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The Witcher (2019)
Weak opening, brilliant series
The first 5 minutes almost put me off, and I found the whole Renfri story unconvincing. But it soon gets better.
Having read the books, I was still confused by the storyline switching three decades from Geralt to Cirilla without clear indication. Including jumping back to events before Cirilla's birth.
Yet it remains a well-told story. Certainly a must for any fan of the genre.
Nothing remotely thrilling or interesting about stupid and violent people. Long sections of them sitting around doing nothing much. And a few pointless crimes. Hopeless.
La mécanique de l'ombre (2016)
A thriller without thrills
Much too much about the dull life of a dull man.
It is also very hard to believe that anyone would employ someone so unstable and uncommitted for vital work.
And it goes slowly. Bad.
Carnival Row (2019)
Complex and subtle
This is clearly intended to be Season One of a long-running program. And merits it.
We have something like 19th century Britain, but various magic creatures are part of it. And appear to be seen as natural flesh-and-blood creatures, but with special powers.
Actual magic is not often seen, nor believed in, but is definitely real. As is prophecy, with one particular prophecy being seen in a new light in the final episode.
Several interesting surprises - people are not who they seem at first. And do beware the WIKI page, which gives away some of the secrets. And where correction to avoid spoilers has repeatedly undone.
The main theme is a murder-mystery that is more or less cleared up at the end, though we never get a full explanation for the strange words of the hammer-attacker. It perhaps resembles Game of Thrones in having several gods whose role will emerge only in later seasons. (A second season is already approved.)
It is set in a strange half-aristocratic Republic. We have the oddity of children inheriting the elected position of their fathers if the father dies. I can't think of a real instance when this applies for an elected post, but it does improve the plot.
It has a Victorian atmosphere, though we are told once it is the 7th Century by their reckoning. And their religion is based on The Martyr, with images of a hanged and hold man standing where Christians would have a crucifix. We are not told the wider context or how it fits with the beliefs of the
The Finest Hours (2016)
Dull start, and then it gets better
Hard to understand why we got 15 minutes of a very ordinary romance, before we got to the substance of a ship in peril.
If it needed to be included at all, it could have been done as a flashback, after we know that the man's life is at risk.
Till almost the end, one can not be sure who will live, or if anyone will survive.
Once it gets going it is rather good, showing real-life perils.
Brand New-U (2015)
It sounded like an interesting idea.
Told in a very silly way.
Nothing seems very coherent.
At no time did I find it believable.
First Man (2018)
Showing the real perils of spaceflight
I very much liked this film.
Unlike 'The Right Stuff' and even 'Apollo 13', this got across the extreme dangers of space flight. That even when everything seems fine, there is a lot to worry about. That included the clanking, vibration and alarming noises for take-off.
And showing the actual deaths.
People wanted Armstrong to be more colourful. But as far as I know, he wasn't. Good to have a movie that respected the facts.
You also see the stress endured by the wife of an astronaut - mostly given much less emphasis.
The Umbrella Academy (2019)
A set of nested mysteries
I never read comic books, so I came to this story with no idea what it would be. And was quickly won over, starting it at lunchtime and being interested enough to watch the entire season, ending past midnight.
There were a set of surprises and new vistas that kept interest.
Interest was added by the complex quarrels between the characters, and their imperfections. And by the fact that they all do care about each other, whatever they say.
Star Trek: Discovery: Brother (2019)
From Good to Even Better
I liked Season One, but this opening suggests the new season is even better. The encounter with the Enterprise led in an unexpected direction. And we have some strong new characters.
A weakness with Season One was it maybe took diversity too far. When Lorca tuned out to be something else, there was no longer a regular white heterosexual male among the main characters. Unless the new Captain is not what he seems - and that would be repetitious - that gap is well filled.
A good subplot with Spock is being developed. And a look at the bearded face in the Trailer convinces me he will fill the role very well.
I noticed one possible error. Sylvia Tilly says she might "cry like a Tribble". But Tribbles were unknown to Star Fleet until 'The Trouble with Tribbles', by which time Pike was crippled and Kirk was Captain. (I have also submitted this as a goof.)
Alternatively, this might be an Alternate Timeline, like the new series of films with a modified Kirk finding a different path to being Captain of the Enterprise. This would be a third version, with Tribbles already found but Vulcan still intact. The fact that they already know about the Mirror Universe would support this. It is a surprised to everyone in the original series, but Kirk at least would have been briefed.
One episode of Deep Space Nine suggested a vast number of timelines with some version of Star Fleet.
I hope this is the case. It would allow a lot more flexibility. Re-doing some of the places from the Original Series, but with a different outcome.
Doctor Who: Resolution (2019)
An impressive enemy
I can see why this was moved from Christmas. Those have been light and funny. This was much more serious, with good people dying.
It also managed some genuine surprises, despite using some very traditional elements.
This is definitely the best so far.
I could also do without the soap-opera bits with the Companion's relatives. Really it adds nothing and gets in the way of SF thrills.
