Big Screen on Little Screen
I wasn’t able to get to the cinema this month – nothing I particularly wanted to see there, but I did stream some good films – and a little dross as well!
Film of the month has to be Boiling Point (Netflix).
That this film was made in a single shot in real time was an absolutely amazing achievement, and knowing that makes the action even more tense and frankly stressful for the viewer (in a good way). If it had been any longer than its 92 mins, I would have had to have a break from the relentlessness of it. Stephen Graham is just amazing as the head chef, Andy, under pressure, and while the ending is frankly never in doubt, you have to wonder whether he’ll be able to wriggle out of his large stack of problems, professional and personal. All the supporting cast were excellent as well – some faces you’d recognise but not necessarily be able to put a name to, plus Jason Flemyng as the celebrity chef turned food critic who Andy owes money to. Vinnette Robinson as Andy’s no 2, Carly, was particularly good – trying to hold the pieces together as the service gradually implodes. (I read they planned to do eight takes of the movie, but only got four done before Covid shut the production down!). ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
I also watched:
- Motherless Brooklyn (Prime) 2019 Ed Norton, Bruce Willis – Directed, and co-written by Norton with Jonathan Lethem from his own novel and moved back into the 1950s. Norton is Lionel Essrog, a protagonist with Tourettes, who is determined to find out who killed his friend and colleague. An intellectual noir which I enjoyed. ⭐⭐⭐⭐
- Death on the Nile (Disney+) – Branagh’s second outing as Poirot. All star cast as you’d expect, gorgeous settings, and a back story given for Poirot’s ridiculously large moustache! Enjoyable. ⭐⭐⭐½
- Nightmare Alley (Disney+) Cate Blanchett, Bradley Cooper, Willem Dafoe are among the all star cast. Directed by Guillermo del Toro with all his trademark flair. It always looks absolutely amazing! Very much enjoyed. I’ve now acquired the original novel by William Lindsay Gresham from 1946 it was adapted from. ⭐⭐⭐⭐½
- CODA (AppleTV+) – Impossible not to love, totally feelgood coming of age Cinderella story set in New England. ⭐⭐⭐⭐
- All the Old Knives (Prime) – Spy debrief with Thandiwe Newton, Chris Pine, Jonathan Pryce – So predictable! Yawn! ⭐⭐
- Finch (AppleTV+) – Tom Hanks builds a robot to protect his dog when he’s gone in post-apocalyptic USA on the road to California. Hanks is so the best at this kind of role. Best robot since No 5 in Short Circuit, and the dog steals the show a lot. Loved it. ⭐⭐⭐⭐½
I got a three month trial for AppleTV+ and finally activated it for Slow Horses, but have binged through three AMAZING series, with another to come, so far. I particularly liked that these series are proper mini-series with fewer episodes which means they are plot driven with little padding. Let me tell you about them…
- Slow Horses (AppleTV+) – Series one was adapted from the first of Mick Herron’s wonderful Slow Horses spy novels about the murky backwaters of MI5, I had been unconvinced about the casting of Gary Oldman. As much as I adore him, Lamb in the books is shall we say, ‘larger’, than Oldman and I couldn’t picture him in the role. But as he pulled off the internalisation of George Smiley in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, he did it again as the dissolute but so canny Lamb, the boss of a bunch of washed out spies who get involved in a terrorist kidnap. Perfect casting of Kristin Scott Thomas as the steely Diana Taverner, head of MI5 too, along with a theme tune sung by Mick Jagger! Series two based on the second book, Dead Lions, is in the bag. Can’t wait! ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
- Severance (AppleTV+) – OMG – this is ultimate mindf**k stuff! Mark leads a team of office workers whose memories have been surgically divided between their work and homelife. The employees of the sinister Lumon industries have their own reasons for being ‘severed’. They have no memory of their work life when they leave the building and vice versa – leading to very strange lives. When Helly joins the team and can’t cope with the work side of things, the team starts to see the conspiracy from both sides. Can’t say more really, but it is scary and gripping. Adam Scott is brilliant as the mild-mannered Mark, Patricia Arquette is a great chief baddy; John Turturro and Christopher Walkern support. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
- The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey (AppleTV+) – Samuel L Jackson can do no wrong – fact! In this six-episode series adapted by Walter Mosley from his own novel, he plays the aged Ptolemy Grey, who is dying gradually from dementia. When Reggie, his nephew and carer is gunned down, a drug trial he’d signed up for stabilises his memory for just long enough to help him investigate his death. He still needs a carer though, and when his niece kicks out the daughter of her late friend who’d been living with her rather than deal with her wayward son’s designs on seventeen-year-old Robyn, Robyn moves in with Ptolemy and takes charge of him. Despite not being related, the two develop an incredibly deep relationship with Grey as the grandfather she no longer has. Dominique Fishback is amazing as young Robyn. I cried buckets – you have been warned! And now I want to read the book too. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
- Next on AppleTV+ I shall be watching Shining Girls starring Elizabeth Moss and Jamie Bell in a nasty time-slipping serial killer thriller adapted from Lauren Beukes’ book.
I also watched:
- Life After Life (BBC2) – this is the way to adapt the unadaptable time-looping novel. Gripping and really well done four-parter from Kate Atkinson’s book. ⭐⭐⭐⭐½
- The Split (BBC1) – Watch for Nicola Walker and Stephen Mangan. Utter tosh, but polished and sooo enjoyable. ⭐⭐⭐½
- Anatomy of a Scandal (Netflix) – Oh dear! I watched to the end despite having read the book and knew what happened. Some jaw-droppingly awful moments. Sienna Miller was good though. That whole slo-mo thing that kept happening was terrible. ⭐⭐½
- Sweetbitter (Prime/Starzplay) – I watched both seasons of eight half-hour episodes about life working in a top end New York restaurant seen from the newbie’s waitress’ eyes. Front of house, it has to be all about teamwork on view, but behind, there are rivalries, drugs, friendships, sex, and more as 22-year-old Tess discovers when she arrives in NYC from the country to find a life for herself. I enjoyed it, but they say the book by Stephanie Danler (which Rebecca enjoyed and reviewed for Shiny here) is better. Sweetbitter was cancelled after the two series, and I’ve ended my Starzplay subscription too. ⭐⭐⭐½
What have you watched this month that you’d recommend?