Laketop 1.2

This starts with a very bizarre sexual encounter, for no apparent reason. Robin and the police start a search for Tui.

It seems that the Police Sergeant has a clandestine relationship with Matt Mitcham, local gang/thug leader.

By the end, it’s the local pedophile who is the main suspect, having committed suicide. Still no Tui.

Actor Ben Barrington, seen last in The Almighty Johnsons plays Terry.



Laketop 1.1

Top of the Lake is a mystery drama television series created and written and directed by by Jane Campion and Gerard Lee.

It aired in 2013, and the sequel, entitled Top of the Lake: China Girl, in 2017. It marks Campion’s first work for television since An Angel at My Table in 1990.

Episode 1

In the small town of Laketop, New Zealand, a young girl named Tui Mitcham is discovered standing chest-deep in the icy, glacial waters of the titular lake. Afterwards, a school nurse notices that the girl is pregnant.

Robin Griffin, who grew up in the area, is now a police inspector in
Sydney who specializes in cases involving children. While home visiting her sick mother, she agrees to interview Tui at the local police station.

This starts very slowly, it takes a while for the plot to start. Robyn Malcolm turns up with a strange American accent and Holly Hunter is almost unrecognizable.  Her natural Texas twang subverted, so we never find out where she is supposed to come from.

The first crime is a nasty killing by the local thug and his boys. Then the main character Tui is with the police and her pregnancy revealed.

By the end of the episode things become intriguing and engaging.

Elizabeth Moss (as Robin Griffin)

Black Panther

Black Panther is a 2018 American superhero film based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name. Produced by Marvel Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, it is the eighteenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

The film is directed by Ryan Coogler from a screenplay by him and Joe Robert Cole, and stars Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa / Black Panther, alongside Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, and Andy Serkis.

In Black Panther, T’Challa returns home as king of Wakanda but finds his sovereignty challenged by a long-time adversary in a conflict that has global consequences.

Currently at 97% on Rotten Tomatoes, this is getting high praise. It’s easy to see why. Great visuals and sound, as expected. The story is about two characters and their conflict over the future for their country. Notable for being almost entirely a black cast, with the exception of Martin Freeman  and Andy Serkis. Freeman is an unlikely CIA agent and Serkis just gets to be cool and bad.

There is a good amount of humour throughout that lightens the tone. Some very good fight sequences, but rather obvious character CGI effects.

Also of note is the even balance between the influence of male and female characters, especially  in the second half.

Ultimately it’s a popcorn movie. It could have been more interesting with a different and more challenging ending.


Dirty Money #6 – The Confidence Man

Weaving together a tapestry of tales in real estate booms and busts, Stevens lays out how Donald Trump’s business career transformed from epic failures into a consummate branding machine that propelled him into office.

Nothing much new here about Trump. It had the odd pro-Trump’er thrown in for balance but didn’t delve into why he won. Mainly about his history.




Dirty Money #5 – The Maple Syrup Heist

In Canada, maple syrup is worth more than oil. When $20 million of syrup goes missing, the trail leads back to an epic battle between cartels and the little guy.

Less of a scale than previous episodes, this is more about the robbery than anything else.

The issue of a cartel controlling production and distribution is similar to those of Fonterra in NZ.

ST:D 15

Star Trek Discovery 1.15 Will You Take My Hand

It should have been called ‘A War without Consequences’.

It all felt very flat, with people doing illogical things.

When the crew goes to Kronos, they act very un-disciplined:

Tilly promptly eats the local food and takes drugs. They split up and gamble. Georgiou has an orgy with aliens. Everything is acted like it’s a sunday afternoon picnic.

Then, just as Georgiou presents a solution to remove the Klingons permanently , some sort of warped morality enters and  Burnham hands a bomb to someone who has a history of deception.

How do they think this will unify the Klingon’s. All it will take is one person to call her bluff, and everything is back to war.

They we get it all wrapped up with a bow and as if there wasn’t enough voice-over, we get more moralizing by Burnham.

Just hopeless and badly written.

But, it was cool when Captain Pike turns up.

BTW – Tilly’s hair is amazing, it goes from curly to straight between scenes (!)



Dirty Money  #4 – Cartel Bank

For decades, HSBC, one of the world’s largest banks, laundered hundreds of millions of dollars for Mexican drug cartels. Senator Elizabeth Warren, dogged journalists and prosecutors try to hold the bankers to account.

Not as interesting as the other episodes. This has fewer revelations. It just seems obvious that as the drug trade between the USA and Mexico has continues, there must be big banks involved that looked the other way.

The amazing thing was that at the end, after paying over a billion dollars of fines, the bank still continues and nobody has been prosecuted.


Drug Money

Dirty Money #3 – Drug Short

If you were running a Pharmaceutical company and wanted to increase revenues, would you..

  • Invest in Research & Development to develop new drugs. OR
  •  Buy up other drug companies and jack up drug prices as much a the market will take.

This documentary is about money, so the answer is obvious. Valeant Pharmaceuticals dropped R&D from and industry standard of around 15-20% to 3%. The CEO regarded R&D and a waste of money. It makes you wonder what he thought his company was for.

The strange thing about this documentary is the amount of time devoted to the short sellers. These are the people that worked out that Valeant was not sustainable and would crash. Eventually stock price gamblers lost billions and CEOs changed.


Dirty Money #2 – Payday

This starts with the image of a guy having his cars towed away. He is upset, the government has intruded on his life and ruined it. He is bitter and angry.

What emerges from the documentary is the story of Scott Tucker, a racing car driver and business owner.

His business was payday lending and he made millions off small loans with undisclosed charges, inflated interest rates and incomprehensible rules.

It ends with him facing charges from the FTC and FBI, and ending in jail time.

The documentary avoids moralizing narration, the story is told by by the actors. From Scott and the prosecutors everyone gets their say and point of view across.



An Unkindness of Ghosts
by Rivers Solomon (2017)

Read for the Sword and Laser March 2018 pick.

Aster lives in the low-deck slums of the HSS Matilda, a space vessel organized much like the antebellum South. For generations, the Matilda has ferried the last of humanity to a mythical Promised Land. On its way, the ship’s leaders have imposed harsh moral restrictions and deep indignities on dark-skinned sharecroppers like Aster, who they consider to be less than human.

There are a number of reasons this does not work.

  1. The prose is stilted and ‘off’. It lacks the flow of an experienced author.
  2. It starts with a surgical procedure. I don’t read this genre.
  3. After 40 pages there is no plot I can identify.
  4. There are no interesting or engaging characters.

So it’s another miss for the S&L team 🙁