What we're watching and playing this week
The Professor and the Madman (18)
Making a film about the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary needn’t have caused controversy. But even without Susie Dent in their corner, director Farhad Safinia (aka P.B. Shemran) and his leading literary man Mel Gibson still have a few choice, nine-letter words to say about The Professor and The Madman.
With its filming apparently shot down five days early and Gibson not being afforded the chance to see the final cut, this Voltage Pictures release is charged full of enmity, both in plot and litigiousness.
Let’s ignore the court case, for one moment, though, and try to enjoy what on paper could be a thoroughly intriguing yarn.
Gibson plays Sir James ‘The Professor’ Murray, who in 1857 sets about creating the most complete tome charting the evolution of the English language into the parlance of his day. Murray is aided on his way to this glorious feat by an American scholar, W.C. Minor (Sean Penn), who submits some 10,000 entries for the work, but has spent much of his recent life being shunted from lunatic asylum to lunatic asylum. His input, although pivotal, is dismissed again and again by Murray’s Oxford overseers.
Gibson spent 20 years trying to bring Simon Winchester’s The Surgeon of Crowthorne to the big screen and with fine British talent of the ilk of Steve Coogan, Jennifer Ehle, Steve Marsan and Ioan Gruffud in on the act, it’s a shame he and Safinia didn’t have the last word.
In cinemas March 28
Lend us your ears, if you will, and let us explain why this Disney reboot has appeared on these pages. Firstly, we love a bit of nostalgia and how else could we rekindle our youth than by revisiting a faithful friend? Secondly, the genius that is Tim Burton is in the chair, bringing this timeless tale of circus-freakshow-cum-have-a-go-hero to spectacular life. The ensemble cast is fantastic, too, with Farrell, Keaton and DeVito all gloriously involved.
In cinemas March 28
The Walking Dead: The Final Season (PEGI 18)
Fans of the show that, like the wave after wave of apocalyptic zombies, are never quite satisfied, can put an end to their bloodthirstiness with this battle to end all battles. Taking place three years after the events of A New Frontier, you’ll play the ever-resourceful Clementine as she tries to raise Alvin Jr. while battling demons from her past.
Out on Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One and PC from March 26
Assassin’s Creed III Remastered (PEGI 18)
Should you have missed out on reliving the American Revolution first time around, Ubisoft has kindly given part three of this tremendous tale of slit-your-throat skullduggery a second chance. Fight for freedom as Connor, your would-be Native American hero, taking on your foes with an enhanced arsenal, and with infinitely advanced gameplay.
Out on PS4, Xbox One and PC from March 29
Imagine the dating profile: Supremely successful entrepreneur seeks honest, engaging, attractive male with a certain je ne sais quoi.
Now imagine the kind of oddballs you could meet having posted that. Debra Newell’s string of ‘matches’ are supremely unsuitable, ranging from the arrogant to the obnoxious, tight-fisted to the ‘I just can’t see why she left me’ loser.
It’s hard not to pity Connie Britton’s character. But then John Meehan comes along, turning her lonely world upside down, seeming like her knight in shining armour (only in a T-shirt and shorts combo, or stolen scrubs).
However, Debra’s romantic idyll begins to unravel right from the first date as John (Eric Bana) storms out of her apartment having been asked to sleep on the sofa.
Dirty John is based upon the hugely successful podcast of the same name that was created by Los Angeles Times journalist Christopher Goffard, who came across the real-life Meehan during a murder investigation being conducted in Newport Beach.
Goffard’s series was an instant hit, garnering some 10 million downloads in the six weeks after he first uploaded it.
This adaptation was created by Andrea Cunningham, who was perfectly placed to take on such a project having spent six years writing for Desperate Housewives.
Britton is hugely believable as Debra, a woman desperate to find love after four failed marriages but blinkered by the affection she’s being shown by the clearly unhinged lover she’s allowed to breeze so effortlessly into her life.
Her two daughters, Veronica and Terra (played with no little skill by Juno Temple and Julia Garner respectively), are instantly freaked out by this imposter, whose web of deceit begins to untangle when Veronica discovers he lied about being a qualified anaesthetist.
Bana is well suited to the fake Mr Nice Guy role (who turns abusive when things don’t go his way) and he brings some of his Chopper menace to the role.
One gripe of ours about Dirty John is that, knowing how deeply Goffard scratched under the surface of this real-life tale of deviousness and abuse, it’s a shame Cunningham hasn’t quite done the same with her version of it.
Characters such as Veronica and Terra were never quite fleshed out enough, which makes it all the more strange a second season with an entirely new set of faces and trauma is on its way.
Available now on Netflix
Fans of this Daredevil spin-off were devastated to discover that Marvel had decided to curtail the story of Frank Castle, aka The Punisher, after series two. Jon Bernthal’s likeable vigilante might have taken to a life on the road in the second run but surely there was enough guts about this character to have carried on his narrative, dispensing with a few weaker personnel in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in the process. Perhaps we’ll never know...
Available now on Netflix