Connor Macgregor Reviews...Miniseries/TV Movies


Cucumber - Episode 1 Review

INTRO: Russell T Davies is one of Britain's most prolific television writers. He writes stories no one else does, and is arguably the LGBT community's best ever writer. In 2015, he wrote a series for Channel 4 that was pretty unique in its own right. A trilogy of shows on different platforms. Cucumber is the first, and episode one begins a chain of events that can only end in disaster.

SUMMARY: Henry Best (Vincent Franklin) is a gay middle-aged insurance salesman, happily settled with his boyfriend of nine years, Lance Sullivan (Cyril Nri), but increasingly distracted by his work colleagues Dean Monroe (Fisayo Akinade) and Freddie Baxter (Freddie Fox). Lance asks Henry on a date, but after Henry rejects Lance's marriage proposal, Lance seeks revenge by bringing a younger man, Francesco (Peter Caulfield), back for a threesome. Lance insists on sleeping with Francesco, angry that Henry hasn't had anal sex with him since they started dating. Henry finds the police and has Lance and Francesco arrested. Distraught, he flees and moves into Dean and Freddie's apartment.

MY THOUGHTS: I liked the relationship between Henry & Lance, even if its filled with problems. Both actors give great performances. Its both a funny and cringey relationship to watch, with embarrassing secrets and unpleasantries coming out in unfortunate fashion. The first episode also sets up a chain of events that are both disastrous and dark at the same time, leading Henry to move out and in with his young work colleagues. Vincent Franklin is great as Henry, playing an awkward and sometimes unlikable character that is centre of the story. Cyril Nri is also great, with great comedic moments in the last part of the episode. The ending of the episode is very funny to watch as Henry panics and gets the police involved in what should've been a night of celebration.

RATING: 91% - A

Banana Episode 1 Review (Dean)

INTRO: Now comes the other show in parallel: Banana. Only this is half-hour, and aimed at more younger characters that reflect Britain's diverse LGBT+ population at large. We begin with Dean, who was introduced in Episode 1 along with Freddie and get a sense at his life, and how it might not be as dramatic as he makes it out to be.

SUMMARY: 19-year old gay Dean works as a post boy in an insurance firm and entertains colleagues with a chastity belt he claims a boyfriend in Bristol made him wear though he is relieved when a friend removes it. He asks middle-aged salesman Henry Best for advice regarding the flat he shares with his friend Freddie - the object of Henry's attention - since the boys are struggling to pay the rent to their gangster landlord and Dean does not have it in him to ask for money for sex. Fortunately for all concerned Henry has the solution.

MY THOUGHTS: Dean is a loving yet slightly overdramatic character at times. We find out his family life isn't as dramatic as he makes it out to be as we find out in a comedic dinner scene with his parents & sister. I liked the fact that his family are just fairly normal, and are completely oblivious to the lies Dean puts out about them to other people. Another thing I liked was the mini-fantasy at the start of the episode on the bus. Very sweet, but hilarious at the same time. We also got more of Freddie in this episode as he was introduced so cagey in Cucumber.

RATING: 83% - A-

Cucumber - Episode 2 Review

INTRO: We now move on to Episode 2 of Cucumber. I know it's been a while but trust me, I've been keeping my notes safe.

SUMMARY: Henry begins his new life without Lance after moving into Dean and Freddie's apartment. Meanwhile, Lance goes to a bar with his overtly heterosexual colleague Daniel (James Murray), to whom he confides his lack of decent sex life with Henry. Henry gets suspended from work after supposedly causing the suicide of one of his colleagues. He is annoyed that Freddie, who set his boundaries with Henry, has no problem entertaining his friend Cliff (Con O'Neill). Henry's sister Cleo (Julie Hesmondhalgh) tracks down Lance, allowing him and Henry to meet up, where several revelations are surfaced.

MY THOUGHTS: We continue to see Henry's downward spiral here and it's really quite unfortunate to watch, even if the character is a bit of a twat at points. The performance is so good by Vincent Franklin and you really capture his confusion, anger and anxiety all in one. We're also introduced to Daniel played by James Murray as him and Lance strike up a friendship. I'm unsettled by Daniel slightly due to his rough aggressive language and proven cockiness to be heterosexual, yet with a little hint of gay in him. Henry's sister Cleo, played by former Coronation Street actress Julie Hesmondhalgh, enters the story and she's fun to watch. Very down to earth. Very modern day mum. Her son is played by Cal Spellman and he's also very entertaining to watch.

