Van Helsing – TV Review

The world as we know it has been destroyed. Not by zombies – that’s the Walking Dead. Not by aliens – that’s Falling Skies. This time it is vampires. Kind of. Vampires, but not as we know it. And there is one cure – Van Helsing – well, a distant descendant of the legendary monster-fighter, and of course she doesn’t know that she is the cure, and she meets up with a group, and there are leaders and followers and those who don’t trust the others and those who betray, and a tall, creepy guy and then season one is over.

Did I like it? Yeah, it was ok. Do I think it will be a big hit? No. Not with the hype around The Walking Dead. Do I regret watching it? No, but only because I kept myself busy while watching it. It’s not great, it’s a bit of gory fun.

The Ted Bundy Tapes – TV Review

I knew a little about Ted Bundy – he was a serial killer who was handsome and charming, killing many women in a terrible way. This documentary series covers the full story, from where he came from, when he started killing, how the police started to track him and capture him, his escapes from custody (yes, multiple!) and his eventual demise. What is especially fascinating with this documentary, and it’s in the title, is that this has recordings made with Bundy when he was incarcerated, talking about the events in a dissociated manner. It’s creepy and horrific and excellent viewing should you be laying on the couch too sick for work.

The People vs. O.J. Simpson; American Crime Story – TV Review

One of the mostly highly publicised cases in US history is that of OJ Simpson over the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her boyfriend Ron Goldman. This dramatisation of the events around the crime and the trial tell the story – or some parts of the story. It has a strong cast full of very familiar faces – from  Cuba Gooding Jnr playing OJ, John Travolta as Robert Shapiro and David Schwimmer as Robert Kardashian- to just so many other familiar faces.

While I was old enough to follow the case, I wasn’t overly interested at the time. I saw the news updates, but there wasn’t the type of access to media there is now. I read articles and I sort of know what happened, but I wanted to see how it was going to be depicted in this series. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it felt like a pretty cheesy, true-crime re-enactment, which I supposed is exactly what it was. I don’t think I’d exactly recommend it, but I wouldn’t tell you to keep away.

Orphan Black – TV Review

When Sarah Manning (Tatiana Maslany) sees herself jumping in front of a train, she is chilled. But there is so much more to come. See, Sarah is a clone. There are… well, who knows how many. There are evil companies, there are family helping, there is double crossing and stupid mistakes and, surprisingly, a lot of humour. As someone who loves bingeing TV, I found that I didn’t want to watch more than a few eps at a time, but if I left it too long I forgot what had happened. Anyhow, Tatiana Maslany is amazing, absolutely amazing, and I really enjoyed this whole series. It was a bit X-Files, a bit Alias, a bit Black Mirror even, and generally just fabulous. I watched this over a year ago, and still often think about it. So good.

Mindhunter – TV Review

In the late 1970s, FBI Agents Ford (Jonathan Groff) and Tench (Holt McCallany) work together to develop what is now commonly known as profiling by interviewing prisoners who have committed horrific crimes.

Looking into it a little, it seems these two main characters are based on real people, and apparently the interviews are almost word-for-word how the real interviews took place. I’m always suspicious about these types of ‘based on truth’ type shows, but this was pretty compelling.

Manhunt: Unabomber – TV Review

After watching Mindhunter, I had this show recommended to me. It’s the FBI and profiling, but on the long hunt for the Unabomber – a man who sent bombs through the mail and that the FBI was chasing for years and years. It’s hard to believe it took them so long to find him, but then things were very different a couple of decades ago. Even with today’s technology and the systems in place, I imagine it would be extremely hard to do.

iZombie – TV Review

There’s a zombie plague and no-one knows it. Olivia Moore (Rose McIver – and yes, Olivia is known to her friends as Liv. Live More – get it?) has managed to keep living a semi-normal life, although it is complicated somewhat by keeping her secret from her family and friends and balancing this with her job at the morgue (easy access to brains- she’s not stupid. She is a doctor, after all). Luckily, her boss Ravi (Rahul Kohli) discovers her secret and is working to find a cure, and Liv finds some life motivation when she discovers that when she eats the brains, she takes on some of the personality of the deceased, as well as having flashbacks to their life. Working with Detective Babinequx (Malcolm Goodwin) and posing as a very accurate psychic, Liv is able to solve crimes. And if that’s not enough… well, there’s heaps more.

