A six part intrigue as news of a massive Start Up fraud breaks at the same time Hannah’s husband disappears, leaving her not only with the fall out but with an antagonistic and confused 16 year-old stepdaughter.
Married for less than two years, Hannah (Jennifer Garner) and Owen (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) are devoted to each other, living comfortably on a houseboat in Sausalito, California. The only problem they seem to have is the awkward relationship between Hannah and stepdaughter, Bailey (Angourie Rice). But unexpectedly, Owen disappears without a word. And as VP and senior programmer of the Start Up company, the FBI would very much like to talk to him.
So begins the unravelling of the man Hannah and Bailey thought they knew. As closest friend Jules (Aisha Tyler) steps up to support her, so Hannah follows strange coincidences that take her (and Hannah) to Austin, Texas and the offices of US Marshal, Grady Bradford (Augusto Aguilera).
The Last Thing He Told Me is an engaging mystery thriller for the first two epsiodes but which, by early episode three is predictable in its direction (no spoilers). Hannah and Bailey’s relationship slowly thaws as they desperately try to understand the disappearance of Owen – and the $500,000 he left in a bag in Bailey’s school locker. With the intrigue of the narrative missing, the miniseries settles into a different mindset.
Disappointing all star miniseries as eight interlinked separate stories explore climate change over the century and its impact on everyday lives.
Beginning in 2037, the first episode sets the foundations for the series with wildfires, floods, water shortage, mass migration and ecosystem collapse. Tel Aviv (COP37) and Antarctica are the settings with Bilton Industries (Kit Harington) set to be the corporate bad guys: Bilton has the technology to help the water shortage but profit and the shareholders are placed before environmental concerns. And that concept continues as the global temperatures continue to increase as the polar caps melt and the sea levels rise.
The science of climate change as the decades pass remains throughout the eight stories – but it’s the impact on the everyday that is prevalent. By 2046 it’s not safe to go outside for many without protective covering and breathing apparatus; in 2047, a synagogue in Miami looks to win the political battle to move premises as the rising water levels encroach on the building.
It’s a pretty bleak series exploring the cost of ignorance and ‘quick-fix’ policies as Bilton continues to be seen as a great leader in tech and innovation, yet at what cost? Kit Harington is one of the few characters present in more than one storyline – but how much of a saviour is his billions of dollars?
Extrapolations is a classy miniseries – but then boasting the likes of Meryl Streep, Marion Cotillard, Tahar Rahim, Edward Norton, Forest Whittaker et al , it’s exactly what you would expect. Sadly, quality may be there in bucketloads but consistency of narrative and storytelling is not. From the engaging episode 5 (2059) set in Mumbai and starring Adarsh Gourav and Gaz Choudhry as two small-time smugglers to the excess of episode 4 (also 2059) where brilliant inventor Indira Varma has created a pilotless, solar-powered plane, Extrapolations strives to deliver but generally falters when it moves outside the intimate of the everyday.
Raw and honest yet suffused with humour, Still is a moving portrayal of actor Michael J. Fox’s personal battle with Parkinson’s disease.
Diagnosed with the incurable ‘old person’s disease’ at the height of his fame and months shy of his 30th birthday, Michael J. Fox went public a decade later in 2000 and, in founding the Michael J. Fox Foundation, has raised more than $2 billion for research. But Still, as directed by Davis Guggenheim (He Named Me Malala, Waiting For Superman) is the story of the more personal battle as Fox, along with wife Tracy Pollan and their (now adult) kids, come to terms with the progressively debilitating effects of the disease.
The charm of Still is Fox himself. He matter-of-fact talks of pain management and the black eyes and broken limbs during the making of the documentary, the result of falling over in domestic places such as the kitchen. Through interviews and the interweaving of archival footage from early television and film hits with playing more recent television characters openly suffering from Parkinson’s, Still creates an unexpectedly warm tale of a quite and quietly extraordinary person.
Based on the true story of the development and marketing of what was to become one of the world’s most popular video games, Tetris is as knife-edge as any espionage thriller as American companies lock horns with the Soviet Union.
