The Favourite seems to come and go on Amazon Video’s Prime Deals collection as a £1.99 rental. Having already been wowed by Lady Gaga’s Oscar-nominated performance in A Star is Born, I was very interested in seeing Olivia Colman’s Oscar-winning performance as mad Queen Anne.
The film is quirky to say the least and at times exquisitely directed by Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos. Colman’s performance is one of her best – I’ve seen her in so many TV shows and films over the years and I am a huge fan – she has such gravitas and complex emotional range just in her facial expressions and body language before she even utters a line. I first saw her in Peep Show and have been impressed ever since.
However, I have to say that for me the performance of the film is that of Rachel Weisz who plays Queen Anne’s close friend Lady Sarah. The character is put through the mill by the arrival of a new servant Abigail (Emma Stone – who is certainly no third wheel) and Weisz plays the arc beautifully. It feels to me like Weisz is often overlooked by casting in big roles (or perhaps she’s just fussier about taking parts than her peers, I don’t know) and it was great to see her be so enigmatic alongside Colman.
The Kid Who Would Be King is a film by writer/director Joe Cornish who is perhaps best known for writing and directing the sci-fi comedy Attack The Block, and/or being part of the late nineties comedy duo Adam and Joe with podcaster extraordinaire Adam Buxton (who has a small cameo in the new movie as a Stonehenge tour guide). The Kid Who Would Be King was available as a £1.99 rental for Amazon Prime subscribers.
The premise of the film is pretty simple – boy finds Excalibur in a block of concrete on a building site and draws the legendary sword from the stone, a sleeping underworld evil is awoken in the form of evil Morgana played by Mission Impossible’s Rebecca Ferguson and a large computer animated creature in latter scenes, and boy has to rally his school friends (some old some new) to save Britain.
It is a great film for children with some powerful (perhaps a little clumsy) messaging about how we should embrace our differences for the good of the nation and not be scared of people because they’re different. Brexit anyone? I enjoyed it a whole heap more than King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. Not least because Merlin played by a whacky Angus Imrie and a crusty Patrick Stewart is a main character with a strong line in magic. Also Alex, the titular kid, is a nice character well played by Louis Ashbourne Serkis (son of Andy Serkis and Lorraine Ashbourne).
Keeping up with the Joneses is a 2016 film in which a suburban couple, played by Zach
Galifianakis and Isla Fisher, find themselves in the middle of an international espionage plot when their new neighbours, played by Jon Hamm (Mad Men) and Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman), turn out to be CIA agents.
The success of the film rests entirely on the comedy performances and the dialogue, since the script itself is very formulaic (see Mr and Mrs Smith for more of the same). Luckily Galifianakis is on good form and carries the others along for the ride toward a satisfactory conclusion with japes, jokes and prat falls along the way.
This is not so much the case for Wine Country which is a Netflix movie starring an ensemble of American comedians that can all be seen in various Netflix and SNL-related comedy shows. Again it’s as formulaic as you can get but not particularly funny – at least this middle-aged male blogger doesn’t think so. Bridesmaids it is not. Here’s the trailer, if you like the look of it be my guest, but don’t say I didn’t warn you:
While I’m here let’s talk about comedy on Channel Four. But before I do let me just say that I enjoyed GLOW Season 3 on Netflix a lot. I thought it was better in some ways than Season 2 despite it not actually featuring much ladies wrestling. If you haven’t seen GLOW at all, then I thoroughly recommend it. Moving on…
Channel Four / E4 have had a run of good original British comedy this year, which I think started with the Matt Berry period comedy drama vehicle Year of the Rabbit in which Rabbit, a tough talking and heavy drinking Victorian police detective, solves crimes in that London with his two partners; a brilliant black policewoman no one ever listens to (Susan Wokoma) and Wilbur a wet behind the ears recruit from the posher side of town (Freddie Fox). Some of the jokes fall a little flat at times and there’s a whiff of Ben Elton at others, but on the whole it was jolly good.
GameFace is more of your standard sitcom. Into its second season it follows the story of struggling actor Marcella (played by stand-up comedian Roison Conaty) and her attempts to find love and work. Well written by Conaty, I can’t help but think a lot of it is semi-autobiographical. Without the smug fourth-wall breaking to camera quips of Fleabag, it is a similar show. Lots of the story revolves around Marcella’s anxieties, her variable communication skills and lack of will power. Karl Theobold (Green Wing) does a good turn as her therapist and so too does Damien Molony as her long-suffering driving instructor.
This Way Up is a new series starring Conaty’s Eight Out of Ten Cats co-star and Irish stand-up comedian and creator of the series Aisling Bea. The premise is fairly simple if rather unique for a comedy show in that Bea plays a woman called Aine recently released from a clinic after recovering from a nervous breakdown.
Given the mental health back story it is a balancing act between comedy and drama which I found quite powerful. Bea puts on a great and endearing performance. The writing does a good job of highlighting the highs and lows suffered by a depressive character. I haven’t seen the closing episode yet, but I’m hoping that Bea finds some kind of balance in her life.
Stath Lets Flats could not be further from the depth of emotion contained within This Way Up but it is no less tragic in places although the story is played out for maximum laughs. The sitcom is co-written by and stars character comedian Jamie Demetriou (Fleabag) as a simple but well-meaning Greek-Cypriot letting agent. We follows him from on incompetent viewing to another in that London. The award winning show is like some kind of mash-up of Some Mothers Do Have Em and a Leonard Rossiter workplace comedy for the modern age with Demetriou being compared by some to Steve Coogan.
Co-writer Robert Popper has written two of my all time favourite Channel 4 comedies (Peep Show and Friday Night Dinner) and Staph Lets Flats also stars Jamie’s sister Natasia Demetriou, who I loved in What We Do In The Shadows alongside Matt Berry, as Staph’s equally imbecilic sister. Both of them are excellent and so too are the supporting cast.