It’s time to cancel Top Gear

The media’s been talking about it for months. We’ve all heard it. The Top Gear Patagonia Special, and its infamous ending. Jeremy Clarkson’s registration plate H982 FKL was alleged to have caused offence during their trip through Argentina to the point that an angry mob ambushed the production crew, forcing them to flee the country. The Argentinian Ambassador demanded an apology from the BBC, the mainstream newspapers took their chosen sides in the debate, and the presenters denied any attempt at causing offence.

Tonight, the episode aired – Patagonia Special, Part Two. For the first time, the crew became involved with the show’s narrative – while Clarkson, Hammond and May fled back to the UK, the team on the ground were left to fend for themselves, through a barrage of rocks and missiles in a police escort. Three cars were abandoned. The show ended with a constructed scene, inspired by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid; having spent the night in the San Vicente Canton house where Robert Parker fought and was allegedly killed, the Top Gear Team returned, before emerging from the barn to the sounds of gunfire over a sepia freezeframe of their escape attempt. And that’s what gets my goat.

Top Gear began as a motoring show. It was factual, and reviewed cars, with practical challenges to test the different factors a driver may judge. But this episode was the last straw for me, because it’s really the last, desperate attempt at entertainment. And it’s what made me realise: that’s what’s been lacking from the show for a long time.

Episode one involved a review of the Citroen Berlingo Multispace, a race between the Pagani Zonda and Lamborghini Murcielago, a review of the Mazda6, a speed camera efficiency test, and a Star in a Reasonably Priced Car – a pretty good format still running, last time they had Aaron Paul.

The latest episode, one-hundred-and-sixty-seven was the fourth consecutive episode in-which the presenters travelled through an ambitious location, with excuses to be slapstick and not at all relevant to the show’s premise. This time, they were travelling through the Patagonia region of South America. Certain “jokes” involved Clarkson and Hammond giving May a pet toy horse after May fell off a horse and cracked three ribs. Horses aren’t cars. May named the horse “Brokeback”, referring to a previous incident in-which Clarkson named Hammond Brokeback after a cowboy hat he was wearing. Most of the other jokes also involved references to previous episodes. Hammond arrived back at camp with a dead cow tied to his roof, as Clarkson did in episode seventy-seven, US Special. In  the same episode, each decorated the other cars’ with provocative language, eg: “Hillary for President”. This time, Hammond and May collaborated on some less-than-amusing decorations for Clarkson’s offending Porsche 928, the anti-funny only amplified by Hammond’s cartoonish hooter. They were big in the seventies, now they’re just annoying. But it’s not that. Hammond also attached the 928’s rear brake light to the dashboard and Clarkson declared he’d break “every bone in their groins”. Just how he warned May that decorating Hammond’s bike would make him “apocalyptically cross”. But it’s not just that. They also built a bridge across a river, in the same manner as their infamous Burma Special, in-which they built a bridge that gathered controversy over Clarkson describing the “slope on it” as a Burmese man crossed. In this episode, Clarkson asked if the bridge was “straight”, prompting an immediate “Yes!” from Hammond to avoid any more (condemned) accusations of homophobia… Incidentally, Clarkson began his question with “It’s a proud moment, but…”, the same way he began describing the former bridge.

What Top Gear is doing is now doing is self-cannibalism. Humour is a finite resource, and Top Gear‘s finally run-out. And rather than actually being infocational, it’s deciding to reuse parts and just hope nobody notices. Well I have. You can’t just decide to continue a show for the sake of it, powered by its own momentum now the fuel tank’s empty. There needs to be a real reason for making the show, for sending three buffoons out to a controversial location for the sake of being controversial. You can’t expect your audience to be happy just by reminding them how the show used to be. In fact, this episode, if anything, has made me realise that maybe it just wasn’t very interesting in the first place…

The final scene, shot in cinemascope, with high contrast and dark tones, was the final shot of the episode. It was knowingly fake, and did so as an homage to the movie. But the final assault showed the thirty-one strong camera crew involved in production of the show. The show maintains the pretence that there are few of them in the wilderness, with scare staff, who mustn’t interfere. But the revelation of how big the operation is just goes to show that Top Gear isn’t genuine. It’s a literal vehicle for the presenters. The show’s no longer about the cars, it’s about the three idiots trying to be even stupider than last time. It’s getting to the point where it’s just insulting to my intelligence.

Any show that insults my intelligence shouldn’t be on television. Unfortunately, the Series 9 finale had BBC Two’s highest ratings in a decade, and Autoblog reveals the waiting list for studio recording tickets were enough to record twenty-one years’ worth of further episodes. And the show’s topped DVD charts, as well as generating enviable YouTube views from BBC Worldwide. So I guess it’s going to be with us for a while.

