Review | Star Trek: Discovery

“Consider for a moment if the creators, writers and actors had conspired together to do the unthinkable. Audiences want sex and violence at a time when streaming services ensure they’re saturated for choice in that department. Instead, what could they have done? Given an idealised version of the future where an intrepid band of humans and aliens show us that a better tomorrow can be made.”

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Revisiting ‘The Omega Factor’ 

One of the funny quirks about Scotland is that everyone can name a Scots actor, but very few can name famous Scottish TV shows. Beyond the standard native fare of cop shows and comedies, Scotland’s televisual output is well below its literary or film standing.  Of course, there’s Take the High Road (And if you […]

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Review | ‘The Broken Journey: A Life of Scotland 1976-99’ by Kenneth Roy

That’s extremely important given today’s politics. So much of Scotland’s past is used as a resource to fuel arguments, on both sides, of the constitutional debate that it’s rare to find a rhizomatic reading of history concerned with how well the system worked. How the Scottish justice, health, education systems operated with and through the Scotland Office; its ministers and its instruments and scope of its power in Scotland make for a fascinating read and serves an accessible index of political parties and policies still asking for your vote today.

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Review | ‘The Grand Tour’

“The problem here is that the mystery of Top Gear has evaporated. Part of the magical charm of Clarkson, Hammond and May was that no one knew how close they were. By resigning to be with a disgraced comrade, the audience got exposed to either a gratuitously mercantile vein or genuine affection that runs counter to the on-screen tension that was so funny.”

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Review | ‘Logan’

“The result is an astonishing swansong and something of an unexpected triumph for a genre most thought was in decline. Yet this is where the film succeeds: it knows that at their best, superhero films have to be a timeless tale and less contingent on effects and dated context. It’s an obvious lesson, but given the immortal quality of the comic source material, it’s remarkable that most filmmakers eclipse this point in favour of utilising the latest technologies to produce something that will, eventually, age beyond relevance. “

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Why Tam Dalyell’s death was the passing of the Old Guard in Scotland

“Dalyell’s final title is fascinating in that not only was he was an eyewitness to events, but a participant over the last five decades. It’s a genuine a breath of fresh air because he writes with a decency to candidly admit the highs and lows of his contribution, successes and failures and all. Every sentence brims with a sense of history that contains the wisdom of a participant who isn’t trying to rewrite his role to suit the turnout.”

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Review | ‘Sikunder Burnes’ by Craig Murray

“Does he vent, passive aggressively, about a subject not dissimilar to himself? No, but even in the expose which made his name, ‘Murder in Samarkand’, there was never frothing bile save for an honest representation of the facts. To the contrary, Murray’s prose is self-aware enough to do justice beyond hagiography and he never lets any slight against him prejudice his assessment, both critical and admiring, of his subject.”

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Bugs: remembering an ahead-of-its-time tech TV thriller

“Bugs was made in the run-up to the year 2000, and there is a real sense of overwhelming dread that comes across in each episode; quite right, given most people then lived in the expectation that the Y2K bug would cripple every computer in the land at the stroke of midnight. What’s interesting, when watching Bugs again, is that the world still lives with the same sort of misunderstanding about technology; its limits, its capabilities and the laws which govern both. The shadow of the bomb in one generation is now the shadow of the keystroke; that one law or one wiretap too far will plunge the world into darkness.”

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Review | Dishoom / Edinburgh

“Ultimately, Dishoom’s true triumph is to showcase the skill of the staff and menu with pomp but no condescension. This is a place sure of itself but not cocky; offering specialised dining while clearly hoping for the first-time visitors to relish in their formula. Ignorance is bliss here, and an introduction to another world, or, as they would have you believe, another time. “

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Looking back at Crime Traveller

The 1990s are Doctor Who‘s lost decade. Although the eponymous Timelord found a brief home with Paul McGann’s American pilot in 1996, the revival was never picked up. So began an even longer winter on the long road to 2005’s regeneration under Russell T. Davies with Christopher Eccleston. The rest, as they say, is history. […]

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Review | The Crown

The Crown, then, is really Morgan’s natural sequel to his work to-date. Spanning from 1947, it is punctuated by the death of King George VI (Jared Harris) in 1952, the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II (Claire Foy) and concludes with the retirement of Winston Churchill (John Lithgow) in 1955.

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Why a Batfleck film will be awesome

Psychologists might dub Zack Snyder’s decision to have a long-dead Robin in Dawn of Justice as a metaphoric snub to those that have determined Affleck is the junior of the Matt and Ben story. Affleck, with creative control, could very find a natural home with Batman in the same way Damon found success with the Bourne series. No other live-action iteration of Wayne/Batman has ever looked like so much like the character from the comics. Certainly no other has actor has so successfully carried the handsome playboy-look in similitude with a Batman costume that makes you believe he really could take down ‘two-dozen hostiles’ ferociously, skilfully and brutally.

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Why you should be reading Ian Gardiner

A noted Royal Marines serviceman who retired as a Brigadier in 2001, Gardiner’s books are impressive but not technically niche. The Yompers is a unique combination of writing about frontline fighting combined with wider reflections on the Falklands War, and war in general, from someone who understands the military and combat, but can write in a way that is not overwhelming in its military minutia.

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Revisiting ‘The Iron Lady’

With a deeply flawed script and unimaginative direction that veers from sentiment to political drama, it’s up to leading lady Meryl Streep to carry the show with verve and uncanny accuracy. The Iron Lady tries to walk the line between the strident victory of Thatcher and the singular isolation it brought and doesn’t tell either side well. It is never quite a political history and never reaches the depths of personal film.

