There have been a lot of changes to Apple products and softwares around my house recently and I have barely scratched the surface of any of them. I mean, let’s be fair, I barely ever manage to scratch the surface of updates before the next lot come out but I’m always determined to try and I think that counts for something.
The first thing that has really piqued my interest within iOS17 is the Podcasts app.
This weekend, the BBC released a new and quite lengthy trailer for the upcoming Doctor Who specials, featuring the return of David Tennant and Catherine Tate as the Doctor and Donna respectively. I was already excited for these specials and this reunion, but now my anticipation is off the charts.
I’ve had mixed enjoyment following the exploits of various Doctors under various showrunners since Russel T Davies left the show, but it has to be said, seeing that trailer just brings back such a rush of fondness for how the show was during the first couple of series… there really is an element of magic to Davies’ TV-making.
I’ve just finished watching the second series of Annika, a police crime procedural starring Nicola Walker that aired on Alibi. On the face of it, it’s your standard detective fare - each episode features a murder that needs to be solved, and a group of police at various levels in their career come together to solve it, whilst also dealing with their private lives.
But there’s more to this show than that, and I really grew to love it over the course of the two series that have aired so far.
The competition has started properly now, with our first full week of dancing - each couple taking to the floor and showing us what they can do. No one gets voted out in the first week, which means they get one more chance to impress us next week, but if I’m honest… I was impressed by almost everyone anyway!
The start of the show was lovely, first featuring Amy in the opening credits, fingers crossed she can join in the series in some capacity at some point, and then the gorgeous location of Scottish castle ruins as the opening professional dance number.
We’re into the awesome 1995 on the BBC’s Top of the Pops replay, and that means proper Britpop era. Sleeper popped up recently playing Inbetweener and that led to this album choice for the week. Inbetweener kicks off their album and is probably the best song on there, but that doesn’t mean the rest is a disappointment. In fact, it’s a really good album, lyrically strong and keeps you engaged from start to finish. Not a five star album but not far off!
I had no expectations going into this album so it was a really pleasant surprise, it’s so good! Great songs, great messages, that nice modern country feel without getting too poppy along the way. It’s a five out of five in a way that, it’s never going to make the top lists of all time, but it’s a really good and listenable album that I enjoyed both times through and will enjoy again.
I just wanted to celebrate the fact that the Top of the Pops replays have started again on BBC Four, after taking an extended break to make way for the Proms. We’d just dipped our toes into the start of 1995 when the classical stuff took over but now we’re back, and it’s brilliant!
Britpop is starting to emerge and breakthrough the dance numbers, we’re still seeing warblers like Celine Dion rule the roost, but also the oddities are cropping up like Cotton Eye Joe.
You know that episode in Friends where Phoebe doesn’t know the true ending of a movie because her parents wouldn’t let her watch it? Well, this is my movie. The bit with the window… I can’t. And that really sums up what a bizarre film this is. It’s a romance, okay, but it’s also a comedy (when Whoopi shows up, at least, everything before that is an absolute snoozefest), but it’s also absolutely terrifying. The guy on the train is scary as anything, even when they become friends and he’s just laughing. Oof. The demon shadows are creepy, the window scene is unwatchable. And yet, it’s supposed to be soft and gentle and romantic and moving and a story about an everlasting love? I don’t get it.
I really enjoyed the previous book by Sarah that I read so was looking forward to this one - and of course it was brilliantly written. The prose is completely absorbing, you just get sucked into this world and the characters within it, and you want to know what happens next. I just was a bit disappointed that there really didn’t seem to be a point to it, we spent time with these characters but what did we learn?
In July, I wrote about the first part of a multi-part canal walk, following the towpath between two cities: Birmingham and Worcester. The first part of the walk was a lot of fun, and I quickly followed it up with a second outing. That was less fun. I was saving writing about it until I could potentially combine it with a more fun third element, but time has been ticking away and the weather is turning and who knows when that will be.
I’ll be upfront about it - I’m not expecting great things from this year’s Strictly. Part of that is that I don’t know many of the contestants, although that’s not a dealbreaker. The last few years have seen me fall in love with lots of the contestants that I had previously never heard of, so not being too excited about the lineup at first glance might not be a problem.
I thought I would like this, a good solid 80s voice with all the synth pop elements that usually float my boat. But I didn’t gel with it at all and I don’t really know why. It’s a bit experimental in places, and the songs all feel just a bit longer than they should be… it’s not bad but I’m pretty happy to cross it off the list and move on.