RATING - 82% - A-

Banana Episode 2 Review (Scotty)

INTRO: Back before Letitia Wright was a star in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I first discovered her in Banana, and boy does she win people's hearts in this story.

SUMMARY: Vivienne 'Scotty' Scott, carer for her ailing mother, becomes besotted with housewife Yvonne Burgess whom she sees in a supermarket, deeming her beautiful. Helped by Henry and Dean she tracks her down and begins stalking her. Yvonne's husband Gary angrily warns her off but later Yvonne arranges to meet Scotty, revealing that Scotty's attention to her has caused her to make a life-changing decision.

MY THOUGHTS: There's no argument here: Letitia Wright steals this without any competition. Her character is both sad, yet lovely at the same time. Someone who's just working hard, plodding away, and minding her own life until she comes across a beautiful woman in her eyes which changes her course of life almost instantly. We see Scotty as a very caring person, looking after her ailing mother, as well as wanting the character of Yvonne, the woman she's fallen for, to have a happy life, even if it petrifies her and her husband Gary. The couple themselves are an interesting bunch of people. Yvonne herself is quite sad, and her marriage is at rock bottom. The ending is nice, and even though it's not the ending Scotty wants, it's one that restores her sense of happiness.

RATING - 86% - A-

Cucumber - Episode 3 Review

INTRO: Episode three is when things really start to kick up a notch, and makes things also a little more fun as a result.

SUMMARY: Cleo is introduced to Dean and Freddie after Henry invites her and her son Adam (Ceallach Spellman) to visit. Cleo encourages Henry to move out. Henry discovers that Lance has taken the money out of their joint bank account and enlists Adam and one of his friends to star in homoerotic videos to try to make some money. Meanwhile, Freddie runs into his former teacher and lover Gregory (Edward MacLiam), who is now married; Gregory tries to convince Freddie to have one last sexual rendezvous. After Freddie bails on him, Gregory texts him to meet for sex at his apartment. They have a fight after Freddie takes a picture of a half-dressed Gregory without his consent, as revenge for the abusive dynamic of their relationship. Henry helps Freddie out in the fight just as Lance shows up with a present for him after his attempts to get Daniel in bed fail.

MY THOUGHTS: Freddie's illicit affair is the certain story of this episode. His lover Gregory is played brilliantly by Edward MacLiam, and really holds power over Freddie in this dynamic. This culminates in a brilliant fight at the end of the episode involving Gregory, Freddie, Henry & Lance. Funny, and a little dramatic too. Also bubbling under the surface is the Lance subplot in which Daniel continues to be a dick of a character, and warning bells are still going off in my head about this guy. Then also is the youtube subplot too which is hilarious to watch, and something that gives Ceallach Spellman something funny to do. He totally owns it.

RATING - 85% - A-

Banana Episode 3 Review (Sian & Violet)

INTRO: Episode 3 of Banana switches towards two protagonists as we witness the beginning of what could potentially be a beautiful relationship between two slightly different people.

SUMMARY: Sian and Violet meet in the shoe shop where Sian works and Violet is so smitten that she engineers several return visits to secure a date. Sian takes Violet to meet her mother Vanessa, also a Lesbian, before moving in with her but the extrovert Violet is a carefree party girl whilst the more serious Sian is hard-working and ambitious and they are soon arguing. Maybe Vanessa can offer her daughter words of advice to heal the situation.

MY THOUGHTS: This is a lovely relationship to watch develop. Both actresses do really well material, especially Georgia Henshaw who plays Sian. Lynn Hunter who plays Sian's mum Vanessa is also very good and comes off as very likeable in this episode, and very down to earth. It's also a very simple story, well written, with some nice twists & turns along the way. I like that the relationship isn't always loved up, and does present very human challenges.

RATING: 93% - A

Cucumber - Episode 4 Review

INTRO: This episode tends to be a bit more fun throughout the sequence of episodes. A bit more experimental, a bit more naughty, and a bit more reflective at the same time.

