With seemingly endless hours of historical costume movies and TV shows on Amazon Prime, Netflix, broadcast TV, actual movie theaters, et. al., we spend way too much time in front of a screen, trying to get through our backlog. Alas, not every flick set in the past is worth our time (though for ones we DO review, use the search box or menus to peruse the archives!).
Here’s a little behind-the-scenes info: There are a lot of snoozy historical costume movies and TV shows out there! We’re not talking Snark Week-worthy travesties — we LURVE watching those. But some stuff is too sad sack to bother with. These are boring movies, the dull shows, the ones with mediocre costumes and stories that can’t even rise up to the level of camp entertainment. Or the ones that are mildly entertaining, maybe have ‘good-enough’ costuming, or are moderately snark-worthy, but we can’t be arsed to work up a sweat about it.
Thus, here is our occasional series with simple one-line reviews of things we’ve tried to watch but just don’t care enough about to write a whole blog post or podcast. Your mileage may vary!
Assassin’s Creed (2016)
I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have even tried to watch this — and on a plane to boot! Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard are both hot as always, but all I got was boring action sequences and ridiculous conspiracy theories before giving up about 30 minutes in (I know, don’t watch an action movie if you don’t want to watch an action movie). The only “historical” costumes I managed to see were the classic Assassin’s Creed Hoodies(TM) in two different flashbacks to 1492 Spain (how do the Templars not know that there are Assassins lurking about, when the Assassins are always wearing the same hoodies?). — Kendra
This is actually an excellent Oscar-winning movie, based on the play of the same name. Peter O’Toole plays King Henry II of England to Richard Burton’s Thomas à Becket, and they chew the scenery equally with brilliant dialog. This film is all about the words, so when it came to a Frock Flicks review, I got nothin’ costume-wise. See it when it shows up on Turner Movie Classics or download it for a good time! — Trystan
Café Society (2016)
Another attempted plane watch (why do I make such bad choices?) that I aborted about 20 minutes in. Woody Allen’s look at 1920s Hollywood, in which thankfully he doesn’t act but still annoying employs a surrogate to essentially play himself as the lead. If I want whining, I can just listen to my own thoughts, thanks! — Kendra
So apparently Clue is a cult classic? I saw it back in 1985 when it came out but have zero memory of it. Realizing it’s set in the 1950s, I thought I’d give it a whirl for Frock Flicks purposes… only to get about 20-30 minutes into it and realize I wasn’t even mildly amused. It’s too bad, because it’s got a great cast — Madeleine Kahn! Tim Curry! And I was pleasantly surprised that the costumes were actually quite decently 1950s — I was expecting a total ’80s-fest. In particular, I looooved Kahn’s black Dior-esque jacket. But that didn’t make up for the fact that I: 1) hadn’t even thought about laughing once and 2) didn’t care about any of these characters. — Kendra
I co-sign this review 100%. Apparently, I watched it when it came out and liked it, the cast is fab, but it doesn’t hold up. — Trystan
Fleming: The Man Who Would Be Bond (2014)
Miniseries purporting to tell the “true story” of the writer behind the fictional James Bond. But if Ian Fleming was at all like this, he was just an arrogant, sexist jerk. Which, honestly, is what Bond acts like and is only sometimes semi-acceptable in a campy sort of way, so watching the same actions set as a biopic is irritating. Pass. — Trystan
The first season of this NatGeo biographical series was an in-depth look at Albert Einstein, and at first I thought, cool, because I dig a combo of science and history. Plus, there was a neat promo video focusing on Einstein’s first wife Mileva Marić, who was a physicist and some suspect deserves partial credit for his early work. But the first episode of this series was all about the ugly old dude banging his hot young secretary (bonus for Kendra, he’s Geoffrey Rush!), and I don’t care how accurate that may be, it’s not a trope I care to indulge in. NatGeo announced that the second season of Genius will be about Pablo Picasso, so really the show should be titled “Genius Horndogs.” — Trystan
Making History (2017)
Guys. I’m totally down with the comedic-take-on-history, and I will admit to having a weakness for (decently done) bro humor. So when I heard about Making History — essentially, a comedy take on the whole time traveling to fix history à la Timeless — and the fact that it starred Adam Pally who I LOVED on The Mindy Project, I was in. Well, I made it through two episodes and I can tell ya, just don’t bother. The humor is lame (oh ha ha! he drank from the chamber pot!), the history is wrong, the fact that it’s set in New England but clearly filmed in Southern California drove me crazy, and Leighton Meester as Deborah Revere (daughter of Paul) has the SHITTIEST, princess seam-iest costumes as well as your platonic ideal of princess hair when you were 12. — Kendra
Kendra is a stronger woman than me. I made it through 15 minutes of the first episode and noped-the-fuck out. No shock the series was cancelled. — Trystan
The Marquise of Darkness aka La Marquise des Ombres (2010)
Based on a true, supposedly fascinating story of Marie-Madeleine Dreux, Marquise of Brinvilliers, who was executed in 1676 for poisoning her father and two brothers with the help of her lover. Some pretty costumes here and there, a lot of hair flying around, but slow as mud story. Anne Parillaud, as the title character, is flat and inscrutable, not passionate or calculating enough to make sense doing any of the things she does. There’s a couple of weird sex scenes, but I didn’t find them hot enough to make the film worth my time. — Trystan
Do you love one of these movies or TV shows? What other stuff should we remove from our queue? Have you searched our site recently to see if we’ve already reviewed your faves?
