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Whelan Barzey

Whelan Barzey

Articles (4)

The 100 best TV shows of all time you have to watch

The 100 best TV shows of all time you have to watch

‘The idiot box’. ‘The boob tube’. ‘The opiate of the masses’. For decades, television was maligned as one of the lowest forms of entertainment available, a conduit for hypnotising slop was actively making the populace dumber. Was that perception justified? Maybe, at times. The fact that it was being beamed directly into your home, and you had little choice in what to watch, made it seem worse.   Now, 70 or so years after it became widely available, other mediums are having to play catch up. The best shows compete with movies for cultural positioning, while elite filmmakers make movies for the small screen. The premiere of The Sopranos in 1999 is credited as the big bang that changed TV’s reputation, and the advent of streaming has made it so viewers actually have more to watch than anyone could possibly consume in an entire lifetime.   That makes selecting the 100 greatest TV shows much more of a challenge than it would have been 20 years ago. For that reason, we elected to limit the field a bit, leaving off talk shows, docuseries, variety shows and sketch comedy, instead focusing on scripted, episodic dramas, comedies and miniseries. Even then, it proved to be an exhausting task – after all, television has been popular since after World War II. While this list is dominated by 21st century programs, there are hundreds of shows from the pre-Sopranos era that deserve credit for pushing TV forward into its current golden age. Here’s what we chose as the best of the best. Recomme

Five films to catch at the BFI’s ace new celebration of African cinema

Five films to catch at the BFI’s ace new celebration of African cinema

Too rarely celebrated, African cinema and the movies of the African diaspora are getting their moment in an expansive, kaleidoscopic BFI season this summer. Alongside an exhibition at the Hayward Gallery, ‘In the Black Fantastic’ will showcase films from visionaries based on the continent itself (Haile Gerima, Djibril Diop Mambety), and some, like Julie Dash and Kasi Lemmons, whose magic realist storytelling is set across the ocean. Curated by writer and journalist Ekow Eshun, the programme will blur boundaries between the present and the past in all sorts of mesmeric ways – with films infused with the supernatural and the spiritual, the realist and the dreamlike. ‘Fantasy might be the best way to explain the strange and fantastic experience of being Black in the world,’ explains Eshun, ‘and this is a collection of works that absolutely understands that.’ He took us through his five top picks on the BFI’s programme.   In the Black Fantastic runs concurrently at BFI Southbank throughout July and at the Hayward Gallery Jun 29-Sep 18. Head to the official site for programme info and tickets. Ekow Eshun’s Thames & Hudson book, ‘In the Black Fantastic’, is available now.

La ciudad perdida, el viaje a la jungla más divertido de la primavera

La ciudad perdida, el viaje a la jungla más divertido de la primavera

⭑⭑⭑⭑✩ Una combinación delirantemente alocada de risas, placeres culpables y follaje de la jungla, La ciudad perdida es lo que sucedería si Indiana Jones: El templo maldito y Miss Congeniality concibieran un hijo en un tablero de Jumanji. La imperecedera protagonista de Hollywood, Sandra Bullock, presenta una figura abatida como su problemática protagonista, Loretta Sage. Es la autora de una exitosa franquicia romántica en la que ya no ha invertido. Pero después de que su publicista Beth (Da'Vine Joy Randolph) la empujara, Loretta se embarca de mala gana en una gira para promocionar su último libro, La ciudad perdida de D, con la estrella de la portada del galán de la novela, Alan (Channing Tatum). La ciudad perdida se convierte en una metaaventura grande y desordenada cuando Loretta es secuestrada por la multimillonaria Abigail Fairfax (Daniel Radcliffe) y se ve envuelta en una aventura sacada directamente de las páginas de uno de sus libros. Alan pronto adoptará su alter ego ficticio, Dash, con resultados mixtos. La siguiente hora es una hilarante procesión de puños voladores, buffets de charcutería destrozados y un cameo que se roba la escena de un despeinado Brad Pitt haciendo su mejor imitación de GI Joe. Bullock entabla un romance poco convencional pero tremendamente entretenido con Tatum mientras ella camina penosamente por la jungla vestida de punta en blanco. Tatum es una alegría como su caballero alérgico al agua con una armadura brillante, y el elenco secundario t

