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.

I’m not sitting on any Fences with this film

An African-American man in the 1950s tries to raise his family whilst coming to terms with the events of his life.

In 1950s Pittsburgh, Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington) makes a living as a sanitation worker. He once dreamed of becoming a Major League Baseball player, but was passed over after deemed to be too old to be a serious competition. Troy has always suspected that the colour of his skin was to blame for his failure however, as has seemingly been the case for many of his other pitfalls in life. His bitterness towards how his own life has treated slowly begins to cause ructions within his family, especially when he quashes his son’s chances of becoming an football player.

Fences was one of this year’s most anticipated films for me. The Oscar nominations is received only made me want to see it even more, and now that I have finally seen it, I have to say that it fully delivered for me. The performances were show-stopping, and made the story that the film had to tell feel so real.

This is a film that really is for people who love actors. I’ve loved all the work I’ve seen from Denzel Washington and Viola Davis, and this story was no exception. Washington is quite possibly at career best here as Troy, and that says a lot, especially if you take the time to look back at his filmography and see some of his other roles. He put on such a raw performance, and his scenes with both Davis and Mykelti Williamson were simply wonderful to watch.

Davis played Troy’s long-suffering wife Rose, and just so you can get a feel for what her performance did for me, I’ll let you know that you cannot begin to comprehend the roars that came from my living room when she won her BAFTA on Sunday. Troy may have been the main character here, but there is no doubt that this was Rose’s story. There was so much passion in Davis’ performance. You could tell that this film was a project that she felt deeply about, as was the case for everyone involved, but Davis’ energy just radiated around the room when I was watching her.

Someone who I think was hard done by when it came to awards nominations was Mykelti Williamson, who played Troy’s brother Gabriel. He gave such a touching and sensitive performance as the man who had such a great part of him stripped away during the war. His scenes with both Washington and Davis were something to behold, and added yet another layer of magic to a film that was already hitting all the right notes for me.

Washington not only played a blinder here – he also directed the film, which was adapted from the August Wilson play of the same name. I’ve just spoken about how this film was a labour of love for everyone involved, and none more so than Washington. He has had connections with the story for a number of years, and so I fail to think of someone better suited to head up the task of moving it from stage to screen than him. Beyond the fact I thought the run time was probably twenty minutes too long, I wouldn’t change a single thing about this film, and that’s the truth of it all.

All in all, I don’t know what more I can say about Fences. It is a very simple, yet realistic story made very special by the people that worked on it. It has so much heart, which is evident from what we see in each and every performance in the film itself, and also in what the cast and crew members have to say about the making of the project. No matter what else happens this year, I do not think for a second that we will see another film made with more love and devotion that this one.

I’ll lose no sleep after watching Nocturnal Animals


An art gallery owner is haunted by her ex-husband’s novel, a violent thriller she interprets as a sadistic revenge tail.
This story within a story follows art curator Susan Morrow (Amy Adams) as she works her way through a book written and sent to her by her ex-husband. The story follows Tony Hastings (Jake Gyllenhaal) as he and his family set off on a road trip, but have their journey cut short by a bunch of psychotic rednecks who capture his wife and daughter. Tony escapes and spends a night in the desert before making his way to a police station. With Sheriff Bobby Andes (Michael Shannon), Tony makes a grisly discovery, and between them the two get to work on bringing down the gang that hijacked his journey. As she works her way through the novel, Susan finds herself recalling her first marriage, and confronting some of her most deeply bruised demons.

After missing out on Nocturnal Animals in the cinema (don’t you just love limited release films?), I’ve only just gotten round to reviewing the film. Although it required a lot of thinking on my behalf, I did enjoy the film, and it wasn’t just the lead actor who swung it for me. There was handful of great performances to deliver the story to us, and director Tom Ford completely pulled off the ambitious narrative style the film opts for.

Amy Adams made her second major appearance of the last year with her performance as Susan. Straightaway, I will say that for me personally, she wasn’t as strong here as I thought she was in Arrival. For the most part of her time as Susan, Adams gave a brooding performance as her character reflected back on a former life. She was good, just not as good as I thought she was in her other film from 2016.

