tablet mg


Posts Tagged ‘Miniseries’

Review: To Play the King (1993) and The Final Cut (1995)

December 21st, 2009 2 comments

Much as with real life, the most exciting moments in British politics take place during Questions to the Prime Minister.

I was amused and entertained, but not wowed, by the 1990 BBC miniseries House of Cards, the first installment in the Ian Richardson-led the House of Cards Trilogy (House of Cards / To Play the King / The Final Cut).  After my enjoyment of the BBC political miniseries State of Play and the HBO-BBC miniseries Five Days, I was intrigued to see House of Cards, which was a widely regarded television event in the UK – even if it wasn’t terribly high brow.

It was a true political thriller, and I reflected as much in my review of it; however, where I appreciated the depth of character development and multiple, fully detailed plot arcs in State of Play (reviewed here) and the subtlety of Five Days (reviewed here), House of Cards really featured neither.  It seemed rushed and really focused solely on Richardson’s Francis Urquhart and his relationship with reporter Mattie Storen.

Unfortunately, the second and third segments of the series don’t really improve on things.  The best that can be said of them is that they took up only two discs in total on the Netflix queue, even though they pack in a combined seven hours of telly over eight episodes.  Perhaps that’s a bit harsh, as they are entertaining… just not great.


Review: Five Days (2007)

December 10th, 2009 Comments off
Five Days covers five separate days (over an 80 day span) of the disappearance of Leanne Wellings.

Five Days covers five separate days (over an 80 day span) of the disappearance of Leanne Wellings.

Continuing with my recent theme of burning through BBC miniseries, I shuttled quickly through a joint venture production with HBO.  Five Days is a five part, five hour miniseries featuring an ensemble cast that addresses, first and foremost, how a fractured family deals with crisis.

The cast is quite stellar, headlined by British television actors with strong resumes, though not much exposure to the United States.  Leanne Wellings (Christine Tremarco) is the mother of three who goes missing off the side of a road while stopping to buy flowers and leaving her two youngest children in the car with their newly obtained dog, Gem.  Leanne is married to Matt Wellings (David Oyelowo), a former soldier and current personal trainer.  Together they have two children, Ethan (Lee Massey) and Rosie (Tyler Anthony), while Leanne had a prior daughter from another marriage, Tanya (Lucinda Dryzek).

Joining this mixed family is Leanne’s grandfather Victor (Edward Woodward), with whom she is quite close.  More uncertain is Leanne’s relationship with her parents Barbara (Penelope Wilton) and John (Patrick Malahide).  Barbara and Leanne struggle at times, while Barbara barely has a relationship with her father Victor.  John, on the other hand, has a strained relationship with Leanne’s husbands (both the initial one and Matt).


Review: Original “V” Miniseries (1983)

November 2nd, 2009 Comments off

As mentioned below, Sunday was the SyFy marathon of the original “V” miniseries and the follow-on “V: The Final Battle.” Juggling football, baseball and a family dinner, I managed to finish them up late at night. It was refreshingly awesome and set a very high bar for ABC to hit on Tuesday. [Ed Note: I apparently somehow only taped part 1 of V: The Final Battle… guess that’s getting added to the Netflix queue now]

The general plot line of the series, which was created as a screenplay, involves the arrival of about 50 mother ships from outer space. Their appearance is pretty much totally ripped off by Independence Day, if you want a frame of reference. The aliens, who ask to be called “Visitors”, appear human and promise to cure humankind’s ails. But, of course, there is a sinister motivation to their arrival and a resistance quickly forms, led by TV journalist Mike Donovan (Marc Singer), MD Juliet Parrish (Faye Grant), and a cast that is suitably multicultural (in TV executive minds) to make the series seem to represent all of humankind.

Before going into great detail, it has to be remembered that this was shot in 1983 and the special effects, and even language used (e.g., “Selling reefer”) seems antiquated at this time. But this miniseries still rocks out. The mannequin used to show Visitor No. 2 Diana (Jane Badler) eating a gerbil is, quite frankly, so bad it is awesome. Making a mannequin look realistic wasn’t easy in ‘83, but they didn’t even remotely have the same skin tone. The Visitor ships also look only marginally better than Ed Wood’s saucers on a string.


Read more…

Review: Generation Kill (2008)

October 30th, 2009 Comments off

I’m going to be playing a bit of catch-up, providing reviews of some of the TV series, movies and films I’ve watched over the past few weeks. As a reminder, I go through a lot as I watch ’em care of Netflix on my personal DVD player when working out on the elliptical at Equinox. Up in this post is Generation Kill.

Ed Burns and David Simon are two of my television heroes. Although I’ve not yet seen The Corner (their breakout 2000 drama), The Wire is the greatest series to ever appear on the telly. Generation Kill is the followup thereto.

The HBO miniseries is based on the 2004 book Generation Kill, written by Rolling Stone scribe Evan Wright. During the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Wright hitched a ride with the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion of the US Marine Corps. During his two months with 1st Recon, he became ingrained with the troops and reported on Operation Iraqi Freedom and, more importantly, the soldiers who took part in it.

Burns and Simon took up the task of bringing Generation Kill to the small screen. Pairing again with the HBO team that helped bring The Corner and The Wire to fruition, the two moved from West Baltimore to West Baghdad in seven 70 minute episodes.

The series stars Alexander Skarsgård (as Sgt. Brad Colbert), James Ransone (as Colbert’s sidekick Cpt. Ray Person), Lee Tergesen (as the scribe, Wright), Jon Huertas (as ethnically confused Sgt. Antonio Espera), Billy Lush (as redneck Lance Cpl. James Trombley) and Stark Sands (as moral compass Lt. Nate Fick).


Read more…

Review: State of Play (2003)

October 29th, 2009 Comments off

Yesterday I finished up watching the BBC miniseries drama “State of Play”, a 2003 production featuring the following IMDB tagline: A thriller set in London, in which a politician’s life becomes increasingly complex as his research assistant is found dead on the London Underground and, in a seemingly unrelated incident, a teenage drug dealer is shot dead.

Featured in the miniseries are David Morrissey and John Simm as the male leads of MP Stephen Collins and Cal McCaffery (an investigative journalist who had served as Collins’ campaign manager and friend back in the day). Supporting are Kelly Macdonald and a very young James McAvoy as journalists, Bill Nighy as their very British editor and Polly Walker as Collins’ wife.

This is one of those miniseries where discussing it too much will just give away plot twists and turns, so I’ll stay somewhat general and discuss the nature of the production.

Ultimately, it is a classic investigative journalist drama… harking back to the early 90s and late 80s themes I recall from my youth. But it’s rather sophisticated in its masking. You don’t really see the various twists and turns coming… as the storytelling is quite first (rather than third) person. You’re seeing what the investigation sees, without having those limitations be so overt as to annoy. You can tell the screenplay was an adaptation of what must have been an engrossing novel of political and journalistic intrigue. [OK, wordy praise now out of the way]

The cast does a knockout job with their performances. Simms and Morrissey are each excellent and McEvoy and Nighy play off each other very well. Also outstanding is Marc Warren in a supporting role. MacDonald is very engaging as what constitutes the female lead and I’m somewhat surprised she hasn’t made a bigger impact on this side of the pond.