Homecoming Seasons 1 and 2 on Amazon Prime: TV Review.


Watch Homecoming - Season 1 | Prime Video

Prime’s finest moment to date. IMHO.

They’ve taken Gimlet Media’s astounding podcast and adapted not one, but two, TV series from it.

In the first, Julia Roberts not only allegedly bought the rights but assumes the title role of Heidi Bergman, a case worker at a mysterious ‘facility’ in which homecoming American war veterans are treated for PTSD. Why? You’ll have to watch to find out.

I’m no Roberts fan and although her performance is good I’d like to have seen Catherine Keener take her aural role on-screen. Likewise, I think both Oscar Isaac and David Schwimmer might have made better jobs of their roles than the TV replacements.

But that’s actually a quibble, because what we get is an excellent rendering of the story with outstanding direction, music and camerawork.

It’s an oddity, especially at its 20 minute length (echoing the podcast).

What the TV does, that adds value, is add the aforementioned production values to the already high quality that Gimlet achieved. The design, overall, is stunning; with a touch of the Kubricks.

But I’m left thinking, good as it is, a little was lost in the translation.

The same cannot be said of Season 2.

It’s now a significant diversion from the podcast.

We meet a new lead in Janelle Monae who plays Jackie (or is it Alex?) an employee of Geist (or is she), the company that administered (shadily) the ‘Homecoming’ initiative in Season 1.

She is almost literally lost at sea as the series opens. We have no idea who she is or how she got there, what’s more, neither does she.

This is a big ask for Monae who takes on her first lead role, to my knowledge, and has to rise to the challenge of carrying the series. I felt she was on the brink of failing the task at a few points, after all she’s a singer not an actor, but at each tipping point she just gets over the bar so that by the end I believe we enjoy a fine performance.

Steven James raises his game as Walter Cruz and his character gets much more rounded, but the real ‘find’ is Chris Cooper as Leonard Geist, the mill owner gone rogue, feeling overwhelmed by his own bastard creation.

Show-stealing, on an epic scale, is the filthy performance of Joan Cusack as (Officer) Bunda.

Season 2 shifts a gear. It’s even darker, it’s less familiar to us ‘Poddies’ and it’s found its TV voice. It just gets better and better.

The circular plot device means that nothing is clear until the very end of the final episode and that’s one of the reasons, the excellent Monae aside, that it makes such gripping viewing.

I loved it. More, more, more. Please.

Homecoming: Podcast review.


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I’m late to this but given that less than 1% of the population probably listen to podcasts I’m betting you are too.

I’m increasingly drawn to the medium of the podcast because they are so absorbing and allow you to do other things while you are listening.

So far this year I have enjoyed:

  • Athletico Mince (for some time now in fact)
  • Desert Island discs (of course – and also for years)
  • Soul Music (from Radio 4)
  • The Media Show (from Radio 4)
  • More or Less (the wonderfully nerdy stats programme from Radio 4)
  • The CoronaCast (from the BBC)
  • Stay Free: The Story of the Clash
  • Slow Burn (the Watergate series – brilliant)
  • Slow Burn (the Lewinski series – Brilliant)
  • Slow Burn (the Tupac series – nah)
  • Thirteen Minutes to the Moon  (Apollo 11)
  • Thirteen Minutes to the Moon (Apollo 13)

But I’m saving the best for last (unless Wind of Change continues as brilliantly as it has started).  That’s the electrifying Homecoming in which Catherine Keener, Oscar Isaac and David Schwimmer set fire to your earphones.

It’s been adapted (unsurprisingly as it is so great) for TV by and starring Julia Roberts in Catherine Keener’s role as a ‘caseworker’ in a mysterious military establishment who looks after ‘homecoming’ ex military who are suffering from PTSD.

But the motives of the mysterious organisation that runs the facility in collaboration with the DoD  (Department of Defence) is, at best, questionable.

So sets in motion a 12 part, 20 minute game of cat and mouse (and dog) that is full of twists and turns and keeps you guessing until the, admittedly slightly disappointing, finale.

To say any more would be to stray into spoiler territory, so just suffice it to say, it’s as good as any movie you will watch this year.

It’s gold.

Love it with your ears, then thank me.

 

Normal People: BBC3. Early impressions.


