Archive | February, 2013

MasterChef: The Professionals…Why doesn’t Monica Galleti have her own show?

27 Feb
English: MasterChef Logo

English: MasterChef Logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Monica Galleti is a breath of fresh air. She is a serious chef. Not a pouting diva delivering us lectures on how to boil eggs – I am looking at your Sophie Dahl or a distracting us from the food with an overdose of screen sexiness – I am looking at your Nigella Lawson. Monica is a down to earth hard-working professional who knows her stuff.

She was back this evening in a recap of Masterchef over the years in  MasterChef: The Professional Uncovered.  A look back at the professionals who have competed recently for the prize of being called BBCs MasterChef. Along with her boss Michel Roux Jr and Gregg Wallace they took us through the highs and lows of the series.

Monica traditionally takes the first half of the series, separating the wheat from the chaff so to speak, and obviously the riskier part of the show because some of the food presented by the cooks for her to taste in those first rounds defy polite description.

It is  amazing how the pressure really gets to the competitors especially considering they are supposedly professionals but it seems throw in a few cameras and tv exposure and these guys turning into wobbling souffles.

It also means Monica has to brave her way through a lot of muck before unearthing nuggets of golden cooking ability for  Michel Roux Jr to cast his eye over in the later round.

Her facial expressions as she tastes her way through a variety of dishes are the stuff of legends, as is her critique like when she tells one contestant  ”if you treated salmon like that in my kitchen I would slap you with it”.

I have to admit I am a bit of a philistine when it comes to food, and particularly do not like my food over-pampered but when I see Monica putting a dish together skills test for the contestants to recreate it just always looks exquisite and rarely matched by even the best of the contestants.

The Secret of Pickpockets….Channel 4

26 Feb

Okay it is official I am not going to use a cash point in London any more!!!. Last night’s documentary on Channel 4 -The secret of Pickpockets –  was shocking.

Not so much the Eastern European gangs targeting drunken revellers, they were brazen and the victim’s unfortunate, but it is arguably an avoidable situation. Or even the pocket or hand bag “dip” on the underground, more worrying but it is always on the back of my mind when I enter a crowded tube.

No, what really shocked me was the ATM scams. The barely noticeable card skimming devices  and cameras that thieves fit to the ATM machines allowing them to steal details of tens if not hundreds of bank cards. Digital age pickpocketing, that scared me.

The skimming device looked just like a normal ATM card slot where you would insert your credit  or debit card, and the mini cameras were equally imperceptible to the untrained eye.  Really Scary stuff. I am not sure how widespread this practice is, but I will be making a note to use ATM inside banks as often as is practicable.

On a lighter side was the travails of one Constatine Radu. The 6ft-something pickpocket from Romania has almost certainly been put out of business by the programme, caught twice on by the Police owing in no small measure because his physique means he has no chance of blending into the crowd, a key ability of a successful pickpocket.

I doubt if anyone who watched it will forget his very distinctive face, described by the one of the police officers as something you find at the end of a witch doctors stick.

Hopefully after his 22 weeks prison sentence he look for a change in profession or at least seek pastures far from the UK for his nefarious activities.

Her Majesty’s Prison: Aylesbury….A documentary too far?(ITV)

25 Feb

This was quite a revealing in-depth documentary about Prisoners in HMP Aylesbury. What really caught my attention was the case of a young lad Ryan Buckley.

I didn’t catch what offence he had committed but his storyline was pretty harrowing and my first thoughts were how come these scenes were being shown on TV. Ryan clearly had serious psychological issues. We were shown scenes of him self harming and worse his body being taken down after an attempted suicide.

As a prisoner Ryan rightly has many rights taken away but does that include the right to decide if his struggles in prison is allowed to be used for our “edutainment“? He may have willingly agreed to take part in the programme but  is he really in a state to give informed consent.

I can imagine if he has people outside that care for him watching his unconscious body being cut down from a noose where he tried to hang himself must be heart breaking.

Prisons are for punishment and where possible rehabilitation. “Edutainment” which I am sure is what it is being sold as, is not within the  remit of the Prison Service and programmes like this take us down a road we may not want to travel on.

Movies on TV…Unstoppable (Channel 4)

25 Feb

If you’re stuck at a signal point on the 7:15 from Peterborough to Kings Cross on a Monday morning it would be almost next to impossible to imagine a high-octane thriller featuring a high-speed runaway train.

If you transfer the scene to Pennsylvania, USA, swap the passenger train for a freight train loaded with highly volatile chemicals and bring in über action film director the late Tony Scott, then what you couldn’t image as your read your copy of The Metro for the 4th time becomes much closer to reality.

If Keanu Reeve’s blockbuster Speed was re-made by a train spotter, the result would be Unstoppable – a disaster movie about freight trains.

A somewhat unclear turn of events at the beginning of the film involving a train driver called Dewey (Ethan Suplee) saw a goods train laden with chemical left running without a driver, and the dead man switch all trains are supposed to be equipped with not functioning (a key plot point which again was not fully explained).

The result of this series of mishaps meant our accidental heroes Frank Barnes (Denzel Washington) and Wil Colson (Chris Pine) were called into action. Cue a fast paced thriller with the late Tony Scott’s trademark frenetic camera style As first Frank and Wil struggled to avoid the freight train they were driving colliding with the runaway train.

Then after that narrow escape from that head on collision, they quickly came to realise that the train company’s plan to stop the runaway train was a non starter and the train was heading towards the city of Stanton (population 700,000+ we were helpfully reminded). The only people who could save the town from disaster were, yes you gessed right,  Wil and Frank.

With disaster movies like this you pretty much know how it going to end, it is Hollywood after all. It is like driving with a SatNav you know where it is taking you, you just don’t how far from it will deviate from what you think is the route. We knew Wil and Frank were going to save the day, all that was in doubt was how close to disaster they go before the heroic finale.

