I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider and the equally short-lived Death Ray and Filmstar magazines; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network and TV Scoop.
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Some things just seem to be cursed. The British expedition in 1845 to find the fabled northwest passage didn’t really stand a chance, given the two ships sent were the HMS Terror and HMS Erebus. Sure, they were technologically advanced for their time, with hardened hulls to brace against the ice and carrying railway steam engines to power propellers. But those names? ‘Terror’ and ‘Erebus’, Greek myth’s darkness beneath the world? That was just courting disaster.
Both ships disappeared and later expeditions were unable to find them, although ultimately, it seems like the crews abandoned their vessels after they had become stuck in the ice, after which they tried to make the trek over ice and land to an outpost hundreds of miles away. Ill and running out of food, they might even have resorted to cannibalism to try to survive.
When Dan Simmons wrote his about the expedition in 2007, he must have thought he was on relatively easy territory. The ships had been missing for nearly a century and a half – surely he can write about them safely, imagining whatever he wanted. Yet oddly enough, in September 2014, the wreck of the Erebuswas found, submerged in what is now known as Terror Bay in Newfoundland, Canada. The Terror itself remained unfound, however, despite further investigations.
When a TV adaptation was announced in March 2016, that must have kicked the curse back into life because just a few months later, the Terrorwas found on an island in the middle of Terror Bay – 100km from where historians had previously thought it had wound up. How did it get there? No one’s sure…
Who knows what will turn up, now we have the TV series itself airing.
For the most part, The Terror is simple conjecture about what might have happened to the crews of both ships, based on the evidence available. It sees Ciáran Hinds (Rome) playing the lead captain of the expedition, Sir John Franklin, while Jared Harris (Mad Men) plays the captain of The Terror, Francis Crozier. Also aboard are Ian Hart and Tobias Menzies (Outlander). Initial episodes focus on the ships’ stranding in the ice, with subsequent episodes showing the events that lead to the abandoning of the ships and then the trek itself, as well as the rescue missions mounted back at home by loved ones, including Greta Scacchi.
However, seemingly just to gee things along a bit, there’s also something out there in the icy wastes of the Arctic. Stronger and bigger than a polar bear and as smart as a man, it’s invisible against the icy tundra and in the eternal night of the Arctic winter. It’s also extremely murderous. But what is it?
Once in a while on Monday, TMINE will review the select few movies it’s had time to watch when it’s not been watching TV. The film reviews A-Z lists every film ever reviewed here
Just a couple of movies this Movie Monday, seeing as there hasn’t been much on iTunes of late. Although I was tempted by Netflix’s Annihilation.
Jumani: Welcome to the Jungle (2017)
Technically, the third in the Jumanji series, given that it’s a sequel rather than a reboot of the 1990s movie (and its subsequent sequel) starring Robin Williams, in which the characters and hazards of a haunted African board game started to enter the real world. This new entry sees the game of the first two movies washed up on shore in the mid-90s, where it’s picked up on a beach and taken to someone’s home. However, it gets tossed to one side by its new owner – “who plays board games any more?” – but quickly learns that console games are where the new fun is at, so reincarnates itself as a video game.
Fast forward 20 years and a bunch of teenagers stuck in detention find the game and make the mistake of playing it, whereupon rather than the game taking over the world, Tron-like they get sucked into it instead and become the game’s characters. Nerdy allergic kid becomes Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson; bullying high school football star becomes teeny tiny Kevin Hart; selfie-obsessed popular girl becomes middle-aged fat bloke Jack Black; and snarky feminist becomes the kick ass Karen Gillan. Possessed of only three lives each, they have to learn the rules of the game, survive its obstacles and rescue the land of Jumanji from evil Bobby Cannavale – all while going Breakfast Club style on big personal emotional journeys.
Although comparisons with the original are inevitable, this is a far nicer, gentler, funnier movie than horror fan Joe Johnson (Gremlins)’s film; beyond a few references to the original, it’s also largely a standalone story. The first half is a pretty decent satire of video games and their arbitrary rules and approaches to storytelling, with “cut scenes” to explain the back story, each of the characters having stupid powers (“smouldering intensity”, “dance fighting” and of course, “Weakness: cake”), NPCs (non-player characters) only having a set stock of responses to our heroes’ questions, and the ridiculous puzzles that have to be solved to pass onto the next levels of adventure games. True, Karen Gillan’s navel-exposing outfit is only part satire of games’ attitudes to women, part attempt to get Karen Gillan in a navel-exposing outfit, but there is some good intent there at least.
It’s also really funny in places and not just thanks to the resurrection of Central Intelligence‘s Johnson/Hart partnership. Everyone gets good lines, Johnson does a sterling job of playing a nice Jewish boy who’s scared of everything but now has the body of a former WWE wrestler, while Black is surprisingly convincing as a teenage girl. The movie also sticks strongly to its spirit of its characters, with Gillan marvellously awkward – Black’s attempts to train her in the ways of seducing boys fall hopelessly flat, leaving her to find a way that’s more true to herself.