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Last night we watched Episodes 1 and 2 of the BBC’s adaptation of Sally Rooney’s coming of age Irish novel.

It’s described as the first millennial love story novel and I don’t know if that’s how the novel played out or not but the TV adaptation, masterfully directed by Lenny Abrahamson (Room), was simply a love story that’s been realised through the ages.

Much has been made of the sensitivity of the initial sex scene where Marianne loses her virginity to Connell and I have to agree it was directed with great care and sensitivity so as not to sensationalise the scene.

Episode one was a masterclass in tension.  The unfolding of Connell and Marianne’s romance, kept secret as it is from their sixth year classmates, had me on the edge of my seat.  And when Marianne asks the immortal question “can we take our clothes off now”, immediately after that first fleeting kiss, had my wife and I roaring with laughter: relief, I think.

In many ways it’s a standard romantic trope with the usual Jock, plain Jane, bullying boys and unattainable classroom beauties.  But none of it feels like a cliche because, wisely, Abrahamson, has let it play out slowly, surely and sympathetically so that it feels anything like cliche and nothing like a millennial-only piece that us Baby Boomers won’t get.

We 100% get it because it’s timeless.

Rarely have this standard storytelling structure been made to connect quite so realistically.

It’s breathtaking and I can’t wait for the next ten episodes.

Pine by Francine Toon: Book review


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It’s a sort of gothic horror for our times, although I’d describe it as more mystical than horrifying, and it brings in aspects of police procedural, but with no police.

Instead a crime is traced by 11 year old Lauren, a fairly neglected, and bullied at school, single-parent child.

Her dad, Niall, an alcoholic, has lost his wife (disappeared) in unresolved circumstances before Lauren can even remember what she looks like.  But is she dead, or is her ghost/spirit/person occupying the fringes of the novel?

Lauren has assumed mystical behaviours consistent with witchcraft, and perhaps inherited from her missing Mum.

It’s set on the edge of a pine forest in Northern Scotland and it’s written with great skill by first time novelist, Toon.  But what it scores highly on, in terms of writing panache and storytelling, it loses out a little on in tension.

It feels a little familiar and seems destined for our screens.  Indeed, for large parts. I felt I was reading a film transcript which let it down a little.

That all sounds a little dismissive, but if you are looking for a lightish read with a degree of writing quality (it’s published by Penguin after all) It’s worth picking up.

It’s a decent read.

 

 

Borostounness Episode 5: The Articulate one.


OK.  As we settle into lockdown Helen and Rab have one small advantage.  Their pals Jeanie and Bill have already had the virus so they can come and go as they please.

They’ve popped round to cheer Helen and Rab up with a friendly game of Articulate.  (The Game in which you have to describe the words you see on cards under the category that your playing piece is on.)

It can be a little frustrating.

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Upright. New TV series by Tim Minchin.


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I’ll start by confessing that Tim Minchin has done nothing.  NOTHING for me in his fairly long and, largely, highly succesful career, so when it was suggested I watch this I doubted I’d get past episode one.

How wrong could I have been?

By the end of episode eight, binged in two days, the tears rolled down my cheeks.

It’s bawdy, ballsy, rude, ridiculous, hilarious, breathtaking, touching, sincere and is based on a largely unpredictable storyline that twists and turns like a Tasmanian Devil.

It also features a stand out, frankly equal footing, performance by 19 year old Australian actress, Milly Alcock, remember that name, she’s the next Margot Robbie.

A truly excellent TV series, right up there with Succession, Fleabag and Chernobyl as my favourites of 2019.

 

For Sama: Documentary review.


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Baby Sama. On the front line.

If you are looking for gratuitous expositions of the Syrian war this isn’t for you.

If however, you are looking for an in-depth and long-term study of how human beings driven by principle and humanity behave with integrity, in an absolute hell-hole that is East Aleppo, then it is.

It’s a heart-wrenching (but actually also heart-warming) exploration of what makes human beings, on the right side of the fence, great.

It’s set throughout the siege of Aleppo and follows the story of Waad Al-Khateab her daughter Sama and her husband (a doctor/surgeon/activist who runs an unofficial hospital) Hamza whom she meets, marries and has the aforementioned child, Sama, with during the documentary.

