Turn Up Charlie – review (Netflix)

      IS Idris Elba James Brown in disguise? Even though the erstwhile godfather of soul was known as the hardest working man in show business, his death in 2006 put an end to his hard-working practices and brilliant music career. His spirit, however, seems to have found its way into the ever-prolific Elba.

    Though his IMDB seems to reflect the normal workload of any popular actor, it does not note the adverts, deejaying, social work or general omnipresence of the man. He seems to be everywhere. 

    One of his latest appearances is in the Netflix show, Turn Up Charlie. Executive produced by and starring Elba, Turn Up Charlie sees him as a struggling, dance scene deejay still living off of the glory of a long-forgotten dance tune he produced.

   He lives with his aunt Lydia (Jocelyn Jee Esien) whilst lying to his parents, who he speaks to on FaceTime, having them believe he is a successful businessman. They also think he is engaged to be married to his, unbeknown to them, ex-girlfriend, Alicia (Ashley Bannerman). 

   As he is playing a small gig at a local pub, his old school friend David (J. J. Feild) shows up. David, a successful actor, has returned from America with his wife, Sara (Piper Perabo) and daughter, Gabrielle – ‘Gaby’ – (Frankie Hervey). Sara also happens to be a world-famous, deejay and producer. 

   When the precocious and spoilt Gaby manages to force another nanny to quit, by stealing her vibrator, Charlie steps in to help out his old friend as both parents have pressing engagements that they have to attend. 

   With Charlie being one of the few people that Gaby seems to get along with, David and Sara decide that he would make a good nanny. Charlie, desperate to get back into the upper echelons of the music scene, takes the job. 

   Set over eight, twenty-five-minute episodes, Turn Up Charlie is an enjoyable, slightly nostalgic – I was hardcore clubber in the eighties and nineties, though not into the drug scene at all – amusing dramedy. 

   As one would expect from a project co-produced by an actor, the acting is first-rate in the show, with a few faces well known to British audiences  – Angela Griffiths, Gus Khan, Jocelyn Jee Esien – making an appearance. 

   The role of Gaby is central to the story and in Frankie Hervey they found the perfect actor to inhabit the role. She is brilliant. Her chemistry with Elba is perfect, the two playing off of one another expertly. Their characters are so clearly defined and motivations easily understood, that none of the interactions seem forced or out of place. 

   There are four writers credited on the show – Georgia Lester, Laura Neal, Victoria Asare-Archer and Femi Oyeniran – With Georgia Lester credited on five out of the eight episodes. As she is credited – according to IMDB – with the first three episodes and the last two, one has to assume she pretty much sets the tone of the show. 

   For the most part, the story is good. Charlie is a good guy who, like a lot of people, wants to be seen as something more than he is. He also, like so many, does not, initially, take responsibility for his own mistakes and foibles. Gaby just wants to be more important to her parents than their respective careers. To this end, she projects a facade of confidence and entitlement, acting as though nothing bothers her. 

    David, back in England to ‘tread the boards’, is feeling upstaged by the nightly acclaim his colleague Grace (Bo Bene) is receiving in his play. When his agent tells him of a possible film job in South Africa, David wants to take it.  

   Sara is in a different place in her life and career, wanting to give Gaby more stability and let her relentless travel and deejaying take a backseat. Her agent, Astrid (Angela Griffiths) is not ready to settle down and stop partying, causing tensions between them. 

   As I said earlier, the story is good for the most part but suffers towards the end from being an almost truncated story. Because of the episodic nature of the show and the mixing of comedy and drama, it could probably have been better served over ten or twelve episodes, as opposed to the rushed and mildly unsatisfying conclusion in the eight episodes. 

    It is unclear whether Turn Up Charlie was written with the thought of a second series, though – even though there is some scope for a second series – it seems unlikely. Turn Up Charlie is an enjoyable series even if it is not a must watch. 

   Idris Elba will, no doubt, continue to be one of the hardest working men in show business. The godfather of soul would appreciate that at least. 

