Dahl and Orwell classics: Five things to watch this weekend
A docuseries about the rise and fall of e-cigarette maker Juul and a Richard Burton performance are on offer
Big Vape: The Rise and Fall of Juul — Netflix
A cautionary tale from the recent halcyon and optimistic days of big tech is offered in this four-part docuseries about the spectacular rise and dramatic fall of e-cigarette manufacturer Juul. Relying on the book by Time journalist Jamie Ducharme the series tells the story of how in the early 2000s, when tech seemed to offer so many solutions for the problems of the world, two students devised an e-cigarette that they believed would help to counteract the health risks of smoking by offering a smoke-free, healthy nicotine consumption alternative. As their product went stratospheric and started to make them richer than they could ever have imagined, it emerged that many of its users were children, leading to a public outcry, government intervention and ultimately the demise of the company and the reputation of its founders.
The Swan, Poison, The Rat Catcher — Netflix
Wes Anderson’s series of short-film adaptations of the short stories of Roald Dahl is completed by these three dark tales from the master of the unexpected. Perfectly balancing Anderson’s love of careful visual curation and dry absurdist humour with the arching wink of Dahl’s narrative style, the series offers a satisfying and memorable on-screen realisation of some of the writer’s best tales for adults. It is ably and enthusiastically brought to life by a star-studded cast that includes Dev Patel, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ralph Fiennes and Richard Ayoade.
Ash Is Purest White — Mubi.com
Modern social realist master Zhangke Jia offers a distinctive take on the romantic drama in this moving 2018 tale of the forbidden love between a young dancer and a local mobster in one of China’s many rapidly industrialising cities. Taking in the first two decades of a swiftly changing 21st century landscape it is both an engaging gangster morality tale and an astute commentary on how the changes to the country’s economic and political fortunes have affected citizens.
Cassandro — Prime Video
Gael Garcia Bernal gives a career-best performance in this inspirational biopic about a gay Mexican man who used his outsider status to full effect to become “The Liberace of Lucha Libre”, one of the country’s most popular wrestling stars. Bernal gives the performance his all and makes the familiar story of self and social acceptance more than just another by-the-numbers “chicken soup for the soul”, true-story adaptation.
1984 — Prime Video
It’s not a perfect adaptation of George Orwell’s seminal and still prescient antitotalitarian dystopian classic but there is still plenty to admire about Michael Radford’s film version, originally released appropriately in 1984. Starring legendary British actors John Hurt — as Winston Smith — and Richard Burton as O’Brien and scored with eerie industrial sonic foreboding by Rick Wakeman, it is notable in particular for the way in which it smartly places Orwell’s vision of the future as firmly informed by the grime and ruin of the postwar Britain he saw while writing it.
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