Film Review: Death on the Nile (2022)

Kenneth Branagh returns to Poirot with Death on the Nile but for all its starry cast, it does feel rather hollow

“Mother doesn’t approve of anyone born outside of Mayfair

With Maggie Smith, Bette Davis and Angela Lansbury among the company in the 1978 film version, Kenneth Branagh was always going to be up against it in remounting Death on the Nile. But even as he assembles the compelling (Sophie Okonedo, Annette Bening), the curious (Dawn French AND Jennifer Saunders) and the controversial (Armie Hammer and Letitia Wright both having their own issues post-shoot), the end result is something quite trite.

I wasn’t much of a fan of his Murder on the Orient Express and there’s a number of the same issues that recur here. A heavy reliance on CGI is painfully conspicuous throughout which really flattens out so many scenes. And it is all very well gathering an all-star cast but if they’re not given the material to work with, then it is hard not to feel like it is a waste of their talents. Agatha Christie may bear a little responsibility in gathering such a disparate motley crew here but Branagh show no interest in helping to create more rounded characterisations. Continue reading “Film Review: Death on the Nile (2022)”

TV Review: Vigil

Maybe I missed the point but I really rather enjoyed the campy, ridiculous side of submarine drama Vigil

“They’ve tried to disable us. Now they’re hunting us”

I think a lot of people were expecting Vigil to be the new Line of Duty, the Guardian even set up one of their episode-by-episode blogs. But somehow I missed that memo, assuming it was less of a serious drama and more of a campy thriller from the off, hence finding its increasingly improbable twists and turns juicily enjoyable and never expecting much realism from it.

Which is how I think we should take most TV shows these days, escapism serving as a valuable corrective tool for our times and allowing drama to flourish in enjoyable ways. Created by Tom Edge, Vigil is a police procedural mostly set on a Trident submarine and thus has even more opportunity to piss off the growing number of armchair experts whose voluble online responses are increasingly being used as new stories by an increasingly lazy media. Continue reading “TV Review: Vigil”

TV Review: The Good Fight Series 3

Michael Sheen does his best to destabilise Series 3 of The Good Fight but Christine Baranski and Audra McDonald just about pull it back

“Don’t get in the way of someone kicking ass”

For a season that contains the wonder that is Christine Baranski and Audra McDonald casually duetting on ‘Raspberry Beret’, Series 3 of The Good Fight ends up being something of a challenge. The presence of Michael Sheen’s Mephistophelian Roland Blum was clearly meant to shake things up but that chaotic energy ends up being destabilising.

Which is a shame, as so much of what makes The Good Fight click so well is present here. Topics ripped from up-to-the-minute headlines, including voter suppression, racial profiling, Karens calling the polices, troll farms, historic sexual harassment cases, Kim and Kanye… And they’re all treated sensitively but still daringly in some bold storytelling. Continue reading “TV Review: The Good Fight Series 3”

TV Review: The Split Series 1 / The Good Fight Series 2

If female-fronted lawyer shows are your bag (and why wouldn’t they be!), the twin joys of The Split and The Good Fight have marvellous to behold

“Kill all the lawyers”

If I’m completely honest, Abi Morgan’s The Split did leave me a tad disappointed as it veered away from its legal beginnings to something considerably more soapy over its six episodes. The personal lives of the Defoe clan well and truly took over at the expense of any of the cases they were looking after and even if that family includes Nicola Walker, Annabel Scholey and Deborah Findlay, it’s still a bit of a shame that it ended up so schlocky. Continue reading “TV Review: The Split Series 1 / The Good Fight Series 2”

TV Review: The Good Fight Series 1

“In my experience, whenever somebody says ‘the truth is’ that usually means it’s not”

Lots to love in The Good Fight, not least its very existence as a female-led, POC-heavy US drama, unafraid to tackle the most modern of issues, as its parent show The Good Wife did in its prime. And over the 10 episodes of its first season, it has proved an engaging and entertaining watch in the midst of finding its feet about the kind of show it actually wants to be. (You can read my thoughts about Episodes 1 and 2 here).

