The Casual Vacancy (♦♦♦♦): the death of an idealistic and quite popular councilman in the village of Pagford, England, sets in motion a strange chain of events, for the fate of Sweethouse Estate--a property used for the rehabilitation of local drug addicts--is at stake. Upon the death of councilman Barry Freebrother, three more men, including his up-to-no-good half-brother, vie for the council position and the opportunity to be the deciding vote in the future of the community.
This HBO/BBC miniseries is an adaptation of J.K. Rowling's novel The Casual Vacancy. I can't say whether it is faithful or not to the source material because I haven't read the novel yet, but I liked this miniseries a great deal and found myself quite invested in the characters. Typical British dramas are usually about class differences, but this community focuses on common people with real problems, and that is a welcomed departure from British literary tradition.
The Casual Vacancy is well made, with excellent photography and superb ensemble cast. What surprised me, though, is that it ended on a sad note; I wasn't expecting that at all.
War and Peace (♦♦♦♦♦): The first impression I got from the first episode of this co-production between Weinstein Co. and BBC, an adaptation of the eponymous novel by Leo Tolstoy, is that it was too British to be Russian, but then I watched the next five episodes back to back and by the time I reached the Tsar's Ball and the blooming romance between Natasha Rostova (Lily James) and Prince Andrei Bolkonsky (James Norton), I was hooked.
Being a 19th century novel, it is all about suffering and the human condition. Being mostly about the young nobility, it is mostly about idealism, particularly exemplified in the character of Count Pierre Bezhukov (Paul Dano). There is also love, lust, betrayal, and death—a lot of it, due to the Napoleonic Wars. What emerges throughout is a vivid tapestry of the Russian people defying insurmountable odds, and their wills to survive despite so much suffering.
Beautiful locations, costumes, and excellent performances make this miniseries a must watch.
And now the movies...
Eye in the Sky (♦♦♦♦♦): A joint operation between Kenyan, American, and British military in Kenya, is supposed to capture several most wanted radicals in East Africa meeting in a house, according to human intelligence. Two of them are British citizens, one carries an American passport. But when a drone detects the presence of suicide vests and explosives in the house—suggesting an imminent suicide attack—the mission changes to "must kill". However, a nine year-old girl selling bread in the street, outside the compound, stands in the way of the drone pilot carrying out the order.
Eye in the Sky is a taut military thriller about the complexities—moral, political, and legal, of collateral damage—in modern warfare.
Nuanced performances and great case in point make this thriller a must see.
General Benson: "Never tell a soldier that he does not know the cost of war."
The Giver (♦♦♦): In a utopian society in which sameness has been attained by weeding out uniqueness, a young man is tasked with being the “Receiver of Memories”. Only when he meets "the Giver", the man who is to pass on the memories to him, he experiences the wonders of bygone humanity and the world as it once was.
The Giver is an adaptation of the eponymous worldwide phenomenon by Lois Lowry. If you ask me, the movie is quite mediocre, except in those moments that convey what it means to be human, and the wonders of the natural world surrounding us.