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The saddest thing on TV right now has to be The Apprentice, a really interesting and entertaining TV show back in the day but turned into a game show as it hits its tenth year. Sir Alan Sugar simply won’t let go of the show that keeps him in the public eye (and on the red carpet with a pretty girl contestant) and the BBC dare not tell him the game is up. This would not happen on a commercial station. It’s a joke show now and should be on ITV. For some reason the ratings hold up as the contestants get increasingly moronic, the attraction to the show wanting to see people look idiotic and humiliated, the cure ingredient of successful reality TV show. Its is a very long way from a serious business show now.
Of the ten winners of the show no one remains in Sir Alan’s employ. So much for the apprentice to take over his job! What tends to happen is they don’t get their one-year contract renewed as Sir Alan clearly doesn’t want to employ more than one or two of these guys at 100k as the new series approaches and all the promotion that goes with. What we do know is Sir Alan Sugar is a rubbish headhunter. One of them even sued him for paying her a six figure salary and giving her nothing to do. Now that’s the kind of job I would like. The truth is, like Big Brother, after about three series the contestants become self aware of the rewards and publicity the show offers and only enter it for that reason. They want a glamorous TV career because they have been on telly, the real audition that is going on here. The producers go along with it all as rating remain high and pick increasingly attractive, thin, vain and younger contestants to syndicate the format around the world. Lately they have admitted they are picking the contestants for ‘entertainment reasons’ and not so much ‘business ones’ and co-presenter Nick Hewer may decided to leave because of that. Margaret Mountford also left the show a while back to do a PHD in Egyptian studies. Some say she was asked to go because she was too old, HD TV cruel on most, whilst others suspect she went because the show had zero credibility. The new wingman for Sir Alan has yet to be named although sexy Karen Brady offers a clue.
This year’s winner was an over confident and obnoxious Australian called Mark Wright, who has plans to open a digital marketing company with Sir Alan as his prize. His business plan has been seriously mocked online and looks a non starter. But Sir Alan had to pick a winner from an indifferent bunch and Mark was it. At least he didn’t do a Pterodactyls impression at his interview. Winning an international business competition came as a surprise to Marks mom back in Sydney. She thought he had gone backpacking around the world. There is no way Mark Wright will be around this time next year.
The answer on why they put themselves through this humiliation has to be that fame question. I certainly wouldn’t take any of that abuse in the boardroom from a grumpy old bastard. This show can’t help your future employment chances. Most of Sir Alan’s put downs are written by the production crew and his sexist comments outdated and crass. People have sued for far less in the City of London. Contestants have on this show. People just like the sort of thirtysomethings that go on the show. No rational serious person with a good business reputation would go on this show.
The first ever winner, Tim Campbell, is now an up market estate agent working in Boutique properties. Is it me or do all the mail contestants look and act like estate agents? He didn’t last long with Sir Alan. Second winner Michelle Dewberry left to have a baby. She is now a ghost written columnist in a woman’s lifestyle magazine. 2008 winner Lee McQueen had to be the biggest moron on the show, calling in sick on his first day with Sugar Enterprises. He now heads the Raw Talent website, his own company. Oh, you have not heard of it. Yasmina Siadatan, series five winner, runs a start up business that’s backed by ex Dragons Den star James Khan for some BBC cross-pollination. Stella English made her name as the winner who sued Sir Alan and was airbrushed out of Sir Alan’s autobiography. She felt her six figure gig was a non job and she would simply be off-loaded as the new series approached. Air Alan called her a litigious so-and-so and counter sued, but lost. Stella claimed to be on benefits – and Stella, no doubt. She now gets to be on TV all the time with her business venture Crowdbox TV, a vanity project where people can crowd fund their own TV careers.
Tom Pellerau was the geeky winner when the show became about going into partnership with Sir Alan with a new business start up the prize, Tom the inventor of the ‘curved nail file’, summing up how vacuous the show had got. Apparently he is still designing nail files that are curved, but in different colors. Wally Ricky Martin won series seven and set up a recruitment consultancy with SAS and apparently still solvent. Sexy blond faux doctor Leah Totten from Northern Ireland was the winner in 2011 and wanted to set up a ‘beauty procedure clinic’ specializing in ‘fat freezing’, and no doubt a free nip and tuck for the bulldog chewing on a wasp that is Sir Alan Sugar. He did admit to having surgery five series in and so natural he would want to go into the business with Leah, no doubt having his lips ‘collagened’ for series 11. Now that would be a sight. Leah clearly wanted a showbiz career and the hottest totty ever on the show as hair extensions and lippy took over power suits and clear lens glasses on the show. Her company made a 50 grand loss last year.
Guardians of the Galaxy is the first big film I didn’t know about. In fact I have no idea who the Guardians of Galaxy are until I saw this film. I hear comic book fans tut tutting loudly. When Blockbusters was on the higshtreet I was across all the big movie releases and ready to rent them as tit was always a good reference point. Apart from Film 2014 stuck on at an unearthly hour it’s hard to keep your eye in now. But with an IMDB rate of 8.3 it’s pretty clear a lot of people went to see this Marvel Universe effort in the summer and really enjoyed it, currently sitting 145th in the all time IMDB top 250, level with the likes of Blade Runner, Die Hard, Good Will Hunting and the Deer Hunter, certainly not at that level for me but good fun. Ok, maybe it’s better than The Deer Hunter. These superhero movies look so amazing in the cinema in 3D and on BlueRay they are watched as an experience over just a film and make phenomenal money, even though they are essentially all the same. Guardians of the Galaxy is basically the plot of Thor with more Sci-Fi in-jokes.
Guardians is currently the highest rated Marvel Universe Movie of 2014 on the IMDB database and the 3rd highest grossing film in the Marvel Universe ever, behind The Avengers and Iron Man. It’s reasonably expensive at $170,000 million to make but the fastest film to $300 million dollars this year and the highest grossing August film on record, currently at $772 million gross. The soundtrack album "Awesome Mix, Vol. 1" reached number one on the US Billboard 200 chart, the first film soundtrack ever to reach number one without a single original song. As I said, these superhero films are bankrolling the movie industry and going to keep coming thick and fast because of. I’m already looking forward to ‘The Avengers: Age of Ultron’.
In 1988, following his mother's death from cancer, ten-year-old Peter Quill’s day is about to get even worse, abducted by aliens in a field near the hospital by a beam of light and zapped up into a spaceship and whisked off by Ravagers, a group of space pirates led by Yondu Udonta (Michael Rooker), the kid never to be seen again.
Twenty-six years later and our Peter is a square-jawed hunky pilot known as Star Lord and now an intergalactic treasure hunter, currently on the planet Morag stealing an extremely precious orb, of which he is interrupted in the act by Korath (Djimon Hounsou), a subordinate to the fearsome Ronan (Lee Pace) of the fanatical race of Kree aliens. Quill escapes with the orb but Yondu discovers his theft and issues a bounty for his capture, while Ronan sends the assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana) after the orb.