But if I’m the only person who actually cares about the quality of BBC programming, then FINE.

2014’s highest-grossing cinema releases

Today begins the final Opening Weekend of 2014. So it makes sense for today to be the day for looking back at this year’s most financially successful releases cinematically. From ten…


10: How to Train Your Dragon 2 (Dean DeBlois)

Total worldwide gross: $618,909,935


09: Interstellar (Jonathan Nolan/Christopher Nolan)

Total worldwide gross: $635,433,000


08: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 (Danny Strong/Peter Craig)

Total worldwide gross: $639,727,000


07: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (Mark Bomback/Rick Jaffa/Amanda Silver)

Total worldwide gross: $708,279,489


06: The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (Roberto Orci/Alex Kurtzman/Jeff Pinkner)

Total worldwide gross: $708,982,323


05: Captain America: The Winter Soldier (Christopher Markus/Stephen McFeely)

Total worldwide gross: $714,083,572


04: X-Men: Days of Future Past (Simon Kinberg)

Total worldwide gross: $746,045,700


03: Maleficent (Linda Woolverton)

Total worldwide gross: $757,752,378


02: Guardians of the Galaxy (James Gunn/Nicole Perlman)

Total worldwide gross: $772,152,345


01: Transformers: Age of Extinction (Ehren Kruger)

Total worldwide gross: $1,087,404,499

BBC features – Friday 26th to Sunday 28th December 2014

Friday 26th December 2014

18:55 The Boy in the Dress (David Walliams/Kevin Cecil/Andy Riley)

Dennis feels different – he’s an ordinary boy who lives in an ordinary house in an ordinary street, he plays football with his mates and lives with his dad and brother, but he is frustrated by the boring grey world he inhabits – life has never really been the same since his mum left.

However, transformation can happen in the most unexpected places. In Raj’s newsagent a fashion magazine seems to be calling Dennis – can it be that Kate Moss is really telling him that it’s okay for boys to like Vogue? Aided by Lisa, the coolest girl in the school, Dennis creates a whole new persona and puts it to the ultimate test – but can a boy wear a dress, and what will the headmaster, his dad and his friends on the football team think if they find out?

Based on David Walliams’ best-selling children’s book, with an all-star cast including Jennifer Saunders, James Buckley, David Walliams and Kate Moss, The Boy in the Dress is a celebration of creativity, difference, football and fashion. A Christmas treat for the whole family.


20:00 Victoria Wood’s Midlife Christmas (Victoria Wood)

BAFTA award-winning actress and comedian Victoria Wood is back with a Christmas special.

Victoria Wood’s Midlife Christmas features highlights from the Midlife Olympics 2009, the popular costume drama Lark Pies to Cranchesterford and the further adventures of soap star Bo Beaumont played by long-term collaborator Julie Walters.


20:30 Marvel’s The Avengers (Joss Whedon)

Comic book action adventure. The director of peacekeeping agency S.H.I.E.L.D. gathers an elite team of superheroes including The Hulk, Captain America, Black Widow, Iron Man and Thor when the Norse god’s evil brother steals a cosmic cube from an underground base. The group must work together to protect the Earth from the leader of an extraterrestrial race and it’s army intent on harnessing the cube’s power.


21:00 That Day We Sang (Victoria Wood)

That Day We Sang, by Victoria Wood, is a musical rooted in the Manchester of 1929 and 1969. It is the story of two lonely middle-aged people, Tubby and Enid, who are able to grab a second chance at life when they are reconnected to their emotions by the power of music.


21:00 Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell/Adam McKay)

Knockabout comedy set in the sexist world of 1970s newscasting.

Ron Burgundy, San Diego’s top-rated anchorman, reigns supreme in the all-male world of television news, until the arrival of an ambitious female reporter upsets the status quo. When she steps in to present the programme in Ron’s absence, an uncivil war breaks out in the newsroom.


22:30 Hunky Dory (Laurence Coriat)

In the heat of the summer of 1976, a drama teacher tries to put on an end-of-year music version of Shakespeare’s The Tempest.



Saturday 27th December 2014

00:15 The Winslow Boy (Terence Rattigan/David Mamet)

Period drama based on the true story of a young naval cadet accused of stealing a five shilling postal order, and his father – who risks fortune, health, domestic peace and his daughter’s prospects to seek justice. After defeat in the military court of appeals, father and daughter go to Sir Robert Morton, a charismatic barrister and MP, who takes the case before Parliament to seek permission to sue the crown.


