FILM OF THE WEEK: Tyrannosaur
Channel 4, Tuesday December 10, 11:10pm
Earlier this year the telly-watching nation cheered as Olivia Colman picked up two BAFTAs, one for best-supporting actress and the other for best female comedy performance. She had, after all, just captured hearts alongside David Tenant in hit ITV crime series Broadchurch. But as anyone who had already seen Colman’s heartbreaking performance in Tyrannosaur knew, those awards were simply BAFTA over-compensating for the howler it had made 12 months earlier.
To this day there are still plenty of people scratching their now seriously sore heads in bemusement at the British Academy’s failure to shortlist Colman for best actress in 2012. It was as if Tyrannosaur had passed it by, which, given that Tyrannosaur was one of the most widely-praised British films of the time, seems unlikely. There was certainly no shortage of plaudits for the former-Peep Show actress’s powerhouse portrayal of a charity shop worker whose Christian sentiment masks a horrifically oppressive domestic life.
The triumph isn’t only hers, however. Peter Mullan is in searingly fine form as the violent loner on whom Coleman’s character takes pity, while Paddy Considine’s move behind the camera must surely be considered one of the finest directorial debuts in recent history. Exposing the brutality of broken lives with unflinching honesty, the trio have given us an uncompromising vision of anguish that mainstream cinema could never hope to achieve.
SET THE RECORDER FOR:
Film4, Friday December 6, 11pm
Those who’ve obsessively pursued something, against the advice of others, to the point of ill health will find much in psychological thriller Pi. The first film by Darren Aronofsky, who would go on to resurrect Mickey Rourke’s career with The Wrestler and win an Oscar for Black Swan, its low-budget indie aesthetic sits perfectly with the story of a mathematician who stumbles upon a number that may or may not be the key to stock market success or the access code for paradise. Featuring a cracking soundtrack by Clint Mansell, Breaking Bad fans should look out for Mark ‘Hector Salamanca’ Margolis in a supporting role.
Channel 4, Saturday December 7, 12:45PM
Ever read a tech article or gadget review that makes mention of ‘early adopters’ and wondered exactly who it is talking about? The premise behind The Joneses (spoiler alert) is that the family that is always the first to have the latest and greatest consumer products can be used to drive envy (and thus sales) throughout their neighbourhood and beyond. A satire of the marketing fever that fuels western capitalism, the film can’t quite see this through to fruition, but still offers some bite through leads David Duchovny and Demi Moore.
AI: Artificial Intelligence
BBC Two, Saturday December 7, 10:45pm
Fans of Stanley Kubrick won’t need reminding that AI was the film the auteur had wanted to make but never managed to get beyond the pre-production stage before his death in 1999. But they might need a stern word to convince them that Steven Spielberg’s finished version of this tale of a 21st century Pinocchio is worthy of their consideration. Worthy it is, however, and despite the inevitably sentimental Spielbergian approach, AI still offers a poetic meditation on the core emotions that fire our instinct to live.
ITV opens its new doors to unveil the next Coronation Street set
Yesterday, the 54,000 cobbles and 400,000 bricks it has taken to rebuild the famous Coronation Street were unveiled.
The soap is to move away from its old home in Manchester city centre to its brand new set in Trafford, next to the Imperial War Museum.
The day entailed putting up the new Coronation Street sign, chatting to the cast and crew, wandering around the new Weatherfield and allowing guests to make their own marks on the set by etching their names into Webster’s garage door.
Executive Producer Kieran Roberts expressed that they have “seen 53 years of Coronation Street so far, and we plan to see 53 more years here, on this street in New Trafford.”
The set is now 2.5 feet bigger, meaning that two cars can now pass each other, and the buildings are also larger, unlike the limiting previous set.
Sue Nicholls, the actress who plays Audrey, expressed how her first reaction was “that it’s exactly the same.” She joked that as a character she is now “institutionalised” in the soap.
The new tree which has been planted outside of Audrey’s salon from Holland now stands as one of the largest trees planted in the UK.
Another talking point was a new additional window which has been put above the famous Rovers Return pub, which according to Roberts is ”so that Steve and Liz McDonald don’t have to share with Michelle any more.”
