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Sunday, 26 December 2010

Doctor Who - A Christmas Carol (with S6 Trailer)

Christmas comes but once a year. Which is a good job because I don't think I could take a whole series of what we had yesterday. I mean that in the nicest way possible. It was perfect Christmas Afternoon Telly. It was sentimental, exciting, silly, big and noisy and musical and funny. I sat there in near silence watching it without moving...

Doctor Who's take on A Christmas Carol was a real treat. I know there were some who knew more than others about what to expect and how things would turn out, but even the most spoiled of fans must have had a surprise or two as the - frankly insane - story unfolded over the course of one of the best hours the DW production team have given us in ages, in my opinion.

Scrooge became Sardick and the whole Christmas Carol ending was reached in style, at speed and with such charm that I found myself smiling to myself and whispering "this is what they do best". It had all you could ever ask for in a massive, effects-heavy fantasy Christmas Special: flying fish, a massive, helpful shark and a bunch of Christmas Carols shamelessly wedged in, just to cheer us all the hell up. And it worked! This was massively effective, smile-inducing stuff.

I have a feeling, though, that the stuff that worked best for me on an icy Christmas night was the stuff the more die-hard (or purist) fans would undoubtedly hate. The whole Hollywood Pool Party bit where the Doctor is hurried into firstly, performing a duet with "Frank" and then marrying Marilyn... just because! - I could give you a list of names as long as my arm of people who I reckon huffed audibly at that little bit... I know many who would  hate those little touches, but at Christmas, that was perfect. And it was played for the laugh, rather than for the controversy it would cause, probably, among "us". There honestly wasn't a single minute of the Special that lost me. I was enthralled, like a little kid, at the "Doctor in the Video" time-travel trick; more of THAT sort of timey-wimey please! It was great!

The cast - all of them - shone. Even though Arthur and Karen got less airtime than a CGI fish, they lit the screen up and left me in no doubt whatsoever that the TARDIS has never had such a watchable crew. Matt, Gambon and Katherine Jenkins were perfect - not even the accents messed anything up - as was each incarnation of Kazran's youngest selves. Plot-wise, it made sense - clever and interesting - but was a little thin. This one was about one thing and one thing only: Kazran's love for a secretive woman he should never have had the chance to fall for. It brought a tear to my gravy-glazed Christmas eye. Lovely, heart-warming and, at times, disturbing and powerful stuff.

And if the trailer shown at the end (below) is anything to go by, we're in for an even more interesting and rip-roaringly adventurous - and secretive - outing come 2011.

Friday, 24 December 2010

A Christmas Message To All!

Christmas has gone all modern. I've had just four paper Christmas Cards... One from my sister, two from people I hardly know any more and one from my next door neighbour, with a tenner in it... But I have had countless texts, Tweets, emails and Facebook messages from people as far away as Texas - and as close to home as "next door". It seems that technology has become the main tool for letting loved ones know you're thinking of them at this wonderful time.

Which makes you wonder how we managed before! I've been on Twitter for almost two whole years; that is incredible. And in all that time I don't think I've gone longer than a few days without posting something. How the hell did they manage back in the olden times? Did Mary and Joseph meet on Facebook? Did God choose her as the bearer of his son based on the number of views on her Youtube page? If Jesus was on Twitter these days - the real Jesus, I mean, not the "son of God" version - how many followers would he have? Would he be saved the painful death when Judas decided simply to "unfollow" him instead of selling him out to be slaughtered?

I'd like to think so. But who knows... all we know is this: Christmas is about friends and family; whatever else it's about to believers and non-believers alike, it's always about that. 

So, to all my internet friends, internet family and all my loyal readers of this very humble blog (the on-line equivalent of the birth of Christ, if you ask me, in terms of "humbleness" anyway...) 


Monday, 20 December 2010

Frank Collins' "The Pandorica Opens"

When I read a book about Doctor Who it is essential that it entertains me almost as much as the show itself. It needs to be multi-layered, snappy and sharp. It needs to be witty, interesting and fun. It must compliment the show, not rip it up and repackage it in paper-form.

So when blogger-supreme Frank Collins' book, Doctor Who: The Pandorica Opens - Exploring The Worlds Of The Eleventh Doctor landed at my door a week ago I was very pleasantly surprised - it was great. Actually, that sounds bad. I wasn't surprised, I had high hopes for this book ever since it was announced. Frank's Cathode Ray Tube blog is my favourite blog ever; indeed one of the very few blogs I read regularly. This book has been in my life since its conception - almost. Not only is Frank a great Blogger but a wonderful Tweeter too!

He's also a fantastic author. His first book is one of those rare works that blends an analytical, academic reading of a piece of popular culture with an enthusiastically over-analytical (that is by no means a criticism) love letter to a show the author clearly adores. For a fan-boy like me you couldn't ask for more! Split into chapters dealing with the individual stories from Series Five of Moffat's Who, The Pandorica Opens relies on its readers' familiarity with the series being discussed - which is very fair, since I can't think of anything I'd rather read about less if I didn't watch Doctor Who already. 

