Friday, 29 June 2012


I can't say I'm a huge fan of X Men (or indeed many comic book big screen adaptation) though I have seen the first two some years back. Strangely though I was itching to see X Men First Class tonight on Sky Premiere and for two reasons, 1) I'd heard it was set in the early 60s and paid homage to the Bond films of that decade and 2) I needed a film beginning with 'X' to complete a 12 month A-Z Film Challenge I only commenced in March this year!

So know I've seen it, what do I think? Well it's a superhero fantasy James Bond meets a sci fi Embarrassing Bodies special!

And the moral of the story? Don't trust a stripper...especially of the flying variety. They'll ditch you and the Big Brother style house you're holed up in as soon as look at you!

Flippancy aside, in all seriousness this a thoroughly good watch and the only film from writing/directing team Matthew Vaughn and Jane 'Mrs Wossy' Goldman that I've actually completely enjoyed, having truly hated Stardust (a Princess Bride wannabe) Kick Ass (a paedophile's wet dream) and The Debt was only partly successful as I've previously blogged. 

The A-Z Film Challenge was set up on a net forum I'm a member of where they asked you to keep a record of the films you've watched beginning with each letter of the alphabet, in no particular order, with a view to watching a film for each one within twelve months. I started my challenge in March and with X Men First Class I completed it tonight. Here's the full list of films I've watched in just under four months to complete the challenge

Date Started: 01/3/12 
Date Completed: 29/6/12

A - The Awakening (2011) Watched 28th March - 1st watch
B - Blitz (2011) Watched 7th April - 1st watch
C - The Children (2008) Watched 15th March - 1st watch
D - A Dangerous Method (2012) Watched 23rd March - 1st watch
E - Eyewitness (1970) Watched 22nd April - 1st watch
F - Flashbacks Of A Fool (2008) Watched 9th March
G - Ghost Story (1974) Watched 4th April - 1st watch
H - Hall Pass (2011) Watched 1st April - 1st watch
I - Irreconcilable Differences (1984) Watched 23rd May - 1st watch
J - Johnny English Reborn (2011) Watched 8th April - 1st watch
K - Killer Elite (2011) Watched 8th April - 1st watch
L - The Last Days Of Man On Earth/The Final Programme (1973) Watched 21st April - 1st watch
M - The Muppets (2011) Watched 14th March - 1st watch
N - Neds (2011) Watched 19th April - 1st watch
O - The Offence (1973) Watched 6th April
P - Private Road (1971) Watched 9th April - 1st watch
Q - Quatermass and the Pit (1967) Watched 6th March
R - The Rum Diary (2011) Watched 8th April - 1st watch
S - Slade In Flame (1975) Watched 17th March
T - Thor (2011) Watched 6th April - 1st watch
U - Unman Wittering and Zigo (1971) Watched 29th April
V - Very Annie Mary (2001) Watched 22nd April
W - The Woman In Black (2012) Watched 16th March - 1st watch
X - X Men: First Class (2011) Watched 29/6/12 - 1st watch
Y - The Young Victoria (2009) Watched 16th June - 1st watch
Z - Zombieland (2009) Watched 23rd June

Girls With Guns

Alison Brie and Julianna Guill

Alison Brie

Since discovering Community I've really developed a thing for Ms Brie....

Fancy A Roll In The Hay?

Caroline Munro

Out On Blue Six : John Martyn

John rocking out Gun Money from the 1982 album Well Kept Secret

And some fan art I made of the big man himself. I'm quite new to fan art, but I must say I'm enjoying it!

End Transmission

Thursday, 28 June 2012

This Week In TV

The myth in TV world was that anything good was saved for the winter schedule and anything the schedulers were uncertain of were shunted away in the summer months, where poor viewing figures could be blamed on days out, BBQ's and socialising rather than those shows being crap. However, both Sky Atlantic and BBC2 bucked that trend this week and it's been a rather cracking week for television, thanks to the comedies Alan Partridge: Welcome To The Places Of My Life, Veep and Walking and Talking (all on one night one after the other at Sky Atlantic) and new drama Line Of Duty on BBC2.

