Thursday, 23 March 2017

Who's That Knocking At My Door (1968)

Martin Scorsese's 1968 debut, Who's That Knocking At My Door, is released to DVD by the BFI on Monday 27th March. 



The film originally started out as Scorsese's NYU graduation project in 1965 and took three years to make. 

It was worth it.

During a press screening at the New York Film Festival, no less than John Cassavetes proclaimed it to be "as good as Citizen Kane", before adding, "No, it's better than Citizen Kane, it's got more heart"

Right from the off, it proved Scorsese to be very special indeed.

Who's That Knocking At My Door? Why Hollywood, it's Marty Scorsese, and he's about to change your world forever.

Read my full review at The Geek Show

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

I Know You Know (2009)



Set in South Wales in 1989, I Know You Know tells the story of single parent father Charlie Callaghan (Robert Carlyle) and his eleven-year-old son Jamie (newcomer Arron Fuller). Written and directed by Human Traffic's Justin Kerrigan, what is remarkable about this film is that it is actually an autobiographical narrative based on his own upbringing.


The film starts with Charlie and Jamie's return to Wales. Though their hometown is familiar and they have elderly relations nearby, it's clearly a step down from what they are used to, and Jamie doesn't want to go to the local secondary school, but he knows he must grin and bear it - and even the bully who taunts him on a daily basis - because his father has an important job to do there. This job sees him embroiled in covert activities, seemingly against the new satellite TV company that is being rolled out nationwide, and the payday he promises will be big. However, it appears that there are people in town who want to stop Charlie from concluding his espionage mission; they follow his every move and he is so fearful for his life that he goes everywhere armed with a gun. As Jamie discovers the extent of his father's secret existence, he pledges to be utterly supportive of him - but is the real truth of Charlie's existence more dangerous for each if them than the boy could ever imagine?


Being autobiographical, Kerrigan's film is clearly a real labour of love, and one that took several years to get off the ground. Its final realisation may be hampered by a small budget more at home to a one off TV drama than an actual feature film, but the beating heart at the centre of the narrative more than makes up for any shortcomings. Combined with impressive performances from Carlyle and the young Fuller in his film debut, I Know You Know is an emotional, heartstring-tugging ode to the bonds between father and son. It's a film you can't really talk about too much without giving the plot away, so I'll just say watch it if you can.


Wordless Wednesday: Whitby at Dusk

Monday, 20 March 2017

Sunday, 19 March 2017

100 Streets (2016)


Though not as bad as some of the reviews suggest, 100 Streets is a multi stranded ensemble piece about interconnected lives in modern, metropolitan London that ultimately fails to deliver on its promises.


Idris Elba stars as a former England international Rugby Union captain whose life post-retirement hasn't quite panned out the way he'd imagined. Unfit, and spiralling in a malaise of drugs, drink, depression and one night stands, he's separated from his wife, a former actress played by Gemma Arterton, and their two young children. Arterton's being eyed up by an old friend and colleague, played by Tom Cullen, as she attempts to step back into acting with a little help from her old mentor, played by Ken Stott. Stott meanwhile has taken a young offender (Franz Drameh) under his wing, seeing the potential in this young man who desperately wants to escape the world of drug dealing on corners for the local Mr Big. Meanwhile, a middle-aged couple (Charlie Creed-Miles and Kierston Wareing) are considering adoption when a personal tragedy strikes that could change their lives forever.


100 Streets feels like the kind of multi-stranded London set drama that would have graced our TV screens back in the late '90s - and I don't mean that as a criticism, I actually can't help but think a mini-series would have been the better format, allowing the many plot strands the chance to breathe and grow, and develop more plausibly than a mere 90 minute feature can offer. I also can't help but think someone was busy with the scissors in the cutting room, a concern that has grown when I saw a cast list on TMDB that bears no relation to the finished product (actors like Jamie Foreman, Emma Rigby, Samantha Barks and Steven Mackintosh were all listed, but non actually appear here) It could be a mistake, but I'm not sure. 


