Gratuitously twisty, turny nonsense: Sky Max’s Poker Face reviewed

Imagine if you had the power always to tell whether or not someone was lying. You’d have it made, wouldn’t you? The intelligence services would be queuing up to employ you for interrogations; top law firms would pay you top dollar to act as their adviser; you’d win gazillions in all the poker championships; you’d never buy a dodgy second-hand car, not that you’d need to with all that money you’d have. Admittedly, though, your life and adventures would make for a very boring TV series because everything would be so easy. Hence the tortured premise of Rian Johnson’s Poker Face, in which we are invited to believe that our

Chernobyl Two?

The electricity supply to the ruined nuclear plant at Chernobyl in Ukraine has been cut off. According to one knowledgeable source I spoke to, this is a serious problem as power is needed to pump water around spent nuclear fuel rods stored there. There is a back-up diesel generator, but it has just one day’s supply of fuel left and once that runs out, the temperature could start to climb. If the water evaporates, the zirconium metal ‘fuel assemblies’ could start to melt – with radioactive material released into the atmosphere. This would not be anywhere near as bad as the original Chernobyl disaster, in 1986, when a reactor had

The attraction of repulsion: The Disaster Tourist, by Yun-Ko Eun, reviewed

Disaster tourism allows people to explore places in the aftermath of natural and man-made disasters. Sites of massacres and concentration camps can be visited; tours operate around Chernobyl, Centralia — the city in America that is perpetually on fire — Aleppo and Fukushima. Tourists can ‘experience’ what it is like to live in a war zone, in extreme poverty or a place emptied by nuclear fallout, and then return to the safety of their homes. In Yun Ko-Eun’s The Disaster Tourist, translated from the Korean by Lizzie Buehler, the protagonist Yoona works for Jungle, a Korean disaster tourism travel company. She returns to Seoul after visiting an earthquake-hit region of

The importance of sadism in writing a great screenplay

How do you tell a great story? According to Craig Mazin, you have to be a sadist. ‘As a writer, you are not the New Testament God who turns water into wine,’ Mazin chuckles on his long-running podcast Scriptnotes. ‘You are the Old Testament God who tortures Job because, I don’t know, it seems like fun.’ Mazin wrote HBO’s horrifying, incandescent miniseries Chernobyl, and so knows of what he speaks. In the episode of this podcast titled ‘How to Write a Movie’, he describes how screenwriters build plot out of suffering. He outlines a scenario, making the stakes higher each time. Suppose our main character is a single father desperate