After some jostling over the orb on the Earth like planet Zander, Gamora and fellow bounty hunters Groot (a talking tree thing voiced by Vin Diesel) and Rocket (a talking raccoon like thing voiced by Bradley Cooper) are imprisoned on the prison rock Klyn. There the foursome decide to unite to try and escape to get back the orb for various reasons, adding the hulking Drax (Dave Bautista) on to their escape committee in the process, soon back in Quills ship and in pursuit of the Orb to sell to The Collector (Benecio del Torro) for a significant ton of money that will keep everyone happy. But the orb is no ornament, unbeknown to most of those who seek it and contains an infinity stone, and if it gets into malevolent hands it has the power to destroy worlds, why Ronan wants it.
Its vibrant, exciting, entertaining and frequently hilarious, a rare sci-fi adventure that doesn’t take itself too seriously. It has a bit of that knowing comedy of Serenity going on with plenty of homage to 1970s classics like Star Wars and Indiana Jones, a Marvel superhero film that doesn’t want to be yet another Marvel superhero movie. The problem is that it is exactly that, another big screen moneymaking superhero movie, and the humor plastering over the unoriginality of good guys team up and fight guys dressed in black on a black planet for the object with amazing powers that can destroy the universe. It also shamelessly sets up numerous sequels. Give me a comic book where that isn’t the plot and then I’m impressed, why I loved Serenity. Ok, they need to drive the narrative forward to create a movie but the writers are staying too safe with the scripts, much to the nadir of comic book writers like Alan Moore and Mark Miller. I was speaking with Northampton boy Alan Moore in the summer and we both agree Batman Begins is the best.
Director James Gunn throws a ton of special effects at it like the Marvel filmmakers seem compared to the more gothic DC Comics people and things do get a little hectic. But that’s what works best for the world wide audience these are now geared to and the money pours in. I did chuckle away at the in-jokes and humor and the obvious send ups of previous Sci-Fi classics. Merchandising is on the filmmakers mind the same way it was Mel Brooks in Spaceballs with a dumb talking tree (ironically played by Vin Diesel) and out super clever vermin. It appeals to both kids and adults.
It races along for the first hour but then gets a little flabby as it tries to make the two hours that allows more commercial breaks for the TV version. Every movie does it now. But with tons of action and great characters we have the most original Comic Book movie of the year and great Smart TV viewing for the Christmas holidays on Blue Ray and DVD.
It’s Christmas and who doesn’t want a surprise Christmas under the tree! Personally I’m hoping for some of our gorgeous sexy Ciao members at the bottom of my tree in the Christmas stockings near the sack but not likely to happen so decided to treat myself with a brand new Smart/HDTV instead on Christmas Day! I have been saving up all my Amazon vouchers from dooyoo and those tedious survey sites (I pulled £400 alone off Value Opinions) and there she is – a Toshiba 32 inch not Moistbabe. But what can you do.
My earliest memory of Christmas night was when I was too big for the cot and sleeping in a big bed, sharing the room with my older brother, my little brother bow in the cot. My mum used to spoil us with stuff as dad had a good job at the power station and we used to get these huge plastic sacks full presents. Like most kids we could not sleep Christmas Eve and so excited. I remember I got a toy farm with all the animals and clip together plastic walls and fences and had the best fun. Nowadays little cute 6-year-olds are blowing up dystopian futures on the Xbox on Christmas Day. I was preparing the cows for milking. The innocence of Christmas has long since gone.
In my twenties we felt the need to go for a big nights drinking on Christmas Eve, all elbows and attitude at the bar and the occasional drinkers oblivious to bar etiquette. I tend to not wait my turn at the bar and concede. Get served as quick as possible and bug out with your booze. If you start conceding and letting the person next to you who has been their longer get served then you are done for in pub and general life. Only the selfish get served quickly at Christmas. Gently wave your tenner and look the bar person in the eye. I’m next pal.
Can’t be hassled with that these days and Christmas Eve is a night in with the TV. We have Skyfall and 007 on my telly so my first HD big movie experience. I have seen the somewhat overrated movie but its Bond and British and that will do for me! The Raid, a killer martial arts movie, and Cabin in the Woods, a killer and clever horror movie, are also on so should be a good test of the TV.
Looks like its going to be a chilly night but no sign of a White Christmas down south. Our Scottish ciaosters may get a sprinkling from a shower blowing in off the North Sea as the Siberian high edges back in but nothing certain. But one flake anywhere in the UK pays out on the bookies so worth a nibble folks. I can’t recall the last Christmas it ever snowed on the 25th but can recall laying snow on Christmas day.
Well, I have flicked through the TV Times and it’s not great this year folks for terrestrial TV seasonal viewing, Christmas Day and New Years Even looking pretty light. If you love Mrs Browns Boys and Downtown Abbey then maybe not so dull but those shows are so not for me. In fact most television these days seems to be aimed at people over 50. The big reality of shows have roared to conclusion with the winners never to be seen again, a 28-year-old van driver wining the X-Factor, some bird I have never heard of winning Strictly and a complete knob head winning The Apprentice. Nick Hewer has now decided to leave The Apprentice as the show has simply become a platform for attractive twentysomethings to launch their TV career and not a lot to do with business.
BBC 1 (8:30pm) The Incredible Adventure of Branestawm’
Harry Hill returns to TV with ‘The Incredible Adventure of Branestawm’, one for the family as mum wraps the presents. I like Harry and although he has never acted this one seems to be getting good write ups.
ITV 3 (8:00pm) Film:Skyfall
Mum may not want to wrap the presents after all as ITV gets the film of the holidays with the welcome James Bond return to form of Skyfall with the rugged Daniel Craig. It’s not as good as the hype but a hell of a lot better than Quantum Solace, hence the needed hype. Bond is humanized and metro sexualized as Sam Mendez bagged the Bond franchise first Oscars for quite a while. Craig has made Bond macho and sexy again and good for a few more films yet.
BBC 2 (9:30pm) Julie Walters: A Life on Screen.
I like a film and TV biopic and who doesn’t like Julie Walters.
FILM 4 (11:40)
The Raid is the best martial arts movie for a long time, the added dimension of it being a foreign language from the Philippines and a British director making it even fresher. There maybe 100 ways to die in Jacky Chan movies where as here they are 1000 ways as the Manila cops try to storm a near impregnable housing tower block full of druggies and machetes. Even Tarantino got squeamish watching this one. Cracking stuff!
5* (9.00: pm) Film - Cabin in the Woods
American horror movies are pretty poor these days but not Cabin in the Woods. Imagine a horror film written by Aaron Sorkin and you are in the right ball park, a smart and clever send up of the genre and that tacky reality TV, producing something very funny and different with a brilliant twist or two. This is not something you will have seen before on film. Definitely one for your set top box record.
BBC 1 (6:15pm) Dr Who
I must admit I haven’t bothered with the new Dr Who as we appear to be playing out the writers gay mid life crisis. But, like Downtown Abbey (9pm ITV), its deemed essential Christmas Day viewing now and here we all are again crowding in the front room to watch to the distinct smell of Christmas farts and sweaty socks. Matt Smith tried too hard to be David Tennant and Christopher Ecclestone ran off too soon. Peter Calpaldi seems to be more about going back to the old style Dr Who’s and its all about flogging Dalek and Cybermen toys once again.
