Tuesday, 31 July 2012

K25 Part 7 - The Locomotion

Everybody's doing a brand new dance now... So sang Little Eva in 1962 when my Mum was a child, and again in '72 when my Mum was planning her wedding.

To people of my generation, though, The Locomotion only means one thing: Kylie. As part of the Kylie 25 celebrations, here's a video of Kylie singing it through the years. I think it's fair to say that not all the renditions feature the best vocals but they prove that Kylie has never been afraid to sing live - or to try something different:



NOW! That's What I Call A Tune! 42

This week's entry - OK, OK, this is last week's overdue entry, don't stress about it - is guaranteed to put a smile on your face. Honestly - I'm offering a full money back guarantee here! Enjoy:


Monday, 30 July 2012

Empty Seats and Corporate Sponsors

I wonder if McDonalds will be reconsidering this element of their current "We all make the games" ad campaign...?


Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Being Gay is bad for your Mental Health...

... or so claims the new Archbishop of Glasgow, Philip Tartaglia. The BBC reports that the Archbishop-designate said in a speech on Religious Freedom and Equality:
"If what I have heard is true about the relationship between physical and mental health of gay men, if it is true, then society has been very quiet about it.

"Recently in Scotland there was a gay Catholic MP who died at the age of 44 or so and nobody said anything and why his body should just shut down at that age, obviously he could have had a disease which would have killed anyone, but you seem to hear so many stories about this kind of thing.
"But society won't address it."
Quite aside from the hurt and upset this statement has obviously caused to the family and friends of David Cairns, particularly his partner Dermot Kehoe, the new Archbishop's words have wider implications.

The statement starts from a position of ignorance ("If what I've heard is true...") and doesn't progress much beyond that. It's almost like starting a story with "I was chatting to this guy in the pub and he reckons...

After the initial statement linking the physical and mental health of gay men (and I've checked Wikipedia, but it doesn't tell me where Tartaglia got his medical qualifications from), the Archbishop leaps from the general to the specific to suggest that although David Cairns could have had a disease which killed anyone, well he was only 44 and he was a known gay, so well he must have had mental issues which caused physical complications. AND WHY WON'T ANYONE SAY ANYTHING?

Obviously, there's a conspiracy of silence. Shhh.... don't tell anyone the gays are all unhappy and ill in the head.

Actually, Tartaglia has 2 half points:
  1. There is a link between being gay and mental health. But not the one he thinks. There are higher instances of mental health issues amongst gay people - but that does not prove a causal relationship
  2. There is a large amount of silence on this matter. Something I've bemoaned before, when Attitude magazine clumsily tried to explore the issue.
I'd suggest that societal attitudes to Homosexuality - not least those of the Roman Catholic Church - are a contributory factor to the issue of mental health amongst those who are gay. And for as long as people like Archbishop Tartaglia choose to address the issue in the way he did, the more damage he will do to cause of both Religious Freedom and Equality.

Meanwhile, the Scottish Government has today published plans for Equal Marriage despite the campaigning of the Roman Catholic Church and others. It's a move that will do more for Religious Freedom and Equality than any amount of misinformed moralising and demonising ever will.


Review - The Dark Knight Rises

"Made and Finished on Film" is the proud boast at the end of the credits of The Dark Knight Rises - a boast that will, I imagine, become rarer in years to come. Of course, that's not to say that "film"-making will be any the worse for that, any more than the advent of sound or colour made for worse films - but it may lead to a different type of film.

Christopher Nolan's film is an old-fashioned type of blockbuster - heavy on stunts, lighter on effects and eschewing 3D - and the intelligent (if far fetched) storyline ensures that you don't come out of the screening feeling like you've just been bombarded with music and images for 2 hours and 44 minutes. Indeed, in a lot of ways the action is downplayed or cuts from intense action to quieter or more dramatic scenes. Even the score, which in many places is as bombastic as you'd expect from Hans Zimmer, is adapted to allow for these periods in the film.

The Dark Knight Rises completes Nolan's vision for his Batman and seeks to bring the story to a natural end - an end I shall not be giving away - whilst leaving open the door for others to take up and run with elements of the story in further episodes of the franchise. More likely, of course, is that another director will step in and a re-boot will result. Unlike when Nolan took over the reins, however, a reboot is not required. Having set a darker tone and re-created a Batman mythology in Batman Begins, Nolan's version of Gotham and it's universe has been consistent, constant and character driven.

The plot of the latest instalment is somewhat contrived although it just about hangs together within it's own internal logic. To cut a long story short - Eight years have elapsed since the previous film, Batman is in retirement and Commissioner Gordon has banged up 1000's of criminals. Bane arrives in Gotham with an axe to grind against modern culture in general and Batman in particular. In amongst it all is Catwoman - feisty, independent and mercurially minded; but on what side will she be?

