Thursday, 28 February 2019

Kissing Candice (2017)

Guys, it's getting embarrassing now. I mean both I, and every other like minded fan of the TV3 drama Red Rock, have been waiting patiently for the last three or four years for the rest of you to catch up with us and realise how brilliant Ann Skelly is, and yet you're all still dragging your heels. You'll all be kicking yourselves if she reaches Saoirse Ronan levels of stardom. 

Kissing Candice, the debut feature length film from Northern Irish writer/director Aoife McArdle (who had previously directed the short film/U2 music video Every Breaking Wave) is the perfect showcase for Skelly's talents. It's a film that is part bleak and gritty urban drama and part dark and surreal fantasy. The former element concerns the delinquent gangs living in the long past shadow of the Troubles left with little option but to terrorise the local neighbourhood and who may be behind the disappearance of a boy, whilst the latter sees Skelly's eponymous teenager the victim of disorientating and disturbing visions, seemingly as a result of her epilepsy. When one such recurring vision comes to life in the shape of Ryan Lincoln's Jacob, the lines between reality and hallucination become even more blurred for Candice and the plotlines merge together as Jacob just happens to be a somewhat reluctant member of the gang.

As an award winning music video director, its unsurprising that McArdle possesses such a strong visual style, with each astonishing, eye-catching image hard for audiences to pin down as real or imaginary. One such scene evokes a kind of Lynchian/Tim Burtonesque summery idyll as a one-piece-wearing Candice settles back into a sun-lounger to the strains of a retro song. When, just a couple of scenes later (which must only be a day or two narrative wise) the action moves to the kind of edgy Halloween party that Nicolas Winding Refn would be proud of, we're left to question just what it was that we had seen earlier, as surely the weather can't have been right for sunbathing? As a result, Kissing Candice is the kind of film that lingers long in the mind's eye.

Granted this arresting visual style may somewhat outweigh the substance of the narrative overall, but I firmly believe that, if this were an American production, it would be feted as an impressive, groundbreaking indie. That it is an Irish film means that it will ultimately be loved by those inquisitive enough to have sought it out and who consider themselves fortunate for doing so.

Believe me, both Skelly and McArdle are ones to watch. 

Wednesday, 27 February 2019

Out On Blue Six: The Beautiful South

A number 2 hit for The Beautiful South in 1998, Perfect 10 is a suitably Carry On like tune from a band whose 1994 best of album was entitled Carry On Up the Album Charts. Jokey in a nudge-nudge-wink-wink innuendo kind of way, it isn't without its own profound message - that of successful relationships which exist outside of the mainstream idea of conventional beauty.

In the sleeve notes of his latest, greatest hits album, The Last King of Pop, Paul Heaton has this to say about Perfect 10;

"One of those songs that sounded so innocent and so romantic as a lyric, but became the opposite when it reached the charts. Written on a scrap of hotel note paper, after a drunken night in London, it was intended as a gentle squeeze in the hips of an equidistant lover. With Paul Weller's understated guitar and Norman Cook's bombastic co-production, the mood soon turned from pre-pubescent Peter Skellern, to a cold, calculating, coffin bound Tom Jones. How success can change your little tune in the cross hairs of public regard"

End Transmission

Girls With Guns

Angela Douglas in Carry on Cowboy (1965)

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

Monday, 25 February 2019

RIP Stanley Donen

Stanley Donen, the director of Bedazzled, one of my favourite movies, has died at the age of 94.

The former Broadway dancer will probably be best remembered for co-directing Singin' in the Rain alongside Gene Kelly, but he delivered a raft of classic old Hollywood musicals like Funny Face, On The Town, and Seven Brides For Seven Brothers, smart and quirky thrillers like Charade and Arabesque and romances like Two For The Road and Indiscreet. He also made Staircase starring Richard Burton and Rex Harrison as a gay couple, and a couple of stinkers like Saturn 3 and Blame it on Rio.

He received an honorary Oscar in 1998.


RIP Graeme Curry

I'm really saddened to hear of the death of Graeme Curry, the writer responsible for one of the best Doctor Who stories in its final 'classic' years, The Happiness Patrol.

The Happiness Patrol, a story about a planet where it was a crime to be unhappy and which featured a delicious satire on the then PM Margaret Thatcher and a divisive yet remarkable 'monster' in the shape of The Kandyman, was Curry's first TV commission. 

