All Reviews A-Z

Here is a thing which I will plan to update each time I add a new review. This should make it easy for anyone who is sufficiently depraved enough to enjoy what I write and craves more. There isn’t a huge amount yet, but I do have a tonne of reviews written years ago for IMDB which I haven’t posted here yet, along with all my other Album reviews for Amazon. This list will grow. For now, click on anything you like!

Movie Reviews

2001 Maniacs – Tim Sullivan

300: Rise Of An Empire – Noam Murro

A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night – Ana Lily Amirpour

A Hard Day – Kim Seong Hun

A Mighty Wind – Christopher Guest

A Nightmare On Elm Street – Wes Craven

A Tale Of Two Sisters – Kim Ji Woon

After The Silence – Fred Gerber

Airwolf – Donald Bellisario

Akira – Katsuhiro Otomo

Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa – Declan Lowney

Alien – Ridley Scott

Aliens – James Cameron

Alien 3 – David Fincher

Annihilation – Alex Garland

Arachnophobia – Frank Marshall

Assault On Precinct 13 – John Carpenter

Attack Of The Adult Babies – Dominic Brunt

August Rush – Kirsten Sheridan

AWOL – Sheldon Lettich

Bad Lieutenant – Abel Ferrara

Bangkok Dangerous – The Pang Brothers

Baskin – Can Evrenol

Battle Royale – Kinji Fukasaku

Beavis And Butthead – Mike Judge

Beetlejuice – Tim Burton

Bedevilled – Jang Cheol-soo

Benny And Joon – Jeremiah S Chechik

Big Driver – Mikael Salomon

Big Trouble In Little China – John Carpenter

Bill And Ted’s Bogus Journey – Peter Hewitt

Bill And Ted’s Excellent Adventure – Stephen Herek

Black Coal, Thin Ice – Diao Yinan

Blair Witch – Adam Wingard

Blood Father – Jean Francois Richet

Bloodsport – Newt Arnold

Bodyguards And Assassins – Teddy Chan

Body Shots – Michael Christofer

Body Snatchers – Abel Ferrara

Braindead – Peter Jackson

Brooklyn Rules – Michael Corrente

Brother – Takeshi Kitano

Bruiser – George A Romero

Cam – Daneil Goldhaber

Cannibal – Manuel Martin Cuenca

Carne – Gaspar Noe

Chasing Amy – Kevin Smith

Chasing Sleep – Michael Walker

Cockneys Vs Zombies – Matthias Hoene

Come And See – Elem Kilmov

Commando – Mark L Lester

Conan The Barbarian – John Milius

Cronos – Guillermo Del Toro

Cursed – Wes Craven

Cyborg – Albert Pyun

Dark City – Alex Proyas

Dawn Of The Dead – Zack Snyder

Day of The Dead – George A Romero

Daylight – Rob Cohen

Dead Snow – Tommy Wirkola

Death Sentence – James Wan

Death Wish 2 – Michael Winner

Demons – Lamberto Bava

Desperado – Robert Rodriguez

Dial M For Murder – Alfred Hitchcock

Die Another Day – Lee Tamahori

Dirty Pretty Things – Stephen Frears

Disturbia – D.J. Caruso

Dobermann – Jan Kounen

Dogma – Kevin Smith

Donnie Brasco – Mike Newell

Don’t Blink – Travis Oates

Don’t Tell Mom The Babysitter’s Dead – Stephen Herek

Double Impact – Sheldon Lettich

Dr No – Terence Young

Dream Warriors – Chuck Russell

Drug War – Johnie To

Dumb And Dumber – The Farrelly Bros

Dumplin‘ – Anne Fletcher

Eaten Alive – Tobe Hooper

El Mariachi – Robert Rodriguez

Escape From Sobibor – Jack Gold

Escape Plan – Mikael Hafstrom

Embodiment Of Evil – Jose Marins

Everyone’s Hero – Christopher Reeve, Colin Brady, Daniel St. Pierre

Evil Dead – Fede Alvarez

Extinction – Miguel Angel Vivas

Final Destination – James Wong

Final Destination 2 – David R Ellis

First Blood – Ted Kotcheff

Fist Of Fury – Bruce Lee

For Your Eyes Only – John Glen

Freddy’s Dead – Rachel Talalay

Freddy’s Revenge – Jack Sholder

Freddy Vs Jason – Ronny Yu

Frenzy – Alfred Hitchcock

Friend Request – Simon Verhoeven

From Russia With Love – Terence Young

Game of Death – Bruce Lee/Robert Clouse

God Bless America – Bobcat Goldthwaite

Goldeneye – Martin Campbell

Goldfinger – Guy Hamilton

Goodnight Mommy – Veronika Franz/Severin Fiala

Grave Encounters – The Vicious Brothers

Grave Encounters 2 – John Poliquin

Gravity – Alfonso Cuaron

Halloween – John Carpenter

Halloween 2 and 3 – Rick Rosenthal/Tommy Lee Wallace

Halloween 4 – Dwight H Little

Halloween 5 – Dominique Othenin Gerard

Hard-Boiled – John Woo

Hard Target – John Woo

Hansel And Gretal – Yim Phil-Sung

Heartbreakers – David Mirkin

Heli – Amat Escalante

Hellboy – Guillermo Del Toro

Hellions – Bruce Macdonald

Home Alone – Chris Columbus

Horrible Bosses – Seth Gordon

Ichi – Fumihiko Sori

Ichi The Killer – Takashi Miike

Into The Mirror – Kim Sung Ho

I Really Hate My Job – Oliver Parker

It’s All About Love – Thomas Vinterberg

Jaws – Steven Spielberg

Jaws 2 – Jeannot Szwarc

Jaws 3 – Joe Alvez

Jaws 4 – Joseph Sargent

Jurassic Park – Steven Spielberg

Ju-On Black Ghost – Mari Asato

Ju-On White Ghost – Ryuta Miyake

Kickboxer – Mark DiSalle/David Worth

Kids – Larry Clark

Kill Bill Vol 1 – Quentin Tarantino

King Kong – Merian C Cooper/Ernest B Schoedsack

Kingdom Of Heaven – Ridley Scott

Lady Bird – Greta Gerwig

Leatherface – Maury & Bustillo

Leon – Luc Besson

Lifeboat – Alfred Hitchcock

Last Action Hero – John McTiernan

Live And Let Die – Guy Hamilton

Loaded – Alan Pao

Lost Highway – David Lynch

Macbeth – Orson Welles

Manuscripts Don’t Burn – Mohammed Rousalof

Milius – Joey Figuero

Mother’s Day – Darren Lynn Bousman

Mouth To Mouth – Alison Murray

Mr And Mrs Smith – Alfred Hitchcock

My Soul To Take – Wes Craven

Never Sleep Again – Daniel Farrands/Andrew Kach

Night Of The Demons – Kevin S Tenney

Night Of The Living Dead – George A Romero

Nowhere To Run – Robert Harmon

On The Road – Walter Salles

Origin: Spirits Of The Past – Keichi Sugiyama

Outrage – Takeshi Kitano

Out Of The Furnace – Scott Cooper

P2 – Frank Khalfoun

Peacock – Michael Lander

Perdita Durango – Alex de la Iglesia

Perlasca – Alberto Negrin

Pieta – Kim Ki Duk

Police Academy 1-7 – Various

Pontypool – Bruce McDonald

Predator 2 – Stephen Hopkins

Priceless – Pierre Salvadori

Problem Child – Dennis Dugan

Project X – Nima Nourizadeh

Q: The Winged Serpent – Larry Cohen

Raw Deal – John Irvin

Rear Window – Alfred Hitchcock

Red Heat – Walter Hill

Red Sonja – Richard Fleischer

Resident Evil – Paul WS Anderson

Resident Evil 2 – Alexander Witt

Return To Oz – Walter Murch

Rhapsody In August – Akira Kurosawa

Ring – Hideo Nakata

Ring 2 – Hideo Nakata

Ring 0 – Norio Tsuruta

Rings – F.Javier Gutierrez

Rogue – Greg McLean

Room – Lenny Abrahamson

Room 237 – Rodney Ascher

Rope – Alfred Hitchcock

Rosewood Lane – Victor Salva

Rubber – Quentin Dupeiux

Rust And Bone – Jacques Audiard

Sabotage – David Ayer

Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World – Lorene Scafaria

Shanghai Kiss – David Ren/Ken Kernwiser

Society – Brian Yuzna

Someone’s Watching Me – John Carpenter

Sophie Scholl – The Final Days – Marc Rothemond

Staunton Hill – Cameron Romero

Still Walking – Hirokazu Koreeda

Street Trash – Jim Munro

Stripes – Ivan Reitman

Suicide Club – Sion Sono

Sukiyaki Western Django – Takeshi Miike

Survive Style 5 + – Gen Sekiguchi

Tag – Sion Sono

Ted – Seth MacFarlane

The 39 Steps – Alfred Hitchcock

The Art Of War – Christian Deguay

Thelma And Louise – Ridley Scott

The Birds – Alfred Hitchcock

