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Archive for the ‘Review’ 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.

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.

The Wipers Times (2013)

In BBC, film, Giggles, period drama, political, Recommendation, Review on 18/09/2013 at 10:34 am

Inappropriate jokes can save lives, metaphorically and sometimes literally.

The Wipers Times was a satirical paper printed in the Belgian town Ypres (pronounced wipers, obviously) by British soldiers in the trenches during the Great War. When Fred Roberts (Ben Chaplin) and his 24th division stumble upon an old printing press, starting their own paper is an outlandish idea – but then, not much is making sense any more anyway. None of them are writers or journalists, but they are more than a bit clever with words, and oh do they make them sing.

There’s nothing at all funny about the endless, desperate, muddy and bloody Great War, and that’s why the distractions of the Wipers Times were vital. Ian Hislop, editor of today’s favourite satirical rag Private Eye, and Nick Newman did an amazing job writing this for the BBC, and all the cast, but especially Ben Chaplin and Julian Rhind-Tutt, were incredibly human and lovely to watch despite the misery taking place around them.

The Wipers Times is an entertaining, very funny, heartwarming, educational and well balanced bit of historical drama.

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.

 

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.

The Paradise (2012)

In based on novel, BBC, period drama, Recommendation, Review, romantic on 07/01/2013 at 11:55 am

A tale of capitalism, ambition and also love. John Moray (Emun Elliot) – the embodiment of new capitalism as it awoke in the 1870s – has opened a fancy department store for ladies wear, The Paradise, in North East England, suggested to be one of the country’s first ever. He is a charming self-made man with vibrant modern ideas (i.e. getting people to buy things they want rather than need). Denise Lovett (Joanna Vanderham) is a dressmaker’s daughter who ‘crosses over’ to work in The Paradise, and she is more entrepreneurial than any of the other staff, quickly igniting jealousy amongst them and catching the keen eye of Mr Moray. Meanwhile, Moray has a troubled past that haunts him in several ways, and Lady Katherine Glendenning (Elaine Cassidy) is determined to win his heart and his hand in marriage.

Intrigue and plot ensue as old values are set against new ones. Local traders are threatened by The Paradise as the gentry start choosing department store wear over tailored dresses, the mysterious death of Moray’s first wife plays up, and existential issues of ambition versus love all surface as the series progresses.  BBC’s The Paradise is a very entertaining and well told tale of our modern history, all wrapped up in sashes and ribbons. As we are today questioning our consumerism and capitalist morals, this series is an apt way of rediscovering how it all began.