TV Review: The Tunnel

The Tunnel TV review

From the makers of Broadchurch comes The Tunnel a smart, stylish and thoroughly European take on the murder mystery. When a body is discovered in the service tunnels of the Channel Tunnel a Anglo-French investigation begins into to the person later dubbed the “Truth Terrorist” or the “Terroriste Vérité” depending on which side of the channel we are on. This cleverly constructed crime thriller effortlessly spans the 21-mile stretch of water with subtitled passages running smoothly alongside the English-speaking scenes.

Elise (Clémence Poésy) and Karl (Stephen Dillane), the French and English officers on the case, are thrown together in difficult circumstances and have an uneasy relationship, but predictably his wise cracking English personality somewhat melts her icy, almost sociopathic, front to build an unlikely friendship. So far so predictable, but this slow moving drama builds cleverly with each episode always leaving you wanting just a little more information. The controlled pace allows mysteries to build and unfurl over several episodes rather than granting the quick gratification and neat endings we often expect from a police drama.

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With star turns from the likes of Keeley Hawes and Joseph Mawle it is needless to say that the level of acting talent is very high, however sometimes the dialogue can be a little clunky. This is a shame as is distracts from the fairly sophisticated plot, but the intriguing nature of the “Truth Terrorist” and the slow coming together of disparate plotlines is enough to keep you watching over the 10, 45-minute episodes.

Read more at: TQS Magazine 

DVD released: 13th January.

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TV Review: Sherlock, The Sign of Three

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The second episode of Sherlock focused more on comedy and the building of characters and character relationships than any episode thus far. Based around the wedding of Watson and Mary, the show has chosen to shake up its format slightly; rather than the linear storyline that we usually enjoy The Sign of Three is formatted around a series of flashbacks to previous cases all presented by Sherlock during his best man speech. While it is admirable that Stephen Thompson has the courage to try something new with a TV show that has such militant fans, he unfortunately fell a little short this week.

Somehow the flashback sequences weren’t strong enough to carry an audiences attention in the same way the usual story-arc can; the use of multiple short stories is definitely strong in the history of Conan-Doyle’s detective but these stories just didn’t come together in a clever enough way to countenance such a radical change in formula.

While the format was clunky there were some stand out sequences, particularly the stag night. Sherlock . . . on a stag night – it’s better than you could ever imagine. What starts out as a night driven by a mathematically worked out alcohol intake ends with Sherlock and Watson drunkenly out on the case of a ghostly boyfriend. Cumberbatch and Freeman are hilariously accurate as a drunken duo, their bleary eyed concentration matched only by the brilliant composition of the shots with half the screen often out of focus, fading in and out in line with the duos drunkenness.

Despite his self proclaimed “high functioning sociopath” status Sherlock rises to the challenge of being best man admirably: YouTubing napkin designs, arranging seating plans and interviewing (and intimidating) ex boyfriends. All of which is done which the usual Sherlock awkward brilliance.
The Sign of Three is one of the funniest episodes of Sherlock so far, so it’s a shame that the dramatic elements fell so flat with a frankly weak murder plot made even weaker by the fact that 40% of the people I watched it with got it way before Sherlock!

Mary Marston, however, really came into her own in this episode, Abbington’s flawless (and unsurprising) chemistry with real-life partner Freeman made the episode for me – perhaps overtaken by Mary’s effortless manipulation of both Sherlock and Watson, always in their best interests of course! Her easy charm and unflappable nature make her a more that welcome addition to the team.

Though episode two was more patchy than usual, a strong comic stream runs through the whole episode and the style of the whole piece is as innovation and intriguing as ever but the flashback formula just didn’t gel. While the seemingly inconsequential anecdotes Sherlock throws out in his best man speech do come together to form a bigger picture, the writer has perhaps not been clever enough neglecting to lay the breadcrumbs for the audience to follow. While the bigger, more obvious murder plot is playing on the audiences mind the less interesting ones fall away leaving the big reveal with a feeling of unwelcome familiarity – none of the information is entirely new. The whole episode was very much like having a McDonalds meal – thoroughly enjoyable while eating but twinged with a sense of disappointment after you’ve finished. While the episode was very entertaining, the unraveled murder plot left more than a few questions unanswered when looking back.

