Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Zombies Have Fallen (2017)

"Go careful boys, she's not your average kind of girl"

It's the zombie apocalypse...in Greenock?!

Whilst watching North West Tonight earlier this evening I was intrigued by a report about the Bolton based filmmaker and recently graduated student from the University of Cumbria Sam Fountayne (also seemingly known as Sam Hampson going off the IMDB credits) who has just released and secured a prized distribution deal for a zombie action horror film he made for just £500!

Zombies Have Fallen was clearly a labour of love for the student turned writer/producer/director Fountayne, as well as for his cast and crew. Pooling resources they uploaded various scenes to YouTube where Green Apple, an American distribution company, saw it and made him an offer. They subsequently sold it to Amazon Prime which - thanks to the free monthly trial I take up every year - is where I headed to see just what all the fuss was about. 

Kyra (Tansy Parkinson) is a young woman in need of help. Escaping from some top secret clinical institution with the help of a mysterious benefactor, she takes his advice and heads to Scotland's Gretna Green to track down a potential ally in the shape of semi-alcoholic loner John Northwood (Heath Hampson). It appears Northwood is a former protege of Kyra's elusive benefactor who reveals to him, via a prerecorded video message, that Kyra is in fact is no ordinary girl; she possesses special telekinetic powers which resulted in her parents being killed and her being held against her will in the clinic since childhood by its proprietor, the evil businessman Raven (Ken Richardson). Hot on Kyra and Northwood's heels is Max (Tony Gardner) a bitter and ruthless mercenary determined to bring the girl back to his paymaster, Raven. And then the zombies show up...

In all honesty, the major flaw in this film is the zombies. I can't help but wonder if they were a late addition to the plot at the behest of the US distribution company. It would certainly explain why the title was changed from Bad Blood to the particularly feeble Zombies Have Fallen (presumably a rather dumb and inexplicable cash-in to London Has Fallen, given the similarities in the poster design) and it would also explain why the whole plot seems to do a completely disorientating 360 around the 45 minute mark to become an extremely tongue-in-cheek romp with gun toting priests and mini-mart workers taking down this sudden arrival of zombies. After the taciturn thriller elements of the first half, this change in tone came as a big disappointment and the plot that had been slowly developing simply goes out the window for the cheap thrills and laughs of the campy zombie genre instead. They literally lose the plot! If this all really did come from Green Apple then it's a real shame that Fountayne (or Hampson) has allowed his artistic integrity to be bought right out of the starting gate. If the film kept to where it seemed to be going, I'd have rated this at least an extra half star more than I have.

The effects on display here are the kind you'd see in mid '80s Doctor Who, the acting is on a par with a porn film (and Raven looks like a cross between cockney bog-brush haired rocker Joe Brown and former EastEnder Paul Moriarty...after a strict pie diet), the score just lies there like a damp carpet, the sound is terrible - with ADR being louder than anything else in the mix, and most striking of all - to me at least - they misspell Bounty Hunter as 'Bount Hunter' in the dossier up on Raven's plasma TV screen, but what do you want for 500 nicker? 

That a film could be made for just £500 (or $622 if you're across the pond) is an achievement worth discussing, and it's nice to see that the central character of Kyra is actually played by an ordinary looking young woman (with actual thighs!) rather than some highly sexualised object.

Monday, 27 February 2017

Fighting Back: Petition to Sign

When we leave the EU, the laws made in Brussels that have protected our rights at work, health and safety, woodland, wildlife and environment, will all need to be rewritten by our government.

This petition demands that these new laws are written democratically, with a proper consultation across parliament and the people, and not done behind closed doors by a Tory government who wish to preserve their own interests. Whether you voted Leave or Remain, we all need a Brexit that works for everyone and this petition will ensure that happens. Please sign it now.

Cunt of the Week: George Freeman

Cunt of the week goes to George Freeman, head of policy at Number 10 and MP for Mid Norfolk, who claims that PIP, the disability benefit, should go to the "really disabled" rather than "taking pills at home, who suffer from anxiety"

Let's have a look at this cunt shall we?

^This is what a man who has no understanding of mental health looks like

This is the Tory government in a nutshell; they genuinely believe such a crude distinction can be made because they are so blithely unaware of life beyond their ivory towers. They really don't care what effect the £3.7billion cuts they plan to roll out in next month's budget will have on the most disadvantaged and vulnerable in our society. Sign this petition to stop these cuts happening!

