Movie Review – Ghost Stories

Ghost Stories (2017)
Written & Directed by Jeremy Dyson & Andy Nyman

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Professor Phillip Goodman has made a career out of being a skeptic of all things supernatural and mystic. When we catch up with him, he’s exposing a medium that preys on grieving parents. Out of nowhere, Goodman is contacted by presumed dead paranormal investigator Charles Cameron, an inspiration to Goodman. Cameron claims that he had a crisis of faith and discovered three cases that he could find no rational explanation for. Goodman takes these three cases with the intent of doing his investigation and proving them hoaxes. However, as the good professor explores each incident and speaks to the people who witnessed each one he finds strange coincidences that hint at something more sinister behind these events.

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Revisiting Utopia – Series 1, Episode 5

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Utopia Series 1, Episode 5 (2013)
Written by Dennis Kelly
Directed by Marc Munden

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An easy unofficial title for this one: “Deals.” And this is a title that works on multiple levels. The easiest is that much of this episode addresses the fictional Deal’s disease that has been spoken about during the series. Becky’s father died from it, and now she fears she inherited it from him. Each character is also making deals with people they probably shouldn’t but are forced to as an act of survival. As we push into the finale, we see alliances crumbling, new ones forming, and everyone being pushed further to the brink.

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Revisiting Utopia – Series 1, Episode 4

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Utopia – Series 1, Episode 4 (2013)
Written by Dennis Kelly
Directed by Marc Munden

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As I have come up with unofficial titles to these episodes so far, I feel compelled to do so with this one. It’s a toughie to pinpoint the exact theme on this chapter, but I think I would go with “We Become What We Hate,” as the episode features many characters crossing that line and playing The Network’s game. People become killers, they engage in manipulation, and they find themselves struggling to survive. Relationships definitely begin to fray, and we see that our group on the run may not be able to hold together for much longer.

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Revisiting Utopia – Series 1, Episode 3

Utopia – Series 1, Episode 3 (2013)
Written by Dennis Kelly
Directed by Marc Munden

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The unofficial title for this episode? “Loss of Innocence,” as the episode opens and ends on children directly in the line of brutal cold violence. In fact, the opening scene of this episode received over 50 complaints and was aired just a month or so after the shootings in Sandy Hook, Connecticut. I would never argue that this start is meant to be light or easy to get through. The creators most definitely intended to unsettle the audience. And this is a weird wrinkle I have noticed in audience’s perceptions of media as of late. If the film or television show or other form presents an uncomfortable or unsettling situation, then it is immediately perceived as if the creator is explicitly endorsing a destructive action. This mindset is highly corrosive to understanding and appreciating art. The creator is not always reflected in the creation, most of the time not at all. If anything, the cold open of Episode 3 is the creator making an undeniable statement about the horrors of such events, particularly when we look at the turn for Arby in this scene, when he stumbles upon the child cowering in the gym.

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Revisiting Utopia – Season 1, Episode 2

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Utopia Series 1, Episode 2 (2013)
Written by Dennis Kelly
Directed by Marc Munden

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Episode Two comes out of the gate ready to lay the first real building blocks of the series mythos. We are introduced to The Network, a Cold War-era response by the West to Soviet Bloc countries building up arsenals of chemical weapons. The obvious question after learning about their existence would be, why are they still around then? That answer is not laid out in any sort of clear way this chapter, but their new agenda is hinted at. Outside of the core “gang on the run” cast, we have the background story of the Ministry of Health’s purchase of Russian flu vaccine coming under scrutiny and then a very convenient outbreak in the Shetland Islands. This helps flip the script on the government incompetence story and turn the Ministry into forward-thinking heroes.

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Revisiting Utopia – Season 1, Episode 1

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Utopia Series 1, Episode 1 (2013)
Written by Dennis Kelly
Directed by Marc Munden

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The first time I watched Utopia I knew I was going to have to binge watch the whole thing. It is rare that a television series in this polished, this sure of itself, and this damn good. Utopia gets dark, incredibly dark and it lets you know that from its opening scene (more on that in a minute). And it is a profoundly relevant show still five years out, talking about big ideas that are continuing to cast doubt on the future of humanity. Instead of framing this concept huge from the outset, the creators keep things small and intimate. The characters are where the story of Utopia starts and stays throughout its all too short run. And when you get to the end, you won’t forget those characters.

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TV Review – The League of Gentlemen Series 3

The League of Gentlemen Series 3 (2002)
Written by Mark Gatiss, Steve Pemberton, Reece Shearsmith & Jeremy Dyson
Directed by Steve Bendelack

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With two series under their belt, the League of Gentlemen desired to inject freshness into their show. They accomplished this by upending the format of the first twelve episodes and making series 3 a succession of spotlights. This allowed for a greater depth of character development, something they were already good at but hindered due to the need to fit so many character bits and sketches into single entries. The more significant challenge was how to choose from such a broad catalog of creations that the group had created over the years. The chosen few were Pauline, Lance, Geoff Tipps, Alvin, Stella & Charlie, and a mysterious new character.

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