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Sherlock: The Sign of Three (2014)
Jumping the shark
This was, until this episode, a great series. The previous story, in which Sherlock returns "from the dead", was clever and entertaining - even if the drama was subsidiary to the comedy.
However, this episode was embarrassing. Sherlock turned into something very like Dr Who as played by Matt Smith - except even more manic and flippant. When was Sherlock Holmes ever a joker? However you update him, this can't be right.
What's worse, it was sentimental. It was mawkish in the manner of the Waltons. I won't go further into Sherlock's cringe-worthy best man speech, as I don't want to give spoilers.
Jumping the shark? They've vaulted the blue whale.
Death Comes to Pemberley (2013)
I am sorry to disagree with the many fans of this. The dialogue is terribly anachronistic and a million miles from the style of Jane Austen. "Let's not overreact" from Darcy, for example, and worst of all from Lady Catherine de Bourgh, the world's most supercilious and conservative woman of her age, who says to Lizzie, "We need to talk". Need I say more?
I'm not an expert on legal procedures through the ages, but I strongly suspect that the court scenes were anachronistic, too. Others can probably give better information on this.
Also, I noticed very little chemistry between the Darcys, despite what some have claimed.
Miss Marple, please leave the stage!
It was a terrible idea to bring Miss Marple into Endless Night, especially as it was done here. Apparently she went to stay with Wendy Craig's character for many, many months, including going with her on a trip to Rome, where by a massive coincidence she meets up again with the chauffeur with whom she had struck up an unlikely conversation in the street back in England. Later on, Miss Marple starts wandering in and out of the new house whenever she feels like it, including putting herself in ridiculous danger. I can't say more without spoilers.
I also can't say much about the ruining of the plot. The book is a good one and written in an unusual style for Agatha Christie. It has a surprise ending - which is mangled right out of existence here.
The acting is so so. Tom Hughes, who has the main part, mainly sleepwalks through it. In real life he is not only an actor but a model, and that aspect is very much to the fore here.
Read the book, and perhaps see the 1972 version with Hywel Bennett and Hayley Mills. It's much better than this one.
By Any Means (2013)
How could they?
If you thought the BBC had been wrecking its own reputation enough recently, with its scandals at the top, it has now decided to have a go at its good name as a provider of Sunday night dramas. This series is dross - so bad it's almost good. Almost. With a few tweaks (removing the references to sex) it might be all right for Saturday early evening, when Dr Who is off the air, because children often like comics.
The premise is trashy and the details are clichéd. In the opening episode, Keith Allen reprises his old OTT Sheriff of Nottingham role, the comic baddie. If only he'd had moustaches, he would have been able to twirl them.
The BBC still has the wrong bosses. Give another tranche the customary payoff.
Murder on the Home Front (2013)
Unoriginal and a bit wooden
"I know - let's cross Foyle's War with Silent Witness. It can't fail!" That's the crass idea behind this - the only idea behind it. Patrick Kennedy even looks like Michael Kitchen's younger brother and his character has a similar phlegmatic approach to crime solving. What a pity Tamzin Merchant is not a patch on Honeysuckle Weeks.
It might just have worked if it hadn't been so creakily wooden, if the fake bomb sites hadn't had obvious cardboard bits, if the CGI had been a bit more convincing and if they hadn't resorted to gratuitous gore - but I suppose they had to put that in as part of their homage to Silent Witness.
It might yet find its feet, but it's a poor testimony to the creativity of British TV. Scandinavia and the USA are bursting with good ideas. What went wrong in the UK?
Endeavour: Fugue (2013)
Endeavour is shaping up to beat the original episodes of Morse. This one has a story ideally tailored to Morse with crossword clues and opera. This might seem hackneyed but it works very well and is satisfying and clear. The scenes filmed on the roofs at Trinity College are exciting. Best of all is the father-son relationship that is growing up between Morse and Thursday. It is genuinely touching, particularly at the close of the episode, before the famous theme music comes in. Shaun Evans is excellent in the role of Morse, even though his appearance, voice and general demeanour make it impossible to imagine him ever turning into anything resembling John Thaw.
