'The Grand Tour' / Amazon Prime Video
Arts & Culture

Review | ‘The Grand Tour’

28/04/2017 Alastair Stewart

“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.” (Read More)

Arts & Culture

Review | ‘Logan’

18/04/2017 Alastair Stewart

“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. ” (Read More)

Arts & Culture

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

01/03/2017 Alastair Stewart

“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.” (Read More)

Photograph: 'Walk of Fame' / Davide D'Amico
Arts & Culture

Why there will be no more en masse mourning of celebrities in the future

17/12/2016 Alastair Stewart

‘Today, in our interconnected, globalised and culturally internationalist world, it’s a macabre, but easy temptation, to look around and imagine which artists will generate the same shockwaves when they die. Who will, for the twenty-somethings of today, be the ‘legends’ that receive posthumous awards and extensive media coverage lavishing praise or skewering with retrospectives?’ (Read More)

Photograph: Pexels
Arts & Culture

Looking back at the BBC’s Star Trek ban

06/12/2016 Alastair Stewart

The BBC, which controlled the distribution rights to air the series in the UK, was the most accessible means by which most fans could enjoy the show until Sky One began broadcasting the complete series in 1990. Even so, for many years afterwards cable TV was a costly luxury and the banned episodes remained unseen for a majority of fans. (Read More)

The standout role in 'The Crown'? John Lithgow as Winston Churchill / Netflix
Arts & Culture

Review | The Crown

17/11/2016 Alastair Stewart

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. (Read More)

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Arts & Culture

‘Naked Attraction’ – The End Is Near

19/08/2016 David Bone

“The presenter asks them what they felt about being eliminated. Most of them aren’t that fussed, but will probably be shocked when they get a P45 from their workplace or discover that their children can’t look them in the face anymore.” (Read More)

'Churchill' by Matt Brown
Arts & Culture

Listen | ‘Churchill’s Secret’ Review

05/08/2016 Alastair Stewart

‘Churchill’s Secret’ meshes fact and fiction to retell the true story of Winston Churchill’s debilitating stroke kept hidden from the nation and parliament in 1953. Michael Gambon excels as the war leader, but a damp script fails to make this the compelling watch it should be. (Read More)

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Arts & Culture

Listen | ‘Blunt Talk’ Review

08/06/2016 Alastair Stewart

Is this the show Patrick Stewart and Seth Macfarlane have been leading up to? The first episode is possessed of some moments of comedy gold, but the show seems torn between focussing on Stewart’s Walter Blunt and turning it into a bland ensemble American comedy. (Read More)

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Arts & Culture

Listen | ‘Spotlight’ Review

25/05/2016 Alastair Stewart

Alastair reviews 2015’s ‘Spotlight’. The film follows The Boston Globe’s “Spotlight” team, the oldest continuously operating newspaper investigative journalist unit in the United States, and its investigation into cases of widespread and systemic child sex abuse in the Boston area by numerous Roman Catholic priests. It is based on a series of stories by the “Spotlight” team that earned The Globe the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. (Read More)

Photograph: 'The TARDIS' / Phil Long
Arts & Culture

Review | Doctor Who – ‘The Husbands of River Song’

18/05/2016 Alastair Stewart

What is beyond doubt is that Moffat’s reign as Doctor Who showrunner has been as multifaceted as his leading lady and just as complicated. As both leave, it’s fitting that they leave together with a good story. River Song’s departure is Moffat’s goodbye; poignant and sad but leaving you with food for thought and wanting more. (Read More)

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Arts & Culture

Why a Batfleck film will be awesome

17/05/2016 Alastair Stewart

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. (Read More)

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Arts & Culture

Revisiting ‘The Iron Lady’

27/04/2016 Alastair Stewart

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. (Read More)

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Arts & Culture

Review | Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

22/04/2016 Alastair Stewart

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. (Read More)

Driving forward? / Pexels
Arts & Culture

Why Top Gear deserves a chance to succeed

20/04/2016 Alastair Stewart

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’ (Read More)

'Christopher Nolan' / CC
Arts & Culture

Listen | Alastair Stewart & Alan Graham discuss The Dark Knight Trilogy

12/03/2016 Alastair Stewart

Is Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy a masterpiece of cinema? Has it aged well and will people’s love for it survive the potential hype and success of Ben Affleck’s new iteration in Batman v. Superman? Alastair Stewart and Alan Graham discuss this and more in a special retrospective episode looking at Nolan’s success, and failures, as master and commander of the Dark Knight myth. (Read More)

