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)

Politics & Society

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

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’

“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

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)

Photograph: 'St. Andrews Square, Edinburgh' / Chris Fleming
Lifestyle

Review | Dishoom / Edinburgh

“Ultimately, Dishoom’s true triumph is to showcase the skill of the staff and menu with pomp but no condescension. This is a place sure of itself but not cocky; offering specialised dining while clearly hoping for the first-time visitors to relish in their formula. Ignorance is bliss here, and an introduction to another world, or, as they would have you believe, another time. ” (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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

'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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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

Captain Kirk should be gay

“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)

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Arts & Culture

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

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)

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Arts & Culture

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

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)

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Arts & Culture

Thoughts on Daniel Craig quitting as James Bond

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

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)

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Arts & Culture

Top 20 wish list for Batman v Superman

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)

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Arts & Culture

Revisiting The Man Who Would Be King

When I first met a man, who is now one of my closest friends, he told me I would love three things: The Picture of Dorian Gray, Withnail and I and The Man Who Would Be King. He recommended a fourth, eight years later, but I’ll tell you that at the end. (Read More)

Moyan Brenn, Edinburgh Festival / CC
Arts & Culture

Top 10 places to chill @ the Edinburgh Festival

So this top ten is a list close to my heart: where is best spot to relax and go for a drink? The list isn’t as easy as you might think, given the number of venues which just appear overnight. Nevertheless, it is possible to make it because the Festival is so atmospheric that there are definitive locations that bring out the best. (Read More)

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Arts & Culture

Review: Mr. Holmes

The film, based on the book A Slight Trick of the Mind by Mitch Cullin, holds all the promise and excitement of seeing one of fiction’s greatest heroes coming back for one more round before he meets his maker. Unfortunately, the confused emotional themes of the plot and the limited indulgence of Holmes lore makes for a muddled film which feels more like one of the lesser Holmes mysteries and a Remains of the Day type exploration of class, status and emotional reserve. (Read More)

'Great food' / CC
Lifestyle

Review: The Dhabba / Glasgow

If you’re lucky to have a seasoned Edinburgh migrant to give you a tour, you’re in good fortune: you can simply name food and be given the names of great establishments in quick succession. In this case ‘Indian’ was met with ‘Dhabba’ and a prompt march to an evening of most enjoyable dining. (Read More)

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Arts & Culture

Review: The Ghost

This review has the rare distinction of straddling two sections for the first time. It’s both a review of the book The Ghost by Robert Harris and the film of the same name directed by Roman Polanski with Ewan McGregor and Pierce Brosnan in starring roles. (Read More)

Arts & Culture

Review: Digital Inferno by Paul Levy

Paul Levy’s latest book is a necessary counter-balance. He doesn’t embark on a proselytising Luddite crusade beginning with ‘back in my day’. From the outset he predicates his analysis with the claim that while technology is good and here to stay, we’ve never had a real discussion on how much it impacts on our lives and changes how we think. (Read More)

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Arts & Culture

Review: Brothers of War

Problem is, it’s not. Not really. Written and directed by Mike Carter, Brothers of War opens with the complicated, toxic bullying rivalry between Gregory (Roy Finn) and his elder brother, Jake (Daniel Attwell). The former is timid and shy, the latter a bullyboy showman with a penchant for rule breaking and tormenting of his brother. It’s this which culminates in the family tragedy that leaves Jake brain damaged and paralysed and Gregory enlisted and serving in 1940s France. (Read More)

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Arts & Culture

Why Rocky Balboa gives us hope that Creed will be epic

There’s something about the Rocky films that just makes them goosebumpingly good. Yours truly might not be struggling to breathe or falling over his own body weight, but I can assure you sports have never been my thing. The only thing I learnt from P.E at school is how to pre-plan an excuse and executive it convincingly. Not the skill set my teachers had hoped for I’m sure, but it’s done me a damn sight more use than learning to kick a ball (Read More)

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Arts & Culture

Review: Gotham

I’ve watched the first six episodes of Gotham and I won’t be watching anymore. Its issues are so fundamental as to preclude any development worthy of the Batman franchise precisely because it doesn’t feature (you guessed it) the Dark Knight himself. (Read More)