The press launch did however reveal something that still needs a bit of tweaking: the rain proved that part of the road needs to be dug up and re-laid because the puddles formed were much deeper than those of the previous set.
Other positives however include the ability to film actually inside the Underworld factory and Street Cars buildings, whereas these locations have previously been set in interior studios. Everything as a result will now appear to be even more authentic.
There were mixed feelings amongst cast and crew, torn between their love of the old set and the excitement of this newly built one, but High Definition televisions and the progression of the televised world within the last 50 years have made all of this necessary.
And as Tony Warren, creator of Coronation Street, who briefly made an appearance at the press launch has said, the bricks and cobbles “are not the real Coronation Street. That is still whatever you want it to be – inside your own imagination.”
One genre we’ve not looked into much so far is crime fiction. There are cop shops and detective series of various kinds, both comic and serious. This one covers the criminals.
Black Lagoon originally began as a manga in 2002 and is still going. There have so far been two anime TV series, both in 2006, followed by a five-part Original Video Anime (OVA) which came out between 2010 and 2011. The series mixes crime fiction with black humour and a lot of graphic, over-the-top violence.
Set in the early to mid-1990s, the story begins with an ordinary white-collar worker called Rokuro Okajima, but who later becomes much better known under the nickname of “Rock”. One day he accidentally finds himself in the middle of a smuggling operation and ends up being kidnapped by a band of modern-day pirates. They work under the name of the “Lagoon Company” and operate from the ship “Black Lagoon”. The other company members are Revy, the female “muscle” of the company who fights with two pistols and is very trigger happy; the African-American boss Dutch; and Benny the technician who is of Jewish decent.
Rock discovers that the firm he works for is involved in the smuggling and that his boss has faked Rock’s death to make things easier for them. As a result Rock decides to join Lagoon Company, where he displays his skills of accountancy, diplomacy, translation and negotiation. He moves into the company base, which is located in the fictional Thailand city of Roanapur, a city which is totally corrupt and crime ridden, with the rule being fought between various crime syndicates, including the Russian mafia branch called Hotel Moscow, and the Hong Kong Triads. The peaceful Rock therefore has to try and fit in with this new environment (something he never fully does what with him always wearing his usual business attire) while also having a clash of personalities with the violent Revy.
There are various elements that make Black Lagoon work. The main one is the action and violence. While Rock tries to negotiate everything, “Two-Hands” Revy will just get both her guns out and fire at everything and everyone in sight. Many of the villains and secondary characters that appear in the series also provide many entertaining fight sequences. One of the most popular of these is Roberta, an assassin-turned-maid who amongst her gigantic arsenal fights with a Kevlar-reinforced umbrella which also contains a sniper rifle, and a semi-automatic grenade launcher which she keeps in a suitcase. She is so popular that she became the title character in the OVA series, “Roberta’s Blood Trail”.
Then there are other things such as the dark humour that runs as an undercurrent in the series. The characters often make short witty comments, and then there are little things, such as a parrot which has been trained to say: “I’ll kill you”, over and over again.
Black Lagoon is a series which is best summed up visually. If you want to see action which grips you, may also shock you or perhaps make you wince a bit, this series will certainly provide such reactions.
Both TV series and the OVA of Black Lagoon have been released on DVD and Blu-Ray by Kaze via Manga Entertainment.
The series covered in this column has some similarities to last week’s piece covering The Irresponsible Captain Tylor. It is a comedy, based on a series of light novels not translated into English. However, whereas the former is science-fiction, this series is a fantasy in the Tolkienesque, Dungeons & Dragons style of monsters, warriors and magic.
The first light novel in The Slayers was published in 1989 and many more novels, anime, manga, films video games and so on has been produced since then. The first three series, The Slayers, The Slayers Next and The Slayers Try were broadcast between 1995 and 1997. Another two series, the Revolution and Evolution-R series, were transmitted between 2008 and 2009.
The Slayers is set in a typical fantasy world full of monsters, dragons, brave warriors and powerful manipulators of magic. Amongst those who fall into the last of those categories is Lina Inverse, a teenage sorceress and central heroine of the story. However, she is not exactly heroic. She is gluttonous, bad-tempered, fleeces people out of money and magical items, annoyed by the fact she has small breasts and has little concern of the huge collateral damage her spells cause to those around her. At the start of the story Lina meets the mighty swordsman Gourry Gabriev, whose brawn is much greater than his brain. However, Lina stays with him because Gourry possesses the all-powerful Sword of Light, one of the most powerful weapons in the world.
