Right, to lay out my position on the Royals. I’m pretty much neutral. I won’t be bending the knee anytime soon, but I’m not calling for us to wheel out the guillotine. I think they seem nice enough people, if odd, and do some good work for the country, through charity and tourism, but I just think the millions we spend on them could be put to better use somewher else.
One thing I don’t get is the rabid enthusiasm and obsession some people have with them. They’re just another group of celebrities, so why all the fuss?
And speaking of fuss…
This month marks 20 years since the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. As such the press has been going nuts about it, catering to a seemingly bottomless reserve of national obsession and voyeurism.
There are TV shows, magazines, newspaper features and the re-emergence of various parasitic people who have exploited their connection with Diana for fame or wealth.
While some seems to have been handled with delicacy, particularly an interview with her sons on ITV. However, depressingly an old, familiar story is being told, that of Diana as a near saint and the villain of the piece being played by her ex, Prince Charles.
I’m not going to say that Chuck was guilt free in their trainwreck marriage, but it seems like there was fault on both sides and other factors at work. Charles’ relationship with Camilla has been tainted for some by the fact that it was going on behind Di’a back. But more on that later.
As all this stuff gets raked up over and over the more tactful at least think how it effects William and Harry, but as his failed marriage is disected once again nobody gives a damn about Charles’ feelings. Or if they do it’s in stupid ways:
In answer, no. No, he won’t. Because I’m assuming he’s not a massive bellend and appreciates that his sons will miss their mum, and that their love for her doesn’t mean they don’t love him.
One of the most controversial things in this prolonged and ugly time of “tribute” was the Channel 4 documentary. This featured tapes of Diana talking candidly about her marriage and divorce, possibly because she felt it was private.
So complete is Diana’s ascension to secular saint status that everything she said was received as gospel.
Look, we’ve all had mates who have gone through break ups. They come over and they get it all off their chest. You offer sympathy, you take their side but you take it with a pinch of a salt. You’re getting one, highly biased, version of events. It’s heavily edited highlights.
Of course, your buddy’s ex can fight their corner and this is the part that sucks for Charles. He can’t.
First of all, he’s been raised to be King. A King doesn’t go running his mouth to the press, he has to keep his personal feelings hidden, maintain a regal persona.
Secondly, even if he could he’d be bad mouthing the dead and the public would go nuts over it.
And most importantly, Charles probably doesn’t want to go and drag Diana’s name through the mud. Because he knows that it would hurt his boys.
Which means he has to keep quiet as he is turned into the villain. The hatred of Charles has ebbed and flowed over the years, but with the 20th anniversary madness it’s all been stirred up again.
Recent polls have shown that people want William to be King next, showing a startling lack of knowledge of how monarchies work. You don’t pick. It’s whoever is next in line and that is Charles.
If you want a daft, old fashioned system you have to follow the rules or else it may as well just be an open public vote for the next monarch. And if the field is open we could have someone more fun than William.
Charles and Diana probably should never have married. But they did, and it went wrong. As with many things it’s not a black and white situation.
The thing is that I find silly is that people regard Charles’ divorce as grounds for him being unsuitable for the big chair. This is stupid because (a) other monarchs have got divorced and (b) it’s 2017. Attitudes towards divorce have changed, thankfully and there are no other jobs where having divorced would cost you the gig.
I’ve always felt in a perfect world Charlie would have just married Camilla right away and Diana could have had a longer, more peaceful life away from the press.
I find it hard to understand why anyone begrudges Charles for having gone on to find happiness with Camilla and remarry. They seem to have real affection and connection, and it seems unfair that she should get blasted along with him for that.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.
Having enjoyed his short book about his adventures as a news reporter I decided to check this book out, a longer more detailed account of John Simpson’s life and career.
While a lot of the same ground is covered, there are plenty of fresh tales to tell, and Simpson’s globetrotting to some of the world’s most dangerous places. There are near misses, tense moments and adventures spanning from the mid sixties to the late nineties. As well as this Simpson talks about his childhood and personal life, but the majority of the book is about his career as a BBC journalist.
Simpson writes with candour and humour, discussing his odd drive to head into danger and to ignore the potential risks. This drive meant he was a skilled journalist and placed himself at the heart of global situations.
