Good Omens mini-series review

Sooo, I’m an idiot and accidentally published the Stranger Things 3 review literally a day after my Spider-Man one so we got two reviews in a row. Well, it’s been a over a week since the last review so it’s once again time to dive into my totally-not-messed-up-at-this-point Month of Reviews and take a look at the Good Omens mini-series that debuted on Amazon Prime earlier this year. Based on the novel by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, the mini-series has been making waves due to its fun story, unique mythology and amazing dynamic between series leads David Tennant and Michael Sheen. As a huge fan of Gaiman’s work and as someone who wants to get into Pratchett, this series was a must watch for me. That plus the “Doctor Who effect*” was put into effect and I just had to check this out. Not only is Good Omens hilarious and unique, it’s also intelligent and ingeniously written in its perfectly paced six episodes.

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Skulduggery Pleasant: Bedlam review

It took me a bit longer to read through the latest Skulduggery Pleasant instalment, not the fault of the book itself but due to my exams. Now that they’ve been over and done with, I can finally discuss the brilliant twelfth instalment of the Skulduggery Pleasant saga. Oh boy, what a book this is. At nearly 600 pages this is an epic book and not a word is wasted. Derek Landy crams so much in this book it is quite an achievement. Without further ado, let’s dive into this beast-

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Skulduggery Pleasant: Kingdom of the Wicked- Why it’s the best book in the series

Last week saw the release of Skulduggery Pleasant: Bedlam, the twelfth book in the greatest fantasy series of all time. In 2017 I did a series of posts going through each Phase 1 Skulduggery Pleasant book and describing them all, and in Part Three I promised to go in-depth into my favourite book in the series, Kingdom of the Wicked, and look at why it’s my favourite. Well, today is the day I explain my reasoning, as the seventh book in the series is still the high point of the saga in my opinion. When I last talked about this book I went spoiler free, but now, the gloves are off. Let’s dive into this masterpiece spoilers and all.

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What I’m looking forward to in 2019

Another year done and dusted- and what a year it’s been for nerdom. A new Doctor arrived, Thanos killed half the universe (SPOILER ALERT for the three people who don’t know), the Skeleton Detective got political and del Toro won his Oscar. 2019 promises to be huge, so without further ado it’s time to reveal what I am looking forward this year in terms of films, television shows and books. We are returning to Hawkins, visiting our favourite drunk reality jumping cynical genius once again, travelling to a galaxy far far away and the most underrated comic book hero of all time is getting a new coat of red. 2019 is going to be huge.

Whilst the Doctor takes yet another hiatus for no reason other than the fact that the BBC cannot schedule their own programmes correctly let’s see what else the year has to offer.

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My ten favourite characters

In fiction, there are characters who speak to you, and characters who enthrall you. As a devourer of pop culture I have witnessed the stories of countless characters, and assembling a list of my favourites was hard. Do I include Tim Burton’s musically inclined skeleton Jack Skellington? The hilariously witty Ian Malcolm? The pop culture juggernaut Batman? The morally complex V? The smug wit and hilarity of Arnold Rimmer? After much deliberation, I have finally got a list together, encompassing some of my favourite films, TV shows and books. Let’s start with the greatest comedy character of all time-

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Skulduggery Pleasant: Midnight review

The latest book in the Skulduggery Pleasant series has been out for a while now, and after spending the past two weeks engrossed in the latest book involving Derek Landy’s Skeleton Detective, I am desperate for more. This book is once again a strong and captivating read that effortlessly continues the story established in the past ten books, whilst never feeling derivative. Midnight continues from the semi-cliffhanger of Resurrection, and sees a grown up Valkyrie and a more forlorn Skulduggery once again being forced to work together and fight the forces of darkness.

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How a Skulduggery Pleasant film can work

Next month sees the release of Skulduggery Pleasant: Midnight, and I’m naturally very excited. After a year away from my favourite book series, it’s great to return and see what new threats await Skulduggery and Valkyrie. I can also use this opportunity to think about the inevitable film adaptation. At the moment, there really isn’t a major book series that is on the screen, and Skulduggery Pleasant is a perfect series to bring to film. But how would I do it? Well, let’s assume that I control who is going to work on the film and dive straight in-

In terms of behind the scenes, there is one person who is absolutely vital, and that is Derek Landy himself. He once refused a film adaptation of the series because of the poor quality of the script (it had Skulduggery singing. Urgh) and it’s clear that he’ll be heavily involved in the next film attempt. Whilst I don’t think he’ll have time to write it, I think he should remain on as an executive producer- who are actually quite powerful in terms of making a film. He should hold a similar position to JK Rowling for the Harry Potter films and act as an adviser with final say over the production and casting. It is his series after all and I don’t want this to be another Rick Riordan situation where the author has no say in the books. We know what happened then.