The Good Fight tried to achieve a lot – establishing a large new ensemble, delivering enough storyline for three lead characters, paying adequate but not overbearing fan service to Good Wife devotees, and coming up with up-to-the-minute cases-of-the week. And I think we can say it did most this fairly successfully. Christine Baranski’s Diane Lockhart and her statement necklaces remaining a shining beacon of light in our cold, dark world. Continue reading “TV Review: The Good Fight Series 1”

News: Olivier Awards presenters revealed

The Olivier Awards 2017 has announced the list of people who’ll be handing out awards at the ceremony, hosted by Jason Manford of all people, on Sunday 9th April in the august surroundings of the Royal Albert Hall.

Presenters this year include – deep breath – David Baddiel, Alfie Boe, John Boyega, Michaela Coel, Leanne Cope, Julian Clary, Robert Fairchild, Ben Forster, Phoebe Fox, Andrew Garfield, Denise Gough, Matt Henry, Ruthie Henshall, Amanda Holden, Rufus Hound, Cush Jumbo, Nathan Lane, Rose Leslie, Maureen Lipman, Danny Mac, Audra McDonald, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Laura Mvula, Paul O’Grady, Tracy-Ann Oberman, Sophie Okonedo, Charlotte Ritchie, Mark Rylance and Russell Tovey. Continue reading “News: Olivier Awards presenters revealed”

TV Review: The Good Fight Episodes 1 + 2

“Diane, when did you get so cynical?”

I hadn’t intended to write about this spin-off from The Good Wife but its opening two episodes were just too full of insane goodness impossible to ignore – I mean just look at that poster art for one. The earlier seasons of The Good Wife were fantastic, US network television close to its best, but the show definitely lost some of its sparkle as its core ensemble collapsed and none of the replacement cast members were able to deal with the unchecked gravitational vortex of its key star Julianna Margulies as Saint Alicia Florrick.

Two victims of this were Christine Baranski’s Diane Lockhart, in there from the beginning and much abused by the end, and Cush Jumbo’s Lucca Quinn whose arrival in the seventh and final season promised much but ultimately suffered from writing that would not, could not, allow her independence from Florrick. So it is tempting to see The Good Fight as an apologia from series creators Robert King and Michelle King as, along with Rose Leslie’s newcomer Maia Rindell, they form the three leads of a brand new ensemble show that is serving up life! Continue reading “TV Review: The Good Fight Episodes 1 + 2”

TV Review: Luther (Series 4, Episode 2)

“So, because you can’t believe it’s true, logically it’s false”

So the second and final part of Series 4 of Luther is done and well, it’s hard not to feel a little shortchanged. There’s been chatter about a movie and given that we only got 2 hours of screentime here, it’s hard to see why creator Neil Cross and star Idris Elba opted for a single two-parter split over two weeks as opposed the fiercer energy that a feature-length epic would surely have borne. 

Episode 1 aired last week and did a decent job of pulling us back into the world of DCI John Luther, delving back into the show’s mythology and the tangled web of his own past but also moving forward with the dastardly exploits of a new serial killer, which proved to be the main hook for Luther’s return from semi-retirement. Part Two continues the blend, as John Heffernan’s marvellously malevolent cannabalistic killer continues his rampage and Luther deals with the past impinging severely on his present. Continue reading “TV Review: Luther (Series 4, Episode 2)”

TV Review: Luther (Series 4, Episode 1)

“What do we do with something like this?”

It doesn’t quite seem right, calling this a new series of Luther when it is just two episodes, but the return of Idris Elba’s maverick DCI is something to be celebrated nonetheless. Neil Cross’ two-parter finds John Luther on a leave of absence from the Met (as opposed to having jacked it all in as we might have thought), sequestered in a coastal cottage hideaway and still reckoning with the loss of his cop partner DS Ripley after the events of the last series. Almost straightaway though, the show runs into the problems that mark the whole episode.

the first ever episode way back when). They’re both new to the franchise (though weirdly not unfamiliar to Luther) but as there’s so little time, we have to assume an instant familiarity with them, and with the circumstances of Alice’s death and a new serial killer who is eating his way through East London.  Continue reading “TV Review: Luther (Series 4, Episode 1)”