Tag Archives: Spurs

2017-2018 – TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR FC – SEASON REVIEW – SO NEAR, YET SO FAR! AGAIN!

2017-2018 – TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR FC – SEASON REVIEW

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I will never forgive the show Hamilton! For one it just wasn’t my thing. Clearly it was a brilliant mix of hip-hop history; with incredible choreography allied to a fascinating “founding fathers” narrative. But a freak diary clash caused me to have to miss Spurs last 16 second-leg tie against Juventus. My wife insisted I go to watch Hamilton as the show was booked months in advance. Anyway, I found out that Spurs lost at Wembley via the BBC Sports website and it was a crushing blow. Having to sit through two-and-a-half hours of musical theatre was bad enough, but Spurs going out of the Champions League, when in control of the tie, was a very bitter pill to swallow.

Indeed, I’m not afraid to say that this season I lost faith in football, not Spurs as I generally keep my expectations steady, but rather football as a passion. It’s rather pathetic and narcissistic I know but my obsession with Spurs and football got so ridiculous that I ended up smashing plates up in the kitchen when they lost to Manchester United in the 2018 FA Cup semi-final. I was very drunk on beer but that’s no excuse. I mean emotional outbursts in over-reaction to things one cannot control are, to quote a famous Vulcan, illogical.

Perhaps it was because a friend of mine had passed away recently and it came on top a bit, but losing that semi-final to Manchester United was devastating for all Spurs supporters. It was especially difficult to watch us take the lead through Dele Alli’s goal and then see us ground down mentally by Mourinho’s Red Devils.  In my view it shouldn’t happen. Not the actual loss but getting upset at football. It’s just a hobby and I have no control over what eleven strangers do on a football pitch. Ultimately, supporting Tottenham Hotspur FC should be a pleasurable and fun thing to do and on the main the season was relatively positive. But how did we do?

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SCORES ON THE DOORS

Premier League Finishing position: 3rd
Premier League Total points: 77
Premier League Goals Scored: 74
Champions League: Round Last 16
FA Cup: Semi-finals
Carabao Cup: Fourth round
Top scorer: HARRY KANE (30 goals)
Most Assists: DELE ALLI / CHRISTIAN ERIKSEN (10 assists)

Other:

Record Premier League Attendance: 81978 versus Manchester Utd – Wembley Stadium

Premier League Highest Placed London Team

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SEASON HIGHLIGHTS

Tottenham finished the 2017/18 Premier league season in third place, booking a spot in next year’s Champions League. They almost made the quarter-finals of the Champions League but the clinical Italian team Juventus unpicked their defensive locks at crucial times to steal the match away from them. With the incredible Manchester City smashing all ahead of them in the Premier League, I felt the FA Cup was our best chance of silverware, however, Ander Herrera’s winning goal and an lacklustre second half display did for us in that game against Manchester United.

Overall, I think 3rd was a creditable finishing place in the league. We could have nicked second but there was no stopping Pep Guardiola’s light-blue behemoth breaking the hearts of the other teams. Spurs did well, given they played all their home games at Wembley. But for some early stutters against Chelsea, Burnley, Swansea and West Bromwich Albion our form there was excellent. The highlights were of course defeating Manchester United and Liverpool as well as thumping victories against Southampton, Stoke and Everton. Our away form was pretty consistent too although, some unnecessary draws, plus defeats to Manchester City and Manchester United were disappointing due to the poor team shows. However, we FINALLY we beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge – FOR THE FIRST TIME IN ONE HUNDRED YEARS! Or so it felt (it was 28 years!)

I guess the major highlights of the season were our Champions’ League group stage victories over Borussia Dortmund and the mighty Real Madrid. I was at the Madrid game at Wembley and the atmosphere was beyond words. We managed to beat Ronaldo and Madrid’s Galacticos 3-1 at Wembley on an electric night. The sad thing is Real Madrid are now in the Champions League final and we again end the season with nothing but the glory of our memories.

Champions League - Tottenham Hotspur vs Real Madrid

THE PLAYERS

Once again HARRY KANE had an incredible season. He scored 30 goals in the Premier League; only Mohammad Salah’s amazing skills and finishing stopped him winning the Golden Boot. CHRISTIAN ERIKSEN in midfield consistently proved himself a master of passing and delivery with some wonderful goals and assists. Indeed, his goal against Chelsea was a thunderbolt to behold. Dele Alli, received some ridiculous criticism during the season for not being as devastating as previous seasons. Yet, Alli scored some valuable goals as did our South Korea winger Heung Min Son, who constantly proved a valuable asset in attack.

In defence, Toby Alderweireld, so outstanding the previous two seasons, got injured in November so our record signing Davinson Sanchez, a young Columbian bought from Ajax, stepped up and showed maturity beyond his years. He, I think, will only get better. Along with Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen I would say that JAN VERTONGHEN was Spurs player of the year. He had an incredibly consistent season in the back four and hardly missed a game. He protected Hugo Lloris’ goal with a strength and intelligence which again made us a difficult team to beat.

Of all the wonderful goals that were scored this season, a special mention goes to VICTOR WANYAMA’S goal against Liverpool at Anfield. It was a powerful strike from over 30 yards out which burst the back of the net and got us back level in one of the most dramatic league games of the season.

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THE MANAGER

I think, once again, MAURICIO POCHETTINO and his backroom staff have worked wonders with the squad. The team are always very fit and energetic although during some games we were very slow starters. Also, switching off against Juventus cost us badly. But, finishing 3rd and having decent cup runs was probably what we deserved. We just need to get that killer instinct to finish teams off. That mental “win-at-all-costs” attitude and steel is needed on top of the attractive football we have become known for.

Again we did not spend hundreds of millions on our squad and aside from Davinson Sanchez and Lucas Moura (in January); signings were relatively low-key compared to the teams from Manchester. I think given the tools such as a world class midfielder and another top striker to compliment Harry Kane, then Pochettino could deliver a title. But let’s be honest Manchester City will be difficult to catch and other teams such as Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United will also be in the mix.

 Image result for tottenham hotspur POCHETTINO WEMBLEY

THE FUTURE

Spurs will move into their brand spanking new stadium for the beginning of the 2018 / 2019 season back at WHITE HART LANE.  It is a state-of-the-art facility with incredible technological features and extras. I really hope we will have a team to do the stadium justice. If we could just push the boat out and buy a couple of “world-class” players, if available, then I reckon we could challenge the very top. But, I for one will back the team yet should they lose and falter will never be smashing the kitchen up again. After all it is just a game; a beautiful silly game of football.

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TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR F.C. – PREMIER LEAGUE REVIEW (2016 – 2017)

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR FOOTBALL CLUB LEAGUE REVIEW (2016 – 2017)

“Alright, I know I’m gonna lose here. But I’ll be the best second you’ve ever seen.”

