The OA – T.V Series Review

The OA, short for ‘The Original Angel’, really caught me by surprise. To be honest when I first watched Season 1, which aired in 2016, I hadn’t expected it to be so good. Both the actors and the story-line are a pleasure to see unveiled bit by tortuous bit.

The plot starts backwards, that is, we are first faced by a young lost woman who had disappeared from the face of the earth for seven years, and who suddenly re-appears in the middle of a dark road. When the police take her home, her parents are overjoyed to see her of course, yet they are also weirded out and even, perhaps, a bit frightened. This is because ‘Priarie’, their adopted daughter, had been blind when she disappeared, she had been blind ever since they first saw her as a young girl – and now, she can see perfectly.

The mystery of Priarie, where she was for the last seven years, and how she magically regained her sight, is deeper and more strange than anyone can imagine. This is no detective mystery, it is not just a series about a kidnapping case or about a victim being brought back to light. It is so much more.

Priarie sports strange scars on her back. She has nightmares and is terrified of many things around her. Yet, we see her struggling to contact someone. Someone her parents don’t know. Someone she must reach out to at all costs. Fearing she will harm herself, the police suggest that Prairie is not allowed to go out of her house unaccompanied or to have access to the internet, given her fragile mental health. This further inflames and angers Priarie, who instead of talking to her therapist about what happened to her, chooses to secretly upload a video on YouTube asking anyone who feels a connection to her, any stranger who wants to help, to come to an abandoned house nearby at midnight and meet her. The important thing, she says, is for them to leave their house door wide open when they leave home… ‘You have to let me in’.

A combination of five mismatched strangers results from this video. Strangers who throughout the series, form an unlikely yet very strong alliance, a friendship which will go much further then they thought would be possible. Prairie tells her story to these strangers, and through them, to us.

I do not want to give any spoilers, yet one thing I must say is that whether you are religious or not, whether you are Catholic or not (I’m not) and whether you believe in magic or not, this series will surely touch a chord in you – one which, perhaps, you did not know you possessed.

Season 2 of ‘The OA’ premiered in 2019. The main actors still include Brit Marlin, Scott Wilson, Emory Cohen, and the great Jason Isaacs. Can’t wait to watch Season 3! Although this hasn’t been confirmed yet, I have no doubt it will be, since the series is so popular.

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Tale of Tales – Movie Review

Genre – Adult Fantasy/Horror
Length – 2hr 14mins
Released in – 2015
My Overall Grading – 4 Stars

Tale of Tales (2015) is that blend of gothic fantasy weirdness which usually immediately catches my attention. As soon as I watched its suggestive atmospheric trailer, I craved to behold the whole movie, and I must say, I wasn’t disappointed.

Let me say this first and foremost – if you’re expecting yet another re-imagining of some popular children’s fairytale like Cinderella or Snow White, you’ll be disappointed. Actually, not even those narratives commonly known as fairy tales are meant for children at all, and only started to be projected that way for the multitudes, after severe editing and further changes by various 19th century writers, such as Charles Perrault and the Grimm Brothers .

Tale of Tales, an Italian-Franco-British production derived from the 17th century collection of tales known as Il Pentamerone and written by Neapolitan poet Giambattista Basile, can be described as an adult fantasy horror, or at best, a metaphorical cautionary tale.

Sinister, yet strangely sensual. Strange but graceful. Haunting yet moving. This movie is a strange experience and definitely not for children. Tale of Tales has three different and yet finally entwined story lines. On the one hand, we encounter the King and Queen of Selvaoscura, who, true to fairy tale canon, are having difficulty producing an heir. A wandering wizard tells them that to do this, they must find and kill a sea monster, and the Queen (Salma Hayek) must eat its heart. It’s portrayed as a horrifyingly huge bloody mass where she eagerly devours the organ on a silver platter.

The second tale takes us to Roccaforte, where a sexually voracious and dissolute king – played by Vincent Cassel – spies on a woman shrouded in a mantle, whom he believes to be a pretty young beauty, but who in reality is a hideous old crone. The crone’s only treasure is her loving relationship with her sister, who is also an old woman. The king hounds what he believes to be a new conquest, bullying and pressing the two sisters, who don’t know which way to turn without revealing their true identity and being punished for it.

