Crucible of the Vampire ~ Film Review

The title itself suggests that there’s a historical genre in store, however it gives little away as to the light erotic LGBT content. It’s a film packed with overt horror, underlying messages, a slightly unstable storyline perhaps yet it’s entertaining and gripping in equal measure. The characters are all purposeful and well-rounded which helps to move the action along in a dark, not entirely vampire-driven film set in Shropshire.

The backstory of the sorcerer’s dark conjuring of the female vampire shows him casting his spell on the owner of a country mansion in the year 1807. At the heart of the story is a character called Isabelle (Katie Goldfinch) – she’s investigating the truth behind the legend of the crucible and is therefore sent to the mansion by her University Professor. Isabelle is your archetypal young woman who’s blissfully unaware of the horrors awaiting her and is easily taken in. She’s a virgin, therefore she’s just the sort of meat the inhabitants of the mansion are looking for.

Karl (Larry Rew) is the owner, he’s almost a caricature of villainy. His wife, Evelyn (Babette Barat) is almost too over the top in her politeness. Their daughter, Scarlet (Florence Cady) is the most openly ‘delighted’ by the visitor. The introductions set the tone for the rest of the movie. There’s also a fairly innocuous gardener whom it’s wise not to take your eye off – played by Neil Morrissey.

Crucible of the Vampire is a hybrid of Hammer Horror and horror comedy Dark Shadows – from my perspective. There are elements that set out to scare and other scenes I can’t quite take seriously. However it’s a compelling watch with a strong cast and Director/Co-Writer Iain Ross-McNamee has certainly embodied an interesting niche.

Crucible of the Vampire is available on Dual Format (DVD & Blu-ray) from Screenbound Pictures. 

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Striking Out ~ Review

“Starring the stand out talents of Amy Huberman and Neil Morrissey comes a gripping new legal drama Striking Out.

Following its run on new channel 5Select, Striking Out Series One and Two are set to arrive on DVD both separately and as Striking Out One and Two Box Set, thanks to Acorn Media International.

Tara Rafferty (Amy Huberman Cold Feet) is a high-flying solicitor at a prestigious Dublin law firm, but when she discovers her fiancé and fellow solicitor Eric (Rory KeenanWar and Peace), has been cheating on her with a colleague, she decides to make some big life changes. Dumping her unfaithful partner, she quits her job and sets up on her own practice in a makeshift office, at the back of a café.

With the help of her friends and associates, including her streetwise ex-client turned assistant Ray (Emmet ByrneRed Rock), private detective Meg Riley (Fiona O’ShaughnessyUtopia), and friend and mentor Senior Counsel Vincent Pike (Neil MorrisseyLine of Duty), Tara becomes a force to be reckoned with. Soon she is taking on high profile cases, some of which pit Tara against her former colleagues and major legal establishment players. Can she ever truly escape her past and make it on her own?”

Star rating: *****

The stand-out features of the first series, which aired on Channel Five, was how quickly the scene was set from the off and each character felt relatable, believable and drew me into their back-story. Whether they were a central role or an ‘incidental’ part of the plot, the writing on this series has to be one of the biggest strengths the series has to offer. There isn’t a weak link amongst the perfectly selected cast and it’s my first introduction to the talents of Amy Huberman, who can exhibit a meltdown like no other!

The plot choices are particularly and in some cases hauntingly current, episode one wreaks of Operation Yewtree as Huberman’s character, Tara Rafferty investigates a TV personality who is being targeted with threats to leak a sex tape which in which they star. I felt Rory Keenan who plays Eric really came into his own in the second episode, where Tara is in a quandary over whether she should forgive (although forgetting is never going to be an option). I felt episode three gave Neil Morrissey an opportunity to shine as his character, Vincent – it was an intense storyline with bigamy, death and a battle for next of kin at the heart of the instalment. Episode four offered a rollercoaster of turmoil which almost had me off the sofa in anticipation at times. Everything around Tara seems to be at risk and paranoia is likely to be warranted, but who’s at the bottom of it? If indeed that is the case and it’s not just down to coincidence.

