Saturday, 29 August 2015


French period crime comedy-drama Les petits meurtres d'Agatha Christie (The Little Murders of Agatha Christie) returned on France 2 yesterday with the first of four brand new episodes starring Samuel Labarthe (Commissaire Laurence), Blandine Bellavoir (Alice Avril) and Élodie Frenck (Marlène Leroix).

Written by Sylvie Simon and directed by Éric Woreth, Pension Vanilos triumphed over TF1 and its Grande Soirée des Parodies TV as #1 with 4.161.000 viewers (19.8 %) vs 3.430.000 (18.4 %) for the programme produced and hosted by Arthur Essebag aka Arthur. This episode will be followed by Un meurtre est-il facile? (aired before Pension Vanilos by Swiss television), Mademoiselle McGinty est morte and Murder Party (formerly Un meurtre sera commis le...) An other episode of Les petits meurtres d'Agatha Christie, titled Le mystérieux enlèvement du petit Bruno Zennefort, was filmed this spring. 

The big budget hit series will have to leave its production base of Tourcoing, in the north of France, at the end of the year because the site was sold by the municipality. Two episodes, adapted from Agatha Christie's They Came to Baghdad and Murder in Mesopotamia, will be filmed in Morocco next year. They were actually planned to be done in Turkey years ago with the Larosière/Lampion duo (which preceded the trio Laurence/Avril/Marlène) just before stars Antoine Duléry and Marius Colucci announced their departure. In the meantime the producers will find another place, near Lille, to rebuild their lavish sets.

Les petits meurtres d'Agatha Christie is produced by Sophie Révil for Escazal Films with Pictanovo (Witnesses), Conseil Régional Nord-Pas-de-Calais and the participation of France Télévisions, TV5 Monde and RTS Radio Télévision Suisse. The characters of Laurence, Avril and Marlène were created by Sylvie Simon and Thierry Debroux. The music is composed by Stéphane Moucha. You can find (advanced) reviews of the latest Petits meurtres d'Agatha Christie on this blog.

See also: (Subscription only)

Monday, 24 August 2015


Season 2 of the cult classic Arsène Lupin, starring Georges Descrières, will be available on French region 2 DVD this week thanks to Koba Films. Koba also releases the second series of Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries.

Reviews ASAP.

Les petits meurtres d'Agatha Christie returns on France 2 with four brand new episodes starting from this friday: Pension Vanilos, Un meurtre est-il facile?, Mademoiselle McGinty est morte and Murder Party (formerly Un meurtre sera commis le...) (Un meurtre est-il facile?)

[Update September, 7] Coming Home (1988), adapted from a novel by Rosamunde Pilcher, will be available on French Region 2 DVD from Koba Films this wednesday. Review ASAP.

Other recent reviews:

Tuesday, 18 August 2015


Spain in the early 20th century. The idyllic luxury of the prestigious Grand Hotel, located just outside the (fictional) town of Cantaloa, conceals secrets, lies, intrigue, and danger. 

The first half of the third and final series of Grand Hotel (Gran Hotel, 2011-2013), the acclaimed Spanish mystery drama, will be available tomorrow in France on DVD from Koba Films as "Grand Hôtel - Saison 4".  

Produced by Bambu Producciones, the company of Ramón Campos and Teresa Fernández-Valdés, for channel Antena 3, Gran Hotel was sold to more than 60 territories, including France (groupe M6), the UK (Sky Arts) and the United States. Series three of Grand Hotel initially consisted of 14 X 70-minute episodes. However, when Antena 3 reduced by half the second series to preserve ratings the channel added 8 of its 16 episodes (already filmed) to the third (1). Everybody at the Grand Hotel is in shock after the tragedy, starting with Doña Teresa Alarcón (Adriana Ozores). Wounded, Julio Olmedo (Yon González) is looking for his lover Alicia (Amaia Salamanca). But the wife of Don Diego Murquia (Pedro Alonso) has vanished. Lawyer Maite Ribelles (Megan Montaner), the best friend of Doña Alicia, arrives at the establishment.

