:: Brokenwood - Series 1 & 2
Brokenwood is a seemingly sleepy farming town in New Zealand with picturesque views and a murder rate that rivals Midsomer Norton.
Maverick Detective Inspector Mike Shepherd arrives in his 1971 Holden Kingswood, complete with cassette player and inexhaustible supply of country music cassettes, to help the local police investigate a murder. Whilst his reputation for solving the most difficult crimes preceeds him, his unconventional approach, not least talking to the victims, leaves his colleague Detective Kristin Sims aghast.
Without wanting to give the plot of the first episode away, circumstances contrive that Shepherd stays in Brokenwood and the chalk and cheese duo slowly progress from a rather prickly relationship to one where each respects the others abilities.
There is little not to like about the series. The scenery is outstanding and, providing you don't mind a light-hearted approach to crime, and a body every time, the set-up works brilliantly. It is also nice to have 'characters' from around Brokenwood appear from time to time and not just in one episode. It makes for a more realistic atmosphere, even if they are often caricatures.
Series 1 and 2 are both released by Acorn Media International tomorrow (14th August) each with an RRP of £19.99 and each containing 2 discs. A third series has been aired in New Zealand and looks to be released by Acorn later this year. I'm certainly looking foward to it.
:: Dicte Crime Reporter
Scandi-noir drama has been hugely successful and shows no sign of slowing down. I have to confess that I find the genre more difficult to get into simply because the sub-titles require that much more attention, and there are too many distractions normally to sit down for any length of time. That said, it makes it all the more worthwhile when I can set aside and hour and focus on an excellent drama. This series is no exception.
Dicte Crime Reporter is an acclaimed series that has returned for a second season on More4, and will be released on DVD tomorrow (7th August) by Acorn Media International.
Divorced crime reporter Dicte Svendsen has returned with her daughter, Rose, to her hometown Aarhus to escape the past and build a new future. Here she is contacted by her estranged Father and events take a tragic turn with her investigating prostitution, sumggling, and a hit-and-run death and brings her in contact with police investigation John Wagner.
Season two consists of 10 episodes, running to over 430 minutes and has an RRP of £24.99.
Season one is already available and is being released tomorrow in a boxed set with season 2, with a total running time of nearly 900 minutes, priced £39.99.
May 1940 was a pivotal point in World War II. The phoney war was over, Blitzkrieg had begun, and the British expeditionary Force was pinned to an ever decreasing pocket with the channel at its back. Without a mass evacuation of the troops being forced onto the beaches, the war would be over. With the fleet stretched beyond capacity and losing ships all the time, it is the armada of the little ships, craft from up and down the British Isles, that can get closer to the shore and finally evacuate the British and French troops necessary to be able to continue to the struggle.
The BAFTA winning BBC docudrama Dunkirk tells the greater story from the perspective of individuals, both forces personnel and civilians, and brings home the courage, sacrifice and determination from that moment in history.
Narrated by Timothy Dalton and with an all-star cast incuding Benedict Cumberbatch, Simon Russell Beal, Michael Legge, Phil Cornwell, Kevin McNally and Richard Attlee playing his grandfather Clement, this three hour production is available for its first solo release on DVD tomorrow (10 July).
Released by Arrow Films, this DVD runs to approximately 3 hours and has an RRP of £15.99.
Diary of a Nobody
Written in 1919 by George and Weedon Grossmith, The Diary of a Nobody is the original blog, charting the hum-drum life of Charles Pooter, a lowly Victorian bank clerk with aspirations well beyond his modest social status.
All the details of his life are there, complete with a dry wit and amusing snobbery. His battles with impertinent tradesmen, exasperating friends and his wayward son Lupin’s many embarrassing misdemeanours.
One of Britain's finest acting talents Hugh Bonneville brings life to one of Victorian England's most enduring comic creations The Diary of a Nobody, although at times you could be forgiven for thinking you are watching Jim Broadbent. Adapted by the peerless Andrew Davies this witty four-part BBC adaptation of one of Britain’s most entertaining novels arrives on DVD, on-demand and download on 12 June 2017 courtesy of Second Sight.
Running to around 120 minutes, this is available on DVD, on-demand and download on the 12th June, with an RRP of £19.99. Make this your most comical Father’s Day yet with an adaptation of the diary Evelyn Waugh called “the funniest book in the world”.
Decline and Fall
Released tomorrow, by Acorn Media, is the fantastic first TV adaptation of Evelyn Waugh's classic satire Decline and Fall.
