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The Magic of Terry Pratchett
The Magic of Terry Pratchett
Marc Burrows | 2020 | Biography
9
9.0 (1 Ratings)
Book Rating
As a child who was brought up in a house of Discworld stories, with a stepfather who (still) proudly displays the Clarecraft Rincewind figurine which bears an uncanny likeness to him, and a mother who has a matching Nanny Ogg (it bears no likeness but let’s just say encompasses a couple of her characteristics), this was an ARC that I was frankly desperate to read. I have to thank Netgalley and Marc Burrows for granting me this opportunity. My opinions are enthusiastic, and entirely my own.

As a 32 year old female, mother and accountant you may be forgiven for expecting my book reviews to be based around chick-lit or classical novels and, although it is the case that I own several very well-read copies of Pride & Prejudice, I am wholly a child of the sci-fi/fantasy genre. Terry Pratchett novels sit alongside George RR Martin, Terry Brooks, David Eddings and Ursula Le Guin in my house; I owned and loved Discworld computer games and probably know every word to the film Labyrinth.

It could therefore be said that I would find Marc Burrow’s biography fascinating regardless: however, I am ashamed to say that, before reading this book, I knew very little about the life of the author whose books I admire so much.

Burrows structures his writing predictably enough, running through the life of Terry Pratchett chronologically, from his working-class upbringing; his career in journalism; the progression in popularity of his novels; his knighthood all the way up to his untimely death from Alzheimer’s. However, this is where an affiliation to any standard biography ends.


It is immediately apparent that Marc Burrows is an avid Terry Pratchett fan, even without reading his foreword, due to the inclusion of footnotes: a writing style which is synonymous with Pratchett. This allows Burrows, as it did with Pratchett, to provide little notes and details which cannot be in the main text without limiting the reading experience. It also allows both authors to inject a large amount of humour into their writing.
It should also be mentioned that no book has gripped me from the introduction in a long time, although I am fairly sure no other book would use the word “crotch” before we even reach Chapter One!

‘The Magic of Terry Pratchett’ is a clever, well-informed biography which perfectly encompasses the humour of the Discworld creator whilst educating the reader of his journey to becoming the icon that he is today. I have no doubt that this has been a labour of love for Marc Burrows: when the kindle says you have 20 minutes reading time left and you have reached the bibliography, you know that a whole lot of research has been done!

Sir Terry also had the tendency to embellish his stories and this is a factor Burrows does not try to hide; highlighting when facts don't quite add up and almost analysing the situation to try and discern the truth. This was such a refreshing approach to a biography: the wool is not pulled over the eyes of the reader, nor the subject blindly believed for convenience.


It is important to note that this book transgresses the existence of Discworld and “the business with the elephant” and encompasses all of Sir Terry’s work: from short stories in the local paper to his TV documentary on assisted death.
The reader will also learn of the involvement of Rhianna Pratchett in her father’s work and discover that the “man in the hat” was not always the easiest man to work with.


I am going to need at least 3 copies upon release- can we preorder?
  
Ekaj (2015)
Ekaj (2015)
2015 |
7
7.0 (1 Ratings)
Movie Rating
A gritty, raw portrait of a teenage runaway
When I was first introduced to Ekaj, I genuinely thought it was a documentary. The realisation that it was in fact a work of fiction took me by surprise, and this is a testament to the directing style of Cati Gonzalez. She has gone to great lengths to make this film feel as real as possible. None of the actors in the film are well-known or established, making them seem like ordinary people you might pass on the street. This sense of realism draws you closer to the characters we meet throughout, and I really loved this stylistic choice.

This gritty, imperfect camerawork and editing matches well with the harsh realities of life for Ekaj and his friend Mecca, both of which are young, gay Puerto Ricans trying to navigate the intimidating streets of New York City. This film doesn’t sugar coat it, as we are greeted with things such as drug abuse, AIDS, violence and sexual assault. We are forced to live this reality alongside Ekaj and Mecca, in all its harrowing honesty. It’s worlds away from my own, yet I felt close to the subject matter throughout. Ekaj and Mecca are complete opposites, with Mecca’s life experience and protective nature conflicting with Ekaj and his naivety. Following these two characters throughout was thoroughly entertaining, despite the difficult environment they both live in.

