REVIEW: THE WITCHER – SEASON 1

Henry Cavill, Freya Allan, and Anya Chalotra in The Witcher (2019)

Main Cast

Henry Cavill (Man of Steel)
Anya Chalotra (Wanderlust)
Freya Allan (The Third Day)
Joey Batey (The White Queen)
MyAnna Buring (Ripper Street)
Royce Pierreson (Thor: The Dark World)
Eamon Farren (Chained)
Mimi Ndiweni (The Legend of Tarzan)
Wilson Radjou-Pujalte (Hunter Street)
Anna Shaffer (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince)
Mahesh Jadu (I, Frankenstein)

Henry Cavill in The Witcher (2019)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Lars Mikkelsen (House of Cards)
Emma Appleton (Clique)
Jodhi May (Sister My Sister)
Adam Levy (Rome)
Björn Hlynur Haraldsson (Agnes Joy)
Therica Wilson-Read (Fox Trap)
Shaun Dooley (Eden Lake)
Julian Rhind-Tutt (Lucy)
Ben Wiggins (Anna and The Apocalypse)
Anna-Louise Plowman (Stargate SG.1)
Josette Simon (Wonder Woman)

Henry Cavill in The Witcher (2019)Piecing together what’s going on at any given time in “The Witcher” is both impossible and insignificant. Netflix’s big-budget fantasy adaptation looks like “Game of Thrones” and plays like “The OA” — an extravagant budget fueling a ludicrous premise. Frankly, it should be a catastrophe, and yet the batshit energy driving a slew of increasingly odd choices makes for a pretty entertaining spectacle.Henry Cavill in The Witcher (2019)Based on Andrzej Sapkowski’s books (which have already been adapted into a popular video game series), “The Witcher” tells the wild tales of Geralt of Rivia, the eponymous witcher played by “Witcher” enthusiast Henry Cavill, who travels from town to town accepting missions in exchange for “coin.” Usually his quests are focused on killing a monster. Sometimes they involve taking baths — which are, surprisingly, an extremely important act for anyone who loves the “Witcher” video games and books.Lars Mikkelsen and Anya Chalotra in The Witcher (2019)Whatever Geralt does, he does with a lovable bluntness, made even more appealing by Cavill’s growly performance — and the absolute mess that makes up the rest of the show. You see, Geralt’s storylines are pretty much episodic; each new episode brings a new mission, just like sections of a video game. It’s easy to track what he’s doing because the goals are explained to him by whatever weirdo hires ol’ Gerry. In the second entry, he’s helping shoo away a grain-stealing devil. In the third, he’s chasing a rare creature that likes eating people’s guts.But when not focused on Geralt, “The Witcher” gets very, very messy. There’s a mage-in-training named Yennefer (yes, Yennefer!), who just kind of hovers in the B-plot for the first four episodes. Played with startling conviction by Anya Chalotra, Yen-eh-fur’s plot holds together with a kind of dream logic, where you may not know exactly how things are happening, but you get the gist as to why. The same cannot be said for Princess Ciri (Freya Allan), a little girl who escapes a crumbling castle with only two words of advice: Find Geralt.Henry Cavill in The Witcher (2019)That it takes more than the five episodes provided to critics for her to do so — or even find people, places, or things connected to Geralt — disconnects Ciri from the core story in what feels like an irretrievable way. Maybe she’ll form a Baby Yoda-like partnership with her witcher-destiny by Season 2, learning the witcher tricks of the trade while being protected by her witcher at all costs. But for now, she’s just kind of weird, hard-to-connect-with baggage in a show that’s so freaking strange that anything extra risks turning everyone but the die-hard fans off.Henry Cavill in The Witcher (2019)And “strange” is an understatement. For newcomers, there’s a lot to absorb, starting with Geralt’s name. A witcher isn’t a witch, but a species that’s shunned aside by humanity and forced to fend for themselves by fighting monsters and performing other unwanted tasks. He’s got powers, but they’re not that powerful — Geralt will let off a burst of energy when in a close-quarters battle, but he doesn’t do it that often, and it’s unclear if the blast equates to more than a shove. Like the actor embodying him, Geralt’s most telling attribute is his towering physique and sword skills. He seems like a really good warrior, who can sometimes do magic when the story requires it.Henry Cavill in The Witcher (2019)Yennefer, meanwhile, goes through a physical and spiritual transformation that’s so bonkers I dare not spoil it here. I also can’t spoil it here, because even explaining it to my curious friends proved impossible. There are a lot of parts in “The Witcher” like that; scenes that feel too absurd to be spoken aloud, let alone taken as seriously as the “Witcher” team does, but it’s exactly that dedication to the series’ fantastical elements that make it work. Cavill has spoken at length about how badly he wanted this role, and his commitment not only makes the show that much better, but it’s clearly mirrored by everyone on set.Henry Cavill in The Witcher (2019)“The Witcher” isn’t for everyone, and it’s not trying to be. The soapy scheming that drove people to choose sides in “Game of Thrones” isn’t here. Neither is the tender romance of “Outlander,” the big-minded ambition of “The OA,” or the coherence of, I don’t know, “Vikings.” But that’s OK. “The Witcher” is “The Witcher,” and nothing else matters. Just go with it.