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Review | Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

If anything, the film is an answer to one of the better pub debates: why has their never been a Batman v Superman film before? Simply, they’re too big. DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. have proven time and time again that their adaptations of Batman, if not so much Superman, succeed best when they make solo films akin to the Nolan series. Otherwise, they risk stripping the source material back to such bare bones that audiences get diluted characters rather than a confident meeting of them.

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Why Top Gear deserves a chance to succeed

Whether it’s pictures of host Chris Evans throwing up beside the side of a race track, top-level resignations, executive arguments, accusations of control freakery against the hosts, reports of production setbacks, Evans and Matt Le Blanc falling out or ignorant, rather than controversial, stunt locations at the Cenotaph it seems not a week goes by without the headline ‘Top Gear in crisis’

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The X Factor is exploitative and cruel

Victorian freak shows, human zoos and the human novelty exhibitions of your John Merricks was once thought a harmful curiosity, at worse an indulgence based in the human need to see the strange and the macabre. But if we really think we’ve moved on and evolved beyond the Victorian penchant of pointing mouths agape at that which we don’t understand or find particularly hideous then we’re more naïve as a country than I could ever have imagined. Why not bring flogging and the work house back and all?

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Captain Kirk should be gay

“Star Trek was an attempt to say that humanity will reach maturity and wisdom on the day that it begins not just to tolerate, but take a special delight in differences in ideas and differences in life forms. […] If we cannot learn to actually enjoy those small differences, to take a positive delight in those small differences between our own kind, here on this planet, then we do not deserve to go out into space and meet the diversity that is almost certainly out there.”

― Gene Roddenberry

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Thoughts on ‘The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story’

By the third, however, and with all the moral puerility of Ross Geller, the character transformed into an ironic, proselytising caricature of how the public view the Kardashians today. Strong moral centres, he warns, can’t be replaced with material elements or fame. It was a difficult scene to watch not least because it was trying to guise itself as surreptitiously clever. The scene, and the series as a whole, is either a stunning parody of the Kardashian triptych today or a tragic indictment that a real-life murder drama is being billed as the original Kardashian television show.

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Why Marvel films are the sugar rush and DC films are the meat

The result should, in theory, be less about sugar highs and rather a meatier, more substantive DC universe that is believable, enjoyable but reflects the maturity of the characters in the source material. A grisly, world-weary Bruce Wayne and a 5,000-year-old Wonder Woman are perhaps emblematic of just how long it’s taken Warner Bros. to get here. It’s also perhaps telling of our times that the school-boy exemplar of decency, liberty and flying condescension is about to have his ass handed to him.

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Review: Apple Music v Spotify

With that in mind the announcement of Apple Music presented a tantalising, albeit suspicious, opportunity. Apple’s march into gimmickry recently began with their watches and looks set to continue. There’s even rumours that they’re launching their own mobile network. Novelty has replaced revolution and you wonder if they’d be on the market at all if Steve Jobs hadn’t uploaded to the big iCloud in the sky.

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Top 20 wish list for Batman v Superman

Ok, so I’ve been super excited since seeing the latest trailer for the new Batman v Superman film. I adore Batman as a well executed, brooding exercise in moral crusades and sociopathic tendencies. I grew up with the animated series and Kevin Conroy will always be my Dark Knight. I have however only perused the comic book source material; have little interest in beginning to and while I have a deep respect for the lore that has given birth to characters and films that delight me, they’re not for me.

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Review: Spectre

As promised, I went to see Spectre in a town just outside Marbella, about 300 miles west of where I live. The cinema was cold, the food appalling, the screen faded and the chairs about as comfortable as an iron maiden. I did not hide my disdain. Having lived for so long in a largely pocketed […]

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Review: Doctor Who – 9.11 – ‘Heaven Sent’

‘Heaven Sent’ is possibly the greatest episode of Doctor Who ever put to screen. It contains every cumulative lesson and success that the show has enjoyed and learnt since its revival and was arguably the pinnacle of the characterisation begun more than 50 years before. It certainly went the longest way to answering the eponymous question of ‘who’ by revealing what was in the lead character’s soul.

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Review: Mr. Holmes

The film, based on the book A Slight Trick of the Mind by Mitch Cullin, holds all the promise and excitement of seeing one of fiction’s greatest heroes coming back for one more round before he meets his maker. Unfortunately, the confused emotional themes of the plot and the limited indulgence of Holmes lore makes for a muddled film which feels more like one of the lesser Holmes mysteries and a Remains of the Day type exploration of class, status and emotional reserve.

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Review: The Dhabba / Glasgow

If you’re lucky to have a seasoned Edinburgh migrant to give you a tour, you’re in good fortune: you can simply name food and be given the names of great establishments in quick succession. In this case ‘Indian’ was met with ‘Dhabba’ and a prompt march to an evening of most enjoyable dining.

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Review: Doctor Who – 9.3 – ‘Under the Lake’

What made this episode unique is the combination of structure, writing and characterisation. The base itself, under water in Scotland, is infinitely more claustrophobic than the vastness of space where these siege stories tend to take place and there is a real sense of being trapped. All of this hits home considering the villains, or ghosts, of this week are sincerely, properly scary: vacant eyes, inaudible utterances and their seemingly benign nature that turns parochial and deadly. There’s also the freaky Victorian look to them that makes them an old school monster that could have come from the pages of Poe or Dickens.

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Review: The Ghost

This review has the rare distinction of straddling two sections for the first time. It’s both a review of the book The Ghost by Robert Harris and the film of the same name directed by Roman Polanski with Ewan McGregor and Pierce Brosnan in starring roles.

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