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Very intriguing and nicely done, but something is missing, 7 February 2016

This reviewer loves a vast majority of Charles Dickens' work, loving his ability to create rich complex characters, an unparallelled attention to detail to the extent it feels like you're there in the story and while long and sometimes sprawling his stories are so multi-layered and compelling. So seeing a film based on his life and this particular aspect of Dickens' life was immediately appealing.

While The Invisible Woman won't (and clearly judging from some of the reviews here, and their criticisms are understandable it isn't) be for all tastes, and while it has flaws and it feels like there is something missing it was to me a good film with many merits, which have been acknowledged by those who didn't like it. Getting the criticisms out of the way, I do agree about the film having some abrupt narrative shifts that gives it a jumpy feel, it's never incoherent, just that it was a little difficult sometimes to keep up with what were the early scenes and what were the later ones. And also that the film drags in places, not helped by some instances of excessively slow or jerky editing/shots or scenes that go on for too long. This is particularly true with the scene where Dickens and Nelly get intimate which was overlong and was really not needed, that is of course my opinion. The Invisible Woman is always intriguing, whether you are familiar of the story or not, and deals with the subject with plenty of intelligence and surprising subtlety but another criticism is that parts could have done with more detail and depth, and they are correct because there are some potentially interesting moments that are introduced but not explored enough.

Conversely, The Invisible Woman has many merits, one of which was the acting. Dickens himself is marvellously played by the ever compelling Ralph Fiennes, never feeling like a one-dimensional caricature and he never plays him annoyingly or overwroughtly. Instead while Nelly is clearly the more complex character here this is one expertly portrayal where Dickens is hugely popular but his life is not properly fulfilled due to being married to a woman who does not understand his work. Fiennes also does a confident directing job, though he is absolutely much more comfortable as an actor, which brings out every nuance without being too self- indulgent. As aforementioned, Nelly is the more complex character and it is intricately and affectingly played by Felicity Jones, there is nothing robotic or unemotional at all about her very nuanced approach to 'The Invisible Woman' of the title, and the subtlety in Dickens' and Nelly's relationship was much appreciated. Kristin Scott Thomas is also moving in the most empathetic character in the film, Tom Hollander is very good and surprisingly versatile as Wilkie Collins and one does feel sympathy but also frustration towards Joanna Scanlan's Catherine.

Another strong asset was the way The Invisible Woman looks. The period detail is exemplary and remarkably evocative of what living conditions, relationships in families and class differences were like in the Victorian era. It is beautifully shot and makes great use of locations (the scenery is gorgeous) and settings in all their glory. There is a little music here but it is used sparingly, that did work well, if there was constant music, that can be intrusive in films and TV series, the intimacy, nuance and subtlety of the storytelling may not have come through as effectively. So that is a criticism I respectfully disagree with. Abi Morgan's screenplay is underdeveloped in its ideas at times, but is on the whole very intelligently written and the idea to frame the story around the illicit consequences and the history of Nelly's later life with keeping the liason that changed her life a secret coming increasingly strained proved effective in a dramatic sense. The lives of women in the Victorian era (which was very restricted) and interdependence between Dickens and Nelly was similarly brought to life in a well-observed fashion. Narratively it is also not perfect, but it was compelling and anybody who doesn't know an awful lot about this area will be fascinated and want to know more about it.

Overall, a good film that doesn't always succeed albeit with a lot of things that are done brilliantly. 7/10 Bethany Cox

A bit of a letdown after the Met's Il Trovatore, but still an interesting if not entirely successful production with a magical performance from Yoncheva, 4 February 2016

Otello is one of Verdi's best operas, containing one of his most concise stories and some of his best music (such as the Storm, Esultate, the end of Act 1 duet, Iago's Credo and Desdemona's Ave Maria and Willow Song).

There are some fine productions of Otello, and while this 2015 production falls rather short of being among the best of them its best components are pretty magnificent. It is a letdown after the Met's powerful Il Trovatore that kicked off the 10th season, which this viewer was not expecting seeing as I much prefer Otello as an opera. It is a case of being near-perfect musically, with only one noticeable sore spot, but considering the intensity of the story the production could and should have been much more dramatically. I even found myself preferring the 2012 production, and that had imperfections too, namely Johan Botha's inconsistent Otello.