From the film McVicar (1980)

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KICK OFF

I love football. I love Spurs football club! I have followed and supported them for over 35 years and have tasted glory and despair; well mainly despair. However, of late, with the current squad and manager we have been really quite good. So, here’s my view on the latest 2016/2017 season.

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THE NEARLY TEAM

Well, let’s address the elephant in the room first!  Tottenham Hotspur FC did not win any trophies during the last football season. However, Mauricio Pochettino’s team were one of the most exhilarating performers, coming closest of all the teams to catch the Chelsea machine managed by effervescent Italian Antonio Conte. Manchester United, under the guidance of dour millionaire whinger Jose Mourinho, professionally ground out respective wins in the Europa League Cup and English League Cup; while Spurs’ bitter North London rivals Arsenal found some form to beat an on-the-beach Chelsea in the FA Cup final. Yet, while Spurs finished trophyless for another season there were a great many wins for the team and I remain very optimistic for the future.

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SCORES ON THE DOORS

We had a cracking season overall despite not winning anything.  Here are some statistics and finishing positions for the season

  • 2016/17 Premier League season as runners-up.
  • 2nd place finish was the clubs’ highest league position since 1962/1963
  • 86 points was highest total Spurs gained since 3 point introduced for a win.
  • Unbeaten at home in the League for the first time in over 50 years.
  • 86 goals was the highest scored by any team in 2016/2017 season.
  • 25 goals conceded was the lowest number by any team in season.
  • +60 was highest goal difference for any team in season.
  • Harry Kane won the Golden Boot – 29 goals in 2016/17 season.
  • Christian Eriksen with 15 assists was 2nd in the 2016/2017 season.
  • 7-1 win against Hull FC was a record away win in the League.
  • 85,512 – Highest attendance ever (at Wembley) against Bayer Leverkusen.
  • FA Cup: Semi-finals
  • EFL Cup: Fourth round
  • Champions League: Group stage
  • Europa League: Round of 32
  • Finished above Arsenal for first time in 22 years!

Despite the abject displays generally in the Champions’ League and Europa League the young team I believe will learn from this experience and hopefully we will give a better show next season. In the Premier League we were on fire, however, with sterling victories over the likes of Champions’ Chelsea, scumbags Arsenal, Guardiola’s show ponies’ Manchester City and boring Manchester United confirmed us a team of the highest quality in regard to results against the top teams. Klopp’s Liverpool were the ones who gave us the toughest matches, beating us at Anfield and drawing at the Lane 1-1 earlier in the season.

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Spurs confidently swatted aside most of the lower teams in the division both home and away and lost only four games to Manchester United, Chelsea, West Ham and the aforementioned Scousers. Obviously, the losses were disappointing, but if anything it was the 8 draws which cost us most of all really as we found Chelsea 7 points too good by the end of the season.

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THE PLAYERS

How do you choose a player of the season when we’ve had so many consistent performers? Hugo Lloris was once again, a couple of rash out-of-the-box situations aside, formidable between the sticks. The fluidity of the three/four at the back system found Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld, Eric Dier, Danny Rose and Kyle Walker providing a solid white wall in defence. Even when Rose and Walker were injured Ben Davies and Kieran Trippier deputized with some aplomb. In midfield Moussa Dembele and Victor Wanyama were both powerful and athletic beasts, stomping and controlling games, especially at White Hart Lane.

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Adding silk to their steel was the mercurial Dane, Christian Eriksen, who continues to impress with his passing range and incisive crossing. In the forward positions Heung Min Son added a serious amount of goals to his pace and skill scoring 21 goals in all competitions. Then the dynamic headline-stealer Dele Alli, who at the age of twenty, won the young PFA player of the year and was named in the PFA Team of the Year. I really hope we can hang onto him as he is just an incredible talent as his 22-goal season testifies. Two headers against Chelsea were superb and his goal against Watford from outside the box was a beauty amidst a stream of wonderful goals.

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Finally, with 29 goals in the Premier League alone Harry Kane was once again phenomenal!  His strength, movement, skill and dead-eye shooting skills in front of the goal means he was arguably our player of the season. Wanyama, Eriksen, Alderweireld and Alli were equally valuable in a fine team effort, but without Kane’s goals we would have been lower in the league. Two separate injuries during the season prevented even more goals being scored and his injury in October 2016 coincided with those draws which possible cost us the title. Nonetheless, what a player Kane was for us, leading the line with sheer genius.

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THE MANAGER

What can you say about Mauricio Pochettino that has not been said? Perhaps inexperience in European competition caused a slight blight on his 2016/2017 managerial season overall, but that is being very critical. Because overall his Spurs team in the Premier League were just exhilarating. It’s one thing creating a steely and measly defence but to then craft a structure to allow the team to bolt forward and destroy teams the way we did throughout the season was incredible. We hunted and crushed teams with sheer energy and force of will. Of course there were defeats but we bounced back with strength and determination and finished unbeaten at home going on an amazing nine game winning run which got us close to Chelsea.

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More than any player Tottenham Hotspur need to hang onto Pochettino as I think he is destined to be a managerial great as his ability to structure, coach and motivate players is second-to-none. Given our wage structure and lower net transfer spend, compared to other Premier League clubs, Spurs are punching well above their weight and for me Pochettino is performing a minor miracle at White Hart Lane. Long may it continue too!!  Here’s a musical tribute to Mauricio!

 

THE FUTURE

White Hart Lane is gone! Long live the new White Hart Lane!  The Chief Executive Daniel Levy has overseen a resurgence of Spurs on and off the field. For the 2017/2018 season Tottenham Hotspur FC will be playing all home games at Wembley Stadium and while our record hasn’t been great there recently I’m hoping we can make it a formidable place to come next year.

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It was a wonderful day to witness Spurs beat Manchester United 2-0 on the last game to be played at the old White Hart Lane and the future looks very bright for the new state-of-the-art stadium currently being built. The tribute to past players and games was tremendous and so many memories came to light. My blog item from a year or so ago echoed many of the sentiments of the day. Check it out here:

Also there was a fine tribute video narrated by Kenneth Branagh no less.

In terms of the playing staff for next season I think we, most importantly, need to hang on to the players who have done us proud this year. Some will inevitably leave as surplus to requirements, while others will possibly be the subject of bids from other clubs. Indeed, Kyle Walker, our dynamic right-back is being looked at by Manchester City I believe. However, I’m confident we should hang on to most of our players and if we do get bids clubs will have to negotiate with Daniel Levy; a man who drives a very hard bargain.

In terms of purchases our modus operandi is usually to buy hungry, younger players rather than make huge purchases. Our record signings are the currently injured Erik Lamela and disappointing Moussa Sissoko. If both of those players were to find top form it would worth keeping them. These are big IFs though. I would like to see us get another striker to back up Harry Kane, however, if Vincent Janssen develops positively that may not be necessary.

