Archive for the ‘Telly’ Category

In a nutshell: Elementary, my dear iPad

Popcorn rating: 3.5/5

Sherlock, in which Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss bring Conan Doyle’s characters from fog-shrouded Victorian London into the 21st century, has returned to our screens. I enjoyed the first series, but had minor gripes with it, mainly that there was no need to show an iPhone and cut to images of the London Eye and the Gherkin every two minutes just to remind us it wasn’t the 1890s.

Now I’ve accepted it as all part of the BBC’s Sherlock ‘look’, however, I quite enjoyed that aspect this time around. I do need to point out that if you’re going to give a show an ultra-techy feel, don’t have characters say ‘camera phone’; who the hell has routinely called their phone a ‘camera phone’ in the past decade? What next, searching the internet with Ask Jeeves? But other than that, I’ve come to believe that it all adds to the excitement.

The cast in last night’s ‘A Scandal In Belgravia’ was strong as ever. Benedict Cumberbatch as Holmes is still cold, sharp and slightly alien; Martin Freeman’s Watson is dependable but never boring. Mark Gatiss was perfect as Mycroft, and Una Stubbs as Mrs Hudson is… well, Una Stubbs. The plot was complicated, implausible and tremendous fun, much like Conan Doyle’s were. There’s no doubt that Sherlock is slick, stylish and immensely entertaining.

Last night’s episode reworked Conan Doyle’s ‘A Scandal In Bohemia’, in which Holmes finds the mysterious Irene Adler a particularly intriguing adversary. However, it appears that the writers wanted to crank it up a notch, so their Adler was a bisexual dominatrix and she and Holmes spent half the episode semi-clad and smouldering at each other. Sexy, right? Er… no. It was so heavy-handed and obvious that I expected the words ‘SEXUAL CHEMISTRY’ to flash across the screen accompanied by a klaxon. Nothing’s less sexy than having something flagged up as sexy. Fangirls fancy Cumberbatch. We know that. No need to hammer it home.

One other thing: Conan Doyle has Holmes captivated by retired opera-singer Adler and ultimately bettered by her. She ends the story with the upper hand. But last night, Adler, now a sex-worker, falls in love with Holmes and uses his name as a password. Under her Miss Whiplash exterior she’s a vulnerable, emotional ickle girl, you see; Sherlock even makes her cry. Oh, and in an ill-fitting twist, he also saves her from decapitation by terrorists.

Any power she has is sexually defined, she gets her comeuppance for being a bit too uppity and she ends up a damsel in distress who’s rescued by the hero. A fine piece of gripping, escapist, modern entertainment Sherlock may be, but iPhones, blogs and shiny London skyscrapers aside, sometimes I can’t help feel we’re moving backwards.

Reviewer: JoSheppard

In a nutshell: Alien invasion meets soap opera

Popcorn rating: 2.5/5

Think of aliens from outer space and you’ll probably picture a sweaty, shaven headed Sigourney Weaver battling xenomorphs; or perhaps you’d focus on the softer tales of aliens interacting with humanity favoured by a young Steven Spielberg; or maybe you’d chuckle at the idea of a terrified 1950s radio audience panicked at how real a fictional ‘we’ve been invaded’ news announcement can be.

Falling Skies is very much in the Spielbergian camp, offering a story focusing on the human toll of an alien invasion. As an added credit, the world famous, cap wearing director even signed on as an executive producer. Of course, in retrospect, he probably wishes he hadn’t bothered as, quite simply, Falling Skies just doesn’t cut it.

Like The Walking Dead, Falling Skies is set after a catastrophic event and focuses on mankind’s last hopes at fighting back. The story centres on a band of survivors, based within the army’s ragtag 2nd Massachusetts division who have made their camp at John F. Kennedy High School. We quickly learn mankind is not alone. Hulking mechs roam the streets and highways eliminating everything in their way, while six-legged alien “soldiers”, known as skitters, enslave human children.

The aliens and their weaponry are eye catching, interesting, thrilling even, but when the aliens are nowhere to be seen, the American series doesn’t seem to know what to do with itself. This is supposed to be an apocalypse, a last ditch attempt to survive, and yet the characters aren’t broken; they’re clean cut, optimistic. It is almost like a soap opera.

The humans are led by Captain Weaver (Will Patton) who attempts to look vaguely haunted by his past and Tom Mason (Noah Wyle) who is completely wooden throughout the 10 episodes, during which he repeatedly ‘heroically’ insists on undertaking the most dangerous missions.

This makes it incredibly difficult to feel any empathy for the humans, and therefore any anger towards the aliens. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the final battle of the series goes out with a fizzle rather than a bang.

But to be fair, once Falling Skies works through its teething problems there are some interesting twists along the way. The aliens attach ‘harnesses’ to children which basically turn them into willing slaves – and possibly even worse, which is an interesting twist (though the survivors don’t seem to pick up on massive clues hinting at the symbiotic device’s darker purpose).

All in all, not as good as I had hoped but it offers some reluctant promise for a better second season.

Reviewer: David Morgan

Popcorn rating: Suits you sister

In a nutshell:3.5/5

Right, listen up all you perky young things. How many times do you have to be told by the funky-haired television types before it finally absorbs through your taut, peachy cheeks that 40-something females don’t need to dress like whores to feel young and sexy, hmm? So, like, get over it Barbie face.

