Friday, 18 November 2022

Netflix's Wednesday - Season 1 (Based on The Addams Family) ★★★★☆

Jenny Ortega is Wednesday Addams in Wednesday on Netflix

There were three things I loved as a kid: Tim Burton, The Addams Family and the colour black. I can’t even begin to explain how happy it makes me that the three have collided in splendid serendipity on Netflix’s Wednesday.

About

If one thing is true about Wednesday Addams (Jenna Ortega), it’s that the only person allowed to pick on her brother Pugsley (Isaac Ordonez) is Wednesday. When she finds out that the school bullies have picked on Pugsley yet again, Wednesday reacts in the only reasonable way a big sister can: she puts piranhas in the school swimming pool, while the bullies are swimming in it.

Unfortunately for Wednesday, she manages to get caught

Jenny Ortega is Wednesday Addams in Wednesday on Netflix

Her parents, the besotted duo Morticia (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and Gomez (Luis Guzmán), decide that it is time for Wednesday to attend the school where they met. Designed to be a home and finishing school for young outcasts, Nevermore Academy is the place of Wednesday’s nightmares, and not the good ones either.

As a brilliant, independent and terminally cynical young person who just happens to be allergic to colour, Wednesday is horrified to discover that she must room with the bright, cheerful and colourful Enid (Emma Myers). This is not going to turn out well for anyone.

Things do take a turn for the better however when Wednesday discovers that there is a vicious monster lurking in the woods, targeting both townspeople and students at Nevermore. With her emerging psychic abilities providing dark glimpses of the future, Wednesday realises there is a place for her at Nevermore and a mystery to solve.

Now if she can only get the messy business of making friends and forging alliances out of the way before she becomes the monster’s next victim.

What Wednesday is Really About

Wednesday is about friendship and trust, about how there is always a lot more to people than their appearance and insecurities will betray. Wednesday is not a hugger and emotions are definitely not her strong suit, but over time she learns that team activities and school dances are not so bad after all absolutely the worst thing ever.

She finds friendship in places she doesn’t expect and learns to care about people in ways that she couldn’t have imagined in her worst nightmares.

Throughout it all, Wednesday is plagued by an innate sense of right and wrong and will always choose to stand up for others in the face of bullying and injustice. It’s the story of her life: if anyone is going to make people’s lives a misery, it is Wednesday.

Wednesday Has All the Original Characters

The enduring appeal of The Addams Family lies in its cast of kooky, spooky characters dating back to the original black-and-white series. They all return for Wednesday including Gomez, Morticia, Pugsley, Lurch (George Burcea), Thing (Victor Teodor Dorobantu) and even Uncle Fester (Fred Armisen).

Netflix Wednesday -Catherine Zeta-Jones as Morticia Adams, Luis Guzmán as Gomez Addams

Netflix Wednesday - George Burcea as Lurch

Netflix Wednesday - Jenny Ortega is Wednesday and Victor Teodor Dorobantu is Thing

Netflix Wednesday - Jenna Ortega as Wednesday Addams, Fred Armisen as Uncle Fester

Ten Times Wednesday Addams Spoke the Absolute Truth

Wednesday is full of one-liners that remind me of how witty and punny the original material was. Here are ten times Wednesday Addams spoke the truth.

I find social media to be a soul-sucking void of meaningless affirmation

Editors are short-sighted, fear-based lifeforms

We all die alone

Dead people are notoriously bad at returning calls

Emotions are a gateway trait. They lead to feelings which trigger tears

I don't hold seances very often. I can barely tolerate the living, why would I want to commune with the dead?

Every day is all about me. This one just comes with a cake and a bad song

I don't bury hatchets. I sharpen them

The dead can be just as annoying and unreliable as the living

Ultimately, thieves turn on each other

Six Pet Names for Wednesday Addams

Adorable as she is confounding, Wednesday gets under people’s skin and provokes a variety of pet names, some more fond than others and many undeniably spot-on.

  • “My little death trap” – Gomez
  • “Grim Reaper Barbie” – Tyler
  • “Exhausting” – Principal Weems
  • “Velma” – Sheriff Galpin 
  • “My little rain cloud” - Morticia
  • “My pig-tailed protégé” – Uncle Fester

Of course, she prefers to think of herself as different, an original thinker and an intrepid outlier.