If you do watch and enjoy Doctor Who - and, most importantly, then I urge you to pick up a copy of this book. Frank has poured his knowledge and his love of this series onto every page he's written, which makes what could be "one of a million books about Doctor Bloody Who" so much more enjoyable. It is very much a personal reading of the series, as Frank himself tells us in his introduction, which urges the reader to question their own interpretation of the series using the new viewpoints offered within. 

The best way to enjoy this book - as I did - is by reading a chapter at a time, punctuated by a re-viewing of the episode in question. It took me a little over a week to get through it. I gobbled it up. It takes the "brainy, well-informed deconstruction" of a rich and unravelling text and covers it in chocolate sauce, hands you a spoon and tells you to tuck in. It not only adds humour and wit to what could be seen as a very niche subject but also serves up some rather unique views written with Frank's trademark warmth and charm. 

It's not without its bad points, however. There seems to be an obsessive 'Peter Pan through-line' to the whole thing, which I suppose, on reflection, is a comment on the series itself, not the book about about it - all of Frank's comparisons to the Pan story are spot-on. And the book is very well researched, although - for me, anyway - the sheer number of works referenced leaves you breathless. Frank's interpretations and opinions are enough for me, I don't need him to justify his thoughts. Although, that's how this sort of book works. It's not a review, it's a reading. It is, though, a great and enjoyable reading - indeed a great and enjoyable read!

I'm struggling to find things to pick on here, because I feel that over-enthusiasm and blanket positivity towards this book would look false and biased, since I know Frank. I don't want anyone to think I'm licking his arse here - especially him! But the book is great! It makes you think, it makes you work. It encourages you to go back and watch the series with a whole new perspective. I found myself smiling to myself, looking out for things Frank had highlighted in The Pandorica Opens and rewarding myself with a grin when I saw them, where I hadn't seen them before. 

Particularly lovely and informative are his chapters on Amy's Choice and Vincent And The Doctor. Two of my favourite and most-watched episodes from the series were given new life through Frank's nuanced probing into what makes them so important as stories. Likewise, his chapter on the Weeping Angels two-parter. Only one chapter initially felt like 'hard work' when I was reading it from the book (The Eleventh Hour) and that was because I'd already read it, in an early form, so many times before that I felt I could - though shouldn't - skip through it, if I wanted to. I didn't - I read it and enjoyed it, despite almost knowing the chapter word for word by this point.

All in all, if you like Doctor Who; like obsessing about detail and want more from your favourite show than flashing lights and loud noises, then this is the book for you! Series Five was a great series and The Pandorica Opens is a fantastic analysis of it. I loved this book. It was interesting, informative and - most importantly - a gripping read. If you know Frank's blog work then you'll love it. If you don't, you soon will after reading his book. Highly recommended - the perfect Christmas present, if you ask me. So, thanks Frank, for writing something special.

You can buy Doctor Who: The Pandorica Opens - Exploring The Worlds Of The Eleventh Doctor from all the best places, including Amazon. Please do so :)

Merry Christmas From The TARDIS Crew!

Don't forget. Christmas Day, 6pm. A Christmas Carol!

And Merry Christmas!!!!

Sunday, 19 December 2010

The Xtra Factor: The Winner's Story

One week ago yesterday Matt Cardle won The X Factor by about a billion votes or something. He was the "winner" of each week's competition except the first week, when Mary Byrne was top of the lot. Over 15 million votes were placed putting Matt in pole position right through the contest and it was inevitable that he would win, in hindsight at least. And last night, on The Xtra Factor: The Winner's Story on ITV2, we got to see the most exciting, crazy week of Matt's life unfold. 

And following the in-depth chats with the winner on the show I have a little bit of an insight into what could be Matt's career for the next few years! Matt Cardle, for my money, is "the next Robbie". I believe that he has the strongest Winner's Single in X Factor history, a fantastic personality - humble and gracious, cool and pretty down-to-earth - and not-glossy enough to be a "recording artist" as opposed to a "pop star". Think James Blunt as opposed to Shane Ward. The man's got a future...

He's also got some great friends among the X Factor finalists, none more by his side that Aiden Grimshaw, who gave awkwardly mesmerising performances week after week until he was booted off the show mid-finals. There'll be a strong network of support for Matt for a long, long time. Judging by the behind-the-scenes footage in this Xtra Factor show Aiden was there with Matt almost every week - even after he'd left the finals himself. THAT'S a lasting friendship right there!

And it seems that Matt's on the road to his first solo Number One with When We Collide, a retitled cover of the Biffy Clyro track Many Of Horror. It seems that even the cynical and spiteful campaign to get 3 minutes of silence to chart - a nasty campaign over and above the "protest buy" of last year's anti-X Factor push - won't be able to push Matt into second place... But only time will tell. We'll know by tonight. And then we'll see just where Matt takes his music. I have high hopes... and I always hate the X Factor Winner's Singles. Always.

