Sunday, 21 December 2014


Two DVD reviews.



[Update December 28, 2014] But also...


Fun, fresh, fast-paced and charming. Coup de coeur of this rather bland TV Christmas season. Review ASAP.

We wish you in advance all the best for 2015.

Saturday, 25 October 2014


Deux flics sur les docks (Blood on the Docks), the excellent French crime drama launched in 2011, is adapted from the Portsmouth based Joe Faraday novels by English crime fiction writer Graham Hurley

Le Havre police detectives Capitaine Richard Faraday (Jean-Marc Barr) and Capitaine Paul Winckler (Bruno Solo) returned yesterday on pubcaster France 2 for a fourth series of two feature-length episodes.
« Vous avez un certain talent pour choisir vos amis, capitaine.
- J'en ai même parmi les flics. »   

Local Entrepreneur and mob boss Bazza Swaty (Emmanuel Salinger) finds the body of a young woman in his swimming pool. Commissaire divisionnaire Lucie Dardenne (Mata Gabin as the French answer to Law & Order's Lieutenant Van Buren) wants to bring him down once and for all. She forbids Winckler, Swaty's childhood pal, to take the case and gives it to Faraday. Assigned on a noise complaint, Winckler and Lieutenant Julie Fabian (Liza Manili) surprise a group of libertarian activists while they're trashing the house of a judge. 

« Toi tu fais encore un calembour, je te fume. »     

It turns out that the corpse at Bazza's place is Rachel Berger, an 18 year-old swimming champion. Both Paul's friendship with the mobster and his career in the police are at stake. Richard is at odds with Dardenne, who wants him to incriminate Bazza Swaty at any price. Lulu, Faraday's deaf-mute son (Jean-Marie Hall), happens to know one the activists.

«  Je vous assure Faraday que je ne suis pas prête d'oublier que vous avez soutenu Bazza par amitié pour Wincler.
- Vous vous trompez, madame. Winckler est capable d'agir d'abord par amitié. Moi non. »     

Directed by Edwin Baily, Une si jolie mort is adapted from the book No Lovelier Death (2009) by Série Noire author and scriptwriter Elsa Marpeau. This episode is simply the best of Blood on the Docks so far. With Guillaume Viry (police computer expert Bill Gates), Julien Boulenguiez (Bazza's henchman Jimmy), Daniel Carraz (Michel), etc. Amongst the guest cast, note the performance of Mathieu Lourdel as the libertarian clown.

Deux flics sur les docks is produced by Gétévé with France Télévisions and the support of Région Haute-Normandie. Jacques Salles and Christian Charret are the producers. Muriel Paradis exec produces. Canadian composer Pierre-Philippe Côté composed the music. The songs Bloom and Henry are from his Peter Henry Phillips project. Alex Arcoleo composed Antimatter, the collection's theme music. The superb new title sequence was designed by David Fernandes.

Blood on the Docks is distributed by Zodiak Rights. Next friday France 2 will air Chapelle ardente, written by Olivier Prieur.

Monday, 20 October 2014


In the 1950s, Commissaire Maigret, a laconic, pipe-smoking French policeman, uses his profound knowledge of human nature to solve crimes. Volume 1 of the TV series Maigret (1991-2005), with the great Bruno Cremer, is available since last month in France on DVD from Koba Films

This set contains the first eight of the 54 feature-length installments from the definitive adaptation of the detective created by Belgian writer Georges Simenon (1903-1989).

« Je ne ferais pas ce métier si je n'aimais pas comprendre. »  

Commissaire Jules Maigret appeared in 75 novels and 28 short stories published between 1931 and 1972. Popular worldwide, these stories have been adapted many times in various countries, mainly for the cinema (with Pierre Renoir, Albert Préjean, Jean Gabin, etc...) and television. From 1960 to 1963, Rupert Davies played "Inspector Maigret" in Maigret for the BBC. On French TV, Les enquêtes du commissaire Maigret, starring Jean Richard, ran from 1967 to 1990 with eighty-eight 90-minute episodes until pubcaster Antenne 2 decided to give its familiar figure the axe. Though with the intention to give him a fresh start (Richard was then 70) (1).

English producer Steve Hawes, an admirer of Simenon's work and a former head of drama at Granada Television (2), and French producers Eve Vercel and Robert Nador of Dune Production, joined their creative forces for the new Maigret of Antenne 2 (which became France 2 in 1992). To portray the commissaire, Vercel and Nador considered Julien Guiomar but he was busy with TF1. They had also in mind Philippe Noiret or Bernard Fresson. Movie, stage and TV actor Bruno Cremer accepted the iconic role after due reflection, for 12 episodes only.

To radically differ from the previous version, the producers decided to set theirs in the 1950s with a cinematic feel. Hence directors like José Pinheiro (Parole de flic), Claude Goretta, Bertrand Van Effenterre (Tumultes) or Serge Leroy (L'Indic) for the first batch of episodes. The budget required co-production with Swiss and Belgian televisions, French private channel La 5 and later EC Télévision Paris. But also filming in Switzerland, Belgium or Czech Republic (3). Laurent Petitgirard composed and conducted the magnificent theme of Maigret, and the superb music of most of the series.

- Maigret et les plaisirs de la nuit (1992, aired as the fourth episode). Directed by José Pinheiro, adapted from Maigret au Picratt's (Maigret in Monmartre) by Jacques Cortal and José Pinheiro. A stripper is found dead in the club where she worked. Jacqueline Danno (Rose) and Jean-Louis Foulquier (Fred) are amazing. Philippe Polet is excellent as Lapointe.

- Maigret et la Grande Perche (1991). Directed and adapted by Claude Goretta from Maigret et la grande perche (Maigret and the burglar's wife). An ex-prostitute tells Maigret her burglar husband vanished after finding a dead body in a house. This house belongs to a dentist who lives with his elderly mother. Brilliant, thanks to Renée Faure as Madame Serre and Michael Lonsdale as her son. Anne Bellec appears as Madame Maigret.