As the titular character, Jake Mestre really stood out to me. He does a fantastic job at portraying someone young, clueless and confused about their own identity. He experiments with new looks, new scents, and what he feels most comfortable in. He is a character that many can identify with when it comes to sexuality and gender identity, even if they do not share the same life experiences. In addition, the presence of Ekaj’s homophobic and aggressive father is an upsetting reminder of the rejection many individuals face from their own family members. I’m glad Ekaj never avoided these issues or tried to pretend they didn’t exist, instead, they were placed in clear view for the discomfort of the audience. It’s important we shed light on these societal problems, and cinema as a great way to do this.

The intrusive nature of the camera paired with natural, overlapping dialogue is striking, and at times I felt as though I shouldn’t be watching what I was. I felt like a genuine spectator, desperately trying to get a closer look at the lives of these individuals, even when they were talking about some deep and intense topics. The fly-on-the-wall style of filmmaking is what really stood out to me with Ekaj, and something I seriously enjoyed throughout. To me, this is what sets the film apart from others within the genre.

All in all, Ekaj is a well-rounded indie film that gives us a heartfelt and eye opening look at the dark side of New York City, whilst simultaneously creating a compelling and strong relationship between two young men. The way humour and sentimentalities still existed in such an awful world gave me a glimmer of hope, and some light relief throughout. Fundamentally, this is down to great writing and acting, which I’m full of praise for when it comes to this film.

I would certainly recommend Ekaj to a variety of audiences, whether or not you feel you can identify with any of the characters or subject matters. It sheds light on the darker side to human existence, which is important for us all to witness.

https://lucygoestohollywood.com/2018/11/04/ekaj-a-gritty-raw-portrait-of-a-teenage-runaway/
  
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Fruitvale Station (2013)
Fruitvale Station (2013)
2013 | Drama
Here is another movie that was put up for consideration for my upcoming book 21st Century Cinema: 200 Essential Films. It didn’t quite make the final cut, but is part of the long list of honourable mentions – movies that are easy to like and recommend, but aren’t quite of the very highest quality in their respective genres.

Borderline superstar Michael B. Jordan owes his career to Ryan Coogler, which began in earnest in 2013 with the strong effort of true story Fruitvale Station, highlighting the life and final moments of Oscar Grant, who was one of a tragically long list of innocent young men murdered by the police in modern America. Since then he has gone on to star as the eponymous Creed and as the popular Erik Killmonger in Black Panther, making him more or less the most famous black actor under forty currently at work.

I mention him first because having seen the other two films first, I have to admit I wasn’t quite getting it. I mean he is fine in both movies, but nothing world beating. Then you go back to his acheivement in the earlier film and begin to see what he might be capable of given the right scripts. He pretty much embodies Oscar Grant to a degree you believe you are watching a documentary. Which is the major plus point of Ryan Coogler’s direction also.

By pulling us in to the family life of Oscar, as if we were a fly on the wall, we become connected to their story as if we were part of that inner circle, making the inevitable horror of events hit home all the harder. We watch mundane events and conversations take place with a shadow of foreboding that never crosses over into foreshadowing or signposting. The balance is very nicely done.

Melonie Diaz, as girlfriend Sophina, and especially the ever wonderful Octavia Spencer, as loving but grounded mother Wanda, offer solid support, but the camera clings to Jordan by choice, asking us to place ourselves in his shoes and feel the empathy first hand. It is a sober journey, almost totally devoid of directorial flair, which is both a strength and a weakness, ultimately.

With such an awful, heart-rending subject, it can be difficult to remove yourself into a dispassionate view of a film artistically, as the message overpowers your emotions. The best thing that can be said in this case is that the drama never crosses the line of sentimentality or overkill; it merely presents events as they were and asks you to draw your own conclusions. Having said that, I can’t over-praise it simply because the subject needs to be seen, heard, discussed and acted upon with total immediacy in the real world.

