Eurovision 2018 – the Grand Final

Well I told you it’d be a vintage year and well worth tuning in for, but I did not expect that. What a night! Let’s try to put some of the craziness in context. I’m not even sure where to begin.

So Eurovision 2018 gave us a huge variety of music with many genres represented. In my lifetime I never thought I’d see anyone stage dive at Eurovision! The way the initial jury voting went the field wide open with any of 6 or 7 songs that could have won. There was pop, metal, dance, ballads, opera and loads of different languages on show, mainly by people who all looked the same. So much for diversity, but baby steps. We also had four female presenters, none of them particularly gifted in comedy or the essential schmoozy green-room chat, but fully female-fronted is a big deal. This was especially obvious as creep after creep giving the jury votes commented on their appearance, hilariously the Portuguese man was the absolute worst. He made my ovaries cringe and shrivel up inside me. Ick.

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‘Aggretsuko’ – Netflix

Hands up if you hate your job. Look around – you’re not alone. Eighty-five percent of workers worldwide admit to hating their jobs when surveyed anonymously, according to a Gallup poll released last summer. That’s an awful lot of people. But even people with what seems to be the perfect job get totally frazzled sometimes. I’m sure even Cadbury’s chocolate taster, Dublin’s chief kitten cuddler and Chris Pratt’s hot yoga instructor have bad days too. So despite Netflix’s new cartoon Aggretsuko being subtitled Japanese anime, this rage is entirely universal.

Retsuko is an adorable kawaii red panda from the people at Sanrio who most famously brought you Hello Kitty. I kid you not. This fluffy female is far more realistic than any mascot I’ve seen before. She’s really struggling. When she gets her first office job aged 20 she’s filled with joy and purpose, strutting her stuff in corporate Japan. Cut to five long years later and she’s stuck in a thankless job, a slave to the wage. She hates her stupid, lazy, gossipy colleagues, really hates her misogynistic boss Director Ton (literally and figuratively a pig) and I bet she hates herself too, for still being single, and not being the big success she always though she would be. This is the internalised hatred of working women who have been set impossibly high standards by society. Whoah – this shit is deep for a super-cute animated red panda.

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‘Hinterland: Series 3’

I have finally relented and let Mr H submit a review for his favorite show. He spent 20 years living in Wales for his sins so consider him our foreign correspondent.

“It’s beautiful, I’m so glad you bought a big new telly” – Sarah Hamstera (1847 – Present)

It’s not often I hear justification for a purchase but there is power in beauty and Hinterland knows that all too well…

Hinterland (Y Gwyll) is an oddity in British television in that it is created and produced primarily for the Welsh audience but filmed once in Welsh and again in English. This means that there are 2 versions available to the tv audience (3 if you include the much rarer and heavily abridged all English version), the all Welsh version (Y Gwyll) appears on BBC owned S4C followed a short while later by the ‘International’ version which is predominantly in English but with key sequences in Welsh with English subtitles. This is the version put out on Saturday nights on BBC4 fitting nicely into their standard Scandi-Noir slot where we get to see just how well we have come to understand and love the genre. In some ways it feels odd that we aren’t watching the Welsh version with intermittent English scenes but, given the core audience, it’s understandable.

For those that haven’t yet sampled the ethereal delights of Hinterland, it is ostensibly a police procedural drama set in the beautiful scenery of the rural Welsh countryside surrounding Aberystwyth. This, for the most part would be enough but there is much darker fayre to be had below the verdant and bucolic surface.

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‘Santa Clarita Diet’

I think we can all agree that 2016 was rubbish, punctuated by the occasional depressing shitstorm. So far, 2017 is just bleak, barely registering on the Shrug Scale of shit-we’ve-all-just-got-to-get-used-to a.k.a. the new normal. So it’s the perfect time to turn your brain off, get grizzly and relish some zombie face-munching fun.

Welcome to Santa Clarita, a deeply boring middle-class suburbia somewhere in dull dry Southern California. Sheila and Joel are good-looking super-normal upwardly mobile estate agents (or realtors as they say over there) quickly sliding down the slippery slope into a totally ridiculous situation. Poor Sheila dies, only she doesn’t. Life goes on as normal, as best they can, while she, Joel and their teenage daughter Abby deal with the fact she is now a zombie.

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‘The Last Dragonslayer’

The Last Dragonslayer on Sky 1 was a proper Christmas treat and should have been on everyone’s list to watch instead of the Doctor Who christmas episode, shown at the same time. In this reviewer’s opinion Doctor Who has been limping along since the unfortunate Peter Capaldi took over. The sooner we see new showrunner Chris Chibnall’s work in 2017 the better, although it’d take a miracle to lure me back. Anyway I digress…

This much more satisfying slice of fantasy was served up by novelist Jasper Fforde. I’ve read quite a few of Fforde’s weird postmodern literary stories but never realised he’d branched out into young adult fiction. Happy to report that while retaining his own odd identity (more on that later) this shared elements with classic YA stuff like the Harry Potter series, Rincewind’s adventures in the Discworld and the magnificent His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman.

This is a full review, so if you want to avoid spoilers go watch it now and come back later.

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Pokémon: Indigo League – Nostalgia Trip

Guest blogger Jontosaurus sees your current Pokémon Go fixation and raises you one youthful obsession with a certain extremely famous and much-loved Saturday morning cartoon…

Admit it. As soon as you read the title, you began humming the theme tune. If you’re of the more…ahem…geeky nature, you maybe even began singing it at the top of your lungs. Air grabs and all.

Like many children of that generation, I was gripped by Pokemon fever- a hideous disease that infected pretty much every child of school age. I just couldn’t get enough.

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