Justice League

Considering all the flak Justice League had had hurled towards it my expectations were fairly low however while far from perfect this is an enjoyable enough big budget movie best seen in a cinema. It still seems far too soon for these avengers to assemble when only one of them has had their own film but given those limitations the results are better than expected with some interesting script ideas and well delivered action.

Spoilers past this point


W1A Series 3

It’s about the BBC but really W1A’s pin sharp observations of corporate behaviour would fit many a business.  Set mostly in the bizarrely colourful New Broadcasting House which is replete with gaudy impractical furniture and rooms named after television icons, the series follows the travails of Ian Fletcher the BBC’s head of Values as he tries – in the benignly careworn manner only Hugh Bonneville is so skilled at conveying – to steady the accident prone Corporation through the choppy waters of a landscape it is ill suited to exist in. There is a lot of truth in the narrative of the show if you choose to notice but it is also gloriously funny. 


Top of the Pops 21 Oct 1982

Watched by Chris Arnsby. Peter Powell: "Hello! Welcome to another edition of Top of the Pops! We've got Toyah! We've got Bauhaus! We've got Kool And The Gang! And we've got a new number one! But for openers it's The Piranhas and Zambezi!"
[37] The Piranhas: Zambezi. Top of the Pops is in full wacky party mode tonight. Check out the audience cheerleader dressed early for Halloween as a skeleton. The Piranhas are keen to join in for their first studio appearance in two years. Lead singer Bob Grover is dressed as Dennis the Menace, complete with a copy of The Beano sticking out of his pocket. The backing singers are done up as school girls. And the drummer is wearing a magnificent colourful budgie costume, lovely plumage. It puts to shame the lousy dead-eyed efforts The Tweets wore in 1981. (John- Brilliantly the lyrics include the line “Zambezi, Zambezi, Zambezi, Zam.”)


The John Lewis Xmas Advert

Well I’m not sure I get the new one actually. So child imagines monster under the bed, then becomes friends with it, then imagines he’s going to get it for Xmas and then gets something else and he’s fine with that. Mmm, its not a patch on that penguin one nor as playful as last year’s bouncing dog one. I sense a sixth album syndrome kicking in where expectation outweighs anything that anyone could possibly produce. I can also visualise a more surreal version where it turns out that this is all in the head of the monster and the last frame is of him opening a present in which there is a model of the child. Or is that too creepy for Xmas?


Top of the Pops 23 Sept & 14 Oct 1982

Watched by Chris Arnsby. 23/09/1982
John Peel: " Hello millions of humble admirers and welcome to another Top of the Pops. We've got a lot of treats for you, one rather a special treat. David Christie doesn't sound like a very French name, but French he is, here he is at number nine."
[9] David Christie: Saddle Up. The director (this week it's Brian Whitehouse again) has worked out a kind of walk-down routine for some of the Top of the Pops cheerleaders. At the start of the show they stand adoringly around John Peel and then as the camera pulls back they follow it and dance down to where David Christie has been set up on a podium. The move has a theatrical look that seems a little too stylised for Top of the Pops. Still, it's a very swish camera move. The crane pulls back and around David Christie to give us a wide shot of the studio. Eric Wallis is on Lighting, and he gives us a studio filled with pools of light and shadow. It looks great. Unfortunately someone has positioned the Zoo dancers (wearing skimpy cowboy outfits, natch) in shadow so their efforts go largely unseen.
[17] Fat Larry's Band: Zoom. Fat Larry has been hitting the rhyming dictionary hard. Boom/moon (a bit of a cheat). Rang/sang. Away/play. But wait. What's this? Bloom/wonderland. Why that doesn't rhyme a bit. Luckily the next line is whack/back and the natural order of things is restored. Wikipedia tells me this song was featured in the 1982 Only Fools And Horses Christmas special Diamonds Are For Heather, which would probably have started production around the time this episode aired. Someone is playing around with the caption generator at the end of the song. They've rigged the band name to appear vertically one word at a time with each word a different line; each word is also repeated horizontally across the screen. Unfortunately this means the first thing to appear is FAT FAT FAT FAT FAT.....


