Tuesday, 30 October 2012

The Dark Side - Homeland Season 2 Episode 5 REVIEW

This week's episode served up another series of unexpected twists and turns - how will Brody get out of this one? 

Find out after the jump! 

Misfits Returns!

So - here they are, listed in order: my Top 10 'Misfits' episodes so far! What are your thoughts? How many of these do you agree with? Share your thoughts below! 

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Whedon explains why he's voting for Romney

Just kidding. But I can't express how overjoyed I was watching this - I've been keeping up with the presidential debate (Obama all the way, baby!) and Joss says pretty much everything that needs to be said on the subject.

So yeah, I'm pro-Barack. If it were Joss running for President, however, that would be a completely different story!

Check out the full YouTube vid here:


The End for Carrie? - Homeland Season 2 Episode 3 REVIEW

Has Carrie reached the end of her rope? Is Brody buckling under the strain of his lies? Find out after the jump! 

Shane Returns!!? - Walking Dead Season 3 Episode 2 REVIEW

What begins as a fairly low key episode descends into mayhem and delivers a great final act! What is it about this week's episode that had me reminiscing about season 2? Find out after the jump!

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Fear the Dark: Justin Cronin's 'The Twelve'

When I say I've been waiting for this book for the longest time, it's only a slight exaggeration. It feels like a lifetime since I finished reading The Passage, the first novel of Cronin's vampire saga - a lifetime since I said 'see you later' to Amy, Peter, Alicia, Sara and the others. 

But now it's here. And it was certainly worth the wait, as Cronin has crafted another devastatingly bleak yet moving novel that manages to combine the best aspects of mainstream fiction with vampire tropes to create something rather powerful. 

The novel picks up a few years after the end of The Passage - we're still in a post-apocalyptic America destroyed by some of the most vicious vampires imaginable (Edward Cullen this is not), and our gang are trying to destroy 'The Twelve', a dozen death row inmates who began the spread of the vampire virus following a series of experiments gone wrong.

I would highly recommend you read The Passage before venturing into The Twelve - although it's possible to pick up on the plot quite quickly, the richness of the world and an understanding of the characters' histories are best understood with the memory of the first book in mind. 

All in all it was a gripping read that kept me engaged throughout. Now there's the agonising wait until the final installment, The City of Mirrors, is released in two years' time.

Praise for Cromwell - Mantel bags her second Booker

Hilary Mantel's mantelpiece must be groaning under the weight of her accolades - she recently collected her second Man Booker Prize for her novel Bring up the Bodies, sequel to her critical and commercial success, Wolf Hall.

Now I have to admit that I was all over the book when it was released (I bought it and started reading it the day it came out), but I nearly fell off my chair when I heard the news. Mantel deserves every praise coming her way, but I was a little amazed that they gave her the award, only because I had assumed that the fact it was a sequel would earn the book an instant disqualification with the Judges. Looks like they proved me wrong! 

Both books have drawn significant attention for the way they provide a sympathetic portrayal of Thomas Cromwell, one of Henry VIII's chief officials, supposed mastermind of the break with Rome and the dissolution of the Catholic monasteries in the mid-sixteenth century.

I recommend that if you haven't yet read them go out and grab them now (although do pay before you leave the store, folks, I'm not recommending theft!).

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Phantoms of the Cinema

I was recently thinking about the movie-going or television-watching experience and realised that the time and place when you watched something for the first time and fell in love with it are often inseparable from your memory of the story itself.

I don't think this is quite the case with novels or some other art forms - I don't remember exactly where I was when Gandalf first knocked on Bilbo Baggins's door in The Hobbit or when the kids discovered the 'monster' in Lord of the Flies. Somehow my immersion in those stories made my physical location rather redundant, particularly as I very likely read large chunks of the book in several different locations. 

The exception of this would be my 'reading chair' in the living room, where I've passed both rainy and sunny afternoons sipping a Nescafe Irish Coffee with a clear view of the street outside. The reason why this is important is because it is in fact a ritual reading spot, and for that reason has become linked to my experiences of narrative immersion. 

Movies and television work in exactly that way - the ritual of going to the cinema, or sitting down in your favourite chair to watch your favourite show. They're our culture's modern day campfires, the frequently visited runways that allow us to astral project into the lives of our favourite characters. 