Film4 (9pm) Film: Rise of the Planet of the Apes
This is one of those movies you think will be pretty naff going by the trailer (apes running wild with guns on the Golden Gate Bridge whilst thumping their chests) but turns out to be quite entertaining with plenty of story. Charlton Heston finding the Statue of Liberty on that beach remains one of cinemas most iconic images but the franchise quickly losing its way thereafter. But as with all comic book heroes CGI has rescued the genre and they make for good films now. Not too scary for kids and sets up a decent sequel.
BBC1 (8:30) Film: Avengers Assembly
If Skyfall is the big movie of the holidays then Avengers Assembly is the best (premiered on Sky movies at 5:45pm), perfect for your new 40inch HDTV smart TVs. As I said, CGI has reborn the superhero genre and these films look incredible, not one but 7 superheroes in this two hour belter. You will be blown away by this one.
BBC1 (11:00) Match of the Day
We love our footy and something just for dad here (and Gary Lineker for mom) as his wallet and credit card bend like the crossbar after being hit by a Yaya Toure 20-yarder! The traditional football Christmas football program of game we have always enjoyed is coming to an end as foreign owners and players push for its end so enjoy the festive footy program while you can.
===New Years Eve===
C4 (9pm) ‘Funny Old Year with Jason Mountford’.
If the unfunny stand-up comic is not naked on his webcam this should be reasonably entertaining. These review shows and Top 50s are always entertaining. If he is not your thing then Chanel 5 are repeating their ‘Top 50 Sitcoms’ run down at the same time with Mel Giedroyc (why do lesbians that work in TV feel the need to look like lesbians on TV?) next door.
5* (9pm) Film: Tears of the Sun
Bruce Willis did made one more cool action film in the last decade. Tears in the Sun sees him play an aloof mercenary going down and dirty in Central Africa to extract some western missionaries and charity workers facing the machete from the local militia. But an attack of conscious seems him lead the black folks out to. It was never shown on regular terrestrial TV I recall and shunted onto Freeview back in the day but it’s a really good war movie and one you may have missed because of that camouflage.
BBC2 (8:30pm) Film: The Help
We have had a rush of Oscar nominated and winning black history cinema drama films recently and this one of them, the sassy tale of the black nannies of the deep south who decide to tell all on their affluent and lazy white employers in a book. It’s funny, poignant, sad and entertaining at the same time and a good film for a female audience.
BBC1 (11:15) Queen rock in the New Year.
Queen rocking in the New Year at Westminster Palace sounds cool. Jools Holland can stuff his prerecorded Hootenanny (they filmed it in September) up his bum. Holland sounds like a parrot when he talks and a pretentious pile of poo line up of bands really grate. Over to you Mr May.
===New Years Day===
The sitcom Miranda was funny and fresh the first time but once the lumpy and gauche Miranda became the handsome chap’s boyfriend in the show it quickly lost its humor and point. We will see how it goes this time. Miranda has already said she won’t do anymore after this. There is also more Mrs Browns Boys for the pensioners with their midnight whiskies.
ITV (9pm) Film: The Dark Knight
Batman Begins remains the best ever superhero movie for me and with the Dark Knight the more conventional action and explosions sequel of the three films so far. The brooding Christian Bale refreshes the once camp crime fighter macho style and the sequel here the film the hardcore fans really liked most of the three. Great to see ITV show some expensive movies this Christmas.
BBC1 (10:35) MOTD
Match of the Day returns to cover a full program on New Years Day. You almost feel sorry for the players having to go teetotal on Christmas Day and New Years Eve to prepare for match day but once you see their pay packet and how much tax they didn’t seem to want to pay you lose your sympathy. The fact these games draw huge crowds in all divisions suggest football fans protest too much about erratic kick off times through the season.
Channel 4 (10:30pm) Rude Tube: Welcome to 2015.
Alex Zane takes us through the best and most popular YouTube videos of the year, including the Wealdstone Raider, who bought out a Christmas single off the back of his fleeting moment of football fan fame. Don’t ask.
Mastermind and Radio Four presenter John Humphries recently suggested the BBC are ‘running scared’ over the debate over rampant immigration and simply don’t want to go there in fear of offending their diverse staff and viewers. Being objective often means being passive. Well you only need watch the BBC’s Crimewatch to see just how past and present immigration has affected the prison population and this nation.
The Crimewatch TV show experience is often a racial rouge gallery and the attractive white presenters a rare balance some weeks. Obviously a lot of criminals on the run are going to be foreign born and probably jumped ship already and so feature on the show, hence the need for the European Arrest Warrant. The cops can’t find them and they need your help. The question then is there a racist element to the show that the more black, Eastern European and Asian criminals you show on CCTV captures and video footage the bigger your white audience, the show always slotted in around the BBC news. Is there a certain satisfaction to be gained from the audience to see its them and not us committing the crime? Nothing annoys taxpaying British citizen more than people coming from abroad to commit crime here. 78% of London’s murders last year were note done by white British citizens. This is beginning to be a huge problem. Farage can only ever increase his vote from now on sadly.
The show recently moved to BBC Cardiff and 30-years-old this year. The first show was presented by Nick Ross and Sue Cook and famously saw host Jill Dando murdered in 1995, sexy Fiona Bruce taking over. Today it’s presented by Kirsty Young, ex copper and rugby star Martin Bayfield and Matthew Amroliwala. Maybe because the BBC is so nervous about race and immigration it only broadcasts the show every two months now with an update after the news that day.
They like to do high profile crime cases as specials to try and draw in an audience and hopefully those witnesses to maybe ’jog punters memory’ (get them to grass). Criminals - and friends of - often use the show to slow down the search by saying they have seen that guy in Doncaster, for example, when no such sighting occurred, kicking them off the scent. Others ring in to try and ‘do in’ rivals or stitch them up. The cops on the desk on the show must get a lot of hoax calls. I don’t think the show really catches many criminals but always worth a broadcast, and we know they won’t lock up the bad guys anyway as the prisons full, maybe a Human Rights Lawyers anti Crimewatch show broadcast to keep the villains out of nick.
So we all know the score with Christmas lights. We use them once a year, pack them away in the loft or cupboard-under-the-stairs and then get them out in mid December and they don’t work. We check the fuse and then try to remember if the blue wire goes on the left thing and the brown earth needs to be touching that bit and then try again. We then twiddle all the bulbs like an idiot hoping for them to magically come on. But the bulbs are molded and so that’s not going to work, is it? The spare bulbs you always get with Christmas lights are completely pointless because it’s impossible to work out which bulb is gone and how you would possibly replace them. In short, Christmas lights are designed to be used two weeks per year.
So knowing this we then have to buy some more. But here’s the thing. Our mindset is it doesn’t matter how expensive the lights are they are going to break over the winter anyway so why spend money on ones that perhaps won’t? So off we go to Wilkos and then Poundland. One pound for one Christmas seems reasonable, tight, perhaps an economy lifestyle we have become used to. It’s pretty clear Christmas lights are not built to last and so replaced every year. Caching! In the early 1980s someone finally twigged that we should stop making things to last because people would keep buying yet more stuff over and over again if it collectively didn’t last and we would all get rich. And so they did. Landfill is 100% down to that.
