Catch-22: Will Gompertz reviews George Clooney's Channel 4 drama ★★★☆☆

Catch-22

Some things in life are difficult. Like attempting to learn the drums in your '50s, or, consequently, having to readjust to new neighbours. And there are some things in life that are really difficult, like ordering food in an unfamiliar language and then trying to persuade your 10-year-old child to eat boiled goat's testicles in a restaurant without making a fuss.

But there are some things in life considered so difficult that conventional wisdom deems them nigh on impossible. Such as walking on air, or transferring Joseph Heller's 1961 classic novel Catch-22 from page to screen.

Mike Nichol proved the sages right with his unconvincing 1970 film adaptation, but that was before today's golden age of slow-burn television where there is both the time and the money available to tell the fragmented, intricate story of an American Air squadron based on an island off the west coast of Italy during World War Two.

Image copyright Abe Books
Image caption Catch-22 by Joseph Heller was published in 1961, and hailed by one critic as "the greatest satirical work in the English language"
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Heller's novel was made into a film in 1970, starring Jon Voight and Anthony Perkins, and directed by Mike Nichols

The good news for the production's backers was the multi-talented George Clooney was willing to help take the strain as a performer, a producer and a director of this Channel 4/Hulu six-part television adaptation by scriptwriters Luke Davies and David Michôd.

Clooney plays General Scheisskopf, a cartoon character of a part, which sees the Oscar-winning actor hamming it up as the cliched all-shouting, all-sneering parade ground bully who yells at those under his command for being a "bunch of pansies" etc.

Read full article Catch-22: Will Gompertz reviews George Clooney's Channel 4 drama ★★★☆☆

Dame Paula Rego: Will Gompertz reviews Obedience and Defiance show in Milton Keynes ★★★★★

Paula Rego exhibition in Milton Keynes

It is June 1998 and Paula Rego is furious. Her people, the Portuguese people, had not turned up in sufficient numbers to vote in the recently held national referendum to change the country's conservative abortion law.

The London-based artist was appalled.

Read full article Dame Paula Rego: Will Gompertz reviews Obedience and Defiance show in Milton Keynes ★★★★★

Killing Eve: Will Gompertz reviews season two of the award-winning drama ★★★★☆

Killing Eve

Killing Eve season two picks up where season one ended, which is to say… badly. After seven faultless episodes, the grand finale of the best TV series of 2018 was almost as underwhelming as Eve Polastri's marriage.

All the delicious ingredients of the previous shows were still there (excellent acting, writing, soundtrack, and directing), but someone tweaked the recipe and served up a bit of dog's dinner with a distinctly hammy whiff.

Read full article Killing Eve: Will Gompertz reviews season two of the award-winning drama ★★★★☆

Lee Krasner: Will Gompertz reviews the 20th Century's unsung artist

Lee Krasner: Living Colour

Lee Krasner was in Paris when she received the call.

It was sometime around midday on Sunday 12 August 1956. The American artist had never been to the French capital before, although she'd been inspired by others who had, namely Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Vincent van Gogh.

Read full article Lee Krasner: Will Gompertz reviews the 20th Century's unsung artist

Chelsea Flower Show review: Will Gompertz visits the pageant of plants ★★★★☆

Chelsea Flower Show

Last weekend the Duchess of Cambridge was splashed all over newspaper front pages swinging on a ball of rope like Miley Cyrus on her infamous wrecking ball, albeit wearing more clothes but with a similar taste in footwear.

She wasn't doing it to sell a song but to promote her "Back to Nature" garden at this year's Chelsea Flower Show, a co-created "woodland wilderness" designed to promote the benefits of an outdoor life for mental and physical wellbeing.

Read full article Chelsea Flower Show review: Will Gompertz visits the pageant of plants ★★★★☆

Rocketman: Will Gompertz reviews 'disappointing' Elton John biopic ★★★☆☆

Rocketman

The team behind Rocketman have pulled off the most astonishing feat. Against all the odds, they have managed to produce a two-hour greatest hits musical that turns one of the most flamboyant, gifted and charismatic performing artists of the modern era into a bit of a bore.

A lot of words have been written and spoken about Sir Elton John over his 50 years in showbiz, but "dull" is not usually among them.

Read full article Rocketman: Will Gompertz reviews 'disappointing' Elton John biopic ★★★☆☆

Will Gompertz reviews the 2019 Venice Art Biennale ★★★☆☆

Will in Venice graphic

This week's invite only "Private View" of the Venice Biennale (which opens today) was one weird affair. It was like being dropped into the middle of a Wes Anderson movie.

The place was heaving with characters. Artists, posers, dealers, curators, billionaires, bureaucrats, fakes, freeloaders, snobs, journalists, pseuds, hustlers, and narcissists all cramming themselves into tiny spaces and noisy halls to get a glimpse of some box-fresh contemporary art.

Read full article Will Gompertz reviews the 2019 Venice Art Biennale ★★★☆☆

Will Gompertz reviews Chernobyl starring Emily Watson & Jared Harris on Sky Atlantic ★★★★★

Chernobyl on Sky Atlantic

To say Sky/HBO's new mini-series Chernobyl is thought-provoking would be like describing Usain Bolt as quite a fast runner, or the water under the Antarctic sea ice as a bit chilly.

This is TV that doesn't just get you thinking, it stops you sleeping.

Read full article Will Gompertz reviews Chernobyl starring Emily Watson & Jared Harris on Sky Atlantic ★★★★★

Will Gompertz reviews Stanley Kubrick: The Exhibition, at London's Design Museum ★★★★★

Stanley Kubrick: The Exhibition

Serendipity is the unsung hero of creativity. Any entrepreneur, scientist or artist will testify to that. As will most film-makers.

Luck always has a part to play in the making of a movie, it just never gets a credit.

Read full article Will Gompertz reviews Stanley Kubrick: The Exhibition, at London's Design Museum ★★★★★

Will Gompertz reviews Sir David Attenborough’s Our Planet, on Netflix ★★★★☆

Our Planet

If there is an art to sugaring the pill, then Netflix and the production team at Silverback Films have perfected it with their 8x1-hour natural history TV series, Our Planet.

The world might be going to hell in a handcart as wildlife populations plummet, rain forests are decimated, and for the first time in human history we are told the "stability of nature can no longer be taken for granted". But somehow it doesn't seem so awful or imminent when one of the greatest broadcasters who has ever lived is giving you the bad news.

Read full article Will Gompertz reviews Sir David Attenborough’s Our Planet, on Netflix ★★★★☆