I still remember the first time I watched Cabin Fever in boarding school with two of my best friends, huddled around my laptop screen in my room after dark (when they weren't supposed to be there), turning down the volume every time we thought we heard someone in the hallway. I'm not saying I think Cabin Fever is a great film, but what I did have was a great experience - a shared journey into an unexpected world made all the more heightened because we knew it was forbidden. 

I remember the first time I saw Citizen Kane (a Friday, after school, McDonald's for lunch, tie undone but blazer still on, in the living room of my brother's house) or Rear Window (late night, on VHS after recording it on BBC2, also at my brother's house). I remember watching The Wizard of Oz on the tiny TV in my parent's bedroom in my childhood home and being utterly, utterly traumatised. Somehow, when I watch those movies again, I become that child or teenager.

It's like there's a ghostly version of myself sitting right there and enjoying the movie with me. I think that's one of the reasons why going to the cinema always feels like a bit of a homecoming for me. I occasionally visit the cinema in my hometown and remember which films I saw in which screens - when I bought Ben & Jerry's and when I couldn't scrape together the cash, etc. 

People think it odd that I sometimes go to the cinema on my own. 
'Isn't the whole point to go with other people?' 
Not always. Sometimes I like to go alone, with only popcorn or cheese nachos for physical companionship, to sit around the campfire with ghostly apparitions of my former self.

TV Characters I Love to Hate! - 2 of 2

It’s arrived! Part 2 of the most fondly hated characters on television. Did your favourite make the list? 

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

TV Characters I Love to Hate! - 1 of 2

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but then I'm not trying to produce an Encyclopedia of Characters I Love to Hate (all in good time, my friends).

But I've decided to focus on TV characters in this particular post - after all, you might sit in a movie theatre for two hours resenting someone, but TV villains tend to stick around for a tad longer...

Check out the list - do you agree with those represented? Warning, may contain SPOILERS.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

I'll take the Katana - The Walking Dead Season 3 Episode 1

Zombies. Prisons. Decapitations. Heartbreak. Casualties. Swordsmanship... and Glen. 

AMC's highest rated drama is back with a bold and brilliant season opener.

The Monster in the Maze - Hunted Series 1 Episode 3

Sam Hunter, a 21st century Bournette if ever there was one, continues to delve into the mysteries surrounding the attack on her life in the best episode of the series to date. 

The Beginning of the End - Homeland Season 2 Episode 2

Carrie and Saul are reunited, but a chance to catch Nazir in Lebanon sweeps them into a series of unexpected conflicts in the second episode of the season. 

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

How Looper Taught me a Life Lesson

I owe Rian Johnson a beer. Perhaps a hug. Something tangible, in any case. The writer-director of recent sci-fi supersmash Looper (he previously teamed up with leading man Joseph Gordon-Levitt on his slick indie high school noir, Brick) recently crafted a cinematic experience that surprised me, thrilled me, and even made me think

It was as I was sat in the screen watching his latest cinema outing and snacking on sweet 'n salty popcorn that I was led to consider the prevalent conflicts that occur as a result of our personal and cultural misunderstandings. 

In the film, Bruce Willis comes back from the future only to find himself in conflict with his younger self. I won't give away any spoilers for those who haven't yet seen it, but the film is essentially the story of a man at war with himself. For reasons entirely plausible, both the older Willis and the younger Gordon-Levitt are completely at odds in pursuit of their respective desires. 

I had an epiphany about halfway through the film, when I realised that these characters' central flaw lay in the fact that they were unable to jump out of their own very limited perspective to develop some kind of understanding of what the other person was thinking or feeling. Because they were unable to understand the panoramic picture as we audience members could, they made decisions that they would not have made, had they had all the knowledge. 

This resonated with me as being deeply true to my own life - to instances where I have convinced myself that others were 'out to get me' when in fact it was probably an error of miscommunication. Further thought reminded me that this is a problem that runs throughout literature: Shakespeare's Othello is essentially the story of a man whose problems (I'm looking at you, Iago) would evaporate if only he would communicate effectively with his wife. 

None of this is to say that there's anything easy about communication - the stories mentioned above work so well because they explore the vulnerabilities of our characters, the flaws that lead to these miscommunications. 

I'm glad I went to see Looper - it reopened my eyes to the reality that everyone else is only out to lessen their own suffering, just like me, and reminded me that a kind word or even a request for clarification is a far more valuable alternative to an unquestioned assumption.

