Arts & Culture

Alastair Stewart | Why Inception is the greatest movie ever made

03/07/2017 Alastair Stewart

“The best anyone can hope for is an acknowledgement of a film’s status even if they have a distaste for it. Is there a secret to achieving even that? Movies are in the eye of the beholder, but ‘great’ pieces, whether small or large budget productions, enjoy the Shakespeare effect: if the themes explore human nature and exist on an emotive level as much as an intellectual one, they’ll grab the crown.” (Read More)

Arts & Culture

Does Othello epitomise the tragic hero?

05/06/2017 Oliver Murphy

“However, it is clear that Othello really must be the epitome of the tragic hero through his death at the end of the play, generating anagnorisis and reinforcing the noble nature the hero’s status, all defining features of Aristotle’s conventions. As a result of murdering Desdemona, the revealed truth consolidates the emotions of both Othello and the audience, with his character left a state of anguish.” (Read More)

Books

Review | ‘The Broken Journey: A Life of Scotland 1976-99’ by Kenneth Roy

02/05/2017 Alastair Stewart

That’s extremely important given today’s politics. So much of Scotland’s past is used as a resource to fuel arguments, on both sides, of the constitutional debate that it’s rare to find a rhizomatic reading of history concerned with how well the system worked. How the Scottish justice, health, education systems operated with and through the Scotland Office; its ministers and its instruments and scope of its power in Scotland make for a fascinating read and serves an accessible index of political parties and policies still asking for your vote today. (Read More)

'The Grand Tour' / Amazon Prime Video
Arts & Culture

Review | ‘The Grand Tour’

28/04/2017 Alastair Stewart

“The problem here is that the mystery of Top Gear has evaporated. Part of the magical charm of Clarkson, Hammond and May was that no one knew how close they were. By resigning to be with a disgraced comrade, the audience got exposed to either a gratuitously mercantile vein or genuine affection that runs counter to the on-screen tension that was so funny.” (Read More)

Art, Design & Photography

Donald Trump and Theresa May’s ‘special relationship’ has been turned into NSFW street art

24/04/2017 Alastair Stewart

“Young people have never even more isolated, and some are lashing out. Street art represents an immutable reaction against a political class that doesn’t want to listen, a voting system that is flawed and a society that feels angrier than ever in a generation. It is no coincidence that these montages are so often graphic in their depiction and so publicly displayed.”
(Read More)

Arts & Culture

Review | ‘Logan’

18/04/2017 Alastair Stewart

“The result is an astonishing swansong and something of an unexpected triumph for a genre most thought was in decline. Yet this is where the film succeeds: it knows that at their best, superhero films have to be a timeless tale and less contingent on effects and dated context. It’s an obvious lesson, but given the immortal quality of the comic source material, it’s remarkable that most filmmakers eclipse this point in favour of utilising the latest technologies to produce something that will, eventually, age beyond relevance. ” (Read More)

Books

Why Tam Dalyell is the passing of the Old Guard

03/04/2017 Alastair Stewart

“Dalyell’s final title is fascinating in that not only was he was an eyewitness to events, but a participant over the last five decades. It’s a genuine a breath of fresh air because he writes with a decency to candidly admit the highs and lows of his contribution, successes and failures and all. Every sentence brims with a sense of history that contains the wisdom of a participant who isn’t trying to rewrite his role to suit the turnout.” (Read More)

Arts & Culture

Review | ‘Sikunder Burnes’ by Craig Murray

30/03/2017 Alastair Stewart

“Does he vent, passive aggressively, about a subject not dissimilar to himself? No, but even in the expose which made his name, ‘Murder in Samarkand’, there was never frothing bile save for an honest representation of the facts. To the contrary, Murray’s prose is self-aware enough to do justice beyond hagiography and he never lets any slight against him prejudice his assessment, both critical and admiring, of his subject.” (Read More)