Together Lina and Gourry travel around, with Lina wanting to find more magical items and spells to make herself even more powerful. This often means fighting powerful monsters who wish to destroy the world. Along the journey she is joined by other travellers. These include the chimera Zelgadis Greywords, who is part human, part troll and part golem and is trying to find a way of returning his body to normal; Princess Amelia Seyruun, a shrine-maiden whose belief in justice often leads to more problems than solutions; and Xellos Metallium, a priest whose true powers and motives are often shrouded mystery.
One of the central appeals of The Slayers series is that it is very funny comic treatment of the fantasy genre. The show often mocks the situations the characters find themselves in which themselves parody various elements of fantasy. While it is arguable that the characters are somewhat two-dimensional, the stereotypical roles they mock are handled well.
Lina Inverse is certainly one of the greater comic creations in anime. She arguably fits in with the British scene of humour because she, like many British comedy characters, has a flaw. In fact, she has flaws by the bucket-load. She breaks just about every deadly sin out there. She is also often callous and prone to violence. Lina tends not to be cowardly, unless there is any reference to her more talented and respected older sister in which case she completely caves in to whatever demand is required of her.
The fantasy genre is one that is hard to mock. After all, how is it possible to make comedy out of something which is arguably ridiculous to begin with? The only really successful fantasy comedy in Britain is the Discworld novels. Here, we see another series of novels which mess around with fantasy. In terms of television, animation is one of the few ways that can do the books justice, given just how over-the-top Lina and her friends can be.
The Slayers was one of the most popular anime series of the 1990s. Looking back on it you can see that the ideas and the writing gave it an enduring appeal that means it is still funny around 20 years afterwards.
The five TV series of The Slayers are all released in the UK by MVM Films.
There are plenty of series which are worth watching simply because of the engaging characters. In this series, the title character is one of the most intriguing, mainly because no-one is ever quite sure about his state of mind. Is he a genius? Is he a lucky idiot? Who knows? Does he even know for that matter?
The Irresponsible Captain Tylor is a sci-fi comedy series which began as a series of “light novels” in 1989 entitled The Most Irresponsible Man in Space, which have annoyingly have never been released in English. These books however are still being made and released. The series was turned into a 26-part anime in 1993, with 10 Original Video Anime (OVA) being released between 1994 and 1996.
The series is a comedic “space opera” set in the far future. It follows the adventures of a mysterious 20-year-old man called Justy Ueki Tylor, who is just after an easy life. He thus decides to join the United Planets Space Force (UPSF) getting an easy job in the pension department. However, when accidentally foils a murder plot to kill a retired admiral he gets a promotion. The senior officers of the UPSF are keen to get rid of Tylor, so they make him the captain of the worst vessel in the whole fleet, the Soyokaze, which is full of people of varying degrees of skill. Amongst other problems the doctor is an alcoholic, the marines are crude and violent, and the star fighter pilot is a misogynist. There are some straight-laced officers, but most of the time they are just trying to keep control of the crew and correct Tylor.
Soon the crew find themselves engaged in combat with the enemy, the Raalgon Empire, ruled by the young Princess Azalyn. However, for some reason which no-one seems to be able to figure out, Tylor is able to pull of victory after victory, escape various attempts on his life by both the Empire and his bosses, and even comes into contact with become friendly the Princess. Throughout the entire course of the series however, one question remains: Is the irresponsible captain really a military genius, or is he just an incredibly lucky idiot?
This question is what makes the character of Tylor so appealing. It is a question that remains unanswered throughout the series, with the viewer left to make up their own mind as to the answer. There are many moments which raise the question. For example, there is one enormous battle which Tylor commands, in which he comes up with a way with making a brilliant victory for the UPSF while the Raalgon Empire also does not lose the battle.