Future Obsession Numero 2 - Misfits Series Four

Words cannot express how excited I am. After last year's explosive (and heartbreaking!) series finale, E4's superhero saga Misfits will be returning for its fourth series in a few weeks time.

And I for one can't wait. 

The end of series three may have led to a radical cast change, but we'll be introduced to a new superpower team (along with loveable faces like Curtis and Rudy) in the next few weeks. 

And the genius mind of Howard Overman seems to have come up with a dazzling range of supernatural foes to keep us on our seats in weeks to come. With rumours that a biker version of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse will be making an appearance, it seems that the series is set to retain its crown as the Best Superhero Show Ever Made (sorry, Heroes). 

Check back over coming weeks for more info!

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Future Obsession - Da Vinci's Demons

As if I'm not already struggling to get other basic things (like, I dunno, living) done amongst all the many hours I'm spending watching great television, I start to hear about awesome shows for me to look forward in 2013. 

One of those shows is most definitely going to be Da Vinci's Demons, a brand new historical fantasy drama, produced by BBC Worldwide and Starz. With David S. Goyer (The Dark Knight, Man of Steel) on scribing duties and the incredible Julie Gardner (Series 1 -4 of the new Doctor Who) exec producing, this is set to become one of my rants and raves in the New Year. 

Actor Tom Riley will star as the famous artist who is frequently called the greatest genius that ever lived. The show will explore Leonardo's many genius inventions - while occasionally delving into supernatural territory, it promises to be an exciting character study of a man historians have puzzled over for centuries. 

I really can't wait to delve into this (it's been granted an 8-episode first season) - fingers crossed that a certain Mayan prophecy will prove to be nothing more than a premature April Fools. 

Saturday, 13 October 2012

One Day to Go! - Walking Dead Season 3 Launch

That's right, folks. It's time to clear your social calendars - as of this Sunday 14 October you're gonna have to politely cancel on your loved ones because for the foreseeable future, you'll be spending all your time with the undead.

Everyone's favourite zombie drama is back, with an extended 16-episode run, a tonne of new characters and a much darker Rick Grimes than we've seen on screen to date.

I for one have been salivating like a walker ever since that finale, but now we're about to be reunited with Rick, Carl, Andrea, Glen and the others as they struggle to survive in a harsh, post-apocalyptic world.

I loved season two, particularly the latter half of the season, but I'm going to make a prediction that saison trois is going to absolutely kick its ass. I'm an avid reader of the comics (I'm still grieving from the events that went down in recent Issue no. 100, there are no words!) and the prison arc was certainly the period when the comic really stood up and developed its creative voice. It's a shame that Frank Darabont is no longer on board (we all know how well he creates dramas in prison), but producer Gale Anne Hurd has been saying all the right things about the direction the season (and the series as a whole) is heading in.

Hell hath no fury like a Michonne scorned.        
Not to mention the fact that my favourite character, the simply kick-ass Michonne, has been added to the fold, and you can consider me in cadaver heaven. 'The Walking Dead' comics have had no shortage of strong women (Lori, Maggie and Andrea all endure horrific hardships and remain strong, independent characters) but for me it's Michonne who wins the pageant for Bad-Ass Zombie Killstress. It's the sword, I think. Tarantino's The Bride has nothing on that chick.

But perhaps the most important thing about season three is that it will probably be the biggest indication of how closely the show follows the original comic, or whether it chooses to deviate significantly from its parent series. Series two depicted three significant character divergences from the comic book canon (those that have read them will know what I'm talking about, and those that haven't - go read them now, they're amazing!). As a lifelong member of the Haus of Kirkman, I'm already thinking about the events that go down in the prison's comic book scenes, and wondering how many of these will be brought to small screen realisation.

I have a theory relating to a certain severed hand that has been bubbling away since season one - the coming weeks will tell me if I'm right or wrong.

Are you as stoked about 'The Walking Dead' season three as I am? Do you have a favourite character? 

Check out actress Danai Gurira preparing for the role of Michonne here.

Battling Byzantium - Hunted Season 1 Episode 2

And so we discover that the name of the shadowy private organisation that employs super-spy Sam Hunter (the simply flawless Melissa George, best known for her roles in Alias, 30 Days of Night and In Treatment) is known as Byzantium - but who are the real players behind the scenes? And when are we going to find out who the hell tried to have Sam killed!?? 

