The Haunting of Hill House – The Stuff Of Nightmares

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“Silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.”

Whatever you do, set aside some binge time for Netflix’s new ten part horror series, The Haunting of Hill House. Since both Shirley Jackson’s original novel and the 1963 movie The Haunting from director, Robert Wise, are among my all-time favourites I went into this quite guardedly. Thankfully, what we have here is not a straight adaptation or remake, but something else entirely.

Directed and written by Mike Flanagan (Hush, Ouija: Origin of Evil), the show is a slow-burn drama of a family going into emotional meltdown, with the added bonus of an utterly malevolent haunted house as the disease which tears them apart (in that way completely faithful to Jackson), told through a constantly surprising series of time shifts – which gradually peel away to reveal what lies at its rotten core.

Loss and mourning lay heavily against the beams and timbers of the house, and it’s these psychological terrors that are used to torment the unfortunate Crain family who choose to inhabit the spooky corridors and clammy bedrooms.

Though one or two revelations are a little too easily signposted (I picked up on the true identity of The Bent-Neck Lady at least two or three episodes before her mid-season unveiling) this is pretty masterful stuff, and one episode in particular revels in its glorious nature of seemingly taking place as one, 50-minute long, continuous shot (it’s not, of course, but the trickery is sustained), but does so in service of the story, racking up the tension of a family gathering for a funeral to sometimes truly queasy degrees.

The cast are uniformly excellent, featuring excellent turns from both Carla Gugino and Timothy Hutton (who really comes into his own during the previously mentioned ‘single take’ show).

If there’s a downside to all this, it’s in an element of the denouement which I actively disliked, but it’s difficult to discuss without going into spoiler territory. It’s enough to say that it irritated me but didn’t take away from the excellence of the preceding story.

Filled with both plentiful jump scares and a surprising number of subtler chills, the show will not disappoint viewers either looking for a funfair ghost train ride or those of us hoping for something whose depth of character allows for horrors of a darker shade.

The Haunting of Hill House is streaming now on Netflix and comes with my highest recommendation. Just don’t expect to sleep easily afterwards…

 

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Doctor Who – New Doctor, Same As The Old Doctor

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Spoiler-free review of The Woman Who Fell To Earth.

So, the bit you really want to know first about tonight’s Doctor Who (the first for Thirteenth Doctor, Jodi Whittaker): it wasn’t the end of the world.

That is, the opening episode of (New Who) season eleven wasn’t really about the end of the world, I’ll come back to that, but what’s really important is that OUR world didn’t end because the Doctor has regenerated into… gasp… a woman.

When the first teaser trailer dropped on BBC revealing Whittaker, a very vocal number of fans lost their collective minds that their favourite, alien shape-shifter was going to change gender after more than fifty years as a variety of men.

The precise reasoning behind this anger felt rather nebulous, and certainly doesn’t bear up to scrutiny, especially given that from the moment Whittaker makes her entrance by falling through the roof of a train she literally (and figuratively) fully inhabits the frock coat of her predecessor(s).

The plot, which I’ll skip over to avoid spoilers (but there are aliens and lots of running around), is fairly light (actually, too light) and really simply serves as a mechanism to introduce the new Doctor and her team of companions. And it achieves this very well: new showrunner Chris Chibnall (along with a fabulous production team), moves everything along at a rate of knots and each of the characters are gifted with vulnerability, warmth and humanity (and I’m including The Doctor in that, of course, the most human of aliens) so that the we don’t notice the slight story.

It’s of note that the show is shorn of the self-reference that seems to have been weighing it down for the past few seasons. As a fan since the mid-1960s, it’s fun to see old stories and the show’s vast mythology used, but I also recognise that can be an unnecessary ball and chain to storytelling, particularly when it comes to keeping things light enough for casual viewers. Here’s hoping this continues across the season, as it all felt nicely fresh in this episode.

Of course, as this is a regeneration episode, we haven’t really seen The Doctor’s full, new persona yet, but all the important stuff is there: she’s quirky, brave, resourceful and stands up for what’s right. So, pretty much exactly the same as her previous selves. Whittaker hits all the right notes of humour and heroism and is The Doctor. Just like that. Really, strange, stuck-in-the-mud fans, what were you worried about!?

On the technical side, the show, shot with Cooke and Angenieux anamorphic widescreen lenses for the first time, looks an absolute treat, managing to make Sheffield look wonderful, which is no mean feat (sorry, Sheffield-dwellers).

So, we have a new Doctor – yes, a woman – starring in a new series of Doctor Who (albeit now on Sunday nights) and the world is still turning.

