TV Review: A Ghost Story for Christmas – The Mezzotint

Mark Gatiss adapts MR James’ The Mezzotint for a well cast ghostly Christmas treat

“We’ve enough tat here as it is”

Festive programming seems to have gone a little haywire these days, or maybe its just the nostalgia kicking in after too many chocolate biscuits. Where’s the new Box of Delights eh? The BBC are leading with a sex scandal and have also turned to Mark Gatiss for a touch of horror for the season, with a new adaptation of MR James’ The Mezzotint, the fourth in their A Ghost Story for Christmas strand.

Perfectly contained at under 30 minutes, it is a highly effective piece of storytelling, tautly directed by Gatiss himself. Rory Kinnear’s Edward Williams is a curator at a local museum and a confirmed bachelor, whiling the hours away with games of golf and researching the more shadowy corners of his family history. But when a mezzotint engraving of an unidentified manor house falls into his hands, he can’t begin to imagine what it might reveal. Continue reading “TV Review: A Ghost Story for Christmas – The Mezzotint”

TV Review: Silent Witness Series 9

Series 9 of Silent Witness, aka the one where it is dangerous to be related to the team

“You know you shouldn’t be interfering. You could be jeopardising your career, the investigation, everything”

Series 9 of Silent Witness is the first full one without Amanda Burton’s Sam Ryan at the helm and to its credit, you barely notice for the most part, such is the efficiency and effectiveness of the new dynamic cultivated by the seamless introduction of Emilia Fox’s Nikki Alexander. This series also marks the pronounced increase of their investigative roles in many a crime scene, taking them further and further out of the lab.

At its worst, as in series opener ‘Ghosts’, tragic news pushes Leo to Sheffield where his character is thoroughly mangled ostensibly through grief but in reality, in a cack-handed attempt by the writers to make him interesting. Which kinda misses the point, as William Gaminara has nailed the perfectly bland tone of quiet competence – making him head of the department doesn’t need to change that. Continue reading “TV Review: Silent Witness Series 9”

News: One year of National Theatre at Home – New titles added

Ahead of National Theatre at Home’s one year anniversary on 1 December, the National Theatre has today announced the next filmed productions to be added to the streaming service, which is supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies.

Joining the platform today is Simon Godwin’s critically acclaimed 2018 production of Antony & Cleopatra in the Olivier theatre, with Ralph Fiennes and Sophie Okonedo playing Shakespeare’s famous fated couple. Then the iconic and multi-award-winning production of War Horsebased on the novel by Michael Morpurgo, will be available from 1 December until 31 January 2022 on demand internationally for the first time since its premiere 14 years ago. It will be available with British Sign Language, audio description and captions. Continue reading “News: One year of National Theatre at Home – New titles added”

Film Review: No Time To Die (2021)

Spoiler-free territory as Daniel Craig steps into 007’s shoes for the last time in the lengthy and long-delayed No Time To Die

“You know, history isn’t kind to men who play God”

If anything has characterised Daniel Craig’s tenure as James Bond, then it has been a marked inconsistency in the quality of those films. The heights of Casino Royale were followed by the disappointments of Quantum of Solace, the game-changing Skyfall chased by an underwhelming Spectre. So the hope was certainly that No Time To Die, directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga
would follow the pattern of soaring to a high peak to round off this era.

And whilst it certainly climbs somewhat out of the valley, it is by no means an all-time classic Bond movie, despite the raft of rave reviews. It could safely be an hour shorter, it has one of those villains whose plan you’re never really quite sure about and much as I like Léa Seydoux, her Madeleine Swann being the Bond woman who gets to have a second film is a real heard-scratcher as the chemistry with Craig just isn’t there. Continue reading “Film Review: No Time To Die (2021)”

Film Review: Spectre (2015)

After the emotional triumph of Skyfall, the lethargic pacing of Spectre can’t help but feel a letdown

“Why, given every other possible option, does a man choose the life of a paid assassin?”

After the rip-roaring success of Skyfall, it seems little surprise that director Sam Mendes and lead scribe John Logan would return for the next instalment of the Bond series. But Spectre ends up as part of the yoyo-ing trend of Daniel Craig’s tenure which had previously seen the excellence of Casino Royale followed up by the not-excellence of Quantum of Solace. Delving deep back in Bond folklore, its overlong running time and stultifying pace sadly makes it a bit of a challenge.