Verdict

Like any good Tim Burton production, Wednesday is fun, irreverent and has a whole lot of heart. It’s full of one-liners, delivered with superb timing and there were times when I cackled maniacally out loud. Wednesday has the best facial expressions and Jenna Ortega gave a brilliant performance as the sardonic little burned cupcake.

Just like with my favourite Burton films Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands, Wednesday has you caring for characters you did not expect to care for, always rooting for the outcasts and being surprised by the actions of supposedly good people.

Honestly, the only disappointment was me because I absolutely did not guess who the monster was. I was shaken, I tell you, so much so that I had to rewind that scene and witness again how it all fell apart.

I thoroughly enjoyed watching Wednesday navigate the minefield of human connections and friendship. A great example was her unexpected rapport with Sheriff Galpin (Jamie McShane) and how the two came to grudgingly respect the other.

It was extremely refreshing for a teen, paranormal series not to only focus on romance. There were definite interests amongst the characters and exploration of identity, including an LGBTQI+ storyline with a character at risk of conversion therapy, but it was more an exploration of character depth than a plot point and I appreciated that a lot. I also appreciated the message that it’s okay not to be interested yet, if at all.

If I had to compare Wednesday to my Netflix favourites I would say that it's got the heart of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina but not the diversity, and it doesn't have the plot depth or quality of writing of The Bastard Son & the Devil Himself. Nevertheless, it's a lot of fun, has excellent acting all round and I hope we see a second season.

★★★★☆

WEDNESDAY premieres globally November 23, only on Netflix

Wednesday Trailer (Dir by Tim Burton)

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Saturday, 22 October 2022

Netflix's The Bastard Son & the Devil Himself - Season 1 (Based on Sally's Green's Half Bad Trilogy) ★★★★★

Nadia Parkes is Annalise, Jay Lycurgo is Nathan and Emilien Vekemans is Gabriel in Netflix's The Bastard Son & the Devil Himself

The problem with reviewing television shows before they release is that there is a point in time where you're not even allowed to talk about them. All I could do after finishing episode six of The Bastard Son & the Devil Himself was post a vague quote tweet of the Netflix promo, saying 'this is everything'. Because this show is everything. Based on the Half Bad trilogy by Sally Green, The Bastard Son & the Devil Himself lands on Netflix on 28 October 2022. I think fans of the books are going to like this adaption a lot but so will viewers unfamiliar with the series.

About The Bastard Son & the Devil Himself

In modern-day Europe, two warring factions of witches live amongst humans. The Fairborn witches have power in England after expelling most of their rivals, the Blood witches, to mainland Europe. Wanted by no one and hated by all, sixteen-year-old Nathan Byrne (Jay Lycurgo, The Batman) lives with his grandmother and half-sister in England. He is the illegitimate son of a Fairborn mother and Marcus Edge, the most notorious, violent Blood witch in history. The Fairborn Council is terrified that Nathan will follow in his father's footsteps and Nathan is monitored constantly.

How Are You Sleeping At Night?
Do You Ever Have Violent Dreams
Do You Have Fantasies About Hurting People?
Do You Find Yourself Getting Quick To Anger?
Do You Ever Have Negative Feelings About Other Witches?
If You Listen Carefully Can You Hear My Heartbeat?

Nathan is fast approaching his seventeenth birthday when he will receive three gifts and drink the blood of a family member, as all must witches do, in order to develop his true witch power. The only problem is that Nathan is running out of family members and his options are similarly diminishing after certain instigators manage to provoke his anger. Armed only with his friendship with Fairborn witch Annalise (Nadia Parkes, Domina) and the mysterious Blood witch Gabriel (Emilien Vekemans, Transferts), Nathan will have to outrun those who would destroy him and learn that sometimes the worst times are the best times, and that good and bad depend on what you do, not who you are.

The Cast

Characters We Love

Jay Lycurgo is Nathan Byrne

Nadia Parkes is Annalise and Jay Lycurgo is Nathan in The Bastard Son & the Devil Himself

It is impossible not to like Nathan in the books, he does narrate them after all, but we grow to love him in the series as he grows from a cheeky, irreverent child into a defiant and determined teen. We watch as his innocence is eroded by the irrational, zealous hatred directed at him yet still he struggles to hold on to his humanity. He's not even safe at home and is constantly targeted by his own sister, Jessica. We'll get to her later. The casting for Jay Lycurgo was spot on and his performance is superb. There wasn't a single moment when I wasn't completely invested in Jay as Nathan.

