Posts tagged with "Review"

Sigmund Judge

'Billie Eilish: The World's A Little Blurry' Review

A personal look at the rise of a teenage icon.

Billie Eilish image courtesy of Apple 

Billie Eilish: The World's A Little Blurry - Premieres February 26th, Apple TV+

There’s nothing quite like watching your favourite music artist stay true to their ambitious vision and subsequently shoot to the moon on a rocket-fuelled by universal adulation. The latest film from award-winning documentarian R.J. Cutler captures that experience first-hand in a way that is equally as raw and unpretentious as its on-screen subject.

Billie Eilish at age nineteen has reached the stratospheric heights of fame and popularity through her music and unique visual stylings which not only entertain but exude the kind of vulnerability one would expect from a teenager juggling her career with the kind of anxiety and ponderous questions that tend to overwhelm us all both during and beyond adolescence. It's that type of vulnerability that has been key to her success and what makes the two-plus hours of this verité-style documentary a brilliantly authentic introduction to the human and the support network behind a generational talent. A talent unearthed at age thirteen when Billie's brother posted a song they had written for a dance recital to the internet.

That home recording of 'Ocean Eyes' is just one of the many clips of family home videos spliced with RJ Cutler's footage that fortuitously captured the rise of a star from late 2018 through Eilish's historic Grammys success in 2020. Go Pro's document the creative process within her family's Los Angeles home studio which leads to the much-celebrated sophomore album 'When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?' The work of spooky-sibling telepathy between Eilish and her exceptionally talented older-sibling Finneas O'Connell. A traditional camera crew follow Eilish on tour around the world and her ever-present parents document the typical teenage milestones and creative differences between their son and daughter.

Billie Eilish and Patrick O'Connell image courtesy of Apple 

I was a fan of Billie's and Finneas's before, I am now as much a fan of their mom Maggie Baird and father Patrick O'Connell. The two ever-present parents pride for their children radiates the screen and their protective instincts leave a measure of reassurance to anyone with the first-hand experience of an industry fraught with potential dangers. In one scene Billie is sat alongside her publicist discussing the potential pitfalls of making broad anti-drug statements early on as a public figure only for her mom to chime in "Are you actually not going to let her be authentic to who she is now, in case she grows up to do drugs?."

Another stand-out scene sees father Patrick channel Richard Linklaters 'Boyhood' as he talks to the camera shortly after his daughter sets off on her first car ride. "We live in denial. You can't think too hard, or you won't let her do anything. I had a drink of something and I completely choked on it. I had water the other day and it came out of my nose, my eyes welled up and I think it's remarkable that we stay alive at all. We're this delicate system. You have to have faith and do your best. Live your best life and then you have to live in denial."

Billie Eilish and Finneas O'Connell image courtesy of Apple 

There is relatability on show interweaved with the unpredictable nature of superstardom not often given screen time or column inches; the joy of touring juxtaposed with the fear of not being missed by those left behind. The quiet backstage disappointment with a self-perceived sub-par performance. The breaking down of a body and the constant reminder of a passion shelved out of necessity. The pressure put on an individual to save face and not let that mask slip for a moment. Love loss and depression. This film tackles all this and more.

More importantly 'The World's A Little Blurry' offers compassion and empathy toward fandom. Billie Eilish explains early on how she feared that her love for her idol and fellow pop-superstar Justin Bieber would ruin any romantic life going forward, worried no-one could live up to him. So worried was her mother that she considered taking Billie to therapy. Fast forward to April 2019 and after having played one of the main stages at Coachella on the back of her debut album topping charts around the world, she is faced with her adolescent crush only to break down for a full 30 seconds. At that moment she could just have easily been any one of the millions of fans that idolise her. That is why she is so real to so many.

Jonathan Reed

‘For All Mankind’ Review: Season 2 Ups The Thrills, Without Losing Sight Of Its Characters

For All Mankind Season 2 - Full season watched for review.

Premieres February 19th, Apple TV+

Season 1 of For All Mankind was a well made but often frustrating show. It too often matched cliché characterisation and glacial plot progression with great performances and some whip-snap plot turns. It didn’t help that the four characters the show focused most on were not very relatable and frequently unlikeable; Ed, Karen, Gordo and Tracey. However, after a slow start, it culminated in a gripping final 2 episodes. The scene was set for an exciting season 2. For the most part, it does not disappoint.

