TV / DVD

Spotlight on the Troubles: A Secret History

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The first few episodes of this seven-part series, tracing the 30 years of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, lean heavily on sensational claims, such as Ian Paisley financing loyalist bombings in the late 1960s and rare film footage of Martin McGuinness handling weapons, not all of which are as dramatic as the filmmakers would like to suggest. A large part of the second episode was taken up with evidence that Gerry Adams was in the IRA, which will come as news to no-one.

All too believable tale of trauma

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Unbelievable is a quietly devastating drama based on the true story of an 18 year old woman who in 2008 reported to police that she had been raped at knife-point by an intruder, only to be disbelieved and eventually even charged with wasting police time.

Unlike too many other crime dramas, there is no glamorisation of brutal sex crimes and serial predators here. Unbelievable focuses instead on the trauma suffered by the young woman, Marie Adler (played by Booksmart’s Kaitlyn Dever) and other victims of what turns out to be a serial rapist.

The Yorkshire Ripper Files: A Very British Crime Story

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It is interesting that, after many years of media obsession with serial killers, a new book, opera and TV documentary share an emphasis on the social conditions and attitudes that made some women more vulnerable to assault and allowed the killers to get away with it for so long.

Hallie Rubenhold’s book The Five uncovers the impoverished lives of the victims of the infamous Victorian killer, Jack the Ripper. She highlights the material circumstances which drove them into prostitution to keep themselves and their families alive.

Hitler’s Hollywood

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What does cinema know that we don’t? That is the intriguing question posed by two powerful documentaries about the cinematic legacy of the Nazi era and the Weimar Republic respectively.

Inspired by the work of critical theorist and film critic Siegfried Kracauer, Hitler’s Hollywood investigates Nazi cinema as a style unto itself, completely under the control of the Minister of Propaganda, Josef Goebbels.

Rosa Luxemburg

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We first see Rosa Luxemburg in a snowy prison yard, guards patrolling the walls high above her. As she walks a raven hops beside her, the first of many references to Rosa’s affinity with nature. It’s 1906 and Rosa has been locked up in Poland for her involvement in the 1905 Russian Revolution.

Bodyguard

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New BBC series Bodyguard is high octane from the opening moments, as the lead, Specialist Protection Officer David Budd (Richard Madden) helps locate a suicide bomber on a London-bound train and talks her down from detonating her device. The following day Budd is promoted and begins work protecting the home secretary, Julia Montague (Keeley Hawes).

Killing Eve

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Eat your heart out George Smiley, here comes Eve Polastri, earthily played by clever Sandra Oh.

Connecticut-raised and London based, Eve’s on the staff of MI5 with a routine job in security, but her background in criminal psychology drives her to look more deeply than her boss likes into a string of professional assassinations across Europe — and begin to draw some connections.

Luke Cage, season 2

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Harlem super hero Luke Cage (Mike Colter) has cleared his name, but is broke and wondering whether to accept a sponsorship deal from Nike as the show’s second season opens.

The first season came out before the film Black Panther with its largely black cast and concerns. In fact it links much more into the radical traditions of black nationalism, Malcolm X and the Panthers. Unlike Black Panther, Luke Cage is not rich. Another character says “just because you’re woke, you don’t have to be broke!”, advising him to become a “hero for hire”.

The Handmaid’s Tale, season 2

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The Handmaid’s Tale is back for a second season after a wildly popular and dramatic first. The first season ended with June (Elisabeth Moss) being bundled into a van, to an uncertain fate. The second season happens just after this. For those who have read Margaret Atwood’s brilliant novel this is where June’s narrative ends so this season is now continuing without the framework of the original text.

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