Altogether now...

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Copeland: The Statistical Facts

The meedja are currently doing the usual 'Corbyn is to blame' angle on the Labour loss in the Copeland by-election last week. It's an angle that is easy for them, because it's the angle they've been using almost everyday since Jeremy Corbyn came to power. It's the angle the Blairites within the party and the Tories in government want the meedja to use at all times.

But let's look at the numbers here, because they shed light on some very interesting facts.

Copeland may have been a Labour seat for the last 82 years but it has been a marginal rather than a safe seat for several years now. Labour have repeatedly lost ground since their 58% of the vote peak they secured in 1997 with Jack Cunningham. In 2001, they lost 6.4%, followed by another 1.3% in 2005, a further 4.5%  was lost in 2010 and in the 2015 General Election they lost another 3.7%.

The meedja are claiming that red turned blue in Copeland, when in actual fact that Tory increase clearly came from another corner altogether; UKIP.

In 2015, UKIP secured 15.5% of the Copeland vote, losing 6.5% last week meaning a fall of 9% which correlates almost perfectly with the 8.5% rise the Tories experienced.

And why is this?

Because Theresa May's ultra-right wing policies are being welcomed now by UKIPPERS resulting in them leaving their party in droves. Who needs a burger when you can have steak eh?

I do think it was a tough sell for the anti-nuclear Corbyn in a town so close to Sellafield and Barrow and I do think it's right that Corbyn should take some of the blame though. But that blame should be couched in different terms than those the Blairite 'on message' meedja continue to spin. What Corbyn should be considering now is just how he failed to reverse the loss that successive New Labour governments and politicians instigated in Copeland over the past twenty years. Because the rot was clearly set in by those very people who are quick to point the finger of blame at his door.

But hey, let's look the bright side - we drove Paul 'Pinocchio' Nuttall out of Stoke!

And one particularly noticeable cuntisome cunt genuinely thought he'd waltz his way to victory!

RIP Bill Paxton

Bill Paxton, who is perhaps most famous for the role of Hudson in Aliens, has died at the age of 61.

Paxton had reportedly been suffering from complications following surgery. The actor starred in big Hollywood blockbusters such as the aforementioned Aliens (pictured above), The Terminator, Predator 2, Titanic, True Lies, Twister, Apollo 13, Tombstone, and Nightcrawler, as well as the live action version of Thunderbirds. On television, he won the Emmy for his role in Hatfield and McCoys, and three Golden Globe nods for the HBO drama Big Love.


Silent Sunday: In Mummy's Footsteps

Saturday, 25 February 2017

The Alcohol Years (2000)

It's hard to look the person you once were in the eye. Being reminded of how naive and reckless you were as a younger person, when you were still struggling to find and claim your own identity, can be an embarrassing and painful experience. Like finding old photographs of yourself or guilty, long abandoned items in your wardrobe, you're confronted with the cringe-inducing realisation that you were once someone very different. Someone that you might not like or be able to tolerate if you met them now.

"There was this story about Alan Wise...(how he) used to like you weeing on him"

In The Alcohol Years, Carol Morley dares to confront her 16-21 year old self; a complex and complicated figure who stalked the hinterland of a post-industrial Manchester that was awaiting something to happen to it; a new dawn which ultimately turned out to be the second summer of love at the end of the decade  - a summer of love that was effectively the cities first, the previous one having been robbed by the pall of the infamous Moors Murderers, Ian Brady and Myra Hyndley. 

Morley was a legendary figure, her reputation proceeding her in a manner which belied her youth as she drank and caroused her way through clubs like the Hacienda and The Boardwalk and into the bedrooms of several men and women, and sometimes for a price. The film therefore makes it clear through its interviewed participants and its striking collage of imagery that to know Carol Morley meant that you had an opinion of Carol Morley, good or bad. A night out with Carol Morley was a promise of drama, and an experience that was anything but boring. It is that mythologised status that Morley chooses to explore here, along with the mythology of Manchester itself. Electing to stay behind the camera, she develops a character that is rather ethereal, like the spectre at the feast, whilst her friends and contemporaries reminiscence about her and deliver their prized anecdotes about her behaviour either fondly or in contemptible, withering terms - behaviour that she herself can no longer recall, thanks to the effects of alcohol. In relying on these talking heads, the film creates a composite character of who Carol Morley was, whilst understanding that any story that relies on memory is understandably one of an unreliable narration as each interviewee tells their own truth.