What, you don’t believe me? Then you better watch Mary Queen of Frocks, because Mary Portas (the eponymous queeny) knows what women want. Don’t ask me how she knows, alright, she just does. And she tells us she does. Over and over again. With a murderous stare. That’s why she’s risking everything to open her very own outlet, showing all the senior sisters out there how to do it for themselves.

What she’s after opening is a sort of Fountain of Youth for the high street, or as she puts it, a “wonderful, spiritual home for women”. Ooh, get her. In her Shangri-La of chic, Buddha takes the form of a mannequin dressed in a ginger wig with chiffon culottes; scripture is a size-guide. It’s going to be the perfect retail refuge for all those misguided middle-aged frumps, dahling.

But the path to shopping enlightenment is not an easy one for Guru Portas. Like all struggling independent retailers, she’s had to fight to get what she wants. For instance, she had to make one phone call and stamp her feet a little before being given 2,000sq-ft of prime retail space in one of London’s busiest department stores – phew! Entrepreneurs could really learn a thing or two.

And it only gets tougher. She now has to recruit her own team of fashion disciples. From the looks of it, the person specification listed ‘anti-fat’ and ‘lack of opinion’ as essential criteria. In the end, hardly anyone bothers applying, probably because Portas can’t hold a conversation with another human being without looking as though she’s about to bite off their nose.

That’s what makes this show such fun to watch; the sinister and very real feeling that someone is about to get their neck snapped if they dare stand in the way of Portas’ retail regime of saving women from themselves. So, I think it’ll all turn out nice for her. Don’t ask me why. I just do, alright? Portas tells us it will. And if you want your nose to stay on your face, you’ll think it too.

Reviewer: AdamFairclough

In a nutshell: “Just put ‘approx’ nine more killings…”

Popcorn rating: 4/5

When someone ‘vulnerable’ – a child, or an adult who might not fully understand the procedure – is arrested or charged with a crime, an ‘appropriate adult’ is appointed to sit in on interviews, offer them advice, and generally make sure the nasty old policemen aren’t taking advantage of them. Presumably, when Janet Leach volunteered for this back in the mid-90s, she was expecting to be keeping an eye on 15-year-old shoplifters. What actually happened was that her first client was a ‘53-year-old man with learning difficulties.’

Who’d raped, murdered and dismembered his daughter.

Appropriate Adult is the true story of the investigation into Fred and Rose West’s squalid, sadistic murder spree, told from the perspective of Leach, West’s uneasy confidante. Much praise has been given to Emily Watson as Leach, but while she is indeed convincing in what must have been a harrowing part to play, from the audience’s point of view all she really has to do is look haggard and harassed. The really strong performance is from Dominic ‘No Relation’ West.

Is there no end to Dominic’s talents? How can one man play a Baltimore cop, a 1950s BBC newsreader and a psychotic bumpkin and be utterly convincing as all of them? I suspect witchcraft, but whatever: West is brilliant as, well, West. He’s sinister, occasionally roguish, even charming in a manipulative sort of way, one moment ‘a bit simple’, as my mother would say, and the next wily and cunning.

Somewhat overlooked in the previews, Monica Dolan as crass, aggressive, foul-mouthed Rose is excellent too – malevolent, vicious and terrifying in an entirely different way from her disturbingly affable husband.

The subject matter of Appropriate Adult is, of course, distressing, despite the wise decision not to attempt to recreate any of the actual murders or show the exhumation of the victims’ remains. But incredibly, there are lines, lifted straight from the real police interviews with Fred, that are shockingly close to being funny: this drama isn’t scared to shy away from the occasionally comic banality of small-town evil.

The cast and makers had a tough job on their hands with Appropriate Adult, but they’ve managed to pull it off without it once descending into sensationalism or exploitation. I can probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve had cause to say this in the past twenty years – but ITV really have done a fine job.

Reviewer: JoSheppard

In a nutshell: On holiday with the lads

Popcorn rating: 3/5

The Inbetweeners was a surprise TV hit. For many, those awkward teenage years and the hierarchy of high school conjure up long lost memories of dread. But the honesty with which writers Damon Beesley and Iain Morris portrayed four friends made it a success with the young and the young at heart alike.

The joy of the TV series was that all the scenarios, no matter how embarrssing, seemed somehow feasible, from the first fumbling encounters with girls to a disastrous trip to Thorpe Park.

The film takes geeky Will, besotted Simon, potty mouthed Jay and dopey Neil on the next logical step after finishing high school – a lads’ holiday.

Making the transition from the small screen to the cinema has often been tricky for British comedies. Fear not though as this is not another Kevin and Perry Go Large.

The Inbetweeners trip takes them to Malia in Crete where, inevitably, their misadventures lead them to meet four girls – as well as Simon’s love interest from the show Carli – and the plot rolls on from there.

It’s fair to say The Inbetweeners does lose something in its transition to Crete. The high school gags are long gone and many of the supporting characters are absent. Greg Davies’ brilliant portrayal as cynical teacher Mr Gilbert makes a fleeting appearance but you long for more. It’s also a lot more vulgar than the show and, although many fans will love that, you can’t help but cringe.

But in other moments, the film is on absolutely top form. Watch out for the scene when Will, Simon and Neil dance over to a group of girls in an empty bar.

Credit also goes to Beesley and Morris for deliberately sabotaging every moment of the film that was deemed overly sentimental.

Essentially the movie stays true to original series but, with a short run time, you do get the lingering sense this could have all been achieved as an extended final episode on the telly.

Reviewer: DavidMorgan