The third story arch follows the King of Altomonte and his daughter Violet. The King (Toby Jones) is a shallow and comic creature, prioritizing the care of an unusual flea over that of his own daughter.

Throughout the three story-arches, the one constant emotion is that of obsession, which, we are shown, is the heart of all evil. Obsession vies with what is supposed to be the love of someone’s family. The Queen of Selvaoscura is obsessed with her son, which is why she seeks to destroy any ties he could have with other people. The King of Roccaforte is obsessed with claiming every young woman he sets eyes on, which results in betrayal, suffering and death. The King of Altomonte and his ridiculous obsession with the flea to the exclusion of all else brings about terrifying consequences.

Flea-petting, heart-eating, rape, flaying, betrayal, morbid jealousy… All this and more makes the movie a very strange and curious beast; a truly horrific Renaissance fairy tale. No wonder that, unlike other tales penned by Basile, these three weren’t even adapted to be read by children. Other tales of his, however, have inspired more well-known fairy tale writers such as Hans Christian Anderson and the Brothers Grimm. In this case, the three tales explored and adapted for the screen – The Enchanted Doe, The Flea and The Flayed Old Lady – serve as a dark metaphor to show that real love of one’s family members doesn’t mean warping them into suiting our own wishes and desires, but accepting them for who they are, even if this means letting them go.

The movie also sports beautiful visuals, as filming locations include stunning palaces, haunting forests and beautiful gardens in NaplesTuscanyAbruzzo and Lazio, amongst others.

I truly recommend this movie to all those who are lovers of the unusual and the artistic – those who appreciate dark humor and black comedy, and who enjoy finding revelations of the truth couched in veiled metaphors and tragic-comic allegory, rather than stark black and white fables.

A version of this article written by me was originally published on Eve magazine.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off – Movie Review

Genre – Teen/Comedy
Length – 1hr 43mins
Released in – 1986
My Overall Grading – 3 Stars

Life moves pretty fast; if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it!’

Each and every movie has one main aim – to make the viewer feel something. There is always one single encompassing idea, perspective, or state of mind towards which the plot-line itself takes you, even though most of the time, this is sold to the audience subconsciously, in that it underlies the film’s story-line or characterization, rather than being wholly apparent as one concrete whole.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) was written expressly for Matthew Broderick and is a pretty easy movie to summerize. Basically: a charming teen decides to flunk school because he has a test, and convinces his best friend and his girlfriend to spend the day with him roaming the town instead.

Pretty simple right? You’d think that’s all there was to it. Well… yes and no.

I was always fascinated by the kind of character Ferris, that is Matthew Broderick, portrays. This is the kind of character who has, it seems, been blessed by the ancient gods with such good fortune, that anything and everything he does turns out well. No matter how many rules he breaks, how many people he manipulates, how many blatant self-serving lies he tells (always with a charming smile and a rakish attitude of course), he never gets to face the music. And believe me, these people exist. It’s just unfortunate that I am not one of them.

Apart from the amusing foibles our characters go through, and the hilarious contribution to the cast given by the uniquely endowed Jeffrey Jones (his face is the epitome of all asshole-ish headmasters), one cannot but note the rest of the amazing cast. Most of the main actors seem in fact to actually represent my favorite iconic 80s movies. Apart from Broderick himself (Wargames, Ladyhawke), there’s Mia Sara (Legend) who plays his love interest, Jennifer Grey (Dirty Dancing) as his older sister, Alan Ruck (Bad Boys) is his bestie, Ben Stein (Ghostbusters II, The Wonder Years, MacGyver) as his teacher, the aforementioned Jeffrey Jones (Beetlejuice) is his headmaster, Lyman Ward (A Nightmare on Elm Street) plays the role of his father, and even Charlie Sheen makes a short appearance. Could any other cast have been more perfect for an 80s movie?

Apart from that, it tickles me no end to know that the interior hallway scenes for Ferris’ school were filmed at Maine North High School – the same place where John Hughes’ iconic movie The Breakfast Club was also filmed. This school also features in 16 Candles and Pretty In Pink!