Episode 1 starts with an extended montage of alt-history headlines, taking us 9 years ahead to 1983. There's a sense of urgency, bringing in the outer world’s influence on the inner world of NASA. Some of history stays the same, and some is different. It all seems well-considered and not just random.

As do pretty much all of the character paths and changes as we re-join them. In hindsight, it feels a lot of season 1 was treading water, allowing for plots to more easily fall into place in season 2. Creator Ronald D Moore has said he’s planned 7 seasons for this show. It doesn’t seem surprising judging by the amount of groundwork going on here.

The fall out from the death of their son Shane last season has given Ed (Joel Kinnaman) and Karen (Shantel VanSanten) fresh perspectives and while there are demons to be addressed they feel easier to connect with, giving them much more depth than ‘butch pilot’ and ‘acid-tongued wife’. However, one plot-line late in the season threatens to derail all of that good work.

The new season has mixed results for our other central duo, Gordo and Tracey. Gordo is on the speaker circuit, getting drunk and putting on weight. It’s a sad insight into what could happen after the ‘party’ is over. Michael Dorman plays it well, and it’s tragic to see. The problem is, this isn’t a show about drunk speakers. The way the writers bring Gordo back into the fold is both too obvious and too easy. Dorman does a good job, but it still feels a little forced.

Tracey, however, comes off the worst. She’s now a celebrity astronaut, appearing on Carson and living in a mansion. It’s the most frustrating and even stupid thing about this season. Almost all nuance is given up for the character, and I genuinely felt sorry for actor Sarah Jones. Also, does anyone even care whether she and Gordo are together? I don’t.

Elsewhere is where the show comes alive. The beauty of this sprawling show is the large ensemble. The well of characters to draw from is deep, smaller characters are expanded like government lackey Thomas Paine, and Bill Strausser and even Margo’s new secretary has some great smaller moments.

Speaking of which, Wrenn Schmidt as Margo, by far the best character, is now heading up NASA and having no time for your crap, thank you very much. With many angles to play and layers to reveal, actor Wrenn Schmidt is quietly giving one of the best performances on TV right now. Ellen (Jodi Balfour) also gets to grow into a new role on the administrative side, wrestling with the increased government and military influence as well as her secret sexuality. Sonya Wagner as Molly, upgraded to series regular this year, is a big part of episode 1 and continues to be a joy to watch the rest of the season. Krys (Danielle Poole) is also trying to discover her legacy and how she finds her place in the African-American story. Considering how history has developed, I hope we dig more into her story over coming seasons.

There’s plenty of character work going on which all provides a fantastic appetiser to GUNS ON THE MOON!

Only joking, though as you can see from the poster that does happen. No, what we want is more space action! Season 1 finally went there at the end, and you’ll get more here, but importantly, it’s not at the expense of plot.

While season 1’s outside threat of the Soviet’s space plans was, for the most part, out of sight, season 2 sees it become much more influential. Now we’ve moved past the point of actually trying to GET to the moon, NASA and the Soviets now want to assert their pressence. This brings them into much more direct conflict, political and otherwise. Margo, Ellen and others have to deal with all the political machinations of governments wanting to flex their insecure muscles as well as who to pick for the next mission to the moon. It’s the strongest part of the season’s plot arcs.

Increasingly the characters are dealing with the ongoing toll of these missions, all the while grappling with their place in history and what legacy each other, as well as NASA, will leave. When the show drills into this, it makes for some great moments, even as we look forward to the next moment IN SPACE!

The first episode is a thrilling hour. Giving the characters plenty to do early on, it culminates in a pulse-pounding final few minutes. The seasons opening episode is the show at it’s most potent - building on strong characterisation, engrossing direction and a pretty sizeable special effects budget; it will have you counting the days until episode 2 (you don’t get the first 3 episodes at once this time).

For All Mankind season 2 is an example of a maturing show; building on what’s gone before while learning from its missteps and introducing more high drama. It can still be a little cheesy in parts (there are TWO impromptu singalongs in the first 3 episodes) and one or two plots threaten to slip into cliché, but above it, all the writers never lose sight of the fact that character is king. Succeed with that, and it only enhances the thrills and fun of the plot. It’s what makes the best entertainment and what makes this show thoroughly enjoyable, even as it shows it’s potential to become truly great in years to come.

