‘The People We Hate at the Wedding’

A divided family, a philandering ex-husband and a continent and money separating the siblings – a wedding is just what is needed to bring everyone together. Or not.

The last thing self-absorbed siblings Alice (Kristen Bell – Bad Moms, Veronica Mars) and Paul (Ben Platt – Pitch Perfect, Dear Evan Hansen) want to do is travel to London to attend the wedding of their estranged half-sister, Eloise (Cynthia Addai-Robinson – The Accountant, TV’s Shooter). Alice is too busy in LA having an affair with her married boss whilst Philadelphia-based Paul is steadfastly ignoring their mom (Allison Janny – I Tonya, Lou). But travel they all do and with them go their issues and problems where, at the rehearsal dinner, they become the people we hate at the wedding.

Poor taste and unfunny scenarios underscore director Claire Scanlon’s (Set It Up, TV’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine) family comedy as Alice is confronted by the wife, Paul splits up with domineering boyfriend Dominic (Karan Soni) and Eloise has a meltdown. There’s more but in its attempt to be the champagne of ‘feel-good’ rom coms, The People… instead goes straight to the immobilising next day hangover.

Rating: 30%

‘My Policeman’

Episodic and dull, a split time-frame telling of what should be a moving tale of love and denial is instead pedantic and uninvolving.

Seemingly carefree young lovers Marion (Emma Corrin – Lady Chatterley’s Lover, TV’s The Crown) and Tom make plans for their future. But its the late 1950s and policeman Tom (Harry Styles – Dunkirk, Don’t Worry Darling) holds on to deep secrets. Decades later, the arrival of the wheelchair-bound Patrick (Rupert Everett – The Happy Prince, Comfort of Strangers) to their home triggers unhappy memories for the now-married couple. With Tom (Linus Roach – A Call to Spy, Non-Stop) in denial, Marion (Gina McKee – Atonement, Phantom Thread) reads Patrick’s journals and reflects on events that wrenched their lives and the love affair between Tom and Patrick apart.

With homosexuality illegal in 1950s Britain, the two men created a front to protect themselves including the marriage of Tom to a naive Marion. Marion now recognises the realities for what they were – but too late for all concerned. My Policeman has all the potential for emotive, painful drama but a wooden Styles and director Michael Grandage’s (Red, Genius) decision to use the split timeframes to excess results in a hybrid soap opera melodrama with surprisingly little substance.

Rating: 49%

‘All the Old Knives’

Sitting across a restaurant table from each other, two former lovers and CIA operatives discuss a failed rescue attempt of a hijacked plane years earlier.

The reveal of a suspected mole in the Vienna office eight years after the hijacking has resulted in Henry Pelham (Chris Pine – Star Trek, Wonder Woman) being tasked to find the identity. Celia (Thandiwe Newton – Crash, Solo: A Star Wars Story) is a likely suspect. As the two discuss the present and the past, and as a glorious Californian setting sun is juxtaposed with an icy Viennese winter, lines are blurred between the personal and the professional.

Directed by Janus Metz (Borg vs. McEnroe, TV’s ZeroZeroZero) from the book by Olen Steinhauer, passion, betrayal, truth, All the Old Knives is a wordy but intriguing, slow-burn relationship tale as Pelham looks to understand what happened in Vienna.

Rating: 62%

‘Reacher’

It may be pure hokum but Reacher is, unexpectedly, sheer unadulterated enjoyment with a deadpan, on-the-spectrum Jack Reacher (Alan Ritchson) a 6’4″ beefcake.

Arriving on foot in the small town of Margrave, Georgia, Reacher is arrested for murder. A highly decorated former special military police investigator, Major Jack Reacher, a self-confessed hobo, finds himself in the middle of small town politics and far-reaching corruption. With the initially reluctant support of head detective, Oscar Finlay (Malcolm Goodwin), and policewoman Roscoe Conklin (Willa Fitzgerald), Reacher is drawn into the violence of a Venezualan cartel as the bodies mount in a town essentially owned by Kliner Industries.

