Review: The Sapphires

The delightful film The Sapphires is based on a real group of Aboriginal women from Australia who performed soul music in Viet Nam in 1968 for the troops there. Continue reading “Review: The Sapphires”

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Recommended: Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries is an Australian series that just appeared on Netflix and Amazon. Season 1 is available on Netflix, season 2 is currently airing in Australia.

Essie Davis as Phryne Fisher
Essie Davis as Phryne Fisher

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries takes place in 1928 Melbourne. Essie Davis is Phryne Fisher, a feminist and free spirit who becomes a detective. The music, the sets, and the costumes are delightful, as are Phryne (pronounced fry-nee) and the people around her. Phryne is bold and clever and a couple of steps ahead of the police in solving crimes.

Other major characters are Nathan Page as Detective Robinson, Ashleigh Cummings as Phryne’s maid Dot. (That’s her in the photo at the top.) Tammy Macintosh is Phryne’s doctor friend (a woman doctor in 1928!). A couple of characters who run general detecting type errands and drive Phryne around are played by Travis McMahon and Anthony Sharpe.

The series airs in Australia on ABC-TV. It’s on Facebook.

Check it out and let me know what you think.

Images ©ABC-TV Australia

Recommended: Last Tango in Halifax

Last Tango in Halifax is a 2012 British series which started on PBS last night. There are only 6 episodes in season 1, so get organized fast to watch this one. Last Tango in Halifax is all kinds of love stories, chiefly one between Celia and Alan, played by Anne Reid and Derek Jacobi.

Anne Reid and Derek Jacobi
Anne Reid and Derek Jacobi

Here’s the basic setup. Celia and Alan were in love as teens. Through a series of mishaps, they failed to get together. Each married someone else. Fifty years later these two tech savvy elders find each other on Facebook and get together, with plenty of twists and surprises along the way. Reid and Jacobi are absolutely lovely together. It’s so wonderful to see a love story between people in this age group. I suspect that dwelling in the first bloom of love is going to make these two elders act as foolish as teenagers before this story is told.

Sarah Lancashire plays Celia’s daughter, Caroline. In the opening scenes we see her take back her philandering husband (Tony Gardner). She doesn’t show much enthusiasm for his return, and neither do their two sons, but back he is. Later, we realize she’s been filling in the time during his absence with a female teacher in the school where she’s headmistress. The teacher, Kate, played by Nina Sosanya, is dumped without ceremony because, “John is back.” The indications in the opening episode are that John’s stay back at home may be limited, and Caroline may not be fully finished with Kate. So, another kind of love story.

Alan’s daughter, Gillian, is played by Nicola Walker. When we first meet her she’s worrying over her son’s devotion to his Uncle and their penchant for dangerous motorcycle sports. There’s a lot of backstory involved in the relationship with the uncle and her late husband’s death that Gillian has to face with her son in the first episode. Gillian works in a grocery store, and we learn via her sale of a package of cigarettes that she’s sexually involved with a younger bad boy character played by Sacha Dhawan. It isn’t clear from the first episode if this can be called another love story or is more about loneliness and sex.

In addition to the romantic love stories and second chances that sprinkle Last Tango in Halifax, family love and parent and child relationships are explored. All kinds of love stories. I don’t know about you, but I firmly believe that the only good stories are stories about love – what ever kind of love that might be.  It doesn’t matter if it’s romantic love, family love, friendship or even love for a pet. Maybe that’s why I recommended this series about love so enthusiastically.

PBS doesn’t put their videos on YouTube where it’s easy to pick them up to display here. But if you go to the PBS page for Last Tango in Halifax you can watch a couple of videos from episode one. Once the season is over, all the episodes will be available on pbs.org/tango.

All images ©BBC.

Recommended: Borgen

Borgen is an award winning Danish political drama. The 3rd season just aired in Denmark. You can catch up in the U.S. by watching LinkTV for full length episodes. Season 3 will begin on LinkTV on October 4. Some episodes can also be seen on Dish and Direct TV.

