Wednesday, 25 January 2012

New Site Launch

To all my readers. Thank you so much for showing your support. I have been working hard and I have launched a new website.

Please visit

New content, all new user interface and hopefully you will all like it better than here. This site will be made redundant by the newer one. 

Thank you.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Hustle: The Gold Heist

This review contains spoilers. You can catch the episode here
All images are property of BBC and are not of my work.

“He has a parrot named Goldie”

I am delighted that Hustle has been commissioned for their eighth series and the first episode hit our TV screens on the 13th January 2012. For those new to Hustle; the clue is in the name. We follow a group of con artists who specialise in the long con rather than your usual parlour tricks in the hope of higher gain. The twist with Hustle is that the group of con artists are essentially the good guys, they dish out justice with meticulousness and style. Hustle is an episodic program with no particular overarching story plot line. If you are a fan of such works as The A-Team, The Sting, The Grifters as well as Hollywood big hitters Ocean's Eleven and Mission: Impossible chances are you will love Hustle.

We join Mickey Brick's men with much aplomb mid con. It is rather amusing to see the team get flustered by the girl's lack of knowledge or regard of various famous athletes. It is a great moment to see the old school Ash Morgan gone trendy suggest Justin Bieber to save the day. The rich colours and the slick cast with a bouncing soundtrack before we are waltzed away to their opening credits really set the tone for their first 2012 episode.

Hustle has always managed to be topical and the team have been busy selling non existent executive boxes and three Olympic torch runs and the reference to Gaddafi and Libya are also recent occurrences. I love Eddie and so do the team as they waste no time teasing Eddie (Rob Jarvis). I'm getting ahead of myself here. Let me introduce the current team. We start with the three senior members: Michael 'Micky Bricks' Stone (Adrian Lester) the cool headed suave brains behind the operation, next we have Ash "Three Socks" Morgan (Robert Glenister) who plays the fixer, and Albert Stroller (Robert Vaughn) who first taught Michael stone everything that he knew, and he seems to be rather skilled with just about every game and trick in the casino. They are flanked by the younger and less experienced Sean and Emma Kennedy played by Matt Di Angelo and Kelly Adams respectively. They play the fresh faced, bright eyed and sexy roles, often being the seducer or an eye catching waiter, whatever roles that Michael and co deem fit for them to do.

Back to Eddie, and O how Eddie has grown with his dear Ian Rush picture defiled by one of the team he bars the group till one of them owns up to the crime. I love 'the banter and general abuse' between the group and Eddie and this is no different. It would also seem Eddie is spot on with his analysis that the group are just 'big kids' as we find out that actually Sean, Albert and Micky himself was in on the gag! It's wonderful comedy relief.

Back to business, Albert has a mark for us: Dexter Pratt aka Dexter Gold who made a small fortune conning poor folks out of jewellery by paying out just a fraction of what they were worth in particular Albert's acquaintance Vivienne who has had her gold conned. It would also seem that Dexter is not just a normal thug but also a middle man for stolen gold bullion in which he uses his 'Gold Hard Cash' front to launder the gold for cash. Dexter then is no ordinary crook but also mixes with gangsters which make the job dangerous for Micky Brick's crew. The episode very early on introduces Heinz Zimmerman a German gold buyer who asks no question and has a lot of money.

Dexter (Paterson Joseph) is a loud, brash and not too bright of a man and if that wasn't bad enough he is a rude sexist who preys on the vulnerable. Now if that isn't worthy enough of a mark then I don't know what is. The trademark cut scenes of the team at work is a welcome return as they set on using an already existing newspaper story of some stolen Libyan gold bullion as their back story. Hustle has always been very careful to make sure that the team follow the philosophy that they only con the rich and the evil and the philosophy is not betrayed here as the team pursue their usual careful research. One criticism I have is that Dexter never really comes through as ever being close to threatening the group despite his contacts he just seems too dim.

