Thursday, 31 December 2009
Today the cinema is as vibrant as ever(financially if not creatively) but in the years immediately following 1946 movie moguls were convinced they were witnessing the death of cinema. Not only were they selling less and less tickets each year as the new medium of Television worked its way into more and more homes but the industry was altered by new laws which created distrust and paranoia in the creative camps. Between 1946 and 1948 movie attendances dropped by 16.9% but what was worse for the major American studios was the interest the government was showing in the cosy cartels that controlled Hollywood. From the mid-Thirties, the Department of Justice had been trying to break the stranglehold the major studios had over independent cinemas. The aim was to force the majors into selling off their highly lucrative cinema chains. But as the majors made most of their money from distribution they resisted. AS far back as the early Thirties the Department of Justice had brought legal cases against the major studios but these were delayed by the war. However in 1946 the Department of Justice started to strip away the powers of the major studios.
The war years had already seen Hollywood have to make major changes in the films they produced - their foreign markets, with the exception of Britain, had become out of bounds. Attempts had been made to create a larger market in South America with the Carmen Miranda films but this would never replace the loss suffered by the closing of the lucrative French, German and Italian markets. When the war ended and the markets opened back up it would seem Hollywood was once again onto a certain winner but soon the way they did business would be gone forever. Old Hollywood and the so called studio system was about to die, killed by the Department of Justice and their anti-trust laws.
When the world market opened up after the war it was only the US that had an abundance of film stock - in 1946 20 films were made in the Soviet Union, 54 in Italy and 432 in America. Films from the US dominated Europe with most of the profits coming back to the Hollywood studios. In 1948 France would rebel against the system and only allow only $3.6 million of a $14 million take to go back to America. The UK for their part would only allow £17 million to go to the US while $40 million remained tied up under foreign exchange regulations.
The next problem for Hollywood was with their labour. Post war prices meant that wage structures had to be improved. There was a major strike at Warner Brothers in 1946 and now that the unions were being closely scrutinised by the government it made the earlier practice of the studios paying off union bosses impractical. Ronnie Reagan was a union leader during this period.
The movie industry was in a state of turmoil when in the late 40's the House Un-American Activities Committee starting to take an interest in the film industry. The flimsy alliance between the US and Russia broke down after the war and there was paranoia that movies made in America, by American were spreading communist propaganda. At the infamous hearings Jack Warner, eager to explain several pro-Soviet movies made during the war, said that communist writers were poking fun at the US political system and picking on rich men. Blacklists were quickly drawn up of actors, writers and directors suspected of having communist leanings. It was revealed by the committee that Danny Kaye's real name was Daniel Kamirsky and June Havoc was actually June Hovick. This was enough to stop these two performers finding work for a long while and of course there was the jailing of the infamous Hollywood Ten
Communist paranoia entered the American psyche. John Wayne played Big Jim Mclain, an heroic investigator for the committee in 1952. And such was the paranoia felt by the studios that by the time McCarthy arrived on the scene in 1951 Hollywood was politically clean.
At the end of the 50's Television had gained a place as the entertainment of choice for the masses. However more films were made in 1950 than 1946 as a leaner and fitter Hollywood emerged.
Dan Brown's "The Lost Symbol," the long-awaited follow-up to the mega-bestseller "The DaVinci Code," was part of the good news. The novel was the year's top seller.
Paperbacks in fiction were mixed -- trade paperback sales were up by 2%, but mass-market paperbacks, which have been struggling, were down.
Overall, the year's tallies have book sales down about 3% overall. That's because adult nonfiction did not perform well -- sales were down by 7% since last year.
* Amazon have been boasting of their recent eBooks sales but Sarah Weinmen thinks it is all a smokescreen - For the past two years, Amazon has been exciting consumers and frustrating book industry types with its puffed-up press releases about the strength of Kindle and e-book sales. The level of self-congratulation appears to have reached a new high with the most recent release, which boldly claimed that the Kindle has become the most gifted item in the company's history FULL STORY
It just so happens that Mel Gibson's production company Icon Entertainment has just announced that it will be co-producing the new film. Does this mean that we are getting closer to Gibson reprising his role?
The Archive predicts that by the time this film goes before the lens it will be Gibson playing an aged Mad Max. Well - stranger things have happened.
This will be the last post of 2009 - well, other than a few newsy items to come later today. New Year's Eve is always a day for reflecting on the past year but more importantly it's a day for looking forward with hope to the next twelve months.
2009 will always be a special one for me since it was during the past year that I became a professionally published author - The Tarnished Star, written under the pen-name of Jack Martin did remarkably well and it's still out there folks, still in print. Also I completed Arkansas Smith, my second novel, which it to be published this coming March. Pre-order HERE to ensure your copy.