Encanto, la nueva película de Disney ambientada en Colombia

Encanto, la nueva película de Disney ambientada en Colombia

⭑⭑⭑⭑✩ Dilo en voz baja, pero ¿la calidad de la producción de Disney Animation está comenzando a superar a la de sus amigos de Pixar? Es una pregunta para reflexionar seriamente, con películas como Raya y el último dragón, Frozen II y Moana que superan las nuevas producciónes de Pixar en cuanto a habilidades narrativas, y la nueva cinta de Disney Animation; Encanto, un cuento mágico, divertido, bullicioso y atrevido que viene cargado de melodías de Lin-Manuel Miranda, no es una excepción. El escenario es el encantador pueblo colombiano de Encanto donde vive la familia magica Madrigal. En el corazón de su adorable conjunto de chamanes, adivinos y curanderos se encuentra la modesta adolescente Mirabel (con la voz de Stephanie Beatriz), la única niña de la familia que no tiene poderes. Su puerta a la magia se le cierró literalmente en la cara y se ve obligada a convertirse en una heroína cuando la magia del clan se ve amenazada. Encanto tiene ingeniosa trama y revelaciones sorprendentes, pero es la animación en sí la que se roba el espectáculo. Los codirectores de Zootopia, Jared Bush y Byron Howard, y sus animadores, realmente han vaciado la caja de crayones de Disney para representar sus deliciosas flores, texturas de cabello y tonos de piel. El resultado se siente como una auténtica carta de amor a la diversidad de América Latina.  Las canciones festivas y vibrantes de Lin-Manuel Miranda agregan otro sabor a la olla, desempaquetando de manera inteligente y pegadiza las debilid

Listings and reviews (19)

Dream Scenario

Dream Scenario

4 out of 5 stars

For every limitation that exists IRL, there’s an equal realm of wild possibilities that can be found in our dreams: from trippy unicorns, to poker tables people by card-dealing aliens, to, well, Nicolas Cage. That’s the premise of Kristoffer Borgli’s (Sick of Myself) offbeat, dark comedy that has Cage haunting the dreams of the entire planet.  Cage plays Paul Matthews, an unremarkable college professor with unrealised ambitions of publishing a paper on evolutionary biology. He’s no inspiring, Robin-Williams-in-Good-Will-Hunting type; his awkward demeanour, receding hairline and ill-fitting Parka hardly capture the attention of his class of yawning Z-ers. But much as he’d hate to admit it, Paul yearns for notoriety. There’s a testy exchange with a former colleague who won’t give him a co-credit in her research paper, despite his desperate whimpering and valid arguments. Then, suddenly, it happens: everyone seems to know who Paul is. Old acquaintances and new admirers begin crawling out of the woodwork, all with the same opening line: ‘I saw you in my dream.’ Dream Scenario ushers into those gonzo dream sequence in a flurry of mad visuals involving alligators and earthquakes that invite comparisons with fellow A24 production Everything, Everywhere All At Once. And while not as inherently funny as some of Cage’s more out-there characters, there’s still ample scope for him to flex his comedic muscles, including a runaway contender for cringeworthy sex scene of the year. As a show

They Cloned Tyrone

They Cloned Tyrone

5 out of 5 stars

Juel Taylor’s hilariously unhinged directorial debut plays out like a big ‘we know what you think about us’ public service announcement from the Black consciousness. A stylish conspiracy thriller, it finds its footing in The Glen, a Southern poster town for African-American disenfranchisement, filled with shoddy liquor stores, Tupac Shakur conspiracy theorists and a homeless fortune teller called Frog. The opening sequence introduces the complex character of Fontaine (John Boyega). He’s a local drug dealer who makes a concerted effort to fit in subtle acts of kindness alongside the day-to-day kerfuffle of his criminal capers. Soon he’s careering a car into a street rival, an event that leads to him being killed for the first time. Rather than staring at the walls of a pine box, Fontaine wakes up in his bedroom without a bullet wound in sight or any recollection of the encounter that cost him his life. But why? And how? The mystery unfolds as Fontaine makes his usual nightly rounds to debtors. He ends up on the doorstep of wise-cracking Slick Charles (Jamie Foxx), a pimp with enough minks in his wardrobe to put PETA on high alert. Along with his Nancy Drew obsessed streetworker Yo-Yo (Candyman’s Teyonah Parris), the pair recount the cold-blooded motel shootout that Tyrone fell victim to. The trio’s madcap energy of impromptu karaoke sessions and sharp banter means that you’re laughing even when you’re not quite sure what’s going on.  They Cloned Tyrone revels in that ambiguity

