Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Out On Blue Six : PINS feat.Maxine Peake

PINS, one of the most exciting young bands around, joined forces with Maxine Peake for this track, released to celebrate World Record Store Day in 2014

Can't wait for PINS' new album, due out this Spring.

End Transmission

Wordless Wednesday: Unrepentant

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Erica Roe: A Stout Lass

Erica Roe shot to fame in 1982 when she unleashed her 40 inch bosom and streaked across the pitch of Twickenham stadium during an England V Australia rugby union match. She latter attributed the stunt to alcohol - I wonder if it was Davenports?

Davenports were the sponsors of Aston Villa, who lifted the European Cup that same year. Roe was a Villa fan, which naturally meant a photo opportunity, seemingly with a couple of pints of Davenports up her shirt.

Most recently, Roe has stripped again; this time for a charity calendar raising funds for breast cancer. She has also appeared in reality TV show The Island with Bear Grylls - presumably, she brought her own hammock.

Monday, 20 February 2017

Bob's Weekend (1996)

This weekend I watched Bob's Weekend, a 1996 film that didn't trouble the distributors.

I recall watching some consumery type programme on the BBC in 1996 that included a report on how the cinema chains in the UK are owned by the big Hollywood studios, which means little independent features get squeezed out of the market and struggle to find a distributor beyond film festivals. The report centred around Bob's Weekend, which it showed a few clips from, before they revealed that they had staged a screening with various people, including the actor Ian Holm, who later gave his view that this was a film that deserved to be seen by a wider audience. It never happened though, and it has taken me personally twenty-one years before I clapped eyes on Bob's Weekend (on YouTube

Was it worth the wait? Nah, not really. 

Whilst I still totally agree with that BBC report, I'm afraid to say that Bob's Weekend isn't really much of an unfairly treated gem. Granted, it's fair to say that when you look at writer/director Jevon O'Neill's subsequent sparse career, there's an argument for talent withering on the vine thanks to the monopoly of the big studios, but even if this had got a wide release at the time I can't see it taking the world by storm. It's just a very average, cheap first time feature. 

Bruce Jones of Ken Loach's Raining Stones and latterly Coronation Street fame stars as Bob, an autodidact security guard with an encyclopedic knowledge for the letter 'B'. A diligent and officious, by-the-book person; he takes his eye off the ball one evening when giving in to his new colleague's desire to play football in the building they patrol. This ironic action is subsequently caught by his boss (Brian Glover) who seizes upon this opportunity to fire Bob on the spot. To cap the evening off, the hapless security guard then returns home to find his wife conducting an affair! Now utterly suicidal, Bob takes himself off to Blackpool for the weekend with the intention of chucking himself into the murky unforgiving depths of the Irish Sea.  However, whilst there he meets a sympathetic young waitress, Angela (Charlotte Jones), and a series of mystical figures, who each offer him a chance to reassess his life.  

O'Neill initially seems somewhat influenced by Loach (it's there in the casting of Bruce Jones and Ricky Tomlinson - who both starred in Raining Stones - as well as Brian Glover) but the fantastical detours the film makes are would-be Capra, leading to some uneasily handled changes of gear. He makes great use of the Blackpool locations, with the birds-eye-view of the then newly opened thrill-ride The Big One, the illuminations, the Tower and the ballroom, but his handle on the performances are less assured, leading to some hollow line readings. Charlotte Jones (no relation to Bruce) is quite weak with a children's TV drama-like performance as the well-meaning Angela, so it's unsurprising to see that she has subsequently moved behind the camera to create ITV's latest drama The Halcyon (essentially 'Downton Hotel' with a curious Bond-like theme tune and opening credits) Bruce Jones fares somewhat better with the lead role, which is within his admittedly limited range as a performer, given that it isn't too dissimilar to other parts he has played. Tomlinson and Glover's performances are effectively minor cameos that are dispensed with once the film moves to Blackpool.

The cheap independent status of the film is perhaps best exemplified and unfortunately scuppered by the bargain basement musical score (or should that be muzak score - a lot of it sounds like tinny, irritating lift muzak) from Don Gould and David Mindell. There are a couple of songs in there too, and they're truly terrible.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Girl From The South (1988)

"It's the same the whole world over, It's the poor what gets the blame, It's the rich what gets the pleasure, Isn't it a blooming shame?"

