Succession Series 1 and 2. Review.


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And here they are.  All of the pigs in one big poke.

Stupidly I missed Season 1.  For some reason I didn’t zone in on its qualities on first airing and let it go by me.  But the early rave reviews in the national press for Season 2 made me reconsider it and I started again, binging the 20 episodes over the last month or so.

And what a treat it was.

Jesse Armstrong (the show runner) was previously responsible for Peep Show, The Thick of it and even, back in the day, contributed to the excellent Smack The Pony.  He wrote the hilarious Four Lions too.

What this means is that although Succession is essentially a drama it is, in fact, a full blown comic feast with one liners ricocheting across the screen with siege-like ferocity and quantity.

Chief gag thrower is the astounding Keiran Culkin, the weasel-faced runt of the Roy Litter who you’d never tire of punishing, but whose acerbic put downs are guaranteed to split your sides ten times an episode.  he takes particular fun in tormenting the, also excellent, Jeremy Strong who plays his inept, drug-consuming brother Kendall with doe-eyed misery as his privileged life gradually falls into greater and greater disrepair.  He’s a car crash of a human being.

The other comic character who never ceases to amuse with his rhinoceros-skin dimness is Matthew Macfadyen as Tom, the dipstick husband of the power hungry Shiv (daughter of the patriarch from hell Logan Roy – Brian Cox in his greatest ever role).

A good sport in this show is to decide which of these feckless fecks you hate the most.  For not a single one of them has any redeeming features.

That said, my wife had a soft spot for the manslaughterer Kendall and I could at least tolerate the inept (but surprisingly devious) Greig – the limpid cousin.  But that’s it, the rest are as hideous human beings as you could make up.

Or are they made up?

The reality is that this is just a great big mash up of the Trumps, Weinsteins and the Murdochs.

Everything in this cesspit is about power and success.  They are consumed with the need, as a media conglomerate, to acquire more and more businesses and with manslaughter and sexual misconduct (and subsequent cover-ups) thrown into the mix the result is a mosh pit of vanity and greed.

Supporting roles of note go to Helen Hunter who is delicious as the two timing competitor CEO who briefly joins the company.  And the outstanding Peter Freidman as Francis and Jean Smith-Cameron as Gerri – Roy’s Nick and Margaret.

The milf- (or gilf-) like attraction that Gerri has for Roman makes for some of the show’s highlights with truly hysterical moments aplenty.

But at its core, and the bedrock of all that is truly awful in the human race, is the commanding presence of bastard-in-chief, Brian Cox, as the patriarchal Logan who surely has never been gifted a role as meaty as this.  Despite over 200 roles on TV and cinema only once has Cox been recognised at the big ones, a lone nominee in the Golden Globes nearly 20 years ago.  This is surely about to change.  His presence is so all consuming that this has the look of certainty about it.

It’s utterly compelling TV with a cinematic quality and a soundtrack to rival the best that Hollywood has to0 offer.  And, oh, that theme music.  My tune of the year, bar none.

Enjoy!

 

Joker: Movie review


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“A gritty character study of Arthur Fleck, a man disregarded by society” is IMDB’s excellent byline description of this deep exploration of disintegrating (disintegrated?) mental health.

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It’s described as taking place in the ‘Scorseseverse’ by some critics, in that Phoenix’s performance as Arthur Fleck appears to be an homage to many of Scorsese’s monumental 70’s characters.  And what’s more, De Niro has a supporting role that shows he still can deliver the goods when not just taking a part for the money.

So I’ve already used the M word and in this Academy Award winning performance (of that there is no doubt) Joaquim Phoenix’s monumental performance will put the Academy back on track after their laughable decision to recognise Rami Malek for impersonating Freddie Mercury last year.

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I detest impersonation movies on the whole, but this is no impersonation, this is a character crafted out of magic.  It’s not a superhero movie in the slightest and all the better for it. It’s simply a character study of great depth and extreme nuance.

One thing I loved about this intense study of a disintegrating man is the extreme close ups that shows Phoenix in all his imperfections, his upper lip, his wonky teeth, his chewed finger nails, his nicotine stained fingers (possibly make-up).  It’s glorious.

It is unquestionably a masterpiece, not just for Phoenix’s performance, but for every SINGLE aspect of cinema:  music (White Room by Cream blasts out of the screen in the final apocalyptic act to tremendous effect – but it’s outstanding throughout), make-up (stunning), costume (stunning), cinematography (stunning – the dance on the steps and the aerial train track shot particularly blew me away), design (epic) and direction (Todd Phillips follows up his epic production, but not direction, of A Star Is Born remarkably It’s interesting looking at Todd Phillips’ Filmography though – a real mixed bag with much of it centred on comedy – The Hangover in particular.)

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But you don’t need me to tell you  how good this movie is – you don’t get a 9.1 rating on IMDB without reason.

See it and bathe in its mastery.

Bohemian Rhapsody. Movie Review.


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Where to start on how parlous this movie is?

I’ll be brief.

Let’s begin at the end.  In this day and age the recreation of Live Aid – that had many people drooling was, to me, like an early episode of Crossroads, all shoogly sets and appalling cutaways.

Do you really expect me to believe that the ‘entourage’ was gasping in the wings of the real Wembley?

Do you really expect me to believe that Rami Malek was performing in front of THAT crowd?

Now, let’s consider Rami Malek.