The Boss Of It All – Lars Von Trier

The Craft – Andrew Fleming

The Crow – Alex Proyas

The Detective – Oxide Pang

The Devil’s Rain – Robert Fuest

The Driver – Walter Hill

The Empress And The Warriors – Ching Siu Tung

The Evil Dead – Sam Raimi

The Evil Dead 2 – Sam Raimi

The Fifth Element – Luc Besson

The First Men In The Moon – Nathan Juran

The Gate – Tibor Takacs

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time – Mamoru Hosoda

The Green Inferno – Eli Roth

The Grudge – Takashi Shimazu

The Guest – Adam Wingard

The Happiness Of The Katakuris – Takashi Miike

The Hitcher – Robert Harmon

The House Of The Devil – Ti West

The Idiots – Lars Von Trier

The Isle – Kim Ki Duk

The Kings Of Summer – Jordan Vogt Roberts

The Last Exorcism – Daniel Stamm

The Last Exorcism 2 – Ed Gass-Donnelly

The Last House On The Left – Wes Craven

The Man From Earth – Richard Schenkman

The Mannsfield 12 – Craig Ross Jr

The Night Eats The World – Dominique Rocher

The Pact – Nicholas McCarthy

The Red Squirrel – Julio Medem

The Secret Life Of Pets – Chris Renaud

The Storm Warriors – The Pang Brothers

The Stranger – Robert Lieberman

The Tortured – Robert Lieberman

The Visit – M Night Shyamalan

The Wailing – Na Hong-jin

The Witch – Robert Eggers

The Windmill Massacre – Nick Jongerius

Train To Busan – Yeon Sang-ho

Triangle – Hark Tsui/Ringo Lam

Troy: The Odyssey – Tekin Girgin

Twins – Ivan Reitman

Unbreakable – M Night Shyamalan

Universal Soldier – Roland Emmerich

USS Indianapolis – Mario Van Peebles

Visitor Q – Takashi Miike

Wake In Fright – Ted Kotcheff

Way Of The Dragon – Bruce Lee

We Are What We Are – Jim Mickle

We Are Still Here – Ted Geoghagen

Wes Craven’s New Nightmare – Wes Craven

Wolfcop – Lowell Dean

Yellowbrickroad – Jessie Holland/Andy Mitton

You Were Never Really Here – Lynne Ramsey

TV Reviews

Are You Afraid Of The Dark

Back To School At 35

Breaking Bad

Friends

Game Of Thrones

Gladiators

Neighbours

Saved By The Bell

Strike It Lucky

The League Of Gentlemen

The Walking Dead

Wolf Creek

Wreslemania 34

Music Reviews

11 – Bryan Adams

18 Till I Die – Bryan Adams

3 Feet High And Rising – De La Soul

7800 Farenheit – Bon Jovi

A Hard Day’s Night – The Beatles

A Love Supreme – John Coltrane

A Night At The Opera – Queen

Abbey Road – The Beatles

Accessories – The Gathering

Afterwords – The Gathering

Air – Agua De Annique

Aladdin Sane – David Bowie

Bedtime Stories – Madonna

Blaze Of Glory – Bon Jovi

Blood, Sweat, And Tears – Blood, Sweat, and Tears.

Blue – Joni Mitchell

Blur – Blur

Bookends – Simon & Garfunkel

Bounce – Bon Jovi

Bryan Adams – Bryan Adams

Closer – Joy Division

Conan The Barbarian Soundtrack – Basil Poledouris

Conan The Destroyer Soundtrack – Basil Poledouris

Crush – Bon Jovi

Destination Anywhere – Bon Jovi

Diamond Dogs – David Bowie

Disclosure – The Gathering

Dumb And Dumber Soundtrack – Various

Entroducing – DJ Shadow

Erotica – Madonna

Evita – Madonna

For Sale – The Beatles

Fulfillingness’ First Finale – Stevie Wonder

Get Up – Bryan Adams

Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter – Incredible String Band

Heaven Or Las Vegas – Cocteau Twins

Help! – The Beatles

Heroes” – David Bowie

Hey Stoopid – Alice Cooper

Home – The Gathering

How To Measure A Planet? – The Gathering

Hunky Dory – David Bowie

I’m Breathless – Madonna

Into The Fair – Bryan Adams

Jagged Little Pill – Alanis Morissette

Joyride – Roxette

Keep The Faith – Bon jovi

Ladies Of The Canyon – Joni Mitchell

Lazer Guided Melodies – Spiritualized

Let It Be – The Beatles

Lets Dance – David Bowie

Life’s Rich Pageant – REM

Like A Prayer – Madonna

Like A Virgin – Madonna

Lodger – David Bowie

Look Sharp – Roxette

Low – David Bowie

Madonna – Madonna

Music! – Madonna

Magical Mystery Tour – The Beatles

Mandylion – The Gathering

Manic Street Preachers Live In Belfast – Manic Street Preachers

Miles Of Aisles – Joni Mitchell

My Fair Lady Soundtrack – Various

New Jersey – Bon Jovi

Nighttime Birds – The Gathering

Night On My Side – Gemma Hayes

On A Day Like Today – Bryan Adams

Pearls Of Passion – Roxette

Please Please Me – The Beatles

Pin Ups – David Bowie

Pretender – Jackson Browne

Pure Air – Agua De Annique

Ray Of Light – Madonna

Revolver – The Beatles

Rubber Soul – The Beatles

Savage – Eurythmics

Scary Monsters – David Bowie

Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – The Beatles

Sleepy Buildings – The Gathering

Slippery When Wet – Bon Jovi

Song To A Seagull – Joni Mitchell

Souvenirs – The Gathering

Space Oddity – David Bowie

Spirit – Bryan Adams

Station To Station – David Bowie

Tattooed Millionaire – Bruce Dickinson

These Days – Bon Jovi

The Man Who Sold The World – David Bowie

The Marshall Mathers LP – Eminem

The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust – David Bowie

The Roads Don’t Love You – Gemma Hayes

The West Pole – The Gathering

The White Album – The Beatles

Tori Amos Live In Belfast – Tori Amos

Transformer – Lou Reed

Tracy Chapman – Tracy Chapman

True Blue – Madonna

Urban Hymns – The Verve

Waking Up The Neighbours – Bryan Adams

With The Beatles – The Beatles

Yellow Submarine – The Beatles

You Want It You Got It – Bryan Adams

Young Americans – David Bowie

Youth Novels – Lykke Li

Book Reviews

1000 Zombies – Alex Cox

Atmospheric Disturbances – Rivka Galchen

Catching Fire – Suzanne Collins

Dinosaurs – Navigators

Fang Of The Vampire – Scream Street

Japan Day By Day – Frommers

London 2008 – Time Out

London Free And Dirt Cheap – Frommers

Paris 2009 – Time Out

Play With Colours – The Happets

The Art Of Racing In The Rain – Garth Stein

The Devouring – Simon Holt

The Gargoyle – Andrew Davidson

The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins

The Invention Of Everything Else – Samantha Hunt

The Mayan Prophecies – Gerald Benedict

The Maze Runner – James Dashner

Undead – Kirsty Mckay

Neighbours – Bonus Post 4

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Well. That’s all over with. The ‘Dee’ storyline has come and gone, wrecking numerous relationships and apparently pissing off a lot of viewers. I found it all desperately sad and was holding out for some miracle that fake Dee was real Dee in the end. Alas. Presumably Dee/Andrea or the kid will come back in the future, but for now they are gone and Toadie is a hundred grand poorer and has been thrown out for slipping one in.

Elsewhere, we’ve had the revelation of who Leo and David’s father is and the associated fallout, Brad and Lauren left, and Toadie’s brother Shane and his family have moved in to the street. But that’s not why we’re here. We’re here so I can drone on for a while about some of my favourite residents, past and/or present, and today we’ve reached the letter KAY. And that can only mean one thing – MISTER….. KENNEDYYYYYY!……………. KENNEDYYY (Anderson). Wha?

Billy Kennedy – Jesse Spencer (1994 – 2000, 2005)

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Significant Others: The Kennedy Family. Anne Wilkinson. Melissa Drenth. Caitlin Atkins. Toadie. Lance. Amy.