Thor: Ragnarok

The previous two Thor films struggled to match their Marvel contemporaries seeming over reliant on eye popping CGI effects and mythological gobbledegook while being somewhat portentous. They were great to watch on a big screen once but didn’t leave much of a deep impression afterwards. This third outing lightens the mood considerably bringing fun into the franchise and hurling our hero into fresh territory. The dialogue is zingy and packed with amusing asides meaning the film is never at risk of taking itself too seriously. This all does mean it is somewhat similar to Guardians of the Galaxy but that’s a good thing right?
Spoilers beyond this point


Don’t call us Remoaners! We’re Realists.

There’s nothing worse than winners taking every opportunity to take a pot shot at the losing side but the levels of abuse handed out to anyone who publicly now expresses views supporting anything less than the hardest possible Brexit says more about the abusers than their target. The number of times over the past 16 months I’ve seen the term `Remoaner` tiredly dragged out yet again makes me feel these people don’t understand at all what happened. Yes we had a referendum in which the side wanting to leave the EU won though not by a massive margin. That’s all it was. There was nothing in that referendum question about the nature or speed of our exit. In fact it was only because David Cameron was foolish enough to state he would abide by the outcome that we were more or less forced to trigger our departure so soon.  Now we have triggered it there is a process in motion which doesn’t seem to be quite exciting enough for some Leavers. Did they think we’d be leaving the week after the referendum or something?


Halloween vs Bonfire Night

A few decades back this time of year in the UK was all about Bonfire Night. People would attend large fireworks displays where there would also be a huge bonfire. Local inhabitants would have been piling up unwanted furniture and other items to burn for weeks and would gather in large crowds to watch. The sky was alight with fireworks of all sorts. Often people had their own bonfires or would buy fireworks and set them off. Millions walked around with sparklers and the media was full of warnings about the dangers of fireworks. Halloween was there of course but it was comparatively minor by comparison and seen mainly as an American thing we saw in films where people donned costumes and embarked on trick or treat trips. Now things are different and while Bonfire Night is less significant Halloween has become a huge event.  


Ten `Ordinary` UK TV Programmes

You know how there are tv programmes that generate enormous attention like Game of Thrones or Line of Duty?  Well there are far more that don’t and it is these that fill up the scheduled tv channels and lie dormant on demand somewhere. So here’s just ten of the hundreds of these programmes that most people don’t watch….
Money for Nothing

Not a Dire Straits bio-drama, this afternoon show sees the extraordinarily chirpy Sarah Moore bothering people who’ve gone to the local tip to chuck out things they don’t want. Just as they are breathing a sigh of relief that their flea ridden sofa is finally gone from their lives along she trots to take it from them. She and a seemingly limitless team of craftspeople will then transform the item into something that looks brand new. So you end up with lamps made of old pipes, a cabinet made out of chairs or a helicopter carved out of a desk.  Narrated drolly by Arthur Smith, we see the priceless expressions as Sarah arrives at the den where such craftspeople hide out with something faded, rusted or dull and tells them her plan. Amazingly these items usually sell and in the oddest part of the concept, she goes back to the person who was chucking them out to give them the profits. Thus they have money for nothing. 
Money For Nothing: In two days time this will be a car.


Top of the Pops 9th and 16th Sept 1982


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. Peter Powell: "Hello everybody! Welcome to another party! It's Top of the Pops! We've got Gillan, we've got Dire Straits, we've got... Shalamar, and we've got Shakin' Stevens! But for starters we've got one Evelyn King and Love Come Down!"

[29] Evelyn King: Love Come Down. "Baby you make my love come down." Is this really a good thing? The song is upbeat, and down is a negative word. It seems to work against the intent of the lyrics. Then again I'm aware that the lyrics are also meant to work as a low level innuendo (about 3.7 on the Croft-Lloyd scale, say equivalent of Lieutenant Gruber inviting Rene into the back of his little tank) with the word love acting as a synonym for something else (use your imagination). So changing the chorus to "love rise up" wouldn't necessarily work and might also accidentally make people think of being sick.


