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Friday, August 16, 2019

This Week's Thoughts On. . .


Dead Moon
You’d be forgiven for thinking that with the kind of life Samantha Moon has led, not much would take her by surprise anymore?
You’d be wrong!
Still immortal, yet free of the presence of Elizabeth – the dark master that empowered her when she first became a vampire – Sam is adjusting well to her new condition and the freedom this brings to spend much more time with her family . . . if having a telepathic daughter and Light Warrior son can be construed as normal . . . Ah, if only things could stay that way.
Why? She’s suddenly struck by a strong premonition of foreboding while watching TV when a young zombie woman suddenly turns to face her from within the show, and reaches out to her, begging for help.
But even in the topsy-turvy paranormal world of Samantha Moon, there’s no such thing as zombies . . . Right?
Thus begins an adventure that forces Sam to realize she might be rid of her dark master, but so are a whole host of other supernatural entities. And those dark masters are celebrating their freedom by fomenting something. Something awful. Something evil. Massing together, they’re forming unholy alliances that simply shouldn’t be considered, for such alliances will spell the end of mankind.
Unless Samantha Moon lends a hand.
Enjoy yourself. You just know it’s going to be fun!


The OA – Series 2

This time out, OA finds herself in a new dimension in a different version of herself; a rich and successful version where she never suffered the accident that blinded her as a child. An excellent start, you might think. However, the rose tinted spectacles of new expectations quickly become clouded when she realizes she isn’t safe. Her adversary, Hap, is there too. His version is a prominent psychiatrist heading a successful psychiatric hospital where he lures unwilling victims to continue his abusive experiments.
You might guess what happens. . .
Even so, it’s not plain sailing for anybody. OA also crosses paths with Karim Washington, a private detective tasked with finding missing teenager, Michelle Vu, who goes missing inside an eerie old house in another part of the neighborhood.
What’s the link? Find out for yourselves in a multilayered tale that expands on the original series in a skilful and redolent way, blending the two together so provocatively that you’re held spellbound throughout because a part of you – deep down inside – relates to what’s happening on a subliminal level.
Quality viewing. I look forward to series 3 with anticipation.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Exciting News
The IX


A L.A. & European based TV/Film company contacted me today with a query regarding one of my works: The IX.
These are some of the TV series they've produced (some I've watched):








Obviously, this is only an initial query, but needless to say, I'm rather hopeful and can't wait to see what transpires?

Friday, August 2, 2019

This Weeks Thoughts On. . .



Necropolis PD
The fine folks over at Black gate Fantasy provided the inspiration to try this story out. And I’m sooo pleased they did, because it’s an absolute gem.
Jacob Green can see dead people. Lots of them . . . everywhere!
How come?
A good deed at the scene of a car accident turns bad. Very bad. So much so, that it’s not the victim of the crash who is in dire need of help. And when Jacob pursues the offender into a disused tunnel under a bridge, he finds out to his cost that the tunnel isn’t disused at all. It’s a conduit leading to an in-between place where those who have passed on live out their unlives as they did before they died: A place called Necropolis.
Of course, not only should it be impossible for Necropolis to exist, but its denizens can’t possibly allow Jacob to leave now he knows of its existence.
Things look bleak until one of the undead winds up murdered. And because of his unique perspective, Jacob is pressed into service as a detective to help solve the case.
That’s when things start getting really complicated, and Jacob spirals from one disaster to another, somehow only just managing to keep his head above water . . . and all the time, he’s watching and waiting for the first opportunity to escape.
How does he fare?
Find out, in this action packed, roister-doister tale that sits easily on the eye and dark humor funny bone (Think of a blend of RIPD and Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere and you’ll be on the right track).
A great story and superb debut novel from an author I shall gladly read again.