- Maigret chez les Flamands (1992). Directed and adapted by Serge Leroy from Chez les Flamands (The Flemish shop). Maigret goes to the Belgian border at the request of the Peeters family, accused of murdering a young woman. Anna is played by Alexandra Vandernoot (Highlander: The Series). Vincent Grass (Cassin) dubbed Bruno Cremer in the finale episode (Maigret et l'Étoile du nord, 2005) because of the actor's health issues. With Gérard Darier as Machère. Filmed in Belgium.

- Maigret et la maison du juge (1992). Directed by Bertrand Van Effenterre. Adapted by Santiago Amigorena and Bertrand Van Effenterre from La Maison du juge (Maigret in Exile). Assigned in Vendée, Maigret is confronted with a judge (portrayed by the legendary Michel Bouquet) who tried to get rid of a body. Now famous actress Karin Viard (Thérèse) and Bruno Wolkowitch (Albert) both played in the same 1989 episode of Jean Richard's Maigret.

- Maigret et le corps sans tête (1992). Directed and adapted by Serge Leroy from Maigret and the Headless Corpse. The dismembered body of a man is found in a canal. Maigret goes to a café not far and notices the attitude of its owner, Aline Calas. Leroy delivers an authentic "film for television". The performances of Aurore Clément (Aline) and Patrick Floersheim (Pape) are award-worthy. Philippe Polet and Gérard Darier return as Lapointe and Machère.

- Maigret et la nuit du carrefour (1992). Directed by Alain Tasma. Adapted by playwright Gildas Bourdet from La nuit du carrefour (Maigret at the crossroads). Maigret arrives at a crossroads in the country to solve the case of a corpse found in a car. Filmed in Luxembourg. Sunnyi Melles shines as Else, the "femme fatale". Roland Blanche, Myriam Boyer, and beloved Parisian character actor Hubert Deschamps are amongst the guest cast.

- Maigret et les caves du Majestic (1993). Directed by Claude Goretta. Adapted by Santiago Amigorena and Claude Goretta from Les caves du Majestic (Maigret and the Hotel Majestic). A guest at the Hotel Majestic has been strangled. Prosper Donge is played by actor, director and theatre author Jerôme Deschamps. Filmed primarily in Switzerland.

- Maigret se défend (1993). Helmed by Polish director Andrzej Kostenko. Adapted by Gildas Bourdet and Andrzej Kostenko from Maigret on the Defensive. Maigret is accused of inappropriate conduct towards the daughter of a high-ranking public official. Regrettably the weakest of the set, saved by its guest actors: Agnès Soral (Aline), actor/director Claude Faraldo as mobster PalmariÉric Prat (very good as Torrence), Philippe Dujanerand (Dr Mélan), etc.

The eight episodes of this DVD set from Koba Films are on four discs. French subtitles for the hearing impaired are available.

(1) Jean Richard learnt about it in the press.
(2) Granada had its own Maigret, starring Michael Gambon, from 1992 to 1993.
(3) Even Finland, South Africa and Cuba for some later episodes. (The book of Jacques-Yves Depoix) (The filming of Maigret et la Grande Perche)

Sunday, 12 October 2014


Les petits meurtres d'Agatha Christie ("Agatha Christie's little murders") is a French adaptation of Agatha Christie's stories as a period crime comedy-drama 90-minute series with a trio of local sleuths instead of her detectives. 

Commissaire Laurence (Samuel Labarthe), reporter Alice Avril (Blandine Bellavoir) and Laurence's secretary Marlène (Élodie Frenck) returned this fall on pubcaster France 2 with three brand new cases: Meurtre à la kermesse, Cartes sur table and Le crime ne paie pas.

« Le poisson rouge, c'est à vous?
- Oui.
- J'ai le même à la maison. »

Le crime ne paie pas is adapted from the Hercule Poirot novel The Murder on the Links by scriptwriter Thierry Debroux, and directed by Marc Angelo. A waitress of L'Eden cabaret club sends a letter to Alice Avril at her newspaper before being murdered. But this time the reporter's unlikely partnership with Commissaire Laurence is in serious jeopardy when the obnoxious Commissaire Hubert Petipont, of the internal affairs, suspects him to be a corrupt cop.

Despaired by the situation of her beloved boss, Marlène must also endure the unsolicited attention of Hubert, who happens to be an expert on ladies' shoes and a goldfish lover. Avril is hired as a waitress at L'Eden, where she's sawed in half by the resident magician, and fulfills her dream to sing before an audience. Laurence has powerful enemies in Paris, an adventurous past and connections in the shadowy intelligence community.

« Dites-moi, c'est censé vous rendre sexy cette tenue? Un sac de pommes de terre, même avec des résilles, ça restera toujours un sac de pommes de terre.
- Un jour je vous arracherai les yeux avec une fourchette à huître. » 

Le crime ne paie pas is one of the best episodes of Les petits meurtres d'Agatha Christie, thanks to a brilliant script, great dialogues, excellent actors and the presence of the legendary Dominique Pinon as Hubert Petipont (who'd be perfect as Laurence's recurring nemesis). It's nice to see that Dominique Thomas, who plays Commissaire divisionnaire Tricard and reminds of the late Ronny Coutteure, has more screen time. François Godart plays Robert Jourdeuil, Alice's editor-in-chief.

« Il y a des cellules bien utiles dans une enquête. Les cellules grises, par exemple. Et apparemment, on a  pas dû vous en distribuer beaucoup à la naissance. »

Other guest actors are Spanish actress/director Laura Mañá, Nicolas Vaude, Christophe ReymondElise Louesdon, Harrison Arevalo and Renaud Rutten. Les petits meurtres d'Agatha Christie is produced by Sophie Révil for Escazal Films with Pictanovo, Conseil Régional Nord-Pas-de-Calais and the participation of France Télévisions, TV5 Monde and RTS Radio Télévision Suisse. The music is composed by Stéphane Moucha. Blandine Bellavoir performs Avril's songs including Melvil, the end title of the episode.

Thursday, 9 October 2014


Oxford-set British detective drama Lewis (Inspector Lewis in the US), a spin-off from Inspector Morse, was launched in 2006. Although it was assumed that Series 7 would be its last, ITV announced in February 2014 that DI Robbie Lewis (Kevin Whately) and DS James Hathaway (Laurence Fox) would return for an eighth series.

Series 8 premiered last week on American network PBS (Lewis is co-produced by ITV Studios and Masterpiece) and will start tomorrow night in the U.K. 

