‘Queen Charlotte – a Bridgerton Story’

Bridgerton 3: a six part season providing a Bridgerton backdrop to Queen Charlotte’s marriage to George III and the social ‘experiment’ instigated by Dowager Princess Augusta and a reluctant parliament.

There’s only a smattering of Bridgerton regulars in season three as the majority of the narrative focuses on the arrival in London of teenage Charlotte (India Amarteifio) and the early years of her marriage to George (Corey Mylchreest). Bethrothed to George against her wishes, Charlotte is not happy. As we already know, things are not quite right in the royal household. But Queen Charlotte – a Bridgerton Story is set several decades before seasons one and two. As the older Charlotte (Golda Rosheuvel) struggles to secure succession from her many adult children, so she is reminded of the early days of marriage.

With George’s mother, Dowager Princess Augusta (Michelle Fairley) herself struggling with parliament to ensure the royal succession, the arranged marriage looks good for all concerned. Assuming Charlotte to be a passive minor German royal of good child bearing stock, as a black woman she is also perfect for the ‘experiment’ of social integration. But Charlotte is anything but passive and soon challenges royal protocol and prerogative. Expect plenty of clashes between mother and daughter-in-law, husband and wife, king’s valet (Reynolds – Freddie Dennis) and queen’s valet, Brimsley (Sam Clemmett) as Charlotte discovers she’s actually in love with her husband.

It’s a fun ride, interspersed with that of the elevation of the Danburys to the aristocracy – the first titled black family. Lady Agatha Danbury (Arsema Thomas) and Queen Charlotte become firm friends but Lord Danbury’s early death throws a spanner into the works regarding succession.

For fans of Bridgerton (and there are many!) invested in the characters, season three provides historical backstories to the three senior women of the series – Queen Charlotte (a personal favourite), Lady Agatha Danbury (Adjoa Anode) and Lady Violet Ledger Bridgerton (Ruth Gemmell). But to be honest, like the first two seasons, it could have been achieved so much quicker. There’s a little too much of a young sulky/angry Charlotte eating alone or regaling Brimsley. The result is a somewhat repetitive narrative. But it’s lightweight entertainment well told exceptionally well cast – and it throws in social commentary of contemporary issues (racism, homophobia, sex, republicanism) for good measure.

Rating: 58%

Bridgerton Season 1

Bridgerton Season 2

‘The Recruit’ (Season 1)

In his first week in the legal department of the CIA, Owen Hendricks finds himself increasingly involved in dangerous international power politics that threaten the lives of all Eastern European agents and their contacts.

A routine task for the newest recruit – checking the veracity of mailed threats to the agency – results in Hendricks (Noah Centineo) dispatched to Phoenix and a women’s prison to assess former Russian asset Max Meladz’s (Laura Haddock) threats to divulge CIA secrets to the public. Hendricks believes its real and finds himself representing her back at Langley to convince Walter Nyland (Vondie Curtis-Hall) his department chief.

It’s the beginning of a thrilling cat and mouse espionage thriller as the seasoned Max looks to return home after several years in the US – but she needs millions of dollars as payment to buy her way back into the game. She needs help: the CIA all the way up to the White House have to determine whether that help is forthcoming and whether Max would be a reliable asset. But for a start they need to get her out of prison, sentenced as she is for murder.

The Recruit is high stake thrills from Doug Limon, director/producer of the Jason Bourne saga, but which also sees the Washington house-sharing domesticity of Hendricks and the backstory of Max’s arrival in the States. Arrogant but naive, the new recruit makes mistakes, both at home and at work, but his strut carries the day – and the manipulative Max trusts him. So much so, more experienced and calculating operatives – particularly take-no-prisoners Angel Parker (Dawn Gilbane) with her own agenda – are releuctantly forced to work with him.

It’s a charismatic, well-paced if flawed eight episode ride with that balance of thrills and domesticity. Hendricks obviously still has feelings for housemate and ex-girlfriend, Hannah (Fivel Stewart) and she, along with third housemate, Terence (Daniel Quincy Annoh), are innocently drawn into the world of secrets. But there’s no innocence about assassin gone rogue Max as the action flips from US soil to Europe.

Rating: 68%

‘One of Us’

Engrossing, sad documentary of three individuals who break away from their Brooklyn Hasidic community and the consequences they face in doing so.

Etty is a young mother of six children abused by her husband. Luzer, a young father, simply loses his faith. Teenage Ari is something of a lost soul, uncertain of the world he finds himself a part of. Each have their own tale to tell and directors Heidi Ewing & Rachel Grady (Jesus Camp, Endangered) interweave the three personal stories over the 90 minute duration of the film.

The entire community, including her own mother, turn against Etty as she battles for her children. A sanguine Luzer moved to California but is not allowed to see his children: he did not speak to his mother for seven years. Ari is equally lost in the secular world: an intervention by his family sees him placed in rehab and, on his release, finds himself on the periphery of his former community testing the waters.

