Tag Archives: Ben Whishaw

A VERY ENGLISH SCANDAL – BBC TV REVIEW

A VERY ENGLISH SCANDAL – BBC TV REVIEW

Directed by: Stephen Frears

Written by: Russell T Davies – Based on A Very English Scandal by John Preston

Starring: Hugh Grant, Ben Whishaw, Monica Dolan, Alex Jennings, Blake Harrison, Eve Myles, Patricia Hodge etc.

Composer(s): Murray Gold

Production Company: BBC

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**MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS**

I’ve never been a fan of politicians. They are a necessary evil. Perhaps I shouldn’t blight a whole raft of people who may, in their hearts, believe they are trying to do well for their country.  But, I just cannot help feeling there is something not quite right with someone who wants to be in control or lead or rule. I’m of the view that power does corrupt the individual and even though they may begin with great altruistic tendencies they will, ultimately, be poisoned by the job. Or worse than that they have sociopathic tendencies and the prestige of being voted in will feed their greed and lust for control. How does one explain the amount of wars and conflicts there are? Humanity is greatly flawed and the leaders of the so-called free world are more flawed than most.

But, what alternative is there to the capitalist system we have?  Running a country and leading millions of various people must be tough; and difficult decisions must be made everyday. Many have tried the commune lifestyle and socialism has also led, in the Soviet Union and China for example, and, to dictatorial regimes replete with fear, repression and murder. Not that the West hasn’t had its fair share of Dictators and sociopathic leaders. General Franco in Spain is one such fascistic leader and our own Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher,  hiding within the illusion of democracy, crushed Union leaders, working class lives and whole industrial communities. As such, crooked and nefarious politicians are often a staple of film and television shows. A case in point is the BBC’s recent adaptation of John Preston’s book, A Very English Scandal.

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This strange true life tale focussed on the Liberal party leader Jeremy Thorpe and his relationship with a troubled young man called Norman Scott. What first starts off as an illicit but touching love story soon becomes a desperate, twisted and darkly amusing black comedy of insane proportions.  First off, Thorpe and Scott are portrayed with absolute brilliance by Hugh Grant and Ben Whishaw. Both sterling film actors they bring gravitas, sparkling chemistry and humour to their respective roles; while Alex Jennings, Adrian Scarborough, Eve Myles and Patricia Hodge also excel in supporting roles. Furthermore, acclaimed director Stephen Frears ties the strands of Russell T. Davies brilliant script, expertly switching between comedy and heightened drama, without losing tonal control.

Set against the backdrop of English Parliament and the United Kingdom’s homophobic laws which outlawed gay sex, Jeremy Thorpe, is presented as an honourable man at first. He champions workers’ rights and lambasts the policy of Apartheid in the House of Commons. He has to hide his homosexuality though due to the oppressive legal system and the fact that, as a politician in the public eye, this would seriously harm his ambition to become Prime Minister. When he meets Ben Whishaw’s highly strung stable lad he immediately falls for him and they begin a secret affair. The relationship goes wrong and Thorpe moves on to become the leader of his political party, but an ever increasingly unstable Scott, just won’t go away. That’s when things begin to go awry for Thorpe. Scott won’t take a pay-off and Thorpe won’t give him the National Insurance Card, Scott hilariously demands.

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So, like Henry II demanding, “Someone rid me of this meddlesome priest”, he allegedly, as per the script, takes a more sinister route. I won’t spoil it but the events which are presented are both funny and shocking and have to be witnessed to be believed. The privileged Jeremy Thorpe, garners some empathy due to having to hide his sexuality, however, his subsequent decisions to shut Scott down, as presented in this fascinating tale, are shown to be the actions of a spoilt, desperate and sad man wielding power over someone less fortunate. They say absolute power corrupts absolutely but as shown in A Very English Scandal it also leads to incredible poor decisions by individuals from the ruling classes. Indeed, the main reason I dislike and distrust politicians in general is they can and should afford to be better behaved and more compassionate than those they lead.