There are other aspects of interest concerning Tylor. For example there is his relationship with women. He begins to develop certain feels with the crew members, such as the officer Yuriko Star, a woman who seems to have no personal life outside of the UPSF. But then he meets up with Princess Azalyn she too begins to feelings, as Azalyn is fed up with being surrounded by a stuffy court.
The Irresponsible Captain Tylor is an enjoyable series, mixing both sci-fi and comedy together in a wonderful manner. If there is a problem with this anime it is the fact it ends abruptly. The printed stories do continue the adventure, but light novels are only rarely translated into English so it is unlikely we will be able to read the whole thing unless you can read Japanese.
The Irresponsible Captain Tylor is only available in Region 1 DVD, released by Right Stuf.
FILM OF THE WEEK: The Deep Blue Sea
Channel 4, Saturday November 16, 11:10pm
As the great Pete Shelley of the Buzzcocks once asked: “Ever fallen in love with someone you shouldn’t have fallen in love with?” Someone who makes you feel the pure joy of simply being alive in one instance, then in the next makes you wish the ground would open up and swallow you whole? Someone who by themself is perfectly stable, only to burn like magnesium strip when introduced to the proximity of your own fire?
If not, consider yourself lucky. Unfortunately for Hester, the conflicted woman at the heart of this exquisite adaptation of Terence Rattigan’s play, this is precisely the sort of relationship to which she’s been drawn. Replacing the safe but sterile confines of marriage to a respected High Court judge for a passionate but combustible affair with former RAF pilot Freddie, from its very opening scene Terence Davies’ film makes it painfully clear neither has served Hester with the emotional sustenance she yearns for.
Rachael Weisz and Tom Hiddleston make a handsome pair as the tragic couple, sizzling with stiff-upper lip eroticism before domesticity’s damp squib threatens to snuff out the spark between them. The film’s theatrical roots are clear enough, but the economical use of dialogue serves the story perfectly as it unfolds through a series of evocative flashbacks. The result is perfectly formed meditation on the destructive and uncontrollable force that love can be – a welcome riposte to every wretched romantic drama Hollywood has foisted on us.
SET THE RECORDER FOR:
Up In The Air
BBC Two, Friday November 15, 11:10pm
To this day George Clooney finds it hard to escape the reliably suave ‘George Clooney’ role – just look at Gravity. Up In The Air subverts this typecasting brilliantly, pitching Clooney as the outwardly confident man companies hire to fire their employees and part time motivational speaker extolling the virtues of carrying as little baggage –literal and metaphorical – as possible. When he discovers a relationship that challenges this wisdom, Up In The Air asks some fascinating existential questions of our often cold, corporate, contemporary lifestyles.
Channel 4, Saturday November 16, 9pm
There were reports of complaints from several well-to-do cinemagoers that went to see Black Swan expecting a film about a production of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, only to be presented with a film about a production of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake by the most bonkers ballet company conceivable. A mixture of body horror, psychological drama and erotic thriller, it was no wonder those of a more conservative disposition got such a shock. Natalie Portman is well worthy of the Best Actress Oscar she collected for the film, with equally excellent support from Mila Kunis and Vincent Cassel.
BBC Four, Thursday November 21, 9pm
On the list of man’s many atrocities, stealing the offspring of a pod of killer whales and rearing them in captivity to perform for gormless Americans and Europeans might not rank that highly. Nevertheless, blaming the enthusiastic but naïve waterpark trainers when these orcas, driven half mad after living in a swimming pool their entire lives, decide to substitute fish with human flesh is pretty low. As damning documentary Blackfish contests, this is exactly what SeaWorld has been doing for the past few decades. Watch and feel enraged.
Before anyone asks, no, this column has nothing to do with the Irish folk rock band of the same name. This column is about an anime, originally based on a video game, and personally speaking is one of the best anime I have ever seen.
Clannad is arguably part of the harem genre, as the central character is a male lead who spends most of the series surrounded by female characters. But while the harem series I have covered before tend to brash and sometimes bawdy affairs, Clannad is not like that. There is much more to it. There are fantasy elements, comic moments, romantic encounters and gut-wrenching tragedy. Indeed, this is only TV series I have seen that makes me laugh out loud as much as it makes me cry tears of sadness.
