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Shada (Doctor Who)
Shada (Doctor Who)
by Gary Russell
Edition: Audio CD
Price: 11.82

1 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Douglas Adams' legendary lost story, 2 Jun 2010
This review is from: Shada (Doctor Who) (Audio CD)
'Shada', by Douglas Adams, is the great lost 'Doctor Who' story - strikes at the BBC forced production to be abandoned, and the original story featuring Tom Baker was never completed. In 2003, Big Finish Productions, producers of numerous 'Doctor Who' audio dramas on CD, remounted the six-part serial for webcast and CD release to celebrate the show's 40th anniversary, with an impressive cast. Paul McGann takes on the mantle of the Doctor, joined by the likes of Andrew Sachs, James Fox, Susannah Harker and Hannah Gordon amongst others.

As with all of Adams' work, it's a story full of brilliant ideas and witty dialogue - however, legend has probably bestowed upon 'Shada' a status it didn't really deserve, as it's not his best work - and fans of 'Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy' and Dirk Gently may recognise several characters and plot points which were recycled from this tale - but it's still a lot of fun. Probably one for completists on the whole, though it's nice to see it completed at long last.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 29, 2012 12:35 PM GMT


Faking It: The Quest for Authenticity in Popular Music
Faking It: The Quest for Authenticity in Popular Music
by Hugh Barker
Edition: Paperback

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An Intriguing Study of the Music Industry, 2 Jun 2010
Why are some acts slammed for being 'manufactured', whilst others are revered for their perceived 'authenticity'? The authors of this book explore the phenomenon, look at historical examples and consider how skilful management of artists has created massive international superstars. Authors Barker and Taylor have created an accessible look at an under-explored subject in music writing, which delves behind the facade to try and discover a little more about the marketing of popular music from the 1940s onwards. Unfortunately, despite some promising source material, it can be a little hard-going for the more casual reader. But if you're prepared to stick with it, it's well worth the effort.


Gentleman Jim
Gentleman Jim
by Raymond Briggs
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 8.79

4.0 out of 5 stars A Neglected Raymond Briggs Classic, 2 Jun 2010
This review is from: Gentleman Jim (Hardcover)
I stumbled across this after hearing a Radio 4 adaptation - and to my delight, the book is even better. A daydreaming lavatory attendant dreams of a more exciting life for himself and his wife, but without 'the Levels', as he calls them, he struggles to break free of his rather mundane existence. Heartwarming and sad in equal measure, this is Briggs at his very best. Jim is one of his most engaging characters - not especially bright, and with only a limited understanding of the world around him, but a romantic idealist who means well despite his behaviour. A brilliant picture book for adults, in the same vein as 'Ethel and Ernest' and 'When the Wind Blows'.


Dear Blue Peter...: The Best of 50 Years of Letters to Britain's Favourite Children's Programme 1958-2008
Dear Blue Peter...: The Best of 50 Years of Letters to Britain's Favourite Children's Programme 1958-2008
by Biddy Baxter
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 12.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Here's One We Made Earlier..., 2 Jun 2010
Marking fifty years of a genuine television legend, 'Dear Blue Peter' collects some of the most memorable letters received by the production team, compiled by the programme's longest serving Editor Biddy Baxter. The letters gathered here range from charming and hilarious missives from the programme's young audience, to rather more unpleasant ones from those complaining about the programme, its presenters and the continuing decline in standards, moral or otherwise - the funny thing is, it's surprising how the same themes come up again and again down the years. Entertaining, touching and sometimes shocking, this book is a tribute to Blue Peter's success over half a century, and a fascinating insight into the minds of its viewers.


"Fawlty Towers" - The Second Sitting: (Vintage Beeb)
"Fawlty Towers" - The Second Sitting: (Vintage Beeb)
by Oliver Postgate
Edition: Audio CD
Price: 5.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Two Classic Fawlty Episodes, 2 Jun 2010
This classic BBC LP, issued on CD in its original format for the first time, brings together two vintage episodes of 'Fawlty Towers', one of the greatest sitcoms ever made. With linking narration by Andrew Sachs in character as the hapless waiter Manuel, classics 'Basil The Rat' and 'The Builders' are brought together on this release. These are two of my favourite episodes, and the only slight downside to this release is that the visual element of the comedy is lost somewhat on audio (despite the narration trying to fill in during these points).

Those seeking a nostalgia fix will be pleased to see the CD packaging replicates the original sleeve, and the disc is styled after the LP itself. These 'Vintage Beeb' releases are great value and a good opportunity to enjoy some classic comedy, and 'Fawlty Towers: Second Sitting' is one of the best.


Hellraisers: The Life and Inebriated Times of Burton, Harris, O'Toole and Reed
Hellraisers: The Life and Inebriated Times of Burton, Harris, O'Toole and Reed
by Robert Sellers
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

4.0 out of 5 stars A Fascinating Insight into a Quartet of Film Legends, 2 Jun 2010
In 'Hellraisers', Robert Sellers makes no apology for trying to create less a comprehensive biography of Richards Burton and Harris, Peter O'Toole and Oliver Reed, and more a 'greatest hits' from the myriad tales of their legendary bad behaviour. He needn't have concerned himself too much, as it's easy to get a good sense of the kind of people they could be from the accounts presented here. All four men profiled enjoyed their vices - booze and women, mainly - but paid a price for their self-destructive lifestyles. This isn't a downbeat book, though, and although in many ways they squandered their talent at times, and we may sometimes disapprove of their actions (and between them, they got up to some pretty terrible stuff), it's all made worthwhile for those hilarious anecdotes of outrageous and idiosyncratic behaviour.

