Monthly Archives: July 2013


For a made-for-TV SyFy channel movie produced by the Asylum, Sharknado generated a quite absurd amount of hype. The way people were talking about Sharknado I was expecting it to be some kind of watershed film in the killer shark genre. I’m not really sure what I thought a watershed killer shark film would consist of. Certainly more parody.

Remarkably, Sharknado actually plays its premise straight – or at least plays it straight in the sense that it is acutely aware of its own absurdity. It knows exactly what it’s trying to be: a shark attack film fused with a disaster film. Unfortunately it doesn’t quite get there.

Don’t get me wrong. Sharknado is a whole lot of fun to watch and I can forgive most of its many problems. But it might have been stronger had there been more of an explanation for the freak hurricane. The prologue implies some kind of sharky retribution as it shows sharks raining down on a shark-hunting ship – but this is never brought up again. Perhaps there was meant to be an environmental message. I’m not sure.

The plot, such as it is, is thus: a freak hurricane floods L.A. with sea water and also sharks. The sharks begin eating people. The main character, a surfer, and some of his friends attempt to travel through the city to rescue his ex-wife and children. Some of them get eaten by sharks. Eventually the hurricane spawns some tornadoes. The tornadoes are full of sharks. Sharks flying through the air. Sharks.

It’s a ridiculous and sloppily written film, but all the important notes of both shark and disaster movie are there – and amazingly it manages to pass the Bechdel Test. It’s a tornado. Full of sharks.

Leave a comment

Filed under films, review

Noveling: The Four Seasons Quartet

Or I think it’s a quartet. It might be a trilogy. I am reasonably certain it will not turn into a quintet.

It consists, at present, of two books, tentatively titled Summer and Autumn. The latter I wrote during National Novel Writing Month ’09 and have barely touched since. Naturally it’s a mess.

The former I took a solemn oath to have edited and straightened out by the time I finished university – which gives me, as of the time of writing, er, negative-eight days. I may have forgotten about my oath. I’ve extended it till September – but I’m honestly not sure I’ll make it.

I also have vague plans for Winter and vaguer plans for Spring. They’ll get written. Some day.


Summer started with a couple of disparate elements: reading Conrad’s Fate by Diana Wynne Jones and falling in love with the setting; a watercolour pencil drawing of a house with red, white and green stained glass windows; and (unusually for me) a dream.

The dream, as best as I can piece it together, went something like this: it was set in a Victorian-esque world populated by wizards. The wizards were having a contest in an arena to decide who was the best. A young man who was not a wizard somehow blagged his way in and did an act with either talking horses or talking dogs who could turn into cloth. (Which, according to dream logic, was better than what all the actual wizards had come up with.)

The only other part I remember was a climactic scene in which a little blonde girl had to choose between the young not-wizard and her family. Somewhere in the mix was a sinister lady dressed in black. I woke up with an intense feeling that it would make a good story.

One frantic November later, I had a disjointed but relatively solid novel draft on my hands.

The facts are these: Lord Glasswater is a Wizard (with a capital W) who specialises in the art of ‘magical animation’ – making inanimate objects animate (magitech robots, essentially). As the story begins, his household is about to play host to the Festival, the officially unofficial most prestigious contest of Wizardry. Because his specialty is somewhat looked down on by other Wizards, Lord Glasswater has never won. He attempts, in a mad gamble, to learn weather magic (his father’s specialty) in the year leading up to the Festival – only to realise, when it’s too late to change his mind, that no matter how much research he does, he just can’t make his spell work.

Enter Olsson, Lord Glasswater’s footman, who unbeknownst to anyone – up to and include himself – might just be the most powerful wizard (with a little w) in the country, or even the world. After accidentally stumbling on his abilities, Lord Glasswater coaches him to perform weather magic, wins the festival by cheating – and completely without meaning to sets Olsson on the path to unlocking his full potentially.

Unfortunately for Lord Glasswater, one other Wizard is savvy enough to work out that he cheated. Fortunately, it’s the Wizard Wheright, the country’s only Lady Wizard, generally agreed to be scheming and untrustworthy. She wants to prove Lord Glasswater’s guilt – and for whatever reason she wants to get her hands on Olsson.

