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Who would have thought Mathew McConaughey would win an Oscar? Known as Mathew ‘Mahogany’ to some this guy really did play it safe for most of his career in romcoms and action hero roles. Let’s face it guys he was famous for his chest. He was one of those pretty boy actors always leaning on something on the DVD dust cover with his arms folded, be it a lamppost or a pretty girl, as phlegmatic as that career. You could see he was happy with that as long as he stayed famous and the money rolled in, famously caught by the cops for playing his bongos at midnight in the nude half-cut. Well, he didn’t need to learn the scripts in his down time. But the Texan started to lose his looks and impressive pecs and knew the game was up, unless he didn’t take on more serious roles. The Lincoln Lawyer and Killer Joe hinted at more depth and grit to the Texan and Mud sealed the deal for his Oscar winning turn in Dallas Buyers Club. His co-star here Reece Witherspoon is on a similar journey of romcom to not so cute and lets get seriously and likely to win The Oscar this year for Wild. These kids can act when they try.
14-year-old kids Ellis (Tye Sheridan) and Neckbone (Jacob Lofland) have the run of the local rivers and lakes in rural Arkansas for the summer holidays. They live on the river banks where dad (Sam Shepard) eeks a living and from selling fish and croc meet in a very traditional life being phased out by the authorities.
When the kids explore a new island they meet Mud (Matthew McConaughey), a hobo like character hiding out there for unknown reasons. He is a local river guy who has returned for the love of his childhood sweetheart Juniper (Reese Witherspoon) and has a plan to escape with her by rescuing and rebuilding an old boat lodged in a tree after a huge storm. For that he will need parts and the boys more than happy to oblige as the friendship builds, passing on a love letter or two for Juniper to see if she is still interested. Ellis also has a sweetheart, Marry Lee (Sarah Paulson), one year older than him but determined to win her heart. The boys have something in common.
But things get serious when the cops come looking for Mud for something he has done in another state and there are wanted leaflets everywhere. The boys know the risks but trust Mud and try to bring him and Juniper together when the times right. But other people are also looking for Mud and they have no time for unrequited love whining.
As a coming-of-age, rights of passage movies go this is engaging filmmaking. With influences from Mark Twain and Huckleberry Finn in the rhythms of the river it has a nice understated folksy feel to it and fine performances by the cast, especially the young lads. It always amazes me just how good kids can be at acting, with the discipline and emotional chaos that requires. It has the nice ambience and look of the powerful kid’s movie Stand By Me and thankfully no squealing pigs and rednecks in the woods this time.
It’s too long at 130 minutes but it never feels like that, always the sign of your full attention and so a good movie. The narrative leads to a violent showdown but you’re never really sure of the main characters integrity and motivation until the end and so the suspense held another sign of a good movie. There are one or two clichés but McConaughey keeps you glued to the screen on his state of mind and motives. Love is the same emotion suffered by young and old and the film plays that off well between the main protagonists.
Its one of those movies you can easily enjoy whilst doing other things and just a nice well made piece of America atmospheric drama to enjoy and so four stars from me. For $10 million it looks great and deserved its $28.6 million back.
So ‘Neighbors’, renamed ‘Bad Neighbors’ in European and Australian territories so not to clash with the soap opera, presumably for when punters search on goggle for the reviews. They were right. It became the fourth largest R-rated comedy in cinema history after its opening weekend total of $49 million but certainly not the fourth best comedy in history, far from it, bringing in $267 million to date. It made back its $18 million budget by the first day. That’s the sort of number that makes studio executives very happy. That’s the sort of numbers you get by casting Zac Efron. The always irritating and loud stubble-nuts that is the bubble permed Seth Rogen may think the numbers were down to him but not this time. Although not the sequel to Knocked Up it certainly feels like it as Rogen and co-star Rose Byrne send up those responsibility issues around having babies and who gets to go out and who gets to stay in and look after that baby.
Young middle-class couple Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly Radner (Rose Byrne) have a new baby and getting used to the life of dirty nappies, sore nipple breast feeding and not going out anymore. But when Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron) and his rowdy college fraternity move in next door the couple are soon asking them to turn down the partying they so long to be at. The initial peace treaty of welcoming the couple into Teddys’ inner fraternity sanctum with some beer and pot as Mac and Kelly briefly relive their college days works at first but the noise soon waking baby and the trouble begins.
It starts well with solid and original writing and humorous scenes as the couple enjoy the cute baby with lots of in-jokes for young parents being chained to the house, especially dad, there coo-cooing to baby for no particular reason other than making sure the misses doesn’t feel jealous and annoyed if he does go out and enjoys himself. I don’t have babies but I guess that’s pretty much it for your social life if you do have them.
Once we get past cute baby stuff and well observed young couple dialogue the moronic side of Rogan takes over and its becomes the bog standard gross out humor American Pie in the face, which I have never really liked. I do think men have become more immature and guys the same age as Rogen no doubt went to see this movie to celebrate that fact by sniggering at knob and tits gags. Zac Efron, on the other hand, doesn’t work for me in this type of grown up comedy and the polar opposite of Rogen and so little chemistry going down on screen. Efron is shaking off his cutesy Disney kid with the films he picks now and already in the Jason Biggs zone. That can be tough one to get out of. Where is Jason ‘American Pie’ Biggs now you may ask?
Yes, girls, he does take his shirt off at least twice. Efron, that is, blatantly so at the end, no doubt written in the contract that he had to, reward for all the screaming teenagers who went to see this film expecting Animal House. To be fair Rose Byrne gets to play a surprisingly fleshed out and confident female character as Kelly Radnor and a rarity in comic film to be enjoyed but once Rogen is on screen with beer and bong it all becomes tedious and perfunctory for this genre. I suspect this is the Bridesmaids effect, that particular emancipated all female film the third highest comedy of all time and why most of those girls have been cast in the all-female new Ghostbusters movie.
On the whole Bad Neighbors has its funny bits but most of the jokes miss the sport because Seth Rogen simply distracts you from the decent quality of the writing with his slobish style. Once the boorish flabby oath starts adlibbing the film flattens out like a bottle of pop with no screw cap and your mind begins to drift to other things. This will definitely appeal to a certain audience but it’s successful simply because Zac Efron is in it and he doesn’t drop the ball. It’s a shame Seth Rogen isn’t in that North Korean jail right now because he really does annoy me.
Star – Steve Bucsemi
Genre – Crime
Run Time – 12 x 50 minutes
Certificate – 18R
Country – USA
Awards – Wins & Nominations
Amazon – £.00 (£.0 Blue Ray)
I have to admit it folks I think I have been had by Boardwalk Empire. It’s the same stuff every series and kind of dumb in its own right. Gangster with big hat shoots gangster with smaller hat and new gangster arrives on the scene with an even bigger hate and wants to shoot the other hats. It’s like they reboot the plot at the start of each new season but with the hats passed around like musical hats, I suppose. When it’s written and created by Terrance Winter, he of the brilliant Sopranos, and Martin Scorcese and Mark Wahlberg also onboard, as are many other top writers with various episodes, it hinted at great things. When HBO blew $18 million just on the pilot you knew they were serious. But the trio have really just created a lavish version of the rather cliché gangsters with those big hats, cigars and Tommy Guns we all love from the 1920s and 30s to simply try and draw in a bigger audience than The Sopranos, a kind of period ‘dumbed down’ version of. It doesn’t mean its particular naff or anything and I am enjoying it and perhaps taking things for granted some but it just hasn’t moved into the great television show bracket the way Breaking Bad, The Sopranos and The Wire did. It needed to, considering the cast and creators.