Whilst the narrative is far from original, the quick-witted repartee and vocal sparring between the lead characters in particular is a joy as the enigmatic loner delves and investigates first one, then two, three murders – and more as they keep turning up (although Reacher is responsible for a few of them himself). Reacher can be violent at times and there’s a lot of surnames to hold on to as those victims pile up. But, with the local Roscoe and Harvard educated Bostonian, Finlay, creating plenty of frisson both for and, later, with Reacher, this first season eight episoder is an intelligent adaptation of novelist Lee Child’s Killing Floor. There’s unquestionably more to come.

Rating: 78%

‘Everybody’s Talking About Jamie’

Based loosely on true events and adapted from the stage musical, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is a feel good social commentary as 16 year-old Jamie (Max Harwood in his feature film debut) sets out to follow his dream to become a drag queen.

Supported by his mum (Sarah Lancashire – Yesterday, TV’s Talking Heads), Jamie takes his Sheffield school motto of being true to himself to heart: it’s a dress and full make-up for the prom. Obstacles inevitably come his way and there’s more than a little self-doubt but best friend Pritti (Lauren Patel) is there when needed.

It’s sugar-coated fluff in it’s telling and the songs themselves are hardly memorable – yet for pure-hearted, well-meaning escapism, director Jonathan Butterell succeeds in transferring his stage production to the screen.

Rating: 63%

‘Goliath’ (Season 2)

Billy McBride (Billy Bob Thornton) returns for season two as political corruption and cartel violence replaces the corporate malfeasance of series one. And, as with that first series, Billy initially turns down the case only to see his potential client murdered – and virtually outside his Santa Monica motel rooms. In spite of his victory in the season one case and the millions of dollars payout, little has changed in McBride’s life.

Taking a similar structural template to the first season, Goliath continues an ebb and flow narrative of personal and professional (if it works, why fix it?) as Billy finds himself emotionally invested. Not only is his client, Julio Suarez, the teenage son of the murdered victim but a romantic liaison develops between Billy and Marisol Silva (Ana de la Reguera), leading mayoral candidate in the forthcoming LA elections and champion of Suarez’s innocence. But not everything is as clean as it appears in a campaign ostensibly bankrolled by successful property developer Tom Wyatt (Mark Duplass) with the shadowy presence of Gabriel Ortega (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), a powerful drug lord behind the murder conspiracy that has seen Julio Suarez locked up, ever present.

Less focussed than season one, Goliath ebbs more than it flows. Unaware of the level of corruption and conspiracy to ensure the teenager is charged for murder, McBride finds himself in deepwater south of the border with only his wits to save him. Meanwhile, back in LA, McBride’s team have their own issues to deal with. Brittany (Tania Raymonde) could be in trouble with the sexually perverse Wyatt and Patty Solis-Papagian (Nina Arianda) has attched herself to FBI agent Jeff Clayton (James Wolk) – or maybe it’s the other way round.

More investigative thriller than courtroom drama, season two is an entertaining meander with several shocking moments that create a sharp contrast to the relatively predictable storyline and wry humour of the narrative. Yet it lacks suspense, investing in a tale that further builds the characters of the team (daughter Denise McBride – Diana Hopper – has a bigger presence) yet fails to live up to the standard established in the earlier series.

Rating: 67%

‘Goliath’ (Season 1)

Whilst hardly original in its storyline, Goliath remains an addictive, superior investigative crime/courtroom drama as alcoholic Billy McBride (Billy Bob Thornton), a former high flying lawyer, reluctantly finds himself drawn back into high stake legal battles.

Approached to investigate a wrongful death/suicide involving armaments giants, Borns Tech, McBride is initially uninterested. But the death of the potential client and involvement of his former firm, Cooperman McBride, more than piques McBride’s interest. Ex-wife (Maria Bello) successfully continues to work there and an almost reclusive Cooperman (William Hurt) holds a very personal grudge.

