In The Dark is another mediocre offering from the BBC 


In The Dark is a TV show that was brand new this year. It follows Detective Helen Weeks (MyAnna Buring) as she embarks upon two separate case in two two-part stories. I have to be honest and say that I was not overly impressed by this programme. It was only watchable at best, which was quite disappointing considering the amount of talent boasted by the cast.
Before I get into any real slating of the show, I’ll quickly cover the main performance. The obvious place to start is with MyAnna Buring, who was the main draw for me here. I’m a fan of her work due to Ripper Street and the characters she has always seemed to portray – I’ve never been able to accuse her of playing meek women, and that’s why I like her work so much. In that respect, I should’ve been all over her as Helen here, but something just didn’t click for me. I don’t think that’s down to Buring’s performance though. Much of this show was held down by the script, which was very clunky in multiple places, quite often losing rhythm at key points in the story. And, as is often the case, good actors were brought crashing to the ground by it.

In The Dark was adapted from a series of books which just didn’t seem to translate very well to the screen for how many problems this show was laden with. The biggest issue as I’ve pointed out already was the script – it was very unnatural in places. It just seemed knock the pace of the show for six at some of what were supposed to be the biggest points in the two stories. When it makes audiences sort of recoil a bit, I think that’s a sign that something isn’t up to scratch. You just knew that this wasn’t the way people really talk, and it took a huge amount away from the show.

I’m not even entirely sure how to feel about the story. Both seemed to be quite generic plots that could just as easily have been part of any other show crime show. There just wasn’t anything particularly special at all about either tale, and as for the ending to the second case? How about we just ignore the fact that it tried very hard to give us an edgy finish that absolutely did not float my boat? I just don’t understand why you’d try and do that when the majority of the rest of the show up to that point had been something of a shambles.

Anyway, you might have gathered by now that I wasn’t sold on In The Dark. I don’t think it’ll be making a return, but if it does I shan’t be watching it. It was a huge disappointment considering what could have been done with it, and I think I’ve pointed out in previous reviews that I really hate seeing wasted potential in whatever I watch. So much more could’ve been done with this, but in the end, it failed to deliver.

The heat was turned up in Fortitude season two


The sub-zero drama returns, picking up weeks after where season one left off, only to reveal that what took place before was just the tip of the iceberg.Anyone who read my review of the pilot season of Sky Atlantic’s Fortitude will know that while I thought it was quite an enjoyable show when it premiered, I didn’t think it quite warranted the hype it got a couple of years ago. Nonetheless, I was still rather excited for the drama to return this year. As it turned out, I actually got into the second season a lot more, with the show becoming the highlight of my Thursday evenings for the last ten weeks.

I think it’s fair to say that the show took a more supernatural/horror twist this time around, and with that transition came a couple of brilliant performances, most notably from Richard Dormer, who returned as Sheriff Dan Anderson, but not quite as we knew him last season. Upon returning, it soon became clear that Dan had been a rare survivor of the wasp infestation, however he was far from his old self. Dormer played an absolutely terrific part this season! He gave Dan a real sense of unpredictability – one that left you unsure of what he would do next, or what he was truly capable of. He was brilliant to watch as he descended further into madness with each episode that passed, and is one of the reasons why I’m highly anticipating a third season of Fortitude.

Also worth mentioning is the introduction of Robert Sheehan in the role of Vladic, or The Shaman, whichever of the two you prefer. I thought he was great as the so-called saviour of Fortitude following the infestation. He also added very nicely to the snowy landscapes (if you get what I’m saying), which is always a bonus. His character went head to head with Dormer’s Dan, and there was something that was so tense about the scenes in which the two of them came face to face. They worked really well together in my opinion, really enhancing each other’s work.

I found this season to be far more gripping than the first. It seemed to get going much quicker than the pilot did, perhaps because it just picked up where it had left off, and didn’t need to set the scene from scratch all over again. To start off with, a lot of silly things happened, and while it was fast-paced, a number of things weren’t making a lot of sense. However, the story developed more as it went along, and soon enough everything began to fall into place. When this started happening, the show started to get a lot better, and the week long wait for each new episode got pretty awful. Unfortunately though, things were too good to be true because, as is always the case with big British dramas (although which such a stellar international cast, I don’t quite see how I can call it British all by itself), it ended stupidly. When the last episode finished, I genuinely sat there on the living room floor, staring at the end credits and was like ‘Are you trying to piss me off?’. What a way to end it, you know? This show was on top form for nine and three quarter episodes, and it managed to undo all of that in a ten minute timeframe with an explosion and a handful of bullets. It was the big-budget TV show equivalent of hearing you’ve got five minutes left to finish an exam paper you’re only half-way through, so you just start writing random stuff on the paper and hope for the best. To say I was disappointed would be an understatement. All I can say is I hope that season three materialises because that’s the only thing I can think of that will justify such an ending.