The previous series of Lewis split the traditional feature-length episodes in two 60-minute instalments aired over two consecutive weeks. This inappropriate change in the momentum of each story (conveniently turning three episodes into six), added to a drop in quality, didn't hurt the ratings. Kevin Whately and Laurence Fox having expressed their desire to move on, the elegant last scene of Intelligent Design, the "finale" episode, saw Lewis and Hathaway enjoying a pint as the former retired and the latter left the force. PBS and French pubcaster France 3 stuck to the two-hour format.

Given all this, the commission of six new one-hour episodes (three films) looked rather surprising if not unnecessary, especially with the seventh series being such a letdown. But at least the return of Lewis and Hathaway in Entry Wounds, written by Helen Jenkins and directed by Nicholas Renton, was done properly thanks to everyone involved. Robbie lives with pathologist Laura Hobson (Clare Holman) and struggles to adapt to retirement when Chief Superintendent Innocent (Rebecca Front) uses a little trick in order to get his return on a contractual basis.

After an extended break from the Oxfordshire Police, James is now a Detective Inspector. He investigates his first murder case, a neurosurgeon shot in the head, with his partner DS Lizzie Maddox (the excellent Angela Griffin) when his ex-boss arrives. Far better than the whole previous series, Entry Wounds is a successful balance between a well-handled relaunch and a good story. Fans of Lewis won't be disappointed and let's hope the couple of other two-parters will keep them satisfied.

Ace Bhatti and Kara Tointon are amongst the guest stars. Lewis is exec produced by Michelle Buck and produced by Chris Burt. Rebecca Eaton is the executive producer for Masterpiece. The music, superb as usual, is composed and conducted by Barrington Pheloung. 

Tuesday, 7 October 2014


Grantchester is a new period detective drama which started on ITV yesterday. It is adapted by writer Daisy Coulam (Death in Paradise, EastEnders) from Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death, a novel by James Runcie

The 6-part series is set in 1953, in the real-life Cambridgeshire village of Grantchester. A funeral brings vicar Sidney Chambers on his first case as an amateur sleuth. Grantchester stars James Norton (Happy Valley) as Sidney and Robson Green (Strike Back, Wire in the Blood) as gruff copper DI Geordie Keating.

He's troubled like Dr Lucien Blake (The Doctor Blake Mysteries). He's good-looking and enjoys jazz like the Honourable Phryne Fisher (Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries). And most of all, he's a clergyman like Father Brown - an adaptation of G.K. Chesterton's novels with Mark Williams delights BBC One viewers since 2013. Sidney Chambers is the newbie in the overcrowded playground of period amateur TV detectives and his vicar costume looks almost tailor-made for global sales.

Grantchester would be perfect for French pubcaster France 3's "Sunday Sleuth Slot", home of Les enquêtes de Morse (Endeavour), Enquêtes codées (The Bletchley Circle), Les enquêtes de Murdoch (Murdoch Mysteries) or... Miss Fisher enquête (Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries of course). Regrettably, Grantchester is not a patch on Father Brown, a gem still ignored by French television. Despite magnificent locations and first-class production values, the premiere is slow-paced (even for the genre) and clichéd. Its only suspense is how France 3 could call the series: Les enquêtes de Sidney Chambers? Enquêtes à Grantchester?

Grantchester is co-produced by Lovely Day, a sister company of Kudos (Shine Group) and Masterpiece. The music is by John Lunn (Downton Abbey).

Friday, 26 September 2014


Les petits meurtres d'Agatha Christie ("Agatha Christie's little murders") is a French adaptation of Agatha Christie's stories as a period crime comedy-drama 90-minute series with two local sleuths instead of her detectives.

Commissaire Laurence (Samuel Labarthe), reporter Alice Avril (Blandine Bellavoir), and Laurence's secretary Marlène (Élodie Frenck) return this fall on pubcaster France 2 for three brand new episodes. 

It starts tonight with Meurtre à la kermesse. You can find a review of this excellent episode here:

Next week France 2 will air Cartes sur table, adapted from Agatha Christie's Cards on the Table and aired on Swiss television last may. A rather enjoyable episode but it probably would have worked better with Laurence and April's predecessors, Larosière and Lampion. Anne Canovas, Ged Marlon and the supremely talented Saïd Amadis are amongst the guest cast.

[Update October 11, 2014]

Review of Le crime ne paie pas:

Tuesday, 16 September 2014


The second series of Grand Hotel (Gran Hotel, 2011-2013), the acclaimed Spanish mystery drama, is available in France on DVD from Koba Films since last month. Produced by Bambu Producciones, the company of Ramón Campos and Teresa Fernández-Valdés, for private channel Antena 3, Gran Hotel was sold to more than 60 territories, including France (Téva and M6), the UK (Sky Arts) and the United States. 

Spain in the early 20th century. The prestigious Grand Hotel, located just outside the (fictional) town of Cantaloa, belongs to Doña Teresa, the merciless matriarch of the Alarcón family. The idyllic luxury of the establishment actually conceals secrets, lies, intrigue and danger.

Julio Olmedo (Yon González) is determined to clarify the suspicious circumstances of the accident which happened to his best friend and fellow waiter Andrés Cernuda (Llorenç González). Alicia (Amaia Salamanca), the youngest daughter of Doña Teresa Alarcón  (Adriana Ozores) and Julio's love interest, is married with Don Diego Murquia (Pedro Alonso), the scheming hotel manager. Julio convinces her with his theory about Andrés and they devise a plan to get the assistance of Horacio Ayala (Pep Anton Muñoz). But the shrewd inspector is now a simple agent who must take orders from his deputy Hernando (Antonio Reyes).

Javier Alarcón, the black sheep of the family (Eloy Azorin), gets into more trouble. Alfredo, the marquis of Vergara (Fele Martinez), is "on travel" while his wife Doña Sofia, Teresa's eldest daughter (Luz Valdenebro), fakes her pregnancy. The manipulative maid Belén (Marta Larralde), Andrés' wife, is really pregnant and has a letter of the highest importance for Doña Teresa. This letter leads Alicia and Julio to the biggest mystery in the history of the Grand Hotel. And Doña Ángela, the austere head housekeeper (Concha Velasco), could hold answers.

