‘A Christmas Carol’ (2009) by Robert Lee Zemeckis – a movie review

By Beatrice Cargnelutti

Аs the Christmas season has begun, among the several tales defined as ‘timeless’, it is impossible not to mention Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’ (1843). Its storyline reaches the soul and warms the heart, and because of its strong impact on the public, it has been adapted into numerous films. This review is on Disney’s animated movie adaptation of 2009, ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Robert Lee Zemeckis.

The plot of the novel the movie is based on is a known to most “evergreen”, but in a nutshell: the old miser and heartless usurer Ebenezer Scrooge, after being visited by three Spirits of Christmas, understands the true essence of Christmas and the importance of doing good to others.

Disturbing and dark, this version of the original novel is not characterized by the usual Christmas idyllic mood, being entirely permeated by the gruesome, with features of a horror film. Victorian London is where the events take place, twisting and stretching its setting to reflect the macabre atmosphere. Therefore, many viewers probably could feel it as being too frightening for a Christmas movie, especially if animated and aimed at a younger audience. But the extreme fidelity to the novel with which the characters and dialogues are portrayed makes it a very successful work, suitable for viewers of all ages, from children who are entering the literary world for the first time to adults nostalgic to see a new adaptation of a classic.

In fact, the movie captures in some ways the essence of Dickens as he merrily exaggerates. He often begins with brave young heroes, surrounding them with a sequence of characters and caricatures. In this case the main character is the caricature himself of the story as Ebenezer Scrooge’s thinness, stooping and bitterness are preponderantly accentuated and emphasized.

In a twinkling part of casting, Jim Carrey animates Scrooge taking on the archetypal role of the latter, serving up a really grumpy and emotional old type, not offering a foregone cartoonish performance at all.

Zemeckis’ film is rich of innumerable details; the soundtrack is touching and overwhelming, the tone is convincing, and the pacing pleasant. The balanced rhythm alternates between the strenuous slowness of some scenes and an intriguing virtuosic dynamism, guiding the viewer through extremely diverse sequences without overly clashing with each other. The film does not fail in the intent it sets out to perpetuate.

The use of the technique of Performance Capture translated into 3-D animation provides a sensational visual experience, with an extremely realistic representation of the different characters, some of whom are performed by the same actor. In fact, Carrey played not only the role of Scrooge but also of all three Christmas ghosts and Gary Oldman acted as Bob Cratchit, Marley and Tiny Tim. The actors are there beneath the performance-capture animation; it is possible to recognize their expressions, but in general the Zemeckis characters don’t resemble their originals excessively, as their facial features are effectively modified and adapted to the characters they perform.

“A Christmas Carol” is a famous classic that is re-proposed countless times each year at this festive season through its many different film adaptations. The 2009 version is one of the most recent and successful, faithfully evoking the atmosphere of Dickens’ novel, allowing the spectators to cathartically identify with the story and make them feel the pure spirit of Christmas.


‘Normal People’ (BBC) – Series Overview

By Lily Brown – University can be an exciting new chapter in a lot of people’s lives. For many people, it is the first time they will be away from home and away from their…

By Lily Brown

University can be an exciting new chapter in a lot of people’s lives. For many people, it is the first time they will be away from home and away from their parents and it can be a time to meet new people, explore new things and learn a few things along the way.

Normal People, originally a novel by Sally Rooney, and recently adapted into a twelve-part series for BBC Three follows the relationship and lives of Marianne and Connell, a young couple from Sligo. The novel and series chronicles their on/off relationship through sixth form and then university and through happy, traumatic and challenging moments in both of their lives.

For me, this story of young love rang true not only because their relationship was complicated and fraught with misunderstandings as well as romance and passion but because it dealt with some of the more difficult and challenging aspects of university life. For Marianne, university is, initially, a revelation. She has gone from being a strong but socially isolated teenager in sixth form, to be an adored member of a friendship group and girlfriend to an enthusiastic member of the university debate team. She is being recognised for her intelligence and admired for her beauty in ways that she never was at school, and at first, she enjoys the attention and the friendships she has gained. She grows in confidence and blossoms into a person somewhat unrecognisable from her school days. However, her initial relationship ends and she soon finds herself involved with Jamie who resents her friendship with Connell and eventually the relationship ends on particularly bad terms. On her return to university after studying abroad she finds herself without her big group of friends but knowing who her true friends are.  

Connell too, experiences hardships that he never could have dreamt of at school where he was popular with the lads in his year group and admired by the most popular girls in school. He is a star player on the Gaelic football team and attends every social event. However, even at these early stages in the narrative, we are given a glimpse into his insecurities. Even though he clearly likes Marianne, he is paralysed with fear at the thought of admitting to his friends that he wants to be with her, and he allows this to guide his actions towards Marianne.