Although each episode tells its own tale, by episode four, I felt that the style and quality of filming was reminiscent of a gripping movie. So much so that I feel compelled to binge-watch the box-set of series 1 and 2, which is available on DVD on 23 April 2018 (series two by itself is also available from this date to purchase). If you can’t wait for the box-set, series one is available to purchase now! Highly recommended as one of the best television legal dramas I’ve had the pleasure of viewing.

Click the images to purchase the DVDs:

Photo Credits: Channel Five

 

The Good Karma Hospital, Episode Six ~ Review

The Good Karma Hospital has aired its season finale! I think it was one of the most beautifully filmed episodes in the entire series and had the previous episodes been of this quality, my earlier reviews might have been more favourable on the whole. The fact that there is to be a second series when other programmes haven’t been re-commissioned puzzles me. However, that aside – here are my views on the final instalment:

Photo Credits: ITV

Dr Walker departs? ~ With the love of Ruby’s (Amrita Acharia) life making an appearance at the end of the last episode, the plot moves along quickly as she and the man she has been trying to forget disappear to start a sight-seeing trip around India. It all occurs so early on in the episode that it’s fairly predictable that Ruby will be back to the GKH before long and that the relationship with ex lover boy will be over. Leaving the way open for Gabriel (James Floyd)?

Crash horror ~ The bus crash was quite something, it was the catalyst that sent Dr Walker hurtling back to the Hospital and helped her to decide that it was the right choice to stay. That aside, I thought it was a heart-in-mouth moment that wouldn’t have gone amiss earlier on in the series. The chaos and fall-out was one of the strengths of this episode.

Maggie’s last wish ~ It was obvious that Maggie (Phyllis Logan) was going to pass away, given that Ms Logan had revealed that she wouldn’t be making series two should there be one. It was an award-worthy effort from Logan, Philip Jackson as Paul and Leanne Best as their daughter. The reappearance of their daughter, with a perfect Stourbridge accent, I might add – set off a chain of events which almost resulted in Maggie being flown back to the West Midlands. This would not only have been a harrowing experience given her state of health, but there was the added dimension that Maggie thought of India as her home, now. I really enjoyed the interaction between Maggie and Lydia (Amanda Redman), I felt that there was finally another side to the doctor’s personality coming to the fore. The final scenes for Maggie were beautifully shot, turtles making their way to the sea and a sense of freedom for the character as she finally succumbs to her illness. Applause from all of us at Break A Leg, there wasn’t a dry eye in our house.

Lydia and Greg in love ~ I’m still none the wiser about Greg (Neil Morrissey), there has been very little suggestion of back-story. However, what I can tell you is that he is the best that Lydia has ever had! In so much as he is good in the sack, I believe… too much information from the Doc as she makes this announcement at the bar. She’s not even that sozzled by the looks of it. Has this put the seal on their relationship and does that bode well for the next series that I believe is coming? Regardless, at least Lydia gave the man his due and admitted to their shenanigans, even if it was ever so slightly inappropriately done.

Second series announced ~ ITV have been axing many programmes after the first or second series, of late. This is where I get on my soap box and have a moan – Home Fires is the first I need to shout about, axed after the second series and on a massive cliff hanger. The cast, the setting and the scripts for this wonderful show were consistent and engaging, I always felt that it had a similar run in it to that of its Sunday evening contemporary, Downton Abbey.  Brief Encounters has been axed after series one and there was so much more mileage in that show. Another stellar cast and scripts that were so well crafted. I reviewed the first series, here and I raved about it week in, week out. Then, The Halcyon was announced as the recent victim of the ITV axe. In my opinion, that had the capacity to continue, too.

It has come as a surprise that there will be a second series of The Good Karma Hospital, although the show has grown on me to an extent – I would love to know why it has been favoured. Will I tune in for series two, though? Why not!

 

 

The Good Karma Hospital, Episode 5 ~ Review

This week’s penultimate instalment of The Good Karma Hospital was, for the most part, underwhelming again, the saving graces very much being Phyllis Logan and Philip Jackson as the Smarts. I still find that the show as a whole has not resonated with me and therefore, much as I play hunt the positives every week, there isn’t a great deal that I find to rave about. However, here’s a few comments on episode five, for your delectation!

