Film Review: Cruella (2021)

Emma Stone and Emma Thompson have lots of fun in the entertaining Cruella, which is only just a little bit too long

“Darling, if I’m going to need to repeat myself a lot, this isn’t going to work out”

There’s something a little curious about a film that simultaneously wants to highlight one of cinema’s most iconic villains yet also neuter her most defining attributes. So we can rest assured that no dalmatians are harmed in the telling of this story (or presumably making of this movie) nor is there a cigarette holder to be seen. So what’s left for Cruella to do?

A fair amount as it turns out. Craig Gillespie’s film finds an origin tale for her in 1970s London (story by Aline Brosh McKenna, Kelly Marcel, and Steve Zissis), locating her at the vanguard of the nascent punk movement (or at least a Disneyfied version of it). It’s a nifty move that forefronts her creative endeavours, whilst adding to a notorious canon of fashion geniuses gone ‘woo-hoo’. Continue reading “Film Review: Cruella (2021)”

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”

Film review: the Johnny English trilogy

Johnny English, Johnny English Reborn and Johnny English Strikes Again prove ideal brainless festive watching

“I’ve been dropped into the Kalahari Desert carrying nothing more than a toothbrush and a packet of sherbet lemons”

I don’t believe in any of my pleasures being guilty, if something makes you smile then who is anyone else to dictate whether that’s acceptable? The Johhny English film trilogy – Johnny English (2003), Johnny English Reborn (2011), and Johnny English Strikes Again (2018) – holds a special place in my heart (well, the first two do) as they formed the backdrop to a couple of great family holidays and several of the funnier lines have snuck into the family vernacular.

Written by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and William Davies and directed by Peter Howitt, Johnny English is an amusing entry into the series. Rowan Atkinson’s English is a hapless MI7 employee whose bumbling sees their top agent accidentally killed and then all their other agents massacred in a bomb at his funeral. As the sole agent left, he has to thwart a plot to steal the Crown Jewels and decipher John Malkovich’s comedy villain French accent. Continue reading “Film review: the Johnny English trilogy”

Film Review: The Personal History of David Copperfield (2019)

Armando Iannucci’s rollicking adaptation of The Personal History of David Copperfield is huge amounts of fun to watch

“You can’t complain about a nice bit of kipper”

You might not have picked a Charles Dickens adaptation for an Armando Iannucci big screen feature but evidenced in The Personal History of David Copperfield, it’s a pretty darn fantastic match. It’s a rollicking romp through the story, absolutely refreshed by this treatment as its warm comedy is sprinkled with notes of ruminative reflection on class and identity and just a touch of satirical bite. And by employing a truly diverse and talented ensemble, there’s something special here. 

For all the magnificence of Tilda Swinton’s Betsey Trotwood (truly exceptional), Peter Capaldi’s Mr Micawber and Ben Whishaw’s malevolent Uriah Heep, the real joy in the casting comes from the opportunities now given. Nikki Amuka-Bird is fantastic as the starched Mrs Steerforth, the kind of role she just hasn’t gotten to play before; so too Benedict Wong as Wickfield, it’s great to see such talent stretch their acting muscle this way, and so well too. Continue reading “Film Review: The Personal History of David Copperfield (2019)”

News: #HampsteadTheatreAtHome launches this week

The latest venue to announce the opening of their digital archive in order to satisfy our theatrical cravings is the Hampstead Theatre who, in partnership with The Guardian will re-release the live stream recordings of Mike Bartlett’s Wild, Beth Steel’s Wonderland and Howard Brenton’s Drawing the Line for free.

Available to watch on theguardian.com and hampsteadtheatre.com, the three productions will be made available, on demand, over three consecutive weeks as part of the theatre’s #HampsteadTheatreAtHome series and the first of these – Wild – is available now. And once you’ve watched it, take a look at the ways you can support the Hampstead Theatre here. Continue reading “News: #HampsteadTheatreAtHome launches this week”

TV Review: Motherland (Series 1)

Anna Maxwell Martin shines in funny new sitcom Motherland

“It’s better now I’ve got this nanny…”

Between Father Ted and The IT Crowd (I’ve never seen Black Books), Graham Linehan has quite the sitcom-that-I-love pedigree so I’ve been keen to see what his latest Motherland would bring, after an entertaining pilot aired last year.