Series two of Grand Hotel consisted initially of 16 X 70-minute episodes but Antena 3 decided to reduce it by half to preserve ratings and the remaining 8, already filmed, were added to the 14 episodes of the third series (1). Koba Films releases the first half of this second series as "Series 2". Known internationally as "the Spanish Downton Abbey", Gran Hotel was in fact born from the passion of its creators Ramón Campos and Gema R. Neira (Gran Reserva) for mystery stories and the work of Agatha Christie (2). A young incarnation of the novelist, "Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller" (Carolina Lapausa), even appears in the elegant sixth episode.

Agatha teams up with Ayala and Hernando, Spain's Poirot and Hastings (they deserve their own spin-off), and finds inspiration for The Mysterious Affair at Styles. The plot thickens for star-crossed lovers/amateur sleuths Julio and Alicia, who gather clues with a little help from Ayala's mastery of forensic science and a new invention called the "cinématographe". A figure from Julio's past resurfaces in a Hitchcockian episode to complicate the situation. Meanwhile, Doña Teresa and Don Diego stop at absolutely nothing to protect the hotel and their own interests.

This second series of Grand Hotel is not exempt of problems: the character of Don Ernesto, the new maitre d'hotel (Juan Lluis Galiardo in his final role), doesn't work. The antics of Javier become rapidly tiresome. Nevertheless, Gran Hotel remains generous in riveting twists and turns. The settings are gorgeous (3), the cast is truly fantastic and the music of Lucio Godoy is both magnificent and ingenious. Asunción Balaguer and Kiti Mánver (returning respectively as Lady and Doña Elisa), Silvia Marsó, and Alfonso Bassave are amongst the guest stars.

The 8 episodes of this DVD set from Koba are on 4 discs in French only. French subtitles for the hearing impaired are available. An Italian adaptation of Grand Hotel produced by Cattleya (Gomorrah) and Beta Film for pubcaster RAI 1 will air in 2015. It stars Eugenio Franceschini and Valentina Bellè. A Mexican version is also in preparation.

(3) Grand Hotel was primarily filmed at the Palacio de la Magadalena, an early 20th-century palace on the Magdalena Peninsula of the city of Santander ( 

[Update July 20, 2015] (Second half of Series 2 DVD review)

See also: (Series 1 DVD review)

Thursday, 12 June 2014


Seven months after her departure from Deadline, the entertainment industry news site she founded and ran, American journalist Nikki Finke officially started today, her new venture.
It's no secret amongst regular readers of this little blog and those who follow my antics on Twitter that your humble servant has the highest respect and admiration for Nikki. I wish her and her new website all the best.

Welcome back, She Who Must Be Read.

Nikki on Twitter:

Thursday, 29 May 2014


Antipodean acting legends Bryan Brown and Sam Neill star in Old School, a new Australian crime comedy drama which started last week on pubcaster ABC1.

« I want to know about Sterling Nickle. 
- Bugger off. I'm not a dog. 
- If I'm not a cop, you're not dogging, you stupid bastard. 
- Yeah, well, once a cop, always a cop. »

Lennie Cahill (Brown) is released from prison after serving a 12-year sentence for his part in the robbery of an armoured vehicle. Now retired cop Ted McCabe (Neill) was shot during the heist by a mysterious man in a suit. Lennie wants his share of the loot whileTed wants to catch the man who sent him to hospital for five months and wrecked his career. He tails Cahill, seemingly the only gang member alive as the others died in suspicious circumstances.

When the ex-detective saves Lennie from someone who got rid of his old associate, he makes the ex-crim an offer: if Lennie cooperates with him he'll keep his money. Old School was created by Paul Oliver and Steve Wright. It is based on Oliver's 2003 short film Lennie Cahill Shoots Through, where Lennie Cahill was portrayed by Tony Barry. This 8 x One-Hour series is produced by Matchbox Pictures (The Straits, The Slap) for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Old School reunites Bryan Brown and Sam Neill, who already worked together in movies like Dean Spanley (2008) or Dirty Deeds (2002). The chemistry between them is great and gives this enjoyable premiere the vibe of a buddy movie. The script by Paul Oliver and Gregor Jordan has the tone and the humour of the early episodes of New Tricks. The pre-credit heist is spectacular and cinematic. Jordan, also the series lead director, directed the 1999 crime caper film Two Hands (with Bryan Brown and Heath Ledger).

The cast includes Sarah Peirse (Ted's wife Margaret), Hanna Mangan Lawrence (Spartacus) as Lennie's law student granddaughter Shannon, Mark Coles Smith (Jason), Aaron Jeffery and Kate Box as McCabe's former colleagues Rick and Cath. Peter Phelps (Underbelly, Stingers) plays Malcolm Dwyer. Disguise, the superb main title song written and performed by Eleanor Dunlop, is on the cleverly designed titles from Method Studios.

The music is by noted Hollywood composer Graeme Revell (born in New Zealand). Old School is globally distributed by NBC Universal, which owns Matchbox Pictures, so a possible remake wouldn't be a surprise at all.

See also: (Matchbox Pictures on YouTube)

Friday, 23 May 2014


Old School, a new Australian comedy crime drama starring Bryan Brown and Sam Neill, started on ABC1 this friday and we rather enjoyed the premiere.

Review ASAP.

[Update May 29, 2014]

Review here:

Saturday, 10 May 2014


Spain, 1905. Julio Olmedo, a young man of modest origin, arrives in Cantaloa to visit his sister, Cristina, a maid at the prestigious Grand Hotel. There, he's told she was fired and disappeared.  To find out what happened, Julio becomes a waiter in the luxury establishment as "Julio Espinosa".

He collects clues amongst the staff and the clients of the palace hotel owned by Doña Teresa, the merciless matriarch of the Alarcón family. In a place full of secrets, his only allies are waiter Andrés Cernuda and Alicia, the youngest daughter of Doña Teresa. Meanwhile, a dead body is found in Cantaloa.