The Kandyman - for the record, I loved him!

Curry had started out as a journalist, winning the prestigious Cosmopolitan Young Journalist of the Year award in 1982. A professional singer and actor, Curry won a screenplay competition for his football comedy drama Over the Moon which was subsequently adapted for Radio 4. On the strength of this, he came into the orbit of Doctor Who script editor Andrew Cartmel and The Happiness Patrol was born - a story that was even referenced in the 2011 Easter sermon from the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams!

Curry subsequently wrote for TV serials such as The Bill and EastEnders, novelised The Happiness Patrol for Target and wrote the Radio 4 drama series Citizens.


Out On Blue Six: Paul Brady

Anyone remember the BBC Northern Ireland sitcom Safe and Sound that this was the theme tune too? It starred Des McAleer and Sean McGinley as a Catholic and a Protestant running a Belfast garage, and co-starred Michelle Fairley as McAleer's sister and the objects of McGinley's affections. It lasted just one series in the summer of 1996 and has made me love Brady ever since. 

End Transmission

Saturday, 23 February 2019

Yesterday's Enemy (1959)

Perhaps the most intriguing tidbit of information I have regarding Yesterday's Enemy, Hammer's tough and uncompromising WWII tale set in the Burmese jungle, is the fact that, at the premiere, the guest of honour, Lord Mountbatten, was said to have expressed surprise that the film wasn't actually shot in Burma. Given that, anyone watching it ought to realise that it's seemingly shot in the same garden centre that the BBC used for It Ain't Half Hot Mum, this makes for an incredulous and amusing bit of trivia.  

Its studio-bound nature aside, Yesterday's Enemy is a gripping, hard as nails affair concerning a small troop of British soldiers who stumble upon the plans for an imminent Japanese attack immediately before being captured. It was adapted from an earlier TV play from Peter R. Newman, a former RAF pilot. Much like Hammer's other equally hardboiled war film, Camp on Blood Island, Newman took his inspiration from a true story he'd heard recounted by an officer who had been stationed in Burma during the war. It was a story that instantly appealed to Newman; "The major point of the play is this," he said. "Can certain injustices, known for want of a better name as war crimes, be defensible if the means justify the end?". The TV play, which explores this moral maze, was met with mixed reviews; some congratulated Newman, whilst others criticised him, believing his story to be unpatriotic and anti-army. Needless to say, Hammer (who often seemed to take Wilde's bon mot of 'There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about' as their mantra) weren't about to be put off by the critics and they quickly staged a cinematic adaptation starring Stanley Baker as Captain Langford and directed by Val Guest.

It ought to go without saying that Baker is fiercely impressive as the officer for whom the lines between code of conduct and brutality have become blurred - and perhaps, it is argued, necessarily so. Baker shines in every scene, but not for him the ripsnorting grandstanding approach that other actors may take when seizing upon such a prize of a role; Baker is never less than subtle and assured, making the dilemma he faces and the actions he takes all the more intelligently drawn for audiences. He's ably supported by a fine band of brothers, including the striking, distinguished figure of Guy Rolfe, whose padre provides the opposing argument, Leo McKern as a war correspondent attached to the unit, Percy Herbert who himself had been a Japanese POW having been captured in Singapore, a particularly impressive Gordon Jackson, David Lodge, Richard Pasco and a young Bryan Forbes. Of course, this being a Hammer film and of the 1950s, there's a now ill-advised opportunity for a Caucasian actor to pretend to be of East Asian ethnicity and this is the case with Wolfe Morris, however the film evens this out with the casting of the Korean actor, Philip Ahn (indeed, the first Korean American film actor to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame), as the principal antagonist, Yamazuki.

Bloody, brutal and unflinching but always thought provoking and intelligent, Newman may have taken great pains to defend his work by arguing that war was not a Boys' Own story, but I'm of an age that can clearly see how much a film like Yesterday's Enemy influenced dozens of Commando comic strip adventures from the '70s onwards. The poster's tagline sums it up best - War is hell.

Thursday, 21 February 2019

Out On Blue Six: The Corrs

Sharing this stirring, instrumental gem of a track from The Corrs today because I've finally got my hands on the BBC drama it was written for (and which it shares a name with), Rebel Heart; a drama about the 1916 Easter Rising that was met with such controversy when it was screened back in 2001 that it hasn't been repeated or commercially released.