2010 - has got to top that. And I'm sure it will (I'm an optimist if I'm anything). There have been big developments this week concerning my crime novel, provisionally titled A Policeman's Lot. The title will change, though as the publisher doesn't like it. I've got a full month or so worth of revisions to do on the manuscript and also come up with a different title but I'm really excited about this. The book looks set to come out with a major international publisher - I will of course keep all Archive readers informed.
I had a four page letter suggesting revisions from my editor yesterday but here's a short snippet of praise -
"You take the reader to a fascinating time and place. The addition of Buffalo Bill Cody’s touring show enhances the setting, and provides extra conflict and an exotic framework for the tale. Overall, the story is excellent. You weave the major and minor conflicts in with the various characters and their motivations quite skillfully. The Ripper tie-in is brilliant, as are the “red herring” murders. "
I'm really excited about this novel - it's set in my home turf of Pontypridd and I love the character of Police Inspector Frank Parade - he's got legs, you know. This book takes place in 1904 but I've got a story arc worked out for subsequent books that will take the character up to the outbreak of World War 1.
Anyway when that's all done and delivered and I've spent my advance, I intend to start work on my third western for the Black Horse range. So it's all go for the start of the year. Then during March or possibly April I plan to take my dream trip - I will, at last, visit America. I'm planning on touring the West, seeing the real landscape that has for so long dominated my dreams. So watch out America, here I come.
After the holiday I'll complete the third western and then plan to kick straight into my second Frank Parade novel. It's good to have a clear goal in mind, I think.
The Archive will also continue to develop - in January 2010 we run our Black Horse Western Weekend - with involvement from many of the Black Horse writers. I'm starting work on this weekend tomorrow and hope to have it ready to run by mid-month. So all those who have promised to become involved then expect some serious badgering from me over the next week or so. There are also other themed weekends in the pipeline and more news and interviews. All in all I want to keep the Archive entertaining but somehow reach the status of essential. Ahh well, aim high - as Granddad used to say, "In life aim for the sky. If your reach the shithouse roof at least you've tried."
This looking forward mood always puts me in mind of a John Lennon lyric - Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans.
So let's raise a glass and say goodbye to 2009 and hello 2010 - bring it on.
Wednesday, 30 December 2009
Radio Four raised the bar today with their afternoon play. What did I say by Mark Lawson starred Neil Pearson as a man suspended from work after making some offensive remarks. The problem is that he has no idea what it is he has said, not to whom he said it.
'Do we really want to live in a world where jokes are dangerous?' Max Coleman (Pearson) asks his wife, only to be told that we already do.
It's pretty powerful stuff and looks at this modern politically correct age with a slicing satirical edge - the play can be listened to HERE for the next seven days.
Pipe smoking is a different beast altogether - Ok now that we've got our designated smoking areas, can you please just leave us alone. Yeah tobacco consumption is not particularly good for you, no matter how you use it, but pipe smoking is far less of a danger than cigarettes. And I'll be dammned if I'll cast aside my beloved pipes.
Far from a habit, pipe smoking is a hobby and one that has its origins in ancient history - The Indians of North and South America over the course of a thousand years were only able to craft crude pipes made out of stone or clay. However, the European craftsmen were able to perfect the art of pipes in only a couple of centuries. Pipes themselves can be beautiful works of art. Craftsmen from all over the world have done wonders with simple pieces of briar or many of the other materials used in modern pipe making.
"When love grows cool, thy fire still warms me;
When friends are fled, thy presence charms me.
If thou art full, though purse be bare,
I smoke, and cast away all care!"
There are pipes to suit any pocket but the very best can cost several hundreds of pounds. They are precision instruments that must be smoked carefully and skilfully. Pipe historian John Loring's website HERE is well worth a visit. There is a vast worldwide community of pipe smokers and there is an interesting pipe smoking podcast put together by the Old Toby people which will give you the latest news on legal issues regarding pipe smoking as well as interviews with some of the world's most noted pipe carvers. Find the podcast HERE.
Smokingpipes.com is a wonderful website where second hand pipes are traded and sold - yep you heard correct - secondhand pipes or to give them their proper title, estate pipes. These pipes are renovated, cleaned and sterilised by professionals and they end up looking and tasting as good as new. Often the only way to afford one of the more pricey pipes is to buy used pipes. I got myself a Dunhill on Ebay for £40 which I then treated and cleaned up myself. Everytime I smoke it I am aware that new it would cost several hundreds of pounds.
Pipe tobacco can be likened to fine wines in the way they tease that palette and there are many varieties and blends available - Burley, virginian, cavendish, oriental,latakia...the list is endless. There are plain tobaccos, aromatic tobaccos and just about every other kind of tobacco.
Me I'm off to smoke a pipe of Dark Cavendish and read some pipe poetry:
ODE TO MY PIPE.
O Blessed pipe,
That now I clutch within my gripe,
What joy is in thy smooth, round bowl,
As black as coal!