Emilien Vekemans is Gabriel

Emilien Vekemans is Gabriel in The Bastard Son & the Devil Himself

I loved Gabriel in the Half Bad trilogy but nothing could have prepared me for much I loved every minute he was on screen in The Bastard Son & the Devil Himself. Emilien Vekemans is perfect as Gabriel, as is Charles Nicol as Young Gabriel. Gabriel is funny and sarcastic but don't underestimate him because beneath that beautiful, ultra-cool exterior lies one of the most complex, loyal characters ever written. I cannot wait to see where the rest of the series takes Gabriel.

Those We Hate

Isobel Jesper Jones is Jessica

Isobel Jesper Jones is Jessica in The Bastard Son & the Devil Himself

Hate is a strong word, I wonder if there are any stronger words I can use to describe Nathan's sister, Jessica? Jessica is a study in psychopathy, the most despicable character ever seen on screen. Isobel Jesper Jones does a fantastic job as Jessica in her professional debut. I've genuinely never hated a character this much; every moment on screen, every decision, every facial expression, Jessica is horrible and irredeemable and someone needs to put her down.

Paul Ready is Soul

Paul Reddy is Soul in The Bastard Son & the Devil Himself

Soul is a Hunter, leader of the Fairborn Council Protection Unit and father of Annalise and Niall. He is also utterly bereft of any moral compass whatsoever, except that which points him in the most dastardly direction. It's difficult to describe how good Paul Ready is as Soul but he absolutely captures his weak-mindedness and blind ambition, making me want to reach through the screen and strangle him myself.

There is one other character who I hated but I fear that to mention them by name would be too much of a spoiler. Suffice to say, I'll have an entire section dedicated to them next season.

Those Who Surprise Us

Karen Connell is Ceelia

Theo Mason is Young Nathan and Karen Connell is Ceelia in The Bastard Son & the Devil Himself

Ceelia is one of the Fairborn witches who discover Nathan and Jessica on the day their mother is murdered. She is the one who monitors Nathan throughout his childhood and the one who keeps him in an outdoor cage when he is removed from his home. Ceelia is written with incredible depth in The Bastard Son & the Devil Himself, adding so much more to her than we saw in Half Bad. It was surprising and devastating. Karen Connell gives a nuanced performance, saying more in her facial expressions and gestures than would ever need to be spoken in words. I didn't much notice Ceelia in the books but she will go down as one of my favourite characters in the series, if not ever.

Nadia Parkes is Annalise

Nadia Parkes is Annalise and Jay Lycurgo is Nathan in The Bastard Son & the Devil Himself

Another very surprising character is Annalise, Nathan’s best friend and sometimes girlfriend. She exists mostly in the past tense in the first book, Half Bad, on which season 1 is based, but she is central to the story in the series. It was impossible not to notice from the very first episode how good of an actress Nadia Parkes is and how well she portrayed Annalise. Like Gabriel, I'm excited to see where the rest of the series will take Annalise and how her storyline will progress.

The Writing: From Page to Screen

The Bastard Son & the Devil Himself is one of the best page-to-screen adaptions I've seen in years. Joe Barton is the principal writer along with Ryan J Brown, Helen Kingston and Emer Kenny.

The writers made a lot of changes in the story but that is to be expected given the glacial pace at which the story moved in Half Bad. The effect was that we got to see a lot of new characters and more depth to the characters we did know than we saw in Half Bad. Sadly, that also opens viewers up to falling in love with characters they didn't expect to fall for and having their hearts destroyed by merciless writers.

There was a brief moment in the first episode where I thought that perhaps the series wasn't going to be as dark or grim as the books but I was swiftly disabused of that notion.

My favourite episodes were two of the most devastating ones: episode 6, written by Helen Kingston and episode 7, written by Emer Kenny. There will be no spoilers in this review but these two episodes represented the very best of television and its power to make you feel every emotion possible, from desolation to joy to astonishment. Yes, there was a fair bit of screaming at television screens going on.

Episode 7 also includes the best line in television history:

Ceelia: F*ck you, Robin Hood, and your merry band of c*nts

Oh, did I mention that The Bastard Son & the Devil Himself has a lot of swearing in?