The Alcohol Years is a film about sexual identity and the inequality at the heart of how our society perceives gender. Morley was clearly a very sexually provocative and promiscuous young woman, but she argues in the accompanying commentary that she felt the need to fulfill a sexual fantasy at a time when women were objectified on sexual terms but were perversely expected to be passive in their own sexuality. Some of the contributors refer to her as a sexual predator, with a very masculine approach to sex, and the age-old issue of sexual promiscuity being rewarded in men yet condemned in women once again raises its ugly head. Psychologically, it's interesting to consider Morley's behaviour as a direct result of her father's suicide - were these series of one night stands a way of seeking love and affection from men like Buzzcocks frontman Pete Shelley and promoter Alan Wise who could be considered father figures? - and the recollection that Morley would often go to clubs dressed as a little girl playing with toys such as train sets (a potent sexual symbol in itself) or a toy duck on a wheel whilst at the same time offering the contradictory agenda - seemingly subconsciously -  of being sexually provocative, is also an intriguing one to analyse. 

Equally intriguing is the notion of lines of behaviour that should not be crossed; it's clear that Morley lost or offended several female friends as a direct result of her wild behaviour, her bisexuality, and her prostitution of herself to the likes of Alan Wise, (who paid both her and her fellow bandmate, Debby Turner, £50 to sleep with him, which they later bought a meal with - a much anticipated but unedifying introduction to Chinese cuisine) and to the strangers she picked up for paid sex in London whilst visiting New Order in the recording studio (and was Bizarre Love Triangle written about her and Debby?). These are all discussed as part of her legend, whilst some wonder if she was 'sexually ill' at this stage in her life, arguing such acts were of transgression rather than free will, an in built desire and need to be liked played out in the most unsuitable and dangerous of manners. 

But equally The Alcohol Years is a film that is as much about Manchester and the people who happily participated with the film as it is about Morley herself. Mancunian pop cultural icons such as the aforementioned Wise (now sadly no longer with us having died of a broken heart last year following his young daughter's suicide) who gleefully and cheekily produces his cock for the camera, Tony Wilson, Vini Reilly, Bruce Mitchell and Dave Haslam to name but a few all appear, with the latter commenting on how you could bump into like-minded people in the city one week and the next they'd be on Top of the Pops. The implication is that it is this very generation, through their talents and boisterous antics, helped bring about what Manchester was unconsciously waiting for. But that to do so would always ultimately conclude with the betrayal of leaving the north for a new life and a career in the south, leaving only the mythology behind. Morley's story ends with her own betrayal, departing for London the day after a tenth anniversary celebration of punk put on by Factory Records at the G-MEX in mysterious circumstances. Realising that the myth is key, Morley refuses to elaborate on the reasons for the self-imposed exile that brought about the death of her old self and the birth of the new, allowing the film to end in a very effective way as various summaries of her character ring in her ears and run her out of town in a dark and impressionistic sequence that suggest Morley was worryingly close to the edge. 

It can be argued that this is a somewhat egotistical venture, a filmmaker making a film about herself. But Morley wisely elects to remain behind the camera and to include the most scathing of criticisms about her past behaviour in the final cut. "Why don't you just have therapy?" one of the more persistently critical contributors argues at one point, but the fact remains that the ghost has been laid to rest and has in the process left behind a remarkable film from which there lies a clear line to Dreams of a Life.  

Friday, 24 February 2017

Theme Time: Corinne Bailey Rae - Stans Lee's Lucky Man

Tonight saw the return to Sky One of Stan Lee's (yes, he of Marvel Comics fame) Lucky Man

This is the second series of the action crime drama starring James Nesbitt as Harry Clayton, a Detective Inspector in London's Murder Squad with a serious gambling addiction whose luck changes when a mysterious and beautiful stranger (Sienna Guillory) gives him an ancient bracelet that bestows upon him the gift of profound luck. The show is created by Neil Biswas, based on an original idea by Stan Lee, who once answered fans that his most wished for super power would be luck. 

