Black Knight

In The Dark Knight Rises, Christopher Nolan has sculpted an intelligent, exciting and very contemporary film.

The classic `superhero` stories owe their origins to comic strip logic and however much filmmakers try to mould them differently something of those origins still tends to peak through. While this has ensured they remain durable franchises that can be re-interpreted again and again it has also undermined their relevance. In today’s very strange world the idea of clear cut hero boldly combating all -bad villain seems simplistic. The Dark Knight trilogy as we are supposed to call it to differentiate it from its colourful or semi comedic predecessors is always at risk of being so straight faced that we find it funny but in this grim but clever finale there is no danger of that. Christopher Nolan has created a classic film, the best of 2012 so far and probably the best in its genre ever. Yep, it is that good.

Some spoilers lurk beyond this point…


Blakewatch - Week 30: Dawn of the Gods

Season Three Episode 4- Dawn of the Gods
(1980) Writer: James Follett / Director: Desmond McCarthy
The Liberator is pulled off course into what at first appears to be a black hole. Once inside they find they are at the heart of a world controlled by the Thaarn, a supposedly mythical being from the legends of Cally’s people, the Aurons.

Novelist James Follett steps up to the plate to deliver what is easily the best of the first four episodes of season 3. Perhaps approaching the series from a different perspective to that of the other writers he pushes the established boundaries resulting in an episode that is packed with incident and weaves its mysteries to the end. There is more than a hint of both Star Trek and Space 1999 about some of the ingredients but this is to its advantage.

Vila was concerned about his shrinking problem


Best of British

Danny Boyle’s audacious Olympics opening ceremony fused the past, present and future in a startling, passionate and inventive show.
The ambition of Olympics opening ceremonies has grown over the decades but everyone seemed in agreement that 2008’s Beijing offering was as spectacular as it could get without becoming ludicrous and out of hand both artistically and also financially. So film director Danny Boyle’s task was enormous yet he has succeeded. Last night’s show was equal parts historic, symbolic, optimistic and hugely entertaining.


Does This Lord Deserves More Praise?

Ratings may have been a disaster, but ITV’s Superstar showed how effectively you can package a reality show.

The trouble with most reality TV is the way it drags on. However engaging the concept, however interesting the contestants after week 7 or something, the novelty wears thin. The likes of Big Brother, The X Factor et al seem to go on for months and months so that by the time the winner is announced, even the most ardent viewer is thinking “enough, already”. Britain’s Got Talent on the other hand runs its live shows daily and it is this far more effective template that Superstar used taking us from the start to the final in under two weeks. The format allows far less time for the contestants to sit around contemplating their `journey` or how lucky they are to be here, instead they have to prepare a new song each day.


Up-words - Human Nature & Blink

Up-words features the best articles from the first 21 paper issues of This way up
The series concludes with reviews of two of the best ever Doctor Who stories from issue 21



July 2007

“Once upon a time, not so long ago, there was a book.”

At work recently, we were given guidelines as to how to structure a report. It said that we should not build to the point of a report; it should be there right at the start, and we should then go on to justify that start in the rest of the report. So, I'm going to take that advice and start this review with a big, bold, statement;

Human Nature/Family of Blood is the best Doctor Who story. Ever. Not just in the Russell T Davies era, but from the whole 44 year history of the TV show.

And here's why...


Blakewatch- Week 29 Volcano

Season Three Episode 3- Volcano
(1980) Writer: Allan Prior / Director: Desmond McCarthy
The crew follow up a rumour that Blake is on the volcanic planet of Obsidian- where a friend of Dayna’s father also resides, but upon arrival discover the people there strangely untouched by the war.

So Dayna and Tarrant are looking down at a volcano and he asks “what is it?” This is not a good sign and the subsequent episode turns out to be uneven. Writer Allan Prior never quite manages to get to the heart of what the story seems to be about which is how for the inhabitants of Obsidian, the Liberator crew and the Federation are two sides of the same coin. Obsidian’s society is built on an enforced pacifism, an intriguing concept that Prior simply uses as a plot convenience rather than anything more substantial. As for the volcano itself, it proves as much a hazard to the writer as it is to the participants.

