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Archive for the ‘Amazing’ Category

Turks & Caicos (2014)

In Action, Amazing, BBC, Crime, film, Law, new, political, Recommendation, Review, Spy on 22/03/2014 at 11:00 am

A great BBC Original spy thriller-drama with a cast so starry it’s hard to believe it’s only a telly production. Former MI5 agent Johnny/Tom Eliot (Bill Nighy) is trying to stay out of trouble on Turks & Caicos – a tropical tax haven – but fails miserably when he gets entangled in a CIA efforts lead by Curtis Pelissier (Christopher Walken) to catch some big-arse crooks. We’ve seen Nighy in many roles like this, but it’s hard to object as he does such a lovely job at being the well-mannered, understated and well-tailored Englishman.

When he fled from HM’s SS, he left behind the love of his life and also former spy Margot (Helena Bonham-Carter) – but his plight is bound to bring them back together. Meanwhile, Melanie (Winona Ryder) is in with the bad boys but the question is whether she wants to be. She’s all grown up, fragile, broken and seductive all at once. Back in the UK, Margot gets closer to Stirling Rogers (Rupert Graves, Sherlock) who is too rich and powerful not to be involved somehow, and also plays tennis with the PM, Alec Beasley (Ralph Fiennes), which gives rise to the question of his involvement in illegal financial thievery.

All the plots, schemes, power play and politics are made more interesting by the central notion of this story: humanity. Not once does this film degrade itself to plot-driven cops&robbers trickery. The island’s police force, Johnny, Margot and Johnny’s love, Melanie’s MO – they all boil down to a sense of ‘as long as there’s people like them in the world, we might be alright’.

Also, writer and director David Hare (The Reader, The Hours) made a film that blatantly says: tax havens are corrupt, dangerous, criminal snake-pits that use our tax payers’ money to enrich themselves and politicians involved. And it’s about time.

NB: No trailer available yet – here’s one for Original British Drama featuring some tasters.

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Forget Me Not (2010)

In Amazing, film, Recommendation, Review, romantic on 17/03/2014 at 9:27 pm

This film plunges you into the lives of two strangers in London. A 24 hour meeting that could tie them together indefinitely or be a fleeting encounter – which it will be is as unclear to them as it is to you.

Whiskey and pills. Romance, perhaps. Sometimes tragic but more often visceral, Forget Me Not is a beautiful love story that doesn’t try anything too hard: it seems to just be. Eve (Genevieve O’Reilly)- beautiful barmaid recently returned from travelling and determined to take life more seriously – meets Will (Tobias Menzies) – attractive but tortured singer-songwriter who lives across the road from the pub. Proximity facilitates their encounter, but everything that follows is a peculiar (metaphorical) dance through London like only slightly awkward strangers who are fairly attracted to each other can do.

This doesn’t sound like I’m selling it, but it’s very good. Especially recommended as a romantic film option for those who otherwise avoid them.

Peaky Blinders (2013)

In Amazing, BBC, Crime, new, period drama, political, Recommendation, Review, romantic, series, war on 21/10/2013 at 2:00 pm

We’re in Birmingham in the early 1920s, just after the Great War. It’s dirty, it’s poor, the boys have come back from the trenches – the lucky ones, and of course the weather is suitably grim. There’s a violent bunch with razors sewn into their flat caps (used to slash people’s eyes and faces) called the Peaky Blinders who rule the town – in a Mafia kind of way. Other enemies of justice include the IRA and communists.

The Peaky Blinders are led by the captivating Thomas Shelby (Cillian Murphy) – hardened and still tortured by the war, proud, silent, clever, handsome and more things that will make you fall in love with this bad guy hero. The antagonist is the supposed good guy CI Campbell (Sam Neill), a disagreeable Irish policeman; stubborn, rigid, set in his ways and devastatingly lonely in the end. Then there’s a pearl of perfect understatement called Grace (Annabelle Wallis), the Irish girl who makes Shelby/Murphy shine even more. Not  to forget the indestructible aunt Polly (Helen McCrory) who could probably lead an army and nurse a dozen children all at once.

This latest Beeb series is indeed stunning, suspenseful, a bit polished but not careful and absolutely original. As for historical significance – the real Peaky Blinders’ history in a bit vague and convoluted, but the sentiments of the era – about heroism vs cowardice, the role of women, communism, loyalty etc. –  are well represented, which is exactly the role fiction should play.

There’s a couple of cock-ups as well – hey, nothing’s perfect – the casting of Winston Churchill is ridiculous and the accents are a bit sloppy. It also leans on its protagonist quite heavily, but I dare say that’s hardly a bad thing.

