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Graham Chapman (UK)

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The Games
The Games
Offered by Lovefilm UK Limited
Price: £5.99

3.0 out of 5 stars One of Michael's best films., 4 Sep 2014
This review is from: The Games (Amazon Instant Video)
One of Michael's best films. First of all, inspired casting: Charles Aznavour, Michael Crawford and Ryan O'Neal as Marathon runners. Stanley Baker has a good part too. The story line is very compelling and somehow quite intense. The trying to break the 2 hours Marathon barrier is a great idea. And...I don't know..its all very emotional for some reason. Naturally it is directed with the panache of of a Columbo episode or soft porn flick (without the porn). The Winner style is very detectable, but it is not in the Ed Wood category of the Wicked Lady.

Innocent times. Definitely worth a watch.

Nothing New-Gil Scott-Heron
Nothing New-Gil Scott-Heron

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pieces of a Man, 21 Aug 2014
Piano and vocals - covers of his own songs. Maybe the last recorded songs Gil did. I must admit I still feel bad about his absence. The songs chosen here were melancholy at the time of original recording; these end-of-life versions even more so. They are really for fans who might be touched to hear the great man in his last years.

Some of the songs are less well-known, perhaps - Better Days Ahead and the Other Side, but terrific songs. Touching to hear these basic versions - and indeed the songs don't necessarily need much more than this to live.

I can never hear 'Your Daddy Loves You' too many times. And there have been a number of versions live and recorded. This is a strained and sad version. I remember seeing Gil on a boat concert round Manhattan, sitting on the floor and this was the first song he did and I felt a long way from home (which I was).

God bless the man.

Amplified Heart
Amplified Heart
Price: £11.96

5.0 out of 5 stars Deluxe Version Delight, 11 Jan 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Amplified Heart (Audio CD)
You know the album, so just to say that in this particular case it is definitely worth the 'upgrade' to the deluxe version. The extra songs and versions are excellent. Particularly like the songs ' Richard Says' (who is this Richard? Same guy in Last Time I Saw Richard?) and Back at Square One. Nice Home Demo of Troubled Mind. If you like Tracey's voice - and don't we all - the Home Demo's are always worth hearing to catch that soulful singing in an earlier, more raw form. And some great live versions here too. Great album, super extras.

1/4 Inch Tapes
1/4 Inch Tapes
Offered by HANG LOOSE Records
Price: £16.73

5.0 out of 5 stars A Timely Release, 31 Dec 2013
This review is from: 1/4 Inch Tapes (Audio CD)
Well, at least this has been released just in time before most of its original audience will have pegged it.

I was sent mp3 files of some of these songs by a kind music collector a few years ago when I was desperately scouring around to find them, so I have had this music to listen to for a while. And I remember the band well from the early 80s. More than the best band to come out of Hornsea, they were one of the best bands from around the Hull area, along with International Rescue and whatever Pete Gibbins' band was called.

It's a pretty rough and crude sound, like early Bunnymen demos, but they had good ideas and good songs. Could have been something? They were something. You have to live in the moment. And - she gives a faint sigh - it was a good moment.

A must for those that remember them and well worth a flutter for fans of Northern indie circa 1980.

Perfect Punctuation (Perfect (Random House))
Perfect Punctuation (Perfect (Random House))
by Stephen Curtis
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Punctilious in your Prose?, 6 Nov 2013
This is an excellent book for all ages. I bought it for a senior school aged child, but used it to answer lots of questions I had myself about punctuation, particularly the use of punctuation within and around speech marks. I well remember endless grammar and punctuation rule lessons from school - not the rules, but the sheer monotony of the teaching. This book is truly excellent - concise, clear, well-structured and with useful illustrative examples. So, while we don't get the fun of, say, Nicholson Baker talking about the semicolon: 'that supremely self-possessed valet of phraseology', Stephen Curtis's book is extremely readable and educational. Some people think they know how to use punctuation, others don't care, but for those who would like to improve and recognise its importance, I thoroughly recommend this book.