There are times when he seems a tad pompous, and politically I didn’t always agree with him, but Simpson is largely a clever, compassionate and, in places, humourous writer. He has a knack for capturing smaller stories among the chaos and a good sense of character, sketching in the figures and giving his honest opinion on those he meets.
It’s an interesting read which shows the horror of war and the changing world. Simpson has some interesting stories and gives insight into how the media works.
Verdict: A massively interesting and entertaining read which spans a massive section of modern history. Simpson is a talented writer and really pulls the reader into the story while avoiding sensationalism. 8/10.
Any thoughts? You know what to. BETEO.
So, I saw a fair few new movies this year and these were my favourites.
10. Doctor Strange
Marvel goes magical as Benedict Cumberbatch dons the cape as the sorcerer supreme in a hugely entertaining and gorgeous to look at movie of a selfish man forced to reassess his priorities and become a hero. Full review.
Rebooting a much loved and well crafted movie was always going to be tricky and the makers of this flick caught a fair amount of flak. I loved the original but the new version worked for me. It kept the laughs coming and the four leads all did their jobs well. As good as Murray and Co? No, but still pretty damn good. Review.
8. Captain America: Civil War
The biggest Marvel movie so far pits hero against hero as Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr) and Captain America (Chris Evans) clash over new restrictions on the heroes. Great fight scenes and a solid story ensure this is an entertaining super flick up there with the best in the MCU. It also introduced the latest on screen Spider-man who’s probably the best so far, and that’s just after a few minutes.
I’m Team Iron Man, by the way. Find out why.
7. Pete’s Dragon
A gloriously warm and charming story about a boy raised in the wild by a dragon and his journey to find a new family. Reduced MWF to tears and left me a little choked up too. Magical filmmaking. Review.
6. The Revenant
A gritty and at times grim tale of survival features a fantastic central performance from Leonardo DiCaprio and is utterly gorgeous. Thoroughly gripping throughout. Full review.
5. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
I have mixed feelings about the Harry Potter films but this prequel/spin-off really worked for me thanks to the fantastic beasts living up to their hype and a core group of very likeable characters. Really charming film. I rave about it here, but there are spoilers.
Ryan Reynolds gets the superhero he deserves as he plays the crude, wise cracking mercenary granted superpowers and out for a cure. Gloriously OTT violence, postmodern humour and a real sense of fun this movie was a real winner for me. Read me barely containing my man crushing here.
The latest Disney movie features a strong female lead embarking on an exciting adventure and a scene stealing turn from Dwayne Johnson. Great fun. The full review is here.
A Disney film with a buddy movie vibe fused with a noirish conspiracy this is a wonderful movie with a good message at the heart. There’s also a fantastically creative and innovative world created. Loved it and it stands up to repeat viewings. Review.
1. The Jungle Book
A remake of a much loved classic that I was nervous about which actually blew my socks off. Fun, moving and gorgeous this was a masterpiece. The voice cast is good, the thrills gripping and the characters loveable. A gem of a movie and I gush about it here.
Have I missed one of your personal favourites, or picked a movie you hated? Let me know, but keep it civil!
You know what to do. BETEO.
This weekend MWF and I took a big step forward and moved into our first house together. I’ve lived outside my family home before, but this is the first time I’ve lived with a partner and it all feels rather grown up.
We picked up the keys on Saturday and spent the day moving some stuff over. This didn’t take as long as we thought thanks to generous help from some friends and our parents. Sunday was unpacking and with things out of boxes and a few of our things set up it was starting to feel a lot more like our place.
Still it was half empty and with our new bed arriving on Monday we had to stay at MWF’s mum’s place on Sunday night.
And so I spent yesterday alone in the house for much of the day slowly going stir crazy. After a DVD, numerous matches on Fifa and some reading, I was fed up and would have liked to have been able to leave for a bit.
Making it worse is the fact that my phone signal is erratic and that I suspect my phone is actually trying to mess with me. I’d check signal in a new spot and discover the 4G was working and I had a decent number of bars. Joy!
However, as soon as I tried to do anything it would cut out to absolutely nothing. This happened repeatedly all over the house. So, I have internet and signal unless I want to use them.
