Review: Paddington 2 (2017)

I succumb easily to the charms of Paddington 2 and Hugh Grant having the time of his life

“Exit bear, pursued by an actor”

In a year when sequels have outperformed expectations (at least mine anyway), I should have heeded the signs that Paddington 2 heralded back last winter that sequels were ‘in’. Paul King’s follow-up to his 2014 warm-hearted original, reintroducing us to our ursine Peruvian hero, occupies a similar space of resolutely British family films that are a cut above. 

Written by King and Simon Farnaby, the film is unafraid to take its audience seriously and for every adorably sweet sequence, there’s genuine peril and even darkness in there too. Hugh Grant is the main antagonist, an actor called Phoenix Buchanan who has been reduced to making dog-food adverts and his ne’er-d-well ways see Paddington framed for a crime he did not commit. Continue reading “Review: Paddington 2 (2017)”

Countdown to new Who: Doctor Who Series 8

“You are the chief executive officer of the human race”

It was quite interesting to rewatch Series 8 of Doctor Who, one which I hadn’t revisited at all since it originally aired, as my memories thereof were not at all positive. And whilst disappointments remained – Robin Hood, 2D cartoons, the treeees! – there was also much to enjoy that I’d forgotten about. The smash-and-grab of Time Heist, the simplicity of ghost story Listen, and the ominous darkness of the finale.

I’m still in two minds about Peter Capaldi’s Twelve though, I want to like him so much more than I do, and I think you do get the sense of him feeling his way into his irascible take on the role. Jenna Coleman’s Clara benefits from being released from the yoke of impossibility to move to the forefront of several episodes and if she’s still a little hard to warm to, that finale really is superbly done. And then there’s Michelle Gomez, stealing the whole damn thing magnificently! Continue reading “Countdown to new Who: Doctor Who Series 8”

DVD Review: Birthday Girl

“Are you a giraffe?”

Birthday Girl is a rather odd little thing, a 2001 film from Jez Butterworth (he of Jerusalem) that seemed to slip under the radar somewhat. It’s not brilliant but by the same token it isn’t terrible either and plenty worse films have made bigger waves. Ben Chaplin’s John is hapless in St Albans (is there anything else you can be there? ;-)), having no luck in love and so resorting to getting himself a Russian mail-order bride called Nadia. She turns up in the form of Nicole Kidman, who else, and though she can’t speak a word of English, she indulges his S&M fantasies and so job’s, it would seem, a good’un.

But it’s no happily ever after, Nadia’s two rough cousins soon turn up on the doorstep (played by Frenchmen Vincent Cassel and Mathieu Kassovitz, assumedly because the Russians were out on the day they were casting?) and John’s job as a bank clerk turns out to be rather important. Their unpredictable violence pulls John deep into a morass of deception and criminality but after the mid-film twists take place, the movie runs out of energy and trundles towards a rather uninspired ending that no amount of random Brit cameos (Ben Miller, Reece Shearsmith) can rescue. Continue reading “DVD Review: Birthday Girl”

DVD Review: 4321

“You took my shopping and then you took my virginity”

Oh lordy, I have no idea what Noel Clarke is like as a person but on this evidence he is in desperate need of someone to tell him ‘no son, no’. Having shown promise with his earlier work, 4.3.2.1. sees Clarke moving onto what he sees as the next level , it just so happens that it is the next level down rather than up. A brash would-be comedy thriller that dreams so dreadfully of transatlantic success and yet comes off as exploitative try-hard, depressingly manipulative and a laughable vanity project.

Even at its base, it is a disappointment. The structure of the film follows four young friends as they deal with a particularly hectic time involving some gangsters and a bag of conflict diamonds they’ve nicked. Clarke retells the story from each woman’s point of view, a tried and tested device, but one which is wasted here – the narratives are kept essentially separate with no sophisticated intersection or interplay in the storytelling that would actually justify the format. Continue reading “DVD Review: 4321”

Review: The Duck House, Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

“Remember when we used to trust politicians”

Although outrageous and audacious in its scope, the expenses scandal that rocked the Houses of Parliament in 2009 was also rich in comic detail as the minutiae of what our elected officials deemed acceptable to claim was revealed in the pages of the Daily Telegraph. And it is this that writers Dan Patterson and Colin Swash (with Mock the Week and Have I Got News For You among their credits) have picked up on in their new comedy The Duck House

Set in May of that year with the Labour Party in disarray, backbencher Robert Houston decides to defect to the Tories in order to maintain the lifestyle he and his family have become used to. But with just one more interview with Tory grandee Sir Norman Cavendish to get through, the expenses scandal breaks and the Houstons set about trying to minimise the damage to their prospects. The depth of their financial fiddling means that this is no easy task though and results in farcical shenanigans that affect them all.  Continue reading “Review: The Duck House, Yvonne Arnaud Theatre”

Review: The Ladykillers, Gielgud

“You have a very curious and charming house”

After having been surprisingly seduced by Noises Off into properly liking a farce for the first time, my hopes for The Ladykillers were raised. I have to admit to never having seen an Ealing comedy in my life and so didn’t have any clue what I was about to see, other than that it was going some kind of madcap comedic evening. The story has been adapted for the stage by Graham Linehan – he of Father Ted and The IT Crowd – and I am reliably informed that far from being a faithful representation of the original film, it is a brand new take on the plot which follows its own route.

Set in Mrs Wilberforce’s house in King’s Cross, the play takes place over a few days late in 1956 as she lets her spare room to the kindly-seeming Professor Marcus, leader of a string quintet who need the rehearsal space. She is blissfully unaware that he’s actually the head honcho of a gang of criminals who are using the prime location as the base for their next big train heist, but things don’t go quite according to plan to amusing (albeit intermittently for me) effect. Continue reading “Review: The Ladykillers, Gielgud”