Next thing you know we’ll be getting a black James Bond. Then the world really will end, you wait and see…

Your New Star Wars Live Action Series Is… The Mandalorian

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Jon Favreau has just announced the title of the new live-action Star Wars series and, yep, as revealed in our headline, it’s The Mandalorian.

For those of you not versed in Star Wars-speak, fan-favourite character Jango Fett (from the trilogy we don’t talk about) was a Mandalorian, and he adopted his clone son, Boba Fett (from the trilogy we do talk about) .

According to Favreau, the series will feature “a lone gunfighter” hailing from the same planet as the fan-favorite bounty hunter Boba Fett and his father, Jango Fett.”

“After the stories of Jango and Boba Fett, another warrior emerges in the Star Wars universe,” Favreau announced in an Instagram post. “The Mandalorian is set after the fall of the Empire and before the emergence of the First Order. We follow the travails of a lone gunfighter in the outer reaches of the galaxy far from the authority of the New Republic.”

So we have a series taking place between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens leaning heavily on the legacy of a pair of secondary characters from the first two trilogies. My immediate reaction is that this concept doesn’t overly thrill me, seeming to be a bit too-fan fiction heavy for me, but your Star Wars mileage may vary.

Either way, The Mandalorian bound to be a huge draw for the nascent Disney Play streaming channel and the news of this, plus other shows such as the previously-announced live action Marvel shows (featuring the likes of Tom Hiddleston as Loki and Elizabeth Olsen as Scarlet Witch), plus shows based on High School Reunion and Monsters Inc., are certain to have Netflix execs feeling a little uneasy right now.

Disney Play (or whatever it ends up being called) launches late 2019.

Spellbinding New Trailer For Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

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Regular readers will know I’m all about the forthcoming Netflix show, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. And after seeing this new trailer I’m even more all about the forthcoming Netflix show, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina! Cast a look at this:

Campy, funny, sexy and downright creepy in places, this is frankly the most fun I’ve had with a trailer in ages.

Can you tell I’m excited yet!?

With an awesome cast (Kiernan Shipka, Jaz Sinclair, Michelle Gomez, Chance Perdomo, Lucy Davis, Miranda Otto, Richard Coyle, Ross Lynch, Bronson Pinchot and Tati Gabrielle) and a really cool look (those are some stunning visuals up there), this is shaping up to be one of my most anticipated shows this season (alongside the return of The Deuce, of course).

Based on the Archie Comics series, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina hits Netflix just in time for Halloween, on October 26th!

She’s coming to get you, Barbara (yeah, yeah, I know… I couldn’t resist)!

Fragile Creatures: The Beauty And Pain of The Rider

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Chloé Zhao’s contemporary western drama, The Rider, starts out with a young man in pain, recovering, as we later see, from injuries sustained during a rodeo.

The following ninety minutes or so explore that pain further: not just the physical injuries, but the mental scars inflicted on someone whose dreams are taken from them and crushed, when he finds his body will no longer allow him to do the thing he loves most.

Shot with a cast of non-professionals (Brady Jandreau, Lilly Jandreau, Tim Jandreau, Lane Scott, and Cat Clifford) who play versions of themselves in an almost documentary style, and with a magnificent eye for beauty (several shots made me literally gasp), Zhao’s film is intimate, harrowing and painful, but also majestic, and sweeping.

Zhao keeps the camera tight on Jandreau for much of the film, and the young, non-actor gives an astonishing performance, with a minimal amount of dialogue we share his joy and pain, as the recovery he appears to make is short-lived. This world of horse trainers and rodeo riders is fragile and fraught with physical peril, but Jandreau’s character, Brady, desperately wants to stay in the saddle.

The film feels like a mixture between a later period Springsteen song and an early period Terrence Malick film (before he became TERRENCE MALICK and disappeared off into the edit suite to cut yet another interminable version of Tree of Life). Malick could benefit from watching The Rider, for while this film could stand to lose a few minutes, even with the extra fat Zhao never loses sight of the cinematic story she’s trying to tell.

So much of The Rider is ambiguous: should we admire Brady as he puts himself through another agonising experience just to keep riding? Should we sympathise when he takes on a stultifying job to make ends meet, or pity him for giving up what he loves? Zhao smartly doesn’t provide pat answers, but allows the complexities of Brady’s path to carry us through.

The Rider is a quiet, purposeful and powerful movie, shot with a true cinematic poetry, whether out on the plains or in a run-down trailer. With her second movie, Zhao has established herself as an exciting voice in cinema.