===The main cast this season===
Steve Buscemi as Enoch "Nucky" Thompson
Jeffrey Wright as Dr. Valentin Narcisse
Michael Shannon as Nelson Van Alden/George Mueller
Shea Whigham as Elias "Eli" Thompson
Michael Stuhlbarg as Arnold Rothstein
Stephen Graham as Al Capone
Brian Geraghty as Agent Warren Knox/James "Jim" Tolliver
Eric Ladin as J. Edgar Hoover
Margot Bingham as Daughter Maitland
Ben Rosenfield as Willie Thompson
Erik LaRay Harvey as Dunn Purnsley
Christina Jackson as Maybelle White
Eric Ladin as J. Edgar Hoover
Brady and Connor Noon as Tommy Darmody
Greg Antonacci as Johnny Torrio (4 episodes)
Vincent Piazza as Charlie Luciano
Michael Kenneth Williams as Albert "Chalky" White
Anthony Laciura as Eddie Kessler
Kelly Macdonald as Margaret Thompson
Paul Sparks as Mickey Doyle
Patricia Arquette as Sally Wheet (7 episodes)
Jack Huston as Richard Harrow
Gretchen Mol as Gillian Darmody
Joe Masseria as James Ciccone
Season Four begins as Enoch ‘Nucky’ Thompson (Steve Buscemi) brushes himself down after seeing off carnation wearing New York mobster Gyp Rossetti and cutting deals with fellow mobsters Joe Masseria (James Ciccone) and Arnold Rothstein (Michael Stuhlbarg) to retain the peace. But the old routine of running bootleg to Atlantic City is soon shaken up with the arrival of the rather erudite black Harlem gangster Valentin Narcisse (Jeffrey Wright), who has eyes on taking over the black side of town, run by Albert ‘Chalky’ White (Michael Kenneth Williams), who is distracted by beautiful jazz singer Daughter Maitland (Margot Bingham), why Narcisse dangled her there in the first place.
Retired ATF agent Nelson Van Alden\George Mueller (Michael Shannon) is going over to the dark side to pay his way in the world by getting a job with Irish mobster Micky Doyle (Paul Sparks), who angers AL Capone (Stephen Graham) up in Chicago by trying to move heroin on the booze runs, Capone getting Mueller to snitch on the Irishman.
Nucky’s brother Elias "Eli" Thompson (Shea Whigham) appears to be back in his box after his family betrayal and son Willie (Ben Rosenfield) the one showing the most potential to further the Thompson family business as Nucky ponders retirment.
Gillian Darmody (Gretchen Mol) is suffering a heroine addiction and trying to find a man who will give her a life she is accustomed to whilst Nucky is intrigued by a lady he meets in Florida, sassy shotgun wheeling Sally Wheet (Patricia Arquette), looking to expand her bootleg operation in Atlantic City’s direction. But ambitious ATF Agent Warren Knox/James "Jim" Tolliver (Brian Geraghty) is on all of the mobster’s backs on the East Coast and looking to link them all to indict on conspiracy laws to impress the new head of the soon to be FBI, J. Edgar Hoover (Eric Ladin). And with a rat in the Thompson camp it may well happen as the various mobsters are soon at each others throats.
Twelve episodes in two weeks and job done! But if you really dig a boxset and gripped by the drama then you take two days to see it. Its good fun but way to predictable and although everyone acts their socks off and the sets look amazing it still feels samey. There is no doubt Buscemi has delivered one of televisions great characters and brotherly rivalry but a lot of the other important characters feel two dimensional. One of the best ones from the first three series, Kelly Macdonald as Margaret Thompson, is all but written out of this season and the series clearly losing its powerful female influence, the women just eye candy and naked prostitutes by the end of series 4.
Jeffrey Wright is excellent as the absurd Harlem character as he goes up against the complete opposite in Chalky White, the uneducated thug keeping it real for his people, and enough added racial tension there to push the series in a new direction. Stephen Graham continues to terrify us every episode with his psychotic Al Capone. That moral dimension is still missing from nearly all of Boardwalk Empire's characters, who murder and maim at will, if somewhat discriminately. It’s almost as if that its biggest attraction. But without Buscemi’s empty moral vessel of genius this would be an ensemble piece without a beating heart. He is brilliant, a man who can’t enjoy his power as he spends all his time trying to keep it as the numbskulls around him muck things up.
Of course I will watch series five and the big finale and perhaps I am taking it all for granted as it is so consistently good but I still feel it lacks that dark humor of The Wire and grubbiness of The Sopranos, what mobsters are really like. It’s a beautiful period painting, that there is no doubt, and as hard as Peaky Blinders tried to copy it there can be only one. I am already looking forward to season five as it really is time to end, the way Breaking Bad was one series too many. Its brave decision to call it a day as this type of show could go on and on with its repetitive narrative.
Rottentomatos.com – 95% critic’s approval
Metacriitc.com – 77% critic’s approval
Winnipeg Press –‘Momentum concerns aside, Boardwalk Empire remains a beautifully crafted period drama whose multi-layered plotlines give each member of its large cast lots of opportunities to shine’
TV Fanatic –‘ All in all it was a good season. Good, not great, but I'll definitely be back for Season 5’.
Time Magazine –‘Season 4 was even more sprawling, and arguably more disjointed, and yet it was richer overall’.
Quick Flix –‘ his might be Boardwalk Empire at its peak, but its peak remains much lower than other shows of its ilk. It's an 'A' season from a 'B+' show’.
We Got This Covered –‘ Boardwalk Empire can be frustrating in just how long it takes to get anywhere, and while this episode was not exactly fast-paced, it did provide some memorable moments’.
So, 10 years after the original film we are back with a sequel. Paramount Pictures didn’t want to make another one and Will Ferrell and Adam McKay (who co-writes and directs all of Ferrell’s movies), along with stars Paul Rudd and Steve Carrell, went off and did other things and had great careers in that decade - unlike Vince Vaughan. But Paramount came around and in 2012 ‘Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues’ was green-lighted. The guys decided they wanted to do it and Paramount relented, the deal breaker being the cast had to take big pay cuts, but still coming in at $50 million, a very high budget for a comedy. It did $177 million back with a full on marketing campaign with Ferrell in full Ron Burgundy character, the fist sign the sparkle in Ron Burgundy’s teeth may have faded.
Will Ferrell ... Ron Burgundy
Steve Carell ... Brick Tamland
Paul Rudd ... Brian Fantana
David Koechner ... Champ Kind
Christina Applegate ... Veronica Corningstone
Dylan Baker ... Freddie Shapp
Meagan Good ... Linda Jackson
Judah Nelson ... Walter Burgundy
James Marsden ... Jack Lime
Greg Kinnear ... Gary
Josh Lawson ... Kench Allenby
Kristen Wiig ... Chani Lastnamé
Fred Willard ... Ed Harken
Chris Parnell ... Garth
Harrison Ford ... Mack Tannen
Vince Vaughan … Wes Mantooth
After Ron Burgundy’s fall from grace on San Diego local news he is now working in Sea World as a warm up man, abusing the patrons as per usual. His wife Veronica Corningstone (Christine Applegate) has left him for bigger things and California news, headed by Mack Tannon (Harrison Ford), will not let him back.
About to put the noose around his neck he gets a job offer to work in New York, GNN, and the worlds first ever rolling news station ready to go. Invigorated by the challenge he gets the old band back together and heads out to Manhattan, soon in conflict with the stations super handsome news anchor Jack Lime (James Marsden) and less than politically correct with its sexy black female boss Linda Jackson (Meagan Good).
Ron, deranged weatherman Brick Tamland (Steve Carell) and ladies man sportscaster Brian Fontana (Paul Rudd) are in instant success and quickly bumped up from the graveyard shift; Ron’s somewhat over patriotic and dumbed down newscasts drawing big audiences. He says it as it is, introducing live police pursuits, cops beating up villains and burning buildings as real news, leaving just enough time to insult just about everyone watching.
Meanwhile his ex wife is doing well across town on the serious new stations and a battle or ratings underway. Alas, he suffers a major accident when tripping on a TV cable whilst playing the flute skating on ice in a big white fur coat and it may be all over as news is ripped from Ron Burgundy’s hands once again…
If you don’t like Will Ferrell and just don’t get it with him then don’t go near this movie. If you do like Ferrell then, well, you may not like this either. It’s not one of his best. There a lot of things wrong with it.
First of all it’s way too long at two hours and a whole segment in there that really shouldn’t be. It’s really flabby and patchy with very few big laughs and someone really needed to rein in the improvisation stuff. They took the stupidity and riffing too far and it’s quickly gets irritating. You get the feeling that because they think it’s funny we should find its funny. Don’t get me wrong, Ron Burgundy was a great movie character, Alan Partridge style, but here just a parody of the enjoyable first film. Now I know the success of the original, and most of Ferrell’s shtick, is based on that seemingly uncontrolled improve humor but here it’s just anarchic and infantile, especially the Steve Carell bits. That stuffed worked in film one as Ferrell and his Saturday Night Live team of comedians who starred had probably had the idea in their heads for many years and so fresh material. Here they make the fatal mistake with most sequels of trying to repeat the first films success, and like The Hangover, that magic ingredient was its originality and scrubbed off in the sequels. At least we can thank our lucky stars the first idea to have a musical for the follow up was quickly discarded.