Overall, for the large part, season two of Fortitude was way better than the pilot. It was good to return to characters who we were already familiar with in the aftermath of the devastation we witnessed last time around. Some of the actors really proved themselves as things unfolded, and the story, if I can try to put the ending to the back of my mind, was far more gripping than that we had to follow before. I’d recommend the show to you, but just be prepared for an ending that was somewhat half-baked.


Don’t forget – I’m co-hosting a the Play To The Whistle Blogathon throughout June! Get in touch if you’re interested in taking part.

A Most Violent Year gave me serious Godfather vibes


In 1981, an ambitious immigrant living the American dream has to fight to protect his family and his business in New York City’s most violent year in history.The winter of 1981 was statistically the most violent year for New York City. At this time, Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac), an immigrant who has made a life for himself in America, finds everything he has worked for under attack from rivals and those apparently in charge of justice in the city. He struggles to keep on top of everything that is being thrown at him whilst staying within the constraints of the law. Meanwhile, Abel also owes money to some big people, and with the interest currently being paid to him by the law, no one will loan him the money to pay them off. Abel’s wife Anna (Jessica Chastain), offers to ask her father for help, but the business man is intent on sticking to his morals, no matter what.

A Most Violent Year is one of the many films that I had been meaning to watch for a long time, so when I discovered that it was on Netflix last weekend, I made it my business to see it. I could remember having seen a review of the film when it was out in the cinemas a couple of years ago saying that it was a very slick gangster drama, so it was a title that had been stuck in my mind since then. Upon finally sitting down and watching it, I have to say that I was very impressed.

There were two brilliant lead performances here. Oscar Isaac was on another level as Abel, and I’m not exaggerating one bit when I say that, for me, his portrayal of the businessman was reminiscent of Michael Corleone from the one and only Godfather trilogy, yet didn’t feel at all like a cheap imitation. Jessica Chastain was every bit his equal as Anna, who proved exactly why she is one of my favourite actresses. Her character was such a huge part of the film, and I feel like she represented the battle that Abel fought every day in the way that she tended to take extreme action first and then think much later on, as opposed to his very collected way of weighing up the situation before dealing with it. As I’ve already said, both of these performances were terrific, complimenting each other completely, and also going way under the radar with so many people.

The story here is one that is really quite typical of the gangster genre, but as mentioned before, the film managed to present this story in a way that it didn’t feel as though it was ripping off any of the legendary films that came before it. It is plain as day that A Most Violent Year takes much of it’s inspiration from films such as The Godfather, however it maintains a sense of it’s own originality throughout, which is what I though was so great. A fine example of this can be seen with the very active role that Anna takes in the business, which is not usually the case with the women in these types of film.

All in all, A Most Violent Year was a good choice to watch last weekend. I thoroughly enjoyed the film, which was made so wonderful by the captivating performances that led it. It was also nice to see the nods to other films in the genre that had so clearly shaped how this turned out. It is a film I’d recommend to people for the simple fact that it was very entertaining despite some of it’s more serious themes, some of which are more relevant than ever in today’s climate. So, what are you waiting for?

Make sure you check out my post about the upcoming Play To The Whistle Blogathon if you missed it yesterday!

No Offence is just as unapologetically brilliant as it returns for season 2


The dream team return for another case, this time dealing with the head of one of Manchester’s biggest crime syndicates.
No Offence is one of those shows that I had never really anticipated being anywhere near as good as it actually turned out to be. Season one blew us all away in 2015, and with the promise of the show making a return, the next season could not come soon enough. After waiting almost two years, the show made a triumphant return. All I can say is season three had better hurry up – I’m missing the show already.

One thing that stood out to everyone when this show first arrived on the scene was it’s use of stonkingly good female characters. God knows that throughout history in both film and TV such things have been a lot harder to come by than they have been for men, but this show straightaway presented us with three wonderful women. This time around, we got four. The crime boss Deering, Dinah and Joy were trying to take down was Nora Attah, played by Rakie Ayala. She was brilliant in the role and was a terrific match for Joanna Scanlan’s Viv Deering.

