Film Reviews - Dazed and Confused@30, A Haunting in Venice


Looking back on Dazed and Confused (in cinemas again to celebrate thirty years since its release) is almost like looking back on one’s past.  A slow burn success, partly due to misleading marketing, it’s charms have only become apparent to a wider audience as time went by and perhaps because it contains early performances by the likes of Mathew McConaughey, Ben Affleck and Parker Posey.  They are part of a tapestry that depicts the last day and night of a typical American high school summer semester in 1976, the Bicenntial year though there is no celebration of that, not even from the teachers.. You might say- as some have- that nothing happens in this film when in fact it is packed with small incidents it’s just that events unfurl at an unfussy natural pace. These are not our personal memories of such a formative time yet they seem as if they are.  Nowadays this sort of filmmaking is much more commonplace than it was in 1993 so in some ways the film may not seem as groundbreaking now.


Top of the Pops 9 Sep 1988


Words; Chris Arnsby

[But first, a bit relating to last week's show and the great stereo switch on. Over at https://www.mixcloud.com/espeee/top-of-the-pops-1st-september-1988-with-steve-wright-mark-goodier-radio-1-fm-stereo-switch-on/ there's a recording from Radio 1 on the big day, just before Top of the Pops begins. Steve Wright briefly interviews producer & director “Stan” Appel, and Ian McLean the floor manager, and Mark King from Level 42. You get to hear how TotP was integrated into the Radio 1FM schedule and at the end there's the latest news from 1988].

 Mike Read: “Yes. Top of the Pops time again. Not only that but we're in FM stereo on Radio 1. And tonight, with me, the semi-legendary Andy Crane.”
Andy Crane: “You're too kind. Later in the show we've Britain's brand new number one but to get things underway, Mark Almonds and La Magia and Tears Run Rings.”




Reviews- One Piece eps 5 - 8


Just two weeks after debuting on Netflix, the notoriously reluctant -to- renew  streamer has actually granted this show a second season. Looking at the analytics its easy to see why- the show was Netflix’s number one in eighty-four countries beating recent high water marks such as season four of Stranger Things or the first series of Wednesday. Of course it does have the benefit of already being a globally recognised brand and has potential beyond that too when you consider its more accessible than either of those other shows especially to younger viewers. What it’s success may also open up is a rich seam of manga adaptations perhaps taking some of the territory currently occupied by comic interpretations? Is this a sea change? Well let’s not get ahead of ourselves but I’m pleased that a series I like has actually been renewed by Netflix for a change after the Lockwood and Co debacle. Mind you the figures do show what it takes to get that elusive renewal. Popularity in a handful of places- even if they are the US and the UK- is just not enough. Nothing less than a global reach will do.


Top of the Pops 1 Sep 1988


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby.
Mark Goodier: “Hello and welcome...”
Steve Wright: “Hello!!”
Mark Goodier: “... to a very special Top of the Pops tonight because it's the first ever nation-wide stereo simulcast.
Steve Wright: “The man speaks the truth!! And here are the frequencies!! In Central Scotland at 98.6!!
Mark Goodier: “Yup, 98.6”.
Steve Wright: “In the north at 98.8 FM!!”
Mark Goodier: “98.8”.
Steve Wright: “And in the Midlands at 98.4 FM now!!”
Mark Goodier: “98.4”.
Steve Wright: “[to the crowd] Shut up you lot!!”
Mark Goodier: “Brilliant. So make sure you turn down the TV sounds, switch up Radio 1 FM...”
Steve Wright: “Woo!!”
Mark Goodier: “... and hear crystal clear stereo Top of the Pops. Now our first band tonight have been away for a long time. Welcome them back. Straight in to 18 at the chart, Level 42.”

 [18] LEVEL 42: heaven in my hands. Paul Ciani is away. As mumu03 pointed out in a comment under the 18/08/1988 write up, Ciani is tending to one of the other plants in his Light Entertainment garden, Call My Bluff. Recording a new series which would start broadcasting at the end of October. While looking up the dates on BBC Genone I came across a Christmas 1975 programme he produced for BBC2, Great Big Groovy Horse. “A rock-musical romp through the legend of The Wooden Horse of Troy.” That's a new entry at the top of my list of programmes I want to see about the Wooden Horse of Troy, beating out the Doctor Who story The Myth Makers.



Reviews- One Piece eps 1- 4, new Sigur Ros album


Another month brings another big Netflix launch but curiously of a title I -and I’m sure many others- have never heard of. One Piece is an adaptation of a manga comic whose sales it is claimed make it one of the top ten most read books ever. Its been adapted before as an animated series and now Netflix has lavished considerable resources on this live action version.  The first eight episodes can now be watched; each around an hour long, each containing considerable spectacle. Its about a band of juvenile `pirates` in an unnamed land who join in a race for a fabled treasure called the One Piece. What they lack in age or experience they make up for with assorted skills enabling them to overcome a series of mad pirates.