End Transmission

Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Timing is Everything

Guess who's back, Once again, Deggsy's back, Tell a friend.

A funny thing happened yesterday, and I'm still trying to understand it. Just twenty four hours after the news that seven Labour MP's had quit the party, came the news that Derek Hatton, the former Liverpool council deputy leader and vilified member of Militant, has rejoined the party.

The press of course has had a field day. News of Hatton's return to the fold has been all over the TV, the radio, the newspapers and the internet and the general consensus - or rather, political reading - seems to be that it's a sure sign that the MP's who jumped ship to form the Independent Group are right; Labour has, as they claim, shifted to the far left. The fact that Hatton is not, like Luciana Berger, Chuka Umunna et al, holding any office and that he is, like millions of others (and myself of course) a card carrying, due-paying Labour member is immaterial in this reading.

But here's the thing. As someone who lives in the North West I know that Derek Hatton had rejoined the Labour party last year, when it was widely reported on local news and in local newspapers, like the Liverpool Echo, as such. So how come five months later and a day after the faltering formation of the Independent Group it's become news again?

I guess you could argue, as some did back in September, that Hatton was somewhat premature. He may not have been a card carrying member at the time his return was reported, he may have been in the stages of reapplying for membership, but you have to ask why the rest of the MSM has suddenly woke up this story some five months later and you have to look at the timing of their reportage and consider who it benefits.

It's initially weird that Hatton has, once again, allowed himself to be interviewed about his return as surely, this is old news and he should dismiss it as such. But let's not forget that Derek Hatton is a man who always loved publicity - he wasn't about to turn down some appearances on prime-time news. Such love of exposure however has surely only played into the media's hands in once again painting the Labour party as taking a backward step. That Hatton was everywhere yesterday, whilst Angela Smith's racist 'funny tinge' comment was almost universally absent from our screens and the papers, speaks volumes.

Edit to add: And after just 24 hours Hatton has been suspended by the party as a 2012 tweet has come to light. The tweet, since deleted, read; "Jewish people with any sense of humanity need to start speaking out publicly against the ruthless murdering being carried out by Israel!"

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Some People (1962)

Pitched somewhere between the kitchen sink and a teen beat movie, Some People is perhaps best described as a cinematic advertisement for the Duke of Edinburgh's Award scheme. 

It tells the story of three teddy boys (Ray Brooks, David Andrews and David Hemmings) who find their existence rather aimless when they each lose their motorcycle licence following a traffic accident. Looking for something else to do, they decide to resurrect their musical ambitions and find an unlikely supporter in Kenneth More's churchwarden, who offers them the church hall to rehearse in and begins to encourage them onto the straight and narrow path with the prospect of the DofE award. This latter opportunity is delivered much to the consternation of the bitter and unimpressed Andrews, who threatens to upset everything for the group, including Brooks romance with More's daughter played by Anneke Wills.

I've always had a soft spot for Clive Donner's 1962 film, largely because of my appreciation of actors like Ray Brooks and Anneke Wills who play the young lovers from opposite side of the tracks here and who I've loved ever since Brooks was in Big Deal and Wills in Doctor Who. He is a leather jacketed, attractively cherubic and bequiffed motorcyclist whilst she is the sensible and delectable blonde churchwarden's daughter, clearly attracted to a bit of (minor) rough. 

Wills' autobiography has some great anecdotes about the film, from reminiscing about co-star David Hemmings' prodigious amount of bogies up his nose, and finding out she had caught crabs (co-star Angela Douglas was on hand to prise the lice from her mons pubis and squish them into a bar of soap with her perfectly manicured nails) to being received by the Duke himself, who saucily remarked "I liked you in the bath" in reference to one memorable sequence in which Wills' character shrinks her jeans by sitting in a tub of hot water. You can't really blame Phil the Greek; Wills has an amazing bum that looks great in tight denim.

Speaking of dirty old men, this was also the film that the aforementioned Angela Douglas met Kenneth More, the extremely married and twenty-six-years her senior star, who would eventually leave his wife to marry her in 1968. The pair remained together until his death in 1982. More's role as the churchwarden who inspires Brooks and his pals to undertake the DofE was one which he waived his fee for and played for nothing, believing greatly in the moral and character building benefits of the scheme.

