In praise of small cinemas and a review

Malvern Theatres entrance

[An old post, rescued from the Drafts folder.]

Last Friday I watched Iron Man 3 (verdict: meh) at my local multiplex. Comfy seats. Huge screen. Lots of choice. 3D.

This is not my preferred cinema, however, and not just because it’s expensive. Most weeks I go to the (much smaller) cinema at Malvern Theatres. Here’s why: Continue reading


Euro TV: Hinterland

The British appetite for Scandinavian noir obviously had TV producers looking around our fair isle to see where best to translate something like The Killing into a British setting. The answer was obvious: Wales, and not just Wales but deepest, windiest, craziest Wales. And so we have Hinterland or Y Gwyll if you prefer things in Welsh.

The first episode has all the necessary tropes: a grumpy detective transplanted from the city to remote Aberystwyth; a grisly murder; a creepy children’s home. Nothing remarkable really, but boy is it atmospheric, all Welsh bog and gloomy people. The truly remarkable thing is that the series was filmed twice, once in Welsh and once in English, the same actors delivering lines in both languages. The English language version ends up being bi-lingual anyway as befits this most Welsh corner of Wales.

Available on BBC and S4C in the UK and Netflix streaming in the US.

20th Century Boys

20thcenturyboys01This is the best comic book I have read for years. I hesitate to call it manga. It is manga but banish thoughts of Naruto from your mind. This is grown up stuff — compelling, scary, Eisner winning stuff. 20th Century Boys (a reference to the T.Rex song) tells the story of a group of childhood friends who as adults confront a mysterious and murderous cult-leader known only as “Friend” who himself seems to have some connection with their childhood memories. Who is “Friend” and what set him off on his murderous spree?

Told in three time-periods and covering 22 volumes, this is a manga comic to spend a month enjoying.

Best anime EVER in the history of the world EVER

We are a family of otakus. Every week, Shonen Jump (manga) gets downloaded to our tablets; I am currently reading Death Note (all 108 volumes); my daughter writes her own Sword Art Online stories; my son is in the Manga-Anime Club at school; my other son wishes he was Naruto; my wife has a Totoro purse; we have watched everything ever made by Hayao Miyazaki, including his 1978 TV series, Future Boy Conan; and we think that Ghibli’s Joe Hisaishi is the best film composer in the world.

However, I fully understand why anime doesn’t work for some. You either stop at Pokemon or roll your eyes at the Meido fetishes. Too many robots, too much whimsy . . . just too weird.


But you have to give Space Brothers a try. We are absolutely in love with this series. As I said to Rebecca today — and I really mean it — I would choose Space Brothers over GoT or Sherlock right now. Yes. It’s that good.

Funny, sweet, epic, Space Brothers tells the story of be-afroed, hapless genius Nanba Mutta, who wants to be an astronaut. Alas for Mutta’s self esteem, his brother Hibito beat him to it.

That’s all I am going to say. Watch at least the first episode and fall in love. We subscribe to Crunchyroll and stream over the Xbox. I am sure there are unofficial ways to get it too.

EuroTV: New Zealand edition

It seems many of you found The Fall. Not exactly the most cheery thing ever filmed. I hope you are also able to find The Returned/Les Revenants. It is the best thing I’ve seen on telly all year. Stylish French zombie fare par excellence. Luther is also back, so spool that up too, and cover yourself in Cockney bombast.

Recommended this time is Jane Campion’s Top of the Lake, a BBC/Sundance production set in New Zealand (so barely Euro!). You know Campion from The Piano, from which she brings Holly Hunter as one of the lead actors.

I’m only one episode in, so it’s a difficult show to properly describe. Imagine Twin Peaks crossed with The Killing but a little more subdued (at least compared with Lynch). A young pregnant girl goes missing in the remote community of Laketop and cop Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men) is brought in to investigate. Hunter plays a Log Lady-esque weirdo who last saw the girl. Etc.

The reviews have been good and Campion’s involvement as writer-producer-director ensures that Top of the Lake succeeds or fails based on her vision. This is no series-by-committee but ambitious long-form drama. So far, me likey.

Interestingly, Australian funding for the show was pulled when Moss’s involvement was revealed. It seems the Aussies don’t like Americans playing Antipodeans. I call it revenge for Russell Crowe making a career out of dodgy accents.

Available on Sundance Channel and BBC2.

EuroTV: The Fall and Les Revenants

This really is a golden age of television. At the push of a button or the click of a mouse I can watch the best TV the world has to offer, whether it is a new, complex American cable series (Game of Thrones — made in Europe but with American money), tight-and-light BBC-fare (Sherlock), and Scandinavian cool (The Killing).

Here at the Kulturblog I’m going to offer regular, brief highlights of new European shows that our American readers might find on Netflix or PBS or the torrents of bit.

Two shows this time, one British, the other French. Continue reading