Maite joins Julio, Inspector Horacio Ayala (Pep Anton Muñoz) and Agent Hernando (Antonio Reyes) in their search. Diego believes his wife left him and he's annoyed by Maite's presence. In the shadows, someone behind the recent events and the disappearance of Alicia will stop at nothing for revenge. 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).  Following a spectacular cliffhanger worthy of the U.S. supersoaps of the 1980s, this "Grand Hôtel - Saison 4" DVD set by Koba Films contains Episodes 1 to 7 of the third series.  

Doña Sofia (Luz Valdenebro) is left for dead in a cold room. Javier Alarcón  (Eloy Azorin) falls in love with nurse Laura Montenegro (Marta Hazas), who's not quite what she seems. Inspector Ayala is suspicious about Diego, whose self-assurance cracks as his past resurfaces. Hernando is a pioneer in K-9 policing... sort of. Alicia reappears but is she a pawn between the hands of an invisible adversary of her husband? Doña Ángela (Concha Velasco) and her son Andrés (Llorenç González) are fed up of Belén (Marta Larralde) to the point the young man goes to extreme measures. Jesús Manzano Cisneros (Lluis Homar) becomes the new maitre d'hotel. Teresa remains dangerous and Don Alfredo (Fele Martinez) meets the King of Spain.

The amateur sleuth trio Julio, Alicia and Maite helps Ayala and Hernando, the Spanish Poirot and Hastings, to find the answer to this question: who is Adrián Vera Celande? The 7 episodes of this DVD set from Koba are on 4 discs in French only. French subtitles for the hearing impaired are available. Overall effective, this ultimate series of Gran Hotel is packed with mystery, suspense and romance. Its twists and turns are more riveting than ever, the settings are gorgeous (3), the cast is composed of Spain's best actors and the music of Lucio Godoy is magnificent. An Italian adaptation of Grand Hotel produced by Cattleya (Gomorrah) and Beta Film for pubcaster RAI 1 will start on September 1. It stars Eugenio Franceschini and Valentina Bellè.

(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 ( 

See also: (Second half of Series 2 DVD review) (First half of Series 2 DVD review) (Series 1 DVD review)  

Thursday, 13 August 2015


 Actor/producer Tom Cruise is back as IMF superspy Ethan Hunt in Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation. The fifth installment of the Mission: Impossible film series, released yesterday in France, is helmed by Christopher McQuarrie, who directed Cruise in Jack Reacher (2012).

Impossible Mission Force agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) intercepts nerve gas about to be sold to terrorists. A debriefing in London goes wrong and Ethan is captured by an organization called The Syndicate. Syndicate operative Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) helps him to escape. Meanwhile CIA director Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin) gets the dismantling of the IMF and wants William Brandt (Jeremy Renner) to tell him where Hunt is. Ethan needs the assistance of friend and colleague Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) to find the Syndicate.

In Vienna they try to prevent the assassination of the Austrian Chancellor. Brandt recruits Ethan Hunt's old pal Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) to locate Hunt and Dunn and track Ilsa. Launched in 1996, the Mission: Impossible spy action movie franchise is based on the 1966-1973 namesake television series created by Bruce Geller. Mission: Impossible actually became a big screen "series" in itself only in 2006 with the involvement of American director, writer and producer J.J. Abrams (Lost) and his prodco Bad Robot. The first movie, directed by Brian De Palma, was basically a Hitchcockian paranoid thriller and Mission: Impossible II (2000) was a catastrophe. Since Mission: Impossible III (2006) the movies share the same style and tone.

The work of composer Michael Giacchino (The Incredibles, Lost), a dose of humour brought mainly by Simon Pegg and some respect to the TV source material widely contributed to this unity. Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation follows the path of Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (2011) in the fun escapism category. Except it's better written, as long as you ignore the countless exposition scenes and you don't expect a Frederick Forsyth thriller from the script of a bona fide popcorn movie. After all it's mostly centered on the hunt (no pun intended) for a USB drive. The pre-title sequence sets the mood for the entire film with a bravura piece featuring an A400M plane, Tom Cruise in top shape and Benji's antics.