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The 2016/2017 season was a tremendous one for Tottenham Hotspur FC on the pitch and I really hope we can push for more glory next season and perhaps even win a cup or incredibly win the Premier League. As usual for a Spurs fan hope springs eternal!

 

 

 

 

 

SCREENWASH – JUNE FILM & TV REVIEWS 2016 – BY PAUL LAIGHT

SCREENWASH – JUNE 2016 – BY PAUL LAIGHT

June was both a very special month of viewing and also sad because one of my favourite shows shuffled off into TV heaven after three scintillating seasons. I also watched some excellent genre films; the month being very much about quality of viewing rather than quantity. As usual, marks out of eleven and of course:

**MASSIVE SPOILERS HERE**

 

THE AFFAIR (2014) – SEASON TWO – NOW TV

The first season of this “first world” sex-charged adult drama was compelling stuff with fine performances from Ruth Wilson, Dominic West and Maura Tierney respectively. The suspense was palpable, the writing sharp; and the characters – while not wholly likeable – had a humane quality that drew you in. The second season though just got on my nerves a bit and I just didn’t give a toss in the end despite some memorable scenes. Plus, the teenage daughter made me want to drown her in a ditch, such was her irritability factor. So, in the end I just gave up around episode eight.  (Mark: 5 out of 11)

ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT – SEASON 3 – (2005)

The final season in the first run before it was cancelled and subsequently rebirthed by Netflix was another tremendously hilarious comedy of errors; featuring a rogues gallery of vapid narcissistic characters all trying and failing to out-do each other. Aside from the wonderful performances from Jason Bateman, David Cross, Michael Cera, Jessica Walter, Will Arnett and so on, the law have George Bluth Snr under house arrest while Michael tries to keep the business going. He also falls in love with an English retard (played by Charlize Theron) while ultimately ending up in Iraq trying to resolve some shady shenanigans. The season is most memorable for a Godzilla parody with Tobias dressed in a massive mole costume smashing down “Tiny Town” in front of bemused Japanese investors.   (Mark: 9 out of 11)

AMERICAN HORROR STORY: FREAKSHOW (2015) – NETFLIX

I love this bleak, violent, bloody, over-the-top horror anthology from writers Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk. They truly are horror connoisseurs as they introduce us to a litany of gruesome characters, situations and narratives all set in a circus freakshow in 1950s USA. This is no apple-pie-white-picket-fence-Americana because we get: killer clowns, Siamese Twins, two-faced ghouls, midgets, Amazonian women, hermaphrodites, Nazi murderers and many, many more freaks and monsters on display.  Once again, like the previous seasons, the ensemble cast are quality, notably Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson and the majestic Jessica Lange. Arguably the most horrendous character though is the spoilt-rich-boy-millionaire-killer, Dandy, played with evil abandon by potential star Finn Wittrock. (Mark: 9 out of 11)

THE CONJURING 2 (2016) – CINEMA

Great magicians astound you even when you know how a trick works. Therefore I heartily recommend this follow-up to, believe-it-or-not, The Conjuring (2013). Director James Wan is a master magician and uses every deception, distraction and reveal in the book to deliver a devilish and nail-biting horror story based once again on the work of paranormal investigators Lorraine and Ed Warren. The springboard for the terror is the infamous Enfield haunting in which a gnarled dead pensioner terrorized a North London family. Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson bring quiet quality to the ghoulish hysterics and James Wan once again proves he is arguably the best horror director around. The film is worthy of the admission for the invention of another great monster in the guise of a ghastly pale-faced nun.  (Mark: 8.5 out of 11)

GAME OF THRONES – SEASON 6 (2016) – NOW TV

If I had a sword to my throat I would have to say that this – in terms of pulsating storytelling, dramatic twists and bloodcurdling action – is one of the best seasons of television I have EVER SEEN! Book geeks are probably spitting crisps over their keyboards but now the writers are free of the shackles of the gigantic novels, these ten episodes were just a pacey, brutal, vicious, conniving, fiery, animalistic, blinding, cutting, resurrecting delight.  I can’t speak of all the plot strands as there were too many but the wheels were really turning and new alliances forming notably: Daenerys and her flight toward Westeros; Arya becoming no one and then learning new deadly abilities; a violent “Dog” from the past returning to go on a kill-crazy rampage; formerly dead Jon Snow coming back to life and marching on Winterfell in order to defeat evil Ramsay Bolton; Sansa Stark also joined the Ramsay revenge queue, with Lord Baelish in the wings too; and the piece de resistance was Cersei Lannister battle of wills with the High Sparrow who was slowly clawing all she held dear away from her. Overall, it was a ballsy drama which gave us twists and violence galore and my viewing schedule will have a massive hole to fill over the next year! (Mark: 11 out of 11)

GOMORRAH – SEASON 2 (2016) – NOW TV

The first season of Gomorrah was gritty-Italian-kitchen-sink-gangster-drama at its finest. It followed the shadowy, mean Neapolitan street-hoodlums and their drug trafficking, double-crosses, political corruptions and murderous shootouts. The General lording over the territory was Don Pietro Savastano but his empire was undermined by foot-soldier Ciro Di Marzio and his crooked alliance with Salvatore Conte. Savastano’s raw and inexperienced son Genny also attempted to rise up the ladder but his bullish impatience became his undoing. In Season 2 the power struggle between these three characters continues, and over the ten episodes further brutality and skulduggery follows in a show which has a heart of pitch black darkness acted out like a contemporary reflection of the Roman Empire. (Mark: 9 out of 11)

HUSH (2016) – NETFLIX

Horror filmmaker Mike “Oculus” Flanagan is a pretty decent genre director and here he sets up another interesting premise while delivering some efficient scares in the process. Kate Siegel plays a mute-deaf writer who – in desiring solitude – lives in the woods to carve out her latest novel. Alas, her peace is invaded by a masked psycho – what are the chances! – and she must overcome her restrictions to fight them off.  Contrived and cheap it may be, Flanagan shows he’s a confident helmer who deserves a bigger budget to work with. (Mark: 6.5 out of 11)


IRRATIONAL MAN (2015) – NOW TV

Woody Allen is one of the greatest writer-directors of all time and his curriculum vitae boasts an incredible array of amazing films. His latest cinematic efforts have on occasions hit great heights; films such as Whatever Works (2009), Midnight in Paris (2011), Blue Jasmine (2013) and Magic in the Moonlight (2014) all benefitted from Allen’s trademark wit and intriguing characterisation. Irrational Man stars Joaquin Phoenix as a misanthropic writer who hates the world but somehow finds meaning in a random act of violence. At the same time he has a love affair with his student, pretty Emma Stone; and the two narrative strands ultimately become entwined in a pleasing black comedy. (Mark: 7 out of 11)