So what happens when Ferris fakes sick to escape taking his test? What doesn’t happen! Amidst fancy brunches, romantic smooches, coming-of-age battles, wild joyrides, street parades, dips in the pool, and amusing tirades, we find ourselves asking – how many hours are there in a day? How does the errant trio manage to do all that stuff in such a short time? And this brings us to the crux idea of the movie.

Life is short. Enjoy it!!!

Conclusion: This movie was fun… BUT it wasn’t memorable, in that there were no deep characters, underlying issues or actual emotional scenes or feelings between characters. It’s a very light-hearted film, perfect if you just want to relax with a no-brainer and a couple of easy laughs.

In Love with the 80s

If you had the choice of re-living your childhood and teenage years, and could choose the particular decade during which to enjoy them… would you? And which decade would you choose?

Baccombed wild hair, puffy tulle skirts, pink scrunchies, men wearing heavy make-up, others stroking screeching guitars as though they were lovers, skintight leather trousers, shoulder-padded blazers, bubblegum and legwarmers. No it’s not a drag-queen’s parade – it’s the 80s!

Ever since I can remember, I have always been in love with the 80s. The movies, the video games, the music, the pop-culture, the anime, the clothes (especially the Madonna phase)…. Taking into account that I was born in the mid-80s, and therefore don’t remember a thing about actually living during this decade, since I was a toddler at the time, this kind of retro-nostalgia might not be understandable to others. After all, why yearn for slower services, archaic I.T, and vanilla sitcoms right? Still, when I look at the ingenious convoluted plots of 80s movies, as opposed to the boring recurring tropes featuring semi-nude women, sex scenes, car chases and gratuitous violence… without a shred of innovation or creativity, presented to viewers today, it is no wonder I end up re-watching old 80s, and sometimes 90s films over and over again.

And what to say about the music? David Bowie, Queen, Siouxie and the Banshees, Black Sabbath, Def Leppard, Madonna, Guns n Roses, Van Halen, AC/DC, Twisted Sister, Whitesnake, Kiss, Scorpions, Eurythmics… need I go on? Who do we have now? Justin Bieber? Miley Cyrus? Kanye West? Oh please…

I don’t doubt that there are great and talented artists out there. But does today’s entertainment culture give them prominence as it should? I’ll leave you to answer that yourselves shall I?

Two days ago, I finished reading Cline’s amazing book ‘Ready Player One’. And it was a blast. The movie? I liked it and watched it twice… before I had actually read the novel. Now? Let’s say I think I’ll be considering the movie and the novel as two separate entities, rather than one. Yes, the movie does derive from the book, BUT apart from holding to the mostly-right cliche that ‘The book is always better than the movie’, I have to say that the characters, plot-lines, adventures and contents of the movie vs book itself are vastly different. And yes, the book is much better. Especially if you are a sucker for the 80s like me. And a movie-geek. And love video games. And are an otaku. And a geek. And a nerd.

I think you’ve realized by now that even though I finished reading the book more than 48 hours ago, I am still MASSIVELY HYPED UP about it.

Time to listen to some good 80s music and re-watch ‘Back to the Future’ or ‘Bladerunner’!

Wake up and smell the Coffee!!

Man is a strange mammal. He thrives on competition, glorifies in destruction, and flourishes through selective memory. Because yes – we love lying to ourselves don’t we? Or let us rather say that the individual has an intrinsic predominant love for himself, which leads him to remember (consciously or subconsciously) whatever suits him most.

Simply put – we love to love ourselves, which is why in most cases we end up remembering experiences and events which happened to us in a way which shows us in the best possible light… to ourselves that is. We are never wrong, or if we are, we were justified. We never make mistakes, but if we do, they are understandable in that particular situation/s, and anyone who doesn’t understand is at fault himself. Etc. Etc.

The same goes when it comes to the way we perceive the world around us. Because obviously, man does’nt lie to himself about his own person ONLY. We see our own image by reflecting on who we want to be, or who we think we are, not on whom we seem to be, whom others think we are, or who our behavior makes us out to be.

Similarly, we view the world (and other people) either the way we want to see it/them (for one reason or another), or the way we are AFRAID to see it/them. For example, a man may think his wife loves him because she had said ‘I do’ five years before, not wanting to admit how their relationship has changed, that she now prefers to spend her time with other people rather than with him, that there have been changes in their intimacy, etc. The sole fact that she rarely smiles at him any more, a simply factor which other members of the family may have noticed, could escape him completely. Not because he is blind or stupid, but because he simply REFUSES to see it.

