15/03/2019

Captain Marvel review


There have been so many superhero origin movies now that it’s becoming difficult to put a new spin on it though Captain Marvel mostly manages to do so. Even if some of the scenarios are familiar there’s a breeziness that tacks closer to Guardians of the Galaxy than to Batman. With events unfolding at quite a speed there are not many slower, quieter moments which may be why some critics have described the results as “middling” or “generic”. In terms of the Marvel canon its far better than that even if it can’t quite reach the intelligence of Black Panther or the high octane thrills of Avengers- Infinity War. Coming in their wake it instead represents a fresh start down a new road.
Warning- Spoilers past this point.

13/03/2019

Slaughterhouse Rulez review


The first film from Simon Pegg and Nick Frost’s production company is a mixture of horror-comedy, public school manners and anti -fracking parable. If that sounds like an unlikely brew, it actually works well albeit with a few editing and character issues. Slaughterhouse public school luxuriates in its own grounds and woodlands; in the latter a fracking operation has begun disturbing the ground and whatever is living underneath them. Through new starter Northern lad Don (Finn Cole) we discover the sort of harsh, humiliating ritual you might expect from such an establishment, probably drawn from director and co- writer Crispian Mills’ own experiences at Stowe boarding school where alot of this film was shot.  A sign of Mills’ aspirations for the film might be a photo of Malcolm McDowell from the iconic If… spotted early on and while this film is also something of a hybrid of genres it’s a different beast.

11/03/2019

Why has St Patrick’s Day become a drinkathon?


We don’t seem to bother much with St David’s Day. A lot of people don’t even know when St Andrew’s Day is. And if there is some suggestion that we should do more to celebrate St George's Day it is met with a collective intake of breath and response that the English don’t do that sort of thing. Yet there’s at least one night when we do. St Patrick’s Day has become a byword for alcoholic excess. It’s the evening when everyone is suddenly Irish and this alone is an excuse to down ten pints of Guinness, drape yourself in an Irish flag and behave as if its Xmas and New Year on the same day! Why has this happened and who the jiggins was St Patrick anyway? 

10/03/2019

Top of the Pops 1 Mar 1984


Watched by Chris Arnsby. John Peel: "Hello and welcome to another Top of the Pops, and in this week's programme I can promise you nothing French. No French farmers. No French truck drivers. And no French football." David Jensen: Merci mon ami rhythmic. Et maintenant c'est Matt Bianco avec la mélodie Get Out Of Your Lazy Bed."
[17] Matt Bianco: Get Out Of Your Lazy Bed. Top of the Pops is broadcasting from another emergency strike studio. A smaller one. Last week's studio had three stages, this one only has two. Belts are being tightened.  John Peel's anti-French rant is due to France's 2-0 victory over England at the Parc de Princes stadium on Wednesday, rather than too much time spent listening to Mike Read in the Radio 1 canteen.
Mention of the Wednesday football raises the question, is this edition live? There's no reason why it shouldn't be. BBC Genome certainly thinks so, and John Peel and David Jensen are normally given the live shows, but it's unusual for the hosts not to mention the live status. I don't know if disruption from the Scenic Services workers strike could have caused a shift to pre-recording the show. The link from John Peel and David Jensen's introduction to Matt Bianco makes the show look pre-recorded (it's a cut from the hosts to the band via a Quantel effect where a live show would normally try and do a seamless camera move) but this could simply be a limitation of the studio space.
Incidentally, the French for Get Out Of Your Lazy Bed is Sortez de Votre Lit Paresseux.

06/03/2019

Ad Break#10 Cows, Birds and Pigs!


Muller Quark Yoghurt- “Yes, baby yes!”
Have you ever heard of Quark?  Here’s me thinking it was an elemental particle and a key constituent of matter but here’s erstwhile Pussycat Doll and X Factor judge Nicole Scherzinger to tell me it’s an ingredient in the very latest Muller product Quark Yoghurt. We find her in a “secret Alpine village” sporting a milk maid’s costume. She is positively giddy about this product which, she tells us, combines Quark and Yoghurt (obvs) to create, erm, Quark Yoghurt. “Its so creamy”, she declares, “Its…” “Mooollerlicious” booms a passing cow. Covering more or less all the Alpine cliches you can think of the ad certainly leaves an impression even if the product looks as if it might double as putty in an emergency. 

04/03/2019

Primeval Season 2

(Originally published in 2008) The first season started shakily but hit its stride with the latter trio of episodes and an end of season twister that had us pondering all year. Given a second season halfway through the first run, it also has the confidence of ITV behind it which counts for a lot. Yet watching the second, slightly longer season, there is a sense that the series is still playing safe. Visually it can hardly be faulted, with longer more exciting action sequences, excellent FX and a neat line in surprises. Where it remains underdeveloped however is in the characterisation. No amount of mind bending plot turns can obscure how little some of the people at the centre of this series make us care about them. Some attempts have been made this year to attend to this weakness but it remains and manifests itself in meaningless arguments and characters doing things for no apparent reason. Also, while Primeval can surprise it has yet to take our breath away with something as jaw dropping as some of last year’s Doctor Who to use an obvious but pertinent example. And, while we’re comparing consider how sophisticated ideas are drip fed into the rival series like seeds that grow whereas Primeval chucks away its best ideas in an offhand manner.

27/02/2019

Top of the Pops 23 Feb 1984


Watched by Chris Arnsby. Mike Read: "Due to an industrial dispute we're doing tonight's Top of the Pops live from the canteen at the BBC." Janice Long: "Oh thanks, I'll have a cup of tea. We've got some great stuff in the show people like Carmel, and Nik Kershaw, and this lot over here. It's Hot Chocolate at number 28."
[28] Hot Chocolate: I Gave You My Heart (Didn't I?). A strike? At the BBC? Yes, it's true. The BBC was seeking to change pay and conditions in the Scenic Services department and decreed that changes would be implemented on 14th February 1984 with or without the agreement of the unions. The deadline passed, Scenic Services workers walked out and the strike spread. Even Blue Peter was affected (*clutches pearls in horror*) and you can see a lovely clip here https://twitter.com/BBCFOUR/status/883025323243253760
This edition of Top of the Pops is coming from a smaller studio and the scenery has been assembled in a haphazard way. Mike Read and Janice Long stand in front of a photographic enlargement from the title sequence. The neon logo is present but it's jammed between scenery units from another stage. Lights are hung from a lower ceiling, or from scaffolding off to one side. The audience are packed in more tightly because there is less space for them, and less space for cameras. The rigid walls of neon lights that made a definite edge to the performance space have gone and once again Top of the Pops looks like it's coming from a black void rather than a television studio. If I'm honest, I like the way it looks. The band stages seem a lot lower, and the audience intrude on shots more that they do in the usual studio.
There's a brilliant long shot Errol Brown. The audience are clapping their hands over their heads and because the camera is focused on Errol the hands (and balloons, and flags) become weird soft-focus shapes in the foreground. Frustratingly I can't grab a good still image to illustrate the effect. In motion it looks great. In still form it looks as if Errol is being attacked by an out of focus octopus.

22/02/2019

The Kid Who Would Be King review


A modern take on the King Arthur story delivers lively results in Joe Cornish’s long anticipated follow up to the brilliant Attack The Block. Aimed mostly at a slightly younger audience it nonetheless contains enough of interest for all ages harking back to simpler times when pure adventure was about heroic deeds, inspiring words plus an essential sprinkling of magic. These days it seems like a preferable option. 


Spoilers past this point…