Monday, 23 December 2013


My Top Ten favourite Movie of the year: that’s right not ‘best’ as that is unquantifiable, but favourite in what has been a pretty god year on the Silver screen

Gravity-Mainstream magnificence

The Place Beyond the Pines- the qualities of a great HBO Box set in one movie

Mud-Mconaughey’s renaissance continues in the heat of the south

Broken-Low key with great naturalistic performances

Stoker-thoughtful and disturbing US debut from Chan-Wook Park

In A World-Quirky look at the Hollywood voice over business
Only God Forgives-Like Marmite It’s a love/hate thing

Prisoners-Vigilantism through a prism

Filth- A virtuoso performance from James McAvoy underpins an inventive and original movie

Black Fish-Searing indictment of inhumanity for money's sake



Same applies for the Small Screen, here’s my Top Ten Favourite TV Shows, and this year I’ve appreciated consistency as some shows have been rather up and down (Homeland anyone?)

The Fall-Quite brilliant in execution
The Tunnel-Quality Coproduction

Luther-A triumphant return for Season three

Hit & Miss-Novel concept with depth and heart

Louie- Leading the way in what we regard as situation comedy

Veep-razor wit and political malice equals Veep

Nurse Jackie-Always excellent

Mad Men-Some didn’t ‘get’ this season: I did

Top Boy-London’s underbelly bought to life

Hannibal- achieving the unachievable: spinning an established franchise into a success


Monday, 9 December 2013


There is no reason for a decline in a television series other than a misguided belief that an unwinding story of any depth can survive on annual renewal: market forces. The great series are self contained with a beginning, middle and end, and those that aspire to reaching the heady heights of The Sopranos/Mad Men/The Wire need to be mindful of these self imposed constraints. Case in point Homeland: a sharp focused season one followed by a second season that drifted into an uninspiring and frankly dull third season. Such a promising start has been repeated by a number of pretenders to the throne. Homeland started out trying to be The Sopranos and seems to have swerved into Prison Break territory. That in itself is not a major Issue: I enjoyed the first season of Prison Break and watched the follow up seasons embracing the silliness, and a show like 24 did exactly what it said on the tin. This year, by and large, there have been so rather good shows to enjoy.

A current high concept show that doesn’t take itself seriously yet retains an all important stamp of quality is The Blacklist, in which James Spader plays a cross between Hannibal Lecter and a James Bond villain with extreme gusto making the show enjoyable and unpretentious.

Some of the best television is actually going on under the Radar: The Tunnel, a French English co production, is excellent and characterised by a high concept but with real characterisation. Hello Ladies, Veep and Louie are all first rate and highlight the dearth of British comedy. Louie in particular is a fine piece of work that requires thought and consideration as it is so finely tuned that it takes the notion of Situation Comedy into strange and interesting territory.

The BBC has a gem that is sadly being decommissioned: Ripper Street, this along with the last season of Luther, Peaky Blinders and the forthcoming season of Sherlock show that there is a healthy drama stream at the Beeb,

Suits and The Good Wife showed that uncomplicated dramatic television can work without overblown complexity and the I await the return of the superb Nurse Jackie with great anticipation.

Mad Men season five split critics. I thought it was sublime and walked the line between mundanity and profundity (successfully to my mind). Top Boy was able to present a realistic London underworld free of cliche and was also able to make us feel something other than despair. Hit And Miss was a talking point for many and it's Transexual lead character was noticed rather more than the well executed drama contained in this gritty thriller.

For me though absorbing The Fall, which made the supposedly dark Broadchurch seem like The Generation game, was my television highlight of this year. It realised a central conceit superbly, the performances were uniformly excellent and in creating a mood and a protagonist I felt it was unsurpassed. 

Friday, 29 November 2013


Siouxsie And The Banshees The John Peel Sessions
Love In A Void
Metal Postcard
Suburban Relapse
Hong Kong Garden
Helter Skelter

In 1977 Siouxsie and the Banshees were causing a stir on the live circuit: thrown together at the 100 Club Punk Festival the previous year the band had transcended that blunt mission statement and had grown a fierce following based on powerful live performances and a unique bleakness and attitude. A charismatic lead singer certainly helped to define them as not just another three minute wonder punk clone.