Series one of Grand Hotel (Gran Hotel, 2011-2013), the acclaimed Spanish mystery drama, is now available in France on DVD from Koba Films. Produced by Bambu Producciones, the company of Ramón Campos and Teresa Fernández-Valdés, for private channel Antena 3, Gran Hotel was sold to more than 60 territories, including the UK (Sky Arts) and France (Téva and M6). Known internationally as "the Spanish Downton Abbey", the creation of Ramón Campos and Gema R. Neira has in fact more than meets the eye.

Both Downton and Grand Hotel are period dramas with conflicting characters in a luxurious countryside estate, upstairs and downstairs, but the later is a bona fide detective mystery à la Agatha Christie. The first series is centered around the smart, dashing and tenacious Julio Olmedo (Yon González, excellent), who investigates the suspicious disappearance of his sister Cristina (Paula Prendes). Before she vanished, Cristina confronted Doña Teresa Alarcón, owner of the  Grand Hotel (Adriana Ozores, who reminds of Jane Wyman in Falcon Crest).

Doña Teresa will stop at absolutely nothing to protect her own and the hotel, with a little help of her scheming manager Don Diego Murquia (Pedro Alonso). Her eldest daughter Sofia (Luz Valdenebro) is married with Don Alfredo, the future marquis of Vergara (Fele Martinez), and she's pregnant. Javier (Eloy Azorin), the son of Doña Teresa, is the black sheep of the family. Determined to uncover the truth about his sister, Julio bends the rules and social conventions so dear to Doña Ángela (Concha Velasco), the head housekeeper, and maitre d'hotel Benjamin (Manuel de Blas).

He gets assistance from fellow waiter Andrés Cernuda (Llorenç González, amazing), the son of Angela, who's in love with the manipulative maid Belén Martín (Marta Larralde). He also convinces Alicia Alarcón (Amaia Salamanca), the ravishing youngest daughter of Doña Teresa and Don Diego's fiancée, to join his search. Things get even more complicated for Julio when Inspector Ayala (Pep Anton Muñoz, who deserves his own spin-off), a shrewd homicide detective interested in modern policing methods, arrives in Cantaloa on the case of a woman stabbed with a gold knife from the Grand Hotel.

Suspense, intrigue, gorgeous settings, a star-crossed romance and a bit of humour make this fast-paced first series of Grand Hotel compelling. Its riveting twists and turns quickly become addictive. Most of the characters are interesting, the cast is great, and the music of Lucio Godoy is simply magnificent. Gran Hotel was primarily filmed at the Palacio de la Magadalena, an early 20th-century palace on the Magdalena Peninsula of the city of Santander. The 9 X 70-minute episodes of this series one DVD set are on 4 discs in French only. French subtitles for the hearing impaired are available. (In Spanish)

Friday, 25 April 2014


A police operation against smugglers goes bad for commissaire Laurence when he temporarily loses sight. Later, a young girl is drowned in an apple bobbing bucket during her school fete.

Laurence wants to catch the murderer and hides his blindness. Only Marlène, his devoted secretary, knows the truth but Alice Avril quickly discovers it and wants to be his "eyes" on the case.

« Alors, avoir envie de tuer et le faire sont des choses très différentes. Moi, par exemple, j'ai toujours envie de tuer mademoiselle Avril ici présente. »

Meurtre à la kermesse is the fifth episode of Les petits meurtres d'Agatha Christie ("Agatha Christie's little murders") with the Laurence/Avril detective duo in the late 1950s north of France. Directed by Eric Woreth, it is adapted from Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot novel Hallowe'en Party by scriptwriter, director and actor Jean-Luc Gaget (Highly Strung).

Samuel Labarthe, of the Comédie-Française, is commissaire Swan Laurence. Wannabe reporter Alice Avril is played by Blandine BellavoirÉlodie Frenck, who plays Marlène, won Best Young Actress at the La Rochelle Festival of TV fiction in 2013 for her role. She's now in the title sequence.

« Un chien d'aveugle qui a son permis de conduire. Mais où je vais trouver ça, commissaire? »

To add to his predicament, the cynical and misogynist commissaire is forced to team up once again with Alice (« Vous pensiez quoi, Avril? Que j'étais assez bête pour tomber dans le panneau. Ce parfum de jockey. Je n'en connais qu'une qui s'en asperge. » ). Young Luisa Ortega, the daughter of a Spanish refugee, wrote a composition telling how she witnessed a murder. Then someone killed her during the school kermesse of a small town.

Laurence and Avril investigate against the backdrop of a political rivalry and a disabled handyman makes a too obvious suspect. An "infiltration à l'Américaine" by Avril doesn't end well for the back seat of Laurence's beloved Facel-Vega Facellia. Marlène notes the "Mylène Demongeot haircut" on the photo of a missing woman (« J'adore Mylène Demongeot. Ma tante l'a croisée une fois aux Galeries Lafayette à Paris. » )

« Pierre Pataud, étranglé avec une chaussette. C'est possible ça? Ah oui, avec une chaussette de ski. » 

As usual, Dominique Thomas and François Godart play (respectively) commissaire divisionnaire Tricard and Robert Jourdeuil. Thomas Baelde returns as Raoul Gredin. Anne Loiret, Nicolas Bridet, Frédéric Épaud and Philippe Hérisson are amongst the guest cast of this excellent episode. Bridet played a different role in 2009 for the first episode of the Larosière/Lampion era of Le petits meurtres

Les petits meurtres d'Agatha Christie is produced by Escazal Films with Pictanovo, Conseil Régional Nord-Pas-de-Calais and the participation of France Télévisions, TV5 Monde and RTS Radio Télévision Suisse. Sophie Révil is the producer. The characters of Laurence and Avril were created by Sylvie Simon and Thierry Debroux. The music is by Stéphane Moucha.  

RTS Deux aired Meurtre à la kermesse on April 18, ahead of France 2.

Monday, 21 April 2014


Series 1 of the Spanish drama Grand Hotel (Gran Hotel) will be released this Wednesday on DVD in France by Koba Films.

The following week Koba will release the BBC 2011 adaptation of Charles Dickens's Great Expectations, with Ray Winstone, Gillian Anderson, David Suchet and Douglas Booth.

The Wolf of Wall Street French R2 DVD will be available on Friday 25. The talented Tristan Harvey, who is the French-speaking voice of Leonardo DiCaprio in Quebec for this movie, kindly sent us the R1 DVD (released last month).

