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”

9th Critics’ Choice Television Awards nominees

Best Series
Best Comedy Series
Atlanta (FX)
Barry (HBO)
The Good Place (NBC)
The Kominsky Method (Netflix)
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon)
The Middle (ABC)
One Day at a Time (Netflix)
Schitt’s Creek (Pop)

Best Drama Series
The Americans (FX)
Better Call Saul (AMC)
The Good Fight (CBS All Access)
Homecoming (Amazon)
Killing Eve (BBC America)
My Brilliant Friend (HBO)
Pose (FX)
Succession (HBO) Continue reading “9th Critics’ Choice Television Awards nominees”

DVD Review: Last Chance Harvey

“Cantankerous I’ve never been”

Joel Hopkins’ The Love Punch was a film that worked far better than one might have expected, a lovely surprise in the cinema back in 2014, so I’ve been looking forward to catching up with his earlier 2008 movie Last Chance Harvey. And once again I was caught unawares, even as I knew that I would probably like it, I had no idea I would love it so completely.

Dustin Hoffman’s Harvey is a washed-up US jingle-writer, finding himself on the fringes of his daughter’s London wedding in place of a beloved stepfather; Emma Thompson’s Kate has found life has passed her by, still single and struggling with an overbearing mother. That the two will end up together somehow is never in doubt but the joy of Hopkins’ film is in making the journey so beautifully, emotionally real. Continue reading “DVD Review: Last Chance Harvey”

Blogged: Stars in my eyes

I’m going to New York and this time, nobody’s gonna stop me… At the third time of trying (after traumatic passport lost and a wedding cancellation (someone else’s I should add), I will finally be making my way over to the Great White Way over New Year and though it will be my first trip there, I’m thinking I’m pretty much going to spend most of it in the theatre (where else!). I can do the touristy stuff next time because at the moment I’m just dazzled by the opportunities to see some proper famous people on the stage, shallow fame whore that I have turned out to be.

But even then, the people who I’m most excited about aren’t necessarily the ones you might expect – Bradley Cooper is headlining The Elephant Man but it’s Patricia Clarkson who’s most exciting me in that cast, Ewan McGregor may be the biggest name in Stoppard’s The Real Thing but it’s the opportunity to see Maggie Gyllenhaal and Cynthia Nixon that is getting me there and if Hugh Jackman is the main draw in The River, it’s the unexpected appearance of our very own Cush Jumbo that is most intriguing. That said, there’s no point in me pretending that I’m more excited about Ruth Wilson than Jake Gyllenhaal in Nick Payne’s extraordinary Constellations– we’ll call it the most high-scoring draw ever.

Continue reading “Blogged: Stars in my eyes”

DVD Review: The Infidel (2010)

“Solly Shimshillewitz? Why didn’t they just call you “Jewie-jew-jew-jew-jew” and be done with it?”

Not having seen the film of The Infidel before catching the musical adaptation at the Theatre Royal Stratford East, I quickly rectified that with a cheeky online rental on my new iPhone 6+ (plug!). Written by David Baddiel and directed by Josh Appignanesi, it was a moderate success in 2010 although watching it now, I was struck by how comparatively muted the humour was and impressed that Baddiel and co saw musical theatre as the best way to translate the story for the stage as it isn’t immediately obvious.

Omid Djalili takes on the role of Mahmud, the British Muslim whose life is turned upside down when he discovers that he is in fact adopted and is Jewish by birth to boot, and impresses in the everyman part of the role, emphasising the story’s point about how we all wear our beliefs differently but no less strongly. He’s a little more restrained than I was expecting though and Archie Panjabi, good as she is, feels miscast as his wife, their relationship improbably imbalanced and so lacking the deep-seated connection that ought to be holding them together even during the most strained times. Continue reading “DVD Review: The Infidel (2010)”

(Not really a) Review: Speed-The-Plow, Playhouse Theatre

“I think I’m being punished for my wickedness”

When did we become a society so keen on a hot mess? I’m as guilty as anyone for finding guilty pleasure in (some of) the car crashes that increasingly clutter our television screens and if I protest that it’s only really the likes of Greg(g) Wallace I want to see make a fool of themselves on the dancefloor, one can equally argue that that is just the thin end of the wedge. Lindsay Lohan found herself very much at the deep end when the announcement that she would be making her stage debut in David Mamet’s Speed-The-Plow was first made, scepticism rather than enthusiasm being the prevailing tone, and the gleeful reports of a challenging first preview – which have been so incredibly widely reported (and again, I’m no innocent here) – would seem to indicate that many would like nothing more than to see her fall flat on her face.

Whatever the perceived sins of a celebrity, it’s not a particularly good look on any of us, this baying for failure and so I thought I do my best to redress the balance a little. I caught the show on Saturday night (still in preview, opening night is this coming Thursday) to find that Richard Schiff was off sick and understudy Adam Morris would be playing Bobby Gould. Morris was impressively almost entirely off-book (he also performed the matinée that day) and it just goes to show the unpredictability of theatre work, something that any theatrical debutante would have to get used to, especially when a production is in such early days as these. That’s not to place anyone beyond reproach but merely a recognition that getting a play up and running with delayed starts, cast changes and all in the first week alone is no mean feat. Continue reading “(Not really a) Review: Speed-The-Plow, Playhouse Theatre”