Good Omens

Having read the book, a cunning and exceedingly funny conspiracy by two of the most humorous guys on (and off) the planet (Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman) I had high expectations for the TV adaptation.
Ouch! (Yes I know . . . I’m an idiot!)
True to form, cutting satire, wit, and a heady imagination don’t translate well from print to screen. A shame, because the story – based on “The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch” – expounds the story of the birth of the son of Satan and the coming of the end times. A terribly important even, I’m sure you’ll agree, and one that would concern all right-minded people.
The thing is, it concerns the two representatives of heaven and hell left on Earth since the times of the Garden of Eden even more. Aziraphale – the angel, and Crowley, the serpent who tempted Eve – have become quite accustomed to living amongst humans. And even though they’re supposed to be polar opposites reporting back to their respective “HQs” in preparation for an eventual Armageddon, they’ve become firm friends; cutting corners here, slipping the odd false report in there; taking credit for mankind’s perverseness or ingenuity when the mood takes them.
As such, when the antichrist is born and the end times loom, they go out of their way to put the proverbial spanner in the works. Their solution? Swap several children born at the same time so the antichrist grows up as a normal child in an average family in a quaint English town.
The result?
What follows is pure magical mayhem as the monumental balls-up is unearthed and Crowley and Aziraphale struggle to put things right against an increasing avalanche of woe. Also, credit where credit’s due: David Tennant and Michael Sheen do incredibly well portraying our two main protagonists, Crowley and Aziraphale in a cast comprised of swings and roundabouts. Some characters are superb, hitting the mark exactly. Others? – Oh dear!
But the thing that really spoiled it for me was the “back voice.” In the book, the authors address YOU, the reader, with witty expose and details that draw you in. Here’s an example:

“It wasn't a dark and stormy night.
It should have been, but that's the weather for you. For every mad scientist who's had a convenient thunderstorm just on the night his Great Work is finished and lying on the slab, there have been dozens who've sat around aimlessly under the peaceful stars while Igor clocks up the overtime.
But don't let the fog (with rain later, temperatures dropping to around forty five degrees) give anyone a false sense of security. Just because it's a mild night doesn't mean that dark forces aren't abroad. They're abroad all the time. They're everywhere.
They always are. That's the whole point.
Two of them lurked in the ruined graveyard. Two shadowy figures, one hunched and squat, the other lean and menacing, both of them Olympic grade lurkers. If Bruce Springsteen had ever recorded “Born to Lurk,” these two would have been on the album cover. They had been lurking in the fog for an hour now, but they had been pacing themselves and could lurk for the rest of the night if necessary, with still enough sullen menace left for a final burst of lurking around dawn.”

This excerpt is taken from the beginning of the book and helps set the scene of two demons waiting for Crowley to arrive with the antichrist babe. When you read it in context, you can’t help but smile at the images conjured in your mind. It’s pithy; it’s punchy; and certainly puts you in the mood for what follows. When I watched this part on the TV, however, I cringed. It totally ruined the atmosphere of what I’d originally imagined and to me, was a nails across a chalkboard moment that broke the magic . . . as do a minority of the characters.
But there you go. THAT’s why reading + imagination are often far superior to a screen production.
(For an in-depth review - see my latest article over at Amazing Stories). 


Saturday, July 20, 2019

My Thoughts On. . .



Artesans of Albia – Circle of Conspiracy
Though Lord Rykan is dead, his legacy of rebellion lives on. A legacy that not only threatens the safety of King Elias and Hierarch Aeyron, but the world itself.
But who would dare such an outlandish scheme? And why? Even worse, how might Colonel Sullyan’s own family be implicated?
One thing’s for sure, the poison of treachery runs deep on both sides of the veil, and it will be costly indeed to excise it forever.
The Circle of Conspiracy, a well-paced and delightful romp through the world of artesans that grants you a deeper insight into one of the best, well thought-out magical systems I’ve seen in years. (It really is that good). Not only does the story involve you from beginning to end, but its great fun and well worth the effort of reading all three books in one go.





Orange is the New Black: Seasons 1 - 6
Some might not be aware, but Orange is the New Black is based on the real life experiences and subsequent memoir of Piper Kerman, Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison, who spent 13 months at FCI Danbury.