Meanwhile, Lord Glasswater’s only child, Caitrin, is just beginning to learn lady’s magic from her mother and is beginning to realise she’s not satisfied. Caitrin has some natural talents of her own and they are not for mixing magic with sewing.

Hijinks ensue.

There’s lots of Wizards. Lots of lonnng descriptions of fancy spellwork. Lots of fancy parties. Lots of Olsson being socially awkward and Caitrin being miserable and Lady Glasswater being fabulous.

At present much of it is still using the structure I adopted during NaNoWriMo – which is an issue because it means there’s a number of scenes which are only there because I needed to fill out my words-per-day quota. And I’m struggling to properly integrate Caitrin’s subplot. But it’s coming along.


I started writing Autumn the same November I wrote most of Summer – not so much because I wanted to write a sequel as because November wasn’t over yet and I had some vague ideas knocking around as to what should happen to Olsson next.

I used it for the following NaNoWriMo and it is how I came to write eighty thousand words in thirty days. It’s about as much of a rambling, convoluted mess as you might expected. It’s not just that I was writing very fast – when I started out, I did not know how it was going to end. When I finished, I still did not know how it was going to end. I now know how it should end, but I’ve not written the ending yet.

The facts are these: Olsson is now training with the Wizard Wheright. She might want to teach him magic, or she might just want to use him to expose Lord Glasswater as a cheat – or she might just want the glory of ‘discovering’ him, he’s really not sure. He’s also been having vivid dreams about standing stones that might be magical out-of-body experiences.

After their first time out in public together, at a Midwinter party, proves disastrous, Olsson decides to strike out on his own to see if he can find the standing stone he’s been dreaming about. Hijinks and side-quests ensue. When he finally finds the standing stone and comes to understand what his dreams mean, he finds the truth so uncomfortable he makes every effort to hide himself.

Meanwhile, the Wizard Wheright finally manages to get the Wizards’ Council to listen to her accusations – a week or so too late. Olsson is long gone – they’ll just have to try and hunt him down.

And the Glasswater household is slowly crumbling apart under the weight of Lord Glasswater’s sin.

Autumn was a blast to write but not that well suited to NaNoWriMo. The unity of it is more thematic than narrative, so rushing it made for a disjointed experience. But writing it was one of the best experiences of my life, so I can deal.

The third book, when I write it, will be the ‘bring all major characters together’ kind of third act, and see Olsson being forced out of hiding and attempting to use his powers for good. I have, in my head, a kind of ‘book trailer’. There’s colourful flags involved somewhere.

Summer is a much more straightforward project than the Ever-Present Trilogy. I’m hoping it’s also more publishable, being, as it is, a more conventional fantasy trilogy. But I need to do that editing first…

Leave a comment

Filed under Poetry, Summerverse, writing

Super Best Friends Forever

Because such dishonour is not befitting an Amazon Princess! I promised my mother that I would serve as a symbol of integrity and strength so that the world of man would know what it means to be an Amazon… plus my sister would kill me!

Super Best Friends Forever is a series of DC Nation shorts produced by Laren Faust (of Powerpuff Girls and My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic) fame starring Tara Strong, Grey deLisle and Nicole Sullivan as Batgirl, Wondergirl, and Supergirl. They fight crime. It’s bright, it’s colourful, it’s funny – and it’s all about an all-female superhero team. What’s not to love?

The only downsides are that it has now been cancelled and the series totals at around five minutes. Not per episode, for the whole series. Bummer.

But fret not! All five of those minutes are available on the DC website here. The three superheroines have an episode each to showcase their abilities and their home lives – followed by two episodes of the team getting their name and establishing themselves as ‘equal opportunity butt-kickers!’.

It’s a great blend of teenage girls doing superhero things and superheroes doing teenage girl things. And for just a handful of episodes, it has a whole lot of character – Wondergirl as the honourable but naive fish-out-of-water, hyperactive, ditzy, but focused and determined Batgirl, and boisterous Supergirl who doesn’t always quite know her own strength…

I really can’t recommend SBFFs enough. Check it out – after all, it only takes five minutes.

