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Topkapi (1964)
6/10
From the top
25 June 2019
Topkapi is an entertaining, convoluted but flawed caper film which is just a tad overlong.

An international gang of criminals Elizabeth Lipp (Melina Mercouri) and Walter Harper (Maximilian Schell) plan to steal the valuable emerald dagger of Sultan Mahmud I located in Topkapi museum in Istanbul.

They recruit Arthur Simon Simpson (Peter Ustinov) a small time hustler in Greece to take a car to Turkey which has smoke bombs hidden inside. When Simpson is caught, the Turkish secret police persuade Simpson to work for them and inform on the people who employed him for the task. However the gang soon need Simpson to be part of their gang.

Ustinov won an Oscar for best supporting actor for his turn as Simpson. The heist segment was mimicked by Tom Cruise in the first Mission Impossible film. The film is a lighthearted caper which is both farcical and at time thrilling. The film had good location shooting but is let down by its silliness.
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London Kills: The Politician's Son (2019)
Season 1, Episode 1
5/10
The Politician's Son
25 June 2019
London Kills is a bought in drama that the BBC is showing in the afternoons. It is shown in the slot they broadcast Father Brown and Shakespeare & Hathaway.

Whilst those those shows have an element of humour to the mysteries. London Kills has a gritty sombreness about it.

The body of a young man is found hanging in a park but it is not suicide. The dead man is a son of a politician.

Investigating the case is DI David Bradford, a brooding detective who has been on compassionate leave. His wife has been a missing person for three months. Pretty soon the police have a lead and a possible suspect.

What shocks Bradford is that there is a link between his missing wife and the victim, Tom Price.

The drama is rather unusual for the afternoon slot for being more graphic and serious. It is a lower budget procedural shot almost documentary style. There were some nice views of the outskirts of London in the opener.

Unfortunately I found the characters DI David Bradford who suddenly supplants DS Vivienne Cole to be both stock characters. Maybe this might change as the series progresses.
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Minder: Gunfight at the O.K. Laundrette (1979)
Season 1, Episode 1
8/10
Gunfight at the O.K. Laundrette
24 June 2019
After his stint in The Sweeney. Dennis Waterman gets his own starring vehicle in Minder. They even let him sing the theme song.

Waterman is Terry McCann. A promising ex boxer and also a an ex jailbird. After doing his porridge, he now does odd jobs and provides the muscle for a dicey second hand car salesman Arthur Daley.

In the first episode Terry is minding Alfie Cavallo as he collects the takings from one of his laundrettes. Unfortunately three robbers want to take the taking and one of them has a sawn off shotgun.

They claim to be the Independent Rastafarian Army. With Alfie shot, Terry ends up being a hostage and needs to negotiate with the police and keep everyone safe.

Arthur Daley, he spots an opportunity to make money with the press. He gets the lady who was planning to go on a date with Terry to be anxious girlfriend.

A cracking first episode from creator Leon Griffith. It was a lot more grittier when first broadcast. The repeats tend to be edited for bad language and nudity. McCann is the hard man with a heart. Always a sop for a sad story and always a magnet for the babes.

It is George Cole as Arthur Daley who ends up being the scene stealer. Arthur was meant to be a secondary character but became more prominent as the series progressed.

Writer Leon Griffiths always had a good time with the vernacular such as 'er indoors' and playful with the episode titles. Although Minder was meant to be hard hitting, it also had a good mix of comedy. Here the robbers are just in over their heads. Their faces when the realise what the acronym for the Independent Rastafarian Army stands for is a picture.

The first episode has minor roles for Dave the barman and Inspector Chisholm the cop who thinks McCann will lapse back to his bad old ways and Arthur Daley is a rogue dealer. They too would have more prominent roles in future episodes.
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4/10
The Affair of the Avalanche Bicycle & Tyre Co. Ltd
24 June 2019
Some of the detectives in this series certainly aspire to be the rivals of Sherlock Holmes.