“Based on a true, supposedly fascinating story” — I love this line and I hope you don’t mind my stealing it. It’s a particularly delightful way of damning with faint praise. I shall also take the pass recommendations to heart.
One quick thing—the names got swapped in the Becket description. Peter O’Toole is Henry II and Richard Burton is Becket. :-)
Oh good, I thought it didn’t sound right!
Cafe Society: God, I wish I had that hour and a half back.
Glad to hear I didn’t miss anything!
There’s a weird lore explanation which is that supposedly the assassin’s never actually wore the white robes with the beaked hoods, it’s just the animus’ way of highlighting the assassin’s to make them more visible, but no one believes that. It’s the same thing for “why does Ezio have an Italian accent, when he’s speaking in italian?” It exists, but everyone in the fandom thinks it’s bullshit.
I’ve been an AC fan for a long time, and we’ve all come to accept the series’ idiosyncrasies, but all of us HATED the movie.
Nope, nope, nope – I saw ‘Clue’ when it first came out, and I just watched it again a few months ago. I still love it. (Yes, that love may have a lot to do with Tim Curry, but I still think it holds up.)
Need a like button here. Still a fan of Clue myself.
Me too! We watched it a couple months ago with a friend who’d never seen it. She laughed, we laughed. Maybe it’s not everyone’s idea of a good time.
Agreed. Clue is still funny, and I have no particular love for Tim Curry.
You need to check out Norsemen: Norway’s hilarious answer to the garbage that was Vikings.It was filmed simultaneously in both Norwegian and English, so the English version isn’t dubbed. The costumes are amazing, with some authentic and others takeoffs on the atrocities in Vikings.
The second season will hit Netflix in the fall.
Trying to get Sarah to review it — she’s been watching Norsemen. Everyone ping her on Facebook!
I was forced to watch Clue at a sleepover as a young teen and spent the entire time staring blankly at it, wondering why everyone was laughing, since it wasn’t remotely funny to me.
Ditto on “Genius.” If you want me to tune out, that’s how to do your first episode. Said, “What a jerk,” never went back.
Norsemen, thanks for the suggestion. It will give me something to watch between Outlander episodes.
Did you see Episode 1 of Season 3?
I have to second loving Clue. I still watch it once a year or so and still find it funny.
Yup gave up on Genius and Making History.
Tried to read the Bond books after watching Fleming, but no. Talk about boring.
If you gave up on Clue after 20 minutes, then you totally missed out. It starts out serious and gradually unravels as it goes on until it goes totally off the rails as broad comedy with the three different endings. A bonus is that, as the movie gets crazier, Madaline Kahn strips off layers of clothing to reveal a sassy strapless number under that jacket.
Seconded! Clue makes me howl every time, but I admit that the first time I watched it I basically squinted at it until the zaniness began . . and then I got it. Now it just fills me with delight. There’s also quite a few quotable lines in there as well. . . “Please! There are ladies present!”
I agree! Y’all should give it another chance. If you really need to, just fast forward to the part where Mr. Body dies. Slow start but it works up quickly and doesn’t slow down again.
Trust me, I don’t understand why Kendra & Trystan don’t see the genius of Clue, but then again, we all three don’t always like the same things. But a Clue review will happen eventually, because even though the costumes don’t really stand up, IT’S STILL FREAKING GENIUS.
I saw Beckett on stage in London many years ago and enjoyed it but there is a different dynamic in theatre and it starred Derek Jacobi. Must say I have never felt inspired to go looking for the film.
The movie is magnificent. O’Toole and Burton are perfect. I was introduced to the play in its original French, and the movie captures Anouilh’s dialog very well.
“Cafe Society” was set in the 1930s and a waste of my time. I tried “Fleming: The Man Who Would Be Bond”. I tried.
Whatever else is wrong with it, the historically accurate portrayal of the Nazi-supporting publisher of the Daily Mail was priceless. And it does totally provide context for James Bond.
(On that note, a friend of mine wrote a fabulous article about how James Bond parody Sterling Archer is less of a sexist womanizing alcoholic than James Bond. Footnoted and everything.)
The mini series last year about the Alamo, with the late Bill Paxton was dreadful. Filmed in the desert, it was geographically wrong. Bad melodramatic script and characters . So awful, I have no true recollection of the costumes. I kept waiting for it to get better. It didn’t.
Gotta state my LOVE for Clue from the 80s up until the present day!! Beautiful. Quotable. Lovable. I was a blank slate for the world of Assassin’s Creed, and I enjoyed it enough to want a sequel–but that’s not gonna happen since it made like $10 at the box office and was widely reviled. I watched the entire Fleming mini-series (2 or 3 episodes). It came off as a low-rent television production.Plus you could tell that Dominic Cooper was acting in every scene. That said, it was sometimes interesting and though mostly annoying how much they tried to force a parallel between everything in Fleming’s life with everything in the James Bond universe.