Billy was arguably the central figure of The Kennedy family when he first arrived, his friendships and romances a focal point for many years. He was good looking, a little naive, was always getting into trouble even though his heart was in the right place, and his friendship with Toadie and Lance became a major draw, along with the other core members. It was however his on again off again romance with Anne Wilkinson that kept viewers intrigued – the closest thing to a Scott and Charlene that the show had in the 90s.

Special Power: Grows cabbages under his fingernails.

Where Are They Now:

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Billy left with Anne in 2000 and subsequently got married and had three kids – a new generation of Kennedys to appear in the future no doubt, hopefully not after Anne and Billy divorce. Billy appeared in the 2005 20th Anniversary show, strolling along a beach in LA. That’s because Jessie Spencer landed a hot job in the US – main role in House, followed up by a starring role in Chicago Fire, which sounds like an American London’s Burning. 

Libby Kennedy – Kym Valentine (1994 – 2014)

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Significant Others: The Kennedys, Drew Kirk, Ben Kirk, The Kinskis, Darren Stark, Daniel Fitzgerald. Steph Scully. Taj Coppin.

It’s fair to say that Libby is one of, if not my favourite Neighbours character. Bad ass all around. Her introduction greatly pleased my adolescent self, thanks to her assets. She was smart, feisty, yet always got involved with the wrong man. All until Drew came along and she finally felt settled. Till he was killed by a horse. Of course. Libby became a teacher, following her mum’s footsteps, and drama continued to follow her until she began a series of departures from the show – first in 2005, returning in 2007, and popping back and forth until 2014 where it appears she has left for good. I missed many of those last years after I stopped watching around 2007 or 2008.

Special Power: Breasts

Where Are They Now:

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Kym Valentine has sadly had several health issues in the last few years which contributed to her leaving the show. Of all the characters I’d want to see ending up happy, whether that means in a stable relationship or whatever, I’d love to see her coming back to reach that dream as Kym does such a great job in the role. There’s always a chance she’ll be back of course, given that Libby’s teenage son Ben is in the show now while she is teaching in China. Fingers crossed!

Mal Kennedy – Benjamin McNair (1994 – 2014)

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Significant Others: The Kennedys, Danni Stark, Stonefish, Catherine O’Brien.

There are many rumours and suggestions for the origins of my nickname – Mal – it’s part of my name, it’s Latin (etc) for evil, and because people knew I was a Neighbours fan back in the day and thought it was funny to call me this after one of its characters. Anyway, Mal was never a major figure, at least to me, in the show – he was the one Kennedy with the less interesting plots and the least screen time, so it seemed. Still, he’s a familiar face and has popped back every so often, typically with some new personality traits, and he’s alive and well so can return again at any point.

Special Power: Can swivel his pelvis 360 degrees.

Where Are They Now:

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He left after three years and it looked like he wouldn’t be back. Then he came back in 2002, his mischievous ways replaced by a ruthless, money-driven ego. Since then he was been away and been back several times, never staying longer than a few months. He and Catherine are still together in London now, both successful business types or something.

Karl Kennedy – Alan (1994 – Present)

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Significant Others: The Kennedys, The Kinskis, Sarah Beaumont, Darcy, Izzy, Ben Kirk, Holly Hoyland, pretty much everyone on the show for the last 20 odd years.

The legend. The daddy of the show’s longest running stable (sort of) family, Dr Kennedy, a some time singer, womanizer, and tight-wad, Karl has had several spicy affairs, fights with his kids and their partners, brushes with death, law suits, and everything else. But he’s still standing, and now acts, along with Susan, as the show’s emotional, nostalgic, and humourous core, like Harold and Lou before. That’s not to say he doesn’t still get his fair share of interesting stories, but more often now Karl is there to put a smile on your face or a laugh on your… feet? We’ve known him for so long now, he is Neighbours. 

Special Power: Obscene limericks.

Where Are They Now:

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Still on the show! 23 years now, and still going strong.

Susan Kennedy – Jackie Woodburn (1994 – Present)

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Significant Others: See Karl’s entry (matron)

The other legend. I’ll be honest, I had a crush on Susan too. Maybe it was some adolescent fantasy that, while I was more interested in Libby I didn’t think she would ever like me so I’d have a crack at her ma instead (never mind the fact that we were thousands of miles apart and they were fictional characters). Fun fact – I did eventually have a Maths teacher who looked an awful lot like her, though I did not have a crack at her. Fun fact 2 – I did have a crack at her daughter though – more than a crack in fact. MUCH MORE. Susan has seen and done it all in her years on the show – she has been teacher and Headmistress at Erinsborough High for decades now and has had her fair share of sexual escapades. She did a Twin Peaks, losing her memory and thinking she was 16, she has had to put up with Karl’s cheating and singing since the 70s, and has been through surrogacy and health scare storylines often being the character who most honestly depicts difficult real life plots.

Special Power: Her long black hair isn’t gone – it’s hiding in her tear ducts and it can be spooled out at a moment’s notice and used to garrote unsuspecting visitors.

Where Are They Now:

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Also still on the show, and still with Karl, and still in the School, and still taking on strays and family members such as Ben, Elly, and Angus. This pair and Toadie and Steph are my main ties to my peak viewing period so long may they continue!

How many more of these things will I write? To find out, keep coming back for more – it’s torture! Feel free to add your thoughts about The Kennedy family or any of the other Neighbours characters in the comments below.

Kids These Days – What They Watch Part 1

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One for the kiddies today, and one for mums and dads and weirdos who enjoy children’s programming. I’m going to split this into a few different parts mostly divided by channel. Many channels now offer similar shows for kids, and several shows jump between channels so while some of the shows I’m covering may be exclusive to a particular channel, quite a few of them do hop around a bit. Not that any of that matters of course, it’s just providing me with a loose format to write within.

In my day (and I’m sure that regardless of the age of anyone reading this you will say the same for your own generation) TV for kids was at its pinnacle. I grew up in the mid-late 80s to mid 90s, and therefore had the likes of He-Man, Turtles, Transformers, Thundercats, Hey Arnold, Jumanji and countless others in their original form. While my girls are still at the age to enjoy the even younger oriented shows, they are beginning to get into more character and story driven shows.

In these posts I’m going to briefly cover a variety of the shows they have been watching regularly – some of which they stopped watching a while back, and some which they have only recently picked up.If you have young children then you should be familiar with some of these, if not then maybe you’ll get some insight into how programming has changed since you were a cub. That being said, this post will mainly focus on Cbeebies.

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Launched in 2002, Cbeebies has a tonne of original programming aimed at 0-8 year olds and as it is part of the BBC we don’t get commercials interrupting and corrupting us. Instead, between shows we get little skits and stories and songs by a variety of the presenters. Many of the presents will be known to British people for appearing on other shows, and it is a good format for some of these presenters to create their own shows. As you would expect, there is a lot of smiling and light-hearted joking as well as all the playful educational stuff. One thing which is notable too about the channel, is how it changes with the Seasons – each Christmas they put on a pantomime, along with other festive shows, while during the other Seasons there are one-off episodes and targeted programming, songs etc. My eldest was glued to it for the first three years of her life, before she discovered other channels. My youngest therefore does not get as much exposure to it. It really is a great channel though, and plenty of the shows are interesting and fun for kids and adults alike. As there are so many shows on Cbeebies which my girls have watched, I’ll split this post into two parts – today’s focusing on animation. Alphabetical order, ahoy!

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3rd And Bird

What’s It All About (Alfie): Short 10 minute episodes featuring a variety of feathered friends overcoming basic problems through social interaction. Most episodes had a song or musical interlude.

Good For Kids: Definitely one for younger kids, pre-school age. My girls only occasionally watched this and I don’t remember them showing much interest. Nice social lessons, cute artwork.

Good For Adults: I don’t imagine there is anything here of value for adults, though I quite enjoyed it – the songs were always decent and the short running time meant it didn’t become annoying.

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What’s It All About (Alfie): A girl who lives beside a zoo and chats with the animals who tell her a different story every night.

Good For Kids: It features stories with morals and a wide variety of bright and lively animal characters – the stories themselves are moral based but not moral heavy – they will entertain primarily, with an overall lesson being something like ‘don’t boast’. The girls liked it but would get bored before the episode was finished.

Good For Adults:Good for teaching the value of a bedtime story, and the stories are fine, but it’s all very basic and child-oriented obviously. I think I’ve only seen 1 or 2 complete episodes.