Trance (2013)

In Amazing, Crime, film, new, Recommendation, Review on 08/04/2013 at 2:41 pm

It’s oh-so quasi cool to say Danny Boyle is overrated because he’s been catapulted into national hero-dom since he made Olympic opening ceremonies fun. But it’s rubbish. Trance is superb, this hero deserves to be embraced.

Trance isn’t just a film, it’s an experience. Or a ride. Both Trainspotting and Slumdog Millionaire accomplished this as well: you fall into the story immediately, are lifted all the way through, only to be spat out bewildered but satisfied at the end.

This particular story is literally a bit of a headfuck as it’s about hypnosis, manipulation, memories and especially, forgetting. The excellent James McAvoy stars as Simon, who forgot where he put something stonkingly valuable – that was meant to be given to a quite notorious criminal called Franck (the also very excellent Vincent Cassell). Hypnotist Elizabeth (yep, also impressive – Rosario Dawson) is meant to get them out of the mess.

The result is a complex and cruel yet human, hopeful, tense and original film that’s a bit brilliant. Oddly, there are some tiny production and script glitches, but the overall everythingness of it makes up for it.

This one is going to stick around for quite a while is my guess.

Utopia (2013)

In Amazing, Crime, future, new, political, Recommendation, Review, Spy on 27/02/2013 at 8:50 pm

This thrilling drama tells a story that questions the powers that be and the reality we live in, and it does so with sound and visuals so new to TV drama and so powerful that it’s actually interesting.

The first episode of this new Channel 4 drama had me completely enthralled because I had no clue what it was about, yet I couldn’t wait to know more. The second episode clarifies all, which could lead to feeling like being smacked in the face, but then it’s all balanced out in the following parts of the story. The violence in Utopia is so unreasonable that at first I feared it was just a failed attempt at imitating a Tarantino film, but as the story progresses it comes together and it turns out it’s a well considered part of the plot.

As with any plot driven story, the question is: have they managed to make the characters more than just vehicles for the plot? Are they messy, confused human beings driven by odd thoughts and random emotions, like real ones? And I think, most of the time, they are. A couple of exceptions aside where the balance between (essential) humour and downright clumsiness is lost.  As for the plot itself, it’s a good variation on a well known theme: how a wish for a perfect world, in hands of few with too much power, has the potential to destroy society. A perpetual fear that storytellers use creatively, and keeps the audience on its toes.

Utopia is very good entertainment with a chunk of evergreen societal relevance.

 

Black Mirror (2011-)

In Amazing, future, new, political, Recommendation, series on 17/02/2013 at 5:19 pm

The acclaimed dystopian tales by Charlie Brooker have come to life again as three new episodes are broadcast on Channel 4 this February 2013. It’s tricky to say something about Black Mirror as a whole because every episode takes place in a different near-future reality, with new characters and cast and a different premise every time. But the general idea is: it’s pretty amazing, go watch it now.

Black Mirror deals with phenomena that are close to our daily lives today, and mainly with the consequences of ever more elaborate and intrusive technology. Every episode could possibly come true – making Black Mirror more speculative fiction than science fiction. The immense social and personal effects of, for example, everybody having implants so they record absolutely everything they see and do, are the focal point of the stories. Plot driven stories that are character driven by narration, that’s what sets Black Mirror apart from most other speculative storytelling. Good acting helps too, by the way.

Brooker does allow for a certain dose of outrageous ideas in most episodes, making the series distinctly dystopian – a doomed vision of reality that is just as unlikely to come true as utopia. Extrapolating probable phenomena (ie keeping the dead alive through software) and making them definite shows us a worst case scenario that is still utterly credible.

Anyway, it’s very well done.  Here’s a trailer for series 1.

Skyfall (2012)

In Amazing, Crime, film, Giggles, Recommendation, Review, Spy on 22/11/2012 at 8:14 pm

However raving the reviews and my Twitter feed have been over Skyfall, the last thing I expected was to be blown away by a Bond film. I’d given up on them a long time ago and my memory of them involves images of mostly, cheesy sex scenes. It’s safe to say that Bond just wasn’t my kinda spy.

So, surprise surprise: Skyfall is amazing! All the truly stunning fast paced action scenes aside, this film is actually very well written. The characters are great, the dialogue is witty and the story is about more than baddies and shagging for a change. Bond and M’s relationship is pivotal in Skyfall, and they both refreshingly become real people because of it. And it was about bloody time M (Dame Judi Dench, of course) played a big part in a Bond film. Better late then never.