[Matt did indeed reach the Christmas top spot - well done mate!]

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Jeff Brazier: Me And My Brother (BBC)

I like Jeff Brazier. He's one of those people who looks like a ready-made TV presenter. All shiny teeth and shiny hair. But there's more to him. He was Jade Goody's fella for a while. He was there with her until the end, even though they weren't together any longer. 

He's also got a younger brother, seven years his junior, who has cerebral palsy. Spencer Brazier doesn't see himself as being disabled. But he does have severe communication problems. If you don't know him well enough, you're not likely to be able to understand him when he speaks to you. He has a completely normal IQ, very good use of his legs and whatever... all in all, he's just a normal bloke. But he can't speak. He lives with his Mother and she does too much for him. 

Jeff Brazier: Me And My Brother explores Jeff's attempts to reconnect with his brother and hopefully offer a slice of independence back to him. Through the use of a borrowed iPad, utilised as a specialised communications computer, Jeff and Spencer spend the majority of the documentary bickering like the best of brothers always do - and spelling "Spencer is a nob-head" on the iPad, to be spoken in true Hawking style, to much laughter from both brothers. The whole show is a lovely, touching look into the difficult lives of brothers who have lost that connection of childhood. Forget the so-called disability that Spencer has, this programme is about brothers.

It's still available on iPlayer, for a while at least. And I recommend you have a look. It's the least patronising, most life-affirming and wholly honest BBC Three documentary the channel has ever shown. It's not just "celebrity and his disabled brother laid bare" like so many of these BBC Three shows. 

This is a real story with  real people and real events. The scene where the Brazier boys have a bit of a scrap in the street, Spencer in his pants, is both funny and moving. It's packed with humour, too. This isn't a "feel sorry for Spencer" show, this is about the relationship between the two normal Essex Boys, thrown back together after a period of "growing up" lived separately. There's a beautiful connection between the boys, where neither are afraid to tell the other to fuck right off. But this show is also filled with affection and brotherly love - done only as brothers can. My favourite bit of dark humour between the brothers is Jeff's questioning of Spencer's football skills during a kick-about in their local park: "Spence, I'm not taking the piss here mate, but how are your dribbling skills?"

Please watch this show. It's really great. I bloody hate BBC Three, but this is just wonderful... 

Friday, 17 December 2010

Dirk Gently - Almost. (Contains Spoilers)

Okay. I'll get the obvious out of the way first. "Wouldn't that fella playing Dirk make a really good Doctor Who?!" - There. Now we can move on to...

...Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, BBC Four's latest "zany adaptation". Not one for the fans, was it? But I bloody loved it. 

If you're unaware of what the hell this is then I suggest you have a butchers' at this Wiki page. I'm not explaining. You should know what this is! The casting is near perfect (albeit not how you'd picture the characters on reading the book!) and the plot manages to balance high-camp comedy with intelligent, interconnected puzzle pieces. Yawn! You want to know if it's any good, don't you? Hmmm, thought so!

Short answer; yes. It's very good. More than worthy of a full series if you ask me. But maybe not just yet. The reintroduction of Sherlock Holmes (and the humour it brings) to modern TV audiences makes this feel like a bit of a cash-in. Which it really isn't. If Sherlock had never been made, this would quickly become the clever, funny detective series of the age. 

That's not to say that I wouldn't welcome a run of Dirk Gently, on BBC Four, right now. Never has the mind-boggling combo of a missing, time-travelling cat, a maybe-cheating girlfriend, murderous pensioners, exploding warehouses and the most/least competent detective to hit our screens in ages! There's a space for this. I've watched it twice and enjoyed it twice. More please, BBC. Lets see where this can go!

All in all, if you're not familiar with Dirk, this adaptation is Sherlock with a hangover. An hour of chuckles, not belly-laughs, mean that the somewhat small story with a somewhat otherworldly conclusion rushes past and leaves you wanting more. I think I'll go and watch it again... It's not perfect, it's not really Dirk, but it's lovely nonetheless. 

Snow Joke, This Weather, Is It? LOL! *Groan*

That's it. It's arrived and everything stops. It's snowing, isn't it? It's always the same. The roads are full, or empty. The news and weather are the same thing. Even Doctor Who has been "snowed off" - no filming today! Presumably because they don't have an episode set in the dingy greying snow that our country gets. 

For Doctor Who to get a Snow Day it must be bad! I've delayed my Christmas shopping even further, with a plan to spend most of the day either reading, watching shit telly or Tweeting mock-enthusiastically about the SNOOOOOOW!!! Because we've never seen it before, have we? Snow. There's no bread in the shops. But there's plenty of beer and pies. Who says the traditional staple foods are all we need when it snows? Nonsense. Buy pasties, microwave burgers and a four-pack of cheap lemonade! Go mad! It's snowing!! Urgh!

