Not even a precious few shots of rippling abs and a cast full of talent can save the mad folly of The English Game, someone stop Julian Fellowes now please
“Lads, football is not complicated”
Who would have thought it? Julian Alexander Kitchener-Fellowes, Baron Fellowes of West Stafford has zero facility for writing Northern working class characters. (Or on this evidence, any characters at all.) Not having watched Downton Abbey in any meaningful way (though I did suffer through the film), I wasn’t prepared for just how cringeworthily bad it would be in his Netflix series The English Game.
I remembered Lucy Mangan’s excoriation of the show in the Guardian just as the first lockdown kicked in but it has taken me this long to get round to watching it myself, despite Netflix constantly flicking it onto my homepage. And there’s actually something quite magisterial in just how jawdroppingly awful the first episode is, even with the changing room scenes that have somehow been screenshotted here. Continue reading “TV Review: The English Game (2020)”
Some epic storytelling and a mighty ensemble make the hyper-violence of Gangs of London highly watchable
“A war was started when my father was shot”
Sky 1 seem to have got themselves quite the coup in Gangs of London, a major new series which – if there was any justice in the world – ought to break through the limitations of Sky’s minimal audience share. Created by Gareth Evans and Matt Flannery and boasting a highly exciting ensemble cast, it is a visceral and highly violent look at an immense power struggles between power syndicates in London after the assassination of the patriarch of its premier crime family.
Finn Wallace ruled the streets of London for 20 years but in the wake of his untimely death and with no-one taking responsibility for ordering the hit, it falls to his younger son Sean to take the reins. But Sean is a highly volatile young man and the careful balancing act required to keep the billions of pounds flowing through the organisation and to maintain the equilibrium between so many warring factions is of little interest to him whilst his father’s killer remains unpunished. Continue reading “TV Review: Gangs of London (Sky 1)”
On the one hand, so much to love with such an inordinate array of talent assembled to mark Sondheim’s 90th birthday. But on the other, where’s the editor, there’s a real sense of the rambling here too. Fortunately as this has been put together in lockdown (and very well too) it is easier than ever to skip to the bits you want (in the spirit of these times, I ain’t telling you who disappointed me).
For me, I loved the unexpectedness of Katrina Lenk’ ‘Johanna’, the cuteness of Beanie Feldstein & Ben Platt’s ‘It Takes Two’, and the energy of Alexander Gemignani’s ‘Buddy’s Blues’. And of the heavy hitters in the finale, Donna Murphy and Patti LuPone nailed ‘Send in the Clowns’ and ‘Anyone Can Whistle’ respectively, and there’s huge fun (if not finesse) in Christine Baranski, Meryl Streep & Audra McDonald giving us their ‘Ladies Who Lunch’. Continue reading “Lockdown Review: Take Me to the World: A Sondheim 90th Birthday Celebration”
A Brit-flick with a difference as Wild Rose serves up country music via Glasgow, with great performances from Jessie Buckley and Julie Walters
“No-one wants to see a convicted criminal up there.
‘Johnny Cash was a convicted criminal , you ball-bag’.”
There’s a fair bit of the archetypal Brit-flick to Wild Rose, written by Nicole Taylor and directed by Tom Harper, but enough of a distinct flavour to make it very much its own thing. And how could it not be, featuring a Glaswegian ex-con of a leading lady desperate to make it to Nashville and sing in the same room as the rather marvellous Kacey Musgraves.
Jessie Buckley plays Rose-Lynn, just having served 12 months inside and trying to put her life and her dreams back together. She has a prodigious voice and wants to make it as a country singer but she also has two kids, whom her mother has been looking her after, to think of. Possibilities rise up in the form of Susannah, the wealthy woman whose house Rose-Lynn cleans, but when you wear an electronic tag, dreams have to sit next to reality. Continue reading “Film Review: Wild Rose (2018)”
No amount of prosthetics can stop this from being my…Darkest Hour
“The deadly danger here is this romantic fantasy of fighting to the end”
Eesh. The world already has too many Churchill films, never mind the fact that two big ones were released in the same year (Brian Cox’s Churchill was the lower profile one here). And for me, there’s nothing here in Joe Wright’s direction or Anthony McCarten’s writing that merits the retread over much-covered ground.