Horace Dorrington is the Victorian era equivalent of Arthur Daley or Del Boy. Nothing much wrong with that, it certainly adds variety. In the opening scene he has retrieved compromising documents for a lady. Dorrington tells her that it cost him 200 Guineas to retrieve them but in fact he stole them.

However this is a weak entry, most of it is rather dull and pedestrian. Unfortunate as it features a bicycle race which comes to a sudden crash.

Dorrington is on to Mallows. He plans to take his investment of a new bicycle company to the stock market. If his bike wins a race the day before the shares are issued, they will soar. Hence why he tried to injure the other riders.

Dorrington figures that the bikes are probably made by a rival company with a few extra bells and whistles. Dorrington wants his cut but Mallows will have none of that.

It was good that Dorrington figured the scam but did he really need to pop his head in the oven for a peek? Feeble move by a smart detective!





Private detective Horace Dorrington sees no conflict in helping himself while helping his clients. A promising new bicycle company presents him with an opportunity to cash in on his insider knowledge. But it's a dirty business, so Dorrington takes steps to ensure he's not taken for a ride.
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Your Cheatin' Heart (1990– )
6/10
Your Cheatin' Heart
23 June 2019
After the success of Tutti Frutti, John Byrne returned with another musical based dark comedy thriller. This time the results were less successful probably because of the imprenetable dialogue.

The genre here is Country & Western, Scottish style. Frank McClusky (John Gordon Sinclair) is a local journalist who has been asked by Cissie Crouch (Tilda Swinton) to clear her husband's name for armed robbery. She thinks her husband was framed by a bad guy Fraser Boyle (Ken Stott) who was involved in the music scene. Frank is smitten by Cissie who might just be using him.

There were a wide range of quirky characters in this serial a lot of them as bad guys. It is a modern day western set in Glasgow with a nod to Chinatown. John Gordon Sinclair appears in the early episodes with his nose bandaged up.

The story did not gel, it was hard to sympathise with some of the characters who felt distant. It lacked the warmth and the genuine quirkiness of Tutti Frutti. I rewatched this recently and I still found it incomprehensible.

This was the last serial written for television by John Byrne.

It is still a pleasure to see Guy Mitchell and Eddi Reader perform 'Let Your Love Flow' with a line dance by a motorcycle gang in the final episode.
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The Voices (2014)
6/10
Pet Sounds
23 June 2019
The Voices is a black comedy/horror film about mental illness and not taking your medication.

Jerry (Ryan Reynolds) is an upbeat nerdy guy working at a factory in a small town. He has had disturbing issues in his childhood. He needs to see a psychiatrist Dr Warren (Jacki Weaver) and take his medication. Failure to do so is a breach of his release orders.

As Jerry is not taking his medication he can hear voices from his pets. Mr Whiskers the sinister cat and Bosco his docile dog. When Jerry takes an English expat Fiona (Gemma Arterton) to dinner he accidentally runs over a deer and then accidentally kills Fiona.

Unfortunately Jerry cuts up her body and puts her head in the fridge. Jerry hallucinates Fiona's head talking to him and she demands a companion in the fridge. Now Jerry has an eye on Lisa (Anna Kendrick) who has a crush on Gerry. Pretty soon the heads in the fridge mount up.

Jerry mostly sees the world in a demented clinical way. Bosco acts as his conscious. It is only when Jerry takes his pills that he sees his scuzzy blood soaked flat with rotting flesh.

The Voices is a grotesque offbeat dark comedy/horror hybrid. Reynolds cannot pull of being the weird nerdy guy convincingly. He also provides the voices of his pets. He actually does a good Scots accent.

The film tries too hard to be quirky and I thought it had an unsatisfying conclusion. I also found the violence misogynistic. All the violence is against women. It did at least provide an insightful look at a possible outlook of a serial killer.
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Patriots Day (2016)
6/10
Patriots Day
23 June 2019
Peter Berg brings an account of the Boston Marathon bombing of 2013. Three people died over 200 were injured as two bombs went off near the finish line. Bombs placed by the Tsarnaev brothers who were of Chechen origin.

