Friday 28 June 2019

The Park on the 28th: June - Early Summer

The park where I go for my walks, photos taken in roughly the same places on the 28th of each month, to observe the changes in seasons: the trees, the flowers, the light in the sky - and the weather!

This month has been a mixture of cold and rain, with a little bit of stifling heat and some just pleasant summer days ~ happily, the 28th falls into the last group :)

Click month to see previous posts:

Putting this picture first, though later in my walk, 
because it says 'June' for me :)


I can't get over how lush and green these following trees are ~
if you look back at earlier months they were much more bare, even in September

The Boer War Memorial

 Just love how overgrown everything is ~ I'm glad it's left like this.

Love this old trunk :)

Saturday 22 June 2019

All of a sudden - nothing happened. My review of #TheHotZone:

An irregular series of telly reviews  :)

For more, please click the 'Lately I've Been Watching' tag at the end of the post

6 part series: The Hot Zone

3 stars ⭐⭐⭐


Well, now.  This seemed right up my street, and I saw lots of tweets describing it as 'terrifying' and 'chilling'.  Having watched it, thought, I'm a little bemused.  The atmosphere of suspense is manufactured well, with scary music, well-shot angles, and foreshadowing that gives the impression that the grim reaper is poised outside the door...but—do you remember that Monty Python sketch about a non-thrilling thriller; '...when, all of sudden...nothing happened'?  That's what this was like. 

Factually, it's fascinating, if you're interested in how viruses spread and are prevented from doing so, but as a TV drama?  Not so much.

The story centres round a lab in which deadly diseases are analysed, mostly by Julianna Marguilies and the token sceptic (Topher Grace in a bad wig); ebola is detected in monkeys used for animal testing, nearby.  It's set in 1989 and 'based on true events', which did make me think 'hmm', as it's about a potential outbreak of ebola in Washington DC, and, as far as I know, there hasn't been one.  It was saved from 'abandon during episode 2' by good presentation and terrific actors such as Noah Emmerich and Liam Cunningham, but was basically six episodes with few events and a hell of a lot of padding.

Although this unusual strain of the virus did accidentally spread to a couple of humans, all it did was make them feel a little peaky.  There was a cliffhanger at the end of episode 5, when—da-da-daaaah!!—Emmerich collapsed, but it turned out he was just a bit tired. 

At one point Emmerich's gang in hazmat suits were trying to put down all the infected monkeys, and one of them escaped.  Nail biting time?  Nah Five minutes of panic and chasing it about later, they caught it and everything was fine and dandy again.

As they were travelling to get this job done, in the eerie dawn light, there was a scene which epitomised the whole show.  A man in a dressing gown went out to get his newspaper in, and saw the three white vans go past.  For some reason, he stood back with a look of shock and terror on his face; maybe he had a particular phobia about white vans.  That, or he heard the scary background music and thought 'I bet those three white vans contain guys in hazmat suits trying to stop a deadly virus sweeping, unchecked, through the population of the US'.

There were some great scenes in Zaire in 1976 when Liam Cunningham and James D'Arcy were on the prowl for the next 'monster' (deadly virus), and, yes, the info about how viruses spread and mutate certainly held my interest; these are the elements, along with the acting, that earned the 3 stars.  Yes, it served as a warning to us all, but I can't imagine who thought it would stretch to a six part series.  Two episodes would have been enough, just to put the point across about viruses, generally.  Or possibly just a film.

If you're interested in the subject matter, you will love a documentary film called Unseen Enemy, trailer here:


Currently watching Yellowstone.... good stuff :)

Wednesday 19 June 2019

Lately I've been watching.... Chernobyl

I remember when the Chernobyl disaster happened; I was 26.  It occurred in those days of yore before the internet gave us endless real-time footage from smartphones on social media, inside information on news sites, and ten thousand tweets demanding the truth.  I probably saw the official account on breakfast TV, and read about it in the newspaper.

That year, along with 1985 and 1987, many calamities took place around the world; the Heysel Stadium disaster, the Kings Cross Fire, the Bradford City Stadium Fire, the Mexico City Earthquake, to name just four.  I believe 1985 was the worst year ever for disasters, worldwide, and this seemed like just another one to add to the list.  The world was a bigger place, thirty-three years ago—however catastrophic a calamity, it doesn't hit you in the face so much when it takes place thousands of miles away.

Especially when there is no internet to tell you how bad it really is, and when the true horror is covered up by politicians.  

Some of my friends used to go down to protest at Greenham Common, and yes, of course, we all knew that nuclear anything was some seriously dangerous shit, but ... Chernobyl was in the Ukraine, and where the hell was that? Ah, in the USSR, a cold and strange place, about which the average person knew so much less than we do now, since its collapse.

This five part HBO series has certainly brought it home.  Here's the trailer:

I love watching dark stuff.  I loved the 1970s and 80s disaster movies, I can't get enough end-of-world scenarios, and I've watched my share of dramatisations of real life catastrophes, too.  But I don't think I've been so shocked by anything since watching Threads in 1984—and that hadn't even happened. 