Thursday, 16 December 2010

The Royal Variety Performance 2010 (And My 2011 Wish List)

Right. First off, it's for charity, right? So it's not all bad. But most of it is. There's a horrible smell of "the poor peasants are set out to entertain the important people" about the whole thing. Then they have to stand in a line afterwards and "meet them".

But it's one of those things, isn't it? It's completely contradictory in all senses. I hate it but I can't switch it off. Right now, over-acting joke-thief Jack Whitehall is dying on stage while spilling a routine about Prince Charles and his brothers sneaking into the palace with "a six-pack of Stella and a Domino's Pizza".

But it's addictive. It's like watching one of those dancing bears. You know it's completely wrong. Entirely unethical and criminal, but you can't look away! You want to (because Dirk Gently is on the other side) but you just bloody can't! Where else do you get such a bizarre and mismatched line-up? Only this show can open with Kylie and throw Cheryl Cole, Paloma Faith, Russell Fucking Watson and Susan Boyle at us. And Michael McIntyre, Sarah Millican and Lee Mack... Oh, hang on... No, this is ANY show, isn't it? That's just... what we have on telly these days.

I want a ventriloquist, a magician, some fella swallowing swords, the Two Ronnies and mental Czechoslovakian rope-dance act. Not the bloody Chelsea Pensioners crooning old songs like your pissed-up Granddad on Boxing Day. And I want Paloma Faith. Because she's lovely. 

So next year, I'm doing the line-up. I'm starting it early though, so that they don't all get booked up. I'm not telling you exactly what to expect, but there'll be no ice skating. There WILL be Barrowman. And Paloma Faith. And DEFINITELY some other pensioners, but not the Chelsea ones, no. The ones from the Rhondda. With hearing issues and zimmers, racially unsound views and an inherited resent for the young.

It's not over yet, this year's Performance... But it feels like it's gone on so long that my life almost is. So before I gouge out my eyes and plug them in my ears to assure I bleed to death in relative peace, I've decided to post this. As a sort of "too late warning". I know. I'm useless. I really am sorry. So sorry. But hey, at least there was that bit with Paloma Faith at the start, innit?

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Matt Cardle Wins The X Factor!

We've watched for weeks and weeks. Sacrificed an average of 2 hours of our lives every weekend. We've laughed, yelled at the telly and slagged them all off. I've scored him high and low and tonight - rightly so - Matt Cardle was crowned the winner of The X Factor 2010. 

It's been a tough final, but his voice and the fact that there aren't many women in the country who "wouldn't" won it for Matt. He's awesome, is Matt. If you remember, back in the Bootcamp Week, when he sang First Time Ever I Saw Your Face for the first time, I sang his praises...

And according to how the votes went week on week, Matt was top of the voting board, winning every single week except the first. So he was always going to be the winner. And what a winner! Matt could just be the one to break the Male Winner's Curse. He's got one hell of a voice and seems to be a really lovely fella... But like I've said before, don't shave him and plonk him in a suit now. Let him be him. That Biffy Clyro song, too, is as near-perfect a song for Matt as you'll ever find. It's a great track and now it's his. Tonight is Matt's night. The other finalists have been great all weekend also, but this is MATT'S NIGHT. Good on you, mate. Knock the haters out of the way and show them that an X Factor winner can make some decent music. Here's a preview of his Winner's Single, Many Of Horror/When We Collide:

You can download it from iTunes, here or buy it on CD from, here. It's a guaranteed Christmas Number One if you ask me. And, probably for the first time in the history of The X Factor, it deserves to be. I'll be posting the official music video to the single soon, so come back here later to see that!

And that's that. No fanfare. No tears or tantrums. Just a quiet sign-off. This blog will go on and on, talking the same old shit as ever, but sadly - until next year - not about The X Factor. I'm sure we'll have other stuff to talk about... I'm sure there'll be other shows to piss over. Whatever's to come, please join me. And to those who won't be joining me; Thanks for a wonderful ride. I love you all x 

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Cher Lloyd Finishes Fourth

Who cares? Does it matter? When you look at the finalists, there is a place for all of them in today's British Music scene. The overall standard this year hasn't been great but the uniqueness factor has been startlingly brilliant all series. It is called The X Factor after all. 

And nobody in this competition - from any year - has been quite so different from the rest of the "usual X Factor contestants" we've had paraded through our lives for the last few years than Cher Lloyd. She raps well. She sings. She dances. She's ballsy and has attitude. She's come from literally nowhere and is now holding her own on stage with superstars - outshining many. And remember, she's just 17 years old.

Whatever your opinion on her, you cannot deny she gives it 100% every week and never fails to put on one hell of a show. She's gone now, but not forgotten - unlike many of the X Factor winners who weren't even gone, but were forgotten before they'd even left the studio (Steve Whatshisname, anyone?). You'll see, haters. She'll make music. She'll be big. Maybe not forever, but for a good while. Expect a string of duets with the likes of Will.i.Am, Cheryl Cole and hopefully - for Cher and for me - Nicki Minaj (below), Cher's "dream duet" partner. 