Name Me Lawand

Name Me Lawand

4 out of 5 stars

The extent of most five-year-olds’ hardships begin and end with tying their shoelaces. But young Kurdish boy Lawand has already completed the inhumane obstacle course that has come to define the refugee journey – all while not being able to speak a single language. Born deaf to a hearing family in Kurdistan, without the educational means to learn sign language, Lawand’s dreams seem limited from the get-go. His parents are unable to accept this bleak reality and make the difficult decision to leave their homeland behind and take him and his brother in search of a better life. A treacherous journey of ferocious currents, barbed-wire fences and sleepless nights haunted by the screams of asylum-seekers leads them to the English city of Derby, where he’s enrolled at the Royal School for the Deaf.  Here, director Edward Lovelace shifts the perspective from Lawand’s family and lets him guide the story in an intimate style akin to The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, a key influence on the doc. Under the guidance of a kind-hearted British Sign Language teacher, we follow him blossoming into the spritely, inquisitive and playful boy he’s always been, but has rarely been able to show.  Lovelace’s camera captures every twitch, clasp and motion of Lawand’s remarkable BSL progress in riveting detail over the course of four years. We also see this beauty being initially lost on his parents, whose perception of deafness has been formed by the challenges of raising Lawand in Iraq where it has

Chevalier

Chevalier

3 out of 5 stars

If the music biopic usually bolsters the legacies of already beloved icons (Rocketman, Ray, I Wanna Dance With Somebody et al), this extroverted period drama takes its cues from a starker, more mysterious song sheet: the untold story of 18th century French composer Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges.  Young, Black and flamboyant, Bologne (Waves’ Kelvin Harrison Jr) is the antithesis of every problematic cliché that classical music has come to embody. Director Stephen Williams addresses the historic erasure of Black musicians immediately with a riotous, expectation-subverting opening sequence in which Bologne steps on stage to better the great Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Joseph Prowen) in a violin duel. Unfolding in front of Marie Antoinette (Lucy Boynton), a future benefactor, and the cream of Paris society, it’s a rare moment of universal embrace that goes against the grain of Joseph’s outlier status.  Flashbacks offer an insight into the virtuoso musician’s unconventional upbringing. The illegitimate son of a French plantation owner and an enslaved Senegalese housemaid (Ronkẹ Adékoluẹjo), Bologne is sent to a French boarding school. Regrettably, bearing the lineage of both the oppressor and the oppressed does little to inform the complexity of his character. Instead, screenwriter Stefani Robinson zeroes in on his musical gifts and ability to attract beautiful women; including an ill-advised, Bridgerton-esque affair with a white married opera singer (Ready Or Not’s Sama

Pretty Red Dress

Pretty Red Dress

4 out of 5 stars

This hugely promising debut from Londoner Dionne Edwards takes that classic Hollywood garment – the red dress – and turns it from a Technicolor magnet for the male gaze and into a centrepiece for a frank, touching exploration of modern Black masculinity. Fresh from a stint behind bars, Travis ‘Mad T’s (Natey Jones) appetite for a return to the comforting familiarity of his South London neighbourhood couldn’t be stronger, but as many before him have found out, things are never the same as you left them. His partner Candice’s (one-time The X-Factor winner Alexandra Burke) has West End ambitions – she’s up for the role of Tina Turner in a new musical – and they’ve left her on the cusp of outgrowing her ‘bad boy’ phase. Their teenage daughter Kenisha (Temilola Olatunbosun), meanwhile, has a rebellious streak that has only worsened in his absence.  Travis scrounges together his earnings from his part-time job to buy Candice a dazzling red dress for her upcoming audition. Chivalry comes in all forms and Pretty Red Dress’s knight in shining armour just happens to wear a Nike hoodie and a battered ankle monitor; a poignant reflection of the film’s unpolished charm.  Candice’s pursuit of a musical career provides Burke with ample opportunities to showcase her vocal chops, including an electrifying rendition of the late Queen of Rock and Roll’s ‘River Deep, Mountain High’. But it’s in the couple’s Lambeth council flat where the dress comes into its own. With the coast seemingly clear,

Godland

Godland

3 out of 5 stars

There are few forces that are comparable to colonialism for its limitless capacity for destruction, but Mother Nature certainly comes close. Icelandic director Hlynur Pálmason’s (A White, White Day) epic poses the question: who’d blink first in a coming together of the two? If Godland’s languid pacing has anything to do with it, it will probably be you. This 19th century tale of faith and frostbite sees fresh-faced Danish priest Lucas (Elliott Crosset Hove) tasked with building a church in neighbouring Iceland before the arrival of an unforgiving winter. Despite the scale of the mission, he is given very little guidance from his superior, beyond learning the language and immersing himself in the local customs. His refusal to do either offers an eye-opening insight into the tensions between the Scandinavian nations. The stubborn priest’s outsider status quickly garners him the endearing nickname of ‘Danish devil’ from a congregation of Icelandic farmhands. That dynamic is distilled in Lucas’s mutually disdainful relationship with his hired chaperone Ragnar (Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson). Worn down by the snowy abyss, the churchman’s unchristlike qualities slowly come to the fore, culminating in a brutal final act. You’d be hard pressed to find a more immersive Winter Wonderland experience  You’d be hard pressed to find a more immersive Winter Wonderland experience than Godland. Cinematographer Maria von Hausswolff’s mastery of scale renders human activity insignificant in compari

