Erik the Conqueror (Blu-ray Review)

Erik the Conqueror Blu

VIKINGS VIA ITALY

My third review for entertainment podcast website 60 Minutes With went live yesterday, so this is just a heads up and polite nudge to follow THIS DIRECT LINK to read my take on Arrow Video‘s new 2K restoration – and sumptuous double-disc, dual-format release – of Mario Bava’s 1961 swashbuckler Erik the Conqueror.

Dunkirk (Cinema Review)

12A – 109mins – 2017


 

ALLIED COURAGE

May, 1940. Allied troops are trapped on the beaches of Dunkirk. They require air, ground and sea cover from British and French forces – both naval and civilian – to see them safely evacuated as Germany advances into France.

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DRAGON TEETH (Book Review)

Written by: Michael Crichton

Released in the UK by: HarperCollins, 1st June 2017

285 pages


 

BARE BONES

Following buccaneering adventure Pirate Latitudes and shrink-ray techno-thriller Micro, Dragon Teeth is the third posthumously released and previously undiscovered novel from prolific author, screenwriter and director Michael Crichton since his 2009 passing. Despite exhibiting a wealth of research, this historical Western archaeology lark is – by some degree – the least accomplished of the three, and a far cry from the bestselling scribe’s other dinosaur adventures.

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CASTLEVANIA – Season One (Netflix Review)

All 4 episodes streaming from: Friday 7th July 2017

Written by: Warren Ellis

Based on the videogame franchise produced by: Konami

Directed by: Sam Deats


 

SYMPHONY OF THE NIGHT

In 15th century Wallachia, an aggrieved Vlad Dracula Tepes (Graham The Hobbit McTavish) sets his night hordes loose on the provinces of Romania after the Church burns his scientist wife, Lisa (Emily Swallow), at the stake for witchcraft. Giving the civilians one year to leave, Dracula unleashes his demonic creatures on a defiant and sceptical people. The hell-beasts tear through the land city-by-city, night-by-night, and the Wallachian’s only chance of redemption comes in the form of a disgraced drunkard.

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DOCTOR WHO, 10.9 – “Empress of Mars” (TV Review)

BBC One – 7:35pm – Saturday 10th June 2017

Written by: Mark Gatiss

Directed by: Wayne Yip


 

THE WAY OF THE WARRIOR

“Sod this for a game of soldiers!”

My overdue run of current series Doctor Who reviews rattles on with this historical military altercation – set in the caverns beneath the surface of the Red Planet! “Empress of Mars” is the first episode in a month not to feature the audience-dividing alien Monks (my opinions on which can be read by clicking 10.6, 10.7 and 10.8), and it sees a sharp step backwards in assimilating gormless assistant Nardole (Matt Lucas) into the main body of the story.

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Churchill (Cinema Review)

Image result for churchill 2017 film

PG – 98mins – 2017


 

THE MAN WHO’LL LEAD US THROUGH

“Why don’t you just have me stuffed?”

Never far from bowker hat, circular specs and a large cigar, Brian Cox gets the look and mannerisms of the man who lead our country through some of its darkest days down pat. Miranda Richardson is suitably unflappable with sympathetic-yet-steely support as his exasperated wife, Clementine. But Churchill isn’t solely a celebratory look back at Britain’s greatest Prime Minister. Set in the days leading up to the Allied Force’s D-Day landings in Normandy, historian Alex von Tunzelmann’s script empathises the frailties both physical and mental crippling the man behind the legend.

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The Great Wall (Cinema Review)

Image result for The Great Wall 2016 film

12A – 103mins – 2017 – 3D


 

FIGHT OR FLIGHT?

Aside from the location (China), time period (medieval) and headline actor (Matt Damon) – all discernible from the poster – I went into this mega-budgeted adventure from House of the Flying Daggers director Zhang Yimou blind, unsure whether to expect a dour drama akin to The Last Samurai or an action-packed choreography-fest like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. What I categorically was not expecting was The Mummy Returns… again!

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TABOO, 1.2 (TV Review)

Image result for taboo bbc episode 2

BBC One – Saturday 14th January 2017 – 9:15pm

Created by: Tom Hardy, Edward “Chips” Hardy, Steven Knight

Written by: Stephen Knight

Directed by: Kristoffer Nyholm


LEAGUE OF THE DAMNED

“The King and Company are after your head…”

Now more adamant than ever that his inherited piece of land on the Canadian-American border is not for sale, in this sophomore instalment of the eight part BBC/FX mini-series, troubled rogue James Delaney (co-creator Tom Hardy) is a man on a mission: to recruit a team of trustworthy allies to aid him in reclaiming his poisoned father’s legacy, the Nootka Sound… and stop any number of his myriad enemies from striking him down to take it. And there was me thinking he was a superhuman one-man band?