07:10 Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo (Arthur Alsberg)

Third in the children’s comedy Love Bug series, in which the irrepressible Beetle with a mind of its own takes part in a race from Paris to Monte Carlo, via the French Alps. Love complicates the plot whenHerbie falls for a powder-blue Lancia called Giselle. Plus jewel thieves have hidden a diamond in Herbie’s petrol tank and are soon in hot pursuit.


08:50 Ensign Pulver (Josh Walker Jr./Peter S Feibleman)

Lighthearted sequel to Mister Roberts. There are unforseen consequences when a lowly ensign aboard USS Reluctant, an unimportant US Navy supply ship at the end of the Second World War, strikes a blow for his long-suffering downtrodden crewmates by playing a prank on their belligerent captain.


13:00 The Cheyenne Social Club (James Lee Barrett)

Lighthearted western about a Texas cowboy whose life changes dramatically when he inherits a social club from his ne’er-do-well brother. The club turns out to be a house of ill-repute, and the strait-laced cowhand decides to close it down or transform it into an ordinary saloon. But his plans meet with strident opposition from the local townsfolk.


15:45 The Eagle Has Landed (Tom Mankiewicz)

All-action World War II adventure. On the morning of 6 November 1943 the military authorities in Berlin receive a simple message – “The Eagle Has Landed”. In a daring kidnap attempt, a small force of crack German paratroopers are poised to snatch Winston Churchill and return with him to Germany. If they succeed in their mission it could alter the course of the war – who can stop them?


17:55 Dad’s Army (Jimmy Perry/David Croft)

Feature-length version of the classic sitcom about the Home Guard unit of a small seaside town. In 1940, with a German invasion looming, the defence of Walmington-on-Sea is in the hands of local bank manager Captain Mainwaring and a motley collection of volunteers. After a series of blunders, the Home Guard finally get the glory they deserve.


15:10 How to Train Your Dragon (Chris Sanders/Dean Deblois)

Animated children’s adventure based on the best-selling books. Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III is a young Viking, living in the village of Berk. Reluctantly trained to hunt the dragons that plague the village, Hiccup forms an unlikely friendship with Toothless, an injured dragon.


16:40 Kung Fu Panda 2 (Glen Berger/Jonathan Aibel)

Animated adventure featuring the return of Po, the panda with a penchant for martial arts. Since becoming the Dragon Warrior and defeating Tai Lung, Po has been keeping peace in the valley with his kung fu friends, the Furious Five. But, shocked by the realisation that Mr Ping the goose is not his real father, Po cannot find inner peace. When word reaches the Furious Five that Master Thundering Rhino has been killed by a terrifying new weapon, Po sets out with them to destroy it, learn more about his parents and fulfil his destiny in battling Shen, the evil peacock.


19:00 Shrek (Ted Elliott/Terry Rossio/Joe Stillman/Roger Schulman)

Animated comedy. In a land of living fairy tales and nursery rhymes grumpy ogre Shrek, along with the loudmouthed Donkey, joins beautiful but wilful Princess Fiona in tackling Lord Farquaad’s evil schemes to exile the exotic from his lands and wed the unwilling princess.


19:30 Whisky Galore! (Compton MacKenzie)

Classic Ealing comedy about a Scotch-laden ship that runs aground off the coast of the Outer Hebrides during the Second World War.

The local islanders have depleted their supply of the amber nectar and are overjoyed at the thought of stocking up again. But it is Sunday, and the teetotallers object to making free with the unexpected cargo.


22:25 Donkey’s Carolling Christmas-tacular (Walt Dohrn/Ryan Crego)

In this festive animation featuring the characters from Shrek, the irrepressible Donkey leads a Christmas carol sing-along, with musical numbers including It’s the Most Wonderful Time and unique versions of Jingle Bells and Feliz Navidad.


Sunday 28th December 2014

00:15 I Confess (George Tabori/William Archibald)

Classic psychological thriller about a Quebec priest on trial for a murder he did not commit. The priest has heard the confession of the real murderer, but is unable to disclose what he knows and, despite the increasing likelihood of being found guilty, he refuses to breach his vows.


00:20 The Hot Chick (Tom Brady/Rob Schneider)

Teen comedy in which a mean cheerleader learns a humiliating lesson when a pair of mystical earrings lead her to swap bodies with a small-time male crook. While she struggles with body hair and trying to switchback to her normal being, the con enjoys the privileges of being a 16-year-old as he sets in motion a crime spree.


07:50 Herbie Goes Bananas (Don Tait)

Comedy adventure featuring the freewheeling Volkswagen. DJ and Pete take Herbie to South America to compete in a Brazilian road race. But it’s a bumpy ride for all in the love bug as Herbie discovers a scheme to steal gold from an Incan city.


