Film Review- Napoleon


Napoleon Bonaparte is an iconic figure whose story we feel we know and in a sense we do. Ridley Scott’s ambitious biopic aims to corral his busy life into a little over two and a half hours, a length that would suffice most movies but which seems to make this one rather piecemeal. Then I found out that there’s a four hour version to be made available for streaming soon and that is probably going to be a more complete and probably more satisfying look at his life. Napoleon seems to get an easier ride than history’s other dictators and this movie does little to draw attention to the fact he was a villain in his story however you slice it.



TV Review: Doctor Who- The Star Beast


Good goodness me, Russell T Davies, David Tennant and Catherine Tate are back, Back, BACK!! Like some multi- million selling band that split for a while they have reformed for a limited time only kickstarting a period that someone amusingly dubbed RTD2 which is just something we all wish we’d thought of, right? This opening episode of a Tennant trilogy doesn’t even have to be that good really. It just has to exist and people are happy before they’ve seen a second of it. I know I am. Yet I’m also a little puzzled. What can this team do that they didn’t do thirteen or more years back? Subsequent showrunners and many other programmes have tried their best to match the sheer brio which RTD1 gave Doctor Who yet none have quite been able to match the thrills, spectacle, emotion and character. So just like that great old band getting back together again for a victory lap do our triumphant trio focus on that illustrious past or try out some new material?


Lots of spoilers after the break…



Film Review- Saltburn


A movie whose opening credits are backed up by the pomp of `Zadok the Priest` is clearly going to be somewhat off the scale and Saltburn is definitely that. It is quite an eccentric film that is by turns serious, odd and funny. I’m not sure it always knows quite what it wants to be (this is a good thing) but as the blurb describes it as a psychological comedy I’ll go with that. I do know it is very interesting and also difficult to review without letting slip its ultimate destination. I’m not sure it goes far enough sometimes, at other times it seems the opposite but a story like this demands a slightly messy film because messy is interesting.



Top of the Pops 10 November 1988


Words: Chris Arnsby

Bruno Bookes: “Hello. Welcome to Europe's number one TV pop show this is Top of the Pops and a moment of broadcasting history as I stand one inch taller than my co-presenter Sybil Ruscoe.” 
Sybil Ruscoe: “Thank you very much shorty. Good evening. No competition for them this week. Brother Beyond.”
Bruno Bookes: “... [inaudible]... get this, brilliant.”

 [8] BROTHER BEYOND: he ain't no competition. Sybil Ruscoe? The name rings a bell. BBC Genome has reminded me that Simon Mayo hosted the Breakfast Show with Sybil Ruscoe and Rod McKenzie. In fact, checking Genome more thoroughly, Ruscoe and McKenzie only seem to have been credited in the Radio Times from around 10/10/1988. Before that they were just mentioned in the listing as “the Breakfast crew.” If that is correct then Sybil Ruscoe has done well to parley that credit so quickly into a Top of the Pops hosting gig. When can we expect Rod McKenzie?


Why don't more people use an umbrella?

 Once upon a time most people used an umbrella. People took them along if they went out just in case of  a shower. Anyone who worked in an office would often carry a lengthy one – the image of bowler hatted gents striding along with an umbrella even on a sunny day- is an enduring one. It is after all one of the uncontradictable facts that it’s frequently raining in Britain whatever the time of year and when that happens British people used to do one thing. They would produce an umbrella from their pocket or bag or they’d just be carrying one. The high street was packed with umbrellas jostling for position as they are inevitably wider than the average person. The etiquette was that you would get out of the way for every other person and they would reciprocate. Now though if it starts to pour umbrellas are rarely to be seen even if it’s the middle of winter. Even if it’s not windy. So is the humble umbrella disappearing into extinction and if so why, what can be done or indeed if anything does need to be done?



Top of the Pops 3 Nov 1988


Words: Chris Arnsby.
Nicky Campbell: “Good evening. Welcome to another star-studded edition of Top of the Pops we've got Tanita Tikaram, we've got Yaz, and let me tell you no expense has been spared, we have got Mark Goodier.”
Mark Goodier: “Oh-ho. And everything on Radio One in FM stereo. We start tonight with a welcome back to the charts for Gloria Estefan, One Two Three.”

 [24] GLORIA ESTEFAN & MIAMI SOUND MACHINE: 1-2-3. Observe the way Mark Goodier raises his microphone and then lowers it as Nicky Campbell starts talking. Did Mark forget how the introduction went or is Nicky Campbell cutting in?

I don't really have anything interesting or insightful to say about 1-2-3. It's one of those songs I remember being played to death on the radio(in FM stereo, natch) but the rhythms of Gloria Estefan, who now takes top billing over the Miami Sound Machine, never really thrilled me.



Film Review - The Marvels


Whilst The Marvels is undoubtedly a lighter entry in the ever- lengthening franchise, that’s not to say its without strong content or merit. For one thing its notable in that four of its five main characters are female which happens without any particular agenda on display and its often funny without being frivolous. 