If there was one highlight, it was the performance of Sonya Yoncheva as a truly magical Desdemona and the only really outstanding principal of the night. Vocally, she is just sublime and phrases and shapes her voice with such intelligent musicianship (like making any repeated words or phrases varied each time, for example the word Salce in the Willow Song), managing the technical difficulties of the Act 1 duet brilliantly. The best acting of the evening also came from her, she is poignant and nuanced in Ave Maria, Willow Song and the Act 1 duet, but shows plenty of steel and proud nobility in Act 3, understanding better than most Desdemonas that she is not just a victim. Another high point was Yannick Nézet-Séguin's conducting. He provides one of the most sympathetically yet authoritatively conducted Otellos heard in recent memory, the most powerful moments like the opening Storm Scene show no vulgarity whatsoever and are genuinely intense while the more delicate parts such as Ave Maria and the Willow Song are exactly that, delicate.

Dimitri Pittas is a youthful and quite charming Cassio, with a nice ringing tone, managing the awkward timing of the Act 3 trio quite well, while Jennifer Johnson Cano is dutiful and touching as Emilia, Chad Shelton is solid as Rodreigo if not really a standout and Günther Groissböck's effortlessly authoritative Ludovico makes one wonder why he isn't doing any more bigger roles. The more restrained quality that Željko Lučić brings to Iago- one of opera's meanest villains along with Scarpia from Tosca- was much appreciated, and while he has been better in better directed productions he sings mellifluously and resonantly with some great expression and with some of the most striking musicianship of the production. He does show some involvement with the drama, is chillingly arresting in the Drinking Song, in the moment where he slaps Emilia and in his twisted mind games with Otello (doing much with little). Against all this, Iago is at his most evil in the Credo and for me Lučić, despite being a gifted actor, having a certain command and singing it incredibly well, was not quite sinister enough, there is not enough of the lizard-like quality that baritones like Gobbi, Milnes and even Capuccilli show in the stretches where Iago doesn't sing. It's a good performance, just not a great one.

Visually, the production is really striking, the sets look fantastic and the scene changes are remarkably slick, the costumes while updated are suitably distinguished with Desdemona and Iago being particularly well suited and the projected images are stunningly effective and atmospheric, not being distracting whatsoever. The lighting though is a touch too dark in the Storm Scene, the scene should be dark but not to the extent that figuring out who's who being rendered difficult. The chorus sing magnificently and sound and look so well rehearsed, though while there is no questioning their dramatic commitment they have shown more individuality before.

Aleksandrs Antonenko is frustratingly inconsistent as Otello, one of the most notoriously taxing roles in the whole tenor repertoire. He has the power, the squillo, the right sound and some ring with a thrilling Esultate, but a few parts sound strained, his whole singing lacks nuance and needed smoother phrasing and more colour. As an actor, and this is partly Bartlett Sher's fault and also that Antonenko is not the most natural of actors, he spends almost the entire time looking awkward and bewildered, even looking stiff in the Act 1 duet (where the romantic chemistry between him and Yoncheva is barely there), his only vivid acting being in his Act 3 solo scene and occasionally in the climactic Act 3 ensemble. Sher has been responsible for some great productions with some compelling directing and interesting characterisation, but while the direction is never continually dull and is never incoherent (it is always easy to follow), there is a lack of overall drama and suspense (the climactic Act 3 ensemble being an exception) with nothing new other than the bold move of not having blackface, static movement across the stage (even Si Pel Ciel doesn't send up a storm) and too much blocking.

In conclusion, doesn't completely succeed but it is interesting and is worth seeing for Yoncheva and the conducting. 6/10 Bethany Cox

Worth seeing for the Indestructo Ball gag alone, 4 February 2016

There were major missteps later on in the series. On the other hand, Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote is on the most part most engaging, and the best of the series showed Looney Tunes at the top of their game.

While not quite among the best of the series, there are more inventive entries in the series and slightly more tighter-paced, it does contain some of the greatest individual scenes and gags of all Roadrunner and Wile E Coyote cartoons combined and it is one of Chuck Jones better cartoons of the series. The animation is great, it's smooth, vibrant with nice detailed backgrounds if not among the most meticulous of the series, and both Roadrunner and Wile are drawn well. Milt Franklyn seldom disappoints and it doesn't here, while not quite as characterful and action-enhancing as the music of Carl Stalling it still does those things well and is cleverly and beautifully orchestrated. Loved the use of pre-existing music too, such as Mendelssohn's Spring Song.