(Mark: 9.5 out of 11)

 

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SCREENWASH: FILM REVIEW ROUND UP FOR MARCH 2015 BY PAUL LAIGHT

SCREENWASH:  MARCH 2015 BY PAUL LAIGHT

**MASSIVE SPOILERS**

I was pretty ill with flu for half-of-March and then lost both my voice and get-up-and-go too, thus, only went to the cinema once during the month.

However, while recovering in my sick hole I caught up with quite a few films via streaming and on Blu-Ray/DVD.  So, here’s a round-up review of movies I watched during the month of March.

 

CITY ON FIRE (1987) – DVD

Ringo Lam’s hard-boiled crime thriller was a massive influence on Tarantino’s low-budget classic Reservoir Dogs (1992).  It’s shot in a raw Lumet/Friedkin style with the streets of Hong Kong filled with blood, bullets and breakneck speed car chases. Great thriller which made a star of a young Chow-Yun Fat.

 

FURY (2014) – BLU-RAY

This film rocked!  It was rip-roaring action with the blood, the guts and the gory!  Brad Pitt plays the Tank Commander with his loyal crew including Shia Labeouf, John Bernthal and new recruit Logan Lerman.  It’s close to the end but there are pockets of German resistance while their Tank grinds its way toward Berlin. The theme of “war is hell” isn’t exactly new but it is tremendously illustrated during the brutal battles.   I enjoyed the claustrophobic nature of the tank, earth-shaking manouevres and testosteronic highs plus there is some subtle characterisation and a moving mid-point scene where we see the softer side of Pitt’s war beast. Overall it’s an exciting melee of explosions and death and pays fine tribute to the noble savagery of the men who laid down their lives to win the war.

GET HARD (2015) – CINEMA

Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart’s silly comedy uses broad stereotypes to land its very puerile humour. It’s politically incorrect and sends up all manner of: black, white, Hispanic, gay, female, religious, upper, lower and middle classes and cultures.  The double team of Ferrell and Hart works well as they play a soon-to-be imprisoned banker and his prison “trainer” readying him for a stretch in jail.  The humour is unsophisticated but it made me laugh throughout in a series of silly scenes and set-pieces, plus there’s mild satirical content amidst the smut. Highlight is Will Ferrell as an urban gangster; should’ve been much more of that!

HERCULES (2014) – NETFLIX

This not-as-bad-as-you-think swords and sandals epic has some pretty awesome fight scenes but it’s mainly for die-hard fans of the Duwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Plus, there’s a very decent set of character actors earning some dough including:  John Hurt, Peter Mullan, Rufus Sewell and Ian “Lovejoy” McShane.  There’s some stuff about the “making of legends” in the script as the story eschews fantastical monsters in favour of muscular 300esque fight scenes. More blood would’ve made it even better though.

 

JERSEY BOYS – (2014) – BLU-RAY

This biopic of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons is another decent poke at what has come to be known as the “jukebox” musical subgenre.  Based on the effervescent stage play it’s a decent, yet undemanding–felt-like-a-TV-movie-Sunday-matinee-nostalgia-watch.  Of course, the songs are grand but the direction was a tad functional and the groups’ difficulties with the mob, financial issues and family losses are touched upon yet not dramatically satisfying. I liked the direct address narration but it’s only during the end credits where the film cuts loose with an imagination and pizazz that much of the film lacks.

LA CABINA (1972) – YOUTUBE

This is one of the best short films I have ever seen.  It is Spanish and is very simple in concept and delivery but very powerful in symbolism and potential meaning. Basically, a Spanish man becomes trapped in a red Telephone Box and cannot escape.  After a slapstick beginning which results in a huge crowd witnessing his plight, the film takes a grim twist in tone and becomes very dark by the chilling denouement. What does is all mean?  Well, like great art it is open to interpretation as it contains surreal, existential and political themes. In my opinion it means all and everything and the horror will remain with anyone who sees it.

 

LUCY (2014) – BLU-RAY

Director Luc Besson is quoted as saying:  “…I intended the first part of Lucy to be like Léon, the second part to be like Inception and the third part to be like 2001: A Space Odyssey.”   I would say he succeeded with the first part but completely failed with the 2nd and 3rd parts. It’s a shame the kick-ass action was wrapped in a load of sci-fi babble because I really enjoyed many of the bone-crunching fight scenes. Scarlett Johansson was awesome as usual despite the story making NO SENSE at all logically and it didn’t even work as conceptual sci- fi for me. 

