And Woody sticks yet another one in the back of the net.


Blue-Jasmine

In his 48th movie and his 77th year Woody Allen has pulled a pearl out of the bag.  Aided and abetted by Cate Blanchett, on absolute fire, Blue Jasmine is just wonderful.

The directing is effortless, the writing so miraculously real that you almost wonder if there IS a script.  It feels so like real life.

It’s a story barely worth telling because the plot is really quite slight; but it matters not one jot.

Beautifully photographed by Javier Aguirresarobe (who also shot Vicky Christina Barcelona) it has a sumptuous feel in keeping with the past lifestyle of Cate Blanchett’s titular character, Jasmine.

The story centres around the attempt by Jasmine to piece her life back together with the help of her adopted sister Ginger (played wonderfully by Sally Hawkins) after her marraige to playboy Alec Baldwin (who is so cool it’s unbelievable).

Whilst Jasmine has plenty of admirers her rather less fortunate sister is also on the road to romance with a blue collar worker, played affectingly by Bobby Cannevale.  But Jasmine dissaproves.  In fact Jasmine pretty much disapproves of everything in her new world; working, her sister’s flat, San Fransisco…you name it.

What makes the movie really work is the central (surely to be Oscar nominated) performance by Blanchett who simply sizzles from start to finish.

It’s not often you like an absolute bitch on screen but Blanchett pulls it off in a booze and drug sozzled role that never reaches extremes and demonstrates what an outstanding acting talent she is.

Woody is working on his (unnamed) 49th movie right now.  Here’s hoping he makes it to the half century because in the last five years we’ve had the aforementioned VCB and Midnight in Paris.  Both absolute toppers.

This is no exception.

Janelle Monae. Electric Lady.


When I went into HMV on release day to pick up Janelle Monae’s new album I couldn’t find it.  I was sure I’d got the date right so I went up to the counter to ask if they had it.  They did, but as the assistant explained;

“We’ve only been sent a few copies.  Not enough to put in the new release display.  Don’t understand why.”

Me neither.

Monae’s credentials are exemplary.  Not only is she on the uber trendy Bad Boy label ,but her guests include Prince, Esperanza Spalding and Eryka Badu.

Monae’s debut, concept record The Archandroid, was outstanding.  Her live gigs are priceless and this, her second release, is even better.  It too is a concept album and billed as the prequel to Archandroid

The style of the album draws from many great sources; part Outkast (speakerbox) but more 70’s Motown, especially Marvin Gaye and Stevie at his best it has a steady groove that feels timeless

Her duet with Prince on “Givin Em What They Love” is as good as anything Prince has ever done.  Throughout he is massively overshadowed nby Moane as she digs deep into her chest voice.  It’s classic Prince rock’n’roll R and B but is by no means the only stand out track on an album chock full of nuggets.

We were Rock and Roll’s opening chords are straight out of  Bobby Womack’s 108th Street.  It tingles.  The song moves onto what sounds like a stonewall hit.

But Monae don’t do hits.

Why not?  I have no idea.

The unimaginable. Roadkill. Pachamama Productions at Dundee Rep.


An image from the 2012 Festival Fringe Production

An image from the 2012 Festival Fringe Production

Whilst most of you were watching the X Factor or Antiques Roadshow my wife and I spent an hour and a half in a damp 15ft x 15ft square squalid bedroom in a run down estate in the North Side of Dundee witnessing a 14 year old Nigerian Girl being repeatedly raped and gang raped to a soundtrack of coursing Scottish electro rock.

We arrived in darkness and were warned to “watch our heads” on the washing lines as we traversed a drying green coursing with weeds and strewn with rubbish.

We left the same.  Heavy-hearted but at least safe in the knowledge that the trauma we had just endured was art.  Not real.

It couldn’t possibly be real.

Could it?

Yes, actually, it could, and Jenny Marra MSP is trying to do something about it, using this astounding production as leverage to debate the scandal that is sex trafficking in Scotland.