As said in the previous paragraph, Wild About Hurry is enormously entertaining. The Indestructo Steel ball gag is among the funniest of the entire Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote series, and the climactic sequence is one of the best and cleverest of all of their cartoons too. A gag that also went over my head as a child are the Latin names of the Roadrunner and Wile, which once you get them are very funny indeed. It is however consistent in the humour stakes, and it is never dull.

Roadrunner is amusing and never annoying, but Wile has always been the funnier and more interesting of the two (even in their weaker entries), and he is hilarious, a great job is done with his cunning facial expressions yet it is easy to feel sympathy for him.

Overall, great Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote cartoon if just missing out on masterpiece status. 9/10 Bethany Cox

Lovely underrated Disney short, 4 February 2016

Can't believe how long it took this long to see Susie the Little Blue Coupe, especially considering being a huge lifelong Disney fan. Didn't even know about it, until coming across it quite by accident reliving some childhood favourites on Youtube.

Now this viewer wishes they came across it sooner, for it is a lovely Disney short that is deserving of more exposure. As always, as with the Disney cartoons of the 50s and before, the animation is wonderful and perhaps the component that makes Susie the Little Blue Coupe. It is so colourful, so fluid, so detailed, so smooth and Susie is nicely designed and a visually appealing character. Another great asset is the music score, which is lively and characterful as well as beautifully orchestrated, especially the title theme. It is easy to mistake it for the music of Oliver Wallace, though Wallace's music tends to enhance the action just a little more.

Sterling Holloway narrates with just the right amount of restraint and he is also entertaining to listen to. Thankfully he is not overused or distracting, and he is certainly not overly didactic. Stan Freberg's contribution is even more important with the voicing of multiple characters and sound effects and shamefully he isn't credited in the title credits. Susie the Little Coupe has a very poignant story, where it is easy to feel sympathy for Susie (mainly because it is heart-breaking to see her suffer as much as she does. That said, it does amuse as well, really enjoyed the inside joke with reference to Bill Peet with the Peet's Ice truck that Susie drives behind. And it also inspires in its portrayal of real life, showing that you can stay strong no matter how bad the circumstances are. The story is expertly paced and Susie is immediately identifiable as a character, her suffering portrayed very affectingly.

Overall, a lovely and underrated Disney gem. 10/10 Bethany Cox

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
A more than worthy successor to Inspector Morse and stands very well on its own two feet, 24 January 2016

Hearing about Lewis for the first time when it first started, there was a big touch of excitement seeing as Inspector Morse was and still is one of my favourites but also a little intrepidation, wondering whether the series would be as good.

The good news is, like the prequel series Endeavour, Lewis is every bit as good as Inspector Morse and stands very well on its own two feet as a detective mystery and show in general. There is not much to criticise actually, it's a show that started with a lot of promise, got better and better for a while with each season but a few of the episodes the last couple of seasons for my tastes have veered on the bizarre and too convoluted (not helped by the poor decision in the last three seasons to have one story spread over two weeks, where one was most likely to have forgotten what had happened previously and who was who, especially the case with Down Among the Fearful). This said, even the weakest episodes have much more watchability than those of New Tricks and Midsomer Murders, mostly a fan of both but both got tired after changing so much in later seasons. There is certainly plenty to love however.

As to be expected, the production values are of very high quality. All the episodes are beautifully shot, and Oxford not only looks exquisite but is like a supporting character in itself. Barrington Pheloung returns as composer, and does a first-rate job. The theme tune, while not as iconic or quite as clever as Morse's, is very pleasant to listen to, each episode is charmingly and hauntingly scored and the use of classical music is very well-incorporated in every episode (have not quite been able to feel the same way about the finale to the Firebird the same way again), whether it's a character listening to it, a kind of motif or some kind of musical clue.

Lewis is very smartly and intelligently written, with lovely droll exchanges between Lewis and Hathaway, some nice humour, surprising amounts of emotional impact and a real effort to properly develop all the ideas introduced rather than leaving questions in the balance. Really appreciated all the references to Morse too. The story lines a vast majority of the time are most compelling, are never dull, are very suspenseful and have plenty of twists and turns that not only does one not see coming but effort is taken to explain it all. Life Born of Fire, Falling Darkness, Dead of Winter and Beyond Good and Evil are particularly good in this regard. The characters are well written and engaging, who can't help love the dynamic between Lewis and Hathaway (the former being the world weary one with the hunches and the latter the more logical and witty), and that between Lewis and Hobson has a lovely warmth too.

