Film review: Civil War


In these days of media saturation, it is rare to go see a film with no expectations as to what it might be like and come away very impressed but that was the case last week with Alex Garland’s latest Civil War. The film imagines breakaway states battling the US Army in a revolt against an authoritarian government. Considering what happened in Washington not so many years ago the idea of divided United States tipping over into civil war does not seem as far-fetched as it may once have been. This film deliberately seems to avoid too many details of why such an event has happened and is much more interested in its effects on individuals though it does show a President who relies on meaningless but patriotic soundbites to rally his cause. It sounds worryingly familiar.



Devon photo post

I recently spent several days in Devon visiting Paignton, Torquay, Brixham,  Kent's Cavern and Totnes so here's some pictures from the trip. Its an interesting and beautiful area and there's a lot of steep hills!


Top of the Pops 13 & 20 April 1989


Words: Chris Arnsby

Mark Goodier: “Good evening. Welcome to Europe's top pop show. It's Top of the Pops and we've got a good one tonight with the brand new number one in the UK, plus you get the chance to see the U2 video, and first a band who just can't wait to get on, with Edwin Starr joining them, it's the Cookie Crew with Got To Keep On.”

[21] COOKIE CREW: got to keep on. Edwin Starr is not the same as Alvin Stardust. I'm not sure how I got the two confused.

Why just Mark Goodier? He is the only presenter listed in the Radio Times so the plan was always for him to go solo. Out of curiosity I went back to find the last time there was only one host, it was 04/02/1988 and Mike Smith. While I don't believe there was any serious interest in turning Mark Goodier into the new Mike Smith, I started wondering about Goodier's television career outside of Top of the Pops. It's basically a single episode of forgotten quiz Scruples (“The game of moral dilemmas”) hosted by Simon Mayo (at the time much more of a candidate to be the next Mike Smith). And an appearance on UP2U which was the summer replacement for On The Waterfront, which was itself the summer replacement for Going Live, but only ran up to the start of July for some reason.

It looks like solo hosted shows are coming back. It's presumably a good way to spread out the presenting pool and also save a bit of cash.


Top of the Pops 6 April 1989


Words: Chris Arnsby
Simon Mayo: “Hi. Welcome to Top of the Pops. BBC1 and Radio 1 together one more time. In order of alphabetical things coming up today we have Paula Abdul, and Cold Cut, and Simply Red, and Anthea Turner.”

Anthea Turner: “Thank you very much, Simon! Hello! Listen can you keep a secret!”
Simon Mayo: “Only on Thursday nights.”
Anthea Turner: “Okay! At number 22 it's Brother Beyond they're on stage now!”

[22] BROTHER BEYOND: can you keep a secret? Simon Mayo can keep a secret on Thursday nights, what a shame Top of the Pops is recorded on a Tuesday. I know this fact, among others, thanks to a link to an auction house sale of five Top of the Pops camera scripts, forwarded to me by commenter mumu03; https://content.easyliveauction.com/auctions/images_lots/59C27F972E0E337C9017486B42435C8C_bou01/1100329224.JPG


Alex Rider Season 3 reviews Episodes 5 - 8


Episode five

A gripping episode sees this season really earn its spy points courtesy of three separate yet intertwining strands. Alex is sent on what seems like a traditional mission to infiltrate a house to lift the contents of the safe. Yassin will be joining him and needless to say there aren’t any funnies on the way. Yet this turns out to be different from expected – after all Scorpia don’t specialise in conventional crime- challenging Alec’s moral stance over killing people as he watches Max Grendel being shot. After Alex is incensed by this he uses some of the kit from the job to break into Julia’s office which of course he was expected to do. Scorpia’s sneakiness knows no bounds.