Cairo Conspiracy

Cairo Conspiracy

3 out of 5 stars

First terms at uni are pretty standard stuff: burning food in the oven, ruining multiple batches of laundry... and becoming embroiled in a Church vs State proxy war. Well, that last one might only be true of Tarik Saleh’s compelling, if slightly overcooked political thriller Cairo Conspiracy. The Cannes screenplay award winner opens with a powerful shot of a rickety raft being tossed around by tumultuous ocean waves, doubling as a neat metaphor for our protagonist Adam’s (Tawfeek Barhom) personal journey. The son of a widowed fisherman, his Islamic sensibilities have been nurtured – and sometimes beaten – into him over the course of his childhood, The result is a young man with a strong religious compass, but no backbone. It isn’t until Adam receives a scholarship to attend Cairo's prestigious Al-Azhar University that he’s able to swim beyond the confines of his humble fishbowl. Despite being surrounded by devout Muslims at the world’s oldest Islamic educational institution, the young village boy’s innocence is glaringly obvious, so much so that his new friend Zizo (Mehdi Dehbi) offers him an ominous warning. ‘You have a pure soul, but every second in this place will corrupt it,’ he says, before proceeding to expose Adam to the pressure valve of Cairo’s steamy underground raves, as good friends do. The blaring traffic horns and bustling street markets represent the film’s most colourful moments. However, this rousing boy-meets-world adventure takes a dramatic turn into ‘Da Vi

A Bunch of Amateurs

A Bunch of Amateurs

3 out of 5 stars

Films about filmmaking are often arthouse in style and niche in appeal, but Kim Hopkins’ (Voices of the Sea) documentary is just the kind of scrappy, everyman story that will go down a treat for the masses.  Plying their trade in a leaky, rundown building in the heart of West Yorkshire are the Bradford Movie Makers, members of one of the world’s oldest film club (founded in 1932). However, their longevity has come at a cost. Crippling economic hardship and an ageing membership have left the club five years behind on rent and relying on the mercy of their landlord to keep them afloat. Far removed from the days of packing busses on group outings, the club is down to its last dozen or so members, but still remains just as determined to see out their golden years via the silver screen. The club’s remaining members meet on a weekly basis to watch their favourite homemade films and engage in hilarious bickering about which projects to embark on next (‘You’re not professional!’, ‘neither are you!’, they argue). Hopkins showcases the club’s collection of quirky, low-budget work in a way that elicits the heartiest of laughs, without making a mockery of their craftsmanship. When the curtain falls, you’ll really miss these character and their stories Shot during the pandemic, scenes of the members’ meetings present them as a carefree, eccentric bunch, but their lives away from the club are burdened with responsibility and heartbreaking personal losses. Born in 1933 and the club’s oldes

What’s Love Got to Do with It?

What’s Love Got to Do with It?

3 out of 5 stars

‘Love is better when it starts as a simmer and grows to a boil’. That’s the general vibe behind Elizabeth and Bandit Queen director Shekhar Kapur’s first rom-com, a multi-cultural Richard Curtis-alike confection that’s inspired by screenwriter Jemima Khan’s own love story with Pakistani politician Imran Khan. It’s channelled into the story of two childhood friends, Zoe (Lily James), a documentary filmmaker, and Kaz (Shazad Latif), a doctor, as they manoeuvre around their parents’ well-intentioned efforts to help them find love.  After several failed pitches to her producers, Zoe eventually lands on the idea of following Kaz on his journey to find love via a Pakistani assisted marriage. This excites her virtue signalling bosses, who view diversity as nothing more than a box-ticking exercise (they want to call the documentary ‘Love Contractually’). Chaperoned by his eager parents, Kaz begins his journey with a visit to romantic fixer Mo the Matchmaker (People Just Do Nothing’s Asim Chaudhry, a blast). The cupid-for-hire salivates at the prospect of pairing the dashing doctor with one of the eligible bachelorettes in his database.  Less of a fly-on-the-wall and more of a gnat-in-the-ear, Zoe can’t help but express her scepticism when Kaz finds his bride-to-be (Sajal Aly) and sets off to Pakistan for the wedding. The tension between the two offers up interesting talking points about British identity and the versions of marriage that are deemed as acceptable. These moments dotted