Taking its cue from that chorus from the traditional music hall song 'She Was Poor But She Was Honest' is Richard Woolley's final feature film, 1988's Girl From The South. It tells the story of the rich and sheltered, Mills and Boon obsessed teenage girl Anne Thompson, who travels up to her grandparents in Yorkshire for the holiday with the hope of being the central character in her own real life romance with the kind of a tall dark and handsome stranger from the wrong side of the tracks she's been reading about. Venturing into the town's urban sprawl, she literally bumps into an impoverished old woman and, in aiding her, finds her daydreams come to life in the shape of her grandson Ralph, a mixed race teenage boy.

However, Ralph doesn't totally match up to her expectations. For a start his tastes are more finessed than her own; whilst she enjoys pop culture and the music of Madonna, he prefers art galleries, museums and Elgar. As she begins to spend time with Ralph and his grandmother, Granny White, and their mutual romantic interest blossoms, the naive Anne comes to realise first hand and for the first time that society is by no means fair and equal. She begins to consider that Granny White who lives in a house that she, on first glance, considered 'sweet' and 'quaint', is in near penury with an arthritic hip that incapacitates her and a place on a seemingly ever-increasing NHS waiting list, whilst it becomes clear that the avenues open to her are just not available for Ralph because of both his class and the colour of his skin. He's viewed with increasing mistrust by Anne's grandmother for example who is constantly referring to him, in barely concealed wary tones, as 'that coloured boy'. Her eyes widening to the injustice inherent in the world, Anne hatches a plan to deliver her burgeoning beau and his frail grandmother a happy fairytale ending; her grandparents have everything they could possibly desire and are insured to the hilt, so if Ralph were to burgle them, they wouldn't actually be at a loss, whereas Ralph and Granny White's lives would be instantly improved. She assures Ralph that should anything go wrong, she will take the blame. "They'll never believe you" an unconvinced and more worldly Ralph asserts - and fate reveals that it is his prediction which comes true. 

This is my second Richard Woolley film from the BFI boxset An Unflinching Eye. Coming off the back of his 1980 feature Brothers and Sisters, I'm afraid to say this is something of a disappoint. That disappointment is doubled when you consider the origins behind this film. As Woolley relates in an interview that forms the DVD's extra features, he had devised a similar project in 1984 entitled Bread of Heaven, a film which would take a somewhat light-hearted, but politically attuned look at the then ongoing miners strike. The story concerned itself with a Welsh miner (David Jason) and his family, including his skilled trumpet playing teenage son who, following victimisation at the hands of the police, would be billeted in the home of a a 'volunteer family' who supported their cause, which consisted of a well meaning academic woman (Judi Dench) and her husband, and their ballet dancing teenage daughter. From there, a romance would develop between the two teen children that broke down the cultural barriers against the backdrop of their respective parents actions within the strike. Unfortunately, the film came to naught when a new broom (including Salman Rushie) swept through the BFI and froze their funding scheme. Returning to the drawing board, Woolley chipped away at the idea to fit a more modest budget for potential backers until all that remained of the story was the teenage love story between the rich girl and the poor kid.

Away from what might have been (and Bread of Heaven really does sound like it would have been something really special; a precursor to Brassed Off, Billy Elliot and Pride) and on its own terms Girl From The South is perhaps best described as an arty and earnest version of a Children's Film Foundation production. It continues to point in the direction of the more mainstream projects Woolley was aiming for, but is hampered by the understandably stilted deliveries of its juvenile leads Michelle Mulvaney (Anne) and Mark Crowshaw (Ralph). At its heart I guess the main message is to teach the next generation about the unfairness of the class system and the inherent racism at its core (in the film's most shocking moment, a detective gives Anne three bits of advice; "One, don't make up silly stories to help your friends. Two, stick to your own kind, and three, don't get involved with coloureds. T'int worth it") in accessible and entertaining terms, perhaps as an attempt to stave off the influence of Thatcher who presided over the UK at the time, but it occasionally feels a little too wet and soppy for this old cynic to truly appreciate. That said, Woolley's use of music (specifically Elgar's Nimrod) and his ability to frame a shot (the closing image of the crumpled Coca Cola can in the gutter and the torn photobooth polaroid is really effective) continues to impress.

Out On Blue Six: Peter Skellern, RIP

Bury Born singer-songwriter Peter Skellern died yesterday aged 69 following a battle with brain cancer.

Skellern's biggest success was with the 1972 balled 'You're a Lady' which was a hit on both sides of the Atlantic. In a music career that saw him release 14 albums, he also penned the lyrics for 'One More Kiss, Dear' which featured in the 1982 classic Blade Runner. He also diversified into TV presenting with the BBC2 chat show Private Lives as well as BBC1's Songs of Praise, which reflected his growing interest in religion, an interest that would later see him enter the church as a priest. He also acted, playing Carter Brandon in the radio adaptation of Peter Tinniswood's Uncle Mort stories. In October of last year, after his tumour was diagnosed as inoperable, the religious Skellern was finally ordained by the Bishop of Truro, becoming the Reverend Peter Skellern in his adopted county of Cornwall. 