Listed: Films I enjoyed in 2014

People love a list. Whether it is the order, the ease of information, or an OCD, general malaise, people love a list. People who write love a list more than most. When I speak of people who write, I mean fellow bloggers, journalist – ‘list’ is in their job! – and other sporadic scribes. The think about list is, once you begin to think of one it sparks tangents and makes writer’s block – argh! – a phantom fast fading. And so to my list. I had planned to make a ‘Top Ten’ of films of 2014, but quickly realised that though I had seen plenty of films in 2014, a lot of them were released before then. As I wracked my brain, trying to remember theatrical releases I had viewed, I noticed that, even though I had easily seen over ten 2014 films, several of them could not be categorised as films I enjoyed. That, of course, is another list. For now I will concentrate on, in no particular order, my favourite films of 2014.

1.) Guardians Of The Galaxy

The much anticipated, though not exactly well known, comic book adaption, hit the screens in late summer. A motley crew, pulled together by circumstances, as opposed to some over riding desire to fight for the greater good, GOTG made the likeable Chris Pratt a superstar. Playing the lead role of Peter Quill or the little known Starlord, he invested humour and dynamism into the character. Aided and abetted by the warrior alien Gamora, played with fierce gutso and  – more believe than her previous outings as a badass The Losers? Colombina? pur-leeze! – Zoe Saldana rocks as the literally green assassin. Dave Bautista, as Drax, finally gets a role that allows you to forget he use to be a wrestler. Vin Diesel uses his one line – ‘I am Groot.’ brilliantly. But Bradley Cooper gets a special mention for making a genetically modified racoon – that looks ridiculous written down! – utterly believable. GOTG is probably my favourite comic book film of 2014, high praise indeed when going to pick number…

2.) X-men: Days Of Future Past

I am a HUGE X-men fan. I collected the comics for years and am slightly protective of the ‘for cinematic purposes’ manipulation of the characters – it’s all wrong! Sorry. Anyway, like I say, I am a fan of the X-men. I loved Bryan Singer’s first two instalments, loathed the god awful Final Stand. Matthew Vaughan saved some face with the retro X-men: First Class. Great film, still wrong, but good film none the less. Allow me a moment of geeking out. In the comic of the same name, Day Of Future Past, the story was exactly the same. In a horrible future, mutants are hunted and slaughtered or captured by highly advanced robot sentinels. So I knew it was a solid story. In the comic, Kitty Pryde is sent back, but as the character is not established in film and Hugh ‘Wolverine’ Jackman is huge – though the second Wolverine film….yuk! – Wolverine is sent back in time.

Even though the story is the same, the fact that they decide to send back a different character instead of following the comic book, really works here. They do an absolutely brilliant – genius! – strand with the sentinels being organically adaptable in the future. This was a film that I was chomping at the bit to see and it did not disappoint. But as far as raising the bar goes, look no further than…

3.) Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Let me say right of the bat; Captain America: The Winter Soldier is awesome! I enjoyed the first outing, the establishing of the character and laying of the back story. No way did it prepare me for the epicness of the follow up! When this film flashed up on my subscription service, over the holidays, as being available for viewing, I rewatched it immediately. Over two hours long, it feels and moves like it is a ninety minute film. If you like comic book movies and have not seen this….what am I talking about? If you like comic book movies, you’ve seen this!

4.) Interstellar

Christopher Nolan. Jonathan Nolan. These boys know how to make a film. Obviously i am a fan of the Dark Knight trilogy, but my favourite Nolan film is Inception. In fact it was my favourite film of 2010, absolutely blew my mind. Interstellar comes pretty damn close. This is another film of massive scope and breathtaking execution. Like another space film before it – Gravity – it can only truly be appreciated on the big screen. Nolan makes eye popping, glorious, large scale, immersive, cinema films. Everything is big, close up, filling the screen. See it on the biggest screen you can.

5.) In Your Eyes

A bit of a curve ball  here. In Your Eyes tells the story of a man and woman from opposite sides of the USA who become psychically linked, thus able to observe each others life. This is not a film that got a theatrical release. By pure luck – well, stalking – my favourite film and television writer, Joss Whedon, let be known to his many psychotic fans, that he had penned a new film and left a link. I watched it and loved it. Starring one of my favourite quirky looking actresses, Zoe Kazan (Ruby Sparks is fantastic!) In Your Eyes is, for a linear film with conventional storytelling, unlike any other film I have ever seen.

