Review: Danny Boyle – Man of Wonder (BBC Culture Show Special)

Review: Danny Boyle - Man of Wonder (BBC Culture Show Special)“In a Culture Show special, Oscar winning director Danny Boyle talks to Mark Kermode about his new film Trance, London 2012’s afterglow and the highs and lows of an extraordinary film-making career.”

Danny Boyle began his career in subversive agit-prop theatre at the Royal Court and went on to be equally subversive in TV.

Breaking into feature films, his back catalogue includes the violent, kinetic, anarchic as well as touching, satirical, philosophical and romantic. From iconic counter-culture Trainspotting, frenetic horror 28 Days Later, to eight-Oscar triumph, the brutal romance Slumdog Millionaire, Boyle is at his best when he refuses to compromise. It was something he acknowledged in less successful projects – Hollywood excesses A Life Less Ordinary and The Beach.

Review: Shakespeare Uncovered – David Tennant on Hamlet

Shakespeare Uncovered - David Tennant on Hamlet“In Hamlet, David Tennant whose own RSC performance was a huge hit, meets other actors who have played the role – from the legendary David Warner in the 1960s to the recent Jude Law. He also tries, alongside Simon Russell Beale and Ben Whishaw, to unravel the meaning of the play and the reason why it is considered the greatest play Shakespeare ever wrote.”

With this being some anniversary or other of the great Will Shakey, there’s an awful lot of actoreyness on the BBC at the moment. In this final episode of Shakespeare Uncovered, David Tennant’s take on Hamlet was one of the better dissections of a classic in under an hour. Hats off to BBC2 for attempting to explain and impress just how great it is. You know there’s a ‘but’ coming, though, don’t you… …

Review: Horizon – Out of Control? BBC2

Review: Horizon - Out of Control? BBC2“We all like to think we are in control of our lives – of what we feel and what we think. But scientists are now discovering this is often simply an illusion.

Surprising experiments are revealing that what you think you do and what you actually do can be very different. Your unconscious mind is often calling the shots, influencing the decisions you make, from what you eat to who you fall in love with. If you think you are really in control of your life, you may have to think again.”

“At every moment of our lives an unseen presence is guiding us,” announced narrator Hugo Speer. No, not God, the unseen presence is our own unconscious mind, which decades of psycho analysis since Freud has us believing is the Edward Hyde or Caliban in all of us, out to destroy civilisation. It turns out our unconscious is the foreman, brakeman, steersman and navigator of almost everything we do. …

Review: Perspectives – Lenny Henry Finding Shakespeare

Lenny Henry in Comedy of Errors (c/o ITV,  Matchlight Prodcutions)“As a working-class kid growing up in Dudley in the West Midlands, Lenny found William Shakespeare’s plays boring, irrelevant and inaccessible. But by the age of 50 and with a burning ambition to try his hand at serious acting, Lenny decided it was time he faced his fears and finally tried to get to grips with the Bard.”

To many, Lenny Henry is that big bloke who advertises the hotels. To those with a long memory, he is still the sixteen-year-old kid with the big grin and bags of energy, who barn-stormed the New Faces TV talent show and, via Tiswas, Three of A Kind and several seasons of his own sketch show, grew up to be a dramatic actor (Chef, Hope and Glory) of mixed successes. Some of us still expect jokes from Delbert Wilkins and Deakus every time he walks on; that or a bowl of Alpen muesli. It all rather undercuts his recent successes as a classical Shakespearean actor, notably Othello, the stage production later adapted for Radio 4. …

Review: BBC Our World – Crossing Steinbeck’s America

BBC Our World: Crossing Steinbeck's AmericaAs America grapples with a deepening recession, white-collar workers are now losing their homes in increasing numbers. Paul Mason travels the country down the same road as John Steinbeck’s migrants in The Grapes of Wrath. Visiting homeless shelters along the way, he unexpectedly finds a growing number of middle-class people who have ended up on the street. …

Book Review: Wonders of the Universe

Book Review Wonders of the Universe Brian Cox Andrew CohenAuthors: Brian Cox, Andrew Cohen

Current poster-boy of popular science Professor Brian Cox accompanies his BBC TV documentary series, another pop-corn exploration of space, with this book. Beyond the Wonders of the Solar System, Wonders of the Universe throws all the biggest numbers it can at you: 13.7 billion years old, 93 billion light years wide, 100 billion galaxies, each containing hundreds of billions of stars.

If you saw the series, the pictures – real astronomy and some CGI marvels – will be familiar, as will the globe-trotting location photos of natural and man-made phenomena here on Earth, with which Prof. Cox illustrates from down here all those big occurrences Out There. …

Review: BBC Horizon – The Hawking Paradox

BBC Horizon The Hawking ParadoxIt took me a while to catch up with this documentary, the BBC being what it is, randomly burying shows then randomly repeating them, sometimes with or without iPlayer.

This edition of the always-worthy Horizon popular science show contains two paradoxes; that of Professor Stephen Hawking’s greatest mistake, along with his great self-correction; and in the potted history of Hawking’s life, the paradox of Hawking’s place in science… …

Review: All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace

Part One: Love and Power
BBC Two, Monday 23 May

“A series of films about how humans have been colonised by the machines they have built. Although we don’t realise it, the way we see everything in the world today is through the eyes of the computers.”

Adam Curtis’s opening premise was that this was “a story about the rise of the machines” (no, not Terminator 3); how it was believed that computers and non-hierarchical networks could replace systems of political control to produce stable and self-regulating social order, a new kind of global capitalism free of all risk and without the boom and bust of the past.

What Curtis gives us is a dissection of human follies, belief systems that could be enabled by technology, how they failed and how they continue to fail… …

Review: Perspectives Arts Documentaries

ITV’s new arts strand replaces the much-mourned, if little-watched South Bank Show.

Perspectives is the short-season documentary arts strand “providing unique, individual insights into the arts.” This season’s Perspectives consists of four single documentary films, each from different film-makers, featuring celebrity (but ‘non-arts’) presenters and contributors offering “their take on subjects that resonate within our culture.” …

Review: Birth of the British Novel, BBC4

Currently on rotation on BBC4’s freeview TV channel.

Author Henry Hitchings explores the lives and works of Britain’s radical and pioneering 18th century novelists who, in just 80 years, established all the literary genres we recognise today. It was a golden age of creativity led by Daniel Defoe, Jonathan Swift, Henry Fielding, Laurence Sterne, Fanny Burney and William Godwin, amongst others. Robinson Crusoe, Gulliver’s Travels, Tom Jones and Tristram Shandy are novels that still sparkle with audacity and innovation…