SHERLOCK IS BACK!!!

Ok so before my review proper I need to have a little fan girl moment to say “Arghhhhhhhhhhhh Sherlock is back!!!!” . . . OK overexcited moment over on to the professional bit.

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**Spoilers**

Sherlock’s back in with a bang in the first episode of this the third and much awaited series of the BBC drama. Everything we once loved about the great detective has returned to our screens, seemingly empowered by his 2 year break Sherlock bursts into our living rooms in a whirlwind of fan theories and swishing overcoats. Embracing the MANY theories as to how Sherlock survived his “Reichenbach” fall “The Empty Hearse” tantalizes audiences by dramatizing a diverse cross section of the theories from the plausible to the more outlandish, fan-fiction inspired but never really revealing the truth about his fall.

This device of drawing the audience into a theory before trashing it is used through out the episode and never gets old, each time the audience willing it to be the big reveal. Writer Stephen Moffat cleverly avoids disappointing anyone by letting the fans dictate what might have happened; he has said in many an interview that the fan theories are far more elaborate and interesting than the truth – so why not embrace that creativity!

The writers of “The Empty Hearse” have us wait a full 10 minutes to see that face, but when we do that little smile of his is enough to wipe away the last 2 years of waiting, wondering and theorizing.

Of course Sherlock is not only returning to us but to John Watson, having grown a grief moustache and moved on with his life Watson is not as pleased as Sherlock would have had him at his triumphant return. In a nice slapstick routine Sherlock dressed as a waiter reveals himself to John only to have John not recognize him. This is followed by a brilliant sequence in which Sherlock is attacked by John in multiple restaurants of descending quality; each of which they are thrown out of before ending up in the street, Sherlock with a broken nose.

Having decided to return to his previous position as Sherlock’s medical consultant/sidekick Watson returns to Baker Street only to be thrown in at the deep end as he is kidnapped and placed in a burning bonfire. Based around Bonfire Night, “The Empty Hearse” features an attack on Parliament and a lot of explosives. 5th November, now known as Bonfire Night is the night in 1605 when Guy Fawkes, a Catholic member of the Gunpowder Plot, placed explosives under parliament in an attempt to kill the Protestant King James I. To celebrate the capture of the terrorists people lit bonfires around London, and so people around Britain still light bonfires and set of fireworks on 5th November. The more sinister use of the bonfire as a live funerary pyre is sure to scar some kids at next year’s celebrations!

The quickly unraveling plot is full of the brilliant stylistic markers we have come to expect from the previous 2 series, the sharp editing, use of overlapping images and above all the fantastic transitionally pieces. The plot is fast paced and moves between emotion, pathos and action effortlessly, a brilliant return for the famous detective.

The 2-year wait has more than paid off; the plot, characters and music all seem like old friends that have been given a new lease of life. The franchise seems reanimated and refocused, and even though the whole thing will be over again in 17 days it’s sure to be a rollercoaster ride of a series with many a new mystery to obsess over.

Film Review: The Counsellor

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Welcome to a world of philosopher gangsters, gun slinging drug runners and conniving femme fatales, a world that could only have been created by the pen of Cormac McCarthy (No Country For Old Men) Warning: misogynistic themes throughout.

The Counsellor, McCarthy’s first purpose built screenplay, unfortunately falls slightly flat despite its A-list cast. Given the calibre of the on-screen talent he secured, with the likes of Michael Fassbender, Cameron Diaz, Javier Bardem, Brad Pitt and Penelope Cruz gracing the screen, it is unsurprising that The Cousellor is singularly well acted. Fassbender is particularly effective as the eponymous Counsellor, who inexplicably involves himself in a drug deal that subsequently goes very badly wrong for everyone involved. However given the attention paid to presentation, the plot seems a little … unfinished.

The motivation for the Counsellor’s involvement in this shady underworld is never adequately explained, while he appears to know some dodgy people fairly well, the explanation of “greed” that is rather weakly pushed forward once the shit has well and truly hit the fan doesn’t really do much to satisfy. Given this fairly large plot hole it is difficult to feel any real connection to the man who story drags us into this world of murder and betrayal.