Waad films the proceedings, but the end product is a collaboration with co-director Edward Watts (who has several ISIS-based, and award winning, TV documentaries on his CV).  Both deserve immense credit.

It’s essentially a love letter to Waad and Hamsa’s daughter, as Waad narrates her story of the battle to her daughter whilst showcasing the incredible humanitarian work of her fearless husband in conditions that are beyond credible.

ISIS targeted the hospitals of Aleppo (a HUGE city of 4.6 million inhabitants), systematically blowing them up and sending them underground into what look like unsanitary conditions but somehow seem to function throughout the siege.  They are constantly bombed and on many occasions makeshift operating theatres become awash with blood.

The scenes of devastation that slowly unfold in the last few weeks of Aleppo’s intolerable siege are quite horrendous.  We are talking about a blitz here – and the city becomes a shell, very reminiscent of both London and Dresden in WWII.

And yet, life goes on.  Despite the torture, and the many deaths that we graphically witness, there is a strong sense of defiance and just getting on with it.  (Keep Calm and Carry On.)

One scene, in particular, when we witness the birth of a, perhaps, still born baby is so deeply distressing that you will never forget the images.  It’s mind-blowing.

This is a (very warped) joy of a film.

It’s not blessed with any frills AT ALL.  No music, no SFX, nothing.  Just a story that is devoid of schmaltz or emotional manipulation.  It just says what it sees.  It places not blame. It vilifies nobody.

But what emerges is a heroic culture that everyone should see.

Expect success in the next awards season.

 

 

 

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood.


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I am a lifelong Atwood fan, but she blows hot and cold (in this case, I’d say, warm).

I love her sci-fi and future-gazing stuff most, but I also was mesmerised by The Blind Assassin and Alias Grace.

Some of her more hippy stuff leaves me a bit cool.

This, the 35 years later follow up to The Handmaid’s Tale (THT), bagged her her second Booker Prize (shared) but, amazingly THT wasn’t the other, it was the aforementioned Blind Assassin.

She wrote this, the follow up to THT in response to endless requests from fans to explain how THT played out and decided to make it both a prequel (from Aunt Lydia’s point of view) and a sequel (from Baby Nicole’s point of view – Ofred’s daughter that she smuggled out of Gilead at the end of THT).

Another key character shares the storytelling duties but I shall leave that to you to find out who it is, if you care to indulge.

It’s very different to THT (and less satisfying as a result) because what made THT such a treat was the shock and the graphic detail in which Atwood brought her excellent brand of feminism to a dystopian tale that was truly horrifying.

The Testaments is a completely different vehicle.  She’s done the shock: this time she’s simply telling a story, a thriller really, to explain what lay behind THT.

Gilead is a key character in the plot.  It’s the state that has created these vile, corrupt, religious extremist men and it turns out that far from being the worst enforcer imaginable in Gilead Aunt Lydia is, in fact, a rather more complex, and sympathetic, character.

Essentially Lydia has realised that the concept of Gilead has gone too far.  It has run away with itself and it’s time for some reparation, how this is carried out is both complex and, at times, confusing (particularly in the first half of the novel).

It gradually unfolds as a rip-roaring story, well told, but for me it lacks the terrifying set pieces that makes THT so brilliant.  It slowly becomes a page-turner but that, for me, isn’t what makes prize-winning writing.

Atwood has a real ability to personify her characters, and the novel benefits greatly from most of its readers (surely) having watched Ann Dowd’s awesome portrayal of Aunt Lydia on MGM TV’s outstanding THT.

Atwood’s ability to switch character from niaive wife-to-be, to angsty teenage rebel, to elderly overseer is notable, but some of the naivety of the characters’ talk, written in a first person vernacular, renders elements of the book quite simplistic and, so, less engaging than it might have been if written in the third person.

Don’t get me wrong, this is a good book, but is it Booker winning standard?

Not in my book.

 

Succession Series 1 and 2. Review.


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And here they are.  All of the pigs in one big poke.

Stupidly I missed Season 1.  For some reason I didn’t zone in on its qualities on first airing and let it go by me.  But the early rave reviews in the national press for Season 2 made me reconsider it and I started again, binging the 20 episodes over the last month or so.

And what a treat it was.

Jesse Armstrong (the show runner) was previously responsible for Peep Show, The Thick of it and even, back in the day, contributed to the excellent Smack The Pony.  He wrote the hilarious Four Lions too.