Are you seriously asking me to salute you (the Academy) for awarding best actor to him in front of, for one, Bradley Cooper?  I’ve seen every single best actor winner since 1994 and each and every one of them put in a better performance.

Wearing prosthetic teeth does not the great actor make.

The film is a pathetic wash over of a tragic life turned into a Hollywood fairytale.

It is utter garbage. With good tunes.

2 stars

 

The Lehman Trilogy by The National Theatre, directed by Sam Mendes


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Thank you NT Live.

I’m not in London so this was never going to make it onto my ticket list and after 45 productions in the Edinburgh Festivals and Fringe last month neither my wallet nor my body could have managed a trip to the big smoke.

So it was a great and lovely surprise when I saw this show pop up as an encore screening at my local Vue Cinema in Edinburgh.  (By the time I took my seat it was sold out.)

NT Live has pro’s and cons.

On the plus side, it gets so close into the action that you can see in extreme close up the power of performance, in this case exceptionally so, by three astounding actors; Simon Russell Beale, Ben Miles and Adam Godley.

The downside of that is it does have the effect of transposing the experience to cinema rather than theatre and, on this occasion, the negative side of that is that many of Es Devlin and Luke Hall’s simply majestic set (and set pieces) were slightly lost.  I’d like to have seen them as they designed them, in panorama.

At times the monochromatic combination of wardrobe, lighting, set and video makes for some of the most stunning tableaux you will ever see in a theatre.

I’m surprised this show won no Olivier’s (particularly when you see how many the distinctly average Come From Away walked off with) but that is not to diminish this monumental theatrical achievement by Sam Mendes.

Over the course of three and a half hours we see 150 years of the Lehman Brothers’ (and hence industrialised America’s) history presented by the three brothers, their heirs and a supporting cast of dozens of minor characters, all played, largely in third person narrative, by the three actors – apart from their principal roles they cover everything from screaming infants, to coquettish muses to an ageing Rabbi.  It’s remarkable.

The evolving set, whilst intriguing is, at times a little intrusive and this becomes irritating but at other times it’s a work of genius.

The piano music is described as the fourth character and that is so true, played as if in a silent movie throughout, almost completely underscoring the play, by Candida Caldicot.

This is a tour-de-force.  A remarkable production and a must see.  Despite the flaws it comes highly recommended from me.

 

Once Upon a Time in Holywood. The Ninth (I think it’s ten when you include Death Proof) Film by Quentin Tarantino: My observations.


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To describe any Tarantino film as less than excellent would be, in my opinion, sacrilege.  So let’s cut to the chase here.  This is excellent.

The question is…how excellent? And how ‘acceptable’.

And that’s where deconstructing Once Upon a Time in Hollywood becomes tricky.

It’s most similar in its narrative structure, I’d say, to Pulp Fiction, probably his flawed masterpiece, in that it doesn’t really have one.  I mean there‘s kind of a story, a long one, but I don’t think that’s what he set out to do here.

He set out to capture the fragility of two fading performers; one a star actor (DiCaprio) and one a star stunt man (Brad Pitt).

That the movie’s triumph lies in the hands of Pitt rather than DiCaprio is interesting.  Probably DiCaprio has more screen time, but Pitt has more presence.  And Pitt is coping better with his fall from grace.

It’s almost a portmanteau (I know my friends say I’m a pretentious twat for using that word) but it is a THING.  Usually a portmanteau is a loosely linked collection of short films under a kind of director’s curation.

Here, though, I think it is a sort of continuous dream sequence, of beautiful but uneventful linking scenes, between big ‘pieces’  – the portmanteaus – it’s like walking through an art gallery enjoying a painter’s studies before BOOM, here’s the big canvas.

Tarantino creates 8 or 9 stunning canvases. One of the most affecting, for me, being the beautiful and funny scene DiCaprio shares with 8 year old Julia Butters as his method acting co star in a last chance Hollywood western.

To say the one scene of violence is a career high would be to both underestimate it and potentially spoil the movie so I won’t disclose where, when or how it happens, like the best of Tarantino it is unexpected and both viscerally shocking and hilarious.

One of my female companions only had eyes for the stunningly handsome Brad Pitt (there’s quite a diet Coke moment about an hour in – and I have ordered the Champion Spark Plugs T Shirt)  and I thought he stole the show (see above), but let’s not gloss over DiCaprio.  He’s great. But the devil has the best tunes.

Margot Robbie is no more than a muse, and wasted.  He does that a lot – does Quentin – a weakness.  Uma Thurman, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Pam Grier have bucked the trend, but it’s rare to leave a Tarantino screening with the actresses front of mind.

Is he a masoginist?  No, I don’t think so, but close, but it’s the guys that get the greater spoils in the master’s work.

The other question the film undoubtedly raises though is…is he racist?  Uncomfortable, yes, but I felt pretty creeped out by the Bruce Lee scene where Karate and eastern fighting arts are pretty much laughed off the screen in the Bruce Lee fight scene.  I didn’t find it acceptable actually.

The music has been hailed as a masterpiece, but for me it’s one of his weaker selections.  Trying to cram too much in.

The styling, though, is exquisite, as is the cinematography.

Overall I’d rank it as in the upper half, just, of his repertoire.  But what do you think?

I’d go.

  • Kill Bill Part 1
  • Pulp Fiction
  • Jackie Brown
  • The Hateful Eight
  • Once Upon a time in Hollywood
  • Django Django
  • Death Proof 
  • Reservoir Dogs
  • Inglorious Basterds
  • Kill Bill Part 2