Another example could be the way we perceive political parties. Or football teams for that matter. ‘Our own’ political party (or team) can do no wrong. If they make a mistake… well, everyone is human right? On the other hand, the opposite political party (or team, group, whatever) is evil through and through. They use up tax money paid by honest hard working people to line their own pockets, to the exclusion of anything else. This can be seen by the fact that there is traffic, the roads are bad, there is rubbish in the streets, etc. That is all. Obviously, the man who only sees what he wants to see, or what he fears to see, fails to see the whole picture. He fails to see the evolution in the educational system, the improvement of the health sector, the cleaning of historical sites, the development of new laws and regulations which give new rights to minorities, etc. He only sees what is wrong, because that is what he expects to see. That is how the human mind works.

One of my favorite 90s movies is Kevin Bacon’s ‘He Said, She said’, which portrays this mental self-conditioning perfectly. If you haven’t watched the movie, believe me, you should.

Basically the premise of the film shows us the relationship between two people from both their different perspectives. The first half of the film reveals to us how the two met and started dating, from the guy’s point of view. The second half of the film shows us the exact same story-line BUT this time from the woman’s perspective. You’d think the second half would be boring, since we see exactly what we had already seen before. Wrong. There are details of the love-story which are the same but the backstory, most of the events, etc, are almost totally different. How is this possible?

It is, because people never tell themselves the whole truth. They never even SEE the whole truth. Maybe they are afraid too. When one of two friends fights and comes to you for guidance, what do you do? In Malta in this case the adage tells you to: ‘isma l-qanpiena l-ohra‘, which roughly translates to ‘listen to the other bell’, meaning that you need to ask the other person his own side of the story.

This is because most of the time, the truth is somewhere in the middle.

What brought this on, you might ask? Nothing in particular. It’s just that sometimes, the sheer lengths people go to, to deny a particular fact or an obvious conclusion, is simply astounding.

… andddd I just realized that I’ve written a ton… hehe and I’m still sipping my first cup of coffee. This is what happens when you wake up early with your head churning with too many thoughts. Off to start my day now. Hopefully with a lighter mind.

Ta

The Boy with the Cuckoo-Clock Heart

“ I love you crookedly because my heart’s been unhinged from birth. The doctors gave me strict instructions not to fall in love: my fragile clockwork heart would never survive. But when you gave me a dose of love so powerful – far beyond my wildest dreams – that I felt able to confront anything for you, I decided to put my life in your hands.” 
― Mathias Malzieu, La Mécanique du cœur

‘The Boy with the Cuckoo-Clock Heart’, a metaphorical, sweet, and disturbing little book translated into English from French, is a Tim Burtonesque fable of the rarest kind. I purchased the book at the well-known historical bookshop Shakespeare and Co in Paris. Attracted by Benjamin Lacombe’s art on the cover (check some of it out here) I couldn’t not give it a go, and boy am I happy that I did!

Our story begins on a cold dark wintry night (of course it does), when an unkown woman gives birth to a very pale baby, delivered by ‘Dr Madeline’ also known as ‘the witch’ in a gothic house set on top of King Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh. Because yes, this dark gothic tale is set in 19th century Scotland (and we even bump into Jack the Ripper at one point)! The baby is sickly, his heart is weak, and our steampunkish doctor decides to link the hardly-beating heart with a cuckoo-clock set right into the boy’s chest.

Three rules must always be kept:
1. Never touch the hands of the heart-clock
2. Keep your temper under control
3 Whatever else you do, never ever fall in love

Needless to say that during the course of his life, Jack breaks all three rules.

By the way, did I mention there is also an animated version of the book? And it is AMAZING. Yes, this is what happens when the author, Mathias Malzieu, is the leading singer of a French rock band – Dionysus. They created the music for the animated movie themselves of course. You can find some clips on Youtube (both in the original French version and translated to English). 

Oh yes, this book was a real discovery. Thank you Paris. Thank you Shakespeare and Co. Thank you Benjamin Lacombe. And most of all thank you so much Mathias Malzieu!