Hatchet Job: Love movies, hate critics
Hatchet Job: Love movies, hate critics
by Mark Kermode
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.99

21 of 112 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Critic Who Can't Take Criticism, 10 Oct 2013
`So Will Self hated Hatchet Job. Hey Ho,' tweets Mark Kermode. Self-deprecating or a critic who can give, but can't take, criticism? Will Self also brings up Kermode's faux humility and 'innate arrogance' as well as his 'quarter century of hacking'. Cunningly, however, Kermode uses Self's 'hatchet job' review to create a bit of controversy and promote himself even more on Twitter by linking to the review and claiming that Will Self 'hating' it was a 'recommendation'. It is a bit sad when a man who makes his living criticising others can't handle even a mildly critical review about his own work.

To the book: according to a chapter in Hatchet Job there is a particular rigid structure a reviewer must follow. Kermode lauds a favoured Amazon reviewer (no, sadly, not me) who follows this structure. (Though I suspect Kermode's idea of good and bad reviewers is more down to whether they criticize his work or not.) It's an uninspiring chapter for any would-be critic - follow Kermode's mundane 'rules'- and, given the quality of his clunky Observer film reviews, he is not a person a young writer should pay much attention to (except in the art of self-publicity, if that is what matters to you).

Kermode likes to rant - it is his trademark, I suppose - about how things have `changed for the worse' - people eating popcorn, chatting, not much attention span etc. I have to agree and I would like to lament the gradual disappearance of professional film critics who wrote about films but did not insert themselves relentlessly into their work.

The film critics of the past did not plaster themselves on the cover of all their books (as the Terminator or Clint Eastwood or the Man with an Axe in His Head) or make themselves the focal point of their articles. Is this the influence of Hunter S. Thompson on modern journalism (or Mark Kermode, at least)? I'd like to hear a Kermode rant on the passing of gracious, stylish, objective, well written and focused film criticism - symbolised, for example, by the retirement of Philip French from the Observer. Now, of course, the paper puts a huge picture of Mark Kermode on its arts supplement and the article is about the critic not about film. The Observer desperately needs to sell papers so it is perhaps inevitable they feel they need an injection of populism.

Another chapter in Hatchet Job deals with social media and Mark Kermode is certainly a master of this, cross marketing his various money-making activities to maintain the high profile of his public persona. This chapter includes a `hatchet job' on Amazon and questions the meaningfulness of some of the voting on reviews on the site. But Kermode only deals with one side. Reviewers that criticize. What he calls 'unpopular reviewers'. Amazon reviews, of course, can be produced by people hyping product through fake 5 star rave reviews. Equally, critical reviews can be smacked down by swamping the critic with unhelpful votes. There are many ways to manipulate sites like Amazon. Any credible essay on this topic has to explore a bit more than the reposting of reviews Kermode doesn't like.

Look at the first 5 star review of 'Hatchet Job' on Amazon. It is an indefensible and mindless puff job, but, of course, Kermode does not take to Twitter to attack this reviewer, because, as his title says, he 'like(s) Mark Kermode'. That is all that matters apparently. Hatchet Job, although professing to investigate the impact of social media on film criticism, does not tell the reader more than suits the self-interested writer. There is a lot missing in this book about criticism. No depth, no genuine attempt to wrangle with ideas and truth. The content is self-serving and shallow.

One less than usually compliant twitter user pointed out to Mr Kermode that `unpopular is not always wrong'. You would think that would be obvious to a professional critic. Of course, the tweeter got no response. Another critic of the critic asked him whether it was seemly to be always re-tweeting praise. Uncharacteristic silence.

Whether any of these things were the same as Will Self disliked about this book I cannot say. Mr Self's review struck me as an intellectually truthful, but kindly and deliberately esoteric putdown of the book. (It can't be easy to criticise a media colleague.) Also, Will Self can write. He has style and intelligence. Useful in a novelist and a critic.

When the shameless self-promotion subsides slightly, what will be left? A book of little weight, but, to be fair, with some mild entertainment value and a tiny improvement on the last two. Still egocentric and unfocused; but a bit less bland and teetering round the edge of interesting topics, populist (as one might expect from a Twilight fan), but readable enough for a non-reader (on the train from Leeds to London, say). Hence 2 stars.