Sigmund Judge

‘The Snoopy Show’ Review: Friends Til The End

The Snoopy Show - Premieres February 5th, Apple TV+

For many adults around the world cartoonist Charles M. Schulz left a sizeable imprint on their youth, penning over 18,000 cartoon strips, running in more than 2,600 newspapers for nearly half a century and reaching millions of readers around the globe in the process. Those illustrations were equally as playful as they were satirical with quippy one-liners and gags that were set in a world where adults couldn’t be seen and where no technology past the 1970’s could be used.

For a contemporary audience “Peanuts” star Snoopy will be something conjured up only by yearly tradition thanks to holiday specials like “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” or “A Charlie Brown Christmas”. For me those specials - as good as they were - always lacked the original cartoon strips zeal for imaginative childlike play, and so whilst I enjoy them, there’s always been something that just didn’t sit quite right knowing that they were deemed by many as the ultimate interpretation of Schulz’s work despite his involvement.

“The Snoopy Show”, which debuts Friday, is everything I remember those original cartoon strips to be. Those same strips that I grew so attached to. All of the original gang have been brought to life by the talented team over at WildBrain, perfectly encapsulating my memories through three seven-minute shorts per each 23-minute episode with every TV app episode tile an entry-point into another batch of short adventures.

Where-as there have been disappointing attempts in recent history to modernise “Peanuts” folklore and art style, “The Snoopy Show” really does not only reintroduce the familiar to those that have grown up with the cartoons but it also offers that whimsy that transcends generations. Yes the iconic visual art-style in intact, as is Lucy’s psychiatric booth and Charlie Brown’s charming yet nervous energy, but it’s the way Stephanie Betts and Mark Evestaff’s team have seamlessly adapted the original strips for television that offered up my personal unbridled joy. One particular early short re-tells the first meeting of Woodstock and Snoopy, and where the original strips would see both non-speaking characters communicate through thought bubbles, it’s instead their actions, yelps, titters and cry’s that emit playful emotions after a combative first meeting which soon ends in friendship and play.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a true adaptation of Schulz’s work if that world wasn’t also set partially in reality, exploring frustration and other less-than euphoric feelings which is unusual in the modern landscape of cartoons. Something especially needed today as children have more and more questions and in some ways have had to deal with more disappointments than most over the last twelve months. When offering impressionable eyes escapism, its the messages that are grounded in reality that will have an ever-lasting effect.

Whilst the Emmy Award winning “Peanuts in Space: Secrets of Apollo 10,” and the Emmy nominated “Snoopy in Space” were nice re-introductions to Snoopy, Woodstock, Charlie Brown, Franklin, Lucy van Pelt, Linus van Pelt, Peppermint Patty and Sally Brown, something felt missing and left me feeling like the last of the litter to be adopted. “The Snoopy Show” ended that wait for adoption. Much like a sheepish Charlie Brown, the show threw this long-time Peanuts fan a bone, reassuring me “we’re going to be friends til the end.”

Jonathan Reed

‘Palmer’ Review: Easy But Predictable Fare Featuring A Charming Young Performance

Palmer - Premieres January 29th, Apple TV+

I feel like I’ve seen Palmer several times before. It’s that predictable. That’s not to say it’s a bad movie. In fact, sometimes the fun comes from watching a film and knowing exactly where the plot is going, wallowing in that predictability.

Palmer, from fantastic character actor and sometime director Fisher Stevens, features your regular roster of small-town characters dealing with their small-town lives, prejudices, problems and dramas. Palmer (Justin Timberlake) is fresh out of prison for a violent crime he committed in college. He goes home to stay with his lovely but set in her ways grandma (June Squibb), where after hooking up with old friends and a neighbour he sets about trying to get a job and set himself on the right track. Then he reluctantly befriends a young boy (it’s more one-way friendship at first).

Where the film takes a slight detour from the norm is that while the boy has those usual home problems these kids always do, he’s also someone who loves fairies, pink, dresses and makeup. Not exactly readily accepted in these kinds of towns. It’s a nice touch that the film doesn’t spend too much time on why Sam, the boy, likes these things. Many people in the movie readily accept him for who he is and the ones who don’t clearly come across as the bad guys. It’s also lovely to see Sam doesn’t question himself. He likes what he likes, and that’s it. It’s normal.