Arts & Culture

Bugs: remembering an ahead-of-its-time tech TV thriller

01/03/2017 Alastair Stewart

“Bugs was made in the run-up to the year 2000, and there is a real sense of overwhelming dread that comes across in each episode; quite right, given most people then lived in the expectation that the Y2K bug would cripple every computer in the land at the stroke of midnight. What’s interesting, when watching Bugs again, is that the world still lives with the same sort of misunderstanding about technology; its limits, its capabilities and the laws which govern both. The shadow of the bomb in one generation is now the shadow of the keystroke; that one law or one wiretap too far will plunge the world into darkness.” (Read More)

Books

‘It Can Happen Here’ is as relevant as ever

26/01/2017 Will Lane

Michael Meyer’s wonderfully acute, succinct and thought-provoking introduction describes the book’s protagonist, Doremus Jessup, as ‘a mild, rather indolent and somewhat sentimental liberal’. If only the world today was full of indolent sentimental Liberals. Similar to those in It Can’t Happen Here, with the exception of Jessup, today’s Liberals seem on the one hand content to hold together a world that is evidently not working for the majority of people, while also to their credit are able to identify a truly dangerous, hapless president who poses a threat not just to their world but to the ideals of the whole population. (Read More)

Photograph: 'Walk of Fame' / Davide D'Amico
Arts & Culture

Why there will be no more en masse mourning of celebrities in the future

17/12/2016 Alastair Stewart

‘Today, in our interconnected, globalised and culturally internationalist world, it’s a macabre, but easy temptation, to look around and imagine which artists will generate the same shockwaves when they die. Who will, for the twenty-somethings of today, be the ‘legends’ that receive posthumous awards and extensive media coverage lavishing praise or skewering with retrospectives?’ (Read More)

Photograph: Pexels
Arts & Culture

Looking back at the BBC’s Star Trek ban

06/12/2016 Alastair Stewart

The BBC, which controlled the distribution rights to air the series in the UK, was the most accessible means by which most fans could enjoy the show until Sky One began broadcasting the complete series in 1990. Even so, for many years afterwards cable TV was a costly luxury and the banned episodes remained unseen for a majority of fans. (Read More)

The standout role in 'The Crown'? John Lithgow as Winston Churchill / Netflix
Arts & Culture

Review | The Crown

17/11/2016 Alastair Stewart

The Crown, then, is really Morgan’s natural sequel to his work to-date. Spanning from 1947, it is punctuated by the death of King George VI (Jared Harris) in 1952, the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II (Claire Foy) and concludes with the retirement of Winston Churchill (John Lithgow) in 1955. (Read More)

Arts & Culture

The problem with the 8th generation

14/11/2016 David Bone

This article discusses the issues that have beset the 8th generation of computer gaming. The lack of console hard drive space, large mandatory game patches and a perceptible lack of innovation, have all led to an insipid generation of consoles and games, not drastically different from the generation before. (Read More)

Photograph: Pexels
Arts & Culture

‘Naked Attraction’ – The End Is Near

19/08/2016 David Bone

“The presenter asks them what they felt about being eliminated. Most of them aren’t that fussed, but will probably be shocked when they get a P45 from their workplace or discover that their children can’t look them in the face anymore.” (Read More)

'Churchill' by Matt Brown
Arts & Culture

Listen | ‘Churchill’s Secret’ Review

05/08/2016 Alastair Stewart

‘Churchill’s Secret’ meshes fact and fiction to retell the true story of Winston Churchill’s debilitating stroke kept hidden from the nation and parliament in 1953. Michael Gambon excels as the war leader, but a damp script fails to make this the compelling watch it should be. (Read More)

'Clown' / CC
Theatre

London Clown Festival – no nose is good nose

18/06/2016 Chris Cresswell

But just as there are more and more new clowns creeping into the arena so it becomes apparent that they need a somewhere to meet and exchange ideas, a common ground, and I’m not talking about the annual Bognor Clown Convention, bless it, these are the new clowns, clowns without faces. So Henry and Dan decided to give all these clowns a space to come together by holding a festival. Brilliant. In London. Excellent! In a tent by a car park in Manor House! Weird! And then onto Edinburgh for the fringe…. wonderful! (Read More)