THE NICE GUYS (2016) – CINEMA

Writer/director Shane Black created a winning cop-buddy formula with Lethal Weapon, continued it with the very under-rated Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang (2005) and having hit behemoth-budget pay dirt with Iron Man 3 (2013) he once again nails the buddy-noir-comedy-action film. The Nice Guys stars Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling as a couple of private dicks and their haphazard pairing pings a shaggy-dog narrative along at a cracking pace. The script is filled with so many hilarious punchlines, sight gags, salty dialogue and a suggestion of occasional pathos too. It combines late 70s corruption with pornographers while presenting a sparkling nostalgia script filtering Chinatown (1974) via Starsky and Hutch. Overall one of the most entertaining films I’ve seen all year. (Mark: 9 out of 11)

PEAKY BLINDERS – SEASON 3 (2016) – BBC IPLAYER

The third season of the stylish period drama once again finds Thomas Shelby (brilliant Cillian Murphy) and his clan attempting to expand their business empire from the Birmingham backstreets across the Atlantic and further. This season has some fine villains including venal priest played by Paddy Considine and communist-fleeing Russian aristocrats. As well as the usual muscular-bleeding-tattooed-coked-up-masculinity on show, writer Steven Knight presents a set of powerful female characters too who are just as ruthless and deadly as the male counterparts. It’s a cracking drama all-told; a high-quality flagbearer for the BBC. (Mark: 8.5 out of 11)

PENNY DREADFUL – SEASON 3 – (2016) – NOW TV

Alas, Showtime/Sky Atlantic’s Penny Dreadful is no more; gone forever into the misty poetic ether. Season 3 had been a blindingly beautiful and bloody wondrous season as various narrative threads unfolded but then suddenly it was deceased; gone; buried; over; a fog in the mists of time.  I watched in wonder while Rory Kinnear as Frankenstein’s Monster/”John Clare” availed to reconcile with his long lost family; Ethan “Talbot” Chandler in the hands of US Marshals facing certain death; Dr Jekyll and Dr Frankenstein attempting to “cure” the insane; Lily raising a feminist army of whores to wreak havoc on man; plus the ever-beautiful-yet-haunted Vanessa Ives battling a whole host of new demons internally and externally. This is one of my favourite shows of recent years and alas the ending was somewhat abrupt. However, the vampiric London setting juxtaposed superbly with the violent Western arena where cowboys battled snakes and wolves. Despite the touching, yet mildly flat denouement, as gothic horror goes this drama possessed three seasons of monstrous wonder. (Mark: 10.5 out of 11)

SCREENWASH – MAY 2016 – BY PAUL LAIGHT

SCREENWASH – MAY 2016 – BY PAUL LAIGHT

May was a decent month of viewing with some things old, some things new and nothing blue watched at all. So, here are my TV, film and comedy reviews for the month of May – with marks out of 11 as usual.

 

THE AFFAIR (2014) – SEASON ONE – NOW TV

Very much a “first world” problem drama starring the excellent Dominic West, Maura Tierney and the effervescent Ruth Wilson, it shows the events an extramarital affair causes to two different families. The acting and writing are just superb as West and Wilson’s sexually charged attraction spills into duplicity, body heat and suspense. The storytelling is excellent too as each episode shows multiple events from different perspectives and the characters are both irritating and intriguing with their wonky moral compasses and poor life choices. The Affair is highly compelling and keeps you gripped throughout. (Mark: 8 out of 11)

ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT (2003 – 2004) – NETFLIX

How the hell did I miss this cracking comedy first time round beats me?!  The hilarious show centres on the disastrous Bluth family who are all narcissistic egoists all trying to manipulate each other in some financial or emotional way. Even the sanest of the lot Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman) is a flawed “hero”, although he is positively angelic compared to the other members of his family including failed magician Gob (Will Arnett), pill-popping matriarch Lucille (Jessica Walter), deluded Lindsay (Portia De Rossi) and imprisoned father portrayed with sociopathic insouciance by Jeffrey Tambor. The brilliant ensemble cast (including among others: David Cross, Michael Cera, Henry Winkler, Liza Minnelli, Tony Hale etc.) hit the rapid-fire gags and deranged scenarios out of the ballpark; as the show perfectly encapsulates the very epitome of a dysfunctional family.  (Mark: 9.5 out of 11)

THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD (2007) – BLU RAY

Andrew Dominik’s moody Western is one of the BEST films I have seen in the last 10 years.  It was a box-office flop but everything about it screamed greatness to me: stunning cinematography; wonderful cast; beautiful vistas; elegant pace; resonating themes regarding notoriety; and so on and so forth.  Sam Rockwell excels in a supporting role as Charley Ford who gets caught between the eerie homo-erotic hero-worship-then-rivalry of his brother Robert (stunning Casey Affleck) and eponymous Jesse James (never better Brad Pitt).  The film moves at a glacial pace, building character and suspense, while in between, the sporadic bursts of violence startle and raise the pulse in an altogether memorable cinematic experience. (Mark: 10 out of 11)


CAPTAIN AMERICA 3: CIVIL WAR (2016) – CINEMA

Historical reviews on this very blog have been favourable about Captain America and his exploits; in fact he is probably my favourite Marvel Avenger I’d say.  His last outing Captain America: Winter Soldier (2014) was one of my films of the year, so I had high hopes for Civil War. The final film in the trilogy delivers a cracking rollercoaster ride filled with tremendous action, set-pieces and plot twists. As usual the army of Marvel effects technicians deliver an array of computer-generated mastery with a cacophony of colour, explosions, chases, fighting and bone-crunching sound effects.

The strong narrative involves a number of strands which link the prior two films as Steve Rogers protects his brainwashed buddy Bucky Barnes from the US government and allied Avengers attempting to bring him to justice for his crimes. Moreover, Iron Man, Black Widow, Vision and others face off against Captain America and his team in order to make the Avengers more accountable for their actions. This culminates in THE BEST ACTION SEQUENCE of the year as the Avengers have a battle royale on an airstrip in Germany. Overall, it’s a brilliant film which has welcome cameos from Ant-Man and another new Spiderman; while also introducing the all-action nobility of the Black Panther.  Again the Russo Brothers direct with whip-cracking pace and humour, making this easily the blockbuster of the year. (Mark: 9.5 out of 11)

GOTHAM (2015) – SEASON 1 – NETFLIX

TV boxset watching is often like a cultural version of Stockholm syndrome. Some programmes grab you immediately while others you have to watch enough of before you give in to their demands. With that in mind, it took about 11 episodes before started enjoying Gotham. It began poorly with terrible dialogue and hammy acting and the Batman canon timeline, tone and characters are all over the shop. However, by the end it had won me over as a trashy guilty pleasure mixing horror, comic-book, crime, Western and fantasy genres. Highlights are the succession of violent cartoon villains and young versions of villains-to-come while Ben Mckenzie (Gordon), Robin Lord Taylor (Penguin), Sean Pertwee (Alfred) and Corey Michael Smith (Edward Nygma) steal the show. (Mark: 7.5 out of 11)