The return of Alan Partridge was something I was positively salivating over since last year's specials on the Fosters Lager website and the release of Partridge's 'biography' the hilariously titled (and indeed hilariously read) I, Partridge: We Need To Talk About Alan. I'm a huge admirer of Steve Coogan and feel his best work is always done here in the UK rather than in Hollywood, gaining paltry cameos in showbiz friend Ben Stiller's movies. That said though, I was a little nervous that new Partridge on Sky (after a ten year break) may not be up to the standards of the old BBC series, but I need not have worried; it was superb and genuinely laugh out loud funny, with Coogan adding new layers and textures to his most durable creation. The series continues next week with another special, a spoof literary discussion show looking at his biography, and then I believe they'll show the Fosters specials.

Of course when Partridge first arrived in the 90s,  his co creator and Coogan's co writer was Armando Iannucci. Iannucci left Partridge to create his most perfect work, the excellent political sitcom The Thick Of It which spawned a film, In The Loop and has now spawned a US based sitcom entitled Veep, which like the previous film is set in the same universe as The Thick Of It with the same cinema verite style, bawdy language and acerbic humour, albeit States style. Starring Julia Louis Dreyfus (formerly of Seinfeld) as a useless Vice President, it has an impressive cast that includes Anna Chlumsky (My Girl and In The Loop) and Tony Hale (Arrested Development) However, the US actors are literally playing characters cast from the same mould as their British counterparts and so it doesn't seem all that original, it's The Thick Of It but with more immaculate teeth. It isn't bad, far far from it, but Iannucci's former partner just beat him on the new show stakes.

Finally that evening was Walking and Talking from the pen of comic actress Kathy Burke. It's a nothing really happens series of vignettes based on Kathy's experiences as a teenage girl in the Islington of 1979 (BB - Before Blair as a caption points out in the first shot) Young Kathy was a schoolgirl punk/new wave fan with an ambition to be an actress or a music journalist and from the off she was immensely likeable as the mature Kathy Burke we know of from film and TV. She's also played by star in the making Ami Metcalf (Upstairs Downstairs) and Kathy herself pops up as a bushy browed, rude Irish nun. The whole thing is very light but lovingly shot through with a nostalgic glow for the time and I loved it. I do feel though that Sky let it down by broadcasting immediately after two big enough guns that evening.

BBC2 brought out its own big gun the following night in the shape of Jed Mercurio's police corruption drama Line Of Duty. Mercurio is an amazing TV writer with two of the best dramas ever to appear on screen, the gritty medical shows Cardiac Arrest and Bodies, as well as - surprisingly- 70s set sitcom The Grimleys under his belt. Line Of Duty clearly sets out to expose the modern day police force in the same way the former doctor Mercurio exposed the medical world; so we've an unwieldy institution that is crippled by health and safety guidelines, paperwork, staff shortages and back stabbing - a place where a man, DCI Gates (Lennie James) is voted 'policeman of the year' but finds himself being investigated both overtly and covertly because he's 'too perfect'. It promises to be a belter. It has an impeccable cast (James, Vicky McClure, Gina McKee and many more, virtually every character was a familiar face!) and though the storyline is, at first, nothing new (Between The Lines tackled police corruption superbly in the 90s) there's more than enough there to immerse yourself in and with a definite vibe of The Wire and its internal politics (and a stolen line of dialogue from there too, but I'll let it slip!) It's unmistakeably Mercurio though, with the little touches he clearly revels in and relishes; when Gates is caught out for not claiming the free breakfast from a grateful cafe owner as a gratuity, it is in exactly the same ballpark as  the free pint of milk/cup of coffee that management claimed was theft to scupper both Claire Maitland and Tony Whitman in Cardiac Arrest and Bodies respectively.