Top of the Pops 25 Aug 1988


Words: Chris Arnsby
Gary Davies: “Hi. We're very glad to see you. Welcome to another Top of the Pops. On the show tonight it's all the Bs, we have Breathe, Brother Beyond, and Baz and the Plastic Population.”
Nicky Campbell: “Er... but we don't have Princess Beatrix quite yet but what we do have is a brilliant British band, Big Country.”
Gary Davies: “Yeah!”

 [16] BIG COUNTRY: king of emotion. Let's take a moment to admire the opening view of the studio. Gary Davies and Nicky Campbell are both together on one of the studio bridges and a handheld camera is used to grab a shot of the pair with the studio and audience in the background.

Paul Ciani is away and it's interesting to see Stanley Appel quietly ditch the elements of the show he doesn't like. Paul Ciani's first week off was 11/08/1988 and instantly gone was the (admittedly daft) insistence on splitting the two hosts to introduce the show from separate parts of the studio. Bruno Brookes and Liz Kershaw were allowed to get together, whereas the previous week Janice Long and Mark Goodier were on different stages. Gone also, Paul Ciani's tendency to treat the video played over the closing titles as an extended Breaker.



Top of the Pops 18 August 1988


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. Simon Mayo: “Hi. Welcome to Top of the Pops and we have tonight, we have Chris Rea, we also have Fairground Attraction, and Yazz, and also with his curls cut off, Mike Read.”
Mike Read: “Absolutely. The first group up tonight, really really good, went to see them a few weeks ago live, they are great, Aztec Camera, Working in a Goldmine.”

 [31] AZTEC CAMERA: working in a goldmine. Paul Ciani is still away and Stanley Appel is in the “produced and directed by” seat.

I'm not going to beat around the bush. Cumulatively this is one of the flattest episodes of Top of the Pops I've seen for a while. Individually none of the songs tonight are bad but one after they other they flop onto a pile and lay there; or, maybe I was just tired after a day at work.


Blue Beetle film review


This film was apparently originally intended to go directly onto to streaming yet thankfully has ended up on the big screen where it actually belongs. There is a case though that it might have benefitted from being released in a less crowded period which is replete with superhero and action movies but I’ve given up trying to discern DC’s motives which are as opaque and contradictory as Elon Musk's. Is this the last of the old universe or the first of the new one? Never mind about that, instead let’s enjoy this quirky origin story that is essentially untied from all that baggage and given a chance to stand on its own two feet. Or however many feet beetles have. Yes, there are elements of the plot that you will correctly guess long before they happen and yet the overall package is so likeable and frantic, so well performed and constructed that you can overlook such things and just enjoy it.


Top of the Pops 11 August 1988


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby.

Bruno Brookes: “Hello and welcome to Europe's number one TV pop show. This is Top of the Pops and 'ere's Liz with her 'andbag. What's in yer 'andbag Liz?”
Liz Kershaw: “Me [?] and me Mint Imperials. And I'm gonna dance round it. Like to this one. This week's number twenty six, Mica Paris and Courtney Pine. Like Dreamers Do.”
Bruno Bookes: “Yeah.” 

[26] MICA PARIS/COURTNEY PINE: like dreamers do. The revolving door of Top of the Pops presenters spins on. Janice Long leaves and Liz Kershaw arrives. For one week. This is her only hosting shift. Although, ominously, in 1990 the final act of the 22/11/1990 show is something called Bruno & Liz & the Radio 1 D.J. Posse with Let's Dance. Luckily I've got around two years to prepare. It sounds awful.




Film reviews - Gran Turismo and Heart of Stone


The long absent Neil Blomkamp (its eight years since the under rated Chappie) returns with what may seem like an artistic left turn but in fact it suits his style perfectly. It may be a movie made in the tradition of `unlikely hero trying to beat the odds` but the director’s sensibility steers it cleverly between hazards. While filmmakers have recently been discovering better ways to adapt video games for the big screen in the case of Gran Turismo there is a readymade true-life story that forms the basis of this movie. You might watch it and think it unlikely but most of what we see happened and as a film its excitingly rendered whether you know the story or not.



Squaring the Circle documentary reviewed


The story of Seventies album cover designers Hipgnosis makes for an absorbing film by Anton Corbijn

 If you grew up in the Seventies or a fan of that decade’s music the chances are you owned albums which had covers designed by Hipgnosis. Distinctive, abstract and unusual they created a visual signature for prog, rock and beyond, so much so that is impossible to think of the likes of Pink Floyd or Led Zeppelin without imagining the images Hipgnosis created for them. This film about their work and the two creative people at the heart of the company is directed by Anton Corbijn, himself a renowned designer, so as you would expect he is empathic with the sort of creative process that leads to such well known images. In some ways the story of Hipgnosis is similar to that of the groups they worked for- struggling early days, a big breakthrough, an imperial period, and a downfall as trends changed followed by a bitter falling out.



