Pemberley (Lyme Park, Cheshire)

Pemberley (Lyme Park, Cheshire)
Oh, to be in England...

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

JJ Feild- Actor of the Week

JJ Feild is a great actor and I predict that he will make it big outside of the UK very soon. Of course those of us who have seen him in Northanger Abbey as the saucy Mr. Henry Tilney will not be surprised when the rest of the world finally discovers his talent, will we?

However some of you may be surprised at how many period dramas JJ Feild has already appeared in. My, he does look good in a cravat and top hat doesn't he?

Henry Tilney: Now I must give you one smirk, then we can be rational again.

The new film Austenland has just premiered to rather lukewarm reviews at the Sundance Film Festival.  Well, personally I want to see it anyway. JJ Feild and Bret McKenzie as love interests at a Jane Austen theme park is all I need to hear. And Jennifer Coolidge? Sounds like fun to me! By the way, when is this Jane Austen theme park actually going to happen?

As Mr. Sam Beeton in  The Secret Life of Mrs. Beeton, JJ Feild again shows us his adorable smile and his wonderful acting chops. 

I think the first place I saw JJ Feild was in The Railway Children from 2000. The photo above shows him as Jim, being rescued with a broken leg by Jemima Rooper (Amanda from Lost in Austen- kneeling in black hat and pinafore) and being tended to by David Bamber (Mr. Collins from P&P 1995). This entire film is on YouTube (link here) and well worth watching.

As Victorian photographer Frederick Garland in Ruby in the Smoke and the sequel The Shadow in the North,  JJ helps  pretty young sleuth Sally Lockhart (Billie Piper) and of course falls in love with her. 

Well, those are my fave JJ Feild films. Did I miss any of your faves?

One last note. JJ Feild seems to have good taste as his significant other and baby mama is Canadian Neve Campbell from Guelph, Ontario which is where I got my first job after graduation. Can we claim JJ as an honorary Canadian now?

By the way, can I just say how much I love those ears? Good catch Neve!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Downton Abbey Season 3 Episode 4

SPOILER ALERT! This post is intended for those who have already seen Season 3 Episode 4!

Oh, God. They really did kill Sybil! This was all over Twitter last fall and I was hoping it wasn't true, but damn you Julian Fellowes, you really killed her.

I mean all the talk at first about swollen ankles, headaches, albumin in urine..."toxemia with a danger of eclampsia". And Dr. Clarkson fighting with Sir Phillip Thingy about modern things like Cesarean sections...

You had us all worried with Sybil's muddled talking about being on nursing duty, and then you calmed us all down...never mind all that.  It's a girl! Everything is fine! Whew.

Oh, wait! Mama! She is convulsing! Dr. Clarkson! Dr. Thingy! DO SOMETHING!!!!!!!

Dowager Countess Violet: Oh, Carson...we've seen some troubles, you and I. Nothing  worse than this.

Carson: Nothing could be worse than this.


It hardly seems worth saying that I couldn't care whether Bates ever gets out of prison now. I couldn't understand a word said in that Yorkshire prison anyway. Pie crust poison? Whatever!

Creepy one-gloved Thomas and plotting O'Brien? Who cares? Mary and Matthew squabbling? I. Could. Not. Care. Less.

Sybil is dead.


Mrs. Hughs: Don't mind me. The sweetest spirit under this roof is gone. And I'm weeping myself.


Sunday, January 20, 2013

Downton Abbey Season 3 Episode 3

SPOILER ALERT! This post is intended for those who have already seen Season 3 Episode 3!

A bit of a quiet episode today, but hang in there- next week is a big one! This one was sort of setting up future action.

Poor Ethel the prostitute. Mrs. Hughs and Ethel keep trying to avoid that word and Cousin Isobel keeps saying it. She definitely is know, what Cousin Isobel said...but Ethel is a much nicer person now than when she thought she was the bees knees in Season 2.

Isobel: She's been working as a prostitute.

Mrs. Hughs:  My my, that's not a work you hear in this house every day.

Hopefully Ethel can rebuild her life together with Mrs. Crawley. Poor little Charlie. Will his lovely grandmother be strong enough to protect him from his evil mustachioed grandfather? I rather enjoyed this story line and I hope we get to see lots of Ethel and Charlie in the future.

Violet: Edith, dear, you're a woman with a brain and reasonable ability. Stop whining and find something to do.