I'd love to say I'm a big fan of the show, but the truth is for all its Stan Lee credentials, I find it a bit old fashioned and reminiscent of '90s Saturday action drama Bugs (which is perhaps unsurprising when you consider both programmes share a production company in Carnival Films) and I mostly amuse myself by calling it 'Jammy Bastard' rather than Lucky Man; adopting a Monkfish style trailer narration (from The Fast Show) that goes along the lines of "James Nesbitt is tough, uncompromising DI Jammy Bastard..."

But I do love the title theme tune, Lucky One, provided by the mellifluous vocals of Corinne Bailey Rae. Unfortunately, you can't really find a full length official cut of the theme, but this fan made one is the closest we have to it so far.

Swing (1999)

I saw Swing more or less when it first came out on video. In the seventeen years (give or take) that have followed since I've little recollection of it beyond Alexei Sayle's turn as an initially intimidating leader of an Orangeman brass section, so I decided to track the film down again. It's only available on DVD as a region free import (from Holland I think) so that gives you an idea of just how little-seen and little-remembered Swing actually is. Initially, its status seems weird when you consider the cast involved, but watching it again you can unfortunately see why its been consigned to oblivion - 4 people (including me) list this as watched on here.

Swing affords The Full Monty star Hugo Speer and the Rochdale songbird Lisa Stansfield with their first starring role vehicle. Speer stars as Martin Luxford, a Liverpudlian chancer who, following an unwise decision to drive a getaway car for his shifty brother Liam (Brookside's Paul Usher) ends up spending two years in gaol. Whilst there, Martin learns the saxophone from a fellow inmate, a big black American fella called Jim who just happens to be played by The E Street Band's Clarence Clemons! Once released, Martin returns home to his mum and dad (Rita Tushingham and Tom Bell) and sets about going straight with the intention of forming a band ("those bloody Beatles" is the reaction he faces each time he mentions his ambition to family, friends or his probation officer) that will bring swing music to the masses once more. To get the venture off the ground, he sources a little help from the local Orange order ran by his uncle (Tom Georgeson) for a deal based on his first born being christened in the Protestant faith, a former National Front skin who played the drums for ultra right wing band Swastika, an old schoolmate who dreams of playing for arch enemies Manchester United, and his former girlfriend (Stansfield) who just so happens to have married the police officer who arrested him whilst Martin has been banged up.

Looked at in purely cynical terms it's clear that Swing hopes to emulate the success of The Commitments, but it's an ambition that is well beyond its reach. The most interesting thing about Swing is its characters and the cast chosen to play these roles, but the tepid direction lets them down at every turn. Watching it, I began to consider just how a poor choice of director can ruin a writer's vision, so imagine my surprise when I found out that the director Nick Mead was also responsible for the screenplay! (Mind you, he was also responsible for the screenplay to the Michael Caine/Roger Moore vehicle Bullseye! and I think that ought to tell you all you need to know about him) Mead - who devised the story with his producer Su Lim - resolutely fails to inject the same kind of spirit into the film that is inherent in the script itself. The contentious nature of the rag tag assortment of bandmates is never utilised and it's a grave error to allow their issues of racial and religious intolerance to go unresolved; Mead just glosses over them and they exist solely as a missed opportunity at best, or bizarre, silly comic relief at worst. It appears that he perhaps hoped that Sayle et al will have enough about them in the performance to breathe life into them, and whilst they try their best, the empty space in the script where character progression ought to exist and the poor realisation in bringing them to screen from the director means they're doomed to fail despite their best endeavours. 

They're not the only actors wasted here either; Tom Bell, seen here in the latter stages of his career before his untimely death in 2006, brings his usual quiet, noble and strong screen presence to the role but his biggest and best scene is opposite Liverpool poseur Danny McCall (of Brookside, panto and some desperate attempts at chart success fame) as Stansfield's corrupt policeman hubby - and he naturally wipes the floor with him, defying the inadequacy around him. Likewise, sax legend Clarence Clemons is something of a star attraction, but his actual role on screen (away from the fact that he provided the sax score that Speer mimes too) consists of little more than a series of dreamy cutaways in which he imparts Obi Wan Kenobi style wisdom to his protege, Martin. 

