Category Archives: BBC

Film Critic – And Why Not

Hello Dear Reader

Film Critic – And Why Not

As soon as, ‘I wish I knew how it would feel to be free’ started, I knew I was in for a treat. That was the chosen theme music for the BBC Film series, hosted by the late Barry Norman.

Barry Norman became someone who, for me, helped expand my love of films, not just the mainstream, but why I should want to watch a certain movie. He took up the role after years as a journalist in 1972. I was not immediately taken with him I must say, but his down to earth manners and simple explaining won through.

Like many others, I wanted to know what films were due for release, was I going to be interested, would they be worth rushing to the cinema. Unlike today, there was no internet, no pushing of trailers on television. There was a rival on the other channel, aimed more at children. It was ok but Barry Norman just went those steps further.

He seemed to talk to me, not many presenters could that, just make you feel he was just telling me to watch this film or avoid that one. He had one overriding criteria, whether a film was going to last; whether new generations of cinema goers would want to watch it in 20 years time. If you look at the films he recommended in 2013, you can see the reasoning.

It became something of a need to listen to his reviews and there are a few, in particular, that stand out for me. Of course, my favorite has to be Star Wars. I knew of the film briefly from odd comic magazines but it was Barry Norman’s review that sealed. H e described it as “Two hours of sheer bliss, the ultimate in space-age fairy tales,”. Now some might have dismissed this ‘new’ space-age film as childish, Norman did not. He knew what the film business had to do, entertain.

He did this without ever speaking down to his audience, taking them into his confidence. If Barry Norman said it was good, it was good. He was not one to duck away from telling actors, producers, and the likes his views about their work. He nearly got punched by John Wayne and had Robert De Niro leave, over a comment about Tom Hanks.

Barry Norman wrote a number of books, giving his reviews on the 100 greatest films and his autobiography, ‘And Why Not’. I had the great pleasure of listening to him at the New Victoria Theatre one evening. He still held that easy-going, simple style that had the audience wanting more. Asked about his reviewing style Norman said: “I always knew that nobody’s right and nobody’s wrong in criticism. The only thing I could do was to make sure that whatever I said was what I really believed”.

Tagline:’And Why Not – That Star Wars moment. (Add the theme as well)’

Elite – Very Dangerous

Hello Dear Reader and Gamer

Elite – Very Dangerous

Many years ago on a computer now far, far away, I played a game called Elite. It was the most advanced single player space combat/trading (annoying) game I had played. The BBC in conjunction with Acorn (not the antiques either), produced a complex wire frame universe. It is very difficult to remember the impact this game had on the then flagging computer game industry.

You were basically dropped in the middle of space, with a pretty useless spaceship and had to master flying, combat, trading and just staying alive. Now, don’t forget this was just a 32Mg machine and completely packed. The wire frames had no real substance but that did not matter as it was just brilliant. Of course there was one more element to this game, the lost hours spent flying, whilst not leaving my bedroom.

The aim of the game was, well to just grow, get to élite status or just become a great trader or explorer or whatever. Games improved, wire frames became solid and well things leapt forward to create amazing places. Elite became something of a memory, a forgotten gem. It surfaced from time to time in different forms, but never the same. Nothing was so open-ended and that was the beauty of Elite.

The game itself was first created back in 1984, over 40 years old now and still played in places in its original form. There were a couple of other games that came close, Homeworld and EVA online. Both games offered a differing view of the universe, EVA possibly the closest to Elite.  The graphics I must admit are amazing on EVA and being online means you don’t have to have a full client program (game) on your machine. A small link and that’s that. The power of servers (even computers) these day can make anything seem real.

Then came a whisper from deep in the internet, Elite was coming back. I was intrigued  about what form it would take and could the spirit if not the wonder be recaptured. The main problem for me was the platform chosen. I am a Mac person, not a PC, I prefer the PS3(4) rather than Xbox. So I had to wait.

When it became available for the Mac I did wonder if it would be just a poor memory or another jump forward. Well, it was Elite and more. Wire frames gone, solid space stations hung in space and yes you were back to the beginning all over again. Crashing into real asteroids, running from pirates and trying to match that darn opening on the station just like in 2001.

