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The Pillars of the Earth(TV) (2010)
The Pillars of the Earth is set against a backdrop of war, religious strife and power struggles which tears lives and families apart. In that time, there rises a magnificent Cathedral in Kingsbridge. Against the backdrop, love-stories entwine: Tom, the master builder, Aliena, the noblewoman, the sadistic Lord William, Philip, the prior of Kingsbridge, Jack, the artist in stone work and Ellen, the woman from the forest who casts a curse. At once, this is a sensuous and enduring love story and an epic that shines with the fierce spirit of a passionate age. Follett masterfully weaves these stories through political turmoil of 12th century England, creating a relevant and viable world for today's audience and for generations to come.
For more about The Pillars of the Earth and the The Pillars of the Earth Blu-ray release, see the The Pillars of the Earth Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on November 21, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Ian McShane, Matthew MacFadyen, Eddie Redmayne, Hayley Atwell, Natalia Wörner, David Oakes
Director: Sergio Mimica-Gezzan
» See full cast & crew
The Pillars of the Earth Blu-ray Review
It sure looks good, but 'The Pillars of the Earth' lacks a dominantly deep core.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, November 21, 2010
Who will rule once I am gone?
Just when it seemed like the Miniseries was dead, kaput, muerto, or at least taken over by ultra-cheesy or super-weepy three-hour ScyFy and Hallmark Channel crud, "The Pillars of the Earth" arrives on the scene as an epically lengthy, gracefully acted, opulently produced, and handsomely directed colossal-like heavyweight with the strength to overwhelm all but the finest of television's classiest best-of miniseries, the clout to call attention to itself like few others, and the artistic grace to shame all of those three-hour wannabes into acknowledging that they are but lowly peasants on the totem pole of entertainment, whimpering in the darkness that is the recesses of the gargantuan shadow cast by the filmed adaptation of Author Ken Follett's titanic thousand-page book of the same name. No doubt about it, "The Pillars of the Earth" puts on an impressive front, but is there any substance behind the towering façade, or is its opulence but a mask concealing the emptiness that exists where there should be a tighter, deeper, and more meaningful production? The answer lies somewhere in the middle. "The Pillars of the Earth" is much like the massive cathedral that plays a central role through the series. It's built as a labor of love with stalwart hands off an infallible blueprint. It takes shape with all the splendor and spectacle befitting such a grand pursuit, and the end product is indeed a thing of beauty, but walk inside and, while the beauty remains, a cold, empty feeling of pending doom and other cruelties linger about, subtly bouncing around the cavernous emptiness like a spirit itching to be freed from the confines of a beautiful but ultimately hollow and lifeless box. "The Pillars of the Earth" is one of the more ambitious project of the past ten years, and while the filmmakers have succeeded in creating a behemoth of a Miniseries, they've failed to bring to the project that real sense of purpose that must lie beyond the awe and wonder to truly succeed, instead leaving viewers thrilled with the prospect but disappointed with the end result that is the nearly eight-hour journey into English life, religion, and politics of centuries past.
The year is 1120 A.D. A vessel carrying precious cargo -- the son of King Henry (Clive Wood) and the only legitimate heir to the throne of England -- burns on the high seas, killing everyone on board and jeopardizing the future of a nation. Eighteen years have passed, and Henry has little time to live. He still doesn't have a son, but his daughter, Maud (Allison Pill), births a son who may one day be seated at the throne, until which time Maud may act as an intermediate Empress. Henry's nephew, Stephen (Tony Curran), has favor with the influential church, and he's ultimately named successor. Maud is supported by many as the true heir to the throne, including the Earl of Shiring, Bartholomew (Donald Sutherland), who finds no fault in Maud's efforts to overthrow Stephen, even if that means civil war. Meanwhile, a poor stonemason named Tom Builder (Rufus Sewell) is hired to construct a new church in the town of Kingsbridge. He works closely alongside the idealistic and deeply pious Prior Philip (Matthew Macfadyen), who finds himself at odds with the devious Bishop Waleran (Ian McShane) at every turn. As a massive and beautiful cathedral takes shape in the town of Kingsbridge, political strife, religious corruption, war, romance, and personal ambitions all play out in the shadows of the impressive new structure. This is the time of the Anarchy.