Front and centre of the film are Speer and Stansfield in their first lead acting roles. They equip themselves rather well - despite adopting scouse accents that are not natural to them - and Stansfield of course excels in the singing scenes, but the chemistry isn't exactly something that sets the world alight - and that's perhaps what was really required to lift the film above its other noticeable errors.

A musical romcom in which both the rom and the com fails and the music is always only going to appeal to a select audience means Swing fails to do just that - swing. The film's best joke perhaps lies (strangely) in the credits; 

'Five hamsters were killed in the making of this film...and if they had not moved, the staple gun would not have been used'

NB: Internet Movie Database includes Jimmy Nail in the cast list as a character named 'Arthur'; he doesn't appear in either the film or the  end credits of the film. A mistake on IMDB's part? (they neglect to include Del Henney who actually does appear!) or an example of scenes consigned to the cutting room floor? I'm leaning towards the former, I can't imagine Swing missing the opportunity of having a(nother) household name in its cast to attract audiences.

Out On Blue Six : Ringo Starr

Ringo's 1971 solo hit, co-written by George Harrison, is a beaut

End Transmission

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Out On Blue Six : PINS feat.Maxine Peake

PINS, one of the most exciting young bands around, joined forces with Maxine Peake for this track, released to celebrate World Record Store Day in 2014

Can't wait for PINS' new album, due out this Spring.

End Transmission

Wordless Wednesday: Unrepentant

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Erica Roe: A Stout Lass

Erica Roe shot to fame in 1982 when she unleashed her 40 inch bosom and streaked across the pitch of Twickenham stadium during an England V Australia rugby union match. She latter attributed the stunt to alcohol - I wonder if it was Davenports?

Davenports were the sponsors of Aston Villa, who lifted the European Cup that same year. Roe was a Villa fan, which naturally meant a photo opportunity, seemingly with a couple of pints of Davenports up her shirt.

Most recently, Roe has stripped again; this time for a charity calendar raising funds for breast cancer. She has also appeared in reality TV show The Island with Bear Grylls - presumably, she brought her own hammock.

Monday, 20 February 2017

Bob's Weekend (1996)

This weekend I watched Bob's Weekend, a 1996 film that didn't trouble the distributors.

I recall watching some consumery type programme on the BBC in 1996 that included a report on how the cinema chains in the UK are owned by the big Hollywood studios, which means little independent features get squeezed out of the market and struggle to find a distributor beyond film festivals. The report centred around Bob's Weekend, which it showed a few clips from, before they revealed that they had staged a screening with various people, including the actor Ian Holm, who later gave his view that this was a film that deserved to be seen by a wider audience. It never happened though, and it has taken me personally twenty-one years before I clapped eyes on Bob's Weekend (on YouTube

Was it worth the wait? Nah, not really. 

Whilst I still totally agree with that BBC report, I'm afraid to say that Bob's Weekend isn't really much of an unfairly treated gem. Granted, it's fair to say that when you look at writer/director Jevon O'Neill's subsequent sparse career, there's an argument for talent withering on the vine thanks to the monopoly of the big studios, but even if this had got a wide release at the time I can't see it taking the world by storm. It's just a very average, cheap first time feature. 

Bruce Jones of Ken Loach's Raining Stones and latterly Coronation Street fame stars as Bob, an autodidact security guard with an encyclopedic knowledge for the letter 'B'. A diligent and officious, by-the-book person; he takes his eye off the ball one evening when giving in to his new colleague's desire to play football in the building they patrol. This ironic action is subsequently caught by his boss (Brian Glover) who seizes upon this opportunity to fire Bob on the spot. To cap the evening off, the hapless security guard then returns home to find his wife conducting an affair! Now utterly suicidal, Bob takes himself off to Blackpool for the weekend with the intention of chucking himself into the murky unforgiving depths of the Irish Sea.  However, whilst there he meets a sympathetic young waitress, Angela (Charlotte Jones), and a series of mystical figures, who each offer him a chance to reassess his life.  