What this means is that although Succession is essentially a drama it is, in fact, a full blown comic feast with one liners ricocheting across the screen with siege-like ferocity and quantity.

Chief gag thrower is the astounding Keiran Culkin, the weasel-faced runt of the Roy Litter who you’d never tire of punishing, but whose acerbic put downs are guaranteed to split your sides ten times an episode.  he takes particular fun in tormenting the, also excellent, Jeremy Strong who plays his inept, drug-consuming brother Kendall with doe-eyed misery as his privileged life gradually falls into greater and greater disrepair.  He’s a car crash of a human being.

The other comic character who never ceases to amuse with his rhinoceros-skin dimness is Matthew Macfadyen as Tom, the dipstick husband of the power hungry Shiv (daughter of the patriarch from hell Logan Roy – Brian Cox in his greatest ever role).

A good sport in this show is to decide which of these feckless fecks you hate the most.  For not a single one of them has any redeeming features.

That said, my wife had a soft spot for the manslaughterer Kendall and I could at least tolerate the inept (but surprisingly devious) Greig – the limpid cousin.  But that’s it, the rest are as hideous human beings as you could make up.

Or are they made up?

The reality is that this is just a great big mash up of the Trumps, Weinsteins and the Murdochs.

Everything in this cesspit is about power and success.  They are consumed with the need, as a media conglomerate, to acquire more and more businesses and with manslaughter and sexual misconduct (and subsequent cover-ups) thrown into the mix the result is a mosh pit of vanity and greed.

Supporting roles of note go to Helen Hunter who is delicious as the two timing competitor CEO who briefly joins the company.  And the outstanding Peter Freidman as Francis and Jean Smith-Cameron as Gerri – Roy’s Nick and Margaret.

The milf- (or gilf-) like attraction that Gerri has for Roman makes for some of the show’s highlights with truly hysterical moments aplenty.

But at its core, and the bedrock of all that is truly awful in the human race, is the commanding presence of bastard-in-chief, Brian Cox, as the patriarchal Logan who surely has never been gifted a role as meaty as this.  Despite over 200 roles on TV and cinema only once has Cox been recognised at the big ones, a lone nominee in the Golden Globes nearly 20 years ago.  This is surely about to change.  His presence is so all consuming that this has the look of certainty about it.

It’s utterly compelling TV with a cinematic quality and a soundtrack to rival the best that Hollywood has to0 offer.  And, oh, that theme music.  My tune of the year, bar none.

Enjoy!

 

Hotel Mumbai: Movie Review.


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The Taj Hotel in Mumbai; setting for this atrocity.

This Sky Original movie simultaneously released in theatres and on Sky and we watched it on its opening night, free from either having read reviews or expectations.

To be honest, the real life incident that spawned the movie had actually faded in my memory so common, now, are such mass-murder terrorist events.

Some critics are calling it exploitative with an unacceptable level of Hollywood gloss, personally I found it perfectly acceptable and well told with enough sympathy in its direction to justify the horror that lies behind the script.

That didn’t really matter though, because whether or not one is familiar with this event, there are plenty others that it might have been.

It’s an ensemble cast production with stand-out, but un-showy, performances from Armie Hammer, Dev Patel and the head chef, played beautifully by Rohan Mirchandaney – all are trapped in the high class Taj Hotel in Mumbai as it is laid siege to by a group of Islamic terrorists acting under instruction from an off-screen telephone dictator known only as “The Bull”.

Whilst the terrorists enjoy a fair amount of screen time, it’s their prey that the movie, rightly, focusses on rather than glorify the terrorists’ actions.

It’s utterly chilling, pretty much from start to finish.  The head count of close-range and strafing machine-gun deaths is colossal, brutal and completely emotionless.  Indeed the film strangely fails to emotionally engage; rather it leaves you horror-struck at the ability of a less than elite bunch of assassins to wreak havoc, with little or no police/military intervention for many hours, making their killings become almost sporting-hunt-like.

The story is peppered with crescendos of killing and then quieter periods where the prey take stock of their situation and gradually formulate plans for their escape.

It’s cat and mouse throughout and gripping in its intensity.

