Wendy Richard dies aged 65. RIP Pauline Fowler

February 27, 2009 by  
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Eastenders actress Wendy Richard has died aged 65 of her third bout of cancer.

The actress had become synonymous with her role as Pauline Fowler on Albert Square, but had blazed a trail across British TV screens for almost five decades. She started to become recognised in the early sixties with a regular part in the Newcomers and went on to top the UK singles chart in 1962 with Mike Sarne on “Come Outside? – the single was at number one for two weeks, sandwiched between Elvis Presley’s “Good Luck Charm? and Ray Charles’ “I Can’t Stop Loving You?.

In the course of her varied career, Richard worked on two Carry On films and appeared in most iconic British TV comedies, including Dad’s Army and Are You Being Served? She also filmed scenes for the Beatles movie Help! which were unfortunately cut.

Wendy Richard died at the Harley Street clinic yesterday after being rediagnosed with cancer in October. Her fourth husband, John Burns – a painter/decorator twenty years her junior – was at her bedside.

Rob Pearson’s Film Picks of the Week

February 26, 2009 by  
Filed under Features

lady-vanishesThe Lady Vanishes , BBC4, Saturday, 7.30pm


This weekend, BBC4 are marking the life of one of the finest British directors by getting their Hitchcock out. But Psycho, The Birds, Vertigo et al are nowhere to be seen – they’re showing three of Hitch’s early classics, and The Lady Vanishes is awesome stuff. There’s none of the psychological intricacies of his later films, no freaky mother-son relationships, no overt trains-into-tunnels symbolism – this is a pure and simple delight.

Set in a fictional, rather-rubbishy central European country, we are introduced to our characters as they file in to a jam-packed hotel. We have the two English chaps, solely intent on getting home to see the final day of the test match, three cute girls, one of whom is getting married in London (Iris), an obnoxious musical travelling writer (Gilbert), and one doddery, whimsical and kind-hearted old lady.

Once these preliminary scenes are dealt with, the characters head for the train – but a plantpot falls on Iris’ head. The lady helps her onto the train, where they sit together. Strangely, when Iris awakes, the  lady has, well, vanished. All of the the Johnny Foreigners in the cabin claim that the lady was never there. Did she just imagine it all? Or is there a conspiracy at play? She’ll need help from that awful Gilbert if she wants to find out, and who knows, they may even fall in love…

You can probably tell by now how unapologetically English this film is, which always gives a few bonus points in my book – the dodgy continental types on the train are all treated with a raised eyebrow of suspicion. When the chips are down, the only people you can trust are the English! I say, old boy, a cracking sentiment if ever there was one.

It was all well and good, especially in 1938, but this was Hitchcock’s last British film. Filled to the brim with memorable characters and great acting chemistry, this film expertly combines a paranoid thriller/spy/action film with surprising touches of great humour and wit. Totally enjoyable, it was a bit hit with audiences, and buoyed by its successes, Hitchcock upped-sticks to Hollywood, made Rebecca (also being shown this weekend), and the rest is history.

strangers-on-a-trainThe 39 Steps, BBC4m, Sunday, 11pm


More Hitchcock spy stuff, this is the story of Richard Hannay, a great literary character, and a sort of accidental, proto-Bond. When a spy dies in his apartment, she leaves him some clues about a  terrifying plot to smuggle national secrets out of the country. This sets him on a globe-trotting (well, Britain-trotting really, but that sounds rubbish) course to uncover the plot and do his duty to king and country!  One problem: he’s a wanted man, an assumed murderer, and his picture is in every paper in the country.

This was remade for TV at Christmas, and while that had more in the way of production values and action, this film – almost 75 years old now – still …Read More!

The dream team: Tom Jones, Robin Gibb, Ruth Jones and Rob Brydon

February 25, 2009 by  
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Gavin and Stacey stars Ruth Jones and Rob Brydon have teamed up with Tom “Sex Bomb” Jones and Robin “Saturday Night Fever” Gibb to produce a one off single for Comic Relief.  The single is called “Barry Island in a Stream” and follows the comedic pair’s hilarious performance of the song during series 2 of Gavin and Stacey. As merely “Islands in a Stream”, it was originally a hit for Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton but was written by the Bee Gees.

Gibb has not only given his permission for the single to be recorded, but also appears in the epic 9-minute video and features as a backing singer. The video is to follow Brydon and Ruth Jones as Bryn and Nessa during a trip from Barry Island to perform in the World Karaoke Championships in Las Vegas, picking up Gibb and Tom Jones on the way.

The single is released on 9th March in time for Red Nose Day on the 13th.

Barry Islands In The Stream is out March 9th on Mercury Records. Pre-order NOW from www.rednoseday.com

Moving Wallpaper Review – The Dead (Show) Arises!

February 25, 2009 by  
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MOVING WALLPAPER, ITV1, Friday 27th February, 9:00pm Alert Me

Well, this is a surprise.

Not in the ‘Wow, this is amazing’ department, more in the ‘My God they actually brought it back’ way of thinking.

For the uninitiated, the first series of Moving Wallpaper (which showed the creative process behind making a soap) and its spin-off Echo Beach (which showed the end result) were almost universally panned for their rather inflated opinion of themselves – the latter was your typical melodramatic paff, and the former, was too full of wink-wink nudge-nudge arrogance to really connect.

As the second series opens, it’s clear to both the audience and production team that something has to change. Series Producer Jonathan Pope (The Worst Day of My Life’s Ben Miller) announces that Echo Beach has been cancelled because “It was sh*t and no-one watched it.? Well, at least they’re honest.