Leave a comment

Filed under writing

Phaedra and Hippolytus

Hippolytus and Phaedra by Georges Barbier

I finished a novella yesterday! I started writing it as a short story (oops) while I was studying for my Greek Tragedy – almost twenty thousand words later…

So let’s talk about Euripides’ Hippolytus. Euripides wrote two plays by that title: Hippolytus Veiled, now lost, and Hippolytus Garlanded. The latter won first prize at the Festival of Dionysus in Athens in 428 B.C.

While it was common for tragedians to re-visit figures and myths in their writing, Euripides is as far as we know unique in having written not just two plays by the same title but two versions of the same mythical events. We don’t know why he wrote two; you’ll often hear that the first version offended Athenian audiences with its not-so-nice portrayal of Phaedra and Theseus, mythical king and queen of Athens.

There’s a lot of weight to this theory – the surviving Hippolytus is much kinder to both Phaedra and her husband that most other versions of the myth – but it’s actually pure conjecture originated by an Alexandrian commentator. We don’t really know what Athenian audiences made of Hippolytus Veiled, but it was a popular enough play that Roman playwright Seneca imitated it in his own Phaedra.

Hippolytus Garlanded is a very popular play with scholars – most likely because it’s Euripides’ most Sophoclean play and Sophocles is considered the ‘golden mean’ of Greek tragedy. In my experience it’s less popular with students and casual readers due to its singularly unappealing main character. I was the only person in my A-Level classical civ class to enjoy the play.

Hippolytus is arrogant. He’s a snob. He’s dreadfully conceited. He’s puritanical. And he’s a raving misogynist. In his mouth Euripides puts some of the most sexist rhetoric in ancient Greek literature. (Think on that for a moment. Yup.) Why is Hippolytus the way he is? And why is Phaedra so in love with him?

The obvious answer to the latter question is ‘because Aphrodite made her do it’. I’ve never found that fully satisfactory. She must see something in him. Curiously, Seneca’s play is more satisfying on this one, having Phaedra actually talk about her love for Hippolytus rather than how sick it’s making her feel. Euripides leaves it very much to the imagination – and in a way is more effective. There’s very complex things going on, psychologically speaking, but it’s up to you what they are.

So that’s how I came to write twenty thousand words about a woman falling in love with her stepson. That’s the nice thing about mythology: you can write the weirdest and most messed-up stories or paint women having sex with swans – but it’s okay! It’s culture!

I’m still reeling at how long this story got. I’ve already written a novella this summer – that seems like a sufficient achievement already. ‘What did you do this summer? Oh, I wrote a novella!’ Sounds a lot more impressive than ‘I wrote almost twenty thousand words of meandering angst’.

Hippolytus, as was always my intention, came out asexual. Phaedra came out snarky and sexually frustrated. Theseus somehow came out gay – and weirdly loveable considering also commits marital rape. I’m not really sure what to make of any of it. I don’t know what genre it is or if novella is the appropriate length or if it achieves anything I set out to achieve.

But that’s the beauty of it: last week I confirmed my place on a Creative Writing msc here in Edinburgh. Writing whatever I want to write seems like the most sensible thing to do this summer. Next up: character piece about two teenagers with magical powers sharing a bedsit.

Leave a comment

Filed under classical literature, writing

Top 10 Favourite Films

For some reason this list always seems like the big one – even though I’m not that much of a film person. You can tell by the way I have a reasonably secure top ten list!

It’s an eclectic list, and one with surprisingly few SF entries. Most of them are films I watched for the first time as a young-ish teenager, which isn’t that much of a surprise. There’s one big exception (in the number three slot) and the fact that it makes this list continues to boggle me. Most of them are genres and types of films I don’t usually like. I don’t know what that says about me!

A few quick honourable mentions: The Princess Bride (1987), West Side Story (1961) and The Amazing Spider-Man (2012).

narnia10. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005)

I don’t know why I like this film so much. On some level I actually kind of hate it, its weird saccharine tone blended with with out-of-place attempts at grittiness – it’s an awkward film.