Without Twitter and Facebook the time dragged even more. And I had yet to set up the TV license so I couldn’t even have daytime TV for diversion lest the dreaded License Van find me.
The wifi won’t be connected for another fortnight so I feel all cut off from the outside world and apologise if this blog becomes more sporadic, as I’m stuck using my phone, which I hate.
Anyway, there are a few minor teething problems with the house-
First, and most pressingly, the toilet is broken. A plumber is expected today.
As he was on Saturday.
To be fair he did turn up yesterday afternoon.
After we rang and complained to the letting agents.
With no toilet I am foregoing breakfast and painfully aware that we are now on a clock. I pray that the plumber appears soon as eventually the call of nature must be answered.
It’s a simple fix, replacing one part, so hopefully all will be sorted by this afternoon and I can be relieved.
The second problem is that we don’t have a sofa until next week. The plan was to use bean bags, blankets and cushions for the moment, but one day on the bean bag left my back a wreck and I was stiff and achy all evening. This means I either have to find an armchair for a few days (tricky enough without the fickle internet) or stay in bed all the time.
I suppose as we need a bed for the spare room I could just buy a mattress and set up a day bed on the living room floor? At least I could watch TV then. I sorted the license, so you can call off the dogs, TV License Patrol.
The only other hitch has been Midnight, who has been a little hesitant and nervous in her new home. While she has explored a bit more now she legged it for higher ground and set up camp on our bed yesterday evening.
She cowered under the blankets and it took a lot of cooing and fussing to get her to come out. She seems better this morning but she spent much of the night sleeping on me, which isn’t ideal for any of us.
Hopefully she can improve today and won’t be too bad tomorrow as she will be left alone for the morning as MWF and I will be at work. I just hope I don’t return to a wrecked house.
These minor quibbles aside, I’m very happy with the place and it’s nice to have our own space for our little family. It already feels like ours and I’m sure with more of our things out and the problems sorted it will feel like home.
Anyway, must dash as need to distract myself from my complaining stomach.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.
When I saw the trailer for this film I took away two major positives; it used the awesome “White Rabbit” as backing and it presented what might be the last chance to hear the late Alan Rickman’s marvellous voice.
“White Rabbit” isn’t used in the film and Rickman’s Absolem is barely in it.
The film picks up three years after the original and Alice (Mia Wasikowska) has spent the time aboard her ship The Wonder exploring the world. Returning to England she finds that much has changed, her mother (Lindsay Duncan) has sold their shares and their house is in jeopardy, their fate in the hands of Hamish (Leo Bill), last seen having his proposal rejected by Alice.
Upset she storms off and sees a butterfly, who she identifies as Absolem. He flies through a mirror and she follows, arriving back in Wonderland where she meets her old friends and discovers that the Hatter (Johnny Depp) is ill.
Having found the first hat he made, long thought destroyed, he believes this means that his family may have survived the attack of the Jabberwocky. When Alice is skeptical he loses his temper and throws her out. She decides to go back in time to save the Hatter’s family and goes to visit Time (Sasha Baron Cohen) to borrow the chronosphere.
Time argues that it is dangerous and you can’t change the past, only learn from it, so Alice steals it and heads off to find out what happened to the Hatter’s family. Time gives chase and Alice learns more about the history of Wonderland and a whole mess of timey-wimey bollocks ensues.
I saw this because MWF loved the first film and loves Alice in Wonderland in general. She enjoyed herself, which is good.
I, however, hated it.
There were a couple of laughs, but you could count them on your fingers. The first movie was alright, if a little overdone, but this is insufferable.
It clocks in at less than two hours but feels much, much longer and there’s so much green screen and animation you wonder why they didn’t just do a cartoon.
The visuals are like the work of an art student trying too hard to be quirky and weird, and it is not a fun place to spend your time. I found myself happily greeting the real world sequences, for as dull as they were, at least I wasn’t getting slapped in the face by a tsunami of overblown design and colour.
The plot is your basic “meddling with time travel” stuff and Mia Wasikowska is likeable enough, but she is let down by a stupid script and the fact that the movie tries to pull off the same tricks as part one. Obviously people loved Helena Bonham Carter’s hammy Queen of Hearts because she’s back, as is Anne Hathaway as her sister. Hathaway seems to be phoning it in, and probably regrets signing the sequel clause, while HBC just does the “aren’t I mad?!” OTT stuff that she’s done a thousand times before.
