It's been a busy year of reviewing for the Panoptic team, and a very diverse one too. We bring you our most read reviews of 2017, with links to the full articles to peruse at your pleasure!
“Want to see a magic trick? I can make matter disappear.” The confidence with which those words are spoken by Ana Carter, the protagonist of Anti Matter, is unparalleled. But Ana is more than just saying that as an opener for a magic trick in jest. The PhD student extraordinaire based at Oxford University has actually discovered a way to make it happen. But her cheery, often gung-ho nature doesn’t last very long. Once Ana discovers a way to phase matter straight from one location to another, it isn’t long before she takes the next, daring step – experimentation on herself. She initially seems unharmed, but eventually realises that she is no longer able to create new memories or retain information about the days that she lives through, and is soon stuck in a Groundhog Day-esque nightmare that leaves her questioning her friends, family, and even her own identity.
A show that both embodies and defies teenage cliché, 13 Reasons Why tackles the suicide of a girl, Hannah Baker, and her reasons why she did it. It is a gripping drama that questions the accountability of each person in turn over thirteen episodes, a mystery for the viewer and protagonist.
Godless, set in 1884, follows the rivalry of two gunslingers, Roy Goode and Frank Griffin, and a little town of La Belle in New Mexico that gets swept up in their feud. Adding an extra element to the mix is that the town of La Belle is almost exclusively inhabited by women, bringing in a wonderful array of female characters to this reimagining of a classic Western. The series, created by Scott Frank and Steven Soderbergh, is sadly a limited series with only seven episodes: so, savour each of the beautiful hour long (or more) episodes. Or binge it like I did. Either way, it’s hard not to enjoy, and when it’s done you can ask yourself if it lives up to its title.
Not only eighteen hours of television have led up to this point, but also the thirty episodes of the original show, Fire Walk With Me, and multiple spinoff books like The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer. Almost thirty years of Twin Peaks and its obsessive cult following finally culminated in – what, exactly?
This season of Orange is the New Black is the series’ most serious, yet also its silliest. While the women of Lichfield have a tangible opportunity for political gain, and even liberation, they use that opportunity in bizarre ways. This is evident from the first episode’s title alone – ‘Riot FOMO’. (Spoilers within)
In the small fishing village of North Lake, Canada, people remember when the tuna went away. Now they’re back in numbers, and so is North Lake’s reputation as the “tuna capital of the world”. But scientists claim stocks are down by 90% globally, and these normally wary tuna are so hungry that they will now eat fish out of people’s hands.
On its surface Bluefin is a documentary about wildlife conservation and the people whose livelihoods depend on fishing. But below the waves, it is also a story of what’s lost in translation between scientists, traditional fishing communities, and international regulators; it’s about the difficulty in a short-term world of making long-term commitments.
Gore Verbinski’s A Cure for Wellness is a clean break away from more family-friendly ventures, boasting terrific cinematography and a stellar performance from Dane DeHaan, but is ultimately let down by its own disappointing finale.
Twelve years on from its initial release, the American singer-songwriter’s ode to the Prairie State remains a modern classic; a significant milestone for both Stevens’ career, and fans around the world.
“Put Sufjan Stevens on, and we’ll play your favourite song,” croons Gary Lightbody, lead singer of Snow Patrol, on the Irish band’s 2006 single Hands Open. The song in question is Chicago, a paean to the Windy City appearing on Stevens’s aptly-titled 2005 release Illinois. The album is a musical journey through the eponymous American state, referencing significant places and figures in its history and weaving a rich tapestry of fable and myth into its sweeping orchestral arrangements. Illinois is also arguably the definitive Sufjan Stevens album; keeping Stevens’s trademark themes of love, faith, and family while also exploring more intriguing, surreal subjects including (but not limited to) aliens, zombies, serial killers, and wasps. It is a remarkable feat in itself to have made an indie folk album that can and will cater to just about any remotely open-minded listener on the planet – yet Stevens has done exactly that with Illinois, and it is for that reason exactly that many critics and fans alike consider the album his magnum opus to this day.
Evald Johnson hits it out of the park with his second feature film – a sports drama that sees America’s favourite pastime get dark and downright dirty.
When sitting down to watch an American movie about sports, one preternaturally expects a few things – the glorification of athletic pastimes, a lovable underdog protagonist that one is bound to root for, and a triumphantly heartwarming story about success. It’s a saccharine-sweet cliché that’s been around for ages in American cinema, one that everyone except major movie studios seems to have gotten tired of. Well, you can thank your lucky stars, because High & Outside: A Baseball Noir is not that all-American sports movie that you’d expect from the title. While ‘noir’ isn’t quite the word that sums up the film, it certainly is black as pitch at its very heart, and it takes no prisoners in its condemnation of the times when a ‘never-give-up’ attitude crosses the boundary between honour and opprobrium.
‘Baby Wants Candy’ is infamous at the Fringe. The format is simple: they take an audience suggestion for a musical title that has never been written or performed before, they then create a musical on the spot… the question is: are they worth the hype?
Image: The Cast Iron Picture Company