Abadas

What’s It All About (Alfie): Three story book animal characters come to life and play with a boy, teaching him about new words and having adventures along the way. Each episode focuses on a search to learn about a new word, with one of the three animals taking the lead.

Good For Kids: The learning aspect is there, but the voice acting, animation, and music are all extremely enchanting.

Good For Adults: Another one that I quite enjoyed, mainly because the recurring song and intro song were good.

Alphablocks

What’s It All About (Alfie): A more zany, less plot driven version of Abadas, this teaches children about language by having animated letters holding hands to form new words. Various escapades ensue.

Good For Kids: The episodes are all very short – only a few minutes long, and the blocks themselves are funny enough to capture attention and aid learning.

Good For Adults: It’s another useful learning tool, and because episodes are short adutls shouldn’t get bored and can use the time to help spell with their kids. I quite liked the way the blocks shouted out the letters and words, and the amusing animation while holding hands.

Andy’s Wild/Dinosuar Adventures

What’s It All About (Alfie): Andy, one of the Cbeebies presenters has taken a job at the Natural History Museum/Safari park along with his friend and monkey Kip. Each episode they are given a job to do, but end up going on an adventure through time and/or space to learn about a particular animal.

Good For Kids: For older kids primarily, and those interested in animals. My girls again would watch pieces of this, but get bored before the end.

Good For Adults: I like the idea of this, but for whatever reason it just didn’t work for me. Andy is a decent presenter, and Kip is an okay sidekick, but the jokes and effects aren’t great.

Baby Jake

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What’s It All About (Alfie): The youngest member of a huge windmill-living family goes on daily adventures with an assorted of imaginative friends.

Good For Kids: Absolutely. There may not be much educational value in it, and I think some fools criticized it for having a lot of baby speech (goggy gi-ah etc), but it’s bright, funny, and is filled with ideas and charm. Although my girls don’t watch it anymore, it was one of the first and longest loved shows they found. We even have a Jake doll.

Good For Adults: Well, I enjoyed it. There isn’t much in each episode, but I loved the music and the funny animals who play with Jake, and the amusing merge of real time with animation. Again each episode is brief, so you don’t mind watching a few in a row – just be ready to have the tunes stuck in your head.

Bing

What’s It All About (Alfie): A CG show about a Bunny toddler and his pals who overcomes simple problems and fears with the help of their carer.

Good For Kids: This is quite a recent show and one of the few which my youngest loves more than my eldest. Of course it’s all bright and detailed and lovely, and the ‘problems’ encountered in each episode are the sorts of things kids would worry about – wetting the bed, sharing, noisy fireworks etc.

Good For Adults: Yeah, again I like this one, again each episode is under 10 minutes, and it’s easy to get wrapped up in the charm and simplicity of it all. One of the main characters is voiced by Oscar Winner Mark Rylance too.

Well, that’s enough for now. Feel free to share your thoughts on any of the shows above – which shows your kids watch, what you used to watch etc.

Sh*t I Used To Watch – Neighbours – Bonus Post 2

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G’day mate, howz it goin’ ya flaming ga-lah! Wait, that’s Home And Away. Anyway, I’m back with another list of Neighbours characters and some recollections. I know you loved the last one, so please enjoy another!

Lou Carpenter – Tom Oliver – 1988 – 2016

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Significant Others: Cheryl Stark, Trixie Tucker, Kathy Carpenter, Lolly Allen, Lauren Carpenter, Nina Tucker, Paige Smith, Harold Bishop, Madge Bishop – basically everyone.

Lou Carpenter is now the soap’s longest serving character and Oliver the longest serving actor. Appearing briefly in 1988, he returned as a regular in the early 90s and immediately became a hit with viewers, mainly down to his womanizing ways, his banter with Jelly Belly Bishop, and that laugh. As you would expect, Lou has had his fair share of tragedy and interesting storylines – most notable being him becoming the owner of Lou’s Place, getting it on with and then losing Cheryl after a car accident, and becoming a dad again at a mature age (sort of).  Of course he has had a number of other realtionships over the years, but it’s his backstory and on screen chemistry with Madge and Harold that I remember him most fondly for, the three growing old together, falling out with one another, and helping each other through tough times. Always ready to sneak a buck or two when the opportunity arises, Lou’s house has also seen any number of tenants and neighbours over the years. Lou is a legend on the street and the show, and though he is only a recurring character now every few months, it’s always a joy to see him.

Special Power: His laugh can both raise the dead and kill the living and immediately causes those who hear it to imitate without pause for the duration of the episode.

Where Are They Now:

Lou Carpenter and Kathy Carpenter renew their vows in Neighbours

Still on Ramsey Street, and recently got (re) married to Kathy. Expect guest appearances every so often.

Taj Coppin – Jamie Robbie Reyne – 2002 -2004

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Significant Others: Tahnee Coppin. Jack Scully. Nina Tucker. Libby Kennedy.

I could have done without including Taj because I never really liked him, at least at the time. I think this was more bias on my part because he was getting it on with my beloved Libby Kennedy and was a bit of a knob. Still, he was involved in some decent storylines with some of my favourite characters so I’ll include him here, namely his relationships with Nina and Libby.

Special Power: If he lived in Royston Vasey he would most certainly work in the local shop for local people.

Where Are They Now:

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As a minor character I doubt he has been mentioned much since leaving. After cheating on some film school exam he nevertheless got a job in the film industry and left the town. Jamie Robbie Reyne has released a number of albums since leaving the show, and while they don’t appear to have been very successful he has toured with my (other) beloved The Bangles so plus marks there.

Helen Daniels – Anne Haddy – 1985 – 1997

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Significant Others: The Robinsons, The Martins, The Bishops  – basically everyone who lived on the street in the first 15 years of the show.

One of the original and longest running characters on the show, Anne Haddy’s Helen Daniels is another legend. She was the unofficial matriarch of Neighbours, offering advice, taking in strays, and always willing to lend a hand in stark contrast to the more typical busy-boddy or nosy archetypes. She is one of the few characters whose death received the famous ‘sad Neighbours theme’ and she was a great loss to the characters and the show as a whole. Helen of course had plenty of her own juicy storylines from marrying or getting involved with dodgy types, to being kidnapped but most remember her as being the one person anyone could go to for help – everyone wanted a granny like Helen. Everyone remembers her death, surrounded by her family, in her own home, while watching a video of Scott and Charlene’s wedding.

Special Power: Curing any malaise.

Where Are They Now:

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Her death left a gap which has never really been filled. Anne Haddy was forced to leave due to real life ill health and died a couple of years later – she was so popular that her death was announced after the airing of that day’s Neighbours episode.

Mark Gottlieb – Bruce Samazan – 1993 – 1995

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Significant Others: Serendipity Gottlieb, Stephen Gottlieb, Annalise Hartman, Gaby Willis

Mark was just such a likeable chap, helped by Samazan’s cheeky performance. Mark was a typical good guy, though always came across as a little awkward which made his heartthrob tendencies all the more amusing. I was pretty pissed when the character turned to God and became completely different, even ditching Annalise on their wedding day to become a priest instead. After a few weeks or months of that nonsense he regained his senses and went back to normal, but by that point the damage was done and he left the show after a few months of reconciliations.

Where Are They Now:

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It always seemed like Mark and Annalise would get together finally, but it never happened. Mark left the street after getting a job as a TV chef and presumably that is where he remains – as usual I’ve no idea if he has been referenced again in the years since. Samazan remains the only actor to have appeared in all three of the major Ozzy soaps – EStreet and Home And Away along with Neighbours. He quit acting in 2000 and apparently became some sort of Sales Consultant for Real Estate firms.

Serendipity Gottlieb – Raelee Hill – 1994 – 1995

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Significant Others: The Gottliebs, Luke Handley.

Pretty much the opposite to Mark with regards to how I felt about the character – I never liked her and found pretty much everything about her irritating. But if I include Mark I may as well throw her in too. She started off as a bit of a hippy, then became a business woman, then moves to Japan.

Special Power: Attracts fists.

Where Are They Now:

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Maybe still in Japan, maybe back in Oz, no idea. Naturally, we all know Raelee Hill for starring as Sikozu in the last couple of seasons of Farscape.

Let us know in the comments what you think of any of the characters above and share your favourite Neighbours moments!

Escape From Sobibor

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A gripping tale of captivity during the Holocaust which tows the line subtly between being engaging and off-putting, and sees a stellar cast highlighting the plight of hundreds of innocents waiting to die.

