DVD review: Cucumber & Banana

Chris Hallam's World View

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Henry (Vincent Franklin) is forty six, gay and happy in a relationship with Lance, his boyfriend of nine years (Cyril Nri). Or so it would seem. For after a date which culminates in an an attempted threesome ends very badly indeed, Vincent soon finds himself out on his ear: homeless, jobless and strongly drawn to a much younger man, the beautiful but arrogant Freddie (Freddie Fox). But with Lance increasingly drawn to the unpredictable and volatile Daniel, can the two men survive in the heady atmosphere o.f the gay scene of 21st century Manchester.

With a huge cast of characters, none better than veteran actor Franklin who excels as the increasingly troubled Henry, Cucumber in many ways feels like a return home to Queer As Folk territory for creator Russell T. Davies after his many successful years resurrecting Doctor Who. At times, yes, it might seem silly: the titles of this…

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Movie review: The Jungle Book

jungle-book-2016-trailers-bare-necessitiesLet’s just make things clear: despite the name, this isn’t a book, it is a film. Nor is it the famous Disney cartoon, the one you probably saw first as a child and doubtless have fond memories of. It also isn’t the forthcoming one with Cate Blanchett and Benedict Cumberbatch in either. That’s Jungle Book: Origins due out in 2018. Finally, it isn’t the now largely forgotten 1994 live action version. But I doubt you ever thought it was anyway: It is largely forgotten.
This one is a live action film starring Peter Venkman from Ghostbusters, Nelson Mandela, the Black Widow from The Avengers and Mahatma Gandhi. Mowgli is clearly intended to remind you of the cartoon one with his orange pants and big dark hair but is actually played by a real boy, the excellent Neel Sethi. As in Babe though, the animals are real but have been granted the power of speech by magic.
Although they are mostly celebrity voices, I couldn’t identify most of them when I saw the film so was not too distracted by this. Mowgli is raised by wolves after his father was killed by the evil tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba). The animal pursues the boy throughout occasionally leaping out at him unexpectedly like Richard Parker in Life of Pi. He is much scarier than the 1960s George Sanders version. His face actually looks evil. He is more like the Tyrannosaurus Rex from Jurassic Park than Tony from the Frosties adverts. Who would have thought a lethal man-eating predator could be imbued with such a sense of menace?
(That said, the first two lines of Blake’s famous poem literally come true at one point. Spoiler over.)
Mowgli moves from the care of panther Bagheera (Ben Kingsley) to the amiable bear Baloo (Murray). Note to children: bears and panthers are often quite dangerous in real life too. Scarlett Johansson voices the apparently telepathic snake Kaa. And yes, two songs from the old cartoon do crop up, just when you’re starting to miss them.
Only Christopher Walken whose King Louis comes across as a sort of cross between King Kong and Marlon Brando’s character at the end of Apocalypse Now strikes a false note. Have you spoken to any six year olds lately? Much of their cinema knowledge is pathetic. Many haven’t even seen Batman Returns let alone Heaven’s Gate or The Deer Hunter. Very few of them know who Christopher Walken is so his weird speech patterns are just distracting. Maybe he does want to talk like you hoo hoo but the fact is he speaks like no one else on Earth.
Is this a good family film? Yes. But it never let’s you forget the cartoon version. And, to be honest, that was better than this.

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Trump: The Dale Winton Factor

p01grcngDale Winton has come out for Donald Trump.

This may seem odd. Winton is, after all, British and best known as the unusually camp host of such lightweight daytime fare as Supermarket Sweep. He has never been known for having fiercely conservative views or indeed for having any political views at all. To be honest, I don’t tend to watch the kind of shows he is on but to be honest, I always thought he seemed pleasant enough.

What has drawn him to a monster like Donald Trump?

Let’s keep things in perspective. Winton’s intervention is unlikely to swing the election. It is rather as if Postman Pat had suddenly declared his support for Brexit.

But Winton’s article for Conservative Woman in which he declares his views is certainly rather strange and worth examining.

“Maybe it’s because I’m a quiz show host and I’m watching the ultimate game show?” he states at one point. “The contestants from both parties are fighting to the bitter end in the hope of winning four to eight years in the White House?”

This perhaps explains Winton’s interest in US politics, one I happen to share. It does not explain his enthusiasm for Trump, surely the most odious figure to arrive on the political scene in decades. The onetime host of Touch The Truck writes: “For sure he’s unruly, coarse and extreme, but he’s got a rare quality for someone in politics. He is truly authentic”.

Is Winton being serious? There are a few hints in his complementary references to Trump’s hair and complexion that he is being tongue in cheek.

But generally he seems sincere, hinting he has been conservative since at least 2012;

“I went from fan to obsessive acolyte at the second national televised debate between Obama and Romney, ” he claims.  “I watched in awe as Romney found his voice and all but secured the keys to the White House. ” That’s right. Winton seems to be the only man on Earth to have been in awe of Mitt Romney, surely one of the blandest candidates in US electoral history.
He also seems to have been the only person surprised by Romney’s defeat: “By the third and final debate it was Romney’s to lose…and he did. It was an unexpected epic fail. I was devastated and by election night I needed alcohol to get me through the process, as my worst fears were realised.”
He continues, growing increasingly melodramatic: “That was 2012 and I’ve counted the days until the next wave of primaries in the hope that the world would survive by a thread until America voted in a new leader of the free world. The days and nights were long as horror upon horror was inflicted upon an unexpected world. It seemed that no one was doing anything about it.” 
What horrors upon horrors does he mean? Why does Winton think Obama is so terrible? He never explains.

