Sunday Afternoon Movie Club

At the time of writing, with the UK currently at various stages of Lockdown 2 new National Restrictions, fire-breakers or Tier systems due to the second wave of Covid (which was perfectly obvious to everyone was going to happen, everyone except the Government it seems), I thought I’d share with you some film and TV suggestions, stuff which I’ve watched since the new restrictions came in to place, in the hope that it might give you some ideas as to things to occupy yourselves too. Or, on occasions, what to avoid. And for those of you with kids to occupy, I’ll try to keep these as family-friendly as I can; I’ll let you know if any I feature are ones to keep young eyes and ears away from.

Some of these will be new, but most of them will be older films I’ve not watched for a long time and am revisiting, others part of my ongoing quest to plug the gaps in my own popular culture knowledge.

This quest was prompted about a year ago by two things which seemed to happen a lot: firstly, many people that I follow on Twitter routinely getting very excited whenever Midnight Run airs (I’d never seen it, have now. It was okay. Probably the victim of so many people waxing lyrical about it over the years that it simply couldn’t live up to expectations), and secondly the look on people’s faces when they learn that I’ve not seen certain movies – and one in particular – which they consider to be essential viewing, a look of disbelief which deepens when they realise that I worked in a video store for a couple of years in the early 1990s when the films being referenced were widely available.

More of those another time. Yesterday evening I stocked up on munchies, dimmed the lights and watched a movie I hadn’t seen since it got released on video way back when: 1995’s Apollo 13.

I don’t think the story of Apollo 13 is anywhere near as well known on this side of the pond as it is on the other, so here’s what Wiki has to say about it (no spoilers):

Apollo 13 is a 1995 American space docudrama film directed by Ron Howard and starring Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, Bill Paxton, Ed Harris and Gary Sinise. [It] dramatizes the aborted 1970 Apollo 13 lunar mission and is an adaptation of the 1994 book Lost Moon: The Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13, by astronaut Jim Lovell and Jeffrey Kluger. The film depicts astronauts Lovell, Jack Swigert and Fred Haise aboard Apollo 13 for America’s fifth crewed mission to the Moon, which was intended to be the third to land. En route, an on-board explosion deprives their spacecraft of much of its oxygen supply and electrical power, which forces NASA’s flight controllers to abort the Moon landing and turns the mission into a struggle to get the three men home safely.

Ok, so for a start, that’s a pretty impressive cast: Hanks plays Apollo 13 Commander Jim Lovell, and just having Hanks on board means we know we’re in safe hands, even if the crew might not be.

As an aside, it’s amazing just how many real-life men throughout US history Hanks has played (and no, I don’t mean Forrest Gump), and who presumably he must at least vaguely resemble: lawyer James B. Donovan in Bridge of Spies; Ben Bradlee, the executive editor of The Washington Post in The Post (which I think airs on Channel 4 this week and is…well, a bit dry to be honest); the eponymous US Congressman in Charlie Wilson’s War; the eponymous merchant mariner in Captain Phillips; the eponymous commercial airline pilot Chesley Sullenberger in Sully; Walt Disney in Saving Mr Banks; US TV icon Fred Rogers in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, not to mention FBI agent Carl Hanratty in Catch Me If You Can (although this is actually a character based on real-life FBI agent Joseph Shea), and Eastern European Mehran Karimi Nasseri in The Terminal.

Popular board game Guess Who? must be really tricky in America:

Player 1: “Does he look like Tom Hanks?”

Player 2: “Yes”

Player 1: does not flick any of the faces down.

But I digress; alongside Hanks are the much missed Bill Paxton as Apollo 13 Lunar Module Pilot Fred Haise, Gary Sinese as Apollo 13 prime Command Module Pilot Ken Mattingly, who gets bumped from the flight at the 11th hour in favour of mobile phone salesman Kevin Bacon as Apollo 13 backup Command Module Pilot Jack Swigert; and back in charge at Mission Control we have Ed Harris as White Team Flight Director Gene Kranz.