From there, he’s left scrabbling around on the coat tails of a boss so evil she’d make Miranda Priestly look like a Furby …Trust us. Furby’s are scary. Click here to find out something worse!

Love, Life and Death in a Day Review

February 25, 2009 by  
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lovelifedeath300210Love, Life and Death in a Day, Channel 4, Thursday 26th February 9:00pm Alert Me

Love, Life and Death in a Day is another one of Channel 4′s attempts at accessible, easy documentary. Cutting Edge has slipped into the habit of being anything but cutting edge, making unremarkable films on unremarkable subjects, and the programme is more clinging to the edge than cutting it. Whilst this is, on the face of it, a sort of neat idea, it turns out to be dreadfully dull.

There are undeniable moving moments – you’d need a heart of stone not to be affected by the young man weeping over his younger brother’s death – but on the whole these human dramas mean so much because they are intensely personal. When served up for mass consumption they’re not only trivialised, but also stripped of much of the humanity that they would usually hold.

It’s a shame that this programme was carried out with so little panache. From the film makers point of view, I suppose it may have seemed disrespectful if they’d been any more flashy, but from the audience’s point of view, Love, Life and Death in a Day is like a series of disjointed home videos of the important moments in someone else’s life. It’s like interminably being at a friend’s wedding where you don’t know anyone. Where television fails, the internet will always win. More drama after the jump

Margaret Review: Under the skin of the Iron Lady

February 25, 2009 by  
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354margaret-300x210Margaret:  BBC2, Thursday 26th February, 9.00pm Alert me

Whatever your opinion of old Mags, there’s no denying that she was a fascinating woman.  In this two hour historical drama, we get a rare glimpse of the woman behind the politician, from her rise to office, to the dissent in her own cabinet…er…pretty much when it all went wrong for her.

What was characteristic about Thatch was her downright indomitability, that quality of pure bloody mindedness that propelled her from a middle ranking Tory politician to arguably the most dominant Prime Minister this country has ever seen (…thoughts?).

It’s to Lindsay Duncan’s credit that she manages to portray not only the overwhelming self-confidence with which we’re so familiar but also the vulnerability of …Of what? A kitten? Click here to find out!

FM Review: White noise

February 24, 2009 by  
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15fmFM, ITV2, Wednesday 25th February, 10:30pm Alert Me

FM is ITV’s first serious attempt to jump on the Brit comedy bandwagon, years after Channel 4 and then the BBC got it rolling. The show’s stars come from diverse stock, in terms of quality. Chris O’Dowd of the IT Crowd is the lead, an inept DJ called Lindsay with an astounding capacity for faux-pas, joined by Kevin Bishop of the Kevin Bishop Show and Nina Sosanya, who was a bit player in Nathan Barley.

It seemed somehow inevitable that FM could strive for nothing much more than mediocrity. I have an unreasonable affection for Chris O’Dowd – he’s like a cuddly Irish puppy – but seeing him dressed up like Jefferson Hack was just weird, and the scripting let him down. …Read more

Sold?: Sky+HD’s moment-y momentous new advert

February 24, 2009 by  
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Those crafty fellas behind the new Sky+HD campaign…they’ve only gone and harnessed the power of what sounds like Bill Nighy’s gravelly voice (is that him?), played it over an urgently grand soundtrack (akin to that musical interlude that Coldplay put in the middle of all their tracks to denote how significant everything is) and created an epiphany of an ad.

Like the victim of Who? Freddie? Jason? The Predator… you won’t know til you have clicked

The Lowdown: Things you didn’t know about Sean Penn

February 24, 2009 by  
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Sean Penn has won two Oscars in the last five years – firstly for Mystic River in 2004 and on Sunday he picked up the little man for best actor in Milk. He’s renowned for his political activism, and even visited Iraq prior to the invasion to assess the information for himself, writing about the experience for the San Francisco Chronicle. Basically, what I’m trying to say is that Sean Penn is not only an awesome actor but also a generally amazing person (although marrying Madonna was a bit of a slip). As our tribute to a great actor and a pretty cool guy, TRIVIAAAHHHHH!

1. Penn part owned a restaurant in Paris called Man Ray with Johnny Depp, Mick Hucknall and John Malkovich. It’s now some lobster bar (which turns out to be nowhere near as fun as I imagined it would be.)

2. A voracious opponent of Bush’s foreign policies in Iraq, Penn took out a $56,000 ad in the Washington Post, basically petitioning Bush to stop being such an arse, in rather more delicate terms.

3. Though he and Robin Wright Penn only married in 1996, they had already been living together for five years, and had even gone through seeing their house burnt to the ground in the Malibu fires of 1993.
Oh yes, the trivia doesn’t stop here. Read on!

Gail Trimble is terrifying

February 24, 2009 by  
Filed under News

Last night, one of the most formidable contestants ever to grace University Challenge finally walked away with the trophy. Gail Trimble, who captained Corpus Christi College, Oxford, managed to score two thirds of her team’s total points tally on the way to defeating Manchester University yesterday.

However, the praise has not been unanimous. The Sun put inverted snobbery into full swing, launching five pub quiz questions about football and Big Brother at the Classics student, and the internet is crawling with accusations of her being “smug” “cocky” and a “know-it-all”. Others have rallied to the defense, but at a time when ignorance is, more than ever, accepted as the norm, the reaction is bound to remain poisonous.

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