Of the actors who do appear, Drameh, Stott, and Arterton equip themselves really well. Elba isn't an actor I have ever been truly convinced by, but I have to say this is one of his better performance despite a couple of unconvincing moments and Cullen is wasted in a perfunctory wafer-thin role. But the real stars here were Creed-Miles and Wareing; they give the best performance and I could have watched a whole film based solely on their relationship and story. I felt  really short changed that they, essentially the beating heart of the film, were often overlooked for the more dramatic developments that occurred elsewhere. 


I was also extremely disappointed to see the venomous Kay Burley of Sky News and the eternal idiotic misogynist John Inverdale of BBC sport appear as themselves. They shouldn't even be employed in their day jobs, let alone diversify into film.

Luisa Omielan: What Would Beyoncé Do?



The thing is, I'm not a Beyoncé fan so this acclaimed stand up was possibly always likely to fail for me. I appreciate that Beyoncé has empowered women, but I don't really find her the feminist role model that many do. For a start she believes the term feminism is 'too extreme', and her suggestion is it should be replaced with her own trademark term 'bootylicious'. As Bridget Christie said "We're talking about the systematic and prolonged oppression of women across the world as a society here, for thousands of years. We're not talking about a new ass-flavoured bubblegum".  Christie isn't the only feminist comedian to criticise Beyoncé 's rather dubious status as a feminist icon, Katherine Ryan rightly called her out for being a clever, powerful, rich woman who seems to have just accepted that her husband Jay Z allegedly sleeps around (and in such dubious circumstances - Cathy White, an alleged mistress of the rap star died at home the day before she was due to meet newspapers to give her story - google it) by writing a lyric like 'she's had half of me. She ain't even half of me' to possibly express herself on such a matter. Are we to presume that she accepts that husbands are going to be unfaithful? That it's OK if they do, because you are their only wife (their 'Mrs Carter') and that ultimately you'll see him more than his mistresses do? That's hardly an empowering message to be sending out is it?


Luisa Omielan wrote this, her debut stage show five years ago and performed it in a room above a pub at the Free Fringe at Edinburgh, before being picked up by London's Soho theatre where she scored seven sell-out runs. Ten nights at Montreal's Just for Laughs followed, along with a run in London's West End, before finally being picked up by BBC3 for a specially filmed performance at Clapham Grand. Make no mistake, this show is a smash hit and it brought Omielan huge critical and commercial acclaim. Not bad for a show which began when she wondered just what Beyoncé would do when  faced with the problem of unblocking a toilet containing her younger brother's massive poo with a stick she found in the garden!

Drawing further parallels with her own life, Omielan wonders just how would Beyoncé react to getting dumped, to signing on, to being in her thirties and living back with her mum? Going deeper, she manages to touch upon more serious subjects such as depression and even suicide, yet still keeps up a remarkable party atmosphere amidst the confessional moments as she tries to shape a new philosophy from Beyoncé's work whilst still remaining aware in her subtext that there's a huge gap between the X Factor hopefuls, the everyday dreamers and the world's most famous pop diva.


What Would Beyoncé Do? is a show performed with great frenetic speed and energy by the dazzling Omielan, who mixes Beyoncé moves with fresh, revealing and frank patter that comes at you like bullets from a machine gun. I can see why so many in the audience get swept away by her remarkable energy (and believe me, this audience is so clearly full of devotees and like minds) but I couldn't help but wonder if some of that gusto is papering over the cracks in material that, despite the success, is still clearly a debut effort.

Ultimately, I found Omielan herself to be a more empowering potential role model than her heroine; from the moment she literally swaggers and shimmies onto the stage announcing her love for her own cellulite and big bottom*, this is a hugely confident and proud young woman who owns her sexuality and identity, but isn't afraid to talk frankly about her insecurities and the low points in her life. Unlike Beyoncé  then.

*Which is very nice, as you can see

You can watch it on the BBC iPlayer.

Silent Sunday: Teddy Girl


Saturday, 18 March 2017

Out On Blue Six: Chuck Berry, RIP

A sad day for music, the great pioneer of rock and roll Chuck Berry has died at the age of 90



RIP

End Transmission



Friday, 17 March 2017

Pick a Job, George!


