The Living and The Dead – Review

When I heard that the BBC was going to be airing a Victorian Supernatural drama I was thrilled. The Victorian era is one in which the ghost story has a firm footing. As you know Victorian era supernatural is a interest of mine. It was an era of great change and that is something that the living and the dead explores in the stories it tells.

Set in Somerset in 1894 it follows the lives of psychologist Nathan Appleby (Colin Morgan) and his photographer Charlotte (Charlotte Spencer). When the death of Nathan’s mother brings them back to his family home, Shepzoy farm, they’re soon faced with running a struggling farm while contending with an ever increasing supernatural presence which seems to be connected with Nathan’s own past.

I admit when it came to the twist at the end of the first episode , which I wont reveal for those who haven’t caught the show yet, I was slightly (only slightly) disappointed that this wasn’t going to be a straight up ghost story. However, as the series went on the twist that was introduced in the first episode was bubbling under the surface nicely and created an intriguing element. It also contributed to Nathan’s gradual slide to the brink of madness. The last episode did a nice job of bringing the strands of the narrative together.

Although I was uncertain at first about the twist element I found it opened up a lot of other intriguing questions. Part of the fun of the supernatural genre is, perhaps, the way it can pose more questions than it answers.This is an era when science and the traditional beliefs were caught in conflict. The Living and The Dead makes you wonder where the line between them falls. How much of what is happening is supernatural and how much is down to psychological factors, and then makes you wonder how much of the supernatural events actually have scientific explanations that we just can’t understand yet?

In fact the whole of The Living and The Dead is perched between two worlds and the conflicts of this changing world are exemplified in the characters. Making Nathan a physiologist was a clever idea. Who better to be conflicted by the overpowering evidence of the supernatural than someone who has spent their life telling people that such things are the figments of their own imaginations.

Charlotte Appleby is in some ways a woman ahead of her time. While they were living in London she had her own career as a photographer and she’s not prepared to be a meek, little woman when she arrives in Shepzoy. This is a woman who rides into rural, Victorian England and gets involved with all aspects of running the farm and making changes in the name of progress. Understandably this isn’t something that goes down too well with some.

Although not all the questions posed by the show were answered it doesn’t feel like an issue; an element of ambiguity is often a plus in this genre. Enough questions were answered for it not to feel unresolved. I’d say the balance was right here.

Of course, those who have seen the last episode will know there is another twist right at the end. If it is given a second series this will be an intriguing cliff hanger; if not, it will be a frustrating question mark left hanging in space. I have seen mixed reviews of this show but personally I enjoyed it and would recommend it. There are some great performances and there is a great atmospheric quality to the scenes.

In a new move for the BBC they made the entire show available for binge watching before it even hit TV screens. The show could also be watched in weekly instalments on TV for those who prefer to gather round the TV as a family in a weekly ritual (the method we opted for). Unusually too the show aired on a Tuesday, which was nice to see. It seems common these days for this type of drama to automatically head for the weekend slots so it was treat to have a quality weekday offering.


Bill – Film Review

Bill is the latest project from the brilliant and hugely talented ensemble cast behind the first five series of Horrible Histories, and Yonderland. The film is a very funny, fictional account of Shakespeare’s “lost years”, explaining how Bill Shakespeare from Stratford became the world renowned playwright.

Bill tells the story of a young Bill Shakespeare, who is imagined here as a failed lute player who gets kicked out of his band, “Mortal Coil”. Frustrated by the lack of appreciation for his talents in Stratford he heads off to “That London” in search of fame and fortune.

It’s not long before he ends up embroiled in royal plots, religious conspiracies, and betrayals.

In Bill, the cast do what they always do so brilliantly, each playing multiple roles to perfection, though each also has a main character. There’s a great chemistry between Mathew Baynton’s Shakespeare and Jim Howick’s Christopher Marlowe, especially when it comes to discussions on the finer points of comedy. Laurence Rickard is hilarious as Francis Walsingham, who takes his undercover work very seriously! Martha Howe-Douglas is Bill’s long suffering wife Anne; Ben Willbond is the delightfully devious King Philip II of Spain, and Simon Farnaby is the gullible and dim witted Earl of Croydon…. or is it Crawley?

