04/05/2016

Captain America Civil War



The best Marvel film yet?
Warning- Mildly spoilerific review follows. Well you know it’s got Avengers in and there’s a civil war right?
If The Winter Soldier was a rare example of the intellectual blockbuster, then its sequel embraces both the political and the personal. At a time when Western involvement in sundry conflicts around the world is under more scrutiny than ever, here we have the freedom with which the Avengers operate called into question to the point where they are all asked to sign an accord which means any missions have to be sanctioned by politicians. This sort of thing has been done before in the comics realm but rarely as well or thoroughly as it is here. To the credit of the scriptwriters we understand why each of the team takes the stance that they do and even more importantly the team themselves outline their arguments reasonably because really there is no right or wrong in this scenario. The result is that the film avoids becoming an exercise in super -powered glowering and melodramatic confrontations, it’s about different positions being taken based on beliefs. It is – in the best sense- both big and clever!

30/04/2016

Top of the Pops 9th & 16th April 1981



Shown on BBC4. Watched by Chris Arnsby.
9 April 1981:
Mike Read: "Welcome to Top of the Pops. Some 19 million people every week tune in to see some of the top acts of 1981 on this show. Tonight, we're kicking off with Lynx and Intuition."
Mike Read counting up to 19 million
Linx: Intuition [7]. Intuition has done good business for Lynx. It's been featured three times on Top of the Pops -every other week- since the 12/03/1981 edition. Up to now the video has always been shown, some clever pop svengali has obviously decided that a studio appearance by the band will be a good way to squeeze out some more sales. It's a solid, competent, and professional performance. Unfortunately no one does anything amusing, the drum kit doesn't fall over, and the audience all behave themselves. Bah!
Bucks Fizz: Making Your Mind Up [2]. Also live in the studio are Bucks Fizz, just five days after their Eurovision win in Dublin. The band are now confident enough to skip the skirt ripping routine which got them a lot of attention in the pre-Eurovision build up. Presumably some comedy show at the time did a Bucks Fizz spoof in which the blokes' trousers were ripped off? If not then I've got a killer sketch idea to sell Little and Large for their next series. Watch out for Mike Read's disappearing act at the start of the song. After he introduces Bucks Fizz from the side of the stage he disappears from the edge of frame as the camera crane pans round, and he's gone by the time the crane shows a wide shot of the studio.

27/04/2016

The Rise and Fall of Alex Day



Alex Day was a successful self- produced musician with several hit singles as well as being one of YouTube’s first big British vlogging stars. Yet two years ago his career was derailed by serious allegations and both his fame and associates crumbled away. Beset by accusations yet never charged he now continues to create in a strange sort of limbo.

For a while Alex Day was the epitome of the modern young multimedia artist. He had three UK top 40 hits, each of them self –produced including `Forever Yours` which holds the record for the highest charting single by an unsigned artist. He was also one of the first vloggers in this country to accumulate over a million subscribers and his YouTube channel nerimon had over 130 million views. He was the most high profile of a new breed of artists who bypassed conventional channels to speak (and sing) directly to their audience in the days before YouTube was the corporate vehicle it is now. Yet if you look at the top vloggers or independent musicians of 2016 Alex Day is nowhere to be seen so what happened? 

24/04/2016

Top of the Pops 2 April 1981



Shown on BBC4. Reviewed by Chris Arnsby
Simon Bates: "Hello and welcome to this week's Top of the Pops with no less than nine new numbers. Kicking off with the first from Stiff Little Fingers, over here."
Stiff Little Fingers: Just Fade Away [47]. My one Pop Fact about Stiff Little Fingers was that they named the band after the physical characteristic of the aliens in The Invaders. Now www.snopes.com tells me that isn't true. In the absence of anything else let's talk about captions. They've received another upgrade over the last few months. The Stiff Little Fingers one that ends the performance is very fancy featuring an embossed 3-D effect with the words overlaid and trailing down the screen. Oh, and look out for the bloke dancing to the left of the stage. He is wearing a ludicrous gold top with what can only be described as peaked bat-wing shoulders.
Stiff Little Fingers: The singer is alarmed by his bandmate's giant barm cake

22/04/2016

His name was Prince and he was funky



Prince was as big a star in the Eighties as Madonna or Michael Jackson and in terms of musical invention eclipsed them both. His signature style sounds simple enough; often the verse is almost identical to the chorus and the whole package is wrapped in a percussive cloak of handclaps and robotic beats. It is Prince himself who brings character with his expressive voice. His best songs are real earworms; once heard they are never forgotten. Being a true pop star he was also as eccentric as you like from his obsession with the colour purple to inventing text speak b4 we even knew we needed it! 


20/04/2016

Eye in the Sky



This is a film that takes the viewer on a journey into the sort of decisions you and I will never have to make but which someone does. In the present day an opportunity to annihilate terrorist suspects in a Kenyan village becomes a debate on the morality and implications of the act. Several sets of characters are involved and we see the situation from each of their perspectives yet the movie also asks something of the audience. As the narrative progresses you inevitably start to reach your own conclusions and it is a shock to realise you are rooting for something to happen that will inevitably involve collateral damage. Though it’s a fiction, the film inevitably draws from arguments that have been going on in recent years and the result is a tense, gripping and unsettling story that it is soon clear will not have a happy ending whatever decision is made.

17/04/2016

What's your favourite colour?


Someone asked me this the other day and I realised I don’t actually have a favourite colour. When this person proceeded to list her favourite colours in order from 1 to 5 I marvelled at the ability to differentiate between the appeal of colours in such a way. When we’re kids we are almost forced to have a favourite colour and if we don’t it feels like one of the first great social pressures in life to assign one. You can imagine the scenario. “No favourite colour?” thunders the teacher, “Well go and stand in the corner until you’ve thought of one” So it turns out that the corner is painted a sort of wishy washy pale eggy blue and in a heartbeat you declare “I have a favourite colour, Miss! It’s wishy washy pale eggy blue”. Huzzah. You have joined the human race.

15/04/2016

Gareth Thomas


Two years playing the lead in Blake’s Seven ensured Gareth Thomas’ fame but obscured his more varied career across a range of genres. "I think of it both as a milestone and a millstone in my career" he once said about the role with which he is most associated.  A RADA graduate, he was both an acclaimed stage actor including appearing in a number of Royal Shakespeare Company productions and was also nominated twice for a BAFTA. Amongst his theatre work he appeared in RSC productions of Twelfth Night, King Lear, As You Like It, Othello and Anna Christie. Other stage roles included HenryIV, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Equus and The Crucible. As recently as 2010 he received great reviews for his performance n Desire Under The Elms at the New Vic Theatre.