I’ve been looking forward to this, considering how brilliant the first album was. I can’t imagine how hard it was to sit down and try writing the difficult second album! This is good though, pretty similar to the first, elements of all those great influences, pop and rock and grudges and love and revenge. It’s not quite as iconic as the first, but still a really great job, very listenable and mostly just fun.
The US Open drew to a conclusion last week with a new champion on the women’s side and the same old champ on the men’s side. I wish I could say I watched and enjoyed it all but I didn’t… the only way I managed to keep up with it was to have a copy of the draws, and read the news and scores each day to keep track.
This movie is a five star film for America Ferrara’s speech alone. But of course the rest of it is brilliant. Shiny, poppy, camp and funny, meta in places and shockingly brutal against Barbie’s history, whilst at the same time having incredible insight and messages. Barbie’s confusion when confronted with a boardroom full of suited men making decisions for and about women was perfection.
The final Famous Five book is a bit shorter than the rest, but it still follows the same pattern - mostly. This time we have more thieves looking for the vague but super important science stuff that the adults work on, and we end up where we began - on Kirrin Island! It’s weird, though, towards the end, George went off on her own so that really it was only one of the five that solved the whole thing! Still a fun story and happy to have completed the set.
Penultimate book, and this time the Five are dispatched to a holiday cottage to stay with a young boy. There’s another mysterious island with secret treasures to be found and that’s the main plot of the book, but I liked the asides - George having to deal with someone else getting on with Timmy, and the gang clearing up a golf course and ingratiating themselves with the neighbours. Fun times, one more book to go!
This is such a weird movie. There is very little to the story, and in this case the lack of dialogue just emphasises that fact. The scenery is outstanding, mind-blowingly good and realistic but then it doesn’t quite work with the cartoonish characters bouncing around. The form of the dinosaurs vs humans is confusing - I know it’s just a movie, but why would the dinosaurs know how to farm but humans be running around like wild dogs? This is a prime example of style over substance.
I was a bit meh about this book, if I’m honest. I liked the juxtaposition of people (hunters, naturalists, etc) searching for a beast, only for there to be a bigger threat than they ever imagined. The Lake District setting is good, but something about the telling of the tale just didn’t quite work for me. But on to the next!
I was nervous about this movie because the concept has always baffled me a bit (the movie of the toy from that toy from the movie) and generally speaking all the reviews I’ve seen have been negative. But… I loved it? Space movie, a sort of time travel story, a rag-tag group of people defying the odds, Taika Waititi being funny, what’s not to like? And compared to some of the recent Pixar movies we’ve watched, it’s at least vaguely sensible.
Love, love this comic strip by xkcd - the booping craze is really taking off and I’m here for it.
Also love that these comics are creative commons and available to share so easily. Way to spread the love.
This is a great album, a short sharp burst of that Spandau Ballet new romantic sound. From the start, it’s all reminiscent of the main two singles - True and Gold - but when you get to those songs, oh, so familiar, so classic, so GOOD! The rest of it you tend to be enjoying but generally just waiting to get to the good stuff.
This album came out with little noise and fanfare a couple of months ago, and it’s hard to know what to expect from an album that follows the sad death of Taylor Hawkins last year. Of course, it is a 50 minute exploration of grief from the opening lines to the slow and ruminating closing song. It’s all layered through with raw emotions but it’s not maudlin, it still has that Foo Fighters fire. Even the ten minute penultimate track doesn’t feel drawn out but works well in situ. A really good album but potentially not one you’re going to reach for outside of specific circumstances.
Right I’m starting the final collection of Famous Five books, so three more stories to get through. On the one hand, I’m glad the end is in sight, but on the other hand, it’s always fun to see what this gang gets up to. The formula may be the same but the setting is always different. This time, we were in a lighthouse, which made for a really interesting location… I feel like the gang were too quick to panic when they were locked in but it was a lot of fun the effect the light and bell had on the village when they finally got them working.
I’ve been nervous about watching this because anyone who ever talks about it tends to say they end up in floods of tears - not my go to choice of film! But I’m patching up the holes in my Pixar back catalogue and this is one that had to be done. Actually, it was a lot better than I thought it would be… but somehow also a lot worse.
