So here is the full list of articles I wrote for the 2015 BFI Flare London LGBT Film Festival, please do click the link to check out my review of feature films ‘Futuro Beach’, ‘The Falling’ and ‘I Am Michael’, as well as two interviews – one with actress Florence Pugh about her role in ‘The Falling’, and one with Colin Rothbart, director of ‘Dressed as a Girl’ – and finally my coverage of the massively ground breaking cinematic gay rights event, ‘5 Films 4 Freedom’, in which I review the selection of five shorts chosen to be screened globally for free during the festival. ‘Morning is Broken’ in particular deserves a look as it is not only, in my opinion, the best of the selection, but also features my lovely fiancé, actor Nigel Allen. Anyway! Click to read everything I’ve been up to:
I’ve been a bit quiet on here recently due to being busy with the BFI Flare Festival 🙂 After it finishes on the 29th March I will be reviewing the latest TV series and lots more on here, but for now please check out Front Row Reviews to read the reviews I’ve written on films at Flare so far:
I Am Michael
There’s nothing like the thrill of your first freebie! Over the weekend I had the pleasure of receiving, watching and reviewing The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part One on behalf of Front Row Reviews. This Monday 16th March 2015 it was released in the Uk on DVD, Blu-ray and Steelbook. Check out my review!
Fans of British comedy gems ‘Him and Her’ and ‘Green Wing’: sit up and pay attention. It’s Russell Tovey and Julian Rhind-Tutt, and they are doing ruggedly serious – and seriously rugged – really rather well. Gone are the gentle quips and droll calamities displayed by both actors in their respective feel-good sitcoms, to be replaced by something raw, savage, desperate and hungry.
It’s 1788, and The First Fleet has deposited its cluster of frightened prisoners onto the impossibly majestic shores of Australia, where they labour under the alien heat and severe gaze of British soldiers. This is about survival and humanity; a pre-civilised world in which Faustian pacts are made to escape execution and rape is used as blackmail currency. There are other familiar faces too, of course, from Game of Thrones, Downton, Episodes and more – it’s an eclectic cast that hurls themselves into the fray of the penal colony with raucous abandon, and we can’t help but be instantly absorbed. Historically accurate it may not be (what on earth have all these dashingly heroic working-class men and sweetly moral working-class women been convicted for, anyway?), but as Jimmy McGovern himself emphasises of his creation: ‘it is fiction. It is entertainment.’ And entertaining it very much is, right through to the ecstatic lows and highs of the first episode’s concluding moments: we can turn a blind eye to the ‘goodies’ being a bunch of thieving crooks, and concentrate on despising the red-coated aristocratic ‘baddies’. In a world where lying with your sweetheart is punishable by death, the language of right and wrong is entirely distorted anyway.
So BBC1 has Cornwall. BBC2 has New South Wales. Let’s see whether it will be Poldark or Banished who will triumph in the Eighteenth Century coastal gallop of a race to this spring’s TV limelight.
Maybe it’s the presence of Julia McKenzie, but The Casual Vacancy feels very Miss Marple, only with a deflated air of its own failure to be an edgy version. I love Mckenzie; and Gambon, Kinnear and JK Rowling, and I wanted to love this; but I just didn’t. Adapted from Rowling’s venture into adult literature, the story takes place in a rural west-country village where parish council meetings get heated and bicycle wheels get bent out of malice. One character gets slightly weird premonitions of death (In these genre-confused, Halloweenish moments, we could be watching Hot Fuzz) and then, well, dies. Meanwhile a piously clichéd storyline unfolds on the neighbouring council estate, complete with references to drug-taking and a neglected toddler being raised by its teenage sister: a somewhat patronising, golly-gosh examination of class division. Sadly, The Casual Vacancy gives us little to care about, lacking the vigour and atmosphere expected of the thriller it’s trying to be but also refusing to embrace the twee identity it sways more towards.
Perhaps, in the same way Harry Potter isn’t done justice by its schmaltzy film counterpart, The Casual Vacancy is better as a book. I’m a loyal Rowling-ite, so I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt – but I won’t bother tuning in to BBC1 next week.