The movie has the potential to get bogged down in mathematical equations, of men in brown suits stroking their chins whilst looking at monitors as they ruminate on how to get the crew home safe and sound, but if you’ve ever seen any of director Howard’s other docudramas (and if you haven’t I’d strongly recommend you check out Rush, the story of the battle between Formula 1 drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda, and Watergate classic Frost/Nixon, where British chat show host David Frost attempts to lure US President Richard Nixon into a confession during a series of TV interviews) plays an absolute blinder: for example, he anticipated difficulty in portraying weightlessness in a realistic manner, but after discussing this with some chap called Steven Spielberg, those sections of the film which demand zero gravity – and there are a lot of them – were shot on board a KC-135 airplane, or as it’s also known, “the vomit comet”, which can be flown in such a way as to create about 23 seconds of weightlessness, a method NASA has always used to train its astronauts for space flight.

Here’s the trailer:

Plus, there’s some great tunes on the soundtrack:

I loved revisiting this movie; it’s message of hope, bravery and that science will undoubtedly win out in the end offered some unexpected optimism in the current pandemic climate: 9/10.

Apollo 13 is currently available to stream on Netflix.

More soon.

Sunday Afternoon Cinema Club

A couple of months ago, fuelled by my love of having seen “T2:Trainspotting”, I signed up to one of those monthly subscription deals with my local multiplex.

Since then, I’ve been to the cinema once.

I’m not exactly getting value for money.

So, the other evening, I went to the cinema to see “Mindhorn”.

Here’s the set-up: Julian Barratt (of “The Mighty Boosh” and “Nathan Barley” fame) plays a washed-up actor, Richard Thorncroft, best known for playing the title character in the 1980’s Isle of Man-set detective series “Mindhorn”, who gets called back to the island when a serial killer, believing his on-screen persona to be real, refuses to negotiate with anyone but him.

It’s bloody funny, in a laughably excruciating, Alan Partridge kind of way.

Here’s the trailer:

And here’s the (very loosely) linked song:


Teenage Fanclub – It’s All In My Mind

Go see.

More soon.

Sunday Afternoon Movie Club

Prompted by my earlier post about “The Rainbow Connection” I plucked from my DVD collection The Muppet Movie. No, not the recent reboot which featured Oscar-winning songs written by Flight of the Conchords’ Bret McKenzie. I mean The Muppet Movie that was released in 1979.

Here’s the plot: After a fateful meeting with a big-time talent agent, Kermit the Frog heads for Hollywood dreaming of showbiz. Along the way, Fozzie Bear, the Great Gonzo, and the dazzling Miss Piggy join him in hopes of becoming film stars too. But all bets are off when Kermit falls into the clutches of Doc Hopper, a fast-food mogul seeking to promote his French-fried frogs-leg franchise.

It is, of course, like the more recent movie, littered with great songs too. Like this:

Kermit the Frog & Fozzie Bear – Movin’ Right Along

And this (which if you haven’t seen before, you’ll have immense fun trying to work out who each musician is based on):

Dr Teeth & The Electric Mayhem – Can You Picture That?

To role call the members of Electric Mayhem: that’s Dr Teeth on keyboard, Zoot on saxophone, Janice on lead guitar, Sgt. Floyd Pepper on bass guitar and, of course, Animal on drums.

And finally, my favourite (apart from “The Rainbow Connection”, of course):

Rowlf the Dog & Kermit the Frog – I Hope That Somethin’ Better Comes Along

More soon.

Sunday Afternoon Movie Club

Time for a Parental Guidance sticker again.

When you get to my age, barely a week goes by without me getting yet another reminder of just how old and decrepit I’ve become. I suppose I should be grateful; the alternative is much grimmer.

It also makes me wonder: what in today’s popular culture will be celebrated in 20 years time? The day we all saw that picture of Kim Kardashian’s arse? The moment Justin Bieber changed his haircut? The day Zayn left One Direction? (it was him that left, right?)

As if having to deal with the fact that this year it will be 30 years since The Smiths released “The Queen Is Dead” wasn’t enough for me to cope with,  I now have to deal with the fact that it is twenty years since Trainspotting (the movie, not the book, that was even longer ago) was released.

Fuck, really??