Clannad was originally a “visual novel.” A kind of video game popular in Japan which is, in some ways, an interactive work of fiction. Originally released on the PC in 2004, there have been print novels, manga adaptations, and two anime series which were broadcast between 2007 and 2009, the second series known as Clannad: After Story.
The central figure is schoolboy Tomoya Okazaki, who is dubbed a delinquent at the start of the story. He hates the town he lives in, speaks his mind and is loyal to his friends such as Youhei Sunohara, his best friend who serves as a comic foil. When he arrives at school he meets a girl called Nagisa Furukawa, a nervous girl who has been forced to repeat a year due to illness. She lacks confidence and self-esteem, but desires amongst other things to set up a drama club in the school she and Tomoya attend.
As the story progresses we meet other characters: the Fujibayashi twins, two girls of differing temperament. Elder sister Kyou is quick-tempered while younger sister Ryou is calmer. Then there is Kotomi Ichinose, a reclusive genius that Tomoya tries to befriend and make more social. Another girl, Tomoyo Sakagami, is an aggressive girl who frequently beats up the annoying Youhei and who has plans to stand on the school student council. Lastly there is the strange and somewhat otherworldly Fuko Ibuki, who spends all over her time making wooden carvings of starfish and giving them out as presents.
Tomoya becomes close to all the characters, becoming friendly with them and trying to help their causes, especially Nagisa’s drama club. The story spans several years, sees the characters grow up, have new relationships, and experience joyous love and hope, as well as terrible loss and heartbreak.
The appeal of this series is the emotions that the viewer is swept up by. This is the perfect tragicomedy, in that both the tragedy and the comedy are ideally balanced. Regarding the humour, this comes in various ways. Youhei often has bizarre ideas that fail and is the subject of cartoonish violence, whether it is from Tomoyo or the entire school rugby team that live in the same block of flats as him. Kotomi may be a genius, but she is oblivious to the fact that she is terrible at playing the violin. Fuko gets blissed-out whenever she thinks of starfish too much. Then there are Nagisa’s parents, Akio and Sanae, who run a small bakery. Sanae makes inedible experimental breads which Akio insults, but when Sanae overhears him he scoffs them down to say sorry.
Then there is the tragic element. There are plenty of supernatural sections which relate to this. For example there is a girl in a coma whom is related to one of the central characters directly in some form astral projection. Nagisa’s illness is always a constantly worry. In the After Story series, the relationship between Tomoya and Nagisa grows even more, but this is not just romantic as results in new relationships being created, and ones being lost in the most terrible way.
Clannad is one of the most wonderful anime series ever made as far as I am concerned. When writing for MyM Magazine, from whom I work as their manga critic, I voted for Clannad as the best anime DVD release of 2012. That same year another choice listed was a different tragedy, Puella Magi Madoka Magica (See No. 4), but I would argue that while that series was indeed ground-breaking in many ways, Clannad is the better of the two because even though they both have fantasy elements Clannad is more realistic. Some parts of the humour, and certainly most of the tragedy, are events that you will experience in your lifetime.
Both Clannad and Clannad: After Story are available on DVD, released by Manga Entertainment.
Born and raised in British Columbia, Tom Stade has got the accent (and frequently, diction) of a man you’d expect to find a few hundred miles further south, amongst the Southern California surf scene.
He’s been on Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow, Dave’s One Night Stand and Mock The Week. And although he might not have the profile yet, he’s funny enough not to need any more of an introduction. The only thing that could slow him down was the poor reception on his train back home. Treat yourself and get familiar.
So Tom, are you doing anything for Movember?
Yeah, I’m going to suck a dick. With a moustache.
In front of my wife. Going to get real gay. I don’t know why they make words like that..
[Audio cuts out] Tom, I think I lost you…
Where did we get to? Are you going gay for November?
Gay for November?!
Isn’t that what it is? I mean what’s the thinking behind Movember?
I think it’s supposed to raise awareness of testicular cancer
Oh is it? How does that help raise awareness for testicular cancer? Because when I hear Movember I’m thinking “What is that?”
Some of the female equivalents are even worse
What?! Man, they can’t grow a moustache…
Hopefully not… I think they’re growing something else
Oh awesome! That’ll be great. Some of us have got a head start. Us seventies kids love a big bush
Who doesn’t like Scary Movie bush?