09:00 G-Force (Cormac Wibberley/Marianne Wibberley/Hoyt Yeatman/David James)

Animated action adventure. An elite team of highly trained guinea pigs, armed with the latest high-tech spy equipment, fight to save the world from a diabolical billionaire reprogramming the world’s kitchen appliances.


10:20 Three Men and a Little Lady (Coline Serreau/Sara Parriott/Josann McGibbon/Charlie Peters)

The sequel to the popular Three Men and a Baby sees the three dads living in domestic harmony with the now five-year-old Mary and her mother Sylvia. But when Sylvia announces she is moving to London to marry her English boyfriend, everything is thrown into turmoil and the surrogate fathers decide to cross the Atlantic – determined to stop the wedding.


14:25 The Heroes of Telemark (Ivan Moffat/Ben Barsman)

Tense action-adventure tale based on the true story of the Norwegian resistance and their efforts to destroy a heavy water plant established during World War II by the occupying Nazis. As the Germans move ever closer to the secret of nuclear fission, the saboteurs plot to prevent the strategic materials from going into production.


15:45 Raiders of the Lost Ark (Lawrence Kasdan)

Action-packed adventure epic in which an intrepid archaeologist tries to beat a band of Nazis to a unique religious relic which is central to their plans for world domination. Battling against a snake phobia and a vengeful ex-girlfriend, Indiana Jones is in constant peril, making hair’s-breadth escapes at every turn in this celebration of the innocent adventure movies of an earlier era.


18:00 John Carter (Andrew Stanton/Mark Andrews)

Action adventure film. Arizona, 1868. A US Civil War veteran is transplanted to Mars and discovers a planet inhabited by giant barbarians. Finding himself a prisoner of the creatures, he escapes, only to encounter a princess who is in need of a saviour.


19:00 The Gruffalo (Julia Donaldson/Axel Scheffler)

Animation based on the classic children’s picture book written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler, telling the magical tale of a mouse who takes a walk through the woods in search of a nut.Encountering three predators who all wish to eat him – a fox, an owl and a snake – the plucky mouse has to use his wits to survive. He announces that he is meeting a monster with terrible features, a “gruffalo”.

Featuring a voice cast including Helena Bonham Carter, Rob Brydon, Robbie Coltrane, James Corden and John Hurt


19:30 The Gruffalo’s Child (Julia Donaldson/Axel Scheffler)

Animated film based on the best-selling children’s picture book by author Julia Donaldson and illustrator Axel Scheffler.

One wild and windy night, the Gruffalo’s child ignores her father’s warnings and bravely tiptoes out into the snow in search of the Big Bad Mouse. She meets Snake, Owl and Fox but no sign of the fabled Mouse. He does not really exist – or does he?


20:00 Shrek 2 (Andrew Adamson/Joe Stillman/J David Stem/David N Weiss/Terry Rossio/Ted Elliott)

Animated sequel following the grumpy ogre and his bride as they head for the land of Far Far Away to meet her parents. As Shrek contends with his new in-laws, the wicked Fairy Godmother sets in motion adastardly scheme to scupper his marriage to Fiona. And will any of them survive at the hands of dandy assassin Puss in Boots?


21:00 The Good Shepherd (Eric Roth)

Spy thriller charting the life of the man charged with heading the CIA’s covert operations and uncovering a mole during the Bay of Pigs scandal, revealing how he changed from a once-idealistic student into the untrusting overlord of American espionage.

2014 in cinema – my top ten

2014 has been an… interesting year for cinema. Some have called it the best year for cinemas superheroes, even. There are several of those on my list of top ten cinema releases of 2014. In chronological order, beginning with:


The Trip to Italy (Michael Winterbottom)

Released 20th January by IFC Films

The premise of The Trip to Italy is Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon sat at a table doing impressions at each other, in-between driving around the Italian countryside improvising passive banter. And that makes it the kind of thing that works because of the cast. It’s virtually plotless, but the plot isn’t the thing. In fact, it could be compared to being a literal vehicle for Coogan and Brydon, but I don’t care. They’re funny, the cinematography makes the location worthwhile, and both leads underplay the humour appropriately enough for it to not take itself too seriously. It appeals to my sense of humour, because it’s the essence of most conversations I have with people.