SUMMARY: Henry, Lance, Cleo and Freddie all go on dates; Henry with eccentric Rupert (Rufus Hound), Lance with Peter, who shares the same desire for Daniel; Cleo with married former flame Brian (Ardal O'Hanlon); and Freddie with Anna (Haruka Abe), the sister of a former boyfriend. Later that night, not everyone is satisfied at sex. Cleo and Brian have a heart-to-heart after their awkward sexual experience, Freddie and Anna eventually hit it off, and Henry's sexual timidity sends off Rupert. Henry later is attracted to Rupert's friend, Leigh (Phaldut Sharma). After Lance backs out of sex with Peter, Daniel invites Lance to his flat, where Daniel again flirts outrageously with him while claiming to be straight. Meanwhile, Dean goes through some strange role play when he is kidnapped by two men and treated like a sex slave.

MY THOUGHTS: You have five different stories all running in parallel, all very good and very entertaining in their own right. Henry & Lance are both trying to move on in their own way with their dates, and it shows subtly how much they miss each other. Cleo also has her moment, as she has a date with her former flame, played wonderfully by Ardal O'Hanlon. Freddie's date is also good fun, with a flash-forward which shows how the relationship ultimately ends ahead of time. Dean's subplot is also hilarious, as he ends up breaking up a relationship and is really awkward about it. Regarding Lance's subplot, I still get the sense that Daniel gives me the creeps. He's unsettling to be around and comes across more and more like a prick.

RATING: 95% - A

Banana Episode 4 Review (Helen)

INTRO: This is where Banana really starts to get good in terms of TV storytelling. I love the anthology genre and what you can do with it. And with a parent programme like Cucumber, you can really add a new dimension of character narrative. And this episode is a fine example of that.

SUMMARY: Transsexual restaurant manageress Helen is plagued by ex-boyfriend Eddie, who refuses to believe that they are through and not only stalks her but uploads a racy film of her on the Internet. In a time of crisis Helen finds that her best friends are her family, who see her through it and give her a happy birthday.

MY THOUGHTS: I thought this episode was gripping and brilliant. It tackles the tough subject of revenge porn and the humiliation and anxiety that is attached with it. Bethany Black gives a sensational performance throughout and presents a character who utterly doesn't deserve this situation. There are characters in this episode who you just utterly despise, whether its the waitress at Helen's work, or the ex-boyfriend himself.

RATING: 100% - A+

Cucumber - Episode 5 Review

INTRO: Episode 5 continues from where Episode 4 establishes but makes some very brave narrative choices.

SUMMARY: After Henry is unable to regain the money that Lance has taken from their joint account, he generates income from the homoerotic videos starring his nephew Adam and friends. Cleo eventually finds out and puts her foot down after a game called 'Nervous' goes too far. Henry also runs afoul of Freddie's suspicious parents after they find out that he is living in the same apartment as their son. Freddie and Henry have a deep conversation together. Henry decides to spend the evening with Freddie, who wants to talk about Leigh. Meanwhile, Lance is confused at Daniel's domineering sexual attitudes and behaviour towards him. Eventually, Daniel masturbates in front of Lance, and suggests doing something like that again. Henry and Lance finally agree on neutral ground, with Lance proposing to buy out Henry's share of the house. They eventually talk and recall happier times.

MY THOUGHTS: Henry at this point of the story is in full midlife crisis mode. He has no money, his relationships at rock bottom, and his videos exposed which leads to a very intense confrontation with Cleo, which is both unsettling and tough to sit through when he reveals information about her daughter at school. Julie Hesmondhaigh is brilliant in that scene, and very easy to sympathise with. With Lance, the scenes and story with Daniel go up a notch with a shared masturbation scene. It's also very intense and a long watch. And with that, you're no closer to liking Daniel at all.

RATING: 91% - A

Banana Episode 5 Review (Josh)

INTRO: Episode 5 of Banana presents a really interesting conflict. One which I was surprised to see in an LGBT drama, but still welcomed it none the less.

SUMMARY: 18-year old law student Josh has a one night stand with predatory Freddie, mistakenly believing that he has found love, before returning to his small town home for the wedding of best friend Sophie. Josh explains to Sophie that she is too young to marry her dull bride groom and should aim to get more out of life. He was wrong about Freddie but, on the morning of the wedding, will Sophie believe that he is right about her?