I very much doubt this will trouble major awards juries, but as a piece of thought-provoking ‘entertainment’ it does its job without resorting to cliche, heavy emotional bribery or OTT special effects.

A good job, well done.

 

The Virtues: Channel 4.


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This is Stephen Graham, Channel 4, Shane Meadows and just British TV overall at its very best.  The Russians and the Poles can make movies this depressing but the Brits excel at it.

Occassionaly.

And this is one of those occasions.

I thought Stephen Graham was decent in Line of Duty, but that was a mere warm-up outing for this career-defining hour of TV.  He is simply breathtaking.

The second act, in which he gets smashed to drown the sorrows of the loss of his son who has emigrated with his new ‘dad’ to Australia, is indescribably brilliant.

Doing a drunk is tricky.  (Even Gillian Anderson struggled in All About Eve) but this captures it astonishingly, in no small part because of the direction of Shane Meadows and genre-bending camera work.

It was deeply disturbing TV from start to finish with a constant barrage of depression. But that’s what makes Meadows such a unique talent.  What lies ahead one can only guess but you can be sure of one thing.  It ain’t gonna be comedy.

Wonderful, wonderful TV.  Thanks guys.

The Maybot goes all giggly, chummy like.


Quite the funniest thing you will see this week.

Insincerity on a monolithic scale.

The Maybot says she’s got to compromise and agree on things that Labour and she agree on (always have it seems).

Perhaps this video should have really been an apology for not doing what she claims she is doing now and not three years ago. (Although if Labour is to be believed, and why should we, all this compromise is a figment of the Maybot’s imagination.)

After Life : TV Series Review


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Ricky Gervais has never, ever written a bad script.

And although he is pigeonholed as a comedian, writing comedy-drama he is far more than this.

He is an observer of the deepest human emotions and psyche. How else could David Brent exist?  How else could Derek be considered even remotely acceptable to be the star of a comedy, let alone have Gervais portray the part he had written, rather than cast an actor with learning difficulties?

In this latest offering, brought to us by Netflix, Gervais has reached a creative zenith.  In episode four there is a moment with a rice pudding that is the funniest thing I have ever seen on TV.  In episode 6, I wept for 15 minutes solidly.

It’s the story of a local free newspaper journalist who works to live, it’s not a career, it’s a job to fill the time between leaving his home, and his beloved wife Lisa (Kerry Godliman – Godly talent more like), and returning to spend each and every night with her.

The trouble is she’s just died of cancer and Tony (Gervais) can’t cope.  Only the dog is keeping him alive and it brings his dark cynicism and sarcasm to the fore. It gives him a super-power.  The power to be a total **** to everyone and anyone.  Sometimes to bad people who deserve it, like the school bully, but at other times to borderline cases (like a cheeky chugger).

His dad has Alzheimers and doesn’t recognise him.

His therapist is a moron.

His colleagues, led by the truly outstanding Tony Way as ‘photographer’ Lenny, are all ‘arseholes’.  Except they aren’t.  They’re just ordinary people.

He gradually falls for the nurse who works in his dad’s care home and that has a touch of joy about it.

But more than anything this show just shows that people are largely good.  Even the bad ones like Tony’s naughty postman.

The moments in the graveyard with a grieving widow, played by the magnificent Penelope Wilton, are pure philosophy.

And we have Diane Morgan (Philomena Cunk).

And during the cremation of a junkie that results in Tony standing in the smoke with a nun, it means he has to say to her, “Don’t breathe that in sister, you’ll be off your tits.”

We watched all six episodes back to back and I urge you to do the same.

Better than any TV I have seen in an awful, awful long time.

Utterly perfect.

Thank you Netflix for having the bravery to commission this.

(Oh, and the soundtrack is brilliant too.)

(And so is the dog.)

 

Scottish Football’s new low.


I was listening to the radio last night to hear of Brendan Rogers cheering on Leicester City’s first win as their new manager.

What the Brendan Rogers that is manager of one of the biggest clubs in the world, Celtic FC?

The team that’s on the verge of a historic treble, treble under his management?

The club that is on the verge of a historic ten league titles in a row.

To go to a mid rank English team that spanned a Championship win a few years ago before returning to mediocrity?

Nah, can’t be him.  He was managing Celtic, one of the world’s biggest clubs two days ago in a 4 – 1 win over Motherwell.