What makes Some People stand out from similar fare made around this era is the fact that it is set in Bristol rather than London. It all helps to add some local colour, including a test flight of the supersonic research aircraft the Bristol 188, captured by second-unit director Nicolas Roeg. Look out too for Harry H. Corbett in the small role of Brooks' father, conveying a great emotional depth in just one stumbling father and son heart to heart that hints at his own dissatisfaction with life which ultimately spurs Brooks on to doing something worthwhile. 

Less The Young Ones (as it's not really a musical; no one breaks into song outside of the band rehearsal sequences for example) and more Serious Charge, Some People is a good way to pass ninety minutes and bask in early '60s nostalgia.

Out On Blue Six: Everything But The Girl/Karen Ramirez

Beautiful song, two beautiful versions. The original by EBTG, and Karen Ramirez's cover.

End Transmission

Monday, 18 February 2019

Good Riddance

To the not so magnificent seven who have jumped ship from the Labour party today to form their new 'centrist'* party, the Independent Group, I say this

*Can you really claim to be 'centrist' when you backed the Iraq war and refused all investigations into it, when you disagree with public ownership and putting an end to austerity or when you (Gavin Shuker) threaten to resign if gay marriage becomes law? Hmm.

Of course there'll be much waffle from the right wing press and the BBC about how great it is that these MP's have taken a stand (as opposed to the simple truth, which is they're protecting their own interests) and indeed the split has been welcomed already by Katie Hopkins and Nigel Farage, which tells you all you need to know, but remember this; some people are like clouds. Once they've gone, it's a beautiful day.

Now they should do the decent thing and allow by-elections in their constituencies - they were democratically elected as Labour MP's and they must go back to their constituents now they have chosen not to represent the Labour party. That they refuse to do this once again shows how they are only interested in themselves because, the chances of them winning a by-election, are very slim indeed.

That this should happen in the wake of the death of Paul Flynn speaks volumes. Flynn is the only great loss to the Labour movement today.

RIP Paul Flynn

I'm very sad to hear about the death of Paul Flynn MP at the age of 84

Flynn had been the Labour MP for Newport West since 1987. One of the longest-serving Welsh MP's, he was a passionate and tireless campaigner against the Iraq war and for the legalisation of cannabis for medicinal use, and was once described as 'the thinking man's Dennis Skinner'.

An independent thinker and a proper Labour man, Flynn was a career backbencher but answered the call in 2016 to briefly serve on the front bench in the wake of the Blairites meddling against Jeremy Corbyn, an experience he was said to have enjoyed. Recent ill health saw him announce his intentions to step down as an MP 'as soon as possible' in October last year. 


Saturday, 16 February 2019

RIP Bruno Ganz

The great Swiss actor Bruno Ganz has died at the age of 77 from colon cancer.

Ganz will perhaps best be remembered for playing Hitler in the 2004 film Downfall, which many cite as the definitive portrayal of the monster. But I first come across his talents in Wim Wenders' 1977 film The American Friend (an adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's Ripley's Game) in which he played opposite Dennis Hopper. He was also the star of Wenders' much loved 1987 film Wings of Desire, and its sequel Faraway, So Close in 1993. Ganz was so feted in Germany that he was the holder of the prestigious Iffland-Ring, a prize given to the most significant and worthy German-speaking actor.

Other credits included Herzog's Nosferatu the Vampire, The Boys from Brazil, The Manchurian Candidate, The Baadar Meinhof Complex, The Reader, Unknown and The Party.


RIP John Stalker

Sad to hear of the death of former Deputy Chief Constable of Greater Manchester John Stalker this week at the age of 79.

Stalker gave over 30 years of dedicated service to the police force and was one of the investigating officers on the Moors Murders. But perhaps most famously of all, he was brought in to investigate the RUC's shoot to kill policy in Northern Ireland in the early 1980s, where his integrity suffered at the hands of an RUC and Security Services smear campaign. The simple fact of the matter was that the truth he sought was not one the establishment wanted to be known. Over thirty years on and the families of the six unarmed men shot by the RUC still have no inquests or justice. 