I love this. Fun, funny, Rose McIver is fabulous. It’s kind of a police drama with zombies and craziness, and… if any of this appeals to you in the slightest, watch it. I thought it was going to jump the shark at the end of the second season, and I guess it did a bit. I still enjoyed it through to the end, but the first couple of seasons are by far the best.

Grimm – TV Review

Nick (David Giuntoli) is a detective in the Portland police department when he discovers that he is a Grimm – kind of a warrior who defeats evil creatures (wesen). Wesen are people who have a creature that they can turn into – and it is past encounters with these that have formed fairy tales – especially the Grimm Brothers from Germany. When he discovers this, it is during an encounter with Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell), a clockmaker and vegetarian Blutbot (a kind of wolf creature). Nick has a strong moral compass and finds a different way to being Grimm – rather than killing all the wesen, he tries to find ways for everyone to co-exist. That’s the start, and with 6 seasons, there are conspiracies, romance, secret organisations, good characters turn bad, bad characters turn good – all kinds of stuff happens.

For me, the first few seasons were really the best. I love fairy tales retold in some way, and I love a police procedural – and this has both. However, I felt that the bigger story arcs started to take over – they became increasingly ridiculous, and I struggled getting through the end of the series.

Fleabag – TV Review

Fleabag (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) is a woman in her twenties in London who drinks a lot, hurts those around her and is barely coping with her strange café. Essentially, she’s a mess. But she’s a pretty lovable mess, and the reasons for it gradually become clear.

I love an unreliable narrator, and it’s so rare to see such a wonderfully unreliable narrator outside of a novel. As she is telling us and herself that she is fine, so much is showing us that she’s not. And what is even real… and what is her perspective of what is real, and… even just thinking back over it, the cleverness of the writing and the way it has been put together just keeps revealing itself.

And then there’s the second season. When this came out, everyone was talking about Hot Priest. I love seeing Andrew Scott in anything, he’s just wonderful. It just kept getting better and better. So wonderful.

A Christmas Carol vs A Christmas Carol – TV Review and Audio Book Review *spoiler alert*

Guy Pearce features as Ebeneezer Scrooge in this three-part TV adaptation of the classic Dickens novella. We all know the story… Scrooge is a grump who hates Christmas and people and life in general, and he employs Bob Cratchit (Joe Alwyn) who is barely making his meagre wage stretch to keep his family going. He grumbles about giving Cratchit the day off for Christmas and calls everything Christmas ‘humbug’. Then, on Christmas Eve, he is visited by the ghost of his dead business partner, Jacob Marley (Stephen Graham) who warns that Scrooge must change his ways. Scrooge is then visited by three ghosts, Christmas Past, Present and Future, who show him visions that make him a nice person who loves Christmas and is generous and kind.

The television show takes a lot of liberties with the story, adding subplots and backstory to give Scrooge reason for being the way he is, giving a much larger role to Bob’s wife, Mary (Vinette Robinson), giving Jacob Marley reason to be as he is. Given I’d never read the novella, I wondered just much had been changed. Time to rectify that: I got an audiobook and listened to it. There are heaps of versions of A Christmas Carol available on Audible, with a wide variety of readers, but in the end, I settled on Sir Patrick Stewart, and I was very happy with this decision. The only thing was that this was 1hr 40 while others were over 3 hours. I’ve been back and can’t see that it was an abridged version, so I can’t really explain it.

The original novella is sparce, telling a good story well, though it does feel that Scrooge very quickly atones and changes. I wonder if just the concept of ghosts was more scary back in the 1840s, or if the creators of the TV show decided that today’s audience needed more. I liked that there was more of Mary and the family in the TV show, though suggesting magical powers seemed a stretch. Several of the reveals of Scrooge’s past seemed to either be giving him and excuse for being an arsehole, or making him more evil rather than just grumpy. All seemed valid within the world created, especially his poor business practices.

For me, I don’t think all of the expanded and reimagined parts of the tale were great choices, but I enjoyed the beauty of the show. I felt the terror of Scrooge (and his attempts to excuse or reason the visions he was having), and I felt that regardless of whether the audience was sympathetic or not, his change of attitude seemed genuine. Overall, I reckon definitely worth a watch.