The TV series revolves around Piper Chapman, a woman in her thirties living in New York City who is sentenced to 15 months in Litchfield Penitentiary – a women’s minimum-security prison – after being convicted of transporting a suitcase full of drug money 10 years previously for her then girlfriend, Alex Vause, an international drug smuggler.
Because the offense had been committed 10 years previously, Piper had settled down and moved on with her life. She was now law-abiding and due to get married to her fiancé in the near future.
The series sets out to show how Piper’s circumstances are turned upside down by her incarceration, especially as she is reunited with her former lover, Vause, who involved her in crime in the first place.
Along the way, we see how Piper – along with all the other inmates – struggle with the inherent problems of trying to balance petty rules with the underground code existing behind bars. Each series brings something new, with flashbacks helping you see how each main character ended up in jail, and especially what makes them tick.
To provoke contention, the series incorporated added tension from the collapse of the prison and its takeover by the Management & Correction Corporation (MCC). Standards drop, allowing the introduction of new guards. Some are clearly not up to scratch, while others are psychologically unhinged, creating a melting pot of simmering discontent. That discontent comes to a head when a prisoner is killed, and series 4 ends in the instigation of a full-blown riot.
Series 5 continues with the revolt itself. Some prisoners attempt to negotiate better conditions and seek justice for the dead inmate and her family. Others pursue their own interests and behave like animals. A few tuck themselves away, trying to avoid conflict on all sides.
Unfortunately, the guard who incited the riot in the first place is critically wounded by an inmate. This ultimately leads to disaster, for SWAT teams storm the building and drag the women away. Season 5 ends with them being driven away in buses to new destinations.
The consequences of the riot are shown in season 6. Chapman – along with a number of her fellow inmates – are transported to Litchfield Maximum Security. Investigators are looking who to blame, and the girls have to tread very carefully to avoid the “life” or 10 year sentences being dished out with liberal abandon and no real effort to discover exactly what went on.
There you go – a brief synopsis all in one breath. The thing is, I don’t think any amount of writing would do this series justice (get it?) J I’d seen it advertised for some time and ignored it, only to give it a go on a whim.
Guess what? I took to it almost immediately, as it not only concentrates on how prison life will change even the most decent of people, but also how various forms of corruption, funding cuts, privatization, guard brutality and discrimination can make a bad situation much, much worse. And the kick-in-the-teeth? We all know this happens!
A poignant, moral reminder to us all.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

This Week's Review Of...


The Power That Preserves
In the Power that Preserves, Stephen Donaldson brings the First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever to an end.
Lord Foul has mastered the Illearth Stone, altering the course of nature. The Land has been seized in the grip of a devastating winter that leeches all life away. Everything will die and the Arch of Time will fall. . .
. . .Unless Thomas Covenant accepts the Land and its predicament is real.
Sick to the back teeth of being used, by Foul; by the Creator; by the Lords and everyone he comes across, Covenant chooses another way and embraces the paradox he represents in one of the best face-offs between good and evil ever written.
A truly stunning conclusion to one of the best adventures ever written.


Lucifer – Series 4
For those of you who have already seen the show, Lucifer has the premise of the devil walking the earth while helping a detective solve murders. Rather odd, on the face of it, but as fans will know, there’s an odd link between Lucifer and Chloe, and the two are drawn together by forces beyond their control.
Based loosely on the character introduced by Neil Gaiman, Sam Kieth and Mike Dringenberg in DC’s The Sandman comic series, Lucifer has built an overwhelmingly loyal fanbase that helped save the show when Fox said they were going to cancel it at the end of series 3.
The ruckus they caused came to the attention of Netflix, who took the show on and – I have to say – kept a successful recipe bubbling nicely, even adding a spot of spice to it in some places. Lucifer series 4 is crisp, dark, sexy and brimming with superbly handled special effects. It’s irreverent, gory, fun, and downright entertaining.
This season concentrates on the deeper aspects of each main character, and of course, lets us see how Chloe handles the truth now she knows Lucifer really is THE devil. To ensure the calm waters of plain sailing aren’t allowed to make things too rosy, we have the addition of two new characters: Eve – yes, the woman who took the fruit from the tree in Eden and Lucifer's first girlfriend; and Father Kinley, a priest devoted to hunting the devil and preventing the fulfillment of a prophecy spelling the end of the world.
As I mentioned, Netflix ties things together rather nicely, even relating back to a prophecy mentioned in series 1 that adds a touch of ‘rightness’ to the developing plotline. And well it should, for it is intimated its fulfillment might cast a pall of doubt over Lucifer and Chloe’s relationship.
And THAT’s what it’s all about! Will they . . . won’t they?
Ah, you’ll see. And unlike the hordes in hell, you’ll be begging for more. 


