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Posts Tagged ‘bbc’

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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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 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.

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.

 

 

Parade’s End (2012)

In based on novel, BBC, new, period drama, political, Recommendation, Review, romantic, series, war on 27/09/2012 at 7:49 pm

In case you hadn’t heard yet, the Beeb just did a little bit of what’s the Beeb’s terribly good at: make a superb historical drama. It stars brilliant actors, mainly Rebecca Hall and Benedict Cumberbatch, and involves the Great War, Tories and Suffragettes.

Neither the horrors of the war or the politics of the time make this 5 part drama worth watching for me. They are valuable ingredients, but not what make Parade’s End original, and maybe even remarkable. I have no idea if the novel of the same title by Ford Madox Ford features equally compelling protagonists – judging by this raving review the book is very much worth the read – but oh, they are compelling alright. Sylvia (Hall) and Christopher (Cumberbatch) are an unlikely couple strapped together by a racy moment of passion. Christopher in every sense represents conservatism: he is a brilliant man with stern values and morals. He sticks to his principles, which are built on morals. He is too ‘good’ for his own good. His unlucky wife Sylvia is the opposite. She represents everything he’s afraid of: she celebrates unbridled charm, wit and passion. She is easily bored, prone to sarcasm and hungry for love. Her husband’s love. Her provocations and tricks to gain his affections, however, push him away. The two grow distant, but long for each other. Christopher falls for a neat young girl who, even though she has terribly modern views being a Suffragette, awakens a passion that his wife seems to have killed in him. And thus the story continues.

Christopher and Sylvia are the estranged couple nobody wants to become. They torment each other throughout, and I was left desperately wanting them to cut their charades, to end their parades, and bloody get on with it and love each other. This is personal, and my favouring Sylvia’s capricious character over the in my view yawn-inducing Suffragette Valentine Wannop (Adelaide Clemens) probably says more about me than about this story. That’s why I think it’s an engaging and persuasive watch.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Birdsong (2012)

In based on novel, BBC, new, period drama, Review, romantic, series, war on 29/01/2012 at 10:47 pm

Brand new BBC war romance – yes, another one. Birdsong is based on the acclaimed Sebastian Faulks novel by the same name and tells the story of a young man called Stephen (Eddie Redmayne) and a woman he falls in love with, set against the horrors of the Great War in the trenches in France.

Many things are good about this adaptation: the acting, the writing, convincing drama. Still, I probably will have forgotten all about it very soon. My guess is that this is because it lacks significance. There’s nothing special about the romance itself, the protagonist is quite ordinary and doesn’t go through any interesting personal journey or the like, and there are countless better stories telling the horrifying reality of WWI.

This may have been very different in the novel, in which case this just isn’t a very good adaptation. In general I’d say that this is a decent production, but nothing more. If you feel like watching a good romance, go ahead. Just don’t expect to be blown away by its originality.

 

 

The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1981)

In Amazing, BBC, feel good, Giggles, hilarious, out of this world, Recommendation, series on 18/10/2011 at 7:21 pm

Someone went and made a film of this legendary, genius and hilarious Douglas Adams creation recently – and they really shouldn’t have. It’s nothing compared to the 1980s series, I tell you: nothing. Don’t even think about watching that.

We wouldn’t have an official Don’t-forget-your-towel Day without this priceless BBC television series though, and what’s more, it survived despite – or maybe because of – all the clumsy sci-fi props and special effects of the time.

For those of you who aren’t acquainted with the Hitchiker’s Guide: as all good (British) comedy it ruthlessly reflects the silliness of the human species in general, and then some. A countless amount of philosophical truths may be taken from this story, and besides, it will leave you a) desperately wanting a Babel fish and b) never again forgetting your towel.

 

 

The Hour (2011-2012)

In Amazing, BBC, Crime, new, period drama, political, Recommendation, Review, romantic, series, Uncategorized on 25/08/2011 at 8:37 pm

The expectations were high when The Hour was announced in 2011: a 1950s journo-political thriller drama with Romola Garai (The Crimson Petal and the White) in the lead. Wow… and the general consensus was that we’re all very much looking forward to the next series. Well into season 2 in 2012, The Hour has only got better.

This is what I said about the first series:

The Hour does what I think BBC (mini)series are getting uniquely good at: combining several serious real-life topics with very good acting and real suspense. No lazy cliff-hangers, but a story that needs unfolding. By serious topics I refer to how the media were controlled by government and how difficult it was for journalists to break free, the unpopular UK war over the Suez canal, women’s emancipation, and finally, the ever returning class differences in England.

Romola Garai is Bel Rowley, the producer of the fictional first ever BBC background news programme The Hour. She is brave in taking the challenge, as she’s constantly patronised for being a woman. Bel is strikingly real: she shows her insecurities yet has her strengths. She also has doubts, passions, modesty and falls in love with ‘the wrong man’. She is adored by her good friend Freddy (Ben Wishaw), who is a truly idealistic and passionate journalist who’d do anything to get to the truth, even if it costs him his life. Freddy naturally frowns upon the handsome, upper-class presenter of the show, Hector Madden (Dominic West), who needs to prove himself to be more than just another pretty face. My favourite character has to be Lix Storm (Anna Chancellor). This woman embodies all the clichés of a devoted journalist, complete with drinking whisky from tea cups and sleeping in the office, whilst maintaining professionalism, witty wisdom and charm.

The most gripping part of the first series was the fight of the few true journalists against the politically suppressive system of the time.  Then there is romance, there is a Soviet spy to be uncovered, a mysterious murder to be solved and a controversial war breaking out. Too much? Nah. They pulled it off.

In 2012 I can but add that The Hour continues to be driven by its strong points: exploring the idealism of the time, power play and intriguing personal dynamics. The characters all got more interesting, and the plot is engaging as ever. The Hour is easily one of this year’s absolute best dramas. Oh, and Peter Capaldi is in it too!

 

 

Crime and Punishment (2002)

In Amazing, based on novel, BBC, Crime, film, period drama, Recommendation, Review on 14/08/2011 at 5:11 pm

Too many film makers do horrendous adaptations of classic novels. Very rarely, someone does a brilliant one. I’m a great supporter of good adaptations of classic stories; it’s the greatest means of keeping them alive. Not everyone is going to read Dostoyevsky, but this way we may all know what was great about what he created, at least in part.

This is an honest BBC masterpiece. It’s a two-part (200 min) film, giving the story just enough time to unfold and the characters enough room to come to life and engage you. The part of lead character Raskolinov is masterfully portrayed by the talented John Simm (Life on Mars, Exile, Doctor Who), but I shan’t fail to mention that the entire (quite starry) cast is impressive. As far as I can judge, for my knowledge of Russian culture is negligible, the customs, prejudices and humour of the time are incredibly well done.

Perhaps needless to say, Crime and Punishment is a story about a man who commits a crime and is later torn by an urge to try to get away with it and guilt. The reader, or viewer in this case, is left torn by not wanting to like a murderer but doing so anyway. That’s the genius bit.