As the first season neared its heart-stopping conclusion, the stakes became ever higher and the stress of it all became palpable. Never before have I wished for an ad break just so that I could calm my heart from beating out of my chest; just thinking back on it is causing palpitations.

Cinematography, Locations and Music

As is to be expected from Netflix and production company The Imaginarium, The Bastard Son & the Devil Himself is beautiful to watch. The story moves across England from the suburbs to the City of London to the countryside Up North, before moving to Paris and the French Alps. There are bursts of psychedelic colour, panoramic vistas and scenes so gory that you might need to pause for a moment to compose yourself.

The series is accompanied throughout by an excellent score by British pop group Let's Eat Grandma and also includes great song placements. I really hope they release both the score and soundtrack for this show, because both were brilliant.

Verdict

The Map in Netflix's The Bastard Son & the Devil Himself
I'd like to say I loved every minute of The Bastard Son & the Devil Himself but unfortunately I spent too much of it being devastated and having my heart broken into tiny pieces. I also spent a not-insignificant amount of time crying during the final episode. I will say that it's probably my favourite show to debut on Netflix this year and directors Colm McCarthy, Rachna Suri and Debs Paterson did a great job bringing this to life. I give it an excellent five out of five stars and recommend to fans of NOS4A2, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Shadow & Bone and Fate: The Winx Saga or any fans of witches, horror and urban fantasy.
★★★★★

The Bastard Son & the Devil Himself launches on Netflix on 28 October 2022

The Bastard Son & the Devil Himself - Trailer

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Monday, 17 October 2022

'Doctor Who Am I': The Documentary About Eighth Doctor Writer Matthew Jacobs

There's no doubt about it, fandoms have become toxic. Yet before the infamous fallouts in the Star Wars fandom and the incessant hounding of Jodie Whittaker, there was another massive controversy dating back to the 90s: the time they decided to Americanise the Doctor and make him half-human.

It was meant to be the film event that would introduce Doctor Who to the vast USA market and reboot the BBC series that had last aired in 1989. Instead, the TV movie - simply named Doctor Who - made the Doctor half-human and committed the cardinal sin of allowing the Doctor to kiss his companion. Suddenly, the Doctor wasn't for everybody anymore, no longer a representative of every unlucky fanboy, and the backlash was immediate. It would take another 9 years before the franchise would be rebooted and even then, it would only have the faintest of links to the much-maligned film.

Funny then, when you consider that Paul McGann, eighth Doctor and star of the Doctor Who movie, is perhaps the most prolific Doctor of all with 135 audio adventures through Big Finish to date and a further 5 coming out soon. He's certainly a hit at Doctor Who conventions these days but it wasn't always that way.

There is one other person who avoided conventions for the longest time, writer Matthew Jacobs. Jacobs had been a fan of Doctor Who since childhood. In fact, his father even acted in an episode and he has memories of being on set. The chance to write the script for the film seemed like a once in a lifetime opportunity but it turned out to be a disaster.

Directed by Matthew Jacobs and Vanessa Yuille, Doctor Who Am I tracks Jacobs as he is reluctantly drawn out of retirement and lured onto the convention circuit with the promise of some easy cash.

It's an incredibly bittersweet process. You'd have to have a pretty thick skin to endure the hostility Jacobs endured and not be affected by it. Sometimes his appearances are met with friendliness and deference but often with derision too. Added to that, Doctor Who began in a very painful time in Jacobs' life. Many will recall it as the day that Kennedy was assassinated but Jacobs recalls it as the year his mother took her own life and his father began to show symptoms of bipolar disorder.

It's a lot to deal with, from the conversations with fans about the life changing aspects of the Who fandom, to the constant invisibility of the eighth Doctor. Jacobs meets with Paul McGann, star of the Doctor Who film and the two discuss their shared experience and how something more has grown out of it.

There's an especially moving moment where Jacobs addresses a near-empty room and remarks that we all regenerate after painful moments in our lives.

That's the point at which I connected most with the documentary. I've long accepted the eighth Doctor as a central and necessary part of Whovian canon. We can't get to Christopher Eccleston's marvellous ninth Doctor without meeting Paul McGann's eighth and I'm happy to forget a little kiss and a half-human fib. To be honest, it was easier to accept than the plot armour required to reset the regeneration cycle.