This is Greek gods meet Harry Potter! HOW HARD IS THAT TO MESS UP!

Ok, so what studio should have the privilege to have Skulduggery Pleasant as a franchise? Not Disney, they have everything and if they end up with Skulduggery the stupid “Disney pay critics” rubbish will surface and I don’t want this franchise caught up in that. Warner Bros were the ones who tried before and I still think they could pull it off, and I’m not even considering Sony for the obvious fact that they are a terrible company. I don’t know the future of Fox but their poor handling of X-Men films outside of standalones such as Deadpool and Logan and the continued slow death of the Alien franchise makes me uncertain they could manage Skulduggery. Out of the ‘Big Six’, I can see Paramount doing alright with it and Universal could do a great job. They don’t have any major mess ups in terms of franchises (they’ve recovered from Dark Universe) and are doing fine with Jurassic Park. They would deserve Skulduggery Pleasant.

First things first: do not make the first film just to set up sequels. Make the first film good, get an audience, then pitch a sequel. The sequels exist but don’t greenlight the adaptations until the studio are sure they have a successful franchise. That’s the reason why so many franchises fail.

Right, so now we need a director. In my mind, only one director fits Skulduggery Pleasant perfectly, and it’s Guillermo del Toro.

Del Toro is my favourite filmmaker. His films are of the highest quality and always entertain me. Whilst the strength of Pan’s Labyrinth alone should justify why he should make any film, it’s his two Hellboy films that make me want to see his Skulduggery Pleasant. Hellboy is a similar premise done brilliantly, and del Toro is able to make the comic books part of his unique auteur stamp. Hellboy II has action sequences that are similar to scenes in Skulduggery Pleasant, and a franchise based on the fantastical and macabre would be well served under del Toro. I can imagine a darker, more horror based interpretation of the story. There would also be an emphasis on practical effects and stunts, things missing in Hollywood films. Having an award winning filmmaker helm the project would help the studio fund the film too, and hopefully not have too much meddling. Del Toro is also good with casts, and on that subject we turn to casting the principal players. Valkyrie will almost certainly be an open casting for an unknown actor, but Skulduggery Pleasant will probably be a big name who is well loved. Big name? Well loved? How about David Tennant?

One of my favourite Doctors playing one of my favourite characters. Tennant is just perfect for the part. I know he’s not Irish but he’s not English either and had a seamless accent on Doctor Who. I’m pretty sure he can do an accent for Skulduggery too. He can be dramatic, funny and awesome, and if you read any of Skulduggery’s lines in the Tenth Doctor’s manner then you will see why he is an ideal pick. Ideally Skulduggery should be brought to life by amazing motion capture technology. This technique has gone from being a rarity to being used in almost all major films, mostly very well.

Other casting choices I’d like to see happen in future films are John Barrowman, Nathan Fillion or David Harbour as Sanguine, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as Scapegrace and Thrasher, Benedict Cumberbatch as Erskine Ravel, Idris Elba as Ghastley Bespoke, Stephen Fry as Kenspeckle Grouse and Derek Landy himself as Gordon Edgely. The music should be done by Danny Elfman or Marco Beltrami.

I don’t really have any ideas about the rest of the characters, although they should all be Irish or British, unless they are specifically stated to not be (such as Sanguine and Scarab). The cast will probably not be too expensive as the studio will not risk a big budget flop. Have a modest budget as the first book is a mystery with action in so it doesn’t need to be too expensive or full of explosions and CGI.  Release it in September or February, two months that have had proven success in recent times (Deadpool, LEGO Batman, Get Out, It and Black Panther) and also away from competition and the living hell that is non-Marvel blockbusters and the pain of Oscar season. Market it well and use the star power of the behind the scenes crew and- bam! A solid opening weekend, positive word of mouth and loyalty to the book series making both fans and casual audiences happy causes a strong box office. Guillermo del Toro continues to rule Hollywood, David Tennant becomes a major film star and Derek Landy’s books gain a whole new audience. Universal now have a franchise.

