TV Review: The Capture

Lia Williams is all kinds of caustic brilliance in conspiracy thriller The Capture

“Accepting you can rarely see the whole picture is part of the job”

I’m working my way through the TV shows I can watch on my free trials on various services, which has lead me to The Capture which aired on BBC1 in late 2019 and somehow completely passed me by. This is particularly egregious since it features Lia Williams the kind of amazing top boss role that makes you wonder why she isn’t better known.

Created, written and directed by Ben Chanan, The Capture takes place in a surveillance state that not too long ago would have been described as a near-future dystopia but now, is just London on a Tuesday. In a society that closely monitors CCTV, so much of justice depends on the reliability of those camera image. But what happens when that confidence is eroded? Continue reading “TV Review: The Capture”

Lockdown film review: Tulip Fever (2017)

Despite a mostly good cast, Tulip Fever proves a punishingly dull film – not even self-isolation should drive you to this one

“Amsterdam was captivated by a flower”

The signs weren’t good. Tulip Fever was filmed in 2014 but was pushed and pulled around the schedules before it finally surfaced in 2017, notorious producer Harvey Weinstein clearly hoping that some post-production magic would win over reluctant test audiences. Safe to say though, such an amount of chopping and changing does no-one any favours as Justin Chadwick’s film remains punishingly dull. 

Based on Deborah Moggach’s book, with screenplay by Moggach and Tom Stoppard, the story (mainly) centres on Sophia, an orphan whisked out of convent life by a wealthy merchant who wants her essentially as a brood mare, But things ain’t clicking in the bedroom, so Sophia tumbles into an affair with the artist her husband has commissioned to do their portrait. And competing for screentime, tulip mania has hit the Netherlands. Continue reading “Lockdown film review: Tulip Fever (2017)”

TV Review: Lady Chatterley’s Lover (2015)

With the eroticism dialled right down, Lady Chatterley’s Lover ends up leaving me disappointed

“I wondered what the hammering was”

From the creator of the likes of Line of Duty, you might have expected something more of a rollicking version of DH Lawrence’s perennial classic Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Or maybe vague memories of the 1994 version with Sean Bean and all the teenage hormones thus provoked linger a little too long… Either way, Jed Mercurio’s adaptation plays out just a little too safely to really inflame any passions.

Everything is present and correct. The core of the story – after her husband is fucked by the First World War, Lady Chatterley gets fucked by the gamekeeper – remains, random bits of artistic license make the literary translation to the televisual medium more effective (as well as inevitably riling up purists), and a photogenic cast led by Holliday Grainger, Richard Madden and James Norton. Continue reading “TV Review: Lady Chatterley’s Lover (2015)”

Film Review: Animals (2019)

Holliday Grainger excels in Laura Jane Unsworth’s ferociously compelling Animals

“What do you do when you’re not standing around in bars being enigmatic?”

Based on Emma Jane Unsworth’s novel of the same name, Animals is a pretty darn special film from Sophie Hyde, perhaps a little unassuming at first glance but soon revealing itself as richly layered with something special in every frame, especially when Holliday Grainger – delivering a career-best performance – is in shot.

The film hooks on the friendship between Laura and Tyler, BFFs who have literally painted the town (Dublin) red throughout their twenties, and how their relationship alters once Laura meets handsome pianist Jim and priorities start to shift. All the messiness of friendship is here in a brilliantly complex portrayal of the difficulties that come with having to grow up. Continue reading “Film Review: Animals (2019)”

DVD Review: Cinderella

“Perhaps the greatest risk any of us will ever take is to be seen as we really are”

Who knew what the world needed was a live-action version of Cinderella directed by Kenneth Branagh. It oughtn’t be as good as it is but somehow the fusion of Disney magic and folktale wonder comes together most effectively, thoroughly traditional in its outlook yet somehow still feeling fresh. Chris Weitz’s screenplay is based on Charles Perrault’s Cendrillon but both he and Branagh take lots of inspiration from the Disney version of the story too and the resulting confection is really rather bibbity-bobbity-beguiling.