Godzilla (Max Borenstein)

Released 8th May by Warner Bros. Pictures

Godzilla is all about Godzilla, and director Gareth Edwards chose to be traditional in his approach – not revealing Godzilla until an hour into the story. But we get glimpses of what he’s done, with the power station and the history montage. Everything Godzilla’s capable of doing is represented by Bryan Cranston, whose emotional disintegration provides the backdrop for the dramatic build-up to the star. But the Godzilla character isn’t just in the monster; it’s his destruction. Many criticised Godzilla for not showing Godzilla very much, but we do see the trail he leaves, and that’s half of his character – the destruction. And the destruction is what you want most from a monster movie, and the mise-en-scene does this fantastically. Helicopters give us extreme wide shots of cities devastated by the beast, and even though the plot is weak, that doesn’t matter, because what we  care about the most is the mindless destruction. But the presence of destruction doesn’t necessarily fulfil that. But Edwards chose only the finest angles and sexiest shots to give us the most awesome visions of urban apocalyptia. And it’s glorious. Yet also safe, because it’s just a movie.


Noah (Darren Aronofsky/Ari Handel)

Released 10th March by Paramount Pictures

Bible stories aren’t the most popular genres to attract audiences, yet Paramount clearly realise that Russell Crowe does. And that’s with good reason. Crowe is popular enough to bring in the money entirely on the basis of his casting. Again, Noah is an example of plot not really being the most logical, with many things being solved through the literal deus ex machina driving the story, and others being left to Noah to solve. But that doesn’t matter to people – because look, Russell Crowe! He’s extremely popular for the heroic roles, and here, Crowe combines his Gladiator with his Man of Steel, to give us a man so determined to protect his family against a revolution on a dying world, and to ensure the continuation of his species, that he becomes something of a wise old badass to keep his loved ones safe. And no, the plot isn’t really cohesive, but the visuals are created like an art film or nature documentary, and it looks like a life story on the Discovery Channel. But Russell Crowe has the gravitas to make it look as if it’s making sense. This is the story of Noah, and Noah’s actor understands the character as written in the script, that he makes the emotions make sense. And emotion is what’s at the heart of Noah. Because he understands it, and is able to make it work, we find ourselves able to stick with him, and still appreciate the journey of the story, even if it was a bit long-winded.


Captain America: The Winter Soldier (Christopher Markus/Stephen McFeely)

Released 13th March by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

The first Captain America wasn’t widely received, with most criticisms focusing on its status as an obligatory prologue to Marvel’s The Avengers. But once that was out of the way, Captain America was allowed to become a legitimate character, not just in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but in cinema. Because, unlike most sequels, this completely changed the genre. Whereas the previous was a war film, this is a political thriller. Robert Redford’s even there, just to show us how seriously Marvel were taking that genre. What they did was to recreate the paranoia and mistrust present in the 1970s, but modernise it, with modern concerns and problems. Which is why an ageing Robert Redford is even more appropriate, as he’s like a personified metaphor of the changing idea of freedom, which is at the heart of the story. Captain America is a reactionary character, who acts in response to what’s perceived as anti-freedom. But the idea of what’s freedom has changed, and therefore, so has the idea of anti-freedom. In WWII, freedom was clear – Allies good, Axis bad. But the whole point of Captain America: The Winter Soldier is that we’ve moved on. It’s now harder to tell what’s right anymore. The twist that Hydra has now merged with SHIELD is macrocosm for the notion that terrorism now influences government decisions, with too many of them making them their central focus, rather than just balancing out the duties of a government. And Captain America’s role in this is as the idolised American liberty, but now he doesn’t know what that is anymore, because good and bad have merged together. The Winter Soldier is the embodiment of what’s considered a threat, yet his ideology is that Captain America’s the enemy. To compliment a hero like Captain America, the character of the Winter Soldier is almost a counter-commentary that’s equally valid. The Winter Soldier’s even named after the Cold War, which is exactly the kind of tension now causing the world’s international problems. In true Skyfall style, we’re no longer fighting nations, or uniforms, or flags, but secrets. The real enemy of Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the secrets within SHIELD, and that really says something. Redford’s character says that building a new world sometimes means tearing the old one down. Captain America does that by bringing-about the end to an era driven by secrecy, dishonesty and deception, rather than good, old-fashioned fighting when you know who your enemy is. And in doing so, he declares the high price of freedom to be one he’s willing to pay.


The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (Alex Kurtzman/Roberto Orci/Jeff Pinkner)