I laughed more than a few times, but for every joke that hits, there's at least one that misses. The News 24 send up for the period worked well but that was about it. Like I said, many twigged when Ferrell did loads of publicity for this movie in character that the sequel was not going to be fantastic, almost imploring people to go see it at the ITV Comedy Awards, which he hijacked. Some critics felt it was racist and sexist at times and so unchecked there where as I thought that was the point of that era and the spoof. One scene around some black people at dinner with the mustachioed Burgundy did seem out of kilter with Ferrell and his liberal stuff and I can only presume it was inserted to draw in the fly over state types to fill up the redneck multiplexes.
What Ferrell does best is sending up a topic in his films, be it news, NASCAR, basketball or ice skating, and move on to the next topic. What he should never do is go back if he is not sure the joke is still there. He seems to be making the same mistake with Semi Pro 2, currently in production. It’s a shame as many were all looking forward to Anchorman 2 but it was not to be.
===Will Ferrell films you should see===
Anchorman: The Legend of on Burgundy
Blades of Glory
The Other Guy
Land of the Lost
Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
Imdb.com – 6.4/10.0 (110,098votes)
Rottentomatos.com – 75% critic’s approval
Metacriitc.com – 61% critic’s approval
Quite funny if you have time on your hands as Ferrell, McKay and cast let rip.
-Welcome to the Dolphin Show-
An extended scene from Sea World
More of that riffing stuff, a cast intent on creating 20 minutes of bloopers.
Veronica and Linda bitch it out.
-News - o - Rama-
The boys and girls go improv crazy
The boys and girls go improv crazy
Star – Judy Dench & Steve Coogan
Amazon – £5.00 (£9.99 Blue Ray)
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Philomena: And after I had the sex, I thought anything that feels so lovely must be wrong.
Martin Sixsmith: F**king Catholics.
Jimmy Tarbuck tells this joke about Prince Charles where he warns his Highness that if he ever gets arrested, ‘what ever you do, ‘don’t give em your name and address sir’. Like Prince Charles, I always feel Steve Coogan (the co-star to her Royal Highness Judy Dench here) is in a similar boat and desperately wants to make the next step up and be top dog of his particular realm, to the point where it genuinely gets to Coogan. He is a brilliant mimic and delivers intelligently crafted comic characters like few others have but desperately wants to be known as a true Hollywood star and not just a glorified stand up. In his act and TV writing he is always having ago at the broadsheet critics that don’t think he is a good actor or a big name. But Hollywood doesn’t want him, and like Charles, destined never to be king, as small and unnoticed in Tinsel Town as his tiny role in Night of the Museum as the 2 inch soldier. His rather enjoyable and intelligent turn in Philomena proves he can deliver in lower budget movies but he will never be the leading man the way his big rival comic character genius Sasha Baron Cohen has achieved, a man who has broken Hollywood. Steve will always be known as Alan Partridge, a piece of BBC Norwich’s finest in all of his roles.
The film is co-written by Steve alongside Chris Pope (he who penned ITVs Cilla), did deliver good things for Coogan, 4 Oscar nominations no less, one for their excellent screenplay. The clue is right there – Coogan is a really great comic writer that acts, rather than an actor who can project great scripts and roles. Unless he writes his distinctive humor into a script or character it just doesn’t happen for him, Around the World in 80 Days painful watching. Judy Dench, of course, could open a gas bill and be nominated for the big awards, the case here for her Oscar nod, someone that doesn’t have to try too hard to be noticed, the signature of a great actor. In Philomena she does have to work hard though, placed in nearly every scene and along time since that has happened, the old Dame of British cinema losing her eyesight through macular degeneration and so enjoying it while she still can.
The film is loosely based on the true story of Philomena Lee, who had to give her child away under the care of Catholic nuns when she was a very young underage mom. Real life BBC journalist and ex Labor spin-doctor Martin Sixsmith (played by Coogan) wrote a human interest story around her search for her son between jobs and not the first movie to explore the evils of forced adoption by the Catholic Church, Oranges and Sunshine and The Magdalene Sisters to name but two. Illegitimate Irish children – in the eyes of the Catholic Church – were often adopted out against the mothers will or even sent abroad to hide the perceived sin, the mothers love for those kids not in the equation, yet another twisted religion at work. Philomena is certainly the funniest comment on those Catholic Church evils since the days of the cigarette smoking Dave Allen sketches.
Judi Dench ... Philomena
Steve Coogan ... Martin Sixsmith
Sophie Kennedy Clark ... Young Philomena
Mare Winningham ... Mary
Barbara Jefford ... Sister Hildegarde
Ruth McCabe ... Mother Barbara
Peter Hermann ... Pete Olsson
Sean Mahon ... Michael
Anna Maxwell Martin ... Jane
Michelle Fairley ... Sally Mitchell
Wunmi Mosaku ... Young Nun
Amy McAllister ... Sister Anunciata
Cathy Belton ... Sister Claire
Kate Fleetwood ... Young Sister Hildegarde
Martin Sixsmith: I don't believe in God, and I think He knows.
Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan) has been forced to resign as a spin doctor for Blair and scratching around for work between books on Russian history. At a party he meets the daughter of a woman who has a story to tell, 70-year-old Philomena Lee (Judi Dench). She had to give away her illegitimate child when she was 14 and just revealed that secret to her daughter after 50 years of heartbreak. Now she wants to find out if he is still alive and remembers her and she has not seen him for those 50 years.
Sniffy at first at the indignity of a serious political commentator having to do a freelance ‘human interest story’, Sixsmith agrees to meet the pair and soon on the case, The Guardian stumping up the cash to get the story. Philomena is a devout Catholic and doesn’t really blame the church for her plight, the right thing to do at the time for her after her family kicked her out for getting pregnant at 14 and signing her rights away to the kid at the orphanage. She would work the laundry seven days a week, in her mind to serve her penance, cruelly only allowed to see her son one hour a day at the Catholic run Irish Abbey. But in a cynical journalists mind its cheap labor and the Catholic Church known for this deceit and exploitation of young mums through that forced Catholic guilt.
The two begin to click as they hit the road to Ireland together and quickly becomes apparent that the orphanage had a nice little trade going in kids being sold to rich Americans, including movie stars. Ironically, the biggest lead to find Michael is in American politics, the kid all grown up and in a similar job as Sixsmiths at one point. In fact a photograph on the internet reveals the two briefly met at The Whitehouse. The question is then if her son is still alive and does he remember his real mom and being in Ireland, his spiritual home?
Most British films that do well at The Oscars tend to be boring period stiff upper lip costume dramas, what Philomena certainly isn’t. I really enjoyed this and much better than I had hoped. Dench is really funny and Coogan, rather unselfishly, gives her the best lines in the film, perhaps to draw out her cracking fuddy duddy performance. She really does have good comic timing. I think this time she did deserve the Oscar nomination. Many of her previous Oscar nominations she was barely in those movies, just ten minutes screen time for her only win as Queen Elizabeth in Shakespeare in Love.
The Catholic Americans, of course, were not so happy about the film and claimed a lot of the story was made up, and the subsequent book that Sixsmith wrote on Philomena and the Catholic baby and laundry trade utter tosh. Although Coogan and Pope did take some liberties with the story to create drama and forward momentum, they Catholic Church really did sell babies to rich Americans and use force labor of young girls to make money, and far worse, many of those young girls and babies dyeing young in those Magdalene Laundries and the papers documenting heir fete often burned in the middle of the night.
As I say it’s well deserving of the Oscars nods and suitably packed with humor and pathos at all the right times. Dench totally gets how Catholic guilt can eat up a person who still believes in their God and never openly questions the absurd contradictions of that faith it throws at them. What God would tear away a child from its mother? Everything that happens is Gods will, right?