This film is jam packed with Shakespeare, Marlowe, and even Monty Python references. There’s even the odd joke thrown in for the adults in the audience.

Some highlights in no particular order:

  1. Southampton’s hair – It’s fabulous!
  2. Croydon searching for an occupation – one for the grown ups
  3. The chatty guard
  4. Walsingham in general
  5. Queen Elizabeth’s ladies in waiting making suggestions for court entertainment – another for the adults
  6. The device for making people talk

Bill is definitely worth seeing if you are looking for a light-hearted romp that you wont be embarrassed to watch with the family. That’s what this team do so beautifully, they excel at making comedy that has a pretty much universal appeal. There’s something for almost all ages in Bill. Well worth a watch.

Below is the official trailer for the film.

Not Another Happy Ending – DVD Review

Today I thought I’d introduce you to my current go to feel good movie of choice ‘Not Another Happy Ending’ :

Feisty first time novelist Jane Lockhart (Dr Who’s Karen Gillan)  is on the quest for publication, but so far all she’s got is rejections, lots of them. Each new rejection joins the others on what she fondly refers to as her “wall of pain” that is, until she meets independent publisher, and Frenchman turned patriotic Scot, Tom Duval (Stanley Weber). He offers Jane a two book deal and for a while it looks like everything is finally falling into place. But things are never that simple. When Tom’s actions drive a wedge between author and publisher things get complicated.

With Tom’s company on the brink of collapse all his hopes are riding on Jane’s next book. There’s just one small problem; Jane has come down with a serious case of writer’s block! (I wonder why I love this film; I can’t imagine).Convinced that her new found happiness is to blame he does what any logical person would do; he tries to make her miserable. With friend Roddy as his unwilling accomplice he sets out on a secret mission to sabotage Jane’s life. But has he missed the true reason behind Jane’s problem. Well it’s hardly surprising; it’s something she’s only just beginning to see, with a little help from an unexpected source.

I’m loving this film. Karen Gillan plays Jane Lockhart brilliantly. She’s funny, quirky and looks fabulous in a bowler hat! Yet she also handles the more emotional scenes beautifully. Jane as a character has a vulnerability but she also has the kind of strength that comes with that vulnerability. There’s great chemistry between the  two leads and whether they’re editing a manuscript or having a blazing row they seem to bounce well off each  other. There are some great comic moments from the other characters too in the form of some questionable English lessons from Roddy, no nonsense pep talks from Darsie and Jane’s new self obsessed boyfriend. For anyone who’s ever suffered from writers block this a fun film to make you feel better about it. An enjoyable British movie.

There is also a novelisation of this film which expands on some areas of the plot. Personally I preferred the film but both are enjoyable.


Atlantis -First Impressions

Last night saw the Launch of the BBC’s new Saturday evening fantasy drama Atlantis. This is the show that is now in the slot previously occupied by Merlin *sob*. Much of the Team behind Atlantis are the same team that brought us Merlin and they have used a similar template here. They have taken an existing myth set and shaken it up and turned it around.  This post is my take on episode one.

Atlantis charts the story of a young man called Jason.  In modern day England Jason goes in search of his missing father only to find himself washed up (naked) on the shores of the mythical city of Atlantis. Understandably he’s a bit confused.

For episode one they adopted the story of the minotaur. The King  of Atlantis (King Minos) is about to sacrifice seven of his people to the great beast in tribute to the gods in exchange for the safety of the city. With the help of mathematician Pythagoras and the not so heroic Hercules.  Jason takes on the Minotaur. He also has more than a little help from the very forward and rather flirty Princess Ariadne.

Anyone who’s read any Greek myths will probably remember the story of the Minotaur and if they do they will probably remember that it was Theseus that did battle with it not Jason.  This is one example of the way they are shaking up the Greek myths as they did with the Arthurian.