For many, this was their first introduction to the genius that is Danny Boyle, the director. Personally, I was working in a video shop in Cardiff between 1994 and 1996 (I really used my degree to its full potential) so had seen, and loved, Boyle’s directorial debut, “Shallow Grave” and so was already aware of his visionary genius.

Trainspotting though took him to another level entirely.


Based on the Irvine Welsh book, it tells the story of Renton (Ewen MacGregor), Spud (Ewen Bremner), Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller), Begbie (Robert Carlyle), Diane (Kelly MacDonald) and Tommy (Kevin McKidd), their battles with addiction to heroin (Renton, Spud, Sick Boy, Tommy) or alcohol/violence (Begbie), a battle that at least one would lose (no spoilers here), and those that surviveds’ attempts to break free by engineering a drug deal which would enable their freedom once and for all.

Watching it back, there are so many iconic moments, from the opening sequence:

to Spud’s speed-fuelled interview:

to the infamous Begbie bar scene:

to the “Worst Toilet in Scotland”:

to Spud’s…err…accident…

Of course, there was much hysteria in the press about this film, this squalid film, that glorified drug abuse (it doesn’t, it really, really doesn’t) and how young impressionable folks would doubtless see it and be unable to resist embarking on a downward spiral of drug abuse and ultimately death. All total bollocks, of course.

But, for me, there was one other thing about Trainspotting that got me hooked: the soundtrack. You could tell that each record that featured had been chosen, or commissioned, with great care: the breadth and depth of the movie’s soundtrack (which got released over two albums) was simply staggering, taking in established records and placing them next to newer Britpop-y tunes (it was 1996, after all) and managing to totally capture the zeitgeist (whatever that means).

This was a turning point for me: it wasn’t until I saw Trainspotting that I appreciated that dance and indie music could co-exist in my own personal musical CV. Until now, I rarely gave dance music the time of day, but such was my love of the film I simply had no choice. Particularly, this one:


Bedrock feat. KYO – For What You Dream Of

There was, of course, the odd classic cut by a Britpop band to consider as well, not least one which remains one of my favourite Pulp songs to this day:


Pulp – Mile End

And then, of course, the two songs which bookend the movie, one gaining a new lease of life from it’s inclusion, the other…well…it’s just one of the greatest era-defining records:


Iggy Pop – Lust For Life


Underworld – Born Slippy

Danny Boyle has gone on to bigger and brighter things: he won an Oscar in 2008 for Best Picture and Best Director (and another six) for “Slumdog Millionaire”, and orchestrated the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics (I bought the 3-DVD boxset of the Olympics, and have never watched anything other than the 1st one which contains the opening ceremony). In the run-up, I was firmly in the “we’re going to fuck this up aren’t we?” camp, didn’t even watch it live, but when I did I was entranced; it was a thing of such patriotic beauty it is one of the very few things that make me feel proud to be British.

Here it is, in all its glory:

This led (and rightly so – it is, simply, astounding) to him being offered a knighthood  which he earns extra bonus cool points by declining.

News has come out over the past twelve months that work has started on “Porno”, the sequel to Trainspotting. Having read the book, I cannot wait for the day I get to queue up at the local multiplex and legitimately ask for “a single to watch Porno please”.

More soon.

Sunday Afternoon Movie Club

I don’t know if you’ve noticed – it may have slipped under your radar somehow – but there’s a new Star Wars film out soon. You’d think Disney’s advertising and promotional chaps would have done something to bring this to our attention, right?

In preparation for the big day, I thought I’d spend this weekend gorging on the previous six, until I realised I don’t own copies of Parts 2 and 3, which – go on, lynch me – I’ve never seen, having given up after sitting through the snooze-fest that was Episode 1: The Phantom Menace. Seriously, you know a film is piss poor if the presence of Natalie Portman and Ewan McGregor can’t save it, and if the only thing you remember about it is how annoying Jar Jar Binks is.

Anyway, having re-watched the first one, by which I apparently mean the fourth one, I was all ready to write something terribly witty about how everyone says that basically this is a film about good vs evil, with the Jedi Knights and the Force representing “Good” and Darth Vader and The Empire representing “Evil”, that the Empire are the capitalist bastards, intent on bombing or shooting everything, including little girls (and the Earth) in pastiche John Lewis Christmas adverts.

