Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Last week that young fella Adaddinsane did a spiffy post about films he likes to watch over and over again. It was a good post, and now it's a meme. Here's the gen;

Rules: 1. Provide a non-exhaustive list of films you'll happily watch again and again; 2. There is no rule 2. 3. Reprint the rules. 4. Tag three other peeps.

So here are mine. Well, some of them...

Withnail & I


Dog Soldiers

Hell Drivers

The Ice Storm

Time Bandits


The Big Lebowski

The Lady Vanishes

Dracula (1958)

John Carpenter's The Thing

Die Hard

Dawn of the Dead

Prick Up Your Ears


The Fugitive

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

The Dark Knight

Key Largo

The Ladykillers

Star Trek II

American Graffiti

The Apartment

Rio Bravo

The Thrill of it all

Fright Night

Evil Dead 2

Mr Mom

As a bonus here are a couple of films I will never sit through again...

Blown Away
The Godfather part 3

Now to pass it on. I tag Laurence, Mr Fox and the man, the legend, "Straight talkin'" Phill Barron (mainly because he called me a bastard last time I tagged him. Tee hee!).

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Sherlock Holmes

I have always loved Sherlock Holmes.

I couldn't tell you when I first encountered Holmes. I think I had a Read-it-yourself book of The Hound of the Baskervilles as a boy. I also remember an animated version of the same tale. I don't think it was until the centenary of the publication of A Study in Scarlet that I actually read any Conan Doyle though. There was a lush Radio Times cover and an Omnibus or Late Show special, and I started reading The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes while lounging about the house in my dressing gown. Needless to say I was hooked straight off and still re-read the stories repeatedly today.

Film-wise I remember enjoying Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce seasons over and over again on the BBC (6pm on BBC2 if memory serves). It never seemed strange to me that Holmes and Watson should be battling the Nazis. I have since discovered their radio shows online, which are quite fun, especially for the sponsors adverts (you can also find The Shadow and many more old radio shows on the same site).

Basil Rathbone was generally regarded as the greatest Holmes of all for many years. There were others; Peter Cushing, a huge Sherlock Holmes enthusiast, played the detective in the 1959 Hammer version of The Hound of the Baskervilles and again for the BBC in the late sixties. Christopher Plummer did a great job in Murder by Decree, among other actors, but Rathbone was generally accepted to be the best.

Until 1984.

Jeremy Brett
played Sherlock Holmes on ITV from 1984 until 1994, when Brett's poor health prevented him continuing in the role.

I'll show my hand right now and confess that he eclipses all other Sherlocks for me. His sudden theatrics, his nanosecond half smiles, that fantastic voice; Jeremy Brett is Sherlock Holmes stepping straight off of the end of Conan Doyle's pen. He inhabits the role perfectly and it is a brave actor that steps through the door to 221b Baker street in his wake.

Which brings us to Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes from last year with Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law as Holmes and Watson.

There was a lot of stuffy scepticism about this "modern" Holmes before it came out but I must admit that I liked the trailer at first sight and was cautiously optimistic. I really enjoyed the film.

It's true that the emphasis is rather more on the action than the detection but I think it captures the spirit of the stories well, and especially the character of Watson and the relationship between the two friends. I could have done without Irene Adler, who seemed present only to tick a box and deprive Watson of some screen time, but otherwise I enjoyed the film immensely.

I look forward to the sequel with much anticipation. However shall I pass the time?

Only by enjoying Mark Gatiss and
Steven Moffat's take on Sherlock Holmes in a twenty-first century setting. I'm very bloody excited about Sherlock, which starts on Sunday night (BBC1/BBCHD 9pm). It's hard to imagine two writers better equipped to bring Holmes back to the small screen for the first time in years. Moffat has already demonstrated that he can bring nineteenth century classics into the modern day with Jekyll (still my very favourite example of his work (any chance of that second series Steven? Pretty please.)).

Benedict Cumberbatch certainly looks the part and while I'm less certain of Martin Freeman as Watson I'm happy to trust Moffat and Gatiss. Even though this programme seems to have been in production for ever I know almost nothing about the plots (not even if they intend to adapt any of Conan Doyle's stories) or guest stars. Very exciting.

The early reactions are positively glowing, and the trailer certainly looks good. The game is on!

UPDATE: Steven Moffat on Sherlock Holmes in the Radio Times:

When I was a little Beano-reading Doctor Who fan – about nine or ten – I was desperate to know more about Sherlock Holmes. It was a name I’d heard. I knew he was some kind of policeman, I knew he had a funny hat, and I knew he was in a film called The Hound of the Baskervilles, which once came on the telly and got me sent to bed because it was too frightening. I remember lying upstairs that night, too excited to sleep – because I could hear the baying of a terrible hound, and the rapid-fire voice of a policeman who fought monsters. I needed to find out more, because I knew already this was my kind of hero: if Doctor Who had been a detective, clearly he’d have been Sherlock Holmes.