Johnny Depp’s Hatter mopes about and still has the unexplained lapses into a Scottish accent which makes even less sense now as his family are not Scots. It’s an annoying performance, feeling overly worked in a way that Depp never has before. He seems to have chosen mannerisms and flourishes and finds himself stuck with them, stifling anything close to a portrayal of a rounded character.
The rest of the cast are clearly picking up cheques, and have little to do. Rhys Ifans plays the Hatter’s dad and just adds another name to the list of people who deserve to be in a far better film.
The one bright spark is Sasha Baron Cohen as Time. He plays the character with genuine comic skill, and captures a sense of a egotistical ruler who has plenty of quirks and flaws.
He’s also clearly set up to not be a villain. In fact, he’s the one trying to fix things after Alice cocks them up spectacularly. SBC is over the top like everything else in this movie, but it seems less forced and he carries it off better than anyone else.
The only problem is the accent he picks, which I couldn’t quite place. French in places, but then more Germanic. At times he even veered towards Arnie territory and I found myself thinking of Schwarzenegger’s campy nadir in Batman and Robin.
I thought about this, about the steroid Bane, the Bat-Card, Chris O’Donnell, all those ice puns. I thought about these and I realised that given the choice, I’d happily have left the cinema and gone and watched Batman and Robin again. And there can be no more damning criticism than that.
Verdict: Helena Bonham Carter and Johnny Depp deliver overdone performances that are all camp excess and no substance. The rest of the cast is poorly served, with Sasha Baron Cohen being the only one who does anything with his part. It drags and the CGI onslaught is tiresome. Can’t see this being unseated as my worst film of 2016. 2/10.
(The two being for the presence of several favourites of mine- Rickman, Stephen Fry, Barbara Windsor, Timothy Spall and for Cohen’s role as Time.)
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.
This is the second part of Leeks’ short, comic thoughts written while on his daily commute. I read the first part a while ago and when this came up on Amazon I snapped it up.
Like the first it’s a quick read and quite good fun, with Leeks writing short, funny entries that raise plenty of smiles. Sometimes he’s a bit grumpy, but his humour is decent enough and while I don’t always agree he’s a fairly likeable writer.
And you have to admire someone who gets so much from their commute.
Verdict: A nice, amusing quick read. Good to dip in and out of. 6/10.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.
One of the (many) perks of being in a relationship with MWF is her Disney collection. As a total Disney addict she owns all of the “Classics” series, which is cool as my Disney viewing has holes in. Of course, I’ve seen most of the big ones, and most of the ’90s ones but before we started dating there was a massive gap between Mulan (1998) and Wreck-It Ralph (2012), however, this has been sorted and I’ve now actually seen almost every single film, especially from the gap. Among these is one that has quickly become one of my favourite all time Disney movies, Tangled.
The movie is a retelling of the Rapunzel myth but with added bits. It begins with the story of a drop of sunlight falling to Earth which creates a magic flower which an aged witch Gothel (Donna Murphy) uses for eternal youth, however, when the pregnant queen falls ill the plant is discovered and used to save her. Gothel, incensed goes to slay the newborn princess, but discovers the magic has been passed onto the girl’s hair. She then steals the princess away and imprisons her in a high tower, keeping her secret and posing as her mother. To keep her there she teaches the young girl, Rapunzel (Mandy Moore) that the world is scary and people are after her hair.
However, as she grows up Rapunzel chafes against the confines of the tower and longs to explore the world. She also wants to see the “floating lights”, lanterns which are lit annually for her by the royal couple.
Hope arrives in the form of roguish thief Flynn Rider (Zachary Quinto), who stumbles on her tower while on the run. Rapunzel takes the crown he has stolen and uses it to blackmail him into taking her to see the lights. Flynn is initially unwilling and attempts to put her off by deliberately scaring her by taking her to a rough bar, which backfires thanks to the rough patrons revealing that they also have dreams. This is by far the best music number in the movie a hilarious sequence where the thugs reveal their hobbies and passions before forcing Flynn, at sword point, to join in.