Lydia’s losing battle ~ Lydia (Amanda Redman) breaks down in the arms of Greg (Neil Morrissey) (no I won’t ask what he’s doing there, again – it’s still not obvious, I’ll just leave it!). Following the attempted suicide of a patient whom Lydia could have dealt with better, to say the least! It’s just another example of Lydia’s head-strong and bullish behaviour getting her into ‘trouble’. Will she learn? At least she has a heart I suppose, the softer side was a welcome change.

Saluting The Smarts ~ The episode wasn’t off to a completely interesting start so my interest waivered. Then Maggie (Phyllis Logan) and Paul (Philip Jackson) gave an acting masterclass and took the episode up a whole lot of notches! Talk about raising the game! Maggie was insistent on taking a heavy going walk to the top of a mountain to reach a temple, all for the sake of mumbo jumbo which she felt might hold healing powers. Paul was at the end of his tether with her ‘nonsense’ and lost the plot with his terminally ill missus. What could make matters worse at such a time? Maggie collapses and winds up at The Good Karma Hospital. Their two-hander scene towards the end moved me to tears. I suspect she might not come out of hospital, now – sad times, but the acting has been first class from this pair.

Shout out to my ex ~ Ruby (Amrita Acharia) has a catch up with her ex and feelings comes flooding back for the young doctor. I think that Gabriel (James Floyd) is possibly showing some green eyed monster ways so that could be interesting. Although with one episode to go, how much of that we’re going to see could be limited. Looks like the ex has made the trip to India, anyway – if the ending scene is anything to go by.

Sri Lanka ~ The setting for this programme is another saving grace, I thoroughly enjoy drinking on the beautiful scenery every week and it’s given me a desire to go and visit the place. I don’t think it passes for India necessarily but it’s certainly a gorgeous setting and a well chosen location in many ways.

Verdict? ~ I’m miffed that this has not been a show that I have taken to my heart as I had hoped, if I were giving a star rating to the overall show, so far it would get 3 out of 5 stars. If next week blows that score out of the water, I’m willing to admit that I was wrong. However, I have a feeling that the series finale will be mostly notable for the demise of Maggie, unless we finally find out more about Greg and his purpose? Or why he is with the good doctor? Let’s see…

 

 

Photo Credits: ITV

The Good Karma Hospital, Episode 4 ~ Review

The Good Karma Hospital is still not floating my boat, I hope to be more positive about the show each week, but I’m not feeling any more attuned to it. Amrita Acharia is very much the star from my point of view, her performance is subtle and carries the show. Here are a few of my comments:

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Nimmi Harasgama as Mari

Mari’s Moment ~ Mari (Nimmi Harasgama) seemed to have a moment to shine this week when she fan-girled over a patient who was a rather famous performer. Her attempt to gently coax her idol away from the painkillers she had become so dependent on was quite a moving scene. Especially when some of Mari’s own backstory was revealed. I’m keen to see more of Mari’s character, now – my interest is piqued.

Paul’s Piss-Up! ~ “You’re pissed!” said Maggie (Phyllis Logan) when Paul (Philip Jackson) reappeared from his visit to Greg’s (Neil Morrissey) bar. Living in a small hut which I expect is somewhat removed to their residence in Stourbridge, seems to have took its toll. Their short separation does the trick, as does the alcoholic intake for Paul and there’s a rather humorous ‘reunion’ later on. This pair are a driving force in the programme.

Greg? ~ I’m still none the wiser as to Greg’s purpose in the show, with two more episodes to go, will we have some light shone on the reason for his character’s necessity? With Morrissey having been in the top billing for this programme, I had expected he would play a more integral role.

Ruby and Gabriel ~ I enjoy the way their relationship is playing out, it’s still a will they/won’t they which simmers and yet moves in slow motion simultaneously. Gabriel (James Floyd) has pride, amongst other things, to overcome. Ruby most definitely has demons to push past, but I can’t help feeling that they could help each other through. Long may the chemistry continue.

Two Episodes to go ~ The fact that we already know that Phyllis Logan is not going to be in any further series (should there be any more) alarms me. Not just because she adds some credibility to the show, but because it seems far too fast to be wrapping up Maggie’s story in just two episodes, now. I hope it’s not rushed and the audience feel cheated by the way this plays out.

Verdict? ~ I am eager to see how episode six finishes and whether there are unanswered questions, because as it stands I think that four episodes would have been enough. I am also of the humble opinion that there are too many characters who have been thrown into the mix without an introduction. They crop up when the story line suits.

