Arts & Culture

Is Batfleck the hero for the Trump generation?

‘Consider the evidence. Ben Affleck has an effortless malaise and disinterest that transforms an even darker incarnation of Batman into a casual killer. Superman is so singularly dull that the character did more dead. Wonder Woman tolerates a gang of misfit thugs who carelessly discuss each other’s secret identity. Worse still, all of them make sport out of wanton destruction and general chaos.’ (Read More)

Arts & Culture

Review | Star Trek: Discovery

“What’s so frustrating about Discovery is it’s the show Enterprise should have been, but it doesn’t even know it. The acting is fine, the budget is enormous and the spectacle is excellent. But what is it? It might have done away with most of the affectations of Trek, but that’s not the issue. It’s criminally negligent of that beautiful, insatiable quality that makes the other shows so watchable: hope.” (Read More)

Arts & Culture

Ravan Kiani: The Ex-Muslim Poet

“Ravan Kiani encourages people of multifaith and non-faith to explore the intricacies of what it means to lose everything when you reject god. Having attracted more than 400 followers, the account requires much more support in its message of inclusivity, love, human rights and civil liberty.” (Read More)

Arts & Culture

Is Brighton Rock a true ‘detective’ novel?

It can be said that Greene’s Brighton Rock subverts more than it does conform to the essence of a detective novel. After all, by its nature as a ‘howdunnit’, there is very little in the way of conventional detection, and in many respects, it is the reader rather than a protagonist who is invited to investigate through the act of ‘reading’. (Read More)

Books

Review | ‘The Case for Impeachment’

Distinguished Professor of History at the American University in Washington DC, Allan J. Lichtman has produced my favourite book of 2017. Renowned as the man who predicted Donald Trump’s election to the White House, Lichtman turns his attention to how and why President Trump should be impeached. (Read More)

Arts & Culture

It’s not superhero fatigue, it’s misery fatigue

“It’s long overdue for a return to the heady days of Christopher Reeve’s Superman. Everyone who hears John Williams’ orchestral march feels ecstatic because Reeves’ portrayal is so rich in simple decency. The pants and red-caped moralism fell into cliche long ago because the world felt these creations weren’t equipped to deal with modernity. Perhaps it’s the other way around?” (Read More)

Arts & Culture

Kevin Spacey has betrayed his fans and they’re hurting too

“With Frank Underwood’s asides, the audience is invited into his thinking and to share in his schemes. Like all good Machiavellian characters, viewers indulge a faux Stockholm syndrome for scurrilous bastards because they love to be in the know. It’s a macabre indulgence, but that’s the game – audiences love feeling intelligent, and they’re never more in tune with that feeling than when the character speaks to them.” (Read More)

Arts & Culture

Richard Thieriot | Things I have learned – Week One of the Fringe

“In the US we use Cheeky, Naughty and Dirty as synonyms and almost exclusively when doing our best British impersonations. They have all come to mean “slightly provocative behavior from someone who is usually quite tame”. So it is not surprising that as I approached the gleaming counter at Nando’s, my American-sized smile on my face, I chose the wrong adjective.” (Read More)

Arts & Culture

Rik Carranza | Star Trek vs Star Wars

“I am a fan of both franchises, or as I call it, Sci Fi Sexual, which is not the late night version of the Sci Fi channel, with some girl dressed up Princess Leia in that gold bikini with her phasers set to stunning. Nor do I have some weird sexual kink involving heavy prosthetics and forced dialogue. What it means is that from a young age I knew the difference between a blaster and a phaser, warp speed and light speed, lightsabers and bat’leths. I love them both dearly but, if I’m honest with myself, there can only be one.” (Read More)

Arts & Culture

Sandra Hale | A letter to Edinburgh

“My second bit of advice is this. Don’t stay in Edinburgh after you’ve seen my show on my first performance date, August 3rd. Rent out your house/flat for quadruple the amount you would get normally. Believe me there are loads of comedians and actors who as I speak, are doing all manner of things to get some cash together to pay for accommodation in Edinburgh, so why shouldn’t it be you that reaps the benefit?”
(Read More)

Arts & Culture

Your body on vacation: how to be chill

“As Edinburgh Fringe gets underway, thousands of performers will binge drink, pick up smoking and eat cheap crappy food. At least, that will probably be the case for me. I have a strategy for this. My fitness goals are to drink a pint of water for every beer after the third and aim for eight hours of sleep a night. I think that is about all any performer could handle.” (Read More)

Film & TV

Review | ‘Dunkirk’

“There are several leading characters in the film but there is nobody around which the entire story revolves. Not even Kenneth Branagh’s Commander who stands on the pier attempting to direct the evacuation is master of his own fate. All rely on the other interlinking perspectives of the story. The perspective of Mark Rylance’s retired veteran’s pleasure boat crossing the channel to a war zone is fuelled by the duty to do his bit.  As is Tom Hardy’s endless dogfights in the air knowing he might lack the fuel to get himself home.” (Read More)

Arts & Culture

Alastair Stewart | Why Inception is the greatest movie ever made

“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?

“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)

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

Review | ‘The Grand Tour’

“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)

Arts & Culture

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

“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’

“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)

Arts & Culture

Review | ‘Sikunder Burnes’ by Craig Murray

“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)

Books

‘It Can Happen Here’ is as relevant as ever

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

There will be no more mourning celebrities in the future

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

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

‘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

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

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

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)

'Churchill' by Matt Brown
Arts & Culture

Listen | ‘Churchill’s Secret’ Review

‘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

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

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

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

“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

“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

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’

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

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

“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

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

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’

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

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

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

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

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

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)