Stalker's memoir remains compulsive reading and his inquiry into the RUC formed the basis of two dramatised films; Ken Loach's Hidden Agenda (which is the Stalker affair in all but name) and Yorkshire Television's Shoot to Kill which starred Jack Shepherd as Stalker. The author GF Newman also wrote his novel The Testing Ground which had direct parallels to the Shoot to Kill inquiry and was later loosely adapted by the BBC as the then near-futuristic Nineteen96 starring Keith Barron. David Peace was also inspired by Stalker when he came to write his Red Riding series of novels which were subsequently adapted by Channel 4 with Paddy Considine as a Stalker-like honest detective heading up an inquiry into a corrupt and failing hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper.


Friday, 15 February 2019

I Believe That Children Are The Future... the song goes, and today we have seen that to be the truth as an estimated fifteen thousand children from around the UK went on strike from school to demand that the government urgently take the climate emergency seriously.

This movement all began with fifteen-year-old Swedish schoolgirl Greta Thunberg who began skipping classes last September to protest outside government buildings. It's an inspiring movement and a delight to see, but of course Downing Street have criticised it, saying that the disruption to planned lesson time was damaging. 

Um, not have as damaging as doing bugger all about this huge threat! 

Indeed Thunberg herself tweeted that whilst Theresa May claims this day of action wastes lesson time, "political leaders have wasted thirty years of inaction. And that is slightly worse".

It comes as no surprise that Jeremy Corbyn and Caroline Lucas were the only leading political figures who stood in solidarity with the children of the UK today. 

These children are facing detention for their actions but are not to be deterred; there is talk of regular strike action to achieve their demands, and I hope that is the case.

Children are the future. They need to know that our planet has one too. 

Thursday, 14 February 2019

Out On Blue Six: Billy Bragg

Earlier today I posted Billy Bragg's Fourteenth of February to celebrate St Valentine's Day. But if, like me, you're single and the whole day is a pain in the hole, don't worry, cos Billy's got us covered to with Valentine's Day is Over....

And in just 5 minutes time that's exactly what it will be. Over for another year.

End Transmission

Out On Blue Six: Billy Bragg

Hello young lovers everywhere! And old ones too! What else would I choose for St Valentine's Day but Billy Bragg's The Fourteenth of February? Enjoy...

End Transmission

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Callan: Wet Job (1981)

I've been a Callan fan for years but there was always one I put off watching, because I'd heard so many bad things about it, and that is Wet Job, the 1981 one-off reunion and farewell episode. 

Well OK, I geared myself up and I finally watched it last night's nowhere near as bad as I feared actually. The common criticism for this Callan 'reunion' is the direction from Shaun O'Riordan and the score from Cyril Ornadel and I have to agree both are utterly below par; O'Riordan's infuriating penchant for obscure close-ups and odd angles seems to want to emulate the visual styling of Sidney J. Furie in The Ipcress File, with one tense, climactic meeting shot from the ground so that we see only the protagonists legs,whilst Ornadel is clearly trying to ape Wendy Carlos' synth approach to classical chamber music, and fails dismally with a score that is both irritating and intrusive.

But there are some good things. I like how both Callan's creator James Mitchell and his performer Edward Woodward are keen to portray a changed man. Physically, with his grey hair, glasses and respectable suits, Woodward looks more like his other great former secret agent character, The Equalizer, than he does the short haired, man-on-the-street David Callan we are used too. Whilst, on the page, Mitchell is keen to address the passage of time and the inference that Callan is no longer the man he was. The subject of age is brought up by several characters, and it clearly rankles with him, whilst there's a pleasingly vulnerable moment when, despite the growing danger, the former deadshot now has to remove his glasses and give them a quick rub before finding his target. It goes without saying too that Woodward is excellent in the role. Having spent the past couple of weeks watching him in 1990, the series he did between the original Callan series and this one-off, it's clear to see that he was an actor who was almost always recognisably himself, but who had the skill to build some very different characters through performance, physicality and diction.  His Callan is always a joy to watch, bristling as it is with barely restrained civility. Unfortunately, Mitchell's script and characterisation here isn't giving Woodward the depth he needs. The set-up is all there - Callan is now a lodger/lover of the well-to-do Margaret (Angela Browne) and has his dream of owning a militaria collectables shop realised - but the premise of him being forced back for one last job doesn't adequately explore how painful it is for the man to summon up the killer hiding within this new veneer of respectability.