Doctor Who Am I illustrates the power of community and inclusion in the Doctor Who fandom and how much richer the fandom is for including Jacobs, McGann and others involved in the TV film. This is something the Big Finish producers realised ages ago and the eighth Doctor's short time on screen has allowed for a wealth of stories on audio.

Doctor Who Am I banner
Ultimately, Doctor Who Am I is quite sad, in the way that fly-on-the-wall documentaries often are. You'd hope that Matthew Jacobs derives some level of resolution and closure from his involvement with the documentary and conventions but perhaps that'll just take time. I struggled a bit with rating this but settled at a good three out of five stars. I'd definitely recommend to all fans of Doctor Who.
★★★☆☆

Doctor Who Am I will be in UK Cinemas from 27th October and will be available on Blu-ray, DVD & Digital Download from 28th November.

An infamous Doctor Who screenwriter is reluctantly dragged back into the American Whoniverse, in this funny and moving documentary about finding family in the unlikeliest of places.

Trailer: Doctor Who Am I - directed by Vanessa Yuille and Matthew Jacobs

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Wednesday, 12 October 2022

Horror Film Review: Dark Glasses (2022) ★★★★☆

Dario Argento's Dark Glasses | Horror Film Review

I have an awkward confession to make: I'd never seen any of Dario Argento's work before viewing Dark Glasses. I'd heard great things about the use of colour, music and gore in his films and was keen to see something from the master of giallo.

Dark Glasses (Italian, original title Occhiali Neri) begins on the day of a solar eclipse in Rome. As the skies darken, we meet young escort, Diana (Ilenia Pastorelli), who stares up into the sun. As the eclipse burns itself onto her retinas and Diana is temporarily stunned, we get a foreboding sense of what is to come.

Ilenia Pastorelli is Diana | Dario Argento's Dark Glasses | Horror Film Review

Elsewhere across Rome, a serial killer is targeting prostitutes, leaving only a handful of clues for the police to follow. Their murders are particularly cruel and gruesome with seemingly little motive.

When Diana finds herself targeted by the predator, she flees in her car only to get into a terrible accident. She wakes up in hospital and learns that she has lost her eyesight. Not only that but she has to come to terms with the tragic consequences of the accident.

As Diana fights to put the pieces of her life back together, she meets a young boy, Chin (Andrea Zhang), who also survived the accident. It doesn't take long for Diana to realise that the serial killer is still at large and he still has her within his sights. The only problem is that she can no longer see him coming and both her and Chin are in danger. With only her caseworker Rita (Asia Argento) to help her, will Diana and Chin survive the ordeal?

I liked Dark Glasses a lot. I loved cinematographer Matteo Cocco's use of colour and loved how the night scenes were drenched in shades of blue, red and yellow. He uses vanishing points and leading lines to draw the viewer in and to suffocate with claustrophobic terror. Watching this film was a visual feast.

Were it not for the gore, I'd class this as more than a thriller than a horror but I enjoyed it nonetheless. Arnaud Rebotini's haunting synthesiser score perfectly added to the tension and kept me right at the edge of my seat. I love it when films blend emotive music into the story, specially when it's done so effectively.

It's always a nice surprise when horror films have good actors. Ilenia Pastorelli did a great job as Diana, capturing the frustration, anger and grief that comes with losing something as important as eyesight. Her sarcasm and self-deprecation provided some welcome levity at times and her symbiotic relationship with Chin helped the plot along.

Likewise, it's always a good sign when horror films have a decent plot and Dark Glasses was okay. There were some Swiss cheese moments - for example when the killer changes his van colour but keeps it the same colour for the rest of the film - but overall, I liked the premise and the sneaky reveal at the end. Human nature is always going to be the best motive.

Ilenia Pastorelli is Diana and Asia Argento is Rita | Dario Argento's Dark Glasses | Horror Film Review
I give Dark Glasses an excellent four out of five stars. Fans of Dario Argento and giallo horror should like this one a lot.
★★★★☆

A Shudder Exclusive, Dark Glasses, premiers Thursday, October 13, 2022

Trailer: Dark Glasses (2022), dir. Dario Argento

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Monday, 3 October 2022

Horror Film Review: Deadstream ★★★★☆

I know, I know. It's not technically permitted to admit this in the horror community but I wasn't a fan of The Blair Witch Project. Somewhere between the extreme hype and lack of resolution, I was left feeling lukewarm. As a result, I tend to avoid found- or live-footage horror but Deadstream caught my eye and I decided to give it a chance.