Yes, Violet, thank goodness you are encouraging Lady Edith to set out in a new direction. Journalism! Matthew is quite impressed I think. But Violet and Cora are not.

Violet: What do you mean you wrote to a newspaper? No lady writes to a newspaper.

Edith: What about Lady Sarah Wilson? She's the daughter of a duke and she worked as a war journalist.

Violet: Well, she's a Churchill. The Churchills are different.

Mary: Have we no Churchill blood?

Cora: I think Granny's right.

Violet: Can somebody write that down?

Wasn't Tom supposed to be the journalist in the family? Now he is just burning down the houses of Sybil's former childhood playmates. And she finally looks a little concerned about what kind of a whack-job she has actually married. Took her long enough! Although he was looking kinda sexy when he was wet and disheveled and running from the coppers...

But it looks like Tom the firebrand has to stay in England indefinitely now, so the baby will have to be born at Downton. Yay!!! Can we now find Branson something to do that doesn't involve burning down the houses of the aristocracy? Write radical newspaper articles to annoy his father-in-law?

And was anyone else slightly disappointed with Jimmy...I mean James the new footman?  I mean, he is OK looking but he's not THAT much better looking than Alfred. Oh well, if Mary and Matthew can't figure out how to conceive an heir to Downton, perhaps the new footman can be of assistance!

Mary: Well done, Carson. That must have cheered up the maids.

Violet: He looks like a footman in a musical review.

And poor Daisy has been overshadowed by the new scullery maid just when she was getting her nerve up to be "forward" with Alfred. Pooh! But good to get some new blood below stairs I suppose.

The stars of this episode were undoubtedly Mrs. Hughs' new electric toaster and the bouillon spoon.

Mr. Carson: I was worried that Mr. Branson might take it into his head to burn the house down, but I didn't think that you would.

Mrs. Hughs: No? I should never take anything for granted, Mr. Carson.

Alfred: Tea spoon, egg spoon, melon spoon, grapefruit spoon, jam spoon...


Archbishop of York: I don't want to sound anti-Catholic

Robert: Why not? I am

Archbishop of York: Not in any real way, I'm sure

Robert: I don't want to thumbscrews or the rack, but there always seems to be something of Johnny Foreigner about the Catholics.

Gasp! I know this was almost 100 years ago, but really Mr. Fellowes! Would Lord Grantham really have said that? I guess this is foreshadowing future difficulties with his Johnny Foreigner Irish son-in-law, but really!


Violet:  A guinea? For a bottle of scent? Did he have a mask and a gun?


Mr. Carson: Hard work and diligence weigh more than beauty in the real world.

Violet: If only that were true.

Awwwwww...Bates and Anna are still in love and Bates is in favour with the gaol staff again. Whew!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Ripper Street, Parade's End, Mr. Selfridge and more

Any fans of Matthew Macfadyen out there? You may want to check out Ripper Street, a BBC production coming to BBC America this Saturday January 19th at 9 pm. Called CSI Victorian London by The Telegraph, this is apparently a fairly gory but interesting and well produced crime drama, which just happens to be set in the 1880s.

There seem to be mixed reviews on this one. Some are really loving it, others are not so impressed. It is airing on Sunday nights in the UK right now and Mr. Selfridge, the much lighter-hearted story of the great retailer (ITV and Andrew Davies) is beating it out in ratings for the after Sunday dinner crowd. Any Brits out there who can weigh in on Ripper Street?

Parade's End, which airs on HBO on Tuesday February 26th is another one which is hard to make out. There are fabulous reviews and others ones which are lukewarm. Sumptuously filmed by the BBC, this adaptation of a classic English novel about the Great War may draw a few of us viewers just to see the gorgeous chameleon Benedict Cumberbatch. Apparently his fans in America (The Cumberbitches) will be thrilled. It is also packed with other stars such as Rebecca Hall, Rupert Everett, Miranda Richardson, Rufus Sewell, etc, etc. Too many to list!

I caught a snatch of this on YouTube before it was yanked and I liked it. However one viewer called it Parade Never Ends, so perhaps it drags toward the end. Again, anyone seen this and like to weigh in?

I am going to stick my neck out and predict that Mr. Selfridge, an ITV production written by the wonderful Andrew Davies (Pride and Prejudice, Bleak House, Sense and Sensibility) will be a little more universally appealing than the previous two offerings. Described as Downton in a department store, this one follows Harry Selfridge (Jeremy Piven) "The Showman Behind the Retail Empire" of Selfridges.

