Jasper Rees

The return of the implausibly moreish Borgen

A decade ago the unthinkable happened: a subtitled TV drama about people agreeing with one another went global. On paper it bore the hallmark of a barrel-scraping pitch from Alan Partridge. Somewhere between youth hostelling with Chris Eubank and monkey tennis, he might easily have proposed a new ne plus ultra in implausible entertainment concepts:

The unseen Victoria Wood

For a few years now I have been living with Victoria Wood. That sounds all wrong, obviously, and yet no more apt phrase suggests itself. Not long after her death I was invited to write her authorised biography, and in due course a vast collection of documents was delivered to my address. Packed into storage

Remembering David Storey, giant of postwar English culture

There is a famous story about David Storey. It is set in 1976 at the Royal Court where, for ten years, his plays had first been seen before heading away to the West End and Broadway. That same week he had won the Booker Prize with his novel Saville. With unrivalled success across fiction, theatre

Scooby Doo with better CGI: Doctor Sleep reviewed

Wheeeere’s Johnny? Nearly 40 years ago Jack Nicholson went berserk in a snowbound Rockies hotel, smashing an axe through a bathroom door behind which a pop-eyed Shelley Duvall cowered in terror. It is one of cinema’s truly iconic scenes, once voted the most petrifying in movie history. Now award yourself points if you remember that

The Boss goes to Bollywood

Once upon a time two men sat in a New York bar lamenting the state of Broadway. So they decided to play Fantasy Musical. Several beers down they came up with a weird hybrid: a jukebox musical that injected the songs of Blondie into the plot of Desperately Seeking Susan. Somehow this botched centaur stumbled

Perfect fourth

Nearly 25 years on from its immaculate birth, Toy Story — like Wagner’s Ring, like John Updike’s Rabbit novels — has become a tetralogy. Do we need another one? Isn’t it time for Woody the toy cowboy to stuff that hat on a peg and stop hanging around kids? The short answer is no.  Though

Weed thriller

You don’t come across too many films from Colombia, but every few years one wriggles its way through the festival circuit and on to an arthouse screen, fingers crossed near you. Any film that survives that Darwinian journey will be robustly fit for purpose. Such is Birds of Passage (original title: Pajaros de verano), which

Body and soul | 9 May 2019

Each December in Washington DC, the Kennedy Center Honors anoints five performing artists who have contributed to American life. In 2015 one of the inductees was Carole King, to whom Janelle Monáe and James Taylor sang nicely in tribute. Then on came Aretha Franklin in a floor-dragging fur coat. She placed her handbag on the

Drag Queen

There is a moment in Bohemian Rhapsody when the screen swims with print. The reviews for Queen’s epic new single are in, and they unanimously denounce the song as a vacuous and bloated irrelevance. This feels like a brazen hostage to fortune for a biopic whose botched gestation saw writers, stars and directors roll on

An artist’s eye

There are moments in The Guardians when you can imagine you’re in the wrong art form. Time stills, the frame all but freezes, and the film seems to have taken a left turn into an exhibition of fetching French landscapes and interiors from the early 20th century. The camera hovers over the harrowed earth, admires

Barking mad | 9 August 2018

Every so often there’s a news story in which neighbours quarrel over rampaging leylandii. The police are summoned, the case reaches the court, and whole lives are consumed by inextinguishable hatred. These nuclear tiffs are a Middle England staple. A boundary dispute is a border dispute writ small. Other European nations have watched their negotiable

Ebbsfleet or bust

Dominic Savage had an early start. In Barry Lyndon (1975), Stanley Kubrick’s sprawling take on Thackeray, he played a prepubescent toff called Bullingdon blessed with a blond pudding-basin crop. By the time Savage started making his own films in the early Noughties, the hair had vanished, and so had any of Kubrick’s civilising varnish. For

The horse and his boy

Andrew Haigh makes inaction films. Weekend (2011) tells of two young homosexuals getting to know each other in Nottingham. In the wintry marital drama 45 Years (2015) two old heterosexuals get to unknow each other in Norfolk. The canvases are miniature, the resonances crevasse-deep. His third film, Lean on Pete, brings a change of scene

Wild at heart | 15 March 2018

There is a culty YouTube video shot three years ago on the laptop camera of Ruben Ostlund. It shows the film director listening live as the nominations for the Academy Awards are announced from Los Angeles. The tension mounts as they approach the foreign film category. Alas, Force Majeure from Sweden isn’t nominated. Ostlund disappears

In from the cold | 1 March 2018

Films about the Winter Olympics don’t grow on conifers. Twenty-five years ago there was Cool Runnings about the Jamaican bobsleigh team. It took many years for Eddie the Eagle to reach the screen. Both were cockle-warming comedies about implausible Olympians who embody the ideal that participation is all. Only last week Elise Christie, the British

Close of play | 15 February 2018

‘Mad, wearying and inconsequential gabble,’ sighed the Financial Times in 1958. ‘One quails in slack-jawed dismay.’ Here’s the FT at the same play last month: ‘The best I have seen on-stage.’ How about the Evening Standard? Then: ‘Like trying to solve a crossword puzzle where every vertical clue is designed to put you off the

When things fall apart

The films of Michael Haneke wear a long face. Psychological terror, domestic horror, sick sex, genital self-harm — these are the joyless tags of his considerable oeuvre. Such an auteur is not the obvious sort for sequels: The Piano Teacher 2 or Hidden — Again! aren’t destined for your nearest multiplex. And yet his new