GREEN ROOM (2015) – CINEMA

This was an excellent sophomore feature film from writer/director Jeremy “Blue Ruin” Saulnier, as we find a punk band pitted against neo-Nazis in the back beyond of Portland, USA. It borrows heavily from George Romero and John Carpenter but the filmmakers and cast create a really nasty horror-show as the death of a rock fan spirals totally out of control. A fine cast including:  Alia Shawkat, Joe Cole, Anton Yelchin, Amanda Poot, and an against-the-grain-playing-nasty Patrick Stewart. Despite the stupidity of the band and Nazis I was gripped throughout and there is some terrific gore and box-cutting violence and recommended for those who like their thrills rare and bloody. (Mark: 8 out of 11)

IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA – SEASON 11 – NETFLIX

Oh the man-children, Dennis, Charlie, Mac and Frank – and not forgetting bird-girl Dee – are back for another season of anarchic derring-do at Paddy’s Pub and beyond. As a massive fan of this very naughty show I was very much looking forward to the mayhem of Season 11; and they did not let us down. In this season we had episodes: parodying 80s ski films; Charlie capturing a Leprechaun; the gang getting trapped on a Christian cruise; Charlie and Mac move to the suburbs; Dee gets involved in porn; a whole episode, rather scarily, shot from Frank’s point-of-view; and all manner of other bizarre incidents and behavior. The gags explode like fireworks throughout the series as things go south and very dark; more often than not ending in chaotic hilarity. (Mark: 9 out of 11)

LINE OF DUTY (2013 – 2014) – SEASONS 1 & 2 – NETFLIX

Very solid cop drama written and produced by Jed Mercurio, this story of cops investigating cops has an excellent British cast across two seasons including: Lennie James, Craig Parkinson, Neil Morrissey, Adrian Dunbar plus leads Martin Crompston and Vicky McClure.  It’s tightly plotted with some brilliant twists and great suspense as you never quite know who’s on whose side. Special mention for Keeley Hawes who is a revelation as the cop being chased in the second season; as her acting is so brilliant, you never know if she’s good, bad, manipulative, a victim or just plain evil.  (Mark: 7.5 out of 11)


LIVING DAYLIGHTS (1987) – PRINCE CHARLES 007 RETROSPECTIVE

The Living Daylights, for me, is a very fine Bond film and Dalton is an incredibly under-rated 007. He only did two films but brought a pathos, depth and unpredictability to the role that Moore severely lacked. Bond is a stone-cold-killer-burnt-out-anti-authoritarian-adrenaline-junkie who has seen death a thousand times over; and Dalton plays him as such. Connery, Craig and at times Brosnan got this over in their performances but none as much as Dalton. The film works brilliantly on the big screen too and stands the test of time as both a sterling Bond film and cracking espionage action thriller. For my full classic review clink on this link(Mark: 9 out of 11)

NOSFERATU (1979) – SKY MOVIES

Werner Herzog’s atmospheric and moody adaptation of Stoker’s Dracula works brilliantly as both a horror film and homage to Murnau’s silent classic of the same name. Bruno Ganz excels as the unlucky Harker, sent to Transylvania to complete a property deal for his firm. Moreover, Klaus Kinski is chilling as the vampiric Count hell-bent on sucking the blood out of anyone who gets close. This has some exquisite cinematography plus an ethereal and dream-like style which makes this a memorable horror classic. (Mark: 8 out of 11)

OF MICE AND MEN (1992) – DVD

Steinbeck’s classic novel about two itinerant drifters is one of the best stories I have ever read.  This film version directed and starring Gary Sinise, with John Malkovich as the tragic Lennie Small, is a touching rendition of the depression-set story. It’s such a brilliant book that any screen version will pale in comparison but Sinise and Malkovich excel in their respective roles and it’s great to see Steinbeck’s rich, authentic and grim tale of existence brought to life and death. (Mark: 7.5 out of 11)

SON OF SAUL (2016) – SKY MOVIES

This is a heavy-as-hell-Hungarian-holocaust drama deserved won Best Film in a Foreign Language at the Oscars. The story focusses on the intense Saul (Geza Rohrig) and his search for a Rabbi to give his son the Kaddish to allow him a correct Jewish burial. It is a harrowing experience, presented in a 4:3 screen ratio and pretty much all over-the-shoulder of the protagonist. These stylistic choices narrow the focus on Saul’s tireless journey through the camps in vain pursuit of said Rabbi. Amidst his search death, fire and flesh bleed through the landscape and the whole experience is gruelling, overwhelming and upsetting. (Mark: 8 out of 11)

YAKUZA APOCALYPSE (2016) – SKY MOVIES

This film from insane Japanese director Takeshi Miike is just mental. I enjoy Asian cinema films and Miike’s previous movies such as Audition and Ichi the Killer were excellent just-the-right-side-of-bizarre spectacles, yet this is an unwatchable mix of martial arts, horror, and gangster and monster movies. Recommended only for the brave, foolhardy or clinically insane. (Mark: 3.5 out of 11)

 

THE WATER DIVINER (2014) – AMAZON PRIME

A muddled mix of war, family, romance and period drama genres from debutant director and star Russell Crowe, The Water Diviner, boasts some wonderful scenery and highly moving scenes, notably in the WW1 Gallipoli flashbacks. However, Crowe the director is let down by a hamstrung script plus the miscasting of Olga Kurylenko who just seemed too glamorous to fall for Crowe’s recently widowed character searching for the bodies of his three dead sons. While it fails as a movie epic there’s enough to recommend it as a matinee rental on a wet Sunday afternoon while nursing an uber-hangover. (Mark: 6 out of 11)

WILD (2014) – NOW TV

Reese Witherspoon as Cheryl Strayed is excellent in this road-movie-true-story-drama as she trudges the Pacific Crest Trail in order to exorcise the demons of her past and somehow redeem her soul. It’s very well directed and structured by director Jean-Marc Vallee and screenwriter Nick Hornby and works really well as a pathos-driven character study; as well as stunningly shot travelogue with wonderful vistas. (Mark: 7 out of 11)

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR F.C. LEAGUE REVIEW (2015 – 2016) BY PAUL LAIGHT

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR FC LEAGUE REVIEW (2015 – 2016) BY PAUL LAIGHT

“Icarus flew too close to the sun, but at least he flew.” Jeremy Robert Johnson

As the paint dries on the end of the Premier League season my team, Spurs, finished in third position; having flown high for so long they ultimately imploded in orbit before sadly crashing and burning. However, I am a very proud Spurs supporter today as finishing third in the league guarantees us Champions League football next year, and for a moment, just one split-second moment our young team, under the progressive management of Mauricio Pochettino, just flew; we really flew!