Poundland are offering a decent selection of lights for a quid this year and so I bought some more. My tree is fireproof as it’s the old plastic one out of the same cupboard-under-the-stairs and so not too concerned they will do an Arian and burnout really quickly. As long as the fuse is correct and in place the lights are unlikely to flare anyway. In theory. At least you get a free plug if they break down before the 12th night.
We haven’t got for the trendy ‘Twigmas’ tree this year as we actually want something to attach the lights to. These Scandinavian trees are affectionately known as the ‘Size Zero’ and all the rage over middle class households I am told. They look like something that should be in a Tim Burton movie.
The string of 20 lights is plenty to wrap around decent size tree or ideal to fling up in your inside porch, the clear light shades reasonably bright and transparent. If you are working-class and need to put them up in early November just after firework night I cant guarantee they will still be working in mid December. They are packed fairly well and so don’t look like they would smash in the Poundland warehouse. You can’t use them outside, of course, and you do get those spare bulbs inside.
About a month ago my bedroom TV went to jet black with a white line across the middle. It lasted 24 hours. It went to a white line again on Saturday, and its still there. So it’s on to the computer for online and on demand TV. Many people are watching most of their TV online only now and BBC3 is to be 100% online next year. With many more niche stations offering on demand TV the whole industry is preparing to move to Internet TV and a whole new model of paid media, combing your live TV experience with the internet, which I think is going to be the best fun. I have already ordered my new Smart TV with my Amazon vouchers and ready for the revolution.
So with no TV I have been watching back-to-back Pawn Stars (no, it’s a reality TV show about a pawn shop) all week on the ITV Player and then old Minders with Arthur Daley from tomorrow. For some reason the Channel4 On demand service wont work on my smartphone or my Samsung notebook and so its been Quest, BBC Iplayer and ITV Player all week. I saw two cracking documentaries on the BBC Iplayer about Spike Milligan and the history of TV darts. Baring in mind they are pretty sharp high def images they look fantastic, even on a ten inch notebook. Unfortunately I couldn’t get the Comedy Awards on the 4OD Channel 4 Player, one of my favorite live shows of the year, one to watch on demand on my new TV next week. I don’t think it likes Windows XP.
The ITV player is pretty smooth and no real buffering or sticking. The Quest one is much worse and grinds down to slow motion growls after about 15 minutes, messing up my American Pickers reviewing this week. The BBC Iplayer remains the best by a country mile. The ITV Player, like most others, plays most of the stations programs live all day and all night long and you can watch the back-catalogue for up to a week thereafter. They then disappear and you have missed your chance although ITVs record of repeats I’m sure they will be back soon on one of their 6 current channels.
The ITV player will play all of their channels live (at the same time if you open new windows) plus a substantial back-catalogue of their stuff, including stuff from their new channel. ITVbe and CITV, their kid’s channel. You ay think The Professionals and Minder are dated but they are great to watch all over again and just as good. There is an extensive TV Guide and a 24/7 news loop service. You can watch repeated programs in advance on their TV listings, like River Monsters or Pawn Shop. With films there are different rules to stop copyright, especially new films.
The ITV Player’s biggest irritant this it plays the same commercials over and over again and you can’t fast-forward them.
Northampton has decided to tear up the main high street pedestrian area and stick a road back in. Even the seats are facing the other way in disgust. Its two hours free parking as a gesture of goodwill by the council for this universally unpopular building project but sure to be a tickertape of yellow parking tickets in January. Sadly Amazon and the one-click-pay later online shopping experience is far more appealing than traipsing around town in the slush and rain praying your bus isn’t full going home or you don’t get that parking ticket. You can one-click your parking fine just as easy, why they introduced them.
Northampton isn’t the sexiest of shopping towns and bizarrely turned down an IKEA superstore once. Who the fluck turns down IKEA?? The better shops are at the various shopping parks (with free parking) and so most people go to shop there for the bigger items. There is an Argos in town for big electrical stuff that’s about it. You will get a ticket in the town center if your minutes late returning to your car. Some say the three million pound new road was paid for by parking ticket revenue. It looks almost the same as it was with the construction company replacing all the old brick tiles with new ones and then adding some parking spaces. With ugly crash barriers down the side of it it’s like we are waiting for the finish sofa cycle race.
We don’t have a John Lewis (even though the distribution center is on the nearby Brackmills industrial Estate) and we recently closed down the House of Frazer store in the main shopping enter, replaced by a Primark superstore. There are SEVEN pound shops and plenty of cheap stores like Wilkos in the city bowl. Debenhams and BHS are hanging on by their finger nails in Northampton with Marks & Spencers there for the older gals. On the whole, though, it’s a perfunctory shopping experience over exciting. They have extended the Christmas decorations down the approach roads to suck you in with a more Christmasty feel and much more park and ride parking at low cost so to compete with nearby Milton Keynes.
The town can get busy with over 3000 turning up to se the Christmas lights turned on, that bloke with the funny voice turning them on, Joe Pascal a big draw around these parts. We currently have a German Christmas market lining the remaining pedestrian highstreet but mostly tat and over-priced schnitzels. It adds atmosphere though so fair enough. You never feel the crush in Northampton near Christmas like you do shopping in London or Brum but a decent atmosphere all the same. The new and radically reduced bus station is operating much better now and coping with the Christmas rush. But still no heating in it so no real sanctuary from the winter which is happily mild so far. You can get in easy with a bus and car.
I was having a clean out of my old cards and stuff and deciding what was sentimental and what could go. Obviously most of them were valentines Cards and so I kept that draw full. For some reason we keep hold of the perfunctory birthday and Christmas card for at least a year so not to offend somehow and yet the people that sent you cards are also doing the same thing. So open up the draw and start ripping!
The older you get the few Christmas cards you get. I can remember at primary school the moment when they opened up the cardboard post box covered in cotton wool and red paper to hand out the cards. Even then guys are competitive and it was a numbers game. The more cards you got the more popular you were. I simply told mum I had loads of friends and can I buy a bumper pack of 50 so to send out loads and hope to get loads back. I deployed the same tactic son Valentine Day throughout my life. With the ‘lovey dovey’ cards we would pick though the text religiously to find out what she really meant and then re read it until it meant they were crazy about us. I will never forget Laura from up the roads Valentines card that read ‘we all have our crosses to bear’. I still don’t know what she meant by that. Am I bearing her or is she bearing me or am I simply unbearable? I suspect the later.
Christmas cards tend to bear perfunctory messages and simply about not offending relatives and people in your street. When I go around mums she has a big chunk to be hand posted and very much a reciprocal list. It seems like there is little feeling in sending cards these days. I like to send them to people I like but never expect one back. It’s a bit like that dreadful Waitrose advert where the girl/boy/tomboy gives the black lady a ginger cake.