And then I heard that Neil Lennon, whom I admire greatly as a manager but have severe concerns about his mental health, a problem that led to him being fired from his previous job for calling the club MD, my club,  a ******* ****, is taking over till the end of the season.

A man who incites massive sectarian hatred in Glasgow.

He’s taking over?

Nah, he said he couldn’t handle that sort off shit any more.

Must have been a dream.

If it was real the Celtic fans would all be going daft.

Inside Europe: Ten Years Of Turmoil, review.


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I actually thought this three part documentary was the story of how Brexit came about.

In fact it’s nothing to do with Brexit, although the buffoons who triggered it, specifically the Bullingdon Club Pig fiddler himself, do make appearances, mainly in episode 1 (of 3).

It’s a colossal achievement in storytelling, forensic research, casting and filming of pretty much all of the characters you’d want to hear from as we look at the financial crisis, the near collapse of the Euro, The Greek, Italian, Irish and Spanish crises, the rise of populism, the refugee crisis (although most of the key players refer to the 2 million or so displaced people as refugees the BBC VO insists on calling them migrants – why is this? my only gripe in an otherwise peerless political documentary.)

We meet and hear from, sometimes in great detail, Tusk and Junker, Matteo Renzi (Italian PM) Mark Rutte (the Dutch PM), Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu extensively from both Hollande and Sarkozy, the idiot that is Yanis Varoufakis and fellow fools;  Cameron, Osborne, Darling, (maybe not Darling) Clegg and Hague.

It’s breathtakingly exciting as deals, counter-deals with the IMF, The European Central Bank, Barack Obama, The Japanese Stock Exchange all feature.

But the star of the show for me, the goliath of European politics with a huge humanitarian heart (who knew?), an ear for listening, a mind for turning, a brain for evaluating is the one and only Angela Merkel.  At one point we actually see her weep, she cares so much about doing the right thing.

It’s electrifying.

Merkel stands out in this like only one other politician in this timeframe, Barack Obama. The two together are utter class and her steady hand at the tiller and her unerring attitude towards compromise and bargaining makes Theresa May look like what she is – a one-track, narrow-minded buffoon.

It’s so sad that her humanitarian management of the refugee crisis has led to an upsurge in German right wing populism and the decline of her own party and her personal status.  Not in my mind though.  Not in the minds of good, caring human beings.

Me?  I’d give her the Nobel Peace Prize.

It was brilliant from start to finish and is must watch TV.  On the BBC2 iPlayer now.

 

Save Me. Sky Atlantic.


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This is brutal TV.

Set in Inner London (Detford?) it’s written by its star, Lennie James, wearing a rather helpful bright yellow puffer jacket throughout, which aids recognition in long shots.  Lennie James has a thirty year acting career but you can’t help thinking, as you immerse yourself in this torrid tale, that this is the part he was destined for.  It will certainly take him up a step or two in the acting firmament.

Credit also goes to a truly brilliant cast of misfits, ne’er-do-wells, cross dressers, alcoholics, hard men, paedophiles, small time crooks, drug dealers, students and hookers.

This is Shameless with a purpose and far fewer laughs.

It’s brutal from start to finish; both upsetting and riveting.

It concerns the abduction of Nellie’s (James) daughter, Jody, from a previous relationship.  He hasn’t seen since she was three but his is the number she calls at the timer of her disappearance.  This immediately makes him prime suspect with the police.

But Nellie’s no child abductor.  He’s too busy maintaining his mildly alcoholic lifestyle which involves his moving from one girlfriend to another (he has four) in his ‘manor’.  Dodging and diving he ‘makes a living’ and spends all his spare time in the local pub where all his ‘family’ hang out and where he brashly lords it.

His ex and the girl’s mum, played extremely convincingly by Suranne Jones, are brought back together in the search for the girl, as the police take on something of a ‘Three Billboards’ type of half-hearted investigation.  But Nellie’s having none of that.  He wages his own investigation that takes him into an underworld of paedophile rings under the cover of his pal Melon, a convicted paedophile, played sympathetically by Stephen Graham.  He pulls off a tough part really well.

It’s a harrowing watch and every character plays their part in making it a too hard to call police procedural with a big difference (no police).  The story avoids cliche and maintains credibility throughout.

