If you wander into any High Street book store at the moment you’ll almost certainly stumble across Noah Hawley’s novel Before the Fall placed in prominent locations. Part of that is because Hawley has become something of a star name and hot property thanks to his day job as showrunner and lead writer of the successful Fargo and Legion television series. I confess it was his name on the cover that initially drew my interest too. However, I stayed because of the book’s concept – and pretty soon I ended up paying for a copy because I was by then hooked after reading the first chapter.
Before the Fall starts with a plane crash. A private jet chartered by TV news executive David Bateman to take him, his wife Maggie and their two young children along with family friends Ben and Sarah Kipling and bodyguard Gil Baruch back to New York City from their holiday home in Martha’s Vineyard ends up plummeting into the Atlantic. Of the eleven passengers and flight crew aboard, there are only two survivors: one of them is Scott Burroughs, a failed painter who shouldn’t even have been on the flight but who now finds his life transformed by the experiences he goes through. Read the rest of this entry »
Tired of the overwhelming number of superhero shows and films around at the moment? Then you probably groaned to see yet another one added to the list with the arrival of Legion, a Marvel Studios mini-series based on a minor character from the X-Men comics. But don’t come to any hasty conclusions: this is a superhero story unlike anything you’ve seen before; indeed, it’s unlike any other show, period.
The central character is David Haller, a psychiatric patient diagnosed with severe schizophrenia. Among other things he has hallucinations in which he is a powerful mutant with telepathic and telekinetic abilities, which is of course complete nonsense. But an encounter with a fellow patient leads to him leaving the hospital and being taken in by a group of similarly gifted people who teach David that his abilities are very real, and that his powers are needed if the mutants are to overcome persecution from the government’s sinister Division 3… Read the rest of this entry »
It was always pretty obvious to me that as far as 2014 was concerned, the television event of the year was going to be True Detective. Not only was it the sort of show that I loved, it was universally lauded by critics and viewers alike all of whom praised the performances of the two lead actors, Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson. The fact that the show didn’t quite live up to the hype when I finally watched it didn’t change the fact that it was undeniably landmark TV and without question the best thing on the screen all year. Certainly it wasn’t going to be knocked off that pedestal by the likes of Fargo.
I should state up front at this point that I am not a Coen brothers fan. It’s not that I dislike them at all, merely that their work has always seemed to have a somewhat exclusive quality – their films are for those people who ‘get it’, and I’ve simply never felt that I have had the keycode to gain entry to their clubhouse despite the fact that much of their work has been firmly positioned within the sort of suspense, thriller, noir or gangster genres that normally would attract me like a bee to nectar. Only very recently, as their films have opened up and become more mainstream and accessible, have I finally got into watching No Country For Old Men and True Grit which I generally rated although not without some reservations. Even so, I’ve never felt the inclination to go back to their earlier works and so I’ve still not seen films which I know are acknowledged classics like Miller’s Crossing, The Big Lebowski, The Man Who Wasn’t There or indeed even 1996’s Fargo.
No surprise then that I was utterly indifferent to the prospect of a miniseries follow-up to the latter when it aired on More 4. Nor was I remotely inclined to pick up the DVD boxset of the season when it was released. That is, not until December when I noticed it was on heavy discount at HMV; together with another burst of praise in the press for Martin Freeman’s role in it as hapless, henpecked insurance salesman Lester Nygaard and there was a moment of weakness where I thought “Aww, heck, why not get it, it’s hardly a risk at that price.” Even so, when I sat down to give the first episode a try just before Christmas I can’t say that I expected to stick with it for more than an episode or two before my expectations were sure to be confirmed and I would decide that it just wasn’t for me. Read the rest of this entry »