Arts & Culture

The X Factor is exploitative and cruel

02/03/2016 Alastair Stewart

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? (Read More)

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Arts & Culture

Listen | Review: The Equalizer

29/02/2016 Alastair Stewart

A bit late to this one, it’s nevertheless impossible to be surprised by this 2014 Denzel Washington action flick. It’s intelligent, well executed and enjoyably calculating and, even if beating up bad guys never normally needs an excuse, it’s made all the better with Washington in the starring role. (Read More)

'Kirk & Spock' by JD Hancock / CC
Arts & Culture

Captain Kirk should be gay

28/02/2016 Alastair Stewart

“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 (Read More)

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Arts & Culture

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

24/02/2016 Alastair Stewart

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. (Read More)

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Arts & Culture

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

16/02/2016 Alastair Stewart

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. (Read More)

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Arts & Culture

Thoughts on Daniel Craig quitting as James Bond

15/02/2016 Alastair Stewart

Like all good things, it was not meant to be. Daniel Craig quitting also means that Waltz is unlikely to return, previously saying he only do so if it was opposite Craig. The future is, for the first time in ten years, wide open as to what turn the franchise will take next and at this stage it is anyone’s guess as to what direction, and what Bond, they studio will select. (Read More)

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Arts & Culture

Top 20 wish list for Batman v Superman

06/01/2016 Alastair Stewart

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. (Read More)

Photograph: 'The TARDIS' / Phil Long
Arts & Culture

Review: Doctor Who – 9.11 – ‘Heaven Sent’

02/12/2015 Alastair Stewart

‘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. (Read More)

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Film & TV

Review: The Salvation

18/11/2015 Christine Lawler

With his wonderfully restrained style of acting, Mads Mikkelson stars in The Salvation, a western that incorporates all the traditions of old-school westerns while giving the genre a wonderful boost of vitality. (Read More)

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Arts & Culture

Revisiting The Man Who Would Be King

16/11/2015 Alastair Stewart

When I first met a man, who is now one of my closest friends, he told me I would love three things: The Picture of Dorian Gray, Withnail and I and The Man Who Would Be King. He recommended a fourth, eight years later, but I’ll tell you that at the end. (Read More)

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Arts & Culture

Review: Mr. Holmes

04/11/2015 Alastair Stewart

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. (Read More)

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Film & TV

Review: The Martian

26/10/2015 Alan Graham

Based on Andy Weir’s 2011 novel, The Martian tells the story of Mark Watney (Matt Damon), a botanist on a manned mission to Mars who, through a freak accident, is presumed dead and left behind by the rest of his crew as they escape a storm on the planet’s surface. Watney, alive and well, is now marooned on Mars without enough food to last him until the next manned mission from Earth arrives. He must put all of his training and knowledge into action in order to survive and make contact with Earth while at the same time NASA scientists and Watney’s crew try to figure out a way to bring the stranded astronaut home. (Read More)

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Film & TV

Review: Legend

25/10/2015 Alan Graham

Brian Helgeland’s Legend seems like an almost tailor-made vehicle for its star Tom Hardy. The films hook, of Hardy playing both male leads, allows him to display his immense talent for portraying both subtle, nuanced, dark characters and wild, over-the-top eccentrics at the same time. Hardy has, for a while now, been one of the best actors to come out of Britain but Legend really showcases his talents perfectly. (Read More)

Photograph: 'The TARDIS' / Phil Long
Arts & Culture

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

05/10/2015 Alastair Stewart

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. (Read More)

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Film & TV

Review: Solace

04/10/2015 Christine Lawler

Originally intended to be a sequel to 1995 film Se7en, Solace is a typical FBI-hunts-serial killer with a psychic twist plot. Haruki Murakami fans, such as myself, will be surprised to learn that the killers method of choice is a sharp implement directly into the base of the neck. For a moment I confused my fictions and thought Aomame from 1Q84 was the murderer. It turns out she is not in this case. (Read More)

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Arts & Culture

Review: The Ghost

30/09/2015 Alastair Stewart

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. (Read More)