MY THOUGHTS: Josh is an extra type character from Episode 5 of Cucumber, in which this episode sees events from his perspective, before going off on his own story. I like the character that his presence irritates everyone a bit, before returning home. It's a little relatable if you've been in that situation. But the story he returns too is really interesting. His best friend is getting married and opting for a settled lifestyle, compared to Josh's adventurous one. That's the fascinating conflict lying in this episode. Settling down vs being free with your life. Both are good lifestyle options, but I like the fact that each are so hostile towards the other. The cast is good in this too, very young, youthful, and interesting to watch.

RATING: 85% - A-

Cucumber - Episode 6 Review

INTRO: Episode 6 of Cucumber is absolutely the best of the run. It's such a unique, poignant, and tense episode throughout. And one of the best TV Episodes I've seen in a long time.

SUMMARY: Telling the story of Lance's life, the episode follows Lance from birth, through childhood and his mother's death, his coming out and his father's gradual acceptance. It shows him gaining self-confidence and love as an adult in Manchester. In the present, Lance receives a number of mixed signals from Daniel while drinking on Canal Street, and is visited by the ghost of Hazel Tyler (Denise Black) from Queer As Folk, also set in Manchester), who tries to warn Lance to go home. At Daniel's, Lance is uncomfortable, but Daniel escalates their encounter until they both perform oral sex. Daniel is overwhelmed with panic and guilt, and verbally and physically attacks Lance, striking him in the head with a golf club. Lance sees his life flash before his eyes as he dies.

MY THOUGHTS: I mean, Cyril Nri. Hats off to you. One of the most beautiful performances I've seen in a long time. Seeing Lance's life from birth to death is such an unused trope, and not often pulled off well. But Cyril, Russell T Davies & Alice Troughton all did a marvellous hand here in making a special episode of TV very rarely will be topped. I found the ending shocking and thrilling. You know Daniel is unsettling throughout the story, but you're not prepared for what's to come here, and his actions set the tension for the remainder of the story.

OVERALL: 100% - A+

Banana Episode 6 Review (Kay & Amy)

INTRO: Another brilliant episode of Banana here, but really on a different level and ability of brilliance.

SUMMARY: Amy, a neurotic who worries over the slightest thing, goes on a blind date with policewoman Kay but her obsessive behaviour gets the evening off to a bad start. Fortunately, Kay is sympathetic - even when Amy interrupts their walk home to greet a 'Big Issue' seller she was afraid had died - and the evening does not end in disaster.

MY THOUGHTS: I loved this episode a lot - mainly for Charlie Covell who is wonderful as Amy. I like how neurotic she is, with the possibility of her having aspergers syndrome in my eyes. I also liked Kay a lot too, and found her very normal and down to earth. She then reveals the aftermath of Cucumber episode 6 which was very interesting. What I've enjoyed about the character of Amy was her internal monologues which were absolutely hilarious to watch as she debates over the very little things going on, as well as the funny fantasy sequences too.

OVERALL: 100% - A+

Cucumber - Episode 7 Review

INTRO: Episode 7 deals with the aftermath of Episode 6, the raw hard emotion that comes with the loss of a character and how to move on.

SUMMARY: Henry is distraught that Lance has died whilst they were not on good terms. Cliff, acting as QC for the prosecution, informs Henry, Cleo, and Lance's sister (amongst others) that Daniel has changed his plea to not guilty. Cliff says that if Daniel is acquitted, he will personally kill him, and the others agree. Henry's search for "one more cock" continues: together with Dean and Freddie, he uses the website Grindr to search. Henry, Dean, and Freddie share a heart-to-heart, where Henry tells why he does not like anal sex. Dean says he comes to orgasm too fast, and Freddie says that heterosexual sex is easier, but he prefers gay sex. When Lance's sister has dinner with Henry, she blames him for her brother's death. Henry breaks down in the restaurant. Slum landlord Roderick evicts all of the residents of the block of flats where Freddie, Dean, and Henry are living. Henry returns to his old home, along with most of the people seen in the series, as the "LGBT+ Collective".

MY THOUGHTS: It's a great episode. The funeral sequence, in particular, is really good. I like how much variety of emotions is displayed and how you can never see coming the breakdown of one character, and the humour in the next minute. After the funeral, the episode goes into a more fun tone. The sequence with Henry, Freddie & Dean in the car is gold. Simply peeling the layer of these characters is so rewarding and rich to watch. The ending is also rather dramatic when all these characters you've seen in Banana & Cucumber collide massively. It's fun to watch, and ends with the highest of highs.

