Category Archives: Drama

Homeland: Claire Danes sulks her way through more relentless catastrophising

What was once unmissable event TV is now struggling to find its place in Trump’s world. But one thing’s for sure: Carrie loves scrambled eggs

“There’s a vast government conspiracy and you’re the only one who can bring it to light? I know, Carrie,” sighs Maggie in Homeland (Sunday, 9pm, Channel 4). Maggie has had it up to here with her sister’s relentless catastrophising and, let’s be honest, so have we.

Once one of the most lavishly praised shows on TV, now Homeland is suffering from an identity crisis, having transitioned from the smash-bang hyperactivity of 24 to a slo-mo snoozefest in which ex-CIA operative Carrie (Claire Danes) yells things like: “The country is in freefall, [it’s] tearing itself apart,” before taking herself off to bed in a huff. 

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Hanif Kureishi: my beautiful box-set binge

For years, the novelist resisted the lure of TV. And then he watched all 86 episodes of The Sopranos, followed by Gomorrah and Mad Men. He salutes the most vital writers of our culture

If you really want to know about it, I will own up. I’ve barely left the house in the last 18 months because I’ve been watching what for me seems like a lot of TV, around five hours a night. And I can’t say that a moment of it – apart from, say, the second season of Mr Robot – feels like wasted time. There are scenes in Mad Men and Transparent that are as accomplished and lovely, as profound and truthful, as anything I’ve seen in the cinema. And the episode in Breaking Bad where the former chemistry teacher Walter White buries the money he has accumulated by selling crystal meth – transforming the spoils into waste or shit – is one of the most illuminating in all art.

Apart from the news, sport and documentaries about the Beatles, I hadn’t watched much television since the 1980s. Nor, as a young man, did I consider writing for TV. It was too compromised; and, with a few exceptions, the overall standard was low. As for the movies, many of the film directors wanted to be artists rather than storytellers, a vanity that ruined many directors and displaced writers. The screenwriter’s best hope was to resemble a back seat driver, yelling mostly unheard ideas from behind. It looked as if the truest test of the good dramatist was his or her ability to script plays.

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Damsel review – Robert Pattinson goes a-crooning in twisty Old West quest drama

Pattinson cast off more of his matinee-idol past as a gauche galoot seeking his bride in the Zellner brothers’ grotesque, beautiful and unpredictable movie

While the western as a living genre continues to fade into a folk memory, the postmodern neo-western – melancholic, world-weary and demystifyingly ironic – is well established as its inheritor. Jim Jarmusch arguably provided the modern template for this strain with his 1995 Dead Man, and the British director John Maclean rode in that film’s wake with his recent Slow West. Jacques Audiard looks as if he’ll be continuing the tradition with his forthcoming The Sisters Brothers, based on the supremely knowing, not to say Coens-y novel by Patrick deWitt. Meanwhile, playing in the Berlin competition, here is Damsel from eccentric film-making duo David and Nathan Zellner.

The Texan brothers weighed in with a quest narrative with their last film, Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter, about a young Japanese woman on a deranged mission to find the money stashed away in the Coens’ Fargo. With Damsel, the Zellners are questing again. We’re in the Old West, and things kick off with a prologue in the desert, where an exhausted old preacher (a cameo from Robert Forster, as sun-battered as the mighty mesas around him) gives his black suit and Bible to a forlorn traveller (David Zellner) hoping to make a fresh start in life.

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Get Out triumphs at Writers Guild of America awards

Jordan Peele’s smash-hit horror film and the gay coming-of-age movie Call Me By Your Name take top prizes at Oscars bellwether

Get Out and Call Me By Your Name took the top prizes at the Writers Guild of America awards, in one of the final major awards-season bellwethers before next month’s Oscars.

Get Out, the smash-hit satirical horror written and directed by Jordan Peele, triumphed in the best original screenplay category, beating I, Tonya, Lady Bird, The Big Sick and current Oscar best picture favourite The Shape of Water. However, another best picture frontrunner, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, was ineligible at the WGAs because it did not meet the organisation’s signatory rules.