Once the bombs go off, Patriots Day becomes a procedural thriller. It focuses on the down on his luck with a bad leg, fictional hero Sergeant Tommy Saunders (Mark Wahlberg.)

As the film progresses the most interesting and intriguing character is Special Agent Richard DesLauriers (Kevin Bacon) the FBI agent in charge of the investigation. Berg deserves credit for having a nuanced portrayal of the FBI in this film. It is just a shame that DesLauriers is relegated to the background. It would had been a different film with him as the lead but a better one.

Some of the characters appear who seemed to be unrelated to the movie's narrative until much later on. An example is the Chinese student Dun Meng who has a frightening encounter with the brothers late at night or Sergeant Jeffrey Pugliese (J K Simmons) the cop in Watertown.

The film is uncertain about its treatment of the Tsarnaev brothers. Were they hardened criminals, committed terrorists or just two idiots who could not even get the right type of milk for a baby? At times the brothers appeared to be dim, glad that they were driving a Mercedes.

The heroes of Patriot's Day are the people of Boston and the victims. However there is something both glib and empty about this movie using a real life tragedy for a commercial thriller so soon after the events.
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6/10
It rests on Jackman's shoulders
22 June 2019
The big screen adaptation of the musical version of Les Misérables has Anne Hathaway knock it out of the park with an emotional version of 'I Dreamed a Dream.' Hugh Jackman shows that he can easily glide from action star to all round singing and dancing entertainer. Russell Crowe despite fronting his own band needs a few more singing lessons.

Victor Hugo's epic tells the story of Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) in 19th century France. Jailed for stealing a loaf of bread and running when chased. He spent years in jail and then more years hunted by the determined policeman Javert (Russell Crowe) for breaking his parole conditions.

Valjean has become rich and successful and tried to do good for others. However he failed factory girl Fantine (Anne Hathaway) whose life descended in misery and prostitution. To make amends he takes care of her daughter Cosette. However Valjean cannot escape his past and France is heading for revolution.

This is a big musical spectacle. Director Tom Hooper knows which big set pieces to stage for the cinema. Although the novel is long, the film is too long. Some of the songs are rather forgettable. I thought Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen were just a little bit too fruity.
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5/10
The One with the Ultimate Fighting Champion
22 June 2019
The episode starts with Robin Williams and Billy Crystal popping in Central Perk. It was the best bit.

The second best bit was Monica's new boyfriend Pete (Jon Favreau) thinks he can be an Ultimate Fighting Champ despite having his butt repeatedly kicked. Pete is deluded enough to think he can bring his philosophy of succeeding in business to fighting. Either that or he was brain damaged from a punch.

Looking very much these days of sexual harassment. Chandler gets his butt repeatedly slapped by his boss. It has become so painful, he needs to put cream on it.

There were a few nice zingers that Friends is famous for. However at this stage, Matthew Perry looks too gaunt.
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Year of the Rabbit: Episode #1.1 (2019)
Season 1, Episode 1
5/10
Episode 1.1
21 June 2019
Matt Berry is the drunk incompetent thuggish Detective Inspector Eli Rabbit. This comedy is billed as the Victorian era of The Sweeney with more comedy and incompetence. A suspect in the first episode is arrested because he was wearing a blue hat and the murder victim had blue gloves.

Set in the foggy east end of London of the1880s. Rabbit has to find a killer of a young woman assisted by his new and naive sidekick, DC Wilbur Strauss (Freddie Fox.) They have the unwanted assistance of Mabel (Susan Wokoma) who is the adopted daughter of Superintendent Wisbech (Alun Armstrong) who is always clearing Rabbit's backside. Mabel wants to be in the police but females are not allowed. Mabel smells a conspiracy which the others discount.

The first episode reminded me of Murder in Successville crossed with Ripper Street. I was just waiting for actors to turn up mimicking famous people. In fact The Elephant Man pops his big head around.

It is silly fun but even by the first episode, several jokes and themes were already being repeated constantly.
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Killing Eve: Nice and Neat (2019)
Season 2, Episode 2
6/10
Nice and Neat
21 June 2019
Villanelle cannot get a break. Injured and in need of a medicine, she manages to get a stranger to help her but when he offers her shelter, he treats her like a doll.

