Sunday, 21 June 2009


Stephen Tompkinson's African Balloon Adventure
Part 3 (of 3)
[Watch it (again) on ITV Player.]


Back from the Dead by Spinal Tap

It's 25 years since This is Spinal Tap hit cinemas and a pop culture legend was born, and now they're back with this new double-disc release -- in the most ludicrous packaging you've ever seen.

The CD part of the set firstly contains 11 re-recorded classic Tap songs (a cover sticker says 13, but they've done their maths wrong). This might sound a little pointless, but it turns out not so. Some songs have been re-interpreted -- (Funky) Sex Fam and (Listen to the) Flower People (Reggae Stylee), for example -- while those that are essentially the same have been beefed up, sounding much meatier than the versions on the original soundtrack CD -- Tonight I'm Gonna Rock You Tonight, Heavy Duty and Big Bottom all particularly benefit from this. All of these songs are taken from the original film soundtrack, completely ignoring 1992's Break Like the Wind. I guess someone thought (not necessarily incorrectly) that these wouldn't be familiar to casual fans and so weren't worth bothering with. Personally, I quite like that CD, and certainly miss Christmas With the Devil.

Additionally, the CD also holds 6 brand-new tracks. While the three-part Jazz Oddyssey (sic) and Rock 'n' Roll Nightmare may not immediately stick in your mind, the rest of the new stuff more than makes up for it. Title track Back from the Dead is a brilliant spoof of aging rock bands' "we're back!" songs, while Celtic Blues sets its sights on folksy music with Tap's typical accuracy. Short and Sweet primarily relies on the joke that it's the longest track on the album, while Warmer Than Hell is about the Devil visiting Earth in the midst of global warming. It begins with the instant-classic line "The Devil went to Devon" and doesn't let up.

The DVD portion is a 59-minute track-by-track interview with the band (in character, as always) that I haven't watched yet. Nor have I assembled the packaging, which is kind of neat but actually more awkward -- it doesn't look like you can easily take it down once put up, but it is clearly designed to be assembled as it's tricky to use in its default state.

The reason for Tap's enduring success may be that they do everything so well: not only are the lyrics highly amusing, but they have the musical ability to back them up in a way that is almost unnervingly convincing -- some of these tracks could be slipped on to certain genuine bands' albums and no one would notice the difference. If they weren't funny they'd just be a band; if they weren't good musicians they'd just be a comedy film. But they're both, and this set is easily the best available version of their music.

(Additionally, re-recordings in the original style for (Listen to the) Flower People and Sex Farm are available from Amazon MP3 and iTunes respectively. Apparently there was a third extra track available on their official site, though I'll be damned if I can find it.)


'Cheeky' Oasis fans demand refund
(from BBC News)
Oasis gig blighted by technical problems; on stage, Noel Gallagher tells fans they can have a refund; then when some actually try to claim it he criticises them for it. Think before you speak, eh Noel?

Marvel got “three-hour one-man show” from Thor director Kenneth Branagh by Liam
(from Filmonic)
Bodes well, methinks. I couldn't care less about a Thor movie before, and while I'm still far from straining at my leash to see it, Branagh's passioned involvement makes it massively more intriguing. Almost appealing, in fact.

Schools to rethink 'i before e'
(from BBC News)
What a silly plan. "But it's sometimes wrong!" Oh boo hoo.

This Year One Review Doesn’t Bode Well For Ghostbusters 3 by Dave
(from Filmonic)
The title offers commentary on their own review! Oh dear. Still, in amongst an awful lot of repetition and other ticks of poor writing, they make some good points... though the title really sums them all up.

Transfomers: Revenge Of The Fallen - Designed With 14-Year Old Boys In Mind by Owen Nicholls
(from The Projector at NME)
You've gotta love a review that contains the following quotes:
"the robots get as much characterisation as Megan Fox's cleavage."
"never have I seen a film that portrays anything with a vagina quite as insatiable for cock as the girls in this movie. As for Megan herself, I'm unsure whether Bay thinks he's her director or her gynaecologist."
"lets not get carried away thinking this is exploitation, it's just stupid. So forget the brain, switch off pain receptors and go and enjoy two-and-a-half hours of fun."
It has some intelligent points to make too (believe it or not), but while they're equally well-observed they're not half as funny.

new review at 100 Films

Lethal Weapon (1987)
the plot is full of holes, especially as it heads towards the climax. There’s also no mystery — the investigation is just an excuse to string together action set pieces and comedic buddy scenes, neither of which are much cop, and most of the story is conveyed in a couple of info-dumps that supporting characters volunteer for no reason.

Read the full review at 100 Films.

There are currently 17 new films in the review pipeline at 100 Films. As ever, updates here as and when they're posted.