Top of the Pops 4 August 1988


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby.
Janice Long: “Hello. How you doing? Welcome to Top of the Pops. Tonight... is very much a live Top of the Pops. Some fantastic stuff. And very much a case of girls on top, isn't it Mark?”

Mark Goodier: “It sure is. Thank you Janice. And our first lady tonight says her favourite food is chocolate sandwiches. Do you believe that? She's straight into number two of the chart it's Kylie Minogue right here with the Locomotion.

[2] KYLIE MINOGUE: the loco-motion. Welcome back Janice. Bye Janice. She returned from a prolonged absence in July 1988, she's here tonight, and then she's off. After this she won't be seen again until the final Top of the Pops in 2006. Janice herself wasn't in any doubt what happened. In a Tweet dated October 11th 2019 she wrote: “Radio One did not approve of me having a baby and not being married. That’s why I lost my show. TOTP were cool but Radio One decided to do a simulcast so I was persona non grata”

BBC Genome confirms that Janice Longs' Radio 1 show ended on 30th December 1987. After the New Year break the slot was filled temporarily by Simon Mayo before being handed on to Liz Kershaw. Top of the Pops had broadcast on Radio 1 since the 05/11/1987 edition but this was in London only (probably). Johnny Beerling, Radio 1 Controller, was presumably okay with this limited exposure for Janice Long but looming at the start of September 1988 was “the great FM switch on.” Central Scotland, the north, and the midlands, would all gain access to Radio 1 FM and suddenly 65% of the country would be able to hear an unwed mother hosting Top of the Pops in stereo. Or at least they would if she'd stayed. I assume Paul Ciani booked Janice in July and August in an attempt to establish her again as part of the regular team; without success.

In fact, there's possibly an additional layer of mischief to those two bookings. Janice returns on the 07/07/1988 edition. Tonight's appearance is exactly four weeks later. If this cycle had continued (which seems like a reasonable guess because several hosts appeared monthly) then her next appearance would have been Thursday 01/09/1988. The first day of the FM switch on. Did Paul Ciani bring her back to Top of the Pops with an eye to getting her back on Radio 1 on its big day? I like to think he did.

Meanwhile, Mark Goodier continues to develop his role as the bland man of Radio 1. His “chocolate sandwiches” exclusive reminds me of a terrible feature from his programme in the early 1990s. It was called Unbelievable and featured the dullest POP FACTS possible. It ran like this.
MUSICAL STING: Unbelievable by EMF
MARK GOODIER: “Kylie Minogue says her favourite food is chocolate sandwiches.”
MUSICAL STING: Unbelievable by EMF

 He got a book out of it. Called Unbelievable!, published in 1993. Copies are available on Ebay and Amazon. The condition is usually very good to as new.


Good Omens season 2 review


I've seen some mixed reviews of this with some harsh comments particularly from fans of the original novel who feel season two has been done a disservice even though its mostly written by Neil Gaiman. I've never read the book but thoroughly enjoyed the first series though I did see it as a one off. I wasn't really sure where another season might go without either repeating the highlights of the first or heading off somewhere tangential. In the end they seem to have done neither by opening up new aspects of the central friendship and varying the canvas behind it just enough. I think a good job as been done even though I found the first third more enjoyable than the rest. 

Some spoilers after the break...



Titans season four episodes 5 to 12 reviewed


Episode five sees attempts to protect Sebastian being foiled partly because one of those big snakes gets loose inside Star Labs. The snake is convincing enough even in the bright lights of the base though might have been more effective had some reason been found to blow out half of them for atmospheric darkness. Like a lot of the jeopardy moments though it is over and done with too soon and too easily in this case. In the end, as he had to be, the unwilling Sebastian is taken by his acolytes and really it is only down to Joseph Morgan’s trembling fear that any sense of impending doom is rendered for the viewer. 

By far the best episode to this point, part six manages to find a purpose amidst the somewhat aimless to-ing an fro-ing we’ve thus far seen. Likewise Superboy also finds the same, with a shaved head and an attitude he is bringing out his Luthor side. Though much of the episode takes place within the torch laden occult cave or the gleaming white spaces of Star Lab a palpable tension is present. We do have some flashbacks of Sebastian’s downtrodden life though from what we see he probably needs a therapist more than he needs to become some God but that’s America for you.


Heartstopper Season Two reviewed

 Can the second season of Heartstopper match the joy of it's first?

When a character in this second season is trying to find out about something, while he initially searches on Google he ends up sourcing a physical book. It’s an indication that Heartstopper is sometimes more nuanced than it seems. While it paints brightly on a wide canvas contained within it are truths that everyone can recognise, perhaps the reason why the first season appealed way beyond it’s target young audience. It was one of last year’s must-see shows but like all surprise hits it now faces the dilemma of how it can sustain that momentum especially as it's central will they / won’t they storyline was essentially resolved. So if the series has lost a little of its innocence then so have the characters which means things develop. Its never going to be a gritty portrayal of LGBTQA+ issues but some of the edges this season are sharper, some of the problems more serious and with the wider cast getting more material its also a more varied narrative. Chuck in three episodes set in Paris and you have a winner!