OVERALL - 98% - A

Banana Episode 7 Review (Aiden & Frank)

INTRO: Episode 7 of Banana has some really interesting things to say about relationships in general. Do looks matter?

SUMMARY: Handsome hunk Aiden and the less good-looking Frank are thrown together when they are part of a threesome with a man they met in a club. Next morning they spend time together and get on very well, Frank suggesting that they could be a couple. Despite Frank's view that looks are not everything Aiden is not convinced as he regards himself as out of Frank's league and they can never be anything more than friends.

MY THOUGHTS: I actually was really touched and interested in the subject matter of this episode. The pairing of Aiden & Frank is interesting and engaging to watch. You kind of feel for Frank even if his flaws make him a bit pathetic. He's just a man looking for love, for people that are just way out of his league. And he's not even that unattractive. He's just ordinary and kind of sweet in his own little way. I love the commentary on appearance and compatibility and giving people a chance rather than just dismissing them before phase 1 is even over. The montage near the end was lovely, as well as viewing the timeline of days each relationship will last for. Very creative and clever.

OVERALL: 84% - A-

Cucumber - Episode 8 Review

INTRO: The finale of Cucumber feels very much like an epilogue of a really good book. Not needed to see, but still very good none the less.

SUMMARY: Henry is living happily with "the collective". They help him regain his life. He is exonerated from blame for Sunil Merchandani's suicide and regains his job. But one of Lance's work colleagues visits and blames Henry for his friend's death, making a mistaken claim. Cleo warns Henry that the "collective" won't last forever, and soon people start finding other places to live. Freddie realises that Henry sees him as a substitute for Lance, and has sex with Cliff. Eventually, Freddie disappears, and no one knows where he has gone. Henry is alone in the house when he receives a text from Cliff, addressed also to Cleo and Lance's sister, telling them Daniel was convicted. One year later, Henry runs into Francesco (actually David), and tells him that he and Lance are still together and happy. Years later, Henry happens to run into an older Freddie, and they reminisce about happier days. Henry says that he might, one day, come to terms with being gay.

MY THOUGHTS: As I said in the beginning, this feels very much like an epilogue. Extra information from what could've been the ending in episode 7. I like how it eventually all fades away, and everyone moves on with their lives in their own pace. Except for Henry, who really never moves forward in the end. It's quite sad to watch, and Vincent Franklin's performance is very good. Especially as we see him get older. He never really builds up his confidence with sex. It's something that ultimately tames him in the end. A reminder that sex doesn't always dominate people's lives. The final scene with Henry & Freddie is nice, taking place years later, with new memories & events between them. It's a nice way to end the story.

RATING: 88% - A-

Banana Episode 8 Review (Vanessa & Zara)

INTRO: The last episode of Banana is different, and not always good.

SUMMARY: Contract cleaner Vanessa is clearing out a building, helped by Nigerian Zara, who speaks no English. Despite the language barrier Vanessa deduces that Zara is being sexually abused by Jonjo, who runs the hostel where she and other girls , all illegal immigrants, live but knows that if she tells the police Zara will be deported. They find a wad of money and Vanessa tells Zara to travel to a friend in London with it but when Jonjo returns with the other girls she devises another plan to rectify matters.

MY THOUGHTS: I'll be honest and say that I was slightly disappointed with this episode, but none the less still found it interesting to watch. This story is more tense than the others, and highlighting the issue of illegal immigrants and sexual abuse. It's a good angle to play with, and well acted by everyone involved. Actress Lynn Hunter, who plays Vanessa, is wonderful and presents to us a new side of the character we never considered before. The ending I'll be frank is a little cheesy. Not very nessacary for the type of story they're trying to tell.

RATING: 74% - B+

Connor Macgregor Reviews...Whistle And I'll Come To You (1968)

INTRO: This is a drama that has become widely regarded as one of the all time great ghost stories and this adaptation in 1968 still holds up as one of the most chilling and spectacular I've seen on screen.