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Arts & Culture

Review: Brothers of War

29/09/2015 Alastair Stewart

Problem is, it’s not. Not really. Written and directed by Mike Carter, Brothers of War opens with the complicated, toxic bullying rivalry between Gregory (Roy Finn) and his elder brother, Jake (Daniel Attwell). The former is timid and shy, the latter a bullyboy showman with a penchant for rule breaking and tormenting of his brother. It’s this which culminates in the family tragedy that leaves Jake brain damaged and paralysed and Gregory enlisted and serving in 1940s France. (Read More)

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Arts & Culture

Review: ‘Die Welle’ (The Wave)

22/09/2015 John Lindberg

Is the threat of dictatorship and oppression but a distant memory? Is it something only found in developing countries half a world away? Has democracy and its subliminal values been entrenched in the West? These are all issues that Dennis Gansel’s film Die Welle (The Wave in English) seeks to deal with. Based on true events, this story seeks to explore the human psyche and the very society that we are taking for granted when it is put under pressure and its ‘basic truths’ are questioned. (Read More)

Photograph: 'The TARDIS' / Phil Long
Arts & Culture

Review: Doctor Who – 9.1 – ‘The Magician’s Apprentice’

21/09/2015 Alastair Stewart

I have to say I never clicked with Doctor Who last year. It took me a bottle of Jack Daniels to get through David Tennant’s regeneration (‘Wilf, it was my honour’) and Matt Smith’s old man regenerating was the epitome of the series and was the point where it should have ended. The grumpy, scowling, back to basics with no frilly scarfs was exactly what Doctor Who was not to me. Young body, old soul, joie de vie. (Read More)

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Arts & Culture

Why Rocky Balboa gives us hope that Creed will be epic

17/09/2015 Alastair Stewart

There’s something about the Rocky films that just makes them goosebumpingly good. Yours truly might not be struggling to breathe or falling over his own body weight, but I can assure you sports have never been my thing. The only thing I learnt from P.E at school is how to pre-plan an excuse and executive it convincingly. Not the skill set my teachers had hoped for I’m sure, but it’s done me a damn sight more use than learning to kick a ball (Read More)

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Arts & Culture

Review: Gotham

05/09/2015 Alastair Stewart

I’ve watched the first six episodes of Gotham and I won’t be watching anymore. Its issues are so fundamental as to preclude any development worthy of the Batman franchise precisely because it doesn’t feature (you guessed it) the Dark Knight himself. (Read More)

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Arts & Culture

Superman eating breakfast: DC needs to get on TV to save the superhero genre

05/09/2015 Alastair Stewart

The other day Steven Spielberg said that inevitably audiences will get “superhero fatigue” and the genre will go the way of the Western. As DC lags behind Marvel with bringing their multiverse to the big screen, the latter is already pushing ahead with bringing their cinematic success to the small screen by the bucket load. But is there a benefit to DC to try and do this too, and can television offer new opportunities to save the genre? (Read More)

'Why so serious?' / Ludovic Berton / CC
Arts & Culture

Why do fictional heroes take themselves so seriously?

27/08/2015 Alastair Stewart

Each hero is presented as being entirely unique and original. Alfred never said, ‘you know Bruce, you’ve lost your bastard mind wanting to be like all those comic book heroes’. No one ever told Tony Stark that Iron Man was just like RoboKing of Wonder Comics and no one mentioned to Sarah Connor that a time travelling robot was a lot like that film The Executioner with Wolfgang McBain. (Read More)

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Arts & Culture

Revisiting The Last Samurai

26/08/2015 Alastair Stewart

The Last Samurai it’s a happy medium between the two. The 2003 film was a commercial and critical hit for Tom Cruise in a series of what surely must be his most consistently excellent pictures. 2001 saw the wonderful Vanilla Sky, followed by the 2002, Spielberg directed, Minority Report and then the eponymous 2003 picture of this piece. 2004 was Collateral and 2005’s War of the Worlds ended a quartet of diverse and well-received films. Everything else was really just ‘ok’. (Read More)

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Arts & Culture

Review: Better Call Saul – 1.8 – ‘RICO’