As the title suggests, the film is based in the Sobibor death camp during World War II, and is based on true events. In 1943, another train packed with Jews from around Poland arrives at Sobibor, and they are divided into groups for immediate processing – if you’ve watched any Holocaust movies or read about the death camps before you will be familiar with these scenes. Tricked into believing that it is a temporary work camp, those with a particular skill such as tailors or goldsmiths are sent to one side, everyone else is sent to the gas chambers. The survivors are put to work and are subject to random beatings, punishment, and live in terrible conditions. Yet still there is hope, as some of those survivors begin to plot any sort of uprising or escape. It is clear that the survivors are treated as little more than temporary slaves and that once they have outlived their usefulness, they will be executed. Alan Arkin stars as the leader of the revolt, conspiring with an intelligent and strong new arrival – Rutger Hauer’s veteran soldier.

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The plan is risky and based on blind hope, but the best they could have possibly hoped for. The camp isn’t huge and there are not very many actual Nazi’s present. The prisoners hope that if they can trap and kill the Nazi officers, that the Ukranian prison guards will not care enough and simply allow the prisoners to leave. For this to work though, everyone has to be on board and some prisoners will take convincing. There are plenty of shocking events and emotional moments without sentiment – the realization of what the chimneys represent, one young boy trying to run out of his queue leading to the gas chamber, the inevitable conclusion to the story of a mother and her baby who had been hiding, and the result of a previous attempted escape as each escapee is forced to choose someone to be shot with them.

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As mentioned, the cast here are very good, dealing with some of the most horrible things anyone has had to endure let alone imagine. Many of the faces you won’t recognise, a few you will, but their deeds will stay with you. These sorts of films have more impact when they don’t contain a bunch of stars, just great actors with memorable faces who are capable of generating empathy. The film is not bloody, nor does it need to be. The writing is fine, based on recollections of genuine conversations, and the direction is solid. As we watch the prisoners running for their lives at the end, as we watch some get mowed down by bullets, run free, or head into a minefield, it is all the more heartbreaking knowing that these events happened and that history has a habit of repeating itself. Where there are humans, there is hope and despair, good and evil in varying degrees – when will we tip the balance so far to the good side that evil will finally slip off and drown?

Let us know in the comments what you thought of Escape From Sobibor and what other Prison Camp movies have made an impact on you.

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Sh*T I Used To Watch – Neighbours Bonus Post

Hello, hi, and hello. As you may have or did not see in my previous Neighbours post, I mentioned that I was going to abuse you all with a few bonus posts on my recollections of the show. The response to this of overwhelmingly non-existent, so here you are! As the folks on Ramsey Street are on their festive break, hopefully this will tide you over until the return in January. Here are a few of my favourite characters who have appeared in the show and some of their most memorable antics.

Rick Alessi – Dan Falzon – 1992 – 1995

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Significant Others: Benito, Cathy, Marco, Christina, Caroline (the large Alessi family), Andrew Robinson, Danni Stark, Debbie Martin, Cody Willis.

Most people remember ‘The Twins’ – Caroline and Christina – some of Paul Robinson’s early conquests, but I wasn’t overly fond of them even though they were already established before cousin Rick arrived. No-one remembers Rick’s brother or parents. Within a year, Rick was the only Alessi left on the show, a troublesome heartthrob always getting into scrapes with his buddies. He has various relationships and flings in his time on the show, mainly with ‘Mad Debbie Martin’ and ‘Maybe My Cousin Cody Willis’. Rick has a particularly turbulent time in Erinsborough, before leaving for Darwin. I always enjoyed Rick’s relationship with Lou Carpenter and how he got on with Cody, breaking up with her before she was shot and killed – it would have been nice to see him come back for Cody’s funeral but at least he did leave a message for her memorial.

Special Power: Rick’s floppy hair took at least six hours a day to clean and was known to make panties drop at fifty paces.

Where Are They Now:

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I’m not aware of Rick returning to the show at any point and I can’t think of any character mentioning him in years. Like so many of the younger performers on Neighbours over the years, Falzon has seemingly now retired from acting. He dabbled with music over the years, but is currently a paramedic and eco-warrior. He did appear in Gamesmaster, so that’s a bonus.

Sarah Beaumont – Nicola Charles – 1996 – 2016

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Significant Others: Karl Kennedy, Bess O’Brien, Catherine O’Brien, Peter Hannay, Angus Beaumont, Antigone Beaumont

No discussion of Neighbours would be complete without mention of Sarah – the original home-wrecking hussy. Sarah arrived on Ramsey Street to consideration male attention – basically everyone was infatuated with her, including Toadie. She eventually works in Karl’s surgery where she becomes close with everyone’s favourite doctor. Thus one of the soap’s most famous affairs started, devastating every character who was involved. It was great. She also had a dog called Bob, continuing the show’s long tradition with cute pets. Sarah has left and returned several times in the show, most recently returning to announce that she is dying of cancer.

Special Power: Breasts.

Where Are They Now:

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Sarah has appeared sporadically either in person or by name on the show this year, and her tearaway son Angus became a recurring character, moving in with Karl and Susan. Charles was super popular in lads mags in the 90s, appearing on FHM’s sexiest list a couple of times, but she hasn’t appeared in anything else of significance.

Beth Brennan – Natalie Imbruglia – 1992 – 1994

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Significant Others: Brad Willis, Ned Willis, Lauren Carpenter, Lucy Robinson, Philip Martin, Wayne Duncan.

It may not be obvious if you’re a regular here, but I love Natalie Imbruglia. She was probably my first crush on the show but I don’t remember much now about her time. Imbruglia though is one of the best pop peeps of all time though, and White Lillies Island is one of the best albums ever. Her other albums are pretty great too, as well as her B-Sides. Seriously, check her out. But that’s not what we’re here for. Beth joined the show as a bit of an innocent country girl who was also practical and hard-working. She is most notable for her on again off again relationship with Brad – Beth leaves him at the altar on their (first) wedding day after she finds out about his affair with Lauren, though they later marry for reals before leaving the show together.

Special Power: Can take apart and re-assemble an M-16 in 17 seconds.

Where are They Now:

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Her and Brad divorced for reals. She gave birth to tearaway son Ned, who is currently on the show, but Imbruglia has said she has no interest in returning to the show. There’s always a chance someone else could pick it up. Imbruglia has of course gone on to sell millions of records, do lots of modeling stuff, and appear in decent movies like Johnny English and Closed For Winter.

Carmella Cammeniti – Natalie Blair – 2003 – 2011

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Significant Others: Rocco, Lucia, Rosario, Rosetta, Chloe, Raimondo and a bunch of other Cammenitis, Marco Silvani, Oliver Barnes, Connor O’Neill.

Of all the characters I would have been most interested in keeping up with after I stopped watching Neighbours, Carmella would be near the top. She was always a bit part character when I was watching at my peak, and always had interesting and bizarre storylines. The daughter of Rocco, some sort of Australian Mafia type, she first began a relationship with our very own Connor which of course Rocco did not approve of. This would be an on and off thing while until she went into hiding as a Nun. Later stories involved a singing career, selling a baby, and later various relationships, drug addiction, becoming a mum, and being haunted by her dead husband – most of these last ones I was not around to see. Blair was always incredibly hot and always gave great performances, though maybe this was heightened when up against the acting ‘talents’ of Patrick Harvey.

Special Power: Anytime anyone paints a picture of her, it looks like Jessica Rabbit.

Where Are They Now

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She left the show in 2008, briefly returning for a few episodes with her happy family in 2011. I have no idea if she has been mentioned since. Natalie Blair married her Neighbours co-star David Hoflin (Oliver Barnes) and has appeared in a few minor movies and series.

Rocco Cammeniti – Robert Forza – 2003 – 2007

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Significant Others: The Cammeniti family, Sindi Watts, Connor O’Neil, Toadie, Stuart Parker.

Rocco was introduced as a scary Godfather type, but also sort of looked like a cuddly teddie bear. He’s clearly a scumbag as he was having an affair with Sindi, eventually deciding to ditch his wife for her. When Sindi sets her sights on Toadie, Rocco gets angry and bad things happen. All the while he is jealous and protective of any male attention towards any of his family, usually in the form of Connor. He later seemingly becomes reformed but is arrested due to his past crimes and sent to prison. Rocco always brought a fun new dimension to the show and was a memorable and funny recurring villain.

Special Power: If you shave his beard, nothing happens; you can keep shaving forever and the hair instantly replenishes itself.

Where Are They Now:

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Presumably still in prison. Forza previously played two different characters in Neighbours, only for a few episodes though. He only appeared as Rocco in 28 episodes, which must make him one of the most impactful characters for such a small number of appearances. He’s another who has appeared in minor shows and movies, but he was Prisoner Cell Block H, because of course he was.