BBC's Sherlock site

The Sherlock Holmes Museum

The Singular Society of the Baker Street Dozen

The Equinoctial Gales

Monday, July 19, 2010

Gah, my eyes! *UPDATED*

I don't like to blog about blogging but...

I recently saw someone on Twitter say something to the effect of "Gee whizz, I hate when blogs have white writing on a black background, that really makes my eyeballs ache. :("

So obviously I thought, "OMG!!! That's exactly what my blog looks like!!! :(((((" So I resolved to take action. Of course when I went to look at changing the design of the blog I discovered those nice new blogger templates and woo - you can change the width of columns and - oh hey you can have three columns now, wow!

By the time I was done I had a lovely new look blog with, yes that's right, white writing on a black background.

It's not that I didn't try other looks. I tried kind of a notepaper type background and some blue print. I even thought, "hey I'll handwrite a new blog header on notepaper, it'll look coool :)" (even though I'm immodestly proud of my long-standing island of Dreams header), but when it came down to it the old girl just didn't look right to me. I mean you can't get more high contrast than black and white, right?

In the interests of democracy I thought I'd solicit some opinions, so what do you think? I mean, that's if anybody reads the actual blog rather than just the feed on google reader? If you have a thought then let me know. I've put a poll in the sidebar (on the left, at the top, above my stupid face) and you get a vote - Keep the look as is or change it to something less eye-straining. You only have until the end of the month to vote though, m'kay?

'Course, if you do want it changed I'd appreciate suggestions via comments please. Likewise if you have any other feelings about content let me know. Maybe you miss my reviews and occasional ill-conceived rants about television, or want to hear about my adventures in parenthood, or maybe you just wish I'd shut my damn neck.

***UPDATE (7th August, 2010)***

Many thanks to all who voted in the poll. The results were 75% in favour of keeping the old white on black colour scheme. So obviously I decided to change it. Rather than being purely down to my contrary nature this was because:

a) I had come up with a cool idea for a new banner.

b) I grudgingly admitted to myself that if anyone was finding it hard to read the blog, even only 25% of visitors, then the best course of action was probably to make it easier on the eye.

c) I do have quite a contrary nature.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Fear

Things that scared me as a child...

The face in my toilet

Yes, it's a funny one this. I mean, there wasn't really a face in my toilet. It was just a few bumps in the finish of the porcelain at the bottom of my childhood WC. With a little imagination they could be thought to resemble a face, and I was unlucky enough to have a lot of imagination. At some point I got the idea (possibly from my dear old Nan) that it was the face of the devil, so I suppose I'm lucky it didn't put a permanent end to my toilet using days really.

Worzel Gummidge

'Nuff said, surely?

The Children of Green Knowe

I have several frightening memories of The Children of Green Knowe but by far the most paralysing is of a statue of St Christopher carrying a stone child through a river during the night. It still sends a shiver down my spine. I've not seen the programme since and would really like to revisit it.

Blake's 7 series 4 episode 6: Headhunter

The memory that really chills me is of the robot, Muller, pursuing our anti-heroes through a corridor while carrying his head under his arm. Hell's teeth but that scared me, and put me off Blake's 7 for years. Of course, when I came to rewatch the episode years later I found it wasn't all that scary after all. Here's a clip -

A recurring nightmare

Each time the scene would be different. Eh, you splutter, how can it be a recurring nightmare then? Well because each time it would be accompanied by a horrifying, throbbing droning noise and a perspective that zoomed in and out on the action while never really focusing on what was happening.
The events of the dream weren't what scared me. It was the way the nightmare was, if you like, shot. I would wake up in quite a state.

Imagine my surprise when, years later, I watched Irreversible and saw the precise same methods used in the opening sequence. I think Gaspar Noe may have had the same nightmare.

Hands coming from under the bed

I think this is probably a common one. I was always convinced that something was under the bed, waiting to grab my ankle as I climbed into bed. Why I thought it couldn't creep out and get me in the night while I slept I don't know. This same fear preoccupied me when using the stairs in my house. I would run up the stairs like a mad thing in case a clammy hand reach between the balusters and grab my leg, then I would leap onto the bed so that no ankle grabbers got a grip. Every night. Sheesh. I should have been well fit.

So these are some of the things that scared me as a boy. I guess it would be odd if I didn't ponder what scares me now?

Being a rubbish father, or husband. Anything at all bad happening to my family. Our new government. Never getting anywhere as a writer, or worse yet feeling like I never fulfilled my potential.

It's important for writers to recognise what scares them, and what the root of their fear is. Not just horror writers either, fear and irrational reactions are a strong motivation for characters as well as for people.