Welcome to April! Because there’s not enough useless information floating around on the internet, I thought I would update readers of this blog as to what I’ve watched/read over the previous month, each month, in the form of TV, movies and books.
Some of this I will have reviewed on Cultural Conversation (or perhaps Set The Tape) but others I’ve just been watching for enjoyment with Mrs Black.
Let’s start this month with TV…
Why am I starting with TV? Because it’s been a pretty blinding month for the box, all told. March may be a fairly quiet month in cinematic terms most years (though we’ve had a Marvel big hitter this year) but TV has really stepped it up in close quarters.
Comedy wise, we’ve had both This Time With Alan Partridge *and* Fleabag in the same month – heck, on the same day each week! Monday’s have been pretty stellar in March, especially given both of these shows have been fantastic. I go into more detail on some of the episodes in some Set The Tape pieces but, suffice to say, both are now over or almost over, and I’m going to dearly miss them.
Fleabag, especially, I’m convinced is a true television masterpiece. We’ll still be talking about that show in decades to come. There is a real magic to what Phoebe Waller-Bridge has done with that show. In a way I’m glad she’s not doing any more after Season 2. Leave it as a perfect 12 episodes to cherish forever.
Comedy that worked less well was Ricky Gervais’ latest show, After Life, for Netflix. I’ve written a bit more about it here, and why I think it says more about Gervais himself than anything else, but I’m absolutely sure that if it wasn’t Gervais behind it, nobody would have given people money to make such a bizarre, maudlin, saccharine piece of work. When you put it next to the Fleabag‘s of this world, you’d be fair enough for thinking it was zapped out of a bizarro world, circa 1996. Compelling enough to watch to the end, with its heart in the right place, but still… weird, naval gazing stuff.
My heart breaks though for Idris Elba, who fronted a real clunker in Netflix’s Turn Up Charlie, based to some degree on his younger DJ days – Human Traffic meets Daddy Day Care and, yes, that’s as awful as it sounds. I could only manage the first two episodes of awkwardly staged jokes, grating characters and simply contrived set up before I ducked out. Elba is as charming as you might expect, and with the right material he’d probably do comedy well but, mate… sack this off and try something else if they come calling again.
As a salve, I’ve been engrossed in what I’ve termed my ‘Breaking Binge’ – now halfway into Season 4 of Breaking Bad and thank the almighty, I *get* it. I get why people think it’s a masterpiece. It works on so many levels. As addictive now as meth, still with the promise that the best may yet be to come.
I’ve had a quieter one again for films this month, though I did finally manage to make it to the actual cinema for the first time this year to see Captain Marvel, the latest in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I haven’t written about it, mainly because I don’t know what there is to say that hasn’t been covered and there isn’t a terrific amount of depth to it, but I did enjoy it. Mid-higher tier MCU fare that takes about half hour to warm up but when it flies, it’s great fun.
I’ve spent a fair bit of the month covering older stuff for some Set The Tape reviews – aged noir such as Phantom Lady (really quite good), philosophical sparring of classic acting titans in The Prisoner (pretty good), or naval reconstruction in Sink the Bismarck! (a bit boring if I’m honest), but I have caught up on a couple of newer pieces – The Old Man and the Gun was a quiet, Sunday afternoon delight, while Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom was a great deal more fun and accomplished than I’d been led to believe – any film which turns a dinosaur into a Gothic monster is alright in my book!
I tell you what was utter utter bilge though – Serenity, from Steven Knight. No wonder they threw it onto Sky Cinema as well as a theatrical release. The whole thing plays like a pretentious fever dream in the mind of a 10 year old boy (which is actually more of a spoiler for the film than you might expect…). It goes beyond embarrassing into a twilight zone of cringe. I’d say you have to see it to believe it but, honestly, don’t. Don’t. It’s an hour forty of your life you’ll never get back.
It’s not been a bad month for books all told. I’ve managed to knock out five, three of which have been review novels for Titan Books, who are kind enough to send me new genre novels for review now and then via Set The Tape.
You can find reviews on there for novels such as Zero Bomb and Fleet of Knives, very different kind of science-fiction books by British authors it’s been good to support. On a recommendation linked to the latter, I also read Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Children of Time, which was feted for numerous awards a few years ago. Super ambitious philosophical sci-fi which, while a bit emotionally distancing, certainly improved the deeper in I got of a weighty tome.
After being blown away by The House of Silk in February, I got around to Anthony Horowicz’s sequel Moriarty this month too, which as to be expected was not quite as good. It very much delves into the Sherlock Holmes mythos to craft a story which adds depth and shade to Arthur Conan Doyle’s ‘The Final Problem’, and I admittedly was quite floored by a twist I probably should have seen coming, but it took a little while to get into and lacked the propulsion of the previous book.
So no 5 star novels this month, and indeed no non-fiction. I’m on a real fiction kick right now and this looks very much to be the case into April as well…