Saturday, June 22, 2019

My Thought's On. . .



The Illearth War

Following on from Lord Foul’s Bane, the Illearth War finds our unwilling hero summoned back to the Land for a second time. But forty years have passed in the Land, and things have rapidly gone from bad to worse. Covenant must not only face the consequences of some of his previous actions, but he’s now expected to help the Lords fight Lord Foul’s army, a horde so vast, so powerful, that it will crush everything in existence. The only way to avoid utter ruination lies along a course beset with extreme peril. But who will be willing to pay the ultimate price? 

Yet again, Covenant refuses to rise to the occasion as others would want.

The Illearth War. Another outstanding example of how to write fantasy.



Avengers: Endgame

Those of you who follow my blog will remember how impressed I was by Avengers – Infinity War, a film of stupendous scale, special effects and a mind-blowing climax that added a wealth of credibility to what was once a fading pedigree.

While – in my opinion – Endgame isn’t quite as good, it maintained sufficient momentum to hang on in there . . . just!

Endgame lets us see how the remaining Avengers are coping in the aftermath of a cosmic-sized ass kicking: Tony Stark is stuck on a failing spacecraft waiting to die; Steve Rogers is doing his best to help Black Widow and other members of the team come to terms with their loss; Thor is drowning his sorrows in New Asgard; Bruce Banner seems to have transitioned well enough, now co-existing with his alter ego and doing what he can to get by.
They’re itching for payback. But how can they do that against a seemingly omnipotent Thanos who – true to his word – is now sitting back and living the easy life after reducing the population of the galaxy by one half.

The answer to that question starts to unravel with the arrival of Carol Danvers (Captain Marvel) who has taken an age to answer Nick Fury’s summons because of the vast distance she’s had to travel. But now she’s here?
Let’s just say, her presence was handled rather astutely – and wisely so. After all, when you include the presence of the ultimate superhero, bad guys/girls, even ones as powerful as Thanos, don’t get to last very long. And once Captain Marvel did her job and helped a motley crew of survivors get their revenge, of sorts, she leaves on another mission, thereby making way for a credible twist...
...and that’s where thing could have gone drastically wrong!

I won’t say what that twist is here in case you’ve not seen the film yet. Needless to say, the impact of Infinity Wars was heightened because of the Avengers defeat and subsequent carnage. And if they’d managed to undo all the damage inflicted upon them by the first film, then, shame on Marvel.
So they reached a compromise; one that just about squeezes through as passable, despite the sugar rush poignancy of final farewells in the nick of time.

Again, I apologize for not going into detail. I never like my reviews to spoil it for those who haven’t seen the film yet.

Overall, it was an extravagant, entertaining, and visually stunning film that didn’t live up to the benchmark set by its predecessor. And while it was fun to watch, I felt it a great shame we didn’t get to see more of Captain Marvel. But if we had, it would have been a very different and much shorter adventure.


Sunday, June 9, 2019

Review Time


Lord Foul’s Bane

As engaging now as it was when I first read it forty – YES, 40 years ago – Lord Foul’s Bane set the benchmark for high fantasy.

Thomas Covenant is a man who had everything a man could wish for: a loving wife; a delightful son; fame and fortune . . . and loses it all when he falls victim to a terrible infection. Abandoned to a life of seclusion and strict discipline, Covenant becomes a pariah in his hometown, only to find himself suddenly snatched away to a world that can’t possibly exist; a place where the very air brings healing, miraculously curing his disease.

But such things cannot be. They are a delusion and a deadly temptation to someone who can’t afford to relax. Ever! And when the people of this magical land place all their hopes on his presence among them, he rebels, refusing to become their savior.

Thus begins the First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, one of the most complex, involved fantasy epics you will ever read. Even better, it’ll be the start of a love-hate relationship, for Thomas Covenant is an anti-hero you’ll willingly slap into the middle of next week.

Try it – you’ll soon see what I mean.