Whilst the story arc may have its flaws, what fascinates Nolan is what makes people who they are - in this case, the back story of Bane is told and re-told with each telling bringing us closer to an understanding of his origins - and why he wears a mask which distorts voice. The twin characters of Bruce Wayne and Batman are further explored with Wayne having to plumb new depths of resolve and spirit to succeed. The mercenary character of Catwoman is examined with Nolan questioning whether there can be any deeper motivation for action than either money or self-interest.

Once again, Nolan has a stellar cast: Christian Bale is excellent - again - as Bruce Wayne and also as The Batman (as Gary Oldman's Commissioner Gordon still insists on calling him), although his voice as the latter still annoys me. Michael Caine is back as Alfred before disappearing in one of the less satisfying elements of the plot. Morgan Freeman is back as Fox - Chairman of Wayne Enterprises and confidant of Wayne.

Joining them this time are Tom Hardy (whom Nolan previously directed in Inception), Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle/Catwoman, Marion Cottilard (who was also in Inception) as Miranda Tait and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Blake.

I enjoyed Gordon-Levitt's assured performance and Marion Cottilard was also good as Wayne's business associate. Anne Hathaway was intriguing as Catwoman with some wonderful lines and looks. There was something very sexy about the demure-but-assured way she delivered her initial dialogue with Wayne that had me (almost) falling head over heals for her. Hardy's performance I was less sure about, due in a large part to the ever present mask on his face. This meant that his dialogue was either muffled or shouted.

The film falls down in relation to The Dark Knight in that it lacked a character that lit up the screen - in the case of that film, the late Heath Ledger who brought an edgy, nervous energy to the roll of the Joker. Bane, by contrast, is a thug whose party trick is breaking people's necks with his bare hands and whilst Catwoman has some great lines, she doesn't get enough screentime. It also falls down in relation to Batman Begins which pared everything back and gave a context for Batman's activities and motivation.

I don't want to be down on the film, though, because for all it is flawed - the comparisons I've made are with it's two predecessors. In comparison with other Superhero films (i.e. Spiderman), The Dark Knight still rises well above the competition. Made and finished in plain old 2D film it may be - but in an all singing, all dancing 3D world an analogue Batman is still a force to be reckoned with.


Tuesday, 24 July 2012

You take the High Road...

... last week, I went home to Scotland for a long weekend. Partly this was because I got return flights, including admin fees, for the obscenely low price of £40. But mostly it was to surprise my parents (who didn't know I was coming) and take them out for Afternoon Tea at The Balmoral.

Whilst home, I went through to a friend in Glasgow who ran us out to Luss on the shores of Loch Lomond from where we took the Waterbus to Balmaha. After a late lunch (and a pint of Belhaven Best) in Balmaha's one eatery, we returned to Luss.

Readers of a certain generation may recall Luss was the setting for Take The High Road and I'm afraid to say I'm humming the tune as we speak; if you need a little help remembering what the tune was, just follow this link...

Anyway, here are a selection of pics from the Loch:


Thursday, 19 July 2012

Oh Dear, Aunty, Oh Dear...

I've just seen this on the BBC website:

I don't mean to be pedant* - and I'm sure the eagle-eyed will have noted a number of typos on these pages over the years - but, really, "to loose"? As grammatical errors go, though, that is one of the ones that jars the most - at least for me!


*of course I do, I love being pedantic!

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

NOW! That's What I Call A Tune! 41

Next week sees the release of NOW! 82 which means that this week's entry means I'm halfway to featuring one of the tracks (listed here). That will be sometime next spring around the time of the release of NOW! 84...

For now though, it's back to 1998 and NOW! That's What I Call Music! 41. The Beautiful South's "Perfect 10" was a contender, as were Lutricia McNeil with "Someone Loves You, Honey", Jennifer Paige with "Crush" and The Corrs' version of "Dreams" amongst others. Instead though, I've gone slightly leftfield (for me) and chosen Culture Club with "I Just Wanna Be Loved":


Wednesday, 11 July 2012

NOW! That's What I Call A Tune! 40

These posts seem to be getting later and later... at least it is still Wednesday, though!!

This week's choice is the brother of one of the artists featured 11 weeks ago - then it was Neneh Cherry, this week it's Eagle Eye Cherry with Save Tonight.



Wednesday, 4 July 2012

NOW! That's What I Call A Tune! 39

This week's choice was from a plethora of candidates on NOW! 39 - and if it hadn't been for this post featuring Natalie Imbruglia it would probably have been beaten into second place... 

That said, it's still a top tune. Here's Space featuring Cerys Matthews with The Ballad of Tom Jones. Enjoy!


