Tag Archive: Romola Garai

Orphan Black Tatiana Maslany as everyone

Well it’s been one long year, with plenty to do and see, plenty of good and not-so-good to read and watch, and we’re certain we read more and reviewed more content this year than ever before.  And that in no less way was true for TV watching.  At the same time we waded through all that Hollywood had to offer and honed in on the genre films we thought were worth examining.  We went back and looked at it all and pulled together our 25 picks for our annual Best of the Best list.  Today we reveal the best content focusing on the moving image, and tomorrow we’ll run through our picks for the best in print and other media.  We hope you agree with many of these great creations of the entertainment industries, and wish everyone a great 2014!

Year’s Best Fantasy Fix — The Wizard of Oz in Theaters.  It’s a film that has been viewed on TV so many times you might take it for granted.  It’s historically been on many movie reviewers’ Top 20 movies of all time.  But when you watch The Wizard of Oz on the big screen in the middle of a year of modern blockbusters you realize how it can stand up against anything Hollywood has to offer today, even after 70 years.  Remastering the print for a new generation to see it in theaters was a highlight for movie watchers this year.

Almost Human partners

Year’s Best Sci-Fi Fix — Almost Human, Fox.  Like Continuum last year, the new series Almost Human created a future world that is believable and full of extraordinary technologies based in today’s science and touching on social issues of any day.  And even putting aside its buddy cop and police procedural brilliance, every episode plunged us into future police grappling with incredible technologies–DNA bombs criminals use to contaminate a crime scene, identity masking technology to avoid facial recognition video monitors–it was the best dose of sci-fi in 2013.

Best TV Series — Orphan Black, BBC America.  What rose above everything on TV or film this year was BBC America’s new series, the almost indescribable Orphan Black From its initial trailers that piqued our interest, to the surprise series consisting of one actress playing multiple roles that dazzled from out of nowhere, magical special effects, and a unique story of clones and X-Files-inspired intrigue propelled Orphan Black to be our clear winner for Best TV Series of 2013.

Sleepy Hollow

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Liev Schreiber

The exploration of Mars has been the subject of many science fiction productions, especially science fiction thrillers.  One of the best of these was David Tennant’s Doctor Who episode “Waters of Mars” where the good Doctor demonstrates the pitfalls of changing history when he rescues astronauts on a doomed mission to Mars.  The original Total Recall with Arnold Schwarzenegger only used the Mars exploration as a MacGuffin of sorts, but the overall movie resulted in a film classic and the use of Mars as backdrop gave us a new view of the planet as envisioned by  20th century Earthlings.  Other movies have used Mars as a backdrop—Gary Sinise’s Mission to Mars and Red Planet with Val Kilmer and Carrie Anne Moss both at least offered a good-looking landscape.  The more recent John Carter of Mars blended fantasy and sci-fi.  As with most John Carpenter movies, his Ghosts of Mars had a whole bunch of awesome, with a zombie/horror plot and great genre actors Jason Statham and Pam Grier.


The American/Irish made science fiction film Last Days on Mars, which premiered this year at Cannes, gets its UK release this weekend, with the U.S. release date yet unknown.   Directed by Ruairi Robinson and written by Clive Dawson, the trailer doesn’t give away a lot.  It could be another forgettable B-movie Mars flick, or it could be something better.

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The Hour cast season 2

Review by C.J. Bunce

It was a big year for Ben Whishaw.  Not only did he appear as the newest Q in the James Bond film Skyfall, a dream job and iconic role for any actor to land, Whishaw appeared as co-star in his second season of the BBC America’s The Hour offering a performance as dramatic as anything you’d find on television in 2012.  In Wednesday night’s season finale, his character Freddie Lyon took a determined, tortured soul whose new wife left him mid-season, and fulfilled a story arc begun in the backstory of The Hour, finally leaving all aspersions aside and planting a long overdue kiss on the decades-in-the-waiting eye of his affection, Romola Garai’s Bel Rowley.  In an Emmy-worthy performance he is left to single-handedly bear the burden of the underground extremes that plagued London of 1956, pummeled and left for dead by the season’s shadowy villain outside the offices of the BBC.The Hour - Vice

Vice, celebrity, corruption, murder.  It was a season that got off to a slow start, but finished like a freight train with the last two episodes leaving viewers desperate for a third season.  Early marketing tried to distance the series from its American cousin drama Mad Men, yet the glitzy, celebrity-centric early episodes seemed to scream just that But as the intrigue picked up steam with the revelation of police corruption particularly through the character of Commander Laurence Stern (played by State of Play and The Jackal’s Peter Sullivan), and the key characters’ motivations and secrets were revealed, The Hour left Mad Men in its wake.

