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Some of the best articles on the blog. Typically, these have a picture. It's a low entrance requirement, I know.


October 29, 2013

Mini-review: Dracula 1x1 (NBC/Sky Living)

Posted on October 29, 2013 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Dracula

In the US: Fridays, 10/9c, NBC
In the UK: Thursdays, Sky Living. Starts October 31st

There are many TV reviewers whose style it's possible to want to emulate. Sam Wollaston of The Guardian is generally not one of those, largely because his reviews can be summarised as "I didn't understand that and I had to ask my girlfriend what it was all about."

But for once, I'm going to have to follow in his less than illustrious footsteps by saying "What? What did I just watch?" Dracula follows on from Hannibal by being an NBC/Sky Living co-production in which a European cast appear in a colourful horror story. Here, the story is a take on Bram Stoker's Victorian classic Dracula, in which lawyer Jonathan Harker comes across a certain Count Dracula, who has a thing for his wife Mina,  discovers that Dracula is a vampire, and then with the help of one Abraham Van Helsing, kills the blood-sucker.

I say 'a take' because despite the Victorian setting, as far as I can work out, the plot of this Dracula sees journalist Jonathan Harker and girlfriend Mina Murray come across an American industralist (Jonathan Rhys Meyers from The Tudors), who is actually the vampire Dracula with a dodgy US accent. Dracula has been resurrected by Abraham Van Helsing to help fight the shadowy organisation of English people (including Robert Bathhurst), the Order of the Dragon, who want to run the world using the money from their petroleum and who killed Dracula's wife, who bares an uncanny resemblance to Mina. Dracula has a nifty wireless electricity invention based on geomagnetism that will stop that ambition, he reckons.

And while that covers the bare bones of the plot, I have literally no idea what else is really happening. There's another couple (Ben Miles from Coupling and Victoria Smurfit) who might be vampire hunters and who carry around heads in bags. They also faked the whole Jack the Ripper thing to cover up vampire activity, and Smurfit spends days doing martial arts training next to a vampire in a steel cage. Katie McGrath from Merlin - half the cast are Irish doing bad English accents, by the way - is a posh girl whose motivation for anything is equally unclear.

It's all set in Victorian times, but there's wireless electricity and I've no idea how the Middle Ages Transylvanian warlord Vlad the Impaler would know how to create it. Almost all the women wear clothes that would have shocked decent society back then. There's flashbacks to shagging and I've no idea why Mina is the apparent reincarnation of Dracula's wife. And why does journalist Jonathan Harker (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) just sit there writing 'visionary' and 'egotistical' on his unlined notepad when he's supposed to be interviewing someone?

Together with Da Vinci's Demons and Atlantis, it's as if TV has now decided to start throwing aside any sense of plot coherence or historical authenticity in favour of just throwing things at our screens and hoping that something, anything will be cool and work. 

It all looks quite pretty thanks to being filmed in Hungary and there are some good fight scenes and vampire special effects. But between the bad accents, absolute incoherence of the plot, poorly defined or bizarre motivations for everyone involved, this is largely a show aimed at people who like wizzy gothic things happening at night with a hint of sex and blood, irrespective of whether it makes any sense.

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October 25, 2013

Review: Anno 1790 (season 1)

Posted on October 25, 2013 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Anno 1790

Anno 1790 DVD coverStarring: Peter Eggers, Joel Spira and Linda Zilliacus
Amazon price: £16.92
Released: October 28th 2013
Original network: SVT

'Nordic noir' is a fairly flexible concept, but largely, most people think of it as dark crimes being solved by the police in Scandinavian countries: think of The Killing, The Bridge, Those Who Kill et al. That’s certainly what you’ll be able to see on BBC4.

But as with any genre, there’s more to nordic noir than the acquisitions staff at TV networks decide to spend their money on. Anno 1790, a 2011 Swedish show, demonstrates this pretty clearly. As the name suggests, it’s set in Sweden in AD1790. It’s just after the French Revolution and anti-monarchy sentiment is catching like wildfire across in Europe. In Sweden, the king is making himself even less popular with a war against the Russians that’s killing many for little purpose but is thankfully coming to an end.

A doctor in the Swedish army, Johan Gustav Dåådh (Peter Eggers), finds his life changed forever when his compatriot Simon Freund (Joel Spira) is nearly killed in the war and asks Dåådh to take him home. Freund is the tutor of the children of Carl Fredrik Wahlstedt, the commissioner of Stockholm’s constabulary, and it’s not long before Dåådh is using his keen deductive skills, scientific knowledge and sense of justice to investigate crimes at Wahlstedt’s behest.

The only trouble? Not only is Dåådh a republican, a friend to some really quite violent anti-monarchists, and Wahlstedt nobility employed directly by the king, but Dåådh is falling in love with Wahlstedt’s wife, Magdalena (Linda Zilliacus) - and she with him.

It’s like CSI crossed with Whitechapel and Barry Lyndon, but all in Swedish. Here’s a trailer and an exclusive video to give you a taster. I’ll talk more about the show after the jump.


Continue reading "Review: Anno 1790 (season 1)"

October 11, 2013

Review: The Tomorrow People 1x1 (US: The CW; UK: E4)

Posted on October 11, 2013 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

The New Tomorrow People

In the US: Wednesdays, 9pm/8c, The CW
In the UK: Acquired by E4

As we all know, US TV is prone to remaking other countries' TV shows, but if you'd asked me a year what the most likely remake of a UK TV show would be this season, never in my wildest dreams would I have suggested 1970s sci-fi gay metaphor and excuse for borderline S&M paedophilia The Tomorrow People. Yet here it is. Do they have no shame?

Amazingly, although I tend to prefer remakes that are faithful to the original, in this case, the lack of fidelity is an improvement. The original show was dreadful. Just dreadful. Although possessed of one of the best and most disturbing title sequences in TV history, it had numerous faults, most of which I've spelt out over here. Or you could watch this brief clip, which should show you what you've been missing all these years.

Yet here, although we don't have something that's much above "not bad", we don't have something outrageously terrible. What we do have is, however, is also a bit more mundane. Following on from the original, the story posits that all over the world, a new race of human beings called Homo Superior or The Tomorrow People is 'comingbreaking out'. Able to teleport, read minds and move objects with their thoughts, unlike the nasty new humans of Prey, these genetic mutations can't kill and just want to be left alone to lead normal lives like anyone else.

Unlike the 1970s Tomorrow People, there are some complete TP spanners ruining for it everyone by breaking into bank vaults and the like, so a government scientist called Jedekiah who definitely isn't a fierce, shapechanging, alien robot is out to stop these new Tomorrow People and give them genetic therapy to make them normal 'saps' (Home Sapiens) - assuming he can't get them to join his team of black-suited TPs.

With new and super-powerful mutation Stephen (Robbie Amell - cousin of Arrow's Stephen Amell) just breaking out and teleporting into people's bedrooms while he's asleep, both sides in the war are looking to recruit. Which side will he join? Well, that would be telling, so maybe you'll just have to read my mind to find out. Or watch it.

Here's a trailer. Spoilers after the jump.

Continue reading "Review: The Tomorrow People 1x1 (US: The CW; UK: E4)"

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