Friday, 9 January 2015

Monthly Mini-Reviews: December - Christmas Special

Well, it's that time again. Christmas has come and gone and it's literally only just turned New Year...
Oh, I can't lie. I'm afraid there's been a technical mishap here at Scribble Creatures HQ. This post, my Monthly Mini-Reviews Christmas Special, should have gone out in the first days of January but that doesn't seem to have occurred. I do apologise - I've no idea how that happened. It seems there is a Ghost of Christmas Past in the machine...
And speaking of ghosts in machines:

Black Mirror: White Christmas

It was only natural that Charlie Brooker's techno-paranoia anthology series would get a Christmas special. After all, what says Christmas more than a reminder that the future is just around the corner? Acting as the series' usual trilogy of stories all in one, this feature-length episode serves us three interconnected tales from a chilling near-future (all based around Jon Hamm and Rafe Spall who both give terrific performances). First and foremost, Brooker's writing is once again on top form - the bleakness and the strangeness are cleverly ofset by the razor-sharp wit and satire that runs throughout. The second segment is the weakest and I have to say I saw some of the twists coming but that does not take away from the... enjoyment seems like the wrong word to attach to something so grim. So was it a white Christmas, after all? No, No, it was black. So very black.

Good Omens (radio series)

Following on from the terrific radio series of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere it was a no-brainer to adapt Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman's comedy about the end of the world as a festive treat.
The story  - a distinctly British way of approaching the apocalypse - transitions well to the medium, ably helped by the drama's amazing cast. Comedians Peter Serafinowicz and Mark Heap are great choices for the roles of angel/demon partnership Aziraphale and Crowley (though I imagine many are still holding out for Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hiddleston if the story ever makes it to film) and are well supported by Merlin's Colin Morgan, Paterson Joseph and Louise Brealey amongst others. Overall, I may have preferred Neverwhere but this was still a wonderful slice of alternative Christmas entertainment. Well, you can't get more 'alternative Christmas' than the Antichrist.

The Golden Compass

I've been avoiding The Golden Compass for years now due to its lacklustre reputation for being a poor adaptation of Phillip Pullman's popular His Dark Materials books. This Christmas, however, I gave in and gave it a go. Sadly the general consensus is right. Clearly made in an attempt to create another Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter franchise, the film has neither the flair nor confidence of those films and on top of that struggles to adapt Pullman's plot to the screen. That said, there are some pluses- if the script and direction are a bit lacking the visuals are terrific as Lyra's alternate world is brought to life with a vivid psuedo-Steampunk feel. Likewise, Nicole Kidman exudes icy evil as Miss Coulter and Dakota Blue Richards makes for quite a good Lyra. Despite these successes, though, The Golden Compass is not quite pointing in the right direction.

The Sleeper and the Spindle

Leaving behind the Christmas viewing, we turn to something I was lucky enough to get for Christmas - Neil Gaiman's latest book! In it, Gaiman weaves together two traditional tales to form an original feminist fairy tale. As the book's blurb says 'no one is waiting for a prince to appear on his trusty steed here' - it is a queen who risks life and limb to save the sleeping beauty in this story. Gaiman's prose is as crisp and as evocative as ever but in truth the book belongs to both author and illustrator as Chris Riddell's illustrations, beautifully rendered in monochrome and gold, are as equally impressive as the writing. I have been a fan of Riddell since reading The Edge Chronicles when I was younger so am over the moon he is now Neil Gaiman's resident illustrator. A true piece of art, The Sleeper and the Spindle is a proper old-fashioned storybook that takes us back to once upon a time...

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