With these new shows, the ongoing new series of the best documentary for some time on 4, 24 Hours In A+E (cruelly ignored at Bafta) and Russell Brand's new show, Brand X joining the Sky Atlantic Monday night comedy line up, along with Seinfeld repeats, I am spoilt for choice and it's a ray of hope in a schedule soon to be saturated by the Olympics!

We are not aMUSEed : An Olympic Prog Plea

It's no secret I hate Muse.

They're a band I just don't get. Not helped by the fact my last ex was obsessed with them, following them and watching them live like others would follow a football club. But for me, they're just a faux pomp rock/prog rock band for girlies and immature boys who feel real rock is just a bit too hard for them.

If Queen were the Lidl Led Zep, then Muse are the Aldi Queen...and I always say beware pale imitations.

So it absolutely stuns me that their remarkable success has now incorporated them bagging the official 2012 Olympic anthem, called 'Survival' Having just heard it on Radcliffe and Maconie's 6 Music show I am even more stunned; it is, as both presenters agreed, God awful. A totally up it's own bottom, smug and OTT anthem in the Queen mould with shades of third rate Rick Wakeman. 

Why? Just why? Jeez, go and listen to the originals and the best not this pale poncey pastiche! Seriously it was like something The Darkness would knock up, but without the tongue in cheek vibe.

Honestly, I'd rather listen to this...

Honestly, listen to Queen, listen to Led Zep, listen to King Crimson, listen to Genesis, listen to Caravan, listen to Focus, listen to Camel, listen to anything but this wank 'homage' that makes chinless wonders millions. Grow a pair and listen to THE REAL THING. Listen to REAL MUSIC!

Look Into My Eyes....

Jacket art by John Pollock

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

World Of Leather


Barbra Streisand in leathers.

I know I'm in a minority, but I've always found 70s Barbra to be quite attractive in a kooky kind of way. But this has blown my mind...I mean check out her bum!

Round The Clock Stockings

1966 advert

It's Awfully Bad For Your Eyes, Darling

The documentary Sex and the Sitcom that aired on the BBC at the weekend was a fun retrospective look at how sex was depicted in sitcom from the buttoned up 1950s and right the way through to the more censor free present day taking in of course the double entendre and dollybird phase of the 60s and 70s.  It also gave the chance for the BBC to give, briefly, a rare outing for the near forgotten and almost completely wiped 1971 sitcom It's Awfully Bad For Your Eyes, Darling written by novelist Jilly Cooper and Christopher Bond, and starring a young Joanna Lumley.

Here are some of the screencaps from the documentary, taken from the show's one remaining episode 'New Lease' in which the girls mistake an encyclopaedia salesman for their new landlord!

It's a terrible shame, though nothing unusual alas, that out of the seven episodes made, only one remains and, apart from the brief clips discussed here, languishes in the BBC archives. The premise sounds utterly delightful, almost like a sitcom version of Take Three Girls in that four young girls share a flat in Swinging London. Each were wealthy and from well to do backgrounds but they still encountered universal problems such as paying the rent and avoiding the landlord, a dearth of dates and interference from parents.

The cast consisted of Lumley playing Samantha Ryder-Ross, ostensibly 'the sexy one' who had a habit of unselfconsciously wandering around the flat semi clothed (as the above caps show!), Jane Carr (famous for playing tragic Mary McGregor in The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie) as Gillian Page Wood, known as 'Pudding' because of her love of food who was 'the sensible one', Elizabeth Knight as Clover Mason 'the scatty one' and lastly the character of Virginia Walker who was played by Anna Palk in the Comedy Playhouse pilot and replaced by Jennifer Croxton for the series. Also appearing regularly was the character of Bobby Dutton, played by Jeremy Lloyd, who was briefly married to Joanna Lumley for a few months the year before. They remained good friends and Lloyd would later cast her several times when he co-wrote Are You Being Served?