What develops is unquestionably a David versus Goliath scenario as a very personable McBride surrounds himself in his long-stay Santa Monica motel rooms with extremely likeable colleagues. Ambition, penthouse office suites and multi-million dollar salaries are at odds with the likes of a loud Patty Solis-Papagian (Nina Arianda), a small-time DUI lawyer and real estate agent who originally brought the case to McBride or the sex worker Brittany (Tania Raymonde), helping out as a paralegal as she owes McBride.

Odd things happen as the storylines ebb and flow between the personal, the courtroom and corporate corruption. Cooperman is out to destroy his former partner of one of the most successful legal companies in the world. And if he destroys the careers of his ambitious female staff members along the way as he plays them off against each other, so be it.

It’s the compelling performances that seriously hold the attention in Goliath over its eight part first season – along with an insight into a different Los Angeles that normally takes centre stage.

Rating 78%

‘The Tomorrow War’

A former military man of today, Dan Forester (Chris Pratt – Jurassic World, Guardians of the Galaxy) is conscripted to travel into the future to help save mankind.

With the future world threatened by alien invading forces, technology allows time travel. Desperate forces return to the US to gain help in saving that future – only 30 years away and where as little as half a million or so people survive. Conscripted for seven days, on arrival Forester finds Yvonne Strahovski (TV’s The Handmaid’s Tale, Stateless) the unexpected military leader. On his return, Forester must change the course of action that leads to the future carnage.

A big, bold, derivative blockbuster. Lots of action, lots of special effects – but even the presence of J.K. Simmons (Whiplash, Palm Springs) fails to instil much soul to precedings.

Rating: 47%

‘Without Remorse’

Overblown revenge drama as elite Navy SEAL looks to identify responsibility for his wife’s death – only to find himself involved in an international conspiracy.

With a simultaneous hit of military colleagues and the mistaken murder of his pregnant wife, John Kelly (Michael B Jordan – Creed, Black Panther) looks to the Russian hit squad out for revenge on a Middle East black op. Teaming up with high-ranking Jodie Turner-Smith (Queen & Slim, After Yang), Kelly is out to kill. With the less-than transparent CIA agent, Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot, Rocketman) along for the ride, things take many an unexpected turn.

Based on the novel with Tom Clancy’s fervent American conservative patriotism ever-present, Without Remorse, directed by Stefano Sollima (Sicario: Day of the Soldado, TV’s Gomorrah), is brutal, unpleasant and plain tedious.

Rating: 30%

‘Undone’

A beautifully inventive, animated miniseries, Undone (creators Raphael Bob-Waksberg, Kate Purdy) explores mental health as Alma, waking up from a coma, has a new and disconcerting relationship with time.

What begins as a seemingly everyday family drama evolves into something very different. Involved in a loving relationship with Sam (Siddharth Dhananjay), the reality is Alma (Rosa Salazar) is afraid of commitment, highlighted by the forthcoming marriage of her sister, Becca (Angelique Cabral). A car accident that almost kills her changes everything around Alma – and in particular the relationship with her scientist father, Jacob (Bob Odenkirk). Only problem is that he was killed in a road accident 15 years earlier.

Utilising the initially discombobulating roboscope form of animation (the tracing over of original footage, frame by frame, with hard lines to produce realistic action), Undone is unexpectedly rich in characteristion with a compelling narrative. Not only does it explore issues of mental health, disability (Alma wears a cochlea implant) and existential crises of ordinary life, with Mexican-Jewish parents and an Indian boyfriend, the five part miniseries is perfectly placed to touch upon racism. And, just for good measure, with a deeply religious mother (Constance Marie), catholicism also comes into the fray.

Whilst the synopsis may sound terribly worthy, most of these issues play mostly in the background to the central storyline of Undone – Alma is convinced by her father that he was murdered for his scientific discoveries in relation to the fluidity of time. He needs her to find whodunnit.

It may slip into whimsy and superficial worthiness occasionally but, ultimately, Undone is immersive, inventive, gentle: wry, thoughtful, engaging.

Rating: 70%