Amazon prime

Why did C.J. Sansom approve this moronic Disney+ Shardlake adaptation?

What would C.J. Sansom have made of the Disney+ version of his novel series about 16th-century crookback lawyer Matthew Shardlake? Sadly, because he died just a few days before its release, we’ll probably never hear the full story. But this comment from the show’s producer offers a hefty clue: ‘Chris [Sansom] has been enormously generous and he wants more people to read the books, and this is such a good way.’ Sounds very much like Sansom accepted this atrocity of an adaptation as a necessary evil: his books had been stuck in development hell for nearly two decades (possibly, because his labyrinthine whodunits about monastic reform and court politics in

A calculated insult to the viewer: Channel 4’s The Princes in the Tower – The New Evidence reviewed

Major spoiler alert: if you don’t want to know the ending of The Princes in the Tower: The New Evidence, skip the next paragraph. Still with me? Good. The answer is no, Richard III did not order the killing of the two princes. That was just Tudor propaganda. Both boys, the sons of Edward IV, survived, and escaped to Europe. Thence, supported by their aunt Margaret of Burgundy, they made separate, ultimately unsuccessful attempts to regain the throne for the Yorkists, one under the name Lambert Simnel, the other as Perkin Warbeck. I’m telling you this not to be a spoilsport but to spare you 82 minutes of valuable life.

Why I’m addicted to Australian MasterChef

Why is Australian MasterChef so much better than the English version? You’d think, with a population less than a third of ours, the smaller talent pool would make the Antipodean edition look like thin gruel. But a bit like with the cricket and the rugby, size clearly isn’t everything. UK MasterChef now resembles one of those joyless austerity dishes you cobble together from crusty leftovers you found languishing in the fridge. But the Aussie one has had my entire family addicted and yearning for more for the past fortnight. I suppose it’s partly down to the way Australia sees itself. Probably this bears no resemblance to the way Australia actually

Bored of the Rings: the Tolkien industry has gone far enough

In 1969, Henry Beard and Douglas Kenney, future founders of National Lampoon, published a satirical takedown of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, entitled Bored of the Rings. It holds up remarkably well today as a closely observed parody of Tolkien’s more windy stylistic tics. One critic, David Bratman, remarked: ‘Those parodists wrought better than they knew. I think it is highly significant how close Tolkien came to inadvertently writing the parody version of his own novel – and how completely, in the end, he managed to avoid it.’ Yet recent news that the ‘official’ Lord of the Rings series is to have yet more film adaptations made of it should not only send any right-minded cineaste

My Rings of Power remorse

As the credits rolled on the series finale of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, things got awkward. My partner turned to me to express his excitement for series two – just as I realised with absolute certainty that I couldn’t, in good conscience, watch the show again. My reaction came as a shock – to both of us. Hours earlier, I’d been champing at the bit to see the final instalment. Yes, the Amazon Prime programme has been widely panned by critics for everything from the CGI to the ‘colour-blind’ casting, but we’d loved it. In fact, it’s the first full series we’ve made it through

In defence of Amazon’s The Rings of Power

Why is Amazon’s new Lord of the Rings show taking so much flak? The way I see it, there are two (mostly separate) factors at play: Tolkien fandom and race. First, Tolkien fandom. Despite the best efforts of the Tolkien Society to ‘queer’ Tolkien studies, the Inkling’s biggest admirers tend to be Christians on the cultural and political right. Most of this crowd (aside from those who think hating universally beloved things is a good substitute for a personality) loved Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. His adaptation of The Hobbit, which took plenty of liberties in order to stretch about 300 pages into three feature films, was less

Will you be able to get through the ponderous aphorisms without giggling? The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power reviewed

Amazon’s much-heralded Tolkien prequel The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power began by answering a question that has puzzled humankind – and possibly elves – these many millennia. Why is it that a ship floats and a stone doesn’t? The reason apparently is because ‘a stone sees only downward’, whereas a ship has ‘her gaze fixed upon the light that guides her’. And this, I’m afraid, set the tone for much of the dialogue that followed in the two episodes released so far – as, to their credit, the characters managed to exchange an endless series of ponderous aphorisms without giggling. So it was that we learned how