Reviews ASAP.

Monday, 7 April 2014


The third series of Sherlock, the BBC's contemporary adaptation of Sherlock Holmes by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, started last thursday in France on France 4.

Right after The Empty Hearse, the channel aired a most special treat for the Gallic fans: Sherlock: l'enquête, a 26-minute documentary made for the occasion.

Produced by 8 Art Média for France 4, Sherlock: l'enquête was conceived and written by Alain Carrazé and Romain Nigita. The documentary presents the origins of Sherlock, how Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman were cast as the duo Holmes/Watson, the adaptation work and "Baker Street". It also introduces the third series.

Sherlock: l'enquête features interviews with Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat, director Toby Haynes (The Reichenbach Fall), actress Lara Pulver (Irene Adler) and  Thierry Saint-Joanis, president of the Sherlock Holmes Society of France. Gilles Morvan, the French dubbing voice of Benedict Cumberbatch in Sherlock, does the voice-over.

This interesting and well-made documentary is exec produced by Alain Carrazé, Franck Quintard and Romain Nigita. The music is by Gatane and Galite. The Empty Hearse was watched by 1.3 million viewers (5%) and Sherlock: l'enquête by 710.760 viewers (3.2%). The documentary of Alain Carrazé and Romain Nigita was followed by How Sherlock changed the world, a 2013 doc by Paul Bernays. (Making Of)

Thursday, 3 April 2014


Series 16 of Midsomer Murders, aired on ITV from last Christmas to mid-February, arrives this sunday in France on pubcaster France 3.

The latest Midsomer Murders series starts with a Christmas special, The Christmas Haunting (Frissons de Noël in French), whose sole interest is to introduce stage and TV actor Gwilym Lee as Charlie Nelson, the new DS of DCI John Barnaby (Neil Dudgeon). It also tries to give a proper exit to DS Ben Jones because actor Jason Hughes left after the previous series. Nelson looks like the little brother of Broadchurch's DI Alec Hardy and Lee quickly finds his feet.

DS Nelson is not the only change in this series as John's Wife Sarah, played by Fiona Dolman, is pregnant. Let Us Prey (Colère divine) is far better than the "special". Charlie tries to cope with lodging in the messy house of pathologist Dr Kate Wilding (Tamzin Malleson). There are some "medieval" murders and a severe flood alert. Rebecca Front (Lewis, another favourite of France 3's sunday nights) plays a scheming vicar vs the great Michael Jayston.

Though writers Rachel Cuperman and Sally Griffiths did the splendid "Hammer" episode for Series 15, boredom is the crime weapon in Wild Harvest. The rather decent The Flying Club, written by Michael Aitkens (The Dark Rider), has an elegant tribute to North by Northwest and two legends in the guest cast: June Whitfield and Bernard Cribbins.

The Killings of Copenhagen, the 100th Midsomer Murders, was filmed partly in Denmark. Ann Eleonora Jørgensen (Forbrydelsen) and Birgitte Hjort Sørensen (Borgen) are amongst the guest stars in this average episode centered around the murder of the boss of a Badger's Drift biscuit company on a business trip to Copengagen. There's also Sanjeev Bhaskar (The Kumars, The Indian Doctor) and a Willy Wonka-esque factory.

This sixteenth series is produced by Louise Sutton and exec produced by Jo Wright. Midsomer Murders is produced by Bentley Productions, an All3Media company, for ITV. Series 15 was released on DVD in France by Koba Films in January (

See also: (Review of Let Us Prey) (Series 15 French Region 2 DVD review)

Sunday, 30 March 2014


Alarm für Cobra 11 - Die Autobahn Polizeï, the German long-running action/crime drama aired by private channel RTL and produced by action concept, launched its spring season this week with a 90-minute premiere.

Although the show started in 1996, Revolution opens its 35th season (Alarm für Cobra 11 is aired in "blocks"). Written by Sven Frauenhoff & Andreas Brune and directed by Franco Tozza, the episode sees eco-terrorists causing devastation during a business meeting. It also introduces Vinzenz Kiefer as Alex Brandt, the new partner of veteran motorway cop Semir Gerkhan (Erdogan Atalay).

Semir is still trying to cope with the end of his marriage in a storyline initiated with Auferstehung, season 34's feature-length spectacular opener. He's a broken man without his wife and family, without a partner, and Andrea (Carina Wiese) wants to sell their house. His boss has a problem with his attitude and he turns down the help of his friends and colleagues. Alex Brandt has his share of difficulties too: he's released from prison and receives an unexpected visit.

A "darker" Semir  and a new partner regenerate a franchise which definitely became its own parody these last years. Vinzenz Kiefer has some big shoes to fill given the popularity of the duo formed by Gerkhan and Ben Jäger, played by Tom Beck (whose final episode aired in december). Revolution has not the cinematic value of the Bondian Auferstehung and there's some inevitable déjà vu but the result is quite enjoyable. It's already a lot after 18 years.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014


ITV has recommissioned The Suspicions of Mr Whicher for two 120-minute films from Hat Trick Productions.

« Well, I'm not sure I'll be taking on any other cases.
- I think you will. »

Paddy Considine will return as Victorian sleuth Jonathan "Jack" Whicher after The Suspicions of Mr Whicher in 2011 and The Suspicions of Mr Whicher: The Murder in Angel Lane last year. The first film was based on the best-seller written by Kate Summerscale about the Road Hill House murder and the work of real-life character Jonathan Whicher, Britain's top investigator of his time and inspirator of many Victorian literary detectives.

Beyond the Pale and Til Death Do Us Part will be directed by David Blair (Accused, Bert & Dickie, Best Laid Plans) and Geoffrey Sax (Endeavour, Christopher and His Kind) and written by award-winning playwright Helen Edmundson

More details here:

See also: (The Suspicions of Mr Whicher: The Murder in Angel Lane) (The Suspicions of Mr Whicher)

Friday, 21 March 2014


The Dark Charisma of Adolf Hitler, an interesting BBC documentary from Laurence Rees, is now available on DVD in France thanks to Koba Films.