So sweetly wed
To thy blanched, gradual thread,
Like Desdemona to the Moor,
Thou pleasure's core.
What woman's lip
Could ever give, like thy red tip,
Such unremitting store of bliss,
Or such a kiss?
Oh, let me toy,
Ixion-like, with cloudy joy;
Thy stem with a most gentle slant
I eye askant!
Thy dreamy nectar is transferred,
The while serenity astride
Thy neck doth ride.
A burly cloud
Doth now thy outward beauties shroud:
And now a film doth upward creep,
Cuddling the cheek.
And now a ring,
A mimic silver quoit, takes wing;
Another and another mount on high,
Then spread and die.
They say in story
That good men have a crown of glory;
O beautiful and good, behold
The crowns unfold!
How did they live?
What pleasure could the Old World give
That ancient miserable lot
When thou wert not?
Oh, woe betide!
My oldest, dearest friend hath died,--
Died in my hand quite unaware,
Oh, Baccy rare!
ANDREW WYNTER. From Pipe and Pouch: The Smokers own poetry (now in the public domain and available on prject gutenberg)
Arrogant, rain-sodden, narrow minded, old fashioned, white skinned pacifist toffs. This is the British through the eyes of American students surveyed by the British Council. Most of the students couldn't name the four components of the British isles and one said, 'I think they kill each other less than we do.' THE TIMES NEWSPAPER
A financial report into publisher Dora Kingsley in 1993 revealed that in American its most successful books were The Ultimate Sex Guide and the Magic of Sex. In the UK its biggest seller was the Royal Horticultural Society Encyclopedia of Gardening. THE DAILY TELEGRAPH
For sale - Artificial Leg (Left). Suit tallish person with right leg only...The FREEAD'S NEWSPAPER
Remove cap and push up bottom - Instructions on a roll up deodorant
The M61 in Lancashire was closed off after a four car collision. All of the cars were driven by policemen on a training exercise. SUNDAY TELEGRAPH
These are just a few of the hundreds of amusing entries in this book. You Absolutely Couldn't Make it Up by Jack Crossley. The link here is for Amazon which is included because they allow you a peek inside the book at the first few pages. If you like
Tuesday, 29 December 2009
Amazon sold more electronic books than physical books on Christmas Day, due to the popularity of the Kindle e-reader, the online retailer reported. It was the first time e-books had led in sales.
In addition, the Kindle has become the most gifted item ever on Amazon, according to the company, which did not release sales numbers.
The latest four titles from Commando Books are now on
Two of the titles are set in the Ardennes - Friends or Foes, written by Peter Grehan with art by John Ridgeway is set during 1944 with the German offensive using special units dressed in Allied uniform. The Winter Warriors, written by Ferg Handley and drawn by Garijo is set during the Battle of the Bulge.
It's back to 1940 for Battling Rust Bucket. The story written by Ian Clark with art by Gordon Livingstone tells of the Dunkirk evacuation and of the clapped out old paddle steamer's part in the operation.
Last but not least is Never Volunteer written by C.G. Walker, art by Ibanez and set during the North African conflict.
The books are priced at £1.35 each and are quite unique in the current market - well told, war stories just like your Dad used to read.
Seth Harwood made a splash by podcasting his novel, Jack Wakes Up - so successful was the podcast that he secured a major publishing deal. Well now Seth's moving into eBooks and he wants our help with his first tentative steps into the murky worlds of ePublishing.
Over to you, Seth
Now is the time to go to the Amazon Kindle store
to help me with my Kindle Publishing Experiment
I've released my short story collection
A Long Way from Disney on the Kindle for just $.99
and am rushing the charts today to let the world
know that it's here.
Please help me by forwarding and spreading this email,
and/or going here to Amazon to buy the
Note: You DO NOT need a Kindle to buy!
You can use these software downloads to set yourself
up as a Kindle reader with any iPhone/iPod Touch or PC computer! Easy-peasy.
Get software: Kindle App for iPhone http://www.facebook.com/l/85f08;bit.ly/5B8aCt
Kindle PC software. http://www.facebook.com/l/85f08;bit.ly/73FTcM
Monday, 28 December 2009
The big news for June was the publication of my debut western, The Tarnished Star. The novel had been sitting at the top of the Amazon pre-orders for westerns for the best part of four months. And I was nervous as people started receiving their books - thankfully the feedback was good and I was interviewed on many websites. The month also saw a Jack Martin weekend on the Blasck Horse forum and I spent an enjoyable few days answering questions. I did a book signing at my local Borders and was dismayed to find gaps in their usually packed shelves. As the year went on the gaps would become wider. The month saw the death of Michael Jackson and the Archive gave its own tribute to the troubled singer.
