Conan The Barbarian, known to most as a lumbering Arnold Schwarzenegger, to some as the main character in the pulp 1930’s novels of Robert E Howard and soon to be immortalised on screen by Jason Momoa. To many Conan was introduced through the pages of Marvel comics in the early 70s under the author ship of Roy Thomas and the seminal artwork of Britain’s Barry Smith. For those comic book aficionados bought up on super heroes, secret identities and bloodless battles Marvel's Conan the Barbarian had a distinctly grown up feel; sound effects free and featuring disembowelment and nudity amidst the mysticism.
Thomas' storytelling used rich dialogue free from cliche and it was most definitely Smith's pre-Raphaelite leanings that added the beauty to offset the violence.
The run of Thomas and Smith did not run for long but was a watershed moment for Marvel and led them to diversify into different more adult orientated formats. The audience that comics had built in the 60s was growing older and more sophisticated and Marvel realised this with the success of the Conan books. Moving into longer paged publications and using black and white Marvel developed Conan into a darker and more brutal character, and it was these books The Savage Sword of Conan that met the needs of the fan base who were now adults. Thomas stayed with the character and was joined by John Buscema and Alfredo Alcala and the stories they produced were almost novels in comic book form. The success of the SSoC was what led to Hollywood interest. Like anyone who has followed a fictional character through TV, Movies or Books the path that Conan has taken in the hands of Marvel has been an interesting one. Falling outside the margins of the comic books of the seventies Conan represented the moment that Comic books and their readers grew up.
To have a look at Conan's world there are omnibus paperbacks available, try reading with a flagon of ale.
The Chronicles of Conan Volume (Dark Horse) 1-5 by Barry Smith and Roy Thomas
Savage Sword Of Conan Volume 1-8 (Dark Horse)by John Buscema /Various and Roy Thomas
The Oscars for 1974. Has there ever been a greater collection of talent among the nominees? Have we seen a collection of nominated best pictures of this quality?
Nominated for best picture were
The Godfather II
Among the nominees were Al Pacino, Jack Nicholson, Dustin Hoffman, Robert DeNiro, Albert Finney, Jeff Bridges, Fred Astaire, Lee Strasburg, John Cassavetes, Bob Fosse, Roman Polanski, Francois Truffaut, Francis Ford Coppolla, Faye Dunaway, Gena Rowlands, Diane Ladd, Ingrid Bergman, Gene wilder and Mel Brooks.
Films featured in other categories were
Murder on The Orient Express
Day for Night
Alice doesn’t live here anymore Blazing Saddles
A woman under the influence
Thunderbolt and Lightfoot
Cast/directors of films in all categories included Clint Eastwood, Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, Gene Hackman,William Holden, Robert Vaughn, Robert Wagne,rLauren Bacall, Martin Balsam, Sean Connery, John Gielgud, Anthony Perkins, Vanessa Redgrave, Michael York and Richard Widmark, Martin Scorsese, John Huston, Sidney Lumet
The ‘big five’ winners were
The Godfather Part II, Francis Ford Coppola, producer; Gray Frederickson and Fred Roos, co-producers (Paramount)
If the Wire focused on police and criminals equally and the Sopranos was centred on Gangster life the Shield was about the police of Farmington district LA.
Starring Michael Chiklis as Vic Mackey this show was both underrated and under exposed here in the UK, getting a late night slot on Channel 5.
Aside from the action, of which there was a great deal quieter moments explored common themes such as the citizens' distrust of police, the social impact of drugs and gang warfare, and the conflict between ethics and political ambition. Most characters were portrayed as having both vice and virtue. For example, Vic's loving relationship with his children contrasts with his brutal approach to police work, in general his brutality is directed at those deserving of such treatment though and as such is an amoral hero. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k3G7SMWjlWQ
The Shield had a variety of subplots, Corrupt Captain David Aceveda's political aspirations and his victim status in a sexual assault; Vic Mackey's struggle to cope with a failing marriage; Shane Vendrell's rocky, new marriage; and Julien Lowe's conflicts between his belief Bible and his sexuality.