End Transmission

Friday, 17 February 2017

Born Romantic (2000)

As regular readers will know, I'm an eternal singleton who isn't very keen on Valentine's Day. Nonetheless watching Born Romantic on the evening of said day was my one concession to the spirit of it. I hadn't seen it in years, and I'm glad I've caught up with it again now - Thank God for That's Entertainment (my local DVD and music store) and it's 3 for a fiver deal!

As with his directorial debut, This Year's Love, David Kane uses a combination of characters and interweaving storylines to explore the meaning of what it is to be in and out of love in turn of the century London. Whilst This Year's Love charted the course of true love running less than smooth through the pubs and clubs of trendy Camden, the setting this time around is much more specific; a salsa club - the then up and coming leisure time established as an alternative and prime pickup joint for the '00s.

As a writer, Kane has a real flair for characterisation and an eye for authentic behaviour that places him more in the Mike Leigh camp than the Richard Curtis one. From Rat Pack admiring Frankie and self-contained, frosty Eleanour through to the morbidly fascinated Joceyln and inept thief Eddie, by way of former lovers from Liverpool Fergus and Mo; each one leads dysfunctional and empty, unfulfilling lives but each finds a chance of freedom and romance when drawn to the dancefloor. 

And as a director, Kane gets the very best from an ensemble that includes Craig Ferguson, Olivia Williams, Catherine McCormack (who gives probably my favourite performance of the lot as the neurotic Jocelyn), Jimi Mistry, David Morrissey and Jane Horrocks, as well as Adrian Lester as the sensitive, sympathetic 'cupid' cab driver who circles their orbit, and cameos from the likes of John Thomson and Ian Hart who provide the film with a Greek chorus as Lester's fellow cabbies, discussing women in a manner not to dissimilar to Pete and Dud or the Smith and Jones head to heads.

Born Romantic may not reach the same heights as This Year's Love did, but it's still a very strong, honest film in its own right. It's a shame that Kane didn't carry on making films like this as he could easily have created his own little recurring movie milieu here.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Out On Blue Six: Billy Bragg

For everyone who found today a bit of a strain...

Billy's got a song* for that...

(*Yeah, I know I play it every year, but it's a beautiful song)

And take comfort in this solid piece of advice...

End Transmission

T2 Trainspotting (2017)

Choose life. And then live it. For twenty years.

Because you have to have lived a bit to appreciate what this film is trying to say. You have to have been a teen or twentysomething when Trainspotting came out to appreciate this - which is why there are some sniffy reviews in some corners of the web from numpties who were filling their nappies  back in '96. More than any other sequel I can currently recall, T2 has matured with its audience and reflects where they are likely to be at right now. Whereas Trainspotting will perhaps always appeal to teens/twentysomethings of any generation, I think you have to have a bit of experience under your belt, you have to be 35 and upwards, to appreciate this.

And yes, it's got a sombre reflective edge for times passed, but it's still a great fun ride. It's probably the most fun I've had in the cinema for some time too, with some genuinely laugh out loud moments such as the William of Orange pub scene, and the moment when Renton and an increasingly exasperated Begbie inadvertently reunite in the club toilets. And the scene where Spud watches two youths race down the road to Regent Bridge gave me actual chills.

Spud is still an ugly/beautiful hapless goof, Sickboy is still a scuzzy handsome chancer, Renton is still a deeply charismatic bastard and Begbie is still the scariest urban psycho to wear a moustache since Yosser Hughes. It was good to see them again. Trainspotting was a remarkable opportunity, this thankfully is not the betrayal.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Friday, 10 February 2017

Out On Blue Six: Netsky ft. Sara Hartman (As Heard On the Sofology Advert!)

I was so blown away by this song when I kept hearing it on a Sofology ad that I had to go googling it to find out just what it was and who it was by. 

Turns out I wasn't alone - as all the YouTube comments in the last few months have all been along the lines of 'Sofology brought me here' haha!

Just what is it about our sofa adverts? They always use such great music - who remembers the songs of Steph Spencer on the CSL adverts? 

End Transmission

Thursday, 9 February 2017

RIP Alec McCowen

Yet another sad passing that has been announced - actor Alec McCowen has passed away aged 91.