This film is already seven years old, and the issues are more pertinent than ever before, as the BLM movement rages all over the world, but especially in the USA, where the culpability and violence of police officers must be addressed and resolved before the loss of one more innocent life. The message delivered by the film is clear and unambiguous – it has to be heeded. And in that sense it is an indespensible film of great power, I would advise you to see.

And with that, it seems a moot point to criticise it, because there isn’t anything negative to say that would say anything useful. I would just say again that it doesn’t quite make the grade of the best 200 films since the Millennium. Whereas, BlacKkKlansman does. An unfair comparison in many ways, but an obvious one in others. See both. Think about them, do what you can, and help make hatred and prejudice a sad fact of history.

Decinemal Rating: 70
  
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Christopher Kirk (1384 KP) rated Apollo 11 (2019) in Movies

Jan 22, 2021 - 10:07 AM  
Apollo 11 (2019)
Apollo 11 (2019)
2019 | Documentary
This extraordinary documentary exploring the build up, launch and landing of the most famous mission in NASA history, and arguably the pinnacle of human space exploration to date, is a mesmeric and unique experience like no other factual film you have ever seen. You can find it tucked away on Netflix, and I urge you to do so if you ever found yourself wondering for one minute about the moon landing of ’69 and what all the fuss was about.

Director Todd Douglas Miller makes the bold choice to do away with all narrative, cutaway interviews and commentaries, and just shows you what happened in gorgeous detail, with a kind of retro super 8 camera vibe, and a very evocative sountrack. The degree of unseen footage of the entire project is jaw-dropping, especially if there is something of a science or even science fiction geek within you.

Some of what you see and hear is, of course, so iconic that when you see or hear them you feel a sense of deja vu that feels like a dream in the context of the full story. The rest is so amazing to contemplate as something that humanity actually achieved that it is tempting to see it as an odd retro sci-fi movie with quite bad effects and a dull plot; the control room, suits, the rocket itself, the sense of endless patience, anticipation and waiting – you just wouldn’t believe it would work if it was a fiction.

At several points I found myself reminding myself that it wasn’t a fiction, and then marvelling at the entire world that existed at the end of the 60s, and how so essentially different it was, and how ancient it feels now. I wasn’t quite born when all this happened, but it has been very much in my imagination all my life. I wanted to be an astronaut, as did most other kids in the Star Wars era of the late 70s and early 80s, and I only really gave up when I realised that meant being as smart and dedicated as Neil Armstrong and not as reckless and cool as Han Solo. Now I am older, I can appreciate things about it that I never could, and in understanding Human history, it is a riveting chapter.

What we see in this film is how detail and hard work and maths and safety precautions and thousands of team members made this happen. Every nut and bolt, and every drop of sweat and fuel is counted, recounted and considered. At times it seems mundane and without drama, boring even, and then the sheer scale of acheivement and wonder overtakes you as you catch yourself realising how incredible it was that any of this was done at all.

There is no political overtone or background here, no conspiracy theory, no other voice questioning the economic impact or wisdom of the entire endeavour, just a childlike but serious minded wonder at doing something because we could if we set our minds to it. And for that it has a beauty and transcendent elegance that rarely accompanies the subject. By the end, there is really only one word to describe the fact that over 50 years ago three men looked down on the Earthrise and beheld every other living thing in existence in one glance. And that word is: wow!

It is slow, for sure, but only because we have become used to pace and forced drama, from our fictions and our documentaries. Apollo 11 won’t be for everyone in that case, and may even be fairly called dull by some who can’t relate to it in any way. For me it was a trance like epiphany I can’t forget. Highly recommended if you are looking for something fascinating, educational and thought provoking out of your comfort zone and out of this world!
  