Top of the Pops 28 July 1988


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby.
Excitement! Over at the Top of the Pops repositorium (https://mega.nz/folder/h0snQACa#uiNNqosfbdrfzODHsE1clw) there's a choice between two episodes, the broadcast one which runs to 31 minutes and a 51 minute unedited version. Obviously I'm going for the longer one. 
Things get off to a good start with lots of random studio stuff. Rainbow colour bars captioned Gary Davies; random shots of audience members being herded into position around both hosts; an enigmatic request from Gary Davies “if there's any chance of a tinge more foldback that would be lovely, thank you”; Nicky Campbell rehearsing his numbers, he seems to feel “twenty six” needs more work; studio lights at higher than usual levels which allow you to see the dents and scratches in the scenery; Floor Manager Kevin Gill doing whatever Floor Managers do; Test Card F ! Roll titles.

Gary Davies: “Good to see you again. Hello, good evening. Welcome to another Top of the Pops. In the studio tonight we have Siouxsie and the Banshees, we have Yazz and the Plastic Population, and if you look just over there. It's Nicky Campbell.”
Nicky Campbell: “Yes. And we're going to start off tonight with a complete and utter newcomer... but don't listen to a word I say.  At number twenty six, with his twenty sixth Top 30 hit, Feel The Need In Me. Here's Shakey.”



Hanging out on Olympus...Photo post


Checking out the Return of the Gods exhibition @Liverpool World Museum 

Before I was old enough to read science fiction novels, the stories that fascinated me were those of the old Greek and Roman Gods. I had no real context as to how they came to be created or what they symbolised because there are two aspects. One is about what they represented for the people who worshipped them. The other- the one that captivated me as a child- is that of the myths themselves. The thunderbolts, the turning to stone, the ordeals, familial rivalries and all the other behaviour. Looking back it was really like a soap opera, indeed I am sure some soaps have filched storylines from the tales of the Gods. Course I was too young and naïve to fully understand what was going on but, you know, it’s all fairly sordid for beings considered as Gods. I imagine this is because when creating religious myths societies do so within the confines of what they know. So, I was interested to visit this exhibition at Liverpool’s World Museum which opened in April. Most of the exhibits date back to the time when people believed in the Gods and were originally collected by the eighteenth century antiquarian Henry Blundell of Sefton. Its rare for so many of them to be collected in one place so the display is well worth a visit if you’re in the area. It runs at Liverpool World museum till 25 February 2024.


Top of the Pops 21 July 1988


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby.
Peter Powell:
“Good evening! Welcome to tonight's edition of Top of the Pops! It is Europe's most successful TV show! It's non-stop pop! And making his debut on the show, Andy Crane!”
Andy Crane: “Thanks Pete. Good evening. How are you? In studio tonight we've Ziggy Marley, we've Everything But The Girl, but to get things underway over here, the highest new entry this week, at number twenty S-Express, Superfly Guy.

 [20] S-EXPRESS: superfly guy. Andy Crane? The bloke from the broom cupboard? Yes indeed. 1988 is a year of transition. Michael Hurll out. Paul Ciani in. Mike Smith off. Mark Goodier on. Simon Bates goes. Nicky Campbell arrives. It makes sense to refresh the pool of hosts and it makes sense to hire a familiar face from children's television. It draws in a new audience to replace those jaded teenagers drifting out of the habit of watching Top of the Pops. It's not even the first time the series has used children's television hosts as presenters. For a lot of Top of the Pops viewers, myself included, that was the job description for Noel Edmonds and Mike Read.





As his career progresses, Christopher Nolan has become a less commercial filmmaker. His movies were always serious and highbrow but lately they’ve become intense feats of endurance for all concerned, not least the audience. I don’t mean by that to say they are bad, far from it, just that they require a level of focus most movies do not. You'll soon forget the popcorn, Coming on the back of the mind puzzler that was Tenet in which science and science fiction collided head on, Oppenheimer is a film that takes us into the world of real science. A dense and talky three hour affair containing a lot that the viewer will not understand, this is a film for nuclear physicists and political students more than anyone. At times you'll feel like the Rocket Man who doesn't understand `all the science`. It doesn't matter though because underpinning everything are the ramifications of what happened, ripples we still feel to this very day.


Top of the Pops 14 July 1988


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby.
Simon Bates: “Hi. Welcome to studio four at Television Centre. It's one minute past seven and this is Top of the Pops live. We have the new Michael Jackson video later on, we have the charts, and we have Bruno Brookes.”

