. Sherlock and John leap out a window and Mycroft is to make for the stairs.

Sherlock gets to be a pirate for a moment and commandeer a boat to get to Sherrenford. John is taken into Sherreford with a sea captain, who turns out to be Mycroft. Sherlock is already disguised as a guard and makes his way down to meet his sister. Mycroft berates the governor of the prison for the compromise in security; obviously Eurus made it out of the prison against his orders. And there was a psychiatric exam against his orders as well. Eurus can reprogram people, never to good results. This unfortunately includes the governor of the prison. And there is no glass on Eurus’s cell. She attacks Sherlock.

Mycroft’s Christmas gift is revealed to have been an unsupervised five minute conversation with Moriarty. Moriarty recorded lots of things for Eurus. (Yeah, not a good idea to put the two most dangerous psychopaths in the same room, especially when they both have a vendetta against Sherlock.) Eurus is now in control of the facility and has a series of tests lined up for her brothers and John. She is testing Sherlock’s emotions and logic First, either Mycroft or John will have to shoot the governor in order to save his wife. Mycroft refuses. John accepts, but ultimately can’t do it. The governor does it for them, but that breaks the parameters and Eurus shoots his wife anyway. Next, Sherlock is to solve a case with little information and pass judgment on three brothers for a murder. Eurus in due course kills all three, not understanding the hesitancy to take someone else’s life. Next, Eurus has wired explosives in Molly Hooper’s flat. Sherlock has three minutes to get Molly to say “I love you.” Poor Molly. It’s true, she has always loved Sherlock. Molly asks Sherlock to say it and mean it first. And he does. Molly whispers it in return. Turns out, there were no explosives; she just put her brother and a dear friend through emotional turmoil for nothing. Sherlock smashes the coffin in the room. All three men need hugs. But they must solider on.

In the next room, Sherlock is to choose which man to kill; only he and one other can continue on. Interspersed is a phone call with a scared little girl in a plane about to crash. Sherlock can be remarkable with children. Mycroft first tells Sherlock to shoot John, which John agrees. But Sherlock realizes that Mycroft is trying to goad him into killing his older brother. He cannot choose; both men are important to him. They are tranquilized. Sherlock wakes up in the burnt out family home, Musgrave Hall. Now, he has to find where John is trapped; the same place as Redbeard. Though there was one detail that Mycroft never told Sherlock. Redbeard was never a dog. “Redbeard” was Sherlock’s childhood best friend. They played pirates together. And Eurus had wanted to join, but boys being boys, they didn’t let her, so she chained the boy to the bottom of a well and let him drown. The little song she sang comes into play, along with the mismatched dates on the gravestones. Sherlock finds Eurus and figures out there was no actual plane that was about to crash; it was Eurus being scared and confused all her life.

A change comes to Sherlock and his family (which includes John). Sherlock now supports Mycroft, especially when the elder has to explain all that has happened to their parents. Sherlock visits Eurus and they play violin duets; she can never rejoin society, not after all she’s done. There is a sweet scene of Sherlock playing with John and Rosie. The parting words are Mary’s; she has always known what her men are. In the end, it’s all about the legend, the stories, and the adventures of the detective and his doctor. Her Baker Street Boys.

One element that I do like about this season is it humanizes the characters, particularly Mycroft and Sherlock. Sherlock admits that he can get full of himself. He is willing to kill himself to save John, even though he really doesn’t want to die (oh my goodness, whoever has to listen to that recording and hear Sherlock almost in tears saying “I don’t want to die…”) He truly views John and Mary as family. He lets Mrs. Hudson handcuff him to take him to John. And Mycroft is revealed to have always cared for Sherlock, and not just in passing. He protected him from the truth of what their little sister did (I can’t scrounge up too much sympathy for a person who knowingly and willingly let another child die, then wished the same upon their brother). As Lestrade says at the end, Sherlock Holmes is a good man.

The Eurus spin doesn’t quite sit well with me. The reveal of Mary’s old team seemed rushed. And Culverton, while extremely creepy, also seems contrived.

Now, for my favorite part of Sherlock…the fandom!

The Hillywood Show has done a parody video. I’m personally not familiar with the song they parodied, but the video is quite excellent. And check out the behind the scenes videos and video diaries; they filmed on the same location as scenes in the show, to the confusion of some British fans (their make-up is spot on). And Percy Weasley from Harry Potter guests stars at their Mycroft and Osric Chau (Kevin Tran from Supernatural and he has worked with the Hillywood girls before) is their Moriarty. There is a whole slew of other parodies; I started with the two Supernatural videos.

The fans already thought that there was another Holmes sibling long before Season Four, though it was a younger brother. Notice the new, young “Q” in Skyfall? (This is the theory I abide with) Could “Q” stand for Quentin, keeping with the unusual names? Ktwontwo has a whole series written about this family. Another fanfiction author, A Wandering Minstrel, suggests Trevalyan.

superwholock crowley
This is an actual conversation that came up at a convention. Mark Sheppard is a staple to fantasy shows including Doctor Who and Supernatural; of course he knows about Superwholock.

And then there is the whole “Superwholock” crossover deal. It’s a combination of Supernatural with Doctor Who and Sherlock. It’s funny, though I don’t quite understand how all three get squashed together. Maybe it’s angels? Sherlock states he’s not one of them, Doctor Who has the Weeping Angels, and Castiel is an angel. Ultimately it may boil down to they were the three most popular shows at the same time for a while.

After the Holidays: We’ll get back to some other historically based movies, starting with Master and Commander