All those poor souls who died in such agony (and I warn you, this dramatisation leaves nothing to the imagination), the residents of Pripyat who gaily went to watch the fire on the 'Bridge of Death', not knowing that they were signing away their lives for a look at some pretty colours in the sky.  The technicians who were sent to investigate whether or not the core really had disappeared, even though this meant certain death for them.  The firemen given no information about what close proximity to radiation would mean, the civilians conscripted to build around the exclusion zone.

And the more informed heroes: those who cleared the top roof ('the most dangerous place on the planet'), the three who went into the bubble tunnel, and the coal miners who dug for a month beneath the reactor so that a heat pump could be installed to stop the meltdown; by that time, these men knew the risks to themselves, but went ahead for the greater good.  

I wondered if this selflessness showed the best of the basic essence of the Russian character—tough people who experienced more hardship than most of us in the West could understand.  Maybe the tougher your life, the more philosophical a relationship you have with death, I don't know.

Aside from the expected emotions that evidence of such horrific suffering brings about, be prepared to feel open-mouthed, appalled anger about the careless use of ill-prepared technicians to run a test that caused the chain reaction, simply because of misinformation about the dangers present.  About the evil of those who tried to cover up the full extent of the catastrophe.  The blatant lies about the levels of radiation.  The initial refusal to evacuate.  Career politicians who cared more about the image of Russia in the eyes of the rest of the world, and their own people's belief in the strength of their leadership, than the deaths of many thousands, immediately or in years to come. 

'Cut the phone lines.  Contain the spread of misinformation'
It was only when scientist Valery Legasov, played so outstandingly by Jared Harris, made them realise that the food and water of a whole nation and beyond could be rendered poisonous for hundreds or possibly thousands of years to come, that they began to accept the truth.

'You are dealing with something that has never occurred on this planet before'

I felt as though I was watching something truly evil.  Smothered in darkness, like I was watching a bibical depiction of Hell.  Aside from the lies and cover-up, at the expense of so much, this stands as an example of the perils of a communist regime.

Suffice to say that the series is brilliant, a 5 stars plus plus plus.  Jared Harris and Stellan Skarsgård were utterly compelling, as were Emily Watson, who played a fictional character representative of many scientists who helped Legasov uncover the truth, Robert Emms as Leonid Toptunov, the poor lad with only 4 months' experience who was on duty on that terrible night, Adam Nagaitis as Vasily Ignatenko, one of the first responding firefighters, and Paul Ritter as Anatoly Dyatlov, who allowed the fatal test to go ahead.  But most shocking of all is the reveal that shows how the part he played wasn't even the true crime.

'Why You Should Watch HBO's Chernobyl'

HBO's Chernobyl vs Reality: Footage Comparison

Not a series for the faint-hearted, and it will stay with you for a long time.....

For some more thoughts, read This Post on Dora Reads book blog :) 

Thursday 13 June 2019

Lately I've been watching....

My fairly regular look at TV series and films I've seen recently, with mini reviews, my star ratings, and the trailers.  For more of these posts, please click the 'Lately I've Been Watching' tag at the end.  I've watched a lot of stuff!! 

3 Part Series: Black Mirror (Season 5)

Charlie Brooker never disappoints, and these three hour long dramas were totally up to standard.  The first was a clever and amusing look at virtual reality video games, while the second two were set in the present rather than the future, and showed the dark side of our technological advances, and social media.  As technology becomes ever more invasive and impossible to hide from, I found the second of these stories the most frightening; it depicted the influence of social media, and also showed how much information we leave about ourselves online.   BTW, if you think the hologram Miley Cyrus on tour was far-fetched, think again; it's already happening.  Not with her, but others.

5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Series: Billions (Season 4)

I just adore this high-finance-in-the-fast-lane series, and the twists and intrigue don't slow down for a minute in Season 4.  Although incredibly fast-paced, with never a moment of downtime, the dialogue and acting is so good that the characterisation doesn't lose out for a moment.  Damian Lewis as Bobby Axelrod is my favourite, as ever.  Ended on the perfect 'end of this phase but what's coming next looks even better' cliffhanger.  Excellent - if you've never seen it, start at the beginning!

5 stars plus ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Netflix Film: I Am Mother 

SciFi/Post Apocalyptic film - human life is said to be extinct, but in a secure unit, thousands of human embryos are kept by 'Mother', a droid who chooses those to be born.  'Daughter' is happy in her life, but longs for brothers and sisters; as she gets older, she becomes more curious about what lies outside.  Then, one day, she hears a real human being crying for help...

I enjoyed this film a lot; it's unpredictable, and the suspense side of it is edge-of-your-seat stuff.  Nice one.

4.5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Series: 3% 

Brazilian series, with moderately good dubbing.  In an un-named place, 97% of people live in the broken-down, slum-like 'Inland'.  When Inlanders reach the age of 20, they can register for the yearly 'process', which, through a series of tests, picks 3% of those who apply to go to live in the luxurious 'Offshore'.   But not all the Inlanders are in favour of the 'process'; these are the anarchists who work for 'the cause'; they wish to infiltrate the process and destroy its unfairness in order to establish equality.  I'm half way through Season 3; I liked Season 1 the best, as it dealt mainly with the candidate test, which was fascinating, but the characters and plot are developing in an interesting fashion.