To relieve the boredom of being so peaceful the Obsidians sometimes do a tea pot dance


Up-words - Withnail and Brian

Up-words features the best articles from the paper issues of This way up

By Tim Worthington
October 2006

It's hardly surprising that the big-screen adventures of The Beatles have been ever so slightly overshadowed by their achievements in other fields. What is surprising, though, is that their cinematic careers are rarely celebrated at all. The films that they made in the 1960s, and A Hard Day's Night in particular, are way above the usual level of rush-produced cash-in 'rock movies', shot through with surrealist wit and psychedelic whimsy, and boasting performances so impressive that even the notoriously sniffy Halliwell's Film Guide felt moved to praise the acting ability of the Fab Four. Their post-Beatles forays into the movie business were more of a mixed bag - ranging from Paul McCartney's strangely compelling 'stolen album' fantasy Give My Regards To Broad Street, through the weird art films John Lennon made with Yoko Ono, to Ringo Starr's oft-forgotten spell as the star of a string of erratically brilliant movies including 200 Motels, That'll Be The Day and The Magic Christian - but with no small irony it was the 'Quiet One' who had the most significant impact on the industry.

Never the most outgoing of performers, George Harrison had initially confined his non-Beatles movie career to 'rockumentaries' such as the celebrated The Concert For Bangla Desh, and occasionally draping his sitar sounds over arthouse efforts like the bizarre British romance/weird-out Wonderwall. By the end of the 1970s, and almost completely by chance, this nodding acquaintance with the production side of film-making had developed into a full-time serious business venture, with his production company Handmade Films eventually turning out twenty four movies that included some of the greatest British films ever made, along with a couple of the worst, and a fair amount of the downright odd. And it all came about purely because he wanted to see a film that was in danger of not being made at all.


Blakewatch- Week 28 - Power Play

Season Three Episode 2- Power Play
(1980) Writer: Terry Nation / Director: David Maloney
As Avon and Dayna try to get the Liberator back from the Federation death squad now controlling it they discover their commander Tarrant is not who he seems. Meanwhile both Vila and Cally find themselves in danger.

The triple headed tale brings the crew back together effectively and just about works as a coherent episode despite uneven coverage of the three different scenarios. There are spears and Viking helmets involved (again- is this a running theme?), growling Federation guards and even the totally expected appearance of Servalan but matters still play out with enough interest.

Summary execution for not doing homework soon became part of Mr Bronson's free school


Bite Sized

The Amazing Spider-man lives up to its name.

The main problem with the previous three Spider-man films was that Tobey Maguire and company always seemed too much like actors who knew they were in a superhero movie and played accordingly. I’m not sure how old Maguire was ten years ago but he never for a second seemed like a high school kid. Andrew Garfield is 28 but as soon as he appears on screen here, he is 17. Likewise Gwen Stacey whom Emma Stone imbues with likeability, believability. Why do so many films portray the prettiest girl in the class as mean spirited anyway? With these two at the helm- plus a terrific Rhys Ifans as the antagonist- this film flies from the moment it begins.



Blakewatch Week 27: Aftermath

Season Three Episode 1- Aftermath
(1980) Writer: Terry Nation / Director: Vere Lorrimer
The Federation has won the war against the aliens but at the cost of half its forces and  Star One. The Liberator crew have been forced to abandon ship and when Avon ends up on the primitive planet of Saren, he encounters more than he expected. And some shouty tribes he probably did expect.

Blake’s 7 without Blake is a curious notion at first and initial attempts to paper over the fact that Gareth Thomas is absent only draw attention to it . However after the establishing scenes even Vila and Cally vanish leaving Paul Darrow to take centre stage which he does with aplomb. His hitherto infrequent heroics become more defined in an episode that places him as the undoubted hero. Whether refusing to allow the killing of an unconscious guard or rejecting Servalan’s attempts to persuade him to join her power play there is no doubt that Avon has been repositioned as the lead. Luckily Darrow retains enough edginess to not allow this to soften Avon too much.


Summer in the City

The film Hunky Dory is all about hazy sun kissed memories; whether you were there or not.
In the sweltering summer of 1976, unconventional teacher Vivienne (she doesn't seem to get a surname) is attempting to get pupils at the end of their school life to explore their hormonal emotions by producing a rock music version of The Tempest. That sounds like a bell bottomed Glee (complete with meticulous performances) but luckily it’s nothing of the sort. Director Marc Evans instead opts for an approach that means Hunky Dory is not a musical and all of the music is played and sung by the kids in a way that it would sound for real. Hence you have some mesmerising cover versions of 1970s songs by the likes of Cream, ELO and David Bowie performed with the charm you would expect if you were there. The singing is middling to good but always honest. In short, it makes for the sort of film you watch and feel as if it is somewhere in your memory rather than acted.