As they travel, Flynn discovers her hair’s secret and takes her to the city, however, Gothel is in pursuit and allied with Flynn’s former associates the Stabbington Brothers (both voiced by Ron Perlman). Her plan is to trick Rapunzel into thinking that Flynn has no feelings for her, thus making the heartbroken girl easier to control and contain.
Flynn honours his promise to show her the lights and this scene, accompanied by a decent ballad is utterly beautiful, the CG creating a beautiful sequence where the lanterns take flight making it for me one of the all time highlights of any animated film.
Double crossed Flynn ends up in the custody of the guards, but escapes, racing to rescue Rapunzel.
Here’s the thing, I love this movie and a large part of that is down to Zachary Levi’s funny performance as the swaggering Flynn. Flynn is a world away from the usual Disney hero, being cocky, self-absorbed and sarcastic, in fact he’s more akin to a Han Solo or Malcolm Reynolds type. Of course, underneath this he is still a goodie and has some form of code. Flynn’s frustration at Wanted posters not capturing his face is a running gag and his vanity is one of his flaws.
The relationship between the cynical Flynn and naive, cheery Rapunzel works in an opposites attract way, and the movie should get props for the fact that Rapunzel is in charge of her own destiny and quite heroic herself. Her naivety feels realistic given her sheltered upbringing and she’s not a complete idiot. She’s wary of what happens and knows when to step up, not relying on Flynn or others.
Their relationship develops wonderfully and is paced correctly, not feeling rushed or forced. The finale where Flynn reveals that being with Rapunzel has replaced wealth as his dream is sweet, and his decision to sacrifice himself to free her is a truly emotional moment. That this is reversed with some old school fairytale endings doesn’t diminish it and the ending is strong and satisfying.
Also the supporting cast are great, the animal sidekicks are cute and funny, and in Gothel there’s a truly despicable villain. I can’t think of another kid’s film where the villain is so manipulative or a film where guilt tripping is shown so clearly. Gothel is the kind of villain you just hate and it’s because a lot of her evil isn’t magic or fantastical, it’s worryingly normal and her key weapon against Rapunzel is emotional blackmail and manipulation.
Tangled manages to combine the fairytale magic of the old Princess movies (Sleeping Beauty, Snow White) with a knowing sense of humour and more independent heroine, making it the perfect choice to be the 50th Classic. It both nods to the past and represents a change in tone for Disney, and benefits from a funny, sparkling script which plays well to all ages.
An utter gem of a movie and one I can rewatch over and over.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.
As I write this I can hear a ton of fireworks going off outside, it being the 5th of November or as its known here in the UK, Guy Fawkes’ night or more commonly bonfire night.
The problem is various numpties have been setting off fireworks for the last week or so, which I don’t think is right. Firstly, its probably terrified a lot of pets and secondly its like they’ve forgotten the true meaning of the day!
Its not just about burning a bunch of stuff you haven’t got any use for and “oohing” and “aahing” at pretty fireworks, no let’s not forget that this entire thing is a gloating celebration of the execution of a failed assassin, who’s reasons for doing so were mired in a long-running religious rivalry and hatred that in some parts of the country still causes problems.
As you can probably tell, I’ve got mixed feelings about the whole thing. Maybe its because I’m half-Catholic, but it just feels a horribly macabre event, with several annoying side-effects. The aforementioned distress to pets and an increase in accidents and injury which stretches the ambulance service to its limits.
This would be one point where I’d struggle to be a paramedic because by the end of the night I’d have lost patience with idiots who injured themselves while d**king about with explosives.
That being said, I’m a fan of things exploding and I also like that it transforms South Wales into something out of Apocalypse Now, with smoke drifting around with explosions and stuff being lit up by the fireworks. Its got a slightly disconcerting, surreal effect and I increased the ‘Nam vibe even more by cranking up some of The Doors on my iPod. I seriously advise it if you want to pretend to be wandering around in the DMZ, which I do because I wasted far too much of my teens watching war movies.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.
This week the Coptic Christians in Egypt selected their new pope. I’ll confess I don’t know much about the group, which is apparently the largest Christian minority in the middle East, but finding out how they chose the new guy, the artist formerly known as Bishop Tawadros, was quite surprising and I think quite cool.