Spoilers after the break...



War and Peace (1972) Parts 19 & 20


Episode Nineteen- The Road to Life

An episode that shows the aftermath of the war once the French have been expelled from Russia culminates in a ceremony to honour General Kutusov whereas behind closed doors we see the Tsar expressing some dissatisfaction as to the way the campaign was conducted. The old man ends up having to agree that he needs to retire as the Tsar decides he will lead the army from now on. Frank Middlemass is often an actor of large gestures but his work in this scene is subtly still yet with just a hint of the disdain the Marshal clearly feels towards the country’s ruler. Outside a grand ball continues as if nothing has happened in recent years.


War and Peace (1972) Parts 15 to 18


Episode Fifteen- Moscow!

“He’s caught his bear but he’s trapped in the cage with it” is Marshal Kutusov’s accurate opinion of Napoleon’s situation. We see the French Emperor arrive in Moscow feeling he can be generous in victory, talking of a strict but compassionate regime and he quickly sends for dignitaries to speak to. He soon learns the truth that anyone of rank has left the city in the hands of looters and arsonists determined to let Moscow burn rather than allow the French to properly occupy it. It is a gripping opening alright as Napoleon struts around a very grand room – yet another impressive set- and declares he will have his office here even though the place is the size of a small church and similarly decorated. Yet his confidence soon turns to anger and its noticeable that his ideas shift with every development which his Generals can all  see. It’s a well calibrated performance from David Swift who revels in Napoleon’s force of will yet shows his frustrations too.


Waterloo (1970)


In preparation for the shortly to be released Napoleon film directed by Ridley Scott, I thought I’d re-watch the benchmark against which any movie involving the subject should be judged. While only covering a comparatively brief period in the renowned Bonaparte's busy life, the 1970 film Waterloo, despite its title, is mostly about him. It also remains one of the most epic films of all time; its count of 17,000 extras is still a record for any film. Yet it is the way that these assets are deployed that makes Waterloo memorable. One of those big Rod Steiger performances combined with battle sequences that feel as it drones had been deployed to film them is must-see material for anyone who thinks digital effects are essential to create spectacle. At the same time Waterloo is a film that does not forget the horror and cost of war. We may admire the artistry but this is a reminder that every era brings terrible conflict.



Top of the Pops 20th + 27th October 1988

 Words: Chris Arnsby

Steve Wright: “Hello!! Hello!! Good evening and welcome to another exciting edition of Top of the Pops!! This is Caron Keating!!”
Caron Keating: “And this is a presenter I made earlier. We start off tonight with this week;s number three. It's D-Mob featuring Gary Haisman and We Call It Acieed.”
Steve Wright: “Acieed!!”

[3] D·MOB FEATURING GARY HAISMAN we call it acieed. On video.

A video, first in the show? Who's directing this thing? It's Brian Whitehouse, back to claim the chair of the Director and the chair of the Producer; one buttock to each presumably.This is an odd show with a strange running order. There are nine songs featured but only two are new studio performances, of the rest two are repeats and the other five are videos. What's going on? Was no one available? Did no one want to be in the studio when Steve Wright pulled a face and shrieked “acieed!!” I don't blame them.

Caron Keating makes a good host and like Andy Crane she uses use her presenting experience to appear natural and confident in front of the camera; in her first link she's effortlessly more assured and likeable than Steve Wright.


Reviews- The Beatles final song & Taylor Swift's Eras tour film

 Past and present icons..

 The Beatles? Didn’t they break up fifty- three years ago? Well in a way they did but in another way they have never and will never break up. The Beatles will always be with us and future generations. That’s quite a weight for the Fab Four to carry and means that however much they did or continue to do they can never escape that legacy. Increasingly as they reach their eighties the two remaining Fabs seem all too eager to embrace it hence the strong concept of a new Beatles song featuring their sadly long deceased colleagues. In a way this is a superb meeting of past and present, a temporal collection from 1978, 1984 and 2022 stitched together complete with a video to boot. Now we all recall the somewhat underwhelming last `new` Beatles songs which were, with the best intentions, slightly thin for such legends. They sounded like out takes that you’d leave off an album or in the old days use as B Sides. `Now and Then` with its spot-on title reflecting not just the lyric but the circumstances is much better.



War and Peace (1972) Parts 12 to 14


Episode Twelve- Fortunes of War

The rigour with which this story tackles different aspects of war yet also seamlessly draws together the different characters is never more evident than in this episode. Without showing us any actual fighting the impact of the campaign is illustrated in a number of ways. There is an impressive early shot of the French advance filmed with hand held cameras that has a quality like news footage you’d expect in modern productions. Almost casually the camera picks up more and more soldiers in the distance showing the size of the invading army. Once again the modern viewer has to remember that this is not digitally created- all those extras were actually present. It is so authentic looking I was half expecting a reporter to be brought into shot describing the advance!