Monthly Archives: September 2011

Death, where is thy sting?

Thomas Pratchett is neither scared nor excited by Torchwood.

The pain! The pain!

“I’m sick of Torchwood acting like amateur clowns!” – Rex Matheson

 So, once again the Torchwood juggernaut… hmm, too strong a word. The Torchwood pick-up truck? Smart car? No, definitely not smart. Let’s say the Torchwood clownmobile – because the Extra-Terrestrial Intervention Community’s most stupid and bungling group are back, and it’s been a bigger and more global shambles than ever before.

After two series of discrete episodes with only a loose overall arc, Torchwood changed course for its third series, 2009’s Children of Earth, telling a single story in five hour-long episodes over five consecutive nights. Torchwood had become proper event television, at least in its own mind. With the fourth series, Miracle Day, this self-conscious sense of being event TV has been amped up even further, and with it the level of self-delusion. Ten episodes, over ten weeks, telling the same story. Wasn’t there a risk of the plot not being thick enough to cover that many hours? As it turns out, it was more than a risk. Continue reading

A mole at the heart of the Circus

Josephine Grahl finds a little too much unspoken in Tomas Alfredson’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

'Your mission, Benedict Cumberbatch, is to impersonate as many literary characters as possible over your career.'

Reviewing a cinema adaptation of a book you know and love is hard. Am I judging the film fairly as a work of art in itself; or am I criticising it, unfairly, for failing to live up to my own imagining of the characters and settings? You can’t divorce the film from its inspiration. Once a reinterpretation departs too far from the source material, you start to wonder why it still lays claim to the original material; why not just write something new instead?

“There is a mole at the heart of the Circus” – a Soviet double agent at the centre of the British secret service. George Smiley’s predecessor, Control, has worn himself out searching for the traitor and retired in disgrace. When a terrified agent suddenly turns up on the run from Russian assassins, with a story which confirms the existence but not the identity of the mole, Smiley is called from his own retirement to track down the traitor. Control has narrowed the field to five men, the tinker, tailor of the title; Smiley must finish the job. Continue reading

Mostly Records – September 2011

by Jim Eaton-Terry

After a summer of not listening to much, going back over the year and and realising I was wrong about some things (James Blake gets better and better) and right about others (PJ FTW!) we’re back to business this month

St Vincent – Strange Mercy


The record of the month, without a doubt, is St Vincent’s Strange Mercy. I first discovered her through this brutal, dazzling live version of Big Black’s “Kerosene” earlier this year. The album – her third – is absolutely astonishing. There are a lot of singer-songwriters around who can put a neat song together and deliver it prettily – I rather like the Laura Marling album – and there are a lot of producers who can construct intricate soundscapes. No-one I can think of puts the two things together as beautifully as St Vincent does here. Continue reading

Mostly Pop – September 2011

Mr Moth, dispirited but unbowed, does his last Mostly Pop for the time being

Woo woo! All aboard the One Direction Bus!
The One Direction tourbus, yesterday.

One Direction – What Makes You Beautiful

I’m no fan of Grease. Really not. But I can appreciate an irresistible tune when I hear one, and so can whoever put this crap together. Whoever they are, they have appropriated the riff of Summer Nights in order to try and make this sound in some way fun or exciting and they have failed dismally. The song’s lyrics are just as unwelcome, with the central message boiling down to “There’s nothing hotter to me than a girl with self-esteem issues”. Continue reading

Kill BBC4

By Niall Anderson

Do you remember the furore when BBC Knowledge was axed? Were you part of the protest?

Here was a channel dedicated to the purest Reithian ideal. It had science documentaries, serious arts coverage, challenging first-run drama and comedy. It ran twenty-four hours a day. It had recognisable anchors and presenters. Now its budget and personnel were going to be slashed by two-thirds.

Its replacement would be a mere eight hours of programming every night. Most of that would be repeats and imports. BBC Knowledge had won a small but committed audience that was growing month by month. It was surely too soon to pull the plug.

This was 2002. Continue reading

Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Paul Shuttle shoots, thinks and shoots, then thinks again.

Adam Jensen in Human Revolution: “single-handedly dragging us back to an era of arms-perpetually-folded, mid-90s tough guy protagonists”. Like that’s a bad thing.

Note: this post contains minor spoilers for the Deus Ex series and Mass Effect.