It’s tough.  But it’s great. And the loose ending promises more quality in series two.

 

 

 

Good start to TV New Year


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I was late getting to it but Season three of Black Mirror is brilliant in parts.  The best part being the stunning closing episode which takes a sideswipe at hate crime. As innocent as people may think it is to dis the likes of  Katie Hopkins (clearly the target at the start of the show) online Charlie Brooker ingeniously turns this into something truly spectacular.

A police procedural starring the excellent Kelly MacDonald and Faye Marsay that has more ideas in its hour and a half than most box sets do

A Netflix must watch folks.

Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile. Separated at Birth.


This is outrageously great; both as a meeting of songwriting minds with its resultant musical output, but also as a video.

It’s genius.  “Hey guys, you look like each other.” let’s swap your voices and dress Kurt in all white and Courtney in all black then mirror all your moves in black and white in the countryside.”

“Dude, done!”

(I wonder if one’s shot in Oz and one in USA? That would seem to make sense as they never actually come together.)

Boom! what a fucking result.

Extraordinary.

(And there’s an album to come.  I canna wait for that.)

The OA: review


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Netflix has surpassed itself with the OA.  It’s a feast of creativity, originality and puzzlement.

Frankly it’s not the sort of show I’d expect to like, loaded to the hilt as it is with mysticism, other dimensions, expressive movement, spells, spiritualism and a central character (the Original Angel) that is as near to a full on hippy as we’ve seen on our screens in forty years.  It’s a fantasy show that’s grounded in reality and borrows in style from Cronenberg and Jonathon Demme.

Part mystery, part meaning of existence it centres on the story of OA who starts out life as a blind Russian girl, daughter of an oligarch who has a near death experience at the age of six when her bus full of junior oligarchs is attacked on a bridge by a terrorist group.  All but her die and for safety she is shipped to America where she is adopted by an ageing couple who, on doctors orders, heavily sedate her for the next 15 years to treat the possible impact of schizophrenia.

On her 21st birthday she goes to meet her father (one of many premonitions) at the foot of the Statue of Liberty but instead meets Hap.  The man who is to become the central feature of her life for the next seven years.

I will stop with the storyline here as the rest will just become spoilers.

What emerges is a hugely complex plot that is impressively gripping and impossible to second guess.  Ten more characters perform as a brilliant ensemble as the story plays out.

It’s odd how Netfilx works, isn’t it?

There are no ads.  Indeed for this there were not even any trailers.

And because there is no ‘schedule’ the episodes can be as long or as short as they need to be which is very refreshing and makes them essentially unairable on traditional television.  One episode is around 65 minutes long, and one only 31, with a variety in between.

The OA is spectacular viewing.  Right up there with Stranger Things as the revelation of 2016 on ‘TV’.  It’s not for everyone but I’d imagine it is for most.

The ending has divided opinion but I for one thought it was good and after a bit of post showing research it’s entirely relevant and actually closes off a huge number of loose ends.

Enjoy.  Wish I could see it again without knowing its meaning.

One last thing.  the Title.  The OA.  It probably means Original Angel but I wonder if it could also derive from Oral Administration (of drugs) or could it be an inverse of Alpha and Omega? As in Jesus Christ proclaiming, as God, that he is the Alpha and the Omega (meaning the beginning and the end of existence).  Just a thought.

Greed. And why it’s bad for you.


Did you see The Bank Job on Channel 4?

Brilliant.

For a week the winning contestants in each nightly episode collectively pooled their night’s winning money into a collective pot.

Tonight the five finalists duelled one another in a process of elimination until only two were left.  (Two greedy blokes as it turned out.)

One was a lucky and hopeless player, the other a cool cat who thought he had it in the bag.

But the producers of this magnificent Game Show had one last twist up their sleeves (it transpired they had two in the final denoument though.)

So, each finalist was given two boxes with about £230,000 in one box and Trash in the other.

The next bit was tricky.

They had to decide if they wanted the full £450,000 or were happy to split the winnings.  But they couldn’t say it outright, they had to convince the other that they would share or that they were gambling for the lot.

The deal was, they gave their opponent either the box of Trash or the box of dosh.

If only one handed over the dosh the recipient took the lot.

If both handed over the dosh they spilt it.

