Check out these bad boys! In the plodding old lockdown of repetition and misery, these cheered me up. There’s a total of 12 biscuits per box, wrapped in pairs inside. Doesn’t sound like much, but each seedy biscuit is substantial – indeed, eating a pair is almost too much. And the best thing: the biscuits aren’t sweet. You could add, say, oooh, butter and cheese on top. Not that I did that. No, no.
Back when David Tennant was the Doctor, there was a rather superior episode in which human DNA was spliced with Dalek DNA – giving us an awesome hybrid. The episode was full of fresh ideas, intrigue and potential, and entitled ‘Evolution of the Daleks’. Yesterday (New Year’s Day), the BBC gave us an episode called ‘Revolution of the Daleks’, in which the same ideas were retrodden, but without any of the original freshness, intrigue or potential. It was a veeery tired episode, in truth. There was a lack of complexity in the plot: it was simply a journey from A to B, with zero surprises along the way. The sound mixing was utterly awful, as if the sound people involved had fallen asleep on the job, or got bored and drifted away to do something more interesting. It was nearly impossible to catch anything the Daleks were saying – because there was just crashing, dramatic music drowning everything out. No wonder this was the episode in which Bradley Walsh and the character of Ryan decided to bow out – shrugging and explaining to the Doctor that they had better things to do. And the Doctor herself was at a loss throughout, too. She was having an identity crisis along the lines of ‘Hasn’t all this happened before? And wasn’t it better the first time round? Why have I become so much less than I was? I’m lost. Who am I?’
Were there any saving graces at all? Hmm. The narrative about Daleks needing the DNA ‘purity’ of a master-race, even if they’re exterminating some of their own ‘offspring’, and the Trumpian American businessman, not to mention the ‘security’ obsessed British PM, gave us a very hammy flavour of social comment… but nothing too insightful really. And there wasn’t any mention of covid, so it all felt a bit ‘out of date’, ‘past its sell-by date’, ‘lost in time’, etc, when the Doctor is meant to be timeless! At least the Doctor’s assistant Yaz should at last get some decent screen time and character development in future episodes, now she’s not being eclipsed by Bradley. Indeed, the overtones of a possible lesbian relationship between the Doctor and Yaz might at least offer some surprises.
A drunk Australian mercenary (Chris Hemsworth), grieving for the loss of his son, is paid to go out to Bangladesh to play ‘white saviour’ and recover the kidnapped son of a drug lord. That’s it. That’s the whole plot. The End. Is it a spoiler to tell you what is pretty much the logline?
Okay, there are good reasons to watch this film. A lot of Indian and Bangladeshi talent (direction, actors and stunt-people) have gone into this movie, and it’s refreshing to see a ‘different’ way of making a movie. It’s interesting that you don’t need a massively convoluted plot if you have some decent motifs, thoughtful scenes, and well choreographed sequences. There is something refreshingly innocent or honest – rather than tiredly cynical – about it. Indeed, this movie is honest enough to show us the true poverty, squalor and street-gangs of Dhaka. (Okay, it might be a touch cleaned up/sanitised for western audiences – I don’t actually know.)
It would be easy to complain that I needed sub-titles to watch this movie… cos Hemsworth completely grunts his way thru this movie. I had no trouble understanding the Indian and Bangladeshi actors, by contrast. It would be easy to say that the shooting of hundreds upon hundreds of corrupt soldiers and police got boring after an hour or so. It would be easy to point out that the silly revenge moment at the end of the movie could have happened at the start and spared us having to sit through hours of murder and mayhem. But that would be to distract from the few saving graces that the movie had.
If you’re struggling for something to watch during the lockdown, you might want to watch this movie, although it’s very dissatisfying in many ways. It scores an understanding 6 out of 10 from me.