After Sam’s mother leaves town, Palmer and his grandma look after him, not knowing for how long. Cue cute bonding sessions and a slow melting of the mighty outer shell of Palmer. That’s only the setup, but if you guessed what else happens, you’d probably be right.

Despite a standout performance in 2006’s Alpha Dog, Justin Timberlake’s breakout role was in 2010’s The Social Network as Sean Parker, creator of Napster and early investor in Facebook. JT, as we all know him, got to pour all of his charisma, winning smile and sparkly-eyed looks into a larger than life person. It was perfect casting, and he rewarded director David Fincher with a character of duplicitous flavour. It was maybe the stand out performance of an already stacked film.

That’s what makes his casting and performance in Palmer so strange. It’s not that it’s a bad performance, it’s that the character itself has no charisma. I'm guessing JT wanted to try something new but, maybe because he himself is so full of life, his performance just comes off as relatively flat. He seems to think ‘troubled and withdrawn’ means a straight, sullen faced, not revealing any emotion. I think it’s about 30 minutes in before he shows real emotion on his face. As the character starts to open up during the film, sure enough, the performance gets better.

Interestingly, when you compare JT to Ted Lasso star Juno Temple, you see the difference in performance vs character. Like Ted Lasso, Temple’s character is very stereotypical. However, unlike Ted Lasso, the film doesn’t try to write any depth into her drug-addicted, wayward mother. This doesn’t stop Temple from throwing everything she has at the character, so she becomes a gripping screen presence. For Palmer, JT takes a fully rounded character and tries to pull back on the character depths, hoping it makes him seem troubled and difficult.

As you’d expect, the character of Sam, the young boy Palmer has to look after, falls into the quippy, cheeky and loveable style that all these types do. But to the writer’s and actor Ryder Allen’s credit it’s to just the right level. A boy liking to dress up in pink and watch fairy cartoons could have easily been played as large, over the top or even for comedy. In this case, you never forget you’re looking at a real boy who just happens to like ‘girls’ things. It’s a good performance that balances out the sullenness of other parts of the film.

The film may be very predictable, have a not entirely convincing lead performance and be a bit too light on character development (especially the women, like Sam’s mother and his school teacher) but it is quite watchable. It’s unchallenging, and sometimes that can be what you need. Watching a film shouldn't always be an entirely unpredictable experience, sometimes you need the comfort of knowing what you’re going to get. Palmer offers that; family dramas to solve, small-town life, an uncomplicated plot, redemption and a charming child actor.

Jonathan Reed

'Wolfwalkers' Review - The First A+ TV+ Oscar Contender

Wolfwalkers - now available on Apple TV+

There’s a sequence partway through Wolfwalkers where a wolf runs through the forest in a high sensory state as we follow along through this ‘tunnel’. It’s worth pointing out that this is a hand-drawn, 2D animated sequence. As is the rest of the film (with some small digital effects), resulting in what I can say is one of the most beautiful animated films in the last 20 years. I’m honestly struggling to find a film more beautiful. Some of Studio Ghibli's best work manages to be as good, but it would be tough to say which is the better looking.

In an age where 3D animated movies are not just preferred but the default, Wolfwalkers reminds us how stunning hand-drawn animation can be and why, when at the top of their game, 2D animated films can't be beaten on looks.

Wolfwalkers is based around the Irish folklore of people being cursed to live out their lives as wolves. So far, so ‘heard-it-before. However, the movie takes a much different, lighter approach and frames becoming a wolf as becoming the authentic version of yourself.

The main character, Robin, dreams of being a hunter, is proficient with her crossbow and even has a pet falcon. Meanwhile, her father (Sean Bean, all duty and obligation, in a role similar to his one in Game of Thrones) is working under the employment of The Lord Commander to root out the wolves who guard the forest and are hampering the attempts to knock it down. The Lord Commander is, in all but name, Oliver Cromwell, historically a prominent villain and oppressor in Ireland.

Without spoiling too much, Robin meets a 'Wolfwalker’ by the name of Mebh, who can turn into a wolf when she wants and has been raised in the forest. This makes her start to challenge her Father’s and society’s expectations for her as well as beginning to fight back against The Lord Commander’s destructive, oppressive reign.