Cast photo from l to r; seated 
Jane Carr, Elizabeth Knight, Joanna Lumley and guest star Jonathan Cecil,
 behind the sofa is Jeremy Lloyd.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Out On Blue Six : Eugene McGuinness

End Transmission

Girls With Guns

La Di Da

Annie Hall, Woody Allen and Diane Keaton

Annie Hall, Miss Piggy and Kermit

How cute?!

The Debt : Only Partly Paid

I didn't think they made films like The Debt any more. And they only sort of just about do.

The Debt is a film of two halves; a solid espionage thriller with a few twists and also a film with some heart, angst and the exploration of the nature of how a lie can weigh heavily upon your conscious. It is those latter components that begin to let the film down, feeling as heavy as the lie itself.

The first half, with its scenes set in 60s Berlin as our trio of young Mossad agents prepare for their mission, commence their surveillance leading up to the actual kidnapping and the calamitous break out, are the strongest parts of the film. I kind of wished the film concentrated solely on this to be honest. The sense of Cold War era Berlin is very evocative and it is shot well with some great imagery and a pervading chilly austere atmosphere. It also has the best acting in the film from Jessica Chastain.

Once the angst takes over in the latter half, set in 1997, the film begins to sag and buckle under some implausible actions.

There's kudos to Marton Csokas, who is very believable as the younger version of Tom Wilkinson. The casting directors chose very well there as he utterly convinces. The aforementioned Chastain is brilliant though less easier to imagine as Mirren later on, but no matter as her Rachel truly is a more affecting character with motive and actions the audience can totally believe in - which cannot be said with her later self. Sam Worthington is at best passable in a role that craves moody silence and tortured depths which he doesn't convince in reaching, and it's a shame that the reliable Ciaran Hinds (who appeared in the much better Mossad film Munich) didn't have more to do as the older version of his character.

Lastly, I believe the film is a remake of an Israeli film of a few years previously. I didn't know this until seeing it in the credits. Damn, I wish I'd have known as I think I'd have gone to the original first.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Happy Bumday

Nadia Cassini, Playboy Italy 1977

I like that guy's style! 

Quite apt today as I've just realised it's 6 months to the day (well it was Xmas Day) since I spoke to my brother in law, a complete arsehole. Hope that personal bile doesn't interfere with the happy lovely images above ;) 

First Choice For Rebus

As I've mentioned before, I'm a massive fan of the Rebus series of crime novels penned by Ian Rankin. So I read with interest today an interview in one of the tabloids with original Rebus star, the miscast John Hannah, because it revealed who Hannah, who also produced the original TV adaptations, originally wanted to play the detective.

None other than Peter Mullan

Says Hannah;

"I never meant to play Rebus. I was a fan of the books and I had this production company. I wanted Peter Mullan to play Rebus, but at the time Peter wouldn't get commissioned. ITV would only commission it if I played Rebus 'cos I had done something else"

Now I knew Hannah was strong armed into going in front of the cameras for the role already (because he was still at the height of his fame then with Four Weddings and The Mummy movies, clearly the 'something else' he modestly alludes to here) but I didn't know who he originally had in mind.

As a fan of Mullan (if you haven't seen him in the recent directorial debut of Paddy Considine Tyrannosaur then do so warned it's not a smiley happy affair, but it is a brilliant movie, whose leads were cruelly snubbed at the Bafta's) I am intrigued now by how it would have been with Mullan in the lead and given the chance. I can really see him play Rebus as a rock and roll loving melancholic man with a big chip on his shoulder and a dangerous obsessive edge, but as with Hannah and latterly Ken Stott, he doesn't have the necessary height and bulk that the books seem to suggest the copper has. As I've said previously, Rebus was inspired by the sixth Rolling Stone, Ian Stewart, a brawny granite featured Scotsman if ever there was one.

Mullan joins the list of Rebus might have beens now, that include Leslie Grantham and Robbie Coltrane. 