Tory MP, Investment advisor at Blackrock, after dinner speaker and now a newspaper editor too?

Four jobs is too much, and a conflict of interest is out of order. If you agree that George 'Pencils' Osborne should step down as MP for Tatton then please sign this petition. It's ridiculous to think this man has been banging on for ages about the White Elephant that is the 'Northern Powerhouse', taking power from London and giving Northerners a voice, and yet today says he's speaking for Londoners! And it's just sickening to consider how much money he's raking in from all these roles.

Do the decent thing, Gideon.

Out On Blue Six: Thundercat feat. Michael McDonald & Kenny Loggins

Isn't this just beautiful?


End Transmission


Thursday, 16 March 2017

The Biased Broadcasting Corporation

Only Channel 4 followed the money to reveal the staggering Tory election fraud that secured their win in 2015 and has finally been acknowledged today. The BBC never mentioned it at all. When they finally had to acknowledge its existence today, the BBC's increasingly biased political editor Laura Kuenssberg tweeted this...



So according to our supposedly independent, impartial and prized public service broadcaster, this was not fraud then, it was just a mistake. Every other broadcaster has correctly called it as fraud, so why not the BBC?

As one tweeter responded to Kuenssberg, the only mistake here was in the Tories getting caught!

Is it any wonder that this week SNP's Alex Salmond raised a point of order in the House asking for emergency measures to bring Laura Kuenssberg into the Tory cabinet?!


Given her terribly biased track record, and her role as a laughing stock in parliament, that this woman is still in work at the beeb is beyond me. But then to criticise Kuenssberg is to be charged as a misogynist by those who employ and protect her and who will never concede that they are terrified of upsetting the Tory government who can rip their charter up whenever they feel like it.

Hanging on the Telephone


Kylie by Anton Corbijn.




Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Theme Time: Elvis Costello - Scully

The death of Tony Haygarth reminded me to blog about Scully today.


King of the scallies, Franny Scully remains scouse playwright Alan Bleasdale's most enduring character. Initially created to entertain the kids he was teaching, Bleasdale realised he was on to something and began to write the character's (mis)adventures in series of short stories which he submitted to BBC Radio Merseyside. The station loved them, and Bleasdale was subsequently invited to read them on air. From there, a Scully story was read out on the BBC2 arts series 2nd House, before he became a stage play, the subject of two novels, a recurring character in the Saturday morning kids TV show and regional TISWAS replacement The Mersey Pirate, the subject of a BBC Play For Today (Scully's New Year) and finally, a full length Granada TV series for Channel 4 in 1984.


If you can get past the fact that by 1984, Andrew Schofield was a very obvious 26-year-old playing the eponymous 16-year-old schoolboy, and that all his schoolmates were of a similar vintage too, then there was much to enjoy in ScullyOn initial inspection, Scully seemed like a much needed bout of light relief for writer Alan Bleasdale following his searing masterpiece Boys From The Blackstuff just two years earlier. Light relief for many of the cast too, who returned for fresh roles here. But there's a dark undercurrent that runs through Scully beneath the humourous japes, the rites of passage tropes and the commentary on teenage life. The lack of opportunities awaiting the likes of Scully in the impoverished and neglected Liverpool of Thatcher's Britain are often alluded to and seemingly embodied by the Scully's recurring vision of his idol Kenny Dalglish during his everyday life - is this seemingly funny and surreal Billy Liar-esque device actually an example of serious psychosis borne from his relationship with his environment? As the series progressed things turned darker and more serious, leading to an extended finale that sees Scully's dreams of one day playing for Liverpool in tatters. It's a world away from some of the amusing slapstick elsewhere in the series and is deeply emotionally affecting. But that's not to say that the show wasn't very funny too, providing an authentic and endearing depiction of working class teenage life that is probably just as relevant today as it was back in 1984.


And the series boasted a great theme tune too - Turning the Town Red - from Elvis Costello, who also plays Scully's train obsessed simpleton brother, Henry (pictured above). It played over the opening credits which saw Scully training with Liverpool FC, before pulling on the Number 7 shirt and running onto the Anfield pitch to the cries of 'There's only one Francis Scully!' from the Kop faithful.