Talking of big hair, I saw a video of you back in the 90s and I’ve got to ask: what happened to the mullet?
Well, we were really enjoying a different time. You couldn’t escape it. I think time has just swept me along, man. I think maybe it’ll come back in the next twenty years when we all get bored of having these really cool hairstyles. And maybe I’ll do it when it comes back around, but I was really just part of the time. When it was [all about] grooving and everybody was having a ball and we were line dancing. I liked it, I’m not gonna apologise [for it].
It was a more innocent time
You’re damn straight it was. (Laughs) It was a time of ignorance
One of my colleagues thinks you now look like a hard drinking Paul Rudd – care to comment?
Is he saying I look like a hard drinking Paul Rudd?
Yes she is
Let your friend know I’m probably older than Paul Rudd. And yes, as comparisons go, she’s pretty accurate
Talking of big drinkers, it’s been a pretty massive week for Canadians. Rob Ford admitted to smoking crack in a drunken stupor and then Justin Bieber got caught with some Brazilian hookers – any predictions for who’s next?
My next prediction – let me think about that, Nick…[At this point the audio cuts out for about ten seconds and then I hear]…with bears in Toronto [There's laughter and then the line goes dead]
Crossing the Atlantic, you’ve been living in Edinburgh now for quite a while; was it just so that you could get cheap festival deals or do you actually like the place?
It was definitely a comedy of errors that got us there. But you know what, in the end, we really fell for the place and the festival is the only time I consider it a vacation
That must be nice. Do you have lots of comedians round to party at yours?
Sometimes I’m thinking of renting my house out…[audio drops] obviously you know…[audio drops]
[We're back] You’re not being harassed in the quiet carriage are you?
Nah man. I’ve got my head stuck in the luggage racks. Trying not to have everyone listening to this conversation
I was on the train to Wembley once and they caught some Australians hiding in the luggage racks trying to avoid their fares. It was hilarious – took about twenty minutes to extract them from the bags.
Silly Australians. They’re so stupid.
They’re good for a laugh
Of course they are. That’s why they’re there, man
Who else drinks more and parties harder? Canada has a pretty good reputation but I think Australia might challenge you
Canadians [are better] for sure because we’re the only ones who have to drink in minus forty below weather and I challenge anybody to do that. But you want to know who the best drinkers are? It’s the English and I’ll tell you why: your property prices go up the closer to the neighbourhood pub you are.
I can believe that. Is there anywhere you’ve found in the UK that really took their drinking above and beyond?
Oh yeah – totally. The Midlands, man.
Fuck yeah. That’s why I got along so good with those guys. That’s where I showed them my hard drinking Paul Rudd face
If you were single, I think “hard drinking Paul Rudd” would make an excellent online dating profile tag line
I just want everybody to know that I was before Paul Rudd too
Maybe you’ve got a Judd Apatow movie in you somewhere?
Eventually when I slow down.. I’m definitely going to write something
Probably a nice little rom-com
Fucking sci-fi man
Just because that’s where my head is most of the time and…hang on Nick. The train just stopped and there’s a whole bunch of people trying to get off and I don’t want to be weird.
[Tom then starts narrating his journey down the carriage whilst pretending to answer questions from the person he's on the phone to. Lot's of “excellents,” “you betchas”, and “sure, man.” ]
We’re back in business
Back in business?
So this sci-fi film. What’s going to happen?
It’s definitely going to be me and Thor and Batman. And we’re going to celebrate Movember. Together.
Call Harvey Weinstein now. That’s Cannes ready.
It’s so ready in my head, buddy. Tell Harvey Weinstein to call me.
You did some writing on Tramadol Nights – would Frankie Boyle maybe play a role in this sci-fi epic?
Naaah. I don’t think he’s that into comics
Nahh. He’s totally into comics. He’s one of the biggest comic book nerds I’ve met in a long time, man.
I didn’t know that
Yeah, Frankie’s the same as me, man. He loves his comic books. You should see his library. When you’ve got Frankie Boyle money you can get a really nice comic book collection.
What’s he like to work with beyond the comic books?
Frankie is one of the coolest people that I’ve met on this planet, he’s a real true friend. I think he understands life enough not to take it too seriously – and that’s what I love about the man.
