Ever since season 4 of Stranger Things dropped back in late May, I – and most of the world, apparently – have succumbed to the charm of Eddie Munson/Joseph Quinn (because let’s face it, most of Eddie’s charm comes from Joseph’s performance.) I’ve never been invested in Stranger Things – I’m more than a casual viewer, but I wouldn’t say I’m a huge fan, and especially with the long gap between season 3 and season 4, my interest had dipped. When season 4 came out, I watched it just to see where the story went. Little did I know I would become obsessed with a character and the actor on a level I haven’t been since Richard Armitage as John Thornton in North & South. I guess the character resonates with me so much because I was pretty much Eddie in high school – I was that combo of nerd and metalhead (I listened to nu-metal, but still), and I was an outsider who reveled in that status because I didn’t feel like I belonged. And yes, his death hit hard (I’m sorry if that’s a spoiler for you, but honestly, unless you’ve been living under a rock…) I rarely cry at movies or TV shows, yet I was pretty much in a daze for an entire weekend after the finale because I was so upset.
So for my birthday, I thought I’d treat myself to a Hellfire T-shirt. The outfit is super simple – it’s not an Eddie cosplay (I’ve never been interested in cosplaying; I prefer to take inspiration from a look and put my own spin on it), but I guess you can say the distressed jeans and the sneakers are a nod to Eddie’s iconic look, and the whole thing is definitely an homage to the character anyway. Eddie, this is for you.
After reading Agatha Christie’s autobiography, I decided to start watching the adaptations of her works – I’ve seen Murder on the Orient Express (the classic one, with Albert Finney), Death on the Nile (with Peter Usinov), and BBC’s recent adaptation of And Then There Were None, but I haven’t watched any of the Poirot series (with David Suchet) or Miss Marple. Since the Poirot series is quite long, I started with Miss Marple first – the one with Joan Hickson. She really is the ultimate Miss Marple, with the perfect mix of friendliness, shrewdness, and cynicism (and no wonder, since Christie herself wished Hickson would play Miss Marple way back in 1946!)
I really enjoy the series, but what I didn’t expect is that it would be a source of style inspiration for me. As I’ve said, I’ve been leaning toward the 1940s-1950s look this fall, and the style in Miss Marple is just what the Anglophile in me loves – lots of cozy knits, pleated skirts, and enough tweed to cover several Tweed Runs. Here are some of my favorite looks:
Mrs. Jefferson in “The Body in the Library”
Phillipa’s cozy sweaters and practical trousers in “A Murder is Announced” are my favorite (which I tried to recreate here). I also enjoy Edmund’s pretentious scarf
And of course, we can’t forget the queen of tweed sets, cozy cardigans, and sensible shoes, Miss Marple herself:
The style in Poirot is more 1930s and summery, so I think I’ll save that for later. What should I watch next to get my 1940s-1950s fall/winter Anglophile style fix? Call the Midwife, Land Girls, Home Fires? I’m open for suggestions!
Book reviews are still coming next week, but in the meantime, I thought it would be fun to do some TV reviews, since my last one was over a year ago. There are too many new shows now that it took me a long time to decide which show to keep watching and which show to drop. I’ve been watching mostly old shows (Black Mirror, The Crown), though I’ve had to give up on some, too, like Legion (too weird) and The Handmaid’s Tale (too grim). Nevertheless, here are the new shows that I’ve watched:
I’m a fan of the original Karate Kid (fun fact: the high school where they shot it is just down the street from my apartment building back in LA), but I’m well aware of its cheese factor, so when I heard that they were making a sequel focusing on Johnny Lawrence reopening the Cobra Kai dojo and reigniting his old rivalry with Daniel LaRusso, I thought it sounded stupid and would surely be bad. Imagine my surprise when it turned out to be really, really good. The series manages to capture the nostalgic feel for the movie while still updating the story to the modern day; the continuation of Johnny and Daniel’s characterization is believable, and the new characters are fun too. I can’t wait for season 2.
I’ve actually been watching this for a while (it finished its 3rd season, and the 4th is coming next year), but I never got around to reviewing it before, so consider this a belated review. It’s based on the Corfu trilogy by Gerald Durrell, which I love. I’ve seen two other adaptations of My Family and Other Animals, but neither of them manages to depict the magic and the ridiculousness of the Durrells’ life on Corfu. The series does a little better, though I still find the Durrell children selfish and horrible to their poor, long-suffering mother, and I think it would be better as a half-hour comedy/drama than a one-hour drama/comedy. Still, between the beautiful setting, the breezy 1930’s costumes, and the fun (but sometimes exasperating) storylines, it’s the perfect summer watch.
I’ve been meaning to check this out since last year but I haven’t gotten around to it until now (it’s now in its 2nd season). I mostly watch it for the gorgeous costumes, but the story, which revolves around the rivalry of two brothels in 18th-century London, is actually very good. The anachronistic modern soundtrack requires some getting used to, but it’s nowhere near incongruous and annoying as Marie Antoinette. Also, despite its subject matter, the sex scenes are not as graphic as I’d expected, and best of all, they serve a purpose in advancing the plot and developing the characters, as opposed to being a gratuitous and exploitative way to grab the audience’s attention, like in Game of Thrones.