Okay, Leicester’s incredible Premier League win was the sporting story of the year, plus we didn’t win anything and failed to hold on to second to our bitter rivals Arsenal. Still, at least, when compared to the likes of Chelsea, Liverpool, and the under-achieving Mancunian teams we got off the runway and soared. Yes, we burnt out spectacularly in the last two-and-half-games but the future for Spurs remains sonic-powered and solar bright!

GAMES

While I would have taken third position at the beginning of the season, getting so close to title glory meant failure was a bitter, jagged pill to stick down one’s throat. But we were scintillating throughout the season with some fantastic performances in the Premier League. Fair enough, an unlucky 3rd round loss to Arsenal in the League Cup, unnecessary loss to Palace in the FA Cup and waving the white flag to Dortmund in the Europa League condemned us to a lack-lustre cup exits, we, more often than not, totally smashed it in the League.

During a fourteen game unbeaten run early doors we smashed Manchester City 4-1 at home, Bournemouth 5-1 away and West Ham 4-1 at White Hart Lane. Even after blippy defeats to bogey teams Newcastle United and Leicester at home we strung together a series of wonderful wins including SIX in a row, which would propel us to title contenders. After being out-hustled by West Ham (1-0) we actually were, for fourteen minutes, top of the table when leading against ten-man Arsenal. But the scum equalised and we never hit the top again.

Nonetheless, Spurs continued to battle and chase and harry the formidable leaders Leicester and put real pressure on them when winning 3-0 against Manchester United and smashing sorry Stoke 4-0.  Alas, the win in the Potteries was our last of a brilliant season and the ‘Battle at the Bridge’ against Chelsea saw the wheels of our title challenge career off in a pulsating, yet ill-disciplined, performance. Two crushing defeats to Southampton and Newcastle meant our young lions had won hearts and minds and flirted with glory but sadly fell short in the title and runners-up spot.

PLAYERS

Spurs had many stand-out players in a highly consistent season. Hugo Lloris was, overall, one of the best goalkeepers in the league saving us many, many times through the year. His form, arguably fell off, like the rest of the team in the last few games but, David DeGea aside, I would not want another keeper in our box. Our defence was mean like a junkyard dog with Rose and Walker bombing up the wings and covering tackles and crosses like demons. In fact, Danny Rose, under Pochettino, is one of the most improved players at the club, embracing the derring-do, action and pace the manager has instilled.

Centre-back, Toby Alderweireld was deservedly voted Spurs player of the season by the fans as his cool, calm persona plus brilliant tackling and exquisite passing range made him the signing of the summer. But, special mention must go to a great young defender, who I thought was unlucky to be dropped for Vertonghen, called Kevin Wimmer. I would make him first choice next year as Jan, while a fine defender, has looked somewhat jaded and short of pace since coming back from injury.

Arguably our most valuable player of the season, along with Harry Kane, was Belgium midfielder, Moussa Dembele. Box-to-box there was not a better footballer in the league in my opinion. Because of his ability to hustle opponents and rarely lose the ball, Spurs struggled when he didn’t play. Another revelation in midfield was Eric Dier, who having been promoted from the back four provided, for the most part, rock-like protection, snarling commitment and also some valuable goals.

Attacking midfielders Christian Eriksen and Erik Lamela were also excellent throughout. Great Dane Eriksen especially provided an unprecedented number of assists and often derided Lamela really found his passing and goal scoring range. Find of the season though in a Spurs shirt was the mercurial teenager Dele Alli who scored a series of brilliant goals. Bought for an incredibly low price of £5 million he deservedly won PFA Young player of the Year and what a talent he is! The only criticism that can be aimed at him is his lack of discipline; yet it’s that aggression which drives his winning mentality and something I’m sure he will channel into becoming a world-class player for Spurs and England.

Going forward Harry “He’s one of our own” Kane has provided the fulcrum for a brilliant attack-minded team. In the Premier League alone he scored TWENTY-FIVE goals and pretty much played every minute on his own up front. If he’d been injured I’m not sure Spurs would have been able to challenge as high as they have. He is single-minded in his pursuit of goals, possessing great ability in the air and on the ground. Kane’s skill in tight spots, powerful strength and dead-eye accuracy made him my Spurs player of the year; followed closely by Alderweireld, Dembele and Alli.

GOALS

An incredible amount of goals to choose from but my top FIVE Premier League goals of the season in date order:

Christian Eriksen – brilliant free kick against Swansea – 4/10/2015

Dele Alli – incredible finish versus Crystal Palace – 23/01/2016

Christian Eriksen – ice-cold winner against Manchester City – 14/02/2016

Harry Kane – amazing strike against the Arsenal – 05/03/2016

Dele Alli – sublime thru ball & finish versus Stoke City – 18-04-16

STYLE

This youthful Spurs team, most of them in their twenties, played with high-line intensity, hunting in packs, defending in numbers and breaking teams down with a ferocious passion and jugular-gripping power. When they had their best eleven on the pitch they were virtually unplayable and had many Premier League managers and football pundits praising our impressive attacking prowess and miserly defence. While the romantics were rightly willing Leicester FC to win the league, Spurs were a credit to football and it was a damned shame they could not hold onto the runners-up berth their scintillating play richly deserved.

THE MANAGER

In Mauricio Pochettino (and his backroom staff) Spurs have a fantastic manager who, while still gaining experience, as a Premier League boss is moulding a young, speedy and hungry team capable of challenging for top honours. Pochettino carries himself not only with dignity but also quiet power and determination. You can see a keen football brain ticking over and his passion is undeniable. I admire his ability to get a tune out of an inexperienced team and create a winning spirit which will hopefully lead us to greater things in the near future.

NEXT SEASON – 2016-2017

With Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool under-achieving plus Manchester City being below par generally throughout the season, next year will be tough for Spurs to maintain a top four place. Also, who’s to say another team won’t do a “Leicester” and come from nowhere to win the Premier League? Indeed, Leicester themselves won’t want to give up their title easily.

Obviously, we will need to bolster the squad as we severely lacked strength in depth when our first-team eleven were not playing. Plus, the intense, closing-down football we play, and the Europa League campaign, meant we were stretched mentally and physically by the end of the season; thus culminating in our final game draws and capitulations against West Bromwich Albion, Chelsea, Southampton and sadly, Newcastle.

By shaving some of the players Pochettino deems surplus to requirements and bringing in, at the very least, another quality defensive midfielder, top-draw midfield playmaker and a couple of strikers, Spurs can take the overall positivity of this season to new heights. Moreover, tactically I would like us to add a bit more match-play nous to our speed and skill next year. We threw away points from a number of advantageous positions and feel with better discipline and tactical ability to close a game out we would have been even higher up the table.

OVERALL

It was ultimately a brilliant season from a marvellous young squad who did the Spurs supporters proud throughout the year.  I thank the players and manager for giving me an enormous amount of footballing pleasure and excitement this season. It’s true to say that Icarus flew too close to the sun but at least he flew; as did Spurs this year.

