DVD Review: Nativity

“As if Hollywood would come to Coventry”

For whatever reason, I hadn’t ever gotten round to watching festive film Nativity since its release in 2009 but its broadcast on BBC1 meant I finally got the opportunity to be thoroughly won over by its lo-fi festive spirit. Written by Debbie Isitt but also partially improvised by the cast, it nails that typical (successful) Brit-flick style with all its deprecatory charm and underdog spirit, along with an unexpectedly effective original musical score.

Nativity centres on an inter-school rivalry in Coventry, where private primary school Oakmoor consistently produce the best-received nativity show. This year, the headteacher of St Bernadette’s has something to say about that and so puts curmudgeonly Christmas-hater Paul Maddens (Martin Freeman) in charge of their show, aware that his old drama school friend and rival Gordon Shakespeare (Jason Watkins) is the one succeeding at Oakmoor, Continue reading “DVD Review: Nativity”

DVD Review: Paddington (2014)

“I’m going to stuff you, bear”

A rather unexpectedly lovely surprise from the end of last year whose key message of acceptance of foreigners feels ever more pertinent in the current circumstances. Paul King’s Paddington, based on Michael Bond’s classic creation, has that warm feel of a classic family film, full of set-pieces and humour and a deal of minor peril, but none so much as to really make you scared. Instead, there’s a glowing happiness that almost (sadly) feels as old-fashioned as a marmalade sandwich.

As if you didn’t know, Paddington comes from darkest Peru and a wittily filmed black and white prologue shows us how a British geographer called Montgomery Clyde befriended his family in the jungle, eventually leaving with a promise of a place to stay should they ever visit London. When circumstances conspire to leave Paddington alone on a railway platform in W2, he’s taken in by the Brown family and capers ensue. Continue reading “DVD Review: Paddington (2014)”

DVD Review: Before I Go To Sleep

“You have problems remembering things”

I do like a psycho-thriller and Rowan Joffé’s adaptation of SJ Watson’s novel Before I Go To Sleep from 2014 offers up a good example of the genre (with a great poster campaign too), if a little formulaic by the end. Nicole Kidman’s Christine wakes up every morning not knowing who or where she is. The man next to her (an excellently confounding Colin Firth) says he is her husband Ben and explains that she had an accident ten years ago which left her brain-damaged and unable to remember things beyond the day she recalls them. 

Consultant neurologist Dr Nasch (the inscrutable Mark Strong) is helping her though, providing her with a video camera to record her thoughts and mark any progress, with him calling her every morning to remind her to watch the video, and piece by piece, she begins to uncover the truth not just about what happened to her in the past but also what is happening in the future. Joffé does well at showing the claustrophobia of Christine’s existence, unable to really discern between help and hindrance in those who say they are protecting her, and a real sense of menace is present throughout. Continue reading “DVD Review: Before I Go To Sleep”

TV Review: The Vote, Donmar Warehouse via All4

“This after all has been a very careful election” 

A fascinating experiment from James Graham and Josie Rourke, The Vote was a “play for theatre and television” which after two weeks of performances at the Donmar Warehouse – for which you had to enter a ballot for tickets – aired live on More4 at the very moment that it was set, the night of the UK general election. I wasn’t one of the lucky few in the ballot and am rarely inclined to dayseat (though I know several people who managed it) so I’ve only just got around to catching up with it on All4 (formerly 4OD) where it is on for another couple of weeks.

I’m glad I did get to see it as it is very funny and pulled together an extraordinary cast, the vast majority of whom spend mere moments onstage. Graham’s play focuses on the trials and tribulations of a South London polling station in the 90 minutes before voting closes and though there’s a farcical plot that holds the play together in the larger sense, the real joy comes in the microstories of the various voters who come in to exercise their democratic right as best they see fit. Drunks losing their polling cards, giddy lesbians brandishing selfie sticks, teenagers asking Siri who to vote for, all amusing slices of life are represented by a stellar cast who seem to be having just as much as the audience. Continue reading “TV Review: The Vote, Donmar Warehouse via All4”

Review: Birthday, Royal Court

“It’s not the same for a man…”

It is a rare treat these days to be able to go into a show not knowing a huge amount about it and so it was with Birthday, just opening for previews now at the Royal Court. The reveal of the central premise was a great surprise and to be honest, if you don’t know it yet and are going to see it soon (although I imagine once it opens it will become impossible to avoid) I’d recommend leaving yourself unspoiled (and then of course coming back to read this later, hehe.)

Set in a modern-day maternity hospital, Ed and Lisa are having their second child, but in this world there are considerably more options open to them and given the difficult circumstances surrounding the birth of Charlie, they have opted for one of these. Thus playwright Joe Penhall takes us on a 90 minute journey through a somewhat alternative view of childbirth, and how men and women deal with it differently, to sometimes comic and sometimes perplexing effect.  Continue reading “Review: Birthday, Royal Court”