At university, these feelings of insecurity only worsen and evolve into loneliness and isolation. His depression starts to affect his relationship with his girlfriend, Helen. His friend Niall recommends seeking help and we see Connell starting to work through his feelings around his friend’s death and his own vulnerabilities. The issue of mental health problems faced by university students at every level has been highlighted in the media over the past few years and this representation of Connell recognising and seeking help is important for those experiencing similar problems while at university.

Towards the end of the series we see Connell and Marianne really begin to settle into university life and into the friendships and relationships they have developed over their time there. Through the encouragement and support he receives from Marianne; Connell decides to accept a place on a course at a university in New York. The series shows lots of positive aspects of university life including parties and opportunities to study abroad and it balances with realistic and sympathetic portrayals of the hard work and dedication that goes in to studying and living at university.

Image: The Guardian

‘Demon Slayer’ Season One – Anime Series Review

By Shubham Singh – I was already up-to-date with the manga of this series, but then, to my pleasant surprise, I discovered it was going to receive an anime adaptation…

By Shubham Singh

“No matter how many people you may lose, you have no choice but to go on living – no matter how devastating the blows may be.”


This dialogue hits you hard in the face, whilst also reaching into your heart.

I was already up-to-date with the manga of this series, but then, to my pleasant surprise, I discovered it was going to receive an anime adaptation!

After watching the first episode, released by Koyoharu Gotouge, I thought it was fantastic! From the animations to the sounds and the canon, it was all just amazing and I couldn’t wait to watch more of the series.

Demon Slayer takes basic Shonen tropes and wraps its own kind of unique aesthetic around them. I like how the main character, Kamado Tanjirou, isn’t fueled by revenge or an incentive to “be the best” at something. His drive is more touching, as he goes through the episodes trying to find a cure to restore the humanity of his sister who has been turned into a demon. The selfless kindness of this persona is admirable, especially in the way that he remains sympathetic and unsettled in the events where he is left with no choice but to do something cruel.

After, for instance, a demon is killed, there is so much more to the action than just ridding the world of evil. Upon death, the demon’s stories are revealed – we learn as a viewer why the person became a demon to begin with, about their rights and wrongs, and we also get to see reflections of their gratitude. Nothing here is mindless, giving depth to the show’s narrative.

I ended up watching this series after a friend recommended it to me. For a long time, the thought of starting it stayed in the back of my mind as I assumed it would be similar to many other Shonen shows I have watched before. Though this definitely wasn’t the case, and many other anime fans seemed to agree with this – for the past ten years consecutively, the anime ‘One Piece’ had remained the most popular of its kind. Selling over 470 million copies to date. However, once ‘Demon Slayer’ appeared on the scene, it’s ten-year reign abruptly ended as it seized the top spot with both hands.

Shubham’s Demon Slayer Fan-art

Demon Slayer carries a ‘Game of Thrones’ sort of vibe, but without giving spoilers, I’ll tell you that no one is safe. It will make you laugh, cry, obsess over your favourite characters (mine are Tomioka Giyu and Akaza!) and it will leave you frequently hanging in suspense that will drive you crazy. If you have read the manga prior to watching the show, you will appreciate the way that Gotouge has made the series as similar to the source material as possible, especially given the short duration of each episode.

So what are you waiting for? Well, I know how I would answer that – I’m waiting for the movie to be released in October 2020!

You can find more of Shubham’s artwork on Instagram.

The Last Train to Redemption – The Good Place & BoJack Horseman

By Sabine Buhain – As January came to a close, so did a pair of popular, long-running television shows — namely NBC’s The Good Place and Netflix’s BoJack Horseman.

By Sabine Buhain

As January came to a close, so did a pair of popular, long-running television shows — namely NBC’s The Good Place and Netflix’s BoJack Horseman.

There was a stark contrast between the two endings of both series: where The Good Place discussed moral accountability in a lighthearted comedy, BoJack Horseman pulled no punches in its hard-hitting criticism of modern society’s lack thereof. While Schur delivers an existential story in middle-brow dramedy packaging, Bob-Waksberg finds his comic relief in topical jokes, black comedy, and the occasional tongue-twister.

However, in spite of their contrasts, both of these contemporary shows attempted to answer one important question: Can anyone be redeemed? In a world where ‘cancel culture’ is on the rise, it’s a question we find ourselves asking outside of fiction as well. I’m here to discuss the differences, similarities, and ultimately, the importance of what Schur and Bob-Waksberg have to say on this topical debate.