 

 

The Good Karma Hospital, Episode Three ~ Review

The Good Karma Hospital is now halfway through its series and I am still slightly underwhelmed by it. I am getting to know the characters and feel that the way in which each storyline is wrapped up neatly (apart from the plots that belong to the main cast, of course) is quite an effective touch. I’m still baffled by Greg (Neil Morrissey) and his purpose other than to serve booze and have it off with Lydia (Amanda Redman), will all become clear or is this the sum total of the character? Anyway, here are a few highlights of the episode:

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Bhang!

AJ’s Harem ~ AJ (Sagar Radia) has been a rather naughty fellar, moving from young female tourist to young female tourist and declaring his love for them before they depart for their journey home. His misdemeanours find him out as he breaks the heart of yet another starry eyed young lady who is willing to stay in India to be with him. Tut tut!

Lydia ~ She’s still a closed book, not much of her character has emerged for me to be able to make an assessment of her yet, but she has softened somewhat and has become less like Connie Beauchamp of Casualty! Her relationship with Greg is a mystery and yet the way she chooses to be with him must come from a deep-rooted past history. I felt by the end of this instalment that there was a flexible side to her persona which may have opened up as a result of the Dementia story line that she had been so immersed in during the episode.

Baby Blues ~ A baby dumped on Lydia’s doorstep triggers a myriad of emotions for Ruby (Amrita Acharia) when she is quite literally left holding the baby and finds herself in the middle of a heart-breaking story. The baby’s mother had been told by her parents that she could not keep the baby and therefore he had been taken from her in the night. The harrowing situation causes Ruby to open up to Dr Varma (James Floyd) about her pregnancy a couple of years ago, which resulted in a miscarriage. The back-story behind her split with her beau begins to come to the fore and Acharia gives a very believable performance.

Stourbridge vs India ~ Maggie (Phyllis Logan) is living her days in India to the full, indulging in a shot of bhang and encouraging her husband (Philip Jackson) to do likewise. The pair of them are in the festival spirit and Maggie appears to be blissfully happy as she sports her sari. However, in typical Phyllis Logan fashion, there is a seamless transition from care-free to bordering on hysteria at the renewed thought that she hasn’t got long left to live. I have to hand it to her, she has embodied the role and given it her all, as always.

Temple of Love ~ When Gabriel (Dr Varma) takes Ruby to the temple (which comes as a surprise to her) and her past begins to surface, the spark and chemistry is palpable. Please can we have some romance on the cards? It’s definitely brewing!

Verdict this week? ~ Still growing on me, but my opinion improves with every episode!

Photo Credits: ITV

 

 

 

The Good Karma Hospital, Episode Two ~ Review

I dutifully sat down to embrace episode two of the drama which did not hold my attention last week. Has the second instalment swayed me? The answer is that the jury is still out, I remain unconvinced that this will hold a place in my heart in quite the same way as Home Fires has (and it continues to take that prime spot). However, here follows some highlights and comments from my humble point of view:  

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Amrita Acharia

Dr Gabriel Varma ~ I didn’t take much notice of Dr Varma (James Floyd) , last week, however I was interested to watch his character develop in this episode. His determination is clear and I foresee many a clashed head between himself and Dr Ruby Walker (Amrita Acharia). Whether there is a mutual attraction bubbling away beneath the surface (as suggested extremely pointedly by Dr Lydia Fonseca (Amanda Redman)) remains to be seen, but there’s certainly chemistry there. Strength of Gabriel’s character was the order of the day following a motorbike accident which had consequences for more than just the doctor.

Girl Power ~ Lydia and Ruby are starting to find a common ground and their relationship worked for me, this week. The sense that they are building towards a mutually beneficial and educational bond is clear and I have the feeling that there will be an occurrence where Ruby has to come to Lydia’s aid. There is a predictability to the format of this programme, that’s for sure!

Maggie’s Marvellous ~ Biased I may be, I had the great pleasure of getting to know Phyllis Logan last year and she is a supporter of this site. However, I intentionally critiqued this show from a neutral point of view and last week, I was questioning if this was the right show for Ms Logan to appear in, post-Downton. She had stepped out of a huge hit of a television drama to a programme that didn’t get off to the best start from the look of the feedback I was privy to throughout last week. This time around I was actually impressed with her portrayal of Maggie, I enjoyed the window into her past with her husband (Philip Jackson). That was the Phyllis that has earned her such a sizeable fan base.