P.S If you loved Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s ‘The Little Prince’, this book is right up your street.

Personal rating – 5 on 5 Stars!

Sageuk and Splash Splash Love (A Review)

Being a Sageuk fan can wreak havoc with one’s moods. 

Sageuk are Korean historical period dramas, which are usually quiet lengthy, agonizing, emotional roller-coasters, not to mention confusing since they usually only relate to actual historical facts as much as American T.V series usually do… meaning not much.

Apart from loving Korean historical dramas, I actually also adore watching any Asian historical T.V series, therefore even Japanese and Chinese ones. Lately I have watched two very good, but also very long and sad Chinese dramas. These were ‘Three Lives, Three Worlds, Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms’ (also known as Eternal Love, or To the Sky Kingdom) which consists of 58 episodes, and ‘Empresses in the Palace (also known as The Legend of Zhen Huan), consisting of 76 episodes, all of them around an hour long per episode.

Craving a break from so much history, I watched ‘The Beauty Inside’ after these (the review can be found here), which is a modern Korean drama. Unfortunately for me, although all of these dramas were VERY good, they were also quiet heavy, meaning that I ended up using rolls and rolls of tissue paper to stem my flow of tears hehe.

So, what to watch when you are still in the mood for historical drama, but want one which is light-hearted and SHORT? Enter – ‘Splash Splash Love’!

This gender-bender time-travel Joseon love story is cute, funny, and historically incorrect. Perfect for those who look forward to two hours of entertainment. It is in fact, only 2 hours long.

Without giving any spoilers, the plot of this South Korean drama follows high school studen Danbi, who is stressed because she is about to take her final examinations. Danbi falls into a rain puddle and is transported to the Joseon era, where the King and all his officials are praying for an end to a 3-year drought. Confusion ensues as Danbi disguises herself as a eunuch and realizes that in medieval Joseon, her very low level of mathematical knowledge is considered to be pure genius. She befriends the king… and well… I’d better not divulge the rest.

Of course, being a fan of Sageuk, some things did jar a bit. For example at one point both the King and the Queen simply run away from the Palace, with no guards or retinue, and spend the night outside (separately) without anyone knowing where they went. A day after, they return to the Palace, and no one even mentions it, as though nothing has happened. Anyone who watches historical Asian drama knows that Royalty NEVER went outside the Palace unsupervised and alone, especially the Queen! How could both the King and Queen just disappear for over 24 hours without anyone noticing?? Surreal lol

However I wasn’t watching this particular drama because I wanted historical accuracy was I? So, I tried to ignore all that, since it was precisely what I needed a break from. 

By the way, if you liked ‘Love in the Moonlight’, you will love this one too!

Personal rating – 3 on 5 stars

The Beauty Inside – A Review

Would you have fallen in love with your significant other if s/he had had another face? Would you be able to love someone with a physical disability? How about someone who, though not visually impaired, was still not able to differentiate faces? Is one’s identity tied to one’s face and appearance?

If you had another face, would you be a totally different person inside as well?

These are all questions the audience cannot help but ask itself, while watching ‘The Beauty Inside’. This very good Korean drama in fact, tells the story of two people whose very difficult situations color their lives in multiple ways.

Han Se-gye is a well-known actress, yet for some mysterious reason, when she is 20 years old something happens to her and she starts to transform into someone else for a week every month. Each time, she transforms into someone different. It could be an old man, a child, an older woman on a wheelchair. Age, race, gender, physical abilities – all change without warning, causing her to break down both mentally and physically.

On the other hand, there is Seo Do-jae, a man who suffers from Prosopagnosia due to having broken his cranium in an accident. Prosopagnosia, also called ‘face blindness’ really does exist, and is a cognitive disorder caused by acute brain damage, whereby a person looses the ability to recognize people’s faces, including one’s own in the mirror. After his accident, Seo Do-jae spends years learning how to recognize people using other individual clues instead. The way they walk, the way they dress, their voice, their scent… no wonder he is the only one who can actually recognize Han Se-gye, even when she wears a different face…

This K-drama is very different from any others I’ve watched, not only because of its very interesting take on mental and physical health and disability, but also because although it is a love story, the focus is not on the dating game itself, but rather highlights the fact that before one can really love and accept others, one must first of all learn to love and accept one’s self.