Jake Gyllenhaal was great as Tony Hastings, although let’s face it, I am slightly biased on this point. he played a desperate man and was really riveting to watch as he teamed up with Michael Shannon’s Bobby Andes to try to bring his wife and daughter’s killers to justice.

That brings me onto the two supporting performances nicely. Shannon was terrific as the sheriff. He practically stole every scene he was in, and I would say that he is fully deserving of the Oscar nomination he received for his work. Aaron Taylor-Johnson was also brilliant as Ray Marcus, but I don’t think he was quite the psychopath a lot of people made him out to be.

At a first glance, it is quite difficult to see where the two different elements of this film fit together. However, after thinking about it for a while, there are so many ways the two halves can be joined up. The whole film is very open to individual interpretation, and I have no doubt that if I were to watch the film again and again, each time I would find a different way to pick everything apart.

Director Tom Ford has done a wonderful job with this film. I’ve not seen A Single Man, but from what I’ve heard, it would seem that this second film was a fine second project. His fashion designer influence was evident with so many of the shots throughout the film. I may have to sit down and watch his first film after seeing this.

On the whole, Nocturnal Animals is a magnificently dark thriller that I think deserved more recognition than it has received. Due to the nature of it’s non-linear narrative, you do need to watch it with an open mind, but if you do this, I’m pretty certain you will enjoy it.

Manchester By The Sea went swimmingly for me


Following the death of his brother, a man returns to his home town and discovers he has been made the legal guardian of his nephew.
Angry, antisocial Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) works as a janitor in Quincy, Massachusetts. One grey winter day, he gets a phone call to say that his brother is in hospital, and that he should make his way back to the hometown he left behind him years ago as soon as he can as he’s in a bad way. When Lee reaches the hospital, he is greeted with the sad news that he is too late, and that his brother has passed away. As his next of kin, it becomes Lee’s job to sort out his brother’s affairs and tell his nephew Patrick (Lucas Hedges) about his dad. The two try to adjust to life without the missing member of their family, attempting to deal with their own issues whilst looking after each other. Lee discovers that his brother has outlined that he is to become Patrick’s guardian, and struggles to decide what to do about the situation.

One of my most anticipated films of this year was Manchester By The Sea, and I feel like I had some good foresight by choosing it as one of the films I was most looking forward to. I had high hopes for the performances that were to make up the foundations of the film, and I was not let down. Enjoyable probably isn’t the right word to describe the film, but enjoy watching it is what I did. It isn’t an uplifting watch, but it has some very funny moments dotted throughout, making the whole thing very true to real life.

Casey Affleck is the person I am currently hoping wins the Best Actor award for this year. He gave a brilliant performance as Lee. it was very understated, and most of the emotion he conveyed was done so through his subtle facial expressions. For the most part, he had his hands in his pockets and did a lot of shoulder shrugging, but it was so fitting for his character to do this. Lee had a past that he has constantly tried to escape form, and we find out what it is that haunts him about halfway through the film. Affleck played the part wonderfully, and reminded me of exactly why I think he is one of the most underrated actors working today.

His co-star Lucas Hedges, who is up for Best Supporting Actor alongside him, was equally as good. In his solo scenes, he did a grand job of showing the usual struggles of a teenage kid whilst also trying to deal with the fact that he had just lost his father too. However, he really shone in each scene he had with Affleck. They both nailed the uncle-nephew dynamic they had going on, and this was what led to some of the funniest moments in the film, which were needed otherwise you’d have been seriously depressed by the end of the film.

the only criticism I’d have if you made me pick one was that the film did feel like it had a few pacing issues at times, but given the sheer quality of the performances, I can let this slide. the other question I have to raise is why was Michelle Williams nominated for an Oscar for her performance? She was very good, don’t get me wrong, but she simply was not on-screen long enough to have that sort of an impact on the film in my opinion. 