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Christopher Kirk (1384 KP) rated Unsolved Mysteries in TV

Jan 22, 2021 - 10:12 AM (Updated Jan 22, 2021 - 5:34 PM)  
Unsolved Mysteries
Unsolved Mysteries
2020 | Crime, Documentary, Drama
6
6.0 (1 Ratings)
TV Show Rating
It is a guilty secret of mine that when in the right mood I love to get a small fix of the unexplained or the macabre true crime documentary type thing. They tend to range from truly ridiculous to the mildly convincing, but tend not to have especially high production value. Netflix seem to know there is demand for it however, and every now and again there is a mini-series that can live in the same box as the more serious docs.

Making a Murderer was maybe the first to break through into the mainstream consciousness, some five years ago. I watched the first series of that with a morbid fascination, as did everyone else. The second season was interesting too, but lacked the cliffhanger drive of the first. Then there are three or four parters like the superlative Ted Bundy Tapes, which get to the point and don’t out stay their welcome. Unsolved Mysteries is sort of something in the middle.

The twist on this series is that these six stories are all active cases that remain unsolved by local police forces, and we are encouraged at the end of each one to call a hotline with any info that may lead to an arrest. This is a gimmick, of course, and I can’t imagine the calls and emails they have been getting! Those would make a better TV show than this actually is, for sure.

Each episode is an hour long, which in honesty is twice as long as it needs to be in half the cases. In fact, only two of the six captured my imagination enough to give me chills and want to know what happened. The other four were standard missing person stories that although “unsolved” were pretty mundane. As mundane as murder ever gets… which is a pitfall of watching this stuff… it all gets quite normalised and loses its power to disturb, as it should.

The first to interest me was the first up, the strange story of Rey Rivera, known as “the mystery on the rooftop”. The thing that got me was the hidden note taped to the back of his computer, that read like a coded message, and hinted at involvement with a secret society. That, combined with the fact that his fall to death was impossible, and that his boss put a gagging order on all his staff after the event. Whatever this guy had going on in his life it was weird! And his family knew not one thing about it…

The second was “House of Terror”, the story of a French aristocrat who secretly shot his entire family while they slept, carefully buried them under the back porch with immense care, left no other trace of evidence in the house, then disappeared forever into the mountains, seemingly creating a deliberate false trail on CCTV. What got me here was the calculation and calm of it all, combined with the mystery of not knowing his motive, other than the fact he may have been living a lie about how successful he was financially. Regardless, his actions were so cool and unpanicked, it was like watching something out of the Bourne Identity.

As I say, otherwise it is all pretty standard stuff, and nothing to write home about. But I will remember those two cases and be holding out for any new developments in them. I guess that’s all they want – enough intrigue to keep you hooked for more down the line. Of course, you are never quite sure how manipulative with the “truth” these things are? It seemed to be presented soberly and without a sensationalist angle, but you never know. Why do I watch them at all, that is the biggest mystery…
  
Evidence (2013)
Evidence (2013)
2013 | Horror, Mystery
7
7.0 (1 Ratings)
Movie Rating
A good "found footage" film
Contains spoilers, click to show
This is a film made in the style of "found footage". The whole film is made from the perspective of whoever is filming at the time. The style was made famous with The Blair Witch Project and perfected in Cloverfield. I saw the trailer for this and thought it could be good. After trying to track down the film I discovered it had just been released here. So I got hold of a copy and sat back.

The film is about a group of friends Ryan (Ryan McCoy), Brett (Brett Rosenberg), Abi (Abigail Richie) & Ashley (Ashley Bracken) who are out camping and making a documentary about the experience. They discover a strange creature and the trip quickly turns deadly. Soon they are on the run from strange creatures and anonymous military personnel intent on stopping the creatures.