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Shiraz: A Romance of India review – 90-year-old epic stands test of time

There is endless warmth, skill and ambition behind this semi-fictional silent story of the Taj Mahal’s romantic origins

This 1928 silent film, now restored by the BFI, is a startlingly ambitious epic weepie-romance, filmed entirely on location in India – and is of far more than just archival interest. Taking creative flight from the historical record, it reimagines the story of the Mumtaz Mahal, the 17th-century Mughal empress in India whose death so devastated the emperor that he commissioned the monument to her in Agra, now known as the Taj Mahal. The film invents a new backstory for the empress: as a little girl she is ambushed with her mother by bandits in the desert and rescued by a family with no clue of her noble identity (although an amulet is to be the proof). They bring her up as a little sister to their son, Shiraz. In adulthood, Shiraz (played by the film’s producer-star Himansu Rai) remains deeply in love with this girl, named Selima (Enakshi Rama Rau). When she is kidnapped by slavers and sold into the harem of the emperor, poor Shiraz hangs around the palace gates, trying to gain admittance, even as the emperor falls in love with her and she with him. Shiraz is threatened with all sorts of punishments and tortures and grows old and blind as a beggar outside the palace – because Selima could only think of him as a brother. But after her death, he is to achieve a redemption by designing her famed marble mausoleum in a blind, visionary ecstasy. The crowd scenes and the location work in this film are a real marvel, and there is great tenderness to its final act.

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Last Flag Flying review – Richard Linklater's treacly trip goes nowhere

Bryan Cranston leads a spiritual sequel to The Last Detail that squanders its promise with a heartwarmer-by-numbers script

A sequel to Hal Ashby’s 1973 American new wave classic The Last Detail from the director of Boyhood? That should theoretically be something special. But what a bland and sugary texture there is to this very conservative, undemanding oldster roadtrip.

Related: Richard Linklater on Last Flag Flying: ‘We’re not meant to kill. We’re not cut out for it’

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Waco review – cult drama series retells violent history with little finesse

A glossy new show examines the events leading up to the tragic siege of 1993 but despite the dramatic potential, it’s a shallow disappointment with a criminally wasted Michael Shannon

Sex is always the dead giveaway for charlatans preaching false gospels of enlightenment. Creeps capitalized on the prevalence of “free love” to score with flower children during the upheavals of the 1960s, Silicon Valley CEOs are throwing chauvinistic sex soirees under the guise of evolved thinking, and somewhere in between the two, David Koresh got a whole bunch of women pregnant.

Related: The Alienist review – a 19th-century psychological thriller that’s short on thrills

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Yardie review – Idris Elba's directorial debut is an uneven disappointment

Despite flashes of brilliance the crime drama, set in Jamaica and the UK, has a plodding narrative and lacks emotional resonance

It gives me zero pleasure to report that Idris Elba’s first go as a feature film director, Yardie, is a disappointment. It was one of those screenings where you go in with your fingers crossed – who doesn’t love Idris Elba? – but eventually you have to stop kidding yourself. This movie isn’t just patchy: it simply doesn’t work.

This isn’t to say there aren’t moments that crackle. How could any film that includes Carlton and the Shoes’ 1968 song Love Me Forever on the soundtrack be all bad? That gorgeous tune breezes in during a prologue set in Jamaica in 1973. Our narrator D (Aml Ameen) is still a kid, and his big brother Jerry Dread (Everaldo Creary) is hosting an ad-hoc block party to force peace between two rival gangs. For a brief moment when the entire neighborhood is dancing, Jerry Dread is toasting and the two kingpins shake hands, all is right with the world. Then a gunshot rings out, and Jerry Dread is dead.

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Colette review – Keira Knightley is on top form in exhilarating literary biopic

The life of Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette makes for fascinating drama in a nuanced and inspiring film with a luminous central performance

No, not another biopic about a writer! Ugh, Keira Knightley’s in a corset again! Get all of that out of your system now because I’m here to tell you that Wash Westmoreland’s Colette is exhilarating, funny, inspiring and (remember: corsets!) gorgeous, too.

The first third of this story is pretty traditional. Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette (Knightley) is a country girl waiting to get whisked away into marriage by the worldly literary “entrepreneur” known simply as Willy (Dominic West). When the new bride is presented at the salons, Parisian gossips are stunned. The notorious libertine Willy is to settle down?

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Forget Scandi: the natural home of dark drama is Wales now

Otherworldly landscapes, experienced TV crews and state support are giving the country a dramatic leg-up

A haunting BBC One series is being heralded as the latest evidence of a boom in Welsh drama and television.

Requiem, which starts early next month, tells the story of a young cellist (Lydia Wilson) who becomes drawn into a decades-old mystery involving a small Welsh community and a missing child. Its unusual blend of horror, crime drama and supernatural chills could only have been achieved by shooting in Wales, said its Australian creator, Kris Mrksa.

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