Has it changed? Yes it had to in order to sell. Now you can explore more, fly closer to planets and suns, watch ships explode before your very eyes. It is another time-consuming game, you have to get just a bit more to have that next space ship or upgrade.  Now you have to ensure your weapons are correct, the power distribution can cope with all you install and that you don’t forget that all important fuel else you suddenly find yourself drifting in space before blowing up.

Elite is a dangerous game. It’s fun, annoying, frustrating, exciting and time-consuming (or wasting as some may say). You can engage with others around the world or just play solo. Both still have AI characters who you meet along the way. Unlike EVA, you don’t get so many mission based elements but you do get to choose (to a degree) what you can take on or just fly around.

Would I recommend Elite Dangerous? Yes I would. It has one major advantage over at least one other space game and that is you only need to pay the once. No monthly fees, no forced into extras. You can buy more but why?

Tagline: ‘Now where is that darn space station?’

Elite – the real version

Radio Sadness

Radio Sadness

Hello Dear Reader

2016 has started with some what of a downward trend even before it got going. Each day it seemed that the news of well-known people just became longer and longer. For me, I kept reading about some of my great hero’s and influences, yet holding onto the knowledge I could listen or watch them again and again.

Just when you thought it might settle down (it never will), there was announced the passing of Terry Wogan. I had already planned to write a small blog before this news but now it makes even more sense to put down my thoughts.

There have been many tributes to all those who have passed recently, it seemed almost difficult to keep going. I heard the sad news of Terry’s passing as I drove to archery. My first thought was I had to listen to Elvis Presley’s version of ‘Are you Lonesome tonight’, where he sings the wrong line. Terry found that many years ago and played it so many times. Straight away it made me smile. Like millions of others (8 million plus), I used to wake up to Wogan and enjoy that relaxed calm, easy way.

He just made the morning work. As I got older, I listened to more of the music he chose for the shows. The discoveries he made were brilliant. He knew what the listener wanted. Take Eva Cassidy for example and ‘Over the Rainbow’. That is just perfect. I brought the CD and the remaining songs were just spot on. Thanks to Terry.

Then there was Janet and John. At least one time, if not more, did I forget a turning, miss the motorway exit or just have to stop due to tears of laughter. Again, I brought the CDs.

Eurovision was gold dust for him. Terry told it like it was, warts and all, often 100% right. Eurovision might not have liked it but they could never get rid of Terry until he decided to leave.

As a sort of keen sometimes golfer (not anymore), I used to watch the BBC pro-am program. Again Terry Wogan gave us all a memory from such a simple show. He still holds the record for the longest televised put, 100 feet I believe. It was magical.

Terry Wogan was and will be part of the fabric of life, you can not change that. I suspect that a certain tune might just make it back into the charts to help his other beloved cause, Children in Need. I never met him, would have liked to if I had the chance. To those who take over from him I am sure they know he would and did back them all the way. Chris Evan’s was clearly affected by the both the news and the event let alone all the others in radio and television.

They say all good things must end, I would question why? I know why really since the odd one or two things get in the way. However, here once more we have a lifetime of memories to keep repeating. Just like the others who passed away, too early for many, we the loyal listener can listen and watch again.

Terry will never be forgotten.

Tagline: ‘I think the radio just shed a tear’

2015 – My review

2015 – My Review

Hello Dear Reader

Well 2015 has now passed and often people reflect on their year, a personal review you might say. I am no different than millions of others, so beware spoilers ahead. (Well for time travellers at least).

2015 has, just like many other years, been filled with ups and downs across the board. It is often thought that the downs tend to come to the fore at this point and yes there were a few scary moments. It has not been the best of times but things did pick up towards the close. One of the up’s was the pleasure of seeing Michael Palin live talking about his dairies and what he wrote about. It did make me think and yes write a blog about them. Maybe more people need to remember what a dairy is all about. Another odd good moment was a trip down memory lane to the Tower Ballroom at Blackpool and yes sitting watching a lot of people waltzing around the floor. Of course there were many other good moments most of which ended up in a blog or two. I also added to my list of achievements two presentations, one for the Keele Creative writing society which I was extremely proud. Add to this a very interesting trip to Buckingham Palace, one of the afternoon BBC Proms and an evening meal surrounded by most of the cast and writers of Sherlock. Now that was different.

Normally in the past I have reviewed a few good films, so why spoil a good format!

