Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Impressions of Our Zoo, The Scarlet Tunic and Princess Ka'iulani


Our Zoo (2014)

Adaptation of: no adaptation, but based on true events
Length: 300 min

Summary: It's the early 30's and familyman George Mottershead is still suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome from his experiences in WWI. His parents and wife are getting exasperated about his condition. When George visits the quarantine for exotic animals at the local dockyard, he buys a few unwanted animals on a whim and a plan is born. A risky plan to start a zoo at an abandoned estate. A plan that will upend George's entire family and ask a huge amount of hard work from all of them.

Familiar faces (from period drama): Anne Reid (Upstairs, Downstairs, Bleak House), Peter Wight (Persuasion '07, The Paradise), Stephen Campbell Moore (He Knew He Was Right), Sophia Myles (Nicholas Nickleby) and more

Watch this if: 
- You love stories with animals
- You love family stories
- You need something uplifting and funny

Don't watch this if:
- Can't think of a reason!

Best part: The penguins arriving and their walk through town

My opinion: I love history and I love animals, so period dramas with a big role for animals are always a hit with me. Our Zoo is now one of my top favourites of this genre! It's sweet and funny with great family dynamics and some good young actors in the roles of George's daughters June and Muriel. Lee Ingleby is amazing as the driven George Mottershead. And it's so beautifully made with the trademark BBC eye for details. So yes, the only negative thing I can say about this is that unfortunately there's not going to be a second series.... (10/10)

The Scarlet Tunic (1998)

Adaptation of: a short story by Thomas Hardy
Length: 88 min

Summary: At the start of the 19th century, German troops serving with King George III against Napoleon are stationed in a small village on the West Coast. Frances Groves, daughter of the gentleman whose land the soldiers camp on befriends Captain Matthaus Singer. Their afternoon walks turn into a passionate and forbidden affair.

Familiar faces (from period drama): Emma Fielding (Cranford)

Watch this if: 
- You like grand and sweeping love-stories
- You like Thomas Hardy's novels and their adaptations

Don't watch this if:
- You don't like Thomas Hardy's taste for drama and gloom (this is not a happy movie...)

Best part: The scenery is really beautiful

My opinion: It's always fun when you discover a little known period drama, especially when it's an adaptation of one of the Victorian 'greats'. This was a good drama with interesting characters which are easy to identify with. Even though it was based on a short story, this movie still felt a bit rushed, especially the ending. Also, a lot of things stayed unclear until the end of the movie, which really bothered me. Plus, it's a very typical Thomas Hardy story, so I could kind of predict the ending and let me say: it aint pretty.... (7/10)

Princess Ka'iulani (2009)

Adaptation of: no adaptation
Length: 130 min

Summary: Ka'iulani is the daughter of a Scottish businessman and a princess of Hawaii. When an uprising starts on the island, Ka'iulani is whisked away to Scotland by her father. Here, she feels lost and homesick, but manages to find friendship and even love in the long run. Then, stories of the possible annexation of Hawaii by the US reach Ka'iulani and she must return to her home country and stand up for the rights of her people.

Familiar faces (from period drama): Tamzin Merchant (Jane Eyre, The Mystery of Edwin Drood)

Watch this if: 
- You like movies about little known episodes from history
- You like stories about strong women

Don't watch this if:
- You're a stickler for historical accuracy, apparently this movie plays fast and loose with the real story of Ka'iulani

Best part: When Ka'iulani visits US president Cleveland and cleverly gets him to choose her side in the Hawaii conflict

My opinion: Interesting but bittersweet movie about this little known princess from Hawaii. Acting was good, especially by Q'orianka Kilcher, who plays the titular character. The romance, though sweet, developed a bit too fast to really root for. Good one-time viewing material for period drama fans. (8/10)


  1. Didn't much care for "Princess" with exception to the pretty "look" of it and the cast. Then there is Thomas Hardy. His stories are hit or miss for me, and this one is probably the former. But "Zoo" sounds really sweet and interesting! Thanks for sharing, Birdie. :)

    1. No, Thomas Hardy is definitely not everyone's favourite. I also had to grow in liking his stories and some (Tess of the D'Urbervilles for example) are still 'too much' for me. But I'm a big fan of Far From the Madding Crowd and The Mayor of Casterbridge.

      I think you'd really enjoy Our Zoo!

  2. Oh, interesting! Do you know if Our Zoo is the story that We Bought a Zoo is based on? But anyway that sounds really cute! I'd like to see it now!

    I watched Princess Ka'iulani, just because Shaun Evans was in it. I enjoyed it enough because of him, and the girl was good too, but otherwise it wasn't good enough for second view, like you say.

    Thanks for sharing these, Birdie! I'm going to have to look into Our Zoo now!

    1. We Bought a Zoo is based on a biography from a more current time, but it's also very interesting.

    2. Yes, indeed, both stories are about families buying/starting a zoo, but there's about 60 years in between them!

    3. Okay, thanks. I did think We Bought a Zoo was based on a modern true story, but I'd also heard it actually took place in Britain, so when I saw this I thought I might have been wrong about the time period. But it doesn't matter; still interested in seeing this one. :)

    4. Yes, We Bought a Zoo: the true story/the book is indeed British, but for some reason the movie was placed in the US. Well, I liked the movie anyway!

  3. I don't know about the others, but Our Zoo sounds really good! I'll have to look it up!