With Ridley Scott behind the camera The Counsellor does capture the beauty and the violence of the world we inhabit for 2 hours. A particularly brilliant scene sees a cheetah running down a hare in the New Mexico desert, the barren yellow landscape almost doubling for the savannah. Scott deals with the violence of McCarthy script very well with much implied and left to the imagination; the shoot-outs are kept to a minimum giving them much more impact.

Predictably McCarthy’s talent for writing misogynistic gangsters is used almost to the point of stupidity. There are more monologues about sex and “women”, said in the most despairing way, than there is actual plot. The only effect is to give the film a jarring rhythm that lurches from philosophical monologue to misogynistic monologue and back again.

Despite the A-list cast and director, and what should have been an A-list screenwriter, The Counsellor while not lacking in emotion, loses any connection with the audience through its superficial treatment of the plot and grating monologues.

In UK cinemas now.

Film Review: The Fifth Estate dir. Bill Condon

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The Fifth Estate is a film of contrasts; the contrast between the controversial topic and the A-list cast; the contrast between Julian Assange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Daniel Berg (Daniel Brühl), between Wikileaks’ intention and the eventual reaction and consequences, but most importantly between traditional print media and online sources of information – the Fourth, and eponymous, Fifth Estate.

Almost manic in its delivery of information The Fifth Estate captures the hectic and sometimes chaotic atmosphere that appears to have surrounded Julian Assange and Wikileaks. The constant movement from country to country only emphasises the global impact of the organisation and of the story the film is trying to tell.

Based on a book published by The Guardian in 2011, The Fifth Estate attempts to bring the “unvarnished truth” to light, a task in which Assange believes they have failed. His categoric dismissal of the film is addressed in a particularly self-aware section at the very end of the film where Cumberbatch is shown, in close up as Assange, rejecting the validity of any “Wikileaks film”.

Cumberbatch’s brilliant character study is the key to the films success, while Brühl’s depiction of Daniel Berg is by far the more emotionally engaging performance; Cumberbatch’s Assange has the kind of manic intelligence, with a hint of instability that makes him captivating to watch. The subtle decline of his character from cool collected freedom fighter to reckless egotist is seamless and beautifully controlled.

Read the full review here

In Cinemas Now.

TV Review: Hello Ladies, The Dinner

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Oh the cringe worthy comedy of this weeks Hello Ladies is pure gold. The sitcom staple, the dinner party, is used to it full horrifying potential as Stuart and Jessica attempt to impress at a society dinner party in the LA hills. Populated with “taste makers and ground breakers” this looks like the worst, most awkward dinner party anyone has been too … ever!
Each going with their own agenda, Stuart to try and hook up with a model (again) and Jessica to not be outdone by her ‘friend’ (again), the sheer social awkwardness of the couple is manipulated brilliantly on a rollercoaster ride of near misses and totally disasters.

With Stuart swinging from childhood bullying stories to outrageous gay jokes, the audience is kept in suspense just wondering when, not if, this whole thing will come crashing around their ears. Jessica’s hidden talent emerges in this episode – a penchant for tap dancing. Competing to impress the editor of the rising talent section of Vanity Fair, Jessica’s friend gives a rousing rendition of “Somewhere” from West Side Story, to counter Jessica reveals a talent for tap, giving a surprisingly long and athletic performance, which leaves the assembled guests somewhat bemused.

Read the full review here

TV Review: Atlantis, A Twist Of Fate

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Episode four of the BBC’s Atlantis continues with the young series’s adventure, comedy and little bits of mystery. Not a bad but undeniably simple, Atlantisis not going to be winning awards for scripts any time soon. However, the harmless family fun continues.

This week our trio finds an abandoned baby in the woods. After some jostling as to who would look after it, Hercules comes to save the day. With a few of the obligatory jokes that always occur when men are looking after babies–who farted? Oh wait it’s the baby, etc., etc.–we settle into a hunt for the baby’s mother.

A bit of contemporary archaeological reconstruction leads them to a broken pot, which when constructed was a little pig rattle for the baby – this means the mother was obviously coerced into leaving the baby, right? A slight leap, but let’s face it, with 45 minutes to play with we can allow the writers some professional license.

 Read the full review here