Of course, that’s probably not going to happen. Regardless, I think this is the best possible way for a Skulduggery Pleasant film franchise. Derek Landy has stated a film won’t happen until he is fully satisfied with what Hollywood is offering him, so until he is I’m happy with the books. I would love to see this amazing series on the big screen, but I don’t want it being bad either. Of course, a film isn’t the only option- a Sherlock style TV show would work, as would a show on streaming. Whatever happens, I will be there supporting it.

Skulduggery Pleasant: Resurrection review

Yeah, I was gonna review this the week it came out but… stuff happened. Annoying GCSE sized stuff. Well, now I have the time, let’s dive into the latest entry of the awesome Skulduggery Pleasant series. A warning that there will be spoilers, but seeing how you’ve probably all read it by now it doesn’t matter. In short, read the book. But you know that already.

The book takes place five years after The Dying of the Light. Roarhaven has become a giant, fully functioning society and Skulduggery is still solving mysteries and crime. Valkyrie has gone into hiding to make up for her actions as Darquesse and everything seems to be fine. Until a group of fanatics led by a mysterious masked figure called Lethe appear and form an “anti-Sanctuary” to rise up against the mortals, who they see as inferior. This forces Skuldggery and Valkyrie back together.

There are many new elements and characters in this book. The most important new character is Omen Darkly, a schoolboy who is not the Chosen One. The Chosen One is his brother (I love this aspect of Derek Landy’s writing. He’s constantly subverting cliches.) Omen is just a normal kid who happens to be the exact person Skulduggery and Valkyrie need for their investigations. He’s a great character and serves as a strong new protagonist, although the focus is of course on the two main characters.

Skulduggery is one of my all time favourite characters, and I am happy to report that Resurrection is a great showing for him. He’s still just as snarky and deadpan as ever, but his experiences over the past books have made him more moral and grounded. A very shocking event happens in the book, when Skulduggery is turned evil by one of the protagonists. In any other series this would have been very brief, but Skulduggery is working for the villains for quite a while. It’s nail bitingly tense whenever he meets Valkyrie, as you’re never too sure whether he’s still evil or turned good. The nature of his character means you cannot tell. Funnily enough I read this the same week Doctor Who aired The Lie of the Land, where the Doctor had also (supposedly) turned evil. Imagine my disappointment when he hadn’t. Obviously Skulduggery is back to normal by the end but the brilliant thing about him is that he’s never been a true hero, so his turning in this book raises questions of his Lord Vile days.

Another positive of this book is how the world has changed. Every character has changed- Valkyrie is no longer a teenage girl, she’s a young woman who still gets visions of Darquesse. China Sorrows is now the Supreme Mage and Tanith is nowhere to be seen. The entire universe of Skulduggery has shifted dramatically, and the tone of the book has too. It’s still funny and action packed, but it’s darker, more character based and more introspective. It’s easily the darkest book of the series but it’s still distinctly the same series that gave us “The sparrow flies south for winter”.

My favourite part of the book is how the other characters have to work around Skulduggery’s new alliance with the villains. The stakes are raised considerably and the book alternates between the heroes desperately trying to figure out how to stop the anti-Sanctuary and Skulduggery working with the villains to resurrect Abyssina, a powerful sorcerer who they believe will lead sorcerers to supremacy over humans. The story is epic and spans many characters. There’s even a subplot dedicated to the American President, who just so happens to be an egotistical billionaire who believes himself to be superior to everyone else. I don’t think I need to comment any further.

The ending of the book is open ended and leaves many unanswered questions, which I assume will be answered in future books. I would be reading them anyway, but leaving the book on a mild cliffhanger means that the consequences of this book will be far reaching. This is a staple of the series, and it’s why I believe a Sherlock-esque TV show of three movie length episodes per series will be the best way to adapt Skulduggery Pleasant, as the episodic format of each book is clear. This book was one of my most anticipated pop culture events of the year, and it did not disappoint. If you’re a fan, you’ve read it already. If you haven’t, start from the beginning and immerse yourself in the brilliant world of Skulduggery Pleasant.

 

 

 

The Harry Potter question: Can too much of a franchise be bad?

Hey there fellow Britishfolk (or is it Britons?) Did you know it’s 20 years since the first Harry Potter book was published?