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Arts & Culture

Superman eating breakfast: DC needs to get on TV to save the superhero genre

The other day Steven Spielberg said that inevitably audiences will get “superhero fatigue” and the genre will go the way of the Western. As DC lags behind Marvel with bringing their multiverse to the big screen, the latter is already pushing ahead with bringing their cinematic success to the small screen by the bucket load. But is there a benefit to DC to try and do this too, and can television offer new opportunities to save the genre? (Read More)

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Arts & Culture

Revisiting The Last Samurai

The Last Samurai it’s a happy medium between the two. The 2003 film was a commercial and critical hit for Tom Cruise in a series of what surely must be his most consistently excellent pictures. 2001 saw the wonderful Vanilla Sky, followed by the 2002, Spielberg directed, Minority Report and then the eponymous 2003 picture of this piece. 2004 was Collateral and 2005’s War of the Worlds ended a quartet of diverse and well-received films. Everything else was really just ‘ok’. (Read More)

'Coffee & Fun' / CC
Arts & Culture

Review: Maison de Moggy / Edinburgh

Maison de Moggy has taken a novelty and turned it into a practical idea. The issue that most have – but which quickly becomes apparent – is the cats are taken care of. Set hours operate to ensure that they have time to sleep and the rooms, while small, are a sprawling maze of hidey holes, bridges, baskets and beds. Toys are littered around and they are fine examples of animals which have truly become accustomed to the cooing and petting of wave after wave of human visitors. (Read More)

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Arts & Culture

Review: Devil’s Pass

Devil’s Pass (2013) is, in my book, a great example of taking the found footage horror formula, playing with it and adding a twist of sci-fi. Usually that last addendum is enough to make people say ‘nah, it ‘ill be shit’ but it honestly isn’t. And yes, Gemma Atkinson is in it and no I’ve not gone mad. (Read More)

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Arts & Culture

Review: The Grudge

The Grudge is a 2004 supernatural horror film based on the 2002 Japanese film of the same name. The 2002 version is the second of the 11 part Ju-on series created by Takashi Shimizu. The story consists of interconnecting sub-plots, all out of sync and all revolving around one house and its various residents who are plagued by a curse that is born when someone dies in the grip of a powerful rage or extreme sorrow. (Read More)

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Arts & Culture

Why the world doesn’t need Superman (Revisiting Superman Returns)

I watched Superman Returns for the first time in some years the other night. I remember that after 19 years away from the silver screen it was a thrill to see Superman back on it in 2006. Such was my excitement at the end of the film that I ran out of the theatre carrying my girlfriend, singing the theme and wearing her red pashmina as a cape (much to the amusement of the door man). (Read More)

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Arts & Culture

Review: Predestination

It takes a lot to surprise yours truly when it comes to the time travel front. Many a long evening turned has into a longer night obsessively trying to untangle a paradox or find logic “in a big ball of wibbly wobbly…time-y wimey…stuff. (Read More)

'Wings, Edinburgh' / CC
Lifestyle

Review: Wings / Edinburgh

Wings is on the list and is actually more of a cross of Andalusian spirit and Scottish gluttony than you might think. The southern region of Spain prides itself on small portions accompanying a meal: they’re normally free of charge with an alcoholic beverage, but the size of the portions mean you can have a happy balance of good food and a drink. (Read More)

Moyan Brenn, Edinburgh Festival / CC
Arts & Culture

Review: Bill Clinton: Hercules

‘Come and meet the 42nd President as he cuts loose and shoots straight from the hip in his own fantasy TED talk! From the Trojan Wars to the future of democracy, his dreams, regrets, hopes and passions, Occupy, Hillary and Monica… Beloved stained icon and reviled Slick Willy. A life epic in its own right, but what will be Bubba’s final act? Can the Comeback Kid come back? Kansas City’s Bob Paisley is directed by Fringe legend and Olivier winner Guy Masterson (Morecambe, Animal Farm, Scaramouche Jones, 12 Angry Men) in the ultimate tell-all by Rachel Mariner.’ (Read More)

Moyan Brenn, Edinburgh Festival / CC
Arts & Culture

Review: Pip Utton – Adolf

It would be wrong to judge a book by its cover, but this performance did come with a bit of infamy. Adolf is seen with the tagline that people walked out of some performances and were vocally offended before the end of the it (performance is the key word). (Read More)