One of Us is a deeply affecting film of a closed community and the extent it will go to keep people in and everyone else out. But in the case of Etty, the film also highlights how little the law supports her in spite of constant emotional and physical threats.

Rating: 68%

‘Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal’

Strange to watch the three part miniseries without knowing much about the ongoing court case that was fast approaching the jury’s verdict.

Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal looked to the upstanding South Carolina Murdaugh family, bastions of respectability in the Lowcountry area of the State. Until recently, that is. The family which, from 1920 to 2006 provided consecutive district attorneys, now found itself in very unwanted national and international headlines. Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal exposes secret after secret of a current day dynasty that believed itself to be above the law.

From drunk driving and embezzlement to manslaughter, unlawful death and murder, Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal features it all – and more.

Episode one looks almost exclusively to the 2019 boating accident that led to younger son, Paul, being charged with the the death of friend Mallory Beach whilst driving a boat three times over the legal blood alcohol limit. But the family tale becomes complicated when investigations lead to the unravelling of patriarch Alex Murdaugh. One result is the reopening of the cases into two unsolved deaths, one on Moselle, the Murdaugh property itself. And then, if that’s not enough, Paul and his mother are shot dead on the property days before the boy was to appear in court. There’s a litany of the overlooked and circumstantial, evidence that would have likely been further investigated had it not been related in some way to the family.

In devoting so much time to the boating accident, the docuseries may be guilty of drawing out its material. But the advantage is that it lays the foundation to understand the position of the family in the social history and culture of Hampton, South Carolina. We are also introduced to a number of key individuals – including the four emotionally scared survivors of that boat crash – who openly comment about the Murdaughs, the favourable treatment dished out to Paul after the accident and their opinions on older son, Buster.

But detail gives way to broad brushstrokes, supposition and unsubstantiated assumption in episodes two and three as we move into the investigations of Alex Murdaugh.

More shocking information is revealed about the death of housekeeper Gloria Satterfield in 2018: Buster is implicated in the reported hit and run death of classmate Stephen Smith in 2015. And it is revealed that Maggie Murdaugh filed for divorce prior to her death. All in their own right deserved more investigation as well as the murders of wife and son – but with Alex Murdaugh in court facing criminal charges, Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal proved to be too soon a documentary.

The result is a wholly disatisfying three part docuseries with little reflection legally allowed to be included. Whilst less senasationalist, episode one and the boating accident proves to make a better documentary simply because there’s three years between the event and the film. At the time of its making, Alex Murdaugh was imprisoned awaiting trial.

Rating: 50%

(In March 2023, Alex Murdaugh was found guilty of the murders of his wife and younger son, Paul and given life in prison).

‘Your Place or Mine’

Templated rom com as two best friends of 20 years discover the one night stand when they first met had more importance than they both realised.

Divorcee Debbie (Reese Witherspoon – Wild, Walk the Line) lives with her 10 year-old son Jack (Wesley Kimmel – TV’s Wanda Vision, The Book of Boba Fett) in suburban Los Angeles. She talks to New York-based Peter (Ashton Kutcher – No Strings Attached, Jobs), an in-demand marketing executive, virtually every day. When the possibility to pursue a long-held dream comes Debbie’s way and with it a week in New York, its the ideal occasion for the two to catch up. But plans go awry leaving Debbie in New York and Peter in LA with Jack. Lives change in unexpected ways as each impact on the other’s lifestyle in that single week.

Written and directed by Aline Brosh McKenna (writer of The Devil Wears Prada), it’s a breezy template of a feature that has its moments but one that would have likely worked more effectively with the rom com toned down and the drama ramped up.

Rating: 48%

‘All Quiet on the Western Front’

Visceral and lyrical, the horror and inhumanity of trench warfare cruelly unfolds in this extraordinary adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque’s seminal anti-war novel.

Patriotic fervour sees four schoolboy friends lie to enlist in the German army. But they are quickly confronted by the brutality of life on the front as Ludwig is killed on their first day. As the narrative hones in on Paul Bäumer (Felix Kammerer in his film debut), the three are befriended by the older, seasoned Stanislaus ‘Kat’ Katczinsky (Albrecht Schuch – Berlin Alexanderplatz, Lieber Thomas). Bäumer and Kat become inseparable as the war ticks slowly by and negotiations begin by Matthias Erzberger (Daniel Brühl – Rush, Woman in Gold) for a speedy armistice.

Perfectly capturing the chaos and futility of war, All Quiet on the Western Front, directed by Edward Berger (Jack, TV’s Deutschland 83), is a powerful sweep of history, a dour, deeply moving, visual excess of a feature. Bleak it is – bleak it needs to be.

Nominated for 9 Oscars in 2023 including best film, adapted screenplay, visual effects – won 4 for best foreign language film, cinematography, original score (Volker Bertelmann – Ammonite, Lion) and production design.

Rating: 88%

‘I Came By’

Enjoyable if minor thriller, a pair of professional graffiti artists makes a discovery that put their lives – and those around them – at risk.

