27/02/2015

Midsomer Murders Season 17


There seems to have been a definite shift back this series into the more quirky, macabre territory that Midsomer Murders used to feature heavily. After a period in which the plots became less unusual and more serious, the current production team have harked back to the earlier days and this year has seen some of the most bizarre murders yet none more so than in the first story The Dagger Club which mixes literary boastfulness with killer roulette wheels. The latter has to be seen to be believed kicking off the series with a real spark. Two of these wheels are delivered anonymously to characters who, upon opening them, find a message saying `whatever you do don’t spin the wheel`. They do of course and it sets off an electric charge that kills them! Even more over the top is a scene in which a character has been squashed by a printing press. When it is opened he has print stencilled across his body! 

"Mmm, I think I need to sample the evidence"

25/02/2015

Can we ever get rid of cold callers?



We still have a landline and every so often the phone rings, you pick it up and there is nobody there. Nobody that is except for some odd clicks. Or perhaps the sound of people in the background as if their phone has been left off the hook. This is the world of cold calling which the government, perhaps mindful of the impending election, is promising to do something about. Whether they can do anything is another matter; some people who have gone ex-directory claim they still receive these calls even though in theory their number is known only to people they know.
It’s easy to see that some older people or those who live alone might feel they are being stalked by a mysterious figure intent with some ill - intentioned motive. In a way they are because at the end of the day many of these unsolicited calls are to sell you something you probably don’t want. I could have insulated our loft about ten times over in the past year had I responded positively to such enquiries. Equally I could have filed dozens of PPI complaints, insulated the walls, replaced the windows and even switched gas provider. Which is odd because we don’t have any gas.
Usually these calls have some barely understandable operator clearly phoning from halfway round the world and thus their voice is feint and crackly. Or else It’s an automatic message; the one I’m most familiar with lately has a woman sharply declaring; “HSBS, Barclays, Nat West…” I usually put the receiver down at that point. Maybe she just likes to list banks. Perhaps next month she’ll says “Orange juice, lemonade, Coca Cola..” Other cold callers want you to take a survey because they get in right away and say “I’m not trying to sell you anything” but then claim “it’ll only take a few minutes”. Don’t ever fall for that because this is a new definition of “a few” which translates as “about fifteen minutes.”
People have tried various methods to get their own back including trying to keep the caller on the line for as long as possible, pretending to be someone else or even blowing a loud whistle down the phone. But for some people they are, at best, a nuisance and at worst a worry.
The prevalence of cold calling suggests there is too much information about each of us floating about especially as these unwanted calls have found their way to smartphones as well. Can we do anything about it? Well short of refusing to sign up to anything which in the online world is difficult, all we can really do is carry on complaining. You have to feel some sympathy with the people who have to do these jobs; imagine spending your day phoning people who don’t want to speak to you and may insult you as well.
If responsible firms and places like banks and even the government  can call a halt to the behaviour then it would certainly be a step forward because then we’ll know that we can swiftly decline any cold calls we get. There are plenty of other advertising and promotional avenues around today- more than ever in fact- for cold calling to be dropped. Being able to see the number of calls, even if it is not given by the caller, could be a help as well. If all else fails and cold calls continue to come then you can always resort of playing a recording of a baying moose down the phone and that would probably ensure you are left alone.

24/02/2015

Jupiter Ascending



Nothing is too over the top or ostentatious for the Wachoswki’s latest crazy space opera.
In many respects Jupiter Ascending is exactly the sort of film you’d imagine the Wachowskis might deliver. It is unashamedly over the top, packed with a raft of exposition and something of an interior designer’s worst nightmare. Chandeliers on a spaceship? Ostentatious gold statues everywhere? Really? Yet buried somewhere in the midst of this smorgasbord of film fantasy motifs is a decent enough idea struggling to make itself heard above the aural and visual din.
A typical low key scene from Jupiter Ascending.

23/02/2015

Top of the Pops 1980 7 Feb 1980



Guest Post by Chris Arnsby
(we join 1980 already in progress)
Steve Wright,"Hello I'm Steve Wright and welcome to another edition of Top of the Pops. And the charts to Jefferson Starship."
It's Steve Wright's first show. He only started as a Radio One DJ in January 1980 so he's really been rushed on to Top of the Pops. Simon Bates had to wait ages for his turn. The classic line-up I remember is almost completely in place. Only Gary "sloppy bit" Davies is missing. So how does Steve Wright do? Not bad. It's a more polished performance than Simon Bates gave at the end of 1979 but Steve Wright needs to learn to stop waggling his head around so much.
Boomtown Rats: Bob mistakes a microphone for a Mars bar.

22/02/2015

Kingsman The Secret Service

There are moments during Mathew Vaughn’s latest film when you can only applaud the audacity of what is on screen. Gleefully playing with spy archetypes, in particular James Bond, Harry Palmer and also TV’s original Avenger John Steed, is one thing and would be more than enough. Yet Kingsman -The Secret Service goes further and does what films nowadays are not supposed to do by making excessive violence seem fun and rather cool. The result is something that will certainly not appeal to anyone who is squeamish or touchy about such matters- though the narrative even ropes them in by having a dangerous villain who can’t look at violence! For the rest of us this film is a riot, sometimes literally, from start to finish.


29/01/2015

Broadchurch Series 2 Episode 4


ITV1 26/01/15 written by Chris Chibnall, directed by Jessica Hobbs, starring David Tennant, Olivia Colman, Jodie Whittaker
Half way through the second series it is becoming difficult to escape the conclusion that Broadchurch is slowly changing into what we might call as drama-soap. That is to say a series that would never consider itself a soap but is displaying soapy tendencies. It’s happened for example to Last tango in Halifax which started off as a serial about two elderly people falling for in love but has become an unbelievable series of hysterical events. As far as Broadchurch is concerned the closest comparison I can think of is Twin Peaks which followed an un-missable first season with a second that seemed to meander away from the point. Some shows are better as one offs but in today’s more commercially orientated world success means follow up. Imagine if they’d made a third or fourth series of Fawlty Towers? Or someone had decided to pen a sequel to I, Claudius. That being said I’d say that the jury is still out on the case of Broadchurch. Given that a second series was going to happen Chris Chibnall has made a decent attempt to expand the story while keeping true to the stunning first series. What is happening though as the fabric of the story is stretched is that it is thinning.

23/01/2015

Whiplash


In cinemas now written and directed by Damien Chazelle, starring J.K. Simmons, Miles Teller, Paul Reiser, Melissa Benoist
The familiar tale of an inspirational teacher is given a dark spin in Damien Chazelle’s smart film. Andrew Niemann is a pupil and jazz drummer at the Shaffer Conservatory one of the foremost music colleges in the States. He is given the opportunity to join the stage band who enter national competitions and is run by notorious conductor Terence Fletcher. Here he soon rises from being alternate to main drummer but Fletcher is a harsh taskmaster who for the first part of the film appears to be ruthless if not criminal in his treatment of the musicians.



20/01/2015

Broadchurch Series 2 Episode 3


ITV1 19/01/15 written by Chris Chibnall, directed by James Strong, starring David Tennant, Olivia Colman, Jodie Whittaker
Carrying right on from last week’s panic this episode will probably restore the faith of waverers unconvinced by the second instalment. Mixing outside events with the tense formality of the courtroom offers a more varied mood in which several development occur. The breadth of characters available is yielding intriguing results now and make Hardy’s attempts to get to the heart of matters seem all the more desperate.