Maigret TV Review

RA MGeorges Simenon‘s vexed detective looks especially baffled in the form of Rowan Atkinson for this handsomely-mounted, curiously misjudged adaptation of Maigret Sets A Trap.

Paris in the Fifties is the setting, under threat from a serial killer targeting women in the night. After several months of investigations top police snooper Maigret is reaching the end of his rope with the authorities. It seems like his reputation will die with the latest victim. This doom-laden introduction, accompanied by an earnest soundtrack throughout, isn’t the best jumping in point. The film feels more like a finale than a debut (another has been made), and would have worked better at a point where you’d gotten to know the characters. Here you’re none the wiser about anything as everyone is so caught up.

Atkinson plays the title role in an otherworldly and preoccupied manner that I’m not sure is intentional. Like many comic actors who take on a straight part he appears to have shut down rather than emote. The director should really have tried to get more out of him. His detached performance isn’t a bad fit for the deductive stuff, but he sorely lacks much of a human dimension in scenes with his wife and colleagues. Perhaps future entries will see him relax a bit.

Simenon’s plot gets interesting at the halfway mark as Maigret determinedly holds onto his prime suspect despite mounting pressure to release him. It would help if you cared, but in fairness to writer Stewart Harcourt and members of the supporting cast (in particular Aidan McCardle) the production does manage a couple of tense sequences.

I would watch the programme again, to see how Atkinson develops and to enjoy the sharp suits and smoke-filled dens of iniquity. On this evidence however I wouldn’t place too much faith in Maigret 2016 cracking the case of this viewer’s loyalty.

 

The Night Manager Review (The Hollywood News)

The Night ManagerThe British Broadcasting Corporation and novelist John Le Carré go way, way back. In 1979, we saw the classic TV adaptation of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, which cast Alec Guinness as aloof manipulator George Smiley. It was so good that even Guinness himself couldn’t top it with Eighties follow-up Smiley’s People. You would have needed cajones made of brass to mount a production as ambitious again. Well, it has taken nearly 40 years but the Beeb have finally done it with The Night Manager.

Leading Brit of the moment Tom Hiddleston shares top billing as Jonathan Pine, a smooth-talking functionary at an Egyptian hotel, who is entrusted at random with a secret document by a female guest. When he passes the information onto a pal at the British Embassy the guest winds up brutally murdered and Pine is recruited by intelligence honcho Angela Burr (Olivia Colman). The undercover operation puts him on a collision course with the subject of the document – businessman turned arms dealer Richard Roper (Hiddleston’s co-star Hugh Laurie). Pine is Roper’s nemesis, though the target is totally unaware… or is he?

One of the great appeals of Le Carré is how he’s acted as an antidote to James Bond (he once described the character as a “neo-fascist gangster”). His heroes aren’t usually heroes. They skulk about concrete structures with coffee breath rather than drinking Martinis in tropical locations. The trick screenwriter David Farr and director Susanne Bier pull off is bringing a Bond-style sensibility to the table. Colman’s scheme to nail Laurie is textbook Le Carré, but the presence of Hiddleston and an arch villain with an opulent, gun ‘n girl-festooned lifestyle is pure Ian Fleming. They’ve managed to meld two sides of the coin and it’s worked to towering effect.

Above all the miniseries drips with coronary-inducing tension from episode to episode. The opener is so gripping you wonder how they’re going to maintain the atmosphere for another five hours, yet somehow they do it with the pace rarely slacking. Pine’s training in Cornwall is a bit vague. He’s despatched to the West Country to pose as a drug dealer in order to create a dark past for Roper to uncover, but it’s a necessary step to portray Hiddleston’s path back to violence. Pine was ex-military before he entered the hotel trade and while the star is less convincing as an action man he certainly has the physique to pulverize his opponents.

Hiddleston is a prettified version of the novel’s protagonist. However this gives him a vulnerability that works with the character and also indicates a great career in hospitality should the acting work ever dry up. Laurie delivers a masterclass in reptilian malevolence as Roper, and a juicy role facing 007 surely beckons. Burr’s role is similarly altered to that of a stressed and pregnant battleaxe. This route seems odd, but of course you should never underestimate Colman, just as you can’t pigeonhole Burr. Everyone does a decent job but from the supporting cast Tom Hollander stands out (he has to, he’s much shorter than everyone else) as Corky, Roper’s preening lieutenant. Hollander has played nasties before (in Joe Wright’s Hanna for example) but this is something else and the actor is frequently in danger of stealing scenes.

Special mention should go to titles designer Patrick Clair and his team at Elastic/Antibody, who have realized another stunning opening sequence. Showcasing various items of decadence that morph into deadly armaments, it’s effortlessly cool and sinister. Further proof that Clair is the master of bringing the cinematic to the small screen.

The show was introduced as a blockbuster, and they weren’t kidding. However The Night Manager is worth noting as a saga that’s packed with content, making it a rarity in the bloated arena of today’s television. It’s a lean, mean, intoxicating six-parter that leaves you fit to bursting but entirely satisfied by the final bang.

 

This review appeared on The Hollywood News.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Skinny

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As a single man with too much time on his hands, it’s almost my duty to notice women in popular culture. Be they on the internet, magazine covers, TV shows or movies, the reliance of the media on attractive faces and physiques is always going to be a draw for the average testicle-laden consumer.

While I share the world’s concerns that undernourished girls create a terrible impression for young audiences, I don’t find anything objectionable about being skinny per se. Just as some like to eat and be plump, others shun sustenance and shed the pounds. However something is happening in the film franchise world that’s so obvious even an easily-distracted lunkhead like me can see it.