That’s a nice quality to have in a person
Yes it is. It’s a nice quality to have in any person. Who wants to hang out with someone who takes life seriously all the time?
As you’ve found yourself on TV more, have you had to moderate your material?
Yeah of course you do. But I learn at the comedy club where I don’t have to moderate. So I will moderate to make sure I don’t have to moderate
That’s very meta
Thanks, man. I was sitting there with my fingers together, breathing deeply, ready to give you the answer you need.
In your calm place
You betcha – just waiting to get back to my ocean of unconsciousness
Moving in the opposite direction of calm, you’ve been in Edinburgh for a few years now. Have you been to an Old Firm game?
Are we talking Hearts?
The Celtic v Rangers games – the ones where there’s about one policeman to every three fans
I’ve been to one Hearts game because somebody got me free tickets but my son has got season tickets to Celtic. He’s a big Celtic supporter
He must’ve grown up in Canada, Wolverhampton and now Edinburgh?
That accent must be amazing
We don’t even know what it is. A lot of people can’t understand him at all
Your accent is pretty individual too. I think I heard you blame it on “twenty years of dope smoking”
That’s exactly right.
Has drug use helped your comedy or is it just the accent?
I don’t like the way you’re calling it drug use, I’d call it drug enjoyment. I’m of the old school, where I’ve never had a problem with drugs but I’ve had a one or two problems with police.
Tell me about it
You’ve smoked drugs in front of the police? You’re not very good at this, Nick…
I’m of a hippie generation, so I would never consider it drug use. It’s more just recreation.
Now you’ve been doing this a while, do you still get any hecklers?
Nah man, because I don’t pick on people. But I do get a lot of conversationalists. I don’t consider them hecklers any more. It’s just free material. And together we come up with humour of the moment
Just a bit of free association comedy
That’s exactly what it is. Free association comedy. Being in the moment, riffing and believing in yourself. There’s a difference between telling comedy and being a comedian. And I’m a comedian my man.
Yes you are, Tom. Yes you are.
Tom Stade is on tour now. Buy tickets here
Follow Nick Arthur on Twitter
FILM OF THE WEEK: The Descent, 5*
Saturday November 9, 10pm
It’s fair to say that many horror films would flunk the Bechdel test (i.e. they don’t have at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man.) Granted, there have are several notable exceptions: Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley and Jamie Lee Curtis in the Halloween films, for instance. But more often than not, women are reduced to a pair breasts teasing men into transgressive sexual acts that, as Wes Craven’s Scream so brilliantly satirised, usually end in a vicious stabbing.
The Descent passes the test with flying colours, given that almost all of its running time focuses on its six female characters. For those of us with a Y chromosome instantly imagining Sex And Slashing And The City, grow up – this is nerve-shredding horror of the highest order. No matter whether you’re male or female, both sexes will need to put their underwear through a particularly hot wash after this one.
The set-up is pleasingly simple. Six friends reunite for an outdoor activity-type holiday in the US and head into a local cave system for a spot of exploring. When things go wrong, Enter The Void-style, things look bad enough. As it turns out, that’s the least of their worries, as torch batteries fade and morale nose-dives. Without any spoilers, the inverted phrase ‘out of the fire and into the frying pan’ is a horrifically literal clue…
SET THE RECORDER FOR:
BBC Two, Saturday November 9, 11.05pm
It’s a shame that for the past half-decade Christian Bale has been stuck playing inexpressive bores like Batman and John Connor, given his undeniable range as an actor. Fortunately we get to see most of it in the little known Rescue Dawn, the true story of Dieter Dengler, an American pilot shot down and captured during the Vietnam War. Bale delivers one of his finest performances as Dengler, as he captures the fine line between bravery and madness that a prisoner of war can tread.
ITV3, Sunday November 10, 10pm
It seems incongruous that Clint Eastwood, such a prominent supporter of the increasingly right-wing US Republican Party, has made several films that rally the liberal cause with such gusto. Nevertheless, Changeling doesn’t so much highlight the terribly misogynistic treatment of women and institutional corruption that blights American history as it does shout it from the rooftops. Led by a tour de force performance from Angelina Jolie, this is a relentless powerful film that won’t fail to be leave every viewer feeling utterly outraged, especially when learning it is another true story.
