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: 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)”

TV Review: The Bletchley Circle Series 2

Hattie Morahan makes a more than able replacement for Anna Maxwell Martin in Series 2 of The Bletchley Circle 

“Well ladies, let’s get cracking”

Series 2 of The Bletchley Circle at least has one more episode in it than the first, as it takes the form of two two-part stories but as it is the last season, it is also tinged with sadness. It is also a little curiously structured as Anna Maxwell Martin’s Susan departs after the first story, allowing Hattie Morahan’s Alice Merren – who appears as the protagonist of the opening mystery – to step up and replace her in the group for their final case.

Alice just happens to be another former colleague from Bletchley Park who, as the series opens, is awaiting trial for killing her old flame from those Bletchley days. Julie Graham’s Jean is sure she must be innocent and so reconvenes Lucy, Millie and a reluctant Susan to try and prove her innocence and solve the mysterious connections to a place called Porton Down… Continue reading “TV Review: The Bletchley Circle Series 2”

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”

Book review: Time To Act – Simon Annand

Simon Annand’s Time To Act is a beautiful book of photos capturing actors in the minutes before they go on stage

Tackling the constraints of the pandemic in its own way, Simon Annand’s fantastic new book of photos Time To Act has launched a virtual exhibition of some of the photographs which has now been extended to until Christmas. It’s an ingenious way of sharing some of the hundreds of images from the book and should surely whet the appetite for either just buying it now or putting on your list for Santa to collect soon.

Continue reading “Book review: Time To Act – Simon Annand”

Lockdown TV Review: Spooks Series 1

I had already started a rewatch of Spooks earlier this year as part of a planned Nicola Walker retrospective but as it turns out, I’ll have to use that Britbox subscription for something else!

“When will you tell her that your real name is Tom Quinn and that you are a spy”

It is interesting to look at back at much-loved shows and be reminded of how not everything is always how you remember. So much of Spooks has aged remarkably well – not least its choice of subjects that have remained terrifyingly evergreen – that it is easy to forget that this opening season of 6 episodes sees them still searching for that house style. 

It is undoubtedly a bit shonky in look and feel, the slick Thames House set isn’t yet in place and the focus on the lead team at the expense of too many nameless supporting bods gives the personal dynamics a somewhat off-balance feel as we delve into too much of the personal lives of Tom, Zoe and Danny.

But airing in May 2002 in the immediate post 9/11 climate gives its geopolitics real currency. And the threats they face – homegrown far-right movements, fears over immigration, the push for Kurdish self-government, US abortion rights, Russian spies being murdered on British soil… – are compelling throughout. And any show that has Jenny Agutter and Nicholas Farrell dry-humping in a corridor has to be a winner right?!   

Nicola Walker-ometer
To be honest, I’d forgotten Ruth wasn’t a member of the team from the start, so these six episodes pass by with an outrageous lack of Nicola Walker. Continue reading “Lockdown TV Review: Spooks Series 1”

Book review: The Half – Simon Annand

The Half – Photographs of Actors Preparing for the Stage by Simon Annand

Just a quickie for this book as The Half – Photographs of Actors Preparing for the Stage by Simon Annand was released in 2008. But with an imminent new exhibition of these photos and a bargainous copy of the book popping up on Ebay, I thought I’d take the plunge.

And I’m glad I did as it is a proper work of art in its own right. Annand has been photographing actors for over 25 years and as such, has a veritable treasure trove of shots to share with us, resulting from the trusting relationships he has built up with so many, from the new kids on the block to veritable dames. Continue reading “Book review: The Half – Simon Annand”