Bruno Brookes: “Yes, and off to a great start. Down here on the centre stage at number fifteen on the chart this week Transvision Vamp, I Want Your Love.”

 [15] TRANSVISION VAMP: i want your love. This is going to be rocky. In 1988 some silly sausage at the BBC stuck the EAR lead in the MIC socket, and vice versa. The result was the audio from the hosts' microphones didn't get recorded to videotape, their words were only picked up by the general studio microphones. You can just about make out what Bates and Brookes are saying but the pair are frequently drowned out by the sound of the crowd.

I normally watch Top of the Pops from a comfy chair in front of the television but this time I'm hunched over my computer listening via earphones and having to decipher the soundtrack like some pioneering radio ham trying to pick up Hilversum on a crystal set.

The other oddity of this archive copy. It has no on screen captions. Apparently 14/07/1988 was a technical nightmare at Television Centre. And, speaking of technical nightmares, check out the moment 45 seconds into the Transvision Vamp performance -just after the first transition to a crane shot- when the camera bashes into one of the neon lighting units hanging from the ceiling and the picture shakes violently. Who's driving that thing?

Two notes about Transvision Vamp. One, I've persisted for decades in calling them Transmission Vamp. Two, it turns out Transvision Vamp are the reason I don't remember The Primitives, my memory amalgamated them into a single group.



In the Pink


Greta Gerwig's Barbie is fun and mostly fantastic

Well, it’s pink. Pinker than the pinkest Pink Panther, carnations or flamingos. They should issue shades on entry to protect us from the eye bruising colour that shines from every pore of this bravura attempt to bring a doll to life. It seems a bizarre conceit but then again why not? For millions of kids Barbie was / is real and they have shared many good times with her. Also the movie is in the hands of Greta Gerwig, a director known for doing good stuff and it stars Margot Robbie whom I have never seen being anything other than great in a variety of different roles. Did I mention it’s pink? 


I watched Titans season 4 eps 1-4, Wham! documentary


Titans Season 4 episodes 1 -4

There are a lot of villains in the first couple of episodes of this season of Titans. There’s Lex Luthor, big of beard and somewhat more urbane, even laid back than expected. There’s the occult woman he sacks in the opening sequence who turns out to be exactly the sort of person you shouldn’t sack. There’s bird faced man, a frankly disturbing character whose visage is hidden behind one of those medieval masque masks. And there’s’ super powered staff wielding woman who manages to sort of out the Titans in a motorway dust up at the end of part two. There’s also mild mannered Sebastian who seems to be a Jekyll and Hyde type hardly able to suppress the beast within. It’s not clear at this stage if he’s a villain or not but I wouldn’t invite him to dinner. Are all these people connected? What is going on exactly? Welcome to the chaotic world of Titans.


Top of the Pops 30 June & 7 July 1988


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. Peter Powell: [Tight close up of Peter Powell's head, the picture slowly widens through the  introduction] “Good evening everybody! And welcome to this special summer live edition of Top of the Pops! It was Gary's idea that I should wear the shorts! So blame him! It's his fault!”

Gary Davies: “Ha ha ha. Nothing to do with me. It is supposed to be summer. Hello and welcome to the show, in the studio tonight we have Matt Bianco, we have T'Pau, but first we start off with the lady who's in the middle of a UK tour. She's at number eighteen with Maybe We Should Call It A Day. Here's Hazel Dean.”

 [18] HAZELL DEAN maybe we should call it a day. Hope you like DJ's knees because we're going to see more of them tonight. It's a bit of a running gag. Well, they reference it twice more and forget about it.  Hazell Dean is doing her best and she gets the crowd nicely worked up but this is the most generic pop song I've heard since Sinitta's last one.



Review- Mission Impossible Dead Reckoning Part One


The Mission Impossible films have always been great cinema events and this seventh installment manages to outdo its predecessors not by radically re-working the tried and tested formula but by pushing it just a bit more. So there are breathtaking chases, awesome stunts, lots of double crossing and a basic plot that enables so many different avenues to run from it. It’s a hybrid of some of cinema’s oldest tricks combined with a story inspired by today’s headlines and it works so well it could be a contender for film of the year.

 Some spoilers after the break...


Review- Shadow and Bone Season 2


There’s definitely a different feel to this second season not least the episode specific episode openings. Shadow and Bone doesn’t really seem to have a title theme but each instalment shows a differently designed logo. The gets off to an exhilarating start compared to the slow manner in which the first season began. It looks like the production has more of a handle on the best way to present the material with a fluidity of narrative and more interesting locales. By part two we’re already hunting a creature called a Sea Whip in a thrilling underwater cavern sequence. Like some mythical sea monster from one of those old maps it proves a formidable foe and a visual powerhouse in what is the best encounter of the whole series to that  point. Everything looks promising.



Top of the Pops 16th & 23rd June 1988

Reviewed by Chris Arnsby.


