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Friday, 23 December 2016

The Year the Music Died




Within the space of 10 minutes my morning radio channel was haunted by two cover songs: Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” and John Lennon’s “Imagine”.  Not before this I saw everyone go crazy on social media about Disturb's cover Simon and Garfunkle's The Sound of Silence. These classic songs are so well-known they are almost the equivalent of hymns in the history of popular music. They have been covered so many times that there are even lists of the top 60 (!) “best ever” versions of these songs.  I write this in 2016, the year saw the unexpected deaths of David Bowie and then Prince. Both these trailblazing musicians were undeniable critical and commercial auteurs. They achieved the elite distinction of being known for their creative integrity and yet could also reach a wide range of people.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

EU English Civil War





I don't need to be told about how important the upcoming EU Referendum is to the UK. I am not in need of scaremongering on either side and I appreciate the irony in me moaning yet adding to an already bloated social media newsfeed of opinion on the matter. Where my vote will land is well known to those who know me and I don't feel a desire to evangelise it on here, wasting both your and my precious time. However, as a writer, historian and burgeoning social commentator of sorts, I cannot help but take the wider view on this unfolding event. I don’t recall a single issue in my lifetime that has divided so many people right down the middle. In the era of slacktivism - where armies of keyboard warriors grow ever more enraged and less empathetic behind their monitors -  it metaphorically resembles an English civil war, separating not only political parties but even families and households. Please note that this article will not be using the horrid buzzword Brexit or its forced counterpart Bremain. I don't wish to encourage tribalism but tolerence over individual decisions on an undeniably important issue.


Friday, 3 June 2016

Night to Remember?




Plot:


1930s West Virginia: A bogus preacher, Reverend Harry Powell (Robert Mitchum), who has been secretly murdering wealthy widows, finds himself in a cell with a robber, Ben Harper (Peter Graves), convicted to hang. Harper has confided the location of the money he stole to his son, John (Billy Chapin), but mutters a verse from the Bible in his sleep that gives Powell a clue. Upon his release, Powell tracks down Harper's widow, woos her, marries her and kills her. However, in order to get the secret stash he needs to convince young John and his sister to tell him. The hunt begins... 



Tuesday, 26 April 2016

The Great Organic Swindle


Making my way over to my hotel’s breakfast bar I was immediately struck by the many odd-shaped fruits that greeted me. Their roughness and complete lack of uniformity seemed at total odds with the plush surroundings of the hotel. I couldn’t help but be amused by how things had changed. Only a few years previously, such hotels would have been disgusted at the thought of displaying such unaesthetically pleasing fruit. Now, food of this description is proudly eaten by the elite. Inverted snobbery has never been better represented than through shabby chic and its total insincerity has never better been exemplified than through the organic food industry. The term “organic” has now seeped deeply into our society becoming a by-word for more ethical and healthier food production and consumption. However, the only awareness being shown by the corporations and retailers who use this label is an understanding of people can be hoodwinked into paying more for snake oil.

Friday, 27 November 2015

Worst.Vampire. Hunters. Ever.



 “The Strain”, it would appear, was a puzzling labour of love for director/writer Guillermo del Toro. In 2006 he put the idea for a vampire TV series to producers, but it wasn’t picked up. Not to be deterred, del Toro recruited Chuck Hogan, an author with a strong orientation towards screenplay writing, to write a trilogy of novels. I confess to not having read the novels or much into the background of The Strain prior to watching the TV series. I am currently watching the second season, neatly based on the second novel. The third season is out next year, which might only take in half the final part. Del Toro believes that two seasons would do the third novel the most justice, but he is also open to divergences for the benefit of a successful adaptation. One cannot help but read that as his hope to keep the franchise going as long as possible.




Thursday, 12 November 2015

Continuiry Bond - A Review of "Spectre"


With this, Eon Films’ fourth instalment of their James Bond reboot starring Daniel Craig, there was clearly a strong intention to both pay homage to the previous franchise and to reward those who have stayed with the current one. Clearly the geek-factor that nearly all Hollywood franchises take seriously is at the very heart of “Spectre”, which is currently the most expensive movie in the history of Bond. How this geek-factor is dealt with in the made-by-committee blockbusters of today can determine the quality of the art being produced.




Thursday, 5 November 2015

Striking from the Shadows of '50s Pulp Fiction - Review of Robert Bloch's "Psycho"

 Just off a junction on a busy highway there still exists Bates Motel. This struggling business is run by Norman Bates who endures an oppressive relationship from his unhinged mother who seems hell-bent in keeping her son single and away from the outside world. Then, one night, Mary Crane arrives at the Motel. She is on the run with $40,000 she has stolen from of a client of her real estate company. Soon a private detective and her sister will be after her, but none of them expect the horrors that will ensue the night Mary accidentally turns off the highway and meets the Bates…


We have Peggy Robertson to thank for the franchise that this 1959 pulp fiction thriller spawned and keeps on giving to this day. Apparently Robertson had read a good review by Anthony Boucher of Robert Bloch’s seminal thriller, “Psycho”, despite Paramount Pictures already rejecting the story’s premise. Hitchcock, never one to back to down to anyone in movie world except maybe his wife, thought differently and fought a hard battle against virtually everyone to get the film greenlit. My copy of Bloch’s novel is a paperback published not long after the film was made, but looks fairly plain. In fact, the thin little novel was so indistinct amongst my book collection that I had a job to find it earlier this year.