You may have noticed in the above paragraph that the characters all have the same names as the actor playing them. This was either due to a very lazy writer, or as the writer was also Ryan McCoy one of the actors, an attempt to make the film feel more real and the friendships believable. I feel that the latter is the case as the group comes off as good friends. They interact with each other in a very realistic and genuine way. Especially the female stars. They manage to portray a wide range of emotions from playful happiness to annoyed and then terrified. The opening scenes are very well done. With most "found footage" films, the introduction to the characters and the plot are usually badly done, they are kind of a mess trying to get all the information out to the viewer. However this film is the exception to the rule. It's very well put together and the script and the pacing of the characters introductions are very good. The story starts of as a pretty standard you meet the characters, they go camping then the twist, they are not alone out there. The twist is where these type of films usually fail. But Evidence manages to succeed big time. You see a creature in the distance then during the night all hell lets loose. From this moment on the film is pure tension. I have not seen a film where for the whole last hour I was on edge. I was expecting something to happen at any moment. And it happens in so many different ways and at random times leaving you unable to let your guard down. Unlike many films in this genre, not even the camera operator is safe as the camera gets passed around for various reasons. The other great thing that I found was there was also a good reason to have the camera still on while they were running for their lives. Usually this is overlooked and we are meant to ignore that but here the reason is good and helps to make the film believable.

However with all the shocks and surprises, the film makers fail in trying to do too much. Towards the end the characters encounter many different types of creatures and I felt this was a little over the top. If they had kept to one or two different creatures it would have made a little more sense. As it was you are left very confused at the end with little or no answers as to what was going on. It worked with Cloverfield but here it missed the mark. Not by much and the film as a whole more than makes up for it.

There are a few plot holes but most can be explained away. However this is still a great addition to the "found film" genre. There have been many attempts to recreate these types of films and many fail. However people will continue to try and sometimes out of all the attempts you find something a little different, one that stands out from the rest. That one is called Evidence.
  
Arctic (2019)
Arctic (2019)
2019 | Adventure, Drama
This week has been one of the coldest on record across much of the United States. The “polar vortex” has brought with it sub-zero temps complete with snow and ice. It seems only fitting that Arctic a survival movie co-written and directed by YouTube star Joe Penna would be releasing the very same week. In his first feature film directorial debut Penna brings both the beauty and the dangers of the Arctic (Iceland in this case) to the big screen.

A lone man identified only as Overgård (Mads Mikkelsen) has crashed his cargo plane somewhere in the arctic. We don’t know how long he has been stranded there, but long enough for him to have carved out a giant S.O.S in the snow. He has converted his downed plane into his new home and goes about the same routine every day. He sets his watch alarm to keep his schedule, which involves catching fish through the ice, and setting out in a different direction each day to manually wind his transponder in the hopes that a rescue will finally come.

One day, a day like countless days before it, Overgård’s transponder turns from red to green and in the distance a helicopter appears. His lucky day soon turns into tragedy as the harsh winds of the Arctic toss the helicopter around like a kite in a hurricane, crashing it to the ground. Overgård quickly runs to the crash site only to find that one of the pilots has died in the crash, and the other (Maria Thelma Smáradôttir) is barely conscious and has a gaping wound in her side. In a scene that could almost be described as humorous (if it wasn’t for the dire situation itself), Overgård crafts a sled out of the helicopter’s sliding door to carry the woman back to the safety of his plane, only to find out the next day that inside the helicopter was an actual rescue sled.

Sadly, it isn’t long before the young pilot’s wound begins to fester that Overgård must make a choice. Stay in the little slice of heaven that he has carved up for himself or risk the forces of nature in an effort to save the woman’s life. With a map he recovered from the downed helicopter, Overgård is able to identify an outpost and carefully plots out the journey that will take them there. The journey he plans for will take several days and has numerous obstacles to overcome. Yet, with a heart that clearly is as large as the vastness of the arctic itself, he realizes he has no choice.

Arctic is a movie with very little dialog, other than an occasional comment to himself or an attempt to rouse his unconscious guest. For a movie that says so little it’s the atmosphere that says so much. The film attempts to capture the harsh conditions that Overgård faces along his journey and does it so brilliantly that you can almost feel the icy weight as it bears down. The audience struggles with every wintery step as if they are not only spectators, but active participants in the journey. The scenery is as awe inspiring as it is deadly. The music seamlessly blends into the environment to a point where you are aware it’s there but doesn’t break the immersion.