Central to the series is Vic’s Strike Team who use a variety of illegal and unethical methods to maintain peace on the streets, while making a profit through illegal drug protection schemes and robbery. Yet they are valuable to maintaining the status quo amongst rival gangs. Outside of the strike team there were complex characters such as behavioral theorist "Dutch" Wagenbach, his partner Claudette Wyms and female officer "Danny" Sofer.
Both Glenn Close and Forest Whittaker had substantial roles in season 5 and 6 as the quality and depth of the show grew. The Shield while not as ambitious or textured as The Wire and The Sopranos that where broadcast at the same time, was an excellent TV show that hit the ground running and ended with the dénouement of a Shakespearian tragedy. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iQ2stzRTDWg
Over the course of its life the Shield was brutal, interesting surprising and must see TV for those in the know.
Neill Blomkamp’s District 9 is a sci-fi action movie wrapped up in a meditation on racism and exploitation. Filmed in pseudo documentary style it creates a fully realised world in which the visiting refugees from another planet, Prawns as they are labelled, live. Arriving in South Africa the aliens are ghettoised and put upon by their human hosts and their technology exploited. You soon begin to feel sympathy for the aliens as we see them treated unfairly and marginalised.
The alien situation leads to control over the aliens being contracted out to Multi-National United (MNU), a private company with scant regard to the aliens' welfare. Their only interest is in turning a profit by mastering the technology behind the aliens' weapons. It transpires that activation of the weaponry requires alien DNA.
MNU field operative, Wikus van der Merwe (Sharlto Copley), contracts an alien virus that begins changing his DNA. From this point he becomes the most hunted man in the world, as he will enable the unlocking of the alien technology.
Wikus gradually begins to see things from the alien’s point of view as he is ostracised, brutalised and has to fend for himself in District 9.
The irony that this movie is set in South Africa is intentional and brings vivid analogies with the apartheid system. It’s a thought provoking film that is both original and ambiguous. Much more than just another Sci-Fi movie.
Ethereal, strange, hypnotic no it's not a dinner party album. It's a piece of music that has aged impressively since it's release in 1994. Both subtle and powerful it happens to be an album that, beneath it's hipness is there to be listened to digested and enjoyed for the strange journey it takes you on..
The modern so called ‘R&B’ scene is noted for being vacuous and insubstantial, as is the Hip Hop scene. These assumptions are debatable but what isn’t debatable is that amidst all the here today gone tomorrow loudmouths one woman has definitely kept it real (to use the vernacular); Mary J Blige.
Mary Jane Blige was born January 11, 1971 in The Bronx but grew up in Yonkers, NY and is not only a Grammy award winning singer but has managed to maintain a successful career in a male dominated environment. The powerful combination of her modern R&B rendition of the classic soul aesthetic; also mixed with an edgy rap sound has created a niche that many since have tried to imitate.
She has worked with everyone who is anyone in the music industry and has held her own each and every time. Her studio albums have all been hits from her 1992 debut, What’s the 411? to her latest album Stronger with each tear. Her live performances have become legendary as Mary is able to produce time after time a la Aretha and Chaka. But Mary has honed her own style and is rightly known as ‘The soul Hip Hop Queen’
Initially Blige was street-tough and beautiful all at once, and the record company kept up her bad-girl image that she had gained early in her career; it was an earner. As she sorted her life out her style began to develop to encompass a sleeker aesthetic and she remains a hero and aspirational figure to young women growing up in the same kind of rough and ready environment Mary came from.
What keeps Mary at the top of the tree is that she maintains a sense of truth in her vocal performances. Many will say that she is not like singers in the old days; which is true, she is exactly current and her voice is not a pale imitation of the plethora of queens of soul that have gone before. MJB really is the VIP.