Deadstream 2022 | Horror Film Review | Banner

The directorial debut of Joseph and Vanessa Winter, Deadstream is the story of reprehensible video stunt-blogger Shawn Ruddy (Joseph Winter) (possibly the illegitimate lovechild of PewDiePie and Logan Paul), who comes out of forced retirement to go it alone in one of America's most haunted houses. Not the most haunted, you understand, because that would take actual money, but close enough.

Armed with just a head-cam, selfie-cam and his enormous ego, Ruddy acts with increasing stupidity, throwing his spark plugs into the trees and padlocking himself inside the house before throwing the key down a drain.

What could possibly go wrong?

I desperately want to say that the most scary thing about Deadstream is Ruddy's stupidity but I'd absolutely be lying. Let's just agree that deciding to watch the film - in the dark - at 5am on a Sunday morning (thanks insomnia) wasn't my finest 87 minutes. When it wasn't making me jump out of my skin and sending my very grumpy cat scarpering out the room, Deadstream made me cringe and gag in utter revulsion. The special effects might have been cheap but the effects were extremely grim.

For a live-footage horror film, Deadstream is extremely well made. The visuals were great for supposedly taking place in a dark, abandoned house and the plot device of the live video stream was very well done. The comments on the live stream were brilliant and made me laugh out loud on more than one occasion (sorry, cat), especially the one about how Ruddy looked like he'd been in a boxing match with Logan Paul.

Joseph Winter portrays Ruddy to perfection. He's despicable and irredeemable, unlikeable to the max. His 'fans' clearly want Ruddy to die and he's here for that. It helps that Ruddy has such a large catalog of controversies behind him because that helps move the plot along nicely. Special mention also goes to Melanie Stone in her role as Chrissy. No spoilers but there's a point in the film when Chrissy's disposition changes and it was chilling.

I enjoyed Deadstream a lot, much more than I expected to. It was scary and grim enough with a healthy side-helping of humour.

Deadstream 2022 | Horror Film Review
I give Deadstream an excellent four out of five stars. It's the first work I've seen from either Joseph Winter or Vanessa Winter but I'll be interested to see what they do in future. Recommended to fans of found footage, supernatural and comedy horror.
★★★★☆

A Shudder Exclusive, Deadstream, premiers Thursday, October 6, 2022

Trailer: Deadstream (2022) dir. Joseph and Vanessa Winter

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Friday, 30 September 2022

'In the Vanishing Hour' by Sarah Beth Martin | Book Review ★★★★☆

The best parts of historical fiction are the ones that take us back to a certain time and a certain place. We get to learn more about what people wore, how they thought and what the atmosphere was like during that time. For me, historical fiction doesn't even need to be centred around major historical events, I'm just looking for glimpses into the past. When I picked up Sarah Beth Martin's In the Vanishing Hour, it was with this in mind - I was captivated by the idea of twin mysteries set in a small Massachusetts town in the early 1950s and 1970s.

In the Vanishing Hour by Sarah Beth Martin | book banner

Frances Adams is haunted by the death of her brother Mac in 1951. He was just a teenager when he drowned in the Charles River and Frances cannot escape the weight of his loss. When she gets a job as a window dresser in a department store, Frances meets model Gwen who invites her into a world of fashion, lights, fragrance and colour. It is a world where Frances can reinvent herself and become so much more than the sister of a dead brother.

When tragedy strikes again, Frances is drawn into a web of mysteries that will force her to confront not only her own past and that of her family, but also the secrets that Gwen sought to solve.

In the Vanishing Hour by Sarah Beth Martin | book coverWith hints of fern, teal and emerald in the book cover, In the Vanishing Hour is a whole mood. I loved being immersed in the heady days of late-50s fashions, propriety and women's aspirations to enter the workforce and be something more. This was contrasted with the yellow brown aesthetic of the early 70s, with a decidedly more laid-back vibe tinged with edges of regret.

Throughout the novel, Sarah Beth Martin digs deep into the impact of the events that haunt us, the mysteries that weigh us down and the impossible task of moving forward in a world that you never imagined for yourself.