But if you want a real writer, or a real critic, try someone else. I prefer Self to self-promotion.
Comment Comments (33) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 24, 2013 4:01 PM GMT

Evolutionary Minded: Furthering the Legacy of Gil Scott-Heron
Evolutionary Minded: Furthering the Legacy of Gil Scott-Heron
Price: £13.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Its Still Winter in America, 17 Sep 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
GSH has been and gone and its still winter in America. Do things ever get better?

I went to see the Midnight Band at the Jazz Café and wondered as I did with buying this album whether the spirit of GSH would bless the music or whether there would just be a Gil shaped hole in the songs. Bit of both, I guess, but more the first.

I was pleasantly surprised really - there are a lot of artists involved in this and some of the raps are excellent. Particularly liked Go Ahead on Bobby, Re (Evolution) and Uncle Sammy Full of Lucifer - middle class white boys like me like to hear this kind of thing from our living rooms (as we did with Whitey on the Moon and No Knock).

'Opponent' too stood out - lot of variety on this album and underpinning it all the legendary Brian Jackson, who maybe never got the recognition he deserved.

Great album, one to buy. Peace go with you all.

Rust Red September
Rust Red September
Price: £10.37

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars New to Whatever Surprise is Waiting, 13 July 2013
This review is from: Rust Red September (Audio CD)
I only knew Eyeless in Gaza through sampler albums at the time of this album's release. They sounded rather sophisticated and literary (which can be good), but I never actually bought an album at the time. However, I have recently bought a compilation and then some of the original albums. I suppose they are a band who stand or fall on what you think of Martyn Bates' singing. (As with the Pale Fountains). I find it romantic, startling, intelligent, moving, desperate - to throw a few adjectives in that direction. (Another reviewer refers to the sound of a hysterical, wounded boar!)

All the first side is excellent - especially New Risen and Only Whispers. I'm a bit taken with side 1 to have given side 2 a proper listen yet. One of the best bands of their time, I think. Pity they never had more listeners, but fame isn't everything. Rust Red September is a collection of musical poems. Never too late to get a copy, 'new to whatever surprise is waiting'.

The Defection of A.J. Lewinter: A Novel of Duplicity
The Defection of A.J. Lewinter: A Novel of Duplicity
by Robert Littell
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.10

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Modern Times, 19 May 2013
Robert Littell's spy books, particularly those of the 70's and 80's are terrific. I used to read them as avidly as I did Le Carre's, though they are significantly different in tone - sardonic, cynical (none of Le Carre's romance), witty and, I fear, frighteningly close to what I suspect the American secret agencies are really like.

Lewinter is a good one, the first I read, if I recall, about a would be defector, a neurotic, incompetent Woody Allenish figure that the secret services don't know what to make of.

I am not sure what stopped Littell being much more successful than he was or his books being turned into films, but don't let it stop you buying them. They seem even more relevant to modern times than they did back in the day.

A Delicate Truth
A Delicate Truth
by John Le Carré
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.00

21 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Paranoia Stalks the Corridors, 12 May 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: A Delicate Truth (Hardcover)
One of my favourite parts of Tinker Tailor is when Guillam 'borrows' the file on Witchcraft from the MI6 library under the noses of his bosses. I like the tradecraft of it and the paranoia. The first hundred or so pages of A Delicate Truth gave me the same feeling. Le Carre on good form I felt - concise, exciting writing - the powers that be on the march, corrupt and horrible. He refers to the dying days of New Labour in a post-script, and certainly the weasel-like and suspicious David Miliband came to mind, but so did the appalling and shifty Liam Fox and his nauseating pal, Adam Werrity.

The story is engrossing and reasonably credible, except, as some reviewers have mentioned that the apathy present in today's public would probably mean no cover-up was required. Nonetheless this is a very good book and I thought some of the over romantic melodrama that sometimes creeps into Le Carre's work was mainly absent. It was a great, if rather depressing read and I would recommend it.

What a body of work since The Spy Who Came in From the Cold! One of the best British writers. Alex Ferguson managed his last home game today. As with Sir Alex, we will miss Le Carre when he is gone. Which writer understands better how the government, the civil service, the spys, the lawyers and the police in this sometimes squalid and unpleasant little country work?

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