Gunpowder, Treason and Plot: Reviews and other seasonal stuff

So yesterday was Bonfire Night in the UK - where we all celebrate the failure of a Catholic plot against a Stuart King, by lighting bonfires and setting off fireworks. Hurray for Catholic persecution? It's a bit of an odd holiday to celebrate as someone who was raised Catholic, but what can you do. Anyway, this year we went down to what is locally called 'the old shore' five minutes down the road, where they had a firework display, a big bonfire on the scrubby bit of beach, and hot food served outside the pub. Apart from the fact that we got there an hour too early by accident and had to stand there freezing for a while, it was good fun.

I love Autumn, and the 5th of November is one of my favourite holidays (it's low key and no hassle). But one of the other perks of the season is (usually) good TV. I've not been too impressed so far this year (especially now Bake-Off's finished!) but I've watched a few interesting things, plus been the cinema a couple of times and - having started work full-time as a library assistant -  I've been devouring some good books and DVDs which are now, handily, at my fingertips. So here, have some reviews.

What I'm Watching:

Gunpower (BBC)

What is it? Three part BBC series starring Kit Harrington as Robert Catesby, the mastermind behind the Gunpowder plot.
Why I watched it: Period drama starring Kit Harrington? Where he's playing his own distant relative? The Gunpowder plot hasn't been dramatised too often before (although Jimmy McGovern did a version in the early 2000's with Michael Fassbender as Guy Fawkes) and it looked exciting. Also the screenwriter was a Northern Irish Catholic so I'd thought that'd be interesting, assuming he'd be taking the story more from the Catholic perspective.
What I thought: To be honest, it was a bit slow, and the end was understandably a bit of an anti-climax as we all know how it ends. But the cast was good and the horrific torture scenes (I knew people got publicly crushed/hung, drawn and quartered back in the day, but I'd never really pictured what it'd look like...) were at least a talking point. 

Black Mirror (Netflix)

What is it? Charlie Brooker's dark Channel 4/Netflix series about how technology - or human misuse of it - is going to mess us all up.
Why I watched it: The new series is coming soon and I've been steadily making my way through the first three seasons for ages now. I'm watching in a random order - because they're individual stories, so you can - and I finally saw San Junipero, White Bear and the one about the bees, which are the main episodes people seem to rave about.
What I thought: With both White Bear and San Junipero I was underwhelmed at first but it's only when you get to the conclusion you realise how clever they are. Although, I didn't think the former was as 'happy' as people make out - happy for Black Mirror, yeah, but I still found it un-nerving and kind of dark in it's own way. I loved the Bees episode. 

Murder on the Orient Express (Cinema)

What is it? A new adaptation of the classic Agatha Christie mystery, directed by Kenneth Brannagh and also starring him as Poirot. The all-star cast also includes Judy Dench, Daisy Ridley, Josh Gad, Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz - I can't be bothered thinking of the others.
Why I watched it: Well it was the only decent thing on and the trailer made it look pretty good.
What I thought: It held my interest (which is high praise from me, as I zone out in a lot of detective stuff) the cast were great and it all looked very beautiful. Made me want to go to Istambul, Russia, the middle-east...also the clothes were lovely. But I thought the end was a bit of a cop out personally.

Across the Universe (DVD)

What is it? A jukebox musical based around the songs of the Beatles, starring Jim Sturgess as a lad from Liverpool who travels to America to find his father and instead finds romance with Evan Rachel Wood.
Why I watched it: Until recently I worked in a Beatles themed cafe and so although I'd fancied watching this film for a while, I couldn't face more Beatles in my leisure time. But I love Jukebox musicals and I spotted this in the library so thought I was ready to give it a try.
What I thought: Sadly, it wasn't my thing in the end. The leads were great, Jim Sturgess's Scouse accent is probably one of he best attempts I've come across, and the songs were all done well. And they have got so many great songs. Taken as individual scenes they're good, but the film as a whole was a total mess. It was much too long and descended into a weird acid trip with no plot about half-way in. The Beatles probably would have liked it though.

The Princess Bride (Cinema)

What is it? An eighties classic, kind of a tongue in cheek fairy-tale adventure film starring Carey Elwes and Robin Wright.
Why I watched it: I've never seen it and as its celebrating it's 30th anniversary and was showing at the cinema to commemorate that fact, I thought I better go. I went with my friend whose a big fan.
What I thought: I liked it, and I can see it's so well loved although it's so random. I don't think it'll become a favourite, but it was funny. I couldn't deal with the princess though - that bit where Westley was getting attacked by the giant rat thing, and she just stood there, even when he was reaching for his sword and she could have kicked it towards him or something. Just DO SOMETHING!

What I'm reading:

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

I just finished this classic Cinderella re-telling for the first time, and I really enjoyed it. Kind of sad I missed out on it when I was younger. (See my review of the book vs the film here). 

Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne-Jones

I loved DianaWynne-Jones's Chrestomanci books when I was younger, but somehow Howl and co. passed me by. I spotted this while shelving and remembered vaguely that it was a film too so thought I'd try it. It pulled me right out a reading slump - although it was so random that half the time I didn't have a clue what was going on. It wasn't as good as her Chrestomanci books, but definitely good enough to merit watching the film. I loved the characters and the idea of an having an old woman (despite one who is actually a young girl under an enchantment) as the heroine. 

Atonement by Ian McEwan

Another library find - but I'm not getting on so well with it. I don't normally read 'literary' fiction and now I know why. I know the story underneath is good (because I've seen the film) and the book has already got me interested in the characters and what's going to happen to them.  But does every single thing that happens have to to be surrounded by a big cloud of waffle? I'm on page sixty and all that's happened so far is the brother and his friend have come home, the cousins have rehearsed a play and Cecelia jumped in a fountain in her underwear. I read for half an hour on my lunch break on Friday, and all that happened was the mother lay on her bed with a migraine. My idea of good writing is when people get to the point quickly, and I don't spend half the time wanting to slap the author around the face shouting 'I DON'T CARE HOW THE FLOWERS ARE ARRANGED, TELL ME WHAT HAPPENS NEXT!!!'

(SPOILERS in trailer - as always!)

How was your Bonfire Night? Been watching/reading anything good lately?


  1. I've never heard of Bonfire Day but lighting a big fire with friends and fam sounds like fun. :D

    I did see the Murder on the Orient Express and enjoyed it for the same reasons you did. Not sure how I felt about the ending still. I haven't read the original book, so I'm not certain what I was supposed to expect. In a way, I found the ending a cop-out as well, but then I supposed they were trying to find a "shocker" ending which is difficult for mysteries since after you've seen a few shockers, you just don't get fooled anymore.

    Ella Enchanted is such a sweet book! And I'm reading Howl's Moving Castle too. Or, was. I am still reading it, just haven't been reading lately.

    1. Yeah at least I never would have guessed the ending of Murder on the Orient Express, haha. Howl's Moving Castle was quite a weird read I thought - I liked it a lot but still deciding whether I'll bother with the sequels!


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