Released 10th April 2014 by Columbia Pictures

Here’s the thing about The Amazing Spider-Man 2. It isn’t popular. Seriously, it isn’t really liked at all. In fact, it’s the only entry on this list that Rotten Tomatoes rates below 60%. But, cinema is subjective. I still have mixed feelings about it, but everything I say about it is my memory of having only seen it once when it was released. The Amazing Spider-Man as a series is often criticised for existing, as many Spider-Fans consider the original Spider-Man trilogy superior, and that The Amazing Spider-Man is denying Marvel the opportunity to feature the character in their cinematic universe alongside Captain America. But, because Sony own Spider-Man (unless Marvel bail them out by purchasing the character), we get an extra Marvel character release. Marvel studios can only release two productions a year, and by outsourcing, we get another studio releasing their own addition to it. Sony owning Spider-Man is an advantage in that regard. But I bring this up because, right now, it looks as if it’s the intermission between the original Spider-Man trilogy, and a Marvel Cinematic Universe version. And if Marvel buy the character, the consensus is that they’d reboot him again (reports claim Logan Lerman’s the front-runner). So we’d get Andrew Garfield between Tobey MaGuire and Maybe Logan Lerman. And since The Amazing Spider-Man 2‘s all about the character, the actor is how I judge whether I like or dislike the current state of the franchise. Now the Marvel Cinematic Spider-Man might not even be happening, and who’s to say Lerman would even be cast? So right now, we have a competition between MaGuire and Garfield. And I prefer Garfield. He was already a Spider-Fan before he was cast, and his casting not only proves that dreams can come true, but also that his did. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 wasn’t well-received, but most people agree that it’s far superior to Spider-Man 3, which is intensely disliked. Plus, Garfield looks like Steve Ditko’s drawings more than MaGuire does (despite MaGuire being the same height as Spider-Man). MaGuire’s considered the more accurate version of Spider-Man, but that’s only true if he’s being compared to the initial version. Today, Spider-Man’s more like the Garfield interpretation, and while The Amazing Spider-Man 2 definitely isn’t as good as I’d have liked it to be, Garfield makes it watchable. So watchable. Spider-Man 3 isn’t watchable. In fact, I’d say the only difference between The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Spider-Man 3 is the lead actor. As far as the franchise goes, having seen Spider-Man 3 makes The Amazing Spider-Man 2 much better since it shows how casting can be so important. And he also proved the potential of the character in showing that effect. Yes, there are trailer lines everywhere. Yes, words are repeated in a way to make them themes. And yes, it is comparable to Batman and Robin. But you know what? Garfield takes it seriously. And the character becomes so much better for that, and makes The Amazing Spider-Man 2 enjoyable because, since everything else happening is… a bit crap, it makes Garfield the best thing on screen. And that makes Spider-Man the best thing on screen. And for the superhero genre, isn’t that what we want to see?


The Fault in Our Stars (Scott Neustadter/Michael H. Weber)

Released 16th May by 20th Century Fox

The Fault in Our Stars succeeds to being on this list because of its minimalism. It’s narrated by the protagonist, and it delivers a very light-hearted take on a serious subject matter. The main idea behind it is that a person terminally ill can still experience the same love, the same loss and the same life. There were many ways its source material, John Green’s novel, could have been adapted, but it was done so in the style of the typical rom-com. Everything that makes it unique, the cancer and potential death of either lead at any time, is just extra. Normally, I might criticise a rom-com for being too functional, but it’s important that The Fault in Our Stars is exactly what you’d expect from the genre, because that’s the whole point: these characters still have full lives, and aren’t defined by their disease, and the way they love is just the same as anyone else. That’s why it’s so minimalist, and that’s what makes it beautiful.


The Inbetweeners 2 (Damon Beesley/Iain Morris)

Released 6th August by Film4

Believe it or not – probably not, but anyway – there’s actually a side of me that really likes The Inbetweeners. And that’s not because I identify with it, but the opposite. As someone who spent five years in a school I hated, I can tell you that The Inbetweeners is quite accurate. They’re either posers pretending to get laid every weekend, or dumb as hell. The Inbetweeners was very popular around school when I was there, but what none of them seemed to realise was that it isn’t an introspective, progressive art form that represents teenagers well, but actually, it’s mocking the kind of lifestyle of the people who take the show seriously. Anyone who connects with it should be worried. When I watch The Inbetweeners, it’s because I’m reminded that it’s not just me – they really were idiots. The whole point of the show was to mock the sex obsessed, the morons and the fakes. It’s a satire of youth culture’s darker side. And it is darker. Just about everything that comes out of Jay’s mouth is completely wrong, but that’s embraced. It’s not condoning that kind of attitude, which exists in a portion of teenagers, but instead is a comedy created by the intelligentsia as revenge against the people that once shamed them for their disinterest in anything rape-related. Sometimes I think that, if The Inbetweeners weren’t here, I’d have just gone mad by now.