I've often thought the sign of a good book is that you want to tell other people about it - and ever since reading it, I've wanted to tell *everyone* about it. You'll find more in-depth and insightful individual biographies of these men, but for sheer entertainment value, it's hard to go wrong with this.


Bang Goes The Knighthood
Bang Goes The Knighthood
Price: 12.77

10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Divine Comedy's Brilliant New Album, 2 Jun 2010
After a little while away, The Divine Comedy (less a 'band' than a shifting group of musicians surrounding singer-songwriter and frontman Neil Hannon) are back with a new album, 'Bang Goes the Knighthood'. Hannon has made quirky, unconventional pop his own over the last couple of decades, and this album follows in the tradition of The Divine Comedy's very best work. It offers a neat balance between pithy character-driven yarns taking pot-shots at fallen pillars of the establishment such as 'The Complete Banker' (an entertaining caricature of irresponsible and reckless city bankers and their excess) and 'Bang Goes The Knighthood', to those with a darker undertone - 'Neapolitan Girl', for instance, whose jaunty melody is a contrast to its subject matter - and a few songs which revel in the kind of silliness few other than Hannon can get away with ('Can You Stand Upon One Leg'.

It's genuinely pleasing to see such an accomplished effort from the DC, and hopefully this might attract a few new fans who may have discovered Neil Hannon via last year's 'The Duckworth Lewis Method' project (if you haven't heard it, check it out - far better than I ever thought a cricket-themed concept album could be), who'll no doubt be glad to hear Duckworth Lewis collaborator Thomas Walsh making a couple of guest appearances here. When there's arguably so little room for such distinctive voices to thrive in the musical mainstream, it's heartening to see Hannon sticking very much to his guns, and continuing to produce such wonderful material. If you're a Divine Comedy fan of old, 'Bang Goes the Knighthood' is everything you'll be hoping for - and if you're new to the band, it's a great place to start. I can't recommend this enough.

Incidentally, if you're able to, try and opt for the Limited Deluxe Edition, which boasts an additional live CD recorded at the Cité de la Musique in Paris. It's well worth it if you can track a copy down.


Dr Who the Wreck of the Titan CD (Dr Who Big Finish) (Doctor Who)
Dr Who the Wreck of the Titan CD (Dr Who Big Finish) (Doctor Who)
by Barnaby Edwards
Edition: Audio CD
Price: 14.99

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Thrilling Maritime Adventure... with a Twist, 31 May 2010
Following on from the previous Big Finish adventure, 'City of Spires', 'The Wreck of the Titan' sees the Doctor taking Jamie for a luxurious trip aboard the Queen Mary - only for the pair to find themselves on the Titanic, heading for its famous rendezvous with an iceberg in the mid-Atlantic during its maiden voyage. But something isn't right, and it soon becomes clear that all isn't as it immediately seems.

It would be difficult to describe much of the rest of the plot without giving away some of the play's surprises - suffice to say that 'The Wreck of the Titan' takes its inspiration not just from the Titanic, but also the novella with which the play shares its name, a real life curiosity which was published 14 years prior to the Titanic's ill-fated maiden voyage, and detailed a surprisingly similar maritime disaster. There are other literary allusions to, specifically to the work of Jules Verne, and frankly, the story becomes more and more intriguing with each twist. The listener - to say nothing of the Doctor - is kept guessing throughout as to what is really going on, and the eventual revelation is something that should set spines tingling among longer-term 'Doctor Who' fans.

It would be easy to criticise 'The Wreck of the Titan' for a lack of a proper resolution - it shouldn't spoil too much to reveal that it ends on a cliffhanger which leads into the third and final chapter of the Jamie trilogy, 'Legend of the Cybermen'. But whilst it's markedly different from the previous instalment, it's clear that this is the mid-point in a single, epic story. Listeners left with questions following 'City of Spires' will find some illumination here, but this story poses new ones too. It's easy to forgive the play its frustrations, though, as it's a very well crafted tale with a real epic feel to it. The sound design and music leaves you in no doubt that this is 'Doctor Who' on a scale which even the incredibly ambitious modern TV series would struggle to manage. It also boasts a great cast - Frazer Hines once again makes Jamie every bit the heroic leading man viewers of the Patrick Troughton era know and love, and it's easy to forget he's supposed to be decades older than he appeared on TV. 'Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's Alexander Siddig plays a famous maritime adventurer who may not be all he seems, and Miranda Raison plays dual roles, one of which evokes strong memories of her turn as Tallulah in the TV show's 'Daleks In Manhattan'.

