Movie – The Guard

I’ve not seen Martin McDonagh’s/Brendan Gleeson’s previous effort, In Bruges (Colin Farrell probably put me off) and so had no idea The Guard will be this funny.

Sergeant Boyle (Brendan Gleeson) is the small town, Irish cop who is not exactly bent, just not doing things by the book. There’s been a murder and he matter-of-factly has a day off to spend with two disease laden, enthusiastic hookers. At the same time, an anxious FBI agent (Don Cheadle) has come over from the USA to work on a drug trafficking case that is clearly linked with the same gang.

Even past the stereotypical racist jibes encompassing Boyle’s dark humour, the two aren’t destined to become work mates but it extends the good cop/bad cop suggestion to new levels; FBI doing everything by the book and small town cop robbing murder victims’ houses and selling recovered firearms to the IRA.

Add to the mix the always excellent baddie, Mark Strong and the film’s straight faced humour that is just so politically incorrect, it’s hilarious.


Smile factor 9/10


Comedy – Lenny Henry: From Cradle to Rave

As with Jonathan Ross, I have grown up with Lenny Henry being part of my life. So why I have waited two decades to see him I have no idea. I don’t remember him specifically winning New Faces, back when talent shoes were about talent, but I do recall it being essential family viewing, back when there were all only three channels and one TV.

However, when this show was suggested to me way back last autumn, I knew instantly it was the must see. This show, you see, is about Lenny’s love of music.

A few of us trundled along to see this and we sat across over 2 rows. (I never understand why groups sit in one long line? Whereas we’re not going to talk to each other we can exchange knowing glances and prods.) We’d booked the tickets so long ago, we’d almost forgotten so it’s a lovely surprise to be walking out on a Monday evening as winter closes down to go and spend 2 hours in the company of the funniest men I’ve ever seen.

The whole of Alexander Theatre was laughing as soon as Mr Henry walked on the set, I don’t think he’d even uttered a word. I know we are in for a wondrous evening during which there is no heckling, no picking on the audience and barely a one-liner. Just Lenny’s chat about growing up with music is enough to amuse us which just goes to show (and as much as I find comics like Frankie Boyle funny) there’s not always a need.

As if the trip through memory lane with loads of fantastic tunes that had us chair dancing wasn’t enough, the encore was a show in itself; Lenny the musician comes on with a band and does an actual set, complete with James Brown gyrations.

A superb night of entertainment enjoyed by all.


Smile factor 10/10 (think this is a first)

Movie: Morning Glory

This is definitely one of those hectic weeks that need a silly comedy at the end of it.

Having said that, surely Harrison Ford is only going to appear in a half decent comedy, right?

There are two main stories; Rachel McAdams plays the hard working TV producer, Becky, looking for a big break. Having being fired, upon arriving at her new job at the 4th best morning TV show ‘Daybreak’ desperate for ratings (sound familiar?) is looking for the solution to halt the slide.

The solution it turns out is Harrison Ford, Mike being paid for the remaining years on his contract after his news show was cancelled, mainly playing golf and complaining. As a respected news guy, the gruff Mike is reluctant to co anchor morning TV with Colleen (Diane Keaton) which ‘doesn’t do news’ but mostly stories on how to make the perfect cookie.

Our intrepid Senior Producer, who lives and breathes work finds a loophole in his contract that states he has to take whatever work he is offered and so follows a frustrating time as he does everything in his power to avoid covering silly stories and campaigns to report on serious news.

It is a throwaway comedy but not in an annoying slapdash way.

7½/10     Smile factor 9½/10


Book – Dear Fatty by Dawn French

I read another book, indeed a memoir that I wish I had thought of first. Perhaps I’ll do it in five years when everyone has forgotten this one. Having said that, obviously my books won’t get anywhere near the coverage that Dawn French gets so I can just nick the idea.
Dawn French’s memoirs are written in letter form, each one is a chapter written to different people who have meant something in her life. Superb.
Ms French of course is extremely funny lady but life as we know is not always a bundle of laughs. What struck me most were the letters to her Dad who committed suicide before she had even started college. I didn’t know about that and some of those chapters have the inevitable shadow of sadness but still with an air of cuteness.
Admittedly, my eyes really picked up about a third of the way through when I read Ms French spent a year in New York, still in the dangerous late 1970s, when New York was NEW YORK. She won a place on a programme, due mainly through a teacher’s encouragement of her to join debate clubs and the like so she studied out there, living with different families. If that doesn’t give a teenager confidence I don’t know what will.
The photographs testify to the author’s slimness in those days but she talks of loving her food and we can’t begrudge her that. The Dear Fatty in question appears to be the equally brilliant Jennifer Saunders. What a fantastic pair of comics they have been since they were first plucked for the Comic Strip series as the token women. And they still innovate and amuse now.
There are also frequent letters to her best friend (BF) her mum, her daughter, her nieces and nephews and various members of her family along with an ex boyfriend or too. And there’s the ‘fan’ letters to David Cassidy and the riotous, more recent letters to Madonna.
Finally she writes beautifully to her, sadly now ex-husband, Lenny Henry, only one mind, their life was and is private a fact that I love.
Read if you like memoirs and/or if you have a sense of hilarity.
Inspiration factor 9½/10

Book – The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, Bill Bryson

Following what I think is excellent advice I’m on a mission to read 10 travel memoirs before writing my own. Not that mine are all travel, but there is fair chunk of voyage talk half way through writing the first draft of the book and it is a memoir.