So far this year I have about 15 cards, two from ex girlfriends. Both have bloody penguins on them. Sadly no cash in them. It is always nice when you get a card from someone you weren’t expecting anything from and a nice message to go with. One of my jobs is cricket writing in the summer and I have a good rapport with the fans as I write their opinions not mine. Most know where I live and this year I got seven cards from fans thanking them for reflecting their thoughts and feelings on a difficult
Season. Bet piers Moran don’t get that many.
Apart from world peace it would be for dooyoo to press the default button and we could all go back one year and start again. The relanuch geared towards tablets and smartphones has been an absolute disaster and dooyoo paying fewer rewards than Primark in Bangladesh. For most of us, this will be our last dooyoo Christmas and it’s all very sad. I deliberately cashed in only 20,000 of my 33,000 miles when we went to vouchers only in the autumn just to support the site up until Christmas with the incentive of chasing another £20 Amazon voucher for my Christmas shopping. I thought I would at least get another £8 by December 25th. But in that 6 week period I have managed just 4000 miles from 40 reviews, which is just ridiculous. I’m on less than a pound a week. Hey, even Apple are paying more than that! It would not surprise me if the cash payout option has gone because of the appalling server security here. I know most of you have found yourself logged into someone else’s account or they logged into yours. I have never been to Aldi in my life!
Dooyoo are resigned to a merger with ciao by the looks, which could mean the dooyoo name disappears. Dooyoo have said they are not going to go back and we are where we are. There is no quality control here anymore and little chance of suggesting new products. The only decent run it had for members after the disastrous summer technical issues was the cosmetics campaign thing but most women go to YouTube for those reviews. We are simply of no use anymore. Again, it’s all very sad.
I’m happy to scream pass the 2000 review mark and currently in the top three for reviews written here. I have only had three crowns since the relaunch in April and so no money to be made anywhere. I was hoping to make 350 crowns but have been on 347 for a while now. They won’t even change up the 500 mile maximum to 750, which would be a good start with a gesture of good will at Christmas. It’s so difficult to write a decent review with just 500 words in one big green blob. When I wanted to check out some TV reviews recently I went to electrical review site. Ciao reviews on the same TV were very prominent on our most famous search engines but no sign of dooyoo.
We hear about trafficked sex workers teased from their home country to be exploited in foreign lands by men but what about the reverse, Paradise Love certainly that, here middle aged and overweight Austrian women setting out for a holiday in Kenya in search of young black men, the so-called sugar ‘mummies’. It’s the men that have to cringe and heave being with women they can’t possibly find attractive and not doing it for drugs or nice shoes but simply to feed their families. Men line up on beaches all around the world wanting to fleece desperate women looking for love, be it for cash or a green card, as many gullible women as men out there.
Plain and chunky 50-year-old Austrian single mom Tersea (Margarete Tiesel) is looking for love and companionship. She decides to ditch her likewise young daughter with her best friend for a week in Vienna and book a holiday in Kenya. On the beach she quickly meets other European women up for the same thing, most seasoned veterans, and the resort known for this sort of thing. The women are known as Sugar Mummies, young black men lining up a long the beach ready to sell them everything from bracelets to sex.
Teresa scores with 24-year-old ‘Munga’ (Peter Kazungu), who has been fleecing foreign female tourists with his smile and charm for a while now. But the sex is uncomplicated and sterile and Tersea runs away in disgust. She wants some tender loving not awkward fumbling, her naivety spoiling her holiday. The black boys and men are not interested in love and connection but financial reward, be it a new scooter or hard cash.
Next up is the dreadlocked ‘Josphat’ (Josphat Hamisi), older and more of a gentleman, at first appearing to genuinely like her as he takes Teresa to his village and shares gifts and stories. But soon he is asking for ‘donations’ for the kids in the local school to buy supplies or medicine for his sick relatives. The money is followed by sex as Teresa finally twigs just how cynical the trade is. Teresa’s friends know the score and don’t argue the toss on who is most exploited and have fun but for Tersea it’s a hard lesson that you can only buy love if you are a rich older man, not the other way around.
I think it’s fair to say that this is an extremely squeamish watch and that’s the director’s main point. Poor black Africans will do what they have to do to make money for their families and so it’s not just the Somalia pirates in their skiffs that slap the ripples and ride the waves to turn a buck. If the rich west takes from us to keep us in poverty then we will take from you.
If we are honest, overweight men with pot bellies are just about acceptable in film and TV with their shirt off but not big women in bikinis. You can only feel for the Kenya lads who have to sleep with these women who simply don’t bother to lose weight or shave their bits for their holidays as they know they can get it, however much jungle going on. Its women behaving badly taken to the extreme. We are simply not used to seeing naked older women overweight having sex on screen and it’s not a pretty sight but a reality all the same when confronted with it on screen, which makes you think about what we really find attractive about other people. Seeing both sides being exploited for cash and the subtle racism that goes with through the eyes of naive Austrian women is an equally unpleasant sight to behold. Could you imagine your mum doing this? It’s like the director is using a sexual metaphor to explain how the west prostitutes the third world.
It cost 3.3 million Euros to put together but, not surprisingly, didn’t do a great deal of business. It’s simply visually unappealing as the rolls of flesh on show. I only watched it because it was on Film4 and reasonably recommended. It really is a tough watch and once the Little Britain ladies from Bavaria flop their 2- Ltr Coke bottles out the male viewers will be running for the hills. The message I got from this film is that all women really need to do is stay slim and they will always get a boyfriend. Men will simply not date big women unless they have a fetish for it, and those jolly and loud women we all know who say they are big and proud simply mean they have given up on men. I honestly believe no one wants to be fat and unloved. You genuinely feel sorry for women of that age and size after watching this and how unfair love really is.
Its 18 years since not a single manager has been sacked this deep into the Premier League season. February 17th for the first sacking is the record. The Cup is at the start of the transfer window and so an early big team exit likely to trigger a few firings. Outside the championship, 27 % of the managers have already been fired.
The grand old tournament is back on the BBC and they are milking it for all its worth to try and generate lost interest and tweak some nostalgia, the live Monday night draw real pantomime. But they couldn’t resist going after two of the three all Premier League ties as their live matches, no doubt four sides resting their best players after the busy Christmas period, just Wimbledon V Liverpool offering any of the magic of the cup for the Friday night clash.
===The 3rd Round===
Wimbledon 0 Liverpool 2
If ever a fixture brings back FA Cup memories of old it’s this one, first out the hat, the terrible white suits, that headed Sanchez goal and the Crazy Gang and all that. But that Wimbledon suffered rendition to Milton Keynes and redacted from the fans hearts and this lot the new Wimbledon, rising up the leagues to be rewarded for the true fans loyalty with a glamour tie. Rogers has to save his job after tumbling out of an easy group in The Champions League and so a strong Seven Gerrard led side won’t be losing here.
Arsenal 3 Hull 0
Wenger is under pressure now from ungrateful fans and needs another decent cup run alongside Europe. What fan wouldn’t want 16 straight Champions League campaigns to see the best players in the world from all around Europe? The Wenger abuse at the railway station for the holder of the FA Cup after the Stoke defeat was pathetic. If an English team wins the Europa League then Arsenal could miss out in fourth place in the Premier League. He will need to play a strong team here. With 13 classy midfielders on his books that shouldn’t be a problem.