And so Four become Three. Our final three are Matt Cardle, Rebecca Ferguson and One Direction. It's going to be a tough contest, but there are things that always happen... It's not all about the singing, is it? They all have their USP other than voice. Matt has the "screaming girls" voting for him. Rebecca has all of Liverpool and those who want another Leona (only she's better than that, to be fair...) and I don't think there's a crying, shrieking teenage girl anywhere in the country who isn't damp for One Direction for one of a hundred reasons!

My money's on One Direction taking the crown. But there seems to be massive support for both other acts. I honestly think it could be anyone's game, in reality. I suppose we can only wait and see what happens on tomorrow's show. One thing's for sure; we'll all be watching. We'll all be tweeting. We'll all be sad when it's over... 

Happy Saturday!!

NEVER talk to strangers. That's what we're told. Except that's not right, is it? If it was, we'd never have met anyone. Friends of friends and people at parties - they're all strangers at first. Then something happens to make them more than that. 

It's happened so many times. All of my mates are strangers, or were. That's how we met. That's the point. When you're a kid the advice is good - it stops you getting hurt. Then you get old enough to know that ALL advice is wrong. 

But when you're older, the advice changes. We're told to "go for it" and "not to worry" and to "live a little" because all we have is what we've got and there's nothing else to lose. Do what YOU want. Talk to who YOU want. Break the rules. Talk to strangers. All the people I'm going to meet in the future are strangers right now. And all the people I know were strangers once! They could just be the best friends ever. God knows I think so! Happy Saturday x.

Thursday, 9 December 2010


Congratulations ITV. Now there's a phrase I wouldn't usually expect to be typing. But fair play, they deserve the praise. This week's Corrie has been great fun and great drama. It's been exciting, sad, hopeful, shocking and blubbery. I've almost shed a tear a couple of times. 

But tonight, for an hour, Corrie went LIVE! And wow. Live television is rarely good, when it's drama. It's usually especially bad when it's an Ant & Dec Saturday show... But this! It didn't feel live. It felt... like an hour long special. There were deaths, revelations and a birth. There were dastardly plots and murderous sneaking... ALL LIVE! It was blinding telly. I have nothing prepared to say about it because it's just finished and I'm typing this very post LIVE also, to keep with the spirit of tonight's show. The trouble is, since this is being written as you read it - LIVE - then, if you're a fast reader, you may just finish reading it before I finish wri

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Your Best Corrie Moments!

So, Corrie is fifty! And what better way to celebrate this monumental event than to blow up the club and smash a tram into the bottom end of the street. 

And what a smash it was! I'm not a Corrie fan really, but I have to tune in this week almost out of a responsibility to this very blog. It's a telly event, like Doctor Who's 50th will be in a couple of years.

But what I want to know, before I write anything in detail about this week's run, is this: What are your favourite Corrie Memories? What's the earliest Corrie bit you remember? Who's your favourite character? Which storylines from the past 50 years have had you on the edge of your seat, or yawning and reaching for the remote? 

Please leave your comments below; be as scathing or as gushing as you like! Thanks :)

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Ridley Scott's Robin Hood (2010)

All heroes have to start somewhere. Most of us know Robin Hood as the valiant hero who robs from the rich to give to the poor, fresh from the Crusades, harbouring a war of good against the tyrannous Sheriff of Nottingham. But who was he, really? Ridley Scott's 2010 retelling of the legend places a possible answer within our reach.

Beginning on the battlefields of France somewhere in the 13th Century, King Richard is not the jolly old lion he is in the Disney animated feature! He's a vicious, pillaging barbarian tearing France apart on his return leg of the Crusades. Robin is nothing but an archer. One of the King's Men. Following the slaying of King Richard, Robin Longstride (played with Gladiatorial grit by Russell Crowe) deserts with a band of men to return home before it's too late. But on reaching England, in the guise of the deceased Robert of Loxley - the man tasked with returning the King's crown, now in Robin's care, to his home - he finds a situation darker than that from which he ran.

Since this is by no means a classic retelling of the tale I won't give too much away regarding plot. It's fair to say that this is the most grown-up, realistic and believable telling of the story we all know that there has been, or at least that I have seen. In fact, it acts more as an origins story for Robin Hood rather than his story that we have read since childhood.

What makes this movie stand out as a decent film in itself, rather than another Hollywood raping of one of England's national heroes, is that it takes the characters you thought you loved - and indeed those you thought you hated - and blurs the moral line immensely. Is Robin a hero? Is he a coward who just happens to fall into even bigger trouble than that he was running from? Is the Sheriff of Nottingham a dastardly villain or a man who is struggling to uphold the law in lawless times? Is King John a bastard of the highest order or an unloved and unprepared youngster with a taste for gorgeous French princesses, thrown into power without warning? The whole thing plays out as an ensemble piece, despite Crowe taking most of the screen time. All of these stories are told, and told well. It's up to us as an audience to work out who's side we're on.