Well, not only does it feature Jessica Chastain, but we’re also given John Malkovich, Colin Farrell and (drum-roll) Geena Davis (of legendary Thelma and Louise and The Long Kiss Goodnight fame). It can’t be bad, right? Surely, it can’t be. Can it? Weeell, it’s certainly a stylish (posed) assassin movie. Jessica plays the assassin-with-a-heart… except it never causes her to decide against executing her target (even though she’s never sure what they’ve actually done). So, she doesn’t have any heart at all, in fact, which reeeally gets the movie off on the wrong foot. There’s a fundamental moral paradox from the start. It’s all slightly off-kilter. Oh well, let’s ignore that, cos it’s still pretty to look at. The fight scenes are well choreographed and well filmed. We’re not really sure who we’re rooting for… but good fighting, right? But we don’t really care, actually. Which is a problem, cos we’re not sure whether to keep watching… or whether to go and watch a far superior female assassin movie like La Femme Nikita.
Sigh. It’s all quite soulless and confused. Indeed, Jessica seems confused for quite a lot of it. Oh, can I resist that demon-drink that once turned me into a family-abusing monster? Oh, looks like I can, after all. So why have it in the movie – to show internal turmoil and emotion? – cos Jessica can’t actually get any emotion going with those chiselled cheeks of hers? John M does some decent acting, threatening to upstage the planet, so gets killed by Colin. Then, Geena gives Jessica an acting class, and then mysteriously disappears from the movie, never to be seen again, with nothing explained.
And the end (if you can call it that) is anti-climactic. I think they were going for something downbeat and mundane, to make some sort of point… about not glorifying violence… about there being no winners. That and other things? Or they ran out of budget so just… stopped. It’s pish. It’s better than nothing in our covid world, sure, but only just.
Following the derivative self-indulgence of episode 1 of season 3 (which should have been entitled ‘The Michael Burnham Show’), it was a real relief to watch an episode that was actually an ensemble piece involving the wider crew of the Discovery. And it’s a proper old-school away-mission sort of episode! (Alright, it does steal its Wild West aesthetic from Firefly, but we can allow that, eh?) The Discovery crash lands on a mining colony and is in a race against time to make repairs before the ‘parasitic ice’ of the place can overrun the ship and snap it in two! Saru and Tilly head out to make contact with the locals, to see if they can scrounge some vital components… arriving in a Wild West sort of cantina to find that the locals really aren’t too friendly, and don’t really ‘believe’ in the Federation. Then, the system’s bad boy (Zareh) turns up, played ably by Jake Weber, no less. He’s looking to cannibalise the Discovery, especially once he learns there’s dilithium on board! Cue laser action and Georgiou finally earning her spurs! At last Michelle Yo is allowed to draw on some of her martial prowess (because, let’s face it, character-acting really isn’t her main strength)! I’m gonna stop there, so that I avoid any major spoilers. Suffice it to say, this episode restored my faith somewhat. Hurrah! (The only ‘lame’ plotting really was the stuff with Stamets in a Jefferies tube… but let’s chalk it up to homage and let them off on that.) I’d score the episode a solid 7.5 out of 10. Boldly go, Discovery!
Right, so episode 1 of the new season is called ‘That Hope Is You’ but, quite frankly, they should have called it ‘A New Hope’, given how much it borrows from Star Wars… not to mention Alien Mine, the BSG episode when Starbuck is marooned, and even Doctor Who! For all that, though, this season is all the better for borrowing from sci-fi that still has some credibility. If you recall, season 2 really lost its way… in so many, many ways. Spock was lost, the actors were lost most of the time, and the majority of it certainly left me at a loss… and bereft, too.
Season 3, sensibly, is a complete and utter departure from the universe that originally birthed it. Burnham (still painfully over-acting and emoting – she was meant to have been raised as a Vulcan, believe it or not, not that you’d ever know it from the way she’s constantly booing her eyes out) is propelled a thousand years into the future, along with the Discovery. Except Burnham hits a ship in the wormhole, crash lands on a nearby planet and loses all contact with the ship. Now, the whole series seems to be about her discovering the Discovery again! So it threatens to be the Burnham show throughout. Yikes. Remember your strengths Star Trek! It’s an ensemble show. Burnham is too annoying on her own to carry things!