That is not the prevailing opinion obviously, as the film’s seven Oscar nominations testify, but it is what it is. No amount of latex makes Gary Oldman’s performance palatable (and isn’t it odd that he’s getting such acclaim for a role in which he is unrecognisable), and it is a crime in the ways in which the likes of Patsy Ferran and Faye Marsay are under-utilised, nay wasted. Continue reading “Oscar Week Film Review: Darkest Hour”
“I feel now the future in the instant”
For one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays, Macbeth is not one that often appears on film screens but Justin Kurzel’s adaptation set that right in 2015 in blistering style. An utterly cinematic version that on paper should raise many a theatre fan’s hackles, its brooding sense of epic danger releases the film into a new dimension, one which may well irk a purist or three but on its own merits, is most darkly compelling.
Kurzel opts for a medieval Scottish setting, a land somewhere between the mythical and the mundane, using some striking Caledonian vistas for location work. The reality of life is shown by the Macbeths’ castle being little more than a collection of mud huts but sweeping shots of mountains and moorsides from cinematographer Adam Arkapaw pull us away into the ether and the red tinges of crimson flame and scarlet blood paint almost expressionistic frames that are just beautiful to behold. Continue reading “DVD Review: Macbeth (2015)”
“You’re asking me all these questions and they’re all,
And it’s not –
It doesn’t mean anything”
True story – every time someone raves about Pomona, a new fan of Miss Saigon is born. The determination to force a new world order from the unlikely starting spot of the Orange Tree Theatre has meant that Alistair McDowall now has that unfortunate albatross of hype firmly attached to his neck and thus his new play X, opening at the Royal Court, comes burdened – a little unfairly – with the weight of expectation.
And I have to say for me, it’s hard to tell whether they’ll be met or not. Perhaps predictably, X is a curious, slippery beast that wilfully toys with notions of audience satisfaction, in that it really doesn’t care whether you ‘get’ it or not. Set on Pluto, the crew of a small research base have lost contact with Earth and are left waiting. For what exactly, they don’t know. And after two and a half hours or so of Vicky Featherstone’s production, neither do we. Continue reading “Review: X, Royal Court”
“They weren’t lies, they were well researched stories that later turned out not to be true”
Just a quickie for this unexpected revisit to Great Britain. I hadn’t intended to go back to this Richard Bean play, which made a rapid transfer from the National Theatre to the Theatre Royal Haymarket after its up-to-the-minute emergence on the schedule after the culmination of a certain trial involving a certain Eastender-star-bashing redhead. But the offer of a good ticket and the chance to see Lucy Punch – of whom I’ve heard much but never seen on stage – tempted me once again into this murky world of tabloid junkies.
My original review can be read here and if anything, I think I might have been a little kind to it. The play hasn’t aged well, even in the six months since it opened as the fast-moving world of political, institutional and journalistic scandal moves on so quickly IRL that this fictional version already seems quaint. Add in that its bite has been evidently neutered by legal threats and its intelligence barely scrapes the surface of the ethical issues at hand, and it’s a bit of a damn squib for me. Punch was good though.
“That’s what we do, we destroy lives…but it’s on your behalf, because you like to read about it”
It’s not quite Beyoncé releasing her latest album without prior notice but it’s not far off. Richard Bean’s new play for the National was something of an open secret even if its specifics were unknown but still, announcing it with five days’ notice and no previews is a pretty bold move. What Great Britain has going for it though is a right-up-to-the-minute immediacy as Bean responds with speed to the scandals that have engulfed certain sections of the tabloid media in recent times and a court case that may or may not have just reached a verdict…
We’re in a satirical, pseudo-recognisable world – a ratings-hungry red-top (called The Free Press) is owned by a foreign-born media mogul who wants to buy a television station (an Irishman called Paschal O’Leary if you will) and has a fiercely ambitious news editor at its helm (a blonde woman called Paige Britain, she didn’t say she was “vindicated” so I have no idea who she was meant to be…). Manipulating their way to a position of huge influence with both Police and Parliament under their thumb, it seems nothing could go wrong. That is, until a little thing called phone hacking breaks into the national consciousness. Continue reading “Review: Great Britain, National Theatre”