Alex Rider Season 3 reviews Episodes 1 - 4


Though it doesn’t always seem to receive a lot of high profile support in the media Alex Rider is a class show. Compared to how much publicity and hype other shows have it has slipped in though a side entrance rather like its main character might do. It hasn’t helped that the show has had to sprawl over a lengthy period due to actors’ availability and the pandemic.  This time there seems to have been a more concerted effort to push it though this is the final season, partly I imagine because the teenage characters are now being played by actors in their mid twenties, and promises to complete Alex’s story.

It’s not just the actors who are maturing, the production this time seems geared towards a slightly older audience – and I note that Otto Farrant gets an executive producer’s credit too. Whereas we had the school setting of season one and the game background of season two, this third offering is less contained and wilier as a good agent would be.  There is a layer of sophistication to things, the kids are no longer fumbling about but this time are being more proactive and prepared for things. They’re operating on their own too unaware of the Department’s dealing with a new Scorpia threat. There are lies and deceptions but played out in a very human context with a pleasing minimum of unlikely ideas.  Of course, a James Bond adventure is done and dusted in less than half the run time this eight part series of 45 minute episode so the pace is slower though this only adds to the tension. Along with the series’ trademark understated electronic score it also helps distinguish Alex Rider from other spy genre material.




Film Reviews- Two current releases and two Seventies films

 Last week's watches!

If you like huge monsters constantly battling each other you are a match for this film. So over the top that you can’t actually see the top, Godzilla X Kong: The New Empire is a chaotic noisy stew of various giant creatures in successive dust ups levelling cities as they go. Any characters or messages that might be lurking are swept aside by relentless monster action edited so sharply we leap from one scene to another. It works fairly well for the first half but the longer it goes on and the more creatures turn up the more repetitive it becomes. 


Top of the Pops 30 March 1989


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby.
This is a live edition (kindly supplied by commentator Billy Smart, who is keeping these write-ups on life support by sending me the relevant episodes to download) so there's some pre-show chatter over the countdown clock. The talk starts in media res with someone briefing the crowd.

 “I don't wanna see no silly faces. None of that. All right we know its live. Still get your meet and...” (?)He's interrupted by someone else, probably Floor Manager Carmella Milne: “Stand by...”
[The two voices jumble over each other]
Male voice: “Somebody catch me... [giggles from the crowd]... no one.”
Carmella Milne: “Good luck everyone.”
Male voice: “Sorry about that... [inaudible]... look Dennis the Menace top... 
Carmella Milne: “Here we go ten, nine, eight...seven... six... five... four... three... ” Titles roll.

Gary Davies: “Hello, good evening, we are live on BBC1 and Radio 1FM we have five bands live in the studio tonight including Roachford, Fuzzbox, The Cult, and The The.”

Bruno Brookes: “Okay we start on Europe's number one TV pop show at number sixteen, Pat and Mick I Haven't Stopped Dancing Yet. Right down here.”



Review- Wreck season 2


Season one of Wreck was a low key success largely through word of mouth. Framed with horror iconography it’s killer wore a duck mask representing Quacky, the mascot of a cruise ship company Velorum. A duck mask may not sound that scary but there is something unsettling about it’s expression and also the fact that its wearer is carrying a very large knife. Yet in between the frights were characters who were more than the standard potential victims and had interesting lives of their own plus a central character searching for the truth about his missing sister. The media seem to have flagged up the LGBTQ+ aspect of the show though this is included as being part of the everyday lives of the two main characters despite the official title of episode one.

There is a lot of violence – and I mean a lot- which is both realistic yet absurd at the same time and if this sounds like something that would disturb you its probably better to avoid. Also I’d recommend for maximum effect watching an episode a day rather than bingeing because it really draws out the tension and the mystery. I’d actually advise this with any thriller or mystery. Binge watching may seem more convenient but you are missing out on a whole part of the appeal of such shows which is that gap where you speculate and anticipate. The episode reviews that follow were penned directly after I’d watched each episode on different days so they make no reference to subsequent events. It’s a bit like live reacting except obviously not live.

Spoilers lurking in the dark after the beak, I mean, break…