With Henk Rogers (Taron Egerton – Rocketman, Billionaire Boys Club) looking to secure the Japanese rights to a new video game, so a complex web of ownership unravels as the author of the game is revealed to be a Russian, Alexey Pajitnov (Nikita Efremov – Leto, Syostry), living in Moscow. A global bunfight ensues as claim of ownership is countered by a second and third claim, all overseen by Soviet bureaucrats and corruption within the KGB. Rogers travels backwards and forwards between them all in an attempt to protect Pajitnov and his own interests, but each move is thwarted by would-be buyer, British media baron Robert Maxwell (Roger Allam – Tamara Drew, The Wind That Shakes the Barley) and Moscow.
There’s an overload of dry wit and 1980s nostalgia (the launch of handheld Game Boy consoles!) in Tetris, directed by Jon S. Baird (Filth, Stan & Ollie). And, whilst the thrills are exagerated to beef up the narrative, Tetris is an exuberant, engaging, crowd-pleasing entertainment.
A challenging, cerebral nine-episode season, Severance is a disturbing, dystopian narrative of conspiracy and social control.
A surgical procedure (severance) that divides the memories of work and home provides opportunity for high-security jobs. But what the purpose of this work is never clarified – small teams are isolated in their workplace with minimal interaction with colleagues outside direct team members. Mark (Adam Scott) is the leader of one such team identifying on-screen data patterns and codes.
None of the team would recognise each other outside of work and none of them know who and what they are in the outside world. The arrival of a new colleague, Helly (Britt Lower), sets in motion a series of, to the team, confusing and unexplained interactions that fail to follow the routine of their normalcy. Meanwhile, Mark, on the outside, is being discretely watched by his next door neighbour (Patricia Arquette) who also happens to be the head of the unit at Lumon.
It’s a slow build of a series as tension is gradually increased as it becomes increasingly apparent not everything is what it seems. As a procedure, severance is a controversial one: there’s ongoing protests about growing corporate control and abuse, human rights infringements and more. Yet Mark, a former history professor, chose the implant following the death of his wife in a car accident. An antiseptic workplace of endless, deserted, flourescent-lit corridors with unending unopened doors, vast underground empty office spaces with a team of four huddled around their small desks in the centre of the room: the outside world is the polar opposite – claustrophobic home spaces darkly lit, early winter mornings or nighttime external shots adding to the gloom.
Given time, Severance becomes an immersive, mesmerising series as its slow beginnings give way initially to a sense of uncertainty before quietly revealing another layer as, unexpectedly, the design team, led by Burt (Christopher Walken) is introduced as a possible threat to Mark’s team’s stability. Assuming, that is, it always was stable.
A wonderfully elaborate series of hoaxes keeps the audience engaged and entertained as thousands and then billions of dollars slip through grasping hands.
Character by character we are introduced to the players in Benjamin Caron’s feature film debut (but with several episodes of The Crown and stage to screen collaborations with Kenneth Branagh, we’re in experienced hands). From the gentle bookstore owner Tom (Justice Smith – Jurassic World: Dominion, Paper Towns) to his despised stepmother, Madeline (Julianne Moore – Far From Heaven, Still Alice), nothing is as it seems as hedge funds, endowments, Manhattan real estate all form part of the equation of an elaborate hoax. Coincidences are few as old hand Max (Sebastian Stan – Captain America – The First Avenger, The Devil All the Time) plays the field – with support from PhD student Sandra (Briana Middleton – The Tender Bar, Augustus).
It’s a myriad of hoaxes that draws us in with Julianne Moore on form among a top rate cast that provide an entertaining ride.
A gentle, understated exploration of an emotionally scarred U.S. Army Corps of Engineers veteran who struggles with returning to the mundanity of civilian life.
Suffering a brain injury, the result of an ambush in Afghanistan, Lynsey (Jennifer Lawrence – Don’t Look Up, Joy) finds herself Stateside and in her home town of New Orleans to recuperate. With an emotional distance in her relationship with her mom (Linda Emond – The Unforgivable, Gemini Man), it’s an uncomfortable homecoming. Slowly, through befriending car mechanic James (Brian Tyree Henry – If Beale St Could Talk, Widows), a man with his own emotional demons, Lynsey comes to terms with her immediate world and want to redeploy.