Siouxsie & the Banshees' debut LP the Scream was a jolt to the system when released, the suspicion was that the band would produce another record filled with 3 minute rants like the bandwagon jumping punk groups of the time. Anyone who had seen them live or heard their John Peel sessions knew that they where a different proposition altogether. They bided their time awaiting a suitable contract and didn't get signed up like most punk bands until 1978. By the time they got to the debut-LP proper, their sound had developed beyond the limitations of punk-rock, which wasn't that much of an advance on Chuck Berry or Eddie Cochran ultimately. The Scream is responsible for the sound later deemed post-punk, The Banshees weren't alone in this- but along with peers like Pere Ubu, Magazine, Suicide & Throbbing Gristle they moved the limited music of punk to a much darker and deeper sound and preceded more lauded acts such as The Cure, Joy Division & PIL.
A first single was released before the album the poptastic Hong Kong garden, not exactly like the album that followed.
The Scream could almost be the soundtrack to a David Lynch film and it is spartanly produced by Steve Lillywhite to create an open and brooding sound. An album that I dust off now and again, aware that music can be many things not just an uplifting experience.
1. "Pure" (McKay, Severin, Morris, Sioux)
2. "Jigsaw Feeling" (Severin, McKay)
3. "Overground" (Severin, McKay)
4. "Carcass" (Severin, Sioux, Fenton)
5. "Helter Skelter" (Lennon, McCartney)
6. "Mirage" (Severin, McKay)
7. "Metal Postcard (Mittageisen)" (McKay, Sioux)
8. "Nicotine Stain" (Severin, Sioux)
9. "Suburban Relapse" (McKay, Sioux)
10. "Switch" (McKay, Sioux
The album also served up a remarkably hysterical (in both senses of the word) review from Julie Burchill that is unlike any review of any album I have ever read. Here it is unedited
“WELL, WHATEVER WOULD EDVARD MUNCH HAVE SAID? Good-day, second-class of ‘78! And now for the last goddam time in my life - I ask you, who wants to be David Bowie when they graduate? Hands up! Kate - dear, you’re too maudlin and pretty and healthy, and the fathers fancy you more than the daughters do. Is that any way for a teen queen to be? Besides, you cover too many markets. Howard - you don’t cover any, and anyhow you’re bald and "the kids" can’t "dance to it". Japan and Ultravox! - I will NOT tolerate over made-up, non-starter gangs in my classroom! Adam - you have the mark of the loser - sorry kid, not of exotic Cain - on you, and besides, you’re podgy. Cherie - Cherie, how many times do I have to tell you, you should be in your cabaret class by now. Out, go on, take your twin with you and don’t ever let me see you outside of Las Vegas again! Siouxsie - ah, Siouxsie, come up to the front here and show the boys and girls how it should be done. One: must be skinny, wear a mass of make-up and look asexual enough to accommodate every closet’s ambivalent fantasies. Two: blind the critics with words and silence and all but a few ungrateful hack swine with long memories - who don’t understand and are NEVER gonna understand - will lick your soles for the privilege of sitting through an interview’s worth of verbal contempt from you. Three: flirt with the all-time contraband coquette that is fascism, however lightly (an armband, a salute, a sentence) and it will still get that ridiculously uncool but controversial minority going. Four: get out of your depth. And I have come to hate glamour hangover (Bowie, Eno and Pop). They hang on and on. How I wish they would drop dead and take Miss Banshee with them, just to spare me this task. But what do I care? Because like all mod muse these days, Siouxsie and her Banshees’ll only end up being walked down a fashion-catwalk to be Marie Helvin Bailey. You’re all just making music for models to walk to, just reward and desserts for all you self-inflated pop stars. So I don’t need my hatchet. Let’s bury it and get objective. Factoid: since the Second World War retreated comfortably back into the realms of imagery, Germanic girls (or otherwise descended girls whom the liberated sicko mind can twist into being Teutonic) singing songs about death, doom and decay are very artistically credible. Things I like about Siouxsie: "Hong Kong Garden"; the way she treats her audience like muck, knowing why the gross majority of them come to gape at her; I even kind of liked the way she danced on Top Of The Pops. Fact: until recently Siouxsie And The Banshees included in their set a song they had written called "Love