Stay tuned for another riveting trip down Ramsey Street next time, while we eagerly await the show’s return in the new year!

Walk Of Fame Inductees -November 2016

To check the dubious reasoning behind these posts, check the original here:

https://carlosnightman.wordpress.com/2015/05/14/walk-of-fame-a-celebration-of-heroism/

In this new series of posts I’ll be selecting a Star at random from every decade (who was born in that decade) starting from the 1880s up until the 1990s to be interred in this land of magic and wonder, who will for ever more see their name set in stone far beyond the places where Gods dare to tread. Each name will have a unique star placed and statue built-in their honour. Often accompanying these additions will be news of a new store or museum to go alongside those stars whose work is of particular genius, and you too can visit and see the place of your dreams, simply by closing your eyes….

1880s: Claude Rains: For contributions to Cinema, Television, and Theatre.

Actor Claude Rains

The British born Rains started his career on stage in London where his performances drew interest from Broadway. Thanks to a distinctive voice and knack for character acting, Rains soon became an in demand star and picked up four Oscar nominations while appearing in some of Cinema’s most iconic films. He is remembered for works including Mr Smith Goes To Washington, Casablanca, and The Invisible Man. 

1890s: Lillian Gish: For contributions to Cinema, Television, and Theatre.

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Lillian Gish is one one of the most important performers to ever appear on screen and is generally considered one of the best actresses of all time. With a career spanning over 70 years, Gish met and grew up with Mary Pickford and joined travelling theatre groups. Before long she was the biggest star in silent films and though her success never reached the same heights when sound came along, she nevertheless was nominated for an Oscar later in her career, as well as picking up an Honourary Award. She is remembered for works including The Birth Of A Nation, The Night Of The Hunter, and Duel In The Sun. 

1900s: Daryl F Zanuck: For contributions to Cinema.

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Another one of the most important Producers and executives in Cinema’s early days, Zanuck was responsible for the creation of 20th Century/20th Century Fox. During WWII he enlisted as a Colonel and demanded more involvement than what other stars were getting, while also making propaganda movies and ensuring that the performers in his studios were helping out. He is remembered for works such as The Grapes Of Wrath, All About Eve, and The Longest Day. 

1910s: Cantinflas: For contributions to Cinema, Television, and Theatre.

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The premier start to emerge from Mexico in Cinema’s early days, Cantinflas started out as a dancer and pseudo-circus type entertainer before landing early screen roles. Before long he was a hit in Latin America, but didn’t make his first North American movie until the 1950s. He is remembered for works including Around The World In 80 Days, Pepe, and Neither Blood Nor Sand.

1920s: Peter Lawford: For contributions to Cinema and Television.

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Born into aristocracy and a military family, Lawford decided to be an actor after a childhood injury made military service unlikely. Escaping his family he finally made his major film debut to roaring reviews and thus began a long career which saw him joining the Brat Pack, becoming JFK’s brother in law, and appearing in many notable films and shows. He is remembered for works such as The Canterville Ghost, Little Women, and Ocean’s Eleven. 

1930s: Alan Alda: For contributions to Cinema, Television, and Theatre.

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The son of veteran actor Robert Alda, Alan followed in his father’s footsteps and went on to earn multiple Emmy, Golden Globe, BAFTA, and Oscar nominations as a performer, as well as writing and directing. He is known for works including M*A*S*H, The Aviator, and The West Wing. 

1940s: Joe Mantegna: For contributions to Cinema, Television, and Theatre.

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Known widely for his voice work as well as his stage and screen performances, Mantegna has been the voice of Fat Tony in The Simpsons for decades while also maintaining a big screen presence in comic and dramatic roles. He is known for works such as The Godfather III, Criminal Minds, and Three Amigos!

1950s: Jimmy Smits: For contributions to Cinema and Television.

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One of the most famous and popular Latino actors in America, Smits has given acclaimed performances in some of the most significant TV shows in US history, as well as appearing in a number of notable movies. He is known for works such as NYPD Blue, LA Law, and The Star Wars Series.

1960s: Steve Carell: For contributions to Cinema and Television.

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Carell was always interested in comedy and writing and though he appeared in a few movies and shows in his early career it wasn’t until his 40s that he began getting noticed on a wider basis. Since then he has become one of the world’s most popular comedy performers while also branching out into more dramatic roles to great success. He is known for works including The Despicable Me Series, The 40 Year Old Virgin, and Foxcatcher. 

1970s: Nia Long: For contributions to Cinema and Television.

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Long started out as a teen actress for Disney before forging a long and respected television and movie career in light and serious roles. She is known for works such as Boyz N The Hood, The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air, and Third Watch. 

1980s: Kristen Bell: For contributions to Cinema, Music, Theatre, and Television.

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Every nerdy fanboy’s favourite girl next door, Kristen Bell is one of the most intelligent and successful performers working today. Bell featured in school drama shows before ending up on Broadway at a young age. It wasn’t long before her performances led to movie and TV roles where she became a star in her own right – her vocal performances just as notable as her on screen spots. She is known for roles including Veronica Mars, Frozen, and Gossip Girl. 

1990sPaloma Kwiatkowski: For contributions to Cinema and Television.

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Kwiatkowski is one of Canada’s most promising upcoming actors thanks to a string of notable performances in prominent movies and shows. She is known for works such as The Percy Jackson Series, Bates Motel, and Who’s Driving Doug. 

In addition to the statues and stars erected for the people above, the following attractions have been created:

In honour of Kristen Bell, the Disney’s Frozen Arendelle Experience has been unveiled: Come and visit a fully realized construction of the Kingdom Of Arendelle, with fjords, mountains, towns, and palaces from the movie all erected for you to visit. With state of the art weather technology, each 24 hours in Arendelle is different with sudden snowstorms changing the landscape into a winter wonderland in moments only for the next day to be baked in the summer sun.

In honour of Lillian Gish, the Lillian Gish School Of Performing Arts has been unveiled: Enroll in this school and get some of the best education in drama and music across the known galaxies with a special focus on the works of Gish used in teaching.

Which attractions would you like to see being created in honour of any of the people above or the movies and shows they have been involved in? Let us know in the comments!

Sh*t I Used To Watch – Strike It Lucky/Strike It Rich

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DEE-DE-DE-DE-DE-DE-DE-DE-DEDE-DE-DEEEE! Yes, it’s another hit show from the Golden Age of British Game shows – a game show which has it all – big prizes! Silly prizes! An entertaining presenter, catchphrases, chit chat with contestants, questions, answers, and an interesting and engaging premise. Strike It Lucky (which then became Strike It Rich) was a big hit with me, my family enjoyed it, and as far as I am aware it was a big success with audiences around the country. Why did I love it so, though? Read on…

The show was created in the US in 1986 as Strike It Rich – the main difference from the UK version being that the US featured two teams, one of which was a returning champion while in the UK there were three teams who only got one stab at the pie. From what I can tell, the show wasn’t a hit in the States, but with Barrymore as host in the UK, the show lasted for thirteen years and is still shown in syndication, as well as a few Special episodes and assorted Board Games and merchandise. Barrymore had already been a presenter, comedian, and actor on various sketch shows, but it was his slapstick energy and rapid-fire repartee with the contestants in Strike It Lucky which made him a megastar and the show an 18 Million viewer mega-hit. Most gameshows of the time featured comedians in presenting roles, but the interaction with the contestant, viewer, and audience was often more one-sided and always brief; a couple of hellos to the contestants, a couple of jokes to those watching, and you were on your way. With Barrymore, a quarter of the episode running time was him chatting and joking with the guests. As the series progressed, the guests would become more outspoken and entertaining in their own right without resorting to bizarre or outlandish types. There would usually be a young couple, a very elderly person, or someone with an interesting job to spark banter and jokes, and in most cases this opening was the best part of the episode. We as the viewer got an unusual insight into each contestant and you felt much closer to them and therefore hoped they would do well on the show – something which I don’t think any other game show has come close to achieving. Pointless comes close but in a less anarchic fashion, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire had something similar by virtue of the one on one format, and Deal Or No Deal was just shit.