Mike Read: “Good evening. Welcome to Top of the Pops. We've got a real stunner lined up for you tonight. First of all here's a word from my good mate Gary Davies.”
Gary Davies: “Thank you very much. Hello. We start tonight with something really special. She's literally just flown in by helicopter to perform live tonight. Last year she took Europe by storm. This year she's taking Britain by storm. At number four, here's Sabrina and Boys.”

[4] SABRINA: boys (summertime love). Norma Ann Sykes? No. This is the other Sabrina. The one from Italy. The one who's artfully-cropped-into-widescreen video caused such consternation on last week's Top of the Pops. “As you can see! They're pretty liberal with some of their videos! In Europe!” was Peter Powell's verdict.

Well here she is in the flesh, so to speak. Wearing a flimsy top, and tight jeans. A lot of the blokes in the audience are crammed round the front of the stage. I would be remiss not to mention the moment towards the end of the performance when Sabrina reaches for the zip at the front of her flimsy top... and pulls it up. The real star of this segment is up on the balcony, behind and to the left of Gary Davies. A bloke with cropped hair wearing a white shirt and light grey suit. While Gary introduces the show he's constantly bopping, shifting from one foot to the other with grim determination. He can be glimpsed all through Sabrina's performance whenever the camera angle favours the balcony. Bopping and clapping away like a metronome. He's here to dance. Dammit. And he does.


Review- Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny


The Indiana Jones movies were never meant to be taken too seriously even if the demeanor of their hero suggested otherwise. Intended as a homage to the episodic cinema serials of the 1940s, as much time has now passed since that first film as had since those movies that inspired it. Not much has changed though and this belated fifth instalment ticks all the expected boxes- crazy chases, banter under pressure, grouchy Indy, perky sidekick, scenery chewing villain and some supernatural / sci-fi nonsense to finish. It is a relentless story that zips around the world stopping in each location only for a chase or a dust up in the manner of James Bond or Mission Impossible. Great fun to see at the cinema for sure and you cannot ask for more.

Spoilers after the break


Top of the Pops 9 June 1988


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. Peter Powell: “Hello! Welcome to tonight's edition of Top of the Pops! On the show tonight! We've got Voice of the Beehive! Mica Paris! And also Morrisey!” 

Simon Mayo: “And we're going to start at number four. Look out for the new sport of synchronised drumming. Because these are the Time Lords and Doctorin' the Tardis. This is just brilliant. Watch this.”

 [4] THE TIMELORDS: doctorin' the tardis. Simon Mayo speaks the truth. This is a brilliant performance. Perfect start of the show stuff. It's also a great return to the studio after all the asbestos disruption of the previous week. It seems odd that Peter Powell doesn't mention it, considering he was one of the hosts in the makeshift studio. Maybe everyone at the BBC was bored of the subject.




Reviews- Asteroid City, Elton John

 The recent spate of memes depicting films remade in a Wes Anderson style has irritated the director yet demonstrates how- in a similar way though different style- Tim Burton became ubiquitous some time ago. Anderson has now arrived at that odd position where his work has never been so well known yet his choices have never seemed so obvious. Asteroid City will do little to change people’s opinion either way as it is very Wes Anderson indeed.



Top of the Pops 2 June 1988


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. Asbestos was discovered in BBC Television Centre at the end of May 1988. The peak of the disruption, which closed virtually all the studios, came in the week of 30May when programmes scrabbled to relocate to alternate venues around Television Centre. Tomorrow's World was broadcast from the car park, Wogan came from reception, Blue Peter used their garden, and Newsnight and Breakfast Time came from what Stage and Television Today -2 June 1988*- described as “tiny, cramped, back-up studios,” and noted, “a final decision had yet to be made on the venue for Wednesday's recording of this week's edition of Top of the Pops.”

Peter Powell: “Hello! Tonight's edition is not so much the big bash as usual, more like a private party!” Nicky Campbell: “And I've, er, I've gatecrashed it. Where's the fridge.”
Peter Powell: “Why didn't you RSVP?! We're not in our usual studio setup bit we do have a show!”
Nicky Campbell: “What a show we've got. Rod Stewart. Aztec Camera. Wet Wet Wet. You name it. To start us off with their second hit in as many months, here's Aswad.”

 [18] ASWAD: give a little love. So what venue did Top of the Pops choose? The following week's Stage and Television Today reported a BBC spokesman who said it was broadcast from “the gallery.” I assume he means the studio gallery rather than Tony Hart's place. Later, the 2019 documentary The Story of 1988 describes the venue as “a corridor.” Who is right? Well they both are. The opening link is filmed in a doorway. A Top of the Pops logo has been tacked to the wall to the left of the door and Rob Litertherland, credited with Lighting this week, has dragged in a few bits and pieces to try and replicate the colours of the real studio, and also provide a few flashing lights. Check out the neon disco strip draped over the back wall of the room behind the hosts. How retro and seventies.