This one airs on PBS in March in 10 episodes (!!!) so all of a sudden, the winter looks shorter to me. Lots to look forward to.

The Bletchley Circle doesn't air until April 21 on PBS, but this story of 4 former code cracking ladies from Bletchley Park who find post-war Britain very dull and so move into solving a murder sounds like fun. Anna Maxwell Martin (Bleak House and Becoming Jane) is always wonderful to watch. We get the second season of Call the Midwife around the same time in the spring as well.

Not a period drama (but truly my cup of tea), Quartet is a light dramedy about the residents of a "retirement castle" (it is truly sumptuous) for classical musicians. The entire supporting cast are actually talented retirees and the stars are some of the best "experienced" actors that Britain has to offer. Dustin Hoffman directed this one and apparently had his hands full keeping Maggie Smith in line. I will be seeing this soon and will post a review.

Anyhow, there you have a sneak peek at some coming attractions. Anything else you are looking forward to that I neglected to mention? Or opinions on the above? Please comment below. We ALL want to hear from ALL of you!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Downton Abbey Season 3 Episode 2

SPOILER ALERT! This post is intended for those who have already seen Season 3 Episode 2!

Strallen you utter bastard! You cruel, waffling, doddery old man! Lady Edith is well shot of you. I smell a career in the future for you my dear.

Isobel:  You can help her by finding her something to do.

Hall Barn Beaconsfield (Sir Anthony Strallen's house Locksley)

Actually I was hoping she would have her moment of happiness (thumbing her nose to Lady Mary) and then Strallen would pop off on the Italian honeymoon leaving Edith as Queen of Locksley Manor. But alas, it is not to be for Edith.

Lady Edith: Hello Granny. Isn't it exciting?

Dowager Countess Violet: At my age, one must ration one's excitement.


Dowager Countess Violet: I was rather sad you decided against Patou. I would have paid.

Cora: Lucile was safer. We don't want her looking like a chorus girl.


Is it just me or does anyone else think that Julian Fellowes rather wishes he was a girl? In the 1920s? Living in a big Country House? The man is really in touch with his feminine side. Thank goodness, speaking as a fellowe girly girl! Sorry for that one. Couldn't resist.

The blame for this mess of course, can be laid squarely on the ever pudgier Lord Grantham and his dear mama Violet. With relatives like these, who needs enemies? At least wicked Mary is wishing her well at this point.

Speaking of wicked Mary, Matthew may be wishing for his dear, sweet Ginger Lavinia at this point.

Matthew: I'm not accusing you of faking it.

Yes, actually Matthew you were! And she is totally capable of it as you well know. But Daisy backed her up on this one. Daisy is the one who actually saved Downton Abbey. Someone give her a raise and two scullery maids to boss around!

I was glad to see that all out war had been declared between O'Brien and Thomas. And poor dopey Molesly is the pawn in their chess game. Bring it on!

It was also lovely to see Mrs. Hughs' story line resolve so sweetly. I was in tears when she spotted Carson singing to his silverware. My fave lines here were:

Mrs. Patmore: It's not cancer. It's a benign something-or-other, nothing more.

Mr. Carson: ♫ Dashing away with a smoothing iron, she stole my heart away! ♫

Greys Court, Oxfordshire (Downton House belonging to the Crawley family)

Thank goodness for Cora and Branson for pointing out that to move to "Downton House" and only need 8 servants would be heaven for anyone not as snooty as Mary or Lord Grantham. And what is this about still owning most of the village???? Boo hoo. Oh, well. Keep the gorgeous locations coming and we will forgive you, Sir Julian.

Well Chief Inspector Anna will soon have this case cracked but possibly not before Bates murders his cell mate or vice versa. And what was that thing he stuffed into the crack in the wall? A cigar butt with a knife in it or just a bit of spliffy? And what the heck has happened to Bates' bum leg? He must have been doing physio in jail as he seems to skip around that exercise yard.

Well we shall have to wait for the answers to these and other the Downton Abbey Turns.

Now Mrs. Patmore, give the tall footman some cheese before he gags on the Oysters a la Russe or some of the other "pickety bits".


Violet: I really think you should go to bed. No bride wants to look tired at her wedding. It either means she's anxious or she's been up to no good.