Of course, there are some men in the show. Paul Ritter plays one of the best characters on TV at the minute in this show if you ask me. He never fails to make me laugh as Miller, who kind of does some of the CSI stuff. He is a prime example of the talents of writer Paul Abbott, who also wrote Shameless, and is always a highlight of every episode he appears in.

No Offence is billed as a comedy, and yes, it is very, very funny. The good thing about the show is that it doesn’t just rely on laughs to keep it’s audience engaged. What left me so impressed with season one was it’s brilliantly devised crime saga. No one had managed to guess the culprit in season one, and I was certainly looking forward to the same in this year’s run. The outline was slightly different, but the sheer quality of the writing was exactly the same, if not marginally better. I know I moaned a lot about the two year wait for the show’s return, but I guess it may not have been as good the second time around if it wasn’t for such a lengthy wait.

Once again, No Offence was an excellent watch, and may very well be one of this year’s best shows. For anyone who hasn’t seen it, I would definitely say to watch it. I don’t know if it is a show that will work for international audiences, but there is only one way to find out. Even if the jokes fall flat for some people, the story itself should be plenty to retain your attention. This is definitely a show I will continue to be excited about, and I think plenty of other people should be too.

 

Not quite the way I’d imagined celebrating 20 years of Silent Witness


Now, I know it’s lazy, but please check my review of season 19 for the full description of the show. It seems silly repeating myself again this year.
So, 2017 was a big year for one of my favourite shows. Silent Witness premiered it’s 20th season! As it was such a landmark year, I had expected the show to pull out all the stops. I can at least say that this was the case with the final two-part story of the season. For much of the rest of it however, this year’s Silent Witness fell slightly below it’s usual standard, which left me asking myself a certain question…

Performances this year were given to us by the same people, but there was a greater focus on one person who I think has previously been treated as a more minor character. Liz Carr plays Clarissa, and I absolutely love her in the role. Carr makes me laugh a lot with the dry tones in which she delivers some of Clarissa’s more light-hearted lines – she always has done and I’m sure will continue to do so in future seasons of the show. It’s also great to see someone with a disability have a regular role on such a brilliant and beloved series. Finally, British TV is beginning to move forward!

A couple of the storylines for this season didn’t feel quite as riveting as others that have been covered by the show in the past. I guess after twenty seasons, I should have expected the show to feel a little tired. However, I was able to forgive the writers after watching the final two episodes of this run. Oh. My. Word. What a finale! I’m fairly certain the creators of those two episodes had recently viewed Buried and used it for inspiration, but I was still very impressed. The performances from Emilia Fox and David Caves were absolutely tremendous, and really added to the baseline tension already created by the writing. Plus, if nothing else, that very last episode just confirmed to me that all us girls need a man like Jack in our lives.

I mentioned at the beginning that I found myself asking a certain question throughout this season in regards to the future of Silent Witness, or whether indeed it should have a future beyond this point. After all, twenty years gracing our screens isn’t to be sniffed at. I had my doubts about whether it would, or should return, given that it had just felt slightly flatter than usual. However, I suppose I wasn’t ready to give it up yet as I massively rejoiced at the news it would return for it’s 21st birthday next year. Phew!

Overall, this year’s Silent Witness didn’t quite live up to expectations during it’s first four cases, but well and truly made up for it with the finale. As much as I can say I felt a tiny bit disappointed by this season, I can’t deny that I looked forward to every Monday and Tuesday evening when the episodes were being shown. It is a show that has a special hold on me, and I suspect it will have to go seriously down hill before I’ll ever be able to comprehend not watching it, so it’s dead safe for now.

Mystic River certainly stays afloat

Three childhood friends whose lives took separate turns following a tragedy are reunited by circumstance when dark days return.

Back in the summer of 1975, the lives of three school friends changed forever when one of them was abducted and sexually abused for days. Thirty years down the line, those three boys are brought back together. Jimmy Markum’s (Sean Penn) daughter is murdered , and the cop leading the investigation is Sean Devine (Kevin Bacon). Bad times bring out traces of the old friendship, even with Dave Boyle (Tim Robbins) – the victim of the abduction on that fateful day all those years ago. However, the investigation into the murder turns it’s attention towards Dave when a few things begin to stack up against him. What was it that happened to Jimmy’s daughter, and can that friendship from years ago stand up against the tests it is currently facing?