Der Mann aus dem Eis (2017)
Someone decided to make it in a language most audiences would not understand, and not bother with subtitles. And chose Rhaeto-Romance, but it is unlikely that any variant of Indo-European would have got so far west 5300 years ago.
Not understanding anything spoils the human interactions.
It is also excessively brutal. The aftermath of a battle would have made a lot more sense.
People of the era probably had a lot more social interconnections than are shown.
Someone is hung up on the idea of Heroic Individualism and wasted a grand opportunity.
Tian zhu ding (2013)
If it has failed in the USA, why not try it in China?
The stories glorify individual acts of violence, from people who had plenty of other options.
Very much what you pick up if respectful of US culture.
The attitude that leads of mass shootings.
I'm not at all surprised it is banned in China. it doesn't really address any of the problems it touches on.
Glorifies a 'fix' that hardly ever fixes anything.
Doctor Who: The Witchfinders (2018)
This was unconvincing from start to end. An unconvincing accept from James 1st, who was Scottish.
Nothing much is settled. Wait for Season Two
I'm glad there is a Season Two, but this last episode was a big disappointment. After the first five minutes, it was waltzing around to fill in the time without advancing the story arc.
A wonderful start
I was impressed by an interesting story in which assumptions shifting. And the basic character of The Doctor retained despite a sex-change.
Also an oddity - no credits at the start. Mostly now they come a few minutes into the action. Here they were absent. The first time ever, I think.
Free State of Jones (2016)
Fine idea, but too long, slow, and included too much
The opening features a fictional nephew, not a good start.
Jumping forward to the 1948 trial shattered the 'suspension of disbelief' that I, at least, find necessary for historic movies.
With all the extras, they missed the chance to do a flashback to the original vote against secession. And how their representative didn't keep faith.
The hospital scenes are needlessly gruesome.
Someone needed to be ruthless with the script, but was not.
The Stowaway (2014)
The story, as written
This is a straightforward adaptation of the original story. The technology has been updated and the dialogue expanded. No surprises to anyone who knows the original.
If you're new, expect to be shocked and moved. An inherently strong story.
But it also does not address the flaws of the original, which you can find discussed on the Wiki page for The Cold Equations.
Would have been much better without Rittenhouse
I really liked the first ten or twelve episodes - decent adventures in which you knew what side you were on.
The more they had paranoid notions about secret controllers, the less I found it plausible.
Also the episodes became scrappy, with nothing much decided. And far too much with the characters thinking about themselves.
Britannia: Episode #1.8 (2018)
What is going on?
And why should we care?
Drags along slowly with an increasingly muddled and improbable story that is something about demons.
Not easy to have boring demons, but this rubbish manages it.
Troy: Fall of a City: Siege (2018)
What a mess
How does anyone mess up such a powerful story?
It gets immensely dull, with people talking unconvincingly about their banal emotions.
A substandard ending
After a very interesting build-up, I found the resolution entirely unconvincing. The ruthless Empress inexplicably fails to carry through. The Klignons are improbably mild. And then the ending with the original Enterprise under Captain Pike is decidedly silly.
Still a good season, but this marred it for me.
Wonders of the Moon (2018)
A wasted opportunity
There was some nice imagery. But it missed the chance to get through some basic knowledge to people who might never watch a regular science program.
Though it did say, once, that the lunar Far Side had the inverse of the light-dark cycles of the side we see, it also had several references to a non-existent Dark Side. Even the pop song admitted there was none.
There could also have been a useful graphic, showing the two sides doing oposite things, then showing the real picture as a sphere.
It was worse on tides, saying that they were caused by the moon's attraction. But there are two tides a day, one when the moon is on the opposite side. This too has been frequently illustrated, but not here.
A sad waste of time and resources. Can no one at the BBC think beyond spin?
History almost unknown in the West
The film is set amidst the massive break-down in Russia after the overthrow of the heirs of Ivan the Terrible. And shows how much Russia suffered in that time.
It also shows the failed attempt by Poland-Lithuania, at that time a Great Power, to conquer Russia and convert it from Orthodox Christianity to Roman Catholicism. You see many shots of the Polish hussars, with their 'wings' making them look like angels, but behaving otherwise.
The un-historical romance has a serf who escapes, loves a Russian princess and becomes a military hero. There is also a mystical element, featuring a holy man and a unicorn, which is also visually striking.
You ought to enjoy this.
Slow West (2015)
Slow, and quite ridiculous
If people in the Wild West had killed each other at the rate shown in this film, it would still be wilderness.
Appeals to those who think extreme violence is normal.
The reality is that most people cooperate in a harsh environment. Violence was mostly personal. Criminals were rare.
The Mystery of Edwin Drood (2012)
The mystery has an impressive ending
Some people seem bothered because two of the major characters are non-white. Their problem.
I found the characters all very convincing.
I was also impressed by the way they gave an entertaining and surprising ending to the various mysteries.
Quite possibly the ending Dickens had in mind