Edith: I won't sleep a wink.

Sybil: Tonight or tomorrow?

Violet: Sybil, vulgarity is no substitute for wit.

Sybil: Well, you started it!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Les Misérables

Fight. Dream. Hope. Love. And weep uncontrollably. Actually, it was more of a continual leak out of my right eye, rolling down my cheek. And the odd snuffling intake of breath.

Yes it is wonderful. Not perfect, but truly wonderful. And I have been humming many of the songs since I saw it this weekend. Over and over. It is a family joke that my husband, The Squire, has been whistling the anthem on and off for 20 years since we saw the musical in Toronto. And now he has started up again. Oh, well...

Quick history of Les Mis for those who need it. A French historical novel written by Victor Hugo in 1862, it was turned into a musical in Paris in 1980 where it ran for only 3 months. Translated into English, it opened in the West End of London in 1985 where it originally was panned by critics but immediately embraced by audiences.

Beginning in 1815, Jean Valjean is finishing a lengthy prison sentence for stealing bread to feed his sister's children. He eventually becomes a force for good after an encounter with a kind Bishop, but is continually confronted with his dark past because he is pursued by Inspector Javert over a period of almost 20 years and ending just after the Paris uprising of 1832 .

The rest of the story you all know right? He helps Fantine who has taken to the streets to pay for her daughter Cosette's room and board with the terrible Thénardiers. After Fantine dies, Valjean finds Cosette and adopts her. They lead an itinerant life trying to stay away from Javert but constantly helping those in need. Cosette grows up and falls in love with student activist Marius (who Éponine has her eye on) is the Wikipedia link for the full summary.

What you need to know is that the acting is superb. The singing is mostly wonderful and very surprising considering most of the cast are actors and not singers. The film draws you into the story and the emotion much more than the stage production can. It is long, but it is just so well done, I didn't mind the length.

I will say that extra kudos must go to Anne Hathaway, Hugh Jackman and surprisingly, Eddie Redmayne for both acting and singing. The two children playing young Cosette and Gavroche are also truly brilliant. Samantha Barks played Éponine onstage and is both marvelously talented and in possession of the smallest waist I have ever seen.

So yes, Les Misérables is well worth seeing. Director Tom Hooper is on a run now (The Damned United, The King's Speech and now Les Mis). And might I add that Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter are hilarious as the evil Thénardiers. HBC could have used clothes out of her own wardrobe for this role. Actually, I am sure those little round sunglasses were hers. Or did she just lift them from the set?

Do you hear the people sing?
Singing a song of angry men?
It is the music of a people
Who will not be slaves again!
When the beating of your heart
Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start
When tomorrow comes!


Sunday, January 6, 2013

Downton Abbey Season 3 Episode 1

SPOILER ALERT! This post is intended for those who have already seen Season 3 Episode 1!

Well, it is spring of 1920 and drop-waisted dresses, long beads, bobbed hair and Marcel Waves are abounding. Downton Abbey is back!! The Archbishop is here and the rehearsal for Mary and Matthew's wedding is underway. Can it be true?

OK, I could stare at that photo for ages. Is it the dress or the staircase that is taking my breath away? Both, I imagine. I know Mary can be a real witch, but I can forgive Matthew for wanting both her and that fabulous house. What a combo!

We have been waiting so long for this wedding to actually happen, it seems unreal that they are starting the season with it. And it was like a royal wedding from the coach with liveried footmen to the entire village decorated with bunting and cheering.

Lord Grantham: I'm so happy. So very happy. I think my chest will explode.

Oh, Lord Grantham. You lost Cora's fortune gambling on the Canadian Grand Trunk Railway, Downton Abbey may have to be sold and all you can say is that your chest will explode? Tsk, tsk! Good thing Reggie Swire may swing a few shillings Matthew's way.

Sybil and Branson are back from Ireland. Baby Branson is on the way and Branson (Tom as he is now known) is letting loose in the dining room again. From the glaring and snapping of wine glass stems, methinks our fave butler Carson is expecting a return of the poo soup tureen from Season 2.

Looks like Branson and Matthew are going to be fast friends. All this talk about marrying Crawley sisters and sticking together looks promising for future episodes.

Free Bates! Free Bates! Free Bates! 

Any bets on how many episodes it takes Anna to crack the case? I am betting Julian Fellowes rides this right to the end of season 3.

