For family reasons I won't be posting here for a little while but will be back when possible.
As a big fan of the first movie, I was looking forward to reuniting with the Shazamily and this sequel surpasses my expectations. It is bold, pacy and packed with loads of action plus quite a bit of humour. And it’s features Helen Mirren! Critics seem sniffier and bad word of mouth is spreading but all I can say is that this film is hugely enjoyable and feels fresh despite the zillions of superhero movies we’ve all seen in recent years.
Some spoilers after the break....
Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. Peter Powell: “Hello! Welcome to another edition of Top of the Pops! We've got some wonderful tracks on the show tonight! We've got Vanessa Paradis, we've got, er, Eddie Grant, we've got The Mission, and making his debut, Mark Goodier!”
Mark Goodier: “Thank you very much indeed Peter! Here's a band from Coventry who make their first appearance on Top of the Pops tonight! It's the Primitives and Crash!”
 PRIMITIVES: crash. Eric Wallis is on Lighting and he takes an early opportunity to shine. Look how the studio lights are shut down in the first seconds of the camera pan from the hosts to the Primitives. By the time the camera reaches the band the stage is in darkness apart from a couple of strategically angled white spotlights and a few pulsing red lights. It looks great when all the lights burst back into life as the song begins.
Down at the far right of the screen someone chucks a handful of glitter as the lights come back on. It's too small a moment to be part of the performance. If Paul Ciani had organised it as a moment to start the show then more people would be taking part. So who is it? A member of the audience trying to make their mark on the show? Someone from the record company or band being silly? We'll never know.
Imagine you could unlock a door and go anywhere! Or look inside someone’s head and find their memories! This is the slightly eccentric premise behind the series Locke and Key which recently completed a three-season run on Netflix. The story is based on a comic book series penned by Joe Hill (Stephen King’s son) and Gabriel Rodriguez and came to the screen after two previously failed attempts at a tv series (one even had a pilot filmed) as well as a projected film trilogy. Aficionados say this series dilutes the darker elements of the comic, but it seems to have gone down well with a lot of people plus unlike many streaming shows it even went beyond one season and got to finish its story with a third! And, really, when you hear the words `magical keys`, you must give it a try don’t you think?
Chris Arnsby. Gary
Davies: “Hi, good evening. Welcome to another mega Top of the Pops. In the
studio tonight we have Billy Ocean, T'Pau, Was Not Was, Coldcut, and making his
first appearance tonight, Nicky Campbell.”
Nicky Campbell: “And also making their first appearance on Top of the Pops, with Beat Dis, the highest chart new entry, Bomb The Bass.”
Bomb the Bass have packed the main stage with people, to avoid this just being three and a half minutes of record producer Tim Simenon playing with his sampler. The three keytarist/dancers obviously draw the most focus because they are doing most of the work, but there's also a guitarist who gets to mime some of the samples (she also probably gets to (probably) pretend to play the guitar -I'm no expert but I'm pretty sure you don't routinely play the guitar by clapping your hands above your head). There's another bloke fussing over a pair of record decks, and Mr Simenon himself who is wearing a luxurious hat.
Paul Ciani defaults to long sweeping wide shots of the stage which lose some of the energy of the performance. It's frustrating when the crowd start whooping at something the dancers are doing but the viewer at home can't see because the dancers are small figures in the middle distance who keep getting lost behind the heads of the audience. It's much better when he allows Vision Mixer Hilary West to cut between low-angled hand held camera shots.
It is over twenty years now since Baz Luhrmann’s fiesta of a film exploded into cinemas and he had a hand in this stage adaptation which first opened in 2018 and came to London in autumn 2021 and has been playing to packed houses ever since. A celebration of “truth, beauty, freedom and love”, it’s broad appeal has been widened by the addition of a number of songs written after the film so it has a more contemporary feel yet the lynchpin tunes are still in place. It’s a concept Luhrmann himself once described as a “preposterous conceit” but it works. This has been the first chance I’ve had to see it and as a fan of the movie I can only applaud what this production has done to make essentially the same story work in a different medium.
Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. Bruno Brookes: “Hello and welcome [Gary Davies: “hello!”] to Top of the Pops, in the studio tonight we have Sinead O'Connor, Taylor Dane, Debbie Gibson, and the Mission.” Gary Davies: “And a very noisy audience. We start tonight with a guy who last appeared on Top of the Pops eight years ago with a song called Do You Feel My Love. He's back in the charts at twenty five. Gimmie Hope Jo'Anna welcome back Eddy Grant.”
 EDDY GRANT: gimmie hope jo'anna. A bouncy and cheerful song which hides incredibly gloomy lyrics in plain site, “While every mother in black Soweto fears/The killing of another son.” Jo'Anna being Johannesburg.
I'm always fascinated how comfortable Top of the Pops was about highlighting nakedly political songs about South Africa. There's this along with (Something Inside) So Strong (30/04/1987 and 14/05/1987), Free Nelson Mandela (29/03/1984 and 19/04/1984), the “Soweto Bloodbath” newspaper suits Madness wore while performing Waiting for the Ghost Train (13/11/1986), and probably more I've forgotten. It shows how widely accepted the view was that ending apartheid was simply a matter of common sense. It also shows it's easier for the national broadcaster to deal with songs criticising other governments; number of Top of the Pops appearances for Paul McCartney with Give Ireland Back to the Irish? Zero. The song spent eight weeks in the charts and got to  despite (or perhaps because of) being banned by the BBC.
Top of the Pops leans into the politics of the song. Eddy Grant's caption at the end is decorated with stick figure representations of people of all colours or, at least, all the colours the BBC caption generator can cope with; three. Moving away from geopolitics. It seems like ages since Bruno Brookes last hosted, and it is, 27/03/1986. His daily Radio 1 show ran from 17.45 to 19.30 which pretty much cut across the rehearsal and recording time for Top of the Pops (which I think, but I'm not 100% sure, was normally on a Wednesday evening. We'll be seeing a little more of him in 1988.