If you didn’t, I don’t know how you’ve managed to avoid every bookshop in the country showing massive signs with another brand new version of Philosopher’s Stone and the signs saying something like “20 years of Harry Potter!”

Now, on the surface this isn’t too bad. It’s a famous franchise which is celebrating a milestone. Here in Hampshire there’s a lot of promotion about it 200 years since Jane Austen died in Winchester. Star Wars recently celebrated 40 years this May and Doctor Who and James Bond had their half century celebrations in 2013 and 2012. So, why I am singling out Harry Potter, which keep in mind I do like a lot?

Why? Because we literally went through this “Pottermania” last year. Thanks to The Cursed Child and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, 2016 saw a massive Potter resurgence (well, bigger than usual. Pottermania never really dies in Britain). So, we’re doing it again this year? I know it’s 20 years and that’s worth celebrating, but wouldn’t this year be a better year to release the script/play/book/whatever Cursed Child is and also release the first in what Warner Brothers are saying will be the first of five (FIVE!?) movies only tangentially linked with Harry Potter? Ah, but then we wouldn’t get two years worth of merchandising. How much merchandising is there? Well, not only can you buy the original Fantastic Beasts book (which isn’t actually a story), you can also buy the movie, the screenplay of the movie and the reprinted version of the original book.

Voldemort has just learnt his three year old edition of Philosopher’s Stone is now outdated and he has to buy another one.

It would be hypocritical of me to complain about new editions of Harry Potter without acknowledging that yes, there have been new editions of Skulduggery Pleasant released this year due to the release of Resurrection (which was awesome). My editions are mostly second edition. However, compare the amount of editions Skulduggery Pleasant has to the amount of editions Harry Potter has. Obviously Harry Potter is a much bigger franchise and is older, but there isn’t a picture book version of the first two Skulduggery books is there? Or a play made for money which was published as a book for further money which was released nine years after the story ended? Resurrection was released three years after The Dying of the Light with Derek Landy stating he had clear plans for Phase Two, which makes sense if you’ve read the books. I don’t think JK Rowling had plans for a Harry Potter Phase Two, hence why the “untold eighth story” came nine years after Deathly Hallows was published in the same year a spin off movie was released. Do you know why I don’t think she had plans for a Phase Two? Because Harry Potter is about a boy wizard who goes to school and stays there for seven years whilst stopping the rise of Voldemort. Seven years, seven books. You make another book not about Harry Potter at school or stopping Voldemort, I’m sorry, it’s not Harry Potter.

Incidentally, I’d like to know if there’s any Skulduggerymania in Ireland the same way there’s Pottermania here. You know, giant banners and a section of a bookshop dedicated to nothing but it?

I understand a multi billion pound franchise needs merchandise. Trust me, I think the same thing about some of the Star Wars merchandise as I do Harry Potter merchandise. But even then, George Lucas always had a nine movie plan, hence the new trilogy. Trust me, I will start saying what I’m saying here about Star Wars if there’s movies made after Episode 9. Are Rogue One and the upcoming Anthology movies ways to make more money of a recognisable franchise? Yes, they are. However, Rogue One bridged the gap between Episode III and IV, adding to both movies and was clearly linked to Star Wars by having the plot be about how the Rebel Alliance got the plans to the Death Star. In short, it’s made to make the other films better.

Fantastic Beasts is set a hundred years before the events of Harry Potter and has characters not even mentioned in the movies with a plot that has nothing to do with the movies. It’s like if Disney made a movie about Qui-Gon Jinn’s aunt and her adventures fighting a wampa, who hasn’t got anything to do with Star Wars. Guess what? Neither does Newt Scamander to Harry Potter. I know the movies will link with the Harry Potter movies eventually, but do we need FIVE movies to do it? Again, if Disney make five movies about Qui-Gon’s aunt, I’ll start saying the same things I’m saying here.

Whaddya mean there’s FOUR more on the way!?

I honestly feel like the franchise is being milked. It’s been six years since the last movie and ten since the last book. Suddenly there’s a mass resurgence of merchandise and new material after it’s stopped being relevant. Again, Star Wars was planned as nine movies and designed as an anthology series, and Skulduggery Pleasant only ended three years ago, meaning the new book this year just felt like a delayed sequel. Other great franchises such as Doctor Who, James Bond and comic book universes can constantly get renewed and changed. Harry Potter is one franchise with one story. I don’t care about what happens before or after- Harry Potter is about Harry Potter.