I Am Not A Serial Killer

A clever, genre hopping 2016 film that refuses to settle into the pattern you expect it to. Refreshingly dark with splashes of black humour, interesting mis-directions planted in the narrative and an utterly surprising ending. In the small town of wonderfully named teenager John Wayne Cleaver has been diagnosed as a sociopath with homicidal tendencies and a morbid interest in death, not entirely unexpected as his mum works in a mortuary and he even helps out. So when a serial killer seems to be stalking the increasingly terrified inhabitants, John’s interest soon stretches beyond the normal response into a strange fascination with the processes the killer seems to be using.
Spoilers past this point..


Blade Runner 2049

A film that steps back from the frenetic pace of most modern blockbusters Blade Runner 2049 is both a satisfying sequel to a classic yet also a strong movie in its own right. I would caution that it’s probably not for those who find sci-fi films slow because its runtime of two hours 43 minutes will test the attention span of the uncommitted. However if you do go with it you’ll find it to be an absorbing and surprisingly human glimpse into an alternative future.
Spoilers beyond this point


It's a very odd album...

Violin instead of guitar, two titles and covers, songs about lizards, nuns, yellow fever and the cat’s eye! Welcome to Van Der Graaf’s 1977 gem `The Quiet Zone / The Pleasure Dome`
Back in the days of record fairs, I discovered an album that looked a bit different. It had two titles and two covers one of which was unsettling because the sweaty violinist with the scowl was given centre stage as if he were very important. It turns out to be because the album has no guitar and is instead largely led by the sound of an often aggressive violin. Fluid bass and drums up front in the mix and the thick, dramatic vocals of Peter Hammill weaving in and out. By the time I bought a copy it was already more a decade or more old and someone had clearly had enough of it as it was an bizarre album to find in the sort of sales that normally house greatest hits. 


Top of the Pops 18 August 1982

Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. David "Kid" Jensen: "Hello there. In our line-up tonight we have Haircut 100, Duran Duran, Soft Cell, and many, many more. But we kick off with Modern Romance with the original golden horn of the legendary Eddie Calvert performing Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White."
[34] Modern Romance: Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White. Modern Romance present more music for wine bars. The bass and percussion remind me of the song Christmas In Heaven from Monty Python's The Meaning of Life. I looked up Eddie Calvert on Wikipedia. He's a 1950's English trumpeter. Eddie Calvert led me to the Wikipedia page for the song Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White, which led to the page for Modern Romance, which led to led to the page for John Du Prez (he's the bloke playing the trumpet), which by one of those odd coincidences led to the page for 1983's The Meaning of Life. It turns out John Du Prez scored the film with Eric Idle but that work didn't include Christmas In Heaven. Who'd have thunk it?


Kingsman The Golden Circle

I really like this film which is fun, irreverent and at times over the top but I wish it had just been a bit shorter and slightly less scattershot. It begins in terrific fashion with a sequence based around a taxi that is as thrilling as anything in a Bond movie. It would be enough for the climax of a film yet is only the beginning setting the tone for what is a whirlwind of action, gadgets, kinetic peril and mayhem.


The future of coffee shops

A recent report reckoned that the UK is near saturation point when it comes to coffee shops. Short of opening one on every corner and despite the fact that they always seem to be crowded, the theory is we won’t need any more within three years. However this means that the sector will have to evolve. They could get bigger- how long before they start calling them Coffee Hubs? Just as some fast food outlets have hundreds of seats, perhaps some coffee shops will grow in a similar way.


Top of the Pops 12 August 1982

Reviewed by Chris Arnsby: John Peel: "Hello and welcome to Top of the Pops. Who's sold out then? To start the programme yet another one of those ensembles that has a funny foreign name."
[34] Toto Coelo: I Eat Cannibals. Toto Coelo -or, if you are more cynical, someone in Toto Coelo's record company- has done a lot of thinking about how to look good on Top of the Pops. The group is distinctively dressed in multi-coloured bin bags, and they've worked out a dance routine which works well on camera. There's a lot of hip-swaying and stamping on the spot but not too much moving around which allows for shots to be well framed, and makes life much easier for Vision Mixer Carol Abbot when she wants to cut between cameras. Toto Coelo's second and last Top of the Pops appearance is available on YouTube (it's embargoed on BBC4,  D*v* L** Tr*v*s), along with the official video, and it turns out Toto Coelo only have one dance routine for this song. This reminds me of The Brotherhood of Man who also used to devise one cringy routine per song and then plod through it on multiple Top of the Pops (sample example: Angelo, where the band assumed Flamenco-like positions while singing the ANGELO! bit of their cheery song about teen suicide). It should be noted that I Eat Cannibals is infinitely more fun than anything by The Brotherhood of Man. Toto Coelo won't be seen again. Their follow-up single Dracula's Tango (Sucker For Your Love) reached 54 in the chart. This is something of a relief for me as I'm finding their name very hard to type. My fingers keep rendering it as Toto Coleo. Oddly enough The Brotherhood of Man gives me the same problem; it keeps coming out as The Brotherhood of Mann.
Toto Coelo fail to spell their name


What is Futsal?

