Tag Archive: Carey Mulligan

Review by C.J. Bunce

If you don’t follow international politics you may find it a strange thing when the current affairs of a country far away has eerily similar relevance to the affairs of your own country.  Americans will see that in a big way as “four days in the life” of local government and police affairs in London is the theme of a new four-part British mini-series called Collateral, just released on Netflix.  Sporting that “ripped from the headlines” vibe of the short-lived series Law & Order: UK, Collateral is probably not as thrilling as Homeland or State of Play, but it’s far more compelling and interesting than most recent detective mystery fare like the dreary but ambitious series Broadchurch.  It’s enough that Collateral is worth watching for the showcase of acting talent it features.  Not particularly gritty or fresh as all the police procedurals that have come and gone, and not full of any real surprises for a mystery series, Collateral feels less like a limited, finite series and more like the beginning of a new TV drama.  And it’s a good beginning.

Headlining Collateral is a Doctor Who fan’s dream team: Star of the best reviewed Doctor Who episode of its 50-year run, Carey Mulligan (Never Let Me Go, Mudbound) played Sally Sparrow in the Doctor Who episode “Blink,” and here she stars as an eight-year veteran of the police force, now pregnant (since Mulligan was pregnant while filming) and recognizable to locals in the city as a professional pole vaulter who ended her career with a well-televised bad landing.  It’s this level of character backstory that doesn’t add much to the plot of this four-episode arc, but provides prime fodder if the BBC were to pick up a full-series run.  Mulligan takes to the role quite well–her character is not quirky or much of a stand-out, just another detective working a case–and that fits the story.  The Master from Doctor Who, John Simm (Life on Mars, Intruders, State of Play) seems to fit well in any role and he’s perfect again here, starring in at least his third series featuring human smuggling.  He portrays a local official who is pulled into the murder of a Syrian pizza delivery boy.  His ex-wife was the pizza boy’s last stop, and she is played by Billie Piper, who portrayed the long-time Doctor Who companion Rose Tyler.  We get to see Piper in a very different role for her here, as a rather nasty mother of two who is a bit of a disaster herself even before the crime appeared in front of her apartment, in part due to her drug use and inability to move beyond her ex-husband.

The series is directed by S.J. Clarkson, well-known for many episodes of quality mystery television.  Clarkson knows her turf well, and she deftly handles what complexity and interconnected subplots the script provides.  She has directed great television from Life on Mars to Heroes, House, M.D. to Bates Motel, plus both The Defenders and Jessica Jones.  So viewers can trust they’re in good hands with this show.

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Jessica Barden Far from the Madding Crowd

Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Anyone familiar with Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd knows that the story begins when an impetuous young sheepdog accidentally herds his flock over a cliff, killing them all… and then things rather go downhill (ahem) from there.  That’s Thomas Hardy, after all.  But Far From the Madding Crowd is widely considered one of Hardy’s “happier” stories, a happy-ending (except for the sheep) romance about another impetuous youngster, farm heiress Bathsheba Everdene, and her stubborn attempts to hang on to her independence, despite the attentions of three (three!) suitors.  It all takes place in the bucolic English countryside, at the height of the Victorian era, with Social Consequences and Brooding Heroes, Headstrong Heroines, Disastrous Misunderstandings, Crimes of Passion, and Anonymous Love Letters. What’s not to love?

Well, in Thomas Vinterberg’s new adaptation of the story, pretty much everything.  Okay, to be fair–there is actually a lot not to love about the novel.  Heroine Bathsheba Everdene (Carey Mulligan, Doctor Who “Blink”, Never Let Me Go, The Great Gatsby), for one; she is at times thoughtless, clueless, senselessly cruel, and relentlessly bullheaded.  But Hardy also meant her to be sympathetic and inspiring, driving forward in a man’s world that thinks little of a woman’s independence.  Along the way, she wins the affections of no fewer than three men–men who see her for much more than her valuable land.  But the latest film version brings none of Bathsheba’s passion, conviction, and nuance to screen, relying only on Mulligan’s befuddlement and tousled tresses, and a confused wardrobe (by designer Janet Patterson) that looks like clothing from a Soviet propaganda poster.  She’s a better actor, and we’ve seen it.