John Peel, champion of several interesting and unique bands did his bit in getting the band signed to Polydor as they were firmly in the category of ‘what do we do with them?’ for many in the industry.

The John Peel sessions at the end of 1977 and the beginning of 1978 were great examples of catching lightning in a bottle and their sparse raw power perfectly captured the reason why they had gained such a loyal following.

Most of the eight tracks make up the lion’s share of their excellent debut album The Scream and it is an interesting contrast to listen to the two versions back to back. Hong Kong Garden is also featured which was their suprisingly poppie debut Single.

John Peel helped many a band and in this case he helped everyone to access a remarkable and influential band.

Sunday, 24 November 2013


Some times a movie get’s hyped to the extent that suspicion can creep in. Gravity has been almost universally proclaimed as the film of the year: many a trusted reviewer has championed the movie and been rhapsodic about its place in cinematic history.
So it was with a degree of trepidation that I took myself along to the cinema ticket in hand.

Gravity could have been like a Kubrick movie: technical prowess with cold detachment, or a Spielberg movie: full of awe and emotional manipulation, or indeed like a Michael Bay production: all bombast no heart. In fact Gravity has more in common with Gone With The Wind or Casablanca. It’s pure cinema with spectacle, jeopardy, philosophical leanings but also a real beating heart. It is an extraordinary movie and one that, given the reflective qualities of time passing, will be viewed as classic cinema.
The two leads are both excellent: Clooney plays the veteran Astronaut perfectly but it is Sandra Bullock who is the surprise. Often associated with light and airy roles Bullock is a revelation and must be an Oscar shoe-in. Of course the technical qualities of the movie have garnered praise and rightly so but it is not just technique it is how the effects are integral and interwoven into the story.
Gravity is the sort of movie that reenergises the viewer and the sort of movie that comes along once in a while that makes you feel that "I was there" feeling: it's that good.

Thursday, 7 November 2013


Space: The final frontier, and with the UK release of Gravity today let's take a look at the wide world of
lesser known Astronauts in Space movies

Moon Zero Two
Event Horizon
Doppelganger/Journey To The Far Side Of The Sun
Silent Running
Robinson Crusoe On Mars
Dark Star
Saturn Three

Friday, 1 November 2013


10 of my favourite Scary Movies

The Shinning
Rosemary's Baby
Dead Of Night
Les Diaboliques
the Sentinel

Sunday, 27 October 2013


Reg Varney

British TV light entertainers and situation comedy stars popped up in movies that were not just sitcom spinoffs, and sometime in the most unexpected of places . I always found it quite jarring to see these small screen regulars up there on the screen at the local ABC. These movies are, by and large, interesting time capsules of Britain in a bygone age. Their quality is variable the directors great, workmanlike and all points in between.

Ronnie Barker-Robin And Marrion

Ronnie Corbett
 Leonard Rossiter-2001: A Space Odyssey
Dick Emery
Bruce Forsyth-Can Heronymous Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humppe And Find True Happiness?
Michael Crawford-Condorman
Richard O'Sullivan-Dick Turpin
Harry H Corbett as Joey Boy Thompson
Stanley Baxter as Benny 'The Kid' Lindowski
Bill Fraser as Sergeant Major Dobbs
Percy Herbert as Mad George Long
Lance Percival as Clarence Doubleday
Reg Varney as Rabbit Malone
Moira Lister as Lady Thameridge
Derek Nimmo as Lieutenant Hope
...and this movie was made before the principal cast found Television fame, I remember seeing it as a child many years after it was made and being discombobulated by seeing those TV regulars out of context.

Recommended sites:


Sunday, 20 October 2013


Monroe & Taylor
Brando & Dean
Keaton & Chaplin
Presley & Sinatra
Lennon & Jagger
Ali & Pele