Tuesday 21 April 2020

Plague Times Diary (17) - Viewing Guide to the TV Backlog

When you have the luxury of time…Found on DVDs you buy at places like the much mourned Lawsons in Pitt Street and then you eventually watch. plus…watched on Netflix….plus watched on the ABC… It takes a plague…

Dracula (Sc: Mark Gatiss, Steven Moffatt, Dir: Jonny Campbell, Damon Thomas, Paul McGuigan, UK, 2019)
The guys who previously gave us the extraordinary Benedict Cumberbatch/Martin Freeman Sherlock series turn their attention to Bram Stoker. Claes Bang’s Dracula is quite something but it is Dolly Wells (Who???) as Van Helsing in various guises over the centuries who is the standout performer. There are three full length 90 minute eps in the series and the middle one, set on the sailing ship Demeter is probably the best of them, tight, tense, superbly constructed with a fantastic ending that sets up Ep 3 brilliantly. When I see these things I think who in Australia could make a movie or TV series like this. Seen on a Brit DVD but readily available on Netflix.

Charles II (Sc: Adrian Hodges, Dir: Joe Wright, UK, 2003)
A curiosity purchase for sure. Made in 2003. Five parts. I may have had a moment when the name Joe Wright came up on the credits. I shouldn’t be so repetitive but Joe made a film called Hana,  starring Cate Blanchett and Eric Bana, which opened the Sydney Film Festival back in the 2010s. I remember calling it not merely the worst Opening Night at the SFF but quite likely the worst ever film screened at the SFF. Joe could hardly ruin a great story about the Restoration king made by the BBC. One of those series where great Brit actors (Rufus Sewell, Martin Freeman, Diana Rigg, Shirley Henderson, Rupert Graves) strut their stuff.

Southcliffe (Sc: Tony Grisoni, Dir: Sean Durkin, UK, 2015)
Grim Brit drama already mentioned by Peter Hourigan. Rory Kinnear’s rant in a pub during a small town crisis following a mass shooting by a local psychotic sets it up for great drama. More great Brit actors…Made by Channel 4. 

Wormwood (Errol Morris, USA, 2017)
Netflix series in which the quiet probings of Errrol Morris are elaborated by dramatised elements. An investigation of the chaos created by the CIA’s experiments in LSD and their effects on the unwitting participants. Morris is one of the unsung heroes of modern cinema or maybe his work should be sung much more than it is…

Black Mirror (Series 4, eps 1 & 2, Directors Toby Haynes, Jodie Foster, USA, 2019)
I’m not sure how many eps  there in this series. The first ep by Toby Haynes has the remarkable Jesse Plemons as a computer game coder who manages to trap his own work colleagues in a giant Star Trek like computer game. Very funny. The Jodie Foster ep is grim and doesn’t come at a good time when the plague-ridden community is faced with proposals by liars and deceivers like Scott Morrison, Christian Porter and Peter Dutton who want us to sign up to an app which tracks our movements allegedly for our own good.

Empire Falls  (Fred Schepisi, USA, 2007)
Made for HBO with an all-star cast (Ed Harris, Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Helen Hunt, Robin Wright, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Theresa Russell, Aidan Quinn) directed by Fred Schepisi. A rendition of a novel by Richard Russo about small town life. Here it’s heavy on intertwining relationships, twisting curly story lines and some really nice sentiment.

Sofia Helin (as Saga Noren)
Mystery Road, Series 2 (Ep 1, Sc: Steven McGregor, Dir: Warwick Thornton)
That’s episode one. The surprises started about a week before it went to air. That was when the SMH TV Guide had a photo of Sofia Helin on its cover. In case you need reminding, Helin was formerly Saga Noren in those four (I think) series of the Scandi crime series The Bridge.  Second surprise came when the writer and director credits came up. Script is by Steven McGregor, one of that group of AFTRS blackfella film-makers who came through in the time when Rod Bishop was the head of the school. The director is Warwick Thornton, another of that famous AFTRS cohort who, as they say, needs no introduction. This second series is again set in the red earth of WA and Aaron Pedersen returns as Jay Swan. Fortunately someone has made the decision not to bring Judy Davis back as the police sergeant. She, or at least those who wrote and created the part of a female cop lording it over a small town in the deep north, put in a shocker, throwing the whole series off-kilter. Here the female cop side is played by a lower level character, much more believable, who chafes at the strictures placed on her….. Looking forward to eps 2 and more…

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