So, in response to Marra’s initiaitive, and in support for Cora Bissett’s truly mindblowing vision I urge you to write to Jenny Marra and pledge your support to her proposal for a bill on Child Trafficking in Scotland.

Back to the play…

Cora Bissett is now firmly established in my mind as a national treasure.  This is the second production of hers that I have seen this year. (The last was Whatever Gets you through The Night on this year’s Fringe.)

What Bissett does, like nobody else, is celebrate Scotland’s underclasses in a way that is uplifting.  OK, Roadkill is hard to describe as uplifting but it empowers its central protagonist in a very powerful way, albeit we have to go to hell and back to get there.

I think Ken Loach would very much appreciate Cora’s work.

This play is deeply disturbing, deeply moving but artistically brimming full of ideas; music, animation, special effects, site specific in a really, really good way and, believe it or not, funny (the journey from Dundee Rep to Dundee Wreck was hilarious as the two main protagonists Martha (Lashana Lynch) and Mary (Faith Omole) sought to wrong foot us into thinking 14 year old Mary had left the misery of Nigeria and entered the land of Milk and Honey – when in truth it was the land of Filth and Money).

What follows this gay abandon on the bus is nothing short of harrowing.

But brilliant and ultimately hopeful.

I feel honoured to have been in the same rooms as Faith Omole, Lashana Lynch and Nicky Elliot who played various male roles – worst of all the Polish pimp that struck fear into the audiences hearts only five minutes in to this masterpiece.

I’d say, go see it, but you can’t.  There are only 19 tickets per performance and they’re all sold.

So, really, I don’t know what else to say other than be aware, very aware of this hideous, heinous crime.

PS.  Credit also must go to Stef Smith for her superb script.

Kanye West. The Dark Side.


The power of Kanye West was revealed on Later with Jools Holland last night.

Jools has a set that hasn’t changed much in several years.  Those jauntily angled light boxes sit above the heads of every band you’ve ever watched on the show.

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Until last night that is.

Suddenly Jools’ studio was plunged into darkness as Kanye took to the stage alongside his featured artist, Charlie Wilson of The Gap Band on vocals, to deliver a very fine performance of Bound 2 in a casual off-the-shoulder-parka that wouldn’t have been out of place on Miley Cyrus (assuming that she was otherwise attired in vest and knickers).

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Here’s what he had to sing.

Rush? Hmmm. Not sure you should.


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There’s much to admire in Ron Howard’s biopic of the battle between Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl) and James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth), not least both actors’ portrayals of the leads and Howard’s, at times, brilliant action sequences.

Sad to say though there’s a lot that simply doesn’t work.

Act 1 (the set up – early years) has moments of cringeworthy scripting and acting with little that engages (in fact I found myself wishing it was all over).

Act 2 (the action sequences when 1976 is dramatically recreated, race by race) is mostly enthralling and really brings together all that is good about this movie (Bruhl, Hemsworth and Howard’s direction).

Act 3 (the denouement) is a missed opportunity.  It’s desperately rushed – despite its two hour length.  I suspect an order from the studio to cut the timelength came into play with the consequence that it feels like an afterthought.

What makes Rush worth seeing is the most important aspect of the movie, the bitter rivalry between Lauda and Hunt.  Both actors uncannily capture the drivers’ individual personalities but the script by The Queen writer Peter Morgan sometimes leaves them with nowhere to go, at others it dazzles,  “You’re the only man that is better looking after skin grafts” quips Hunt to Lauda in Act 3; and Lauda’s repeated statement that a 20% risk of death in each race is all that’s acceptable is used well and resonates.

It’s the supporting actors that lets it down; an unconvincing Murray Walker, an unlikeable Lord Hesketh, Hunt’s wife – all fail to convince.  Only Alexandra Maria Lara, as Lauda’s wife, strikes a real chord.

At $38million this is a big budget movie for the UK.  Its ambitions are clear to see.  Just a shame the whole doesn’t amount to more than the sum of its variable parts.

Want to see a great motor racing movie?

(There’s very few of merit and despite my reservations  this one’s definitely among the elite.)

Watch Senna.