Friday, 28 February 2014


Last year ITV aired the final case of Hercule Poirot, the beloved creation of crime writer Agatha Christie, and David Suchet bowed out as the detective after 25 years. At Christmas, ITV showed Endless Night, an episode of Agatha Christie's Marple starring Julia McKenzie.
But now the BBC announces they have struck a deal with the author's estate making the corporation the new home of Agatha Christie in the UK for the 125th anniversary of her birth.

The first two commissions of this new era for Christie on British telly are an adaptation of And Then There Were None by Sarah Phelps (Great Expectations), and Partners in Crime. Based on the Partners in Crime collection of short stories featuring crime-fighting duo Tommy and Tuppence Beresford, this new six-part series will be set in the 1950s and will star comedian and actor David Walliams as Tommy. The new Tuppence is still to be confirmed.

Francesca Annis and James Warwick played the Beresfords in Agatha Christie's Partners in Crime, a 1983-1984 series for LWT. In France, the sleuth couple has its comedy movie franchise starring André Dussollier and Catherine Frot as Bélisaire and Prudence Beresford. The French are particularly fond of Agatha Christie's work with pubcaster France 2's Les petits meurtres d'Agatha Christie, a TV series adaptation of her books set in France in the 1930s and later in the 1950s.

Saturday, 22 February 2014


England, towards the end of World War II. 13 year-old Tolly is sent by his mother to the countryside to spend Christmas with his grandmother, Mrs Oldknow, at Green Knowe, the family's ancestral home. There, he finds that he is able to travel back in time to 1805.
In the past Tolly quickly gets involved in the adventures of Susan, the young blind daughter of Captain Oldknow, and her friend Jacob. The boy unravels a mystery which has bewildered his family for almost  two centuries.

From Time to Time is a 2009 British film adapted from The Chimneys of Green Knowe (1958), the second book in the Green Knowe children's novel series by Lucy M. Boston (1892-1990). It is written and directed by Julian Fellowes, Academy Award winner for Gosford Park (2001) and creator of the popular ITV period drama Downton Abbey (2010). From Time to Time (Le secret de Green Knowe in French) is now available on DVD in France thanks to Koba Films.

Julian Fellowes fell in love with the books as a child and wanted to make a Green Knowe film for several years. His Oscar gave him freedom to develop the project and he chose to adapt The Chimneys of Green Knowe, his favourite book of the series. Producer Liz Trubridge, who later produced Downton Abbey, and Julian Fellowes took the script to Ealing Studios.

Fellowes wrote the part of the grandmother specifically for Maggie Smith to bring nuance to Mrs Oldknow and her relationship with Tolly, played convincingly by Alex Etel (Cranford, Millions). Eliza Hope Bennett (Susan) and Kwayedsa Kureya (Jacob) are very good too. The three young actors are amongst a great cast including Timothy Spall (Boggis), Pauline Collins (Mrs Tweedle), Hugh Bonneville (Captain Oldknow) and Dominic West (Caxton).

Koba Films releases From Time to Time with its French dubbing and the original dialogue track (with optional French subtitles). Bonus material consists of a trailer and a conversation with Julian Fellowes. Green Knowe is actually a 15th century Tudor manor house called Athelhampton House in Dorchester, Dorset.

From Time to Time is a very enjoyable family film. French fans of Hugh Bonneville now can also watch him in Ed Blum's brilliant film Scenes of a Sexual Nature (2006), recently released on DVD by Koba.

See also:

Monday, 17 February 2014


Scenes of a Sexual Nature is a British ensemble comedy drama film from 2006 released this month in France on DVD by Koba Films.

It is the first feature of director Ed Blum. He devised it with his friend screenwriter Aschlin Ditta (The Catherine Tate Show) around the idea of seven short stories filmed entirely on north London's Hampstead Heath in two or three days.

Blum produced Scenes of a Sexual Nature through his own company, Tin Pan  Films, with entrepreneur Suran Goonatilake as main investor and executive producer, and director/producer Vadim Jean as executive producer. He managed to attract an impressive cast with a minimal budget (estimated at £260,000) for a movie without props, stunts or big set builds. The actors were offered Equity minimum and a percentage of future profits as their salary.

Hampstead Heath on a sunny afternoon. Molly (Holly Aird) notices her husband Jamie (Andrew Lincoln) is staring a young woman (French actress Églantine Rembauville) lying in the grass. He pretends he was looking at the book she was reading: L'Étranger by Albert Camus. Iris (Eileen Atkins) sits on a park bench every wednesday for 50 years. A gentleman named Eddie (Ben Whitlow) asks her if he can sit on that bench too.

Anna (Sophie Okonedo) is upset after a dispute with her boyfriend Ludo (Nick Sidi) when Noel (Tom Hardy), a young man, approaches her. Gay life partners Billy (Ewan McGregor) and Brian (Douglas Hodge) talk about adopting children. Peter (Adrian Lester) and Sara (Catherine Tate) are happy to divorce but are they really? Louis (Mark Strong) and Esther (Polly Walker) discuss in the park but things are not what they seem. Gerry (Hugh Bonneville) and Julia (Gina McKee) have a blind date picnic.

Koba Films releases the film, called Amour & conséquences in French, with its French-speaking dubbing and the original dialogue track (with optional French subtitles). Bonus material consists of a trailer and an instructive 38-minute Making of about the amazing adventure of the movie from its genesis to its self-distribution. Witty and subtly touching, Scenes of a Sexual Nature truly deserves to be called a gem. The music was composed by the talented Dominik Scherrer.

Saturday, 1 February 2014


Series 15 of British detective drama Midsomer Murders is available on DVD in France since last month thanks to Koba Films.

Detective Chief Inspector John Barnaby and Detective Sergeant Ben Jones, of the Causton CID, investigate bizarre and imaginative murders in the picturesque Midsomer County.

« That is a sense of community, Jones. One goes mad, they all go mad. It's a wonderful little world out here. »

Based initially on the novels by Caroline Graham, Midsomer Murders was launched in 1997 on ITV. Produced by Bentley Productions, an All3Media company, it is sold in more than 200 countries and aired in France since 2001 by France 3 (as Inspecteur Barnaby). John Nettles played DCI Tom Barnaby until 2011. Neil Dudgeon plays Tom's cousin and replacement DCI John Barnaby. Series 15 is the last of Jason Hughes as DS Ben Jones. Sarah Barnaby, John's wife, is played by Fiona Dolman. The music is composed by Jim Parker (House of Cards).