The acting is on the most part terrific, apart from an at times annoying Angela Griffin and some distractingly bad accents on occasion (i.e. Zoe Boyle's in Point of Vanishing). Kevin Whately and Lawrence Fox are superb leads, with Whately being advantaged by Lewis being a more rounded and developed character here, Rebecca Front makes for a commanding superior and Clare Holman is reliably strong too. Many of the guest supporting turns have been very strong too.

Overall, a great series and a worthy successor to a personal favourite. 9/10 Bethany Cox

Providing that it is not taken too seriously, A Royal Night Out is enjoyable enough fluff, 24 January 2016

Was not sure at first about seeing A Royal Night Out, despite having some talented people involved it did seem like it will have slightly tired concept too stretched out. Seeing it with Mum and Dad, this viewer is glad that she gave it a chance, for it is an enjoyable film once you accept that it does play loose with the truth and is almost like a 'what if?' (yes suspension of disbelief is needed here).

There is an awful lot good with A Royal Night Out. The period detail is not just evocative but it looks splendid too, the costumes are so beautifully tailored, the hair and make-up handsomely rendered and the sets and scenery so meticulous that it does feel like one is there in London just after World War II. The film is beautifully shot too. The soundtrack also captures the period brilliantly too, some great period favourites lovingly arranged and it's nicely scored too. On the most part, A Royal Night Out is very nicely scripted, with some poignant drama (like the king preparing and giving the speech) and great lightweight humour with the lion's share of the best lines coming from Margaret.

A Royal Night Out's story moves along at a good pace and is on the most part interesting and entertaining, there is great fun to be had in Margaret's oblivious association with criminals (again once you don't take things seriously and take it as meaning to be totally accurate) and throughout there is a quite believable (if occasionally a little too quaint in the middle act) sense of time and place. It is solidly directed, and very well played by a more than game cast, headed by the very charming and sensitive Sarah Gadon and the scene-stealing Bel Powley.

Jack Reynor is dashing and sympathetic, sharing a lovely rapport with Gadon, while Rupert Everett brings a touching vulnerability that is both surprising and delightful and Emily Watson is firm but compassionate as the Queen Mother. Roger Allam is also fun to spot, but sadly with little screen time.

For all its worthwhile things, A Royal Night Out's script occasionally feels a tad patronising and some of the humour a little awkward. The story does entertain for what it is, but by the last act it does start to feel rather stretched with the pacing getting a bit draggy and the storytelling on the thin side.

Overall, however, entertaining and nicely done film if taken for what it is. 7/10 Bethany Cox

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Outstanding production and a powerful start to the 10th season, 24 January 2016

ll Trovatore, as has been said many times before, does have a convoluted story, and is occasionally over the top dramatically, but it is memorable for the character of the gypsy Azucena and for containing one of Verdi's most melodically rich score. Even when the stories are not always great Verdi's music nearly always delivers.

Kicking off the 10th season of the Metropolitan Opera HD Live series, this is an outstanding production. It is even better than the powerful 2012 production (also directed by David McVicar and starring Dmitri Hvorostovsky and Dolora Zajick, except with Marcelo Alvarez and Sondra Radvanovsky as Manrico and Leonora), mainly because the leads are better here, and is by far the best of the three productions that Anna Netrebko has starred in. Due to that the Berlin and La Scala productions were disappointments, having staging that was either bizarre, clumsy or dull, uneven singing and unappealing visuals. This performance however is a winner dramatically, is strong musically across the board and creates a lot of atmosphere visually.

On a visual level, the production is highly atmospheric. A dark atmosphere is created which suits the story perfectly without being too darkly lit and the attention to detail is meticulous, never cluttered but never sparse either. The costumes are attractive and suit the characters and their motivations well, especially those for distinguished Di Luna and vengeful Azucena, while the make-up and wigs are appropriate and never look over the top or weird. As ever, the high definition seeing the production in the cinema is of very high quality, with resonant sound, camera work that is unobtrusive and narrative-enhancing and crystal clear picture quality. Susan Graham is an engaging host, and while the interviews for the Met simulcasts are not always as interesting as they could be they were here and entertaining too, loved Zajick's story about the bottle in the restaurant (can't blame anybody for still finding it hard to sum up the opera's story).