If you're looking for a one-off adventure, this probably isn't it - although it should be possible to follow the story, you'll get so much more by starting with 'City of Spires' - but it *is* a thoroughly gripping audio adventure that keeps you on the edge of your seat from its mysterious beginning to its surprising end.


Sherlock Holmes [DVD]
Sherlock Holmes [DVD]
Dvd ~ Dominic Keating
Offered by b68solutions
Price: 2.69

10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A Cheap and Cheerful 'Mockbuster', 31 May 2010
This review is from: Sherlock Holmes [DVD] (DVD)
'Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes' is the latest in a series of so-called 'mockbusters' from production company The Asylum, who have found their niche cashing-in on the latest Hollywood hits by producing low-budget offerings on a similar theme. Released to coincide with Guy Ritchie's 'Sherlock Holmes' film starring Robert Downey Jr, this straight-to-DVD feature reinvents Holmes as well, but in a slightly different way.

As the cover might suggest, this is more of a fantasy adventure than a mystery - Holmes and Watson set out to investigate the mysterious sinking of a ship at sea, attributed to a giant sea monster by the sole survivor. Perhaps not too outlandish in itself, and no doubt the kind of mystery the great detective might have relished. It's when a Tyrannosaurus Rex starts attacking people in olde London town that things start to get seriously bizarre - and by the end of 90 minutes we're treated to even more unconventional menaces, all the brainchild of the film's villain, played by Dominic Keating.

The casting is presumably designed to draw in the sci-fi crowd - Keating is perhaps best known for roles in 'Star Trek Enterprise', and Gareth David-Lloyd (Dr Watson) for playing Ianto Jones in the 'Doctor Who' spin-off 'Torchwood'. These are very much the production's 'star names', the rest of the cast being unknowns, including Ben Syder, who plays Holmes. Why a leading role such as this was entrusted to Syder, I'm not sure, as he's just not up to the job, and is constantly outshone by his co-stars (neither of whom particularly acquit themselves well, but you can at least see why they've enjoyed success elsewhere). The rest of the supporting players feel rather like they've been drafted in from some local am-dram group, although one or two (the survivor of the shipwreck springs to mind) pad out their meagre roles in an entertaining way.

There are several creative decisions made that are just baffling, not even justifiable by being nods to Doyle's original stories. In fact, there's very little that Doyle would recognise here - the script arguably owes more to 'Doctor Who' than his work, but fails to live up to either, being so unbelievably dumb at times that you've got to wonder whether anyone read it before starting production. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the film is that it has an ambition so utterly beyond the resources and budget at its disposal, that it's almost charming in its own way. Almost. But then there are silly things like blindingly obvious continuity errors, shoddy writing and what feels like a complete lack of care in the direction which makes you think that, no matter how entertaining it might be in a so-bad-it's-good way, this is a cynical piece of film-making. It's hard to find enjoyment when you feel you're being conned.


Sherlock Holmes [DVD] [2009]
Sherlock Holmes [DVD] [2009]
Dvd ~ Robert Downey Jr
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: 2.99

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One of the most original Holmes films in years, 31 May 2010
This review is from: Sherlock Holmes [DVD] [2009] (DVD)
Sherlock Holmes is one of those enduring characters of modern fiction - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's stories have been endlessly republished and will continue to be for years to come, and there have been countless adaptations (faithful or otherwise) of the Holmes canon. Guy Ritchie's 'Sherlock Holmes' might not sound the most promising film on paper, but in the flesh, it's enormous fun. Ritchie casts off his image as a director of mainly poor British gangster flicks to show that he can cut it at the helm of a big-budget blockbuster, and marry Conan Doyle's characters to a film with a mass-market Hollywood sensibility.

Robert Downey Jr. is a revelation as Holmes, bringing the same roguish charm to the role that he showed as Tony Stark in 'Iron Man', but remaining utterly convincing as a methodical and brilliant detective. He's ably supported by Jude Law as Dr. Watson, steering clear of being the bumbling comedy foil some adaptations have made him out to be, and Rachel McAdams as Holmes' occasional love interest and rival Irene Adler. The story itself concerns a man apparently capable of bringing himself back from the dead, and a secret society dabbling in the occult, but in true Holmes fashion, these things are not what they seem.

What's surprising is that, despite the obvious concessions to reinventing the character for a modern blockbuster audience, how much care and attention has been given to ensuring that the roots of the characters and the story come from Conan Doyle's original works. Certainly fans of Conan Doyle should have their fears that the adaptation would ride roughshod over their favourite characters laid to rest, and would be hard pressed to come away disappointed. But this is a pacy adventure yarn which should keep those seeking both mystery and adventure well pleased. Visually, it's a treat, with a number of stunning set-pieces, including a fight atop an unfinished Tower Bridge. Also of note is Hans Zimmer's Oscar-nominated score, which stuck in my mind long after I'd finished watching, and which I've subsequently revisited on CD. Even isolated from the film, it's compelling.

In short, 'Sherlock Holmes' is a delight - it brings an iconic character to a whole new audience, who will hopefully go and delve into the rich literary and filmic history of the great detective, and it also gives Guy Ritchie a long overdue opportunity to show his potential as a filmmaker. It's rare that you can find a blockbuster as enjoyable and satisfying as this.


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