His Dark Materials S3 The Break review


Mrs Coulter has been so duplicitous up till now that you tend  not to believe a word she says so her seemingly heartfelt speech into his episode about the bond between a mother and child may or may not be as sincere as it seems. It’s the centrepiece of an absorbing episode which advances the plot slowly but with increasing tension.

Spoilers after the, ahem, break...


Avatar- The Way of Water review


It’s been twelve years since Avatar helped change the face of cinema. Its motion capture and digital work was pioneering in 2010 yet is far more familiar these days. That has not always been a good thing. When you can make anything happen using software and technology can the things that make good drama work- the characters, the story, the emotions- still be present? In the case of this long-delayed sequel the answer is a resounding Yes! Like a lot of people, I had some doubts but I have to say that he’s pulled it off yet again. Fact is that James Cameron has never made a bad film so in retrospect why wouldn’t this one work? Try to ignore the way it was made and focus on what has been made. Of course, if you disagree and you didn’t care for the first film I don’t think this will change your mind. For me though The Way of Water ticks all the boxes of what a great film should be and you need to see it on an IMAX screen as intended. However big your television it will hardly fit this goliath of a movie.

Some sea sprayed spoilers ahoy..



His Dark Materials S3 The Enchanted Sleeper review


aka Looking for Lyra. It’s a good thing they include a Previous On…montage at the start of this episode because its been two long years since we last saw Lyra and co and I have to admit I’d completely forgotten whereabouts we are up to and that she’d been bundled into a trunk and carted away by her mother Miss Coulter. Not only is there that recap but the episode opens with an impressive narration and paintings that outline the situation.



Top of the Pops 10 Dec 1987


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. Mike Smith: “The difference is that tonight Top of the Pops is live from Television Centre so anything could happen in the next thirty minutes, some jolly good tunes coming your way like down here we have the second highest new entry of the week. At number four. The Pet Shop Boys and You're Always On My Mind.”

[4] PET SHOP BOYS: always on my mind. Mike Smith's opening line sounds like the second half of a sentence. Who is he talking to? My guess, the continuity announcer probably said something like “and now it's time for our regular Thursday night visit to Top of the Pops...” and Mike Smith being live could follow on directly.

The Pet Shop Boys now have a well established performance style. You've got Neil Tennant's deliberately understated persona, where he does whatever the word is for the opposite of making love to the camera. He's got a new move in his diffident toolbox, he stands at the microphone with his arms folded. It's a piece of closed body language, unexpected from a pop star which -of course- makes him stand out and be more distinctive than if he was bopping along to the song. And Chris Lowe wears a hat. This week his hat has the word POSH written on it. He also wearing a super jumper with a silhouette of a robot on the front.


Top of the Pops 3 Dec 1987


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. Gary Davies: “Hi, good evening. Welcome to Britain's number one pop show. In the studio tonight we have T'Pau, we've got the Proclaimers, and Paul McCartney.”

Janice Long: “And, interrupting their world tour to be with us, at twenty two, it's The Hooters, Satellite.”

 [22] THE HOOTERS: satellite. The Hooters perform on the redesigned main stage. Finally a chance to get an eyeful of the new look. Except... Geoff Beech, on Lighting, has decided to take inspiration from the twinkly synthesiser riff so he's put two flickering white lights right behind singer Eric Bazilian and they shine down into the lens into the camera. It's a great effect when the camera is lined up properly, Eric appears against a moving white backdrop. It looks fantastic. When the camera isn't lined up properly (which it isn't, most of the time) the picture just looks washed out and a bit flickery. And, here's the important bit, it stops me getting a good look at the new scenery.


Run with the Fox


The great Xmas Single people forget! 

You just may have heard it, you may not even have heard of it but of all the Xmas songs from the last sixty years `Run with the Fox` has to be one of the best. Yet somehow it never seems to feature when the annual parade of Crimbo singles shuffles into play. You know the ones you always hear, you know what people think of them (I even did a post about them a while back). What you never seem to hear is `Run with the Fox`. So this post is to tell you about it and at the end give it a listen and see if you agree.



Doctor Who Am I review


Is that the question?

In this personal film Matthew Jacobs ventures into the heart of Doctor Who fandom which he initially imagines may not greet him with kindness. After all he was the writer of the 1996 TV Movie an attempt to relaunch the show - the name of this film comes from a melodramatic moment in that movie. However, the production failed to lead to a series and remained the only episode produced during a fifteen-year wilderness period. When he steps into the world of Doctor Who conventions what will he find and how will he be received? And, really, is that even what Doctor Who Am I is about?



Top of the Pops 19 & 26 November 1987


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby.

Simon Mayo: “Hi, welcome to Top of the Pops with a very big Barry White, a not quite so big Donna Summer, and a waif-like Steve Wright.”

Steve Wright: “Yes it's true!! Welcome!! We're going to start off with Maxi Priest!! Some guys have all the luck!! Here!!”

 [18] MAXI PRIEST: some guys. New Sets! The initial impression is of neon tower blocks. Actually, although the blocks do have horizontal neon tubes on them, the blocks are reflective or semi-transparent -Perspex or some sort of gauze? - which get most of their colour by being lit from above which gives the blocks the impression they glow from the inside. There are also a few grills and grates designed for cameras to look through. These grates carry a hint of the forthcoming 90's trend for things to look a bit industrial.

If my mental map of the Top of the Pops studio is correct then Maxi Priest is standing on what would previously have been the stage with three perspex pyramids in the background. You can see it in the 12/11/1987 edition, it's the one Mirage performed on and opposite was the V-shaped stage used by Alexander O’Neil. Wide shots suggest all the old stages have been swept away although the same basic layout has been kept; a stage set into the corner of the studio, then steps leading up to a bridge, then steps down to another stage. Having all the stages look the same gives consistency and when cameras shoot of the edge of a stage the scenery appears to continue off into the distance. Has this change been driven by a desire to make the studio seem bigger, like the one used for Top of the Pops USA? Take a bow Grenville Horner, who is credited with Design. I assume he's the person responsible for the new look.

Brian Whitehouse (for it is he) delivers a nice camera move at the end of Maxi Priest's song. The camera pulls back for the standard wide shot of the studio then pans left and keeps going, and going, until it finds Simon Mayo standing on the stage opposite, and then it pans round him some more, until one of the Top of the Pops logos is visible in the background. Does Maxi Priest have a couple of siblings called Mini and Median? (John – Yes.)


Christine McVie

The songbird has flown but the songs live on…

 The established shorthand for the story of Fleetwood Mac is like- blues band led by Peter Green then mega band led by Lyndsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks. It’s a threadbare representation of a band whose line up has contained many talented writers and / or players not least amongst them Danny Kirwan and Bob Welch, while it’s often been Mick Fleetwood himself who has striven to push the band named partly after him to new pastures. Yet perhaps since Peter Green’s departure it was arguably Christine McVie who took the band towards their Seventies zenith having already been writing the sort of simpler, honest pop songs which became their metier. The Cumbrian born Birmingham bred musician, writer, and singer, who has died this week, penned some of Mac’s most enduring classics. She often seemed like a rock of sensibility amidst her more outgoing fellow members and it may be that her presence was what kept the band together in stormy times.