Borgen is outstanding in every way. As a political drama we see how power changes people, the sacrifices and compromises it demands, and the steely strength it takes to wield it. As a character study we have a fascinating array of individuals to watch. It is produced by the same people who made The Killing.

brigitte
Sidse Babett Knudsen as Birgitte Nyborg

Leading the cast is Sidse Babette Knudsen playing Birgitte Nyborg, who becomes the Danish Prime Minister and leads her country in a direction she believes is the best one. I tend to agree with her political choices, so I’m always rooting for her to win her political battles. We see her from her earliest and most idealistic days, through her rise to power, and through all the struggles to hold on to it. In her determination to lead her country she sacrifices and/or loses a great deal, most especially her personal life. While she struggles to lead a country, she struggles to be a parent and raise a family. Borgen is a study in how power shapes people and in how the use of power can be both a good thing and a bad thing.

Kasper
Pilou Asbæk as Kasper Juul

Birgitte’s closest advisor is Kasper Juul, played by Pilou Asbæk. He is even more of a political animal than his boss. Kasper also has an interesting background, lots of secrets, and a truly messy personal life.

Katrine and Birgette
Birgitte Hjort Sørensen plays Katrine Fønsmark

Part of Kasper’s personal life is in the person of journalist Katrine Fønsmark, played by Birgitte Hjort Sørensen, who reports on politics for both newspapers and television at various times in the course of the drama. Katrine has the most unyielding moral compass of any of the characters and is willing to lose her job for her convictions. She’s strong and tough like the people she writes about.

The stories are filled out by a marvelous supporting cast of journalists, politicians, family members and characters who revolve around the Danish government and political parties.

It’s in Danish, so you do have to watch the screen all the time to read the subtitles. There’s no time to play with a second screen and take your turn at Words with Friends while Borgen is playing. However, once you take a look at Borgen, you will not begrudge the attention it requires. You will be thoroughly impressed by the quality of the drama and the outstanding acting talents of the cast.

If you love good serious drama, are fascinated by character, and long for more television featuring well-written female characters, Borgen will not disappoint.

Look for Borgen UK on Facebook to keep up with announcements. You can read about all the awards this series and its actors have won on Wikipedia, where you’ll also find possible places to view it in a number of countries. The website is in Danish with some English options.

All images ©Borgen DR

Recommended: Broadchurch

Broadchurch is a small town on the coast of England. Broadchurch, a new series on BBC America, takes its name from that location. A young boy is murdered there at the opening of this excellent police drama.

Episode 1 aired last Wednesday, but you can watch it before episode 2 on this coming Wednesday. Stay tuned to find out where.

David Tennant in Broadchurch
David Tennant in Broadchurch

Two police officers investigate the murder. David Tennant from Doctor Who plays DI Hardy. Olivia Coleman is DS Ellie Miller. Their first interaction is unfriendly, since DI Hardy is new in town and new on the job. Ellie Miller, a long-time Broadchurch officer, thought the DI job was going to be hers.

Jodie Whittaker and Andrew Buchan play the murdered boy’s parents. Broadchurch is a small community where everyone knows everyone else. At least they seem to. There are secrets. The death of the boy impacts everyone in the community. DS Ellie Miller and her son Tom were close to the family of the murdered boy. In episode 1 we begin to see some of the ripples within the community as the town tries to deal with the event and the search for a suspect intensifies.

When news of the murder is leaked on Twitter, a media circus comes to town which adds to the ensemble of characters and to the drama going on in the homes of the community members.

I was immediately hooked on the drama, the characters, and their many secrets. The relationships between the police officers, the townspeople and the journalists is compelling.

Season 1 contained 8 episodes, which were well received in the UK. A second season is scheduled, even though reports are that we learn the identity of the murderer at the end of episode 8.

If you missed the premier, BBC America has made the whole episode available on YouTube. You can also see the entire episode on BBC America. Episode 2 will air on Wednesday.

I recommend you watch the premier of this excellent police drama and check your local listings for the time you can catch the rest of the episodes on BBC America.

All images ©BBC America.