Endeavour, Series 4 by Russell Lewis (ITV, 2017) Appreciation of classical music aside, the young Morse drifts further away from both his older and younger selves. The resulting characterisation is less quirky and the mysteries more susceptible to policework. WPC Trewlove (Dakota Blue Richards) starts to make her presence felt.
How to Make a Wish by Ashley Herring Blake (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017) While not shying away from the hardships of her protagonist’s life—the cycle of neglect, growing up too soon, a barely functioning mother—Blake subtly shifts the emphasis to the difficulty of embracing good possibilities within that bad situation. Heartfelt and absorbing.
Anchored by Bridget E. Baker (Purple Puppy, 2021) An engaging blend of YA fantasy, intrigue and romance, the invented-world magic sitting nicely alongside its urban counterpart. Alora is a winning character—her sister-brother relationship with Jesse is a highlight—and the story unfolds nicely, though it trails off into open-endedness.
Lucy dir. Luc Besson (2014) Marketed as action SF, Lucy hardly even qualifies as a film. Director Luc Besson oversees a mood collage of philosophy and cod-scientific speculation spliced to a b-grade gangster plot. If not for Scarlett Johansson, this would barely have warranted a direct-to-video release.
Doctor Who: Dark Universe by Guy Adams (Big Finish, 2020) Even if his schizophrenic personalities lack individual depth, the Eleven is a villain to be reckoned with and one of Big Finish’s great contributions to Who. Adams scripts a story of conscious bravura that deflates with the Seventh Doctor’s usual cop-out masterminding.
Kung Fu Panda 2 dir. Jennifer Yuh Nelson (DreamWorks, 2011) A sequel more for younger viewers. The highlights come not so much by way of the main characters but rather through Po’s goose father (James Hong), the soothsaying goat (Michelle Yeoh) and, most of all, the villainous peacock Lord Shen (Gary Oldman).
The Making of Modern Australia by William McInnes (Hachette, 2010); audiobook read by John Burnley (QNS Audio, 2013) A thoughtful social history of Australia post Second World War, structured around McInnes’s own reminiscences plus interviews with Australians from a wide variety of backgrounds. Without shying away from our well-documented national failings, McInnes makes a case for embracing a common heritage.…
Sherlock Holmes dir. Guy Ritchie (2009) Ritchie’s interpretation of Sherlock Holmes works on several levels—as a dark and detailed period piece, as character comedy, and as a buddy film. Jude Law (Watson) and Robert Downey Jr (Holmes) have an edgy dynamic. Rachel McAdams scintillates as Irene Adler.
Toy Story 3 dir. Lee Unkrich (Pixar, 2010) A fitting conclusion to the original trilogy. Darker than its predecessors yet still effortlessly funny in its animation, Toy Story 3 plays to both the power of friendship and the wistful sadness of growing up. Cleverly scripted with plenty of comic business.
Academic Exercises by K J Parker (Subterranean, 2014) Some of Parker’s best work comes in what might be called the ‘long short’ form—novelettes and novellas. This bumper collection includes three excellent non-fiction pieces (sieges, swords, and armour) nestled amidst the beautifully wrought, cynically sublime world-building and ingenious antiheroic comeuppances.