Alita – Battle Angel
Based on an iconic manga Battle Angel series, Alita tells the story of a distant future – about five hundred years from now – where the Earth is still recovering from an interplanetary war known as “The Fall”. A disembodied teenage-looking cyborg is found in a giant scrapheap. Through an amazing set of high intensity action sequences, she sets out to discover more about the world about her; who she is; fall in love; and as the plot line develops, fight for justice.
But it’s not all plain sailing. Alita has a knack for finding trouble. And when she does, her instinctive combat skills are frightening to behold. But there’s a reason for that. As events unfold, others who hope to exploit her talents are drawn like moths to a flame.
I’d love to delve into certain aspects of the story, but doing so might give the game away for those who might not have seen it yet. It’s an ambitious, visually spectacular and enthralling production that enraptures you from the start and makes you believe what you see could actually be real.
While many have complained that it lacks the original depth of the manga series, that’s understandable. A lot has been crammed into a single film, and in my humble opinion, they did it rather well. I never read the comics, so I've not been influenced by comparisons. So, regarding the film itself . . . I loved it from the very beginning and think it’s one of Robert Rodriguez’s best films for years.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

My Thoughts On...



Moon Master

Vampire she may be, but if there’s one thing Samantha Moon cannot abide, it’s someone who hurts kids. When that “someone” happens to be a centuries old warlock – the Red Rider – with an affinity for dining on those youngsters who display magical talent, well, Samantha Moon takes umbrage and starts collecting information with the intention of doing something about it.

It’s when the Red Rider progresses to attacking 10 year old children that Samantha Moon goes nuclear. Determined to stop him once and for all, she sets off on the hunt of an unlifetime. As she does so, Samantha comes to appreciate that to achieve her heart’s desire she must do something none of the undead has been capable of before: mastering the art of traversing the higher dimensions. And it’s only when she begins to appreciate how seemingly impossible that is she realizes what’s truly at stake.

Yet all is not as it seems. Samantha is being manipulated, and the cost of achieving victory over the Red Rider will have implications she simply hasn’t considered . . .
. . . Not just for her, but for the whole of creation!

How far would YOU go to do the right thing?




Love, Death & Robots


In Love, Death and Robots, you get a serving of short animated stories centered on the theme of sci-fi, fantasy and horror. And boy, variety certainly is the spice of life . . . and love – death and Robots – as the title suggests. The recipe is varied too, from full-on space battles and carnage-wreaking robots, to sexually explicit mind-fxxxs that really strike a chord and make you think. There’s a tribute to the “Butterfly Effect”, cleverly disguised in slapstick comedy as to how history would have been affected if Hitler had died before coming to power, (ingenious). You even have a super-advanced form of yogurt that takes over the world. Excellent stuff!

But how to sum it all up without giving anything away?

Think of a selection of mezzes. Some are short, sweet and nasty. Others are daring, energetic and satirical. Several are poignant, thoughtful and heart-rending. Don’t get me wrong, I found some of the dishes a little bland, but as each dish rarely passes the 15 minute marker, you can put up with them while looking forward to the next course.

For me, Sonnie’s Edge, Beyond the Aquila Rift, The Witness and Lucky 13 stood out above the others. I’m sure you’ll find your own favorites among a diverse, violent and often humorous smorgasbord that portrays a dark and demented view of the world as seen through the eyes of those who have peeked through the veil and realize how tenuous reality is.

Great entertainment. I can’t wait for the second coming.

Friday, May 3, 2019

This Week's Review of. . .



Bright Ruin

Under Lord Whittam Jardine’s rule, conditions in Britain go from bad to much, much worse, and he goes out of his way to inflict tyrannical penalties on those – gifted or not – who oppose him. Yet for all his efforts, the call for revolution gains momentum and rebels resort to ever more spectacular means to drive their message home.

Both sides refuse to compromise, leading to ugly, well reported incidents they’d rather not be associated with.

Yet something stirs in the land; something ancient and long forgotten, involving memories of a former time when a wonder king, magically gifted, was thought to rule. Why? And why now? Is he a creature of myth and legend, or does his reemergence into the hearts and minds of a special few bode well for the future?

One thing’s for sure, the truth – when it’s revealed – is cataclysmic, and will change the world forever.