Review - The Amazing Spiderman

About once a month - normally on a Tuesday - I'll head off to the cinema. Tuesday is my chosen day as my Showcase Cinema card gets me in for a £5 plus any surcharge for 3D). (It used to be £4.50 but, hey, that's inflation for you.) It also has the benefit of normally being quiet, especially if you're catching a film towards the end of its run.

So when I took the notion to go to the cinema tonight, my starting point was deciding what to see - effectively a straight choice between Prometheus (mixed reviews, Ridley-Scott, limited link to Alien) and The Amazing Spiderman (intriguing from point of view of being a reboot but I knew very little else apart from that).

Anyway, Spiderman won and I took my seat for the 7.30pm screening (not before being sold a ticket for an earlier showing despite the full schedule being displayed on the screen behind the counter assistant. Thankfully the Usher had a better knowledge of what was on and when, so I didn't miss the start.)

Normally I would avoid the release day of a major blockbuster -I like my cinema auditoria to be sparsely populated, especially if the film is likely to appeal to kids - but seeing as Tuesday is a quiet night anyway, I thought it safe to take a chance. As it was, there were around a dozen people in the screening I chose. Goodness only knows why it has been released on a Tuesday - am guessing it has a worldwide release and other markets have Tuesdays as regular release days.

As I said, my main interest was to see how they handled re-booting the Spiderman franchise. I had enjoyed the first two of the Tobey Maguire films but had been less than impressed by the last one. In the hands of a new creative team, with a new lead actor, would Spiderman follow Batman and Star Trek in being rejuvenated by a new approach - or would it follow Superman Returns in lacking the success of those franchises?

Time will tell when it comes to the success of the film but I'm afraid to say I wasn't hugely impressed. Indeed, I seem to have filled up this review with a great deal of talk which isn't about the film - mainly because I can't think of that much to say.

It isn't that it's particularly bad - it just isn't particularly good. Andrew Garfield is alright as Peter Parker (although his accent seems to slip occasionally). Emma Stone is alright as Gwen Stacy. Rhys Ivans is good as Dr Curt Connors, although I was less keen on his performance his alter-ego The Lizard (the face and voice of which reminded me of Voldermort in the Harry Potter films). Sally Fields is good as the long suffering Aunt May. Best, though, is President Bartlett Martin Sheen as Uncle Ben. Sadly his time in the film is all to short, aside from the prophetic voicemail he leaves prior to his murder.

The schedule board at the ticket counter - you remember, where the assistant was oblivious to the number and timing of the screenings - billed The Amazing Spiderman as Spiderman 4. Don't be fooled; it isn't. This is a complete re-write of the origins of Spiderman - as if the previous three films never happened.

I'm led to believe that in a number of respects, this version more closely follows the comics than the previous versions - specifically Spiderman's web is produced from a manufactured device rather than coming out of him directly. Another difference is that he lets his secret be known to Gwen from quite early on, rather than lead an entirely double life although whether this is authentic, I'm not sure.

In other respects, the story will be familiar - Parker is orphaned at a young age, is raised by his Aunt and Uncle, is an outsider at school, he finds his way to a Scientific Research Corporation - in this case the former employer of his father - where he gets bitten by a spider. He develops extraordinary powers of grip and strength which he learns to control whilst, simultaneously, becoming less of the steady and reliable Nephew he had been. Ultimately his own conscious inaction when he witnesses a robbery leads directly to his Uncle's murder and to the invention of Spiderman himself.

Spiderman's quest for justice brings him to the attention of the Police - and diverts attention from the antics of Oscorp and Dr Curt Connors. Parker's quest for peace and an understanding of his father's legacy leads him to give Connors the final piece of the puzzle preventing inter-species mutation. Connors quest for a World Without Weakness leads him develop his Lizard serum and seek to disseminate it to all New York. Ultimately, Spiderman must find a way to save the city and defeat Connors - and fulfil his Uncle's ambition that he take the opportunities to do good which present themselves to him.

Whilst more attention is given to the human side of Spiderman - he is repeatedly injured whilst in character - this isn't explored as deeply as it could be with Parker shrugging off the injuries sustained.

Ultimately, this is a bit of a missed opportunity; with a bit more drama and tension this could have been a good film. There is, however, too much comedy, too much slush, too much silliness and too much padding for it to really work.

So, this month's first cinema trip was a bit of a disappointment. Still, I got to see a trailer for November's Skyfall on the bigscreen. And President Bartlett. So it wasn't all bad. And there is The Dark Knight Rises to come later...


P.S. If you do go and see it, stay past the start of the end credits and you'll see a teaser for the next film - if and when it happens, though, I won't be rushing to see it.