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The Hour banner season 2

Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Last fall we raved about BBC’s 1950s workplace drama, The Hour, about a fledgling news program of the same name.  At long last, Season Two is finally here, and it’s shaping up to be just as smart, stylish, and sexy as the first season.

Plunging viewers directly into the action, Episode 1 (of a presumed 6) picks up nine months from the end of Season One, finding producer Bel Rowley (Romola Garai, Emma, Amazing Grace) struggling to keep her now-established evening news programme fresh and relevant, in the face of a star presenter enjoying his newfound celebrity a little too much (Dominic West, The Wire, 300); a missing “right-hand man” (Ben Whishaw, Skyfall); the machinations of a new boss (Peter Capaldi, Torchwood, Sea of Souls); and competition from a newer, “bitier” rival news show.  Series newcomer Capaldi is a lively addition as new head of the news department Randall Brown–a man with a plan and a past, clearly intending to keep all The Hour’s staff on their toes.

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Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

BBC America’s answer to the sexy retro workplace drama turned in a solid, if all-too-brief, freshman season, leaving this viewer tantalized by the last-minute revelations and dearly hoping for more.  Soon.  The fact that I watched all six episodes in a single week (thanks to Entertainment on Demand’s lineup of primetime BBC America) should tell you something.

Set in turbulent, Cold War 1956, The Hour centers on the eponymous, 60 Minutes-style news program in its fledgling days.  Helmed by young producer Bel Rowley (Romola Garai, I Capture the Castle, Amazing Grace) and fronted by dashing pretty boy Hector Madden (Dominic West, The Wire, 300), the program and its staff of ambitious journalists face world-changing foreign crises, censorship laws that hamstring their ability to report on current events, MI6 secret service oversight, and rumors of a Soviet mole on their staff.  Subplots involve the suspicious death of a debutante, investigated by frenetic and brilliant head writer/reporter Freddy Lyon, played with earnest intensity by Ben Whishaw (Bright Star, Layer Cake); as well as the obligatory love affair–this one between Rowley and Madden.  It’s a heady time for young TV news, and The Hour captures it beautifully, from the mixture of cutting edge and slightly dingy art direction of their Lime Street studio, to the adrenaline-fueled performances of all the leads, as they chase down stories and rush to meet deadlines while pushing the boundaries of their new profession.

The fictional storylines are compelling, but it’s in dramatizing the real historical news that The Hour really shines.  Season One is brilliantly set during what must have been one of the most dramatic weeks in post-war history, late October 1956, when the Hungarian uprising and the Suez Crisis occurred back to back.  The Hour does a splendid job of dramatizing the counterpoint of those events, as well as the concurrent American presidential election (I suppose it won’t spoil anything to say that Eisenhower wins), to capture a moment in history with both endless depths to mine for story ideas, as well as casting an intriguing mirror on our evolving notion of the news media.

In a TV season that also includes embarrassing Mad Men lookalikes Pan Am and The House Bunny, what The Hour delivers best might be its focus on strong female characters.  From successful professionals Rowley and Lix Storm (Anna Chancellor, Law & Order: UK, MI-5) to doomed socialite Ruth Elms (newcomer Vanessa Kirby), the women of The Hour are complex, talented, and hold their own in the macho world of foreign correspondents and British political posturing.  But the standout performance for me was actually by Oona Chaplin (yes, that Chaplin), in the role of Marnie Madden, Hector’s long-suffering wife.  Marnie’s cool determination to maintain her upbeat composure in the face of tense international drama and humiliating personal scandal proves that her sweet mask is anything but naiveté.  Her composure wavers only once, in a deliberate confrontation with Bel, and perhaps only Bel is surprised when Marnie calmly walks out the victor.  Awards committees, take note.

I have more I’d like to say–like how nice it was to see original Torchwood co-star Burn Gorman in another role (even disappointingly cut short in episode 3 as it was!), or how the last 30 minutes of the finale took everything we thought we knew and added breathtaking layers of complexity to key characters Hector, Freddy, and… well, I won’t say.  If I have one major complaint, it’s that the season was so short!  I’m afraid it will get lost among its main competition, and that is a real shame.  Happily, it’s been reported a Series Two is on the way, though no word yet on the air date.

Catch this On Demand while it lasts, download episodes from I Tunes, or order the DVD from BBC America.

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