Out On Blue Six: Sophie Ellis-Bextor

2003. Where were you? Where were you at that pivotal moment when Sophie Ellis-Bextor went blonde?!


In all seriousness, Mixed Up World kind of means a lot to me. It was an 'our song' of sorts, played repeatedly during dates in a local bar at the start of what went on to become the longest romantic relationship I have had in my life.

Whilst that relationship ended, my crush on Sophie continues to last to this day. And I still say her walk to camera in this video as she delivers the song's opening lines is one of the sexiest things ever.



End Transmission




Wordless Wednesday: In The Ginnel


Tuesday, 14 March 2017

RIP Tony Haygarth

Following the sad news of the death of character actor John Forgeham, comes news of another loss to the character actor world with the death of the great Tony Haygarth at 72 from Alzheimer's and vascular dementia.


Born in Liverpool, Tony started out his career - in between 'proper' jobs as a life guard in Torquay and a psychiatric nurse at Sefton General - as a performance poet in the burgeoning tradition that was then developing on Merseyside. Bitten by the performance bug he headed to London with friend Geoffrey Hughes (Coronation Street, Keeping up Appearances and The Royle Family) to make his name.  It wasn't long before Haygarth had developed a very healthy career on the stage and the screen, both TV and film.

Film roles included Percy, Unman, Wittering and Zigo, 1979's Dracula, McVicar, Britannia Hospital, A Private Function, The Bride, Clockwise, The Dressmaker and Chicken Run, whilst on television his recurring and significant roles included performances in Scully (as 'Dracula', the caretaker nemesis to the teenage hero) Emmerdale, The Rotters Club, Our Friends in the North, Boys from the Blackstuff, Rosie, Making Out and The Borrowers, as well as the lead role in Nigel Kneale's 1981 sci fi sitcom Kinvig. Significant guest roles in TV shows such as Casualty, The Bill, The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Last of the Summer Wine, Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads, Shoestring, Bergerac, Lovejoy, Between The Lines, Sharpe, Hornblower, Inspector Morse Preston Front and I, Claudius.

He was a key figure in Bill Bryden's hard drinking Cottesloe company at the National in the '80s, he won a prestigious Equity Clarence Derwent award for his performance in Sam Shepard's Simpatico in the 90s and appeared in revivals of Twelve Angry Men (by Harold Pinter), Pygmalion and The Rise and Fall of Little Voice in the 00s. 

RIP

Fighting Back: Mental Health and PIP Petition


Theresa May's government is changing the rules to ensure that people with mental health problems will no longer be eligible for essential financial support such as PIP (Personal Independence Payment)

You may remember that cunt George Freeman who outlined this plan by stating that PIP should only be available for the 'really disabled' and not people 'taking pills at home, who suffer from anxiety' 

It's worth noting that PIP assessors routinely ask claimants 'why haven't you killed yourself yet?'  - The Tories clearly would prefer it if anyone with depression and anxiety did just that; saving them money in the process. But for now, they're happy to just put a halt to claims based on mental health and they are hoping to pass this cut through without a vote next week, but plans are afoot to secure a vote in the Commons by special parliamentary process and it's relying on a public outcry to be done. So please sign this petition and let's get our voices heard!

Rapid Reviews: List of the Lost by Morrissey

'Beware the novelist' the blurb on the back of this book intones...


After reading it, all I can say is beware the novelist indeed! Because this is such a disappointing mess. I love The Smiths, I like Morrissey. I read the autobiography and I felt that his prose suggested he had a natural voice for the novel. I looked forward to him one day tackling the genre.

But no way did I expect this utter bumwash to be the result! 

There are some good lines here. But they are few and far between. Characters speak like no real persons ever do. Witness one scene in which Ezra and Eliza, the All American high school sweethearts, discuss - with remarkable insight, like all American teenagers in 1975 didn't do - the then Tory leader of the opposition, Margaret Thatcher.