Paul Pennyfeather (Jack Whitehall) is a modest, unassuming, and realtively naive theology student who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The place is Scone College, Oxford, and the time is just when the Bollinger Club members are wreaking havoc. He is returning from a drink when he is cornered, stripped and has to make an escape naked. Subsequently sent down, he defaults on the terms of his inheritance and has to look for work, taking a teaching job at an obscure public school (rated merely school) in Wales, run by Dr Fagan (David Suchet).
Here we meet the other main players in the story, fellow schoolmasters Prendergast (Vincent Franklin), the priest who has lost God, Grimes (Douglas Hodge), the one-legged pederast and Philbrick (Stephen Graham), school butler, crook, and conman. As soon as he starts to find his feet, he finds the mother of one of the boys, Mrs Margot Beste-Chetwynde (Eva Longoria) and his world is turned upside-down.
This really is television at its best and, I am told as I haven't read it, a faithful adaptation of the book. This three-part serial has just finished airing on BBC1, and although you can currently catch it on iPlayer, it is well worth making the effort to own it, as it will drop off the iPlayer soon. Included on the disc are three scene featurettes: adaptation, satire, and set, and a picture gallery.
Released 17th April, with an RRP of £19.99, this is currently available at a discount via Amazon.
The Kettering Incident
The press release for this mystery drama series drew parallels with Twin Peaks and Stranger Things - I watched the first when re-run on the satellite channel Bravo in the mid 90s, and I still have no idea what was going on, so I was hoping for something a little less baffling. Baffling or not, it is certainly gripping, and discs only arrived yesterday morning and I only have two episodes to go!
The series starts with two young girls, Anna and her best friend Gillian, cycling on a road road runnign through dense forest when they see lights in the sky and hear a high pitched hum. Gillian runs towards them. This is The Kettering Incident. We then meet Anna, Dr Anna Macey, played brilliantly by Elizabeth Debicki, 15 years later and find that Gillian disappeared, there are still strange things going on in Anna's life, blackouts and visions, and home is the only place that can sort out whatever the demons are.
Set on the isolated island of Tasmania, the first adult drama filmed there, this really does sell the locale, with stunning countryside and views, even if the locals are not the sort of people you really want to be getting involved with. Business is logging, i.e. cutting down the forest, so there is an immediate opposition, eco-warriors, trying to halt that. Like most small, one business towns, the youth have either resigned themselves to their fate of never getting away, or are plotting to escape as soon as they can, and Anna meets up with one young girl, Chloe, who is both fascinated by the Kettering Incident and keen to get away. After both go to a forest party and Chloe goes missing it is as though history is repeating itself and most of the towsnfolk have skeletons that start to come out of cupboards.
This really is an engaging thriller, and I'm glad I didn't have to watch it when it recently aired on SKy Atlantic as I could indulge myself an watch one episode after another instead of the painful wait of a week. I have my theories of what has happened, but new things are being thrown into the mix all the time just to keep you guessing.
Thoroughly enjoyable television.
The 8-part series, released by Dazzler Media tomorrow (10th April), runs to approximately 360 minutes over three discs and is priced £14.99.
:: National Treasure
It opens with a long shot of a man nervously pacing up and down, smoking, and obviously going over what he is going to say. Time is up, he is called, and the next we see is a long walk through institutional corridors, but it isn’t a court or prison, there is laughter in the background.
Paul Finchley (Robbie Coltrane) is a comedian, an older generation one whose comedy star is one the wane, and he is at a TV awards ceremony to honour his friend and long-term double act partner. It rankles, ever so slightly, that he is presenting and not receiving the lifetime achievement award, but there is some respect. That is, until the next morning when the police come knocking and his world is knocked off kilter with an allegation of rape dating back to the 90s. “They think I’m Jimmy f***ing Savile’.
And there is the hook to real life and the events that have spun out since Savile’s death in 2011. Whilst sexual offenses are nothing new, Savile, and the others that have subsequently been accused as part of the Yewtree, and similar, investigations, were all welcomes into our homes, part of the fixtures, fittings and family, and it is a jolt to find that what you thought you knew was all wrong.
This is undoubtedly a difficult subject to approach in a drama, and there is a very fine balance between presenting a story where it isn’t a foregone conclusion and one where the audience can feel reassured and comfortable in their own decisions.
Despite Finchley being a fictional character, there is an immediate sympathy with him and his family, even thought his shortcomings are presented very quickly. His wife (Julie Walters) has stood by him through 40 years of marriage, supported by her faith, and believes him when he says he is innocent. His daughter, Dee (Andrea Riseborough), is a recovering addict, and her life is thrown further into turmoil by the situation, and his comedy partner, Karl (Tim McInnerny), is all too aware that the professional double –act could easily be confused with one that went a lot further.
