January reviews

Films and TV

Somehow or another I seem to have gone square-eyed this month. We treated ourselves to a Firestick to try to reorganise our TV access and I re-subscribed to Radio Times after a couple of years’ hiatus. Result: more TV and more films via TV or Prime or Netflix. I might have got a bit carried away. Most of what I watched was excellent.

The really really good. Watch them if you can.

Fantastic Beasts***** Magic and mayhem in the world of Harry Potter but earlier.
I, Daniel Blake***** Chilling indictment of government policy on benefits. Rewatch (husband hadn’t seen it.) For Brits, still on iPlayer till Monday night.
Brexit: An Uncivil War***** Benedict Cumberbatch clarifying the referendum.
A Very English Scandal***** Jeremy Thorpe’s attempt to murder Norman Scott. We were Liberal Party activists at the time…
The Huntsman: Winter War***** Chris Hemsworth in the sequel to Snow White and the Huntsman
Tangled***** Disney version of Rapunzel
The Great Fire of London***** Three hours of TV – I wouldn’t have watched (fire ‘triggers’ me) but it was on in the lounge.
Bodyguard***** Six gripping episodes of a very Brit thriller which we caught on iPlayer later than most people!
Treasures of the Indus***** Art, architecture and religion from Pakistan to southern India. Mesmerising and informative.

The good. Watch them if they’re brought to your attention.

American History’s Biggest Fibs**** Lucy Worsley. I didn’t learn much but the presentation was good and so were some of the interviews with academics.
Monkey Kingdom**** Disney natural world film. It’s better with the commentary switched off – just saying…
The Jungle Book **** Golden oldie! Rewatch.
Dr Who: The New Year special.**** I like the new female doctor.
The Yorkshire Vet**** The season finale celebrated the life and work, both medical and literary, of Alf Wight, or ‘James Herriot’.
True Lies****Arnie Schwarzenegger stars with Jamie Lee Curtis in a romantic spy romp. Silly but good. Rewatch
Manhunt****Martin Clunes stars in the docu-drama about the way the Met finally linked the murder of Millie Dowler wwith that of Amelie Delagrange. Fascinating look at the minutiae of police work.
DCI Banks pilot**** Not sure how I missed this when I originally watched the series.
The Prosecutors: The Babes in the Woods Murders****Explored the way the law changed, forensics progressed, and a killer was finally brought to justice, with emphasis on the way the families reacted all along and were kept in the picture.

The mediocre

Starship Troopers *** Based on Heinlein’s novel. Excellent CGI makes it worth watching but I disliked the book and then the film. Rewatch because it was on in the lounge.

The dreadful

The Wolf of Wall Street* DiCaprio stars in this semi-factual drama about the rise and fall of a US stockbroker. The acting and direction were good and I’m sure the depiction of the characters as incredibly foul-mouthed was accurate but I hated the amount of swearing, which got boring, and there were no characters to empathise with. Like the Great Fire film, this was on in the lounge and I wasn’t going to be driven out…

I’ve started following three series:
The Crimson Rivers***** French cop drama – good so far and I’m tending towards looking for fanfic
Grantchester***** I had never watched but I’m impressed! Takes place in the era that encompasses my ‘formative’ years and deals well with social problems of the time.
Death in Paradise**** Cosy mysteries with humour set on a Caribbean island. Again, I had never seen them and now that I know the cast I won’t necessarily watch every week but might turn to it for ‘comfort’ viewing.

Books

The excellent

In case of emergency by Keira Andrews***** Step brothers for a few months, years ago – but Cole puts Daniel down as his emergency contact and then has an accident which leads to them spending Christmas together. A delightful Christmas story which I will almost certainly revisit next year.
Lessons in Cracking the Deadly Code and Lessons in Chasing the Wild Goose by Charlie Cochrane.***** Two novellas in the Cambridge Fellows series. I usually prefer full length novels for detective stories but despite being short, these are beautifully crafted mysteries with plenty of college and period detail and well developed secondary characters.
Machineries of Empire. Book 1: Nine Fox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee***** Really worthwhile sci-fi, complex and beautifully written. Excellent world building and fascinating characters. Explores big questions about cultural conditioning, gender identity, war, obedience, genocide… all in a grippingly alien far future. Star Trek on steroids. I have almost finished book 2 and have bought book 3.
Good Omens by Gaiman and Pratchett***** A re-read. One of my husband’s friends sent it to me saying he thought I might like it. I have no idea what it says about him or me that he thought I might not have read it already… It’s as good as ever though I think after the first reading there’s a sense in which the novelty is gone. However, you can concentrate on the details instead of the story. Apparently there’s to be a TV series.