Full of deliciously detailed historical parallels, compelling characters and moral dilemmas, “Bright Ruin” is an absolutely superb conclusion to a stunning series. You will immerse yourself in its pages and end up rooting for your personal favorites. I know I did.




Split
M. Night Shyamalan is renowned for his psychological thrillers with a twist: The Sixth Sense; The Village; Unbreakable and Signs to name a few. It’s what he does best . . . he keeps you guessing until the very last minute, before pulling the rug out from under your feet.
Well, you’ll be glad to know that in Split, Shyamalan is on top form.
The film follows the exploits of James McAvoy in the character of Kevin, an odd-job worker who suffers from dissociative personality disorder. You see, Kevin is also Barry, Dennis, Miss Patricia, and nine-year old Hedwig, a rather charming little boy who has to share his “time in the light” with twenty-three other personalities.
And not all of them are nice.
It would seem the obsessive-compulsive Dennis and passive-aggressive Miss Patricia have staged a psychological coup in order to prepare the way for ‘The Beast’, a brand new 24th identity with a fetishistic hunger for innocent flesh. (Think Hannibal Lecter meets Mr. Hyde and you won’t go far wrong). This helps you understand why the film begins with Dennis kidnapping three teenage girls out from under the nose of one of their parents and imprisoning them in a hidden lair until it’s time for them to appear on the main menu.
Do the girls just give up and die?
You’ll see. But to highlight one of the trio – Casey, superbly played by Anya Taylor-Joy – who’s clearly a loner with gargantuan reserves of pluck hidden away behind those gothic layers of dark-eyed vulnerability. Now she’s rather good fun to watch, and turns out to be a dark knight in shining armor.
You might sense I’m beating around the bush a bit? 
You’d be right, as I’m being darned careful NOT to give away too much of the plot. Needless to say, there’s an element of “is this 24th character really as bad as the other personalities say he is? Can he actually do the things they hint at?"
That’s the fun thing about a M. Night Shyamalan film. You won’t find out until the very end. But boy oh boy, will it send chills down your spine.
I rather enjoyed this film and will gladly watch it again.

Friday, April 19, 2019

My Thoughts On. . .

Vampire Sire

Angels, demons, witches, ghosts, vampire hunters and the demon possessed. You get all these and more in “Vampire Sire”, the latest action packed escapade featuring former federal agent and ultra-protective mom, Samantha Moon.

Sam thinks she’s seen just about every weird and warped thing there is to see in the twelve years since she became a vampire. But when a representative from a renowned attorney’s office arrives on her doorstep, she brings news that helps Sam realize how little she knows.

Yes, out of the blue, Sam is provided with an eyewitness testimony of the attack that changed her life all those years ago. And more importantly, she is given the identity of the beast who carried that attack out, and why he did it.

Needless to say, the details presented to her turn her world on its head, opening doors of opportunity she never thought existed.

Vampire Sire: Take a bite from one of the best vampire series in existence.



The Umbrella Academy

Until Netflix thought to introduce me to the Umbrella Academy, I’d never heard of the comic book series created by Gerard Way and illustrated by Gabriel Bá.
My Bad – I’ve missed out on some quality quirkiness!
Thirty years before our story begins, the world is stunned by the birth of forty-three babies to women who weren’t even pregnant moments before! Seven of those babies are subsequently purchased by an eccentric member of the aristocracy, Sir Reginald Hargreaves, who promptly takes them home and turns them into something rather special.
Special? Oh yes, it seems the children have been endowed with remarkable gifts: Number one, Luther, is super strong; number two, Diego can hold his breath for an exceedingly long time as well as control the blades he throws so that they hit any target he desires; number three, Alison, can coerce people into doing what she says; number four, Klaus, can speak with the dead; number five, “the boy” can teleport through spacetime; number six, Ben, can unleash supernatural horror on his targets; number seven, Vanya, can play the violin. (seriously) – and that, it seems, is that!
Growing up, they formed the “Umbrella Academy” – a crime fighting super elite who were renowned throughout the earth. In latter years, however, they went their separate ways and didn’t talk to each other much. It’s not until Sir Reginald dies that the former team have a reason to get back together. Assembling back at the manor where they grow up we find things have radically changed.
For one thing, Luther has been on the moon for years and seems out of touch with society. Diego is now a vigilante, as much in the cells as he is putting people there. Alison became a filmstar, married, had a child then got divorced for daring to use her skill in the wrong place and at the wrong time. Klaus is so high or drunk, it a wonder he hasn’t pickled himself to death. The boy is missing, presumed dead.  Ben IS dead and has been for some time and is the only one Klaus can relate to. And Vanya? Well, she still plays the violin.
Everything is morbidly awkward, until the unexpected return of the boy – now a world-weary time traveler who has spent decades in the future and is trapped as his 13 year old self with bad news. Humanity has been destroyed, and they need to do something about it.
And THAT my friends, is when things start to warp into a splendidly bizarre adventure featuring temporal assassins; talking apes; robot protectors; sugar-coated donuts and wry, self-depreciating humor backed up by great tracks.
(Wait until you see the mansion wide dance sequence at the end of episode 1 and a later department store shootout. You’ll see what I mean.) Brilliant!
This is caped crusader meets John Steed & Emma Peel of the Avengers while visiting the Royal Tenenbaums and getting home in time for tea kinda stuff.
Delightful. Distracting. Dark and despicable. A fantastic way to spend your evenings.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