A film I’ve been wanting to see for a while now is Mystic River, and finally I was able to watch it last week. It was very much worth the wait I can tell you, although there is part of me that is still not quite over the stupid ending it was given.

This film was an absolute powerhouse for performances. Tim Robbins played long-tormented Dave Boyle, and my God, wasn’t he tremendous. the years of torture and suffering he had gone through were prominent in the display put on by Robbins. He made Dave a very unreadable character at the same time however, and I think that is what made the performance so wonderful, and fully deserving of the Oscar he received for his efforts.

Sean Penn joined Robbins as a fellow Oscar winner with his performance as Jimmy. I found Penn to be very moving as his character struggled to come to terms with the death of his daughter. I thought he showed lots of different dimensions with his portrayal of Jimmy, who was a bit of a gangster in some ways. It was one of those roles that I think show just how talented Penn is, and how versatile he can be, even within the same role.

We all know what a seasoned professional Clint Eastwood is when it comes to film, whether he be on screen or in the director’s chair. He does something where, for me, he just strips everything back to the bare bones and builds it back up using super solid acting as the foundations. This style of directing can be seen in American Sniper and Million Dollar Baby, and again here. Eastwood certainly seems to know what is is he is doing, and Mystic River is yet another example to prove this.

As I mentioned at the beginning, the only real criticism I have of this film is the way it ended. I don’t know who exactly this ‘creative’ decision was down to, but I must say I feel as though where the story ended massively let down the rest of the film. A small snippet of a review I saw said something like, ‘Short of greatness, but superb anyway’ – don’t quote me entirely on that, however. I can’t help but feel that had the film have needed sensibly, Mystic River may have reached this greatness that is spoken of.

All in all, I would certainly urge you to take the time to see Mystic River is you haven’t already. For the terrific cast and absolutely stellar performances alone it is worth it, but is is the undertones of the film that mean it will not leave you in a hurry. It begs the question of whether you can ever fully detach yourself from your past, and I think it is this quality that makes the film stick in my mind at least – regardless of what I thought about the ending. 

Shades Of Blue didn’t leave me feeling blue


A struggling New York police officer comes under investigation by the FBI, with her only way out being to sell out the rest of her team.Detective Harlee Santos (Jennifer Lopez) is a struggling single mother who works as part of a unit that has a somewhat debatable moral code. While she is out on a call one day, Harlee gets picked up by the FBI and is forced to turn informant on her team or go to jail. Caught between a rock and a hard place, Harlee joins the Feds, hoping to buy herself time to make a plan to get her squad, including leader Matt Wozniak (Ray Liotta), off the hook. However, a number of events unfold that complicate the operation, and very soon, what Harlee thought would be an easy play-off with the FBI becomes a lot more complex, and she begins to lose herself as she searches for a way out.
Shades Of Blue hadn’t been a show I’d been too fussed about watching, but one thing led to another and guess what? I watched the whole thing. I must admit, whilst being nothing earth shattering, it was quite a fun series that I rather enjoyed, and will be returning to it should a second season be commissioned.

One reason I had initially been sceptical about the show was Jennifer Lopez’ lead role as Harlee Santos. There is bit of a rule of thumb when musicians and singers turn to acting – they’re either amazing or they’re awful, there generally is no middle ground, and the majority of the time, many fall into the latter category. However, J-Lo was actually alright in her role as Harlee. She made it reasonably believable, and gave you something to cling onto with her character, which kept you coming back each week. You can’t say fairer than that really.

The one real draw for me was Ray Liotta’s presence within the cast. He played a very complex character and was probably who I enjoyed the most. There were so many levels to his character, and there’s part of me that is sure there is more to come where Matt Wozniak is concerned.

The plot for season one was pretty solid as well, although there were times where it felt as though the writers had gotten a little too deep into the narrative. Fortunately, each time this seemed to happen, they managed to pull it back before I tuned out and the wrote the show off for trying to be too clever. The narrative did well in building tension and throwing in a number of twists throughout the 13-episode run. However, like I’ve just said, sometimes the twists took the story a little way off the actual point of the show, and it was sometimes when this happened that my attention began to venture elsewhere.

Overall, Shades Of Blue is another of those watchable, fun crime shows that will provide something to fill your evenings with. It certainly has a fair way to go before challenging shows like The Wire or Line Of Duty, but as far as your general police procedurals go, it was okay. If there’s anything that should make you want to watch it, it’s Liotta’s performance as Wozniak, but if that doesn’t do it for you, Shades Of Blue will work out as little more than average for most.