Henry VI: Parts 1, 2 and 3

The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses

Shakespeare fans rejoice! As part of the Bard’s 400th birthday celebrations, the BBC have embarked on the second cycle of their dramatisations of the history plays. Back in 2012 we had Henry IV and Henry V with Jeremy Irons and Tom Hiddleston at the helm and now we embark on the most tumultuous and bloody period of British history: the Wars of the Roses. With three parts of the lesser-known Henry VI condensed into two episodes, the present cycle will round off in style with Richard III. As I did last time with Henry IV, I’ll write about both parts of Henry VI here and Richard will get his own post. And so, to steal shamelessly from another play, once more unto the breach…

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Hamlet: William Shakespeare

Hamlet

★★★★ ½

(Barbican Theatre, London, 5 September 2015)

Whatever your feelings about celebrity casting or, indeed, Benedict Cumberbatch, there’s no doubt that the Barbican’s Hamlet is the hottest ticket of the year here in London. I failed to get a ticket when they initially went on sale. The only reason I managed to get there at all is because a friend won two tickets in a lottery: a lottery I’d also entered, and in which I lost out. To my enormous gratitude, she invited me to come with her (as far as I recall there was no sustained guilt-tripping involved).

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The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

★★★

(directed by Peter Jackson, 2013)

With Christmas hovering on the horizon, it’s once again time for a trip into Middle Earth and, since I wrote in some detail about the first instalment of The Hobbit, I don’t think I need to do too much scene-setting here. We rejoin Bilbo, Thorin and their companions exactly where we left them: on the far side of the Misty Mountains, finally within sight of the Lonely Mountain, with a warg pack on their trail. A breathless cross-country chase takes them to temporary shelter in the cottage of the skinchanger Beorn (Mikael Persbrandt) and then into the forest of Mirkwood, to the realm of the elven king Thranduil (Lee Pace, on imperious form). Beyond Mirkwood lies Laketown, the final settlement before the Lonely Mountain; and then there is only the mountain itself to challenge them, as they seek the hidden door that will lead them into Smaug’s domain.

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Star Trek: Into Darkness

Star Trek: Into Darkness

★★★½

(directed by J.J. Abrams, 2013)

Although I tend to write about quirkier films on the blog, I have to be honest: most of the time, like everyone else, I go to the cinema for the simple reason that I want to be entertained. I’m not a huge fan of action films; nor am I anything remotely approaching a Trekkie; but I really enjoyed the first instalment of the rebooted Star Trek franchise and wanted to see the sequel. Into Darkness obliged by completely bypassing the critical part of my brain and going straight into overdrive, leaving me with a bubbling sense of exhilaration and a grin on my face a mile wide. It may not be a great film. It may not be Art. But it was bloody good fun.

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Sherlock: Seasons 1 and 2

Sherlock

★★★★½

How on earth did I manage to miss the first season of Sherlock?  Mark Gatiss’s and Stephen Moffat’s sleek, modern take on Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories has been catapulted into the stratosphere of cult shows over the last few months.  I feel very much like a latecomer at the party.  Over the Christmas holidays I watched the first and last episodes of Series 2, which was enough to get me absolutely hooked.  After watching The Reichenbach Fall, I spent hours reading through comments on news websites, trying to figure out how he did ‘it’.  My wonderful parents bought me the Series 1 and 2 boxset for my birthday and, since then, I’ve been luxuriating in this marvellous programme, which has rekindled the kind of geekish fervour I previously reserved for The Lord of the Rings.

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