Hustle has always been a light hearted show with its focus on the heist itself which leaves a lot of room for the show to build character development. After all the majority of the cast has had more than 8 series together with the Kennedy siblings joining in series 5 there is a real sense of camaraderie between the team. The actors and actresses deliver their lines and do a really good job of making Hustle entertaining and endearing their characters to their viewer. My favourite has to be Ash Morgan (Robert Glenister) whose facial expressions and razor sharp lines are all delivered with poise and polish and is often the highlight of many a Hustle episode.

Dexter Gold/Pratt notice how Pratt may well be an in joke at how much of a prat Dexter is and although this is the case I have got to say Dexter is actually likeable in that he was enjoyable to watch, his dance and his over obvious leering at women are fun to watch (The daydream sequence of Emma covered in gold is literally gold) If anything you feel a little sorry for him as he runs back to the con artists who he still unwittingly believes are special black ops to hand over yet more cash to run a kill order on Zimmerman. Hustle never takes itself too seriously and their caricature of this gold dealer is spot on and entertaining to watch. 

There is a distinct football flavour to this episode as the sub plot of Eddie is in full swing in the background. Hustle has always had a flair at running several different cons/plot lines at the same time and this time the group who are busy handling the gold dealer attempt to be unbarred from Eddies Bar so that they can have their breakfasts again (apparently none of the crew can cook!). I laughed at Ash's comment at West Ham's bounce from Premiership to Championship as a rest before launching the next assault on the Premiership and although you had to be a football fan to get the joke it is a brilliant line. The conundrum for the group is that Ash actually had nothing to do with the doodling on Eddie's precious Ian Rush picture but Eddie himself does not believe it is anyone else but him and Ash being the proud man he is refuses to apologise. Hustle fans will almost immediately realise that the team are running a con on Ash himself as they record his words. I loved the reveal on this con as Eddie hugs an awkward Ash for being the bigger man 'I respect you... as a man'.

Hustle always has a twist and always leaving out one piece of the puzzle with which they can bedazzle the viewer and this is where Hustle shines revealing camera angles we never saw. Albert was first talking to Heinz Zimmerman the dry sophisticated german known as Paul when he spots the crying Vivienne. Heinz subsequently has been in on the act since the very beginning and sees it through with ketchup on his shirt.

This is a light hearted and enjoyable episode. It is a wonderful return to form for Micky Brick's crew and as Eddie says very aptly 'I've missed you guys'. Amongst the gold littered puns, the exaggerated Dexter Gold and the lovable Eddie Hustle glitters away with a heart warming and entertaining episode. I look forward to what the crew can do and how clever Hustle can be.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Sherlock: The Hounds of Baskerville

This review contains spoilers. You can view the episode here
All images are property of BBC and are not of my work.

“Your mind, it’s so placid, straight-forward, barely used.”

We join Sherlock for the penultimate episode of Series Two for the classic novel 'The Hounds of Baskerville' featuring Being Human star Russell Tovey. There are two different groups of viewers for this episode; those who know the original source and remember it and those who come to the episode fresh or have forgotten most of what happened. I say this because at its heart 'The Hounds of Baskerville' is a classical murder mystery 'whodunit?', so when it comes to rebuilding a modern adaptation of a novel which has received well over twenty different adaptations; how do you build suspense and intrigue. The writers have taken a hammer to the source material and have completely rebuilt the storyline with the same familiar names and locations. The story is still set in Dartmoor (although much of the episode is set in a clinically white military base) and we have all the familiar names; Stapleton, Barrymore, Mortimer, Henry and of course the Hound itself although the roles they play are jumbled and the names slightly modified. Henry Knight a man driven to despair and insanity by a Hound that has killed his father and is now still at large roaming the moors seeks out a fidgety Sherlock to figure out what exactly happened the night his father was taken. Sherlock only takes the case because Henry insists on using the archaic word 'Hound' and so Sherlock and Watson set out to Dartmoor; West Country on a new adventure.