Theatre

Review | Kraken

09/06/2016 Chris Cresswell

A mime talks! Owie! This was a scandalously good show and mime is definitely the new rock n roll, move over clown, this man is leading a silent revolution. I defy anyone to see this and not be converted. (Read More)

Photograph: Pexels
Arts & Culture

Listen | ‘Blunt Talk’ Review

08/06/2016 Alastair Stewart

Is this the show Patrick Stewart and Seth Macfarlane have been leading up to? The first episode is possessed of some moments of comedy gold, but the show seems torn between focussing on Stewart’s Walter Blunt and turning it into a bland ensemble American comedy. (Read More)

Fiction Corner

Short Story | The Catapult of Christ

02/06/2016 Paul Levy

“The elastic was not really elastic at all but the rubber ring which fitted to an old press machine put together by her Uncle Stefan long years before she was born and now lying rusted in the store room with the tricycle and the broken skis.” (Read More)

Fiction Corner

Short Story | Does, Doesn’t

26/05/2016 Paul Levy

“The duel of Does and Doesn’t rose up before me as both a monstrous waste of life and energy, and also an incredible achievement, a triumph of perseverance, a work of Art in the highest sense, an accomplishment which, even as I forked up another lump of chocolate sponge, was continuing its development in the castle high on the hill above lazy Piran.” (Read More)

Photograph: Pexels
Arts & Culture

Listen | ‘Spotlight’ Review

25/05/2016 Alastair Stewart

Alastair reviews 2015’s ‘Spotlight’. The film follows The Boston Globe’s “Spotlight” team, the oldest continuously operating newspaper investigative journalist unit in the United States, and its investigation into cases of widespread and systemic child sex abuse in the Boston area by numerous Roman Catholic priests. It is based on a series of stories by the “Spotlight” team that earned The Globe the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. (Read More)

Photograph: 'The TARDIS' / Phil Long
Arts & Culture

Review | Doctor Who – ‘The Husbands of River Song’

18/05/2016 Alastair Stewart

What is beyond doubt is that Moffat’s reign as Doctor Who showrunner has been as multifaceted as his leading lady and just as complicated. As both leave, it’s fitting that they leave together with a good story. River Song’s departure is Moffat’s goodbye; poignant and sad but leaving you with food for thought and wanting more. (Read More)

Photograph: Pexels
Arts & Culture

Why a Batfleck film will be awesome

17/05/2016 Alastair Stewart

Psychologists might dub Zack Snyder’s decision to have a long-dead Robin in Dawn of Justice as a metaphoric snub to those that have determined Affleck is the junior of the Matt and Ben story. Affleck, with creative control, could very find a natural home with Batman in the same way Damon found success with the Bourne series. No other live-action iteration of Wayne/Batman has ever looked like so much like the character from the comics. Certainly no other has actor has so successfully carried the handsome playboy-look in similitude with a Batman costume that makes you believe he really could take down ‘two-dozen hostiles’ ferociously, skilfully and brutally. (Read More)

Fiction Corner

Short Story | The Tale of the Fox

12/05/2016 Paul Levy

“He retrieves his game, thrusting it safely in his jacket pocket and quickens his pace out of this place, though, try as he might to fear, he feels only welcome and kindness on this moonwashed winter night. He pauses a moment and is sure he can see a pair of eyes staring at him through the trees. But a wisp of a moment it is there, and then it is gone.” (Read More)

'Books are power' / CC
Arts & Culture

Why you should be reading Ian Gardiner

09/05/2016 Alastair Stewart

A noted Royal Marines serviceman who retired as a Brigadier in 2001, Gardiner’s books are impressive but not technically niche. The Yompers is a unique combination of writing about frontline fighting combined with wider reflections on the Falklands War, and war in general, from someone who understands the military and combat, but can write in a way that is not overwhelming in its military minutia.
(Read More)