Fascinating but flat: Amazon Prime’s Thirteen Lives reviewed

About ten minutes in to Thirteen Lives, Boy came in and asked me whether it was any good. I said: ‘Well, it’s quite interesting, actually. I think they’ve got the actual cave divers playing themselves, so the acting is really dull and uncharismatic and a bit unconvincing but at the same time it gives the drama a sort of echt documentary feel…’ Boy, peering at screen: ‘But that’s Viggo Mortensen. You know, Aragorn from Lord of the Rings. And Colin Farrell, who you liked in In Bruges.’ Me: ‘Oh.’ Does your main duty lie with the drama or with the truth? Director Ron Howard has opted for the latter What

A thrilling, pacy, well-acted drama: Amazon Prime’s The Terminal List reviewed

‘The Terminal List is… a dated and drably made eight-part military thriller that offers little intrigue or excitement,’ says the Guardian’s ‘east coast arts editor’ in a corrosive one-star review. Eh? Can we have been watching the same series? Let me give you an example of this ‘little intrigue or excitement’ and allow you to judge for yourself. Navy Seal Lt Commander James Reece (Chris Pratt) is having an MRI scan to determine whether he has suffered brain damage during a disastrous combat mission in Syria in which almost his entire platoon was wiped out. All his colleagues, superiors and family think he’s going mad because his memories of the

Lacks the bite and bracing malevolence of Call My Agent!: Amazon’s Ten Percent reviewed

In theory, it should be a perfect match. John Morton – the man behind the brilliantly assured sitcom W1A which so gleefully skewered the BBC – gets to give us the English version of Call My Agent!: the brilliantly assured French lockdown hit which so gleefully skewered the Parisian showbusiness world. In practice, at least judging from the first two episodes, Ten Percent feels surprisingly uncertain of what kind of programme it wants to be. At first, it looked as if we were in for a straight remake, using the same plots and characters and with the original cast replaced by British lookalikes (except, oddly, that the French agent who

Amusing and entertaining – though not very taxing: Amazon Prime’s Reacher reviewed

Jack Reacher is back on the screen and aficionados of the hugely successful Lee Child airport thrillers in which he appears must be hugely relieved. This time he is played not by pint-sized Tom Cruise but by someone much closer to his 6ft 5ins height: a musclebound giant called Alan Ritchson. Not having read any of Child’s 100 million-selling oeuvre (probably because I’m bitterly envious: he’s a Midlands-born ex-media type, like me, but has a slightly larger bank balance), I can’t tell you how true to the original Ritchson is. But he plays him as if he’s on the autistic spectrum — a loner uncomfortable with too much dialogue or

Even worse than the book: Amazon Prime’s The Wheel of Time reviewed

A couple of years ago, in that near-forgotten era when we could travel almost freely, I canvassed social media as to what should be my relaxing but involving holiday read during a fortnight in Greece. One suggestion — and this is why you should never trust the literary advice of random strangers — was Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series. I started the first book full of bright hope. It would be my new Tolkien-meets-Game of Thrones. Besides the strong personal recommendation and the slew of five-star reviews on Amazon, what persuaded me was the fact that the late author had served two heavily decorated tours of duty as

Delivers in spades: The Many Saints of Newark reviewed

So how exactly did Tony Soprano become a New Jersey mob boss? It’s 1967 and young Anthony is struggling to find meaning and purpose in his life. Luckily, his doting uncle Dickie Moltisanti (Alessandro Nivola) offers the love and support his feckless parents are incapable of giving. Unluckily, Moltisanti is not quite the role model he’d like to be. Dickie complains about this on a visit to his uncle, Aldo ‘Hollywood Dick’ Moltisanti (Ray Liotta), who is languishing in jail for having killed a made man. Why is it, he wants to know, that even though he does conspicuously good works — bringing Aldo jazz records; coaching a baseball team