It’s not quite that straight-forward though; part of this argument is founded on the fact that Darth Vader (bad) is dressed all in black, whilst Luke and Leia (good) are dressed in white, which putting aside the obviously racist connotations of that premise for a moment, doesn’t quite stack up when you consider that the Stormtroopers are also dressed in white. And rubbish at running through doorways.

Anyway, as I attempted to think of something new to write about the Star Wars franchise, a scene from a very different film came into my mind.

This one, to be precise.

For the uninitiated, that’s from this:


1999’s Human Traffic is, without doubt, my favourite film in the world ever. Don’t get me wrong,  I am well aware this is not a cinematic masterpiece. For a start, it contains one of the most cringe-worthy scenes ever committed to celluloid when they perform an alternative National Anthem, which I’m not going to post a link to, as it will put you off watching it – but it reminds me of a particular time and place in my life, and for that reason alone it holds a very special place in my heart.

Here’s what IMDB has to say about the plot: “Five friends spend one lost weekend in a mix of music, love and club culture.”

That doesn’t really do the film justice. Set in the club scene of Cardiff (and therefore earning a big fat tick from me), it tells the story of a group of friends getting ready for a big weekend, blagging entry to a club via a cameo from DJ God Carl Cox (my heart swells with pride that whilst the club scenes aren’t filmed in it, the scene where they are queuing up to get in was filmed outside my favourite club in the world ever, The Emporium – more of that some other time), having it large, going to a house party and then the ultimate come-down. Which doesn’t seem all that much now I see it written down, but trust me, there’s warmth, wittiness and above all accuracy about the film that, if you’ve ever been into clubbing then a) you will probably already have seen this, and b) if you haven’t, you will fucking love it. Many films have tried to capture the clubbing scene of the 1990s, but none have absolutely nailed it in the way that Human Traffic does.

It stars John Simm, an actor I’ve admired for many years and will watch pretty much anything he’s in and know I’m not going to be let down, as Jip, Shaun Parkes as Koop, Lorraine Pilkington as Lulu, Nicola Reynolds as Nina, and a cameo from Andrew Lincoln as Felix (you’ll maybe know him better as Rick from The Walking Dead, but to me he’ll always be Egg from This Life).

And then, crucially, and totally owning the film, there’s Danny Dyer as Moff.

This is unquestionably Dyer’s break-out role, having featured in the usual litany of TV standards before this. For me, he will forever be Moff (see there’s even a Star Wars reference there for you).

Moff is a small time dealer, sorting out his friends and a few others outside the circle, trapped in a situation where he has to live with his parents – his father is a policeman – and of having no job to fund his…er…extra-curricula activities.

These days, Dyer is sometimes mocked for his image as a professional Cockney, derided for being type-cast in numerous films as playing a geezer, and a quick look at his CV gives you an idea as to why that is. Critics would argue that he perhaps didn’t  exactly over-extended himself. Here’s some edited highlights:

2001 – Billy the Limpet in “Mean Machine” (a Vinnie Jones vehicle, for Christ’s sake)

2001 – Brad in “Is Harry on the Boat?”, a British made-for-TV film, based on the lives of holiday reps in Ibiza where even the title is in Cockney rhyming slang (and which I’m not going to explain here, s’too rude)

2004 – Tommy Johnson in “The Football Factory”, a film about football hooliganism

2005 – Frankie in “The Business”  a cockney gangster movie set on the Costa Del Sol

2006 – Steve in “Severance” (I quite enjoyed this one actually)

2009 – Stanley in “Pimp” where he plays a Cockney..oh, you can work it out.

2013 – Mick in “EastEnders”, your archetypal Cockney hard-man with a heart of gold, running the iconic Queen Vic pub.