This time round, surveillance networks are the villain as Bond investigates global conglomerate Spectre and their nefarious plans under Blofeld, whilst M and co do battle with the enemy within in the form of Andrew Scott’s smarmy C. Despite his class, Ralph Fiennes is a much less impactful M than Dame Judi but Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris and Rory Kinnear are all settling well into their MI6 roles, popping in and out as needed. Christoph Waltz’s Blofeld is vividly effective but the problem lies in an ineffectual plot that doesn’t grip anywhere near as much as Skyfall did. Continue reading “Film Review: Spectre (2015)”

Film Review: Skyfall (2012)

As much an M movie as a Bond flick, Skyfall benefits from putting Dame Judi Dench front and centre to make this one of the best Bond films of recent times

“Well, I suppose I see a different world than you do and the truth is that what I see frightens me”

One of the best aspects of Bond in the Daniel Craig era has been the introduction of actual consequences for people. We’re not dealing with total realism to be sure, but rather a thoughtfulness that is too rarely seen in the action genre. Written by John Logan and directed by Sam Mendes, Skyfall is a masterful entry in the Bond canon, playing out the complex relationship between Bond and Judi Dench’s steely M right through to its devastating end. 

Delving into both of their pasts and hauling them up to account, the notion of personal vengeance as all-encompassing motive is far more effective than the fate of the Bolivian water supply. And Javier Bardem’s Silva is one of the most genuinely chilling villains for that very reason, his cyberterrorist truly compelling in his psychopathy – that climactic scene in the chapel is simply stunning on all levels.

It’s not perfect: the queer-baiting, sorely underusing Helen McCrory in just one scene, and all the business on the tube is ridiculous (it’s rush hour in the station but the train that crashes is somehow empty? And you can’t slide down the escalators like they do, there’s things in the way. And yes, I know it is a film, hehe). But I’m picking at small things cos I can – the new Q is introduced perfectly (all credit to Ben Whishaw) and ultimately, it’s just a great film, never mind a great Bond film. Continue reading “Film Review: Skyfall (2012)”

Film Review: Quantum of Solace (2008)

There’s not much solace to be found in Quantum of Solace, something of a disappointment following the revolutionary Casino Royale

“Bond, if you could avoid killing every possible lead, it would be deeply appreciated”

After Casino Royale did so much properly reboot the Bond franchise with the arrival of Daniel Craig, it is hard not to feel a little disappointed with its follow-up Quantum of Solace, which is almost a direct sequel, following through on some key plot points as it does. We catch up with Bond deep in the throes of grief and betrayal after the Vesper Lynd of it all, as he winds up in the middle of a plot to steal the water in Bolivia.

Marc Foster’s direction pushes the gritty realism of Craig’s special agent but in the midst of breathlessly edited action sequences, there’s really very little comprehensible story-telling going on which ends making the film rather dull. Mathieu Amalric’s Greene is sadly a washout of a villain but we do see the move to pushing Judi Dench’s M to the fore which allows her and Craig to flesh out the one true relationship that matters now, and which will pay off brilliantly next time around. Continue reading “Film Review: Quantum of Solace (2008)”

News: NT launches new streaming service National Theatre at Home

The National Theatre, in partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies, has today launched  National Theatre at Home, a brand-new streaming platform making their much-loved productions available online to watch anytime, anywhere worldwide.

Launching today with productions including the first ever National Theatre Live, Phèdre with Helen Mirren,  Othellowith Adrian Lester and the Young Vic’s Yermawith Billie Piper, new titles from the NT’s unrivalled catalogue of filmed theatre will be added to the platform every month.

In addition to productions previously broadcast to cinemas by National Theatre Live, a selection of plays filmed for the NT’s Archive will be released online for the first time through National Theatre at Home, including Lucy Kirkwood’s Mosquitoes with Olivia Colman and Inua Ellams’ new version of Chekhov’s Three Sisters (a co-production with Fuel).   Continue reading “News: NT launches new streaming service National Theatre at Home”

TV Review: Messiah – The Rapture (2008)

AKA the one where they take it too far… Messiah V – The Rapture replaces the entire cast and loses its soul

“A new start is good for me…”

After four instalments over five years, it took three years for the Messiah series to return with The Rapture, a self-described ‘second chapter’ for the show written by Oliver Brown. And it has to be described thus because it is the first Messiah story not to feature Ken Stott’s DCI Red Metcalfe at its heart. And yet it doesn’t try to distinguish itself at all as it retreads the ‘serial killer following a bizarre pattern’ storyline that has been the series’ hallmark.

The core team has been entirely replaced, but baffingly with fascimiles of themself. Gruff lead detective with a haunted past, supported by young female and gruff older sergeants. Marc Warren, Marsha Thomason and Daniel Ryan are all fine in their roles but having to get to know an entirely new cast in the fifth series of a show, and with a reduced running time to boot, just makes you wonder why they thought besmirching the Messiah name in this way was an acceptable idea.  Continue reading “TV Review: Messiah – The Rapture (2008)”