If nothing else, "The Pillars of the Earth" is a defining Miniseries that could certainly be labeled as a modern-day epic, a monumental achievement of the Miniseries format that's every bit as big as the novel it so gallantly attempts to visually portray. The series is packed with characters of varying allegiances, personalities, wants, and needs, and the relatively small area in which the action takes place allows for all of their maneuvering to be magnified many times over as the characters struggle to come out on top of a decades-long conflict that in its outcome holds not only the fate of a small corner of 12th century England but the politics of the country, the stature of the church, the fate of a peoples, and the course of the world. It's big, sweeping, and thematically important stuff but at the same time a microcosm of not only an era but of man both then, now, and well before Tom Builder, King Stephen, Prior Phillip, Bishop Waleran, or any of the other central players in Author Ken Follett's and Director Sergio Mimica-Gezzan's story purportedly existed. The series is big on examining the ambitions of men on every side of the law, within every nook and cranny of religious doctrine, of varied places of power, of different class structures, and several outlooks on life, all generally confined in and around the fictional town of Kingsbridge (a fitting pun of a name if there ever was one) and centered about the construction of a cathedral built around plans that are a showcase for forward-thinking architectural breakthroughs and that, most importantly, call for an abundance of natural light to illuminate its interior; talk about a metaphor that's about as subtle as a bulldozer driven by an elephant. With all the political, spiritual, sexual, marital, and other "al's" that abound throughout the story and give it shape, "The Pillars of the Earth" whittles down to basic human nature that, as is plainly seen through every minute of this eight-part series, has gone pretty much unchanged over the course of the centuries since the story's timeframe.
Still, for all the high reaching elements and foundational strengths underneath, "The Pillars of the Earth" sometimes feels hollow and devoid of a purpose beyond cramming so many characters and twice as many cunningly deceitful and deviant plot lines into the eight hours as is possible. The series serves up something of a quandary whereby it's a bit bloated here and not quite fleshed out there; it can overreach at times while at others not quite fully exploring a character or an issue to its fullest; several plot elements border on the nonsensical whereas others seem as if they could be transported into the 21st century and enjoy the same relevancy and dramatic flair as they do in Follett's fictionalized account of 12th century England. Nevertheless, "Pillars" is home to far more good than bad, and best of all may be its unabashed honesty and the way it veers away from convention, offering up several shocking developments that lesser films or series would be too afraid to explore, let alone allow to come to fruition. The series is continuously stepping out of the cinematic and dramatic safety zone that's all too common these days, and that bravery alone earns the series high marks. Just as good is the look and feel of every episode; not only are the characters splendidly and seamlessly acted -- both big names and relative unknowns alike effortlessly transform into inhabitants of Kingsbridge and the surrounding areas -- but the environments in which they work, manipulate, copulate, and do all it is that they do are seamlessly realized. Indeed, both set and costume design are first-class and befitting a production of this scope; it seems as if there were no corners cut, and if there were, they've been masked to the point that any episode of "Pillars" could very easily be mistaken for a massively-budgeted motion picture. Producers Ridley and Tony Scott have brought their expertise into the sometimes too brief but generally well-conceived and executed battle scenes; some rather phony CGI elements spoil a few shots (and the midlevel effects work carries over to a climactic event which caps episode six, almost to the point of ruining the power of the scene) but the Scott influence is readily visible in most every action piece.
The Pillars of the Earth Blu-ray, Video Quality
"The Pillars of the Earth" arrives on Blu-ray with a gorgeous 1080i, 1.78:1 high definition transfer; please note that the information on the back of the box incorrectly lists 1080p. Though it occasionally appears slightly glossy, "Pillars" delivers a nearly faultless high definition image that's overflowing with exquisite detailing that's evident in nearly every single frame. Sony's transfer captures the subtlest of nuances on the sometimes frayed or muddied period garments, faces, chain mail armor, muddy dirt, gravely roads, stone façades, straw roofs, wooden accents, or any other number of objects seen throughout the series. This transfer offers plenty of splashes of bright but reserved and in no way over-boosted or unnatural colors, but the predominant shades of gray and earth tones are splendidly reproduced, giving the series a somewhat cold, tired, and gloomy appearance but not one that engenders too much of a sense of visual or emotional fatigue. Blacks are wonderfully deep and inky without exhibiting excess black crush, and flesh tones seem spot-on accurate throughout. Depth of field is nicely realized, and the transfer is consistently and naturally sharp and clean. Blocking and banding are practically nonexistent, and only scant traces of noise and aliasing are readily evident. "The Pillars of the Earth" looks fantastic, and it's another in an already lengthy list of top-tier transfers from Sony.