Daniel Craig is easily my favourite Bond, not because I like him that much as an actor, but perhaps because he’s not as slick as the others. In Skyfall he’s not the most likeable of figures, and he’s obviously somewhat damaged, leaving room for the viewer to make him a real person with worries and things like that. Perhaps the greatest addition to the Bond saga is the new Q, in the shape of the talented and pleasantly captivating Ben Wishaw.  I hope they hang on to him for a bit. Ralph Fiennes as Gareth Mallory is another nice surprise.

Skyfall’s villain Silva (Javier Bardem) is a beautiful character, and I’d expect nothing less from Bardem. He’s subtle, sly, sympathetic, charming and absolutely ruthless. But he isn’t ruthless without reason, that would make a very dull baddie. He’s been wronged, and as a viewer you can’t help but be a tiny bit on his side, sometimes.

Another big star in Skyfall is, quite deservedly, London. After a glorious summer thanks to the London 2012 Olympics and everybody’s love for the metropolis having been wildly rekindled, it’s as if much of Skyfall being set in London is meant to be, and oh, how they’ve made the city shine. The cherry on top being the befitting theme song by London’s very own Adele, of course.

Skyfall is a better Bond film than any other I’ve seen. But it’s still a Bond film, meaning it’s outrageously over-the-top in its heroics and action sequences. There’s only one way I believe you can get away with this without making a complete twat film in my view, and that’s with a giant sense of humour. And that’s just what they did. Mr director Sam Mendes: well done.

The trailer is a bit shit. Sorry.

Stuart, a Life Backwards (2007)

In Amazing, BBC, biopic, film, Recommendation on 27/10/2012 at 2:38 pm

This is quite brilliant. Or actually Tom Hardy is quite brilliant as the very seriously fucked up Stuart Shorter.

Shorter is a very real extremely violent and traumatised homeless alcoholic from Cambridge, really: this BBC/HBO co-production is an adaptation of Stuart Shorter’s biography by Alexander Masters.

For the film, Masters has turned into Benedict Cumberbatch, who tries to figure out Stuart for the purpose of his book. They of course go through all sorts of personal processes, predictable but essential, and they do it it quite spectacularly. Then there’s the bits where you see Stuart’s life backwards, which still doesn’t explain his insanity, but is very impressive nonetheless.

I don’t think this needs much more explaining. Just watch it. Good film stamp.

Blackout (2012)

In Amazing, BBC, Crime, new, political, Recommendation, Review, series on 30/07/2012 at 11:07 am

This summer the BBC treated us to an intriguing, complex and very interesting drama series about a drunk city councillor who probably accidentally murdered someone during an alcohol-induced blackout and somehow ends up becoming mayor.

This three-part drama starts off with the personal: Daniel Demoys (Christopher Eccleston) ruining himself and hurting his family with booze-abuse, corruption and an affair. It’s immediately compelling and has the tension of a crime/thriller drama as the plot reveals only snippets of the murder, the affair and the illicit city council transactions. The story then smoothly develops into a political thriller when interests and relationships surrounding the people involved reveal themselves. Demoys is catapulted back into reality when he finds he (probably) murdered someone and his determination to redeem himself is not at all straightforward, and therefore all the more human. Without spoilers: his motives are questionable, yet he’s righteous. He wants to do good, but he isn’t a good man, and he doesn’t claim to be. And then the political questions: can a bad person be a good mayor? And can a good mayor give the city back to the people, even if the powers-that-be work against him?

Lots of interesting ambiguity here, full of riveting characters thanks to the likes of Adrew Scott (Moriarty in Sherlock),  Dervla Kirwan, MyAnna Buring (Kill List), Branca Katic and Ewen Bremmer.

Minor point of critique: the series is set in an anonymous metropolis that, filmed from above, looks like NYC due to the grid street plan. Yet the story is obviously British, making it appear a bit silly to beat around the bush: they should’ve set it in London.

 

 

 

 

Cracks (2009)

In Amazing, based on novel, film, period drama, Recommendation on 14/04/2012 at 2:19 pm

A brilliant psychological thriller based on the novel by Sheila Kohler, set in the claustrophobic yet intimate surroundings of a 1930s British all girls boarding school. Eva Green stars and sparkles as the girls’ inspirational and enigmatic diving teacher Miss G – but the intimate relationship between her and the girls is disrupted when Spanish girl Fiamma (María Valverde) from a far less shielded background joins them. Di (Juno Temple) finds in her position as Miss G’s favourite rivalled by Fiamma and the events that follow make Cracks a deeply unsettling but truly exceptionally told story.