It did a healthy £37 million from its £12 million budget and went about the right way to tackle the big issues while managing to be an immensely personal story at the same time. This is exactly the movie I would recommend to those who don’t need to be told when to laugh and want to chuckle away with a glass of wine to celebrate one of the best British movies of last year. Yes, there is always a bit of Steve Coogan’s signature anger with the world in the dialogue but he doesn’t over act or get shouty at any point and a good performance in his own right. It never feels like one of his characters, as all of his other films have. I would definitely watch this just for his snappy humor and Dench’s old biddy performance.
Imdb.com – 7.7/10.0 (58,098votes)
Rottentomatos.com – 92% critic’s approval
Metacriitc.com – 76% critic’s approval
Movie FX –‘Lovingly crafted and beautifully told, Philomena is one of this year's highlights’.
Columbia Alive –‘I'd be a grouch to call the two leads anything but delightful, and they both stretch in directions you mightn't expect’.
Cinema Crazed –‘.Director Frears handles the story with enough dramatic weight and light comic fare to make "Philomena" a sweet and very compelling human tale’.
ABC Radio –‘Not only is the film an interesting real-life drama, it also works as a buddy comedy thanks to the versatile performances of both Steve Coogan and Judi Dench’.
Mediamikes – ‘Dench is brilliant as the adult Philomena. In spite of her generally outgoing appearance there is a sadness behind her eyes born of five decades of heartbreak’.
Film.com –‘Flawless performances and the perfect blend of pathos and humour ensures this is a crowd-pleaser in the best sense of the word’.
QNetwork.com –‘Equal parts uplifting tearjerker, odd-couple comedy, and righteous screed against abuse of power in the name of religion’.
Concrete playground –‘Be not fooled by the marketing materials, which make the film look like an aged-up version of The Trip with Judi Dench in place of Rob Brydon. Philomena is a terrifically made, entertaining work’.
I think it’s fair to say Clintons Cards see themselves us a little bit more up market than other card shops and charge accordingly. They proved their snobbery just before Christmas by selling a joke Christmas card that mocked council flat owners. It’s amazing how they got through the recession without adjusting their prices. Their mark up on what is basically a piece of card and some printer ink is considerable, 70p in every pound. Hallmark Cards tried to compete but their much smaller mark up through reasonable pricing meant they had no room to maneuver when recession stuck, and as we know with British recessions, the middle-class will stick with the brands that identify come what may.
Charity cards, of course, are the really big earner for chains, with the charity coming out with as little as 10% of the ticket price in some cases, exploiting customer’s good will. Asda gave just 7% of the profits with just 20p of a £3.75 multipack pack going to the branded charity.
Clinton’s prices start at around a quid for a basic birthday card, and as high as a ‘tenner’ for the A4 size novelty. They don’t do the 29p card like Card Craft do and presumably the idea being that people who shop at Clintons want to spend good money on the card to show they care about the person who is receiving it, which is quite a clever pricing strategy. When I buy cards it’s a perfunctory cost transaction and little thought goes into it, even for mom. Sometimes I will spend on a novelty card is there is an in-joke opportunity on the front but very rarely.
Clintons have a good range of cards and equally expensive packaging for presents and gifts with ribbon and wrap and lot of somewhat tacky gifts ideas on display, as well as banners and party poppers. Valentines Day, of course, is taking over the shops. Some stuff there will never sell whilst others appears to fly out of the door depending on your town or location. Northampton is known for shifting Polish themed Christmas and birthday cards, apparently. I would say they have more specialty cards then anyone else and so your go to for that, including other religions like Islam and Judaism.
As I say this place is out of my general price range and only go there for bespoke quality stuff. My purchase was a £1.50 get well soon card for a cancer patient and the service was good and very few queues this time of the year. As with many card shops my biggest grip is they rarely put price tags on cards so you have to read the Key on the display area, which is often hidden to discourage that, the idea being you go to the counter and ambushed by the extortionate pricing and too embarrassed not to pay for it to avoid embarrassment, especially if is a card for your mom on Mothers Day.
There is no doubt Page 3 is outdated. As a kid I enjoyed collecting the pictures for my scrapbook and doing what schoolboys do to Page 3 but today it just makes you blush when you have to thumb past it in WHSmiths. From that suffered embarrassment you know just how young girls and women must feel over their low self esteem and body image hang ups when they accidentally see it or it’s around the work place. I’m glad it’s beginning to be phased out after its non appearance last Friday. I’m sure Murdoch is easing it out for business reasons and if circulation falls he will put it back in but you do feel its days are numbered. It belongs with those dated sitcoms of the 1970s and men that wear flat cap and have a cigarette hanging out the corner of their mouth. All women love men to admire their figures but modesty means a time and a place.
Back in the day we lads got our porn from striking lucky finding dumped mags in a bush or hedgerow on the way home from school, husbands tipping it before the wife finds their stash of goodies. We were too shy to buy magazines from the top shelf and the seedy video shop that sold porn under the counter was a real ordeal, Electric Blue the Holy Grail. That just left the Great Universal catalogue bra section and Page 3. Some of the girls back then were really big in many ways, Samantha Fox and Linda Lusardi the most famous and making six figure salaries as glamour models. The key to the turn on for school boys was the girls must have big tits that defied gravity, especially the ones that pointed upwards. Pert boobs are hot boobs. If you had two liter coke bottles you didn’t make Page 3. But in reality very few girls have those most bodacious boobs and so they have to live up to that pressure.
The feminist are claiming victory after a long campaign called Cover Up and 30 pretty girls with lovely figures may no longer have work at the printed press copy of The Sun one day soon. Those girls will find glamour work elsewhere and so not hit that hard in the pocket, like everything, the problem moving online. You can see anything you want on the net and where that stuff belongs. Schoolboys and guys alike are going to get their kicks elsewhere and so Page 3 no great loss.
Modern day feminist, as ever, miss the real point with Page 3 and perhaps their beef really about being jealous of how pretty and shapely these girls are and the riches it pays them, the ultimate male exploitation they don’t talk about, look but don’t touch soft porn. These girls feel fantastic when they model. Feminist tend to look and appear manly and intimidating in hairstyle, look and demeanor and even get aggressive with women who don’t agree with feminism. I always feel deep down it’s because hot feminine girls get all the boys and they don’t and so they chose this rejection path. I can find nothing remotely attractive about feminist and so presume they are either gay or straight women that behave that way as they hate men, rather than they want the best for women kind. What on Earth is wrong with women wanting to be feminine and let guys look after and admire them? We are all equal today and if women choose to have kids and forgo a career then they should be able to without being told they have failed somehow? The fact that most women still chose to do that means feminism has run its course and time to back down. The early feminist movement was fantastic and did great things for women and we all applaud that bravery but it seem modern feminist are scratching around for campaigns that really don’t matter. Instead of worrying about pretty girls in the newspaper how about going to help people fight Ebola in Africa and really help young women?
The real problem for Page Three and feminism is most young women want to be pretty and have nice figures and enjoy being admired for that. Every girl wanted to be princess as a kid and marry the handsome prince that will take all their worries away. Young women want to be attractive and thin more than being a doctor or architect, say. Not so much to attract men but to feel confident in themselves. I suspect ranting feminist on their behalf actually put women off their emancipated cause.
A female French lifestyle fashion magazine decided to experiment and replace the stick thin models with regular sized women modeling the clothes sizes the readers actually wear. Circulation collapsed and the readers went elsewhere and the project pulled. The readers don’t want to be reminded who they really are. Women want to look like the stick thin girls in the magazines. Again, that’s not down to male objectification but women’s self esteem, why the industry shifts so many of those weekly magazines, many having female editors. When polled in a teenage magazine, 25% of the girls said they ‘wanted to be a pole dancer’ when they grew up, second only to being a celebrity. Its hot and fun being thin and sexy and if you cant then don’t have ago at those who have good genes and blame them for letting women kind down exploiting that confidence!
Another interesting aspect to this is the way women put other women down. Most people who buy Hello and Grazia magazine love to see imperfections in other women, especially celebrities, although they would never admit that. Seeing Cameron Diaz terrible skin makes their day. Most of the photos in Hello are off discovered cellulite and fat thighs on those female celebs and that sells as well as sticks thin models in Cosmo ever did. I find that cruller to women than Page 3 ever was. I also feel that most media feminist given a voice tend to be educated and middle-class and because most Page 3 girls tend to be working-class there is a snobbery attached here that somehow Tracey from Tipton, age 22, and Sonia from Gravesend, 24, are too stupid to care about feminism and get the issues. Surely being paid £500 an hour to get your boobs out is the ultimate and that’s the rent paid for the week is the ultimate feminism?
