Show Review: A Discovery of Witches (2018)

I absolutely consumed A Discovery of Witches (the book), so it makes sense that I’d fall head over heels in love with the show. It’s so beautifully shot, so intense, so lush, so engrossing. I watched the entirety of season one on Sunday and I am in the mood to watch it all over again!

As with the book, the show follows Diana Bishop, a DPhil from Yale studying for a summer at Oxford while she finishes up her latest article on alchemical symbolism. She’s also a witch, but on the down low and not happy about the magical world in general following her parents’ murder when she was very young. In the course of her research, she finds a magical tome, freaks out, and sends it back to the stacks. Little does Diana know that by opening the book, she’s caught the attention of every vampire, witch and daemon on campus (and abroad).

Matthew Clairmont, a professor of biochemistry at Oxford, introduces himself to Diana, who knows instantly that he’s a vampire. He wants the book she discovered in an effort to learn more about the origins of vampires and why they seemingly can no longer sire humans into vampires. His son Marcus’ failed attempt at turning his best friend is just the latest in the series of confusing occurrences for vampires. Though Matthew unsettles Diana, he seems to be the only one on her side as witches harass her. Unlike the vampires, who want the book to learn about their origins and to survive, the witches want the book to erase vampires from existence.

As Diana and Matthew try and discern the mysteries of the book and why Diana is the one and only person to find it in centuries, other witches, vampires and daemons close in around them, forcing the pair to flee to France, where Matthew’s vampire family reside.

I LOVED EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS SHOW!!! It’s full of romance, magic, mystery, politics, history, architecture, scenery, science and more! I want to draw hearts around it and watch it over and over. Season two is going to be here in 2021 and I cannot wait! I must have more of Diana and Matthew’s epic romance.

Five Mini Film Reviews: The Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020), Ready Player One (2018), About Time (2013), The Aeronauts (2019), Jupiter Ascending (2015)

I have watched so many good movies lately and they all deserve lengthy reviews, but I’m going to keep these short and sweet for now!

The Trial of the Chicago 7 is honestly fantastically well done. It recounts the court hearing of seven (eight) activists – Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Tom Hayden, Rennie Davis, David Dellinger, Lee Weiner and John Froines – charged with starting a riot in Chicago to protest the Vietnam War, and another – Bobby Seale – who wasn’t in the area but is dragged into the court room regardless. If you’ve studied the Vietnam War protests and the Civil Rights and counter culture movements, then this is definitely up your alley. It’s also a harrowing depiction of the brutality and racism so many faced simply for existing. It’s directed by Aaron Sorkin and definitely has his signature take and will grip your heart and not let go.

Ready Player One was so, so brilliant. Knowing Steven Spielberg directed it was what pushed me to give it a go as I wasn’t quite sold on the premise by itself. I’m not a gamer or into virtual reality, so the prospect of a dystopian future where VR is the only good thing wasn’t quite what I had in mind. But I gave it a go and I’m delighted that I did! The visuals are amazing, the Easter eggs and throwbacks to retro games, 80s music and classic movies were super cool. It felt like a love letter to pop culture wrapped up in a dystopian adventure and I enjoyed every second. In fact, I liked it so much that I watched it twice in a row: once alone and then again with my partner after work because I knew it would be in his lane. And he adored it, so win!

About Time was such a lovely rewatch! I saw it a few years ago but I wanted to show it to my partner because I think the message of the film is genuine and sincere and wholesome. It’s a movie to watch when you need uplifting, yanno? It follows a family where the first born sons have the ability to travel through time. Tim, the main character, at first tries to use the power to fix his love life, but quickly learns that even with time travel, things aren’t that simple. The focus of this story is characters, their relationships and on the importance of appreciating every moment of life. The fantasy/science fiction aspect takes a backseat and is never explained beyond we can time travel, but it works very well and it’s a movie I can see myself rewatching a lot because it’s just so darn lovely.