I enjoyed In the Vanishing Hour both as a mystery and as a work of historical fiction. Mystery thrillers are no longer my bag, which is strange given that I read every Kellerman and Cornwell back in the day, but the mystery here was interesting and poignant enough to keep me interested with a lesser emphasis on danger and none of the gory details.

For a vivid and mysterious journey through time, I give In the Vanishing Hour an excellent four out of five stars.

★★★★☆

I received an electronic copy of this graphic novel from Book Sirens. I will always provide an honest review, whether books are provided to me or purchased by me

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Sunday, 11 September 2022

Arcade Fire at the O2, 8 September 2022

I can’t tell a lie: Thursday was strange. While we were eating our meal at Busaba, we saw the news that Queen Elizabeth II had passed away. What were we meant to do? What would happen now? It turns out that the band must play on and the Arcade Fire gig at the O2 would go ahead. It felt like a sad omen on an already blighted tour. Win Butler, the lead singer of Arcade Fire, has been the subject of extremely serious allegations of inappropriate behaviour and many were calling for the tour to be cancelled. It wasn’t. I made the decision to go for two reasons: to support Régine Chassagne and the rest of the band, and because Arcade Fire’s music is extremely important to me.

Arcade Fire at the O2, 8 September 2022

The evening started with the band on the second stage. They played a recording of Louis Armstrong’s “Just a Closer Walk with Thee” to commemorate the Queen’s passing. I thought it was a nice touch to acknowledge this and work with the heightened emotions in the crowd.

Arcade Fire at the O2, 8 September 2022

The band launched into "Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)" and "Neighborhood #2 (Laika)" before moving onto the main stage with "Age of Anxiety I". By this stage, I was a little worried. I'd enjoyed the first two tracks but my husband said there was something wrong with the acoustics. I had to agree with him with "Age of Anxiety I" - it didn't sound right at all. I couldn't put my finger on it but it lay somewhere between the bad sound typical of The O2 and Win's vocals.

Arcade Fire at the O2, 8 September 2022

I was ready to forgive all with "Ready to Start" (which was spectacular) and "Deep Blue" but then "Afterlife" came on and it was virtually unrecognisable. The timing was all wrong and I was hoping against hope that my favourite tracks wouldn’t be ruined. Luckily, my fears were not realised. “Reflektor” was up yet and Régine’s vocals were sublime, as always.

The absolute pinnacle of the show was when Régine and Win moved to the small stage again and performed “My Body is a Cage”. This was a particularly heartfelt performance, all the more powerful for the mess in which Win finds himself at present. It was a very poignant moment and one that will stay with me for a long time to come.

Arcade Fire at the O2, 8 September 2022

This was a turning point in the show and things ran much more smoothly after that. “Creature Comfort”, “Age of Anxiety II (Rabbit Hole)”, “The Lightning I” and “The Lightning II” were up next with Win begging the crowd not to quit on him.

Arcade Fire at the O2, 8 September 2022

The third greatest moment in the show (for me) was when the band played “Rebellion (Lies)” followed by “The Suburbs” and “The Suburbs (Continued)”. I genuinely feel I’d still be working at the worst job on earth if “Rebellion (Lies)” hadn’t become my anthem and given me the strength to walk out.

Arcade Fire at the O2, 8 September 2022

The band took the tempo down after that with “WE” and “Unconditional I (Lookout Kid)”.

Arcade Fire at the O2, 8 September 2022

And then it was time for the second greatest moment of the night for me as “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)” began playing. This song is the first Arcade Fire song my husband fell in love with and the reason he was there that night. Régine did not disappoint and we sang along to every single word. It was absolutely marvellous. “Everything Now” was up next in a seamless segue and the crowd went ballistic. It was a moment of huge release and catharsis leading to the encore where “End of the Empire I-III”, “End of the Empire IV (Sagittarius A*)”, a cover of Peter Gabriel’s “Solsbury Hill” and the ultimate Arcade Fire anthem “Wake Up” were played.

After a shaky start, the band had given an incredible performance and delivered a night to remember.

Would I go see Arcade Fire again? I guess it remains to be seen how Win deals with this situation. I’d be heartbroken if the band did break up and I couldn’t see them live again but I don’t think the statements to date have been enough. Given their focus on charity, this could easily be a campaign and narrative against sexual harassment.

Arcade Fire at the O2, 8 September 2022

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