Written with Sharon Horgan, Helen Linehan and Holly Walsh, the show follows Anna Maxwell Martin’s perma-harassed Julia as she struggles to deal with her mother declining to help out with childcare and the school run. As she’s caught between the hyper-efficiency of the Alpha mums and the schlubby friendliness available at the opposite end of the scale, it’s a highly entertaining take on working parenthood. Continue reading “TV Review: Motherland (Series 1)”

TV Review: Doctor Who Series 10

Episodes, in order of preference
World Enough and Time
Extremis
The Doctor Falls
Thin Ice
Knock Knock
Oxygen
The Eaters of Light
Smile
The Pilot
Empress of Mars
The Pyramid at the End of the World
The Lie of the Land

Top 5 guest spots
1 David Suchet’s Landlord was as perfectly written a character as befits one of our more superior actors
2 Regular readers will know I’m a big fan of Kieran Bew and his astronaut in Oxygen was no exception
3 Nicholas Burns‘ malevolent Sutcliffe was a delightfully Dickensian villain 
4 Another theatrical delight of mine is Anthony Calf, impressive as the pseudo-Victorian Godsacre
5 Rebecca Benson’s young Pict impressively led The Eaters of Light from the front, a perfect vessel for Rona Munro’s vision

Saddest death
Michelle Gomez’s Missy has been a brilliant breath of fresh air and whilst her decision to follow Moffat and Capaldi out the door is understandable, it isn’t any less disappointing. And perhaps the timey-wimeyness of the circumstances around her passing mean that maybe this isn’t the last we see of her…

Most wasted guest actor
I don’t what I expected from the reliably excellent Samantha Spiro in Doctor Who but I didn’t get it from her part in The Doctor Falls.

Gay agenda rating
With Bill onboard, A+!

DVD Review: Hamlet (2014)

“A man’s life’s no more than to say ‘one’”

One of the main problems with the countless thinkpieces about the filming of live theatre is that they are almost always written by people who have ample opportunity to see the plays live. To talk about losing the innately unique quality of theatre unfolding before you is all too easy when you’re seeing shows pretty much every day of the week; when your own opportunities to see theatre, especially the bigger productions that tend to get filmed, are limited due to any kind of accessibility concern, it becomes a whole ‘nother ball
game.

Which is a slight digression from how I intended to start this, by saying that I wonder how much of a difference it makes if you’ve seen a production live and then on screen. I’ve not done the double, as it were, on many plays, I’ve tended just to use DVD as a way to catch up on things I missed and so was a little hesitant about whether to include Sarah Frankcom’s production of Hamlet for the Royal Exchange in this collection. But boy am I glad I did, for I enjoyed immensely, possibly even more than I did at the theatre. Continue reading “DVD Review: Hamlet (2014)”

Review: Hamlet, Royal Exchange

“What a piece of work is a man”
 

The political may be largely subsumed into the personal here but rarely has Hamlet felt so universal. Sarah Frankcom’s stated aim was to create “a Hamlet for now, a Hamlet for Manchester” and in the casting of the towering thespian might of Maxine Peake, it is not hard to feel that she has succeeded. Court scenes are played out around the dinner table, affairs of the state dealt with in business meetings, but all serve to intensify the pained intimacy of a family gone wrong, the suffering of people trapped in a dark world of pain at the heart of which lies this tortured sweet prince.

Dressed in a dark blue Chairman Mao suit (a neat nod to the politics of a determined contrarian) with hair cropped and shaved, Peake’s androgyne is a mesmeric figure from start to finish. The intelligence that sparkles from that voice, the openness that is commanded from that unflinching stare, it is nigh on impossible not to get swept away in the beauty of the performance. It remains at all times deeply humane too – this is a Hamlet who is really teetering on the brink as we see in the shaking hand that cannot pull the trigger, the vocal tremors throughout, the quivering lip at the news of Yorick. Continue reading “Review: Hamlet, Royal Exchange”

Review: Tonight at 8.30 – Dancing, Richmond Theatre

“But if at last we’re able to smile
We’ll prove it was all worth while”
 
And what would you know, they saved for the best for last. It wasn’t just the end of 10 hours in a theatre that made me happy, I really did prefer this final part of Tonight at 8.30.
 

Dancing
Family Portrait, Hands Across The Sea and Shadow Play

Running time: 2 hours 10 minutes
Booking until 14th June, then touring to Oxford Playhouse, The Lowry, Cambridge Arts, Theatre Royal Brighton and Hall for Cornwall in Truro
Photo: Mark Douet