THORNHILL (Book Review)

Written and illustrated by: Pam Smy

Published in the UK by: David Fickling Books / Publication date: 27th August 2017

Pages: 544


A TIMELESS FRIENDSHIP

Weighing in at a daunting 544 pages, APU graduate and Cambridge lecturer Pam Smy’s debut solo work (the first she has both written and illustrated) is actually a deceptively quick read, and one which I blasted through in a matter of hours.

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STAR TREK: DISCOVERY, 1.1 – “The Vulcan Hello” (Netflix Review)

Streaming on UK Netflix from: Monday 25th September 2017

Story by: Bryan Fuller and Alex Kurtzman

Teleplay by: Akiva Goldsman and Bryan Fuller

Directed by: David Semel


 

LIGHT THE BEACON

“They are coming.”

After a century of only fleeting interaction between the Starfleet of Earth and the warriors of the Klingon Empire, a war is on the horizon as the Klingons pursue a “crusade of self-preservation” against those who purport to “come in peace.” Captain Philippa Georgiou’s (Michelle Mechanic: Resurrection Yeoh) USS Shenzhou is the Federation starship which first encounters the oncoming storm…

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THE HANDMAID’S TALE, 1.1 – “Offred” (TV Review)

Channel 4 – 9pm – Sunday 28th May 2017

Teleplay by: Bruce Miller

Based on the novel by: Margaret Atwood

Directed by: Reed Morano


 

BREEDING STOCK

As intrigued as I was by its release (and Channel 4’s acquisition for UK transmission), I am a week behind on Hulu/MGM’s new ten-part adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s speculative dystopian novel because I wanted to view the 1990 film version first. While not out-and-out disappointed by the Natasha Richardson-starring production (which you can read my review of HERE), my enjoyment was tempered by the outdated feel which crippled the suspension of my disbelief and meant I never felt truly engaged enough to appreciate the abject horror of the notion. A reader on my blog commented that I should still give the new series a try, as it improved upon the earlier attempt.

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IRON FIST, 1.1 – “Snow Gives Way” (Netflix Review)

Netflix – Season One streaming from 17th March 2017

Based on characters created by: Roy Thomas and Gil Kane

Created and Written by: Scott Buck

Directed by: John Dahl


 

CIRQUE DU PSYCHOPATH

Ant-Man aside, I have invariably been on the ball with watching all of Marvel Studio’s blockbuster comic book adaptations during their cinematic runs. Inversely, the television spin-offs have somehow evaded by attention. I’m not against seeing them, but I don’t consider them essential to the MCU. Plus, once I fell behind on Daredevil, I felt inclined to hold off on Jessica Jones and Luke Cage until I could watch them in production order.

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A Perfect Man (DVD Review)

Image result for a perfect man 2013

15 – 91mins – 2013


PHONING IT IN

Headlined by recognised Hollywood names yet set in his native Amsterdam, Danish director Kees Van Oostrum’s debut feature is – a few eye rolls aside – a watchable enough presentation of modern strife. Sadly, it is also somewhat inconsistent, with the tone straddled indecisively between a dour and cynical relationship drama and a light and springy rom-com.

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THE GRAND TOUR, 1.1 – “The Holy Trinity” (Amazon Video Review)

Image result for the grand tour episode 1

71mins – Amazon Video – Streaming from Friday 18th November

Hosted by: Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, James May

Produced by: Andy Wilman

Directed by: Phil Churchward, Brian Klein


 

BACK IN THE DRIVER’S SEAT

“I can see clearly now the rain has gone” rather arrogantly boasts the theme tune as persistent motor-mouth and infamous producer-puncher Jeremy Clarkson finds a new platform for him and his car-crazy bezzie mates to bicker, banter and blaze around race tracks in blooming expensive vehicles for an hour every week.

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CLASS, 1.1 – “For Tonight We Might Die” (TV Review)

BBC Three – available from 22nd October 2016

Created and written by: Patrick Ness

Directed by: Ed Bazalgette


A DOCTOR CALLS

Arriving in a blaze of hype and publicity this third recent-times spin-off from the BBC’s flagship sci-fi drama may suffer from the most bland and unimaginative title ever, but it does boast perhaps the strongest continual link to its parent show, set as it is in Coal Hill Academy, a stalwart of the long-running serial right up to its most recent run, with Clara Oswald and Danny Pink both teaching there, and even the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) briefly becoming a caretaker.

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THE LIVING AND THE DEAD, 1.1 (TV Review)

BBC 1 – 28th June 2016 – 9pm

Written by: Ashley Pharoah

Directed by: Alice Troughton


 

SHAKEN TO THE CAW

The Beeb boldly takes a leaf out of Netflix’s binge-watching (e-)book with the box set debut of its latest six part drama series on iPlayer, ahead of episode one’s terrestrial premiere on the flagship terrestrial channel tonight.

With a foot still firmly rooted in the fantasy field, Colin “Merlin” Morgan (most recently seen briefly in The Huntsman sequel) leads the cast as forward thinking psychologist Nathan Appleby in this Somerset-set Victorian period drama which explores the tension between life’s extremes: the past and the future, tradition and revolution, rural and urban, adolescence and adulthood, the occult and science, ignorance and knowledge, and – as the title makes abundantly clear – the living and the dead.

“An exciting but very, very awkward phase…”

In this opening chapter, London-living Nathan and his caring second wife, Charlotte (Charlotte Spencer), inherit Nathan’s family farm, Shepzoy House, and move back to the country after his mother’s passing during the Summer solstice celebrations. How will the rigid and resistant household – led by farmhand John (Steve Aaaaaaaah! Oram) – react to this new beginning, with the young generation of Appleby’s determined to modernise the operation and turn the farm’s fortunes around?

The series’ strong theme is so deeply ingrained as to be almost overwhelming, especially when Nathan’s pioneering expertise is called upon to deal with the vicar’s child, Harriet Denning (Tallulah Haddon), who is morphing from a “dream daughter” into a remote and troubled young woman with a disturbing tendency to talk in a gruff manly voice. Is her mind being warped by the “dangerous” books she is reading; is she frightened by her own sexuality into creating a splintered alter ego; or is she possessed by the spirit of dead down and out, Abel North (David Sterne)?

“Fresh fruit waiting to be plucked…”

With the locale and musical score provided a folksy, Wicker Man-esque atmosphere (further aided by flickering candle-light and shadows highlighting a sense of otherness), The Living and the Dead is more successful in conjuring a slow, macabre air of tension and dread than it is at shocking set-pieces. Tallulah Haddon’s competence at creepy impressions is chillingly unnerving – particularly when she starts needling at Nathan’s tragic past – while John’s ominous fate is filmed in too delicate a manner to leave an impact.

I was fully expecting this scene-setting first hour to do little more than establish the characters and arching themes, so was mighty surprised when Nathan resolves Harriet’s case. Clearly future instalments will see the psychologist tackle other instances of supernatural manifestation, while his haunting past continues to plague his present state of mind. If episode two can continue just as expertly in its tension-ramping storytelling, then The Living and the Dead will continue to mesmerise – but it could perhaps do with taking its foot off the thematic throttle a bit; subtly over transparency will see this spooky series soar.

CR@B’s Claw Score: 4 stars