The big news in July was the first stirrings of a UK version on the Kindle. And in the western genre we had the launch of a new paperback imprint, BHE Books - western author Chap O'keefe had decided to launch his own imprint to allow him greater creative freedom. The Tarnished Star reviews kept coming and the Archive featured a student movie I'd starred in - Kenny Constricted. Marcus Galloway and James D Best were interviewed to keep up the western flavour. And silent movies were the order of the day with the Archive reviewing a number of Chaplin films as well as several Laurel and Hardy movies and the odd Harold Lloyd. And we posted the winners of the Bristol Short Story Prize. It was great to see a western amongst the winning entries - The Archive was thanked for its support of the competition with a free copy of the wonderful anthology. And we also launched a new social network for western fans.
August -Saw the announcement that Disney were to buy Marvel. The Archive ran a Paul McCartney feature which argued that he wasn't just the sloppy one. We also interviewed Chantel Foster who at age sixteen saw a story accepted for the Fistful of Legends Anthology - truly remarkable that one so young should feature alongside such seasoned western scribes. Well done Chantel. Horror master Shaun Hutson popped in for a chat and we looked at the history of horror magazines in the UK. Elsewhere the excitement for A Fistful of Legends grew as a full line up was announced which included yours truly with a story called, The Gimp. We ended the month with an interview with president of the Western Writers of America Johnny D Boggs. We were saddened this month to hear of the death after a long illness of western legend, Elmer Kelton.
September saw the Archive investigating the Jack the Ripper case. And we posted scans of some rare old comic books. The big thing this month was our Saint Weekend which saw us interview many luminaries connected in one way or another to The Saint. We also ran the digital first publication of an old Saint strip by Keith Chapman AKA Chaps O'keefe and the hits went through the roof. The big media news this month was the release of The Beatles past cataloug in new remastered format. The Archive were well impressed and there were many Beatle centric posts.
October saw 128 posts in total - the greatest majority of them western based. There was a lack of interviews this month but we did manage to talk to Nik Morton about the Fistful of Legends anthology. The news was given about our upcoming Sherlock Holmes weekend and in a major feature we asked, What's so good about these Black Horse westerns? The cover image for Arkansas Smith was posted for the first time. And overall the month was filled with varied items on popular culture. It was noted that the eBooks news was increasing as the Ereaders became more and more popular. The Archive also bemoaned the demise of Borders which we felt was on the way to destruction.
November - saw the Sherlock Holmes weekend repeat the success of the earlier Saint weekend. So successful were these two ventures that Jan 2010 will see the Black Horse Western weekend - believe me there is much to look forward to here. We interviewed Lee Walker and talked about his debut western - Gun Law which I'd had on preorder from Amazon for some months. The book did not disappoint and will be reviewed on the ARchive during the Black Horse weekend. We also interviewed the editor of the Commando comic book range Calum Laird and David Whitehead who writes for the line was also questioned. And of course no little thing but November saw another successful Wild West Monday. There'll be another some time in 2010.
December - saw us interview James Bond author, Raymond Benson. As well as post more news on the Fistful of Legends anthology - we even ran a special offer which you can still take advantage of....
To find any of the past year's features either look in the sidebar or type the required material in the search box at the top of the blog. I hope you enjoy looking back at the Archive's 2009.
Which leads us to... The future of the Archive. I hope the Archive continues to develop as a sort of mixture of a blog and a magazine - a blogozine so to speak. I hope to provide content that equals much of the paid for content out there. You regular readers can help by telling me what you like in the comments to this post.
Here's to the future....2010 and beyond
At one point there were rumours he was making a spaghetti type western and in many ways these rumours were correct. Inglorious Basterd may be set during World War II but its structured like an Italian oater - shit the opening in the French farm even looks as if Leone was behind the camera. There are long shots, swooping operatic music and extreme lingering close ups on the actors faces.
The trademark Tarantino dialogue is also present and correct and the sudden extreme violence is never far away. Brad Pitt is excellent,playing it light which makes his character all the more chilling, particularly in the way he wisecracks as he carves a swastika in another German's forehead. It is Christopher Waltz as the sadistic Colonel Hans Landa who takes the top acting honours and he steals every scene with his seething Nazi. Hitler is presented as a maniac whose intensity almost takes him into the realms of comic book character which is perfect for the film as Tarantino's vision of the war is very much like an extreme comic book,one of those that hold the warning, "for mature readers".
I very much enjoyed this film - equal parts art film as all out action-pic and the plot involving film nerds and the Third Reich could only exist in Tarantino's own universe. The film has made the most money of any Tarantino film since Pulp Fiction and it sits far easier alongside his early classics than either Kill Bill or the Grindhouse project.
The DVD is poor in terms of special features which will allow for the inevitable Special Edition. If extras are your thing - all you get here are several alternative scenes and the full cut of the film within a film, Pride of a Nation - you may be better off renting and waiting for the supplemental material packed special edition.