Robin (Honor Kneafsey) is an immediately identifiable character. Full of life and inner strength while also sensitive and thoughtful. Combined with Mebh (Eva Whittaker), a very talkative and often brash girl, they make a great pairing and engaging to watch. Both young performers are great, but it’s Whittaker who really steals the show. There’s bringing a character to life, and then there’s her performance as Mebh. It’s hard to emphasise how much it brings to the film. Robin is our conduit into the story and the straight character. The only other main characters are Robin’s father and The Lord Commander, and they are very much supporting roles. Mebh could quite easily have been written and performed as an annoying loudmouth, but Whittaker’s infuses her with wit, passion, anger and a touch of sadness to power the story.

The story itself is excellent, yet very simple. While the legend of the Wolfwalker is based in Irish folklore, it’s hardly unique, and the story certainly contains hints of some of Ghibli’s work. The most obvious being Princess Mononoke. However it never feels old and apart from the maybe protracted climax, runs along at a great pace, never treading water.

The climax is probably the only real criticism of the film. Though while it could have done with some trimming, it’s not like it feels laboured at all an is always stunning to look at.

Which brings us to the animation, the real triumph of this film.

Not only are there lush, beautiful and detailed backgrounds but several animated styles are used. The film doesn’t just try to create lots of great styles for the sake of it, though. There is an incredible amount of thought into everything. The Lord Commander’s troops appear in this block style of animation while Mebh and the forest are in this free-flowing, loose style. We have scenes with a deep field of visions like the freedom of the forest.

Conversely, we see scenes of peril or just oppression within the township where backgrounds and the subjects are claustrophobically packed together. There are even small, fun touches like when some sheep are tipped out of a cage, and they keep their square shape for a moment. If you don’t want to go back for the story (you will), you’ll at least want to go back to marvel at the visuals.

Cartoon Saloon are a relatively young studio, still independent and with only a handful of films so far. However, they’ve shown that size is no substitute for talent. I hope they manage to stay independent and keep producing stunning pieces of work like this. There’s no reason to suspect they won’t.

If there is any justice, Wolfwalkers will win an Oscar. In the meantime, this is quite simply the perfect film to sit down to watch at Christmas with all your family. It's beautiful, uplifting, funny, charming, thrilling, shocking and ultimately incredibly enjoyable—a wonderful, well-needed treat to finish off the year.

Jonathan Reed

Bruce Ruminates on Grief, Loss and Life in the ‘Extended Album’ Film ‘Letter To You’ (Apple TV+ Review)

A heavy-headed Bruce Springsteen opens ‘Letter to You’, the new documentary film on Apple TV+, with an ode to his long, almost half a century ‘conversation’ with his bandmates and us, the fans. He talks of his need to communicate and that he doesn’t why.

It’s a very sombre and reflective way to open a film about possibly the greatest rock star of all time. Still, it sets the tone for a film that’s deep in emotion, memories, grief and also, celebration and gratefulness.

It should be said that I’m a Springsteen fan. I own several of his LPs on vinyl. More than any other artist, save my all-time favourites, Eels. This is also important in judging my enjoyment of the film. If you’re not a fan of the man, then this isn’t going to be your sort of film.

It should also be said that this is very much an accompanying film to his latest LP, Letter to You. To be fair, that’s the title of the film AND the album so we maybe shouldn’t expect more, and for the most part, what the film does is add more depth and weight to what is already a defining album.

What comes across the most is Bruce’s gratefulness. Grateful for the career he’s had, the people he’s met and most of all the band he’s been able to play with all these years, The E Street Band.

This is the first album where The E Street Band and Bruce have all been together playing in the studio simultaneously since ‘Born To Run’, 25 years ago. So what we really get is like a concert album. We hear all the tracks and see the band playing together as one. As a fan, it’s a fantastic experience.

In between the tracks, Bruce talks about his career growing up, from his start in The Castiles to early albums and phone calls from Bob Dylan. Again, very reflective.

Whether the film is a success depends on what you’re expecting and what you want. If you’re expecting a film that’s going to celebrate the history of Bruce and the E Street Band without going into too much depth, then you’ll be pleased. If you want a profound look into who Bruce is as a person and the troubles and successes along the way, you’ll be a bit disappointed.

However, I don’t think that’s a criticism. It doesn’t try to be anything else than a nostalgic reminisce and celebration of who Bruce and the band are. That being said, Bruce’s introductions to some of the songs add real weight to their meaning (pro-tip: turn on subs during the songs). As a band that’s still hurting from the enormous losses of Danny Federici and Clarence Clemons, the performance of the song ‘See You in my Dreams’ is particularly heartbreaking. Only adding to that is the sight of producer Jon Landau visibly breaking down while listening back to it.

