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Having told two stories set in the fictional town of Kingsbridge, Ken Follett returns with the third installment in his saga, A Column of Fire. Set during the reigns of the monarchs Mary Tudor, Elizabeth I, and James I, it chronicles the intertwined fates of several men and women, most of whom have some connection to Kingsbridge. …


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When I was growing up, we had a VHS tape that had two Disney films back-to-back recorded on it, The Sword in the Stone and Robin Hood, and these were two of my absolute favourite things to watch. Every time that we popped the tape into the VCR, I’d find myself caught up in the whimsy and humour that is such a hallmark of these two films in particular. …


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The action continues to escalate in the second episode of the second season of His Dark Materials, with Lyra and Will journeying into Will’s Oxford to seek out a person who will help Lyra come to a more advanced understanding of Dust and what, exactly, it is. That person turns out to be Mary Malone, a physicist working on the nature of dark matter. Meanwhile, Marisa Coulter manipulates Father MacPhail into declaring all-out war against the witches, as well as claiming the position of cardinal, in the process managing to deepen her control over him.

One of this series’ most prominent and reliable strengths has been the cast, and Simone Kirby is perfect as Mary Malone. With her lilting Irish accent and her earnest demeanor, there’s something endearing about her portrayal. One can well imagine her having been a nun at one point in her life, and she has that unmistakable passion for knowledge that will be key to her development as a character as she finds herself drawn further and further into her pursuit of knowledge. …


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The author’s debut novel is a brilliant and dazzling tale of conflicts among love, history, and class.

We seem to be living in something of a golden age of fantasy literature. While there are still plenty of traditional epics out there, with all of their European trappings, we’ve also seen a burgeoning of epic fantasies that draw on other histories and mythologies, which is where City of Brass, the debut novel by S.A. Chakraborty comes in.

Based largely on Middle Eastern mythologies, The City of Brass focuses on two characters, Nahri, a (seemingly human) con artist who has the ability to both heal herself and Ali, the son of the King Ghassan. When Nahri inadvertently summons a djinn, she finds herself swept along in an adventure that she never wanted. When she at last arrives at the fabled city of Daevabad, she also finds herself immersed in the complicated and dangerous world of court politics, where one wrong move could spell her doom. …


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Critics’ dislike of the film stems, largely, from both backlash to the book and their own lofty expectations.

It’s no secret that I hated the book Hillbilly Elegy. It wasn’t that I disagreed with some of Vance’s conclusions, because I too have come to believe that some (but not all) of the problems afflicting Appalachia are the result of a culture of stubbornness and refusal to change even in one’s best interest. No, in large part I hated it because Vance fancied himself a political commentator and so mistakenly took his own life story and used it to forward all sorts of bogus claims about the nature of poverty in America.

Given how much praise was lavished on the book by the intelligentsia, it was probably inevitable that the film would fail to live up to most people’s expectations. As of this writing, it’s currently sitting at a 25% on Rotten Tomatoes, though it’s worth pointing out that the audience score is a significantly higher 81%. However, I have to wonder whether the backlash to the film is in some ways a corrective to the fawning and lavish praise that the book received when it came out in 2016, when I was widely hailed as some sort of mystical and revelatory Rosetta Stone that could provide coastal elites and intellectuals some means of understanding what had just happened in the stunner of an election. Never mind that the book did none of those things; it was enough that many outlets, from The Atlantic to The New York Times, elevated it to a status usually reserved for blinding epiphanies in the desert. …


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Having endured quite a lot in the first few episodes of the season, Mando takes his thoroughly damaged ship to Nevarro, where he reunites with his old friends and comrades-in-arms Greef Karga and Cara Dune, who convince him to help them rid the planet of an old Imperial base. In the course of their adventure, it becomes clear that there’s been far more going on on this planet than at first met the eye. In fact, the Imperial base isn’t just a location for weapons; it’s also been host to some sort of genetic experiment, though it remains unclear exactly what’s been going on. …


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How Freud’s controversial concept of the death drive helps to explain Americans’ headlong rush into a pandemic disaster.

About 3 years ago, I wrote a piece here on Medium in which I argued that Donald Trump was, among other things, an expression of many Americans’ death drive, a desire to destroy and to be destroyed. …


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At last we come to what is one of my favourite episodes of this season of The Crown, in which a young man, Michael Fagan, manages to break into Buckingham Palace and, having found his way to the Queen’s bedroom, actually has a conversation with her in which he points out all of the ways in which the country has fallen apart and betrayed people like him.

As I’ve noted before, one of the brilliant things about this season of the series is the way in which it deftly, and often incisively, juxtaposes the life of “ordinary” people with those of the Royal Family. Fagan lives in a rather derelict apartment building, and he wanders through the rather bleak and depressing landscape of 1980s Britain: long lines at the assistance office; grim, brutal architecture; and, of course, an MP who looks at him with thinly-veiled disgust, disdain, and contempt. Most revealingly, said MP says that his boss is Margaret Thatcher, and not the people who put him into office. …


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The queer, holiday-themed farce has a few problems but also provides lots of laughs.

Up until recently, there were relatively few queer holiday films. This isn’t really a surprise, considering how relentless the holidays — particularly Thanksgiving and Christmas — have been heterosexualized by popular culture (looking at you, Hallmark). And, given how frequently queer people have been specifically excluded from the collective idea of the family, it’s no surprise that film studios haven’t rushed to produce queer holiday-themed films.

Fortunately, there are films like Lez Bomb which, despite some problems with its writing and some representational problems, is a fun watch just in time for the holidays.

The film is, at bottom, a farce in the best sense of the term. Lauren is gay, but she hasn’t yet come out to her family. However, she plans to do so by inviting her girlfriend Hailey to the family Thanksgiving. Thanks go awry very quickly when her roommate Austin shows up announced, her family thinks they’re together, and she has to contend with both her coming out and the various hijinks that her family (including her grandparents, played by screen greats Cloris Leachman and Bruce Dern) gets into on this very special holiday. …


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In keeping with the general tenor of this season, the fourth episode of season four of The Crown continues to explore the connections between the personal and the political, as well as slyly winking at Colman’s brilliant performance as yet another troubled monarch, Queen Anne, in the scathingly funny The Favourite. While Margaret Thatcher’s son has become lost in the Sahara, she has to contend with escalating tensions in the Falkland Islands. After arranging a series of lunches with each of her four children, Elizabeth comes to realize how drastically broken they each are: Charles is miserable in his marriage to Diana; Anne is equally miserable but has found happiness in an extramarital affair; Andrew is a cad and a sleaze; and Edward has become more than a little spiteful and vengeful in his time away at school. …

About

Dr. Thomas J. West III

Ph.D. in English | Film and TV geek | Lover of fantasy and history | Full-time writer | Feminist and queer | Liberal scold and gadfly

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