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Sunday, January 08, 2017

Reading and Viewing- Part 1

We have been spoilt recently by the number and quality of television drama. I have mentioned in earlier posts how I enjoyed the Channel 4 series 'Humans' (about 'synths' which are in actual fact robots which look like humans). The second series finished a week before Christmas and, as yet, it's not clear whether a third series will be commissioned. The finale episode did more or less tie up many of the story threads quite nicely, there again, a third series could carry things further. I started watching the Sky drama series 'Westworld' which has a similar theme as 'Humans' but set in an American Wild West theme park and based on a novel by Michael Crichton which was made into a 1973 science fiction movie.  He was responsible for the original novel, Jurassic Park, which has spawned four movies. The more recent one, Jurassic World, was very week, although the special effects are as good, if not better, than the original. I recall seeing the earlier movie of Westworld. . The television version is good, up to a point, but for me it was far too violent. It's worth seeing if just for the performance of Anthony Hopkins. It shows how actors of his calibre are turning to television instead of Hollywood movies. It seems that, at the moment, all we have to offer in the movie world is remakes and sequels. Endless superhero revamps. Television drama seems to be able to come up with far more in-depth storytelling. You are able to tell your story in one-hour episodes and over ten segments and then continue in further seasons. As we have Sky and Sky Movies, we can download movies to our Sky Q box and watch movies once they reach Sky a couple of months after cinema release. The Sky Q box has a far bigger capacity for storage than the old Sky+ box and also allows up to 4 programmes to be recorded which are broadcast at the same time. 'Downton Abbey' has come to an end. ITV came up with 'Victoria' as a replacement. It's a fairly faithful telling of the story of Queen Victoria from her youth and on to her ascending the throne in 1837 and eventual marriage to Prince Albert. Very lavish and quite watchable but not particularly ground breaking. Meanwhile Netflix, the streaming television service, has 'The Crown' which is another royal saga, following the true story of Elizabeth 11's life story. As it's on-line and streaming it means you have all 10 episodes and can watch whenever you like and back-to-back if you so wish, instead of waiting for the next episode the following week. We have not signed up to Netflix and as a result cannot see this series, but I have a feeling it will be shown on Sky eventually, because their other series, 'House of Cards' is on Sky for downloading as a box set. (This is based on the BBC series and starred Ian Richardson.) We enjoy 'Father Brown' which is based loosely on the G.K.Chesterton character. It's now in it's 5th series and is shown on BBC1 in an afternoon slot. It's very much tongue-in-cheek and has a sense of humour. We also like 'Last Tango In Halifax' which is set in an area of Yorkshire we know well and have spent a couple of holidays there. It's real. The characters are good and the acting is good. It stars Derek Jacobi and Anne Reid as 70-somethings, Alan Buttershaw and Celia Dawon, who reignite a romance after several decades and the effect this has on both their families and friends. It had a two-part Christmas special and returns for a full season in January 2017. On Amazon I have been more than impressed by 'The Man In The High Castle' which is based on a novel by Philip K. Dick (who wrote 'Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep" which was filmed as 'Blade Runner' and directed by Ridley Scott (who Executive Produces 'High Castle.) It is set in an imagined world where the Nazis won the Second World War and America has been divided up by the Nazis and Japanese. Very convincing and well made and it has now gone to a second series and I hear that a third has been commissioned.

As for reading, I have just completed 'Gilliamesque", the autobiography of one of my favourite directors, former Monty Python member Terry Gilliam, who did the animation for that comedy show and directed 'Monty Python and The Holy Grail,' 'Brazil', 'Jabberwocky,' 'Time Bandits' and 'Baron Munchausen', all of which have now become cult classics. I like his off-the-wall approach and he certainly doesn't make films which fit the 'Hollywood' mould in any way shape or form.

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