Review- The Flash


I’ll say it right away- this is a great film. Funny, exciting, occasionally poignant and always visually arresting it is more or less what you want from a trip to the movies. However, there is of course a lot of baggage surrounding The Flash and superhero movies in general. If it flops it will be the fourth live action superhero film in a row to underperform after Guardians of the Galaxy Vol3, Shazam – Fury of the Gods and Quantumania. What may at first have seemed like unlucky coincidence is beginning to look like long term decline. The Flash has the extra hurdle in that after a catalogue of incidents and allegations, the film’s star is sort of cancelled but sort of not, an unsatisfactory half-life for all concerned. Still, I suppose superhero films thrive on excess of all kinds and the best thing is to watch a film with an open mind and try not to be distracted by the noise around it.



Top of the Pops 26 May 1988


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby.

Steve Wright: “'ello there!! Good evening!! I'm Steve Wright!! Welcome to Top of the Pops!! We have an excited crowd!! And some good bands!! And our other host is Mark Goodier!! Say hello Mark!!”

Mark Goodier: “Thank you very much Steve. Let's start tonight with a lady who keeps on coming back to the UK because she keeps on getting hits. Debbie Gibson at number nineteen with Out of the Blue. Across there.”

 [19] DEBBIE GIBSON: out of the blue. Last week the hosts kept sitting down. This week, in Paul Ciani's ongoing quest to make Top of the Pops look slightly different, the two hosts are separated. Steve Wright introduces the show from the edge of the main stage and hands over to Mark Goodier who is up on one of the studio bridges. It doesn't work because it looks like they've had a row and refuse to appear on camera together. Everything's blue for Debbie Gibson. Blue lighting. Blue scenery. And a blue costume. I'm sensing a theme. It looks like she's performing live from Metabelis 3. Is that a spider on her back? Debbie's a solo performer so she performs in front of a bank of monitors to add a little visual interest. It's a competent performance. Nothing ground breaking but it gets the show off to a solid start.




Midsomer Murders- Picture of Innocence (2007)


Here’s an odd episode. It’s very enjoyable to watch and has a strong cast, it’s even got quite a clever title when you think about it. It is just that the plot doesn’t really make too much sense. Every television detective will eventually come to a case in which they become personally involved somehow and `Picture of Innocence` is Midsomer Murders’ attempt though there are times when you might think they’re doing a spoof.


"It doesn't even look like me!" Barnaby is framed.


Reviews- Across The Spider-Verse, Shadow and Bone season one


Spider- Man – Across the Spider -Verse (film 2023) Five years after the acclaimed Into the Spiderverse, Miles Morales is back for another burst of imaginative storytelling and visual pizzaz. Fictionally a year has passed and Miles has become accustomed to his Spider-Man gig as well as hiding his true identity from his parents. Yet the nature of his transformation seems to have set off a chain of events that will come back to ensnare him in an even more dangerous scenario than last time. And that’s all I can tell you about the plot because to appreciate the movie you need to experience a string of developments as they happen. Just reading about them in a review will spoil it completely. 


Top of the Pops 19 May 1988


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. Gary Davies: “'ello! Simes and I would like to welcome you to another excellent edition of Top of the Pops. In the studio tonight we have Derek B, Aztec Camera, Billy Brag, and Wet Wet Wet.”

Simon Bates: “So much more as well. A double A-side at the end of the programme. Plus here in the Top of the Pops studio. It's Prefab Sprout. The King Of Rock And Roll.”

 [14] PREFAB SPROUT: the king of rock 'n' roll. In May 1988 I was revising for my GSCEs. This process broadly involved sitting down in my bedroom at 9am and switching on Radio One. It was time to stop at 5.30pm when Newsbeat began. I feel more familiar with the Top 40 at this point than any other time, and The King Of Rock 'N' Roll is one of those songs I'll permanently associate with trying to remember why U-shaped valleys meander or calculating the surface area of five moles of Hydrogen disulfide.
New Quantel effect! Just before the line “Up from suede shoes to my baby blues*” there's a whooshing noise, a bit like a plane taking off, and the picture squeezes itself into a small box and arcs across the screen. Lovely.

What's the title of this song? Well if you're Simon Bates it's “The King Of Rock 'N' Roll From Albuquerque.” 
* a line which I've always heard as “hot frog, my shoes, my baby blues.”




The curious world of live game streaming

Sounds unusual but stick with me, chatters, as I would say if I were a live streamer. We're travelling to  worlds occupied by ardent gamers for whom playing is just not enough! Whether it’s FIFA or Hearthstone or Grand Theft Auto or Minecraft or Careless Marjorie there is probably as big an audience watching people play as there are players. I may have made up one of those names! Or I’m just back from the future. There are a whole gaggle of game streamers who actually make a living from people watching them playing popular games. Its one of those jobs that just didn’t exist twenty years ago but how do they make any money and is it entertainment? 