The Aeronauts was absolutely fantastic. It’s inspired by real events, so it’s not a direct take on history. Basically, the film follows real life meteorologist James Glaisher and fictional pilot Amelia Wren (Amelia Rennes is also used in the film, perhaps because her surname is Anglicised from her French husband’s? Not sure, not explained). Anyways, Amelia Wren is a composite character based on a few real life female aviators: Sophie Blanchard and Margaret Graham. Her husband is partially inspired by Jean-Pierre Blanchard and Thomas Harris. James and Amelia and the events the characters go through in the film are used to really cover the era, and I like what the director’s trying to do. It’s important to note that James’ real life historical partner, Henry Coxwell, isn’t included, and I understand the criticism of omitting his role in James’ flight, but the director’s reasoning of wanting to represent the female aviators of the time makes sense. It’s not meant to be a documentary, it’s an inspirational film based in history, so just go into that knowing the divergence. James is real, Amelia is fictional, but the end result is wonderful.

In the film, two years after Amelia’s husband Pierre falls to his death from a hot air balloon, she’s coaxed back into the skies by James, a scientist determined to prove that you can predict weather (he’s the father of weather forecasting, basically), but he’s been laughed out of the Royal Society in London for his ideas, which many claim are far-fetched and based in fantasy. He and Amelia agree to try and outdo the French record of reaching 23,000 feet while taking readings as they go up, in an effort to help James understand weather patterns. The intensity of the flight cannot be overstated and I gasped throughout the entirety of it, but it was brilliantly done. Absolutely fantastic movie! I’d love to see a documentary on the era and James Glaisher’s real life flight with Thomas Coxwell if anyone knows of any docs? Also, any docs on female aviators, please send my way!

Jupiter Ascending was definitely unexpected but I’m glad I finally watched it! I never got into The Matrix (much to everyone’s horror, I know) but I absolutely adored Sense8, so I figured I would give this one a go (same directors). I don’t know if I loved it as much as I wanted to (and considering how much I adore Eddie Redmayne and Sean Bean as actors), but there was definitely a lot to like. Visually it was gorgeous and I thought the plot was fascinating. The idea of other creatures engineering the start of Earth, mass civilisations out there in the galaxy, all very cool. If you’re a fan of space opera, this one is well worth a go!

Show Review: The Day of the Triffids (2009)

If anyone ever asks me what my favourite Cinderella story is, my answer will be shouting Ever After (1998) at the top of my lungs before they can even finish the question. Perfect Cinderella, perfect Prince Charming, perfect Leonardo da Vinci as the fairy godmother. Perfect, perfect, perfect. As a result, Dougary Scott has always been a favourite of mine and I’m therefore *shock Pikachu face* at the fact that this BBC adaption of a classic science fiction novel from 1951 with the classic Prince Charming has somehow escaped my notice. At least I’ve found it now!

The Day of the Triffids is two-part series that follows Bill Masen and Jo Playton after a meteor shower has left most of the world blind. For context, triffids are a source of alternative fuel that is pollution free and easy to grow, but at a steep risk – these plants eat people. Global warming has been diverted by these plants, but they’re not safe and must be kept under constant watch. Bill, a scientist who has spent his life studying triffids after a sting from one killed his mother, and Jo, a reporter, escaped the blindness (two of the few who did), but not the triffids.

Bill and Jo cross paths as panic breaks out and chaos ensues as a result of so many losing their sight all at once. At the same time, the triffids, now unwatched, begin to wreak havoc on London. While what’s left of the government try and gather supplies, and a man named Coker rallies those who have been blinded by the meteor to keep them safe, the triffids spread across the land and the only ones emphasising their danger are Bill and Jo. Everyone else is more concerned with the obvious diversions of everything going wrong, believing the pair’s fears overblown. (Narrator: Their fears were not overblown.)

Dougray Scott and Joely Richardson are fantastic in this! I wasn’t expecting to see Jason Priestly in a BBC production, but his character makes for a good introduction. He plays Coker, a man furious at the lack of care being shown to those who have been blinded and becomes an activist of sorts, although his tactics take questionable directions. I wasn’t expecting to see Eddie Izzard either, and his character becomes a supplementary antagonist alongside the triffids and adds to the chaos and fear that permeate every scene.