The episode starts brightly with as much zip and verve as the first as we rejoin 221B with Watson and Sherlock. There are few shows where the main character drenched in pig blood wielding a harpoon could be considered the norm. We glimpse another opportunity to see into Sherlock's psyche, he is a man who cannot sit still, a man who is both a slave to cigarettes and his brilliant mind. I absolutely adore the witty banter that exist between the duo, the writers do brilliantly with dialogue that hints at an unseen history and chemistry. They are in many senses like an old married couple, bickering and fighting and the writers are fully aware of this and regularly poke fun at this. Sherlock and Watson also provide the best comedic scenes with a surreal good cop/bad cop moment and especially Sherlock's desperate inhaling of Henry's smoke.

However this is as much London as we will see as  the rest of the episode is based in the dark remote and bleak West Country, Dartmoor. There is a beautiful scene where Sherlock stands atop a rock surveying the landscape which really sets the tempo that Sherlock is here to do business. The directors show their versatility with a completely different vibe some of which is successful and some which fall a little flat. The scenery is bleak but beautiful, and the soundtrack suitably ominous however their attempt at the horror genre is a little contrived and unimaginative. Considering how genre breaking Sherlock is, it is disappointing to see them sticking with conventional horror motifs. Watson being left behind, loud noises and predictable jumps are just some examples of how unambitious the directors were being in this episode. However the scene where Henry is in a hallucinogenic nightmare as the Hound stalks him in his own backyard is well directed  with Russell Tovey's acting taking centre stage.

There are no particular problems with the storyline itself but rather the pacing is slow and there are plot holes that are never answered for example Watson stumbles upon the potential answer of the whole case as he discovers a metal canister in the forest (and why does he never mention this to Sherlock?). The characters of Major Barrymore (Simon Paisley Day), genetic scientist Dr Stapleton (Amelia Bullmore) and Dr Frankland (Clive Mantle) seem to be rather one dimensional and lack the charm or intelligence of 'The Woman' in the first episode. One redeeming character is Louise Mortimer, Henry's psychotherapist. The sessions are a nice plot device to look into Henry's mind and actually the words 'In' and 'Liberty' are revealed here.

Watson's discovery in the forest
Russell Tovey was always going to be watched closely being the guest star and he does not disappoint as he plays a harrowed Henry driven to the edge of insanity and despair. His mansion in disrepair is filmed with cold blues and is as bleak and desolate as the moors itself and I thought this was a nice touch by the writers. 

Cumberbatch is also given ample time to flex his acting chops with the episodes defining moment. A visibly shaken Sherlock who has long advocated a fictional Hound has seen with his own eyes the Hound for himself. Sherlock starts off scared and shaken and quickly becomes increasingly angry; whether at himself or at Watson is never clear but he offends Watson by stating that he has no friends in a moment of exasperation. I think this scene is important not only for the development of Watson and Sherlock's relationship (Sherlock makes up with Watson later) but reveals the deeper issues inside Sherlock's mind. He is a man ruled by logic and everything he does has an order and method to it; when he first approaches the Dartmoor military base his eyes constantly scans the environment for every little thing that may be of significance. This is even clearer with the minority report-esque mind palace moment. So when he is faced with a glitch, a clear vision of the Hound, he is caught between his human fallible emotions which he always tried to divorce himself from and the machine that is his mind. 
Watson then is the perfect companion, ever willing to bring his human side out. Considering Sherlock later experiments on him, he is also infinitely patient and I think Sherlock realises that he is a better person and investigator with him by his side.

'The Hounds of Baskerville' is somewhat lacklustre and lacks the pace and charm of the former episode but Cumberbatch and Freeman with their sharp dialogue and interactions together are highlights of the episode. The problem with the plot line is that it lacks an antagonist that the viewer can care about. Next week's episode features the excellent Andrew Scott as Moriarty and as we return back to the central struggle between Moriarty and Sherlock, I hope that the final episode of Sherlock we may see in a while can finish on a high note.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Sherlock: A Scandal In Belgravia

All Images are copyright and property of BBC
This review contains spoilers. If you dislike spoilers bookmark this page and watch the episode here.

“Brainy is the new sexy”

Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle's creations; Sherlock Holmes and Dr John Watson have long captured the hearts and minds of many. It has inspired hit shows and films such as: House, Sherlock Holmes (2009) and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2010) and the focus of my review the excellent Sherlock (BBC).