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It’s true; deal with it

I should say that I don’t have any real nostalgic connection to Strike It Lucky/Rich – unlike most of the other shows in this sh*t series of posts. It’s simply a great all round show that I always loved, that I enjoy watching re-runs of, and that now my kids even will watch. As mentioned, the main key to the success was Barrymore – his spark, energy, and interaction with the guests. But every good British gameshow needs a good catchphrase too. Barrymore of course has his own ‘Awight!?’ that he would shout at the audience at the start of each show, but the game had a couple of its own – one which is a statement which became a catchphrase, and the other a bizarre exchange with the crowd. ‘Top Middle, or Bottom’ is a question which Barrymore poses in the final round – when the contestant has to make their way from left to right across the board without striking out. There are three rows to choose from – top, middle, or bottom – as simple as games and catchphrases get really. The second catchphrase involves Barrymore asking the audience ‘what is a hotspot not’ and them replying ‘not a good spot’. In and of itself that doesn’t sound very catchy, and it doesn’t even make sense, but his delivery is spot on (pun pardon). What’s good about it is that the audience’s response is completely indecipherable. In fact, it wasn’t until the internet blew up that I was actually able to Ask Jeeves what it was they were actually saying. For years I’d assumed their answer was ‘Prizes’.

So, the game involves six contestants in three pairs.  The first half of the game is a race across the board – three contestants walk across the board, three answer questions to win the chance to move forward two, three, or four places. Barrymore tells the contestant the ‘genre’ of the question, and the contestant decides if they want two, three, or four questions – if they get one wrong the question moves to the next contestant. The questions are multiple choice and might be something like ‘Famous Toms’ where the answers are Tom Hanks, Tom Cruise, Tom Jones etc, you get the idea. Once the questions have been answered, the contestant’s partner moves across the board one step at a time, hitting a button. When they hit the button they either get a prize or a Hot Spot. What is a hot spot not? Prizes. Not a good spot either. Basically if they land on a Hot Spot, their turn is over, so even if they answered four questions and get to walk forward four spaces, if they hit a hot spot on their first space, it’s the end of their turn. If it’s not a Hot Spot, they win a prize. Sometimes it’s a small cash prize, often it’s something humourous related to the contestant – if it’s an elderly couple, the prize might be a free Pole Dancing lesson for example. More Barrymore banter. There’s another level of strategy and gambling here – the contestant may answer four questions, but after moving forward two spaces they get two good prices such as a Weekend Holiday and a lump sum. If you hit a Hot Spot you lose your prices from that round, so do they risk moving on to get closer to the end, or bank their prizes and stay where they are?

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Eventually, a couple will reach the final step of the board where they are asked a final question to proceed to the final round – get it wrong and another couple may pip you to the post, get it right and the other two couples are out. This leads to the second half of the show, which I always found the less interesting. The winning couple selects which top prize they want to go for – three choices of cash. The higher the cash prize, the more difficult the gameboard is. Basically the team has to get across the same board, choosing top, middle, or bottom. There are three outcomes of each choice  – a Hot Spot – meaning they lose one life, a tick – meaning they move forward one space, or a question. Get the question right – move forward, get it wrong – Hot Spot. With the highest cash prize you get two lives, the middle one – three lives, the lowest cash prize – four lives. It’s tense stuff and the crowd always got into it – exciting the closer the team got to the end, but it just didn’t have the humour and fun of the first half.

I think Strike It Lucky could still work today, as a format. The problem when people try to resurrect classic gameshows it that they end up being self-knowing in an awkward and self-congratulatory manner. Just bring it back and get on with it. Barrymore has had his problems with the media and the public since his 90s heyday, but feck it – make him the host again, Awight!?

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Let us know in the comments if you used to watch Strike It Lucky or if you are more familiar with the US version.

Sh*t I Used To Watch – The League Of Gentlemen

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The early to mid-nineties was a glorious time for British TV comedy, but by the time the decade was coming to a close many of those shows were at an end and several new comedians were making their presence known, welcome or otherwise. I can’t remember how or where I first heard about The League Of Gentlemen – whether it was advertised beforehand, but regardless I was there on the first day it was shown on BBC 2. And mah gawd how I laughed. For many years since, I proclaimed the pilot episode as the single greatest pilot episode of any comedy show I had ever seen. And it only got better. Running for three Seasons and having one special Christmas episode and one movie, The League Of Gentlemen was based off a radio show, features three men playing multiple roles, and is obviously one of the best shows to ever grace the small screen.

The League Of Gentlemen are Mark Gatiss (Game Of Thrones), Steve Pemberton (Benidorm), Reece Sheersmith (A Field In England), and Jeremy Dyson, forming when they were in Theatre school together. Fast forward a few years and their show made it to television – a low budget mixture of horror and comedy, movie and TV references, sketch show and sitcom, packed with memorable characters, quotes, and moments – many of which I’m still amazed were allowed past the censors. Each of the three series deals with the various inhabitants of a fictional grim Northern England town called Royston Vasey, with each series a loose continuation of what has gone before and dealing with the aftermath of such things. Series 1 follows an outsider called Benjamin who decides to visit his aunt and uncle in Royston Vasey, an event which both triggers and symbolizes the central theme of the series – staying local, and keeping outsiders out. Series 2 deals with the town being infected by a horrific disease, while Series 3 takes a different spin, dealing with a different group of characters in each episode within the same 24 hour period and how they all tie together to a car crash. Meanwhile, the Christmas episode is an anthology horror featuring three blood-curdling tales involving many of your favourite characters.

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It’s difficult to explain the show’s charm to others without giving too much away – if you are a fan of horror or very dark comedy, then you will absolutely love this. There is a massive cast of zany, bizarre, ugly, and yet lovable characters. Many of these are not too subtle variations on people the actors and writers met in real life and who you have likely encountered, while some are nightmarish creations which can only be a pastiche of horror villains and WTF dreams. We have the angry, violent, middle-aged Pauline – a restart officer for ‘dole scum’, we have the sinister Butcher Hilary Briss, we have Tubbs and Edward, the pig-nosed, murderous weirdos who run The Local Shop and enjoy hunting and killing anyone who strays into the village, Barbara the taxi driver in the middle of a sex change, vet Doctor Chinnery who accidentally kills and maims any animal he comes into contact with, Rev. Bernice the local atheist Vicar, Herr Lipp the German Pedophile, Papa Lazarou the Circus ringmaster who steals wives for his Circus, and many many many more. There are close to 100 characters and most of them are gold – even if they only appear in one scene, you can be sure they will have some hilarious one-liner or joke.

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The dialogue in the show is fantastic and quotable from the popular ‘Hello, Dave’ to the more obscure ‘We didn’t burn him!’, everyone gets something memorable to say. In the grand tradition of sketch shows, the characters live and die by their catchphrases and this show has so many it would be ludicrous to try to list them. When the show first aired in 1999, indeed when the first episode aired, I was already quoting the dialogue. There was only one other guy in school who I knew watched from the start and we were both entirely smitten. Others caught up quickly, but it has taken until recent years for the show to be recognised as a cult classic. Never a day passes without some ad for a t-shirt website displaying a shirt with a quote from the show on my Facebook. But it is much more than simple catchphrases. The narratives which weave through each episode are expertly handled, and the show is twisting and turning and surprising, packed with scares, tension, and laugh out loud moments – hell there is even some pathos in there. Again, for my predominantly US based readers I wouldn’t want to spoil anything, but if anything I’ve said so far has intrigued you, then find and watch the show now. I’ve no idea if the show made it over there or if it is known at all outside of the UK, but I think enough of the humour is universal that anyone could enjoy it. It’s hardly a surprise that the writers have gone on to work on, star in, and help create some of TV’s most popular shows – Dr Who, Sherlock, Game Of Thrones, Shaun Of The Dead, Benidorm, etc.

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Seasons 1 and 2, and the Christmas episode are some of my favourite television ever, and I was sorely disappointed by Season 3. In fact, I’ve only watched it once compared to the multiple viewings of the others. Season 3 lost much of the sketch based action and instead became a more detailed character piece, more often than not dealing with characters from the previous seasons that weren’t as interesting to me, changing the characters too much so that they felt like different people, and introducing several new people who I didn’t find funny or engaging. However, I think the initial shock put me off and I need to go back and watch again. It would be like watching a Season 5 episode of The Simpsons versus a Season 20 – one is funny and memorable and brilliant, while the other is just some show written by some guy. I’m probably being too harsh so I do intend to watch it again. Likewise, the movie wasn’t great – I saw it in the cinema as soon as it was released, and while there are laughs it simply didn’t translate well to the big screen. That has always been strange to me as a movie based on those characters seems like it could and should have been the easiest thing in the world to do, especially given the cast’s affinity for movies. I must go back and watch it too.