The full interview can be found here and is a great reminder that Hannah will be returning to our screens later this summer in the Police Squad style crime drama spoof A Touch Of Cloth, written by Charlie Brooker. I cannot wait.

80s Film Posters

It's staggering now to imagine how huge these films were in the 80s. But as a kid they were hilarious and I well remember loving the artwork on display here. Look out for the little Hill Street Blues reference in the bottom right hand corner of the sequel's poster.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Out On Blue Six : Anna Calvi

The strongest new female voice of last year, Anna Calvi. I love her stuff, it's like Roy Orbison ballads arranged by Joe Meek and sung by a girl.

End Transmission

Go West Young Welch!

Girls With Guns

Sort of anyway....

Julie Newmar, Smirnoff advert

The Iron Lady, PG: Not Suitable For Miners

As a northerner and a leftie with a strong family and community history in struggling against Thatcher's Britain (the miners strike, the poll tax riots, the destruction of the unions and the working man and its trades) it took quite a bit of steeling to watch The Iron Lady. Especially as I feared in casting an American, Meryl Streep in the role, they may have been aiming to offer a revisionist take on Thatcher and make her popular. But, I figured, I've watched films about Hitler, Nixon and about mass murderers and enjoyed them as a piece of art and a historical document, so I'm sure I can watch this.

Naturally enough for any central role the film must try and get the audience on side and the film plays on what Thatcher achieved from a feminist point of view (which cannot be doubted, but must be tempered by the fact that as PM Thatcher did nothing to help women progress, a fact which the film doesn't acknowledge) to inspire us, as well as plays the sympathy card - depicting her as an ailing senile old woman who is haunted by her dead husband - to tug at our heart strings. A lot has been made of the film's decision to represent her in her current state and that it was maybe too unflinching a portrayal. For me, I say, if that is how it is then no fiction should shy away from it, an  so I am pleased we got a warts and all biography to that extent. However, to allow her deteriorating faculties to drive the movie, to be at the core, and to linger on her alleged loneliness without her son Mark, may be a bit too much and one does think it may have been better left until after her demise.

I've never been a huge fan of Streep's dressing up box/funny voices style of acting, but I have to say she's virtually undetectable beneath the characterisation and make up in here, especially in the present day scenes. It's quite a feat. Very impressive. Though I do feel that in one scene in particular - the scene she loses the plot and reprimands her cabinet over the poll tax decision - she was channelling Jennifer Saunders!

It's a strong enough and well made film with an impressive cast of some of Britain's best character actors filling up Thatcher's cabinet, but all too often they have little enough to do, merely serving as brief snap shots to depict key moments in her premiership. Perhaps best of all are those closer to home, with some truly brilliant performances from Olivia Colman and Jim Broadbent as Carol and Dennis.

Not perfect by any stretch, and I do think some of the more recent BBC4 plays were better (Margaret and The Falklands Play immediately spring to mind) but it is a MOVIE, with all the inherent flaws and near misses and moments of genius that this format has.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Take Three Girls In The RT Pt 3 - Take Three Women

The reunion plays featuring the original cast in 1982

I'm currently following up a slim trail to get hold of the Victoria play of Take Three Women. More if/when I get it.

Shame the 80s fashions for the girls/women wasn't as good! Though Kate's handbag is rather sweet :)

The Only Colleen Worth Hype

With that jacket potato with a pubic hair topping known as Wayne Rooney scoring a goal against the Ukraine that frankly Stephen Hawking could have toed in with a brief power surge, our media has inevitably and very prematurely decided to say 'hang on a minute, we could win this' (copyright surely goes to Michael Caine for uttering just that in Escape To Victory?) ahead of tomorrow's big game, whilst at the same time and with an numbing inevitability begun to sniff once more around the power behind the poorly thatched throne, namely WAG (aka professional oxygen thief) Colleen Rooney.


There's only one Colleen worth media hype. I am of course referring to the American cultural icon and fashion supermodel of the 60s and 70s, the gorgeous Colleen Corby