This Burj Khalifa moment (1) is just one of the mandatory spectacular action sequences, which include a high dive without scuba gear (hold your breath) and a couple of mega-chases in Morocco. Rogue Nation reminds of James Bond (The Living Daylights), Alfred Hitchcock (The Man Who Knew Too Much), the Mission: Impossible TV series (the record shop) and nods to its own predecessors. Cruise remains a legit action star at 53. Simon Pegg portrays the most pathologically anxious field agent of the intelligence community. Jeremy Renner and Ving Rhames form a new comedy duo. Rebecca Ferguson is excellent as the badass leading lady in a franchise whose female characterization is not the forte.

English actor Sean Harris is Solomon Lane, a valuable villain after the forgettable Kurt Hendricks of Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol. Although the late Philip Seymour Hoffman's Owen Davian in M:I:III will stay unbeatable. Alec Baldwin plays a first class A-hole... or not. Simon McBurney and Tom Hollander (as the British Prime minister) are amongst the cast. Composer Joe Kraemer, who scored Jack Reacher, succeeds Michael Giacchino with honours. The soundtrack makes a generous use of Lalo Schifrin's Mission: Impossible main theme and The Plot. Giacomo Puccini's opera Turandot and its aria Nessun Dorma have an essential place in it. Aaron Becker did a superb job with the main title design and the curtain call sequence for Filmograph.

When Raymond Burr starred as lawyer Perry Mason in the eponymous TV series a woman once asked him "How come you never lose?" The actor answered: "Madam, you only see the cases that I try on Saturdays." There are certainly missions where Ethan Hunt and his IMF teammates are not disavowed. Anyway, the latest Mission: Impossible is the perfect summer blockbuster and Tom Cruise definitely knows how to meet the expectations of his public. Distributed by Paramount Pictures, Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation is written by Christopher McQuarrie. Story by Christopher McQuarrie and Drew Pearce. Robert Elswit is the cinematographer.

(1) See Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol.

Saturday, 1 August 2015


[Revised September 13, 2015] Robert Vasseur, the estranged husband of Alice Avril, is accused of having murdered the old Miss Mac Ginty to steal her savings. He seeks help from his reluctant wife, who's quite embarrassed because Commissaire Laurence is on the case.  

Marlène is torn between her loyalty to her boss and her friendship with Alice. Laurence rapidly books Robert but also Avril as his accomplice.

 « Mais on vous a jamais dit que vous lui ressembliez?
- Au commissaire?  
- Mais non. À Marilyn Monroe.  » 

Les petits meurtres d'Agatha Christie returns to "cruise control" following the roller coaster ride of Pension Vanilos, with an excellent adaptation of the Hercule Poirot novel Mrs McGinty's dead by scriptwriter Thierry Debroux. After Élodie Frenck (Marlène) last week, it's the turn of Blandine Bellavoir (Alice) to impress, especially in the commissariat cell scene. Directed by Éric Woreth, Mademoiselle Mac Ginty est morte feels like an episode of the Larosière/Lampion era.

Swan Laurence tries to save Alice from the guillotine but an encounter with a psychoanalyst brings back a painful childhood memory. An annoying caretaker and the fiancee of an influent politician are under the charm of the commissaire. Marlène shows she can "fall well" (« C'était très bien Marlène. Vous tombez merveilleusement bien. ») and she's courted by the son of one of the residents of the building where the victim lived. Samuel Labarthe always looks like he's having great fun playing the uber charismatic and tongue-in-cheek Laurence.