It’s also my go-to comfort film. I don’t know quite why; it just seems to hit all the right emotional highs and lows. It pushes all the right buttons. It’s brightly-coloured and upbeat and I love it to bits. I’m not going to lie: I once watched it three times in one day.

Not exactly one of the best fantasy films ever made – but it’s a really good adaptation of one of my childhood favourites. Throw in some brilliant casting – James McAvoy could not be more perfect as Tumnus – and you’ve got a film I can’t help loving.

dirty dancing

9. Dirty Dancing (1987)

Is this my favourite romance film? Yes, I think it is.

I’ve come back to Dirty Dancing a few times as I’ve gotten older and it reads differently each time. When I first watched it Baby was a grown-up, sophisticated teenager I admired; then I began to appreciate the romantic and sexual side of the film more and she became subject to a cheerful kind of envy; now it seems very much a film about being right on the threshold of adulthood. (As I write this, I’ll be formally graduating from university in about eleven hours…) Who knows – maybe in a few years I’ll come to appreciate the sense of nostalgia more.

The romance; the music; the dancing; the wonderful pinkness of it; I love this film.

truman8. The Truman Show (1998)

The Truman Show is one of the most frightening films I’ve ever seen. I was probably too young for it when I first watched it. It’s chillingly paranoia-inducing. And…  it’s  a Jim Carey Comedy.

This is a brilliantly constructed film. The television set that is Truman’s prison is beautifully realised; you can tell, after watching this film, just how it’s organised, how it’s funded, how actors and crew members move around it without ever alerting Truman to the truth.

It’s also one of the few films that manages to get the same emotional response out of me every single time I watch it. The sense of creeping paranoia, the gradual slippage of reality, and then the beautiful moment of catharsis that is the ending – ‘say something, damn it! You’re on television!’

7. The Blues Brothers (1980)blues brothers

This film was part of my childhood long before I watched it. My parents had the soundtrack and liked to play it in the car. I remember it as a strange and disjointed collection of songs I didn’t understand.

Then I was finally allowed to watch the film – it’s rated 15 – and my god is it funny. I always forget till I re-watch it just how funny car pile-ups can be. Or how weird and wonderful Carrie Fisher’s murderous cameos are. And of course as I get older I understand more and more of the jokes – naturally.

But it’s the music, I think, that really makes this film as good as it is – the music and the sheer calibre of the performers who were on board. It’s not just a comedy, it’s a musical comedy – a musical comedy of the highest order.

grosse6. Grosse Point Blank (1997)

Grosse Point Blank is like The Princess Bride – more or less every scene in it is memorable and quotable, to the point that I sometimes wonder why none of them have gone memetic. Oh, well. Popcorn!

It’s primarily a comedy, but it’s also a thriller; it has genuinely good action scenes; it’s a romance and it’s a redemption story. Martin Blank is a fascinating and complex lead – as well as one of the most relatable cold-blooded killers ever put to film.

And it has a great soundtrack. The slightly discordant selection of eighties songs permeates the whole film – I could make a list just for film soundtracks and Grosse Point Blank would be up there.


station5. The Station Agent (2003)

I always find it very difficult to explain what it is that makes The Station Agent so good. ‘You see, it’s about a man with dwarfism who loves trains, and then his only friend dies and leaves him a disused train station – and then he meets a woman who’s just lost her son and a man who runs a roadside food truck – and then, well, things happen‘.

It was not just my introduction to Peter Dinklage but, I think, the first time I’d seen an actor with dwarfism in a serious role. It’s certainly the only film I know of that treats dwarfism as a serious subject. It’s very quiet. It’s low on dialogue and high on visual storytelling. It’s very gentle – but also, at times, emotionally harrowing.

jesus4. Jesus Christ Superstar (2000)

I’m cheating a little with this one because it’s technically a filmed stage version rather than a film – and a direct to video version, at that.

Admitting to preferring this film to the more acclaimed 1973 production can get you a lot of flack in some circles – but I saw this version first, I grew up with it, and I love it in all its cheesy glory. For the longest time I didn’t even know there was another film.