There’s a cleverness too about what it does in spinning new details like giving us a reason that her step-family don’t recognise her at the ball and weaving much humour into the magic spells that get her to said ball. Ella herself is well pitched by Lily James, not quite too perfect to be true but still hugely appealing. It’s no wonder Richard Madden’s Prince Charming tumbles instantly for her (and she for him, those breeches…those boots!) and their chemistry is palpable, one can see why Branagh has cast them as Juliet and Romeo in his upcoming theatre residency in London.  Continue reading “DVD Review: Cinderella”

DVD Review: The Riot Club

“I’m afraid you’re not really the right sort of chap”

Laura Wade’s Posh took the Royal Court by storm in 2010 and then the West End in 2012 with a slightly amended version, each time slipping quite easily into the contemporary political narrative with its skewering of a fictionalised version of the Bullingdon Club, an elite Oxford student dining club that has boasted the likes of David Cameron, George Osborne and Boris Johnson in its ranks. Wade’s intimation is clear, that the reckless and thoughtless behaviour of these men as students is symptomatic of their charmed future political careers as a whole and enclosed in the claustrophobic dining room of a gastropub that they proceed to thoroughly trash, the play had a horrendously compelling energy to it.

Wade has adapted her own play here into The Riot Club  and through the determined effort to make it work on screen, it has become quite the different beast. Personally, I wasn’t too keen on it, the changes detracting from the strengths of the story as I saw them, and the realities of making – and casting – a feature film have altered the whole underlying theme. A cast headed by model-handsome men (Sam Claflin, Douglas Booth, Sam Reid, Max Irons etc), most of whom get to ‘learn a lesson’ by the end, takes away from the vileness of their behaviour – it almost feels like director Lone Scherfig is letting them get away with it without ever really showing us the true ugliness of their political and personal prejudices.

Continue reading “DVD Review: The Riot Club”

Review: Three Sisters, Southwark Playhouse

“Everyone’s here from the UK but it’s always the Cotswolds or Scotland or something so nice to have an actual…we’re moving back there you see” 

What is it that draws writers to adaptation? Anya Reiss’ extraordinary debut of two cracking plays for the Royal Court has been followed by versions of 2 Chekhovs and Wedekind’s Spring Awakening for Headlong which is currently touring. The first Chekhov saw The Seagull transplanted to a modern day Isle of Man for the Southwark Playhouse and now for the same theatre, she has tackled Three Sisters which is located “near a British Embassy, overseas, now”.

Which is all very well but in a play that is predicated on the desire to return home, there appears to be no earthly reason why any of the Prozorova sisters – the modern women that they are here – can’t just book the next flight to the London they left just over a decade ago. Instead they languish in the non-specific country suggested to be somewhere we might have recently invaded, where their father served as a diplomat until his death, stuck because he sold their old family home. Continue reading “Review: Three Sisters, Southwark Playhouse”

Short Film Review #25

Mr John from Julian Kerridge on Vimeo.

Sometimes, it’s the smallest things that are most affecting and Julian Kerridge’s 2005 film debut Mr John is full of gorgeous, intimate details that make it a most charming prospect. Benedict Wong’s Mr John is an agoraphobic television critic but the arrival of a pretty upstairs neighbour, in the form of Nicola Stephenson’s Carol, forces him to look at the limits of his world anew. Their burgeoning relationship is a delight to behold – the gift of a casserole, a love for volcano documentaries, the re-organisation of a video collection – the quirky aspects of what makes her utterly adorable is perfectly played by Stephenson, the wry smile as she walks down the steps at the end enough to melt any heart. And Wong is appealingly nerdish as Mr John, initially disgruntled at the intrusion into his hermit-like existence but soon won over and willing to confront his greatest fear. Just lovely. Continue reading “Short Film Review #25”