McVivar's stage direction is nothing short of splendid. He has always been an interesting director, though with the odd strange choice, and his Met Trovatore is to me some of his best. Here, and in the 2012 production, he manages to make the drama clear and succinct. Character motivations not as overly-melodramatic as they could have been, the scenes between Leonora, Manrico and DiLuna are pitched just about right here. He puts a lot into the character interactions and how to make conversation-like scenes nowhere near as static as they could be, a highlight being the psychological intensity between Manrico and Azucena in particularly Act 2. And the characters feel more dimensional than they usually feel, Azucena always was one of the most interesting mezzo roles in a Verdi opera, but surprisingly Manrico has more to him than just being a hero and DiLuna is more a conflicted character than just being a 'villain'.

Again, the Met pull out the stops again when it comes to the musical values. The orchestra have the pathos for Ah Si Ben Mio, the Miserere and D'Amor Sull'Alli Rosee, Di Quella Pira and Anvil Chorus are heroic and joyful and Stride Le Vampa and the end of Act 1 have intensity. The chorus are not just great singers but great musicians, over the years their personalities have become more individual and that can be seen here. Marco Armiliato's conducting is energetic yet elegant while also stylistically alert and filled with the right amount of pathos. The principal performances are hard to find fault with, Stefan Kocan is a sonorous and authoritative Ferrando, making one really want to listen to the dark tale he tells at the beginning of the opera. Ines is touching and dutiful, and Raul Melo's Ruiz is very strong.

The Leonora of Netrebko was the best thing about the Berlin and La Scala performances, and her Leonora is one of the highlights of this production as well. Vocally, it is a role that suits her beautifully, her voice sounding so rich, easy and darkly creamy, the musicality and phrasing are supple, energetic and emotion-filled (just listen to those high-note pianissimos in D'Amor Sull'Alli Rosee, which are incredibly hard to do especially with some of the phrases being as long as they are) and it is clear from her stage presence that she knows every word and what she is singing about. Zajick, who has sung Azucena since 1988, and is perhaps the best in the role of the past twenty five years or so, enthrals once again. Her voice is still firm and penetrating and sounds great for 63 and dramatically she's riveting, astonishingly vivid when describing her mother's death.

Hvorostovsky is also in a role that's been familiar to him for a number of years. He is still gripping, and he showed enormous courage singing while battling a serious illness- a brain tumour- (having performed on stage hours after suffering an epileptic seizure, I too know what it's like and how hard it is carrying on despite feeling terrified). Amazingly, his voice didn't sound affected at all, ravishingly warm even in Il Balen with only the end of Act 1 trio showing a little sign of forcing and he brings command, sinister authority and surprising subtlety to a not-so- subtle role, never showing signs of being uncomfortable. Yonghoon Lee is a big improvement over Alvarez in the previous Met production. He has the heroism but also the steel for Manrico, and communicates such volumes just by his eyes and face, and his voice shows itself more than capable for the lyric and spinto passages, being one of not many tenors in recent years to still sound strong after Di Quella Pira (an aria that unsurprisingly taxes many).

In conclusion, an outstanding production, when it comes out on DVD it could be a contender for the best Trovatore available (as much as I do love the 1957, 2012, 1978 and 1988 performances). 10/10 Bethany Cox

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Despite having the talents of Dinah Shore and Arthur Q. Bryan, there is not much to recommend here, 14 January 2016

While not as atrocious as Video Brinquedo's adaptation, which had no redeeming qualities whatsoever, this is still one of the weaker adaptations of Lewis Carroll's timeless story.

The most interesting thing about it, and the best thing, is the use of audio archive footage for the voice work. While the voice actors, which include Dinah Shore as Alice and Arthur Q. Bryan as White Rabbit deserved better, Bryan actually doesn't have a lot to do, the voices themselves are actually good and the audio is pretty well incorporated. The truncated Old Father William song is also pretty good, and Shore sings it beautifully, and it is closer than the Video Brinquedo adaptation (which was virtually uncrecognisable apart from the characters) to the story of the book, at least more of the characters were present, events were recognisable and at least one can tell what's going on.

