Knives Out dir. Rian Johnson (2019) A languorous whodunnit with the right sort of plot twists; namely, ones that make sense of (rather than offhandedly repudiate) what has come before. Ana de Armas is excellent in the lead role. Daniel Craig is… less serious and rather less convincing.
Scythe by Neal Shusterman (Simon & Schuster, 2016); audiobook read by Greg Tremblay (Bolinda, 2019) Shusterman’s world-building weaves unobtrusively through the story. The central premise—a future where longevity gives rise to professional death-takers—is intriguing, and while plot developments are necessarily fraught, they also at times prove genuinely unexpected. Tremblay’s audiobook reading adds to the characterisation.
The Black Archive #35: Timelash by Phil Pascoe (Obverse Books, 2019) Pascoe approaches Timelash without an obvious agenda to push, motivated by a fondness for the story yet making no attempt to proselytise. His exposition is centred around the use of HG Wells as a character, and evinces the creative bleed-through between texts.
Eight will Fall by Sarah Harian (Henry Holt, 2019) A straightforward fantasy quest narrative with lashings of visceral horror. Important characters appear out of nowhere while seemingly important characters disappear abruptly. This and a vaguely desensitised writing style keep the reader off-kilter. Harian’s approach almost doesn’t work at all, yet does.
The Lone Ranger dir. Gore Verbinski (2013) Harshly judged by critics, The Lone Ranger is nonetheless a thoroughly entertaining film; lengthy, yes, but in harmony with the vastness of its landscapes. The western and (Tonto-inspired) comedy plotlines run parallel for a time before coming together in a rip-roaring finale.
Dr. Seventh by Adam Hargreaves (BBC, 2017) Though drawing a pretty faithful Seventh Doctor (and Ace), Hargreaves manages the almost inconceivable feat of making his Cheetah People less threatening than those of the original serial. In mitigation, the Master’s cameo is era-appropriate in its preening reveal and blustering fizzle.
The Prestige dir. Christopher Nolan (2006) A dark and cleverly constructed film, more ‘inspired by’ than ‘based on’ Christopher Priest’s novel (and better seen without reference to it). Backed by top-notch acting and cinematography, director Christopher Nolan marshals a complex, fast-paced mix of mystery, drama, tragedy and obsession.
Ben Folds: The Symphonic Tour Live with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra, cond. Nicholas Buc (QPAC, 12 March 2020) Ben Folds and his piano… plus the QSO! A vibrant and versatile, heartfelt performance. Songs that came out particularly well with orchestral treatment included ‘Erase Me’, ‘Steven’s Last Night in Town’, and the traditionally improvised (now Brisbanised and symphonised) ‘Rock This Bitch’.…
The Black Archive #33: Horror of Fang Rock by Matthew Guerrieri (Obverse Books, 2019) Guerrieri is clearly an erudite writer and diligent researcher. However, the four constructs by which he interprets Horror of Fang Rock seem associatively rather than directly relevant; the non-Who works he analyses tend rather to dominate, relegating Horror itself to the background.
Doctor Who, Series 12 BBC, 2020 Series 12 shows tremendous diversity and production values, top-notch acting and highly imaginative storylines, albeit that some of the most promising scenarios boil down to heavy-handed moralising (‘Orphan 55’, ‘Praxeus’) or egregious dei ex machina (‘Spyfall, Part 2’, ‘Can You Hear Me?’).