This is technically a movie, but it’s streamed on Netflix so I count it as a TV movie. Now, for all of my preference for dark, angsty series like Black Mirror and such, I also have a soft spot for rom-coms, though I tend to favor period or non-American rom-coms (The Decoy Bride, Austenland, etc.) This one, on the other hand, is a very standard American rom-com about two overworked assistants who set up their bosses (or, as they say in the movie, “Cyrano them” and “Parent Trap them”) so they could have more free time. I wasn’t going to check it out (Netflix series are usually good; Netflix movies, not so much), but everybody was raving about it, so I decided to give it a go and ended up really enjoying it. Sure, it’s predictable as hell, but it’s also cute, and the two leads are charming and have great chemistry, so it’s good for a Friday night in.
As promised last month, this month I’m going to do TV reviews instead of my usual book reviews. This isn’t going to be a regular thing, it’s just that I’ve been watching a lot of amazing shows lately and I wanted to rave about them. So here goes:
This is a superhero show, more specifically, an X-Men show (Legion is the son of Professor X), but it’s not your typical superhero show. It’s not your typical show, period. According to the comics, Legion’s mutant power is that he can absorb other personalities into his mind, and this manifests into a severe case of schizophrenia. The show took this idea and really put us inside Legion/David Haller’s mind – sometimes literally – as he tries to come to terms with his power while figuring out what is real and what is not. Because it deals so much with the idea of mind, memories, and mentality, the show’s storytelling is quite unlike anything you’ve seen before. That, combined with slightly off, retro-looking production designs (the show looks like it takes place in some trippy 1960’s alternate universe), means that it can be difficult to get into. But the cast is tremendous – especially Dan Stevens, who has a near flawless American accent (how is it that British actors are always so much better at American accent than vice versa?) and Aubrey Plaza – and after the first couple of episodes, you’ll be hooked and won’t find it so weird anymore.
This isn’t my type of show (it’s a murder mystery about a group of women in a wealthy neighborhood of Monterey), but it’s been getting rave reviews, so I decided to check it out, and suffice to say, I spent an entire Saturday binging it. It’s not so much a mini-series as it is a 7-hour long movie, and it does such a great job of building the tension that I spent the entire time watching with my fists clenched, waiting for it to explode. I’ve also read the book, and it’s good too (I actually prefer Reese Witherspoon’s character in the book) – book review coming next month.
Do I have to say anything more? Neil Gaiman, Bryan Fuller, a damn near perfect cast (this and “Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell” have restored my faith in casting for adaptations – the only quibble I had was Emily Browning, who I think is too young to play Laura, but after the episode two weeks ago, I was convinced), of course I would be all over this. My only complaint is that it’s not streaming, so you have to wait each week for a new episode. Therefore, I would recommend reading the book first – the plotting of the show can be really slow and a bit all over the place if you don’t know where it’s going.
Again, this is not my kind of show – I’d never read the book, and in today’s political climate, a story about women losing all of their rights and being reduced to “two-legged wombs” sounds far too real and too depressing for me. But again, I’ve heard amazing reviews of it, and I’ve liked Elizabeth Moss since “Mad Men”, so I started watching. Well, it’s terrifying – the most believable dystopian story I’ve ever seen – but that’s also what makes it so riveting. I’m not sure if I’m invested enough to keep watching, mostly because it’s so mentally exhausting, but I’ll finish this season at least.
This may come as a shock to you guys, but I’m not a fan of Anne of Green Gables. I’ve read all of the books and watched the 1985 mini-series, and I love the world of L.M. Montgomery, but to be honest, I’ve always found Anne kind of annoying (when it comes to PE Island, I prefer the TV show “Avonlea”.) So I wasn’t particularly interested in a new adaptation of the book. But, after “The Handmaid’s Tale”, I need something light and wholesome to nurse my wrecked nerves back to health, so this fits the bill perfectly. It does a great job of making Anne more sympathetic (it shows very clearly that her imagining and daydreaming is a coping mechanism for all the horrors she’s had to endure) and of course, the scenery is gorgeous (or “divinely scrumptious” or “scrumptiously divine” or whatever Anne is wont to say.)
It’s been a good month for TV. Right after finishing the latest season of “Black Mirror”, I started on another Netflix show which cannot be more different – “The Crown”, about Queen Elizabeth II and the start of her reign. You know I’m a huge Anglophile and a sucker for historical dramas, so naturally, I love this. But I’m not going to pretend it’s anything more than a 1950’s version of Downton Abbey – that is to say, a period family soap opera. To be fair, it is less sensationalized than Abbey – these are real historical figures after all – but it’s not exactly deep.
To make up for the lack of story, there’s the hugely talented cast – especially Claire Foy, who did a great job of turning a character that could’ve been so dull and characterless (there’s an entire storyline about how characterless QEII is compared to Princess Margaret) into someone engaging and sympathetic, and Matt Smith – he’s not my favorite Doctor (Christopher Eccleston forever) but I think he’s got the right mix of charms and sulkiness here. Most of the actors look a lot like the real persons too (try Googling the real Anthony Eden or Tommy Lascelles and compare them to their show counterparts), which I always appreciate in any historical drama. The one exception is Claire Foy, who looks nothing like the real QEII, but like I said, she’s so good that nobody will notice.
The main draw for me, however, is the costumes and sets. A lot of elegant 1950’s dresses, with cardigans and brooches (it’s basically how I would dress every day if I could), and really authentic, expensive-looking sets. Here, I’ll stop typing and just let you guys feast your eyes on all the gorgeousness:
It took me forever to pick these screenshots, because there are so many to choose from. Basically, it’s a niche show, but an insanely well-made and well-acted one, so check it out!