This Week's Reviews of. . .


Tarnished City

Carrying on from the aftermath of Gilded Cage, “Tarnished City” reveals how things take a turn for the worse after the terrible events at the Jardine’s family estate at Kyneston.

Consigned to Millmoor slave town for a crime Luke didn’t commit, his family must now suffer the full force of an unjust system that sees them as nothing more than chattel to be used and disposed of as the Skilled ruling elite see fit.

And nowhere more so is that imbalance exposed than in Luke’s fate. Coerced into committing a murder he had no hope of preventing, he is hung out to dry, condemned to a life sentence of imprisonment and foul experimentation in one of the harshest places thought to exist. And the worst thing of all is that there are those in power who can prove his innocence. But what would be the point of that when the Jardine’s are out to serve their own aspirations?

Yes, their insidious grip on power tightens with each passing day.

What to do, then, in your darkest hour? Give up and accept your fate or fight until the fighting done? As Luke and his sister, Abi, are about to find out, nothing is as it seems. And your allies can be those you’d least expect.

Imaginative; intelligent; barbaric and compelling. “Tarnished City” is all this and more, revealing just how rocky the road to liberty can be, and why you should never give up!




Russian Doll

Before I sat down to watch this new series, I have to admit, I was preparing myself for a kind of “Groundhog Day” reunion. I didn’t know what to expect . . . and boy, was I surprised. This is far, far better than the film everyone keeps referring to.
Natasha Lyonne plays Nadia, a chain-smoking, booze swilling, substance chuffing independent girl about town who’s enjoying her 36th birthday party one moment, and rolling across the bonnet of a taxi not fifteen minutes later when she’s killed for the first time.
She promptly regains consciousness back at the party, and everything starts to unravel exactly as it did before . . . or does it? (You get a clue from the title)
Nadia sets off again, bewildered and disorientated and wondering what the hell is going on . . . then BAM! She’s dead again. And we’re off, on an existential unmerry-go-round of her trying to sort through whether or not she’s actually dead – and being punished for something she did or didn’t do in life – or high on one of the many substances she likes to abuse in a party environment.
Her subsequent deaths are handled amazingly – and hilariously well (Those damned steps outside her friend’s apartment proving a tremendous hurdle to relife and limb) and every time she meets a grizzly end, something changes. Those changes are slight to begin with, but as the episodes progress, the differences become much more pronounced . . . as does the reason, explaining why the show is called, “Russian Doll”. It peels back the layers surrounding Nadia, and helps you see what went wrong in her life and how it’s scarred the way she avoids dealing with certain problems.
She doesn’t have to endure this nightmare alone, however. During an elevator plunge (a particularly wonderful event, superbly presented) she meets Alan, someone else who, like her, seems to be afflicted with his own version of the same cyclic dilemma.
Of course, they team up, and what follows exemplifies the title even more, as each character has to strip away the weight of their hang-ups to get at the root cause of their predicament. (That’s all I’m going to say. I hate giving away plot points, and I’ve already done too much of that).
But what I will emphasize is that you get a great little show (each episode is only half hour long) where each of the cast members interrelate in a manner that would normally indicate they’ve known each other and all their little quirky foibles for years.
It’s brutal, it’s blunt, it’s raunchy, it’s downright hilarious too, and thought-provokingly poignant (Just wait until the part where Alan realizes why it is he’s stuck in the loop) – and most of all, its great entertainment that’s refreshingly different from most of the other shows out there.
Natasha Lyonne is one of the co creators of this show along with Amy Poehler and Leslye Headland. If this is indicative of their work, I want more :)
What a shame it came to an end so quickly.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