Villanelle is in a house with a creepy man, his dementia ridden mother and still no medicine. It is a good job she knows how to look after herself.

Eve meanwhile has set her sights on another lethal female assassin called the Ghost. She is still affected by the events in Paris with Eve. At one point she has a near encounter with Eve when Villanelle tries to contact her.

Carolyn Martens has a shocking surprise waiting for Eve and the audience.

This episode flowed much better than first episode of the second series. However Julian Barratt did not stretch himself too much as the kindly but freaky man who came to the rescue of Villanelle. His character was even called Julian.
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2/10
As aimless as the violence
20 June 2019
Vincent N Roxxy is one of those nihilistic slow burn violent crime dramas that is tailor made for Ryan Gosling.

However Gosling was not available and the script is terrible.

Vincent (Emile Hirsch) rescues Roxxy (Zoë Kravitz) when she is being attacked and he runs the man over. Roxxy is in trouble after her brother got killed and he owed some bad people a lot of money. Vincent invites her to hide out at her brother's farmhouse. Vincent is estranged from his screw up brother JC (Emory Cohen) since his mother's death. However both decide to start again and open up an auto workshop.

However it is revealed that Vincent's and Roxxy's encounter was far from accidental.

The film is lifeless and charmless with a dirge like brooding opening two acts of the movie. It only shows some adrenaline with the gory grindhouse violent scenes at the end.
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Xena: Warrior Princess: Ties That Bind (1996)
Season 1, Episode 20
5/10
Ties That Bind
20 June 2019
Ties That Bind sees the return of Ares who wants to lure Xena back to the path of evil.

It also sees Xena encounter a man called Atrius who claims to be her father.

Xena and Gabrielle encounter Atrius as they try to free some women from a warlord who has taken them into slavery. Xena is suspicious at first, Gabrielle as good reasons for suspicion when he sees Atrius kill a man after he has surrendered.

The episode is all about what tricks Ares is playing. Veteran actor Tom Atkins gives a good performance as a man who just wants to be acknowledged by his daughter but he might also be holding his cards close to his chest.
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Perfect Strangers: Episode #1.3 (2001)
Season 1, Episode 3
6/10
Episode 3
20 June 2019
It was all about Richard the lost brother played by Jude Law/Tom Hiddleston look alike JJ Feild.

His death caused a rupture between Rebecca and Alice. A schism that Daniel wants to repair but it will be something that would make Rebecca angry towards him.

Alice was a surrogate mother to Rebecca, Charles and Richard but the latter started to display a strange pattern of behaviour.

As it is mentioned time and time again, you cannot always put the pieces back together.

For Raymond the family get together allowed him to discover more about his stern father. He was acting frivolously as he was showing off to his married lover.

Stephen Poliakoff uses mood, music and pictures to tell his story about family history. At least Daniel finds out why he was pictured as a boy with a strange a costume.
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Gideon's Daughter (2005 TV Movie)
4/10
A disappointment from Poliakoff
20 June 2019
This flat fragmented television film about a public relations tycoon Gideon Warner (Bill Nighy) was a disappointment from Stephen Poliakoff.

I found it notable for early roles for Emily Blunt who plays the semi estranged daughter Natasha who wants to leave her womanising father and Tom Hardy who plays Gideon's young, enthusiastic, right hand man.

The film is narrated by a writer Sneath played by Robert Lindsay who is dictating a book. The film spans the new dawn of a Labour landslide in the 1997 general election, to the death of Princess Diana and the Millennium celebrations. It was a time of spin doctors and celebrity culture.

The film just did not work. Gideon is a weary man who just lets his clients babble on. He seems to be interested in a couple who lost their son in a cycling accident. The mother Stella (Miranda Richardson) seperated from her husband and something about her attitude and how she deals with her grief intrigues him.

The film never deleves as to why Natasha wants to head to the jungle once she leaves college. What is causing the resentment with her father.