Marvel To Go Full Kosmic Kirby With The Eternals

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The long-rumoured Marvel Studios production of Jack Kirby’s The Eternals took a mighty leap forward today with the announcement that The Rider director Chloe Zhao will helm the picture from a script by Matthew and Ryan Firpo, with Kevin Feige producing.

Created during Jack Kirby’s second run at Marvel Comics in the mid-1970s, The Eternals tells a star-spanning tale of cosmic beings known as the Celestials (already mentioned in both Guardians of the Galaxy movies), who perform genetic experiments on humans in the distant past, creating the super-powered Eternals, as well as the villainous race called the Deviants.

This would seem to fit nicely with the cosmic path Marvel has begun with the (now-shockingly James Gunn-less) Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain Marvel.

The Eternals were arguably one of Kirby’s last great creations (although I’ll gladly engage you in fisticuffs if you diss my boy, Devil Dinosaur) and provides a truly spectacular blueprint for a franchise movie.

Zhao’s film has been winning plaudits left, right and centre and she stands as an utterly intriguing choice to bring Kirby’s wild creations to the screen.

NIN’s Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross Will Score HBO’s Watchmen

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So, I get it, we’re all pretty sceptical about HBO’s forthcoming Watchmen series. Showrunner Damon Lindelof has a somewhat mixed score card, plus it’s… well… it’s Watchmen.

Still, the cast has been shaping up nicely (including Jeremy Irons, Don Johnson, Regina King, Tim Blake Nelson, Louis Gossett Jr., Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, and Adelaide Clemens) and now the series has added ace musos Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross from Nine Inch Nails (currently on tour with new album, The Perfect Drug) to provide the soundtrack.

The pair have scored several movies (together and separately, and nabbed an Academy Award for their work on David Fincher’s The Social Network.

Whatever happens with HBO’s Watchmen, at least now we’re sure it’ll sound good!

Bond 25 Gets True Detective Helmer

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In a surprise but very welcome piece of news, EON Productions announced today that Cary Joji Fukunaga will helm the much-troubled Bond 25.

I don’t recall seeing Fukunaga crop up on many of the speculative “who will replace Danny Boyle?” lists circulating a few weeks ago, but this is great news. Fukunaga – the first American to direct a Bond film – was one of the driving forces behind the highly-praised first season of True Detective ( for which he won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series), as well as the 2015 Netflix movie Beasts of No Nation, on which he was writer, director, producer, and cinematographer.

“We are delighted to be working with Cary. His versatility and innovation make him an excellent choice for our next James Bond adventure,” said Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, while probably breathing huge sighs of relief. At least until Fukunaga also walks off the project in a few weeks, of course. Hey, stranger things have happened on Bond 25, right…!?

More news as it comes on Dave Bautista taking over as Bond when Daniel Craig leaves midway through filming. Probably.

Loki, Scarlet Witch And Other MCU Heroes Coming To Disney TV

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In something of what seems to be a jaw-dropping exclusive, Variety are reporting that the forthcoming Disney TV streaming service is loading up some of its big guns to entice paying viewers.

According to their report, the channel will be producing live-action series featuring some of their existing Marvel Cinematic Universe characters, including Loki and Scarlet Witch. As if that news wasn’t exciting enough, it seems these characters will be played by their MCU actors, such as Tom Hiddleston and Elizabeth Olsen.

While the channel has yet to make an official announcement, Variety seem confident in their reporting, and while further details on the shows haven’t been revealed, suggestions are they’ll have substantial budgets and may run for six to eight episodes each (meaning they’ve hopefully learned valuable lessons from the always-overstretched Netflix/Marvel shows).

Adding further interest, it appears the shows will not be produced under the Marvel TV banner, which has produced variable results with series including Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D and Inhumans (about which, the less said the better), instead they will fall under Marvel Studios (producers of the MCU).

Disney are betting big with their new service, and with these new shows added to an already impressive line-up (including the Star Wars live-action show, as well as a High School Musical show and a live-action Lady and the Tramp movie), it’s pretty certain they’ll be giving Netflix a run for its money.

As ever, more news as it comes…


Photo c/o Disney/Marvel

Higher. Further. Faster. Now We Have A Captain Marvel Poster Too!

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As if the arrival of the Captain Marvel trailer wasn’t enough excitement for today, Marvel has just released the first official poster for the film.

Taking the now familiar phrase from the Captain Marvel comic books (Higher. Further. Faster) as its tag-line, the imagery has the good Captain very much arriving (through an imposing set of aircraft hangar doors).

And really, there’s not too much more to say here, except that it’s very pretty and March 8th, 2019 looks like it’s going to be a whole heap of fun! It’s time to get excited, Carol Corps!