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Playmakers (2003)


Cast: Omar Gooding, Russell Hornsby, Jason Matthew Smith

Original Broadcaster: ESPN

Awards: American Film Institute (2003), GLAAD

For fans of: Friday Night Lights, Sports Night, Oz

For a single brilliant season, ESPN channeled their intimate knowledge of the sports world into a dramatic series about football. Playmakers followed the fictional Cougars - part of an unnamed football league that was in-no-way-the-NFL-wink-wink - through a particularly tumultuous season.

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Review Round-up: Scruples, Sidekick, Outlaw Marshal

Sidekick latestAdeline Radloff's Sidekick (2010) is about, well, a sidekick. Katie Holmes (no, not that one - a joke that's just barely on acceptable side of annoying) is a teen adoptee, living with her foster mom and and Finn. Finn is Bruce Wayne. Mom is Alfred. Katie is Robin.

There's a little more complexity to it (there's a more Alfred-y Alfred, but he died somewhere in the past, for example), but that's the book in a nutshell. Finn, unlike Batman, has actual superpowers as well - he can fuss around with time, although there are various limitations and side effects that are introduced as the book goes on. Katie is remarkable because, besides Finn, she's the only person that isn't frozen solid when Finn does his time-travel mojo. Which means she can help Finn move stuff around, save lives, fight evil, remember to eat a sandwich, and, you know, be a sidekick.

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Slade House by David Mitchell

Slade HouseThrough a small, easy-to-miss door in the equally easy-to-miss Slade Alley, those who are invited, knowingly or unknowingly, can find the garden entrance to Slade House.

The house itself is large and imposing, perhaps past its prime, but always a surprise to find in the context of its surroundings. In fact, how does a house this big, with grounds this extensive, even fit in the apparently available space? Why is it impossible to find its front entrance? And why, on the last Saturday of October every nine years, is someone brought by circumstance to Slade House and never seen again?

I’ll confess that I’ve always found David Mitchell a difficult writer to get on with. Most of my past efforts to get through his books have foundered in the early stages, though for a variety of reasons, so it’s hard to make a definitive “I don’t like the way he writes X” statement. Slade House proved the exception, which it achieved largely by being pacy, intriguing, engaging and creepy in a way that draws in the reader - for the most part - pretty effectively.

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Review Round-up: Flamesong, Sledgehammer and The Gameshouse

Gameshouse - PK

Three recent reads - a vintage fantasy, a terrific new trilogy and a particularly heavy-handed crime thriller.

Claire North's Gameshouse trilogy (2015), with apologies, as I did my frothing fanboy thing on Twitter, but, these are simply brilliant. The trilogy is comprised of three novelettes (novellas? long shorts? maxistories? minibooks?), each with a different narrator, setting and - wonderfully - tense. All three feature players in the enigmatic Gameshouse - a location/organisation for those that gamble, and gamble to win. The outer room is for the games we all know and love. The inner room is for the real players, the ones that manipulate lives and nations. 

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Radio Drama: "The Thing from the Darkness" (1942)

Thing from the Darkness"The Thing from the Darkness"

Original air date: April 3, 1942, from the series Dark Fantasy.

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Thoughts Before Listening

I am excited to hear this because the words ‘thing’ and ‘darkness’ are very promising. Things in darkness are often menacing except maybe things like bananas but I am confident this will not be about a banana in the darkness because they didn’t fuck around in 1942, this is probably going to be about something with teeth that eats people. Also, Dark Fantasy is the name of a chocolate biscuit in India and it’s really gross but I will not allow that to ruin my listening experience.

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Stark Reviews: Westworld (1973)


Stark says: Boy have we got a vacation for you! Where nothing can possibly go worng!

Let’s see now, we’ve done cowboys and dinosaurs, cowboys and Joan Crawford, cowboys and foxes…. What’s missing? Oh yeah, COWBOYS vs ROBOTS, otherwise known as Westworld.

Now, because Hollywood can’t leave any damn thing alone ever,* Westworld is being currently being re-booted into a TV series, starring Anthony Hopkins and Evan Rachel Wood. I’ll keep my pistol in my holster until I’ve actually seen it, but in the meantime, let’s cast a beady eye over the original.

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Class (Cum Laude) by Cecily von Ziegasar

ClassClass (originally published as Cum Laude*, 2010) is an 'adult' book by Gossip Girl creator Cecily von Ziegesar. It is no secret that the Gossip Girl series of books is one of my all time favourites, so I was delighted to find this slightly odd and out-of-print one off from the author.

Generally speaking: eh.

There's a lot of interesting things about Class, but mostly they come from contrasting it to other books, and I'll get to them in a paragraph or so. Class qua Class is a fairly substandard entry into the canon of university literature. It features five freshmen at 'Dexter', a private liberal arts college that's your generic New England not-quite-Ivy (a joke they make early on) establishment: complete with gender-ambiguous professors, terrible university theatre, campus druggies and irksome townies. The five weeble and wobble their way through a tumultuous first year, complete with sex, drugs, art, fire and some half-hearted attempts at reinvention.

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Radio Drama: "The Shrunken Head" (1942)

The Shrunken Head"The Shrunken Head"

Original air date: June 13, 1942, from the series The Whistler

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Initial Thoughts

I am very excited to hear this because I feel like you can’t go too wrong with a title like ‘The Shrunken Head’ and if you do, that will probably be kind of spectacular also.

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Review Round-up: The Long Ride and After Midnight

The Long RideThe Long Ride (1961) is another corker from James McKimmey, who may be my personal favourite discovery of 2015. The story begins with a Midwestern bank robbery - one that goes horribly (bloodily) awry. The suitcase o' loot winds up in the hands of a complete bystander, a bitter young man. 

One thing leads to another, and our 'innocent',  an undercover FBI agent, and the bank robber all wind up sharing a car out to San Francisco. All, of course, under assumed identities and with (theoretically) no knowledge of the others. Also in the mix - and the car: four innocent (?) women, each with their own quests, motivations and suspicious backgrounds.

What follows is a road trip equal parts tense and comedic. Wells, the murderous bank robber, is a particularly chilling villain, a calculator of a man, with absolutely no regard for human life. By contrast, Allan is a hot mess, a small-time chiseler that's completely over his head. Sadly, John, the agent and our ostensible protagonist, is the dullest of the three men, and even the dash of romance inserted into his point of view chapters fails to liven him up. But his phlegmatic perspective gives the reader a relatively balanced view of the happenings, especially as Wells and Allan lose their respective grips on sanity.

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New Releases - Sam Wilson: Captain America

Sam_wilson_captain_americaDo you ever read something and immediately think “Well this is going to cause trouble”?

Sam Wilson: Captain America #1

Written by Nick Spencer
Art by Daniel Acuna
Published by Marvel Comics

The new Captain America lands in the ‘Eight months later’, post-Secret Wars Marvel Universe with something of a bang, and not only in the pages of the comic. We join our hero in an uncertain time: on the outs with SHIELD, working on a shoestring as a private operative in partnership with Misty Knight, and suffering public and media fallout from his decision to stand up. The cause? He's dared to stand up and say that, in essence, things are far from perfect in the US, inequality is rife, and that Captain America’s job is to stand for, and unite, all Americans, not just those with money or power. So you can imagine how well that goes over.

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