If you’re looking for a science fiction miniseries with a solid cast and a different take on unravelling of society, this one is a good diversion from zombies and aliens. This time, it’s plants!

Film Review: Mortal Engines (2018)

There are few aesthetics that I like more than steampunk. Futuristic tech with old-timey designs and styles? Sign me up! So it follows that I’d love Mortal Engines, but I didn’t realise how much I would love it. I’ve had the book for a while but haven’t got around to reading it yet, so I didn’t really know what the film was about besides moving cities.

*spoilers*

The storyline follows Hester Shaw, an orphan in a world far in the future after war and massive technology have ravaged the land, leaving only predator cities and at risk stationary settlements. One powerful city, London, consumes smaller cities, stripping them for parts and stealing from the citizens. The opening scene is London chasing Salzhaken, a tiny city with salt stores. When the inhabitants are shepherded into London and their things are taken from them, Hester slips through with her blade and stabs the city’s leading archaeologist and deputy mayor, Thaddeus Valentine. Hester escapes and Tom, an admirer of Valentine’s, chases after her. She tries to jump off the city and he grabs her. She tells him that Valentine killed her mother before yanking free and falling. Seconds later, Valentine pushes Tom off the side of the city for having heard the secret. He tells his daughter, Tom’s friend Kate, that he fell to his death.

On the ground, stuck in the great tyre treads of London, Hester picks Tom’s pockets and sets off, furious at having failed to kill Valentine. Tom follows, unable to shut up and now doubting everything he’s ever known. The two are found by scavengers who bring them to a slave market where they’re subsequently rescued by Anna Fang, the most notorious assassin on the continent. Let me just say that Anna Fang is ABSOLUTELY AMAZING. She has the most gorgeous plane, for starters. It looks more like a badass flying lantern. She’s also proficient in all weaponry and fights for the Anti-Traction League, a group against the predator cities.

The trio are chased by a new enemy, Shrike, a ‘Stalker’ who is more machine than man, and who is obsessed with killing Hester for ‘breaking her promise’. It’s revealed by Hester that Shrike raised her after he found her near death and saw her as his child. Shrike doesn’t have a heart, but remnants of his past life as a human bleed through and there is genuine affection there. We also learn that Shrike found Hester days after her mother Pandora was killed by Valentine after she discovered an ancient piece of technology that he wanted to control. I really, really enjoyed the Shrike storyline. It’s utterly distressing but in a very well written way, and Hester’s relationship with him was a poignant background story.

Back on London, Kate befriends Bevis, an Irish mechanic who witnessed Valentine shoving Tom off London and agrees to help her find out what her father is up to. I appreciated how quickly everyone got on the same page. There was no wishy-washiness about the characters, no bargaining or bullshit. The characters adapted to situations quickly and maturely, and Kate and Bevis as a pair are just as dynamic as Hester and Tom.

Everything comes to a head at Shan Guo, the great wall barrier that protects settler cities from predator cities. The final show down was fast paced and cathartic: Tom gets to test his flying skills, Hester has her showdown with Valentine, Kate plays an essential role, as does Anna. For everyone who has ever wanted a movie that doesn’t sideline its female characters, this one’s for you!

It must also be said that I loved everyone’s outfits in this movie: Hester’s outfit, Anna’s outfit, Tom’s outfit – it’s a steampunk DREAM, lads. Truly, truly stunning. The design of the cities was gorgeous and inspired. The shout-outs to history and culture had me in awe, too. There were a lot of great current analogies and throw away lines that were brilliant.

The ending was great, too. I honestly loved every aspect of this movie and thoroughly, thoroughly recommend it. ♡

Short Story Review: Termites by Neha De Alwis

I love discovering new literary magazines and new authors in one fell swoop! Totally delightful! I stumbled across Kill Your Darlings (no, not the Daniel Radcliffe movie) this morning after seeing the name in a Goodreads sidebar. (Hey, recs work!) It’s an Australian based literary magazine that offers short stories and essays and more. I clicked on a story at random and was blown away.