Truth, memory, trust and family are all called into question, and the passage of time creates doubts, twists facts and tests loyalties to the full. Added to this is the circus that has surrounded the real-life cases of Savile, Harris, Hall and others and the unfairness of whatever approach is taken regarding the anonymity of accusers and accused.
Through the 3 hours you constantly trying to work out what is truth, half-truth, or just damned lies, and whether he is guilty of what he is accused of, or not.
I’m not going to spoil the ending – I didn’t watch it when it was broadcast on Channel4, and have welcomed coming to the DVD in complete ignorance. It is a gripping drama that draws you in, and credit has to be given to everyone involved, from the bottom up, in making it believable, thought-provoking, and compelling viewing. These include the BAFTA-award winning writer Jack Thorne, the BAFTA-award winning director Marc Munden, and definitely Robbie Coltrane and Julie Walters who play Finchley and his wife. Andrew Riseborough’s performance as Finchley’s daughter, Dee, stands out amongst the other performances, which are all powerful in themselves.
Released by RJL Entertainment’s Acorn Label, this DVD runs to approximately 3 hours and has an RRP of £19.99.
:: Victoria Wood: Wood Work, A Celebration
When Victoria Wood died earlier this year, the country lost one of it's great comedy writers/performers. Her career spanned 40 years and numerous awards (including five BAFTAs), and although it followed in the footsteps of many other great performers like Joyce Grenfell, Wood's was a unique performance.
Born in Lancashire, she was a singer-songwriter, screenwriter, actor and director, and the body of work that she leaves behind is a superb and diverse showcase of comedy and drama.
Wood's astute observational humour was embodied in an engagingly flawed and uniquely British cast of characters; her warmth and universal appeal saw her embraced by all sections of the viewing public in a way that few performers have ever been.
Network DVD have brought together various previous releases and present them as 'Wood Work, A Celebration' tomorrow (22nd August). Comprised of 5 discs, the contents include three bittersweet screenplays: Talent, Nearly A Happy Ending and Happy Since I Met You; The Complete Series of Wood And Walters; An Audience With Victoria Wood; Housewife 49; and the award winning one-off special, Julie Walters And Friends. In addition to these there are archive interviews.
With an RRP of £24.99 (Amazon are offering a significant discount at the moment) and a total running time of 573 minutes, this is a superb value for money set.
:: Liverpool 1
Liver Building - check. Catholic priest - check. But hold on, we've missed the other cliches of The Beatles, Lilo Lil and the cast of Bread (well almost) and a World famous football club. Nevertheless, the title gives it away, this is a gritty cop drama set in Liverpool, broadcast by ITV in the late 90s, so well after the regeneration of the dock area was underway.
Starring Samantha Womack (nee Janus), Scot Williams, and Mark Womack (yep, it was whilst filming the series that Janus and Womack came together) with wonderfully fruity support from Leslie Phillips, the series follows the team in Merseyside CID dealing with the day-to-day crimes of drugs, porn, peadophiles, pimps, and the gangs that run it (and just happen to be related to a copper).
DC Isobel de Paulii (Janus/Womack) is newly transferred to Liverpool CID, having moved from London when her partners job moved. Liverpool is not London, and whilst some of the trade-craft applies, the job revolves about local traditions, knowledge and connections, and when the rest of the team you are working with treat you like an outsider, life is even more difficult.
Running for two series, the first was available on VHS many years ago, this DVD set is both 6 episode series over 4 discs and is released tomorrow (15th August) by Simply Media with an RRP of £34.99. As ever, Amazon have a heavy discount.
:: The Ambassador
Harriet Smith (played by Pauline Collins OBE - she of Shirley Valentine, and much more, fame) is the newly appointed British Ambassador to Ireland. Recently widowed, she is a confident and sharp-witted woman who holds one of Britain's most coveted and powerful Embassy posts and is tasked, uneviably most would say, with balancing the political demands from both countries, and calming tensions. All this, whilst trying to manage a private life bringing up two teenage sons.
Smith is ably helped by her commercial attache, John Stone (Denis Lawson, who I first saw in The Kit Curran Radio Show, but is probably better known from recent series of New Tricks) but he has another master, MI6, and often has his own agenda.
Harriet finds herself in a sinister and dangerous world far removed from the cocktail parties of Downing Street. Entangled in a complicated web of half-truths and withheld information - rife both in and outside of the Embassy walls - Harriet is up against a host of people who would love nothing more than to see her fail.
Contempory with Liverpool 1, this was broadcast on BBC One in 1998 and 1999 and runs to 12 episodes over the two series and is presented in this release from Simply Media as a 4 disc set. With an RRP of £34.99, Amazon are offering a discount.