Michael Sheen and Carey Mulligan Far From the Madding Crowd

Somewhere along the way, the love quadrangle of the tale gets muddled, and one can’t quite figure out how itinerant soldier Frank Troy (Thomas Sturridge, The Hollow Crown, Pirate Radio) fits in–let alone manages what devoted shepherd Gabriel Oak (Belgian actor Matthias Schoenaerts, from the upcoming Lewis & Clark) has continually failed at: securing Bathsheba’s hand in marriage.  But by that time, the only thing we’re sure of is that Bathsheba has poor judgement… so we just sort of go with it.  Perhaps because we’re still hanging on for gorgeous glimpses of the English countryside (which never arrive).

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Mulligan and friend in Far from the Madding Crowd

If you haven’t yet seen Carey Mulligan as Sally Sparrow in the David Tennant era Doctor Who episode “Blink,” then you haven’t seen one of the top episodes of television from any genre.  We placed it in our Best of the Best category here at back in 2012.  Mulligan went on to star in another critically acclaimed genre film, Never Let Me Go, where she played one of several clones created solely to serve as a supply of replacement organs should the original person ever need them.  It’s a must see if you’re a fan of Gattaca or The Handmaid’s Tale.  She’s also starred in Inside Llewyn Davis with Star Wars Episode VII star Oscar Isaac, and was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance in An Education.

Mulligan has taken on plenty of historical costume drama films, and adaptations of classic novels in particular, including Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, Charles Dickens’ Bleak House, and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.  This year Mulligan adds Thomas Hardy to her repertoire with the big-screen adaptation of his 1874 novel Far from the Madding Crowd.


Check out this first trailer for Far from the Madding Crowd, after the break:

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Inside Llewyn Davis

The Coen Brothers have never made a movie on my favorites list since Raising Arizona, although No Country for Old Men had a lot going for it with great acting by Josh Brolin and Kelly MacDonald.  And I’m probably the only person on earth that isn’t a fan of Fargo.  But a story about the 1960s New York folk music scene might entice me to check out the Coens’ new StudioCanal period flick Inside Llewyn Davis.

The Coens are great at selecting key character actresses and using genre favorite Carey Mulligan in another period film seems to be a great choice as the love interest of what seems to be the stereotypical brooding, misunderstood musician, the title character played by Oscar Isaac.  Isaac has appeared in Robin Hood and The Bourne Legacy, but this is clearly his big leading man break.  Who doesn’t want to be in a movie with Bob Dylan singing the background music?

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Downton Abbey

For you genre TV and film fans that got sucked into the BBC/PBS series Downton Abbey, now that the series is on hiatus are you ready to entirely re-immerse yourself back into sci-fi and fantasy?  Or do you still need a bit of the British manor fix now and then?  A great feature of British manor series and movies is the overlap of actors back and forth into the best of sci-fi and fantasy.  So if 12 inches of snowfall has stranded you inside and you want to further investigate your favorite performers on Netflix or other streaming media as they stretch their acting chops, here’s an excuse to dive into some films and TV series you may not have otherwise tried, featuring the best of the world of sci-fi and fantasy.

Remains of the Day Dyrham Hall

Christopher Reeve plays an American who buys this estate in Remains of the Day.

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The last big production of The Great Gatsby was in 1974 and starred Robert Redford as the awkward but admired aristocrat Jay Gatsby and Mia Farrow as the shallow Daisy Buchanan (Mira Sorvino and Paul Rudd starred in a smaller production of the story).  The actual star of the book and narrator of the original F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, the character Nick Carroway, was played by a youthful and energetic Sam Waterston in the 1974 film.

This Christmas, Leonardo DiCaprio will play Gatsby and genre favorite Carey Mulligan will play against type as a somewhat ethereal Daisy.  Ex-Spider-man actor Tobey Maguire will play Nick.

Here’s the first trailer for the film:

The first thing that jumps out is the lack of the defining component of the roaring twenties–jazz.  So whereas we see a lot of nice art deco components in the trailer, it doesn’t immediately conjure up 1920s, Fitzgerald’s book, and prohibition.  Hopefully this is just the Hollywood standard of putting up a preview with unrelated music, trying to get us caught up in the craziness of the story and the time period.  We haven’t seen a big historical film based in the 1920s for a while–maybe Chicago?