But if BOTH handed over the Trash they BOTH lost and the dosh was split between the other three losing finalists.

What would you do?

Me?

I’d take my chances on my felllow man and assume that he too would rather have half than nothing and hand over the dosh, after all there was a two in three chance of losing by not taking this approach.

What did the greedy chaps do?

They both handed over the Trash and both left empty handed.

Served the greedy shites right.

A triumph for Channel 4 and a lesson in humility for all involved.

Shame on them.

2011. In hindsight.


2011. That was the year that was.

2011 was rather less fraught than 2010.  I didn’t work to such ridiculous extremes, and the year end saw my portfolio change quite considerably compared to 12 months ago.  Three big new clients at year end were Maidsafe, Vets2 and Front Page Design, all autumnal starters and all brilliant to work with.  My STV contract finally came to an end after three years but its been great and I am very grateful to them for all the work.

Some old troopers still stand by me; 60 Watt, Paligap, The Usability Lab, Corporation Pop, Ampersand and LA Media, with occassional work from a small number of others.

To you all; slainte and have a great 2012.

If my golf was bad in 2010 it beggared belief in 2011.  I gave up my membership at Dundas Park and clearly that did not have a galvanising effect on my game.  I was shit awful on both trips of the year and even my winter game has been poor.

We didn’t go away as a family in 2011, for a variety of reasons but I had the holiday (maybe an exaggeration to call it that) of a lifetime in June when Ria and I went to Glastonbury.  To say it was memorable would be something of an understatement.  There is one abiding memory of it, I have to say…the bogs.

Not good. And this was on day 1

But there were other memorable sights and moments, like this…

Not good. Day 4.

And this…

All good. Day 4.

Which brings me onto my musical highlights of the year.

My best of CD which you can have if you like included these tracks…

In a good year for music my song of the year, without question, was Video Games by Lana Del Rey.

My albums of the year were;

Bad as Me by Tom Waits (overall my favourite record)

Let England Shake by PJ Harvey

You and I by The Pierces

The English Riviera by Metronomy

A creature I don’t know by Laura Marling

50 Words for Snow by Kate Bush

Hotel Shampoo by Gruff Rhyss

Build a Rocket Boys by Elbow who also performed the gig of the year at Glastonbury (closely followed by King Creosote at The Liquid Rooms)

A different Kind of Love by Bombay Bicycle Club

21 by Adele

I did a lot of cinema in 2011…

Here’s what I thought of what I saw in my IMDB profile…

Two ten out of tens and a few nines show that it was also a good year for movies.  In retrospect I plump for three as my best of the year

Senna

A Separation and

Drive.

On TV This is England 2008 moved me to tears and was by far the year’s greatest offering.  I liked Top Boy too.

I didn’t read a great deal this year but have really enjoyed

The Brothers Sisters by Patrick DeWitt.

The Childrens Hospital by Chris Adrtian.

And Filthy English, The How, Why When and What of Everyday Swearing by Pete Silverton.

But the best read of the year by far was…The Guardian which I grow deeper in love with.

This was a big year of theatre for me.  I reckon I saw at least 20 different productions but easily the stand out was Dance Marathon in which Jeana and I and Chris and Liam danced our asses off for five hours before I was told I was relentless by the Producer.  We also had amazing nights at The Kings for James Cordon in One Man, Two Guvnors and The Lyceum for both Dunsinane and Age of Arousal.

This year was sadly marked by way too much illness among our friends for me to want to dwell on but Matt, David and Jenny I am thinking of you now.

Also, we lost James King, Joyce Cambell and Fiona Pirie from FCT and Rachel Appolinari at the outrageous age of 19.  RIP all of you. xxx

All of the family have blossomed in the past year, thank God, and long may it continue.  In particular Amy has shown an almost exponential growth in confidence and skills in many different areas.

2012 is University year for Tom and Ria should they both choose to go down that path.

And so, to 2012.  It’s the year I turn 50, Amy 21, Tom and Ria 18 and I aim, with Pete the Meat, to lose at least 50 pounds each before we turn 50 in May. We are raising money to do so and you’ll soon hear of our plans.

Thanks for being my reader once again in 2011.  My year end Technorati rating was an all time high closing in on a top 1% of all the blogs in the world rating.

16,000th out of 1.2 million.