These people have come a long way and been through a lot.

Closing out the film (over more beautiful shots of snowy New Jersey), Bruce considers how fragile and finite life is and how we only have so much left; how lucky we are to be alive and be able to do what we can do. Bruce Springsteen is someone who has represented the average American throughout his entire career. He’s someone who has sung about the hardships and triumphs of ordinary life: finding a paycheck, finding love, losing love, watching your community struggle around you and the triumphs when people succeed. Even in a film which is essentially an extended version of an album it carries weight. It’s emotional, celebratory, reflective, and most of all, grateful. Oh, and it has some great music.

Jonathan Reed

It’s Easy to be Charmed by Apple’s Lightweight, Tiny World

Tiny World, on Apple TV+, is charming but ultimately aimed at the wrong audience.

“He’s not the greatest dancer... but at least he’s... staying alive.”

That’s one of the actual lines Paul Rudd says in Tiny World, the new nature documentary/non-fiction story series from Apple TV+.

Here’s another one: “Where there’s a will and some nuts, there’s a way.”

So, unless you like cheesy Dad jokes, this may not line up with your expectation of this series as Apple’s contribution to the fine world of nature programming. An area which is dominated by the quite extraordinary work created by the BBC with Sir David Attenborough.

However, that is my main criticism of this show: expectations. Apple, wanting to get in on this increasingly popular genre, has pitched this along with their other main programming as something of an equal to Sir David’s work. It isn’t. This isn’t a criticism, though. It’s a lovely little show, but for a specific audience.

Tiny World is six episodes long at around 30 minutes each. Each episode focuses on a different area: Savannah, Jungle, Island, Outback, Woodland and Garden. They tend to follow one main creature’s journey through this part of the world, turning off slightly to briefly focus on another animal that our main character comes across.

That’s also the keyword here: brief. Covering 5/6 creatures per episode, it doesn’t have time to focus on the real details of each one. So it avoids explicitly (almost) any negative focus on death or real struggle. It also completely avoids any mention of environmental threat which Sir David’s shows are now increasingly focused on.

It’s almost as if it’s not aimed at people like myself. This is my point.

Tiny World is a wonderful show for kids to watch.

Tiny World is a wonderful show for kids to watch. Sitting down on their own, or even better, as a young family, this show is perfect for kids aged 2 upwards, to about 11. It doesn't show anything that’s really going to scare or upset them, but it really gives a great perspective on these critters with some lovely, small scale, low to the ground photography. It would have been a fantastic addition to the Kids section on Apple TV.

Paul Rudd is a reasonable narrator but ultimately a strange choice. I’ll happily admit to having a massive man-crush on the man, but this would have been better with someone a bit lighter or, here’s a crazy thought, a woman!

The show isn’t completely devoid of threat; at one point a poor ant get’s eaten by some sand-dwelling bug, but not before a valiant friend tries to save it. A garden bird gets pounced on by the hawk and eaten, but we only see the hawk land on the camera and then afterwards with some feathers in its mouth.

These are rare moments, though. The show is primarily focused on the heroic struggles and frequent victories of these tiny creatures. The photography is up close and personal with occasional flourishes like a shot dropping from the clouds, straight down into a termite mound or some great tracking shots of gliding birds. This means if you’ve got a big TV, you really see the detail in incredible 4K. My kittens were completely hypnotised throughout the whole of one episode!

So if you have young children, sit down with them to watch this show. They’ll be amazed by what they see and will likely pique their interest in the natural world. Then it’s time for Sir David to blow their minds.

Tiny Worlds complete season 1 is available to stream now on Apple TV+.

Sigmund Judge

Review: Twelve South AirFly Pro Bluetooth Transmitter

Review: Twelve South AirFly Pro Bluetooth Transmitter

I love my surround sound and after ten years my cinema surround system continues to make up part of my premiere movie viewing experience. When I finish working for the day, I sit back on the sofa with a cup of tea and ask Siri to play something from my movie library or queue up one of the copious amounts of new episodic originals. It’s time to relax and immerse myself in story.