I have thought that with some of the latest Pixar movies, they’ve gone a bit off-the-rails and the ideas must have been drug-fuelled - the pair of trousers walking around independently being the prime example. I thought it was a recent thing but this movie made me realise it’s probably always been there at Pixar. In this case, we have a talented chef of a rat directing a young man to cook by using his hair as… a steering wheel? Very odd. But it’s a great movie, the animation looked incredible, the fur on the rats, the water, the food! And the underlying message that talent doesn’t care about your background is great.
I recently realised there are some holes in my Pixar back catalogue so started working through the movies that I’ve missed, starting with this one. It’s a really good movie, nice and original, good story, fun characters, great voice acting talent. The graphics are a bit dated now, it still looks good but there’s a noticeable lack of fur, the water is questionable, and most of the bugs look a bit like they’re moulded out of clay. But a lot of fun, and a happy ending!
I enjoyed this more than the previous one, mostly because it picks up where that cliffhanger left off and resolves it. It’s also a fun adventure that sees Hornblower as a prisoner, planning and executing an escape and ultimately facing the music for everything that went down in the last book. I liked the moments where Hornblower was questioning small things, like how etiquette works when there are just three people in the boat, and dealing with his feelings for the family left behind. A good one!
Oh I want to be mad at this musical - Professor Higgins is the actual worst and some of these songs really grind my gears. But I can’t help it, it’s a classic, the tunes are proper tunes, and now that I have a bit more knowledge about Audrey Hepburn, I can’t help but enjoy her performance more! Of course, the accents are terrible, the dubbing poor, and the society that she’s trying to join seems a lot worse than the one she left. Also, what an absolute nothingness Freddy is. It’s bad but somehow those tunes (some of them, anyway) just bring it right out of the gutter.
I’ve been fascinated by these minimalist movie posters I saw on Kottke. They’re by graphic designer Michal Krasnopolski and are a challenge to present a movie poster with the limits of using only lines in and around a circle… and different colours. Something about this really makes me happy - the challenge of it, the idea of summing up everything about a movie to make it easily identifiable with such a limited set of tools, just brilliant.
As always, an artist tends to pop up that I can’t believe I’ve not already dipped into the back catalogue of and here we are again with the Bee Gees. I know a lot of their music but have never listened to a full album before - this is technically their third album but is their first international release having previously been focused on Australia. It’s great, that classic Bee Gees sound and the exceptional To Love Somebody, along with plenty that I didn’t know but still enjoyed. Great stuff.
For someone that’s been in country music for such a long time, Tim McGraw does a great job at adapting himself and rolling with the times. It’s not super duper modern country, and retains a traditional sound, but without sounding like old school country. I’m not sure a lot of it will remain with me but it’s a really pleasant listen.
After watching the film and being… bemused at best, a bit of googling suggested all the answers we were looking for would be in the book. I had a look at how much the book would cost and whaddayaknow, I already had it in my TBR. So, that’s how we got here. Actually, I don’t think it did answer anything but I have to admit the read was better than the watch because it had more to it and felt less drawn out. Still, gutted I’ve lived through this story twice now and am no further along.
It’s hard for me to put a number score on this movie because it’s a quality production - beautifully made and telling the story well, dipping back and forth in time at exactly the right moments to let the story unfold alongside the absolute insanity of the coast trail. Reese Witherspoon is fantastic in both grieving hedonism and intense introspection, and Laura Dern as the mother is so adorable. But there’s something about it that just didn’t grab me at all.
This is such a fun movie and you can just tell how much Audrey Hepburn is enjoying playing the part and jumping about through all the different movie genres. It’s a clever premise and really sweeps you up to start with, although I think it gets a bit repetitive towards the end, you sort of just want to know where they’re going to end up and to keep reversing in time ends up a bit frustrating.
Sequels are always tricky, and it’s even harder when you’ve written a beloved romance novel. The previous book took a while to grow on me, and the same can be said of this one. We’re picking up with Louisa as she deals with the fallout of what happened in the previous book and the death of Will. We get to meet new family members and new bosses, as well as reuniting with the old ones, and it’s nice to be in their company again, even though it feels like a sequel that didn’t need to be written. There’s a third book, and I’ll definitely be dipping into that to see what happens next.
I haven’t seen this for AGES and it was a bit of a revelation in lots of different ways. The variety of vocal abilities was the first thing that took me by surprise, that Clint Eastwood can pull off a tune whilst lead Lee Marvin is less talented in the vocal area but far more in the emotions and comedy of the piece.