Thursday, 11 October 2012

My Own Worst Enemy - Homeland Season 2 Episode 1

This post arrives a little later than expected - I've had a bit of a winter cold this week, so I wasn't able to blog about it sooner!

But that's okay - you know why? Because 'HOMELAND' is back! Series One left me pretty much square-eyed (it's only 12 episodes, but I watched said 12 episodes at least 3 times each, plus special features and commentary - you do the maths).

And I'm obsessed with all things Claire Danes anyway. For anyone who hasn't watched 'My So-Called Life' - what are you doing? Go away and watch it now. Right now. I'm not even kidding.

Anyway, there's going to be some fairly spoiler(ish) material to follow so for those that haven't watched it yet, you have some catching up to do (and yes, that does include watching all 19 episodes of MSCL).

Everyone else, join me after the jump.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

The Langdon Lavatory Quest

Not long ago I was privileged to be invited to a rather sophisticated event that was held at Westminster Abbey in Central London.

It was a particularly drab morning; my poor umbrella took a beating from the flood that came down as I joined a crowd of individuals making their way to one of the city's most famous landmarks.

As we arrived, I looked at the limos that were pulling up at the steps of the great Cathedral. The event felt like the Oscars of the legal year; all the legendary players within the profession were present. All around me were the men and women whose lives have been dedicated to the pursuit of justice. I found myself moving through a tide of wigs and gowns.

I flashed my ticket like a police badge to the attendant standing at the entrance, and then I was swept inside as we were ushered to our seats.

Can I just state for the record that I love Westminster Abbey. Anyone that knows me understands that I spent a significant part of my young life in churches, and I've always been fascinated by the histories that often come with houses of worship.

The Abbey is perhaps the perfect example of this: it's been the host of several significant weddings, the most recent noteworthy example being Will and Kate, of course. But I love it even more for its status as a famous tomb. Many, many important people have decomposed in that there church, my friends. Charles Dickens was laid to rest in there. Don't think I haven't considered sauntering into the Poets' Corner and licking Elizabeth Gaskell's tribute stone as a way of acquiring more talent through some kind of supernatural osmosis (and for the record, I'm patenting that genius idea, so don't even think about trying it).

So yes - I heart W.A. It felt wonderful being in there, knowing all the ability that was crammed into that room, living and dead. We were quickly rushed to our seats so that the event could start on time.

There were speeches. There was Latin. There was a choir, who I'm convinced must have knocked out a bunch of angels and stolen their voices, so unearthly were their talents. There were hymns, sermons and prayers. It was an absolutely beautiful ceremony in one of the most incredible churches in the country.

And it was also one of the most inescapably uncomfortable experiences I've had in a very, very long time.

You may be wondering why I've given this post the title of 'The Langdon Lavatory Quest'. Those of you who have read The Da Vinci Code may remember that the novel's protagonist, Robert Langdon, follows the quest for the Holy Grail from Paris to Westminster Abbey, where the novel's central conflicts reach their crescendo.

Given the tension involved, you could be forgiven for missing one of the subplots in the story - a chapter between the Grail-searching when Langdon scours Westminster Abbey for a toilet so he can urinate.

If such a chapter is missing in your copy of the novel, kindly inform me, and I will forward you my firsthand experience of sitting in Westminster Abbey with my swollen bladder, desperate for a pee!

That's it. There on the left... The spot where I... Just kidding.
 It was awful. Throughout all the singing, all the speeches, all the Latin, while all the other attendants were experiencing an almost out-of-body, transcendental experience, I was experiencing this:

I need to wee I need to wee I need to wee I need to wee I need to wee I need to wee I need to wee!

Now I know what you're thinking, reader. Why didn't I get up and just go to the toilet? Well, such thoughts are not helpful when you're in the most formal setting of your life and you have no idea where said toilet facilities are. It was not the kind of ceremony where one got up, walked along the row, past the larynx-stealing choir, and around the corner to the nearest john.
One does not do that in Westminster Abbey.

So I sat there, engaged in a tug-of-war with my bladder, for ninety minutes, aware that at any moment I might wet myself all over some dead poet's tomb.

There is a lesson to be learned from my experience. In order to avoid having your water break in a public Cathedral, go to the toilet directly before the ceremony.

Or bring an Evian bottle.