Who doesn’t love a good spin-off?
After the storming success of Negotiating Netflix so far (parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 can be found by clicking the number) I’ve taken Dan and Dave’s original idea and transplanted it to the iPlayer, with the added bonus that you can watch them immediately for free!
For anyone who doesn’t know, BBC iPlayer is the catch-up streaming website/app for almost everything that is on the BBC. At one time it only showed BBC produced shows, but now, apart from a few imported shows (mostly Family Guy and American Dad), anything that airs on a BBC channel will be on the iPlayer.
(There is also talk of the BBC launching an archive streaming service that would out the entire history of the BBC archive online. How amazing would that be? Every episode of every great British comedy of the past 70 years? Doctor Who? Wowza)
Right now they are celebrating 25 years of BBC Films (which is why you may have noticed more British films than usual on the schedule), and not many countries can produce so many quality – yet vastly different – films. So, here is my run down of the best films currently on BBC iPlayer. I have chosen 6 films that have at least 2 weeks left on the iPlayer, to give everyone time to check them out.
Obviously, these links will only work for those in the UK. Enjoy!
Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa (Declan Lowney, 2013)
Steve Coogan’s sports reporter/chat show host/local radio DJ Alan Partridge made his big screen debut in 2013, and for me it was the funniest film of that year. Partridge isn’t as useless as he used to be, having settled into his Mid-Morning Matters slot on North Norfolk Digital, with his Sidekick Simon (a brilliant Tim Key). After Pat Farrell (Colm Meaney) is sacked in the course of a takeover, he takes the new owners hostage, and the only man who can help? Alan Partridge! Packed with quotable lines (literally today Jonny and me were trading quotes) I cannot recommend this enough. I hope there’s a sequel.
Oh, and my mum and I watched this when it was on last Saturday, and she enjoyed it as much as me. Recommendations do not come higher!
In The Loop (Armando Iannucci, 2009)
Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, this is spin-off from The Thick of It is even funnier than the original series. MP Simon Foster (Tom Hollander) makes an off the cuff comment about an potential upcoming invasion of Iraq, and that puts him in the cross hairs of Simon Tucker (Peter Capaldi). Foster ends up being summoned to Washington, along with aide Toby Wright (Chris Addison), where he crosses paths with Lieutenant General Miller (James Gandolfini) a military adviser, and various members of the Washington political machine.
Capaldi as the Tucker is a good enough reason to watch – add in a great Gandolfini performance and a fine ensemble cast (including bringing Gina McKee into the team) and you have a must-see film. Alan Partridge star Steve Coogan is also great in a small role as one of Foster’s constituents with a wall-related issue that Foster has to deal wit hat the same time as being involved with a major international incident. And the fact it is a smart, biting political satire makes it even better. Watch it now if you haven’t already. And if you’ve already seen it, then you don’t need me to tell you that you should watch it again!
Made in Dagenham (Nigel Cole, 2012)
Another film with a great cast top to bottom. Based on a strike at the Ford Dagenham plant in 1968, Sally Hawkins gives a stand out performance as Rita O’Grady. Director Nigel Cole (Calender Girls) keeps the story focused and the tone light, but reminds the audience the weight of the issues at stake. But the sheer quality of the cast (Roasmund Pike, Miranda Richardson, Andrea Riseborough, Bob Hoskins) makes this an enjoyable, typically British film.
Think Calendar Girls with strike action – maybe a bit too feelgood, but it’s not just throwaway fluff.
Great Expectations (Mike Newell, 2012)
The director of Four Weddings, Donnie Brasco, and Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire brought the latest version of Charles Dickens’ novel about the orphan Pip to the screen in 2012. Helena Bonham Carter is memorable as Miss Faversham, and Ralph Fiennes as usual is great as Magwitch. This didn’t do too well at the box office, but this is a film that deserved more eyeballs on it.
Part of the reason for that was over-familiarity with the story. The BBC itself made a lavish, three part adaptation a year earlier in 2011 with Ray Winstone and Gillian Anderson. It could be argued that TV period dramas now are of such a high quality that they make cinema-goers less inclined to this type of movie on the big screen. But, if your only experience of Dickens in film was at school, give it a watch, you’ll be surprised.
The History Boys (Nicholas Hynter, 2006)
This is an adaptation of the Alan Bennett play, starring Richard Griffiths (Withnail & I) as Hector, Frances de la Tour as Mrs Lintott and a host of young British talent, including Dominic Cooper, Russell Tovey, and James Corden. The History Boys in question are a group of 8 lads from Sheffield who have got the best grades at school and are set to apply for various Oxbridge colleges, which prompts the headmaster to bring in a new teacher, Tom Irwin (Simon Campbell Moore) to get them ready for their interviews. Irwin is far more focused than the poetry quoting, knowledge for knowledge’s sake Hector, and the boys find themselves caught between the two teaching styles.
I’ve not done a particularly good job there, this is a fantastic (if slightly “stagey”at times) film that launched the careers of some of Britain’s best young actors and provided a career highlight for Griffiths and de la Tour. Bennett’s script is great (obviously) and full of “sheer calculated silliness”. Hearing Miss Jones from Rising Damp use a “compound adjective” is a treat, as are the boys re-enactments of famous movie scenes. A real treat.
We Need To Talk About Kevin (Lynne Ramsay, 2011)
This is least least British-feeling film on the list. Not for the feint-hearted, this is a story told in flashback about a mother (Tilda Swinton) who “looks back on her son’s childhood after he commits an act that damages their community and relationship forever.” I quoted that from straight from the film description, because if you don’t know what the “act” is I won’t spoil it for you. The film itself has struggled to escape the shadow of its controversial subject matter, and is actually a much better film if you can approach it on its own merits.
I have some issues with the younger iterations of Kevin at times not feeling like a real kid and almost tipping over into a “moody child from horror movie” trope, but if you brace yourself for the worst possible ending, then it’s a bleak film, I’m not sure I can call it enjoyable, but it is a film you should see.
And that’s it for this edition. Remember the link are only active for the next few weeks, so get watching. See you next time.