Jay (Percelle Ascot – x+y, TV’s The Innocents) and Toby (George MacKay – Pride, 1917) are a team, breaking into expensive homes to daub ‘I Came By’ on the walls. But with a kid on the way, Jay wants out. As a last job, they choose retired judge Hector Blake (Hugh Bonneville – Iris, Downton Abbey) as their next victim. But not all is what it appears with Toby choosing to return to the house to check out the cellar – and promptly disappears.

It’s a well written, claustrophobic little feature (Namsi Khan) with Bonneville unexpectedly convincing as the villain. Directed by Babak Anvari (Under the Shadow, Wounds), I Came By is an occasionally provocative thriller/social commentary that works primarily for what it chooses not to show or say.

Rating: 59%


A heist with a difference – and 24 years in the planning following the arrest and imprisonment of safe-cracker Leo Pap.

Told in eight parts, Kaleidoscope allows the viewer to watch in which ever colour-coded episode we so choose, each centring around a specific time frame within those 24 years. Inevitably, there are significantly more of the episodes devoted to the time immediately before and after the heist. With the earlier working title of Jigsaw, Kaleidoscope is inspired by the true story where $70 billion in bonds went missing in downtown Manhattan during Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

With Leo (Giancarlo Esposito) looking to retire from the business to focus on his family, he agrees one last job with long-term partner, the smooth-talking Roger Salas (Rufus Sewell). Of course, it goes wrong – and its Leo who gets caught. So the genesis to wonderfully convoluted plan of revenge is laid that, over the next 24 years, provides a determination and sense of purpose for Leo on escaping 17 years after sentencing. And Salas – now a seemingly respectable businessman providing the ultimate in technological security in underground deposit boxes and safes – is firmly in the firing line.

The earlier (in terms of time in the narrative) episodes provide background – four or five episodes provide the buzz of preparation which includes a highly choreographed diamond heist to help pay for the real thing. But, importantly, time is taken on (most of) the characters involved and their loyalties (or lack of it) to each other. Along with funding and security (high flying lawyer and fence Paz Mercer), former cellmate (Peter Mark Kendall) and knowledge of science (Rosaline Elbay), the security requires pinpoint technological expertise – but also, in Bob Goodwin (a loud and ridiculous Aussie trope by Jai Courtney), old fashioned safe-cracking skills.

Expect stories within stories, subplots within subplots, betrayals within betrayals as, whilst overextended and stodgy soap opera on occasions in its eight episodes, plans inevitably do not go as intended. The target is dodgy money – owned by dodgy characters. And they will do anything to protect that money. As will Salas. It’s a fun ride, whichever narrative order you chose to watch.

Rating: 64%

‘Capturing the Killer Nurse’

A perfect accompaniment to the docudrama account in the feature film The Good Nurse, director Tim Travers Hawkins (Burn It Down!, XY Chelsea) explores the same material that exposed nurse Charles Cullen as potentially the biggest serial killer in US history as he murdered patients during a 16-year career spanning several New Jersey medical centres prior to being arrested in 2003.

As a documentary, Capturing the Killer Nurse is more specific and precise than the feature which inevitably focuses on the characters involved. Interviews with medical staff, police investigators, family members of victims piece together a shocking culpability of the American healthcare system and the toxic culture of hospital profitability. Yet Hawkins’ film is not an attempt to be comprehensive in its investigation. Instead, the focus is on the two months when Cullen worked at Somerset Hospital in New Jersey when police and his colleagues work together to prove his guilt – in spite of opposition and threats by hospital management. 

It’s a confronting tale – but for colleagues Amy Loughren and Donna Hargreaves at Somerset, also confusing as friendships were developed with the quiet, supportive Cullen. Forty victims is the number Cullen has confessed to – but experts believe the figure could be closer to 400.

Rating: 64%


Whilst the dialogue may be somewhat clunky at times and individual scenarios pushing the boundaries of believable acceptance, the eight part miniseries Treason remains something of a thrilling espionage ride.

When Control (Head of MI6 – Ciarán Hinds) is poisoned, his deputy Adam Lawrence (Charlie Cox) temporarily takes over. Turns out that the poisoner, Kara (Olga Kurylenko), is a Russian agent and an ex lover of Lawrence from his days when posted in Baku. Secrets abound, personal and professional, past and present, as Lawrence finds everything he holds dear slipping away from him. With his wife Maddy (Oona Chaplin) questioning his secrecy, with Kara questioning his loyalty, with Foreign Secretary Audrey Gratz (Alex Kingston) questioning his experience and with the CIA questioning everything, it’s no easy initiation for Lawrence. But Control has his own secrets and a system in place to protect his position and that of the secret service.

Treason is an intrigue of a series – fast-paced, a few unexpected twists, the inevitable mole, several foolish decisions with dire consequences – even if it is flawed and oversimplified. Written by Matt Charman (Bridge of Spies), dialogue and storylines teeter on the edge of ludicrous at times, but it offers enough.

Rating: 60%