To be or not to be . . . the owner of Shakespeare Uncovered: Series 3 (PBS Distribution). The answer is obvious: Be!
The fascinating history behind Shakespeare’s greatest plays concludes with celebrated new hosts Helen Hunt, F. Murray Abraham, Romola Garai, Brian Cox, Simon Russell Beale and Sir Antony Sher who seamlessly weave their personal passions with history, biography, iconic performances and new analysis to tell the stories behind Shakespeare’s most famous works. The final season investigates Much Ado About Nothing, The Merchant of Venice, Measure for Measure, Julius Caesar, The Winter’s Tale and Richard III.
The program reveals not just the elements in the play, but the history of the play itself. What sparked the creation of each of these works? Where did Shakespeare find his plots and what new forms of theater did he forge? What cultural, political and religious factors influenced his writing? How have the plays been staged and interpreted from Shakespeare’s time to now? Why at different times has each play been popular — or ignored? Why has this body of work endured so thoroughly? What, in the end, makes Shakespeare unique.
Golden Age Amsterdam comes alive in all its opulence and repressed sensuality in an adaptation of Jessie Burton’s bestselling novel The Miniaturist, starring Anya Taylor-Joy, Romola Garai and Alex Hassell. Taylor-Joy plays a young bride who receives mysterious packages from a reclusive maker of miniatures—tiny objects that appear to predict the future. Masterpiece: The Miniaturist also features Paapa Essiedu, Hayley Squires and Emily Berrington .
The Miniaturist will be ready to grab on on Digital September 10 and DVD and Blu-ray September 18.
Critics were captivated when the miniseries recently aired in the UK. The Telegraph (London) applauded it as “an evocative, spellbinding drama big on atmosphere,” and in another review compared the production to “a Daphne Du Maurier potboiler as painted by Vermeer.” The Guardian (London) praised the show as “mesmerizing.”
Set in 1686 Amsterdam, The Miniaturist follows Nella (Taylor-Joy), a naive eighteen-year-old from a bankrupt aristocratic family in the provinces. She is wooed by Johannes Brandt (Hassell), a handsome and prosperous merchant looking for a wife. Once wed, Nella lives in Johannes’ mansion, mostly without him, kept in the care of his grim and overbearing sister, Marin (Garai), and the household’s two controlling servants.
As a wedding gift, Johannes gives Nella an exquisitely crafted cutaway model of the very house she is living in now, as a married woman. He instructs her to furnish it to her liking and gives her the address to the miniaturist who creates the tiny objects. She and the miniaturist only communicate by letter and upon her first order, she receives more objects than she requests. Without direction from Nella, the miniaturist keeps sending new creations including dolls replicating Johannes, Marin and the servants, with details that hint at closely held secrets.
Amsterdam is a city full of secrets, which Nella proceeds to unlock thanks to clues from her unseen artisan. In a community where authorities regard sugar as sinful, gingerbread men as idolatrous, and certain sexual behaviors as grounds for execution, secrecy can be a life-or-death matter.
We all have secrets . . . but Winston Churchill, perhaps he greatest statesman of the twentieth century, kept one in his most difficult hour: a debilitating stroke which he seeks to hide from the world. The fascinating story in told in PBS Distribution’s Masterpiece: Churchill’s Secret, arriving on DVD on September 13.
Based on a true incident in the life of Winston Churchill and directed by three-time Emmy nominee Charles Sturridge, Churchill’s Secret is an adaptation of Jonathan Smith’s acclaimed 2015 novel, The Churchill Secret: KBO, which was hailed as “delightful, funny, heart-warming” by The Mail on Sunday (London) and praised for its “elegance and wit” by The New Statesman (London). “KBO” in the book’s title stands for Churchill’s favorite advice in the face of adversity: “keep buggering on.”
Churchill stars Michael Gambon, in one of those performances that deserves awards. The action opens in the summer of 1953. Churchill, 78, is prime minister for the second time and as pugnacious as ever—until he is felled by a severe stroke while hosting a state dinner at 10 Downing Street. Lady Churchill (played by Lindsay Duncan) manages to conceal the seriousness of her husband’s sudden incapacity, while he is evaluated by his personal physician, Lord Moran (played Bill Paterson), and later transported in worsening condition to his country home, Chartwell.
Summoned to care for the apparently dying prime minister is a remarkable young nurse, Millie Appleyard (Romola Garai), who treats the world’s most famous man as she would any other difficult patient: with compassion, firmness, and occasional indulgence. In the weeks that follow, the two bond over the Victorian poet William Ernest Henley, whose celebrated poem, Invictus (Latin for “unconquered”), helps inspire Churchill to relearn to speak, stand and walk.
He is also determined to hold onto the reins of power, and the program tells the astonishing story of a bedridden, incapacitated leader who plots to outwit the high government officials who are maneuvering to replace him. Chief among these is Anthony Eden (Alex Jennings), Churchill’s right-hand man and designated successor.
Then there is Churchill’s family, of whom Lord Moran observes, “There’s a price to pay for greatness, but the great seldom pay it themselves.” Those who paid were Churchill’s children, who grew up in the permanent shadow of their exuberant and ambitious father. When Diana, Randolph, Sarah and Mary arrive at Chartwell to comfort their stricken parent, all except Mary fall to bickering and boozing—hardly an environment conducive to convalescence.
Through it all, Lady Churchill tries to keep the family peace and above all save some portion of her husband’s declining years for herself—far away from the demands of war and politics. As for Winston, a strange vision and a hit song haunt him from the early ’20s: “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles.” What could it mean?
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