First-rate TV: Clarkson’s Farm on Amazon Prime reviewed

I was at a party the other day when who should accost me but Jeremy Clarkson. There were lots more famous and interesting people in the room, including the surviving half of Wham!. But Clarkson was itching to talk to me about, of all things, a review I’d written of a BBC reality series called This Is My House. He was genuinely mystified as to why I’d given such tosh a favourable critique. Having just watched his new series, Clarkson’s Farm, I now understand his puzzlement. Since late 2019, Clarkson has been playing at being a farmer on his 1,000-acre Oxfordshire estate. And when you’re a farmer — even a

Quietly radiates a wholly justified confidence: BBC 1’s The Pact reviewed

There was certainly no lack of variety among new TV dramas this week, with a standard British thriller up against more glamorous American competition in the shape of some extravagant Victorian sci-fi and an adaption by an Oscar-winning director of a Pulitzer-winning novel. (All three, mind you, did naturally feature a one-dimensional white bloke as the embodiment of sexist and/or racist villainy.) The surprising thing at this stage is that it’s the plucky British show that looks most promising. The Pact began, like many a thriller before it, with a frightened woman running through some dark woods. So far we still don’t know why — unless it was just force

Horrible – but in a very fun way: I Care a Lot reviewed

I Care a Lot is a deliciously dark comic thriller that You’ll Enjoy a Lot. It’s heartless. It’s vicious. It’s savage. It’ll make you dread old age even more than you already do, if that’s possible. It’s horrible in so many ways — cruel? Did I mention it’s also cruel? — yet it is also smart, stylish and such a fun watch. Written and directed by J. Blakeson (The Disappearance of Alice Creed), the film stars Rosamund Pike as Marla Grayson, who runs a business ripping off old people. Or, to put it more formally, she is a court-appointed legal guardian for elderly wards — or ‘marks’, as she calls

Even I, a bitter and cynical middle-aged woman, felt stirred: Sylvie’s Love reviewed

Sylvie’s Love is an exquisitely styled, swooning, old-school, period Hollywood romance and while it has been described as ‘glib’ in some quarters, it’s Christmas, we’ve had a rotten year, and it may be just what the doctor ordered. And if it is glib — I’m not convinced it is, actually; it may even be quite groundbreaking — it is, at least, adorably and cheeringly so. (My heart was warmed.) It is written and directed by Eugene Ashe, and opens in Harlem in the summer of 1957 with Sylvie, played by a luminous Tessa Thompson. She works in her father’s record store but is obsessed by television and dreams of becoming

Sick, puerile, inappropriate and delicious: Amazon Prime’s The Boys reviewed

There’s a delicious scene in the new season of Amazon’s superheroes-gone-bad series The Boys. The chief superhero Homelander (Antony Starr) is introduced by a minion to a potential new member of his elite superhero group, the Seven. Homelander watches this bright new talent performing wonders in a gym-style training zone: the young man is agile, eager, skilled with weaponry; but perhaps his most valuable features, the minion suggests, are that he is disabled and belongs to an ethnic minority. This could play really well with the youth demographic, who are into that kind of woke stuff, the aide suggests. The potential recruit approaches Homelander, sweet, modest and starstruck. Even though

A sadistic delight: World’s Toughest Race – Eco-Challenge Fiji reviewed

Few things better capture the crazed cognitive dissonance of our age than this: that while we cower behind masks for fear of a virus so harmless in most cases that you don’t even know you’ve got it, we watch shows like World’s Toughest Race: Eco-Challenge Fiji and think: ‘That looks fun. Wouldn’t mind having a go at that one day, if I had the money…’ This year’s Eco-Challenge — don’t be put off by the name: like the James Delingpole Eco TV column, as it’s now officially called, it’s just a marketing device to gull idiots (not you obviously) — comprises a 416-mile, 11-day race by 66 teams around Fiji,

Worth catching the virus for: Saint Frances reviewed

Two films about young women this week, one at the cinema, if you dare, and one to stream, if you don’t. Saint Frances requires the daring and I’d dare, if I were you, as it’s splendid and funny and tender and involving and taboo-busting, and if you do contract a deadly virus, it’ll be worth it. Only kidding. Of course it won’t. But, on the other hand, the government is currently encouraging us to venture into town to save Pret A Manger and I think this has more to say than a baguette. Or one of those pricey salads. Saint Frances is written by and stars Kelly O’Sullivan who started