Riding the elevator down into the depths of an unassuming textiles factory, the glass walls afforded me a glimpse at what awaited on the floor below. A handful of armoured FEMA agents were dotted around, either on patrol or huddled in a small group to the left. In the centre of the room, a rhythmic mechanical thud signalled the familiar presence of an unwieldy ED-209 replica, with its pair of slowly rotating turrets scanning the open, multi-level storage area. As the lift doors pinged open, I darted for the cover of a nearby raised platform, eyes fixed on the HUDs pulsing suspicion meter. Nothing.

Up above laid a series of catwalks, from where a red sniper dot flirted perilously close to my position. I pulled up my inventory and selected one of the two gas grenades I’d stolen from a newly-unlocked cabinet. Leaning out from cover, I tossed an explosive towards the amassed troops, whose immediate rasping was just enough of a distraction for to break for the central stairwell, by now hopelessly unguarded. Suddenly, a piercing siren began to ring out. My pace quickened as I ducked from shadow to shadow, timing my steps to avoid the curiosity of the lingering two-man patrol. Reaching the relative safety of the far side, I crawled slowly back down the stairs, now standing across from where I’d started.

A solitary guard lingering close to the exit, completing a cursory lap of the area; deliberate looks around and behind as he went. Pausing nearby, I held my breath, convinced he’d seen me. A moment passed. Then two. Finally, he turned back towards the door and I exhaled, inching out from behind the railing to strike him in the back of the neck, sending this 3-days-to-retirement badge crashing to the floor with a bone-crunching thud that left him otherwise unharmed. As a nearby surveillance camera began its slow sweep back towards the door, the body was already halfway back into the darkness. Somewhere in the distance I could hear agents muttering about another false alarm. They hadn’t found their unconscious friend yet, but they would soon enough. By then, I’d be gone. Continue reading

Glamour of the Gods

The current National Portrait Gallery exhibition, Glamour of The Gods, sets out to ‘demonstrate photography’s decisive role in creating and marketing the stars central to the Hollywood mystique.’

The Tramp thinks the execution falls far short of the goal.

Louise Brooks by Eugene Robert Richee

In my mind, Hollywood’s Golden Age runs anywhere between 1915 and 1950. I’ve had pictures of film stills and film stars from this era on my walls since I was old enough to dictate what pictures I could have on my walls. They are almost fairytale images: glimpses of impossibly glamorous women in the most beautiful clothes. So it was nice to see one of my favourite images from childhood here: Louise Brooks, her jet-black hair in its iconic fringed bob, her lithe dancer’s body clad all in black, her porcelain white face and hands and a long string of pearls all you can see – this is glamour and art. I didn’t want to be a princess when I was little, but I did want to be Louise Brooks. Continue reading

Friends Like These . . .

In the second of an occasional series of what is basically an angry man baying at the moon, Caulorlime, the foul-mouthed English teacher, turns his attention to television advertising.

My wife once bought me a Fawcett Society “This is what a feminist looks like” T-shirt. It doesn’t fit any more, which is good as I have reached, and passed, the age where writing across your flabby man tits is not acceptable, no matter how ideologically sound the message. However, I stand by the sentiment. It is partly in this guise as PC Brigadier and partly as an old man that shouts at the television that I have come to a new, and depressing, realisation.

Adverts hate us all. We know this. They hate all races, socio-economic classes, ages, sexualities and genders. They hate Londoners. They hate the Welsh. They probably hate kittens. There isn’t a single stratum of society that the advertising industry doesn’t vomit contempt over. But they really hate women.

This might seem an odd proposition in 2011, after all, adverts really hate men, don’t they? Men are the ones portrayed as selfish, child-like appurtenances who, on their best day, serve only to irritate and hinder their female masters, right? It’s men who are shown misunderstanding vitamin supplements; men who are weak and hypochondriac; men who, even when the advert wishes to appeal to them, are portrayed as cock-led sex pests. The advert a year or so ago (for some shit, I can’t remember what) that had the tagline “So simple even a man could use it” would never have been screened had the gender been reversed.* Right? Right, but file all this under “Adverts Hate Us All.” Yes, men are portrayed as arseholes, but if you want to see really sinister stuff have a look at the way women are portrayed in ads. Continue reading

Assignment: Terror

Gareth Negus creeps from behind the couch to let us know about the best and worst of FrightFest 2011

“But … but – where are the bees?” Britania Nicol in The Wicker Tree

Horror is a broad church, and the FrightFest 2011 programme reflected that.  37 films, mostly British or American in origin but with a solid international selection, meant most people could reasonably expect to find something to upset or repulse them. Continue reading