Endeavour, Series 6 by Russell Lewis (ITV, 2019) A rather despondent series as the 1960s start to give way to the 1970s (hence Morse’s moustache) and the old crew find themselves scattered to the winds. Morse in particular has to start again. Chief Superintendent Bright has the best character moments.
Kitty Peck and the Music Hall Murders by Kate Griffin (Faber & Faber, 2013); audiobook read by Nicole Davis (Isis, 2016) Kitty Peck is a well-developed character and the story is steeped in the grime, squalor and injustice of London’s poorer areas in the 1880s, yet beneath these trappings the mystery is very slight. Such realisations as Kitty makes come…
The End of the Day by Claire North (Orbit, 2017) A poignant dip into humanity’s ills and ailments (beautifully written though spoiled somewhat by all the interspersed conversational snippets). North does ultimately answer the question ‘What is Death?’ but the journey is gruelling and the protagonist has less personality than a window.
Shrek Forever After dir. Mike Mitchell (2010) Thematically, this final instalment ticks all the right boxes in putting the Shrek franchise to bed. The ‘be careful what you wish for’ plot complements that of the original film. Yet the characters seem jaded. The sparkle is same old, same old.
Vera, Series 2 (ITV, 2012) Vera is much more assured in its second season. The four feature-length mysteries are more coherent and the recurring characters benefit from being written to match the actors’ early portrayals. Brenda Blethyn goes from strength to strength as the socially maladroit lead.
Small Spaces by Katherine Arden (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2018); audiobook read by Renee Dorian (Listening Library, 2018) Arden’s characters shine. There’s a good mix of everyday and supernatural elements, but the story devolves somewhat into a standard horror run-around (self-contained but with surprisingly little emotional closure). Dorian’s audiobook reading has just the right dash of middle-grade enthusiasm to it. …
Doctor Who: The Demon Rises by John Dorney (Big Finish, 2018) Continuing on from ‘The Mind Runners’, Dorney twists the plot from SF noir to (Doctor Who stylised) horror. The underlying concept is quite ghastly but the big confrontational dialogue again tends more towards exposition than drama. A slightly flat Ark in Space.
Shaun the Sheep Movie dir. Mark Burton & Richard Starzak (2015) A stop-motion animated children’s comedy harking back to the days of silent film. The story is cleverly plotted and unfolds entirely without dialogue, making ingenious use of its medium. Delightfully absurd and visually engaging. The sheep’s people disguises are played to perfection!
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World dir. Dean DeBlois (2019) The trilogy’s third film contains too much scored nature documentary–style dragon courtship to be truly brilliant, and likewise too much of the throwaway (thrown in for the hell of it) human variety. Fun but hardly the resounding climax that DeBlois avowed.
In a Valley of Violence dir. Ti West (2016) Writer director Ti West takes his schlock revenge western script so seriously, the (talented) cast seems to have assumed he was aiming for a spoof… but rein their performances in just a little, in case he wasn’t. The dog is very good.