When I planned this post in my head, I was laughing about all the things I could write and talk about, but then I thought that I would rather leave it up to you to decide if you’d like to watch it, while I go and hunt down my DVDs (and VHS) of the series. For those of you who have seen it, feel free to share your favourite moments and quotes in the comments section – I have too many to count, from Pam Doove’s audition, to the ‘Bummers are deaf’ discussion, to the gassy dog, to anything with Papa Lazarou, and so on, and so on…

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Are You Afraid Of The Dark – The Tale Of The Sorceror’s Apprentice

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Long before Harry Potter, but long after Grottbags, there was another Sorcerer’s Apprentice – young Dean, star of today’s episode of AYAOTD. We deal with magic and obsession, a well worn trope in fiction seen in everything from the seductive nature of The Dark Side Of The Force, to the addictive calamity witnessed in Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Lets see what Amazon’s blurb has to say about this one:

Dean has trouble at school – especially with chemistry. His best friend, Alix, seems to be the only one who understands him. One day an archaeologist visits the class and brings along a bewitching snake which entrances Dean. Soon thereafter Alix begins to notice changes in his personality.

We’re in familiar territory as the episode opens with the group heading to their usual spot. On the way though they find a grave where two of our more ethnic members play a prank. Betty-Anne is telling tonight’s story, one which seems to involve skulls, or headless corpses, or skeletons or something, given the way she’s fondling that bone between her hands. We go back to 1966, some museum-looking school where a time travelling kid (they’re wearing 90s clothes) drops a bucket (?) into a puddle (?). I don’t know, it’s not very clear. We flash forward to Present Day and meet Dean, an unusually attractive young chap who doesn’t appear to be popular and isn’t great at school work, as explained by the pitbull teacher’s battleaxe face and grumpy one-liners. I had my fair share of witches in school – what is it about a career in education that can drain all the moisture from one’s face and replace it with a medicine ball-shaped Gorgon texture? Dean sort of looks like a cross between River Phoenix and Michael Pitt.

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We then meet Alix (America) who, for some reason happens to be Dean’s friend. Likewise I also had girls who were, for the same ‘some reason’, my friends. I really feel like today’s story is speaking to me. Or maybe I’m too lazy to think of another angle to write from today. What the hell pictures did she have in her locker? It appears to be – A random Cosby; a saturated black and white still of a woman terrified beneath a tree; two cartoon skiers chasing a heart down the slope of Mount Fuji; the face of the bad guy from Ghostbusters II cut out and placed on the body of stylish 90s business women. That’s quite a collection. We never had lockers in my school, just schoolbags packed with everything you needed for the day, and that was usually dumped in a corner once you got in. Something else we rarely had in school was special guests – in this episode a redhead archaeologist comes to speak in Dean and Alix’s class, bringing with her a wide array of artifacts. One such artifact is a giant cobra sceptre which once belonged to a reputedly evil sorcerer – perhaps he who wields the sceptre will absorb the sorcerer’s power.

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Euphemisms

This has so far reminded me an awful lot of an early Buffy episode, and that’s no bad thing. The school setting, the friendship, the weird teacher and the weird artifact – these are all things that pop up in Season 1 Buffy and while that Season is seen as the worst, I still have very fond memories of watching them for the first time as a 14 year old when they first made their way to BBC 2. Dean’s interest has been piqued and he speaks with the teacher and pokes at some of her toys. She speaks in ambiguous terms so we immediately ask ourselves if she is evil. Once Dean lifts the scepter, he becomes entranced and heads into the school basement (more Buffy nostalgia). Cut to the next scene and Dean has suddenly transformed into a Beat poet rebel, complete with turtle neck and attitude, mystifying his unnecessarily angry teacher, and upsetting Alix. Dean has basically become Xander in The Pack, with cool new friends and unfortunate decision making. At this point we’re almost halfway through the episode and nothing remotely scary has happened. It is however interesting and has a coherent vibe and good performances.

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As we’re halfway through this post, here is something else to hold your interest

 

There is one funny scene here as Dean speaks to the floating head of Goth, performing a resurrection ritual in what appears to be a trash can. Alix watches from about four feet away and Dean sends his acolytes after her.

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Not These Guys

For some reason Goth speaks with an English accent, and then for some reason Dean begins speaking in an English accent. And then for some reason, I begin laughing in a Jamaican accent. Goth isn’t a particularly imposing figure, and while there is a Palpatine/Vader dynamic going on, his face when he laughs resembles a worried and weeping Vinnie Jones.

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Alix decides, against all known codes of honour and wisdom, to ask a teacher for help, but the angry teacher is already under Goth’s power. This bit actually unnerved me a little, because when the teacher laughs, her front teeth almost look like they turn to fangs – a little like that moment with Bilbo in Fellowship Of The Ring. However, they are apparently her normal teeth. It feels like the closing moments as Alix is chased by the acolytes (one of whom may be the begotten offspring of Robert Smith), but there are still 10 minutes remaining.

We have just enough time to get more oddly framed shots of the Campside Weirdos as they discuss acid and Alix’s predicament. Alix is being taken by Robert Smith, Dean, and the rest to a swimming pool within the school which has inexplicably been left abandoned for 25 years. Dean speaks in an English accent again – is this just something Americans (and Canadians) do when they want to sound sinister? I know that we have a history of English villains in Hollywood films, but to me the generic English accent always sounds tame and wussy. My accent though – if an English person heard me shouting they’d likely vacate their bowels and hide under the nearest tarp. I’m sure the purpose of Dean’s accent is to show he is becoming more like Goth, but it still feels jarring and silly. Goth returns in a watered down Hellraiser vision. There is some terrible make-up and costume work on Goth, but Alix and the returned-to-normal Dean stop his rise by pouring chlorine into the pool. Why there is a vat of chlorine sitting open beside the pool is anyone’s guess. Presumably Dean brought it with him for the ritual, but why the hell would you bring the one thing which will stop your master from rising? Hugs and giggles ensue, I stretch my leg to crack my knee, and we get a quick ‘twist’ ending. Why can’t the teacher perform the ritual herself? Why does it have to be a kid? Why a specific kid?

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Euphemisms

I thought this was a pretty good, engaging episode, albeit light on scares or tension. Without the two good leads though, this may have felt light and flat. There is actually quite a few speaking parts in this episode, so lets have a look and see how much more speaking these peeps have done in their careers. Behold! Dean was in a previous episode – The Tale Of The Prom Queen. If you’ll remember from that post, I asked posed the dilemma ‘I wonder if he’ll look like a scumbag’ referring to his future appearance on the show. I’m pleased to solve that puzzle today by answering that yes, he does kind of look like a scumbag in this episode, but only when he’s acting like one. Elsewhere he gives a very good performance, accent aside. We’ve covered Matthew Mackay’s career before, so lets move on. Alix (Staci Smith) seems to only have one other credit to her name, a year before this episode in the splendidly named movie Prehistoric Bimbos In Armageddon City. 

Only one of the Acolytes is credited and I’ve no idea if it’s Robert Smith or one of the others – played by Chris Nash who has at least 1 Producer, 1 Director, and 1 Composer credit to his name. As an actor he has been around in movies, TV movies, and TV shows from the early 80s to the late 90s including Freddy’s Nightmares, Wraith, and Satisfaction. Many of these movies featured early appearances from Hollywood big hitters, but for whatever reason Nash has yet to reach those heights. I’m not even sure he was one of the acolytes – according to his age on IMDB, that would have made him 31 playing a young teenager. On the other age of the age scale is Goth, an ancient Egyptian or something, played by Stephen R Hart whose size and voice have ensured that has been a respected voice and screen actor since this episode – his first appearance. Since then, he has been in Silent Hill, The Mortal Instruments Series, and voices ‘ Canada’s daily opening rant’ which I can only assume means he stands atop of some Canadian landmark and shrieks a few words or paragraphs about politics, war, famine and other such topics. Finally, the two teachers – angry woman, played by Jane Gilchrist, and Dr. Oliver played by Emma Stevens. Stevens has appeared in lesser known movies and shows including The Audrey Hepburn Story and Beyond Borders, as well as voicing in the Assassin’s Creed series. Gilchrist has had a similar career, appears in a later AYAOTD episode, I’m Not There, and Big Wolf On Campus. 

There you have it, another episode in the bin. Next up we’ll be heading down to the arcade to stumble across sticky carpets and avoid the wizened old pre-divorcee wasting his hard earned quarters on Pacman in The Tale Of The Pinball Wizard. Sweet dreams!

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Let us know what you thought of this episode in the comments and for more reviews of AYAOTD, check here:

Irish Freaks          Freaks Next Door            Freak Boy                 Graveyard Lurkers

Bark Bark Goose           Little Old Lady       Little Old Girl          Laughing Freaks

Uber Freaks                    Grunties                  Eyes Painted In Ye?