The Pillars of the Earth Blu-ray, Audio Quality
"The Pillars of the Earth" builds its story through a wonderful DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack. This is a superb presentation from beginning to end that passes every technical test. Though a made-for-television miniseries, "The Pillars of the Earth" features a grand score that's epic in both feel and presentation and is expertly handled by Sony's DTS track. It delivers a rich cinematic texture in every episode, remaining clean and accurate while playing with a grandiose and elegantly sweeping sensation that adds quite a bit to the overall "Pillars" experience. The surround speakers are utilized throughout as well, helping to support various atmospherics such as pouring rain, background music, or the patron chatter around an outdoor marketplace. The track handles various echoing sensations with realism and ease, while more impressively loud and violent effects, such as raging fire or crumbling blocks, immerse the audience in hot flames or send then them scattering for cover, respectively. Of course, it goes without saying that dialogue is never problematic, playing with a crisp center-focused and natural pitch. "The Pillars of the Earth" sounds fantastic, and Sony is once again proven to be one of the best in Blu-ray soundtrack business.
The Pillars of the Earth Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
"The Pillars of the Earth" features a few extras scattered across all three discs in the set. Disc one contains both BD-Live connectivity and The Making of 'The Pillars of the Earth' (1080p, 27:36), a quality overview of the series that features cast and crew covering the scope of the production (including the importance of ensuring it enjoyed the proper length), the quality of the cast, the grand look and structure of the series, the strength of the script, and the merits of the source material. Disc two contains Visual Effects Progression (1080p, 9:49), a well-made piece that focuses solely on demonstrating how various digital elements were inserted into the series; the piece is without narration or interview clips. Disc three offers Main Titles Progression (1080p, 5:39), a short piece that takes a look inside Acme Filmworks for a glimpse into the work necessary for creating the series' unique opening titles. Also included on disc three are 1080p trailers for "Damages: Season One," Nowhere Boy, Welcome to the Rileys, and The Bridge on the River Kwai.
The Pillars of the Earth Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
"The Pillars of the Earth" is as ambitious as it needs to be; whether that ambition is realized to its full potential is certainly up for debate, but there's no denying the series' power and grandeur from its first shot to its last. Yes, it drags on occasion and yes, it's sometimes overly complicated and impossibly overcrowded, but while there's sometimes not enough meat on the gargantuan bones, what is there is mighty tasty. "Pillars of the Earth" is packed with violence; sex; and immoral, corrupt, and ugly behaviors; it's a series for mature audience with a patience to get through the opening salvo that throws quite a bit of information at the viewer, but once everything is sorted out and settled in by the third part, "Pillars" makes for a generally enjoyable if not somewhat flawed event that's best enjoyed in chunks rather than in a single eight-hour marathon. Sony's Blu-ray release of "The Pillars of the Earth" spreads out over a handsome three-disc set that offers all eight episodes in crystal-clear 1080p video and lush lossless sound. It's too bad that the extras are far too short, but fans of the series can buy with confidence. Recommended.
The Pillars of the Earth Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Blu-ray Deal of the Week: The Pillars of the Earth $32.99 - January 16, 2011
For its Blu-ray deal of the week, Amazon is offering The Pillars of the Earth for $32.99 (53% off MSRP). The price tracker shows that this is the lowest this three-disc BD set has been since it was released in November 2010. This price is valid through January ...
• This Week on Blu-ray - November 23-29 - November 23, 2010
Much like the characters they play, action stars refuse to die. Just when you think they have slipped out of the spot light, the Sylvester Stallones and Bruce Willises of the world come back to show you that they can still stick beat down the bad guys. Today's ...
• The Pillars of the Earth Miniseries Announced on Blu-ray - September 13, 2010
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has announced that on November 23, it will release The Pillars of the Earth on Blu-ray. This eight-episode miniseries, based on the best-selling novel by Ken Follett, recently aired on Starz. It's set in 12th Century England and ...
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