McCowen's legacy may be that of a compelling stage actor, with acclaimed performances as The Fool to Paul Scofield's King Lear in Peter Brook's 1962 production, Christopher Hampton's The Philanthropist at the Royal Court with Jane Asher in 1970, the psychiatrist Dysart in the original production of Peter Shaffer's Equus, and Uncle Jack in Brian Friel's Dancing at Lughansa in 1990, to name but a few. But he also scored great and fondly remembered roles in screens both big and small; to television viewers he played the lead in the 1984/'85 cerebral espionage series Mr Palfrey of Westminster, guest starred in the Bergerac episode, Trenchard's Last Case, as the eponymous retiring detective, and in BBC adaptations of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night and Henry V. His film credits included his debut The Cruel Sea in 1953, the original adaptation of Terence Rattigan's Deep Blue Sea in 1955, The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner  (1962) the Hammer folk horror film The Witches from 1966, and perhaps most famously of all, two roles from 1972; the detective investigating a sexually motivated serial killer whilst at the mercy of his own wife's experimental cooking in Alfred Hitchcock's final British thriller Frenzy (1972) and playing the lead opposite Maggie Smith in an adaptation of Graham Greene's Travels With My Aunt. Other film roles include the randy and kinky retired RAF officer, Wing Commander Morton in Terry Jones' Personal Services (1987) Bishop of Ely in Kenneth Branagh's Henry V in 1989, and two from Martin Scorsese, 1993's The Age of Innocence and Gangs of New York, his final film role, in 2002. But it's perhaps his brief but significant role in 1983's 'rogue' non EON James Bond film Never Say Never Again that McCowen is best remembered amongst lovers of trivia who can correctly tell you that, along with Desmond Llewellyn and Ben Wishaw, he was the other actor to play gadget man Q, or, as he was also called within the film, 'Algy'

Famously, McCowen was the recipient of TV's prestigious 'big red book' in 1989 with an edition of This Is Your Life hosted by Michael Aspel. During the tribute, McCowen halted the recording to ask that the role of his late partner, the actor Geoffrey Burridge who passed away from AIDS just two years earlier, in his life be mentioned. At a time when many actors remained in the closet and the press and TV were happy to comply with the secret, this was very refreshing.


RIP Tara Palmer Tomkinson

The It Girl of the '90s, Tara Palmer Tomkinson, was found dead at her home yesterday aged just 45.

The troubled socialite and model with royal connections (she was a firm favourite of Prince Charles and his sons, the princes William and Harry) had been receiving treatment for a brain tumour since late last year.


Wednesday, 8 February 2017

RIP Alan Simpson

Sad news today as it has been announced that the legendary comedy scriptwriter Alan Simpson has died at the age of 87.

Simpson's name will forever be associated with his scriptwriting partner Ray Galton. Together they were responsible for two of the finest British sitcoms ever to grace our screens; Hancock's Half Hour and Steptoe and Son. 

The Brixton born Simpson met his writing partner at the age of 17 when they were both patients at a TB sanatorium in Milford, near Godalming in the late 1940s. The two youths made each other laugh and both a friendship and working relationship was forged thanks to the opportunity to devise comic broadcasts to their fellow patients via the sanatorium's radio. Galton would later use this meeting as the basis for his short-lived 1997 sitcom Get Well Soon, which he co-wrote with another writing partner John Antrobus.

Upon their release from the sanatorium, Galton and Simpson offered their services to the BBC where they received their big break writing scripts for Derek Roy's Happy Go Lucky radio show. Their work attracted the attention of Tony Hancock who, in 1954, promptly offered them 25 guineas (5 guineas more than Roy) to write his new programme, Hancock's Half Hour. The pair never looked back; the show transferred to television in 1956 and Galton and Simpson scripted some 160 radio and TV shows for the popular star, along with the script for the feature film The Rebel, over the course of seven years.

Their parting of the ways with troubled Hancock could have been the death knell for some writers, but not for Galton and Simpson who simply picked themselves up and offered a pilot for the BBC's Comedy Playhouse strand entitled The Offer. This one-off, concerning father and son rag and bone men, proved an instant hit and Steptoe and Son was born. It remains one of the BBC's most enduring, classic sitcoms and ran from 1962 to 1965 and returning for a new run in colour from 1970 to 1974, with two spin-off feature films also appearing in the '70s. Later in the decade the pair wrote The Galton and Simpson Playhouse for ITV, and several of these scripts - along with scripts from the Hancock series - were subsequently remade as vehicles for Paul Merton in the 1990s.