(Questionable aspects of the show are the extremely clichéd you're-off- the-case boss, played by Anton Lesser, and the friendly and helpful Constable Strange, who it's hard to imagine becoming the you're-off-the-case-matey boss of Morse's later years. Also, would a music lover like Morse slam down the lid of his record player while it was playing an expensive LP? However, these are minor quibbles.)
It's great. Watch it.
Another spooky room in a creepy mansion, part 2
On Creek's last outing in 2009 I wrote a review with the above title (minus 'part 2'). Here we are yet again - only this time there are two mansions. We don't expect realism from the series, of course, but I think it used to make sense, more or less, within its own weird universe. That's been ditched here, and it's merely a farrago of tosh.
However, it has its charms. There are lots of clever touches and some good jokes. (For some reason I laughed for ages at 'more Titian'.) If you are watching a recording, pause it so that you can read the book titles when they appear.
This episode also has excellent guest stars, all of whom play up exactly as they should.
All in all, it's nonsense, but lots of fun and worth watching.
Das letzte Schweigen (2010)
One of those arty German films to steer clear of
Oh dear. Germany has produced quite a few films like this. They contain long, long silences, which are meant to be artistic and profound. In fact, the result is often boredom, and perhaps even worse than that, a lack of proper development of the situation, the characters and the plot. It's as if any German (or Swiss, in this case) director worth his or her salt must disdain anything that might smack of conventional, clichéd storytelling. Unfortunately, they just swap them for other clichés and become lethargic in the process. Apparently this film has been compared to the Killing (the Danish TV serial) and I can see some similarities - except that the Danes know how to combine the elegaic with interesting characters and a story that moves.
It's a shame, because there are good actors in here, especially Möhring and Blomberg. The latter might overact a bit, but he is nevertheless compelling to watch.
I can't recommend it.
Jésus de Montréal (1989)
Thought provoking and well done
This is a very impressive film, partly because of the powerful performance by Lothaire Bluteau, who combines authority and vulnerability in his portrayal of both Daniel and Jesus, but also because of the original way the film creatively reworks the story of Jesus, and especially his passion. There is a lot to think about and it is a film to watch more than once, I think.
There are just one or two wonky features: the equation of the established church with the pharisees is a bit clichéd and simplistic, and the stuff about new archaeological discoveries and Jesus being the son of a Roman soldier is a load of piffle, but I suppose the writer wanted a dramatic excuse for the changes in the script of the traditional passion play.
All in all, it's excellent and I heartily recommend it.
Who'd have thought it? It looked doomed to disaster, but in fact it's great. It has exactly the same crazed atmosphere and bizarre plot twists as the original series. I never thought they'd crack it.
There's lots to love: Linda Gray seems to have metamorphosed into an anorexic animatronic puppet, with the skin precariously stretched over her face bones. You feel she might shatter at any moment - but she is still strangely attractive and fascinating to watch. She can still pack a punch as Sue Ellen. Admittedly in season two she undergoes a complete mentality switch in no time flat, but, hey, it's Dallas. Bobby and J R are still very good (though J R's just died here in the UK run).
Perhaps more importantly the two cousins are very good actors. Josh Henderson is great as John Ross. The make-up and hair department have let him down a little by overdoing the sleazy look - who'd buy a gallon of anything from this man? Jesse Metcalfe is the perfect counterfoil. He has a more difficult part to play as the goodie, since in drama is notoriously harder to make a goodie interesting. The young women are only so-so. Elena is just a younger and less interesting skeleton than Sue Ellen and Pam just pouts most of the time. Neither of them can hold a candle to Victoria Principal in her prime, or to Linda Gray. However, Brenda Strong is excellent and has the best acting ability on the set, at least among the women.
Don't cancel it, TNT. We want to see it here in the UK, despite the ridiculous time slot Channel 5 has given it.