25/08/2015 Alastair Stewart

Beginning with a flashback within a flashback is always one of the best treats of this show. It’s telling that it can add mileage to itself by doing this, and makes BCS more than just a ‘when is Walter White going to appear’ show. The opening is brutal and explains a lot; it’s sweet and cruel and makes Howard Hamlin out to be the right bastard that’s always alluded to. You feel sorry for Jimmy McGill and it adds another layer to his character as well as to the relationship with his brother. Kudos to the cinematography when all you hear is the photocopier and Hamlin rejecting Jimmy’s job ideas and to the makeup department that makes the different ages of the character believability. (Read More)

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Arts & Culture

Review: Devil’s Pass

24/08/2015 Alastair Stewart

Devil’s Pass (2013) is, in my book, a great example of taking the found footage horror formula, playing with it and adding a twist of sci-fi. Usually that last addendum is enough to make people say ‘nah, it ‘ill be shit’ but it honestly isn’t. And yes, Gemma Atkinson is in it and no I’ve not gone mad. (Read More)

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Arts & Culture

Review: The Grudge

09/08/2015 Alastair Stewart

The Grudge is a 2004 supernatural horror film based on the 2002 Japanese film of the same name. The 2002 version is the second of the 11 part Ju-on series created by Takashi Shimizu. The story consists of interconnecting sub-plots, all out of sync and all revolving around one house and its various residents who are plagued by a curse that is born when someone dies in the grip of a powerful rage or extreme sorrow. (Read More)

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Arts & Culture

Why the world doesn’t need Superman (Revisiting Superman Returns)

03/08/2015 Alastair Stewart

I watched Superman Returns for the first time in some years the other night. I remember that after 19 years away from the silver screen it was a thrill to see Superman back on it in 2006. Such was my excitement at the end of the film that I ran out of the theatre carrying my girlfriend, singing the theme and wearing her red pashmina as a cape (much to the amusement of the door man). (Read More)

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Arts & Culture

Review: Predestination

24/07/2015 Alastair Stewart

It takes a lot to surprise yours truly when it comes to the time travel front. Many a long evening turned has into a longer night obsessively trying to untangle a paradox or find logic “in a big ball of wibbly wobbly…time-y wimey…stuff. (Read More)

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Arts & Culture

Review: Better Call Saul – 1.5 – ‘Alpine Shepherd Boy’

02/03/2015 Alastair Stewart

Well, well, things might be on the up, but only slightly. The confusing direction of the last four weeks might be getting demonstrably better. Perhaps that’s the returning charm of BCS: you don’t really know where it is thematically or where it’s going. We ride on the good faith of our love of BB and give it the benefit of the doubt because the mother show’s first season was novel but uncertain. (Read More)

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Arts & Culture

Review: Better Call Saul – 1.4 – ‘Hero’

23/02/2015 Alastair Stewart

I’m detecting a trend in my own, and I hate it when I start them. Last week’s ‘Nacho’ had moments of unadulterated Saul Goodness in an otherwise static episode. It dawns on me that this is the problem with the prequel aspects of the show: Breaking Bad grew on you. It got better and darker and by the time we got to full bastard-Heisenberg it felt like the trek up the mountain was worth the while.
(Read More)

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Arts & Culture

Review: Better Call Saul – 1.2 – ‘Mijo’

09/02/2015 Alastair Stewart

I was right and wrong about Better Call Saul in my review of it’s inaugural outing last week. Firstly, as some have been quick to point out, there were indeed Breaking Bad references in the first episode. That said, they didn’t amount to Walter White cameos (well, not really) so all is forgiven. (Read More)

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Film & TV

Review: Wolf Hall

26/01/2015 Graham Paterson

Because most of us live through television, sometimes it seems that the Second World War never ended and that the Tudors still reign. Of course, the appeal of both is that they’re damn’ good stories, capable of sustaining and surviving endless reinvention. Whether they will eventually become mythical, like Robin Hood and King Arthur and Clause IV, remains to be seen. However good the current incarnations may be, you know there will be others. (Read More)

'Christopher Nolan' / CC
Arts & Culture

The plot holes and symbolism of The Dark Knight Rises

09/08/2014 Alastair Stewart

It’s been two years already since the live action Dark Knight appeared on our screens with Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises. Last month, meanwhile, we saw the first preview of Ben Affleck as Batman ahead of 2016’s Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice. And so before the memory of Nolan’s trilogy is overrun with thoughts on the Man Of Steel sequel, now seems like a good time for a look back at what The Dark Knight Rises achieved. (Read More)