This is, apparently, a huge classic of the Bogie and Bacall era, but I found it such hard work. A lot of people were introduced very quickly and the plot got convoluted quite quickly. Maybe it’s a reflection on me rather than the film, and that’s fine, I just didn’t have the patience to get fully invested.
This is a weird movie, really, it doesn’t feel like it’s by Hitchcock at all. The real suspicion and drama takes a while to get going, after all the contrivances of older films - people meeting and falling in love after a week and getting married after not much more, etc, etc. Once the mystery elements and various twists started, I was intrigued but then the end felt like such a cop-out - it really looked like he was trying to throw her out of that car.
I loved the previous Jenny Eclair book I read so had high expectations coming into this one. I don’t think it was quite as good but it still a really quality work. There’s something about the way Eclair writes that really sucks you into the detail, the human-ness of these characters, and really just how hideous most human beings are - both alone and to each other. The only thing that annoyed me about this book is that it felt like there was going to be a bigger connection between the two families than there was… or that is to say, that it would have more of an impact on the story. But still, a really good read.
I wasn’t as keen on this set of Hornblower adventures as I have been of the previous couple. Most importantly, it was left on a bit of a cliffhanger, as Horatio took on a battle finally too big for even him to conquer and was left to surrender to the French. But other than that, there was a lot of chasing ships and doing battle, which of course there always is, but there wasn’t much else, other than pining over the woman who isn’t his wife. It was fine, but I hope the next book is better.
This movie, wow, I have no idea how to describe it. You can’t help but be impressed by the advanced thinking for the time, and the amazing special effects, but that’s where it ends. It’s SO slow, painful, excruciatingly slow. Beyond the ’they had more time back in the 60s’ pace of other movies and into ’they’re just taking the piss now’ territory. And you could put up with the pretentiousness if it was actually going somewhere and telling a good story, but ultimately it goes nowhere and does nothing.
In this day and age of digital streaming and global access to content, it’s almost confusing when you can’t find something available. I have a short list of items that I want to watch, both film and TV, that aren’t available to me at the moment, and every now and then, I ask Siri to have a quick scout around and tell me if they’re available.
Amazingly, Spin City, which has been coming up with no results for such a long, finally popped up with all six series available to watch on Channel 4, or All 4, or 4OD, or whatever it is called these days.
It’s a while ago I finished watching the sequel television series to the hit film The Full Monty - usually if I don’t get around to writing about something relatively quickly, then I don’t bother. But this has been living with me, at the back of my brain, thoughts that I have to get down on digital paper.
Firstly, there’s the obvious question with all these reboots and nostalgia trips - why?
For two and a bit albums in the late 90s, early 00s, I absolutely adored Travis. This one was the second of the two and really just takes me right back there. The songs are a mixture of upbeat bops and more introspective pieces, but all of them have that telltale Travis sound with great guitars and Fran’s soul-searching voice. Love it.
The last Anne-Marie album was really good but I thought it felt more like a collection of fab pop songs rather than a coherent body of work. I think this is pretty similar, but perhaps a step more towards a body of work - and the songs are all still fab. It’s just some really great pop, perhaps a bit angrier, perhaps with a bit more emotion to work through, but ultimately, a good listen.
The murder investigation that runs through this book didn’t grab me as much as some of the other’s have recently, but I thought everything surrounded it was really interesting. Nick Dixon, who is still coming to terms with what happened to him in the last book, is considering whether his future is even in the police force, and when he gets involved in the investigation, finds that a lot of people are doubting him. Really good, roll on the next one!
I didn’t think I was going to like this, the trailer put me off rather than enticed me in. But I wanted a comedy and I do think Jennifer Larence is amazing, so it was always worth a go… and of course, it was great! The leads were great, the relationship between them believable even though it was a ridiculous situation, and pretty funny. It wasn’t a laugh out loud riot, but it was surprising and amusing, and drew itself to a satisfying conclusion. Good stuff!
I saw the stage musical of this relatively recently - reluctantly, I thought it wasn’t going to be any good, and left the theatre irritated at how brilliant it was, and in floods of tears. So, was very keen to see how the film version turned out, particularly with Aisling in the lead. It was just as good! Actually, very close to the stage version, and just as moving.