I just feel like enough is enough. I love the books, I love the movies. I didn’t grow up with them since 1997 for obvious reasons that I wasn’t born but they’ve been a constant part of my childhood since around 2006 and I have fond memories of them. I’m just getting annoyed at the constant new material and attempts to make more out of seven books and eight movies. I mean, JK Rowling’s richer than the Queen, I don’t think she needs more money and I feel like she’s stuck on what made her famous. If this doesn’t stop, Harry Potter will just become another franchise people will grow tired of. I’m getting tired of it, and I’m British, so if I say I’m tired of Harry Potter I’ll be exiled. Indeed, it’s the law to have at least one copy of a Harry Potter book in every house in Britain, next to the tea set and the complete Monty Python, as decreed by Benedict Cumberbatch.

Only joking about all that, our laws aren’t that dumb.

It has to be at least two copies.

The Skulduggery Pleasant Guide: Part 3

It’s finally time to finish off the guide to my all time favourite book series before the Resurrection on the first of June. The final three books of the series are the longest and most complex in the series, but they never forget to be fun, witty and all kinds of awesome. Let’s start off with my favourite book in the series-

  • Kingdom of the Wicked

This is it. I’ve teased about my favourite Skulduggery Pleasant for a while but now I can finally discuss this epic story in as much detail as I can without spoiling much. First of all- that title. Secondly- that cover (actually all the covers are epic). This is the longest book in the series but it’s also the most fast paced and plot heavy. The mere premise of the book just grips you, and the opening prologue (it’s so epic it deserves a prologue) will raise so many questions that you will want answered immediately. I’m not going to reveal the plot as going into too much detail will ruin it, but the characters are fantastic, with an amazing “villain”(he doesn’t really count as one in my eyes), brilliant action sequences (remember how I said Death Bringer’s ending was nuts? This ending is even more nuts), and a captivating plot with twist after twist after twist. Try reading that final chapter and not want to read the next book straight away. I really wish one day to truly delve into this awesome book spoilers and all, but for now, I’ll just say it’s the definitive Skulduggery book in my eyes.

  • Last Stand of Dead Men

I’m using the hardback cover image for this one as it’s the one I have, but both the original covers and reprinted covers I’ve been using for the rest of them are brilliant. War has come to the world of Skulduggery Pleasant, and things get really big really quickly. Whilst this book is the one that strays the most from the detective premise of the series (it’s essentially Sherlock Series 4 in that regard) it is still an incredible read, with a realistic depiction of war (I won’t spoil the details but the seeds are sown from Dark Days), powerful character moments and, as expected by this point, a massive, massive revelation which changes everything, and I do mean everything. This is probably the most serious book, and it does get very dark at points, but it’s never too dark. The ending of the book is a direct lead in to the next. Which brings me to…

  • The Dying of the Light

The ninth, and until June 1st the final book in the series, this book takes aspects and elements of every single book and combines them into one glorious whole. It’s hard to reveal much without spoilers, but this book is truly epic, capturing everything great about the series. It’s the first book since Death Bringer to be laugh out loud hilarious and the action scenes are as usual fantastic. After nine books, the characters had grown and changed and reading what seemed like the permanent end to the series was just mesmerising. Everything the series is great at is here: characters, action, humour and a great Doctor Who reference near the end. All in all, a fantastic end.

Except it’s not. As we all learnt, Skulduggery Pleasant: Resurrection is coming out on the 1st of June this year, hence these posts. I don’t think I need to explain how excited I am for this book, and along with Doctor Who Series 10, The Last Jedi and Thor: Ragnarok it is one of my most anticipated nerd events happening this year. I did also really like Derek Landy’s other series, Demon Road, and his awesome Tenth Doctor short story, and I hope he writes a full Doctor Who story some day, whether it’s on TV or a book.

Now for the big question: do I want a film? If done right, of course. It all depends on getting the right people (David Tennant as Skulduggery and Guillermo del Toro directing for me) and making sure Derek Landy has as much creative involvement as possible. Honestly, I feel like if an adaptation has to be done, then go for the Sherlock approach- three 90 minute movies for three weeks on TV, with each trilogy forming a season. It would be less bloated than a full blown film franchise and honestly the best way I’d want to experience Skulduggery Pleasant outside of the books. But until the inevitable adaptation comes, we’ve always got the books.