For those unfamiliar with Sherlock, the first series was first aired on BBC One on July 2010 starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as Sherlock Holmes and Doctor John Watson respectively. Sherlock is directed by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss known in particular for their contributions to Doctor Who. The first series garnered positive critical reception and won the 2011 BAFTA Television Award for Best Drama Series.

Sherlock is a slick stylistic and smooth modern adaptation of the classic Sherlock Holmes novels and is set in modern day London. The shows most unique aspect; the breaking of the fourth wall with the use of quick camera work, close ups, slow motion, and floating text are used  to great effect.

Sherlock returned to our screens with the second series on New Year's Day and at the time of writing can be caught on BBC iPlayer and what a magnificent return it was. Sherlock set the standard for some of the best TV to hit out screens in 2010 and storytelling masters Moffat and Gatiss do it again.

The episode picks up immediately with a recap from the ending of the "The Great Game" with Sherlock, Watson and Moriarty (Andrew Scott) engaged in mid Mexican standoff. We have our first comedic moment with the thick tension broken by the clearly intentionally ironic and camp ringtone 'Stayin' Alive' by the Bee Gees. Andrew Scott does an amazing job at portraying Arch nemesis and rival Moriarty -flustered one moment and pyschotic the next; I haven't seen such an intriguing and compelling portrayal of a villain since the Joker by the late Heath Ledger. The call which interrupts the proceedings introduces us to the main antagonist of the episode; Miss Irene Adler (Lara Pulver) professionally known as "The Woman".

The episode is based upon the novel "A Scandal in Bohemia" and isn't the last homage paid to Conan Doyle's works. The first minutes allude to other works such as "The Geek Interpreter", "The Speckled Blonde" and "The Illustrious Client".

All Sherlock episodes weigh in at an hour and half and each series will have three episodes. For many viewers ninety minutes is a long time for a TV show; however I am glad that Sherlock has taken this decision to give Conan Doyle's novels the time and space to shine and breathe. Sherlock very rarely drags, the pacing is handled superbly and each episode is action packed. An understated but vibrant soundtrack coupled with spectacular camera work and perfect storytelling make for such high production values that Sherlock puts many films with bigger budgets to shame.

Miss Irene Adler is in actual fact a lesbian/bisexual dominatrix (yes you read it right!) infamous for her skills to manipulate events as she sees fit by obtaining information from important people and institutions by 'misbehaving'. She has managed to come into possession of some very sensitive and compromising photographs that threaten the monarchy. A very unwilling and unclothed Sherlock is shuffled to Buckingham Palace to solve this conundrum. Sherlock at first dismissive is hooked as he discovers that Miss Adler has asked for no ransom 'a power play!' an enthused Sherlock announces. The very first adventure of 2012 begins and Miss Adler proves to be both equally as compelling and cunning as Sherlock himself.

Irene Adler is played with sexiness and pizazz and much credit must be given to Lara Pulver for creating a multi dimensional character. Her first interaction with Sherlock sets the tone for the rest of the episode. Not for the first time Sherlock uncharacteristically loses his focus as he is faced with a fully nude Miss Adler. Adler's interest are twofold; his intelligence and Sherlock himself. There is a running gag where a particularly rude text message tone results in hilarity and a charming series of text messages between Adler and Sherlock throughout which gave me a sense of a deeper connection between Adler and Sherlock which went beyond the case. A puzzle presented to Sherlock via a locked phone which contains enough secrets to bring down a nation is a fantastic plot device as it symbolises Adler's continuing dominance over Sherlock and presents itself as a fantastic 'A-Ha!' moment when the answer is finally revealed.  The mystery and allure creates an interesting paradigm in their relationship in the episode and creates main poignant moments. Without a doubt Adler creates an impression on Sherlock and that is no small feat.