Of course the other great joy of Wet Job is the return of Russell Hunter as Lonely. It's a genuine pleasure to see Woodward and Hunter's effortless chemistry and their characters fascinating co-dependency relationship on screen, though it's clear this time around that Lonely has something of the upper hand. Whereas Callan is a civilised, respectable man for as long as the section allows it, Lonely truly has made the break. The once malodorous petty thief is now, if you can believe it (and it's clearly Mitchell's satire) the owner of the 'Fresh and Fragrant Plumbing Services', having been taught the trade during his last sojourn at Her Majesty's Pleasure. Not only does he have a successful business, he also has himself a twenty-seven-year-old  fiancĂ© whom he is to marry the subsequent week! It's interesting to see Callan facing up to the reality that he needs Lonely more (and perhaps that has always been the case) than Lonely needs him, and there's some small satisfaction to be had in Callan having to relinquish his hold on the previously hapless sidekick, even though this means that Lonely has very little to do in terms of the actual drama of the plot. Just like Woodward, it's a real pleasure to see Hunter inhabit the role he was arguably most famous for one last time.

The return of the Section is less successful however. Hugh Walters stars as the latest inhabitant of the Hunter role, and he is his usually coldly effete self. There's a dialogue to be had here about the changing structure and persona of the secret service, how it now appears to be run by civil servants whose pen really is mightier than the sword of the previous retired army officers, but again Mitchells' script doesn't really dwell on it which makes the scenes between Woodward and Walters a little toothless beyond the basic tangible resentment and manipulation. There's yet another deadly chinless wonder in the mould of Meres and Cross but he's so forgettably drawn that I can't even recall his name. Incidentally Meres, we are told, was murdered by a diplomat in Washington after being caught in flagrante with said diplomat's wife. There's a brief reunion between Callan and Liz, but as Liz is now played by someone else it rather robs it off any impact - especially as the actress unfortunately seems quite aloof to his greeting.

As for the plot itself, it sort of falls into two threads. The first concerns Daniel Haggerty (George Sewell), an ex left wing reporter and MP who now works in demolition. He blames Callan for the death of his daughter (after Callan assassinated her boyfriend, she took up smoking and has succumbed to lung cancer - not very convincing and Mitchell's script seems to know it, as it becomes rather superfluous. It would have been much better and more morally edgier if Callan had been ordered to assassinate his daughter) and plans to expose Callan in his memoirs. Meanwhile Margaret’s niece, an Oxford don named Lucy Robson Smith (Helen Bourne), is not only helping Haggerty with the book, she’s also attempting to organise the safe passage of her lover Dobrovsky (Milos Kerek),  a dissident Czech philosopher, to the UK with the help of a left-wing student activist cell.

Unfortunately neither plotline is up to scratch and, despite the potential of the longer 80 minute structure to tell it, Mitchell muffs the opportunity badly. Somewhere along the lines it is revealed that Haggerty is in fact a KGB agent of one of Margaret's dinner party friends and he has to forego his vendetta with Callan to assassinate Dobrovsky instead, but it's hard for the audience to actually care by this convoluted stage. It doesn't help either that the characters are so poorly drawn and in some cases not very well performed. Sewell was a great actor (check out Special Branch for example) but he seems lost here and struggling with a sketchy character who seems to be drawn up by various different influences, disappointing all. Worse, he gets to share just two scenes with Callan, which rather robs them of any dramatic impetus. In short, he deserved a better role in Callan than this.

Weirdly despite being more recent, Wet Job has dated far worse than the Callan series of the 1960s and '70s. It's all very flatly shot on videotape and boasts some very of its time production values and styles. I know I've highlighted the problematic direction and music before, but it really does bear repeating, especially the latter. If we could somehow excise Ornadel's score this would be a significantly more enjoyable experience (indeed, I'd notch it up an extra half star). I just don't know what he was thinking, it's so intrusive and odd, spoiling the mood at every turn and often when music isn't really needed at all. Sometimes the score appears out of nowhere and disappears just as quickly and you're left wondering just what was everyone thinking?