4 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Series: Dark (Season One)

German, dubbed well.  In the small German town of Winden, ancient caves hold a secret - a wormhole that allows travel in time, back in 33 year periods.  People go missing, never to be seen again.  Soon, lives start to crumble as the ties become evident between the missing children and the history of the town and its citizens.  

The story is great, and I enjoyed seeing the characters deal with life back in 1986 and then further back, in 1953.  However, it can be hard to keep up with who is who in their past/future lives, as different actors are used for the younger versions, rather than the same ones ageing up or down; the plot threads and relationships between the large cast of characters are very complicated as it is, without having to remember who is supposed to be who - not easy, as the different versions have different faces.  I tried to watch a couple of episodes one night when I was tired, and found I couldn't keep track of it.  I'll watch the second season when it comes out, if I can remember what was going on.
4 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Film: Deadwood The Movie 

I liked the Deadwood series, though it wasn't one of my favourites.  This is a good film, and I am sure anyone who loves the series will enjoy it very much; it's a continuation.

3.5 stars (3 stars for how much I enjoyed it, but 4 stars from an objective viewpoint!) ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Monday 3 June 2019

Lately I've Been Watching....

TV and film recommendations—if you would like to see more, click the 'Lately I've Been Watching' tag at the end. 😎

Four part series: When They See Us

An injustice so great that any words would sound tritethis is the true story about the Central Park Five, five boys aged between 14 and 16 who, in 1989, were coerced and bullied by the police into confessinging to (and incriminating each other in) a particularly vicious rape, in which they had played no part. There was no other evidence against them, yet they all suffered jail terms of between 6 and 14 years.  Heartbreaking, brilliantly written and acted—and, although a dramatic re-creation, shows actual footage of the young Donald Trump's vile comments and demands for the death penalty for the five of them.  It's a 'must watch', for sure.

5 stars plus ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Series: The Society

I didn't think I was going to like this much as it's 'teen' orientated, but I thought it was great, even though some of the characters are seriously irritating.  A large group of schoolkids (age about 16-18, I believe) go off on a trip, only to have to return because of bad weather.  When they get home, though, everyone else in the town has disappeared - and the town is surrounded by thick woodland, leading nowhere.  Have they landed in a different dimension?  Season 1 takes us through the first six months or so, as they try to create a new society.  Dark, sinister, and promises great things in Season 2, which I am really looking forward to.

4.5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Comedy series: Fleabag

I wasn't sure about this at first, because it seemed to be determinedly 'look at me, I can get laughs by saying 'vagina' every twenty minutes and being open about anal sex', but it grew on me.  I liked the second season much more, as it seemed less shocking-for-the-sake-of-shocking; it settled in, somehow.  Olivia Colman is terrific as 'Fleabag's revolting step-mother, and 'Fleabag' herself, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who created and wrote it, too, is a total star. The 'fourth wall' element, as 'Fleabag' describes what's going on to the audience, absolutely made it.

4 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Series: Game of Thrones, Season 8

I've written my thoughts on this HERE.

4 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Comedy series: Barry

Crack shot assassin-for-hire stumbles into the world of acting classes, and finds a new passion in life.  Can he keep the two worlds apart?  Not very often.... the incongruity between the two is hilarious.  Bill Hader is brilliant as the reluctant assassin; Henry Winckler stars at the failed actor/acting coach.  I recommend!  Two seasons so far.

4 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Film: Watchmen

Malin Akerman (Billions), Billy Crudup, and Jeffery Dean Morgan - excellent produced superhero film based on comics and series of the same name.  Not totally my thing, as I'm not really into superhero stuff, but it's very good of its type, and I did enjoy it. JDM is great as The Comedian - almost like the practice run for Negan!

4 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Comedy Series: The Good Place

Ted Danson stars as a demon sent to find new ways of mentally torturing humans who have just died, i.e., by letting them think they are in 'the Good Place' rather than the 'bad' one.  I wasn't so keen at first, but then I started to like it, and Danson's every scene is a gem, as is usual with him.  A couple of the other characters were pretty irritating, though, and the plot gets a bit repetitive. 

3.5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Comedy Series: Good Omens 

David Tennant as the demon, involved in a long-running battle with an angel.  Jon Hamm is great as the Angel Gabriel.  Had some very funny moments and I quite liked it, but it was one of those shows that made me think, 'yeah, this is quite good, but I'm not bothered whether I watch it or not', if you know what I mean; a bit too silly in parts. I thought it was going to be a gem at first, but soon found my mind drifting.

3 stars ⭐⭐⭐

Series: The Rain

This is, ostensibly, right up my street: an epidemic that wipes out a whole bunch of people, a group who try to survive, a government conspiracy.  I did like it, but the trouble was that I didn't like any of the characters enough to care what happened to them.  Knocked half a star off for the main female character, Simone, calling out to her brother ('Rasmus!  Rasmus!') every five minutes in every episode.  You'll understand if you've watched it.  Danish, dubbed in a rather flat fashion.

3.5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