6.) Edge Of Tomorrow

After Oblivion and the laugh-out-loud-for-all-the-wrong-reasons Jack Reacher, Tom’I’ll jump up and down on your sofa’Cruise was looking on the fast track to has-been-ville! Then came Edge Of Tomorrow. Playing a media consultant who finds himself reluctantly thrust into the armed forces and forced to defend the planet against an alien race, the Cruiser gets to play his best role since being a contract killer in Michael Mann’s Collateral. Ably supported and matched by the feisty Emily Blunt, Cruise shows humour, fear, desperation and the long missing star quality that had him dominating box office receipts for most of the nineties. If your not a Tom Cruiser hater – there are many – but have trepidation about seeing his films of late, I assure you, you will not be disappointed.

7.) The Grand Budapest Hotel
A late comer to my films of 2014 is the quirky Wes Anderson comedy tells the story of the exceptional concierge of The Grand Budapest Hotel, M Gustave, played quite brilliantly by Ralph Fiennes. It tells the story of how a grateful patron of the hotel leaves Gustave a priceless painting, much too the furious disappointment of her extended family. Thus follows a story that takes in a prison escape, the second world war, murder, romance, a monastery and priceless art. It looks beautiful, the story moves at a pace and the performances are superb. Definitely one to see of you have not.

8.) The Raid 2
After the kinetic, pulsating screen explosion of kicking and punching fury that was Gareth Evans’ announcement as a major filmmaker in The Raid, he brought out the sequel. As the initial film seemed entirely complete as a film and was such breath of fresh air in the genre of martial arts cinema, it was hard to see not only where Evans was going to go with a sequel, but how he was going to top the original. With this second film, buoyed by the success of the first, he had more money to work with and it shows. It looks fabulous, the sets are rich in colour and detail, a definite upgrade on the previous outing. The action is, as one would expect, bigger and more expansive. The story also works, involving more characters and higher stakes. Like the first film, The Raid 2 blitzes through ferocious action sequences and stunning violence, whilst still keeping an eye in the story. I would not say that the sequel surpasses the original, but it definitely matches it.

Thank you ladies, thank you.

Only two weeks into my weekly review of random short films and I’m already thinking of branching out! This week I am reviewing/highlighting a YouTube video. Yes, I realise that technically most short films would also fall into this category, but this is not a short film. Nor is it – you’ll be happy to know – an “entertaining” funny vid. My review today is for an interview by THR (The Hollywood Reporter) of actresses. The round table – as they call it – had Oprah Winfrey(The Butler), Amy Adams(American Hustle), Octavia Spencer(The Help), Julia Roberts(Osage County), Emma Thompson(Saving Mr Banks) and Lupita Nyong’o(12 Years A Slave).
Though the gathering is set up as an interview and there are questions asked by the interviewers, mostly it is just these amazing actresses discussing their craft and eventually asking their own questions of one another. The other lovely thing is the obvious respect they had for each other, most having enjoyed the works of their peers over the years. Beside an interest in film and the celebrity persona, the lesson of watching this interview for any aspiring screenwriter, director, actor or actress is the insight into how much work being an actor/actress is. The perspective these actresses have on their careers; the roles they choose, the approach, the hurdles, the sacrifice, really show that this is a profession for those who love it. You cannot just like it and be a working actor or actress. This is a profession, an environment, for the committed only. Of course there is the odd person who gets ‘lucky’, but for the people who have careers, bodies of work, ‘lucky’ is not going to cut it.
The emotion and energy these ladies invest in their roles and then, as one forgets, the promotional work that follows taking a role, a film, literally takes over their lives for a period. The fact that they come over as levelled headed and humble and appreciate where they are and what it took to get them there, is a testament to their commitment, talent and courage. If you have any interest in film, watching this interview will open your eyes.

watch it here – http://youtu.be/OgZsPepO9Z0

And because it is brilliant, inventive, and I wish I had written it!(Also feeling a little guilty for not actually reviewing a short!) Cat Jones ‘Flea’ http://t.co/8U0tyDKS4S – watch it. You’ll thank me.