I love Jesus Christ Superstar in all its guises, but for whatever reason the 2000 revival has the edge for me. Maybe it’s just nostalgia, but I love the post-apocalyptic, gritty visuals, I love the Darth Vader-esque Roman soldiers, I love the soundtrack, and I love the way it blends film and stage musical. It has close-ups and camera tricks, but also the surreal tone and visuals of a stage production.

3. Spartacus (1960)


Best Roman epic of all time or best Roman epic of all time?

Spartacus might be the oddest choice on this list. I’m a queer woman – and Spartacus is an unapologetic testosterone-fest. But it’s a self-aware testosterone-fest.

The Classical Epic is generally an idealistic genre. And Spartacus is idealistic, but it’s also realistic. The realism in part comes from the constraints of history – the Spartacan revolt was ultimately a failure and the mass crucifixion depicted here really did happen, though Spartacus himself was mercifully spared on account of already being dead – but the film just owns it.

It’s also a great piece of visual storytelling, neatly sidestepping the wordiness of many Classical Epics. The silent shots of the Roman army advancing speak louder than words ever could. It’s a truly great film.

serenity2. Serenity (2005)

I’ll be honest: my love for Serenity is partly due to my love for Firefly, the tragically cancelled sci-fi series it’s sequel to. Which is strange, because as a sequel to Firefly I find it quite unsatisfying.

But as a science fiction film on its own terms, Serenity is incredible. It’s a dark thriller, a western and a sci-fi epic. It masters the ‘used future’ and what I’d call the ‘useable future’ – you can imagine what it would be to live in this world: what you would eat, how you would get around, what your life would be like.

I’d read Serenity as a meditation on the nature of evil. There’s no single villain here; the closest is the Operative, but as he himself acknowledges, he has little real agency. What there is instead is the Alliance, a group of politicians who honestly and earnestly believe that they are doing what is best for the people – by creating monsters.

empire1. Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

What can I say? I’m that kind of nerd.

The second act of the trilogy is usually the strongest and this is no exception. Empire Strikes Back is the best Star Wars film. Anyone who says otherwise is wrong. In fact, I’d say it’s the only truly objectively good film in the series. After the shaky awkwardness of A New Hope but before the odd Ewok-filled wackiness of Return of the Jedi – perfect.

What I love about Star Wars in general – and Empire in particular – is that everything feels big. It feels heavy. You look at the spaceships knowing they’re models, but they feel heavy and metallic. You can imagine how they fit together. There’s a strong sense of space (ha) throughout the film; it’s like Serenity in that you can imagine what it would be like to be in the space ships and buildings depicted. Everything feels solid.

And to me, that’s the essence of SF: making the unreal feel real.

Leave a comment

Filed under films, list

100 Animated Films IV: Computer Generated Assortment

Chicken Little

I hated this film. Honestly, truly hated it.

Chicken Little came out shortly after Home on the Range and in some respects they’re not dissimilar. Home on the Range is the story of the Pied Piper – in the Old West with cows! Chicken Little is, well, Chicken Little – with aliens! To the film’s credit, the aliens are actually the film’s strongpoint. The designs of both aliens and alien technology are inventive; the alien invasion scenes are nothing new but tensely enjoyable.

My problem with this film is more or less everything else. The original Chicken Little was a female character. Here he (!) is voiced by Zach Braff. I gather a female voice actor had not only been cast but had recorded all of her dialogue before the decision was made to genderswap the lead character – because a female lead would alienate little boys. Because it’s not as if a male lead could potentially alienate little girls, or as if many of Disney’s most popular and successful animated films have had female leads.

If that weren’t enough, I found it very difficult to sympathise with the townspeople, even as they were, to all intents and purposes, being massacred by aliens. (They’re fine – that was a transporter ray, not a death ray.) The entire town seems to honestly believe that Chicken Little is delusional – and their response is to simultaneously alienate and abuse him and capitalise on the story for tourist revenue. Let them have it, aliens. They are not nice people.