Koba Films releases the six 90-minute episodes of this series in a 3-disc DVD set with the French dubbing and, fortunately, the original dialogue track (available with optional French subtitles).

- The Dark Rider: A headless horseman pointing victims to their doom brings terror to Quitewell Hall, home of the aristocratic DeQuetteville family. Barnaby and Jones investigate the secrets of the ancestral family house while its occupants prepare a Civil War battle reenactment, much to the annoyance of their wealthy neighbours.

« Witness said the horse rider had no head.
- Drunk or stoned?
- I was on duty, sir. »

James Callis (Battlestar Galactica) guest stars as twin brothers. Eleanor Bron plays the local Violet Crawley alongside William Gaunt (No Place Like Home, The Champions). The battle reenactment, which quickly turns into a scene of the 1967 Casino Royale, was filmed with four cameras. Historical association The Sealed Knot helped and 200 of their members were used as extras.

An excellent opener written by Michael Aitkens and directed by Alex Pillai. Full review here:

- Murder of Innocence: Convicted killer Grady Felton comes back to his childhood home after 18 years, which infuriates the family of his victim. His defence barrister is murdered that same night but Grady has a solid alibi. An endless and weak episode written by Elizabeth-Anne Wheal and directed by Renny Rye (

« Is anyone here stupid enough to commit arson with their own fuel, sir? »

- Death and the Divas: Writers Rachel Cuperman & Sally Griffiths and director Nick Laughland pay an affectionate tribute to the legendary Hammer Films and the horror films of the 60s with this instant classic.

« Not a vampire bite, then? You must be disappointed. »

Brilliantly crafted sequences from the (fictional) filmography of Stella Harris, played by Sinéad Cusack, feature John Carson (Captain Kronos - Vampire Hunter) and cult movie goddess Caroline Munro. Harriet Walter, who plays Stella's sister Diana Davenport, is the niece of the great Christopher Lee (

- Written in the Stars: An amateur astronomer is killed by a blow to the head with a meteorite during a total eclipse over Midsomer Stanton. Penned by Steve Trafford and directed by Renny Rye, this episode meets the requirements of Midsomer's more than proven formula (

- The Sicilian Defence: Richard Lumsden (Sugar Rush) and Julie Graham (Survivors) are amongst the guest stars of this laboured episode written by Paul Logue and directed by Alex Pillai.

« A rambler found him this morning.
- Where is our rambler?
- Still throwing up.
- Lovely. »

- Schooled in Murder: A young woman is crushed to death with a large wheel of cheese at the home of the world-famous Midsomer Blue. Scriptwriter Lisa Holdsworth (New Tricks) displays a joyful ingenuity for her first Midsomer, right from the pre-credit sequence. Directed by Andy Hay.

« Have we got a murder weapon?
- You're standing in it. »

This fifteenth series is the first produced is by Jo Wright (55 Degrees North, the Doctor Who 1996 TV movie, Lovejoy). The Dark Rider and Death and the Divas alone justify buying the DVD set of an overall good series. (Lisa Holdsworth)

Tuesday, 21 January 2014


Sometimes circumstances prevent me to review what I want to. From this perspective 2013 was terrible year for this little blog.

Anyway you can also find me on Twitter doing my Oscar the Grouch impersonation about the pathetic Atlantis (it's easy, I know) or the irritating The Musketeers. With a little luck you'll see me saying a couple of nice things (Sherlock S3E3) but I'll deny that.

And I remain a fan of Mr Selfridge, whose second series started brilliantly on sunday. Found Aidan McArdle (Lord Loxley) excellent.

Thursday, 16 January 2014


Death in Paradise, the highly popular BBC One crime comedy drama launched in 2011, came back this week for a third 8X60-minute series of Caribbean Cluedo.

« I'm not here to take his place, you know, Camille. I'm not here to be him. »

Created by Robert Thorogood, Death in Paradise is set on the fictional Saint Marie island and actually filmed in the French overseas region of Guadeloupe. It stars Ben Miller as Detective Inspector Richard Poole and French actress Sara Martins as Detective Sergeant Camille Bordey. Danny John-Jules (Officer Dwayne Myers) and Gary Carr (Sergeant Fidel Best) return. Don Warrington (Commissioner Selwyn Patterson) and Élizabeth Bourgine (Catherine Bordey) are back too.

In April 2013, it was announced that Ben Miller would leave Death in Paradise during series 3 and that he would be replaced by Kris Marshall (Lightfields, My family) as Detective Inspector Humphrey Goodman. In the series' premiere, written by Robert Thorogood and directed by Cilla Ware, an university reunion party attended by Richard comes to an abrupt end with a murder. DI Goodman arrives from London to help Camille and the Honoré police on a very sensitive case.

« London speaks very highly of him. »

The grumpy yet likeable Richard Poole deserved a better send-off than this inelegant exit and the case resolution is rather far-fetched. However it is very smart to bring a radically different sleuth. The disheveled  and casually dressed DI Humphrey Goodman is a bumbling but brilliant detective, part Jacques Clouseau, part Columbo. Kris Marshall manages to do well in this weak transitional episode, given that Ben Miller set the bar very high.

Although it's not unusual for a TV series to survive a lead/character change, Poole and his great interaction with Camille will be missed. Death in Paradise has an ingenious formula for fun escapism: murder mysteries under the sun, splendid locations, humour, guest stars (here Helen Baxendale, Mark Bazeley, etc.) and an excellent regular cast. Next week will be crucial after the return of this favourite amongst detective drama buffs with an average of 7.1m viewers.

Death in Paradise is produced by Red Planet Pictures for the BBC and exec produced by Tony Jordan and Belinda Campbell. Tim Bradley is the producer. It is filmed with the support of the Region of Guadeloupe and the Film commission of Guadeloupe. In France the first two series are available on DVD from Koba Films since the end of last year.

The soundtrack includes ska and reggae standards and original music by British composer Magnus Fiennes (Spoilers) (Spoilers)

See also: (Series 2 DVD review) (Series 1 DVD review)