‘No’ is the dramatization of the lead up to the Chilean referendum of 1987 ordered by General Pinochet to try and legitimize his military junta after a period of relative prosperity in Chile. With the help of the CIA, Augusto Pinochet seized power from the democratically elected President Salvador Allende on September 11, 1973, a date that some think American committed a similar wealth grab coup d'état some 40-years later. Nixon and co were doing a lot of this back then across Latin America and broke every rule in the book to procure and keep Cold War allies, let alone asset strip them of valuable minerals.
Although the General helped Chile prosper under the influence of the free market-oriented neoliberal "Chicago Boys" (of which Obama learned this trade) and implemented economic reforms, including currency stabilization, tariff cutting and opening Chile's markets to global trade, they restricted unions, privatized social security and did likewise with hundreds of state-controlled industries to generate that wealth, actions which US companies benefited heavily from. This was a similar model used in Iraq. Blow everything up and then get the contracts to rebuild everything. Job done! One of the first things the US did in Chile and Iraq was to destroy the stuff they specialized in building, like telecoms and power infrastructure, regardless of the mess it left. These policies in the 1970s produced what has been referred to as the "Miracle of Chile" and for most of the 1990s, it was the best-performing economy in Latin America, why Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan famously failed to push for a war crimes trial against the General, a man who crushed his left wing opposition with great gusto and brutality with that western support.
Latin America’s most well known actor to the west, Gael Garcia Bernal, is the star tasked with portraying that time to the audience and plays the advertising guru tasked with planning the ‘No’ to Pinochet campaign, an actor who is drawn to these historical heroic roles, playing Che Guevara, of course in the Motor Cycle Diaries, a very passionate man for his country of Mexico and his continent in general. If you ever travel to that part of the world you will know they are full on when it comes to their politics. Interestingly, several people from the actual "No" campaign in Chile were hired to play members of the "Yes" campaign people in the film.
Young advertising exec René Saavedra (Gael García Bernal) works for one of Chile’s top agencies. He has nice life under Pinochet and a kid in a good school and second home by the beach as the economy booms, be it under military rule. But one day he is approached by a coalition of left wing politicians who are preparing for General Augusto Pinochet’s ‘plebiscite’, a referendum put by the Military Junta to ask the people if they want to keep the current system for another eight years or go for a democratic election. With over 2000 people ‘disappeared’, 5000 left wing agitators dead and up to 80,000 interned it has come at the right time for some. Torture is common and the people have no freedom of speech. Pinochet’s people, on the other hand, feel enough time has passed since 1973 to and they are ready to accept the new Chile because of its perceived democratic prosperity. The problem is the working-class have seen their living standards fall since Allende’s removal and up for the No vote, a risk for Pinochet
Saavedra is reticent at first and doesn’t believe they will be allowed to remove the general but when he sees his ex wife Verónica (Antonia Zegers) beaten by the cops for protesting against the regime he is soon on board, picking his team to throw some ideas at the opposition politicians for the joint campaign, headed by idealist lefty Lucho" Guzmán (Alfredo Castro). But he doesn’t tell his agency boss, ultra conservative José Tomás Urrutia (Luis Gnecco), and goes behind his back as he continues his normal day job and other ad campaigns.
Saavedra logo idea is a rainbow wrapped around the world ‘No’ and the themes for the campaign will be the return of ‘Happiness’ to Chile, not using standard political messages but what he knows best, advertising. He doesn’t want to throw powerful brutal images at the people, as the regime may react and crack down. He wants to do it with humor and abstract concepts, most of Chilies liberal’s arts and left wing names behind the No campaign, selling freedom using celebrities and pop culture nothing new, of course. But, not surprisingly, as the No campaign looks like winning, the threats begin on out brilliant young ad exec and his family as the regime gets nervous. Could Pinochet actually lose this?
No asks a simple question - do we buy into our politicians the same way we do our Coca Cola and Big Macs? We don’t like to think we are influenced by those subliminal messages and something as simple as a jingle to buy junk food all the time but it works. Simple ad techniques are used in many ways these days to get us to fall in line, especially in politics. The War on Terror is a classic advertising trick of selling us a fix for a problem that doesn’t really exist in our lives, the same way they sell us remedies for problems we don’t really have but make us think we have.
Director Pablo Larrain film is engaging to a point with his film and we do learn something about Chile back then but it soon becomes more about Bernals performance than really giving detail on the time in Chile. It’s reasonably gripping and suspenseful even though the ending is already known to many and you stick with the narrative with solid performances all around, as you always seem to get with foreign films that make it over here. One negative is Larrain Shot the film in the video support wobbly camera U-matic 3:4 style, which was used at the end of the 1980s, to give more realism. To me it looked like a 3D blurred cut put in the wrong camera in the cinema and no one dare say.
It did $2.3 million, which isn’t bad for a challenging subtitled movie these days, and Oscar Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film in 2013, beaten by’ Armour’ to the prize. As a historical document it probably cuts corners to drive the narrative and Bernal covers over the holes by bringing the extra the film needed to work and as far as foreign movies go it’s an easy watch. It is reasonably talky though and no sweeping camera shots of the wilds of Chile for a break so if you don’t like subtitles then maybe not for you. But as stand out intelligent film its good stuff and Bernal the best at mixing passionate patriotism with powerful cinema in his performances. You should also see him Even the Rain, on similar political themes.
To the more observant and cynical out there, they will know that the ‘King of Trainers’ is the said choice retailer of the ‘Chav’, many tracksuit warriors having the JD pull tie bag slung over their shoulder after a days shoplifting as they are sucked back to the sink estates. Who knew that trainer brands would define a generation of under class kids? Northamptonshire police revealed that their forensic teams found that 43% of recovered prints at crime scenes where the same brand and style of trainer. Either the burglars are really shrewd and agree to use the same tread between them to confuse the cops or they simply buy the same brand like sheep. I suspect it’s the later, no doubt the chosen attire of some misogynist American rapper. NINE out of 10 burglars wear trainer’s worth up to £120 when they break into a house. The younger the thief, the more expensive their shoe, criminologists found. And the most popular brands are Nike, Reebok and Adidas.
The JD brand is strong on the high street and the stores far neater and up market than their main customers. They are set out well with most trainer brands available and they also do clothing in sportswear, winter wear and kids wear. I was there looking for some decent leisure walking style training shoes and didn’t want to pay more than forty quid. I have given up buying brands like Karrimoor off Amazon as they wear out after six months and soon letting water, which means smelly socks and then holes in socks.
Customer service was good and they wait until they ask you if you need help. I didn’t buy any shoes but got some good ideas. Sports Direct up the road pile em high cheaper and I saw the same brand for a lower price there and so maybe wont buy at JD. But JD Sports sales are very good and there are bargains to be had, up to 40% off top brands. By all-accounts the chain had a bumper Christmas and expects to smash profit targets.
The J & D name stands for the founders of the company John Wardle and David Makin. After gobbling up the troubled Blacks Sports chain JD went slightly more up market and stocked less of the chavvy brands to draw in more middle-class sports fans who actually wear the clothing to play sports. I’m not a huge fan of wearing sports gear as causal but will around the house. I like a good fleece and do like surf wear. It’s good gear to wear in the winter when you can’t afford the gas bill and keeps you snug. My sporting days are long over now and a long walk in the frost and sunshine will suffice. I still swim now and then and play 5-a-side and cricket but buy any of that kit in specialized sports stores. JD Sports only sells clothing and so no sports kit, other than studded footwear.
World Snooker has one of those websites that is just as much for the players as it is the fans. Just as we, the punter, log in to buy tickets or checkout the player profiles they log into download sponsors airplane boarding cards and tournament passes. If you add players on twitter you quickly become involved in the politics of the players and the running of the website as they open with their gripes with snookers head honchos Barry Hearn and Darren Ferguson and the websites role in that and very how amusing it is. With the amount of information they give out on social media I don’t think it would be too tricky to hack.