The following will contain major spoilers for the finales of The Good Place and BoJack Horseman, as well as content warnings for mentions of fictional addiction, sexual predation, and suicide.


The Idealism of The Good Place

Putting an end to four seasons and four years of runtime, The Good Place finally allows its quartet cast (“Team Cockroach”) a proper win. Having presented the flaws of the afterlife— particularly that it was too harsh a punishment to send many morally decent people to ‘The Bad Place’ for not being ethically excellent enough, while those lucky enough to have been raised decently may enjoy ‘The Good Place’—the team take it upon themselves to design a new system by which to judge Earth’s dearly departed.

Throughout the show, we see the main cast improve drastically in the afterlife, regardless of who they were when they were alive. Jason Mendoza, an impulsive criminal, becomes a surprisingly wise advisor to his friends in times of difficult decisions. Tahani Al-Jamil, an attention-seeking socialite, uses her event planning talents to bring people joy and contribute to the greater good. Chidi Anagonye, once wracked with indecision, learns to accept his mistakes and have conviction in his choices. Eleanor Shellstrop, arguably the most narcissistic and selfish of them all, starts making sacrifices for not only her friends but for humanity at large.

From their collective experience, Team Cockroach learned the valuable lesson that anyone can become a better person so long as they make the decision to start. Regardless of where they came from, what they had suffered, and who they were before, they grew greatly as time went on. Thus, they found the fatal flaw of the ‘Bad Place – Good Place’ system was that it was too final – it did not give people a chance to redeem themselves.

It was here they decided to abolish The Bad Place entirely. Instead, people who died would be put through a series of tests that assessed their morality, and afterwards, they were subjected to lessons that would teach them how to become better people, based on their results. The more virtuous a person was on Earth, the easier their trials would be. Passing these assessments would allow them entry into The Good Place. Some people would progress through their tests with flying colours, being given swift access to eternal paradise; others could potentially never pass, instead of being subjected to a post-lifetime of moral dilemmas and incessant tutoring.

It is in The Good Place that we see a positive outlook on the prospects of redemption, but not an ingenious one. With this system, Schur carefully treads the tightrope between idealistic naivete and harsh condemnation. It drives home the point that those who make a genuine effort to improve will eventually become ‘better’. We see characters who were neglectful parents, law-breaking sleazebags, and slanderous journalists in their time become remorseful and morally upright people once they reach The Good Place, making amends with those they wronged on Earth.

However, while everyone is given the opportunity to become better people, not everyone does. These people aren’t subjected to the fire and brimstone torture characteristic of The Bad Place, but rather a healthy amount of pressure to learn. They can choose to be stubborn and never address their flaws, remaining in ethical training forever, or they can open their mind and confront their issues, allowing them to advance through the tests. They are never treated as subhuman but rather given the eternal, nagging opportunity to change.

The Good Place can be read as a utopic commentary on the criminal justice system, particularly the debate between rehabilitation and retribution. It argues that by constantly denying a person’s own ability to improve, as well as a free life where they can spend time with loved ones, a guilty person creates their own form of torture—and we need not push them further than that.

To those who want to seek redemption, Schur sends a positive message: anyone can deserve The Good Place – they just have to work for it.


The Realism of BoJack Horseman

BoJack Horseman has put out six seasons worth of difficult characters with difficult questions. The series follows the ups and downs of one BoJack Horseman, a Hollywood actor turned alcoholic, and his turbulent relationships. Throughout each season, we have seen many opportunities for BoJack to change as he attempts to cut himself free from the toxic influences in his life like show business, substance abuse, and even trauma from his abusive family. However, these opportunities are normally clipped at the wings by BoJack himself before they can truly take off, and each mistake he makes continues to follow him on his journey of attempted self-improvement.

What BoJack has done throughout the show is what many would regard as abhorrent and irredeemable, such as abandoning his best friend who lost his job due to homophobia, sleeping with two women with whom he had considerable power over due to the extreme age gap between them, and being verbally abusive to those he considered his close friends. His addiction not only affected himself, but also those around him, either tempting them into substance abuse themselves or making them suffer the consequences of his lack of control.

What viewers feel will be a true turning point for the tragic titular character is often turned sour in a slippery slope of missteps within the next few episodes. And while it’s not just BoJack who’s flawed in this story, with his motley crew of similarly screwed up friends, he is clearly the worst of them all.