The cars look good–hard to fake that, but the costumes seem a little bit modernized to our eyes.  It will be interesting to see what the costume designer is going for here.  Maybe an updated feel?

Either way, we hope it’s a good stepping stone to more roles for Mulligan.

By Elizabeth C. Bunce

“People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint – it’s more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey… stuff.”  Thus the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) explains temporal theory to a “clever and listening” Sally Sparrow (Carey Mulligan, Never Let Me Go, The Great Gatsby) in the best-ever episode of Doctor Who, “Blink” (2007).

It’s a tough call.  “Blink” came in the middle of a great season, sandwiched between the brilliant “The Family of Blood” and “Utopia,”–a period when Stephen Moffat and Russell T. Davies were clearly at the top of their form.  But there’s something about “Blink” that lifts it out of the realm of episodes that are simply great, and makes it an enduring, must-watch classic, and earns’s nomination for Best Doctor Who.  (To be fair, there was a dissenting vote.  Jason McClain is partial to “The Girl in the Fireplace.”  But we think he’s wrong and just needs to watch “Blink” again.)

First, there’s the time travel. Ok, sure–it’s Doctor Who.  It’s all time travel.  But this episode does more than drop our heroes into another time to explore–it’s a twisty, precisely calibrated interplay of past, present, and future, with the Doctor stuck on the sidelines and the fate of the universe in the hands of a not-so-ordinary Londoner.  “Blink” is masterfully orchestrated and perfectly paced from the first moment, a complex puzzle of self-fulfilling, paradoxical prophecies that never misses a step or leaves the viewer remotely confused (even when we don’t know what’s going on).

Second, the story–all scant 45 minutes of it–feels not only complete and satisfying, but epic.  Villainy on a grand scale.  A tantalizing mystery.  Romances that span generations, though their starcrossed lovers only know one another for moments.  Between “Sally Shipton” and “It’s the same rain,” we live the entire lifelong love-that-might-have-been between Det. Insp. Billy Shipton and Sally.  We are treated to the sweet love story of Kathy Nightingale and her young man from Hull, which comes full circle when her grandson brings her letter and photos to Sally–before the story even begins.  It’s all one beautiful complex loop of time, love, and missed and grabbed chances.

Third, Carey Mulligan.  Usually, TV episodes missing all of their familiar characters don’t work, but “Blink” pulls it off.  Not only do we not really miss the Doctor, I think we’d all take even more of Sally, Larry, Kate, and Billy–but Carey Mulligan is the key to everything.  From the instant Sally hops the wrought iron fence at Wester Drumlins and strips off the peeling wallpaper, we’re rooting for her.  Mulligan feels like an actor you know you’ve seen before, and her poise and talent pull the whole episode up to her level.  It’s no surprise to see her cast now in impressive roles like The Great Gatsby’s Daisy Buchanan.

Fourth, the Weeping Angels.  Best. Villains. Ever.  “Whatever you do, don’t blink.”  “Blink” turns an archetype of holiness into a gothic nightmare, and the sweet innocence of Sally and Larry only makes them all the more startling.  They’re a fascinating alien species as only Doctor Who can conceive (“quantum-locked” creatures who cease to exist when looked at), but they’re also as scary as any classic horror movie monster.  And yet, for all the terror they inspire, they still “kill you nicely,” as the Doctor says.  (They’re not always so nice, however, as Doctor Number Eleven and Amy Pond later learn.)

Fifth, the dialogue.  C’mon–“Blink” is full of great lines, from the now quotable “Timey-Wimey Stuff,” to my personal favorites, “It goes ding when there’s stuff” and “There’s a thing.  Well, four things and a lizard.”  We also love Larry’s surprised, “You live in Scooby Doo’s house,” when he finds Sally at Wester Drumlins, and the adorable carpark exchange between the flirtatious Billy and bashful Sally.  Also, Sally’s parting admonition, “Don’t look at me, don’t look at me,” chillingly echoes the “Don’t blink” refrain of the episode.

If that’s not enough to plead our case, perhaps the best evidence in “Blink’s” favor is Point Number Six: the fact that “Blink” functions as a complete standalone episode–it’s Doctor Who, but it’s also very much its own entire story, both fascinating and approachable enough to entertain Whovians and non-fans alike.

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