If anyone expected further reunions to come for Callan after Wet Job they didn't happen. It's no surprise either as both Woodward and Hunter hated it, both citing the music as a major problem too. Instead Woodward went Stateside to become an unexpected star as the Callan-lite Robert McCall in The Equalizer (it is said the creators briefly resided in the UK in the early 70s and cast him as a result of seeing Callan then) whilst Hunter continued his hugely successful career as a jobbing actor, guest appearing in virtually every TV show you'd care to name. I know I've criticised many aspects of this one-off farewell but I do believe it is better than its reputation and I think I actually prefer it to the cinema spin-off because unlike that (which was a retread of the very first episode, A Magnum for Schneider) this does at least try to do something new.

Wordless Wednesday: The Great OutDors

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Out On Blue Six: Sleaford Mods

End Transmission

RIP Gordon Banks

The 1966 World Cup winning goalkeeper Gordon Banks has died at the age of 81.

628 appearances in a fifteen year long football league career, with 73 caps for England. A sportsman and a gentleman. A sporting great.


Sunday, 10 February 2019

I Stand With Wavertree

I deeply resent that the Labour deputy Tom Watson has seen fit to slander my fellow Labour members up the road from me in Wavertree as anti-semitic because they dared to say they no longer had faith in their MP, Luciana Berger. The simple fact of the matter is that Berger is a consistent negative voice when it comes to Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour leadership (indeed in a recent radio interview with Eddie Mair she couldn't even bring herself to say that she wants a Labour government!) and she is presently refusing to rule herself out of jumping ship from the party any time soon. To raise an objection to her behaviour has nothing to do with her religion, or her sex for that matter. Has it really come to this - that you cannot criticise or question a Jewish person for fear of being labelled anti-semitic? Are they above reproach? Watson has called those Wavertree members who moved for a vote of no confidence 'bullies', but I feel it is he and those who are vociferously supporting Berger who are the real bullies.

Here is what Wavertree have to say.

Man's Best Friend

Just a little Haiku (is there any other kind?) I penned for my adorable companion, my dog Boozy.

With your snowflake face,
And your eyes like Whitby jet,
You are man's best friend.

Friday, 8 February 2019

RIP Albert Finney

Devastated to hear that one of my cinematic heroes, Albert Finney, has died at the age of 82.

Salford born Finney shot to fame in the early 1960s, cementing a screen persona as the original (and best) angry young man in groundbreaking films like The Entertainer and Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. He became synonymous with Woodfall Films and a British New Wave movement that sought to bring northern working class life to the screen as realistically as possible, and Finney was unmistakably the real deal. What Brando was doing for American cinema, Finney was doing for the UK. He followed it up of course with Woodfall's bawdy romp Tom Jones and became an icon of the swinging 60s and a major international star.

The tail end of the '60s and '70s saw him stretch himself both in front of and behind the camera. He directed Charlie Bubbles, his one and only directorial effort and a highly personal film penned by fellow Salfordian Shelagh Delaney in 1968, and financed another Salfordian Mike Leigh's first film, Bleak Moments in 1971. Indeed Finney would never forget his Salford roots and would do much all his life to help the arts and culture in the city (he was key in developing the Lowry for example) and to encourage young people's opportunities. He could have comfortably continued to play straightforward leading man roles as he had done in the previous decade, but the 1970s saw him approach more character based roles, including the title role in the musical Scrooge and (for my money the best) Poirot in 1974's Murder on the Orient Express. This continued into the '80s with roles in The Dresser alongside Tom Courtenay and Under the Volcano, whilst the 1990s saw him feature in a variety of work from Dennis Potter's Karaoke and Cold Lazarus on television and becoming a favourite of US filmmakers like the Cohen brothers (Miller's Crossing), Steven Soderbergh (Erin Brockovich and Traffic) and Tim Burton (Corpse Bride and Big Fish). In more recent years, Finney found himself providing stately support in big budget blockbusters  such as the James Bond film Skyfall (a very amusing cameo) and its rival, the Bourne series.

He was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar four times in his career and once for Best Supporting Actor, and he won a BAFTA, an Emmy and a Golden Globe for his performance as Churchill in the 2002 TV movie The Gathering Storm. He refused a CBE in 1980 and a knighthood in 2000 on principle (good man!) and overcame a battle with kidney cancer in 2011.

There won't be another like him. A true great of cinema. RIP