Doctor Who – Deep Breath (Steven Moffat)

Released 23rd August by BBC Worldwide

Yes, this is an episode of a TV show. But it still counts as cinema as it was simulscreened around the world with its television debut. I don’t really understand why they’d do that, since Doctor Who is a television show, and, given the chance to watch a new episode on television or in a cinema if they were both being broadcast at the same time, I’d choose television. And I did. But the thing about Deep Breath is that it still manages to be cinematic. As early as January, it had been announced that Ben Wheatley was to direct it. Directors are rarely the subject of such important announcements, but he was an established cinema director, and the BBC realised the show needed to be presentable to be appropriate for cinemas. The best explanation I have for their decision was that to follow the success of The Day of the Doctor, the Fiftieth Anniversary Special, which was also simulscreened in cinemas. But that made sense, it was the Fiftieth Anniversary Special. And I maintain it as the most watchable episode visually. The special occasion in this case was the first full episode featuring Peter Capaldi, but did that really deserve a cinema outing? I’d argue no. But then, I’d also argue, for the same reasons already given, that The Day of the Doctor didn’t need a cinema release either. The BBC should either commit to a legitimate Doctor Who feature, or not. They shouldn’t, to be honest. But it’s better than halving the ratings by showing it in cinemas at the same time. Further reading.


Interstellar (Jonathan Nolan/Christopher Nolan)

Released 26th October by Warner Bros. Pictures

Let me tell you something… the last fifteen minutes of Interstellar made me genuinely want to slap Christopher Nolan. His stories always make an emotional sense, but the resolution of Interstellar was absolutely ludicrous. “Let’s ignore this warning we think is from aliens to stay to travel through a wormhole we also think is from aliens to get to a black hole we also think was constructed by aliens to enter a fourth dimension in order to leave ourselves the message.” Eh. That being said, Interstellar‘s best aspects are the cosmic shots outside the ship. Earth from above. Stars. The solar system. The universe. It’s all beautiful, and the first act on Earth is also really hard-hitting stuff. Now I’m not going to say that it should have just been the space travel moments, because that’s asking for something different. But it’s the space travel that’s so important to linking the two plot strands – Earth and the pretentiously titled Mann’s Planet – that it’s important for those other strands to work. The Humanist stuff on Earth, that’s brilliant. It really is. I have a weakness for stories set in the American midwest, especially if there’s a hot boy involved (extra sexy points for Timothée Chalamet), and the explorative side of Mann’s Planet is also very interesting. But it’s the plot developments happening there that lose me, because I found it a bit like The Return of the King – it goes on for longer than it feels like it needs to, and you begin to wonder what the end point of it is. Just like any prog rock track. But the strongest part of Interstellar is the space travel. Christopher Nolan tries to be as real as possible, and one of things he did to make the space travel look believable was to attach the cameras to the sides of the vessel and direct it like a futuristic version of Top Gear. Often, with a lot of epics, the destination isn’t the important thing. It’s the journey there. (Look into any Hobbit analogies there as you will.) And the journey is definitely the most interesting part of Interstellar visually.


Paddington (by Paul King and Hamish McColl)

Released 29th November by StudioCanal

I saw Paddington earlier today and found the whole thing delightful. It was delightful. Not once have I ever so comparably laughed so much during the majority of its runtime. Early promotions made me immensely sceptical as I loved Paddington so much, and didn’t want to see him mutilated by what I felt to be inaccurate CGI and all-around creepiness. But that was out of context, and honestly, Paddington is wonderful. The villain is very corny, but it’s in keeping with the style, so that’s alright. Ben Whishaw is the Mark Ruffalo of Paddington, meaning that I didn’t think he was the right choice at all, but having seen it can say that there’s no better choice. Ben Whishaw absolutely is Paddington’s voice, and it could potentially be a role far more popular than Q. In fact, Paddington was adapted so lovingly, and was so well received (it’s the highest-rated on Rotten Tomatoes) that it could be the start of a new Paddington series. Perhaps all the books could be adapted eventually. Which is good news, since Paddington creator Michael Bond is writing another Paddington book. One of the best things about this is the feeling of immense relief that it wasn’t disappointing, as well as the knowledge that when other people see this, they’re going to discover Paddington all over again. And… it makes me soft inside.

Paddington is my favourite of this list, would you believe it.

2014’s most viewed trailers (according to the Hollywood Reporter)

Original article.

