Black Mirror – Nothing you see can harm you

Maybe I’m the only one left who hasn’t binge watched all 6 episodes of the new season of Black Mirror, but I watched episode 2 last night. The new season is on Netflix, after moving from its original home on Channel 4, (where currently only the Christmas episode is available to watch).

Episode 2 is titled ‘Playtest’ and follows Cooper, a globetrotting American currently in London, who takes a job testing a new game when he finds himself low on cash. The thrills in store are more than he believed possible, but things start to unravel when Cooper’s mind begins to work against him.

**SPOILERS AHEAD**

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Westworld – Cowboys and Aliens done right

Now we all remember when Daniel Craig starred in the hybrid-that-should-never-have-been Cowboys and Aliens (Favreau:2011), don’t we? And surely we also remember how well it was received, or rather, how badly it was received? Well, now there’s a new Western/Sci-Fi mash-up on the block, only this time it’s on the small screen.

**SPOILER FREE POST**

Westworld is the latest high spec drama from HBO, combining these two well known and opposing genres in a new 10-part series (showing on SkyAtlantic every Tuesday at 21:00). I only managed to watch the first episode two days ago, so I’m a little late to the party, but boy am I glad I watched it.

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John Wick – Style before story

So this was a film that had been recommended to me as an action thriller fan, and when I saw it was recently added to Sky Movies, I was quick to snap up the opportunity to watch it. The poster looked promising, and the plot summary sounded enticing. But it didn’t live up to what it promised – needless to say, it wasn’t exactly Keanu Reeves’s finest hour.

I mean, it had promise, but somehow didn’t live up to that. The film began pretty well – with your kick-ass assassin protagonist returning to the game for vengeance, your typical villains who established themselves as little more than two dimensional arseholes within about 10 minutes, and it was all set up for the odds to be stacked completely against John Wick. But it didn’t really go anywhere from there. I’m all for re-using a formula if it’s been proved successful, but John Wick (Stahelski:2014) seemed to rely too heavily on this formula to let the story take off, and I wasn’t thrilled by it.

**SPOILER FREE POST**

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Victoria – Move over Lord M

ITV’s Victoria aired its fourth episode last night at 21:00. The drama follows the young Queen Victoria in her rise to the throne, and how the 18-year-old adjusts to life as Queen of England. The first three episodes I thought were marvellous. The writing was compelling, the acting phenomenal, the sets and costumes enchanting – it was doing everything right. I even heard musings that ITV had successfully found a replacement for the Sunday night slot that had been occupied by Downton Abbey.

**SPOILERS AHEAD**

Last week’s episode was simply brilliant. The mystery of Miss Skerrett continued and there was plenty more drama between Victoria and Lord M. The young queen was heartbreakingly turned down when she expressed her feelings, but we saw a depth to Lord Melbourne’s character when he gave her orchids to wear, and he proved himself to be a kind man. Perhaps circumstance prevents he and Victoria being together, and perhaps he really doesn’t have the feelings for her, but he certainly cares about her. Props to the writer for that development – it was handled with sensitivity and emotion.

But this week, I give no such credits.

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More Than This – The essence of adolescence

After finishing A Song of Ice and Fire, this was a step in a very different direction – with a totally different audience, style of story, and narrative voice. But I rarely have room for anything but praise when it comes to Patrick Ness, and this book was no exception. (Seriously, look him up. Even if not for the books, he is a refreshingly welcome voice on Twitter).

More Than This is about a boy called Seth who, in the first few pages, drowns. He dies. Then he wakes up. Where is he? What does this mean? Why has he woken up? Why has he woken up here?  Questions upon questions, and Seth is alone to discover if there is perhaps more to this life than he ever believed.

**SPOILER FREE POST**

Well here’s where I say that Patrick Ness has done it again: an original, arresting, heartbreaking, uplifting tale, that will stay with me for a long time.

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A Song of Ice and Fire – Colossal, complex, consuming

So it seems I have finally closed the book on George R.R. Martin’s wondrous world of Westeros (and Essos as well, but that didn’t fit with the alliteration). What a journey it’s been these last 18 months, travelling the length and breadth of the Seven Kingdoms, and more, with the likes of Tyrion Lannister, Daenerys Targaryen, and Jon Snow. All over now.

I’ve hit that lull that happens when a series is over, and I’ve been reading it so long that it feels almost wrong to have another book in my hands. (Of course, as you would expect, all of my highest recommendations come with this series … but you’d have to be a pretty dedicated reader/fantasy fan/TV show fan to make the commitment I think; they’re not necessarily an easy read, and there’s a lot to keep track of). But I just wanted to share something of my thoughts, while finishing them feels like such a milestone.

**SPOILER FREE POST**

These books are so intense and rich it’s staggering. George R.R. Martin thrusts his reader right into the middle of his world unapologetically, and they’re instantly immersed. One of the things that I find so amazing is the depth of the world itself. It is colossal. From the Wall to King’s Landing to Dorne, and across the Narrow Sea to Qarth and Meereen and Braavos … it’s all so vast and yet so detailed. Martin’s creative abilities are unbelievable. And that’s without even mentioning his characters, who are some of the most real characters, I think it’s safe to say, I have ever come across. And the thing that makes them so, is the ambiguity within them. Let me explain.

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Strange Magic – Everything I never knew I needed

Well … so maybe that title is a slight exaggeration of the truth. But the point is, this little film was exactly what I wanted it to be, without me even realising it. I didn’t know how much I needed a film like this until last night. Okay, let’s start at the beginning (a very good place to start).

The film Strange Magic (Rydstrom:2015) first came to my attention as a recommendation from my aunt, and I’ll admit I was a tiny bit sceptical about it, having not long watched a film she hated that I really rather enjoyed. And I’m pretty sure she only watched it because her 6-year-old daughter wanted to. But that’s beside the point. What I need to tell you about is how bloody fantastic this film is. It’s magical and uplifting and fun. But more than that, it’s refreshing.

**SPOILER FREE POST**

All based around the almighty Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, though not too closely I might add, the story revolves around Marianne, an independent young fairy after coming off the back of heartbreak, and her flirtatious sister. As the Bard once said, “The course of true love never did run smooth,” and chaos ensues with the introduction of a powerful love potion, all backed by a glittering soundtrack.

But wait. Don’t turn your nose up just yet. Not just because it’s a family adventure film.

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