Fiction Corner

Short Story | The Flyer

05/05/2016 Paul Levy

One who had sworn never to patronise this particular establishment in her life time; one who proudly hadn’t done McDonald’s for over four years; one who boycotted Nestle, here I stood. I was madly in need of a double espresso and a biscotti, and every other cafe on and off the Royal Mile was packed with tourists, performers and the occasional indigenous Edinburger. It had taken me the best part of half an hour to negotiate the desperate performers and the crowds of watchers of street magic and unicycled knife jugglers, not to mention bagpipers and mini kite sellers. I needed to sit down. (Read More)

Photograph: Pexels
Arts & Culture

Revisiting ‘The Iron Lady’

27/04/2016 Alastair Stewart

With a deeply flawed script and unimaginative direction that veers from sentiment to political drama, it’s up to leading lady Meryl Streep to carry the show with verve and uncanny accuracy. The Iron Lady tries to walk the line between the strident victory of Thatcher and the singular isolation it brought and doesn’t tell either side well. It is never quite a political history and never reaches the depths of personal film. (Read More)

Photograph: Pexels
Arts & Culture

Review | Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

22/04/2016 Alastair Stewart

If anything, the film is an answer to one of the better pub debates: why has their never been a Batman v Superman film before? Simply, they’re too big. DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. have proven time and time again that their adaptations of Batman, if not so much Superman, succeed best when they make solo films akin to the Nolan series. Otherwise, they risk stripping the source material back to such bare bones that audiences get diluted characters rather than a confident meeting of them. (Read More)

Driving forward? / Pexels
Arts & Culture

Why Top Gear deserves a chance to succeed

20/04/2016 Alastair Stewart

Whether it’s pictures of host Chris Evans throwing up beside the side of a race track, top-level resignations, executive arguments, accusations of control freakery against the hosts, reports of production setbacks, Evans and Matt Le Blanc falling out or ignorant, rather than controversial, stunt locations at the Cenotaph it seems not a week goes by without the headline ‘Top Gear in crisis’ (Read More)

'Christopher Nolan' / CC
Arts & Culture

Listen | Alastair Stewart & Alan Graham discuss The Dark Knight Trilogy

12/03/2016 Alastair Stewart

Is Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy a masterpiece of cinema? Has it aged well and will people’s love for it survive the potential hype and success of Ben Affleck’s new iteration in Batman v. Superman? Alastair Stewart and Alan Graham discuss this and more in a special retrospective episode looking at Nolan’s success, and failures, as master and commander of the Dark Knight myth. (Read More)

Arts & Culture

The X Factor is exploitative and cruel

02/03/2016 Alastair Stewart

Victorian freak shows, human zoos and the human novelty exhibitions of your John Merricks was once thought a harmful curiosity, at worse an indulgence based in the human need to see the strange and the macabre. But if we really think we’ve moved on and evolved beyond the Victorian penchant of pointing mouths agape at that which we don’t understand or find particularly hideous then we’re more naïve as a country than I could ever have imagined. Why not bring flogging and the work house back and all? (Read More)

Photograph: Pexels
Arts & Culture

Listen | Review: The Equalizer

29/02/2016 Alastair Stewart

A bit late to this one, it’s nevertheless impossible to be surprised by this 2014 Denzel Washington action flick. It’s intelligent, well executed and enjoyably calculating and, even if beating up bad guys never normally needs an excuse, it’s made all the better with Washington in the starring role. (Read More)

'Kirk & Spock' by JD Hancock / CC
Arts & Culture

Captain Kirk should be gay

28/02/2016 Alastair Stewart

“Star Trek was an attempt to say that humanity will reach maturity and wisdom on the day that it begins not just to tolerate, but take a special delight in differences in ideas and differences in life forms. […] If we cannot learn to actually enjoy those small differences, to take a positive delight in those small differences between our own kind, here on this planet, then we do not deserve to go out into space and meet the diversity that is almost certainly out there.”