« Dites moi, Avril. Vous ne seriez pas enceinte par hasard? Vous vous imaginez? Avec un gosse en plus...  »  

Swiss channel RTS Un aired Mademoiselle Mac Ginty est morte yesterday ahead of French pubcaster France 2. François Godart returns as Alice's editor-in-chief Robert Jourdeuil. Dominique Thomas plays Commissaire divisionnaire Tricard. Arnaud Perron (Robert Vasseur), Gilian Petrovski (Michael Doutremont), Christine Brücher (Louise Doutremont), Serge Riaboukine (Leopold Santini), Jeanne Bournaud (Hélène Schmit), Eleonore Joncquez (Régine Molon) guest star in this episode. The characters of Laurence, Avril and Marlène were created by Sylvie Simon and Thierry Debroux.

Les petits meurtres d'Agatha Christie is produced by Sophie Révil for Escazal Films with Pictanovo (Witnesses), Conseil Régional Nord-Pas-de-Calais and the participation of France Télévisions, TV5 Monde and RTS Radio Télévision Suisse. The beloved big budget series returns on France 2 at the end of the month.

« Je vous déteste. Je... Je vous déteste! » 

See also: (Pension Vanilos (Un meurtre est-il facile?


Detective Inspector Humphrey Goodman, from London, solves crimes with French Detective Sergeant Camille Bordey on the beautiful Caribbean island of Saint Marie. They're assisted by officer Dwayne Myers and Sergeant Fidel Best.

Series 3 of Death in Paradise is available in France on DVD from Koba Films since July.

« London speaks very highly of him. »

Created by Robert Thorogood, Death in Paradise, the very popular BBC One lighthearted crime drama, was launched in 2011. It is set on the fictional Saint Marie island and actually filmed in the French overseas region of Guadeloupe. The first two series starred Ben Miller (Primeval) as Detective Inspector Richard Poole. In April 2013, it was announced that Miller would leave during the third series and that he would be replaced by Kris Marshall (My family) as Detective Inspector Humphrey Goodman.

Original cast members Sara Martins (DS Camille Bordey), Danny John-Jules (Officer Dwayne Myers), Gary Carr (Sergeant Fidel Best), Don Warrington (Commissioner Selwyn Patterson) and Élizabeth Bourgine (Catherine Bordey) all returned, like Harry the (CGI) lizard. An university reunion party attended by Richard Poole comes to an abrupt end with a murder. DI Goodman arrives to help the Honoré police on this very sensitive case and stays on the island as his wife, Sally, broke up by voicemail.

« Am I seeing things or did he fall out of the window? »

Ben Miller set the bar very high as Poole and his character deserved a more elegant send-off but Kris Marshall is awesome as a radically different eccentric English sleuth. The disheveled and clumsy DI Humphrey Goodman is a bumbling but brilliant Columbo of the Caribbean. Series three's bodycount includes a stunt double on a film set, a local gigolo, an air stewardess, the Saint Marie commerce minister, a bird-watcher, a real estate magnate and a pensioner in a luxury retirement home.

« There's a whole list of things I'm not very good at. But I am a good detective. »

Humphrey,  his notes written on everything and his "Fox, goose and a bag of beans" type of puzzles proved to be favourites of viewers everywhere. The ingenious formula of Death in Paradise for fun escapism is intact with murder mysteries under the sun, splendid locations, humour and guest stars: Peter Davison, Michelle Ryan, Josette Simon, Raza Jaffrey, etc... There's also a great soundtrack with ska and reggae standards and original music by British composer Magnus Fiennes. French pubcaster France 2 airs the series with a different intro (Sunday Shining by Finley Quaye) and You're Wondering Now (1) as the end title.

Death in Paradise is produced by Red Planet Pictures for the BBC. It is filmed with the support of the Region of Guadeloupe and the Film commission of Guadeloupe. Koba Films releases the eight one-hour episodes of this third series in a 3-disc DVD set with the UK theme tune, the original dialogue track (available with optional French subtitles) and the French dubbing. Bruno Choël, who dubs Kris Marshall, does a very good job. The fifth series is currently being filmed and Series 4 started on France 2 in July.


See also: