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After another month of negative drug stories leading up to the championships new IAAF chief Seb Coe has promised to tackle the negatives of drugs in athletics. But it’s the ‘positives’ he has to worry about as we hear the IAAF cut the number of drug test for the Worlds with only one-in-three tested last week. They intend to target ‘certain athletes’, which means other athletes can take advantage of that, becoming the next load of positives. The IAAF can only enforce a feeble two year ban because the lawyers use restraint of trade rules to overturn longer bans. Federations have gone bust over challenging that. The Big events and Diamond League meets want WR’s and you can’t do that with the fastest athletes out for 4 years or more.
This has all come about by the cheaper to administer Blood Passport system where tests are measured against an original sample taken in the athlete’s teenage years. Any differences in the blood cell make up and the sample could be deemed a fail. The IAAF, through WADA, have been testing old samples from the last four major championships with the latest science to detect the newer drugs in those samples and it proved rather worrying, as high as one-in-three athletes appearing to be doping through retrospective testing. It quite literally took a leak to expose just how many had failed, 27 athletes supposedly set to be asked to retire from athletics or be named in the press in the next month. It’s believed some 60 gold medal winners had abnormal blood signs in the last 3 Olympic cycles. No British athletes were to be named and no massive names so far. One big British name now retired is believed to have failed tests. The IAAF simply doesn’t want us to know who have failed as they fear it will wreck the sports integrity. It’s too late guys.
I can’t see Seb Coe outing all the cheats as not that many people will pay 100 Euros to see the hundred meters run in 10.2 on a blustery night in Oslo.
A Germany TV company also did some great work around the NIKE camp in Oregon that kick started all the drugs scandal this year. The suggestion is top athletes from all sports are allowed to go there in privacy and no one really knows what they get up to. Things are further complicated for Seb as not only has he to deal with Oregon but has to decide whether to no longer be a NIKE Ambassador, a significant wage on top of many of his significant wages. NIKE continues to sponsor Gatling to the tune of $500,000 per year. Nike have never been a moral brand and all about attitude and cheating and hustling to make a buck, a company that made its name in America in the 1980s buy making sneakers with gang colors on them.
Team GB athletics golden stars Mo Farah and Jessica kicked it all off. Farah, the defending 10,000m champion, fended of a team challenge from Kenya to win his second World Championship 10,000m to go with his two 5000m titles and this now his eighth major gold medal in a row. He is truly the greatest racer this country has ever seen. The purist will say he was born in Somalia and so not British, team mate Andy Vernon vehemently so. But for me if they run at a young age in this country and beat their piers in their age groups then they are British. Mo arrived as a ten-year-old and didn’t run seriously until he was 16. In fact Mo was slower than Andy Vernon at most corresponding age groups when they both ran schools and club races. Mo simply trained on. I think that somewhat irks Vernon and so his accusation is really about is Mo clean or not. The right wing press revel in trying to bring down Mo.
Gorgeous Jessica Ennis returned from injury and having a baby to regain her World Title after missing the 2013 and 2014 seasons. I thought she would give it all up to have more kids and be a pundit and go down the Phill Tuffnell route but not so. She is the face of any remaining purity in the sport and we love her for it. She is certainly cute enough to get TV work, especially in this HD era that cruelly ages female presenters (Gaby Logan). Her record of seven major gold’s and three silver and bronze demand it, taking the grand slam of all six outside and indoor titles. I don’t think having a child a year ago is any hindrance and so overplayed.
For her successor in Katrina Johnson-Thompson it was disaster, fouling the long jump three times in a row and out of the medals. It was her strongest event and her only chance of beating Ennis. Pressure and inexperience told and she left in tears. It was nice to see the BBC’s man trackside give her a cuddle to hide those tears. Athletics, for all its drug wars, is a family sport at its heart in the U.K.
National Usain Bolt day and the always exciting 100m Final! The showdown with unbeaten drug cheat Justin Gatlin, who had won 26 races in a row over the last two years and made a mint of the Grand Prix circuit whilst Bolt was injured, meant Bolts cape of invincibility could fall. The world only wanted Bolt to win and he did. These days you can only judge a drug cheat by their demeanor and body language as we know the federations and administrations hide their failed tests. In my mind Bolt is clean. In this year’s final I couldn’t say that of many of the eight other runners. Fortunately the race was Bolts finest and he muscled out Gatlin on the line by a tight margin for his 9th straight World Championship gold against the form book. The enjoyable antics had gone and the tension clearly there but the sport was saved and Gatling beaten.
11 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP GOLDS
8 OLYMPIC GOLDS
6 WORLD RECORDS
The brilliant and likable Shelly-Anne Fraser-Price won the women’s 100m final in 10:79, beating the ever improving and striking looking Dafne Schippers from Holland, whilst America Tori Bowie, an ex long jumper, got bronze. Schippers has changed event from heptathlon and conceded that event to team GB for the remaining of her career and looks good for a possible Olympic double in Rio now in 100m and 200m.She is the definition of Amazonian.
Olympic champion Greg Rutherford become only the fifth Briton to hold the World, Olympic, European and Commonwealth titles simultaneously with a convincing gold. He was mouthing off about various things and clearly a guy who wants recognition and love for his achievements as he joins Linford Christie, Sally Gunnell, Daley Thompson and Jonathan Edwards in the golden quintet. But being a ginger he isn’t getting any. His jump of 6.41 was too good for the field and his longest winning jump for the big four medals. He is often accused of being lucky to win the big medals but I’m afraid this is what a non cheating Gold medal winner looks like. White, winning with average performances and extremely emotional and proud. He is winning with average jumps because the big cheating nations are being forced out of the sport by the success of the blood passport deterrent, and that means America.
The men’s 200m heats saw the big names coast through, Bolt looking clear favorite and Gatlin not the threat this time. Britain’s most exciting plastic Brit is the young man from the Caribbean, Zharnel Hughes not having an athletics federation on his island of Anguilla. I would rather we have him than America get him.
The gorgeous Genzebe Dibaba won a cracking 1500m with a great front run. She is the current WR holder. Her sister is even more talented and going for her 8th major gold in the 5000 and 10,000 meters. Sis holds three Worlds and three Olympic gold’s. She is the current WR holder for the 5000 meters. She is not as cute as her sister though. David Rudesha defended his World Championship title to add to his Olympic title and prestigious 800m WR.
Two female Kenyan ‘sprinters’ Joyce Zakary, 29, and Koki Manunga, 21, were the first to test positive this championships, taking the number to 13 from that country who are currently banned. It’s long believed a lot of blood doping goes on there in the long distance runners and equally surprising they are now winning sprint and field events. It’s no coincidence they top the medal table at half-way of the championships. I have always said cheating is linked to poverty and ethnicity and done by those who don’t feel they will be given a fair chance in life in other careers and so use sport and music to make money. It simply becomes a job to them and so feel no guilt in winning medals. To quote the suspiciously absent Yohan Blake of Jamaica:
"l wanted a better life to help my family,''
"I wasn't born with a golden spoon in my mouth; it was a really tough life’.
Most white athletes are middle-class and have other careers available to them if they don’t make it in athletics and sports and so less need to cheat. It remains my opinion that I don’t think people cheat to win so much but for sustaining cash and careers.
The most surprising Kenyan medal was the gold for Julius Jego in the javelin, firing it out to 92.34, a huge throw for a major final, breaking a few championship records in the process. 5ft 9 inch Jego got into throwing as he couldn’t keep up with the sprinters at his athletics club and saw Steve Backley on YouTube and decided he might try that instead. It’s the first ever Kenyan field medal, Egypt getting a surprise silver. You would think Kenyans would be good at spear chucking to be honest.
A thrilling men’s 400m saw South Africa's Wayde van Niekerk produce a sensational run of 43.48 seconds to snatch world gold and upset a star-studded field. It’s the fastest time that’s not Michael Johnsons and that WR now under threat. World and ex Olympic champion drug ban cheat LaShawn Merritt's 43.65secs for silver was a new personal best age 33 while James's 43.78 was a season's best in bronze. Merritt tested positive THREE TIMES for dehydroepiandrosterone, which he says he inadvertently consumed in a product he used for ‘penis enlargement’. It was the first time three guys went under 44 in the 400m. Britain's latest plastic Brit Rabah Yousif finished a fine sixth in his first world final with 44.68, being part in one of the great one-lap races. The South African was stretchered off exhausted.
A superb Triple Jump contest saw Jonathan Edwards WR finally threatened as 18 meter jumpers Christian Taylor (USA) and Pablo Pichardo (Cuba) battled it out jump by jump. Teddy Tango of France is the only other one jumping who has gone over the 18m mark but inured this year. It took the second longest jump in history to win gold as Taylor flew out to 18:21, just 8 cm down on Edwards WR mark of 18:29. Nelson Evora of Portugal came third.
Britain’s Christine Ohurougu bombed out in the 400m final finishing bang last. Alison Felix, who has moved up to 400m, took her tenth World Championship gold and Christine’s title. She is the female Usain Bolt and rather cute. Felix raw short sprint power from her 100m & 200m gold’s was too much for the Brit and she fell away on the final straight. Sophie Hitchon was the best Brit of the day with a brilliant fourth in the Women’s Hammer, breaking the British record twice in the process with 73:86m the new record.
Usain Bolt did it again with a superb 200M gold medal and blew away Gatling yet again. This is Bolts best event and the American never in it as Bolt claimed ‘La Decima’ of 10 World Champions golds. Remember, Bolt printed his blood tests online and passed everyone. For some reason WADA felt it was a good idea for athletes to log into a website to check their recent tests.
Tiffany Porter and her sister Cindy Ofila are two more plastic Brits and the type I don’t like. They went in the 100m hurdles and are very American in voice and appearance and born there and went through their system but not good enough for funding and selection and so came here to run. Porter was leading the final on the same night but fell on her face at the last for 5th after over striding at the end.
Tiffany Porter –‘describes herself as "proud to be American, British and Nigerian’.
Bolt was nearly retired by the Chinese cameraman on one of those segways when they guy accidentally backed into a barrier near the track and sent the machine into Bolts calf’s, sweeping the champ off his feet like Norman Hunter used to. Bolt wasn’t wearing spikes to grip the track and so no real damage but the camera hit the poor embarrassed techy on the head.
Dafne Schippers won the 200m final for Holland with a powerful run. She accelerates in 100 and 200 m races like a 400 runner and won the race in the last ten meters, a new European record 21:63, and that includes all the Eastern European cheats she beat. This is sum athlete. Dina Asher - Smith is a mega talented girl and finished 5th, breaking Cathy Cook’s 31-year-old 200 meter British record, and, also an Oxbridge student that speaks three languages.
Plastic Brit Shara Proctor won silver in an exciting long jump final with her penultimate jump of 7:07 took the lead, breaking her British record. But the American favorite Bartoletta responded and clinched it on her penultimate jump with 7:14m. Shara is another one from Anguilla with no athletics federation and so no real beef from me jumping for us. GB was now two medals away from matching the 6 from 2013.
Mo Farah completed the treble –double with 5000m gold, now six straight major championships. He is now Britain’s finest athlete, Somali born or not, and well deserved. The right wing press hates him for succeeding and desperate for him to be a drugs cheat. He has survived the coach Salazar controversy and finished the year of fine style. The thing is with Mo he is not a WR style runner and wins the gold’s in average times. He is quite simply a brilliant technician.
Ashton Easton defended his Decathlon World Championship title with a new WR, beating his old mark, 9045 points in total. Sexy Vlasic of Serbia in the women’s high jump returned from a long lay off to take silver in the behind new talent Mari Kuchina. Vlasic did enough posing to make sure she dominated the photos of the event. 4 gold’s is Britain’s best ever in the Worlds.
Bolt and Jamaica finished the evening off with both gold’s for the women and men’s 100m teams, Bolts 11th gold. The USA were DSQ, as were the Brits, China taking a shock silver, the stadium making a real din
The highlight is always of the last night is the one lap relays and it was a bronze for team GBs women behind gold medal winners USA and the men took the 4x400. The tally of seven medals for Britain beat 2013 tally. It was Gold for America in the men’s 4x400m relay, the Yanks sixth straight win in the event in the Worlds. Jamaica taking 3 of the 4 relays was not expected and put the small Caribbean Island above the US in the medals table. Kenya clinched an even bigger surprise by claiming top spot in the table for the first time with their seventh gold with Kiprot in the men’s 1500m.
Kenya -7 Golds – 6 Silver – 3 Bronze
Jamiaca - 7 Golds – 2 Silver – 2 Bronze
USA - 6 Golds – 6 Silver – 6 Bronze
GB - 4 Golds 1 – Silver –2 Bronze
Ehtiopa - 3 Golds 3 – Silver – 2 Bronze
There is no doubt that the blood passport system is working to catch and deter cheats. Half the Russian team didn’t turn up here fearing positive tests and they managed just 4 medals, extremely poor considering they were top 2 years ago in Moscow with 17 medals and second in 2011 in Korea with 19 medals. It’s also no coincidence two of the least tested nations over the last few years top the 2015 table, Kenya and Jamaica, usurping Russia and America. America nearly always tops the medal table and the firs time for 32 years they weren’t in the top 2. The States had a shocker and their athletes are either running scared or had someone whispering in their ear not to go to avoid embarrassing positives or underperform to avoid those tests, 6 medals down on 2013. A third of their medals went to athletes who had previously failed test. Team GB finished best European team for the first time ever after Russia’s demise.
So, Spanish horror shot in North America anyone, and with no subtitles? Why not! As part of Film4’s enjoyable, if out of kilter horror season, I thought I would give it a go. I generally steer clear of American horror movies as they are generic and silly and anything but scary or interesting. The cast are killed in order of cool and the girls need only look good in tiny shorts and tight tops to get the gig. Mama is different and by employing a European director to make his horror movie vision in those familiar North American vistas you have something a little different and interesting.
City trader Jeffrey Desange (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) has killed his wife and some employees on a gun rampage when he loses everything, grabbing his kids and driving out in the winter snow to the woods to kill his very young children too. The car skids off the road and they end up at a deserted cabin deep in the woods. There he pulls out his gun. But he is mysteriously grabbed by the shadows and never seen again.
Alone in the cabin the kids somehow survive and are found five years later, twin brother Lucas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) leading the search all that time as his brothers car was never found by the cops, and so location.
Social services agree custody of the kids to Lucas and his gum chewing rock chick girlfriend Annabel
(Jessica Chastain). The little ones are feral and eat bugs and act like monkeys. Their welfare is supported by Dr. Gerald Dreyfuss (Daniel Kash) and his institute, which agrees to house and feed the family in a private property hidden from the press, if they agree to some research on the kids. The media want to know how they survived out there in the hills and so does the doc.
The kids slowly come out of their shells to recount their experience. 7-year-old Lilly (Isabelle Nélisse) is too traumatized and doesn’t speak but Victoria (Megan Charpentier) more amenable.
But things quickly get a little bit weird as a presence appears to be in the house and the kids talk to it. The doc is getting increasing freaked out by his research and aware of the supernatural element. It lives in the wardrobe. Whatever it is, it appears to be the thing that mothered and reared the children in the woods and it’s not letting go. It’s now a straight battle between reluctant mum Annabel and the entity for the love of the children, a woman who doesn’t want kids from one who has lost some.
Ok, there is a cabin in the woods and a monster in the wardrobe but that’s about it as far as horror cliché goes here. This is above average fayre folks and atmospheric and well crafted. Spanish director Andres Muschietti has managed to pull $15 million together to complete his vision and make a tidy $146 million back. That is a very good sign for studios and expect to something bigger from this guy soon. He makes original and emotional interesting films in a well trodden genre.
The concept of the film is good, the mother who wants to mother and the one that learns to be a mother, the pull of that maternal instinct the tension of the movie. It’s quite affecting early on when the impossibly cute kids are all alone in the dark, damp and dilapidated cabin in the woods with this malevolent spirit. You genuinely do feel unsettled by that vulnerability and loneliness. What mum doesn’t want to know where their kids are if they are not holding their hands? The smallest child actor actually speaks no English and why she appears mute in the film, only adding to that feeling of being unsettled. Good stuff. I want a film to involve me early on.
The ghost thing is not all CGI for once and actor Javier Botet is employed to play it. He has the rare Marfan Syndrome, meaning he is very flexible and has unusually long and thin arms and legs. He plays it well. Think the rather terrible ending to Poltergeist and you have the monster. The evil spirit that hides in the shadows seems to work on screen so maybe not a film for younger kids. Even as an adult this one leaves you on edge. When you get to my age you have conflicting emotions around young kids in horror films. Even the ending is a surprise. This is definitely above average as far as the genre goes. But that’s not hard in this particular genre.
So Sleep Tight, a psycho horror film from director Jaume Balagueró, he of the quite brilliant ‘Rec’ 1 & 2. He is Spanish horror right now and the new Guillermo Del Torro in all but name, Sleep Tight a rapid remake of the short film El Propietario (2008).
Rec was great as it was an unexpected hit and played on post 911 fears of the enemy within through containment in Spain’s biggest city. All this biblical horror is going on in this apartment block with people walking down the side walk none the wiser. That claustrophobic psychological drama is the key to this films appeal.
Cesar (Luis Tosar) is the lugubrious suicidal concierge of an up market and traditional apartment block in the center of Madrid. He spends his days tending to whining guests and by night plotting to break their spirit and make them miserable. He is forty something and bald and the ladies have stopped looking and so must find other ways to amuse himself. He also has an ailing mom (Margarita Rosed) to drag him down, now on her last legs in hospital, reciting his evil deeds at her bedside, distressing her some more.
His next target in the block is the vivacious and attractive Clara (Marta Etura), who he secretly pines for, but would settle for her being miserable if he cant win her affections. Cesar has a key to every room and so has the unseen power to achieve his evil goals. The plan is to mess up Clara’s routine by drugging her at night and then messing with things in her apartment, things to make her sick and on edge. He knows her beauty is everything to her and so the one thing she can’t bare to lose. But a little girl (Iris Almeida) in the block is on to Caesars’ antics and demanding money and treats from him to keep quiet.
Clara is a lot tougher than the other residents and determined to be happy, regardless of her failing heath. Cesar steps up his game to break her spirit. He has also been sending anonymous love letters and texts to Clara and the police are closing in. They know it’s someone local. Then her handsome boyfriend Marcos (Alberto San Juan) visits and her health looks up again. He intends to take her away for a few days and so a spanner in Cesar’s plan. Cesar now has to figure out how to get the cops off his back and keep his job after a resident tries to get him sacked for his rudeness. Cesar has worked at many hotels and apartment blocks where bad things have happened.
Even though the central character is somewhat unshaped, this film is a thorough creep-out, playing on our vulnerabilities while making the villain the most sympathetic person on-screen. It prays on that fear that our routine is so fragile and we relay on how we look and feel about ourselves to get through the day. If someone says a nasty comment about how we look and feel it can set you back. The idea is that you are not rude to people so they are not rude to you. There are happy attractive people and sad plain people out there. You all know those people. One lot needs to bring the other lot down to their melancholy.
The acting is crafted on that passionate and vivacious way Spanish film is and Caesar a dark and malicious character. Bringing down his middle-class guests to improve his day maybe more common than we think in the catering world.
Dating has been reduced to a quick swipe to the right and dump to the left and some people are not happy at all. Tinder is very happy with that approach and has just been valued at one billion dollars for their simple but clever dating app. If you like the person on the photo you swipe right but if you don’t like them you swipe left. We may not think we are as shallow as that and simply going for people on looks and body shape but its true, especially men. Commentators say that apps like Tinder reduce dating to an aesthetic exercise. It always was that way guys. Blokes don’t fancy fat girls with tattoos and that’s the end of it.
Back in the day you were seen as a bit of loser for dating online. Today its how the majority of people meet their partners. We live online now and those sorting algorithms to find the right mate are far less arbitrary and much safer method than being half-cut down the club and hitting on everything that moves. How many of you have actually met someone you really like - or and had great sex with - in a club? The alcohol industry has a lot to answer for. For me first is how a person looks physically, second is their voice and third is their manner. I don’t like blind dates as it’s unfair on both parties and no one likes that feeling of disappointment. I don’t meet people online through dating apps either as they never look like there picture.
Men, of course, don’t marry for money and status whereas women will. They are prepared to make that compromise and so men have the edge in the dating game. Women will never admit a man with a good job and income is less appealing than a nice guy but chaps no the score. But being online means you can fake all that to a point and see the internet stuffed full of fake and exaggerated profiles. Never go by the picture. A dating site for married people wanting to have an affair was recently hacked and 40,000 of their 37 million members world-wide were leaked online. British local papers have dissected those leaked names and addresses and my hometown of Northampton had 7723 cheaters and the county of Northamptonshire well over 10,000. Most of the members search the profiles only and don’t actually meet anyone, which is true about most dating sites, but 12,000 Brit’s did meet and have an affair through this website. Blackmail is likely.
I used Tinder out of curiosity as I had heard about its reputation but not had the chance to use it on my old Windowsphone. Microsoft/Nokia have yet to make a version of it. But my Nokia kept freezing up and so I changed to Android. I’m now trying out Tinder. I have never met anyone through a dating app but intrigued to see how this worked. It’s free to use and very smooth. You don’t have to fill anything out as you simply link your Facebook profile to it, your only way to be part of the Tinder experience. No Facebook, no Tinder.
You only join and download on a smartphone as this has no official Laptop interface. You download it from Google play store and away you go. You then set your preferences…. like how far away you want the potential dates to be and their ages and stuff like that. It then scans for nearby Tinder users. It won’t pinpoint their location for obvious privacy reasons but tell you how far away in Kilometers. If you search within 5 miles or so you won’t get many replies. I believe there are dating apps that will actually pinpoint the position of your phone so be careful. It would be intriguing to know what your neighbors and friends are up to though by showing exact locations. A couple of weeks ago I was out walking in the countryside and flicked it on in a small hamlet and there were ten users in this tiny village registered on Tinder.
As the images of the members appear on your app you can either swipe left or press a red cross to say no thanks. If you like them you can press on the member picture to explore more of the profile and further pic’s and then swipe right or press the green tick. The clever and extremely simple bit is you can only converse and message with that person if she or he has pressed yes to your profile. This cuts down on people you don’t fancy, harassing you. The best bit is actually being liked by someone, especially when they are cute. And if they don’t fancy you then you will never know. For something that is free of charge this is great fun but be warned, most of the udders are young and working-class and not the place to go for your ideal life partner. The gay online scene operates with apps like this and this is how they meet, that promiscuous carefree online lifestyle now being offered to heterosexuals.
With the Ashes in the bag and England 3 sets to 1 up they headed off to The Oval in search of their biggest home thrashing of Australia in their history. Australia had prepared poorly at Northampton and went for 400 in a day against a weaked Northants batting line up, including two guys who had never played first-class cricket, Northants Stephen Crook the best Aussie on show by far by scoring a scintillating 142 not out. Crooky is a nice guy and well deserved. But he is more British than Australian now and so not in the selector’s mind of either nation. So bad were Oz that the Northants team were instructed by their management not to finish off the Aussies in the afternoon of the final day on 180-8 so to avoid the embarrassing follow on and putting the fragile Aussie first 5 back in. Australia had not been ask to follow on in a tour match since Ian Botham’s days at Durham some 20- years ago. Northants duly put on their part time bowlers and Australia closed the day early on 310-9, the coach tires screeching as they left for their hotel. In the future there is talk that Australian team will no longer play second division teams on their tours on provisional grounds, they say because the batting and bowling isn’t strong enough, we say to avoid embarrassments like this. Northants will probably have gone bust by then anyway. Its not looking good for my team these days.
A packed Oval saw Cook win the toss and surprisingly put Australia in on flat Oval track, still no Andersen. Cynics would say this was to secure at least four days play as the match was sold out for those four days, the refunds for the third and fourth days in access of two million bucks at the previous three tests finishing early.
After a tentative start that saw the first boundary arrive after 16 overs, the longest wait since 1976 in test match cricket, Rogers and Warner didn’t care about the toss and batted through the session for no loss. Rogers’s knicked out to Cook on 43 soon after lunch for a century partnership and new vice captain Warner (85) out to Mo Ali for the fourth time this series to miss a century again. Captain elect Smith bedded in for his next century attempt but current captain Clarke caught behind for 15. He requires 172 not out second innings to retire on a 50 average. Vogues joined Smith to put on 100 to close the day on 287-3, Smith the third youngest Aussie to 3000 test runs.
Youngest Australia batsmen to 3,000 Test runs
24 years, 180 days: Don Bradman
26 years, 75 days: Neil Harvey
26 years, 79 days: Steve Smith
Australia crashed on in front of another packed Oval crowd on day two as Steve Smith raced towards his 11th test hundred, all of those in the first innings. In between this and his Lords hundred there has been very little though, where the Ashes was lost for me. He added 146 with Adam Vogues (76) and then 91 with the ever improving Mitchell Starc (58) before being bowled by Finn for 143. Australia made 481 after being put in by Cook.
Australia Ist innings 481 All out
England’s target was 281 to avoid the follow on but soon in trouble, the opening wicket partnership failing again, all 8 England opening partnerships in The Ashes only 30 runs and under. But Cook was not the problem as Lyth has proved he is not a test cricketer with yet another failure. 30-0 tumbled to 149 all out as the returning Siddle offered much more control with the opening bowling partnership with the always wayward Mitchell Johnson. Ali (30) did his best at number 8 to post a score but woeful stuff from the rest. Mitchell Marsh proved very useful and good to see Siddle back to add that much needed stability to the wayward Starc. Australia's first-innings lead of 332 was the second highest by an Ashes team losing the toss and batting first (the highest being Australia's 411 at Brisbane in 1954)
England 1st Innings 149
Day four and Clarke enforced his first ever follow on in first class cricket in his final test. He has only had 6 chances in his career to do so, four for Australia. Peter Siddle were extremely tight to start the second-innings with his spell beginning with 34 dot balls (including a wicket) before he conceded a run. Cook was determined not to give up his wicket and played an old fashioned test innings of only having to hit what you have to and batted for nearly six hours for 85. But at 199-6 it was all in vain as the gormless Johnny Bairstow failed to appeal against a catch at short leg that came of the short legs helmet grill and so a dead ball. Butler made 42 and Ali 35 to bring up the 250 but not much else as England were bowled out on day four and so victory to Australia by an innings. Siddle’s bowling figures of 35-4 off 24 overs suggested he wanted to make a point and maybe The Ashes lost by not appointing him in the first test when Harris retired crook.
England 286 All out
Australia win by an innings and 46 runs
Summing up the Ashes was one by the team’s ability to deal with the pitches. England win at home and Australia win Down Under. Lyth will be dropped for the Pakistan tour in the UAE and I hope his Yorkshire opening partner Lees replaces him, the better of the two who shared 3000 runs last season opening the batting. Bell will tour but needs a rest and maybe 12th man in the first test. Rashid will come in as spinner and Mooen will open. Bairstow can’t bat and so we may see a new face at six. But Pakistan spinners are no longer bending their arms and although Pakistan unbeaten down there I expect England to do much better than last time in the UAE.
Star – Ang Lee
Genre – Fantasy
Run Time – 127 minutes
Certificate – PG
Country – USA/Taiwan
So, Life of Pi, the award winning film of the renowned Man Booker Prize winning book of the same name from Spanish writer Yann Martel, telling the story of an Indian boy lost at sea, accruing 4 golden statues at the 2012 Oscars, Ang Lee for Best Director the most notable. It was controversial at the time as two of the Oscars were for the films impressive special effects but the company that created some of those effects going broke two weeks before the big night. There were lots of late changes to the films effects but the work not paid for because of the horrendous contract and so the company, Rhythm & Hues Studio, went under. They simply couldn’t compete with tax exempt foreign studios that could do it cheaper, based in India, ironically. There were huge protests by the industry outside the Oscars event for the way special effects companies are treated and when the visual affects guy that won the big award bought up the strike at the Oscars on stage his mic was mysteriously cut off, the sound guys not so sympathetic it seems.
Life of Pi (2012) became the first family film to win the Academy Award for Best Director since Carol Reed for Oliver! (1968) at the 41st Academy Awards in 1969. It was the first PG winner since 1985. It’s a rare film in that it earned more on Mainland China than in the United States, the way Slumdog Millionaire did in India. Its $120 million budget would do $609 million back world-wide, a big return for a semi subtitled movie. Hollywood has finally decided to make movies for the rest of the world.
Suraj Sharma ... Pi Patel
Irrfan Khan ... Adult Pi Patel
Ayush Tandon ... Pi Patel (11-12 Years)
Gautam Belur ... Pi Patel (5 Years)
Adil Hussain ... Santosh Patel
Tabu ... Gita Patel
Ayaan Khan ... Ravi Patel (7 Years)
Mohd. Abbas Khaleeli ... Ravi Patel (13-14 Years)
Vibish Sivakumar ... Ravi Patel (18-19 Years)
Rafe Spall ... Writer
Gérard Depardieu ... Cook
All grown up Piscine ‘Pi’ Patel sits in his modern family home in Toronto reciting a fantastical tale of his youth to a Newsweek writer (Rafe Spall). Pi was the only survivor of a shipwreck as a boy and his version of events of his 229 days at seas all alone in a lifeboat appear preposterous and unbelievable. Some how a 14-year-old Indian boy survived to tell the tale and the writer wants to believe the story.
As a young boy in India Pi loved the math’s equation and so hence the name. He also loved animals as his father Santosh (Adil Hussain) owned and ran a zoo with his wife Gita (Tabu). Pi spends his days after school leaning about God and all the religions of India and the world, a fascination that sees him join many of them. He has calculated there are 130 Gods to try. His brother Santosh quips that ‘Pi only needs to convert to three more religions, and will spend the rest of his life on holiday. But the political situation has changed in Indian and some of those religions not welcome anymore and so the Patel family decides to immigrate to Columbus in Canada. This will mean the animals will be coming with them on a boat as they intend to rebuild the zoo in North America.
The boat sinks in a terrible storm and young Pi thrown clear on a life raft. But some of the wildlife from his family zoo are also on the boat, including a Zebra, a Hyena, a Orangutan called Orange Juice and a fearsome Tiger called Richard Parker. He is called that name as the zoo manifest got muddled up with the hunter who caught the Tiger and the name stuck, the hunter now known as Thirsty. What you don’t need when you are being tossed in 20ft waves and lashed by rain all on your own is a hungry Tiger though.
It’s hostile at first as the law of the jungle plays out on the boat as the days tick by and the boy tries to tame the Tiger. Pi believes God is testing him and this epic battle of survival will be the making of him. But how do you tame an angry Tiger? They only have so many supplies in the lifeboat and the Tiger is the only one who eats meat. Unless he can feed the tiger then he is the Tigers next meal. He sets about the impossible challenge with a whistle and a broken oar. But nature has away of providing in the most desperate of situations as the wonderment of the world comes alive in the middle of the South China Sea. The fear of the Tiger will keep him alive in the endless days to come.
PI: ‘When you look into an animal's eyes, you are seeing your own emotions reflected back at you, and nothing else’.
It was ok. I expected more. It looks great (and lets face it, it had to) and very much the cinema experience type film these days and perfect for Blue Ray home viewers, me. Iridescent is not the world. But in the same way Martin Scorcese overdosed in the cinematic power of CGI but forget about the rest of the cinematic experience with Hugo, Life of Pi is really just a visual experience over a compelling adventure. The cod psychology around the books religious statements appears lost here in an almost infantile way.
The Oscar for Ang Lee was more about those special effects than a special film. It was a difficult book to bring to life as you are reliant on CGI and a bloody huge water tank. Its Waterworld meets Titanic. The animatronics and CGI to put the tiger in the boat with the kid is very realistic but that’s really all there is here. I didn’t read the book but I suspect the film lacks the intelligence and written word and this very much aimed at a more general audience. As far as its religious context and exploration of morals go I suspect they had to re-write that bit so not to offend the many countries this was targeting in the multiplexes. I’m pretty sure there are very few Indian boys allowed to choose their religion anyway.
Its very much wobbly head postcard India and inoffensive in every way. No mention of Indians real problems around religion and the treatment of women, caste and the have nots. The Bollywood image of peace and love of India is so far from reality now. But it is a fantasy so I will let it of on the score.
Acting wise the kid does his best but his performance it almost feels like he is in a live action cartoon at times in the way it plays and the director more interested in the final gross through his 3D and special effects than three-dimensional storytelling. Everywhere you look in this film there are images of beguiling beauty: a mirror-like sea reflecting golden clouds; a sudden swarm of flying fish; an island bristling with meerkats; and a breaching whale glowing with bioluminescence as it leaps out of the water. Again it wasn’t to push Blue Ray and 3D. If this is aimed at kids as well I bet they didn’t get it. Suraj Sharma who plays Pi never intended to audition for the film. He went to a casting call to support his brother, and beat out more than 3,000 hopefuls for the lead role.
The thing that annoys me most is it’s nearly three hours on the Blue Ray version so not one for a sunny day. That’s too long and feels like every day of those 229 at sea. On the whole, though, it’s not the super movie it’s portrayed as and very much big ambitions being diluted by the task it set itself – to make a shed load of money from an intelligent book. Its good fun but not the must see movie we are told. But it isn’t easy to make $600 million bucks from a film without Americans or America in it and so fair play for that effort Mr Lee.
Imdb.com – 8.0/10.0 (367,132votes)
Rottentomatos.com –87% critic’s approval
Metacriitc.com – 79% critic’s approval
Leonard Maltin Film Year Book – 3/4
There is a two disc Blue Ray version but I only had one as it’s a rental. Clearly the Blue Ray experience adds a lot to this movie and if you have the HDMI 3DTV you can get even more from it. It looks incredible and the color palette sumptuous as you would expect with rich primary colors used at every opportunity. Because there are so few objects to compete with the water and big sky it makes any alien object like a tiger even more striking and surreal.
We have some behind the scenes subtitled stuff from director Lee and his cast and some deleted scenes. There is some art work stuff you can copy and some web links to the movie website. There are no bloopers or silliness.
Movie Metropolis –‘"Life of Pi" isn't just a visual effects movie stuck at sea. There's a compelling story here as well’.
The New republic –‘Veteran filmmakers will warn you, don't film at sea and don't work with animals. Ang Lee built a vast tank in Taiwan and he whips up awesome storms. [However,] watching the water here is more rewarding than watching the characters’.
New City –‘The ferocious swells and intent visual beauty Lee has brought to Yann Martel's best-selling seeking-of-the-spiritual yarn quickly evokes a second thought: "Here Kitty, kitty, kitty, nice kitty, here kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty."
There was a recent story in the news where young women complained about the size of retails stores mannequins. They said the window display dummies were unrealistically thin and knowingly so. The girls said it was unrealistic to expect a girl to be this shape and set a bad example by making young women feel inadequate and guilty about their size. The girls said stores should use more realistic mannequins to attract and keep customers. I disagree. Fashion is aspirational and if the boutique and chain stores put regular sized pair shaped dummies in the window it would actually put young women off from shopping in their. They want to believe by buying these clothes they can appear to look as slender and demure as those dummies. Shops want to make money and sell dreams. Even the women who complained would end up back at the stores with skinny mannequins. New Look are no better or worse at doing that. The dummies certainly don’t represent the women walking up and down Northampton highstreet…pushing buggies, tattooed from crack to neck and half cut.
New Look are a relatively new chain on the British highstreet and the only South African retailer on that British high street after being sold this year for £780 to investment company Brait SA. They have 1000 stores worldwide and very much an international brand with stores in Azerbaijan and China, unlike Superdry, who actually grew up in Huddersfield. When that type of sale happens it tends to mean its either losing money and needs to be ‘reorganized’ or getting too big, too fast. Let’s hope they will be on the high street a little longer as they sell decent stuff. They did post profits of £1.4 billion though so I may be wrong. I really felt women’s clothes shopping would not be affected by online sales as girls love to touch and feel retail and window shop in their lunch break to line up future purposes but they do seem to struggle now. We know BHS will be the next chain to go under and with clothing companies like Internationale finally going broke after being in administration three times you must feel for the likes of Superdry and New Look.
The stores have clothes for mostly fashionable young men and women and reasonably priced on some brands. In Northampton we have a men’s department upstairs and women downstairs. Why are women’s stuffs always on the ground floor? I need some shorts and sunglasses and I always find that if shorts cost over a tenner then everything else is going to be expensive in a store. I know shorts come under the summer supply and demand rules and the price hyped up at summer but £15 quid is a bit much. Same with the sunglasses and starting at a designer price of £14.99.
Thye have a good range for men and women and mid range pricing across their lines. Casual trousers like Chinos are around £25-30 and I would say similar prices to H&M. I would say it’s a store more for females as the means stuff is only 25% of the Northampton store. New look has a large range of shoes that seems to draw in the females. They do say the average woman has at least 20 pairs of shoes in their closets of which they have only ever worn half. The theory is that heels give women confidence and they can look rich men in the eye. In my mind the misses puts on make up and high heels to upgrade their men. The longer she spends in front of the mirror the less you relationship will last.
Good ranges across the store and summer lines now on discount. The fashion this year has been for short skinny jeans and anything that goes with a trendy beard for younger men so not for me. I tend to go in these mid range places to get the staple clothing item like shorts and jeans. But again even the jeans are a little bit too trendy. I do prefer Primark jeans for value as they are classic styles and you can get slim fit and not just dad jeans. I have a great as so I show it off! That can be attractive to younger women you know. New look also do surprisingly cheap socks for some reason (maybe a loss leader?) and great for ankle sucks. Primark socks last ten minutes.
Nope, it’s not that Paul Smith but cricket Paul Smith. This Paul Smith doesn’t wear suits; a bandana and a copy of Rolling Stone magazine under his arm more his thing. Older sports fans will remember him from a very fine all conquering Warwickshire County Cricket team around the time of Brian Lara’s peak and this guy was the all-rounder with that mullet alongside the brilliant West Indian, captained by the mischievous Dermott Reeve. Paul tells a great story where they were batting together and Lara began to show just how good he was at Lords in a county match by telling Paul exactly which boundary board he would hit next off the spinner. He hit all five named and then finished off the over with a huge six that almost cleared the main pavilion. No one clears that pavilion in cricket. Not even Chris Gayle! But Lara didn’t, either, as the ball hit the flag pole next to the Old Father Time weather vain stopping the ball dead. If it had missed the flag pole Lara would have earned a 50k sponsors bonus for clearing all 18 pavilions in county cricket. He was that good.
Paul was very quick for a white boy and gave the ball a hell of smack over the ropes too, a bit like Northants David Willey. Paul would have loved Twenty20 but his career over before the new century. I know Paul through cricket friends on Facebook and I like to talk with authors as I read their books, as I am with Paul. Facebook is very good like that. He remains an enigma though and very guarded with people not in his close circle of friends. A lot of sports people live in that bubble. A lot of cricketers don’t have a small bundle of close friends. Trust is eventually broken.
This guy knows cricket’s secrets and isn’t telling, the selling point to this book, sadly most notable for his prestigious drugs consumption to match his likewise runs and wickets appetite and still refusing to name up to seven of his teammates who also indulged. Because of that rock star image at the height of his sporting fame he was mixing with rock stars like Michael Hutchens and Mick Jagger and George Best spoke at his benefit. And the boy was a good player, breaking many Warwickshire records, cricketing ones that is.
At the time he was their best young player in the team and opened the batting, scoring 1500 first-class runs when just 22-years-old. He was a 50 wicket a season guy and enjoyed himself off the pitch just as much on. Sadly that side of things probably denied him an England cap or two. He nearly didn’t have any of that cricketing cosmopolitan life though as he is a big rock fan and informed his old man when he was just 18 that he wasn’t going to take up the offer of a summer contract at Egdbaston seconds but tour with Van Halen selling merchandise. In fact he stopped a match once because his music was on too loud at his nearby digs. I like this guy. Metal had actually stopped play. If he had chosen Americas finest rock band he would definitely still be selling T-Shirts today. He doesn’t strike me as the intellectual type, Dermott Reeve describing him as ‘cricket’s first bimbo’, a stroppy monosyllabic teenager side to him when we talk. It didn’t help that his best mate at school was Simon Donald of Viz fame. In a way he is like the Sam Malone (Cheers) of cricket and he also drove a Corvette at the time.
I enjoyed watching him as a player and recall seeing him a couple of times outside of cricket. Once was on Clifton Beach in Cape Town where he and Dermott Reeve - and some unnamed players - were smoking pot and hammering the stubbies and the second time was in America. I now know the bum I saw was indeed Paul but I didn’t know at the time. I had to do a double take back in the day when we drove past a guy who looked remarkably like the Warwickshire all-rounder selling fruit by the side of the road. I thought no more about it until stories surfaced in the press later on that he had gone to America to detox and fallen on hard times. He admits that drug use here and the book very much confessional and heart felt on those times but a guy still angry that he was scapegoated to protect ‘bigger names’ doing the same. In my experience pretty much all cricketers of note back then smoked pot, drank too much and popped some pills. As long as it doesn’t improve player’s performance then who cares is my attitude, and clearly Paul’s. As he quotes Oscar Wilde in the book – ‘he could resist anything but temptation’.
Paul shouldn’t be defined by those party days though and was an integral part of those glory days under Bob Woolmer; Warwick’s renamed the ‘Manchester United of cricket’ after winning three of the four domestic trophies in the same season and loses just 4 games in 43 in that season. Seasons were grueling back then and Smith he once played 27 days first and second’s cricket back-to-back. Lara was there and had scored 365 runs for the test World Record and then scored that insane 501 for Warwickshire against Durham. At one point Lara scored 1000 runs in seven innings and went on to score 2000 runs in one season, the last t do it. He scored seven hundreds in eight championship matches.
Another side of Paul is his charity work where he set up a sporting chance style charity in Birmingham where unemployed kids would play cricket and then stuffy afterwards to build their skills and confidence. Apparently it was a big success and well supported by the ECB, funding and admin wise. It certainly attracted celebrity endorsement, Camilla Parker Bowles once asking Paul how to ‘ball tamper’. Paul would later take his cricket project to America and Los Angeles and apparently the gangbangers also too to it. Its nota good idea to put a three pound lump of wood in these guys hands.
There are some intriguing anecdotes and reveals throughout the book from a man who obviously knows where the bodies are buried. Those skeletons are rattling in the cupboard on many of the pages and Paul telling me 75% the legal people saying they couldn’t print. There are funny and painful bits too. Like when Dermott Reeve asked what the noise was when Paul bowled. He said the metal plate in his face he got after being hit by a fast bowler had slipped and was ‘grating’ on something.
In the time when most cricketers had to work a separate job in the winter Paul claims that two unnamed England bowler’s worked as a ‘topless barman’ and a ‘gigolo’ in their downtime. I’m guessing that’s not Eddie Hemmings and Jack Russell. We also hear about the extent of drug use at Warwickshire and beyond and the lengths the players went to so not to test positive. The 12th man would have to go to Holland & Barrett and buy certain remedies and potions so to mix up in a tea urn and pack it away in his boot and then serve up to the players if there was any sign of the drugs testers, the potion able to mask drug use. Phil Tufnell actually rubbed sun cream in his eye to avoid a drugs test during a Middlesex’s game in the early 90s. At my club Northants the only test twice a year and the players usually tipped off on the day.
Being cheated on is another scar that hasn’t healed for Smith. His partner cheated on him with his best mate, the confirmed pot smoking Warwick’s wicketkeeper Keith Piper. Paul had a kid at that time by her and described himself as an immature parent back then. ‘I was a father whilst a kid myself’, his exact words. I think there are many men who feel like that today. Smith delivers some nice text when his emotional heart is racing most in the book, saying he couldn’t sleep as a father, not because the kid was screaming so much but he could hear every rustle, breath and gurgle of his little boy. Fatherhood is the ultimate responsibility. It’s not unusual for players to bonk each others partners. At Northants the reserve wicketkeeper was caught in bed with the first team wicketkeepers misses, two weeks before the wedding. The reserve keep always knew where the first choice keep was on match day and so easy. As Gladstone Small quipped on Paul’s likely fidelity as best man at Smudgers weeding – ‘here comes the bride and the groom is dismissed first ball!’ Attractive and famous men are a big catch for women and so why women should never try to catch them and keep them in their net in the first place. Women really are to blame you know.
It’s a fun read and a little bit naughty but the good stuff will have to wait for another day. Paul told me he is planning that book on kindle. There is some new information here for cricket fans and not all scandal but the narrative as muddled as the man. The negatives to the book are it’s poorly edited and extremely non linear in approach. The author says it’s not supposed to be an autobiography and simply musings from his life but to me it feels like he simply threw the manuscript up in the air and put the book together on how the pages fell on the floor. Suddenly you have a photo in the middle of a chapter and then italic small print below it takes you off on a complete tangent. It’s possible he didn’t look at the final edit after the lawyers had red-penned most of it but something went astray. At £16.99 hardback it wasn’t cheap on its original release and that for just 200 pages. Mine was 50p in a charity shop bin, where Paul’s life is right now.
Next week the Queen will become our longest serving monarch, clocking up 63-years and 184 days, surpassing Queen Victoria. If you are interested the longest serving monarch of all on the planet was King Sobhuza 11 of Swaziland, clocking up an impressive 89 years and 219 days. His dad – and the previous king – died suddenly dancing on ‘hot stones’ and so four-month-old Sobhuza got the gig. The oldest ruling monarch still alive is King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand, ticking up his seventieth year on the throne. But this film is about Christian VII of Denmark, who served a decent 55 years at the top, a then record, this being 18th century Europe, a few heads chopped off during his reign. The Danish Throne was gripped by scandal during the decade of the 1760s, the subject of this entertaining costume drama.
• Mads Mikkelsen as Johann Friedrich Struensee
• Alicia Vikander as Caroline Matilda of Great Britain
• Mikkel Følsgaard as Christian VII of Denmark
• David Dencik as Ove Høegh-Guldberg
• Søren Malling as Hartmann
• Trine Dyrholm as Juliana Maria of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel
• William Jøhnk Nielsen as Frederick VI of Denmark
• Cyron Bjørn Melville as Enevold Brandt
• Rosalinde Mynster as Natasha
• Laura Bro as Louise von Plessen
• Bent Mejding as J.H.E. Bernstorff
• Thomas W. Gabrielsson as Schack Carl Rantzau
• Søren Spanning as Münster
• John Martinus as Ditlev Reventlow
• Erika Guntherová as Hofdame
• Harriet Walter as Augusta of Saxe-Gotha
• Klaus Tange as Minister
Young King Christian VII (Mikkel Følsgaard) of Denmark is a bit of an idiot with a child like madness, destined to wed the young and beautiful Caroline Matilda of Great Britain (Alicia Vikander) to strengthen both royal families. It’s an arranged marriage and little chemistry, Christian preferring hoars and booze to marriage and kids.
As smallpox spreads across the kingdom some recently Squeezed out lefty members of Christian’s regal court, Pieter Münster (Søren Spanning) and Ditlev Reventlow (John Martinus), want to get back in favor with the King and so decide to help appoint a royal physician to tend to the kings madness, the plan being German doctor Johann Friedrich Struensee (Mads Mikkelsen) gets them back into the Kings favor and secure the prestigious job for life for Struensee in return.
The King and Stuensee hit it off and soon exchanging ideas and going hunting together. The German doc is a free thinker and a socialist and soon suggesting the King think for himself and make some change for good in his kingdom, mostly run on the order of serfdom and peasantry to keep the Royal Court barons and families in their lavish palaces and in power. Then the German falls for the beautiful young queen, the lovers stealing secret moments in the palace and on the castle grounds. If the Royal Court were to find out then it’s off with his head.
The Queen loves books and joins their unofficial politburo as they discuss new ideas and how to fund them, the group passing over 100 new laws to help the people rise out of poverty. The Royal Court is getting distinctly nervous though as their stipend has to fall so to pay for the social engineering. But the Doctor is too power hungry and soon gets the king to sign over yet more powers to him as the remaining noblemen begin to plat against him and his cohorts.
Germans taking over royal families are nothing new, of course, but as I knew little about this time in Denmark (and why the hell should I) it was engaging enough to pull me in. I’m generally not a big fan of subtitled costume period dramas but as this was well rated and Oscar nominated for Best Foreign Movie then I gave it ago and glad I did. It’s not too dark or gothic, or a melodramatic bodice ripper, and moments of humor sit well with the history lesson and romance. In fact the love story is quite cold and this movie less a story about that and more about social engineering.
Mads Mikkelsen (you will know him when you see him) is an interesting actor and another reason to see this, Swedish beauty Alicia Vikander as the Queen also good. She had to learn Danish for the film in just two months. It’s a bit Blackadder at times as Mikkel Følsgaard plays his King Christian role like Hugh Laurie’s imbecile Prince Reagent (what is it with royals and madness?) and the German Doctor, Edmund Blackadder in all but name. There are plenty of Baldricks.
That Oscar nomination bumped up the box-office to a decent £8 million for a sub-titled film and director Nikolaj Arcel able to deliver his sumptuous period drama to a wider audience. Although a bit long it has a good feel to it and a little known time and place in history explored neatly for an audience that likes to learn things from their movies. The subtitles are few and far between and the dialect surprisingly pithy and easy to follow. For some reason foreign subtitled movies often appear more intelligent than they are. In fact I am convinced many English made movies seen in foreign climes with subtitles would instantly improve. Good foreign film for likewise fans.
Imdb.com – 7.6/10.0 (27,132votes)
Rottentomatos.com –89% critic’s approval
Metacriitc.com – 73% critic’s approval
Leonard Maltin Film Year Book –
Globe & Mail – ‘For its entire incident, A Royal Affair is slow and picturesquely framed - more of a languorously animated coffee-table book than a gripping drama’.
Vue Weekley –‘ Out of some dry lines, Shakespearean allusions, and its playing with statecraft as stagecraft, this slowly emerges as more than just some ruffle-collared, frilly-cuffed throne-porn-there's a sharp quill and glinting eye behind the gilt-edged curtain.
News & Observer –‘The volatile mix of sex and politics is at the core of the sumptuously produced Danish film A Royal Affair, which, by underplaying its combustible material, fails to do full justice to it’.
The Mail –‘...a splendid demonstration of the old adage that political films are really not about the time they are set in, but the time in which they are made’.
National Post –‘The heady mix of power, politics, ideology, romance and corsets is a rare, royal feast’.
Canada.com –‘It's all high-drama and in the hands of director Arcel, every little knot in this detailed needlepoint is handled to period perfection’.
Here is my review about betting on dooyoo...
A lot of these TV documentaries about how the big friendly corporations run behind the scenes are biased towards the company and end up being an advert for them, why I never watch the commercial ones on ITV, like the one for Virgin Airlines running at the moment. Who doesn’t want to smack Branson? Why would a big company agree to let the cameras in if its warts and all? What really goes on behind the scenes to rip us off is pretty ugly stuff and what they don’t want us to see. This is the very nature of commercial TV, why we have the BBC for balance. I remember a light hearted documentary show on Channel 4 called Cutting Edge that had an episode called ‘The Complainers’, where every day people and serial complainers were followed moaning about everything, including this bloke who would visit his local Tesco’s complaining about prices being too high and deals being a con etc. The likeable Tesco store manager dealt with this prat rather admirably and made Tesco look good. A month later I am watching one of those very documentaries about Tesco and it turns out that amiable Tesco manager was, in fact, head of corporate PR at Tesco and the whole C4 thing was a put up job by a dodgy TV director and a company that wanted to look good for its customers at any cost. Now we know why, Tesco share price on the floor after all manner of collusion. So when the BBC listed one about Corals the bookies in the Radio Times I was reticent but would give them the benefit of the doubt as it was non commercial.
There were three episodes, one centered on the high street shops, another on online betting and setting the odds and one on problem and professional gamblers. In the old days in your local town you could bet on the horses and a bit of football and that was it. Tony Blair had different ideas and determined to cash in on digital technology and allowed the bookies a free range on fleecing the British public with all manner of betting sites and machines. The controversial Fixed Betting Terminals caused most of the trouble and feature heavily in the show, which they would not have on ITV. These roulette style fruit machines bring in 51% of Corals gross profits. Blair had to change the rules on them as the betting companies were using them to the Treasuries detriment on the high street in the early naughties as the machines were designed to transmit the signal to a satellite and log the stake in Jersey and then payout back in the shop, so avoiding tax. Labor legalized them to get tax, not to protect the poor people who pour £2 billion a year into them. One-in-ten Jobseekers Allowance payments are believed to end up in them in some areas of Britain. Cynical is not the word. Gordon Brown had a conscious and restricted the shops to just four machines and so the betting companies opened even more shops in towns and cities to have four more machines. You can bet up to £100 per spin and hold up to £5000 in the machines at any one time. These are no high rollers, mostly unemployed, retired and ethnic minority players who have graduated from regular fairground fruits. In America they deregulated further and in the Las Vegas Job Center they had one there when I visited the city. That will be the next step in Britain..
The main purpose of these machines is to bring in tax, put the jackboot on the neck of the poor and make bookies a hell of a lot of money. They are so blatantly bad for the country yet nothing is done. The type of gamblers that play them know they are machines designed to pay out 89p in every £1 put in but need that buzz of a win from the low of a loss. In Ipswich they council discovered 5000 regular players lost on average £1000 per year each. BetFred stores were discovered to have linked staffs wages on how much the machines bought in. If the managers pushed them then they got more bonus, even though the industry has decided to ‘self regulate’ the industry to help problem gamblers. Yes right! Any manager that stops problem players is likely to lose his or her job. That seemed to be the case on the BBC1 documentary as episode one kicked off in Huddersfield, where the avuncular Coral’s shop manager of one town center shop had to manage the other nearby shop as profits had tumbled there. We presume the previous manager was keeping problem gamblers off those FBT’s, plunging the profits. Tony Kendall seemed to be liked by both his staff and customers and sympathetic to their plight. Why he was never seen doing on the show was stopping the problem gamblers, even though his female number two was ‘aware of the problem’. She would give unemployed customers a free can of coke when they started whacking the machines in frustration but that was about it. You could see she was uncomfortable on camera saying that the staff tried to stop problem gambling on the terminals. They clearly didn’t. If customers were banned from the shop they simply walk to another one with a different company in the town center. These bookies are simply competing for that small handful of losers now, hardly glamorous. Coral’s certainly didn’t want to admit that.
As rose tinted the series was the BBC program makers had done just about enough to subtlety show how cynical the industry is and who’s being fleeced. We meet unemployed Stuart, greasy haired and straight from central casting, unable to keep his dole money out of the machines. He agreed to go on the show so fair enough. We presume he is long term unemployed as gambling keeps him away from work. The people who use the FBT’s in Northampton are nearly all foreign and so a great way of taxing them if you ask me.
Episode two was more about the online side as we meet the guys in the call center who receive telephones bets, and then meet the core team who set the odds, a dream job for gamblers and sports fans alike as this team are actually allowed to bet at work. The boss says it helps them get the odds right and so make him money. I could only hear klaxons screaming for fraud opportunities by the same staff. They were a happy lot and seemed to know what they were doing. The bookies never lose. A job at a dodgy bank awaits these guys if they chose to leave. We also so met some greyhound owners that seem to be dodgier than Arthur Daley and macho betting on their own dogs costing them money. We also had the one pound punter who kept landing 20-1 winners at the track while the cameras where there. Through simple observations trackside and the parade ring, like how big the horse’s feet were, he would make his bets. Spotting that a syndicate where not backing their own horse proved lucrative. Again, straight from central casting.
The final show looked at the professional gamblers, who find value from the many online and high street bookies. One chap, Steve Palmer, writes a blog about his betting experiences in the Racing Post and bets big, mostly on golf and Darts. It appears to be his living and with a baby on the way needs some big wins, another plonker from central casting. Corals and the BBC wanted to give us loveable rogue gamblers throughout the series. We had another middle-class guy who appeared to be winning a fair bit online through niche bets like man of the match bets and stuff like the number of aces served in tennis matches. Steering clear of obvious bets he felt there was money to be had. He seemed to have a point. He was good enough to get the online sites blocking his account or limiting his odds from the quoted ones. There is a big industry in bookies not wanting to pay out.
To encourage new accounts in this incredibly competitive industry Corals offered 5/1 for United to get a corner. 20,000 bets at that price were offered with a maxim £5 stake and punters took it to open new accounts. United got a corner and Corals handed over £400,000. Many of the winners used the money for future stakes and so the hit not that bad in the end. Unlike high street bookies where you collect your winnings many online punters re-bet their winnings and rarely cash in.
Without the Fixed Betting Terminals there will come a day where bookies will close their high street shops and everything online. You can bet anytime anywhere these days and few restrictions to opening an account. A paypal link is enough now. As far as a TV show goes this was good fun and enough balance to entertain and you have two brain cells to rub together. It did everything visually it couldn’t do verbally to critic Coral and made them look friendly money grabbers not cynical money grabbers.
===Lords Test – July 16th-20th===
After England’s comfortable win at Cardiff it was similar pitch manicured for the second test at Lords, the groundsmen once again on their hands and knees to scrub out the bounce the night before. Last year Lords was green and the ball moved around a lot but normally it’s a five day revenue pitch to maximize profits. The team who wins the second Ashes test often goes on to win the series. This year they returned to dry and brown. England couldn’t let Mitchell Johnson pack into the series. Normally Australia doesn’t lose to England at the Lords Test and it wasn’t until 2009 we broke that hoodoo against Australia after an incredible 76 year wait to beat the old enemy.
With nothing expected in that pitch for Johnson and Starc, Clarke chose to bat after winning the flip and Aussie piled them up. Haddin was dropped from the team (afforded the personal family problems reasons by Cricket Australia due to his age and experience out of respect) and Watson also gone, his two LBWs at Cardiff breaking yet another unwanted world record for LBW dismissals for the all-rounder, now at 29% of all his outs.
Warner was sent out to smack the shine of the ball in the first hour before slogging out to Mooen for 38 before Smith and Rogers batted out the day for 336-1. That was a score from the bad old days of The Ashes, 1983 to be exact, the last time Australia lost just one wicket in the day when they went from 307-3 613-4. England made 334-1 against India at Lords in 1974 in the interest of balance.
It was Smith’s tenth century and all of them in the first innings, the definition of flat track bully. Their unbeaten partnership of 259 broke an 85-year record for Australia's second-wicket at Lord's, as Rogers made 158 not out for his highest Test score and only the 5th Aussie to pass 150 at Lords, a Don Bradman record no less. The pitch was so dead David Attenborough wouldn’t find life in it!
Rogers was bowled for a career best 179 in the first hour to close the 284 run partnership as Smith pressed on for his double hundred. There was a wobble as 362-1 became 442-5 with Smith finally out for 214 in 504 minutes. Smith was only the third Australian to reach 200 at Lord's after Donald Bradman and Bill Brown. His run of scores have been amazing of late, 162*, 133, 192, 117, 25, 199, 33 and 215 in his past eight first innings, over 1000 runs at an average of 125.00. New keeper Paul Neville chipped in with 45 on debut as Australia declared 566-8.
===Australia 1st innings===
England first four are a mess and soon rocking on 30-4. This was the first time that three of England's top five have been dismissed for one run or fewer in 160 Ashes Tests at home. Ian Bell has been dismissed after scoring one run in five of his last 10 Test innings now. Cook (96) and Stokes (87) recovered things impressively with a 145 partnership but both missing out on the ton. But not much more after that as England fell short of the follow on with 312 all-out. Cook is the first test player to be dismissed three times in the 90s at Lords.
===The nervous 90s===
10: S Tendulkar (Ind) (329 innings)
9: R Dravid (Ind) (286 inns); M Slater (Aus) (131 inns)
8: AB de Villiers (SA) (162 inns); S Waugh (Aus) (260 inns)
7: M Hayden (Aus) (184 inns); A Kallicharran (WI) (109 inns); A Cook (Eng) (207 inns)
===England 1st Innings===
312 all out
Clarke, somewhat surprisingly, chose not to enforce that follow on. Every chance he has ha din his test career he has not enforced it. Trusting an English weather forecast is never wise. Rogers retired hurt on 49 with a dizzy spell but Warner carried on with his attacking stuff with 85 in a 165 opening partnership. Smith continued his dominance with 58 before Clarke (32*) and Marsh passed the 500 lead and so their second celebration of the innings. 254-2 off just 49 overs left five sessions to knock England over for 509 or less. Only five teams in history have batted for 150 overs - the equivalent of five sessions - to save a Test
===Australia 2nd Innings===
Rogers retired hurt for 49
England were pathetic second rime up, the task ahead overwhelming them as Mitchell Johnson got his freak on. When he bowls fast teams fold, England 67-7 in a blink of an eye. Broad top scored with 25 as the home team were skittled for a pathetic 1-3 in just 37 overs. Johnson would claim his 299th test wicket. This was England 4th worse test runs defeat in history.
===England’s worse Ashes runs defeat===
562: The Oval, 1934 (701 & 327 v 312 & 145)
409: Lord's, 1948 (350 & 460-7 v 215 & 186)
405: Lord's, 2015 (566-8 & 254-2 v 312 & 103)
384: Brisbane, 2002 (492 & 296-5 v 325 & 79)
382: Adelaide, 1895 (238 & 411 v 124 & 143)
===England 1st innings===
===103 All out===
===Australia wins by 405 Runs===
Edgebaston – July 29th- August 2nd
As expected the test series was shaping up like a Wimbledon fiver-seter as England recovered their big serve in Birmingham, bowling Australia out for 136, Rogers scoring 52, his 9th 50 in 11 innings. Michael Clarke's last 12 Ashes innings have seen him score 192 at 19.2, a best of 38..The pitch was perfect for James Anderson as he nailed the Aussies with his Ashes best 6-47 and two more for the returning Finn (in for an injured/rested Wood). The Middlesex quickie now has the best post war strike rate of any England bowler at a wicket every 47.8 balls. Broad took his 298th test wicket; passing Derek Underwood to go 5th on England’s all time list. A boisterous crowd was up for it and England took control as the closed the day on 133-3, the under pressure Bell responding with 56.
Johnson struck early on to remove Bairstow (in for Balance) and Stokes for his 300th test wicket, 82 of those against England, fifth in the all-time Aussie list. The irrepressible Joe Root fell for 63 and Butler soon after, England rocking at 190-7. But England counter attacked with Broad (31) and Mooen (59) with 82 off 117 balls for the 8th wicket, the highest 8th wicket in Ashes series for England. 281 all-out gave England a very useful 145 lead.
Australia attacked back, 62-1, Warner flaying it everywhere. But Smith top edged and Clarke knicked out and Finn piled into them as they tumbled to 111-6, Warner out for 77, still 34 behind. Neville took the match into day three with an unbeaten 37* for 168-7. On the same day Dale Steyn picked up his 400th wicket for South Africa. But bad news for England and their McGrath moment, Anderson out of the test with a side injury. He will miss Trent Bridge, his favorite ground where he averages 19.91 with the ball.
Warne (145 matches) – 708 Wickets
McGrath (164) – 563 Wickets
DK Lillie (70) – 355 Wickets
Brett Lee (76) – 311 Wickets
MITCHELL JOHNSON (69*) – 301 Wickets
Australia came out firing with intention to score at least one hundred more to offer England something. A solid 59 from Peter Neville and a beefed 58 from Mitchell Starc achieved that feat, Broad one short of the 300 as Aussie set England 123 to win, Finn with a test bet 6-75! It did not prove a problem with Bell returning his captains faith in him with 65* alongside that man Root with 35*. 124-2 was a pleasing victory and a couple of flat tracks at Trent Bridge and The Oval and England win The Ashes. But we know that’s not going to happen. A quirky stat for Cook is he now leads the most inconsistent test team in history with a WLWLWLW record. Clarke will regret batting first until his dyeing day.
===The Fourth Test===
Trent Bridge – August 4th-8th
So Nottingham and England’s most successful ground in recent test series – the home side winning 5 out of the last 6 there – and offering a green tinged wicket that the nervous Australians didn’t fancy. The ball swings here and if the pitch is green you don’t want to lose the toss. Very few batsmen can deal with this type of English pitch and collapses are normal. Clarke did lose the toss and Cook threw them into hell. What happens is the moisture required to produce that green film ‘gives’ when the new ball seam hits it and so deviates the ball slightly. Throw in some swing and very skilled bowlers and the batsmen don’t stand a chance. The Aussie bats are mostly lefties and not used to movement like this and played too forward and pushed at the ball, sending it into the waiting slips with the extra spring and carry off the bat that style of defense produces. The start of the innings has five guys there and if the bowlers hit the right arrears constantly there is little the batsmen can do but give chance after chance. Broad also bowls at just the right speed to get just the right amount if seam and swing and so its carnage. This had been coming and with Andersen injured he had the attack under his command.
The 60 all out was the shortest ever completed in the HISTORY OF TEST CRICKET off just 111 balls (18.3 overs) and the first ever to have Extras as the TOP SCORER with 14. Broads’s ‘fiverfor’ bought up his 300th test wicket and was also the quickest ‘fiverfor’ in test history of just 19 balls. His 8/15 was the best test bowling this century and the best 8-for since McGraths 8-24 In Pakistan in 1984. It was the best English Ashes seam bowling ever and it also took Broad level with the great Fred Trueman on 307 scalps. Devon Malcolm’s infamous 9/57 was the best before Broads’s incredible numbers. It was the earliest ever fourth, fifth and six wickets to have fallen in a test. It’s the third best Ashes numbers behind Jim Lakers unbeatable 19 wicket match haul, which included the last test ‘tenfor’ in Ashes Tests. 60 was Australia’s lowest score in Ashes cricket since 1936, and their third lowest in their tests since then. All eight of Broad’s victims were caught in the slips, the highest number of catches not to include the keeper off a seam bowler in cricket ever.
===Top 5 England Test Bowlers===
JIMMY ANDERSON (107* matches) 413 Wickets
I.T Botham (103) 383 Wickets
Bob Willis (90) 325 Wickets
Fred Trueman (67) 307 Wickets
STUART BROAD (82*) 307 Wickets.
At 12:45pm England replied in easing conditions as ‘Yorkies’ Johnny Bairstow (74) and Joe Root (124) recovered things from 92-3 with a spectacular 173 partnership. Roots eventual hundred was the first time a test batsmen had scored a century on the first day of a test when the other side had already been bowled out on that same day. It was the fourth time a team had led by 200 runs on day one as England closed on 274-4, from just two sessions of batting.
Day two and Australia attacked England and bowled better English lines and Root nicked out early for 130 and then Wood, Butler and Stokes soon after. But Moen Ali added some class to the tail with Broad (24) and thrashed 38 off 24 balls in a fifty partnership as Cook called them in at 391-9 to have a little nibble at the Aussies just before lunch. Starc bagged a useful 6/111 but 331 behind. Broad is only the 13th test cricketer to have taken 300 wickets and scored 2000 runs and Botham the only other Brit to do that. Johnson again went for a hundred. He is only good on fast bouncy pitches.
The match is never over in cricket as my team Northants won from being 19-6 the other day in the 50 over London Cup after being dismissed for 126 and then bowling Worcestershire out for just 105. Australia were up for the fight and passed 60-0 with some streaky shots and dropped catches and a cynical round of applause by all as Warner and Rogers then bought up the 100 for no loss. But finally some catches stuck and Australia fell away, Rogers (52) and Warner (64) and then Clarke out for an unlucky 13 at 175-5 as Broad passed Trueman. Vogues remained unbeaten when bad light closed the day out but 241-7 was nearly game over, and so The Ashes.
It took 10.2 overs to finish off Australia in the morning which not only won The Ashes but saved Trent Bridge a few quid from their refunds policy of 6.5 overs and you get all your money back. Word is England were asked to make sure they bowled ten overs. They did. Stokes 6-36 was a career best and 253 all out was an innings and 78 run victory for England
==ENGLAND WIN THE AHSES===
Summing up and Australia simply cant handle English conditions as England win their fourth Ashes in a row at home and 6 out of the last 8 since that series in 2005. England lost 5-0 in Australia the two other series. We have 3 or 4 world class players and Aussie don’t. Clarke wanted to retire with an Ashes win but not to be, the loss of Harris and a couple of tosses the fine line between victory and defeat. One minute your world champions and the next minute your sobbing to Mark Nicholas.
So here we go again and the Premier League is as rich as ever! This year’s bottom placed Premier League team will win more prize money than Manchester City did for being champions in 2012-13. Chelsea earned £100 million in 2015 for winning. New boys Watford and Bournemouth will earn more this season than they have in their entire history. QPR got £60 million for being rubbish and going down and then a further £60 million spread over the next three seasons. If you go down this season the parachute payment will be a quarter of a billion pounds over three years meaning a rapid return. Those yoyo clubs will stay yoyo clubs more than ever now. The financial contrast with the football league is huge. They can only give clubs £1.8 million each form their TV deal, £300,000 less than the annual Premier League sympathy payments to all 24 Championship teams. Did you know the League Cup winners will earn less than the cricket county who wins the London Cup 50 over competition, £100,000?You do now. This season will also see just 8 northern teams in the Prem, the lowest since its conception.
===What your club earned in the Prem===
It will be a straight scrap between Chelsea and Manchester City for the title. Man United have again not bought well and another crook Sebastian Schweinstiegger now on the books. Why else would the German leave Bayern Munich? Di Maria stood out like his ears at Old Trafford as a waste of money and United took a £15 million pound hit to get rid. Chelsea have yet to buy but when they do they tend to get it right. Manchester City have been tied down by the fair play financial transactions of late but unleashed this summer and Sterling in for silly money. Toure looks burnt out and Dzeko going weakens them. Aguero always has injury woes so down to who has the most matches off between him and Costa to see who wins the title.
Memphis Depay is the token Dutch striker that replaces the lazy Dutch striker and United now short of strikers. Falcoa’s departure didn’t change that. Rooney will certainly enjoy being out-and-out striker though so a good bet for top scorer. Their defense remains lightweight. What disappoints me most, is United wont be able to challenge on multiple fronts, likely to dump out of the domestic cups pretty quickly to challenge in the Prem and Champions League. The Americans appear to be preparing for a sale.
====Premier League odds===
Man City 11/4
Man united 5/1
Arsenal can not be discounted and my tip for top two this year. They have the best squad, an outrageously good midfield and Girould and Sanchez up front. Chezch in goal is a big improvement at the back but still, like United, light at the back. Chelsea won the league because they don’t conceded goals. I want them to win it as they deserve it.
===Top goal scorer===
The outsiders of Liverpool and Spurs will remain that. Kane is a big weapon at a big team but second season syndrome will strike him. I can’t see him repeating last season. Erickson is a lovely player though so Spurs wont struggle. Chadli set for a big year to. Rogers has again risked it all on the striker with Benteke coming in, not exactly a Liverpool style striker. He is good though and will knock in the scruffy goals, minus the wing play of Sterling, of course. Liverpool tend to play from the wing. I don’t want young managers like Rogers to be fired but he makes some odd signings.
Quique Flores (Watfrod) 6/1
Slaven Bilic 6/1 (West ham)
Tim Sherwood 7/1
Dick Advocaat 8/1
Manuel Pellegrini 10/1
Everton’s bold attempt to win the Europa League to qualify for the Champions League killed their league chances of a top 6 finish last season but sure to aim to repeat it to keep being able to try that by qualifying for the Europa League in 6th or 7th. What else is there for Everton? Southampton are in Europe and may also try it and so expect their league position to sag. Soates in for Clyne at wingback was good business though. Expect Piele to again start well in the sunshine, very much a glove wearing striker who hates the winter. Stoke City could also bridge the gap to Europe with Bojan fit and another ex Barcelona player coming in. They look strong. I also expect Crystal Palace to have a fabulous season and my pick for the top 8. Thye have some cracking young players.
Norwich City 11/10
Leicester City 11/4
West Brom 3/1
Watford and Bournemouth have bought in a lot of players to try and stay up and not hampered by big salaries. Burnley not signing anyone was pretty bonkers and why they went down. I hope Bournemouth don’t do a Blackpool but Eddie Howe a far more impressive thoughtful character than Ian Holloway. I fear for Leicester City without their insane manager, Pearson sacked after one ‘erratic’ event too often, his son insulting Thai stereotypes just to much for the clubs Thai owners. Asian billionaires buy English clubs to impress their country of origin. Bad idea.
Norwich must have learnt lessons and stronger this time coming back up. Sunderland are always down there and ready to go this time. West Brom look ready to be a mid table side but still in the mix. I think Newcastle will be fine under McLaren. Aston Villa have found the perfect young manager in Sherwood although he needs to buy well n the window with the Benteke money.
The FA Cup prize money tops 2 million this year, with or without a sponsor, and I think Man united will target it this year if they tank in the Champions League. Arsenal treble would be nice. League Cup is anyone’s. Champions League is there for Chelsea’s taking. If City don’t make the February rounds then Pelegrini is no more.
There is no doubt Harry Redknapp is unlucky in that he looks like the spiv he probably is, more wheezing and ducking and diving going on with the ex West Ham legend than a 50-year-old boxer in an illegal pub fight in an East End boozer. He was nearly banged up by the law over his tax antics in Monte Carlo, of course, but paid the ultimate price for his perceived nefarious financial reputation by losing the England job because of that baggage. This perfunctory and interesting book is in no way going to flesh out those suspicions against Redknapp as he turns on the loveable man of the people charm once again to deny everything. I disagree Harry. Football in the early 70s and 80s was all about a bung here and a tax doge there and so his puppy dog eyes not about to change my mind. If it’s any consolation I think all mangers have broken the rules at some point because of that accepted culture. Greece has nothing on the Premier League. It’s a shady business. As West Ham manager he would be involved in 123 players coming and going, no doubt a commission on most of those moves.
The book begins with an autopsy by Harry of that court case, calling it a stitch up by the CPS. It was around the time he was at Portsmouth, in the dock alongside club owner Milan Mandric, who also suffered from pre conceived prejudices, seen as the stereotyped ‘dodgy foreign owner’. It was centered on this secret account in Monaco named after Harry’s dog Rosie and believed by the CPS to be set up to avoid tax in England. One of Mandric’s legal deals at Portsmouth when Harry was Director of Football was that Harry would receive 10% of any profit he moved a player on for. As we know Harry likes to buy and sell players. Peter Crouch came in to Portsmouth for £1.5m and went out for £4.5 million, £300,000 to Harry, which he claims Mandric didn’t honor. Maybe Milan did honor it and Harry didn’t pay any tax on that money? The court case involved a specific player but eventually the jury was bamboozled by the lawyers legal speak and Harry’s loveable rogue defense led the trial Harry’s way. Rather mischievously Fabio Capello would resign the day after Harry’s not guilty verdict and the dream national job taken from Harry because of. It didn’t help his Spurs job either as both England and Spurs could only envisage damage down the line if Harry did have a hidden history. Harry says in the book that he didn’t get the England job because it would have cost the FA £11million to buy out his Spurs contract on top of paying off Capello. Again I disagree on the reason. Redknapp thought he was nailed on for the job and had even asked Brendan Rogers to be his number two.
Harry points out in the book that Joe Haart to Andy Carroll had the highest pass completion rate in the disastrous and tedious England team at the South African World Cup under Capello. It’s a concurrent theme throughout the book that Harry finds a way to dig at fellow professionals and managers that he then contradicts in other areas of the book with praise so to always paint himself as the good guy. All autobiographies have an element of revenge but this feels snidey and pointed. He blows Roy Hodgson’s trumpet yet cant help having a dig later on at our current England coach, calling him a ‘safer pair of hands’ for England in a derogatory tone. He is less than complimentary about Trevor Brooking either and secretly thinks Brooking blocked his England appointment as the two had a history at West ham.
Another incident he was embarrassed about nationally was that botched Panorama report. I thought Harry and assistant manager John Bond were poorly treated in that undercover show and their feeble footage purely added to bump it up to the hour. Alex Ferguson’ agent son and the Sam Alladyce footage were far more damming and we all know how that played out. It was hypocritical to as BBC employers have done far worse than accepting a free holiday to promote something. Tapping up goes on in all industries and should not be an issue for an investigate TV program. The program came out just after the BBC had lost the FA Cup rights to ITV. The fake football agent driving the show was called ‘Knit auf dem Berge’, an anagram for ‘undertake fib gem’.
The early days of Harry Redknapp were playing for Bobby Moores West Ham for £40 a week, scoring just 18 goals there alongside his uncle, Frank Lampard senior, who would produce Frank Lampard Junior, of course. Redknapp is in the clubs DNA and knows the stories and dines off them. Harry reveals good and bad memories of West Ham in the book. Winning the FA Youth Cup in 1963 was a highlight as Ron Greenwood backed him and the kids all the way to the final, even turning down managing the Saturday league div one game to watch the kids instead. Redknapp actually had another job in a supermarket when he was a young player there to make ends meet with his then young wife and mortgage. Harry proudly regales the times he would drink with Bobby Moore and George Best in London and how times have changed as far as players socializing with the fans goes. People would be in awe of Moore and Best back in the day but today with social media and big media spotlight on the game the fans are vindictive and angry and would find a reason to hurl insults if those two greats played today. The saddest story he tells about Bobby Moore was in 1980s, when the retired England World Cup wining captain was actually asked to leave the hospitality box by a steward at Upton Park because he didn’t recognize him and Bobby didn’t have the right pass. It’s hard to believe someone didn’t recognize Bobby Moore at West Ham.
Bournemouth followed and briefly Oxford City, where both Best and Redknapp briefly ended up at the end of their careers, before both flew to America to play pro soccer, the less glamorous Seattle Sounders for Harry, that soon went bust. The Bournemouth playing career rolled into management with that sensational 2-0 win over Manchester United still the highlight, and the only time United have lost in the 3rd round to a minnow from the bottom league tear.
His south coast reign saw two spells at Portsmouth (winning the FA Cup in 2008) with Southampton sandwiched in between. The notoriously noisy Pompey fans were not happy with that and he copped horrendous abuse when he went to Southampton. He had to pass through some roadwork’s everyday on the way to work where the workers would slaughter him. Going back to Mandric and Portsmouth one more time didn’t help.
Whilst managing West Ham he talks about certain players begging him to let them dodge international duties, especially friendless. It’s a sad indictment of the modern game when they don’t care about their country. But players are only ever one serious injury away from retirement and so no more caps. The top players are defined by how many international caps they get whether they like it or not. It doesn’t take much to work out who the players were at West Ham and Tottenham. Bale was not one of them who wanted to dodge Wales, though, there for every game, friendlies or qualifiers, determined to get Wales to their first international tournament for 60 years. Redknapp’s West ham did produce some loyal England players though, Joe Cole, Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard, Jamie Defoe and Michael Carrick the most notable. It wasn’t so good at Tottenham, David Bentley the most notable misfire. Bentley lived up to his name, a slow and high maintenance vehicle that needed to be polished up a hell of a lot, dumping that bucket of water over Redknapp at the press conference not helping his career, moved on soon afterwards. Rednkapp claims in the book that’s not why he let Bentley go but you know it is. Harry doesn’t like to be upstaged and enjoys his power of being boss. He is more tolerant with others, especially the ones he buys and lords. Paulo Futre at West ham actually refused to play for West Ham as he insisted on the number 10 shirt. Another player had it at the time and eventually sold it to Futre for ten grand and a timeshare on Paulo’s villa in Portugal. Is that good management?
His last job was at QPR but too late for the book to cover his controversial departure from Loftus Road, leaving 4 hours after the transfer window opened. The players had the club and manager over a barrel and wouldn’t leave when asked, deciding to stay on the bench and pick up their enormous wages. Those wages remain and so don’t back them to come back up. QPR can only buy new players when they have run down these deals. Harry claimed it was a bad knee that ended his deal but to me spiteful so the new manager had no new players from the window.
Harry does greedy things to. He accepted hospitality in the Chelsea box for the Champions League Final. Who wouldn’t? But a Chelsea win meant Spurs missed out on the Champions League, Redknapp head in hands on live TV when Chelsea won. Then there was the rather odd fake jockey anecdote, who cadged free meals, trips and days out off Harry after claiming to be an up and coming and impoverished jockey, Harry taking sympathy because off. When Harry’s agent phoned him up to break the news that it wasn’t him and an imposter, it was three years later. This kind of backs up Harry saying he doesn’t know how to use Google or email. Harry also gained controversy when told a mate he was going to make a shock move to another club. The mate quickly took the 33/1 odds online for that to happen. It paid out 30k when Harry got the Portsmouth job. Harry refuses to say whether he bet on himself or asked someone else to. I think we know the answer to that one.
Other anecdotes include the bloke in the crowd who gave a stack of abuse to Harry on the touchline at a preseason friendly, claiming he could be better than both the center-forward and the manager. Redknapp called his bluff and kitted up the bloke and low and behold came on and scored in the last 15 minutes. Or the story of Jamie Defoe’s mom, who decided to be her son’s agent and represent him, demanding a bonus for every goal he scored. Harry had to explain to his mom that was why they were paying him. There were tragedies too, the serious car crash in Italy that killed two people involved in the accident and seriously injured him.
On the whole it’s an enjoyable read although a tad to long at 400 pages. We know most of the stuff in it and West Ham fans will know nearly all of it. But there is new stuff here I didn’t know and for that reason alone I got enough from it although quite an effort to get through it. Because it’s so one-sided it does get a little annoying that nothing is challenged by contrary opinion. This is a total vanity project by Redknapp. This is a man that needs to be loved and won’t ever admit his faults. For instance it’s obvious he takes on jobs where he can only improve the team position because they are rock bottom. Neil Warnock is the same. Can these guys really command authority at the very top? I think they avoid that as they know they will be expected to do well. Spurs was Harry’s biggest job and not hard to take a top a squad like that into mid table from the bottom, which he did. Yes he got the best out of Bale moving him out of defense but bought some poor players alongside. His Portsmouth triumphs could be down to all sorts he will never own up to. There was no mention of the tax dodging image right deals at Portsmouth.
These long distance weather forecasts make me laugh. They not only attempt to predict the weather weeks ahead but actually offer you a forecast for a single day six weeks from now. The fact they can’t even get it right for the next day I find this claim absurd. You should try it for yourself. Apparently on September 6th there will be light showers in Worcester. Seriously guys! They have come under criticism for extending their long range forecasts from 14, 25 and finally 45 days. The Washington Post asserted that AccuWeather's forecasts at the 25-day range were often wrong by as many as ten degrees, no better than random chance and that the forecasts missed half of the fourteen days of rain that had occurred during the month of the assessment. The Post agreed that the 45 forecast was pretty useless. Because most of the weather ‘detail’ they get is from the governments National Weather Service and Accuweather charge punters for it sometimes and so the government want a cut.
But I love my weather like most people and as a cricket writer I have to go to lots of matches and so need to have a rough idea what attire I will need and how much play we will get. Weather radar today is pretty accurate to be fair but as there are quite a few commercial weather sites out there they battle to be the most accurate with pedantic forecasts. When they plonk showers on a weather map they are a rough representation of the size of them and roughly where they could be, not where they will be. But they never really make that clear. I have noticed that ITV weather forecast after the news is very much a glass half full type of deal compared to the BBCs glass half empty approach and commercial TV like to make the weather look better than the BBC does. Heavy showers on the BBC becomes occasional showers on the ITV cast. I suppose you can judge how serious and accurate a weather forecast station is by how pretty the forecaster is, selling the girl and commercials in the break and not the weather. To be fair we do have the gorgeous Amanda Houston on About Anglia so we are lucky. She even answers my Facebook questions ;-). BBC East has that annoying woman who is always pregnant. In fact female weather forecasters are always pregnant.
Most of these sites are American based website and the company has been running since the 1960s, obviously not as an online site then but still into those cognitive forecasts even back then. They claim to have 106 trained meteorologist’s working for them today across the world. They now have a cable station with detailed weather forecasts in America. In America you need to know what weather is coming as it can be very bad stuff. If you have been to America you will know all about the Weather Channel and severe thunder storm warnings, tornados common in the mid west pretty scary times for the locals.
For their worldwide forecasts they seem to borrow weather info from people like the BBC and then rebrand it. Again their HQ in Pennsylvania feels they can predict the weather for Kettering on Septembers 10th. I think I have an even chance of doing that guys. There are no tornado warnings for Cromer, as yet.
The appeal to these sites is the radar and satellite stuff so you can see where the rain is, or will it be thundery later on and where the rain is heading. Like I said, as a cricket fan you need weather apps. AT cricket grounds they come in handy and you can get to the bar first if you keep your eye on them. The hourly temperature predication's are also useful for our every day lives and at least we know whether we will need a sweater or not for the night out. When you are over 40 it does matter if it’s going to rain or not on that night out on the town so you have an excuse to stay in. It is exciting looking at potential big thunder storms on the UK radar heading your way. We also want to know the weather for our holidays abroad, of course, and so the long range forecast always useful. It’s generally a big fat high pressure with scorchio all over it
Being a commercial site they have lots of incremental products and services to sell. Accuweather T-shirt anyone? Obviously a lot of businesses and organizations rely on being on top of the weather and so if a company like this predicts A and then Z happens you do wonder if they are open to be sued. Various legal wavers on just how inaccurate these sites can be in the small print closes that worry off for weather.co.uk To be fair the app is pretty good and rare case of a well designed app that needs to pack in a lot of information and imagery. The PC\Lap top version is also good and certainly better than the BBC and TV ones here. The Met Office sites are beginning to look dated and although good proximity radar and forecasts they don’t like to predict the weather longer than a week ahead. Chaos theory says you can really predict weather beyond two weeks and that’s why but it all feels basic on British weather sites these days.
On the whole weather.co.uk is far from that but stable and informative enough to be my default weather site on my smartphone. It has lost going on with good multiple radar options and weather prediction options. If rain is coming it’s no more or less accurate than any other weather site where it will fall if there is ambiguity in the forecast. As far as long distance weather forecasts go I trust none of them.
Genre – World Cinema/Action
Run Time – 107 minutes
Certificate – 18 R
Country – Honk Kong/China
Awards – 7 Wins & 17 Nominations
Amazon – £5.75 DVD (£12.89Blue Ray)
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The Hong/Kong Chinese film industry like to keep their film titles simple and so no surprises what this one is about. It’s from Asian Extreme director Johnnie To, he of the rather enjoyable Exiled, Election and Full Time Killer, three solid Triad v Cop movies and more of the same here. These Chinese/Hong Kong action films are always fun as the sharp suited dudes shoot cool cigarette smoke dialogue from the hip, along with those bullets, as cops go to battle with the likewise slick villains. Sometimes you don’t want your subtitled films to be too complicated and that’s certainly the case with Drug War.
Louis Koo ... Timmy Choi Tin-ming
Honglei Sun ... Zhang Lei
Ka Tung Lam ... East Lee
Wallace Chung ... Guo Weijun
Yi Huang ... Yang Xiaobei
Suet Lam ... Fatso
Michelle Ye ... Sal
Siu-Fai Cheung ... Su
Hoi-Pang Lo ... Birdie
Tao Guo ... Senior Dumb
Guangjie Li ... Chen Shixiong
Captain Zhang Lei (Honglei Sun) has just bought down a drug gang on mainland China by going undercover. Most of the members are rounded up, including drugs boss Choi Tin-ming (Louis Koo), blown up in his meth lab. In the police station during questioning, Choi’s cell phone rings on the captain’s desk. Choi, facing a death sentence, begs to answer it and says another even bigger meth deal is in play in his cartel and if he helps the cops bring down the guys at the top of the chain then maybe he could get a reduced sentence? Detective Zhang agrees and Choi is released under police supervision to help with another undercover sting as an informant to try and arrest Hoi-Pang Lo, known as Birdie.
An assortment of gangsters are in place for the deal as an undercover Zhang and a cooperative Choi and sexy detective Sal (Michelle Ye) begin the plan, Choi’s biggest meth lab, run by two death and dumb mutes, the starting point, Senior Dumb (Tao Guo) pleased to see the boss is still alive.
But at the back of both Zhang and Choi’s minds is will there be an opportunity for Zhang to not only bring down his boss and avoid the death sentence but to escape during the next 24 hours as the net closes on birdie.
I enjoyed it, however comical, violent, cartoon and predictable these Asian Extreme gangster movies are. But that’s exactly what you want and a Hong Kong cliché we enjoy. It’s probably the same when Chinese people watch really bad English gangster movies with subtitles. It’s formulaic as you would expect, one cool cop and one cool villain, both in leather jackets and fairly indestructible, a pretty girl that looks good on the back of motorbike thrown in to distract from those silly plot holes.
The villains are mostly idiots and hard to believe they lasted this long in an international drug gang. Out cop is honorable and perhaps something the Chinese film sensors insist on these days, There is definitely a political message in this film that all drug dealers will be taken down with no mercy, the same leaders no doubt snorting coke in the Politburo. But that moralist approach is all part of South East Asian cinemas charm and pull.
The plot and action build nicely as suitable ambiguity is impressed in both main characters to their motives, somewhat two – dimensional hero’s and villains as it becomes a battle between cops and robbers. Surprisingly no one does kung fu and no guns kicked out of hands or men through rice paper panels. There is one of the slow motion stuff shooting bullets in the air after a double-summersault either, which is refreshing.
The subtitles are not too much of a hassle as the film very much about the look and action and not the spoken word as our two main protagonist go at it Heat style. These Honk Kong Cinema actors are always good with the often rotten dialogue they have to work with, most films over there kept simple for a likewise audience. You have seen this film a thousand times before but why not once more? It’s great fun.
Imdb.com – 7.0/10.0 (6,260votes)
Rottentomatos.com –94% critic’s approval
Metacriitc.com –86 % critic’s approval
Leonard Maltin Film Year Book –
Chicago Reader –‘Few other working filmmakers display this degree of visual sophistication and old-school craftsmanship’.
L a Times – ‘To has a great mastery of timing; he knows just how long to let a look linger before cutting away, how little he can reveal without losing us’.
Vue Weekly –‘A nicely tangled, smartly paced and cold little thriller-nothing more, nothing less’.
Entertainment Weekly –‘.The most purely enjoyable action film of the year, and I can only hope the inevitable American remake doesn't screw it up too badly’.
Film Comment Magazine –‘Not only does the film never question the ethics of a war on drugs in which dealers and manufacturers are subject to the death penalty, it appears to enthusiastically endorse it’.
Cinemalogue.com –‘Visually, it's a gritty throwback that's certain to please genre aficionados’.