Quick Picks are quick-read reviews and recommendations of new and classic films and TV shows.
The Offer (PARAMOUNT +)
The Offer is streaming now on Paramount +.
Sometimes the making of a film is just as fascinating as the end result. Over the years, many movie productions have sparked public interest, from Apocalypse Now to The Twilight Zone and Wizard of Oz. In the new Paramount + drama The Offer, the making of The Godfather takes centre stage, and it’s one hell of a story! Told from the perspective of producer Albert S. Ruddy (Miles Teller), The Offer aims to provide a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the making of Francis Ford Coppola’s classic.
The Offer is at its most interesting when exploring the changing landscape of the studio system in the early 1970s. Here the infamous Paramount boss Robert Evans takes centre stage, played brilliantly by Matthew Goode, a man who never followed the rules and saved the crumbling Paramount mountain from sliding into a lake. However, while the exploration of a studio on the precipice of disaster is fascinating, the making of The Godfather often feels confusing, despite some solid performances.
While fun and engaging throughout, The Offer never quite decides whether it’s a homage to a groundbreaking movie or a serious exploration of a changing Hollywood. As a result, The Offer becomes an overly-long and slightly confusing mess by the time we reach the final three episodes. Here the show’s initial promise is quickly lost as it becomes over-indulgent and twee. But despite its failings, The Offer also remains addictive, which is undoubtedly due to the performances at the heart of this flawed but engaging limited series.
Mainstream (RENT OR BUY)
Mainstream is now available to rent or buy.
We live in a strange new world where people consume media like Pringles; it’s a ‘once you pop and you just can’t stop’ conveyor belt of content, from YouTube to Instagram and Tik Tock. Here we are encouraged to like, dislike, comment and buy while judging our own worth based on the number of friends we have or the number of likes we get. Don’t get me wrong social media and instant video sharing is also a force for good in many ways, but finding the good stuff has become more and more like wading through treacle over the years. I know what some of you are thinking, “You don’t get it”, or “Maybe you’re too old to understand.” But are those thoughts your own? Or are you, even now, buying into the arguments the overlords of social media and instant video sharing want you to use?
On its delayed premiere during the 2020 Venice Film Festival, many critics apparently, walked out of Gia Coppola’s movie in disgust. And possibly due to the plethora of one and two-star reviews following this, Mainstream has only just arrived on digital in the UK. So is it terrible? Is it confusing? And is Andrew Garfield’s power and fame-hungry Link the devil incarnate? Mainstream is far from a terrible movie; it’s a complex satire that hits the mark on several occasions when dissecting our social media-driven world. There are genuinely fascinating themes at play, from mass manipulation to psychological harm and the dangerous frenzy of fandom.
However, Coppola’s film, at times, does lose its way, and much of this is due to the dated concept of the YouTube celebrity. YouTube hit its stride in the late noughties, creating young internet megastars who most people no longer remember. In many ways, you could argue that the current social media landscape is even more toxic than it was then, and here Coppola misses a trick by focusing solely on YouTube and ignoring the rise of sites such as Tik Tock.
But does that decrease the power of Garfield, Hawke and Wolff’s dark and unsettling exploration of fame, manipulation, control and entertainment? Not at all! Coppola manipulates us, the audience, from start to finish, wrapping us in a mix of truth and lies resembling a knotted ball of wool. As the yarn unravels, we are left with a tangled and knotted pile that only we can unpick if we have the will to do so.
Slow Horses (APPLE TV +)
Slow Horses is streaming now on Apple TV.
Based on Mick Herron’s novels and adapted by Will Smith (The Thick of It), Slow Horses humour, gritty London streets and electric performances hit all the right notes in all the right places. Sitting in a dank, festering office block nicknamed ‘Slough’ by the sharp-suited spies at MI5 sits River Cartwright (Jack Lowden), a promising MI5 recruit from a family of spy royalty. However, following an unfortunate training exercise, River has found himself banished to the arse hole of MI5′ Slough House.’
Housed just above a non-descript retail unit, River is joined by a troupe of failed spies, including Sid (Olivia Cooke) and their boss, the spikey 70s throwback Jackson Lamb (Gary Oldman). However, River’s interest is quickly spiked when Sid is asked to extract information from a prominent right-wing journalist; after all, Slough House never gets involved in operations, right? Apple TV and See-Saw have assembled a stellar cast, from Lowden to Oldman to Jonathan Pryce, Freddie Fox, Kristin Scott-Thomas and Rosalind Eleazar. But the true genius of this incredibly satisfying spy romp is held within Will Smith’s adaptation of Herron’s work. As with all good spy drama, the least said about the plot, the better, but trust me when I say you will be screaming for more.
Night’s End (SHUDDER)
Night’s End arrives on Shudder on March 31st.
In 1999 the highly underrated Stir of Echoes proclaimed, ‘Some doors weren’t meant to be opened’ on its poster. Directed by Jennifer Reeder, Night’s End could equally have carried this well-worn slogan as we witness Ken Barber (Geno Walker) descend into hell in the confines of his small apartment. Ken is clearly a man with several significant personal issues; after all, he barricades himself into his new abode, blocking each window from the outside world while filming self-help videos on YouTube. Meanwhile, he collects dead birds, his fridge stuffed with plastic-wrapped warblers and convenience food. However, when his friend Terry notices one of his stuffed birds fall from a shelf behind Ken during his latest video, Ken begins to explore the spooky history of the apartment with devastating results.
Despite sitting firmly in the haunted house/demonic possession sub-genre of horror, Reeder’s film also plays with many of the themes of isolation and separation brought about by the pandemic. Here we witness a man slowly unravelling as he shuts himself away from the real world, each day merging into the next. Within Reeder’s exploration of Ken’s slow mental separation, Night’s End is at its most satisfying and scary. However, unfortunately, Reeder opts to shift gears, and Ken’s journey ultimately becomes wrapped in mainstream demonic horror. Here the initial psychological promise of Night’s End quickly falls flat despite Geno Walker’s solid performance, as we are left with an, at times, chilling but flawed slice of supernatural horror.
READ MORE: SHEPHERD
The Adam Project (NETFLIX)
The Adam Project is now streaming on Netflix.
There is more than a splash of 1980s family movie nostalgia in Shawn Levy’s new outing for Netflix, ‘The Adam Project.’ But, unlike many recent films that thrive purely on nostalgia as a narrative plot device, Levy’s movie combines the energy and visual charm of films such as D.A.R.Y.L and Flight of the Navigator with a modern and decidedly fresh time travel adventure. Ryan Reynolds swaggers with his usual tongue-in-cheek charm as Adam, a renegade pilot who crash-lands in 2022 after trying to save the world from irreparable damage due to the discovery of time travel. As Reynolds attempts to change history for the better, he is forced to team up with his 12-year-old self (Walker Scobell) in a time-jumping adventure rich in heart, action and humour.
There is much to love in this tale of a boy and man haunted by the death of their father. However, the real standout has to be the young Walker Scobell, who announces his Hollywood arrival with a star-making performance that matches and often upstages Reynolds’ energy and charisma. Levy clearly understands the lack of science fiction movies currently aimed at a family audience. The Adam Project clearly seeks to fix that with a fun and engaging rollercoaster of time-travelling action that leaves you with a big 1980s-sized smile.