Ric’s Netflix Picks: Preparing for “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” (Pt. 2)

Welcome to Part II of Snippet Studios’ preparation for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug! Today we will be looking at the darkly charismatic Richard Armitage. His two performances discussed below prove that he was the right man for the role of Thorin Oakenshield.

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RICHARD ARMITAGE – THORIN OAKENSHIELD

Robin Hood

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In the war between the rich and the poor, who will fight for the disenfranchised and impoverished?

Robin Hood, that’s who.

Robin of Loxley (Jonas Armstrong), returns from the Crusades, to discover home is not how he left it. A new Sheriff of Nottingham, Vasely (Keith Allen), has taken control of the surrounding lands and rules it without mercy. A confrontation with the Sheriff leads Robin to be stripped of his lands and title, and be branded an outlaw. Taking the name of Robin Hood, he gathers a band of merry men, challenges the authority of the Sheriff, and fights for King Richard (Steven Waddington).

BBC‘s Robin Hood is a fun take on the Robin Hood myths. More of a light-hearted fantasy than a gritty tale, this show highlights the social issue of wealth disparity with organic comedic timing and witty one-liners. As the seasons grow, the conflict between Robin and the Sheriff’s lieutenant, Sir Guy of Gisborne (Richard Armitage), truly begin to take the reins. What begins as a fight for the love of a good woman, Lady Marian (Lucy Griffiths), blossoms into something much deeper. Richard Armitage steals these later seasons and becomes a driving force of the narrative.

The supporting cast is incredibly well utilized and includes Gordon Kennedy, Joe Armstrong, Harry Lloyd (Game of Thrones), Anjali Jay, David Harewood (Homeland), Toby Stephens (Die Another Day) and Joanne Froggatt (Downton Abbey). Making her second appearance in this series of articles is Lara Pulver (Sherlock), who plays a power-hungry noble with a hidden agenda. Sam Troughton, grandson of Patrick Troughton a.k.a. the second Doctor, portrays Much, Robin’s most loyal friend and companion. As a bit of trivia, Patrick Troughton was actually the first person to ever portray Robin Hood on television.

Robin Hood is a solidly comedic, yet heartwarming, take on a classic myth. The villainous performances of Allen, Armitage and Pulver are not to be missed.

Lastly, beware of two other Robin Hood flicks on Netflix: Beyond Sherwood Forest (rating: 1.7 out of 5) and Robin Hood: The Ghost of Sherwood (rating: 0 out of 5). They are to be avoided at all costs.

Rating:

4.2 out of 5.0

North & South

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Where can a young woman from Southern England learn about the issues of class and gender?

The North.

Uprooted from her home, Margaret Hale (Daniela Denbe-Ashe) finds herself far from the familiar setting of Southern England. Her father, Richard (Tim Pigott-Smith), had unexpectedly moved the Hale family to the northern industrial town of Milton. There Margaret is bewildered by the Northerners’ ways and is introduced to two families that shape her journey. The first is shrewd, upperclass businessman John Thorton (Richard Armitage), his sister and their mother, Mrs. Hannah Thorton (Sinéad Cusack). Thorton is a self-made man and operator of a local cotton mill. The second is Nicolas Higgins (Brendan Coyle) and his daughter Bessy (Anna Maxwell Martin). Higgins is a working class man who convinces the local workers to unionize and demand fair pay and better working conditions. Margaret struggles with northern customs as she dances the line between the haves and have-nots of Milton.

Based on the 1855 novel of the same name by Elizabeth Gaskell, the BBC‘s North & South is a pleasantly stuffy aristocratic tale of class struggle and gender roles. The classically beautiful Denbe-Ashe bounces around with apologetic vigor. Thorton plays a wonderfully honest and vulnerably stoic role. Fans of Downton Abbey will recognize Coyle and his fatherly charisma. Cusack commands a tremendous presence in her role and feels incredibly believable. A bit of a fun fact: Pigott-Smith, who plays Margaret’s father in this adaptation, played her brother in the 1975 version.

North & South is a challenging film as it relies heavily on solid acting rather than action, and the suspense comes from the subtle personal conflicts that comes from stiff British tradition.

Rating:

3.9 out of 5.0

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If you neglected to check out Part I of this series, be sure to check it out now. Stay tuned for Part III and Part IV in this series!

Let us know what you think in the comments below.

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UPDATE 4/04/14: Beyond Sherwood Forest is no longer available on Netflix Instant.

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