TV Review: Messiah – The Harrowing (2005)

Helen McCrory and Maxine Peake help elevate Messiah – The Harrowing to arguably the series’ devastatingly effective high point

“See beyond the victim, see the killer”

The first series of Messiah is certainly one of the best, setting the wheels in motion for an effective crime series, but I’d argue that it is the fourth instalment Messiah – The Harrowing that is the best of them all. The arrival of a new writer – Terry Cafolla – releases the show from the baggage of its legacy which seemed to weigh the last series one and produces something that is really, well, harrowing.

Harking back to that first series and its connecting device of people being killed in the style of the Apostles, the murderous connection here ends up being Dante’s The Divine Comedy and its descent into hell. And weighted around the death by suicide of the daughter of one of their colleagues, Red and his team (with Maxine Peake’s DS Clarke now in for a retired Kate) find themselves once again up against the darkest parts of human nature. Continue reading “TV Review: Messiah – The Harrowing (2005)”

TV Review: Messiah – The Promise (2004)

With its third instalment The Promise, Messiah loses its way a little bit given the high standards of the first two serials

“I wasn’t alone, other people were there”

The problem with doing things so damn well, is that you then have to live up to those standards. Messiah found itself in such a position after a first and second series that helped to redefine the serial killer genre and with  2004’s The Promise, it struggled to meet that bar. Written again by Lizzie Mickery, it suffers from the unnecessary compulsion to cleave to the template of prior series rather than having the boldness to step outside.

So with Ken Stott’s Red and Neil Dudgeon’s Duncan pasts having figured so heavily in the last two series, it isn’t hard to work out that it is Frances Grey’s Kate to have a go through the emotional wringer. It starts sooner than you might think with a daring opening sequence set in a prison that is highly effective. And as deaths of people involved start to mount up, long buried secrets prove the key to finding the killer and saving the day. Continue reading “TV Review: Messiah – The Promise (2004)”

TV Review: Messiah 2: Vengeance Is Mine (2003)

Messiah 2: Vengeance Is Mine keeps the gruesome intensity of this series effectively and chillingly high

“For every wrong conviction we’ve made, an innocent person could die”

Following on from the success of the first series, Messiah 2: Vengeance Is Mine continues in the same vein though it does so with an original screenplay from Lizzie Mickery, who adapted Boris Starling’s novel first time around. And much like the first series of certain successful Scandi-dramas, it manages the transition away from a highly personal narrative for its leads into something (slightly) more general.

That’s not to say that the cases here aren’t intimately linked to the key investigating team of Red Medcalfe (Ken Stott), Kate Beauchamp (Frances Grey) and Duncan Warren (Neil Dudgeon) but there’s only so far you can drag a tortured soul so directly through the mire. A subplot featuring Red’s brother does it best but you can’t deny its effectiveness in mirroring the key themes here, humanising the conflicts. Continue reading “TV Review: Messiah 2: Vengeance Is Mine (2003)”

TV Review: Messiah (2001)

The first series of Messiah only occasionally shows its age, mostly remaining a powerfully effective serial killer drama and franchise opener  

“Maybe we’re getting too bogged and missed the connection”

Whilst theatre is off the menu, at least to the extent that I used to consume it, I have enjoyed being in of an evening and watching a lot more TV than I have done for a long time. And seeking the comfort of nostalgia, I’ve been delving into some of the shows that I enjoyed in the past – this week’s fun and games is the Messiah series.

Based on Boris Starling’s highly successful debut novel, the first series of Messiah (well, two feature-length episodes) holds up well nearly 20 years after it aired. And you can see the influence it has had on shows like Luther and River to name just a couple, as its gritty realism aligns with this country’s obsession with serial killer serials. Continue reading “TV Review: Messiah (2001)”

Review: One For Sorrow, Royal Court

Sadly not the Steps musical of my dreams, One For Sorrow nevertheless left me a bit disappointed at the Royal Court

You will do anything, in the end, to keep the people you love safe”

Finally, the Steps musical we’ve all been waiting for, and at no less august an institution as the Royal Court…

Sadly though, Cordelia Lynn’s One For Sorrow is a cruel attempt to lure Steps fans into theatres, leaving their hopes dashed. It’s no less than a tragedy.

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Short Film Review #50

Passenger from HMT Productions on Vimeo.
Aaaarrgghhh – proof positive as if it were ever needed that you shouldn’t ever talk to strangers on the tube. Ed Rigg’s Passenger follows a couple at the end of a long day as they catch the Victoria Line up to Walthamstow Central and make the fatal mistake of making eye contact with the guy sitting opposite after a mildly amusing episode. Sara Vickers and Mark Quartley do a great job at capturing the helpless awkwardness of the situation but Samuel Edward-Cook really excels as the ex-serviceman who won’t leave them alone, invading their headspace as well as their personal space as the encounter becomes more and more chilling. Great work.

DVD Review: The Nativity Story (2006)/The Nativity (2010)

“Joseph, please don’t hate me”

As one of those stories that so many of us learnt whilst very young, the tale of the Nativity occupies a near-unassailable position in the cultural consciousness and so it is unsurprising that it has received the odd televisual adaptation or two. But both versions that I watched this week suffered criminally from a po-faced seriousness, trying to create a literal interpretation of the Biblical story despite the ever-so-tiny possibility that it might not necessarily be based in deep realism…

The Nativity Story, the 2006 film version, written by Mike Rich and directed by Catherine Hardwicke, is particularly onerous, deadly serious in tone and mostly traditional in its storytelling, so that Keisha Castle-Hughes’ Mary unblinkingly accepts the arrival of the Angel Gabriel and the news that she’s gonna be expecting. Yet Hardwicke can’t resist a little of the Bella Swan stroppiness as Mary gets to complain (unrealistically) about her enforced betrothal to Joseph.

Continue reading “DVD Review: The Nativity Story (2006)/The Nativity (2010)”

Review: The Homecoming, Almeida Theatre

Pinter seems to be all the rage at the moment: Islington’s Almeida Theatre is now getting in on the act with a revival of his 1964 play The Homecoming.

Set in an all male household in North London, the play explores the reaction of a family to the homecoming of the eldest son and his wife. This household has been male-dominated for a long time and the arrival of a woman sparks a set of power plays in which not everyone is quite as they seem. The casting of Jenny Jules as the new wife also contributes a racial dimension to the dynamic, an added frisson into this powderkeg of a scenario. Continue reading “Review: The Homecoming, Almeida Theatre”