Mythology fans may also notice that although the temple of Greek god Poseidon is referred to, Hercules is known by his Roman name rather than his Greek name of Heracles. Of course that’s probably because he is better known by his Roman name.  Just an interesting point I noticed; well I thought it was interesting anyway.


Was anyone else left after last night’s episode asking, where does this leave Dionysus and Medea and the Corinthian princess?


So did I like it yes I did but then I have a fascination and love for mythology. If I had one minor criticism it would be this: They’ve gone to the trouble of giving the story of the minotaur to a different hero, they’ve changed the character of Hercules and thrown Pythagoras into the mix but perhaps in that case the actual story of the minotaur should also have had a bit of a new twist. In fairness though there was a little bit of a twist in there but was it enough?

I surprise myself by saying this because I normally hate it when they mess with a story. It was a concern I had when Merlin  started but to my surprise I liked it because it made the story new and more  unpredictable. Perhaps Atlantis felt a little bit in limbo in that respect not quite the myth as we know it and not quite original enough to be truly different. All that though was an after thought though and a very small point.

Of course my reference to Merlin must bring me to the point of the inevitable comparisons that are being made amongst the Merlin fan base. I have seen some positive comments on Twitter about the show but sadly also some negative ones. I say sadly not because I expect everyone to like the show because I do but because I wonder if the judgements are being made fairly. Some of the remarks are to the  effect that they knew it wasn’t going to be as good or better than Merlin, nothing can ever replace Merlin and so on.

Of course some people were honestly not taken with the show and that’s fine it’s all about personal taste. Some of the comments though left me wondering if some Merlin fans had already made up their minds to hate it before it ever aired.

It leads me to the question, is Atlantis being judged on it’s own merits and demerits or is it being judged solely on the fact that it’s not Merlin? I suspect that there is some bitterness around the fact that the creators of Merlin are the ones who pulled the plug on the show and they have now gone on to create Atlantis. I loved Merlin too but it’s over and let’s remember the cast  were also ready to move on. You can’t expect people to stay in a job they don’t get as much out of anymore just for your entertainment.

I do wonder if Atlantis would have received the same kind of comments if it had been on a different channel with a different team behind it? The fact that It’s in Merlin’s old slot with the same team of creators means such comparisons are inevitable; but Merlin had five years for us to love it Atlantis has had one episode. It’s a different show , let it stand on it’s own two feet. Let’s give it a fair chance and see where it takes us.


Crooked House DVD Review

Hello reader, the other night I watched the DVD of crooked house (Mark Gatiss not Agatha Christie) so I thought I’d share my verdict. First a synopsis.

The story starts with a young man who finds a strange door knocker in his garden; he takes it to the curator of the local museum who tells him that the knocker is from a recently demolished manor house.

The curator then begins to tell him two ghoulish tales from the houses troubled past. The first is the tale of a Georgian gent, who finds he is disturbed in the night by strange noises; what secrets do those walls hide?

The second story take place in the 1920’s a young couple announce their engagement, but all is not well with the bride to be. Who is the mysterious figure in white and what is the secret her future grandmother-in law has been keeping?

He also learns something of the dark history of the house’s original owner; a history which is about to have an effect on his own future in a startling way.

So what did I think? Well surprisingly I did find it quite spooky, a lot of modern ghost stories are all about making you jump rather than the gradual chill. This was an enjoyable film and is one I can see myself rewatching several times.

The story telling method worked well. Mark Gatiss, the museum expert, starts relating the tales which we then drift into; this narration works well as a bridge between the eras.

I would just like to say, which you will understand once you’ve seen it: The eyes!!!! OK if anything to do with eyes freaks you out in horror/ supernatural films then this definitely has that factor. Yuck!

All in all a pretty good film. Although Doctor Who fans like myself might be asking questions about paradoxes at the end, but I’m sure most people wont care and will just appreciate it as it is and rightly so.