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Tick, Tick... BOOM! - review

Tick, Tick... BOOM! (by and on Netflix), titled after one of its hero's musicals, is the film directorial debut of Lin-Manuel Miranda, the acclaimed creator of Hamilton . Perhaps appropriately, it is about musical theatre and, itself, turns into a musical; covering the few days, in early 1990, leading to star-crossed composer Jonathan Larson's 30 birthday.  At that time, Larson, who went on to write Rent , was in the throes of completing his first musical, on which he had been working for eight years, before a crucial showcase in front major players in the industry. With social puritanism and the AIDS epidemic as background – with close friends getting infected, or sick; some of them dying, Larson, a straight man, struggles to write a final key song for his show, while confronting existential questions about creativity, his life choices, and his priorities. The film features numerous examples of Larson's work meshed into the narrative of those few days. Some are part o
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Ridley Road - review

Having just was watched ( and reviewed )  Paris Police 1900, I find it interesting to be presented with another series with very similar theme to indulge in a little comparison.  Ridley Road, also available on iPlayer and only 4 episode long, is set in 1960s Britain, where a Jewish ingenue finds herself infiltrating the ranks of the National Socialist Movement (the British Nazis). There is actually a fairly similar subplot in Paris Police 1900.  In both cases historical events and characters are drafted in to anchor the narrative, and in both cases, the viewer is presented with a quality piece of television drawing on past events to entertain and potentially illuminate a worrying aspect of our current society. I think it is no coincidence that those two series should appear at this particular moment in time. That is however where the similarities stop. Where Paris Police 1900 is dark and dangerous, even brutal at times, Ridley Road is solid and safe. It offers all one would ex

Paris Police 1900 - review

Paris Police 1900 is a French series currently on iPlayer, that somehow only took about 6 months (rather than the usual 2 years) to make it across the channel (who said Brexit made exchanges more difficult?!). The series is set in... err... Paris, in 1899. On the surface it is a gory police thriller, following the meandering investigation of the murder and dismemberment of a young woman. So far, so Nordic Noir; were it not for the 'exotic' setting, and the lack a truly central investigative figure. While the handsome Inspecteur Jouin is suitably aloof and monosyllabic, and works as the connecting character in the story, he isn't a dominating presence in the narrative, which includes a number of interrelated subplots with their own leads. Crucially, as made abundantly clear by the jaw-dropping(!) opening scene, the makers of the show have created an unique, and unprecedented portrait of a not-so-Belle Époque, as, literally, a fin-de-siècle society, decadent, violent, crue

The Normal Heart @ National Theatre - review

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Green Book - review

Green Book, currently on iPlayer, is the heart-warming tale of an unlikely friendship between a famous sophisticated black musician and a rough-around-the-edges Italian-American self-styled bullshitter. It is based on a true story. This is a story of prejudices overcome and differences accepted. It is also about privilege. But, rather than being preachy and worthy, as it could so easily have been, it is, most of the time, funny, and just utterly lovely. The film came under criticism when it was released for embracing a white saviour trope, but I think this is overlooking the extent to which both characters learn from each other and end up changing each other's outlooks. It is perhaps in some ways utopian or overly optimistic in its presentation of race relations in 1960s America (or indeed in the 'Western' world nowadays) but it can't hurt to dream for a couple of hours. The performances by the two leads are great too and the film looks beautiful. This middle-class

L'atelier (The Workshop) - review

Not a little ironically, considering its premise of a group of young people taking part in a literary workshop, L'atelier (The Workshop - 2017), currently on iPlayer, is one of those French films where seemingly not much is said and even less happens. And yet it manages to be utterly intriguing and quite thrilling too. The story is set in La Ciotat, a notorious former shipyard near Marseilles, where a (socially and ethnically) diverse group of teens is meant to be writing a thriller together under the guidance of an established author. This leads to explorations of the creative process and the act of writing, but also of the social and political climate of a France still reeling from the Bataclan and Nice terrorist attacks. Perhaps because the book to be written has to be a thriller, violence is not only also discussed, but lurking just below the surface: Reality, in the shape one of the members of the group, threatens to overcome fiction right up to the last few minutes of the

Deep Water - review

Deep Water is an Australian murder mini-series (4 episodes) currently available on Netflix. Despite being set in Sydney (around Bondi Beach), this is in many ways one of those dark, brooding serial-killer stories, recently popularised by the "scandi-noir" genre, although Detective Tori Lustigman (played by Yael Stone, of Orange is the New Black fame) is thankfully not quite as tortured as so many of her nordic colleagues. She is, in fact, a fairly-straight-forward, tough woman on a mission, which, in its own way, is quite refreshing. The story is complex, the writing is tight and the performances are first class; all coming together to form a gripping and tense, sometimes even moving, thriller. However, what could easily have been a slightly formulaic, if not predictably stereotypical, plot, also functions as an unflinching and often disquieting exposition of homophobia that feels grounded in historical truth. Its various and numerous guises, as well as its manyfold cons

Uprising - review

Uprising on BBC iPlayer is a three-part documentary series, directed by Steve McQueen, centered around the New Cross Fire in January 1981, in which 13 black youths died at a house party. The event took place in a context of heightened racial tensions, only a few months before the Brixton Riots and other violent protests across Britain (England, really, it seems), which are also covered in the programme. The documentary presents archival footages and testimonies from survivors of the fires, their family, and civil rights activists, to create a powerful, moving, and sometimes shocking, narrative of grief, lives upturned, social injustice, racism, and institutional callousness. Although stark in its simplicity and never sentimental, it is a gripping piece of cinematic storytelling, vividly bringing to life a dark moment in the history of the country, exactly 40 years on. Stunning, in every way.