Winton seems to have been blown away by Trump’s early campaign appearances. “Maybe it was because I genuinely hadn’t expected such a no-holds-barred delivery. It felt like the man had reached through the TV screen and grabbed me by the scruff of the neck. I defy anyone watching on that morning to look away until he was done., ” adding “Talk about car crash TV”. This last point is at least on the button.

Winton seems to have been drawn to Trump partly through disgust at the vicious attacks by the Republican establishment. But he goes further than that quoting the title of one of his own shows to explain why the tycoon is In It To Win It. 

“His attack on political correctness is reason enough, but that’s still not it. I’ll tell you why. He’s fearless and he promises to make his followers safe and prosperous. He loves his country and he’ll do his best to protect it from anyone who threatens its constitution. He’s also recognised that the liberal Left and political correctness have bullied us into silence. And there’s the rub. You cannot bully Trump and at the same time, he’s got your back. That’s a safe feeling for the millions of his followers who feel ignored by both parties. They’ve had enough of the Washington two-step performed by the politicians they’ve put in power.”

 He then reveals his thoughts on Trump’s character: “There are many who have met him and benefited from his acts of generosity and compassion. Those in need are many and they’re well documented.”
The presenter ends the article in a very clumsy fashion. “He’s polarised an entire nation and whatever the outcome, as the saying goes, “you can’t please all of the people all of the time”. If anyone can come a little closer to disproving those words, it’s Mr Donald Trump. Well maybe not all of the people, but enough of them to matter.”
What on Earth is Dale Winton on about? What horrifies him, a gay man, so much about “political correctness” that he is prepared to overlook Trump’s overt racism and misogyny? How are these traits in any respect superior to political correctness? Are we to assume Winton agrees with Trump’s insane plan to build a wall around Mexico? That he supports Trump’s anti-Muslim stance? Does he really think in the face of all the evidence that Trump is either compassionate or “authentic”?

As mentioned, Dale Winton is best known for being a low brow British TV quiz show host.
What is his game here?

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Book review: I Never Promised You A Rose Garden by John Crace

Chris Hallam's World View

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If, as is often said, a week is a long time in politics, then ten months must be a lifetime. For back in November 2010, when this humorous book was published,.Ed Miiiband was not just another unshaven backbencher but a party leader widely reckoned to have a real shot at being Prime Minister. What’s more, the Tories, then in something called “a coalition” with a party, apparently the third party in Britain back then, called the Liberal Democrats, were looking quite vulnerable. Many still had high hopes for Nigel Farage and UKIP back then too. They don’t now. Fewer expected the post-referendum SNP surge to last, perhaps not even their new leader elected in that month, Nicola Sturgeon. What’s more such luminaries as Douglas Alexander, David Laws, Vince Cable, Charles Kennedy, Danny Alexander and Ed Balls were all still members of parliament. The last figure, indeed, had reasonable hopes of…

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Man of Steel: A poem/review

Chris Hallam's World View

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Look! Up there in the sky!

It’s time to get cape, wear cape, fly.

Is it a bird, is it a plane?

No, it’s Superman returning (again).

 

Truth be told, though not a flop,

The last Superman was not much cop,

So now it’s time for a British actor,

To try and win the Krypton Factor.

 

Henry  Cavill looks the part,

His accent’s decent for a start.

He doesn’t play Clark Kent enough.

But cheer up girls! His shirt comes off!

 

Michael Shannon excels as Zod,

An evil , contemptuous, little sod.

A tyrant, he is reviled and feared,

(To show he’s aged, he grows a beard).

 

Young  Kar-El  is under threat from birth,

And becomes the brat who fell to Earth.

Russell Crowe saves his son from evil Zod,

And doesn’t try to sing (thank God).

 

At school, Supe faces constant derision,

Cannot control…

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Movie review: Iron Man 3

Chris Hallam's World View

ImageNo movie superhero has captured the popular imagination quite like Iron Man has. While ten years ago, only the keenest comic fan would have known who Iron Man was, today he is probably the best loved of all movie superheroes knocking out competition from the better known likes of Spiderman and Batman. Robert Downey Jr.’s hero was easily the best thing in last year’s Avengers Assemble, the biggest grossing film of last year.

The new film sees our hero looking strangely vulnerable, however. Prone to panic attacks after his close brush with death at the end of the Avengers film, Iron Man’s alter ego, billionaire playboy Tony Stark also his domestic life threatened by both an old flame (Rebecca Hall) and a new enemy, the sinister Mandarin, played by Sir Ben Kingsley (in the antithesis of the portrayal of Gandhi which made his name, thirty years ago).