PERFUME: STORY OF A MURDERER (2006) – DVD

I read the wonderful novel and saw this at the cinema years ago so this was the first time I had seen it since. Ben Whishaw plays a strange man, abandoned as a baby in the stinking slums of Paris, who grows up to be one of the great perfume-makers but is also a murderer.  In pursuit of the perfect scent Jean-Baptiste Grenouille can only find what he wants during the killing of beautiful young girls. It’s an odd story but has a wonderful poetry and rhythm to it as we at first empathise but then exhale at the horror of Grenouille’s actions. John Hurts narrates a peculiar but haunting story which also features fine turns from Dustin Hoffman and Alan Rickman.

 

TRANSCENDENCE (2014) – BLU-RAY

This film about Artificial Intelligence promised so much and had a terrific cast including: Paul Bettany, Morgan Freeman, Johnny Depp and the always grand Rachel Hall.  For an hour it really seemed like a great bit of science fiction as scientist Will Caster dies but is brought back to life by means of computerisation of his mind and soul.  With his brainbox uploaded to the web like a crazy sentient FrankensteinMonster.com he begins what appears to be a nefarious plan to take over the world.  However, the narrative quickly falls apart and I felt like I was trying to put together a jigsaw with many pieces missing and bits that just don’t fit.  It looks and sounds amazing but I was so bemused by the end I just did not care!

TRIANGLE (2009) – BLU-RAY

This is an absolute cracker of a Sisyphean-time-loop-paradox-movie.  Melissa George portrays a single mother hoping to escape it all with a yacht trip with her wealthier friends.  However, things don’t quite go according to plan following a massive storm knocks the group way off course.  I’m not going to give anything away but this film gripped me throughout with a complex criss-cross narrative which confounds and delights in equal turns. While its clever-clever plot tightens the film also creeps you out with a series of violent events and startling images.  Melissa George carries this film like Atlas did the world, and I really hope writer/director Christopher Smith gets more work as he and his star deserve much bigger films based on this existentially loopy horror film.

WALKING DEAD – SEASON 5 (EPISODES 9 – 16)

The Walking Dead Season 5 finale was less crash, bang, gore than the previous seasons’ end but there were some wonderful episodes filled with great suspense and tension.  The group led by Rick Grimes eventually come to a place called Alexandria which kind of has a hippie commune feel to it.  There paranoia sets in as the post-trauma of previous losses haunts Rick, Carol, Abraham and Sasha.  We lose a couple of stalwart characters on the way but the series introduces new people at Alexandria and that’s where suspicions and doubt begins.  It’s a softer, moral and more emotional denouement although there is some fantastic zombie executions too! I particularly enjoyed the doubt the writers created as to whether Rick and Carol were going totally over to the dark side. Great drama!

WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES (2014) – BLU RAY

This covers much of the same ground as The Equalizer (2014) starring Denzel Washington, with a lone wolf operative fighting his demons overcoming big city villains in a most violent way.  Once again Liam Neeson flexes his recent-tough-guy-status muscles wiping out bad guys with a gruff voice, mean stare, tough attitude, big fists and guns; but mainly guns.  Working outside the law he hunts down the perpetrators of a series of shocking murders before their next victim comes to a similarly grisly end.  Denzel’s film just shades it for brutal violence and style and has a better baddie but Walk Among The Tombstones is a decent stab at an evening’s bit of DVD entertainment.

 

WHEN THE LIGHTS GO OUT (2012) – SKY MOVIES

This low-budget horror film set in Britain is actually well-made and surprisingly quite scary, as a Yorkshire family are terrorised by a nasty spectre from t’other side.  Based on the “Maynard Haunting” from the 1970s it’s well acted and directed by Pat Holden.  I enjoyed the sly build up of terror as the nefarious poltergeist targets the youngest member of the family, Sally.  It’s got some decent scares and a nifty little twist at the end.

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