In A Void". This song featured the line "Too many Jews for my liking". This, says Siouxsie, was a metaphor for too many fat businessmen waiting to pounce, suck the youth from and cast aside new talent. I do not see the connection. I, self-righteous square that I am, consider "Too many Jews for my liking" to be the most disgusting and unforgivable lyric-line ever written, though God knows there has been more appalling filth written within rockanroll than in every other branch of entertainment taken together. None of it comes anywhere in sight of Siouxsie, though. She is well into her Twenties, so ignorant youth is no excuse, however lame. Therefore she must be either evil or retarded - well, can YOU think of any other way out? To shock? No - the pain and dreadful implications of this sentence could only be justified into a means of outrage by aforementioned retard. Though I know that for a critic to tell the Banshees where to go is as de trop as liking, say, The Runways’ I am still particularly disgusted by the way the way Jewish writers (Viv Goldman) and otherwise extremely moral writers (Chris Brazier) have drooled over the silly cow, letting her get away with that line as long as she promises "Oh, it was an unwise choice, I’ll change it as soon as I can think of something better!" Well take your shocking song and stick it up your rude white ass, Sioux, because here’s a review that don’t believe in running with the pack. Oh daddy please, pretty please, won’t you beat up that nasty girl and make her fade away? She hurts my ears and she bores me and the only reason she hasn’t been written off yet as a corny ‘art-rock’ act is that she once used to hang around some, ah, punk band. Standing alone, the Banshee sound is a self-important threshing machine thrashing all stringed instruments down onto the same low level alongside that draggy sub-voice as it attempts futile eagle and dove swoops around the mono-beat. Their sound is certainly different from the normal guitar-bass-drums-voice consequence. But it’s radically stodgy as opposed to that light-fantastic Public Image trip on their single (bass-thump almost out of earshot, felt more as a vibration than heard as a sound, guitar getting as high and light as it takes to sound as little like a guitar hero as possible). Imagine that great sound then think of the exact opposite and you have Siouxsie And The Banshees: loud, heavy and levelling, the sound of suet pudding. Start with an instrumental circa "Warsawza". Instrumentals are pretentious as shit, I don’t care who does them. Chuck Berry never felt the need to, so screw you, Sioux. Follow it with moody modern black-and-white ear-horror-films to impress the impressionable. The Banshees unite sub-glam flowering poesie ("Amorphus jigsaw pieces tra la la") with unpleasant but true sociology topics (going mental, self-mutilation, Fascism, cancer): subjects which have only been dealt with in any number by "punk". I am bored by and abhor the way the Banshees mess around with the two greatest genres of the decade and make both forms emerge bloodied, limping and sorely in need of a G.C.E. Eng Lang frame of reference. I quite enjoyed singing along to "Helter Skelter" (least awful effort here, and even that was written elsewhere), and "carcass" got me a bit jittery until I saw the joke, giggled and yawned. The rest (barely) struck me as endless plain noise totally bereft of melody. I just heard Sioux on Hullabaloo, whining away in that horrid Chislehurst-climber accent about how "Summer Nights" being Number One for seven weeks was actually brain-washing. Never mind, dear, you can always sleep guilt-free and tight at night in the sound knowledge that none of your recordings are ever going to put people in that loathsome position, huh? I wish they were showing clips from that capitalist, corporation-made, youth-exploitation film Grease on the TV right now. I could do with some send-up, affectionate, Overground food for thought after sitting through all this "So I just sit in reverie/Getting on my nerves" wood-worm brain-rot hen-type-brooding from Siouxsie’s boys. I’ll tell you what. I said I would be as objective as ‘tis possible for an intelligent person to be. So, against all odds (I hate her voice, her band, her image), I do think that Siouxsie could be quite a smart girl if only she didn’t work so hard at being marvellous for fools. Her words for "Switch" and "Nicotine Stain" (she should write more lyrics alone) contain a certain germ which is rendered totally ineffectual via drone, pretension and conceit. Her words for the stunning "Suburban Relapse" are flawed only in the tune that John McKay sets it to, and, naturally, by the singularly awful Banshee sound. Ah well, kid, take it to yourself and examine your subconscious. Maybe you’ll love it. Me, I keep seeing Siouxsie up there in her swastika armband making nothing but a fashion accessory out of the death of millions of people. And I honestly don’t think that a rilly sensitive person like myself can ever see beyond that.”-Julie Burchill NME Nov 1978