Last Sunday, 4.4 million people aged between 18 and 49 sat down, loaded with expectancy, to watch the first episode of Better Call Saul – an all-time record in cable history. The pressure was on for creative legends Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould; and it’s no wonder, because Breaking Bad is one of the best shows in TV history. The big question on everybody’s lips is, will the seven-years-earlier prequel pale by comparison, or carve its own identity? And can Saul Goodman, or rather, Jimmy McGill, captivate the screen in his own right in the absence of Bryan Cranston’s enthralling brilliance? Well, mere minutes in, things are looking pretty promising.
There is a definite whiff of film noir about the slick, assured black and white opening sequence, in which Bob Odenkirk’s Jimmy is apron-clad and working behind a Cinnabon counter. A 30’s Rhythm and Blues soundtrack from The Ink Spots is set jauntily to the inky shadowing; a snappy montage of the mass production of cinnamon buns bears a gleefully canny resemblance to Breaking Bad’s iconic montages of Crystal Meth production. And the further we plunge into the full swing of the episode, the more we become reunited with delightfully familiar strains of tongue-in-cheek stylisation. Playful camera positioning is in abundance, dialogue is smart and entertaining and Odenkirk commands the courtroom and bathroom alike with gusto, gravelly-voiced charm and a dash of pitifulness. One or two known characters pop up with a flourish. It’s like returning home.
Despite the pleasing familiarity however, there is still a brand-new slant on the sweaty-collared lawyer as we know him. Early in the episode it is established that this is an entirely different ball game, as we take a brief visit to present-day and Jimmy is granted the stillness and gravitas of a sustained moment alone in his home. In the same way we scrutinised and became intimately acquainted with the wretched Walter White as he pondered his thoughts for un-scored, tension-filled moments at a time, Gilligan and Gould boldly offer us a new specimen. Ballsy jokes momentarily stripped from him, Odenkirk’s normally cartoonish character gets a chance to be taken seriously – it’s a bit like seeing backstage photographs of a surly, depressed comedian’s true self in between acts. It’s intriguing in its own right, and from thereon out we continue unhesitatingly into the thick of this new adventure. And just like that, the creators have skilfully signed us up. More, please.
There has been a buzz surrounding Wolf Hall. Ever since the hype of the RSC’s stage adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies last year, audiences have been brimming with anticipation for how the BBC will deliver their version of the historically-based fiction. It’s the big event of British TV: actors I know have lusted after a chance to audition for it, mega screen buffs have been poised like birds of prey to ravish this high-production-value series, and everyone else is looking forward to a juicy new period drama that hosts a string of prestigious leads. Let’s face it, from Shakespeare to Game of Thrones, from Robin Hood to The White Queen, everyone loves a good costume drama. Corsets, bloodshed and tremulous ye-olde dialogue set against stirring music and beautiful candle-lit stone chambers are what sets this nation’s hearts a-racing. And Peter Kosminsky’s little gem does just that – although The Tudors it very definitely ain’t. Rich and intricate, this is a series that you really do have to commit all your academic, clear-headed attention to, and you kind of also need to have a knowledge of British history circa the 1520’s. If you don’t, a little background reading wouldn’t go amiss to maximise your enjoyment. That said, for the amount of detail poured into the first episode alone, the narrative is skilfully woven, the pace is excellent and despite the leaps back and forth within a decade – blink and you’ll miss the crucial captions explaining which moment in time you are in – it is surprisingly clear and well-driven. The cast does not disappoint: Claire Foy’s Anne Boleyn is a cruel English rose whom you are compelled to keep watching; Damian Lewis’s Henry VIII, only arriving on the scene just before the end, is both unnervingly cool and alarmingly dashing; Jonathan Pryce’s Cardinal Wolsey is beady-eyed and warmly wry. But the real star of the show is Mark Rylance’s Thomas Cromwell himself. There is something incredibly mesmerising about his performance; a huge energy behind the calm, unwavering intensity of his deep brown eyes. As a lead he is both downtrodden and edgy: an underdog with a lot of bite. And the spine-tingling understatement with which he announces some tragic news in one particular scene is downright genius. All in all, this is a series you will be drawn to continue following, but Rylance seals the deal.