In its headlong pursuit of the end of the story, the second half of the movie loses some of that sharpness, becoming a more conventional, CGI adventure. But it by no means loses it completely and there are twists that you might not see coming. The ultimate conclusion is also a little hurried, not really showing us how the adventures have changed the characters’ life paths, beyond perhaps a new romance or friendship or too – maybe the planned sequel will fix that.
All the same, a much, much better movie than you might expect and one that’s already supported multiple viewings chez nous.
Based on the New York Times bestseller, Wonder tells the “incredibly inspiring and heartwarming story” of August Pullman, a boy with facial differences who enters fifth grade, attending a mainstream elementary school for the first time.
That’s the IMDb plot summary, that is. What should be added to all of that is before he enters fifth grade, he’s been home-schooled by mum Julia Roberts and dad Owen Wilson. And to that, it should be added that it’s all set in the US, as if all of that wasn’t obvious already.
So maybe it is a lovely, heartwarming story for a US audience, as they see how August is first rejected by his classmates, but finally is accepted by them, making new friends along the way with his great spirit – and with perhaps a little help from inspirational principal Mandy Patinkin as well. Indeed, purely for the sake of giving us a teacher who’s good at his job, cares about his kids and isn’t cynical, Wonder should perhaps be treasured.
However, for a UK audience, it’s probably a different story. Indeed, Lovely Wife – who works in schools with kids with special needs – was almost incensed enough to write a blog entry of her own to explain to parents in the UK just what a horrific and unrepresentative portrayal of mainstream school attitudes to SEN children Wonder is. Apart from the fact that home-schooling usually doesn’t result in super-smart kids who know more than the rest of their classes, because the average parent doesn’t know more than all a kid’s teachers combined, kids are always far more accepting of difference at a younger age so Roberts’ keeping him out of school is literally the worst thing she could have done, stopped him from socialising normally and stopped him from making friends at an early age. It’s tantamount to child abuse. It’s not heartwarming.
Anyway, watch it for Patinkin and some good performances, but be prepared to feel sorry for American SEN kids forced to go through that educational system, if Wonder is to be believed.
Every Friday, TMINE lets you know when the latest TV shows from around the world will air in the UK
Only a couple of new acquisitions this week but they’ve both got premiere dates, so let’s not dawdle. But I will note that streaming services (mostly Netflix but also Walter Presents) have started two new trends of late:
Acquisitions that no one knows about but are suddenly just available to watch
Acquisitions that are announced and the programmes in questions are available to watch instantly.
You’ll see what I mean in a mo.
Le Chalet (The Chalet) (France: France 2; UK: Netflix)
Premiere date: Available since Tuesday
“Friends gathered at a remote chalet in the French Alps for a summer getaway are caught in a deadly trap as a dark secret from the past comes to light.”
What Netflix doesn’t tell you is that it’s typically French in that it’s based on an Agatha Christie novel – And Then There WereNone. It’s also typically French in that it’s got Gilou from Engrenages (Spiral) in it.
Charité (Germany: ARD/Das Erste; UK: Netflix)
Premiere date: Available now
Six-part medical series, set in Berlin in 1888, in which Ida (Alicia von Rittberg) is operated on as a patient of the Charité and is forced to pay back her treatment costs by working as a nursing assistant under the bigoted regiment of deaconess Martha. Through this, she discovers her passion for medicine and is able to follow her free and rebellious spirit in its desire to live a self-determined future, in an age when women hardly had a right to higher education. Along the way, she meets extraordinary physicians such as Rudolf Virchow, as well as researchers and later Nobel Laureates Robert Koch, Emil von Behring, and Paul Ehrlich.
Acquired yesterday. Made available… yesterday. Amazing, hey?
Vlucht HS13 (Flight HS13) (The Netherlands: NPO3; UK: Walter Presents)
Premiere date: Tuesday, April 24, 11pm
Liv (Katja Schuurman) has the perfect life: happily married to surgeon Simon, they have a son, she co-owns a successful design business and shares a beautiful home. However, her life is suddenly turned upside down when her husband goes on a business trip and his plane crashes. Her grieving is dramatically halted when she discovers from the passenger list that her husband never actually boarded the plane.
It transpires that upon arriving at the airport to supposedly take his flight, he went straight to arrivals where, CCTV reveals, he greeted another woman and young child. Her husband appears to have a secret life and is now missing.
Confused, betrayed and angry, Flight HS13 follows Liv’s mission to find her husband, a journey which will uncover a tangled web of corruption, blackmail and violence.
Let’s Get Physical (US: Pop; UK: E4)
Premiere date: Thursday, May 3, 9:30pm
Dodgeball but with aerobics and Jane Seymour and without many jokes.
Created by Harlan Coben and written by Danny Brocklehurst (The Five, Come Home), Safe sees widowed surgeon Tom Delaney (Dexter‘s Michael C Hall) begin unearthing dark secrets about the people closest to him after his teenage daughter goes missing. The cast also includes Amanda Abbington, Marc Warren, Audrey Fleurot and Hannah Arterton.
Pretty interesting mix of Brits and international cast members, in a UK setting (at least in the trailer), but I’m not sure about Hall’s accent. It’s a bit Orphan Black, if you know what I mean. Despite the presence of Engrenages (Spiral)‘s Audrey Fleurot, it’s not typically French though.