Aston Villa 2 Blackpool 0
The American owner has put the club up for sale to appease fans criticism of the way he runs things, a regular Mike Ashley tactic at Newcastle. Villa simply don’t spend to move up the league and the American pulling out a bigger cheque for himself every year as Premier League TV money explodes.
If they lose this they lose their manager.
Blyth Spartans 1 Birmingham 2
The romantic tie of the week could be the upset of the round or, at least, a draw. City are in a financial mess and vulnerable here to the lowest ranked non league team. This would have been my live TV Game on Sunday. Northern League Premier Spartans of the North East famously reached the fifth round in 1977-78.
Bolton 1 Wigan 1
Two struggling championship teams may need the Cup to boost their campaigns. 2013 FA Cup winners Wigan still have a ton of parachute cash to play with so a stronger chance here but rock bottom in the Championship.
Brentford 1 Brighton 1
Top 5 verses bottom 5 Championship here but means nothing if both sides rest players in the New Year.
Burnley 2 Tottenham 2
The first of the three all Premier League clashes should be tight. Potichino won’t be the first manager sacked in the Prem as he has targeted Europa League glory and that Champions League place over the FA Cup. I think they will squeeze through after a reply.
Cardiff 2 Colchester 1
Championship side should win through here with a big crowd at home.
Charlton 0 Blackburn 0
Both teams are sniffing the play-offs and chasing record Premier League riches and so may want to tank here early. Both are in the League Cup 1/4s though and so may be thinking Wembley and the Europa League there. Intriguing to see how they play it this week.
Chelsea 4 Watford 0
Watford took a bizarre 2-0 lead at Manchester City in this match last year before the billionaires won out 4-2. That will not happen at Chelsea, perfunctory for Mourinho’s excellent squad.
Derby 5 Southport 0
Southport founded the FA Cup as we know it with victory over the Liverpool Ramblers in front of 300 people in 1882 but will flounder here.
Doncaster 1 Bristol City 2
Bristol City are top of Division One whilst Rovers are near the bottom. Away win for me.
Dover 0 Crystal Palace 4
Dover may fancy this but Palace have some skillful players in their squad looking for a run out and will run riot here.
Everton 2 West Ham 2
Martinez is also eyeing that Champions League place in the Europa Cup and may take the easy option here and rest a few. West Ham look perfect for a good cup run if the unplayable Andy Carroll stays fit. A draw and back to Upton park looks likely, unless West Ham fancy finishing fourth, of course to steal that Champions League place.
Fulham 2 Wolves 1
Its mid Championship table for these two and so could go any way. I fancy Fulham at the Cottage though.
Huddersfield 1 Reading 1
As mid table clash as you can get, the 5th all Championship tie and so a draw, right?
Leicester 0 Newcastle 1
The third and final all Prem clash could see Newcastle United finally get to a Cup Final under Pardew, a far better manager than the press let on. Leicester City didn’t buy deep enough in the summer for Premier League football and will have to sacrifice the FA Cup to try and stay in the Promised Land.
Man City 4 Sheff Wed 0
Without Aguero, City can be patchy but he is due back about then so no worries. Easy home win here.
Millwall 2 Bradford 0
Championship verses Division One here. Bradford famously made the League Cup Final in 2012 but no Wembley this time and an easy home win.
Preston 1 Norwich 1
Both are pushing for promotion in their respective leagues but Norwich the more powerful squad. I think the League One side will earn a draw as Norwich rest guys.
QPR 2 Sheff Utd 1
Harry Redknapp knows the value of a cup run to rev up the league performance. He needs both and should win out here.
Rotherham 1 Bournemouth 2
AFC Bournemouth are on an amazing journey with an impressive young manager Eddie Howe at the helm, going top of the league yesterday. They are edging promotion to the Premier League (the 47th of the current 92 to achieve that if they do) and enjoyed a League Cup quarter-final this week. I hope they really go for it here and make the fourth round to keep momentum on all fronts. The fact they pushed in the League Cup regardless suggest they will.
Southampton 3 Ipswich 2
Southampton may well fall away in the Premier League in the frost and snow (you can judge that by how many players wear gloves in November) but look an exciting cup side. I fancy them to win a high scoring game with inconsistent Ipswich.
Stoke 4 Wrexham 0
Stoke play rough and tumble lower league football anyway so no problems here against now non league Wrexham.
Sunderland 2 Leeds 1
Leeds trials and tribulations are well documented and their corrupt owner recently disbarred from the League Managers Association and must relinquish control of the club by June 2015. Sunderland also had a nasty moment or two this season and lost 8-1 at home but have improved since with a new defensive approach. Home team for me but a cracker.
Barnsley or Chester v M'boro
Cambridge or Mansfield v Bury or Luton
Accrington or Yeovil v Man Utd
United cant lose at Accrington or Yeovil. Can they? The uncertainty David Moyes bought to United is still there but Van Gaal drawing better performances out of his top heavy team. Van Gaal has no chance of silverware anywhere else so he has to go for it, the dive in the League Cup ay MK Dons pretty disgraceful stuff and needs repenting. All European managers are beguiled by the FA Cup, whether they want to admit it or not.
Aldershot or Rochdale v Nottm Forest
Oxford Utd or Tranmere v Swansea
Scunthorpe or Worcester City v Chesterfield
Chesterfield are facing expulsion for beating Milton Keynes in round two with an ineligible player, meaning the MK Dons would play the winner of Worcester V Chester.
West Brom v Gateshead
Another struggling Prem team should get an easy route here to round two against the Conference side and so the pressure taken off the manager by just a tad.
RIP – Phillip Hughes and Alistair Cook.
The death of Phillip Hughes was terrible for cricket, obviously, the first guy to effectively die on the pitch. I can’t recall the death of any other cricket professionals. But eventually this would happen as the short delivery is designed to try and hit the batsmen to intimidate him out, or into a poor shot. Hughsey was a batsman who went after the short delivery with courage and made his name that way with big runs. It’s truly terrible. I spoke to him a couple of times as my job as a minor cricket writer and a typical laidback and jokey Aussie. Top bloke, as they say Down Under. Sean Abbot, who bowled the ball, will never live it down. Others in the match who witnessed the blow may also walk away from the game. It’s just terrible. Abbot responded with a hostile 6-15 this week in the Sheffield Shield and courageous to but it’s in the winter where it will really hit him.
But cricket moves on and England are engaged in an ODI series in Sri Lanka, the first time I can recall they won’t play a test match in the winter as we build towards the World Cup in Australia, and quickly went 1-0 down. England can’t be bothered with one-day cricket. The ECB refused to remove test captain Cook from control of the one-day side so to mentally keep his authority as England Test captain after the Pietersen debacle and so England carry on picking multi-code players when they shouldn’t, and carry on losing.
Sri Lanka smashed 317, as they do on their flat dry pitches, but still a disappointingly high score conceded when you consider Jade Dernbach wasn’t bowling, Dilshan top scoring with 88. Bopara is back in the team to replace KP and bowled 4 neat overs for 24 but apart from that the runs went around the park off all the bowlers with 50s for Jaywardene (his 75th ODI half-century) and Perera. England’s highest ODI chase in SL was 234 and so little hope of getting near this one. In fact no international team has chased down 300 there. It was a good effort with Moen Ali cracking 119 off 89 balls and the third fastest English ODI century but England falling 25 short on 292 all out, once he was out, their highest ODI score in Sri Lanka.