Termites (2020) by Neha De Alwis won the 2020 KYD School Writing Prize and I must say, the story is well worth reading!

You are a thief of many things, and about half of those things you keep in your pocket. The rest, the things you can’t hold, you keep in a constantly growing mental inventory.

The story focuses on OCD and was very well written! I’m looking forward to more by this author.

Show Review: Fringe (2008)

My Dawson’s Creek rewatch led me to Fringe, which I unfortunately never finished when it was airing a few years ago. I’m now finally going through it properly and really, really enjoying it. If you like The X-Files, Supernatural (and can we talk about the most recent episode ending, guys, because I’m not okay?!), Alias, Buffy or Angel, this one fits right in with classics of the 2000s. It has that vibe. I can’t even describe it, but if you watched these shows, you know what I mean.

Fringe follows Olivia Dunham, an FBI agent who has fallen in love with her partner, John Scott. She and John end up on a case that ends badly, with John in hospital afflicted by a strange virus. It’s turned his skin translucent and he’s dying. In an effort to save him, Olivia begins researching doctors, treatments and scientists who might know more about the mysterious illness. Her search leads her to Walter Bishop, a genius who’s been in a mental institution for almost two decades after someone died during one of his experiments. Bishop, a leading thinker in the field of ‘fringe science’ is believed to be insane, but is still brilliant.

Unable to get in to see Walter without a family member, Olivia flies to Iraq to find Peter Bishop, an MIT dropout turned transient who has no relationship with his father and doesn’t want one. Fibbing blackmail, Olivia gets Peter to come back with her to Boston to see Walter. They take him out of the institution and, along with Astrid, a fellow FBI agent, begin researching ways to save John.

When I first started it, I got heavy X-Files vibes, but after a couple of episodes the two shows couldn’t be more different. There are strange figures called Observers popping up at random events and they are sufficiently terrifying. Each episode follows a different mystery of the week, many of which tie into ‘the Pattern’, or are related to Massive Dynamic, a multinational group that has a role in the strange events going on. Massive Dynamic reminds me a bit of the Life Foundation in Venom, actually.

I love the focus on characters in this show. This one has a really good balance between hard science fiction and character relationships and development. There’s a lot of focus on Peter’s relationship with his father, Olivia’s past relationship with John, and the growing friendship between Peter and Olivia. All of the characters are intriguing and complex, and I’m excited to see how the show progresses and how it ends.

Thoroughly recommend!

Dawson’s Creek Rewatch (Part 2)

spoilery (✿◠‿◠)

I apparently have a lot of feelings about Dawson’s Creek and a second post is required!

Carrying on from my previous post, my Dawson’s Creek rewatch continues and so DOES THE EMOTIONAL ROLLERCOSTER. I’m now partway through season two and I’m constantly stunned by how impressive this show is, especially for its time. The characters are very well written and there’s such a running theme of genuine sincerity throughout the show that I’m just moved by. (I’m all about good vibes these days and let me just say, this show is the perfect break from reality right now.)

Season two tackles Jack’s coming out storyline, the return of Joey’s father, Jen’s struggles with her aunt and her personal happiness, Andie’s mental health crisis, Dawson’s parents’ divorce and subsequent dating adventures, and love stories on all sides.

I’m just gonna start with my favourites: Jack and Pacey. Jack’s dating Joey – who’s smitten with him – when his bitter, angry teacher decides to make Jack read a personal poem in front of the class. The poem was meant to be only for the teacher’s eyes and is about another man. Jack leaves the class in tears. This is followed by Pacey spitting in his teacher’s face. Pacey is honestly the most amazing ally in these episodes and I STAN A GOOD MAN. Later, when he confronts Andie about her being bothered by Jack’s homosexuality, he tells her straight out that he’s disappointed in her. He further refuses to apologise to the school for standing up for Jack and is genuinely delighted when Jack thanks him at the end. Pacey is honestly so pure. THESE PRINCES.