As 2010 approaches, the Archive nears the milestone of 100,000 hits - The Archive started 2009 off with several interviews in January - Beau L'amour, son of western legend Louis L'amour and Celia Hayes, Max Allen Collins, Charles Ardai, Jim Griffin, David Cranmer, Mark Billingham and Patricia Gott were all grilled by the Archive in that first month. That month we also pointed readers to a free copy of a computer game, Operation Thunderbowel which I originally wrote for the ZX Spectrum platform back in the 1990's. We also revealed the artwork for my, then forthcoming, western novel Tarnished Star. And we were there early with our article on the future of reading which looked at the novelty of eReaders. And Steve M. of Western Fiction Review became the first guest blogger of the year with his review of Endworld - Doomsday.
It's fitting that there were so many interviews in January because January 2010 is set to mirror that with our Black Horse Western weekend in which we will be chatting with heaps of western creators.
February saw us pushing the Wild West Monday initiative which was due on March 2nd. Terry James was interviewed about her debut novel, The Long Shadows. And fellow Black Horse scribes David Whitehead and Chap O'keefe were also available at the campfire for a friendly chat. We also gave news of a digital publishing first and announced the the full novel of Chap O'Keefe's The Sheriff and the Widow would be published online for the world to read. The book would go onto be published in four weekly instalments (all of which can still be found in the Archive sidebar) during the build up to Wild West Monday. We also ran a competition in which lucky readers could win a copy of Chap O'keefe's Misfit Lil Gets Even. All in all Feb was a successful month of western posts leading up to Wild West Monday.
March saw Wild West Monday come and go with a bang and the instalments of The Sheriff and the Widow received record daily hits. The month saw us chat with Gillian F. Taylor and look at the birth of the western movie. And with the first reviews of Tarnished Star starting to appear we made the first mention of Arkansas Smith (out March 2010). The month saw us looking at current films, with reviews of many new DVD's during the month.
April saw an interview with Seth Hardwood and we announced Wild West Monday III which would follow in June - the first push saw some publishers announcing a small rise in western sales. I posted about the time I spent working on Doctor Who and we ran several non fiction old west articles, the piece on Billy the Kid is still our most revisited post. We ran some pictures of PC Case mods which brought some computer enthusiasts to the Archive for perhaps the first time. And we started our Deadwood episode guide which is a project we have yet to finish. Mind you I plan an all new episode guide, all original reviews, for sometime in 2010. And the month also saw us interview the lovely Laurie Powers, a pulp historian and someone who has become a good and cherished friend to myself. Her own Blog is cooking at the moment.
May saw another month of western posts as we moved towards June which would see another Wild West Monday as well as the publication of The Tarnished Star. It was very much a month of guest blogs with many other people from all over the wild west web contributing posts in the build up to Wild West Monday III. WE ran the Paul D Brazil story, A Tissue of Webs. And sadly we also reported of Elmer Kelton's illness that month . Elmer would sadly pass away later in the year. The western field lost a legend with his passing.
Next we will look at June to December on The Tainted Archive
It was dark backstage and strangely it seemed as if it would be even darker when I swished through the curtains and took to the battlefield. It's been over two years since I last did a stand up gig and now thanks to a friend I'm the third act at a charity fund-raiser at the Buff-Club.
I was worried I'd be rusty - and those worries were proved right. I had cartwheels in my stomach as I heard the MC say, "And now ladies and gentlemen, Dai Bando."
And then, there I was again, standing on a small stage, blank faces staring back at me. I looked into those faces, raised the mic to my mouth and said, "F**K O*F. That got the first laugh, admittedly only a small one but then I was off, rabbiting through a routine that contained something old and something new. I read the audience and knew the blue stuff would go down well and so I went through the routine about pulling a bird at Blackpool in the summer..." It was only when the fresh air hit me that I realised this was the biggest f***ing bird I'd ever seen. I took her knickers down and her arse was still in them. She asked if I'd taken precautions and I told her I'd tied my feet to a lamppost.."
From there it was senior citizen sex, politics (this went down better than I expected), the smoking ban, and of course Dai Bando's old favourite, the alluring qualities of the average Welsh sheep. It all went well and to think the last time I did a comedy gig I was knocked out cold by an irate punter. The only part of the show I was worried about was where I talked about the late great George Carling and then, as if I was a singer doing a cover version, I performed his excellent Modern Man monologue. The audience loved it. Oh and I also got to plug Tarnished Star and Arkansas Smith to end the show.
I know the show was video recorded by several people and I've been promised a disc of my fifteen minute slot. When I get it I'll post it here on the Archive.
Dai Bando is alive and well and looking for more gigs and sheep.