Meet the Robinsons

I’m very glad I watched Meet the Robinsons after Chicken Little rather than before – it meant ending the official Disney canon on a high note! While it’s not exactly one of Disney’s greats, Meet the Robinsons is a whole lot of fun – and as befits a film about an inventor, brilliantly inventive. It has an oddball sense of humour that I really like; it’s colourful and all-round pretty looking; the use of time travel is interesting; and the ultimate message is good and positive and one that should see more mileage in children’s films.

Meet the Robinsons is very much about family – as it turns out, adoptive family. Wilbur, our protagonist, comes to realise that he will never be able to meet his birth mother – and that’s okay! It’s rare – and gratifying – to see a film be this positive above adoption.

It’s chaotic and a tad confused in places, but overall Meet the Robinsons is probably one of the stronger films Disney’s made recently – certainly one of the most interesting!


Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

I wanted to run away that day, but you can’t run away from your own feet.’

I’d say the above line was the point I realised I was really going to enjoy this film. I did not go into Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs  with high expectations – I dismissed it as pure silliness when it came out and was very surprised when it popped up on a list of ‘best animated films of the year’ when I was putting together my 100 films line-up.

As it turns out, the science is, well, unscientific, few of the characters are particularly likeable – but this film is funny. Properly laugh-out-loud funny. The cast is full of SNL and ex-SNL performers, the animation is very much old-school designs in 3D… and there’s a monkey voiced by Neil Patrick Haris.

It’s not Pixar – I’d put it more on a level with Dreamworks’ better films – and it may be lacking in some areas but Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is a really good comedy and worth checking out.



Flushed Away

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs was a pleasant surprise; Flushed Away was a disappointment. It’s not a bad film – overall it’s actually pretty decent – it’s just not what I’d expect from Aardman Animation. The people who’ve made some of my favourite animated films of all time made Flushed Away, which might as well be one long potty-joke.

Many aspects of the film are good. The voice acting is excellent. I like the visuals, which owe a lot to Aardman’s traditional claymation – not just in the character designs (which you can see on the poster), but also in the scenery, which is not dissimilar to Chicken Run. It’s just sorely predictable.

The romance subplot, the damselisation of the female lead in the third act, the evil plan, the male lead with his boring arc and lessons to be learned – it’s an awfully generic film from an animation company that has always been the opposite of generic.


Arthur Christmas

Now this is the computer-generated Aardman film I wanted. It has all their characteristic humour and flair and attention to detail – but on a much larger scale than you could do in stop motion. The opening scenes of the S-1 in action are funny and epic all at once. Like Flushed Away, the conclusion is a little predictable – but unlike Flushed Away, the journey there isn’t.

It lacks a true villain; all the characters have understandable and sympathetic motivations even as they do not-terribly-nice things. It’s very much a family drama (there’s something very depressing about the notion that not even the Clauses can manage to get through Christmas without arguing) – with space-ships and magic flying reindeer!

Bryony the Wrapping Elf makes for a strong and unconventional female lead – and a female lead who is not anyone’s love interest, I should add. Add in the hyper-competent Mrs Claus and you have two interesting and funny female characters, even if it doesn’t quite manage to pass the Bechdel Test.

And what can I say? I have a weakness for Father Christmas films, and Arthur Christmas – with it’s multi-generational succession of Santas and sleigh-shaped space-ship full of elves – is one of the most developed ones I’ve seen to date.

Leave a comment

Filed under films, list

Review: The Tempest


The Tempest is my favourite Shakespeare – in fact, I’d go so far as to say it’s my favourite play, period. So I was very excited to see the Globe’s production of it. I’d seen The Tempest on stage once before, but since the first production I saw was a non-traditional re-interpretation by a South African company I was looking forward to seeing a more traditional approach.

And in that regard, I wasn’t disappointed! As a straightforward production of Shakespeare’s place, this is a really good show. It hits all the right notes. It’s nicely staged – the opening scenes on the ship, in particular, are beautifully executed – the music is fantastic, and the comedy is spot on.