2015 – 2016 – STATISTICS (select)

Premier League Top Scorer – 25 Goals – Harry Kane

Premier League Best Goal Difference – 34+

Premier League Longest Winning Streak –  6 games

Premier League Most Assists – (2nd place) – 13 assists – Christian Eriksen

Premier League Goals – (2nd place) – 69 goals

Club Record Unbeaten Run – 14 games

PFA Young Player of the Year – Deli Alli

 

SCREENWASH – SEPTEMBER 2015 – FILM AND TV REVIEW ROUND-UP BY PAUL LAIGHT

SCREENWASH – SEPTEMBER 2015 – FILM AND TV REVIEW ROUND-UP BY PAUL LAIGHT

Bit late with this one but I have been doing some work for charity; although I prefer not to talk about it. Anyway, I saw shedloads of big and small screen product in September! So, here’s a quick review of some of things I witnessed with marks out of 11.

**HELL YEAH – THERE’S SPOILERS!**

’71 (2014) – AMAZON PRIME

Chase-thriller ’71 centres itself on a British soldier portrayed by Jack O’Connell who on the run in enemy territory finds himself pursued by nefarious parties from both Irish and British sides. It’s a kinetic and suspenseful film, directed with verve and urgency and contains some heart-stopping moments, as well as a fine cast including Sean Harris and Richard Dormer.  (Mark: 7.5 out of 11)

BADLAND: A ROAD TO FURY (2014) – BLU-RAY

Called Young Ones in the States this is a real genre oddity as it combines Western and Science-Fiction tropes within a dystopic narrative set in a god-forsaken hellish dustbowl.  Michael Shannon is the father and farmer who tries his best to keep his family together in an unforgiving future. This is a very strange film which probably deserves another viewing to make real sense of what’s occurring; good cast though.  (6 out of 11)

BLEEDER (1999) – DVD

No one does brutal studies of lowlife like Nicolas Winding Refn. His early Danish films, Bleeder included, are grim character pieces that burst into nihilistic violence. This features four friends who watch films together but whose lives are coming apart at the seams. It’s bloody, depressing but somehow remains compelling and watchable; much like a car crash on the M4. (7 out of 11)

EVEREST (2015) – CINEMA

This is suspenseful mountain disaster film which shows both the folly and bravery of men and women at high altitude. Some of the moments will leave you biting your nails and gasping for breath as the mountaineering team scale the Himalayas. The most impressive aspect is the cast including: Jake Gyllenhaal, Jason Clarke, Michael Kelly, Emily Watson, Josh Brolin, John Hawkes and more.   (7 out of 11)

THE DROP (2014) – NOW TV

Tom Hardy offers another brilliant piece of character work as a Boston barman who works in a mob-owned pub. He finds himself threatened by local scumbag Matthias Schoenaerts over the disputed ownership of a dog. The puppy is very well cast but Hardy and James Gandolfini own the show with a sterling study of masculinity and controlled rage. (8 out of 11)

THE GAMBLER (2014) – BLU RAY

Great dialogue, direction and cast couldn’t stop me from hating the nihilistic lead character played by a miscast and too-nice Mark Wahlberg. He was such a miserable-death-wish cunt that I wanted the gangsters who were chasing him to kill him and save me from having to watch anymore of his irredeemable and depressing loser. (4 out of 11)

GOING CLEAR (2014) – NOW TV

This is an astounding documentary revealing the history, psychology and inner-workings of the Scientology “religion”. It’s an amazing expose with interviews from former members of the cult who having disconnected, found themselves stalked and discredited by the extremely paranoid Scientologists. It is compelling viewing for anyone interested in religion or alleged cults and the financial dealings of the group makes them akin to organised crime syndicate, such is their wealth and violent ways of dealing with “members”.   (9 out of 11)

GOMORRAH (2014) – NOW TV

Gomorrah is one of the best TV dramas I’ve seen all year. It is a brutal and violent Italian gangster drama set in Naples and like modern day Roman times but with more plots, blood and murder. It follows the Savastano family and the enemies they face both on the right and wrong side of the law. No one is safe as the series reaches a deathly climax. Gripping stuff and highly recommended!  (10 out of 11)

 

GRAVE ENCOUNTERS (2011) – AMAZON PRIME

If I had the choice of removing my genitals with a cheese grater or watching this film again I would choose the grater as this was just laughable. Neither scary or suspenseful it has loud shouting actors who should be shot with high-powered rifles rather than a camera. Basically only for people who like terrible found footage horror films or the mentally ill. (1 out of 11)

LEGEND (2015) – CINEMA

Tom Hardy is phenomenal as the Kray twins. Set in 60s London’s underworld this begins like a smack-bang gangster film before delving deeper into the psychology of mental illness of Ronnie Kray’s wife and his crazed brother, Ronnie. Tonally it gets caught between cartoon humour, glamourizing violence and serious crime drama but recommended for the lead performance. Indeed, Tom Hardy, as in Bronson (2008), humanizes monstrous criminals who probably don’t deserve it. (7.5 out of 11)

THE NECESSARY DEATH OF CHARLIE COUNTRYMEN – BLU RAY

A diabolically pretentious and awful Euro-drama which didn’t know if it was a comedy or gangster or rites of passage or study of grief type movie!  Ultimately it tried them all and failed in every aspect! Avoid!  (2 out of 11)

PADDINGTON (2014) – BLU RAY

I loved Paddington as a kid and the dulcet tones of Michael Hordern narrated the 2-D animated tales with warmth and charm.  The funky film version is an even bigger delight with Ben Whishaw, Sally Hawkins and Hugh Bonneville collaborating beautifully with Paul King’s terrific script and lovely direction. The animation is a joy and the gag-rate incredibly high in a wonderful feel-good family film. (8 out of 11)

 

RIFIFI (1955) – NETFLIX (RE-WATCH)

This is a classic French crime drama from which involves the robbery of a jewellery store by a gang of ex-cons.  It’s memorable for the long-near-silent robbery sequence in the middle act which is full of suspense and hold-your-breath moments.  I loved that they humanized the criminals and the characters at the start and the robbery scene is often imitated but never bettered. (8 out of 11)

RUBBER (2011) – AMAZON PRIME

Bizarre horror-comedy which cannot under any circumstances be recommended unless you like fourth-wall-breaking-art-films-about-murderous-tyres-who-explode-birds-and-humans-with-telekinetic-powers. Actually, it’s also a satire on the nature of Hollywood filmmaking and an audience starved of originality; I think!  (8 out of 11)

 

RUN ALL NIGHT (2015) – DVD

Liam Neeson is a drunken, washed-up mob enforcer who faces a race against time to save his estranged son (Joel Kinnaman) and his young family.  It’s pretty generic fayre in which a grizzled Neeson can do in his sleep but it has some crunching action, car-chases and shoot-outs which fizz along impressively at a breakneck pace.  (7 out of 11)