There have been a number of blockbusters yet again and surprisingly the best was saved for last (I am sure you can guess). Here are my top films (in no order whatsoever );

Avengers: Age of Ultron

The Man From U.N.C.L.E

Ant-Man

Jurassic World

Spectre

Minions

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Of course they are all action based adventure films and the ones I saw at the cinema. There were a few I missed, noticeably Steve Jobs, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, The Martian and a few more.  It seemed as if each movie, for me, kept on building towards one of the best kept secrets of 2015. In this day it was surprising to find that there was little real information about Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

The Man from UNCLE started a short series of spy movies this year, along with Bridge of Spies and Spectre. The latest James Bond movie, rounded what was a very well put together story and left at least one person with a dilemma. If you wish to read my review on this film here is the link; Spectre. The Man from UNCLE was good in the sense to tried to explain the origins of the lead characters. Will there be a squeal? Bridge of Spies was one of those films I missed which was a shame, but there is always rental.

In keeping with the past few years, hard to think there was a time before them, we had the latest two Marvel films. Ant-Man introduced us to the smallest of Marvel’s characters, while the Avengers (still no Steed) came back to battle their own demons. Both films gave us more to enjoy in this growing universe, well at least to the non-comic reading part. Again I enjoyed them for differing reasons; Ant-Man was more of a comic feel, the humour fitted well as did the story. It is always difficult to present a 60s or 70s comic version so taking the best from the whole comic range seems Marvels plan. Age of Ultron on the other hand showed that sometimes it is best not to mess about with alien technology. It will lead into a series of films that could tear the audience apart.

Minions, cute, yellow, strangely understandable at times and one of those hits that was not meant to be. Why? Well they were sort of supporting characters (even in animation) that just took off. There first movie and who knows what else will turn up, was funny predictable and ok. Also returning was the Park, Jurassic one, remember that? It was a major hit of the summer and well worth it. It combined the old with new, basically the Park opened as Hammond always wanted and of course someone decided to play God and well guess the rest. Another good escape.

So finally the film of the year. You can’t argue with facts and figures, not these. Even before the film had been shown it was breaking, cinema servers and records. I have not reviewed this film as I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. However I did post just one word after I watched it … Emotional. It was all that everyone has said. It did take me back and yet did not reboot as many thought. It moved forward in a logical fanshion. The sets where real, the characters believable, the effects better, the story fine, yes there might be the odd plot hole but sometimes, just sometimes you have suspend everything. It was one of the few movies I could have just sat through a second time without moving. I did in fact see it twice already and plan to see it again given the chance. Many people tend to want to find problems with any film they see, I myself see plot mistakes – take IronMan 3. However, I don’t believe in just denocensing a film just because it does not explain where character A cane from.

So what else has happened that was memorable? A number of things really including having one of my poems published in the first Keele Creative Writing anthology. Completing my first book, which is due to be published in 2016, was a major achievement. That for me, is a goal I have slowly pushed for. It won’t be to everyone’s taste and I doubt it will gain me anything other than self pride. I will be able to say  not only have I written a book but it’s a published one.

Writing has been one of the more enjoyable outlets over the past few years. I have published more blogs in 2015 than before and branched out into posting photographs and a small video. I do plan on producing another short video in 2016.

To close then. 2015 another year to talk about.

Roll on 2016.

Tagline:’Are we there yet?’

 

Sporting Rant … Part 2

Hello Dear Reader

Sporting Rant … Part 2

Well it’s happened again. Sometime ago I wrote a small blog on the loss of sports from the BBC (free-to-air without ads I may add) to either subscription services (pay) or ad related channels.

It appears that after many years back on BBC, F1 has once more been sacrificed due to money. This time, because of outside forces who will all know, the BBC has had to let F1 go. This time it is with another advert laden channel.

Now, they have made claims much like the last lot, that the race will be ad free. I have my doubts, in fact I doubt they understand F1. It is annoying to see good sports disappear like this no matter how good the other side say they will be.

It happened at other times and funny enough not just to sports. Take the Goodies (odd I know) but they went from the BBC to ITV and lasted well not long sadly.

There is not a lot one person can do except to at least voice my concerns. This is not just about F1 now, this is about the careful dismantling of a British icon. Just remember this when you have to start paying to watch anything.

Sadly, F1 will go back a few steps. Maybe it’s time to find another sport before it is ruined as well.

Tagline: “Someone tell them the race started!”