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Archive for the ‘new’ 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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The Escape Artist (2013)

In BBC, Crime, Law, new, Recommendation, Review, series on 19/11/2013 at 5:04 pm

A modern three part justice/crime tale starring the effervescently great David Tennant as a star London barrister. He gets a complete psychopath off the hook for a murder charge and then  his life changes dramatically. I won’t spoil it – but I will say the plot has quite a classic twist, which works in its benefit.

Escape Artist is indeed well worth the watch because it is a story well made and told. But it’s not ground breaking or revolutionary in any sense and unfortunately, you’re likely to forget about it.

However much I appreciate the quality of these BBC drama series, it does make me wonder if our collectively owned broadcaster is trying hard enough to deliver spectacular drama. I feel this is reaffirming, but not artistically anywhere good enough to meet our high standards.

Welcome to the Punch (2013)

In Action, Crime, film, new, Recommendation, Review on 30/10/2013 at 6:22 pm

A traditional action flick in almost every sense – except that it’s actually watchable. That’s down to these things: there’s no clichéd love interest with consequential snogging/shagging, it’s well written and acted, the good guy is an unsympathetic shit, and everything isn’t topsy turvy in the end. That said, there’s heaps of guns and chasing around and shooting.

All fans of James McAvoy be warned: he’s Max Lewinsky ie the good guy. An insufferable, stubborn, self-centred cop with a (melodramatic) grudge against a notorious criminal called Jacob Sternwood (Mark Strong). The story’s that the cop gets a final chance to catch the villain he’s after when Sternwood’s son ends up in hospital and he has to return to the UK. A standard plot, but well executed, suspenseful and entertaining. I think this film is probably great if you actually like the guns-a-blazing thing. If you don’t, it’s still a decent film – and it’s quite something to see that even McAvoy can be a complete dick if he wants to.

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.

Mr Selfridge (2013)

In feel good, new, period drama, Rant, Review, romantic, series on 14/01/2013 at 7:06 pm

ITV attempted to create lots of flurry around its latest grand period production in an attempt to recreate the rather more accidental success of Downton Abbey. Mr Selfridge however, is destined to fail due to some spectacularly horrendous acting by protagonist Jeremy Piven as Harry Selfridge, tedious dialogue and an utterly predictable plot.

The drama tells the story of how Harry Selfridge was a visionary noveau capitalist in his time and how his ideas flourished despite being radical and unconventional. Interesting in itself, were it not that the BBC did exactly the same thing (minus the real name) in The Paradise. Even the main characters and how they fit in the story are a crafty copy: Mr Selfridge has exactly the same ideas, doubts and charisma as John Moray in The Paradise, only being more annoying due to the empty dialogue and bad acting. There is the ‘simple’ shop girl with unlikely talents and the same character traits. There’s the story of a wife and a new charming outsider. It’s mostly fluff and flirtation, but no mystery or any sort of magic.

The London setting is lovely though, and the rest of the cast is very capable (a.o. Zoë Tapper, Samuel West, Pippa Haywood) , making Mr Selfridge just about watchable – but nothing more.

Restless (2012)

In based on novel, BBC, Crime, new, period drama, political, Recommendation, Review, romantic, Spy, war on 29/12/2012 at 2:13 pm

Spies, I do love spy stories. WWII ones best. And Restless, adapted from the William Boyd novel by William Boyd himself, is a great two-part Christmas treat.

The story starts in the 1970s when seemingly ordinary and seemingly English mum Sally (Charlotte Rampling) reveals her secret past and identity to her daughter Ruth (Michelle Dockery) because she believes someone is trying to kill her. We then go back to where it all started: Paris in the 1930s and on until Sally’s spy story ends during the war, catching up with ongoings in ‘present day’ 1970s in the meantime. Double period drama, and the 1940s definitely wins ten times over on aesthetics.

Young Sally, or Eva, or whatever other assumed name she had when working for the British security services, is enchantingly played by Hayley Atwell. Her boss Lucas Romer (Rufus Sewel) is intriguing, seductive, dangerous and comforting all in one – and the story in the past unfolding simultaneously with the present keeps you interested in both throughout. There are some glitches in the plot, for example: if someone wanted and old woman dead, why didn’t they just go ahead and kill her? There are more little things that just don’t add up and it does stand out in a spy drama. But then, the story of the young Eva/Sally is otherwise so engaging that it’s easily forgiven.

 

 

The Secret of Crickley Hall (2012)

In BBC, Crime, new, out of this world, Recommendation, Review, series, supernatural, war on 04/12/2012 at 7:53 pm

There’s nothing like a big old house that used to be an orphanage as a backdrop for a spooky story. It’s a bit of a cliché, admittedly, but then this 3-part BBC mini do is so tense, intriguing and well acted that it overpowers its obvious setting.

Eve and Gabe Caleigh (Suranne Jones and Tom Ellis) are a happy, busy urban couple with three kids. One day, Eve briefly dozes off at the playground and her young son Cal goes missing. A year later they move to the remote Crickley Hall, where Gabe hopes his wife might be able to start letting go of their son. But, Eve has a sort of telepathic connection with Cal, and she can hear his voice inside the heavily haunted house.

Crickley Hall was a small orphanage during WWII, and all the children supposedly drowned in a flood. However, there’s a complex mystery to be unravelled, especially since Mr Cribben (Douglas Henshall) is spooking about with his cane, terrorising the ghosts of the children as well as all the living people in the house.

The plot is complex, running between present (missing son and family dynamics), past (what really happened to the children?) and past meets present (survivors who get involved). It’s not predictable and avoids sappiness and melodrama, even though the heavy emotions involved easily provoke both. A good watch. Not if spooks spook you out, though. It’s not terrifying, but very intense and absolutely quite spooky.