  

SALVATION (2014) – SKY MOVIES

Mads Mikkelsen could not save The Necessary Death of Charlie Countrymen but his quiet power is very much to the fore in this colourful revenge Western.  He portrays a Danish former soldier whose wife and son are butchered by Jeffery Dean Morgan’s dastardly men, precipitating a path of bloody retribution. (7 out of 11)

THE WOLFPACK (2014) – CINEMA

A very interesting documentary about a huge family of boys and one girl who were kept as virtual prisoners in their own New York high-rise apartment by an alcoholic, bullying and eccentric father. The boys retained their sanity just about as they sought movies as a means to connect with society. The parodies they act out such as Pulp Fiction and Dark Knight were hilarious. But there is much pathos as both the children and Mother are tragic figures too having been “lost” and imprisoned by, quite frankly, a pathetic excuse for a father. (7.5 out of 11)

WHITECHAPEL (2009 – 2012 – Seasons 1-3) – NETFLIX

Started watching this during the quiet times at work and got pretty gripped by the East End murder cases investigated by Rupert Penry-Jones, Phil Davis and Steve Pemberton. It’s a well-made addition to the over-loaded detective genre which by Season 3 had some excellent suspense and drama. I was especially drawn in by Davis and Penry-Jones water-oil relationship and the latter’s OCD. (7 out of 11)

WYRMWOOD: ROAD OF THE DEAD (2015) – AMAZON PRIME

This is a really fun zombie-road-movie-gore-fest which is clearly inspired by Mad Max, Evil Dead, Braindead and George Romero’s oeuvre. Some lovely blood-gushing gore and imaginative machinery on show makes this low budget horror-comedy well worth a rental. (7 out of 11)

 

RINGERS AND SINGERS: A CULTURAL REVIEW BY PAUL LAIGHT

RINGERS AND SINGERS: A CULTURAL REVIEW BY PAUL LAIGHT

February 2015 has been a wonderfully diverse month culturally for me.  I have tasted the peak of perceived high culture with a visit to the Festival Hall and have also plumbed the depths of low culture with a visit to a Wrestling event and even lower with Quint Fontana’s guttural and scurrilous Pop Pals!

I jest of course as all events were culturally rewarding and provided an interesting juxtaposition for my latest blog piece which combines little reviews of some stuff I’ve been gone and done recently.  I have also watched loads of films as well but will deal with those in my February edition of Screenwash.

 

BEAUTIFUL – THE CAROLE KING STORY – ALDWYCH THEATRE

I’m not a massive fan of musicals per se but as a Valentine gift for my girlfriend (yes – I have a girlfriend now and she’s real) I bought her tickets for this show. Oh, and I went along too. It’s the story of Carole King and her rise from 16 year-old novice songwriter to the heights of fame as a solo artist. Singularly, and with her husband Jerry Goffin, she wrote a litany of hit records including: Up on The Roof, Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow, The Locomotion, Natural Women, I Feel The Earth Move, Pleasant Valley Sunday, You’ve Got a Friend and many, many more.

King is clearly a genius and her album Tapestry would become one of the biggest albums of all time. The musical is a joy and while I wanted a bit more about the relationship breakdown and Goffin’s depression it’s all about the songs really. In Beautiful you get hit after hit after hit brilliantly performed by the young, talented and energetic cast.

BRITISH EMPIRE WRESTLING – TOOTING TRAM AND SOCIAL

This was the first time I’d seen a Wrestling show and it was really entertaining.  I was really impressed by the mixture of physicality alongside loads of variety with male and female comedy characters, villainous wrestlers and proper athletes battering each other round the ring in a series of tremendous bouts.  There was an element of theatricality and pantomime but also genuine pain as there were no holds barred in many contests. It’s pretty cheap too so do check out their events. Next one is at the end of March.

 

POP PALS WITH QUINT FONTANA – STAR OF KINGS, KING’S X

Lounge loser extraordinaire Quint Fontana hosts a karaoke event with a difference as “stars” from the pop world (or are they comedians in disguise) perform before a joyous (i.e. drunk) audience in a King’s X basement.  It’s brilliant fun and Quint is a despicably funny host as he sups on his Tyskie beer, goads the audience and banters with the pop guests which included Ronan Keating, Jason Donovan and Christine Aguilera. To be honest it’s worth going just to see Quint have his nightly nervous breakdown!  Awesome!

 

RACHMANINOFF: INSIDE OUT –  FESTIVAL HALL

This was almost cultural overload as I tasted my first quaver of a classical musical concert at the Festival Hall.  Performing with grandstanding gusto the London Philharmonic soared with a virtuoso performance of Rachmaninoff’s greatest hits and music which I came to recognise from David Lean and Noel Coward’s story of understated love – Brief Encounter (1946).

With no actual frame of comparative experience I can only say that it was hugely enjoyable evening and one which was not only aurally pleasing but visually interesting too as the orchestra and conductor brought home the stunning compositions with incredible timing. At times I wondered about the musicians and characters performing (could make an interesting comedy or drama)  and felt giddy at the wonder of the music. Although that could have been the heavy cold I had at the time.

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR UPDATE

During February Spurs had some vital fixtures and after a stunning last-gasp win against North London rivals Arsenal we unravelled slightly where results were concerned. Harry Kane’s brilliant header proved to be our last winner in February as Spurs went out of the Europa League on aggregate to an efficient Fiorentina team in Florence.  We started well but could not break them down.

In between we scraped a 2-2 draw with West Ham after fighting back from 2-0 down. Biggest blow was losing 2-0 to Chelsea in the Capital One Cup at Wembley. Mourinho set his team up solid from the start and while competed until the final whistle, our usual match winners Kane and Eriksen could not get us over the line.  After the highs of crushing Arsenal the bitter lows of defeat hit hard. We have 12 games in March to get into the top four or it’ll be more trips to Cyprus, Kazakhstan and Madagascar in the dreaded Europa League.

US OFFICE – NETFLIX BINGE-ATHLON

I have had to move twice recently due to reasons beyond my control so no longer have Sky Television beaming it’s entertainment juice into my living room and brain. Thus, I have gone back to my favourite online channel www.netflix.com and FINALLY began catching up with the The Office (US version)!  And oh my god it is genuinely one of the funniest and style-diverse situation comedies I’ve seen.

It uses character, songs, slapstick, embarrassment, gags, pranks, horror and pathos to propel it’s narratives as the employees of Dunder Mifflin get themselves into all manners of scrapes and cringeworthy situations.  Some great cameos too (I’m up to Season 6 now) as Amy Ryan, Idris Elba, Kathy Bates and even Christian Slater have popped up in episodes.  Anchored brilliantly by an ensemble cast notably Steve Carell as Michael Scott and my favourite, Rain Wilson as Dwight Schrute, this is comedy performance and writing of the highest order. Just TOO funny.