Unfortunately, there is not much else to recommend here. The worst asset is the animation, which manages to be even worse than the horrendous animation of the Video Brinquedo adaptation, significant enough to bring things down several more notches. Because it was such a visual eyesore it was a real struggle to get to the end, and I never judge something without seeing the whole thing. Colours are flat and garish, backgrounds are sparse in detail, blocky and have no finesse but faring worst is the quite hideous character designs, with characters looking creepily weird (Caterpillar), grotesque (Mock Turtle and the racial stereotype of the Duchess) and stiff in movement and out of proportion (the Mouse). Some, especially the Mock Turtle and Gryphon (Bill the lizard too), suffered from a case of if their names hadn't been mentioned or if one wasn't familiar with the story it would have been impossible to tell what they were meant to be, Alice looks dead in the eyes the entire time and others like March Hare look really odd.

Other than the Old Father William number the rest of the music isn't as memorable or fitting, the writing has more of the recognisable moments but needed more colour, oddball charm and wit and it is spoilt by again incredibly sloppy lip-synching (especially for Alice) and irrelevant and poorly written screen captions (the Mad Hatter's Tea Party, one of the book's highlights, is particularly disappointing here).

Here, the story has the episodic nature and there are more of the basic details, scenes and characters of the book, it is also much easier to understand what's going on than the Video Brinquedo animation, but the spirit and energy of the story is lost because of the whole thing looking and feeling cheap.

All in all, a couple of good things but too much bad, especially the animation. 3/10 Bethany Cox

The only wonder about this Alice in Wonderland adaptation is how it ever got made, 14 January 2016

While this animated adaptation of Alice in Wonderland is not quite the worst that Video Brinquedo has done (it's not quite as awful as Ratatoing, The Little Panda Fighter, The Little Cars and What's Up: Balloon to the Rescue), that's not saying much because none of Video Brinquedo's output is worth watching really and their version of Alice in Wonderland is still awful.

Out of all the numerous Alice in Wonderland adaptations (there are a few mixed bags, but most are pretty good to great), it is by far the worst, not just as an adaptation but as a piece of animation in general.

First and foremost the animation is horrendous, the character designs are very stiffly designed with blocky movements and look creepy and off model (especially what appear to be Tweedledee and Tweedledum) rather than oddball but endearing, there is a constant flat look in terms of the use of colours (Wonderland has never been and looked more lifeless), there are some obvious goofs like hands often being open even when holding objects and the backgrounds are static and have very little detail or fluidity. The whole thing looks as if it was edited in Windows Movie Maker or something like that, except much less professional. The music just doesn't fit, sounding as if it'd be better at home in a very low-budget video game, and too note when there could have been much more of a whimsical touch.

It's also the worst-written Alice in Wonderland adaptation, while this viewer tries to take adaptations of works on their own terms it is hard to when there is practically no Lewis Carroll in feel or sight (apart from the characters the story is almost unrecognisable) and the dialogue is incredibly stilted and childish. Story-wise, it also manages making an episodic but colourful and entertainingly oddball book really uninteresting; there are too many scenes that feel aimless and scenes where it is difficult telling what's going on because of the chaotic structure. The characters are either obnoxious (Alice is very shrill in places), creepy (like Cheshire Cat and especially the overly abrasive Queen of Hearts) or both, there is even a pretty pointless frog character.

Lip-synching is extremely sloppy, and always out of sync with the dialogue and characters' voices. It is also hard to believe that the voice acting is the work of those who've done voice acting apparently numerous times, because it's all over the map and often ear- bleedingly terrible. The Queen of Hearts resorts to overacting in an over- abrasive raspy voice, Alice makes the ears bleed with her shrillness and says her lines often way too fast, Mad Hatter sounds almost too pantomime-dame-ish and Cheshire Cat's voice is too chirpy (it should be more sly and urbane) and he over-compensates.

So all in all, not the worst Video Brinquedo has done but still atrocious. 1/10 Bethany Cox

8 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
Among the best of all the adaptations of Agatha Christie's masterpiece, 4 January 2016

And Then Were None is one of my favourite Agatha Christie books, as well as one of my favourites of all time. The plot is simply ingenious, as well as a contender for Christie's darkest, as is the final solution (left me completely floored on first reading, though it is very difficult to pull off adaptation-wise), there is a suspenseful and ominous atmosphere evoked and the characters are interesting.

