‘Bandersnatch’ – Netflix

Are you the kind of person who always remembers to say thank you to Alexa? Are you careful in how you describe the great and benevolent Google when you’re within earshot of a Home Hub? Have you had a good long look at your Facebook privacy settings and do you actually understand what all that nonsense means? In which case you’re already familiar with the themes of Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror, a huge worldwide Netflix success (as far as we can tell with a company notoriously cagey about releasing their viewing figures) poached with extreme prejudice (and bucket-loads of cash) from Channel 4 back in 2015. Technology is a crutch for the human race, a wedge that drives us apart and the idealism of “do no evil” is an absurd fairy story. We’re being corrupted and driven to the point of madness by our own beloved, addictive creation.

Bandersnatch doesn’t make my life easy. This review is particularly hard to write. Usually I’d give brief outline of the story and then get into the nitty gritty. But everyone’s story here is slightly different, especially the multiple possible endings. So let’s cover the very basics and see where we go from there.

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‘The ABC Murders’ – BBC1

Spoiler warning: details about the murderer lie below!

Mustache-twirling Belgian detective Hercule Poirot is a beloved character in literature, in cinema and on TV. Recently he’s been re-imagined as a Hollywood action hero by Kenneth Branagh in a slightly strange but ultimately well-received version of Murder on the Orient Express. So now to the BBC’s Christmas drama schedules, a big part of which has been Agatha Christie adaptations by Sarah Phelps. Over the past few years she’s brought us Ordeal by Innocence, And Then There Were None and Witness for the Prosecution. Ginger and restrained adaptations are not Phelp’s style. How do you rip up the rule book but stay true to the source material?

It turns out all you need to do is wait. The passage of time makes characters different people, more fragile and sympathetic, more human. John Malkovich portrays the great detective as a weary yesterday’s man – the ying to David Suchet’s dapper and self-important yang. He’s dismissed as just another nosy parker by the young and very serious Inspector Crome (Rupert Grint). The world has moved on since Poirot’s celebrity heyday. This is all done in an extremely heavy-handed fashion as Poirot’s retired police pal Japp literally drops dead in front of him. Alright, alright, we get it – everyone is mortal. Poor old Poirot is lonely; in desperate need of a Scooby gang – despite first appearances he’s no good at coping with life alone and forgotten.

Enter the murderer who remembers Poirot at the height of his powers and wants to play a game. By letter he tells him he’s off to kill a series of people throughout the UK whose names start with each letter of the alphabet in turn and it’s up to Poirot to figure out the connection between the seemingly random victims stop him. What an effort from the murderous mastermind to troll Poirot pre-Twitter. Think of the expense in stamps alone!

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A view from The Bridge

Spoiler alert: Contains plot details for Series 4 of The Bridge

Writers Hans Rosenfeldt and Camilla Ahlgren promised great things with the final series of this international Scandi hit and viewers arrived back on the iconic Øresund Bridge with high hopes for our heroes Saga Noren (Sofia Helin) and Henrik Sabroe (Thure Lindhardt). Were they the awesome crime-fighting duo we’d seen at the end of series 3? Were they working together to solve the disappearance of Henrik’s daughters? Well, yes and no.

The series begins with Saga behind bars serving time for her wicked mother’s murder, patiently awaiting a re-trial. We know she didn’t do it, but how on earth can a cop with such limited social skills survive the system unscathed? Devoted Henrik who is trying hard to turn his life around is a frequent visitor. Absence really does make the heart grow fonder – their relationship seems much stronger than ever before. And a good job too, as there are some incredible storms to weather in this series – new highs and desperately tragic lows that are quite alien to Saga’s usual even keel. There’s heartbreak for all here, especially Saga as she finally has to confront her dreadful abusive childhood, and how it’s shaped her adult life. Saga in therapy is powerhouse acting from Sofia Helin, pushing at the limited scope in her character’s movements and facial expressions. I’ve not seen more entertaining and revealing therapy sessions since The Sopranos.

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‘The Bridge’ – Series 4, Episode 7

This is a full review of The Bridge: Series 4, Episode 7. Catch up with all the reviews here. Don’t read on unless you’re completely up-to-date on the BBC2 schedule!

Happily we still have a Henrik this week. Our brave and stupid Dane gets off with a serious pain in the leg and a severe tongue lashing from boss Lillian about his ridiculous risk-taking. As predicted the GoPro killer (what is his/ her official nickname?) didn’t want to shoot Henrik as death to them is the easy way out. He wants his victims to suffer.

The Case

Chris flees from crazy Frank locking him up in the old factory. Frank looks like his hobby is well-planned. He’s got history in kidnapping kids.

Decapitation and firing squad are the methods left unchecked on the team’s control room list. So that’s equal parts terrifying and spectacular.

Mysterious dead Douglas was a Private Investigator who Niels says he hired after his wife’s death to hurry the investigation along. Saga uncovers private police documents in his office that show the mole in the team is working hard on leaking sensitive information all over the place.

Saga is on to Anna, Astrid and Frank thanks to Chris’ confession about killing Dan in the Village of the Damned. Frank seems so reasonable but there’s a monster is hiding just under the surface of respectability. In this episode Frank’s answer to everything is violence. The tension is unbearable as Frank locks the front door and goes to find Astrid toting a shotgun. (“For fucks’ sake! We demand a happy ending!” is written in my notes at this point.) Why did the sniper not take the clear shot he had at Frank’s squishy little head? And how come they can organise a whole SWAT team for a cold case with little to no notice? Those questions aside, good work team!