We’ve all heard of football but what is futsal? I was thinking that it was just a word for football in another language but it turns out to be a different sport altogether. By no means new it seems to be increasing in popularity yet there are a lot of people who’ve never heard of it. The word roughly translates from Spanish as “mini football” and is played mostly indoors on a hard pitch or court that is smaller than a football pitch.  It has been growing in popularity since many top name footballers credit futsal with helping them develop playing skills.
Futsal in full effect


Online shopping predicted in 1971

You might think online shopping is newish but in fact it was predicted 46 years ago by Peter Fairley who was the science editor for ITV’s version of `Radio Times` which was called `TV Times`. He didn’t call it online shopping of course but he did pen the article when many were lamenting the demise of small family shops as supermarkets started to take over. What he describes may sound a bit odd but essentially he is talking- in 1971- about what a lot of us do now which is order shopping in a device from the comfort of our homes. 
"Now what's trending on Twitter?"


Top of the Pops 5 August 1982

Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. David "Kid" Jensen: "Live from the Television Centre in London welcome to another Top of the Pops and we have a tremendous line-up of live acts for you tonight kicking off with Madness at number four with Driving In My Car."
[4] Madness: Driving In My Car. If you asked someone to describe an idealised Madness performance it would resemble this one. There's staccato dancing, loads of mucking around with props -a ventriloquist dummy, a skeleton used for percussion, a Policeman with a blue light on his hat, playing two saxophones at once- and a general sense that the song is considerably less important than having fun. There's also a dirty great car parked in the middle of the main studio performance area. How are Cecila Brereton and her army of scene shifters going to cope with that in a live programme? The answer is disappointingly simple, you can spot the moment Suggs releases the handbrake and then the boys push the Maddiemobile out of the studio. Only one question remains, what happens to the hat with the blue light on it? It disappears without a trace during a change of camera.


How posh was my school? (and did it have a Resident Swan?)

There’s a survey for me to find out how posh my school was posted a couple of years ago somewhere and still zooming around online like a speedster. My alma mater scored a mere 28 out of 50 which is sort of half posh. Of course poshness does have different connotations depending on whereabouts in the UK you live. In Liverpool being posh is using a knife and a fork (ha- just kidding scousers) whereas in Surrey it involves someone specifically employed to cut up your carrots with gold plated knives. Anyhow I thought I’d examine some of the criteria this survey associates with posh schools and see how it fits in with my experiences.You have to tick off the things your school had and there’s a nice picture for those people who don’t know what they are because you can be posh and simple of course. Here we go then-


Top of the Pops 29 July 1982

Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. Mike Read: "Hello gang. Welcome to Top of the Pops. Terrific show lined up for you tonight, lots and lots of fab artists starting off with Dexy's Midnight Runners and Come On Eileen."
[2] Dexy's Midnight Runners: Come On Eileen. Where's Mike Read been? He last presented Top of the Pops in February. Why is Kevin Rowland the only person allowed to wear a shirt under his denim dungarees? How repulsed are the audience that Dexy's Midnight Runners are performing with no shoes and the raised stage places their stinking feet at face level? So many questions with no answer.
[3] Yazoo: Don't Go. An endearingly bonkers video in which Vince Clarke (and his stupid hair) makes a Frankenstein, and then dresses up as Dracula to menace Alison Moyet. The relevance of all this to song is tenuous but it looks like everyone is having a great time raiding the dressing-up box.



When is a Toblerone not a Toblerone? That is the question currently being asked as the makers of the world’s most impractical but apparently "legendary" chocolate bar launch court action against budget store Poundland’s proposed if rather inaccurately named Twin Peaks (I counted twenty peaks on it). Will David Lynch also sue them for using the name of his soporific tv series? 