Its vastly different from the way the Catholics do it, which involves all the Cardinals getting locked in a house where I’m guessing they debate and argue over who gets the keys to the Popemobile, and hints at an environment of political movements and alliances behind the scenes.
The Copts basically create a shortlist of candidates and then put them all in a bowl, before a blindfolded boy pulls a name out of the pot and that’s your man.
For them its to ensure that the final decision is in God’s hands, and while I might not share their belief I rather like the idea of this way of deciding who wields power.
Those who seek power are not worthy of that power.
And its a statement I can get behind, a desire for power and ruling should be grounds for elimination.
And while democracy is still the best system we’ve come up with as a species, its still a flawed system and subject to abuse and perversion by financial interests.
Look at the US Presidential election that’s coming up, the money and time that has been expended in this contest is frankly ludicrous, the long winded process of choosing Mitt Romney as the Republican candidate was bad enough but the election build up has dragged on for months, punctuated with soul destroying cynicism and vitriol as both sides took pot shots and chased photo-ops.
Similarly here in the UK we’re being guided through tough economic times by independently wealthy posh boys who have little or no understanding of how much of the population lives. Do David Cameron, George Osbourne et al really represent me and my countrymen? For the most part no. Being told we’re all “in it together” by someone who’s sitting on a £4m personal fortune?
Perhaps pulling names out of a hat is the way to go. Every 2 years say every adult between the ages of 18 and 65 has their name placed into a massive pot, and then 500 or so are plucked out. These 500, with support from experts in different areas (financial, military, legal, scientific) then discuss and vote on all the issues that face Britain at this time. Anything massively serious is put to public referendum.
Its a pipe dream, I know, and probably wouldn’t work (the advisers might wield too much power over the decisions, and you could end up with racist bigots getting in) but you could work out some of the kinks (maybe a questionnaire to ascertain that you’re not a complete nutbar) and it might kind of work. It’d be more reflective of the general public and also would avoid any of the political grandstanding and machinations which can hamper proper democratic and social changes.
Also, for those 2 years they’d get paid to attend the debates as well as listen to the concerns of their designated constituents and it would be their full time job. They’d have to attend, which is surely better than the current system where sometimes the Houses of Parliament are half-empty or some of the MPs can’t even be bothered to stay awake.
They’d each get a chance to say their piece and ask questions regarding the issues and then they’d vote, and as long as something got 251 votes it would pass.
There would be no political parties, or campaigning. You’d get paid a decent wage for your two years and it would hand political power back to all levels of society, not just the privileged few.
And you might say that we’d lack a national figurehead to attend conferences and stuff, but maybe train up some of the royals to do it, or hold votes. I mean, come on, who wouldn’t want to find out what this guy would say to the UN?
Or this guy?
Actually, maybe its not such a good idea.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.
Okay, five different top fives all inspired by things from Plinky. And yeah, its largely because I’ve got blogger’s block today.
What were your favourite TV shows as a kid?
- Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles– apparently “ninja” was something you couldn’t have on TV in Britain in the 80s. I loved these guys, especially Raphael.
- Batman– As a kid the camp naffness of Adam West went over my head and I genuinely loved watching this.
- The Lone Ranger– They used to repeat this when I was a kid, and as I loved cowboys I totally dug it. Man, I had retro tastes as a kid.
- Postman Pat– Made postmen seem decent and hard working, experience has exposed this as false. Great theme tune too
- Thomas the Tank Engine– Why I can’t put Ringo as the worst Beatle.
When you need a good laugh, who/what do you turn to?
- YouTube videos of people falling over
- Friends repeats
- My mates
- Trawling through my Twitter feed
- Stick on some Bill Hicks on my iPod
Who are your all time favourite authors?
- Hunter S Thompson
- Terry Pratchett
- Stephen King
- Ernest Hemingway
- Jane Austen
What creeps you out?
- Ventriloquist dummies and dolls
- The weeping angels from Doctor Who
- When I’m walking along and I see an abandoned article of clothing. Especially shoes, I always fear the owner has been grabbed or gobbled up by something.
Name five foods you’d hate to live without.
- Alpen muesli
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.