Time for another review of what I’ve been watching lately, as opposed to reading.
I’ve only made it to the cinema once. That was to see the wonderfully funny and touching film The Duke, starring Jim Broadbent and Helen Mirren. The story, set in Newcastle during the early 1960s is based on a true one, in which Kempton Bunton (Broadbent) hides the stolen Goya portrait of the Duke of Wellington, holding it hostage until rights for free TV licences are granted for the elderly.
The film opens with Kempton in the dock, making the whole court laugh before taking us back to see the full story. It’s a quintessential British comedy, funny and full of character, but with a hint of a largely unspoken family tragedy underlying the antics of Kempton and his youngest son. Broadbent and Mirren are perfectly cast as the old married couple, she in denial, he pouring everything into soapbox politics and social causes – a classic underdog. I really enjoyed the film.
Sadly the film’s release was held back by Covid, during which time director Roger Michell died – there’s a brilliant Guardian article about the film and Michell here.
Big Screen on the Little Screen
- The King’s Man (Disney+): Overlong, but had its moments. Ralph Fiennes was excellent, and there was good support from Rhys Ifans as Rasputin in a wonderful fight scene, Gemma Arterton and Djimon Hounsou as Fiennes’ sidekicks, but the whole side plot of Fiennes’ character’s son wanting to join up against his father’s pacifist wishes was dull.
- West Side Story (Disney+): Spielberg’s remake is mostly wonderful. Like the original, I couldn’t totally believe in Tony and Maria (Ansel Elgort and Rachel Zegler), but Ariana DeBose as Anita and MIke Faist as Riff were superb. And it was lovely to see Rita Moreno playing Tony’s elderly boss. The cinematography is just superb and the way the songs blend into the background noises of the city made it a pleasure to watch.
- Encanto (Disney+): Very enjoyable with catchy songs.
- The Lighthouse (Netflix): Gosh – this tale inspired by an unfinished Poe short story is sooooo claustrophobic. Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson as the Draconian lighthousekeeper and his assistant respectively are both brilliant. The almost square format concentrates the view we see on the two men who circle round each other in the awful weather, get tormented by the gulls, have visions of mermaids etc. The horror is never-ending!
- Deep Water (Prime): Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas are Vic and Melinda in this ‘erotic thriller’ based on a Patricia Highsmith story. A loveless marriage held together by Vic letting Melinda take lovers – but then he starts killing them off. Having Adrian Lyne at the helm after 20 filmless years reminds us how good Fatal Attraction was back in the day. Their kid steals the show though as both the leads are so unlikeable and one-dimensional!
I’m still loving my weekly new episodes of Station Eleven (Starzplay/Prime), Snowpiercer (Netflix), The Apprentice (BBC1), rejoined by the creaky but lovable second series of Picard (Prime) – Q is back – Whoop! Whoop!
The first two episodes of the final series of Killing Eve were pants, but the third picked up – and of course we have to see how it ends, don’t we?
There are two standout series among the other dross / drama by numbers series (e.g. Our House) though…
Firstly, The Ipcress File (ITV). They’ve taken the character of Harry Palmer, keeping the iconic glasses for Joe Cole, and the bare bones of Deighton’s original novel fleshing it out into a six part mini series and giving Palmer a real back story. Incidentally, Deighton never names him in the novel. Tom Hollander has fun playing Major Dalby, Harry’s boss, and Lucy Boynton is Jean, a posh Lady Penelope like agent (I wondered whether Charlotte Bingham, daughter of a real baron, who worked for MI5 was an inspiration for her). Cole is rather young for the part, but he has an Artful Dodger air to him and I’m loving it so far.
Secondly, I binged on both series of Counterpart (Starzplay/Prime) which has an West vs East Berlin meets The City and the City vibe. A parallel world was created in the late 1980s by an East German scientist – there is an access point between the two underneath Berlin – and agents from both sides regularly ‘interface’. Everyone has a double on the other side, and normally they don’t meet each other – but the spooks do – and of course there are incursions into each other’s world
Howard Silk, played by JK Simmons, is a gentle office worker for the UN whose wife (Olivia Williams) is comatose in hospital after an accident. Howard gets caught up in intrigue when his more active double comes over and he gets sent back to his double’s side – where his wife is still very much alive.
Complex, layered and twisty – I loved it. Although the second series ended with an appropriate cliffhanger ending, it appears the show got cancelled after the two series which is a shame.
What else should I be watching that’s new / now streaming?