O'Neill initially seems somewhat influenced by Loach (it's there in the casting of Bruce Jones and Ricky Tomlinson - who both starred in Raining Stones - as well as Brian Glover) but the fantastical detours the film makes are would-be Capra, leading to some uneasily handled changes of gear. He makes great use of the Blackpool locations, with the birds-eye-view of the then newly opened thrill-ride The Big One, the illuminations, the Tower and the ballroom, but his handle on the performances are less assured, leading to some hollow line readings. Charlotte Jones (no relation to Bruce) is quite weak with a children's TV drama-like performance as the well-meaning Angela, so it's unsurprising to see that she has subsequently moved behind the camera to create ITV's latest drama The Halcyon (essentially 'Downton Hotel' with a curious Bond-like theme tune and opening credits) Bruce Jones fares somewhat better with the lead role, which is within his admittedly limited range as a performer, given that it isn't too dissimilar to other parts he has played. Tomlinson and Glover's performances are effectively minor cameos that are dispensed with once the film moves to Blackpool.

The cheap independent status of the film is perhaps best exemplified and unfortunately scuppered by the bargain basement musical score (or should that be muzak score - a lot of it sounds like tinny, irritating lift muzak) from Don Gould and David Mindell. There are a couple of songs in there too, and they're truly terrible.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Girl From The South (1988)

"It's the same the whole world over, It's the poor what gets the blame, It's the rich what gets the pleasure, Isn't it a blooming shame?"

Taking its cue from that chorus from the traditional music hall song 'She Was Poor But She Was Honest' is Richard Woolley's final feature film, 1988's Girl From The South. It tells the story of the rich and sheltered, Mills and Boon obsessed teenage girl Anne Thompson, who travels up to her grandparents in Yorkshire for the holiday with the hope of being the central character in her own real life romance with the kind of a tall dark and handsome stranger from the wrong side of the tracks she's been reading about. Venturing into the town's urban sprawl, she literally bumps into an impoverished old woman and, in aiding her, finds her daydreams come to life in the shape of her grandson Ralph, a mixed race teenage boy.

However, Ralph doesn't totally match up to her expectations. For a start his tastes are more finessed than her own; whilst she enjoys pop culture and the music of Madonna, he prefers art galleries, museums and Elgar. As she begins to spend time with Ralph and his grandmother, Granny White, and their mutual romantic interest blossoms, the naive Anne comes to realise first hand and for the first time that society is by no means fair and equal. She begins to consider that Granny White who lives in a house that she, on first glance, considered 'sweet' and 'quaint', is in near penury with an arthritic hip that incapacitates her and a place on a seemingly ever-increasing NHS waiting list, whilst it becomes clear that the avenues open to her are just not available for Ralph because of both his class and the colour of his skin. He's viewed with increasing mistrust by Anne's grandmother for example who is constantly referring to him, in barely concealed wary tones, as 'that coloured boy'. Her eyes widening to the injustice inherent in the world, Anne hatches a plan to deliver her burgeoning beau and his frail grandmother a happy fairytale ending; her grandparents have everything they could possibly desire and are insured to the hilt, so if Ralph were to burgle them, they wouldn't actually be at a loss, whereas Ralph and Granny White's lives would be instantly improved. She assures Ralph that should anything go wrong, she will take the blame. "They'll never believe you" an unconvinced and more worldly Ralph asserts - and fate reveals that it is his prediction which comes true. 

This is my second Richard Woolley film from the BFI boxset An Unflinching Eye. Coming off the back of his 1980 feature Brothers and Sisters, I'm afraid to say this is something of a disappoint. That disappointment is doubled when you consider the origins behind this film. As Woolley relates in an interview that forms the DVD's extra features, he had devised a similar project in 1984 entitled Bread of Heaven, a film which would take a somewhat light-hearted, but politically attuned look at the then ongoing miners strike. The story concerned itself with a Welsh miner (David Jason) and his family, including his skilled trumpet playing teenage son who, following victimisation at the hands of the police, would be billeted in the home of a a 'volunteer family' who supported their cause, which consisted of a well meaning academic woman (Judi Dench) and her husband, and their ballet dancing teenage daughter. From there, a romance would develop between the two teen children that broke down the cultural barriers against the backdrop of their respective parents actions within the strike. Unfortunately, the film came to naught when a new broom (including Salman Rushie) swept through the BFI and froze their funding scheme. Returning to the drawing board, Woolley chipped away at the idea to fit a more modest budget for potential backers until all that remained of the story was the teenage love story between the rich girl and the poor kid.