Project: THE TAINTED ARCHIVE
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Saturday, 26 December 2009
There have been four new recordings of classic shows, all with new casts. The episodes have been The Blood Donor with Paul Merton in the title role, Impasse with Mitchell and Webb, I tell you it was Burt Reynolds with Rik Myall and You'll Never Walk Alone with Frank Skinner. But the highlight was a documentary hosted by Stephen Merchant that charter the partnership from them meeting in a TB hospital to their present standing as comedy gurus.
All are still available to listen to on the BBC Radio 2 listen again page - HERE
I've been watching a lot of their work lately - I got DVD box sets of The Complete Hancock (well the surviving episodes at least )and The Complete Steptoe and Son for Christmas. Together these two shows represent the best of the teams work.
Hancock's Half Hour was the first real sitcom, the seed from which the genre developed. Tony Hancock was a comic genius and like many of his ilk he was a troubled man. Although his talent was immense he was often egotistical and it was this that finally ended the show rather than the writers having run out of steam.
"Galton and Simpson showed us that the sitcom could contain real drama." Ben Elton
After Hancock ended Galton and Simpson came up with Steptoe and Son ( I believe the Americans developed Sanford and Son from this series) which was the first true sitcom - tragic true to life situations from which they dragged out the comedy, all of it natural rather than forced. Steptoe and Son became a national institution that regularly topped the ratings. The show went on for eight seasons and remained at the top of its game throughout. Even now it still looks fresh and stands above most all other sitcom from anywhere in the world.
But back to the radio series - if you like comedy that I urge you to listen to these shows, they are available for a few more days.
"They were far more ground breaking than any other writers working at the time." Dennis Norden
The Guardian Newspaper were left underwhelmed:
It is, as the great sleuth might have said, a three-pipe problem. How does cackling Ritchie keep getting away with it? How on earth did he manage to perpetrate those two egregious crimes Revolver and RocknRolla without getting his collar felt?
This lordly super-villain is well known as a master of disguise, donning a pearly cap and smearing himself with odorous jellied eels to pass as a cockney rapscallion, in which garb this patrician scofflaw carries out his dastardly acts in film studios, before changing back into tweeds and vanishing away to his country estate.
Now he has managed to steal hours of precious time belonging to cinemagoers everywhere for his latest silly escapade. It's a souped-up Victorian romp with Holmes and Watson reinvented as wisecracking action heroes, a two-man league of pretty ordinary gentlemen.
As ever, Ritchie has some bareknuckle fighting in slow-motion interspersed with very-quick-speeded-up-motion and there's plenty of diddly-diddly Irish folk music in the background. I fear producer Joel Silver may feel like grabbing Ritchie and plunging with him down the Reichenbach Falls.UNDERWIRE.COM found much to enjoy in the movie:
London is in an uproar as the ritual killings resume. Enter mystery woman Irene Adler, portrayed by saucer-eyed Rachel McAdams, who has her own agenda as she alternately teases and torments her old rival Holmes. Meanwhile, Holmes’ constant companion Dr. John Watson (played by Jude Law) becomes increasingly cranky in his role as faithful assistant, due in part to the distractions offered by fiancée Mary (Kelly Reilly).
This Sherlock Holmes turns as much on the frayed friendship between crime fiction’s most durable odd couple as it does on Lord Blackwood’s evil conspiracy. Writers Michael Robert Johnson, Anthony Peckham and Simon Kinberg (who penned Mr. & Mrs. Smith) invest Holmes and Watson’s bickering exchanges with a brittle tension that hints at a vulnerable heart beating beneath Holmes’ ever-commanding persona.
Sherlock Holmes is Ritchie’s first big Hollywood movie, and he’s taken full advantage of the budget to hire first-rate collaborators. Cinematographer Philippe Rousselot (A River Runs Through It) evokes turn-of-the-century London with stunning exterior shots. Costume designer Jenny Beavan (A Room With a View) dresses Downey in sensationally cool outfits that ignore the deerstalking-cap-and-cape iconography in favor of dapper cravats and fedoras. Production designer Sarah Greenwood (Atonement, Pride & Prejudice) finesses the period details.
Amid all this Masterpiece Theater finery, some action sequences feel a tad cartoony — can a woman really fall 40 feet, appear limp, then perk up, without a scratch, only to fire off a completely coherent witticism? And Sherlock Holmes fans accustomed to genteel crime scenes may wince at the sight of a young woman spread-eagled on a ritual murder table three minutes into the film.
But this umpteenth on-screen incarnation of Sherlock Holmes remakes the template in promising fashion. Armed with an impeccably crisp British accent, Downey presents Holmes as a neurotic, slightly batty, genius crime-solver well-suited for 21st century audiences. Case closed.
Friday, 25 December 2009
The Filth and the Fury, directed by Julian Temple, makes up for the mess that was The Great Rock and Roll Swindle Movie. Not that I don't enjoy Rock and Roll Swindle (when I'm in the mood, at least) but this documentary is far more truthful and the juxtaposition of performance video and news clips of the times gives full context to the revolutionary band the Pistols truly were.