However, in Season 6 we see a shining ray of hope for BoJack that seems like it’ll stay for good this time: having been hired to teach acting at Wesleyan University, he finds a sense of genuine accomplishment in being able to impart his knowledge unto his students. At this point, he’s even managed to maintain his sobriety and, as a result, he starts acting out of interest rather than for his own ulterior motives. However, at the same time, many of the mistakes which BoJack has yet to receive retribution for are coming to light. In a battle with the press, BoJack loses his job and is condemned by the public for his wrongdoings. Everything we saw BoJack build up over the course of the season, as well as all seasons prior, is taken away from him over the span of a few days: his sobriety, his selflessness, and a significant amount of his positive relationships.

Having lost all hope in his ability to redeem himself from his mistakes, BoJack decides to drink. And in his drunken state, he breaks into his old home (now purchased by a different family), leaves his friend Diane a guilt-tripping voice message begging her to save him, and then attempts suicide unsuccessfully. He recovers in hospital and is shortly after sent to prison. A year later, he is allowed to leave prison for a day to attend the wedding of his ex-lover and close friend Princess Carolyn.

It’s here that he’s found everyone else has changed since he’s been gone. Princess Carolyn has finally managed to balance her work and personal life, having previously been obsessed with the former. Mr Peanutbutter is focusing on improving independently; his previous relationships having been used as distractions from his problems. Diane Nguyen, slowly but surely, has been able to place trust in her partner and grow closer to her new family despite the trauma of her own.

Diane confronts BoJack with the fact that while she truly cares for him as a friend and will never stop doing so, she cannot continue to be close with him due to their relationship being a negative factor in her development as a whole. He is always dragging her down and putting her in a bad place, and he is always relying on her to help him be a better person; she wants to be able to care for her new family. This is her priority.

While BoJack has been in prison for a year, everyone has moved on. For better, in that, the public has largely forgotten about his controversy and is open to seeing him on the big screen again — and for worse, in that, all of his friends have stabilised their lives for the most part, except for him. However, there is a silver lining to Diane’s confrontation: she wishes him the best.

BoJack Horseman has always dealt in greys. This is far from a happy ending, and to the frustration of some, it is largely ambiguous. It is unclear to the audience whether BoJack is going to become a better person immediately after this finale, or if it will even happen at all. Truth be told, this is not an ending; while we will no longer be there to watch BoJack’s journey, his life and that of those around him will still go on.

What BoJack Horseman presents to us is the notion that while every action has its consequences, these consequences are not necessarily the be-all-end-all of one’s life. There will always be a second chance to try. It may take several attempts, and feature some low points, but the journey will never be truly over. Improvement is not a straight incline, nor is it one without loss — but so long as you keep living, every day is a day to start being better than the last.

Can anyone be redeemed?

The Good Place and BoJack Horseman don’t shy away from answering one of life’s most difficult questions. Funnily enough, where they are juxtaposed makes them complementary; while The Good Place follows a success story in redemption, showcasing four selfish people becoming some of the most selfless in existence, BoJack Horseman tells the tale of one person who, unlike his peers, hasn’t been able to move past his mistakes.

I believe that both are best watched in tandem, as they teach the same lesson with two distinct outlooks. Where The Good Place instils a bright and bubbly hope, BoJack Horseman places a good-intentioned warning.

In the end, their message is the same: anyone can be redeemed, but only those who try in earnest will.

Images: Colleen Hayes/NBC and Netflix

Top 5 Binge-able Netflix Shows

This semester is in full swing, with assignments lurking over us (is it really week five already?!) But we all know there is always time to start a new TV show…

This semester is in full swing, with assignments lurking over us (is it really week five already?!) But we all know there is always time to start a new TV show.

Brooklyn Nine Nine


The show is set in a Brooklyn precinct and follows the lives of a group of detectives, under the command of Captain Holt. With new storylines every episode, along with a long-standing narrative, it provides fans with running gags, meaning binging episodes makes it that much funnier.

Amy Says: I binged watched five series of this in a month and it is a good break from serious cop dramas that I am used to. The show tackles serious issues, while being funny and upbeat, and without fail, I will be in stitches of laughter at every episode.

Amy’s favourite Episode: Season 5 Episode 4 – HalloVeen

Jess Says: Whereas I watched it weekly as it aired. I 100% recommend this show as something light hearted which isn’t too heavy and can just provide some escapism when you’re feeling a little stressed about life.

Jess’ favourite episode: Season 2 Episode 23 – Johnny and Dora

PSA: The fifth series is currently not on Netflix.

Seasons: 5

On The Block


Set in a rough LA neighbourhood, a group of friends try to navigate high school while finding it hard to stay out of trouble. The troubles the group encounter go way beyond those of a typical high school drama.