If you’ve not seen or read The Tempest before, this would be a really good production to start with – which is kind of my problem with it. It’s very much entry-level Shakespeare. It’s broad, but shallow; all of the threads of the play are there, but none are developed fully. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s not possible to fully develop all the threads, so more depth means less breadth. The Tempest is full of interesting social and ethical issues that I like to see explored further, but that’s just not what this production is setting out to do.

The comedy, as I said, is spot-on, and probably the show’s real strength. It manages to draw comedy out of lines that are normally played straight, which really helps some of the play’s duller scenes – though really, nothing is going to keep the stretch of exposition between the opening shipwreck and Ariel’s first entrance from dragging. The truly comic thread, with Trinculo, Stephano and Caliban, is excellently done, with just enough of a modern flavour to the delivery to keep it funny without sacrificing the original intent of the jokes.

400708_10151665592310774_543986667_nI do feel, though, that the extra comedy hurt the dignity of Roger Allam’s Prospero. Prospero is a difficult character to play, and one that must have dignity to work. Allam does a decent enough job – but given that he’s supposed to be one of the big draws of the play, I was disappointed.

Colin Morgan is a solid enough Ariel. It’s another difficult part and he manages the traditional ‘ethereal dainty spirit’ without descending into the awkward campiness of many productions. Though I’m still not sold on the costuming, his performance has an otherworldly, birdlike air that I loved. Unfortunately, the reading of Ariel’s character is one of the elements I found shallow – though really, the chances of ever finding a production that gets my personal reading down are next to nil, so I shouldn’t complain.

James Garnon is one of the best Caliban’s I’ve seen to date – perfect blending of savage wild-man and tragically wronged soul, plus some brilliant drunken comedy.

I saw the play from the yard as a Groundling – and I’m really glad I did, not just because it was cheaper! Standing all through the show wasn’t as uncomfortable as I expected, and it turns the show from ‘just’ a play to an all-round immersive experience. All in all, a really enjoyable production in a great setting.

The Tempest at Shakespeare’s Globe (Photos from The Globe’s Facebook page)

Leave a comment

Filed under review, theatre

Favourite (Children’s and YA) Book Series

I used to love book series. I used to like collecting every book in the series and lining them up on my shelf – I still hate when they change the cover designs midway through so it doesn’t match any more.

I think I started buying books that are part of series less because I love them too much. I tended to get slightly obsessive about completing them. The only two adult series I really love enough to put on this list are Discworld and Temeraire by Naomi Novik – so consider those a couple of honourable mentions!

 I tried to rank these based on a combination of how much I enjoyed them as a child (or a teenager) and how much I enjoy them now –  which means that, as with many favourites lists, a lot of the objectively better books rank lower. Make of that what you will!

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under books, list

Review: Not Another Happy Ending


This weekend I had the pleasure of seeing Not Another Happy Ending, possibly Glasgow’s first rom-com, at the closing night of the Edinburgh Film Festival. And while the experience as a whole was fantastic – especially the part where I saw Karen Gillan in the flesh – I found the film itself a tad underwhelming.

Karen Gillan plays Jane Lockhart, an author struggling to finish the follow-up to her wildly successful first novel; Stanley Weber is her publisher and, naturally, love interest. Gillan is always delightful and pulls off a genuinely troubled and awkward – rather than faux-quirky, as in so many rom-coms – female lead. Weber is suitably sexy.

It’s a beautifully made film, with a clear love for its Glasgow setting. It’s bright and colourful and fun. What lets it down is the script, which tries to pack in far too much story – and too many montages – into too little space.

The central romance is the love-hate variety which I could not be more sick of – it’s not just overdone but unhealthy. I don’t like films that encourage the idea that women fall in love with men who belittle and generally mistreat them. I understand that couples who hit it off from the start don’t generate much conflict, but really – there are better ways.

I went to see this film for the writing elements, which was a mistake – they are there, but they’re not particularly interesting or well-developed. It’s just a run-of-the-mill rom-com.

So if you like rom-coms, are a fan of Karen Gillan, and/or want to see Glasgow in bright, cheerful colours for once, Not Another Happy Ending comes recommended. It’s a whole lot of fun.

Leave a comment

Filed under films, review