Away from what might have been (and Bread of Heaven really does sound like it would have been something really special; a precursor to Brassed Off, Billy Elliot and Pride) and on its own terms Girl From The South is perhaps best described as an arty and earnest version of a Children's Film Foundation production. It continues to point in the direction of the more mainstream projects Woolley was aiming for, but is hampered by the understandably stilted deliveries of its juvenile leads Michelle Mulvaney (Anne) and Mark Crowshaw (Ralph). At its heart I guess the main message is to teach the next generation about the unfairness of the class system and the inherent racism at its core (in the film's most shocking moment, a detective gives Anne three bits of advice; "One, don't make up silly stories to help your friends. Two, stick to your own kind, and three, don't get involved with coloureds. T'int worth it") in accessible and entertaining terms, perhaps as an attempt to stave off the influence of Thatcher who presided over the UK at the time, but it occasionally feels a little too wet and soppy for this old cynic to truly appreciate. That said, Woolley's use of music (specifically Elgar's Nimrod) and his ability to frame a shot (the closing image of the crumpled Coca Cola can in the gutter and the torn photobooth polaroid is really effective) continues to impress.

Out On Blue Six: Peter Skellern, RIP

Bury Born singer-songwriter Peter Skellern died yesterday aged 69 following a battle with brain cancer.

Skellern's biggest success was with the 1972 balled 'You're a Lady' which was a hit on both sides of the Atlantic. In a music career that saw him release 14 albums, he also penned the lyrics for 'One More Kiss, Dear' which featured in the 1982 classic Blade Runner. He also diversified into TV presenting with the BBC2 chat show Private Lives as well as BBC1's Songs of Praise, which reflected his growing interest in religion, an interest that would later see him enter the church as a priest. He also acted, playing Carter Brandon in the radio adaptation of Peter Tinniswood's Uncle Mort stories. In October of last year, after his tumour was diagnosed as inoperable, the religious Skellern was finally ordained by the Bishop of Truro, becoming the Reverend Peter Skellern in his adopted county of Cornwall. 


End Transmission

Friday, 17 February 2017

Born Romantic (2000)

As regular readers will know, I'm an eternal singleton who isn't very keen on Valentine's Day. Nonetheless watching Born Romantic on the evening of said day was my one concession to the spirit of it. I hadn't seen it in years, and I'm glad I've caught up with it again now - Thank God for That's Entertainment (my local DVD and music store) and it's 3 for a fiver deal!

As with his directorial debut, This Year's Love, David Kane uses a combination of characters and interweaving storylines to explore the meaning of what it is to be in and out of love in turn of the century London. Whilst This Year's Love charted the course of true love running less than smooth through the pubs and clubs of trendy Camden, the setting this time around is much more specific; a salsa club - the then up and coming leisure time established as an alternative and prime pickup joint for the '00s.

As a writer, Kane has a real flair for characterisation and an eye for authentic behaviour that places him more in the Mike Leigh camp than the Richard Curtis one. From Rat Pack admiring Frankie and self-contained, frosty Eleanour through to the morbidly fascinated Joceyln and inept thief Eddie, by way of former lovers from Liverpool Fergus and Mo; each one leads dysfunctional and empty, unfulfilling lives but each finds a chance of freedom and romance when drawn to the dancefloor. 

And as a director, Kane gets the very best from an ensemble that includes Craig Ferguson, Olivia Williams, Catherine McCormack (who gives probably my favourite performance of the lot as the neurotic Jocelyn), Jimi Mistry, David Morrissey and Jane Horrocks, as well as Adrian Lester as the sensitive, sympathetic 'cupid' cab driver who circles their orbit, and cameos from the likes of John Thomson and Ian Hart who provide the film with a Greek chorus as Lester's fellow cabbies, discussing women in a manner not to dissimilar to Pete and Dud or the Smith and Jones head to heads.

Born Romantic may not reach the same heights as This Year's Love did, but it's still a very strong, honest film in its own right. It's a shame that Kane didn't carry on making films like this as he could easily have created his own little recurring movie milieu here.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Hanging On The Telephone

John Gordon Sinclair and Carly McKinnon in 1999's Gregory's Two Girls, the belated and somewhat ill advised follow up to Gregory's Girl