What to watch on TV this week
From Steve McQueen's gruelling slavery drama 12 Years A Slave to Lin-Manuel Miranda's colossally popular stage musical Hamilton, this week in TV taps into a more honest American history
Prior to Widows, filmmaker Steve McQueen made a kind of trilogy of torment: following tortured characters as they endure unthinkable pain. Hunger follows the imprisonment of Bobby Sands. Shame explicitly shows the horrors of sex addiction. But 12 Years A Slave is the director’s thorny-crowned achievement, showing the brutalities of the American slave trade through the eyes of survivor Solomon Northup (played by Chiwetel Ejiofor).
Considering the Black Lives Matter protests across the world, with statues of slave-traders being pulled from their podiums, it’s never been more necessary to learn about this unforgivable period. Despite 12 Years A Slave being denounced by some as torture porn, Steve McQueen still earned an historical Oscar: the first, ever, for a black producer.
Often products of culture have to wait a while before cementing themselves in history. Hamilton achieved it immediately. This colossally popular stage musical (written by Lin-Manuel Miranda) sold out Broadway and the West End, and even won a Pulitzer Prize. Its blend of US history, rap music, and a multi-ethnic cast sent shockwaves into the zeitgeist. But with ticket prices rising to impossible amounts, this wasn’t a show that could be experienced by everybody…
Disney Plus has you covered, as long as you’re paying the £59.99 annual subscription fee (still a bargain compared to the ticket price). 15 months earlier than intended, the filmed stage show will be on the streaming service from Friday. Set during America’s gradual birth, the story follows the rise and fall of founding father Alexander Hamilton, a Caribbean immigrant who shot to the top.Read more ...
The original Penny Dreadful series took place in a Victorian London populated with dark spirits and literary creations (Victor Frankenstein, Dorian Gray, etc). Its new ‘spiritual descendent’ City of Angels flies to ’30s Los Angeles, bathed in racism and Mexican folklore.
More of a detective drama, City of Angels follows Tiago (Daniel Zovatto), a Mexican detective who investigates a gruesome and gory murder in the area. Meanwhile, the demon Magda (Natalie Dormer) – splitting into four human guises – slithers into LA, leaving a trail of chaos behind her.
TV remakes of movies should be treated with many pinches of scepticism. But this Amazon Prime remake of Joe Wright’s 2011 action thriller, starring Saoirse Ronan, captures the electric brilliance of the original while justifying its extension to hours of thrilling fun.
Hanna (Esme Creed-Miles) is a 15-year-old girl with extraordinary abilities in fighting, shooting, and killing. She was trained by her father to evade capture from a secret government agency, who raised similar badass children in their Utrax programme. In season two, Hanna risks her life to save her friend Clara (Yasmin Monet Prince) from Utrax – finding unlikely help from the season one villain Marissa Wiegler (Mireille Enos).
The film industry has been shot in the face by Covid-19, especially with movies striving for a cinema release (Tenet, A Quiet Place Part II, etc). But what have filmmakers done in the meantime? Given that their vocation and passion is driven by telling stories in the world, their voices have been silenced by the virus. Hopefully, Homemade will offer them some creative release.
Bringing together eminent directors like Paolo Sorrentino (The New Pope), Rachel Morrison (Mudbound), Sebastián Lelio (Disobedience), Gurinder Chanda (Blinded by the Light), Homemade is a tableau of short films made in lockdown. Far from dissolving the filmmakers’ creativity, the constrictions allow them to be even more creative and experimental. Actor-turned-director Kristen Stewart also takes part.
Alicia Silverstone defined the 90s teen era as Cher in Clueless; now, in The Babysitters Club, she plays the mother to the next generation. Based on the books by Ann M Martin, this series follows a gaggle of united seventh graders, all of different personalities and backgrounds, who start their own babysitting business.
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