Top of the Pops 12 May 1988

 Reviewed by Chris Arnsby

 It's time for some more master tape shenanigans. This recording was downloaded from the Well of Souls at https://mega.nz/folder/h0snQACa#uiNNqosfbdrfzODHsE1clw/folder/QgVgAShZ Things get off to an odd start when the titles play in silence and then, halfway through, pause and rewind. There's a black screen for around 20 seconds and then the VT clock appears again. It holds at 10 seconds, like a troublesome NASA launch, before the countdown begins again. Once again the titles play in silence. Is my television faulty? No. The titles rewind again and we're back to the VT clock. Followed by another black screen. Who's driving this editing desk?

The picture bursts into life. It's Mike Read and Simon Mayo, and a bloke in orange headphones, who I'm guessing is Floor Manager Tony Ravenscraig*. Simon Mayo looks nervous. Mike Read looks bored and is clutching something in his hand. Is it an autograph book? This all plays out in silence and then unexpectedly we have sound, but it's Toy Boy by Sinitta. A song that featured on Top of the Pops nine months ago.



Reviews: New Sparks album plus CBBC drama Silverpoint


Sparks- The Girl is Crying in her Latte (album 2023)  Sparks may have been around forever but that doesn’t mean they are trading on old glories like the handful of their contemporaries still out there. This is their twenty fifth studio album yet it sounds like the work of a vital, much younger group still pushing those envelopes around. People used to wonder why Sparks had never become mega successful but that has been to their advantage enabling both an independence and longevity other artists would love to achieve. They’ve had their moments in the commercial Sun of course- the imperial run of three albums in the 1970s, their dramatic move into dance music at the end of that decade, their groundbreaking `Lil Beethoven` album and more recently acclaim for recent albums, a documentary and a film. Yet Russell and Ron Mael, both in their seventies now, are not for dwelling on even the recent past and sure enough this new collection moves on from the richer sounds of 2020’s `A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip` being much more electronic and bleepy than you’d expect. On the other hand that is so them, shifting direction again.


Top of the Pops 5 May 1988


Bruno Brookes: “Good evening. Hello. Welcome to Europe's number one TV pop show. This is Top of the Pops and here's Adrian John.”

Adrian John: “Thanks Bruno, yes. Here we are kicking off with Joyce Sims at number twenty four with Walk Away.” 

[24] JOYCE SIMS: walk away. Quién es Adrian John? He looks like someone doing a funny spoof of a Top of the Pops host. Could it be David Copperfield, promoting Coppers & Co? No. Adrian John is the Radio 1 DJ you got when the Roadshow visited Ellesmere Port. He's the host of The Early Show on Radio 1. It starts extremely early, 5.30am to be exact. Let's hope he's not sticking around after recording finishes or he'll have a rough start to the day tomorrow.




Picard Season 3 reviewed


It is difficult to understate just how popular Star Trek- The Next Generaiton was in 1987. Most of us had only seen the original series in re-runs but now we had a series of our own and over seven seasons this crew became very familiar to us. The third season of Picard is very much what people probably expected from the first two and  continuing the series’ evolution towards a more standard presentation. They’ve even done away with the lengthy, arty title sequence replaced by a no-nonsense metallic logo in space and a familiar musical motif. In a culture obsessed either with youth or staying young it feels groundbreaking though for a show incorporating plenty of action adventure to be led by much older characters still willing to engage at the centre of the action.


Spoilers following the break…



Top of the Pops 1988- April 1988 Mega Post !

Reviewed by Chris Arnsby 

Gary Davies: “It's the UK's number one pop show. Hello. Welcome to Top of the Pops. In an action packed programme tonight we have Hazel Dean, Ben Goldsmith, Scott Fitzgerald, and the Pet Shop Boys.”
Simon Mayo: “And we are starting at number fifteen. She's been chased by the press everywhere. Taylor Dayne, Prove Your Love.”

 [15] TAYLOR DAYNE: prove your love. The audience are rowdy tonight. To the left of Gary Davies a couple of blokes (one with a very eighties flattop) run through the gamut of Top of the Pops audience reactions; they applaud, they whoop, they wave at the camera (well, flattop appears to be waving not at the camera but at the image of himself on the monitor which suggests some remedial understanding is required of how television works), they smirk, and they round off by doing some ironic dancing.

Taylor Dayne has been “chased by the press everywhere,” according to Simon Mayo. A quick, free, search of the British Newspaper archive reveals 1988 was certainly Taylor Dayne's year; 486 results compared to 49 in 1987 and 80 in 1989. The most intriguing* result is from the Daily Mirror, 05/02/1988, “*SEXY new pop sensation Taylor Dayne has launched an attack on Madonna, with whom she is constantly compared. Taylor at No. 8 with her wonderful single Tell It To My Heart can't bear Madonna's tarty image. She ...” Alas for research, that's where the free preview ends.