Pacey’s amazing treatment of Jack is also mirrored in his wonderful treatment of Andie, who struggles with her mental health throughout the season. He’s open and understanding, promising to stand by her side through what’s to come. The scene where she locks herself in her room, hallucinating Tim, her and Jack’s late brother, is gutting. In the aftermath, Jack is forced to recall his dad – who was last seen telling Jack that he didn’t want him to be gay – for Andie’s safety, and the end result isn’t great for anyone. Jack’s father continues to be homophobic and suggest conversion therapy, but Jack stands up for himself and tells his father that while he wants his dad to be proud of him, he won’t compromise who he is. I’m definitely bummed that Andie left at the end, leaving Pacey and Jack brokenhearted, but I’m glad Jack stayed behind and gets Jen to move in with him at the end.

This season also had a lot of classmate Chris (Jason Behr) and resident drama llama Abby, who bonds with Jen while stirring up chaos with everyone else around her, often with Chris’ help. I thought they were really great minor characters and I wish we’d had them around longer. The actors were superb!

I’m stoked for the rest of this rewatch! (Clearly.)

Rewatch Review: Dawson’s Creek (1998)

I’m going to be fairly spoilery with this so heads up. (✿◠‿◠)

Do you know what I remember about Dawson’s Creek? I mean, we all remember: I don’t wanna wait for our lives to be overrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr ♫♪. But the standouts for me were Jensen Ackles’ showing up right before he started on Smallville and Supernatural, and of course Jack McPhee’s storyline.

For those don’t remember, Dawson’s Creek made television history with Jack’s LGBT storyline at the time. LGBT relationships, let alone kisses, weren’t commonplace on television in the US at the time and it was A BIG DEAL. I could count on one hand the number of gay storylines we got on network television when I was growing up: Dawson’s Creek, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Friends. So my everlasting memory of Dawson’s Creek was largely: thank you for giving us representation when so few would.

I also just adore the cast of Dawson’s Creek in general and continue to, to this day. Seriously, the core actors all went on to have lovely careers and seem so genuine in real life that I’ve always had a soft spot for the show as a result. Same with Firefly and Buffy and Supernatural. If the actors seem chill in real life, the show feels like comfort food, especially when you’re looking for escapism (and who isn’t this week?). Now it’s a decade since I last watched the series (I think?) and I’m finally getting a chance to rewatch it, and I’m finding that I remember – basically none of the storylines whatsoever! Which is making the rewatch so much fun and surprising. Somehow I even forgot about Dawson’s movie obsession??? Which is basically the foundation of the entire show, so that’s a wow at me. WOW.

Some more wows: I didn’t remember Dawson’s parents having an open marriage after a case of infidelity. Nor did I remember Pacey and his teacher in season one?! What the?! I feel like that storyline came out of left field. I didn’t remember Joey and Jack kissing??? Wut??? And he tells Dawson he’d do it again? To his face?? And Dawson punches him?! How did I forget this???? And wait, Jason Behr was in this, too? *SHOCK PIKACHU FACE*

Something that really struck me this time is Pacey’s fixation with his brother Doug’s sexuality in season one (Doug comes out in the final episode of the series and ends up with Jack), and while Pacey is being a jerk in the context of the scene (it’s evident that he’s mocking, not supporting), I wonder if it was foreshadowing on the part of the writers? If so, I’m really impressed by how early Doug’s homosexuality is brought in (1998) and how it comes full circle by the end (2003). I’d also forgotten about how awful and homophobic one of the high school teachers was to Jack. (Watch Jack’s poem.) And then, somehow, I forgot about Pacey’s response. Let it never be forgotten that Jack and Pacey were precious, loyal and deserved better.

I also really appreciate how much agency Joey starts to assert for herself after she begins dating Dawson. She starts pushing herself to have more of her own identity, which is something so important. The emphasis on friendship that’s really underscored in the show is wonderful, too. The characters are all well developed and have great individual storylines, from the high-schoolers to the parents and siblings.