Watching this week’s enjoyable Masters Tournament at Wembley you can feel the family energy the sport gives off and reflected in this multipurpose website. It’s a pretty basic one considering with tabs for things like Scores, News, Tickets, Player Profiles, Tournaments and the Fanzone. The scores section is good as it’s hard to find live snooker scores and results online if you do like a bet. Some of the players do blogs online there and the Fanzone has some interactive stuff and competitions. They also operate an ex snooker players benevolent fund, which draws images of old players sitting by the fire with just one bar on.
Ticket wise the prices are fair for most events and they have a ticket exchange facility on the website. This is a nice touch as we all know how ticket agencies exploit resale tickets. This one feels like fan-to-fan. Crucible prices are much more this year though, between £35 and £135 quoted on the website. I would call it legal touting at worse. Sadly the website does work with Viagogo who pretend to sell tickets on behalf of fans for a huge mark up when in reality it’s them selling new tickets never sold to the public at way over the cost price. Its pretty disgraceful stuff to be honest. When big event sell out really quickly it’s because the event holder has sold big blocks of tickets to companies like Viagogo who immediately stick them up on their website at inflated prices claiming they are fans resale, a cut of the mark up going back to the event. An undercover Channel 4 documentary uncovered the obvious shady dealings but nothing much was done.
The big announcement on the news section after Sean Murphy’s scintillating win over the personality less Neil Robertson was the World Championships are to stay in Sheffield until 2017. There was talk of a big move to China as other big cities put in bids to hold the worlds, especially after Sheffield Council seem to withdraw its major funding of £500,000 after a dispute with World Snooker, of which Barry Hearn has the 51 controlling stake. The event brings in big bucks over the two weeks and it looks like Hearn has threatened to go if the BBC and Sheffield City Council didn’t hand over more money. There is also a change in the qualifying for the event, even more brutal this year, anyone outside the top 16 money list having to play at least two best of 19 matches to make the televised stages. This is because Hearn has introduced wildcards so to try and gemmy in a more eclectic field, even the possibility of a woman making the TV stages. Now that would be something.
The tournaments are all listed on site and details for the players on how to enter them, and details of Q-School, where members of the public who can play a bit get the chance to turn their amateur skills into professionals one. If you do well in Q-school you’re on the main tour. There are various levels of tournaments from ranking to invitational plus the weekly championship league. So popular with the public is snookers new look that even the Welsh Open is sold out two months in advance. The Masters was packed every day and could even move to a bigger London venue. For some reason it’s the only London event and so you could see the UK Championship eventually heading south. The appetite is still big in the UK for the gentleman’s game.
The early departure of the disinterested Mark Selby, distracted by fatherhood and the emotion of achieving his life long dream of becoming world champion (the way Murray tailed off after winning Wimbledon), and the over exuberant Judd Trump crashing out it in round one seemed to leave the way clear for Ronnie O’Sullivan to claim his fifth Masters and seventh final in 10 years.
All was going well as he passed Stephen Hendry’s century record of 775 in the quarter-finals. But ice man Neil Robertson stared him down for Ronnie’s biggest hiding for nine years, the 6-1 thrashing not expected, Ronnie first defeat in 16 matches and broke his tenth straight semi finals run. Nothing intimidates the Aussie. In fact The Rockets two other big 5-1 thrashings in those ten years were also to Neil Robertson. Gamblers take note. Meanwhile the rather intelligent and likeable Shaun Murphy blasted his way to the final on the other side of the draw with unexpectedly good form, his fourth final of the season, to play Robertson in his third Masters final in four. I had been winding Murphy up on Twitter preparing him for this tournament in the hope he would improve, saying he is letting my home county of Northamptonshire down and nowhere near the player he once was, Shaun born in Rushden near Wellingboro. He responded with witty retorts and now he is The Masters champion, achieving the fabled BBC Triple Crown of World Champion, UK Champion and Masters Champion, only the tenth player in the history of the game to do it. Marco Fu stroked in a 147 at the event, only the third in its history but just 10 grand top break prize for his rare achievement.
1 Neil Robertson £698,018
2 Ding Junhui £690,952
3 Ronnie O'Sullivan £675,033
4 Mark Selby £659,420
5 Barry Hawkins £461,837
6 Mark Allen £396,744
7 Judd Trump £372,056
8 Stuart Bingham £349,609
9 Ricky Walden £347,565
10 Marco Fu £342,015
Hearn came under pressure during his snooker revolution from senior players who were unhappy on just how many events they had to play a year to stay in the top 16 with ranking points accrued, almost 40 weeks per year. Many had families and other commitments and flying 15 hours to China every other week didn’t appeal, and so they stopped flying there. Ronnie only played 5 events in one year and soon dropped out of the top 16 and so had to qualify for other events and that didn’t guarantee the sports biggest star would be at events selling those seats and TV. TV stepped in and Barry changed it to the money earned list in ranking events, meaning the likes of The Rocket could cherry pick the big tournaments, win them and the cash, and stay comfortably in the top 10 by playing a handful of events a year, but, more importantly, only play one qualifier per event. If Ronnie does well in the UK its three less tournaments he would have to play to get the same ranking points under the old system. The original shake up was to try and help younger and more talented lads on the way up to get to play some actual snooker with more events and earn enough to stay in the sport. Journeymen that were frozen out of the top 16 in the old days like 43-year-old Mark Davis could never progress but with points for all events they had a career because they could play every event, be it through qualification, Mark shooting up to world number 7 in 2011. In the old days of Higgins and David the top 16 were untouchable as they were guaranteed entry in all events at the later stages. The 50th best snooker player earned 68 grand up until the last ranking event. I wonder what the 50th best male tennis player earnt? Without The Rocket and the likes in China the sport was facing paying appearance fees to the top 10 to get them to show, not what Hearn is all about.
So the ‘Machine Gun Preacher, based on the true story of Sam Childers, a reformed gang member, drug dealing redneck addict who found God and then set up a Christian Ministry in North Dakota and then an orphanage in war torn South Sedan, rescuing kids from the Civil War. He would venture into areas of the country brutally controlled by warlord Joseph Kony of the LRA (the Lords Resistance Army), and with the backing of the SPLA (Sedan Peoples Liberation Army) would run regular armed sorties to round up kids in the occupied areas and bring them to safety. If the kids didn’t want to fight for Kony every second one would have their hand cut off so they couldn’t fight for anyone else.
Director Marc Foster (Monsters Ball, Stranger Then Fiction, Finding Neverland, Quantum of Solace and World War Z) got the job to present his life as a movie and, not surprisingly, concentrated more on the action than an intriguing and emotional story that probably lies beneath the dusty African surface. I’m sure he wanted to go there but when you cast Gerard Butler with a machine gun you can forget it. That ambiguity over what film to make killed it stone dead, the $30 million dollar mid budget movie scraping back an apathetic $3.3 million. I suspect most were expecting a preacher with a machine gun, but Hobo with a Shotgun exploitation style.
Childers (Gerard Butler) is a scumbag low life biker who robs, steals and fights his way to what ever he wants. His stripper wife Lynn (Michelle Monaghan) and daughter Paige (Madeline Carroll) go along with it and no when to hide from his moods. After nearly killing someone after losing it he finds God, persuaded by his born again wife, the two attending church together in their Sunday best.
Inspired by the evangelic style preaching he decides to build his own church, pulling in decent crowds and so donations. A visiting preacher inspires him to work in the African missions, where he witnesses terrible things in South Sedan when travelling up country. Lots of young children are forced to fight and hundreds of thousands of orphans out there. Inspired again why not build his own mission there, his wife fully supportive and the God fearing Childers the right man for the job.
There he befriends Deng (Souléymane Sy Savané) of the SPLA, who helps him with his project. But the leader of the LRA is not happy and orders that the mission be burnt down, which it is. But Childers and the handful of SLA guys do enough to repel the attack, killing most of the rebels, soon rebuilding the church and schools and now known as the white preacher with the machine gun.