I’m amazed in all the books that I have read in the last 48 months there has not been one travel memoir. Maybe Stuart Maconie’s Cider with Roadies counts or Kerouac’s On the Road?

In any case, I have heard a lot about Bill Bryson’s work and on more than one occasion have been tempted to pick a book up but alas always when there is a big pile waiting for me on the coffee table.

So now that I’m happily forced to do so, I pick the Thunderbolt Kid first. Strictly not travel, it’s about Bryson growing up in 1950’s middle America and centres on his family and school life. Well that’s all there is as a kid. He writes about his uber-forgetful mother, a terrible cook and not exactly maternal but somehow still doting. He writes about all the kids, the ones he picked on and the ones that picked on him. Then he talks about his father and this for me is the most enthralling part.

It turns out the late Mr Bryson senior was a sports journalist of some note, who stayed with the local paper, The Register, despite offers from the big boys. He also spent chunks of time away from home covering baseball games and I’m not sure if they would do that now. It’s just gorgeous to see how well he was rated by his son and touching for him to quote some phrases.

His mother also worked for the same newspaper as Bryson senior but his recollections are only of her being out for coffee, for lunch or forgetting that he was going to meet her at the office despite them having regular Friday ‘dates’. This in the days where he can stroll into a big office building and right up to her desk,

Inevitably in the American 1950s, despite young Bryson not experiencing that much himself during his tender years, he talks briefly about racism and details some local events of needless deaths.

However, the book is mostly uplifting and amusing starting with the anti communism stance of the counties leaders, a world away (or is it?) from the America of today where permission has been granted to build a mosque near the site of the old Twin Towers.

It’s about the era when everything changed; TV came, cars became a regular fixture, women could work as long as they were home makers too, missiles weapons were being tested without recognising the damage done and money was seemingly in plentiful supply. Anything was possible.

What a fantastic time to grow up.

8/10    Inspiration factor 9½/10

John Barrowman – Tonight’s the Night

I do love Barrowman in a kitsch, Saturday night, camp it up variety show kind away. He’s absolutely made for Tonight’s The Night and its perfect Saturday night watching.

Even though I make sure I’m home for Match of the Day, I’m not always around for this or for the brilliant John Bishop’s Britain. It’s a shame they have both finished after filling our summer perfectly. I can’t imagine how BBC are going to top that for the reportedly more popular autumn schedule.

I watched both on the way back from Glasgow, being too tired to write or in fact read. Tonight’s the Night is car crash TV, I’m cringing as I watch and hoping the strangers on the train who I will never see again, don’t notice. John Bishop’s Britain at least still has some credibility, despite his catastrophic rise to mainstream, prime time TV, by his own humble admission, almost overnight.

But back to Barrowman; what makes me cringe is not his outlandish disguises when surprising people but by this question afterwards: ‘Did you think this may happen’ or more specifically, ‘did you think that your family would rehearse the Mama Mia routine and surprise you with it at your own wedding reception’. Yes of course we all hope for that at weddings but if hardly ever – never happens!


God love him.

Movie – Heartbreaker

What is a RomCom anyway? Why can’t it just be called a comedy after all don’t many films have a bit of romance in them?
The RomCom tag means I have probably missed a few good films (and many more bad ones) but I am glad I saw Heartbreaker.

It’s in French and it’s a comedy. What do they know about romance anyway?

The story is of a man who makes a living by separating ‘unsuitable’ couples. He is hired by friends, relatives and colleagues and his trick is to seduce the women, therefore awakening her to the fact that she is probably in the wrong relationship before telling them he’s not the right fit either and moves on to the next assignment.

The Heartbreaker works with a team his sister and her husband who add to the comedic essence of this film. Each time, there is careful research on the break up couple, he finds out as much as he can so he can pretend to have all the same things in common; be that Wham or Dirty Dancing.

The comeuppance is expected when he is hired to break up a French bride to be from her wealthy British fiancé. To add pressure, he also owes a sizable amount of money to some crooks, who no doubt helped fund his expensive lifestyle, afforded by him sleeping in the office or whatever is available.

The French cookie turns out to be a tough one to crack with only three days to go before the wedding. Will this be the one girl that doesn’t fall for his charms?

A good comedy that’s well worth a watch.

7½/10 Smile factor 9/10