Shirley MacLaine as Cora's vulgar American mother came off fairly well. She looked like she was actually frightening most of the English cast and she and Maggie Smith looked like they truly despised each other.

'Twas a bit odd when she sang "Let me call you sweetheart" right to The Dowager didn't you think? And ending with kissing her hand? One whiskey too many, Mrs. Levinson!

So, we have a new footman, more scheming downstairs (Thomas and O'Brien are at it again) and Lady Edith is throwing herself at the old dude again. Downton has hit it's stride again thank goodness. We are in for another great ride!

And now for the quotes of the evening...


Martha Levinson: Oh dear, I'm afraid the war has made old women of us both.
Dowager Countess Violet: I wouldn't say that, but then I always keep out of the sun.


Mary: Carson's motto is "Be prepared".
Dowager Countess Violet: I'm afraid Baden-Powell has stolen it.


Anna Bates: What I see is a good man my lady. They're not like buses. There won't be another one in ten minutes' time.


Matthew Crawley: You really feel you can recruit Cousin Robert for Sinn Fein?


Tom Branson: You won't be happy with anyone else while Lady Mary walks this earth


Dowager Countess Violet: Oh, do you think I might have a drink? (Violet turns her head and realizes she just addressed Robert) Oh, I'm so sorry. I thought you were a waiter.


Sir Anthony: You look very nice. Have you done something jolly with your hair?

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Richard Armitage in The Hobbit

For any of you who are aware of my weakness for all things Richard Armitage, (oh my, that deep basso voice!) you will not be surprised to hear that I took The Squire to see The Hobbit this past week. I admit freely to never having read The Hobbit. I think I will read it now however, as I thoroughly enjoyed it. Richard Armitage and the dear Martin Freeman may have something to do with that however.

I admit to some surprise when I heard that my Richard was going to play a dwarf. I mean really, a 6'2" dwarf? Some special effect trickery brings this off (I mean look at the photo above-he is a giant!). And he is the biggest, hunkiest, bravest dwarf of course. But even a very heavy costume and a load of hair cannot conceal this handsome man from the rest of the world now. Hollywood has noticed him. Or his voice at least. And he sings...oh he sings!

Oh, I guess I had better let you know how I liked the film. Ahem, sorry for digressing. Yes, the film is very good. In general, except for the Harry Potter films which I have watched faithfully, fantasy films are not really my cup of tea. I saw none of the Lord of the Rings films. But this one was very enjoyable even to someone not acquainted with the story. The special effects are fairly impressive. The acting is wonderful. The scenery makes you want to jump on a plane for New Zealand immediately.

Some of you may not know that my day job is as an optometrist. Normally, this has nothing to do with my interest in period film. But I do have to weigh in on the 3D, 48 frames-per-second, nausea controversy. First of all, I do not like 3D films. I see the world in 3D every single day. I know what that looks like. And 3D films, particularly this one, in no way resemble real life. In The Hobbit, there is a distinct foreground, and one or two midgrounds and then the background. And then every once in a while, something pops out and dangles above the head of the person in front of you. Hmmmmmm. Not impressed. And many amblyopic  and strabismic patients are paying extra for what they see as a regular 2D film. They cannot see the 3D, but have to wear the glasses anyway.

But on to the blur/nausea controversy. Some are saying that they have to leave the film during the action sequences because of blur and nausea. I can absolutely agree that the action scenes are not enjoyable. However, I don't think it is because of the 3D or the 48fps. I think that the super large screens as well as the quick movement in the foreground especially is just too hard for the human eye to follow. I have seen 2D 24fps films that gave me similar blur but this film may have been a bit worse for whatever reason. I would have thought the 48fps would have reduced this blur in the action sequences. I think to paraphrase The Emporer in the film Amadeus, "My dear fellow, there are in fact only so many things the eye can see in the course of an evening!"

Thank-you, my rant is over. As a side note, I like the large screens and the amazing detail of digital film for slow moving period films. I saw Jane Eyre 2011 in an Ultra AVX theatre and it was amazing! It felt like I was right there with Rochester and Jane by the fire. But there is not much action in Jane Eyre to cause blur or nausea!

And for those of you who would like to see RA without all the hair and make-up, here he is as the wonderful Mr. Thornton in North and South. If you have not seen him in this please do yourself a favour and purchase this DVD for your collection. You are going to want to see it a few times. Trust me.



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