Here’s the thing: whilst I love the satisfying thuds and thunder from my system connected to the Apple TV, for my co-habitants and neighbours during the twilight hours its often to much; even when reducing loud sounds. So late night, I often revert to a discreet viewing experience through my AirPods. It’s a great feature let down by the limitation of only being able to pair one set of Bluetooth headphones at a time.

The lack of audio-sharing on Apple TV is disappointing; a feature shipped with iOS 13.1 that allows users to share the audio they are listening to with a friend by connecting two pairs of compatible Bluetooth headphones to a single supported Apple device. It’s a feature many have been crying out for on Apple TV but it’s an omission that Twelve South have inadvertently solved with their AirFly Pro and AirFly Duo accessories provided your TV has a headphone jack or is connected to a sound system that does.

Originally touted as a way of connecting AirPods to in-flight entertainment systems on aeroplanes, Twelve South’s AirFly accessory had long been on my radar, so when the AirFly Pro Bluetooth adapter dongle became available to purchase at my local Apple Store last week I couldn’t resist.

The premise for their original AirFly was simple: plug AirFly into the 3.5mm headphone jack, pair your Bluetooth headphones, sit back and listen. Two years later and AirFly Pro sports Bluetooth 5.0 allowing two simultaneous Bluetooth headphone connections and the ability to send audio the other way at the flick of a switch.

Given this device will work with literally anything with a traditional 3.5mm jack, I wanted to test how well AirFly Pro would work with Apple TV and two sets of AirPods Pro set to transparency mode. The kind of setup perfect for my friends who are in the early stages of parenting – offering a balance of not waking the new born but being aware should the new mum or dad be called to attention.

AirFly Pro comes with a handy Keychain cap (though I’d replace it pretty pronto as its not to robust), a USB-C to USB-A charging cable, a tiny travel bag, quick start guide, owners guide and one years limited manufacturers warranty.

Setup is relatively straightforward and happens on-device with no additional software to download. Just press and hold the power button for 4 seconds to put AirFly Pro in pairing mode, after which, simply put your Bluetooth headphones into pairing mode and wait for both to pair to one another; indicated on AirFly Pro by a tiny white light. You can add an additional pair by pushing the power button twice to repeat the pairing process. Then you just stick the dongle into the headphone jack and you’re set.

In my few days of testing, AirFly Pro offered a stable bluetooth connection with next to no difference in audio quality, interference, signal range or latency compared to pairing my AirPods Pro directly to Apple TV 4K.

Playback time was the advertised 16 hours from a 2 hour charge whilst paired with one set of AirPods Pro – dropping to 10 hours when connected to two pairs.

One downside to using AirFly Pro to connect AirPods indirectly to your device is that you do lose the ability to pause playback when taking out one AirPod or by pressing its stem. It’s a small gripe, however if you occasionally fall asleep whilst watching TV you may find your Up Next queue is cleared by the time you wake.

I’ve used AirFly Pro successfully with gym equipment, my Nintendo Switch and some legacy iOS devices that don’t support iOS 13’s audio sharing feature, and I’m looking forward to trying it out on my next long-haul flight (hopefully to WWDC20).

Better yet whilst the Apple Store feature editorial specifically highlight AirPods and Beats wireless headphones, AirFly’s product doesn’t restrict you to using the feature with Beats or Apple headphones equipped with H or W wireless chipsets. I tried Bluetooth headphones from Bose, Sony, Samsung and Bang & Olufsen and all worked great!

I favour AirPlay 2 at home and paired with the fact that I don’t drive (god bless Transport For London) AirFly Pro’s AUX IN feature which is best used for “hire cars, boats and non-Bluetooth speakers” is a nice feature I probably wont use.

Had the cheaper AirFly Duo been given the same global distribution I would have opted for that instead of AirFly Pro for my use case.

AirFly Duo offers 20+ hours of playback and has a simpler pairing process with dedicated pairing buttons for both sets of wireless headphones.

Twelve South’s AirFly Pro comes recommended. It’s versatility justifies its price, fitting into so many different use-case scenarios.

As winter draws near, I’m looking forward to collaborating on playlists and sharing a casual walk along London’s SouthBank with an AirFly Pro in tow. Here’s to finding a Keira Knightley to my Mark Ruffalo.

AirFly Pro is available globally at Apple Stores and whereas AirFly Duo can be purchased directly from Twelve South. AirFly Pro is currently listed at $54.99 with AirFly Duo priced at $49.99.