― Gene Roddenberry (Read More)

Photograph: Pexels
Arts & Culture

Thoughts on ‘The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story’

24/02/2016 Alastair Stewart

By the third, however, and with all the moral puerility of Ross Geller, the character transformed into an ironic, proselytising caricature of how the public view the Kardashians today. Strong moral centres, he warns, can’t be replaced with material elements or fame. It was a difficult scene to watch not least because it was trying to guise itself as surreptitiously clever. The scene, and the series as a whole, is either a stunning parody of the Kardashian triptych today or a tragic indictment that a real-life murder drama is being billed as the original Kardashian television show. (Read More)

Photograph: Pexels
Arts & Culture

Why Marvel films are the sugar rush and DC films are the meat

16/02/2016 Alastair Stewart

The result should, in theory, be less about sugar highs and rather a meatier, more substantive DC universe that is believable, enjoyable but reflects the maturity of the characters in the source material. A grisly, world-weary Bruce Wayne and a 5,000-year-old Wonder Woman are perhaps emblematic of just how long it’s taken Warner Bros. to get here. It’s also perhaps telling of our times that the school-boy exemplar of decency, liberty and flying condescension is about to have his ass handed to him. (Read More)

Photograph: Pexels
Arts & Culture

Thoughts on Daniel Craig quitting as James Bond

15/02/2016 Alastair Stewart

Like all good things, it was not meant to be. Daniel Craig quitting also means that Waltz is unlikely to return, previously saying he only do so if it was opposite Craig. The future is, for the first time in ten years, wide open as to what turn the franchise will take next and at this stage it is anyone’s guess as to what direction, and what Bond, they studio will select. (Read More)

Apple Music / Alastair Stewart
Arts & Culture

Review: Apple Music v Spotify

06/01/2016 Alastair Stewart

With that in mind the announcement of Apple Music presented a tantalising, albeit suspicious, opportunity. Apple’s march into gimmickry recently began with their watches and looks set to continue. There’s even rumours that they’re launching their own mobile network. Novelty has replaced revolution and you wonder if they’d be on the market at all if Steve Jobs hadn’t uploaded to the big iCloud in the sky. (Read More)

Photograph: Pexels
Arts & Culture

Top 20 wish list for Batman v Superman

06/01/2016 Alastair Stewart

Ok, so I’ve been super excited since seeing the latest trailer for the new Batman v Superman film. I adore Batman as a well executed, brooding exercise in moral crusades and sociopathic tendencies. I grew up with the animated series and Kevin Conroy will always be my Dark Knight. I have however only perused the comic book source material; have little interest in beginning to and while I have a deep respect for the lore that has given birth to characters and films that delight me, they’re not for me. (Read More)

Photograph: 'The TARDIS' / Phil Long
Arts & Culture

Review: Doctor Who – 9.11 – ‘Heaven Sent’

02/12/2015 Alastair Stewart

‘Heaven Sent’ is possibly the greatest episode of Doctor Who ever put to screen. It contains every cumulative lesson and success that the show has enjoyed and learnt since its revival and was arguably the pinnacle of the characterisation begun more than 50 years before. It certainly went the longest way to answering the eponymous question of ‘who’ by revealing what was in the lead character’s soul. (Read More)

'Theatre', Jeffrey Smith / CC
Arts & Culture

Fall @ Greenside@ Infirmary Street

19/11/2015 Christine Lawler

Edinburgh Fringe Festival is never short of Shakespeare adaptations however finding one as captivating and inventive as Fall is rare. Written by Katie Dunstan and Alex Doble, and directed by Jamie Woods, Entita Theatre present a physical theatre production closely based on Macbeth that makes you forget it is based on Shakespeare at all which is highly impressive, especially given how young the cast are. (Read More)

Photograph: Pexels
Film & TV

Review: The Salvation

18/11/2015 Christine Lawler

With his wonderfully restrained style of acting, Mads Mikkelson stars in The Salvation, a western that incorporates all the traditions of old-school westerns while giving the genre a wonderful boost of vitality. (Read More)