Anyway, in the future, we learn, the Federation no longer exists. Gasp. Cue sobbing. You see, the Burn happened, during which all dilithium became unstable, or something like that, destroying all star ships in the universe! Ooops. So we’re in a post-apocalyptic junkyard future like Star Wars. Honestly, it’s so Tantooine it’s ridiculous. Still Burnham then sets about improvising a new crew for herself, based on people she meets along the way, like the cowardly lion, the tin man, the scarecrow, an animal whisperer called Book, a maine coon cat called Grudge (he COMPLETELY steals the show) and a Federation wannabe called Mr. Sahil.
This show isn’t perfect, and it does a bit of shameless flag flying at the end of the episode… but it’s timing feels right, as the US election nears and COVID closes in around us. Hope is exactly what we need. Well played, Discovery!
Watched the new comedy-horror Vampires Vs The Bronx on Netflix last night! A faceless corporation, Murnau Properties (a reference to the director of Nosferatu, presumably), is buying up real estate in the Bronx on the cheap, gradually dispossessing the underprivileged black and Hispanic community, forcing them out and generally gentrifying the place, so that the real estate is then worth far more. Here, then, is the story of modern America: the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. Once we find out who’s behind Murnau Properties, we’re not surprised really: a privileged, white, parasitic elite (yes, vampires). The vampires in this movie, therefore, work on both a literal and metaphoric level – making the whole movie strangely compelling, despite its general lack of originality.
As you’ll detect from the above, there is a general satire of modern America going on. In keeping with this satirical vibe, there are a good number of visual jokes as we go, using Timberlands, mobile phones and skateboards. Indeed, this movie is authentically immersed in the modern black and Hispanic experience in the US as well as the genre of vampire fiction (Salem’s Lot, Blade, etc). It makes for a persuasive and well-informed mix.
Looked at from a female perspective, there is quite an interesting (albeit understated) debate concerning competing narratives around ‘beauty’. The Aryan white, blonde female vampire dominates the first half of the movie, but is slowly revealed as all manipulative artifice, and ugly, selfish demand, prepared to stop at nothing to win advantage over or destroy men and women alike. Zoe Saldana is actually sacrificed upon the altar of such contrived beauty in the movie’s first scene! By the end of the movie, however, the young black character of Rita (Coco Jones) wins out with a self-possessed and generous version of beauty that is ‘au naturel’, a beauty that cannot simply be owned by others (be they a vampire or the heroic male lead).
So, this film has social relevance and importance! Okay, okay, there’s a LOT of cliche, if you know the genre well. But it’s only 1hr25mins long, so not too much of a demand on your time. It gets a 7 out of 10 from me. Check it out!
Like witches and want to read the latest research and stories about them? Check out my new title, The Book of Witches, on Amazon?
Isabella Hunter’s latest interview, with Haunt Manchester, about her work with The Book of Witches: ‘I haven’t written about witches previously. It is probably one of the few popular supernatural beings I haven’t used before. It is one that I have in a lot of my ‘To be written’ pieces and because they are so versatile the genres are quite varied, including queer romance all the way to horror. I grew up in Lancashire, which has a strong history of witchcraft, and the infamous Pendle Witch Trials. So it has been something that I have grown up being acutely aware of rather than it being something that happened in a far away part of the country I couldn’t point to on a map. I’ve always been interested in witches and have owned my own tarot decks and practiced aura reading, so writing about them really was an inevitability.’
‘The history of witchcraft is explored from a range of perspectives, highlighting angles and aspects that are often neglected. This includes some of the chilling truths behind the Pendle Witch Trials, why Henry VIII was the first to outlaw witchcraft and the real reason why ‘Witchfinder General’ Matthew Hopkins was keen to fuel a craze. Yet despite containing many accounts of hardship and the horror of people being persecuted under the accusation of ‘witchcraft’, The Book of Witches also offers hope. Crucially, the collection reflects on the innocent individuals who suffered persecution and how it still persists in some areas of society today – and yet through learning and awareness, there is still the possibility of transformation.’