 

25 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS REVIEW: ANNA AND THE APOCALYPSE

Starring

Ella Hunt (Robot Overlords)
Malcolm Cumming (Long Lost)
Sarah Swire (God Help The Girl)
Christopher Leveaux (Forgotten Man)
Marli Siu (Run)
Ben Wiggins (Pennyworth)
Mark Benton (The Second Coming)
Paul Kaye (Game of Thrones)

Anna-and-the-ApocalypseArriving just in time for Xmas the special edition Blu-ray of Anna and the Apocalypse is the perfect horror holiday movie offering up a seasonal display of drama, songs, and zombie slaying.annaIt’s the countdown to Christmas in the sleepy Scottish hamlet where very little happens and Anna (Ella Hunt from Cold Feet and Dickinson) is desperate to escape. Planning to fly as far away from her home town as possible as soon as school is done Anna goes through the motions placating her best friend and star of the upcoming school show Lisa (Marli Siu) while avoiding the attentions of  Nick (Ben Wiggins seen in Pennyworth and The Witcher). Her dotting dad Tony (Mark Benton) and love sick best friend John (Malcolm Cumming) who is far too timed to tell Anna his true feelings, would do anything to make her stay however even they might balk at bringing forth a full scale zombie apocalypse. Unfortunately that is exactly what has happened and now the teens must fight for their lives all the while singing their hearts out while others get theirs ripped out all around them.Anna-And-The-Apocalypse-Clip-Zombie-JanitorMade by an assembled cast and crew of newcomers including the director John McPhail and writers Alan McDonald and Ryan McHenry, whose short Zombie Musical helped inspire this movie, Anna and the Apocalypse opens like any other high school musical with troubled teens, terrorising teachers and parents who just don’t understand.anna-and-the-apocalypse-release-date-700x300Thankfully 30 minutes in things take a terrific and terrifying turn in the spectacular sequence where Anna leaves her house singing “Turning My Life Around” while all around chaos reigns and zombies tear her neighbourhood apart. From this point things are far more interesting as Anna and John team up with Lisa’s filmmaking boyfriend Chris (Christopher Leveaux) and American exchange student Steph (Sarah Swire) whose girlfriend and parents have abandoned her in another country. Determined to make it back to the school where their parents, loved ones and in Steph’s case, car are they leave the unsafety of the Bowling Alley and battle through town coming across flesh eating oldies, infested Christmas Tree forest and an undead Santa who is determined to get them in his sack and stomach.AATA_DAY2_GJ_0033-edit-1Although few and far between horror musicals always work well from Little Shop of Horrors to The Rocky Horror Picture Show and various all singing adaptations of films like Evil Dead and Re-Animator. Anna and the Apocalypse is no exception in fact it is the highly original songs penned by Roddy Hart and Tommy Reilly that elevate this film over its so-so effects and stereotypical set-up. Packed with dual meanings from the melancholy ode to our over technologically dependent age “Human Voice” to the cynical “Hollywood Ending” detailing the young folks disillusion there are also more fun ditties including the swear word ridden “Soldier At War” sung by Nick and his crew all about killing zombies and “It’s That Time Of Year” sung by Lisa, a tune filled with so many double entendre’s it makes Santa Baby sound as clean as a carol.anna-and-the-apocalypse-600x338All of these musical numbers are performed with aplomb by the cast who are excellent although special mention goes to Sarah Swire as Steph, Mark Benton as Anna’s widower dad and best of all the always brilliant Paul Kaye who plays Mr Savage the villainous power hungry headmaster who revels in the terrible new world order and gets to sing about it as well in his anthemic “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Me Now”.MV5BODMyNzQ0MTQ4Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzc3MjcyNjM@__V1_SX1500_CR0,0,1500,999_AL_On Blu-ray for the first time in the UK this 2 disc set includes a stocking full of extras with the theatrical and an extended cut of the film alongside audio commentary with director John McPhail, writer Alan McDonald, composers Roddy Hart, interviews with the main actors, and crew, behind-the-scenes featurette, an alternate opening and ending and much, much more. Far darker than you might expect and all the better for it, Anna and the Apocalypse is still a proper crowd pleasing horror musical comedy that will appeal to multiple audiences especially the younger crowd who will instantly identify with the characters dealing with growing up in the worst possible way. A perfect gift for horror fans this is a movie that brings the true spirit of Christmas to the fore all while adding undead guts and gore. Wow that sounds like a song lyric