Fonseca’s Foibles ~ I am still likening Dr Fonseca to Connie Beauchamp from Casualty, however the side to her that wills her colleagues to succeed is markedly different to her fellow fictional counter-part. I am eagerly anticipating the reasons behind her arrival in India which must surely begin to emerge soon. In fact I am warming to the character’s quirks, yet remain unconvinced by the relationship she has with Greg (Neil Morrissey).

Mighty Motors! ~ If I learned one thing during the Exotic Marigold Hotel films, it’s that mopeds and motorbikes are both the way forward and a serious life-threat at one and the same time. I was impressed with the filming of the moped ride shots, particularly when Ruby was precariously ducking in and out of tight spaces and dicey situations.

Verdict? ~ OK, it has improved, I’m not inclined to rave about it yet, but as Sunday night viewing goes, it’s not bad!

 

The Good Karma Hospital, Episode One ~ Review

On paper, and indeed from the trailers, this promised to be a much-needed Sunday evening drama to fill the void left by the likes of Downton Abbey, Mr Selfridge and the sadly missed Home Fires. The cast list alone beckoned me to tune in, however I’m not as over-awed as I anticipated. The over-riding feeling of slight disappointment has thrown me, so this review is rather mixed, and I am trying to focus on the positives and characters. I am aware that the second episode may have the capacity to change my mind entirely. I’ll be willing to admit if I’m wrong and first episodes are always difficult as the majority of the instalment sets the overall scene and introduces key characters.

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Dr Fonseca and Dr Walker

Dr Ruby Walker ~ Amrita Acharia was one of the main redeeming features of the show. Her back-story was made clear immediately, a failed relationship behind her (or not!) and she seemed disenchanted with the NHS (what a surprise). Dr Walker appears to be a likeable character with no preconceived ideas and she soon rolled up her sleeves to deliver a baby girl, united that baby girl with a father who did not want to know and handled her first fatality since her arrival, following a brutal stabbing. She faced Dr Fonseca (Amanda Redman) with a determination and I feel that I can connect with her and the baggage that she brings.

Dr Lydia Fonseca ~ A good cop and bad cop all rolled into one who bore an uncanny resemblance to Connie Beauchamp from Casualty and Holby City. There is obviously a long story waiting to emerge for Dr Fonseca and the light and shade in the character make-up was all there. I found her greeting of Dr Walker to be unnecessary, bordering on rude, however I feel confident that her traits will be examined as the episodes unfold. I can’t buy into her relationship with Greg McConnell (Neil Morrissey) yet, but I can’t help but think of Tony from Men Behaving Badly whenever I see him. I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt!

Ram Nair ~ I really took to his character, every good drama should have a reliable and loveable side-kick and I get the impression that Darshan Jariwala is playing that very role. Facial expressions from Jariwala spoke a thousand words and I couldn’t help but chuckle when his picture was used on the back of the ambulance. That was a priceless moment.

Phyllis Logan and Philip Jackson ~ Considering their appearances in the trailers, there was little seen of this pair (who play Maggie and Paul Smart) and a few more scenes featuring them might have swung my opinion in a more favourable direction. I realise that Maggie has a tragic revelation to acquaint her husband with and that will need to be handled sensitively, however, more from their daughter’s wedding wouldn’t have gone amiss. It was a surprise that they weren’t as integral to the overall plot as I had believed they might be. However, I note that they are in all six episodes, so there is time for that to develop.

India ~ I thought that the setting of the show was incredible and there was a definite Exotic Marigold Hotel meets Wild At Heart vibe emulating. However, I’m not sure if this was just me, but the fact that we were already aware that it was shot in Sri Lanka stuck in my mind and I was unable to compute that this was India. Maybe too much knowledge can spoil it?

Overall verdict ~ I wanted to fall in love with The Good Karma Hospital at first sight, but instead, I find that I can take or leave watching the rest of the series. I possess the necessary staying power, though and with Break A Leg’s Patron, Phyllis Logan on board, I am in it for the duration.

Photo credits: ITV

 

 

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