Too often in…

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Alternative movie names

Chris Hallam's World View

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What’s in a name? Everything. Imagine how much better these films would be with these names instead of the stupid ones they were given. If you own any of them or if you see any for sale in a shop, feel free to deface the DVD cover by rewriting these names on the front in black marker pen. Have fun!

The Theory Of Everything

Look Who’s Hawking

The Imitation Game

The Lady’s Not For Turing

Selma

The Man Who Would Be King

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

1. What Became of the Monkeys?
2. The Apes of Wrath.
3. Caesar Goes Bananas.
4. Hang on! Where’s James Franco gone? Wasn’t he in this? He didn’t die in the first one did he? I can’t remember.
5. Ooh ooh ooh. They want to be like you ooh ooh.
6. Close. But No Banana.
7. Monkey See. Monkey Do.
8…

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14 Alternative Taglines For Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Chris Hallam's World View

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It is often said that if you gathered an infinite number of apes together with an infinite number of typewriters, they will eventually produce the Complete Works of Shakespeare. Here’s an even better idea: as Shakespeare’s plays have already been written why not use the apes to make a film called Dawn of the Planet of the Apes instead? With the film already on general release, however, all that’s missing is the perfect tagline:
Repeat after me: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes…:
1. What Became of the Monkeys?
2. The Apes of Wrath.
3. Caesar Goes Bananas.
4. Hang on! Where’s James Franco gone? Wasn’t he in this? He didn’t die in the first one did he? I can’t remember.
5. Ooh ooh ooh. They want to be like you ooh ooh.
6. Close. But No Banana.
7. Monkey See. Monkey Do.
8. This Time They Didn’t Drink…

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Book review: Margaret Thatcher: The Authorized Biography. Volume Two Everything She Wants

 

charlesmoore-margaretthatcherThis is the second volume of Charles Moore’s three volume official biography of the first British woman Prime Minister and deals with the middle years of her premiership from the aftermath of her 1982 victory in the Falklands to her third and last election win in June 1987. These were the golden years for the Iron Lady: perhaps this period should be called “the Iron Age”?

Council houses are sold, utilities are privatised and opposition from Michael Foot’s and Neil Kinnock’s Labour, the SDP and the unions is aall crushed underfoot. Thatcher also exploits her ties to US President Reagan to mostly good effect and survives the 1984 Brighton bomb.

Moore is a former Daily Telegraph editor but despite this conservative bias is not always unaware of the lady’s faults. She never knew how to deal with her wayward son Mark, was lucky to survive the Westland Affair, was stubbornly blind to the numerous flaws of the Poll Tax and was privately very difficult during the 1987 election campaign.

Moore is weaker on popular culture, however, partly because he is very anti-BBC. He has given the book a title from a song by Wham! which virtually no one remembers and attacks Sue Townsend for putting anti-Thatcherite sentiments into Adrian Mole’s adolescent poetry (“Do you weep Mrs Thatcher, do you weep?”) while condemning Rik from TV’s The Young Ones for attacking the “Thatcherite junta”. Townsend and the Young Ones’ creators were undeniably left wing but Moore misses the point. The satirical targets here were not Thatcher but the immature Mole and “people’s poet”/sociology student Rik themselves.

At another point, he accuses David Frost (by that point, a fairly gentle interviewer and certainly no lefty) of “having a go at her” rather than asking perfectly reasonable questions during the 1987 election campaign. At no point does Moore offer any examination of the often dubious but consistent support given to her by the slavishly pro-Thatcherite tabloid press.

Moore also does not really understand why Thatcher made so many people so very angry. For this was a time when levels of homelessness and crime soared, unemployment reached its post-war peak (3.6 million) and the NHS was savagely undermined.

There is little mention of these things in the book.

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Published by Allen Lane

Margaret Thatcher: The Authorized Biography Volume Two: Everything She Wants

Author: Charles Moore

 

 

May the fourth be with you!

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Today is, of course, International Star Wars Day. And what better way could there be to commemorate this date which sounds a little bit like a phrase never actually said in the original trailer than  by buying these magical new Star Wars books from Egmont?

Actually watching the films. That would be a better way to celebrate clearly. But get these books too. Although technically none are out until May 5th, so you will have to wait until tomorrow. But you can order them today. And what could be more fun than ordering things?

If you like Star Wars but also love transforming things from black and white into colour, then you should love the Star Wars Galaxy Of Colouring Book pictured above. It is actually bigger than it looks here – 250 x  360mm – and has 112 pages. The front cover is dominated by a storm trooper, in a uniform which is clearly meant to be black and white anyway so not actually very good to colour in. But there are better pictures inside.

Yoda is green,

Greedo’s sort of blue,

Ewoks are brown,

May the Force be with you!

Next up, is the Star Wars Dot To Dot book, pictured below. Rest assured, even though this is Star Wars, you are expected to start with 1 each time. Not 4! Alternatively, miss out 1 to 3 and then come back to complete the puzzle twenty years later.

Star Wars Dot to Dot

Finally, if you’re a total geek, there’s the Star Wars Graphics book featuring lots of ships and locations with all the specifications, none of which really exist.

Star Wars is 40 next year so expect much more of this in 2017.

Star Wars Graphics