Christmas Delights From Acorn Media



It’s that time of year of again when we start scouring the internet for gift ideas. Luckily, Acorn media have served up another platter of top notch dramas for you to acquire this holiday season.

BBC One’s brilliantly clever 2013 drama Mayday comes to Acorn DVD on the 23 November. Starring Aiden Gillen (Batman: The Dark Knight Rises) it is full of more twists and turns than the Monte Carlo Grand Prix. The five part drama is based around a straightforward topic – the murder of a young woman. The events thereafter are handled in a rather unusual manner. There are four primary suspects but in the absence of a Marple or Poirot figure the audience are left to do the investigative work themselves.

Each of the suspects has an accuser but as the show progresses you began to wonder if the real villains are the accused or their accusers. Mi5 veteran Peter Firth is frighteningly convincing as suspect number one while Sophie Okonedo and Lesley Manville manage to pull on the audience’s heart strings as they face up to the horror of being married to murder suspects. Sam Spruell was probably the strongest performer although Peter McDonald was also very good in an understated kind of way.

The writing team behind it (Ben Court and Caroline Ip) are best known for their work on ITV’s Whitechapel but Mayday is a cut above that well loved mystery drama. It’s not out for a few weeks but this is the top pick for Christmas 2015

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The BBC’s 2012 drama Restless is a complex tale about a Russian emigree in pre-war France who ends up becoming a British spy before assuming a false identity and retiring to lead a quiet life in the British Isles. Hayley Attwell stars as the reluctant spy Eva who was recruited to work for the British by a debonair agent named Lucas Romer (Rufus Sewell).

The war-time scenes involving Attwell and Sewell were excellent but the flash forward scenes involving the aging Eva (Charlotte Rampling) and her adult daughter (Michelle Dockery) were less enthralling. Rampling was convincing as the aging spy whose paranoia had driven her to reveal the truth about her past to her daughter. Dockery on the other hand struggled to hold her own against the veteran actress.

The show might have been better if they had just trimmed some of 1970s scenes and focused on the war-time espionage. In terms of acting and aesthetics you can’t go wrong when you devote a lot of screen time to Atwell and Sewell. That being said, the aging Romer (Michael Gambon) brought some life into the 70s scenes in the concluding episode. Talking of Romer, who would have guessed that Rufus Sewell would grow up to be Michael Gambon? The Harry Potter star doesn’t look even vaguely like the Zen actor but looks apart you can usually count on Gambon to liven up the action.

This show is available now and well worth acquiring at the low price of $34.99 for which you get 185 minutes of cold war action.

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Foyle’s War needs no introduction and it would take weeks to thoroughly review this mammoth boxset. So assuming you’re familiar with the wildly popular mid 20th century drama I’ll get straight to the details. Acorn Media have just released Foyle’s War The Complete Saga and it contains the entire history of the show plus a whole lot of additional extras. These include a retrospective program Foyle’s War Revisited (57 min.) Interviews with series writer and creator Anthony Horowitz (23 min.) and stars Anthony Howell and Honeysuckle Weeks (14 min.) Making-of documentaries for Sets 3, 4 & 5 (44 min.); four behind-the-scenes featurettes for Set 7 (86 min.); a day in the life of Foyle’s War (26 min.); back in time with Foyle’s War (27 min.) Introductions by writer & creator Anthony Horowitz for Set 7 (15 min.), featurettes about the truth behind the fiction for each episode of Set 8 (52 min.), and an interview with Set 8 guest star John Mahoney (21 min.) Production notes, historical backgrounds, cast reflections, notes on a real-life Foyle, photo galleries, and more! 16-page collector’s guide with episode synopses, character profiles, and reflections about the show.
It’s in stores now for the princely sum of $199.99. With 29 episodes and 6 hours of bonus material it is the gift that keeps on giving.

Kieran Kinsella
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