It started when pictures began emerging from the set of Baywatch. Now I’m approaching forty and back in the day there was one reason we bothered with Baywatch, and it wasn’t to do with Hasselhoff and his barely-controlled pecs. It was good-looking girls in swimsuits, the most famous of which was curvy campaigner Pamela Anderson.

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Fast forward a couple of decades and Dwayne Johnson wants to have some fun reviving the saga of spume and slow motion. A driving force behind the release, he’s clearly having a blast but he’s getting something wrong. Two beautiful actresses have been cast – Alexandra Daddario and Kelly Rohrbach, the latter inheriting the boob-tastic mantle from Anderson as CJ Parker. But they’re way too thin. Reflective of the times, they’re sporting lean physiques which err on the side of dietary concern.

Now you could argue this is an update and that lifeguards would find bearing their own hefty flotation devices impractical. Okay. One problem – it’s a tribute to Baywatch, not reality, and I find it disappointing they didn’t honour the fuller frames of the past, choosing to equate weight loss with desirability.

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Gal Gadot is about to power onto movie screens in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. She’s playing Wonder Woman, the Amazonian ass-kicker with the gold lasso and thighs you could crack walnuts with. Gadot’s certainly put herself through her paces but for my money she’s too slight. The spirit of Lynda Carter‘s Seventies incarnation lives on it seems, and again a particular body image is going to be everywhere for young girls to see.

Guys, this is a guy talking! I’m not going to shout too loudly if you’re squeezing Daddario into a barely-there ensemble. Try however to understand that you’re unleashing these movies on the (Daily) planet, not just a clutch of randy dudes with inky fingers.

Jason Mewes Talks ‘Bling’ & ‘Mallrats 2’ (The Hollywood News)

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When was the last time you saw a movie about jewellery and robots? The answer to that unusual question is something Google Play are banking on for Bling, the first animated film to be distributed via the platform. Best of all it’s free!

Concerning the calamity that ensues when a hopeful man’s engagement surprise is mistakenly acquired by a supervillain, it features attention-grabbing elements such as positronic primate Kit, voiced by Jay and Silent Bob star Jason Mewes.

Putting on our best suit, and with our best inquiries boxed up and ready to be sprung, we took Mr Mewes to the nearest restaurant in the hope he’d accept our proposal. Along the way we couldn’t help but talk about his most famous role and working with friend and quietest Bob in history Kevin Smith for the past couple of decades…

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What was your reaction when you were told about the concept?

I was very excited. Anything with robots is good, but when I was told I was playing a monkey robot, that was a bonus!

How did you approach the role of a monkey robot, if that isn’t a silly question?

I ate a bunch of bananas, that’s how I prepped. (Laughs) No, I just had fun with it man. The animation was already done and I just had to synch up to it. I had some fun and played with it, in order to be the best monkey robot I could be! It was nice because I got to ad lib inbetween and stuff, when my character’s back was turned or when he went offscreen, I got to ad lib some dialogue. You get to see what’s going on, Kit twirling through the air, or landing on top of a car. That made it a little easier and more fun, the process isn’t always like that.

Did you get to meet your fellow cast members, such as James Woods or Carla Gugino?

It was just me in the booth by myself. There are pros and cons doing it both ways, but it was nice. Because I was on my own I felt like if I messed up I could redo it, and get to know the director and all that stuff. It would have been fun doing it with the rest of the cast as well. The only animated movie I’ve ever done like that is Noah’s Ark: The New Beginning and it was nice because I got to work with Michael Keaton and we were able to bounce off each other.

Another upcoming project you may have been asked about once or twice is Mallrats 2! Did you ever think you’d be playing Jay twenty-odd years on from Clerks?

Never! Never… I didn’t expect to play Jay’s character. I was shocked when Clerks was bought and Kevin got a new picture deal and said ‘Hey I’m going to do another movie called Mallrats and I wrote our characters in.’ That was awesome, then with Dogma and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back… I didn’t expect to play the character more than once, let alone be playing it twenty years later. I think it’ll be a blast, playing them again before we get too old! (Laughs)

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Comic book movies have mushroomed over the past decade. Are there plans to do anything more with Bluntman and Chronic?

Me and my friend wrote a Bluntman and Chronic Super Groovy Cartoon Movie (following Jay and Silent Bob‘s movie of the same name). Kevin needs to read it and approve it for the characters and such. And if he approves we’re going to start working on that, so hopefully that will get done soon and we can do a Groovy Movie 2. And then who knows if Kevin will want to do a live action Bluntman and Chronic… but if we did I’d really like to do it like the Avengers movies, Captain America fighting, The Winter Soldier. That would be cool, fighting in that type of style!

What other projects do you have in the pipeline that you can tell us about?

We have a video game coming out, Jay and Silent Bob: Chronic Blunt Punch. Me and Kevin are doing a show called What’s In The Box? for Screen Junkies Plus, where people send us boxes and we don’t know what’s in them. It’s usually toys and all sorts of fun stuff, we started doing that a couple of months ago.

Right now I’m really trying to get this movie off the ground, there’s no title for it yet, but it’s a script by a friend of mine from London. I did a movie called Devil’s Tower with him, and he’s written this script based on an idea we had, and hopefully I’m going to direct it and that will be the first feature I direct. I’m looking forward to that getting off the ground. I’ve done music videos and a short film, and I really want to direct a full feature!

This interview appeared on The Hollywood News.