Overall, Manchester By The Sea is one of my favourites of the nominees I have seen so far this year. It does the simple things unbelievably well, and whilst at times it may feel a bit slow, the top drawer performances from the duo at the centre of this story make it worth staying right until the very end. For me, it was a very touching film that stays very true to how situations like this often play out in real life and it was a joy to watch the other day. I would highly recommend it. 

La La Land, whilst not what I expected, is 100% for the dreamers


An aspiring actress and jazz pianist fall for each other in Los Angeles as they pursue their dreams.Mia Dolan (Emma Stone) moved to L.A. from Nevada after dropping out of college in a bid to pursue her dream of becoming an actress. There, she meets Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a guy who wants to one day open his own jazz club to prevent the music style dying out. Both are brought together by their passions, but as they start to get where they’re going, the two are ultimately driven apart by long hours and the miles between them, proving that success doesn’t come without great sacrifice.

So, I got round to seeing La La Land yesterday, and I have to be honest, I’m not entirely sure what all the fuss is about. It wasn’t a bad film, don’t think that for a second, but compared to the films I saw that had been Oscar nominated last year, it wasn’t as good as those.

Both Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling have been nominated for acting gongs at the Academy Awards, and Stone has already won a Golden Globe for her performance. Once again, if I’m completely open with you, I don’t think these were especially memorable performances. They weren’t bad, but they just weren’t particularly memorable characters. I did like the chemistry that was very evident between Stone and Gosling, especially during some of their dance numbers. I am also very happy that director Damien Chazelle decided to make use of Gosling’s comedic capabilities that we got to see previously in The Nice Guys. Both worked together very well and put on quite a show, but personally I feel as though I’ve seen more Oscar-worthy performances from each of them.

The music featured throughout was good, but (and hear I go, moaning yet again) for a musical, there wasn’t a stand-out feel-good sing-along track that I’ll be serenading people with for weeks to come. City Of Stars was by far my favourite song of them all, but this wasn’t exactly what I’d call the catchy anthem that La La Land will be remembered for. I think I had been expecting lively songs with vibes similar to those given to us by The Blues Brothers and The Commitments, but instead I got quite a lot of stuff that was far more melancholy than that.

Stone said in her acceptance speech at the Golden Globes that this is a film for dreamers, and that is one thing that I can still say is definitely true after seeing it. You do leave the cinema feeling that what you want to achieve in life is possible, however, the film also does well to point out that you may have to put in long hours in order to do so. This aspect of the film was something that really hit home with me, and if nothing else, I am happy that it sort of offered an encouraging kick up the arse by showing that anything is possible, even when you think you’re down and out.

On the whole, I would say that La La Land is an enjoyable film that most people will like. With regards to the number of Oscars it has been nominated for, I have to say I don’t quite agree with whoever makes these decisions, but I do understand why it has received the critical recognition it has. The film pays tribute to the Golden Age of Hollywood through modern day cinema. It’s a nostalgic homage to days gone by that looks to revive the magic of the past, but in my eyes at least, falls short of greatness.

Rillington Place – If these walls could talk…

A three-part story about infamous serial killer John Christie and the murders that took happened at 10 Rillington Place during the 1940s and early 1950s.

Quite who Reg Christie (Tim Roth) is is something that is hard the ascertain. The man has a checkered history, evident in the strain in his relationship with wife of fifteen years Ethel (Samantha Morton). After he finishes a spell in prison, they move to Rillington Place – the place where many sinister goings on are to take place over the coming years.

When I saw BBC’s preview for Rillington Place, I was aware that there was a man who looked a lot like Tim Roth in the lead role. As it turned out, I was right with my guess at who the actor was, and when this was confirmed I knew straightaway that I would be watching this three-part drama after being very impressed by his work in Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction. It turns out that he impressed me yet again with his work here, so I was glad I took a gamble on this period-set mini-series.