The cast are outstanding and, save a few predictable moments, the script is superb. I don't see why this movie wasn't raved about more on its release. Particularly terrifying is Oscar Isaac as King John; a man who has little knowledge of what he's meant to do, but knows just what he wants. A King about to be overthrown by his own (also terrifying) henchman, Godfrey, the movie's main antagonist.

I sat and watched this movie without moving a muscle. From the moment it begins you are told, visually, that there will be no stick fights in streams, no archery contests, no saucy sword-fights with Marion - no flirting with blades. England in this is not a happy place but a place at war. A country fighting poverty and lack of leadership more than anything else. The threatened onslaught of a French invasion led by an English traitor is more than this damaged isle can take.

If you want a comparison that sums up the feel of this film, I'd say this is "the Saving Private Ryan of Medieval Battle Pictures". It is a startling combination of CGI scenery (see The Tower Of London, above) and excellent sets which acts as a backdrop to some of the most interesting character interaction in recent times. It's not perfect but as Robin Hood movies go this is by far the best. Never have the characters in this so-well-known legend been given such a rich and detailed life. Never have the characters captured my attention so much; I don't usually like Robin Hood films.

Think you know the story of Robin Hood? Think again. The story is only just getting started!

Saturday, 4 December 2010

"I Noticed This Hilarious Occurrence The Other Day..."

Comedy is evolving. Racism and Mother-In-Law jokes are out - unless you're a cretin. It seems that the "character comedy" of the late '80s/early '90s is also out. Observational comedy has been the front-runner of Live Stadium Comedy for a while now. It's not a bad thing, in itself. But that while is dragging a bit, for me.

The King of Observational Comedy today, it seems, is Michael McIntyre. Now, I don't like McIntyre. I have nothing against him, as a person. I've even found myself chuckling at his "observations" on the odd occasion. But I wouldn't pay money to see him live, mainly because everything he has ever done happened first on Live At The Apollo on BBC1, about a year before it was toured.

And last night, on BBC1, Michael McIntyre: Hello Wembley! was on. Now, as far as I know, he hasn't released a Live DVD this year. Hello Wembley! is the most recent one. It was released last Autumn. I know people who have bought this DVD for their relatives for Christmas this year. 

How disappointed would you be, as a present-buyer, to find out your Auntie (for whom you have bought Hello Wembley! this Christmas, since she saw his Live and Laughing show on Paramount recently) has watched her soon-to-be Christmas Gift just three weeks and a day before you give it to her. I'd want to cry!! She's your Aunt, for heaven's sake! She only ever watches DVDs at Christmas, when there's a special Corrie on later than usual! That's a waste of £15 right there! I guarantee that DVD will remain in its plastic wrapper until September, when your Aunt sees his NEW show (which you've bloody bought her for Christmas that year) broadcast on BBC1 and remembers she likes him.

It spoils Christmas for lazy present-buyers. Michael McIntyre spoils family Christmastime the country over! The problem, I've decided, with Mick (as I feel I can call him, since he spoiled my Christmas) is that he's too successful. He's too "on TV". But he's quite funny, to give him credit. His bit about condiments made me giggle. Oh, God! What am I becoming?

Friday, 3 December 2010

"That Which Began In Honey, Ends In Despair"

Forget what you know about Edward Lear's rhyme. It is idealist, fantasy nonsense. What occurred in reality was nothing short of a sick and twisted crime orchestrated, it would seem, solely to create misery and fear. A torture dreamt up in the minds of persons unknown, minds more sadistic than the most depraved of men. 

Stewart Lee's scratch-piece, Pea Green Boat, is quite simply a masterpiece. Exploring the baffling logic, or lack thereof, behind an Owl and a Cat sailing together in an inappropriately-coloured vessel, the terrifying feeling one must feel when one finds oneself the object of its natural predator's lust, Pea Green Boat is funny because it's true. If you were to ask me what this was, I wouldn't say a comedy. I wouldn't even say a theatre-piece. I'd call it art. 

Telling the well-known tale in the form of The Owl's Diary, this piece charts the Owl's terrifying descent into what can only be described as "mental illness". It's paranoia, hallucinations, fears and hopes are drip-fed to us over twenty-one minutes of heartbreaking loneliness and bizarrely recognisable, yet achingly sad, senility. I've never felt more concerned for the mental welbeing of an Owl since Richard Herring claimed to have made love to one in the late 1990s. 

Don't make the mistake that these are the anthropomorphic characters you know from reading the rhyme as a child. What we have here are an actual Owl and an actual Cat, set upon by a mysterious foe and tortured to madness. The entries in the Owl's diary and that of the Turkey shed little light on the realities of the journey, only that you wouldn't want to be stranded on a small rowing boat with an Owl at its wit's end. The closing entry in particular, from the Turkey's journal, actually brought a tear to my eye. I can imagine this work being adapted into a three-man stage play. But there really is no need as Pea Green Boat is as near-perfect a piece of performance art as you will ever find.