A slow grower from director Lila Neugebauer (TV’s Maid, The Sex Lives of College Girls), Causeway is a nuanced narrative of family, shared pain and experience with a warm, natural chemistry between the two leads.
Nominated for 1 Oscar in 2023 – best supporting actor.
Slow Horses and the error-prone MI5 agents dumped at Slough House under the leadership of Jackson Lamb returns triumphant for a second series as Russian sleeper agents (code name Cicadas) are activated in the quiet of the English Cotswolds.
As agents Min Harper (Dustin Demri-Burns) and Louisa Guy (Rosalind Eleazar) are assigned to a seemingly run-of-the-mill security detail in central London involving Russian industrialists, River Cartwright (Jack Lowden) finds himself under cover in a picturesque, archetypal English village posing as a journalist. All seems polite and relatively low key until Lamb (Gary Oldman) connects the dots and recognises old pre-Berlin Wall emnities between old school UK and Russian agents.
But it being Slow Horses, nothing is as it initially seems and the old suspicions between Lamb and MI5 Deputy Head, Diana Taverner (Kristin Scott Thomas) are ever present – with the latter as always plotting to improve her position and power base within the organisation. Even if that means kowtowing to the odious Home Secretary, Peter Judd (Samuel West), who has his own political aspirations.
As with the first season, past events impact on the current with the experience of old hands such as Lamb and River’s grandfather, David Cartwright (Jonathan Pryce), crucial to the understanding of the modern day narratives. Catherine Standish (Saskia Reeves) also takes a more central role in the unravelling of Cicadas outside of her long-suffering office support to Lamb.
Whilst more intriguing than the kidnapping in season one, season 2 admittedly has a level of inevitable predictability to it as the investigation itself follows a more ‘traditional’ spy storyline. These plot lines may be more dominant in this season, but what sets Slow Horse apart is the slovenly Lamb and his relationship with and to his superiors (namely Taverner) along with the dynamics between colleagues in Slough House itself.
With his sense of aimlessness, there’s a level of inevitability that leads Cherry to the military. But there’s an even greater level of inevitability to his drug addiction on returning from Afghanistan with PTSD.
Based on the book by Nico Walker of his own experiences, Cherry is a grim narrative peppered with humour as a never-better Tom Holland (Spiderman: Homecoming, The Devil All the Time) descends into addiction with girlfriend, Emily (Ciara Bravo – TV’s Big Time Rush, Wayne). Struggling to cope with wartime experiences and the death of his friends in particular, Cherry becomes addicted to prescription drugs and, eventually, heroin. Dragging Emily with him, crime – and robbing small town banks in particular – becomes the only way to finance their addiction.
Directed by Antony & Joe Russo (The Gray Man, Avengers: Endgame), Cherry is a solid, well acted take on one man’s personal experiences. It’s standard genre drama but the performances alongside the flashes of subversive humour tease out the empathy of the storyline.
An all-dancing, all-singing, all-star version of A Christmas Carol? Visitations by the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future will make a difference to the self-centredness of a controversial media consultant? Cue Spirited and the frothy, lightweight storytelling of writer/director Sean Anders (Instant Family, Horrible Bosses).
After more than two centuries, the Ghost of Christmas Present (Will Ferrell – Holmes & Watson, Eurovision Song Contest) is up for retirement. His reward? A return to earth as a mere mortal. Present is reluctant and wants one more soul to help redeem – identifiying the unredeemable Clint Briggs (Ryan Reynolds – Buried, Deadpool) as the next haunting. And so a magical journey ensues in the hope that Briggs’ conversion will be a force for positive change in humanity. But how come Briggs’ assistant, Kimberly (Octavia Spencer – Fruitvale Station, Luce) can see Present?
It’s a musical sugar candy ride with few of the leads being able to hold notes and Ryan Reynolds struggling with his footwork as showtime hits the screen. All singing and all singing choruses break out into tap, jazz and big musical numbers as the overstuffed narrative slips into mind-numbing tedium and awkwardness.