Arctic could almost be mistaken as a documentary, a film about one mans survival in one of the most inhospitable places on the planet. Its pacing is deliberate, even if it is a bit slow at times. There is little need to add extra flair or danger into the mix, because nature alone provides it in spades. Arctic is not a movie that will appeal to those looking for non-stop action. At its heart it is really a movie about man vs nature, and nature can be a beast all its own. Arctic is certainly a movie for those looking for something a bit different. For those who are looking for a survival movie that doesn’t take place on a deserted isle, then this is right up your alley. Arctic shows that sometimes realism is far more interesting than fiction.
  
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Andy K (10645 KP) rated Chernobyl in TV

Oct 6, 2019  
Chernobyl
Chernobyl
2019 | Action, Drama, History
No words...
Every once in a while, a piece of cinema comes along so profound, epic, chilling, horrible, emotional, disgusting, jarring, magnificent and wondrous it completely takes my breathe away. When I was a child it was films like E.T., Return of the Jedi and Raiders of the lost Ark. Since becoming an adult, it has changed to movies like Schindler's List, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Requiem For A Dream and now Chernobyl.

This five part HBO series not only accounts for the immediate aftermath of the disaster, but shows the relatively unknown sagas of those people who were just doing their jobs not knowing their heroism and ultimate sacrifice probably saved millions of lives and maybe the entire planet Earth.

The men in the control room of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant did not know what just happened. They heard an explosion and then thought there was a fire on the roof of one of the buildings. Residents in the nearly town went out to see the spectacle taking their children and stood on a nearby bridge so they could see. Those men with the local fire department were called in the deal with the fire and quickly arrived to see the devastation they faced. Little did they know most of them were doomed with this assignment.

Soon after, nuclear experts are called in to formulate a plan to not only contain and extinguish the atomic blaze, but also to contain the radiation which the wind is carrying to neighboring countries. Proud Russian state officials also downplay the situation to the rest of the world and are wary to ask for outside assistance not wanting to show weakness.

After the plan to douse the flames in successful a new problem arises. Large water tanks which are supposed to be empty now contain water from the fireman's work which now could cause a nuclear megaton explosion killing millions and laying waste to an entire region of the Earth. A plan is also forged to deal with this new development.

Meanwhile, hospitals overrun with casualties are now forced to deal with unimaginable human suffering from those who took the worst of the radiation. Their agony and torture is some of the worst human suffrage short of war time in the history of the Earth. At the same time, a scientist and nuclear expert speaks with the men near death to assume a timeline and details of what took place during those fateful minutes before the disaster.

The monumental feat this mini-series puts to task is truly astonishing. The technical and historical detail filmmakers took to ensure accuracy is among the most impressive I have ever seen. The European locations used for filming were authentic to the last detail and the style of film was harsh and unrelenting. I watched all 5 episodes straight through as I couldn't wait to get to the next installment. As each ended, I was left with my jaw on the floor is amazement wear tears in my eyes and streaming down my face. Creator/writer Craig Mazin should be commended for his screenplay which is based on quite a lot of first-hand accounts of the situation from people who witnessed it.

Lead actors Jared Harris, Stellan Skarsgård and Emily Watson were all astonishing, especially Harris who portrayed Valery Legasov with such conviction, you as the audience were outraged and sympathetic to his role in this ordeal.

The human suffering portrayed onscreen through the use of remarkable make up effects were so real there were several points I had to stop the film just so I could catch my breath. I was so emotional while watching this masterpiece I feel now like a changed person after just having witnessed something as magic as this perfect piece of filmmaking.

I was so enamored with this production I watched all the making of material afterwards and a documentary about the real events including some of the real graphic patient images that I will never forget.

Hopefully, this will be shown in schools in the future and future generations will continue to learn about the Chernobyl catastrophe as a symbol of human arrogance so that it will never be repeated.

  
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Elli H Burton (1239 KP) Nov 2, 2019

Okay I HAVE to watch it now!

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Andy K (10645 KP) Nov 2, 2019

Lol I hope you love it and are as moved as I was.