Sherlock's character has long been a subject of fascination for many fans. Sherlock is highly intelligent and logical (solving crime mysteries with only a glance) but socially awkward and dispassionate and in effect a sociopath. The episode aims to explore his character in a deeper way and particular Sherlock's interaction with sexual intimacy and to a greater extent intimacy itself. Mycroft his older brother in a seething scene mocks Sherlock's lack of experience in this field. In fact no one really knows Sherlock that well; his closest friends Watson and Mrs Hudson tellingly reveal that they really don't know what happens in Sherlock's head and Mycroft in a rare act of compassion regrets sending Sherlock to deal with the dangerous Adler after discovering that his brother has a weakness he never believed the logical Sherlock could ever possess. Benedict Cumberbatch really makes the character of Sherlock Holmes his own playing Sherlock with an abundance of charisma and charm. His efficacious dialogue and witty rebuttals instantly makes Cumberbatch's Sherlock likeable. However Cumberbatch plays the darker and mysterious side of Sherlock with gravitas -you can't help but wonder what he could possible be thinking as he plays a perfect rendition of Auld Lang Syne on the violin. For traditionalists Cumberbatch may be an odd choice, he is neither traditionally handsome, his style of speech may be too fast and furious to follow but without a doubt Sherlock Holmes has become the new sexy with Cumberbatch at the helm.

It would be a terrible disservice not to mention one of my favourite actors Martin Freeman playing Dr Watson. Watson is seen as the very loyal, straight talking and dependable companion and foil that Sherlock needs and Freeman is perfectly cast here. Some of the most memorable moments come from the interactions between Watson and Sherlock. Freeman possesses some of the funnier lines in the episode 'I always hear punch me in the face when you talk, but normally its just subtext' delivered with Freemans trademark look. I love the budding bromance between Freeman and Cumberbatch and as far as I'm concerned is a much better pairing that the Hollywood equivalent of Jude Law and Robert Downey Jr.

Mrs Hudson (Una Stubbs) makes a triumphant return and has a delicate scene with Sherlock, where Sherlock shows his loving and cold side all in one go. Mrs Hudson isn't the only character to make a welcome return from the first series. Molly Hooper (Louise Brealey) has some touching moments and arguably some of the most memorable interactions with Sherlock in the episodes outside of Irene Adler. Molly Hooper for those joining us from Series Two has a massive crush on Sherlock and is portrayed as a demure humble girl. Sherlock is never fully aware that Molly Hooper has feelings for him and although the relationship is often used as a device for comedic relief, I would love to see her more involved in future episodes. She has a few scenes which are of note. The first is at Christmas Day where Sherlock unwittingly hurts her feelings and as a really well deliver scene kisses her on the cheek and apologises, you realise that there is hope for the sociopathic Sherlock. The second is a brilliant line as a bewildered Molly asks in equal part confusion and jealousy 'Who is she? How did Sherlock recognise her from... not her face?'

The ending is another emotional scene as Sherlock deceivingly is given the late Miss Adler's phone from evidence. I really enjoyed this scene as Sherlock reminisces over all their text messages that have interwoven the story thus far. It is a lovely touch for the keen eyed viewer to be able to see the texts in their entirety and continues to elevate Sherlock to a different calibre of storytelling. The very last part of the ending is a little disappointing in that Sherlock has always managed to remain as smart and realistic as its namesake. I find it difficult to believe that Sherlock has managed to infiltrate a terrorist cell, remain in disguise and rescue Miss Adler with a sword. I have to wonder, wouldn't a terrorist cell have guns? Perhaps Sherlock has caught some of the Hollywood fever. Despite the ending, I am happy that Miss Adler survives, she is a fun and worthy adversary for Sherlock, and I don't believe that a dark ending would have been suitable for this story considering its light and merry elements.

A Scandal in Belgravia then is a perfect example of substance and style. This is genuinely good TV and despite a far fetched ending, there is very little wrong to be found and is a fun adventure. The dialogue and story telling is top notch and supported by a wonderful cast. Sherlock is the most stylistic modern adaptation around and if Moffat and Gatiss can keep up the standards exhibited here, the next few episodes will be a pleasure to watch and review. The next episode can be seen on BBC 1 on January 8th featuring the excellent Russell Tovey (Being Human) based on the classic novel 'The Hounds of Baskerville'. It looks to be a stunning adventure.