As I said earlier, with an exploitation-friendly title like Machine Gun Preacher you'd think this movie would be the soul brother of Hobo With A Shotgun. Unfortunately, that is not so, the 1970s exploitation movie the far better option in hindsight. This just doesn’t quite work, half TV movie, half action movie, very little about the mindset of what clearly is an interesting character. I think a documentary would have been the better option here than Gerard Butler running around with guns and grimaces. They have actually just made the documentary and that may shed some light on Childers. The story and reasons for Childers transformation are lost in a hail of bullets here. While we admire Childers for his bravery and self-sacrifice, we don't fully understand him or his crusade and sacrifice by the end of the movie. Did he go out there to help the kids or more about legally killing guys on his new gang’s terms, a more honorable way to distribute his intrinsic anger?
The cast are too good-looking for what it is and Butler way too hunky as the rough around the edges 5, 7 inch Childers. The small amount of actual footage of Childers in Africa as the credits role are far more revealing than most of the movie. Because it ends up a reasonably dumb action affair to play to the masses the critics panned it. But the audience enjoyed it, earning a surprising 67% approval rating on Rottentomatoes.com and IMDB, double that of the critics. I am more with the critics on this one. It’s bungled; the way Foster messed up Quantum of Solace.
On the while it’s a film that ended up a concept movie and with Butler in their just too distracting so to matter in the movie hall of fame. Both Sam and Lynn were no doubt very happy with the casting of Butler and Michelle Monaghan to play them but that over glosses a rough life. The dialogue is as clunky as the chains that hold the child slaves and the politics of this civil war as two dimensional as the back characters in the film. This was very much the standard director model of applying hunky Hollywood star to script with attractive Hollywood wife and hope you get to turn a small profit to keep your full salary as you know the script is poor and the idea lost. I await the documentary to find the real story of Sam Childers.
Like most big high street names, Debenhams delivered another slump in profits in the third quarter, perhaps the most vulnerable department store on the high street. It’s not because of welfare cuts or cheaper rivals but simply because they are dated and too diverse and losing their loyal customer base. In the old days it would be like Are You Being Served there where customers would shop on other floors and maybe get measure up for a bra by a Mrs Slocombe or watch a demonstration of a kitchen implement on the top floor, perhaps the price not as important as the quality and service back then. Now these behemoths are full of little brand name stores and customers just buy what they want from a particular brand and bugger off.
Debenhams are the glamour high street department stores in your average market town to offer with rows of pretty girls on the cosmetics counters ready to sell you potions and slap. The other main middle-class store in Northampton is Marks & Sparks after we lost our House of Frazer and M&S tend not to be as glamorous as they just can’t court the younger middle-class consumer of that particular social class, meaning no young people in there at all, their fashions aimed at the larger lady and the more senior gentleman, a place where the wife does the husbands shopping. They have never been able to tackle that conundrum and also issued poor third quarter results.
The Northampton store has three floors and very quaint and old fashioned. It stocks everything from old ladies wool to tartan leggings and kitchenware to wedding dresses although they have long since got rid of the small sports department. In fact there isn’t really that much for men in the store. They still do the bra fit service and have a nice restaurant with free WIFI and they still do personal shopping for stuff like weddings. They also have a mum and baby room, which is always welcome by mums, and decent, lifts for the elderly and disabled.
Range wise I’m about as up on fashion as Kelly Maloney is but there are a lot of brands and concessions in store, by far the most fancy of all Northampton department stores, some names I do know, some names you guys will definitely know. They have a sale on at the moment and some good discounts, even better on the website, where you can, somewhat counter intuitively, order items cheaper on the website than the store and then pick them up in the store? That could work very well during their famous Blue Cross sales they have every now and then on Thursdays.
As a shopping experience it’s very much a female Saturday morning one and you can see there is a certain clientele. I think it is good for the more expensive London brands in the smaller boring towns like Northampton and I know they have the best bag section in town.
If a small magazine in Nigeria was raided and 11 journalists killed for their political views by Islamic extremist then no one would care, a small paragraph in The Guardian on page 11 about it. 150 school girls are still being held by Boko Harem and we have forgotten. Do we care? No. But this Charlie Ebdo attack was on our own doorstep and at the heart of sophisticated Europe, Paris, and France was, and is, in shock. How dare they!!! The British coverage was way over the top and almost as if the media were trying to make their point on free speech after the News of the World scandal, than report the news.
The garlic breath, spittle projecting pompous French commentators saw it as an attack on free speech but when you look closer at the three million or so that protested and bought this week’s magazine in support of that free speech you see a very different story, a narrative the main stream media are not talking about. The people buying the new edition with the Muhammad cartoon on the front are white and middle-class. The people not buying it are France’s large Muslim, Arab and black African population. And why would the Muslims buy a magazine ridiculing their God anyway? That sums it up for me. The hatred is between the two halves of France. No, this story is not so much about France growing fear of terrorism but the booming fascist vote there and white people’s fear of ethnicity and religion. Marie Le Penn of the far right anti immigration party took 26% of the national vote. 26%! That’s one third of the white French population that voted. I think the heart of the Muslim extremists hate is not only the west insidious foreign policy through Israel and exploitation of oil rich Muslim lands but the feeling that intrinsic racism towards Muslims and black Africans in France is not being tackled, dare I say it encouraged by these publications. Palestine and Iraq made those losers buy the guns but that feeling of alienation and disrespect pulled the trigger. The cartoon was just proof of Le Penn’s feelings. The white folks don’t like us and don’t want us here. I’m going out smelling of pot in a blaze of bullets. The Americans call it suicide by cop.
About 20% of Frances legal population is black or Muslim. In Paris it’s higher. Throw in illegal immigrants and pending asylum seekers and around 25% of the capital. They have been pushed out to the urban ghetto margins of Paris, Nice, Lyon and Marseille and certainly no support for Charlie Ebdo and free speech there. They see the magazine as racist and a loose cannon, white middle-class and middle aged journalists feeling confident and arrogant enough to mock everyone in France, skin color not a problem. The French call it free speech where as the Muslims call it intimidation. Their prophet is sacred, no compromise, and most rational and respectful western journalists understand that and polite not to mock him. I believe we should not mock Mohammed, not because I am scared of retribution but because there is no need to. That magazine, in the current climate, was only ever going to get shot up. And forget the free speech argument. Charlie Hebdo mocks Muslims monthly yet when one of their journalists did a holocaust cartoon he was forced to resign by public opinion. In fact a controversial French comedian who sent a pro Quarashi brother tweet under those free speech rules was arrested this week, the irony lost on the French.
World leaders chirped in and applauded the right of free speech. Problem is most of them parading with the French President this week had less than reasonable attitudes towards free speech and some throw you in jail. The Saudi leader was there, a man who ordered a Saudi blogger to receive 1000 lashes for criticizing the government there. Can you image what would happen if Eastern Eye, Britain’s main Asian newspaper, published negative stories on Israel with risky cartoons? It would be uproar. If British Muslims speak out against our disgraceful foreign policy or the Israel bias they are labeled as extremist and terrorists. Is it any wonder Muslims are angry in the west and lash out?
Have you noticed how Frances 500,000 Jewish community has spun the atrocity as an attack on them by France’s 5 million Muslims, instead of it being about the cartoons and the magazine? This is the same Israeli lobby that leveled 47,500 houses in Palestine this year and killed thousands, including children. It’s the same France that have done little to sort out the Syrian problem which they have significant clout in. The UK government pounced on the Charlie Ebdo situation and immediately claimed terror attacks on London were imminent so they can push through greater powers for the intelligence services, powers they are already illegally using but the Home Secretary wants to make legal this way. Everyone has an angle.
Journalists live by the sword and die by the sword and as terrible as these attacks were you need to back off sometimes. If you tell some bloke in the pub that his misses is ugly you are going to get punched on the nose. It’s a natural human reaction. Some war reporters and photojournalists have a need to risk death to get that photo but, more importantly, the buzz. These old farts at Charlie Ebdo felt they could belittle everyone and it was funny. To then print the profit on the front cover this week is astonishing arrogance and nothing to do with free speech. Free speech is for the weak to be able to speak out against the strong, not the other the way around, the strong belittling the weak. Charlie Ebdo has now made every newsagent selling the magazine a target. A trendy white French London newsagent sold some of the 1200 sold here this week and received death threats. He didn’t receive death threats for selling Charlie Ebdo and its journalism but for the cartoon on the front. We need to get it into our heads that we are not just offending some pot head small time criminals in Paris with access to guns but 1.5 billion moderate Muslims world wide, many oppressed by their leaders, and the only reason I can think of they are doing this is because they don’t like Muslims. This was not a rallying cry to continue freedom of speech in France so much but the right to abuse the people and religions it doesn’t like or want there.