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The Official Jontosaurus Top Five Memorable The Walking Dead Deaths Of All Time!

The mighty Jontosaurus is risen. Fear him! And also, read his top 5 The Walking Dead deaths and feel all squishy inside for gore of yore…

AMC’S The Walking Dead is in a dark place right now, with viewing figures at their lowest point since season 1. Reviews of season 8 have been remorseless, but there can be no denying that throughout the show’s massive run there have been some truly memorable characters that have perished in some truly memorable ways. And, in the case of Glenn, there have been about ten times we’ve thought he was going to die, only for him to turn up alive- sometimes without a whole lot of explanation. So, in honor of Glenn- God rest his fictional soul- here is a rundown of The Official Jontosaurus Top Five Memorable TWD Deaths Of All Time. As always, this is based purely on personal opinion, so please don’t be offended if your ‘favourite’ doesn’t make it in. Oh, and it goes without saying… but there may be spoilers ahead for those of you who have been living in a cave for the last few years. To be fair, I will try and avoid the most recent two or three seasons just to play it safe.

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  1. Hershel Loses His Head

“When all others lose theirs…” didn’t seem to be part of the plan for Hershel, who definitely loses his head, albeit in a clumsy and ultimately tragic way. Used as a sort of bargaining chip during The Governor’s assault on the prison, he is dragged out and negotiated over like a piece of meat. Just when it seems as though the adorable, well reasoned old man is going to pull through, the series decides to take a drastic U turn. As Maggie and Beth’s father, Hershel has already lost a leg due to a Walker bite, and although he looks about as resilient as a water paper bag, he’s clearly a tough old dog who isn’t ready to throw in the towel just because the apocalypse has reared its ugly head. Unfortunately, the Big Bad in form of David Morrissey’s The Governor has other ideas, and after a drawn-out affair, he grabs a samurai sword- a very familiar samurai sword for that matter- and lops off the old man’s head. What makes this scene so unexpected is that it leaps upon us as viewers just when we think the old man may be spared, and it also shows the removal of the head in graphic detail. We watch as the Governor messes up his first chop, only partly severing the neck, and all the while the dying Hershel just sort of kneels there, serene and untroubled, as his head is cut off. Truly harrowing but, sadly, not the most harrowing death on this list.

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‘Acquitted’ – Walter Presents

It’s been a long while since I started a new Scandi thriller. I’ve been struggling with some pretty serious health problems. Turns out concentrating on anything when you’re really ill is extremely bloody difficult. I guess it’s why mindless daytime tv does so well. And concentrating on high-quality drama with subtitles is completely out of the question. My top tip for sickies is fairly short YouTube content, but avoid ones that make you laugh too hard, so you don’t bust any stitches, or ones about eating nasty things, so you don’t start puking again.

But the wonderful Walter Presents peaked my interest in Norwegian drama series Acquitted. Aksel Nilsen is a very successful Kuala Lumpur based businessman who returns home to little Lifjord after 20 years away to finally confront his unhappy past. Aksel is pouty and good looking, extremely well-groomed and manicured to a shine. In his beautiful bespoke suits he looks like a Ken doll crossed with a perfume advert (pour homme, pour femme, pour Norway). He’s done alright for himself in KL, with a corner office, a beautiful successful wife and a bolshy teenage son. His colleagues all have perfect English spoken in English accents; Nicolai Cleve Broch as Aksel does very well, but it’s his swearing that lets him down. He gets a call for help from Lifjord’s major employer, drops everything and chases off to the other side of the globe to try and save the town.

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‘I’m Dying Up Here’ – Sky Atlantic

I’m Dying Up Here was on my to-watch list for a long time before I took the plunge. I’m sorry I hesitated, because it’s exceptional television. It’s American comedy-drama television series created by David Flebotte and set firmly in 1970s Hollywood. It was made for Showtime in the US and picked up in the UK on Sky Atlantic (exactly where you’d expect quality imports to pitch up). It has comedy pedigree in its backbone as it’s based on a book by William Knoedelseder detailing the excesses of soon-to-be household names such as Jay Leno, Robin Williams and Andy Kaufman on Sunset Strip in the 70s. It’s also executive produced by Jim Carrey, and at the time of writing, the less said about him the better.

While based in reality, this is a fictionalised account of the premier Los Angeles comedy club, and the denizens who inhabit it, honing their craft to make it to the big time. That way real-life anecdotes can be revised, tweaked and magnified, much like the way a stand-up takes real life and makes it funny, constantly revising their act.

The comedy club is Goldie’s, owned and run by businesswoman and matriarch Goldie Herschlag (played by Melissa Leo, and loosely based on Mitzi Shore the founder of The Comedy Store). She has very little tenderness in her heart and is all about business. She cares for her comics in a way, but is very strict with them, and this tactic has proved extremely successful. What she says goes (even insisting one comic change his name after daring to play in another LA club). Goldie’s is only place where the talent scouts come from Johnny Carson’s ‘Tonight Show’, the big coast-to-coast American talk show. That slim chance at stardom is what keeps her comics loyal.

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