Joyride

Joyride

2 out of 5 stars

It’s only fitting that Emer Reynolds’ Joyride opens in a bustling Irish bar, because suspending disbelief for this madcap caper definitely requires the kind of open mindedness that only multiple Guinnesses will provide. Plucky 12-year-old Mully (Charlie Reid) doubles as a waiter and human jukebox at his father’s pub, belting out Broadway classics to raise money for a charity in honour of his late mother. After discovering his father’s nefarious intentions to misuse the donations, Mully makes a break for the nearest getaway vehicle, only to hit the gas and discover a woman passed out in the backseat with her baby. Unsettled by the prospect of motherhood, boozy solicitor Joy (Olivia Colman) plans to give the baby away to a family member and get on a plane to sunny Lanzarote to escape her woes. In an inexplicable turn of events, Joy forces the young boy to drive her across Ireland. The car ride that ensues features a series of predictable getaway tropes, including evading the police, running out of petrol and getting on each other’s nerves. The barrage of silly one-liners sells Olivia Colman short If you’re able to look past the police’s bizarre inaction, Mully’s implausibly excellent driving skills and the schmaltzy score, there are moments of fun to be had. Colman and Reid make a believable surrogate mother-son pairing, with the Oscar-winner predictably great at capturing a mum in the throes of postpartum depression, but the barrage of silly one-liners that follows sells her

Akilla’s Escape

Akilla’s Escape

3 out of 5 stars

After a lifetime spent swimming in the cesspool of Jamaica and Toronto’s criminal underworld, 40-year-old drug dealer Akilla Brown (Saul Williams) reckons it’s time to move on, only to end up in a ‘one-last-job’ scenario with an unlikely young accomplice.  Needless to say – and firmly in keeping with the rules of gangland genre fare – getting out is not going to be an easy task. And that’s even before Akilla is caught in a violent bank robbery that ends with him capturing one of his assailants. That, beneath the mask, the robber turns out to be a baby-faced, 15-year-old called Sheppard (Thamela Mpumlwana) only complicates the scenario.  Together, Akilla and Sheppard embark on a series of journeys around Toronto to reclaim Akilla’s stolen goods, each with the awkwardness of a drive home after a bad parent-teacher meeting. Their uneasy dynamic offers a very literal representation of the cycle of generational violence and its unflinching destruction of the innocence of Black youth. And in case this is lost on the audience, the film’s casting of Mpumlwana as both Sheppard and the young Akilla in its many flashback scenes drives home the parallels. It’s a heavy-handed device that actually works pretty well. Akilla’s Escape races out the gates to the sound of Bob Marley’s iconic 1977 hit ‘Punky Reggae Party’ and an opening sequence that blasts through Jamaica’s complicated post-colonialist history, spliced together with stylish black-and-white clips of Williams’s uninhibited skanki

Father Stu

Father Stu

2 out of 5 stars

Never has the road to the priesthood been paved with so many drunk drivers, foul-mouth outbursts or nasty motorcycle collisions than in Mark Wahlberg’s partly self-funded real-life drama. After succumbing to a serious injury, Stuart ‘Stu’ Long (Wahlberg) turns his back on a patchy amateur boxing career and sets his sights on becoming a Hollywood leading man. Executing this unlikely plan begins with a job as a supermarket butcher – because even talent-spotting producers enjoy a good steak, right? Instead, there’s a chance encounter with a Catholic Sunday school teacher (Narcos: Mexico’s Teresa Ruiz) that leaves him smitten. She, less so. Forever punching above his weight, the reformed bad boy attempts to woo her by attending Mass, but it isn’t until surviving a near-death motorcycle accident that he finds his true calling to become a priest; a decision that is met by staunch resistance from his family and the Church. It gets stuck in a purgatory of daddy issues and Sunday service pamphlets Accompanied by a colourful rock ‘n’ roll soundtrack, Wahlberg takes to his trademark role of misfit with a heart of gold like a clenched fist to a 12oz Everlast glove. Around him, though, is an uneven gumbo of religion and family turmoil. There are a few effective scenes where Father Stu’s life-battered hero inspires those around him, but too often it reduces him to second-fiddle to the one-liners and tired monologues of his estranged father (Mel Gibson) and sceptical mother (Jacki Weaver).