Top of the Pops 22 July 1982

Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. Simon Bates: "Hello and welcome to the party. It's studio eight at Television Centre with a live Top of the Pops. A great 35 minutes. And to kick us off, The Belle Stars and the Clapping Song."

[36] The Belle Stars: The Clapping Song. Simon Bates? Presenting a live Top of the Pops? I might doubt his ability but BBC Genome proves me wrong. It turns out he's quietly become Top of the Pops' backup live TV guy. The first eighties edition broadcast live (or at least the first one flagged in the Radio Times) was the 900th edition of Top of the Pops shown on 09/07/1981. Peter Powell had a go next in September, before David "Kid" Jensen arrived back from CNN and handled the Christmas Eve edition and the first of the next cycle of live editions on 04/03/1982. Simon Bates follows with one on 11/03/1982. The pair then alternate as presenters and live shows settle into a pattern of one each month. Away from the dizzy whirl of Top of the Pops Simon Bates also shares presenting duties with Gloria Hunniford on a late night BBC1 show called Saturday Live (that's original) which ran for six weeks across the summer of 1982. Thanks for that BBC Genome. That's really helpful. I only have one last question; why did you also flag episode one of Fanny By Gaslight (24/09/1981 Fanny fans) in my list of Simon Bates search results? Meanwhile, on stage The Belle Stars do a really good job of getting this edition of Top of the Pops started.
BBC dressing rooms were not large.


Bruce Forsyth

I never laughed at television as a kid as much as I did when Bruce Forsyth was doing The Generation Game, at least that’s what my mum tells me. She could hear me and my brother laughing away each Saturday evening and I remember that programme too. A basically silly idea of getting adults to do awkward though not impossible tasks would have been amusing enough on its own but with Brucie hosting it was brilliant. What you can see now as an adult is his ability to communicate with members of the public, a rarer gift than you might think- how many politicians would love to have that at their command? Brucie did it by never mocking or belittling contestants, rather he laughed with them, commented on what they were doing and pulled an expression that made you smile. What I never knew then was the extraordinary career he’d already had before the show, a career that lasted for seven decades.
Its funny how things come round. Back in the Seventies of course Mum looked after us. Now in the past five years I’ve been increasingly looking after her and Brucie was back in our lives again on Saturday nights. Now I don’t know much about ballroom dancing but do you know what, Brucie made Strictly Come Dancing a great show, still in command, still showing his skills. Sometimes he’d even tap dance, in his mid 80s. 
He seems to have been with many generations, going right back to his early successes in the Fifties and then post Generation Game, those shows like Play Your Cards Right which I’ve never seen but know the catchphrases for anyway. Brucie was always a bonus whatever show he was on, the last of the great all rounders. Nice to see him? It was brilliant to see him!


The Sidemen versus KSI- real or fake?

It’s all been kicking off on YouTube since KSI left The Sidemen. Or is it really? OK some of you will be wondering what I’m talking about so here’s a short 101 on The Sidemen. They are football and gaming vloggers with a following of some 35 million subscribers. Though each have their own individual channels they also combine their efforts like the Power Rangers (but without powers) as The Sidemen. Since forming in 2013 they have become a global brand with a range of clothing, a best -selling book and enough popularity to fill a football stadium as they did for a charity match back in May. However where there were seven of them there are now six. KSI, the most popular and controversial of the group quit earlier this month after distancing himself from the others for some time. Since then- and it’s only a couple of weeks- so called diss track videos have been flying back and forth with the ferocity of a Game of Thrones battle sequence. I’d love to include one of these in this post but frankly they are just too near the knuckle (blogging is still a safer environment than vlogging). Whether or not you care about the falling out of people you’ve never heard of, what this is really about is the difference between what is real and what isn’t and whether the obvious fun both sides are having with this `split` is sending the wrong messages to their followers.


Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger

How you respond to a film like Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger depends on how you approach it. If you’re looking for flaws and things that just don’t match the sleek effects of today you’ll find plenty. If you’re willing to indulge the entertainment of another age then you may find yourself enjoying the ride. Forty years old this year, the movie comes alongside the other two big screen Sinbad outings (reviewed last month) in a well presented box set including both DVD and Blu-ray versions.