I highly recommend you purchase this. It's not expensive at all and is available on CD or as a limited edition vinyl release. You can get it from Go Faster Stripe. You should get it. I urge you to. Then we can remember the ill-fated animal sailors together.

England Loses The Football Or Something

Yesterday England didn't get the football or something. Apparently there was a thing where all the countries in the world wanted it, and we wanted it and we didn't get it and someone else did. Or something.

In case it's not already been made clear, I have no interest in football or England's "bid" for the World Cup. The "winners" (or something) were Russia and Qatar. Not England. So because of this - whether it's true or not - the papers are out in force to scream "CONSPIRACY!" at the top of their lungs. Clearly our own Dream Team of Jesus Christ, Prince Charming and Lord Voldemort (pictured, above) couldn't swing it either. But not to worry, because even though it's not happening in England there will still be football to support! That's good news, isn't it? COME ON THE REDS! Or something.

I couldn't give two shiny shits about the World Cup Bid, personally, but I know that plenty out there do care. So commiserations to those people. 

It's a shame, isn't it, that at a time when this country is raising tuition fees and making damaging cuts across the board; at a time when we're paying far more than is morally acceptable to host the Olympic Games in 2012; it's a shame that at a time when I can't afford a ticket to a football match even if I really wanted to, that this country -  sorry, England - will NOT be paying ridiculous amounts of money to host yet another sporting event, wanted only to show the rest of the world how bloody marvellous we are as a country. Not.

I'm not sorry we didn't get the World Cup - sorry, that ENGLAND didn't get the world cup. In fact, we could do without the extra expense. How about we take whatever money the Government would have paid towards staging the Cup and spend it on wiping away these ridiculous education cuts... I'd back that bid.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

I ♥ Josie Long

The old saying, by idiots, goes that there are no funny women. Which is bollocks. There are loads of funny women and there has been for years. But, for me, the cleverest and funniest of all is from right now. Her name is Josie Long. 

If you've never heard of Josie then here are the basics. Born in 1982, Josie grew up in Orpington in London. She first came to prominence when she won a BBC New Comedy Award aged just seventeen - she'd been performing Stand-Up since she was fourteen years old. She studied English Language and Literature at Oxford and while there she set up and ran experimental comedy clubs. While she was studying, says Wikipedia, she gave up Stand-Up to concentrate on her degree.

She clearly keeps wonderful company, too, as she presents a wonderful podcast called Utter Shambles (linked in the sidebar), with comedian-supreme Robin Ince. She also supported Stewart Lee on his 2005 tour. She's also a proper brainy clever clogs who may only be second to Prof Brian Cox in terms of enthusiasm when talking about science and the universe. Her Radio4 show All The Planets' Wonders (I'm not really sure where to put the apostrophe in that one, but I'm sure Josie would) is one of the most beautiful series I have ever had the pleasure of listening to. The shows are on Youtube, but you'll have to search for them yourselves.

Since 2006, Josie has toured a live show almost every year, covering most countries of the world who would actually be able to understand English. And her shows are incredible. I've seen her once before, on her Trying Is Good tour in 2008. I plan to see her whenever she gets to Cardiff again. She recently had to cancel a few shows around my area following a nasty car accident in which she "almost died", so says her on Twitter. OH, yeah. She's on Twitter too... Here she is.

I would urge you all to dig out as many bits of Josie Long stuff you can, be it her on The Bubble, her on You Have Been Watching or her incredible appearance with Stephen Fry on Never Mind The Buzzcocks. And especially see her live if you get the chance. She really is a wonderful, funny, warm and razor-sharp comic. I heart her.

A Letter To Laura Moore Off The Apprentice

My Dearest Laura,

I've always fancied backed you in this latest series of The Apprentice, since you're the only one who I thought was truly beautiful and lovely herself (apart from The Brand, but he's a sloppy cock). 

I was so sad to see you get Fired this week. Don't take it to heart, Lord Sugar is a sloppy cock too. You'd be better off working for someone else anyway as you're such a lovely, lovely girl that you deserve better than that. I think you could be my perfect woman. And all that stuff about the truffles? Yeah, don't worry about that either; that chef bloke was a fucking cock. Yes, that's right - in true Laura Moore style I'll be using coarse language throughout this letter because when you did it, it turned me on a little bit. I hope you don't mind, Laura, as I wouldn't want to upset you. I could tell that all that swearing and stuff you were caught on camera doing was just the pressure of the show getting to you a bit. And that's okay, you're a lovely, sensitive and sexy young woman and everyone lets things get on top of them sometimes.

So, how about this? Since you're better off without that idiot Sugar, I have a proposition for you. Come and be my girlfriend and I promise I will take the best care of you for ever and ever work with me. I don't have a business or whatever, but I do keep a blog and work in a call centre. What we could do is share the tasks. One week you do the call centre stuff and I'll blog, then the next week we'll swap. You don't have to accept right away.