Roth, as you know by what I’ve already said, was tremendous as Reg, and I’d probably say that this was the best performance I’ve seen by him. He had a presence on-screen that made you feel uneasy just watching him walk into a room. When it came to his character’s speech, Roth has said that he went for an Alan Bennett-esque dialect, which I have to say was very effective in making the character complete. There was something very chilling about the way he spoke, and how calm he remained in every situation. He absolutely nailed the character if you ask me, and delivered a masterclass in acting with every minute of this drama.

Samantha Morton was equally as good as Ethel. It was hard to know which side she was on throughout the whole thing, which I think showed very well how torn her character was. What I really liked about Ethel though was the hidden power she possessed. She was the only character in the story who could make Reg lose it, and we saw this a couple of times. Morton did a terrific job of showing the most important aspect of Ethel, which was that she was essentially an abused wife, and although this was apparent from the beginning, it became much clearer as the story played out.

The storyline for Rillington Place was a retelling of the events that played out there in the 40s and 50s. What I had expected of the show was quite different to what I got – I thought I would have seen far more of the murders happen, but as it was, this was not the case. Was I disappointed by this fact? Not really. The performances more than made up for the lack of action that took place on-screen which I think is one of the biggest complements they each could get.

On the whole, Rillington Place is a short drama full of top-drawer performances. The cast provide plenty for you to be entertained with, and the dark subject matter of this show makes it the kind of period drama that I think those of us who prefer not to look back on the olden days through rose-tinted specs can fully appreciate. If you like Ripper Street, as I am also a huge fan of, then Rillington Place will definitely be right up your alley. 

The Missing’s second season is worth catching 


A young girl returns home to her parents after being taken years before, but there is something not quite right about her.On her way home from school one day, Alice Webster (Abigail Hardingham) was taken. Now, eleven years later, a mysterious twenty-something woman shows up in a German hospital and she is presumed to be the Alice Webster that disappeared all those years before. Her parents are thrilled to have her back, as are the authorities who believe she may have knowledge of where another girl, Sophie Giroud, is, who went missing around the same time. The man who investigated Sophie’s disappearance, Julien Baptiste (TchĂ©ky Karyo) is still determined to find the other girl, and after talking to Alice, he senses something is wrong. Flicking backwards and forwards between three time periods, the story unfolds and all the questions that arose when Alice returned home gradually begin to be answered, one by one.

No less than two years after the first season of The Missing aired, Harry and Jack Williams returned with another story. I have to commend them on their work here – while I do think the eight episode run could have been condensed down to six, I have to say that is was far superior to season one.

The only cast member to return from that first season was TchĂ©ky Karyo, who played the brilliant detective, Julien Baptiste. He was, again, wonderful as his character pursued the truth behind the case that had thrown up so many problems for so long. There were so many challenges that bombarded Baptiste this time around, both personally and professionally, and I really liked the element of uncertainty that featured within Karyo’s performance this time around.

Keeley Hawes is probably one of the best British TV actresses right now. I’ve recently enjoyed her work in Line Of Duty so had an idea of what to expect from her here. As Gemma, Alice Webster’s mother, she gave a very moving performance. Hawes’ character had her life collapse around her mostly after the return of her daughter, and by the end of the series, it continued to be pretty rough. I love the characters Hawes plays and really hope that she continues to gift us with performances such as those I have seen so far in the future. 

I stated at the beginning that I enjoyed this season far more than I did the first. Like I said, there were times I thought the story could have been compacted down to just six episodes, but despite this, it did seem to move along a lot quicker than it’s predecessor. The other huge plus point was the terrifically sensible ending this plot had. ALL THE LOOSE ENDS WERE TIED UP! I HAVE CLOSURE! Do you have any idea what this means to me? It means that I am actually looking forward to this series returning for season three at some point. The Williams brothers were spot on this time, and did a little bit to restore some of my faith in the BBC.

All in all, I would recommend season two of The Missing. It is a tense story with some brilliant performances. For anyone who has a penchant for dark, twisting dramas, I would say give this a spin, but be sure to start with season two. You won’t miss out on anything by not seeing the pilot as this is more of an anthology-style series, so if ever there was an excuse to not start at the beginning, this is it.