This latest adaptation of And Then There Were None is a massive improvement over BBC's previous attempt at adapting Christie (the disappointing Partners in Crime), and of the 7 adaptations it is the third best behind the 1987 Russian(the most faithful) and the 1945 Rene Clair(which had a particularly great cast) versions. Although the 1974 adaptation doesn't have a particularly good reputation- while with major flaws I don't think it's that bad-, the only one that she don't care for is the 1989 version.

While some may find fault with some aspects like the much talked about swearing, gruesome killings and the ending they weren't a problem personally. Some may find the violence and swearing is gratuitous, not me, while the swearing is somewhat anachronistic for Christie it does fit the characters' increasingly fragile states of mind and doesn't feel that out of place within the increasingly dire situation, Aiden Turner's much talked about sex appeal wasn't that much of a distraction either. Speaking of the nature of the killings, a few like Rogers, Blore and to a lesser extent Emily Brent (by far the creepiest murder) were pretty gruesome in method to begin with. Some may also feel the ending too drawn out or rushed (a criticism that is understandable, the ending here doesn't go through a chapter's worth of detail, so it is understandable that people wanted more explanation as to how they were chosen and why the situation happened), while there is a rather drawn out hanging it is incredibly suspenseful, the confrontation between Vera and the murderer is chilling, helped by that the murderer has never been more calm or cold in any other adaptation of this story and that Vera is at her most reprehensible (from memory it is the only adaptation to show that), a good thing as it is implied in the book that she is the most reprehensible of them all. Kudos to the writers for, while not being completely faithful, having a more faithful ending (which would have been difficult as the book's ending works brilliantly as a literary device but poses problems cinematically) than the alternate ending that half the adaptations of the book adopted.

In fact, my only complaints were that some of the crimes of the victims (McArthur's, Rogers and Blore's, whose crimes were so blatant that it was amazing that in the adaptation they didn't cause any suspicion) did go against why the murderer did kill, killing those who may not have been directly responsible for the deaths but were just as culpable, and I really did miss the build up to the death of Emily Brent, that part was one of the most nightmare-inducing of the book and would have been really effective if included.

Other than these criticisms, this adaptation of And Then There Were None was great. It is a fantastic-looking adaptation, with stylish filming and locations and lighting that looked both beautiful and effectively claustrophobic, with the house quite rightly like a character in itself. The music is suitably ominous without being overbearing, and the script has plenty of entertaining and nail-biting parts, following the creepy Nursery rhyme pretty closely (with Blore being the only exception), as well as being intelligently written. Narratively, And Then There Were None does start off a little on the slow side, but after the dinner scene it becomes captivatingly gripping, with a genuine sense of claustrophobic dread, up to the end credits. Some may find in the third episode that the drunk scene was out of place, for me while not in the book, it certainly did fit the idea of it being the remaining characters' last night and that they knew it. Which was actually one of the remarkable things about this adaptation, that as well as being a mystery it was a psychological character study too, something that not every adaptation did. What was also fun about this adaptation was having friends and family not familiar with the story, and hearing them trying to work out aloud who the murderer was and seeing them visibly taken aback at the real murderer's identity (this viewer can relate, being the same when first reading the book).

And Then There Were None, lastly, has a great cast, consisting of talented actors. This is particularly true with Charles Dance, who has a cold but understated authority, Aiden Turner, who has more than just sex appeal having also broodiness (my friends were convinced it was him, Armstrong or Vera responsible for a while), and Burn Gorman, who had a menacing but also nervous intensity. Maeve Dermody is also deserving of credit for bringing some vulnerability to Vera but also steel, and it was great to see Vera show her true colours at the end which we didn't get to see enough of in other adaptations that adopted the alternate ending. Miranda Richardson's Emily Brent is a character we feel repulsion and pity for, and while Toby Stephens may seem like he's overacting occasionally again it is perfectly fitting with Armstrong's state of mind. Douglas Booth is young, handsome and somewhat annoying, but really that's essentially what the role calls for (the only thing that's missing that was there in the other versions is a rendition of the frighteningly omnipresent poem). Sam Neill is solid as are Anna Maxwell Martin and Noah Taylor, though with comparatively little to do.

To conclude, has some imperfections here and there but still one of the better adaptations of one of Christie's masterpieces. 9/10 Bethany Cox

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