I already own a Pure desktop digital radio (a big white plastic brick) after the BBC insisted we bought into digital by threatening to turn off AM/MW signals by 2018. They backed off that government backed idea when digital radio didn’t really catch on and now there are no plans to turn off AM/MW. In short digital radio isn’t great and so not that popular. With AM/FM radio, the interference generally means an irritating crackle or a noisy static thunderclap when a motorbike goes pass your house but after that the single quickly returns. With digital it either cuts out completely so you have to get up and retune or you get that stuck needle effect. Either way it’s overrated. Yes you get more channels but like Freeview they are extra channels you rarely use. Christian radio appeals to me as much as Radio One does.
Now, I like my cricket and that means I have to have a long wave or digital radio on my person to get commentaries on the Tests, ODIs and domestic cricket. As you can imagine carrying a chunky LW radio around is so not cool and so you need a portable one that’s not visible on ones person. As from 2015 Radio Northampton – my local station – moved their cricket coverage of Twenty20 matches to their digital station and so I have had to retool and get a portable digital radio for when I am on the move, the appropriately named Move 2500 mums Christmas present to me.
It a Pure model again and the most popular digital brand out there and cost over 50 quid. I don’t ask people how much they pay for my presents, especially the old dear. The cheapest ones on Amazon start at about 35 pounds and they are often reconditioned models by Amazon marketplace traders. I’m guessing prices are high because they are now classed as a luxury novelty item now people get digital niche radio through their Smartphone’s.
It’s about the size of a ten pack of Pall Mall fags and fits snug in the top pocket of your evening shirt or jacket pocket or the back pocket of your jeans, ideal for the summer for tunes on the way back from your day out or the pub. It has FM radio to. It has separate bass and treble controls and high-quality in-ear, noise-isolating headphones for your music stations. The supplied rechargeable ChargePAK M1 battery provides up to 14 hours listening per charge (so they say) and can be recharged using the supplied mains adapter or from the USB port on a PC or Mac, a free charge at work if you are canny enough. I would say 14 hours is the best out there. The later is important as they have limited battery capacity and could be flat by the end of the day. Portable digital radios are real power hogs. This one features a regular LCD screen which shows battery and volume level, and the station name, of course, as well as DAB signal strength and scrolling text associated with the broadcast when in DAB mode. You can alter the display in the radio’s settings to show a different signal strength indicator or the broadcast data rate in place of the scrolling text. I can’t see the point of that though. You can preset 20 stations and receive double that number.
• DAB digital and FM radio
• 20 presets (10 digital and 10 FM)
• In-ear noise-isolating headphones supplied
• Separate bass and treble control
• Includes a rechargeable ChargePAK for up to 14 hours portable DAB listening
The sound isn’t that loud and the ear jack provided also doesn’t sit snug in the lug, leaking even more sound. If you are out jogging I would get some of those small black ear foam things to keep it in your ear. REMEMBER, the earjacks are the aerial and so pick up the actual signal.
Move 2500 Radio
ChargePAK M1 (installed)
3 year warranty
Signal strength is not great indoors and any electrical interference and you lose the station or its Norman Collier time (ask your dad). This is not uncommon; the nearer you get to town centers and built up zones the more interference. As I also said they use up battery power quickly. It’s a very good idea to check what batteries you will need. Some take those smaller AAA ones that don’t fit in your regular chargers and so you may have to buy a new charger and chargeable batteries. Buying fresh brand name batteries would be very expensive over the year. Some portable digital models do have built in chargers. Most have a battery life of around 8 hours, pretty horrendous in this modern technological age. The Move 2500 has a built in rechargeable battery, why I wanted this model.
Looks and feel pretty durable and a good selection of channels. You can only save ten digital channels and have to split it with 10 FM channels. There is dial thing on the front to drop in those channels and adjust volume and that bass. I don’t know anyone who wants 10 FM channels saved. It locks into the channels nicely so one nil up on MW there, the Punjabi station not blending in badly with the Breakfast crew on Three Counties Radio anymore. There seems to be a lot of drumming in Indian music. It’s one of those technologies where you have to accept problems.
My seven things on the list…
Get a diamond on ciao.
I have written 1800 reviews on ciao of which the same work has earned 350 crowns on dooyoo, the 5th most prolific member in the sites history. My 800 dooyoo film reviews have earned 250 crowns. My 800 film reviews on ciao have earnt exactly ZERO diamonds. Everyone else in the dooyoo Top 20 crown list has garnered at least three diamonds here. I want to know why I am being discriminated against, other than I am white straight male. This year my goal is to achieve the impossible and earn a ciao diamond. In the summer I am going to do the reciprocal E rate, leave that naff comment below other peoples work to remind them I have E rated them and rate very helpful the reviews I am going up against in that category, as certain members do. It will be extremely embarrassing for me not to have a diamond after 2000 reviews when I am tenth in the all-time ciao money list and tenth in the all-time most community miles list!
Stop buying 32 inch jeans.
I am 12 stone and 5ft, 11 tall and can squeeze into 32 inch waist jeans. I always could, and I have a great ass. When I was a runner I could wear a 28 inch waist. But it’s tighter than it was on the old hips and I really need to buy 34 inch jeans. 33 inch fit me perfectly but where can you buy 33inch jeans? But now I have to concede to the belt and buy 34 and prepare myself for future slippage and expansion of this particular area of my finely toned torso.
Stop starring at attractive women
If you see a pretty girl in the street you try to lock eyes. If her pupils expand she fancies you. Problem is I’m starring at her to see is her pupils expand for a little too long and either walk into lampposts or get the disapproving pursed lips. Older guys will know all about the female pursed lips. It makes them feel uncomfortable being gawped at but that has yet to register in my head. Sometimes I am not looking at them and their lips are already pursed anticipating it. So I suppose I should ask the ladies here if you do in fact like mature guys to innocently check you out and the purse lips a modesty thing or you are indeed fed up of fortysomethings starring at your eyes, ass and tits.
To stop making chance bets in the bookies
I like a skill bet and my occasional small weekly wager will only go on a race or event where my skill is involved in my selections. I do not do chance betting like the lottery and bingo. That does not compute. Or so I thought. I want value for my bet and I enjoy taking on the bookmaker. The guy or girl that sets the price. On of my favorite bets is the big match special bet in places like Hills and Ladbrokes where you have to ‘Yes or No’ on six things that happen in the footy game. It pays 33/1 if you get all six right and the only way it pays out. But they keep putting things in like how many corners or injury time minutes will there be and will so-and-so be leading after 23 minutes? These are getting too random and I finally twigged I’m betting on a flip of the coin and so that skews the bet back their way. So no more random aspects to any bets I make from now on in.
Get a piece of cricket writing in Wisden.
I have been in all the other cricket magazines but never the actual hardback bible of my sport. They tend to pick ‘established writers’ to sum up county seasons and Northants round up has gone to Andrew Radd and Alec (brother of Graeme) Swann in the last few years. But Alec actually works at Wisden now so he can’t do it and Radd is boring and so in 2015 I will be summarizing Northants! Season!
Took me three months to get a £20 voucher for Christmas here. Three months! That’s worse than Bubblews for rewards. The most rates per review you can hope for is around ten and that’s if you rate heavily. You then have to nominate every review just to see if your rate has stuck. Dooyoo hand out a pathetic ten crowns per week and most of those to make-up reviews, dooyoo very much a girls place now. It’s almost impossible to earn here.
Work out how to get value on my bloody smartphone on PAYG, Every time I connect to the internet Vodafone charge me £2 for ‘UP TO’ 50 MB. So the simple act of being online cost me £2 quid! Needless to say I don’t use the phone what’s it’s meant for unless on public or my home tethered WIFI. What a swizz! They do £10 monthly freedom passes that are good value but they have to be used up after 4 weeks. Then you have to pay another ten bucks as none of your minutes or MB’s carry over. When have mobile phones ever been fair for PAYG customers? It’s cheaper to get a monthly contract and I suppose that’s the point of their pricing plan. The European Union was supposed to clamp down on this crap.