BBC One, Wednesday November 13, 12:05pm
If you’ve watched any of the dance or talent shows that have cluttered TV schedules over the past few years, you’ve doubtless seen at least one act inspired by Bob Fosse’s Oscar-winning Cabaret. If so, it’s easy to suppose the film is a happy-go-lucky musical, which is to be grossly mistaken. Cabaret is actually much grittier, set in 1930s Germany as the Nazi Party rises to power, and although this detail is kept in the background, it’s never far from Cabaret’s clash between bohemian free-spirit and authoritarian order – all punctuated by some splendid show tune set-pieces.
If you watch most modern anime, music tends to provide an important role in the setting and promotion. Nearly all opening and closing anime title sequences are 90 seconds long and feature extracts of much larger songs. As a result, a musical anime can often be a big hit not just on TV but in the charts too.
K-On! is an example of this. A musical comedy, K-On! has broadcast two series between 2009 and 2010, with a feature film set in London released in 2011. The central characters, a group of schoolgirls who set up a pop band, are some of the most popular anime characters around. This is proved by a bizarre record that they hold: they are the first anime characters to be credited with their own No. 1 single.
K-On! follows the members of the “Light Music Club” at Sakuragoaka Girl’s High School. The problem however is that the members of the club are of varying degrees of incompetence and talent. Lead guitarist Yui Hirasawa cannot play the guitar and joins the club because she thinks the Light Music Club is devoted to playing music that is easy to learn. Bassist and main lyricist Mio Akiyama can play, but she is very shy, easily scared of just about anything and her lyrics are bit too odd and very girly. Keyboardist Tsumugi “Mugi” Kotobuki is a very rich girl who spends most of her time making tea, giving everyone cake, and wanting to be more “normal”. Meanwhile tomboy drummer and club president Ritsu Tainaka is too busy playing pranks on old friend Mio and messing around to organise anything.
The band however, who soon become known as “Ho-kago Tea Time” (“Afterschool Tea Time”), manage to somehow to work together to produce some songs and perform for their school. They become a hit, and the following school year another member joins the group. However, this new member, rhythm guitarist Azusa Nakano, differs from everyone else in that she can actually play her instrument and wants to practice. Together the five-some plug on through school, trying to perfect their band while also doing their studying.
The music is obviously the area that is of the most interest concerning K-On!. Unlike the vast majority of anime who might get one or more bands or singers to perform the music, in this series all the music is credited to the characters – Ho-kago Tea Time are the performers. All the theme tunes and the songs played in the series are credited to people who are fictional. This may sound odd, but it is not unique in Japan. There is a voice synthesizer called Vocaloid which is popular in Japan and has a manga-looking synthesizer application called Hatsune Miku, and it is often custom that when you use her “voice” that you credit it. She thus has thousands of songs credited to her and even performs concerts.
In the case of Ho-kago Tea Time, the first opening theme tune for the second series, a song called “Go! Go! Maniac” reached No. 1 in the charts, making it the first song credited to anime characters to top the charts. Not only that, but the first end theme tune for the same series, “Listen!!”, got to No. 2 at the same time, so Ho-kago Tea Time held both spots simultaneously.
Other than the music, the comedy is also very good. The band members themselves all funny, but the minor characters who surround them are also good. These include Ui, the younger and much more competent sister of Yui, but the main character in this group is teacher Sawako Yamanaka. She is blackmailed into becoming the advisor to the Light Music Club after it is discovered that when she was a student at the same school she was a guitarist in a metal band called “Death Devil”. She also has the habit of trying to get the entire band to wear bizarre costumes when performing.
If there is one problem, it is that you cannot download any of Ho-kago Tea Time’s music from iTunes. You can watch music videos on YouTube, you can try to import CDs from Japan but you will most likely be hit with import fees if you do. It is a shame that the complete musical works of the most famous band in anime are unavailable in Britain. This is especially odd when you consider the fact that in the film version of the series the band go on holiday to London.
Manga Entertainment has released both series of K-On! on DVD, and K-On! The Movie on DVD and Blu-Ray.