Amy Says: I chose to watch this show because of the trailer. I thought it would be a comical, coming of age tv series, something easy to watch and not have to worry about. I. Was. Wrong. It is definitely a comedy but also an emotional drama that does at times pull on your heart strings. It has a great, diverse cast (with the exception of a white girl who plays a Latina. Fingers crossed she gets recast next season after the riot from fans). I also enjoyed the show because I am a sucker for forbidden love, and that’s a big element to the plots in the show’s series, plus there’s only ten episodes so it is easy to finish.

Amy’s favourite episode: Season 1 Episode 10 – Chapter Ten

Jess Says: I only watched it because I was forced by Amy and thought it was going to be something I could view casually. I wish it was. I finished the series in a day and hysterically cried at the last episode. I love watching the friendship between the six main characters and the mini story lines each of them have! Ruby is my absolute favourite character and he really does make the show for me! I wish I had a group of friends like this when I was fourteen!

Jess’ favourite episode: Season 1 Episode Four – Chapter Four

PSA: Don’t fall into the trap that this is a fun show! It. Will. Ruin. Your. Life.

Seasons: 1

Queer Eye


A remake of the 00s show, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, the show centres around five gay men, referred to as the ‘Fab Five’. They give unsuspecting men total makeovers from their clothing choice, all the way down to what they eat. Jonathan, Bobby, Antoni, Tan and Karamo style a new man every episode.

Amy Says: Although I totally recommend binge-watching this show, you don’t necessarily need to (but you will want to). What makes this show great is the personalities of each of the ‘Fab Five’, their energies gel so well with each other and you can really tell they are amazing friends! It has a heart-warming ability to transform people’s lives, as well as talk about the issues surrounding masculinity.

Amy’s favourite episode: Season 1 Episode 1 – “You can’t fix ugly”

Jess Says: I am an emotional wreck when I watch this show and cry at every single episode. I wish the ‘Fab Five’ would come and fix my life to be honest because I need Jonathon to give me a haircut and I need Antoni to teach me how to make every dish under the sun with a single avocado! It’s so inspiring watching every episode and seeing the confidence they give the men, even when they have different values (one episode they made over a Trump Supporter *shivers*). Although the show is about the men they are helping, I love watching the ‘Fab Five’ interact with each other and we find out so much about their personal lives when they talk about their husbands and kids. They are so out there and comfortable being themselves which is just amazing to watch!

Jess’ favourite episode: Season 1 Episode 4 – “To Gay or Not Too Gay”

PSA:  Have a pack of tissues at the ready because you will be an emotional wreck.

Seasons: 2

Amy’s Spotlight Pick:

The Innocents


The show revolves around June and Harry, two teenagers in love (somewhat forbidden by June’s father) who run away so they can be together. A lot of problems occur when June discovers her extraordinary “gift”. The show is set in England and Norway, so you know the scenery is beautiful!

I stumbled across this show when scrolling through Netflix and was kind of shocked to see it was a Netflix Original since I hadn’t seen any promo for it! But from the very first episode, I was so intrigued! It is not like anything I have ever seen before, but there are major Stranger Things vibes throughout. I love a fantasy teen drama (hello Teen Wolf) and to add to that, the entire series is super mysterious! I cannot recommend this series enough!

Favourite episode: The whole season!

PSA: The show is half subtitled, so you will be reading a lot.

Seasons: 1

Jess’ Spotlight Pick:

The Staircase


A Docu-series about Michael Peterson, who is on trial for the murder of his wife. The trial started in 2001 and only finished in 2016 resulting in the series being released in three parts, episodes 1- 8 were released in 2004, episodes 9-10 in 2013 and episodes 11-13 were released earlier this year as a series on Netflix.The trial digs into Peterson’s history and we uncover things from his past that do not work out in his favour. The weirdest thing is seeing how much Michael ages from the first episode to the last, and how his children now have children, it really shows us how long this trial lasted.

Some friends recommended this show to me, telling me, “It is exactly something you would love” and they were right! I was gripped. Although it is a bit slow at first, you have to power through to when all the good stuff happens, like the missing weapon and meeting his crazy sister-in-law (trust me when I tell you she is crazy!). Because the show was released in three parts, it’s interesting to see how much time has passed between the shooting of the episodes and how much older they all are. This is completely real and although he is on trial for murder, there are some funny bits throughout the series. Personally, I found myself rooting for him, but you can make your mind up about him for yourself! I watched the series within a couple of days and was messaging my friends after every episode to give them my opinions after each trial date!

Favourite episode: Season 1 Episode 8 – “The Verdict”

PSA: After you finish watching it, google ‘The Staircase Owl Theory’ and prepare for your life to be changed forever!

Seasons: 1

Co-written by Jess Weal and Amy Williams. 

26th October 2018