Smeath himself was a superfluous character, there was no reason for him to be here. This should had been a quirky film that would delve into the zeitgeist of one of the great governments of the 20th century that came into power just as the century was about to end.
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5/10
The March of the Gray Men
19 June 2019
A card, a cad. That were some of the nicer things said about Alan Clark.

A respected military historian, a right wing MP who disliked foreigners but he was also into animal rights. Then again so was Hitler.

His diaries when published caused a sensation which revealed his various sexual exploits.

John Hurt playing Clark does well as the frustrated middle aged MP getting his first steps on the ministerial ladder. I have no idea why Scott thought he was cabinet material in those days.

In this first episode, Clark is just too lazy to be a minister. He turns up drunk when he has to read an Employment bill. They could had made more of the person who has no time for equal opportunities having to promote such a bill.

Alan Clark when he was alive and appeared on television had a glint in his eye. The kind that liked mischief making, maybe you could sense in his younger days he was a lothario. I didn't sense that in the first episode from Hurt. He was more hapless with the civil service and his secretary having no time for him.
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Summer of Rockets: Episode #1.3 (2019)
Season 1, Episode 3
6/10
Episode 3
19 June 2019
I do think that Poliakoff's tale lacks urgency. Then again it is not his style to go for a crash bang wallop approach.

Samuel Petrukhin has to do some dirty work and take photographs of the people attending the fishing trip that Richard Shaw arranges.

Samuel's business is in trouble and he needs to do it so he can get the government order. Lord Arthur Wallington senses what Samuel is up to and he give Samuel some interesting information.

The episode also sees a developing relationship between Hannah and Kathleen Shaw. The Petrukhin's find out that Hannah did not meet the Queen and she has missed a lot of the parties. Kathleen agrees to act as a chaperone but also gets an opportunity to confront an old friend of her missing son.

The episode highlights how young people of the era had a sense of fatalism. They really did think the world could end in a few days time. Nuclear destruction was no fantasy.

The story does have a huge potential twist and also a committed performance by Keeley Hawes as a mother driven into desperation.
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5/10
Let's Have Another Look at Your Past Perfect
19 June 2019
The path of two lesbian love never runs smoothly. It is an old television trope, one of them does just as they think they are about to walk off to the sunset.

For Anne Lister she needs to see off Miss Walker's newly widowed suitor, Reverend Ainsworth the man who forced himself on Ann Walker.

However the episode gets lost with the toing and froing between Anne and Ann. Miss Walker is scared, afraid that loving and living with Anne Lister is wrong. She constantly has second thoughts especially as she is easily manipulated by others.

The episode certainly ends with a wallop with Anne Lister on the warpath. However I did think here that the series has been stretched as an eight parter.
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Escape at Dannemora: Part 5 (2018)
Season 1, Episode 5
6/10
Part 5
19 June 2019
Ben Stiller provides a great opening sequence of Sweat going through the tunnels. It is only lit by the torch on his helmet.

This is a dry run but for Sweat and Matt, the time for escape is near. They just need to keep their heads down and stay out of trouble. Not easy when a fight breaks out in the prison yard.

For Tilly this is also a tense time. Her husband Lyle takes her out for dinner in King's Wok. At one point she even is nice to her husband, it causes a panic attack when she is supposed to be the ride out of town for the escaping prisoners.

What really stands out is the unsympathetic portrayal of Tilly. Just look at the way she orders and pays for the early morning donuts and then throws it at her husband.

The series has gone up a notch. The escape is happening, this is no longer a pipedream as we see Sweat run down the tunnels.
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Years and Years: Episode #1.5 (2019)
Season 1, Episode 5
6/10
Episode 5
18 June 2019
With Daniel deemed dead. Stephen takes his frustrations out on Viktor. Unfortunately in a devious nasty way once Stephen hooks up with wide boys who get an important government contract.

Viv Rook's Britain is not a new oasis, more a clapped out chaotic dictatorship. There is no bright new dawn as the Lyons discover.

There are heavy rains, a widening underclass and areas of towns and cities being fenced off.

Russell T Davies has mined the kind of Dystopian cruel government that existed in Torchwood: Children of Earth. We see a moment when Rook indicates that she might be controlled by others but is that the electorate?