Jen as a character is one I didn’t remember too much about, although I’ve followed Michelle Williams’ career as a result of Jen, so go figure. She’s a sweet, spunky girl who’s open minded and kind, befriending everyone and supportive to all. I really adore her from the get go, and much as I like Joey, she was being quite cruel to Jen at the start simply for existing. The progression of Jen’s relationship with her grandma is really lovely and well progressed. I love that they have that bond, and the scene where her grandpa dies is so heart-shattering.

I think it’s clear Pacey’s one of my favourites, but just as a character study he’s so lovely and mature to his friends. When I think of other 90s lead guys, Pacey really stands out as someone who cares more about the happiness of the ones he loves than his own. And that’s something, I think, that I’m noticing on this rewatch. There’s a lot of kindness amongst the characters of the show that I think is absent from a lot of television nowdays. Nineties show had a quality, a softness, a kindness. I miss that. Kinda wholesome, you know? I mean that in a truly sincere way. I love how wholesome it is.

Anyone else watch this show when they were younger? Thoughts?

Show Review: Alguien tiene que morir (2020)

Set in the gorgeous 1950s Spanish countryside, Alguien tiene que morir or Someone Has to Die, follows the wealthy Falcón family. For anyone that loves Élite, the main actress from that show, Ester Expósito, is also in this one. I seriously adore her! The rest of the cast are amazing in this, too, but it’s great seeing her in more things!

The main storyline follows the Falcón family after the son, Gabino, brings his ballerino friend Lázaro home from México. Unfortunately, his family are less than pleased as they suspect Gabino of being gay and they don’t want Lázaro to spend time with him. Never mind the fact that Gabino is completely in love with Lázaro despite the fact that he’s is engaged to the wealthy Cayetana Aldama, who is none the wiser to Gabino’s sexuality. Sparks also fly amongst others in the area and tensions quickly worsen for everyone involved.

What I really liked about this show was the scenery, the fashion and without question the acting, which was fantastic. All absolutely amazing. It’s beautifully shot and the cinematography is lush. I don’t know as much about Spain’s history as I’d like, so learning about it is fascinating. That said, this isn’t a cheerful or uplifting miniseries by any means. It very much underscores how awful the homophobia was, so bear that in mind as it’s tough to sit through several of the scenes. It’s certainly well worth a watch, but I recommend having something cheerful to put on afterwards!

Film Review: The Addams Family (1991) & Addams Family Values (1993)

For some reason, I’ve always thought I’d seen the whole Addams Family movie from the 90s, but watching it this Hallowe’en, I found that I didn’t remember any of it! Oh my gosh, though, it’s cracking good fun. I’d stick it up there in the same category of Beetlejuice (1988) and Hocus Pocus (1993). Fun, crazy, spooky goodness. (I also have a post about horror-comedy here.)

The films follow Gomez, Morticia, Wednesday, Pugsley, Grandmama, Lurch, Thing, Cousin Itt and Margaret, members of the gothic, macabre Addams family. The film is based on the 1930s comic by Charles Addams. The family delight in all things death, darkness, despair and woe. But they’re a very, very loving family who care about each other’s happiness.

What I love about the storylines is just how whacky and fun they are. I like movies that aren’t afraid to be crazy or over the top or goofy. This is goofy with a side of goth wrapped in a wholesome, if macabre, family that loves each other.

The second one had me laughing just as much. Where the first film follows the storyline of Whatever happened to Fester Addams? which is neatly wrapped up at the end, the second film centres around the arrival of a nanny who sends the elder children off to summer camp so that they can’t uncover her plans to marry Fester and steal his fortune. As she woos Fester, with Gomez and Morticia playing matchmakers, Wednesday and Pugsley are forced to endure a militantly perky camp that refuses to allow anyone to deviate from what they perceive as enforceable fun. Wednesday, of course, revolts:

Honestly, the 90s were such a good era of kids movies and these are two gems. Also, I loved seeing so many actors that I recognise outside of the central characters. My partner and I kept going, ‘Wait, they’re in it, too?!’ So, awesome cameos are a plus. But honestly, for two films centred around a family obsessed with death, these movies are quiet uplifting and lighthearted.