SUMMARY: A university professor, confident that everything which occurs in life has a rational explanation, finds his beliefs severely challenged when, during a vacation to a remote coastal village in Norfolk, he blows through an ancient whistle discovered on a beach, awakening horrors beyond human understanding.

MY THOUGHTS: What I really like about this drama is how atmospheric it all is, despite how old the drama is. For something made in the late 60s, it has a fantastic sound design to it which makes the silence so gorgeous, and the background noises very natural with a hint of dread. The central character is a very interesting man to observe. Very baffling. Very odd. He's the type of man that scares people off very easily, and is likely to be a very troubled and emotionally confused man. The hauntings don't catch on for him at first for him, but when they do, he instantly changes and becomes horrified and paranoid of what is going on. And the ghost scenes themselves are pretty chilling. No dramatic sound effects or jump scares. Just very natural, slow but sudden. And very realistic.

RATING: 84% - A-

Connor Macgregor Reviews...Whistle And I'll Come To You (2010)

INTRO: A while ago, I reviewed the original television adaptation of Whistle And I'll Come To You, widely regarded as the scariest ghost story ever written, or something along those lines. In 2010, the story was remade once again with John Hurt now in the title role. So how does it compare to the original?

SUMMARY: After placing his ailing wife Alice (Gemma Jones) in a care home elderly academic James Parkin (Sir John Hurt) goes to stay at a wintry out-of-season hotel which they used to visit together. Walking on a deserted beach he finds a ring with a Latin inscription,which translates as "Who Is This Who Is Coming". He takes the ring back to the hotel but at night he hears loud banging on his door, even though he is the sole guest, as well as seeing a white-clad apparition on the beach. He is seemingly the victim of ghostly revenge. But who is the avenger?

MY THOUGHTS: I think the main takeaway with this is the fact that this is a much darker, more scarier take on the story than the previous edition. The atmosphere is heightened enormously, and the little quieter moments feel more intense and nerve-racking. You're on the edge of your seat more this time, and don't get a chance to really feel relaxed watching the story unfold. John Hurt I think is absolutely brilliant in this part, playing a very sad, anxious, edgy person who seeks solace in a hotel which almost feels abandoned in a way. The scenes on the beach make his character much more frightened and the sense of fear builds bit by bit until the end, you're almost frozen in fear. Lastly, there's the ending. A much different one than the original, but still good. It just adds to the increased fear building throughout the story and leaves viewers with a chill.

RATING: 90% - A-

Connor Macgregor Reviews...Les Miserables (2019) - Episode One

INTRO: Les Miserables remains a classic piece of fiction, depicted in many forms of media. Here, we settle on a miniseries, returning to the novel's source material, and telling a story away from songs and melodies. It's the novel and strictly the novel only.

WARNING: "Episode Plot" spoilers below
Following the Battle of Waterloo, the robber Monsieur Thénardier tries to loot the possessions of fallen soldiers but ends up rescuing a French officer. Meanwhile, the young Marius Pontmercy is raised by his conservative, monarchist grandfather Monsieur Gillenormand, who bars his estranged son-in-law Colonel Georges Pontmercy from having anything to do with his son. Serving a 19-year prison sentence for stealing a loaf of bread, Jean Valjean endures hard labour and the frequent abuse of the prison guards particularly the legalistic Javert. After being released, Valjean is ostracized by much of society due to his criminal status. The kindly Bishop Myriel takes pity on Valjean, giving him shelter and saving him from the police after he steals a basket of silver knives and forks. Valjean robs a coin from a twelve-year-old boy named Petit Gervais. Experiencing remorse, he tries to return the coin but the boy has fled. Elsewhere, Fantine falls in love with Félix Tholomyès. However, he abandons her to return to his family, leaving Fantine and their baby daughter Cosette.

MY THOUGHTS: Technically, this is really well made. Striking camerawork combined with gorgeous cinematography which makes viewing rich and rewarding. You have top notch talent as well attached, with Dominic West playing a much darker unpleasant Jean Valjean alltogether. Unkind and reluctant to accept help from outsiders, Episode One shows Valjean's criminal side before allowing him to taste reform. Lily Collins is also wonderful in the role of Fantine, as we're shown her falling in love and having her heart broken in the process, which gives her story more background and tragedy attached. We also see a different backstory to Thenardier which only adds to his villainry as the story moves forward.

RATING: 86% - A-