As for living arrangements, I've got a flat that's great (if a little cold at the moment because my heating's packed in) although it's only a one-bedroom place. I don't mind sleeping top-and-tails, because you have the most perfect smile and we'd have loads of fun, if you like? And when we're watching telly in bed I'd have no problem whatsoever with you lying up the top end with me - even if you happen to fall asleep cuddled up to me with your lovely hair flowing over my bare chest, that's okay! I understand that you may not want to watch The Apprentice now that you're off the show (maybe you would, I don't know for sure), so when it's on the whole bed is yours until at least Ten Thirty. Have a think about it and let me know by email or on Twitter or something. I'm not holding my breath though.

Lots of Love 
Yours Faithfully,

Gareth xxx

PS. I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you!!!

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

As It Occurs To Me Back Catalogue! Listen Again!!

Podcast fan? Good news! Then read on... Because this years' series of As It Occurs To Me, or AIOTM, ("AIOTM!!") is over - and has been for ages! Which is sad news, since we don't get any more AIOTM ("AIOTM!!") for bloody ages. Well, May 2011. But there's good news, as I mentioned above! Because it's not like the old shows are unavailable or anything! In fact, quite the opposite! They are available! Series One and Two of AIOTM ("AIOTM!!"), along with the Autumn specials, are available right here for download. If you have no idea what AIOTM ("AIOTM!!") is then panic not, just give it a go, blind. It's great. It's funny. It's very sweary. It's not one for the easily offended. 

"TV, Man, How Low Is It Gonna Sink?"

So asks Frankie Boyle, while talking about The Jeremy Kyle Show on 'Tramadol Nights', the new stand-up/sketch show from Scotland's most ignorant prick. The answer, Frankie, is "not much lower than your piece of shit show". 

It seems that there's an audience for this shit, though. Look at the cretins laughing at the homophobia, racism, paedophilia, ignorance, offence, uncalled-for crudity and general tasteless tripe, those sitting in the audience. I hope they all burn to death in an electrical fire. Not really, obviously. But I don't see how the same old jokes (with little more than the names of the victim changed) performed on a set almost as unattractive as the content can last very long.

Where are the idiots who complain about Jerry Springer: The Opera, EastEnders and the like when there's something actually worth complaining about? It seemed to be a string of insults (they couldn't even be called jokes) interlaced with "sketches" about gays, gays, black people, gays, ugly people, mentally ill people and gays, all of which were so derogatory that even I, someone who lets lots go when it comes to comedy causing offence, was left gawping at the screen with the question "where do I complain?" sitting on my tongue. There is no doubt in my mind this will make headlines. And for all the wrong reasons Boyle will be shot into the spotlight again. For a man who has built a career around being abusive for the sake of it, complaints will only be good publicity for this show. And the thousands who are out there, like frightened school-kids smoking in the park when they should be in Maths class - an audience of people laughing at their nerve and at their "bravery" at being un-PC in today's delicate TV climate than at the shit they allow to pass as comedy, will flock.

It isn't even an original format that unfortunately oversteps the mark. As Boyd Hilton so perfectly put it on Twitter "It's as if Frankie Boyle watched Stewart Lee's Comedy Vehicle and thought "I can do this, but turn it into a crime against humanity"

The stand-up/sketch show has been done so well in recent years (Stewart Lee being the classiest and Russell Watson's Good News being the most heart-felt) that it seems illogical that Boyle's show even got off the starting blocks. There seemed to be no through-line to the episode, no reason for one sketch to follow another or for the interspersed stand-up segments to be where they were, or about what they were about - other than "ha ha they're bumming!". It was a big, steaming sack of comedy shit. Boyle went all out on the gratuitous offensive content in episode one, presumably because he also thinks this won't be around long enough to spread the load. I remember when Frankie Boyle was "the one who went too far" on Mock The Week; he was almost bearable then. It was sort of refreshing to have someone say something they shouldn't. But now the joke is old. It's worn out. There is no humour in his arrogant, vicious abuse any longer. 

I could go on and on slating this piece of shit all night long. But I won't. I'll leave you with Frankie's parting words to the audience of his new show, a show that will need all the support it can possible get. "Goodbye, Father-Fuckers!"


A Slightly New Look!

Hello! As you may have noticed, I've snazzed the blog up a little bit. Nothing major, no change in content or URL or anything important. But I've added a scruffy header and swapped the colours about a little bit. It's still full of the same old shit :)

I've also added an advert for Tim Minchin's "White Wine In The Sun". If you click on the banner at the very bottom of the page you'll be taken to iTunes where you can buy this song for just 79p. I'm my opinion this is one of the most beautiful Christmas Songs ever and deserves to be seen as such. If you like it too, then why not buy it? Better still, buy it the weeks before Christmas and help it chart?