If you listened to the press it was all about spitting and vulgarity but it was more than that - it was about individualism, about questioning authority and not accepting the status quo. Deep down, at it's very core, the punk ethos was a healthy one.
The punk movement was born out of the way the mainstream music was getting further and further away from the rreality of life for the average teenager of the day. There was no glamour, spangled trousers and sweetness on the streets of 1970's Britain. What there was were race riots, industrial conflict and a default status of general crap.
The documentary shows that the band eventually became the victims of the big business they sought to destroy. And this rock and roll story really did end in tragedy as in the case of Sid Vicious. There is a moving moment when John Lyndon, interviewed present day, brings up his regrets over Sid's tragic and sordid death.
Now these days the Pistols are almost mainstream - they've reformed several times and given stadium concerts just like those rock bands they once called dinosaurs. But John Lyndon is still an interesting man who refuses to toe the line, even if he is now the voice of a certain brand of butter but then I suppose it was inevitable - they're the Pistols and they don't care.
The Filth and the Fury DVD (VCD 00067).
Thursday, 24 December 2009
We know you'll like it.
Just my luck, snow had started to fall the day before I left and, by the time I drove my Seat into the mountains, it was lying thick. Not the most auspicious start to the Christmas holidays, I thought, as the windscreen wipers beat a monotonous rhythm. STORY CONTINUES ON NIK'S SITE HERE
And if you're looking for some great new year reading then might I point you to both the anthology, A Fistful of Legends and the new all guns blazing paperback from BHE Books, Liberty and a Law Badge.
And don't forget 2010 is the year of Arkansas Smith - who is Arkansa Smith? Don't ask me - find out for yourself and ensure your copy by pre-ordering now. And of course my debut novel, The Tarnished Star is still available but in short supply. Amazon are currently offering this hardcover book for a mere £8.30.
Wednesday, 23 December 2009
There are seven surviving episodes from The Likely Lads. The series ran from 1964 - 1966, three seasons and 21 episodes. The episode Double Date which is on the BBCDVD The Likely Lads was the second episode of the first season. In fact the first episode is another of those that escaped being wiped and so the viewer gets a sense of the characters developing.
The series was written by Dick Clement and Ian La Franais, a celebrated writing team who were responsible for many hit shows including the sequel to this series, Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads.
I enjoyed this episode - I know these early episodes by reputation rather than familiarity and I think I've only ever seen this once before. I love the way it's written, dialogue driven and flipping from scene to scene with the conversation being played out separately by two different couples. On one hand we have Bob and Terry and on the other the two girls who served as the lad's dates.
We don't actually see the night out, other than as a photographic montage which was probably a cost cutting exercise but its works brilliantly. Then we are in the aftermath of the night out with Bob and Terry stranded on a bus stop, they begin a conversation, Bob moaning that's he spent two quid and Terry snapping, 'I've spent three.' And from there the scene shifts to the girls, safe and warm back home, as they continue the thread started by the lads - we get the same events from two widely differing viewpoints.
It's all so 1960's working class comedy, so well observed that it serves as an example of the lifestyles of the British youth during the period. The episode, together with the other surviving six episodes are on the BBC DVD The Likely Lads (BBCDVD1879). There are no special features which is a pity but these episodes are superb examples of the new wave of 1960's British comedy and still as enjoyable as ever.
Last night on “The Late Show With David Letterman,” Robert Downey Jr. stopped by to promote Sherlock Holmes, in theatres on Friday, and bantered with Dave about the possibility that Arthur Conan Doyle’s great detective and his long-suffering sidekick Dr. Watson were more than just mates. Or, as Downey reportedly put it on ‘Letterman:’ “They were homos.”
WHO IS ARKANSAS SMITH? FIND OUT MARCH 2010
Privacy watchdogs at the Electronic Frontier Foundation claim that electronic reader technologies such as Google Book Search, Amazon.com's Kindle and Barnes & Noble's Nook threaten consumer privacy. Noting that e-readers collect a lot of information about their users' reading habits and locations and convey it to the companies that build or sell these technologies, the EFF has created a Buyer's Guide to E-Book Privacy to shed some light on what information existing e-readers collect and share.
Ed Bayley, an adjunct attorney for the EFF, in a blog post Dec. 21 said e-readers collect "substantial information about their users' reading habits and locations" and report back to the companies that build or sell these technologies.
The Google Book Search project is Google's broad effort to scan out-of-print books and offer them to users online for fees. The project is on hold while the search engine and the New York District Court hash out a renegotiation, and won't be finalized until 2010.
Tuesday, 22 December 2009
And now The story with no name continues...
'They're scattering,' Arnside yelled, whooping and hollering. It wasn't like Apaches but they had turned tail and were running.