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Assassin’s Creed (Cinema Review)

12A – 115mins – 2016 – 3D


 

LEAP OF FASS

In an attempt to cure the ‘disease’ of violence, the Abstergo Foundation use Death Row inmates due to be executed for murder as pawns in their Animus Project, transporting the lab rats back into the memories of their descendants in the hope of locating the mythical lost Apple of Eden, which contains the genetic code for free will and will allow Abstergo scientists Sophie Rikken (Marion Cotillard) and her father Alan (Jeremy High-Rise Irons) to subjugate the human race. Anti-social pimp-killer Callum Lynch (Michael X-Men: Apocalypse Fassbender) – a descendant of 15th Century Assassin Aguilar de Nerha – has just been forced into Sophie’s programme…

…Keep Scuttling!

THE LIVING AND THE DEAD, 1.6 (TV Review)

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BBC One – 2nd August 2016 – 9pm

Written by: Simon Tyrrell

Series Created by: Ashley Pharaoh

Directed by: Sam Donovan


 

A GHOST OF HIS FORMER SELF

This is it. Six weeks later than fans who binge-watched it all on iPlayer, BBC One has completed its weekly Tuesday night transmissions of Ashley Pharaoh’s haunting historical drama, The Living And The Dead. By tying together the glimpses and clues which have peppered the six hour run, explaining the escalating mysteries and hinting at more, episode 1.6 was a perfect conclusion to a superior series.

“Stay with me, Daddy.”

Haunted by his “insoluble guilt” following the death of his first child, Nathan Appleby (Colin Morgan) has lost himself in a spiral of depression which has mired him in an unhinged purgatory where the past, present – and future! – intertwine in a sanity-testing fug. Can his pregnant wife, Charlotte (Charlotte Spencer) warm his “cold eyes” and save her husband’s “lost soul”, or will the ghost of young Gabriel (Arthur Bateman) get his way and lead his father to the afterlife…?

After weeks of the briefest hints and teases (headlights, iPads, red coats), we finally spend some sustained time in the present day, with the “book of light” carrying “guardian angel” who Nathan suspected was attempting to steal Gabriel away at last revealed to be his great-great-granddaughter, Lara (Chloe Pirrie). Self-admitted herself to a psychiatric ward, Lara has likewise been haunted by Gabriel’s ghost since giving birth to her daughter, Lottie.

When her visiting grandmother (Diana Quick) reveals Lara is not the first in her family to see Gabriel’s ghost, the suspected postpartum psychosis-sufferer escapes hospital and heads to the abandoned and dilapidated Shepzoy estate for answers…

“I know I’m somehow part of this…”

With her iPad chock full of photographed mementos of Nathan’s bygone era, Lara offers viewers a whistle-stop recap of the series so far, with pictorial reminders of the ghost miners storyline from 1.2, Nathan’s evermore frantic scribblings and the tragic love affair from 1.4. I love the wicked irony that a series so ingrained with a theme of progress has its dual leads (Nathan in 1894 and Lara in 2016) stalled in their attempts to move on from the past.

“The essential thing is timing…”

“… and the amount of light.”

Paying heed to its own advise, I must give credit to the series’ lighting directors. I watched this final episode during the day with the curtains open and still its evocative tone, use of both natural and artificial light and shadow and creepy concessions to the supernatural genre (faces in windows, lullabies chanted through walkie-talkies, glimpses of blood-stained victims through shaky-cam perspective) elicited goosebumps on innumerable occasions!

With a horse-drawn reveal which shatters the temporal line more than it already had been, The Living and the Dead 1.6 manages to leave viewers simultaneously satisfied and still with plenty to ponder. I could nit-pick why Gabriel still required parental company when Lara’s grandmother had already revealed that Lara’s mother committed suicide shortly after giving birth, but this is a minor quibble in an otherwise exemplary timey-wimey narrative jigsaw plot.

The closing scene, posing a question still unanswered, gives me high hopes that this isn’t the last we have seen of the “notorious” Nathan Appleby. Hopefully the BBC listen to their guardian angels and commission a second series of this progressive and perplexing drama – please don’t leave us hanging over that juicy cliff!

CR@B’s Claw Score: 5 stars