Top of the Pops 15 July 1982

Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. Peter Powell: " Hi! Welcome to the party! Another edition of Top of the Pops! On the show tonight we've got David Essex, Cliff Richard, we've got Visage, Japan, Dexy's and many others but for starters Hot Chocolate with ..! 
[12] Hot Chocolate: It Started With A Kiss. A slightly slower tempo song than is normally used for the first performance, but it's great so who cares. 
[30] Paul McCartney: Take It Away. Ooh look Ringo's in this slightly self-aggrandising Paul McCartney video. And John Hurt. On this occasion an alien doesn't burst out of John Hurt's chest. 
[35] Cliff Richard: The Only Way Out. Ugh, it's Cliff and he's wearing nasty leather trousers. Apparently this song is about God, which explains why Cliff Richard keeps pointing up on the line "and it's yooooo." 
[24] Yazoo: Don't Go. I am turning into my nan. I find myself annoyed by Vince Clarke's fringe. Could the real reason why he left Depeche Mode be because Dave Gahan wouldn't let him grow stupid, floppy hair at the front of his head?


Handsome Devil

For a film whose theme is about being yourself and not hiding things, the title is somewhat misleading but this is a subtle coming of age drama that travels familiar roads but has a refreshing tendency to veer off when you least expect it to. What you think is going to happen doesn’t and by the end you may well find yourself getting excited over the result of a rugby match and, you know, that’s not something that normally happens. Writer / director John Butler gleefully plays with tropes that anyone whose watched any American high school film will recognise but imbues each with something more.


Binge watching diminishes episodic drama

It has been reported this week that more than half of those who watch ongoing series catch multiple episodes in what is being  called `bingewatching` or `box set Britain`. Many even miss out on sleep in order to just watch one more episode before bedtime. This isn’t a new thing as such- ever since videos people have been able to watch episodes of series whenever they liked but it seems to have grown now the likes of Netflix and Amazon have started dropping whole seasons at a time. Whereas with videos, dvds and blu rays you’d probably already watched weekly episodes first, now you don’t have to. You can watch all the episodes in one day if you want but if you do are you missing out on an important aspect of episodic drama?



The relentless thrum of war is never out of earshot in Christopher Nolan’s terrifically absorbing take on one of the Second World War’s most celebrated incidents. It’s there not just in the bullets and bombs flying about but in Hans Zimmer’s disturbing drone-like incidental music. Combined with Nolan’s trademark in your face filming techniques the results are outstanding and intense. It’s as close to the real thing as you can get or would want to get. It is the best film I’ve seen so far this year.


War for the Planet of the Apes

You know how seamless the motion capture process has become when you don’t even spend time marvelling at it as people used to and instead focus straight into the film. It’s probable that this story could not have been done till now due to those advances because it is seen almost entirely from the apes point of view while the scattering of human characters enjoy relatively short focus compared to their simian rivals.  This can, at times, make the results seem slightly drawn out but this is a tense, slow burning war film that succeeds by trying new twists on a familiar tale.


Top of the Pops 8 July 1982

Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. David "Kid" Jensen: "And a warm welcome to another forty minutes of hit sounds in vision. And we begin this week's music and lights with this from Imagination."

[5] Imagination: Music And Lights. Leee John and Ashley Ingram are having a contest to see who can wear the most stupid clothes. Under normal circumstances Ashley Ingram would win; he's wearing a top modelled on American Football shoulder pads and gold lame trousers. However, Leeee John has pulled off an ensemble in white lace and padded cloth which makes him look like the one of the alien delegates from the Doctor Who story Mission to the Unknown. The drummer barely gets a look in. Which is probably just as well. He's wearing a long coat that covers his shorts so he appears to be trouserless. This is a standard Imagination performance which means it features lots of groin thrusts and kissy faces but Leeeee John goes too far and punctures the erotic atmosphere with a move that involves opening his coat and fanning his chest as if his nipple is too hot. And where does Ashley Ingram's guitar go? It disappears while he's off camera. Does he toss it into the audience like Elvis used to do with towels? (John- Yes, in all 8 people were injured over the years)
Imagination: Yes, it was his turn to wear the triangle this week