The penultimate episode certainly gets dark and twisted. It is not an helpful future and Stephen acknowledges it in this episode. The generation born in the 1980s who were progressive, liberal and had it all but they are going back on those values.
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Don't Forget the Driver: Hampton Court (2019)
Season 1, Episode 4
5/10
Hampton Court
18 June 2019
Peter goes to Hampton Court with a coach load of Japanese tourists. Thanks to the Japanese speaking tour guide he gets lots of tips as the tourists have been told that giving paper money is seen as good luck.

Meanwhile his daughter Kayla is still all at sea with the real world and her job. I understand she is a teenager but Rita shows more gumption than her even though she is an illegal immigrant who cannot speak English.

Rita goes out alone to get her mobile phone fixed so she can contact her brother. Luckily she evades the bad guys who are still looking for her.

I do find Peter to be a bit of a wet blanket when the pressure is on and the heat is certainly on when Kayla rings him in a panic.

I just cannot view this series as a comedy, maybe a drama with a few laughs.
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Star Trek: Discovery: Project Daedalus (2019)
Season 2, Episode 9
4/10
Project Daedalus
18 June 2019
The episode reminded me a little of the ST: TNG episode Lower Decks.

We get to see more of the peripheral characters on the ship as well as the famous Star Trek chess board.

The episode starts out with human memories of Airiam. I always assumed she was from another planet but she is a human cyborg. Presumably less advanced than android Data who is still some decades away.

Airiam has been compromised and looks like she is sending data to Section 31. The security chief has suspicions but seems not to do anything about it.

Meanwhile Spock and Michael try to resolve the mystery of the red angel and whatever issues they have between them.

The episode is really good to look at. You just need to ignore the darn awful script and clunky writing.
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3/10
Only Irons is having a good time here
18 June 2019
In the #MeToo era of Hollywood's misogyny. An Actor Prepares would count as a prime exhibit.

Jeremy Irons plays Atticus Smith a hard living and hard drinking Oscar winning actor who has a heart attack while receiving a lifetime achievement award.

Unable to fly he has to drive cross country to attend his daughter's wedding. He is accompanied reluctantly by his estranged son Adam, an uptight feminist lecturer and documentary maker who seems to have a few problems of his own.

Smith is preparing to play god for his next role. Despite his health scare he is not prepared to give up his boozy lecherous lifestyle as he hits the road. He also regards Adam as a snitch who told his mom that dad was cheating on her.

Irons is having a ball playing the philandering Smith and he is certainly waves his balls about in front of his son as the viewer gets to see plenty of his rear.

Unfortunately Irons is the only person having fun in this movie. It is an unfunny road comedy with tired cliched characters.
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Quantum Is Calling (2016 TV Movie)
6/10
Where is Schrödinger
17 June 2019
I think this short directed by Alex Winter (Bill in the Bill & Ted movies) has something to do with quantum mechanics. I found Zoe Saldana's acting to be too hysterical to fully understand it.

Zoe is meant to look after Simon Pegg's cat Schrödinger while he is away.

The trouble is Schrödinger jumps into a box that Zoe opened and the cat disappears.

Is the cat both alive and dead or just elsewhere.

Zoe calls Paul Rudd who puts her through to Professor Stephen Hawking.

There are lots of references to Star Trek (John Cho makes a cameo) and The Matrix (Keanu Reeves lends his voice.)

It is a bit of frivolous fun but I did think the science behind it disappeared.
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Fleabag: Episode #2.4 (2019)
Season 2, Episode 4
7/10
Episode 2.4
17 June 2019
There was a lot that came together between Fleabag and the Priest in this episode.

I also liked the flashbacks to Fleabag's mother's funeral and how the Godmother made an immediate play for Fleabag's dad.

It all came down the confessional. Fleabag almost admits to everything to the Priest.

For the first time you sense some kind of inner calm in Fleabag. That she has internalised her thoughts, feeling and put them in some sense of order. Maybe that is what the Priest has brought to her.
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