The supporting cast of characters is pretty impressive too. There are many funny and endearing moments, and also many sad ones. Prepare your tissues!

This T.V series is made up of 16 episodes, all of which are approximately an hour long. If you don’t mind watching them with subs (since obviously, the language is Korean), you can find all of the episodes online for free on various websites.

My personal rating is 5 on 5 stars.

There is also a movie with the same name, with basically the same story-line but different actors.

Enjoy!

On Creativity – Tropes and why we love them

A ‘trope’ is a recurrent literary theme, motif, or structure of a plot when it comes to writing novels and stories. Most tropes are presented by authors again and again, in differing formats and story-lines, and yet, though readers generally recognize them and sometimes even preempt certain happenings and resolutions, they still continue to prefer the same type of story-line and continue to read and enjoy such books and stories again and again.

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Most tropes are over-used, and yet, they still sell. Why? I must admit that I myself find that I tend to gravitate towards reading familiar tropes, especially when I’m in a certain mood where I need a nice comfortable reliable story… and yet… is writing a novel and basing it on this much-recycled outline acceptable? I mean – where is creativity?? And what about originality?

Take for example the Rags to Riches trope – here the main character is usually a young unknown person who, through some circumstance or other, ends up becoming rich and famous. Some well-known examples include Cinderella, Pretty Woman and Slum Dog Millionaire.

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Another well-known trope is the Love Triangle – this one actually needs no explanation does it? Everyone enjoys a good love story, but throw in some unrequited love, a couple of misunderstandings, a pinch of jealousy and heartache, and there it is, the usual popular T.V drama series cocktail!

A third trope, which never gets old, is what I call the Ugly Duckling story-line. Think about My Fair Lady, The Princess Diaries, Miss Congeniality or The Devil wears Prada, and you have it. Basically this kind of story also usually ends up becoming a ‘moral lesson’ = Unkept girl has a make-over and transforms into a beauty, then realizes that looks are not everything… but she still looks pretty now anyways.

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Want another one? How about the Unknown Hero who saves the World trope? I guess I don’t even need to give examples for this one… *cough*Spiderman*cough*Superman*cough*Marvelingeneral*

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And what about all those post-apocalyptic dystopian teen-movies which seem to add up all of the above?! The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner, Divergent, The Giver… ugh! I read the books before there was even a hint of any movie, and I realized early on that they were all the same, and yet I still gobbled them up! Why!?

I guess we all love the familiar, we all dream of becoming rich, popular heroes and that never changes.

Yet, artists, BEWARE. Writing/creating something familiar while portraying it in an entirely new and creative manner is one thing, re-writing the same thing over and over and over again, is another. ‘Familiar’ is a tricky word, since it is most often dangerously close to ‘mediocre’, not to mention ‘boring’. 

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Jigsaw – A Movie Review *SPOILERS*

So, just finished watching the last movie in the ‘Saw’ franchise, which I’ve been a HUGE fan of for the past 10 years… and I must say, I was quite disappointed.

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The prime thing which had attracted me to all the Saw movies, apart from the inventive torture devices, was actually the ability of the writers/producers to interlock all the movies and storylines togather like a jigsaw puzzle. That was the genius of the whole thing – that while the first movie in the franchise was taking place, chronologically we (later realize) that movies number 2 and 3 were also taking place (with different individuals) at the same time! I don’t want to give any spoilers here but I kind of had to in this case. So basically the some of the whole was better than it’s individual parts.

And that’s great HOWEVER as of the third and fourth movies we started seeing a common plot emerge, which the writers just continued to exploit by repeating again and again… and in the case of the latest ‘Jigsaw’ movie, yet AGAIN.

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For Pete’s sake, how many ‘disciples’ did this guy have? How many ‘ex-victims’ did he ‘convert’ to his ideology of pain? Were they all unaware of each other? And will the producers continue to milk this cow forever? It was a great idea and twist the first time round, and ok the second time round too. But a third secret disciple… and a fourth? Even at a distance of 10 years from Kramer’s death?

Ugh – yea again sorry for the spoilers. I just wish I could erase this last movie from my head and keep the old ones. So, thanks, but no thanks.