Pitch Perfect 2 (Kay Cannon)

Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller/Brendan McCarthy/Nico Lathouris)

The Hunger Games: Mockinjay Part 1 (Danny Strong/Peter Craig)

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (Mark Bomback/Rick Jaffa/Amanda Silver)

Sex Tape (Kate Angelo/Jason Segal/Nicholas Stoller)

Dracula Untold (Matt Sazama/Burk Sharpless)

X-Men: Days of Future Past (Simon Kinberg)

The Fault in Our Stars (Scott Neustadter/Michael H. Weber)

Transformers: Age of Extinction (Ehren Kruger)

Interstellar (Jonathan Nolan/Christopher Nolan)

Dumb and Dumber To (Peter Farrelly/Bobby Farrelly/Sean Anders/John Morris/Bennett Yellin/Mike Cerrone)

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (Fran Walsh/Philippa Boyens/Peter Jackson/Guillermo del Toro)

Minions (Bryan Lynch)

Furious 7 (Chris Morgan)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Josh Appelbaum/André Nemec/Evan Daugherty)

Jurassic World (Derek Connolly/Trevor Trevorrow)

Avengers: Age of Ultron (Joss Whedon)

Star Wars (Episode VII): The Force Awakens (Lawrence Kasdan, J.J. Abrams)

Fifty Shades of Grey (Kelly Marcel)

Doctor Who BAFTA TV Success

Poster_Day-of-the-DoctorRadio Times are a formerly BBC funded TV listing magazines that have held a special relationship with Doctor Who over the years, not least because the show’s appeared on the cover more than any other show. Every year, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts host two awards ceremonies – one for British film, and one for British television (plus an international category).

One of the awards is the Radio Times Audience Award, which is the only award voted by the public. This year, the fiftieth anniversary special, The Day Of The Doctor, was voted most popular nominee.


Which is odd, frankly. Given the other nominees, Breaking Bad, Broadchurch, Educating Yorkshire, Gogglebox and The Great British Bake Off, were all actual shows, why should Doctor Who only get one episode? Yes, it’s the anniversary special, but a Christmas special and a half-season was broadcast that same year.


The answer? Quality. This may be the only BAFTA award for which the public vote, but the nominations for this particular award are decided by – according to the BAFTA website – “A panel of leading media and entertainment journalists”. Not the academy, then. Media and entertainment journalists.

I suppose given that The Day Of The Doctor was a special (meaning an episode broadcast outside of a regular season), they were able to nominate that single episode. But it seems every other episode broadcast that year just didn’t do it for them.

Not that I can blame them at all. The Day Of The Doctor was noticeably better than the other episodes of 2013, and was indeed simulcast around the world, becoming a Guinness World Record for the Largest Broadcast of a TV Drama. Even if that weren’t the case, and the rest of the show were nominated, it would have still won. Why? Also simple: BBC One.

Of all the nominees, Doctor Who is the only one to air on BBC One, which has the highest audience share of any British channel. That’s why it gained 16 million viewers where others achieved significantly less. For whatever reason, the majority of people only seem interested in watching something if it’s on BBC One. Which makes any nominees broadcast there more likely to win an audience award.


Which asks the question of: why bother? If it’s more likely to win based on its channel, why should the audience award exist at all? Honestly, it shouldn’t. That’s what separates BAFTA from the National Television Awards and the Oscars from the Golden Globes – committees know best. Unlike most other people, who’ll vote because they’ve only seen one nomination, it’s the responsibility of BAFTA to watch the majority of what’s on television in order to make a legitimate vote. The audience award seems to be a ratings cow, therefore; give the audience one award of their own, and they’ll watch to find out who’ll win (because BBC One really needs that kind of ratings boost). Of course, Doctor Who: The Day Of The Doctor won, because more people saw that, so were more likely to vote given the trend that people only tend to have seen one of the candidates. (Seriously, ask yourself – have you seen all of them? Every one?)


That being said, it did totally deserve to win. It’s just interesting to me that the rest of the show wasn’t nominated by Radio Times or by BAFTA for the Drama award.

But what’s more interesting is that nobody from the BBC expected it to win. Even Producer Faith Penhale (which took some finding, by the way – neither BAFTA or the BBC said who it was and I eventually found it on Kasterborous) said that, had anybody expected it to win, somebody more famous would have collected the award. Not that directors or producers or writers are considered “famous” by the public. And don’t tell me Steven Moffat was in Lanzarote, because he wasn’t. They were filming in the UK on BAFTA night.

Why nobody expected it to win perplexes me, really. It won the National Television Awards – which is voted by the public – yet nobody thought it would win an audience award from a more prestigious organisation on a more popular channel? Maybe there’s something they’re not telling us.
Either way, it totally deserved to win. And I also say that like every other member of the public – having only seen one nomination (this one). With that out of the way, perhaps everyone can stop talking about the fiftieth anniversary now? While the hype was definitely justified at the time of the actual anniversary, we’re six months after it now. Literally half a year later. Hopefully, when Series 8 premieres, everyone will forget about the anniversary because they’ll be so impressed with Peter Capaldi. The anniversary was about honouring the past while looking to the future – and the best way to do that is to now leave even that behind and move on. And let’s hope Series 8 will be better and actually get nominated this time.

See The Day Of The Doctor winning the Radio Times Audience Award here.