"I hate womb-men like that...they just can't wait to be one of the boys...and just watch, if she becomes Prime Minister, she won't hire any women in her government"

When one of them goes on to mistakenly call her Margaret Hatchet instead of Thatcher, it is immediately picked up on in the most immature, clunkily pretentious of ways

"Her name's Thatcher. Although you could be right when you say Hatchet. Just look at that boneless face...if ever an engine of grief..."

By the way the ellipses are the author's own. See what I mean? It's like the adolescent Adrian Mole thinking he's being daring and politically cutting. I'm a socialist, so I'm always up for someone giving the Iron Lady a good kicking, but please, this was embarrassing. And there's a lot more of this style in the non-event narrative of murder and four promising Bostonian track athletes.

Mercifully, the novella is just 118 pages long and I read it in one sitting. But if you ask me, it's 117 pages too many.

Gig Review: Josie Long - Something Better @Liverpool Epstein Theatre, 13/3/17

Right up front I have to say that Josie Long is an inspiration to me. 


Let me explain; this is a woman of my age group with the same left-leaning politics and alternative outlook as I possess. Yet, unlike me, Long exudes a cheery, bright, good-natured optimism at every turn. She seemingly has this incredibly capacity to take every bitter disappointment in our political landscape in her stride and maintain her inimitable positive spirit in the face of extreme adversity and disappointment.

In Something Better, the show she has been touring up and down the country since February this year (following residencies at London's Soho Theatre and New York's Barrow Street Theatre at the tail end of last year) Josie admits that it's not always easy to remain optimistic in the wake of Brexit, UKIP, Theresa May, Donald Trump and a Labour Party that seems hellbent on toppling its democratically elected leader. But after tonight's experience, I know that there's something about being in a room full of like-minded people attuned to an exceptional performer on the stage that certainly helps life our collective spirits!

Unusually, Josie was on stage as the audience arrived. This wasn't the show she took pains to point out several times - hilariously - but rather, the pre-show karaoke thanks to the music on her iPhone. Basically, Josie wanted to greet everyone with a little sing-a-long and deconstruction of her new favourite song. I must confess to never truly 'hearing' the lyrics of this, but after Josie broke it down, I know I will never hear it any other way now



She then did a mini-set to kick off the show and explain her outlook and politics, as well as the banners that graced her set, which were full of uplifting messages like 'Minimum Expectation, Maximum Ambition' and a portrait of 1970s Scottish trade unionist Jimmy Reid.



This led to an amusing story about how Josie has so much respect for Reid that she has this banner on her wall at home, and how her flatmate asked a visitor if they knew who it was. ''Um, Fred West?'' came the answer! Who would put Fred West on their wall?!

Josie then vacated the stage for her support act, Tez Ilyas, a very funny young British Asian comic who had some good lines about what it is to be a Muslim these days ("we've become recurring characters on that long running series...what's it called? The news") as well as the perils of Tinder. Following an interval, Josie was back to do the show proper and a very fun 90 minute set it was too. All the expected topics were covered; The Tories, Brexit, UKIP, Trump, Corbyn, Baby Boomers and the bleak looking future they've handed to their children, and finally an explanation as to the uncharacteristic appearance Josie made on reality TV show Celebrity Island with Bear Grylls (basically they falsely hooked her in with the notion of it putting her politics into action and building a micro-society based on equality from the ground up) As with some of the best, most enjoyable stand up sets, I laughed so much yet can scarcely now recall half of the things I found so hilarious (though a very funny tease around a quotation from To Kill a Mockingbird remains in my head and I'm chuckling just thinking about it now) but what I have most emphatically come away with - despite her admission that it isn't always easy - is the notion that we have to be hopeful and we have to keep fighting and get active, however small. Josie's recommendation at the close of the set, to read Rebecca Solnit's Hope in the Dark, is one I will definitely be looking into....just as soon as I can get Take That's Never Forget (the post-show karaoke song Josie serenaded us with as we left the theatre) out of my head!

The Something Better tour comes to a close this week with performances in Lancaster, Kendal, Nottingham and Tywyn. I heartily recommend anyone to check Josie out if ever you can, especially if you're on the left and feel a little disheartened with the world. You'll come away smiling and reminded that you are not alone. You are never alone.