=Fastest English ODI Hundred=
61 balls: Jos Buttler v Sri Lanka, Lord's 2014
69 balls: Kevin Pietersen v South Africa, East London, 2005
72 balls: Moeen Ali v Sri Lanka, Colombo, 2014
74 balls: Ravi Bopara v Ireland, Malahide, 2013
The second game in the 7 match series was must win in Colombo as the unseasonable monsoon rumbled in the distance, only 45 overs aside which England managed just 185 all out (Bopara 51, Root 42) in 43 overs, a pathetic 8 boundaries scored, their second lowest ever, NZ 2008 with 7.
Sri Lanka quickly set about the bowlers on a turning pitch; the retiring and amazing Sangakkara (67*) getting his 88th ODI 50 and Jayewardene (77*) his 76th half-century, adding 149 for the 3rd wicket for 8 wicket thrashing. England are already looking disinterested. Its 15 defeats from 22 O.D.I’s now, not looking good for the World Cup.
The interest perked up as an increasingly soggy series saw a 35 over match take place under the Hambonata lights. After feeling out the damp pitch Sri Lanka compiled a useful 242-8, Sangakkara’s 89th half-century the highlight and 63 from Thirimanne. England had to win this game and did, strolling to a rain reduced 236-5 with 8 balls to spare, that man Mooen Ali with 58 to set it all up and then Root (48*) and Butler (55*) putting on 85 to win by 5 wickets. Hales was recalled and made a scratchy 27 off 29 balls. 1-2.
Match 4 saw Cook banned for one match for slow over rates in the previous games. Sri Lanka immediately complained and said that Cooks ban gave England an unfair advantage. Eion Morgan stepped up to take the armband, and the guy most England fans can’t understand why isn’t leading the England team from day one of this series, smashing 62 alongside little James Taylor’s 90 for 265-all-out off the 50. In keeping with Cooks bad habits he was also fined 20% of his match fee for slow over rates. England just can’t get on top of Sri Lanka’s multi purpose spinners enough to post the winning big score.
Sri Lanka have no problems chasing down scores on their home wicket, Jayewardene (44) putting on 96 with that man Sangakkara (86). Sanga has now scored over 26,500 runs in all competitions, the most by any international player still playing from 387 one-day matches, 2nd only to the great Tendulker for ODIs with 463 appearances. International crickets highest averaging captain and run scorer in ODIs this year, a one Angelo Mathews, guided them home with two balls to spare with a perfectly measured 51*. By the end of this series England would have played 25 ODI/s in 2014.
Aussie captain Michael Clarke scored an emotional hundred in the delayed first test in Adelaide as they ran up 600 against a disinterested Indian side. Warner and Smith followed suit. In Sri Lanka it was win or bust for England in the 5th ODI with Cook back in for Hales. With two scores over 50 in ten ODIs he needs a score. Sri Lanka hit first with rain looming and squeezed their innings in, bowled out with an over to spare on a turning pitch, a rarity for England these days, Woakes 6-47 not as good as it looks in the slog but surely Dernbach’s replacement at the death. It was his second 6 haul for England (the only England bowler to do that) and the third best figures for England in ODI. Sangakkara helped himself to yet another 50 (91) to set 240 to win.
===best England Bowling in ODI==
Paul Collingwood: 6-31 v Bangladesh at Trent Bridge in 2005
Chris Woakes: 6-45 v Australia at the Gabba in 2011
Chris Woakes: 6-47 v Sri Lanka at Pallekele in 2014
Mark Ealham: 5-15 v Zimbabwe at Kimberley in 2000
Andrew Flintoff: 5-19 v West Indies at St Lucia in 2009
Rain washed out the reply so they came back the next day, England in the chase early on in a match they had to win, Taylor (68) putting on a hundred with Root with one hundred needed, who, himself, went on to win the match in the last over with a hundred (103) in a partnership of 84 with Ravi Bopara, a man unfairly picked on by the ECB by being dropped regularly over the years. Cook, of course, got out when he was in for 20 odd. 2-3 and on to Kandy.
Sangakkara decided it was time to finish Cook and England off by batting first and blazing a hundred (112), his fifth score in a row over 50 and 19th ODI hundred. Cook dropping him on 41 said it all. Sangakkara has 267 international scores over 50 and 48,000 runs. Dilshan (68) joined him in a second wicket stand of 153 and that was that. 293 to win proved too much for England as they lost wickets at a regular interval, Cook failing again in the first over. The ECB know they need to dump Cook but in a traumatic year for they simply don’t have the courage to initiate yet more change. The Aussie and NZ pitches will suit him more and that’s the main reason he will survive the cut. Root continued his form (and quest for Cooks job) with a half-century but England rolled over for 202 in 41 overs and so the series. One to go but that’s it for me and 5-2 very likely. Australia rounded off their emotional week with a thrilling 48 run victory in the test match after Warner (102) set India 373 to win with his second ton of the match, a man who plays very much like Phillip Hughes did, Nathan Lyon spinning them out with 7 wickets, Warney-esque bowling.
So, ‘Under the Skin’, the definition of a polarizing movie. Some critics were overwhelmed with it, whilst others rather sniffy. It’s from the artistic eye of Jonathan Glazer, he of the brilliant ‘Sexy Beast’ and a little known film called ‘Birth’, just three movies in 14-years for the mop haired director. Glazer has a background in pop art and music video and it shows. This is like nothing you will have seen before, a discombobulating experience indeed.
It’s based on the book of the same name by Michael Faber and took ten years to get from paper to celluloid. It’s ‘out there’ and arty and 13 minutes before any spoken word on screen, one of the most unsettling and creepy openings to a movie you will have seen, the screen offering just a white dot in total blackness to kick it all off as our mysterious entity that is the main protagonists activates. This thing belongs more in the Tate Gallery than on DVD. That central and silent white dot turns into some striking imagery and you are soon hooked.
In an autumnal and wind swept Scotland as a motorcyclist retrieves a young woman's body from the side of a road in the inky blackness of night and places her in the back of a van. A naked woman (Scarlett Johnasson) strips the body in mesmerizing silhouette and dons her clothes in a surreal and out of worldly brilliant white space that’s clearly not your regular load space of a 2 Litre Transit.
The woman is named Laura and sets about driving the van around Scotland picking up men on the street. She has an apartment, where the unfortunate guys follow her into a black void and are submerged in an abyss of likewise black liquid, again an ethereal place that should not exist on this Earth. Underneath the liquid surface, their bodies vanish. Laura appears to be not of this world and her real self hidden under the guise of a beautiful young woman.
After beginning to observe humankind, the woman seduces a lonely, sexually inexperienced man with a facial disfigurement. Beauty is skin deep, the metaphor. However, she lets him escape and flees to the Scottish Highlands, beginning to become human in her feelings and feeling remorse, wanting to absorb all the emotions around her, and, like all women, stuff her face with cake. But the motorcyclist is now in hot pursuit of our beautiful alien, presumably some sort of policing guardian from the same planet. This will only end badly.