My Thoughts On. . .


Illusion (Dark Musicals Book 5)

It’s been a while since I read any of Laura DeLuca’s work, the last time being the final book of the original “Dark Musicals” series.

The first Dark Musicals are a clever play on genres. Think of a murder-mystery-whodunnit based around the theme of well known theatrical productions; in particular, “Phantom of the Opera”, “Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street”, “Jekyll and Hyde”, and “A Christmas Carol”.
What makes them more appealing is that each story follows the lives of two high school sweethearts, Rebecca and Justyn as they meet, fall in love, and grow into accomplished performers in their own right. Of course, being a murder-mystery series, their life’s course is rather eventful – and entertaining – to say the least, and helps you involve yourself with the characters from the outset.
(I would recommend you try those earlier stories before delving into “Illusions”, as it will allow you to appreciate what this couple have been through together, and how they’ve ended up where they are.)

Now to the current book.

Rebecca and Justyn are married. Not only are they Broadway stars in their own right, but their eight-year old son, Erik, is a musical savant with prodigious talent. When they are invited to perform their new show, “Phantom Returns”, in Australia, Erik joins them, using the occasion to make his professional debut.
Alas, the rose-tinted tides of fate begin to stir, throwing up warning signs that shouldn’t be ignored. For one, Erik suffers a nightmare – something far more powerful and profound than a simple bad dream. In it, he is snatched away from his mother and father. A premonition perhaps?
Lo and behold, the family arrives in Australia to find a young boy has gone missing. What’s more, the bodies of women who have been strangled to death are turning up in one place after another. Putting these events down to unhappy coincidence, the Hope-Patko family forge ahead, determined that the show must go on.
And it does, in the face of increasing danger that I won’t reveal in detail here. After all, you need to read the story yourselves. Suffice to say, you’ll be glad you did, for DeLuca skillfully entwines the lives of Broadway’s favorite couple into the exploits of the characters they play: betrayal and misunderstanding; sabotage and threats; revelations and tragedy. It’s all there, and more, in an adventure that also weaves YOU into the plot and holds you there until the final curtain falls.

An entertaining and enjoyable romp across the boards. Don’t miss it.





Unbreakable
I first saw Unbreakable, directed by M. Night Shyamalan, over ten years ago and thought I’d treat myself again. The story is rather compelling, and revolves around the lives of two men: David Dunn (Bruce Willis), a down-on-his-luck married man from Philadelphia who, returning from a job interview in New York, becomes the sole survivor of a devastating train crash; and Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson), a rather obsessive, comic book oriented individual suffering from a condition that makes his bones as fragile as glass, who contacts David and offers him a rather wacky explanation as to why it is he survived.
The thing is, as far out as Elijah’s theories are, they might just be right!
What we get is a superbly presented buildup, where a modest, self-depreciating guy comes to a gradual realization that – yes – he is different from other people. So different, that what he can do, what he can achieve, are feats well beyond what might be thought of as “normal”.
And the great thing about this M. Night Shyamalan film is, we’re not inundated by your usual crop of flashy, overly confident super heroes wearing figure-hugging suits. Oh no, our guy hides his identity by slipping on a plain green poncho.
However, I jump the gun a little, for the story arc is superbly crafted, tugging you along on the slow slide toward an inevitable revelation. Then, just when you think you can relax, you get an extra twist regarding a sickening link between the disaster that started it all and Elijah himself.
An excellent film that – despite its subject matter – is hauntingly believable. Treat yourself and see it as soon as you can (and definitely before “Split” and “Glass”)