'Guess they know what's good for them,' Sawtell screamed with joy and let of a shot towards the retreating Indians. One of them threw his arms up and with a scream pitched forward into sand.
'I'm enjoying this,' Gabe yelled, holding onto his camel for grim death. He was jostled about on the beast and several times he always lost his grip but each time he managed to keep his balance.
'There's Lola.' Arnside yelled.
'We separate,' Choo How yelled. ' Sawtell and me we chase off the Indians. Don't need to kill them just make sure they run far enough away.'
'Sounds good to me,' Sawtell said and set off another shot but hit nothing. 'Just as long as I get my share of what's coming.'
'That's a certainty.' Arnside said and sped his own camel forward as the two men set off in pursuit of the fleeing Indians.
Below standing before the ship Lola felt Bourbon's grip loosen and then she was thrown to the ground, face down so that she didn't see which way Bourbon had run and when she managed to turn around she saw that he had vanished. She lay there, eyes directed at the magnificent wreck that was the ship. She was still staring when she felt an arm lifting her to her feet.
'Lola,' Arnside said and looked at her, his eyes never once leaving her face.
'The ship.' Lola said, dreamily as if her words had been uttered deep within a trance. 'There's the ship, Walt. It's real.'
Arnside nodded and only now did he look at the wreck before them. It sat there, as if it had been deposited in the desert. Its timbers were impossibly aged and most of its rigging had snapped so that planks of splintered wood, like dead fingers, reached for the sky. There was a gaping hole in the hull, looking almost like a rictus mouth, and through which could be seen the darkness within the nautical tomb.
'I say we go take us a look see.' Gabe had joined them and he stood looking at the ancient wreck.
'Shall we untie them?' Arnside asked, pointed back to Rodan and Hassen. Both men were rolling about in the sand, their hands still bound behind their backs and their feet tied together.
'Yes.' Lola said but she seemed to be answering some inner thoughts rather than Arnside's question. She walked towards the ship as if led by some ethereal force. Gabe followed just behind her and seemed to be in a somnolent state himself.
'Sorry fellas.' Arnside said and set off after them. Together the three of them entered the fractured hull of the ship.
1953 Directed by Robert Wise
Starring Richard Burton
The film is based on the Australian 9th Division, the Anzacs, who were charged with the defence of Tobruk under the command of General Leslie Morshead. Hoping to survive against overwhelming odds for two months, the garrison held off the best of Rommel's Afrika Korps for over eight months. The film's title is a little misleading as The Desert Rats were actually the British 7th Armoured division, whilst this Australian division were known as the Rats of Torbruk after German propaganda said they were trapped like rats by the advancing Rommel.
Richard Burton plays Captain McRoberts, a British soldier put in charge of the Australian unit which immediately brings him into conflict with several of the men under his command. James Mason, who had played Rommel in the 1951 movie, The Desert Fox reprises the role here though his performance is really several cameos.
The film was made in black and white in order that actual footage from the real battles could be depicted and this adds considerably to the documentary feel of the picture. The fact that the scenes with the Germans and Italians are in their native tongue, without subtitles also heightens the sense that we are watching real events. There are some stunning shots - the bit where the beleaguered commandos advance across the harsh desert landscape with flashes in the horizon is eerie in the extreme. And the film cranks up the tension. All in all it's an excellent film that depicts both the horror of war and the incredible acts of individual heroism that sheer terror can inspire.
COMMANDO: ANZACS AT WAR
THE BEST 12 ANZAC STORIES
This book collects together the twelve best Anzac stories from the long running comic book's history. The stories were selected by the then Commando editor, George Low who also provides an introduction.
The twelve stories collected here take place in all the theatres of war, most are World War II based but there is one story involving an ANZAC soldier set during the Veitnam war and another set in the immediate post-war period.
The book is a great collection of the best in British comic book storytelling.
And in reality: Tobruk
The siege of Tobruk was no different to the sieges of ancient castles and forts in that the major issue was supply. A besieging army need do nothing strenuous in the way of attacking if they know the people within the walls only have enough water for a few days. It was lucky for the Allies that supplies could reach Tobruk by sea, with the strategically vital island of Malta sending support to help the ships get through.
JAN 21-22 1941 - Australians assault and take Tobruk. 27,000 Italians surrender
Feb 12 1941- Rommel arrives in tripoli
Nov 18th 1941 - Beginning of Operation Crusader
Nov 20th 1941- Heavy fighting around Rezegh. Tobruk garrison begins breakout
Nov 28th - 30 1941- German armour attempts to break up Allied Link-up. Casualties are heavy on both sides.
Dec 8th 1941 -Rommel abandons the fight with only 40 tanks left. Tobruk relieved.
Below is the front page from the Daily Telegraph (click for a fill size readable version) Sat Nov 29 1941.