Its one of those films where you are persuaded by the ‘important critics’ that you are watching a work of genius and so you should see it and be grateful. It’s certainly a great concept for a Horror/ Sci–Fi movie and has some iconic moments. But the viewers went 56% negative on Rottentomatos to those critics 89 positive and I’m with the viewers. The viewer’s opinions are the only opinion that matters to me. What the critics won’t admit is what’s most appealing about this film is watching innocent male members of the public being seduced by our unrecognizable movie star for real in the van and they don’t know its Scarlett Johansson. That’s kind a cool and bold filmmaking. Would it be so cool if it was a relatively unknown actress? They later have to act to complete their roles in the film once they get over the shock they are in it but what a start to your movie career. One of them even gets to see her naked and up close, one hell of a story to tell your mates in the pub. The white van even gets a good unscripted rocking and bricking by the Celtic fans coming out of the footy for some authentic Glasgow. Who wouldn’t want to jump in a Transit Van when beckoned over by Scarlett Johnasson in a wig with too much naughty lippy and a really good posh English accent going on (which is the actual accent of Edinburgh these days). The guys were only told they were in the film when it came to signing wavers for the general release. Johansson physically walks around the local Edinburgh shopping center and high streets in character and no one has a clue the world’s most beautiful actress is Princess Street Primark or in Waverly Shopping Center making an indie movie. It’s a really strange feeling you experience watching that. In a way she is an alien as herself, the actress, to this culture. Can you seriously imagine Scarlett Johansson on your local town’s high street browsing in Poundland? She certainly seduces the critics the way she seduces the innocent men.
Under the Skin is moody, weird, and a mysterious thing. The narrative is left up to you to decide why our alien is here on Earth and whether she is killing for sexual kicks and how it all may play out and who the bloke on the bike is. I suppose the heart of the movie is about the human race, and what a dispassionate observer might think of us, if they were seeing us for the first time, those fat jocks forced into the Peacocks winter range of black leggings and stuffing their faces with chips and Irn Bru not a great example set.
Sadly, after a while, that initial intrigue passes. Its two hours long and not a lot of dialogue, Scotland in the winter out of a van window scene after scene somewhat dull. Johansson is good, though, and delivers a powerful performance but there needed to be more alien stuff and plotting.
There are certainty some iconic cinema moments here, the start and finish to this movie quite visually striking and arresting. The voyeur of watching average looking Scottish men facing the promise of sex from a beautiful stranger leaves their face a picture on the hidden cameras, the expectation as hair is straightened and lips are licked in the wing mirror. The moment when the alien experiences Tommy Cooper for the first time is definitely something to behold. But its 30 minutes too long and sags in the middle and you soon start reaching for the fast forward. Scotland in November can be very grim. Because of that flabbiness it tanked in the cinema with its £5 million budget doing just £3 million back which is shame as it’s clearly an impressive piece of visionary and sensory cinema. But it’s worth a look if you like something different and challenging.
The Catholic Church’s disgusting deal with the devil over pedophilia is well documented. Sadly most of those documents are still locked away in the Vatican. We know pedophiles felt safe in that particular church to operate and no doubt attracted to a life of servitude because of that sanctuary. No one is beyond redemption in Catholicism. We also know there are a disproportionate amount of gay men in their church, as high as 1 in 7 in some countries, again somewhere to go where your guilt can be admonished. Because of this history a straight honest Irish Priest can no longer be left alone with a child anymore.
John Michael McDonough’s film, he of the equally quirky Irish comedy The Guard, of which Brendan Gleeson also stars, revolves his project around the complicated concept of forgiveness. He cast 12 main characters, which we are led to believe represent the disciples, Gleeson the unfortunate Catholic Priest facing the coming crucifixion in this black comedy Whodunit that asks troubling questions about keeping the faith in a fallen world. People go to church because they fear death, not because they believe in God.
Father James (Brendan Gleeson), a rural Irish priest, has an eclectic flock. Whilst taking penance in the confessional box, an unseen man threatens the priest’s life through the little window, proclaiming to be a victim of child abuse by one of the local priests and seeks vengeance, but not on the guilty but the innocent, just as he was. Both men know who that priest was. James has a good idea who the man is. The stranger gives Father James one week to make piece with his God and get his affairs in order, and then to meet him on the beach next Sunday to meet his fete.
Father James goes to his local bishop to ask guidance, guessing the threat is real but they don’t call in the cops. Fearing the worse he invites his daughter Fiona (Kelly Reilly) down for a few days of contemplation just in case.
There are many candidates who the threat could be as we check out the main contenders. Michael Fitzgerald (Dylan Moran) is a lonely millionaire up in the big house that lives just outside of town. He tells James that most of his money is illegal, but he wants to donate some to the church for his personal redemption. At the pub, James probes Frank Harte (Aidan Gillen), an atheist doctor, who tells details of a 3-year-old child made permanently deaf, mute, paralyzed and blind after a botched procedure. He explains to James that being unable to hear oneself scream is perhaps analogous to the silence victims of sexual abuse. Local butcher Jack Brennan (Chris O'Dowd) is also suspect, regularly beating his wife Veronica (Orla O'Rourke). Jack denies the violence and says he believes Veronica's Ivorian garage mechanic lover Simon (Isaach De Bankolé) is the culprit.
At the church, James tries to talk to Milo (Killian Scott) about his experience with the church, a socially awkward young man who looks like something bad happened to him once. Whoever it is the days are ticking by and Father James no nearer to persuading the man not to do it. When his beloved dog is killed and church set on fire its time to pack his suitcase.
After watching The Guard I was quite looking forward to this. McDonagh has an appealing comic Irish filmmaking style that can be a bit ‘diddly dee be Jesus’ but also quite dark and clever. But this one didn’t really do it for me and the film rather silly at times, Father Ted without the jokes.
Telling its biblical allegory was interesting but it’s too patchy and segmented and the bits don’t really add up to much. Being packed full of Irish comedians also takes away from it and with the likes of Chris O’Dowd and Dylan Moran you always feel they are about to drop init their sitcom characters at any minute. As W C Fields once said: ‘Comedy is dressing up an actress as an old woman and have her fall down a drain. Comedy to a comedian is a real old lady falling down a drain’. That’s the comedy I like and expect from those two. It’s just been touched up too much so not to offend the Catholic Church. You could imagine Father Ted and Father Dougal MaGuire protesting outside the cinema for the film premier of Calvary.
Brendan Gleeson is always great value on screen and has played a multitude of characters on screen over the years by being exactly the same hulking Irishman. If you haven’t seen The Guard then its one to watch. Here, though, it just lose its way some and becomes less a comedy and more some sort of allegory about the decline of the Catholic Church. Obviously Catholicism is big part of Irish life and this will hit home more with them but that allegory is muddled. I was hoping for much more comical humor and diddly dee and less of the doom and portent. But the broadsheets loved it so what do I know. I’m obviously not clever enough to get the joke.