I fear it will be the latter for which he is most remembered, that and his frankly cringe-worthy series of programmes, originally for the now defunct Bravo channel if memory serves, where he interviewed various football hooligans and hard men, called, without a hint of irony, “Danny Dyer’s Hardmen”, or for his unintentionally hilarious ( I think unintentionally…is he really that arch and knowing….?) BBC3 documentary where he went off in search of UFOs, which you can watch here, and I would thoroughly recommend you do. Or if you have less time, his appearance on 8 Out of 10 Cats sums it up pretty well. Or for his use of the C-bomb on the same show to describe Postman Pat, which you can watch here but which you might have to sign in to watch, so offensive is the use of the dreaded word.

As you may have guessed, I could post links to Danny Dyer related content all day long. The guy is the very physical embodiment of the gift that keeps on giving, and my admiration and respect for him is the very real embodiment of man-love. Personally, I think he’s savvy enough to know what the public perception of him is, and plays up to it to Ker-ching! cash in on it. Fair play to him if that’s the case.

But all of that is a shame, because his turn as Moff in Human Traffic is utterly brilliant. Watch it – but steer clear of the cash-in “Remixed” version where all of the tunes from the actual film are replaced by different ones which don’t quite work as well in the context of the movie.

Anyway, here’s some tunes from the original soundtrack, chosen by Pete Tong. Well, actually, chosen by me on this occasion, but Pete Tong was the musical director on the film, so you get an idea of just how authentic the film is.

220px-HumanTrafficSoundtrackCDAlbumCoverTchernomushLucid – Scared

R-84766-1083316132_gif Brother Brown Feat. Frank’ee – Under The Water

R-60161-1253409559_jpeg CJ Bolland – It Ain’t Gonna Be Me


0762112fd72445089cf88b2df82b2d03 The Age Of Love – The Age Of Love (Jam & Spoon Radio Edit)

R-7974-1186407174_jpeg System F – Out Of The Blue

CS1787287-02A-BIGEnergy 52 РCaf̩ Del Mar

Orbital-BelfastWasted-158939 Orbital – Belfast

More soon.




Sunday Afternoon Movie Club

…and when I said I’d watch something more Butch next, I meant it.

Today’s movie is Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

When I was growing up, the weekend’s TV schedule was full of westerns, and I never really “got” them. Still don’t, truth be told.

Westerns were something my grandad watched (when he wasn’t glued to the wrestling or “Crossroads”. Woe betide anyone who spoke when any of them were on…)

Anyway, Butch and Sundance….


It’s not really a western, truth be told. Yes, the setting is the wiki wiki wah wah wild west, but Butch & Sundance is sooo much more than that.

What we have here is your prototype wise-cracking buddy movie,  a true bromance if you will, the kernel of Brokeback Mountain…Butch & The Kid, the original anti-heroes, clearly adore each other and their friendship is touching and poignant, the pair constantly ribbing each other throughout. Ahem. Those aren’t pillows…hell of a game, hell of a game.

While the whole film is essentially one long chase scene, it’s laced with a sense of brooding danger and impending doom; we all know how it pans out in the end (no spoilers, in case you don’t, though I may have ruined it now anyway), and there’s several classic scenes to enjoy; from the “I can’t swim” to the freeze-frame/fade to sepia ending (again, no spoilers here), through to today’s music choice, by the unfortunately named (I had a hell of a time googling him to get the sleeve…) BJ Thomas:

b_j__thomas-raindrops_keep_fallin_on_my_head(2) B.J. Thomas – Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head

Who knew the White Stripes were rent-a-models-on-bicycles back in the 60s?

Several years ago, when I was a team manager working for a thoroughly reputable insurance company in Cardiff, one of my team asked for my advice on one particular client, who just happened to be called Paul Newman. I made some wise-crack about it being THE Paul Newman (because I’m THAT funny) and was met with a blank stare. The guy had no idea who I meant. A tumbleweed blew past. A lonesome bell tolled.

A colleague chipped in, trying to rescue me: “The salad dressing guy?” I despaired….salad dressing?? That’s what he’ll be remembered for, not for being the incredible actor he was…??

I have never felt older.

Anyway, in an act no doubt designed purely to redress that, the Manics, gawd bless ’em, recorded this:

disc_help Manic Street Preachers – Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head

They may be punky revolutionaries, but they have no time for anyone who misses the g off of Falling.

More soon.