Paul Morley, as do I, liked the album; here’s his succinct analysis
“Unlike anything in rock. It is not, as some would say, chaotic - it is controlled. Each instrument operates within its own space, its own time, as if mocking the lines of other instruments. Known rock is inverted, leaving just traces of mimickry of rock's cliches - satire that often bursts with glorious justification into shaking celebration (as on "Helter Skelter"). It is easy to gain attention by doing something which is crudely obviously out of the ordinary, but the Banshees have avoided such futile superficialities; it is innovation, not revolution, not a destruction but new building. It has grown out of rock - Velvets, "Station To Station", Bolan. And Siouxsie's staggering voice is dropped, clipped, snapped prominently above this audacious musical drama, emphasising the dark colours and empty, naked moods.”-Paul Morley NME Dec 1978
The young Siouxsie was a bit of a stroppy cow, although quite affable on camera she herself has spent most of her musical career pleasing herself, which I think is the punk thing to do. Possibly the one early fan who has actually kept performing independently with little compromise, from those naive days of 1976. Despite the notion that she is responsible for the whole Goth thing, from the springboard of this first album she continues to get on with making her type of music so fairplay I say to her. The seriousness of this first album sets a tone for a certain time and in that sense it is noteworthy.
The Scream,and indeed Siouxsie, a bit like Marmite then. And I like Marmite.
‘Meet the man who has 10 children by 10 different mums and is costing the taxpayer £2m’
That is the headline that further underlines press sensationalism and the parlous state of things in today’s UK. Having ten kids would be the norm in the Mormon community and other sub cultures; however this is more a case of sub human moron than sub culture Mormon.
Keith McDonald, who at 25 is into double figures with children and mothers apparently brags to his fellow morons; "I pull them on the buses." Having seen the state of both him and his conquests I can only assume that the buses in question are tainted by radioactive materials.
This character claims disability benefit for a "bad back". This may explain why he spends so much time horizontally. He is on record as saying: "I never keep a job because it gets too boring for me”. He therefore spends most of his time drinking Stella Artois, chain-smoking and playing computer games.
"It's not my fault I have got so many children."
"I always have to have a can to get myself up and started in the morning," said the recalcitrant oaf.
Of course a system operates that allows the erstwhile ‘Sunderland Shagger’ to take both moral and financial liberties. He’s not the only young man with no sense of responsibility or perspective, unfortunately there are another ten human beings bought into the world that will in all probability grow up with the same values lacking
Kick Ass is Tarantino does Batman by way of Luc Beeson’s Leon, John Hughes, Sergio Leone and a touch of John Woo meets first person shooter. Perfect in execution for comic book aficionados, pure genre cinema for movie fans.
Yes it's that good. Fans of the comic book, written by Scotland's Mark Millar and illustrated by John Romita Jr would accept the changes made for the cinema and embrace the maintenance of the spirit of the comic book. Incidentally Mark Millar's most famous work was Wanted, the film of which badly let down the source material.
What could easily have been an example of style over content is a sharp, witty, funny, dramatic,quirky, heart warming, teen movie with an action mentality wrapped up in a superhero movie. Ironically it's almost like an old fashioned movie where an idea is taken and, in the right hands, is made into a piece of pure entertainment without prejudice.
A pleasure for comic book fans and a great two hours for film fans. What else do you want out of a mainstream Hollywood movie?