PLEBS, 4.1 – “The Accident” (TV Review)

Plebs. Image shows from L to R: Jason (Jon Pointing), Grumio (Ryan Sampson), Marcus (Tom Rosenthal). Copyright: RISE Films.

ITV2 – Monday 9th April 2018 – 10pm

Currently available to watch NOW on the ITV Hub

Created and written by: Sam Leifer and Tom Basden

Directed by: Sam Leifer


CRUSH JUSTICE

“Plebs die sometimes, boo-bloody-hoo!”

It’s always a pity when a popular show loses one of its leads, and with Joel Fry off chasing ghosts and missing girls in supernatural BBC drama Requiem, I feared a Plebs without cocksure optimist and vital ingredient Stylax Eurisces would be like Red Dwarf without Arnold J. Rimmer – and we all know how successful that wasn’t in series VII!

… Keep Scuttling!

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Peter & Wendy (TV Review)

ITV – 26th December 2015 – 101mins
Written by: Adrian Hodges
Directed by: Diarmuid Lawrence

 
TIMELESS TRANSPORTATION

After last year’s painfully pointless and pancake-flat prequel Pan, my initial reaction upon seeing the advert for ITV’s family drama (which premiered on Boxing Day as part of their rich 2015 festive line-up and has recently been released on DVD) was an audible sigh, followed by the reflection that the channel had misguidedly chosen the wrong tentpole film to piggyback on the success of. Awkward.

However, having finally caught up with the feature length Peter & Wendy from the co-creator of Primeval and the mastermind behind BBC1’s The Musketeers series, I feel I owe ITV an apology, for this was a refreshing and inventive take on J.M. Barrie’s timeless tale, which rather than suffering the same fate as Joe Wright’s silver screen let-down, instead serves to eclipse and embarrass the Hugh Jackman-starring multi-million dollar flop further.

Modern day pre-teen Lucy Rose (Hazel Doupe) is arriving at Great Ormond Street (which has a real-world association with the franchise because Barrie bequested the rights of his story to the famous children’s hospital) for a heart operation. The ward’s kindly porter (Bjarne Henriksen) lends her a dusty hardback copy of the original 1911 novel from a secret Peter Pan museum, which Lucy initially baulks at, however upon reading the book to her fellow patients she soon finds herself enchanted by the Edwardian tale of fun-loving lost boys and swashbuckling pirates, and her dreams transport her to Neverland to continue the adventure as Wendy.

“I’m youth! I’m joy! I’m Innocence!”

Lucy’s ‘difficult’ age is key to Peter & Wendy’s versatile appeal. She’s a tad rebellious, difficult to please and desperate to be seen as an independent adult, so she comments on some of the more absurd features of the story (“That’s so random!” is her reaction to having a dog as a Nanny), while her reimagining is peopled by her favourite pop star (Paloma Faith is a perfectly feisty Tinker Bell), her surgeon (Stanley Tucci in a triple role of Dr Wylie/Mr Darling/Captain Hook) and her overly-concerned mum (Laura Fraser), while her young boyfriend (Zak Sutcliffe) takes the lead.

As the classic story becomes ever-more integrated with Lucy’s fight under the knife, the production does go a little overboard in fusing the real and fantasy realms. Seeing Hook and his pirate crew charging through the ward and using a gurney as a plank took some adjusting to, but this bold new take is nevertheless a surprisingly well-rounded romp with some humorous touches (a polite pirate in Rasmus Hardiker’s Smee) and it doesn’t shy away from some tough real-world issues, particularly with a rather heartbreaking conclusion. But then as the boy who wouldn’t grow up reminds us:

“To die would be an awfully big adventure”

Peter & Wendy is an inspiring and magical dual-layered delight which brings a sprinkle of fairy dust and antiquated pluck to a depressing and clinical modern world, and proves you’re never too old or too cool to identify with a children’s story.

CR@B Verdict: 4 stars

Beowulf: Return to the Shieldlands, 1.1 (TV Review)

ITV – 3rd January – 60mins
Written by: James Dormer
Directed by: Jon East

POETIC LICENCE

Having studied Seamus Heaney’s Whitbread award-winning translation at University, and having recently rewatched Robert Zemeckis’ uncanny performance-captured 2007 feature film adaptation, I felt relatively well-versed going in to the first episode of ITV’s epic 13-part re-imagining of the classic Anglo Saxon poem.

But what quickly became apparent as I tuned in this past Sunday evening was how just as well prepared for Beowulf: Return to the Shieldlands I would have been had I just binge-watched old episodes of Game of Thrones – for James Dormer, Tim Primeval Haines and Katie Newman’s fantasy adventure is just as indebted to the hit HBO show as it is to its source material! Did anyone else think they had sat on the remote and flicked over to Sky Atlantic when the copyright-skirtingly comparable opening credits began?

But as much as Beowulf strives to emulate GoT’s lavish production design, vast landscapes and silver screen-sheen (all of which it achieved, up to a point), this was still very much Sunday evening fare. We saw no more than the before and after of any sexual relations and the sword fighting was choppily edited so to imply more than it showed. The continuity announcer did issue a “scary scenes” warning pre-broadcast, but this was no doubt more to avoid another Jekyll & Hyde-style scheduling controversy rather than because the CGI “mudborns” – which looked like a cross between Caesar the ape and Gollum – were all that nightmare-inducing.

Indeed, the most controversial aspect of this series premiere was the liberties co-creator Dormer’s script took with the Old English legend. The basic premise is familiar – our returning warrior (Kieran Bew) takes up arms to save his home from the threat of the monstrous Grendel – but the specifics of the location have been blurred from Scandinavia to the titular “Shieldlands”, while a deeper relationship between the banished Beowulf and the family of deceased King Hrothgar (William Hurt) was established so to embellish the human drama and justify a lengthier series run.

On the performance front, Bew will make for an interesting lead, given his less-than-dashing coarseness, while the inclusion of a sarcastic sidekick in Abrican (Elliot Cowan) may not have been such an unnecessary embellishment were it not for the actor’s uncharismatic delivery. Eragon star Ed Speleers, meanwhile, does perhaps overegg his sneering snideness as the Queen’s jealous son. He also looks a little young to be of similar same to Beowulf, as a multitude of flashbacks substantiated.

Return to the Shieldlands may never be as glossy or epic as the classics it is vying to compete with, but it has established itself as a plucky and trying underdog. The action sequences were decent – in particular an opening beach chase which ended with a beastie taking an axe to the head (the sole graphic concession) – and the Northumberland locales felt believably luscious and “lived in” – even when aided by CGI. Mist-shrouded woodland was an especially atmospheric choice for a third act showdown, while the deserted land of the giants was magnificently rendered and brought to mind the Mines of Moria from The Lord of the Rings.

CR@B Verdict: 3 stars