The good

Rustic Melody, Rustic Memory and Rustic Moment by Nic Starr.**** A nice trilogy of m/m romances set in Australia. The locations were refreshing, the main characters were endearing and well developed, the secondary characters were good, the plots were gripping and the writing was excellent. So why only four stars and not five? Well, we were ‘treated’ to sudden incursions of extremely long accounts of very explicit sex that did not further the plot or character development. I found that tiresome. A few paragraphs would have sufficed.
Silly Signs with no apparent author but published by Aura **** My husband picked this up in a supermarket. Some of the signs were truly hilarious. There was the usual crop of poor translations but some of the funniest were not translation.

The mediocre

Ultimate Christmas by Jane Newdick*** Swathes of beautiful decorating ideas that nobody would ever have time to copy, but I might re-read it next year for the recipes in the final section and there are some fresh ideas for handmade cards.
(The Ultimate Book of) Doing up old junk by Whitecap Books*** I can’t think this is the actual name of an author and assume that like the Silly Signs book, the publisher is taking full responsibility. I was fascinated by some of the advice and techniques but couldn’t really think why anyone would strip down furniture and then paint it and add patterns and flowers etc. Even given chips and dents, most pieces benefit from less interference, not more. I can sort of see why you might paint over burn marks, but unless the piece is a family heirloom, the amount of time and effort expended seems out of proportion to the results. Interesting food for thought, though perhaps not quite in the sense intended by the creators.

I read the rest of the Rainbow Advent Calendar and other freebies offered on FB etc. I enjoyed them but there’s nothing to highlight. In fact, I think next Christmas I’ll just revisit my favourite seasonal stories. I also continued to read through my Georgette Heyer collection which provides me with a great deal of pleasure.

Fanfiction

Nothing to report. I’ve been catching up with the rest of the Bandom Big Bang, the Stargate Atlantis Secret Santa, the Lewis Christmas Challenge and some previously missed Professionals ficlets. All satisfying reads but all needing not only knowledge of canon (source material) but also fanon (concepts introduced by fans and now accepted as a kind of canon).

3 thoughts on “January reviews

  1. I can’t watch anything with Lucy Worsley because she annoys me too much. I like the new Doctor, though, and a ten year-old girl of my acquaintance has started watching for the first time because of Jody, which is, of course, the intended result.

    We are enjoying Crimson Rivers too, and a Norwegian series called River (More4, I think) , about the lingering Cold War where Norway/Finland/Russia meet- seriously, it makes you feel frostbite just watching!

    I, Daniel Blake is devastating viewing. Ken Loach doesn’t let old age mellow him. I haven’t seen the film about Peterloo, waiting for the dvd or tv showing, nor Mary Queen of Scots, which I’m not sure I want to see tbh based on the trailer. Outlaw King about Robert Bruce was better than I expected (not saying much), and I loved Roma, also on Netflix, though hubby fell asleep after pronouncing it “Boring. There’s no story.”

    I’ve been binge-watching Narcos, Narcos Mexico and El Chapo. Fascinating stuff.

    I never tire of The Jungle Book (the old one) even though I must have seen it hundreds of times! Life affirming, with such wonderful songs.

    • I wouldn’t go out of my way to watch Lucy, but the subject matter was fascinating.

      Nice to know at least one girl has been converted to Who!

      I haven’t time to find yet more series to watch. We often like different ones so we have to juggle our viewing – the only place anybody can watch on their laptop in comfort is the lounge – our stone cottage does not allow wi-fi in every room! So it’s not really easy to watch one thing while another is on. Husband has also been binge watching Narcos but I couldn’t get into it. He has also been watching Game of Thrones because the first three series came back from the friends I lent them to. Obviously I sort of rewatch but I’m usually on the laptop (writing) at the same time, though I do adore the series.

      I have seen I, Daniel Blake more than once and it doesn’t lose its power – but I suspect it’s preaching to the converted. I’m waiting for Peterloo on TV or DVD, too. I probably won’t bother with Mary, because I’ve seen so many versions of the story, most recently Viva Regina at the theatre. Daughter saw Queen Anne and highly recommends it but again, I’ll wait. I tend to keep cinemas for things that need a huge screen for special effects.

      The Jungle Book songs get better with every viewing because you end up being able to sing along!

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