Cultural analysis

Review: The Good, the Bad and the Multiplex

The Good, the Bad and the Multiplex, what's wrong with Modern Movies by Mark KermodeThe Good, the Bad and the Multiplex, what’s wrong with Modern Movies by Mark Kermode
Paperback and Audio book

An endearing and entertaining polemic from the BBC’s most curmudgeonly film critic.

Those familiar with BBC TV’s The Culture Show, BBC News’ Screen-time or Radio 5-Live’s Sony award-winning film review show with Simon Mayo, will know Mark Kermode’s chatty, irreverent informal style which regularly veers into full-on rants against the vacuousness of the Hollywood movie machine. Fans will not be disappointed by Kermode’s own reading of his second book, which is a seven-hour rant fest of everything he hates about the industry. …

Review: Exit Through the Gift Shop

Movie Catch-Up: Exit Through the Gift ShopThere’s a 1966 Peter Sellars movie, After the Fox, in which Sellars’ master criminal Aldo Vanucci (aka the Fox), posing as a famous director, persuades the entire population of a  coastal village that they are the stars of his latest art-house movie, the cover story for smuggling the “gold of Cairo” abroad.

Exit Through the Gift Shop is a documentary centred on the apparent friendship between British street artist ‘Banksy’ and obsessive super-fan Thierry Guetta, an LA-based Frenchman with a lucrative ‘retro’ clothing business and a compulsion for videoing his life. …

Review: BBC Our World – Crossing Steinbeck’s America

BBC Our World: Crossing Steinbeck's AmericaAs America grapples with a deepening recession, white-collar workers are now losing their homes in increasing numbers. Paul Mason travels the country down the same road as John Steinbeck’s migrants in The Grapes of Wrath. Visiting homeless shelters along the way, he unexpectedly finds a growing number of middle-class people who have ended up on the street. …

Review: The Fry Chronicles by Stephen Fry

Review The Fry ChroniclesThe Fry Chronicles is remarkable for two things: first, this volume follows the life of polymath Stephen Fry from his time at university to his first steps into the world of stage and screen. Second, known for his love of technology, the latest memoir was been published simultaneously in hardback, as an eBook and an iPhone app (‘My Fry’).

Mr Fry has achieved international repute as a polymath; comic, entertainer, writer and director. Fry stands for a nostalgic version of the best of English warmth, wit, charm, inventiveness, enthusiasm, generosity, an encyclopaedic mind and eccentricity. With his massive Twitter following, Fry has been variously called the Patron Saint of British intelligence and the Verbal Vivaldi, amongst other titles.

Having missed the first volume ‘Moab is my Washpot’, I looked forward to this instalment… …

Review: The Power of Open

The Power of Open Cover art“The world has experienced an explosion of openness. From individual artists opening their creations for input from others, to governments requiring publicly funded works be available to the public, both the spirit and practice of sharing is gaining momentum and producing results.”

Creative Commons develops, supports and stewards legal and technical infrastructure that maximizes digital creativity, sharing and innovation. That means an alternative licensing model to the closed, restricted and copyrighted world in which most content exists today. Creative Commons doesn’t prevent the producers of content making money, but it does recognise the old models are out-dated and simply don’t reflect the digital age in which we live… …

Book Review: Wonders of the Universe

Book Review Wonders of the Universe Brian Cox Andrew CohenAuthors: Brian Cox, Andrew Cohen

Current poster-boy of popular science Professor Brian Cox accompanies his BBC TV documentary series, another pop-corn exploration of space, with this book. Beyond the Wonders of the Solar System, Wonders of the Universe throws all the biggest numbers it can at you: 13.7 billion years old, 93 billion light years wide, 100 billion galaxies, each containing hundreds of billions of stars.

If you saw the series, the pictures – real astronomy and some CGI marvels – will be familiar, as will the globe-trotting location photos of natural and man-made phenomena here on Earth, with which Prof. Cox illustrates from down here all those big occurrences Out There. …

Review: BBC Horizon – The Hawking Paradox

BBC Horizon The Hawking ParadoxIt took me a while to catch up with this documentary, the BBC being what it is, randomly burying shows then randomly repeating them, sometimes with or without iPlayer.

This edition of the always-worthy Horizon popular science show contains two paradoxes; that of Professor Stephen Hawking’s greatest mistake, along with his great self-correction; and in the potted history of Hawking’s life, the paradox of Hawking’s place in science… …

Review: Anne Boleyn, Globe Theatre, London

Ann Boleyn Shakespeare's Globe TheatreThe company based at the reconstructed Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre on London’s South Bank have delivered another excellent production in the finest traditions of Elizabethan/Jacobean drama.

Complimenting their season of contemporary plays (Much Ado and Dr. Faustus) this modern production by British veteran playwright Howard Brenton presents the story of Henry VIII’s much maligned second wife in Brenton’s usual political context.

Forget the bodice-ripping BBC Tudors or Shakespeare’s own carefully white-washed commissions, this is the Tudor/Jacobean politics of religion at it’s most brutal and polemic… …

Review: All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace

Part One: Love and Power
BBC Two, Monday 23 May

“A series of films about how humans have been colonised by the machines they have built. Although we don’t realise it, the way we see everything in the world today is through the eyes of the computers.”

Adam Curtis’s opening premise was that this was “a story about the rise of the machines” (no, not Terminator 3); how it was believed that computers and non-hierarchical networks could replace systems of political control to produce stable and self-regulating social order, a new kind of global capitalism free of all risk and without the boom and bust of the past.

What Curtis gives us is a dissection of human follies, belief systems that could be enabled by technology, how they failed and how they continue to fail… …

Review: Perspectives Arts Documentaries

ITV’s new arts strand replaces the much-mourned, if little-watched South Bank Show.

Perspectives is the short-season documentary arts strand “providing unique, individual insights into the arts.” This season’s Perspectives consists of four single documentary films, each from different film-makers, featuring celebrity (but ‘non-arts’) presenters and contributors offering “their take on subjects that resonate within our culture.” …