Like many disaster movies that have gone  before it Unstoppable threadd a familiar path taking  us through edge of the seat tension, gritty determination of our heroes, several near mishaps and finally heroic triumph as our heroes boarded the runaway train and brought it to a halt.

In the process they both achieved the trademark personal redemption, Wil had fallen out with his wife and had a restraining order slapped on him and Frank somewhat less dramatically had forgotten his daughter’s birthday.

A masterpiece, no. An entertaining way to spend one and half hours, definitely.

ITV…Did the Brits just invent a new award for One Direction?

20 Feb

The Brits is pretty much what you expect a host of stars, starlets, luvvies, media types, the full A to Z  of celebrity. Then you have the those they all came to see and be seen with the Brit nominees and the winners.

It was a good night for Emili Sande taking home the Brit award for British Solo Female Artist of the years and album of the year.  Other artistes who won were Ben Howard (Best British Breakthrough and Male Solo Artist), Lana Del Rey (Best International Female), Frankie Ocean (Best International Male), Black Keys (Best International Group) and Adele received her award over in America for Best Single.

Pretty much all the usual suspects picking up awards except that is for uber-boy band of the moment One Direction. Host James Corden spent a lot of the programme talking about them and mingling with them. When Talyor Swift made an appearance it did not take long for James Corden to head over to join them (well Harry Styles). A beaming open shirted Simon Cowell was close by, keeping an eye on his money spinning wards.  Generally they were the focus of a lot of attention.

Surely with all this focus they must be here to pick up an award, but as the awards were handed out one by one it looked like they were heading home empty handed. That was until out came Robbie Williams waddling up to the satge in a suit that fitted very snugly over what looks like the beginning of a very ample belly.

He announced the winners of the ‘Brit Award for Global Success’ and the winner? Yes One Direction. What? Where did that come from you might say?  ’Brit Award for Global Success’ where was that when Blur, Oasis, Cold Play and others were sweeping the world before.

Who knows but maybe in the minds of some these other artistes aren’t as ground breaking as One Direction. The lesson it seems is if the fans, and critics don’t want to show any love for One Direction, the Brits awards committee will.

CH4…The Hotel. Is all publicity good publicity?

17 Feb

The documentary The Hotel intrigues me. The fly on the wall documentary centres around the trials and triumphs of the the three star Grosvenor Hotel in Torquay. The seaside hotel is run by the “star” of the show – Mark Jenkins.

For a long time I could not figure out if this was a real hotel, some sort of mockumentary like “This is Spinal Tap“, or some really out there documentary where you are left scratching you head as to whether it is real, like the BBC documentary “The Armstrongs“.

Week after week we are treated to hysterics, complaints, fallouts,  clashes of ego and footage of a hotel that looks like it is in desperate need of a lot of TLC. To use a pun, The Grosvenor was not only washing its dirty linen in public but had called in the cameras.

Now the show is in its third series so there isn’t the excuse that they don’t know what they let themselves in for, or they have been conned by the TV production company. So why carry on with doing the documentary?

Earlier this year we were treated to a programme in a similar vein, featuring Claridges Hotel London. This  was in comparison, a tightly controlled and polished PR exercise setting out to achieve just one thing and that was to strengthen Claridges’ brand in the mind of its existing or prospective customers.

I personally think the Grosvenor hotel management have figured out how much the British public have fallen in love the cult of celebrity.  They have realised irrespective of their failing, being featured week after week on TV will bring in a lot of clientelle desperate for a brush with fame however tenuous it might be.

The reviews on Trip Advisor the travel review site reinforce this where almost every review posted about the hotel mentions the fact that it was featured on TV.

From one happy visitor..

after seeing the tv show on channel 4 i immediately made it my mission to spend a week in this hotel. 3 months later my husband and I were on our merry way. the journey there was not fuelled by petrol but my anticiption and excitement and im very happy to say i was not disappointed.
on arrival, Mark gave me and my husband a great big hug and offered to carry in my pet cat, fluffy, who was very tired from the journey.
all the facilities in the hotel were brilliant including the new full size snooker table the newly installed jacuzzi is very relaxing.
however it was the professionalism and sheer class of the owner Mark that my stay will best remembered. my husband had ran out of socks by the last day so mark kindly took his off and gave them to my husband to wear. that sums mark up. a pure class act.
i will definetely be back and i think next time i will bring my single friend who has a little crush on mark.
if anyone is thinking about whether to stay here, i would urge them to book up now. it is a must. thank you mark. you are a legend

and another…

Stayed here just because it was on the TV and the other half loves the show. Wouldn’t normally go to a budget seaside resort, so wasn’t sure what to expect!

Got over the initial surprise as to how dated and basic the rooms were by reminding ourselves that it was only £60 for the night! However, the lack of a shower in the room was a step too far in terms of basic… However, staff dealt with it excellently and we were moved to a much nicer room complete with shower within 15 minutes.

Breakfast existed, which is all that can be said, but again it’s a budget hotel and so wasn’t expecting rosette standard food!

All in all we had fun, staff were friendly and the hotel itself, whilst basic, wasnt offensive! I imagine the hotel has more character than the thousands of others in Torquay!

For others the brush with celebrity was not enough to cover up the deficiencies of the hotel.

What a shocker. I was expecting Basil Faulty to turn up. Bland indescribable food. Basic dated rooms and common areas. No professionalism from Managers/reception head. Just like it is on TV – terrible. Don’t waste your money

Overall though it looks like the opportunity for a fleeting dalliance with fame coupled with a hotel that offers value for money trumps any defects the Grosvenor might have. So is all publicity good publicity? On this evidence I think that might be a Yes!

Movies on TV….Lesbian Vampire Killers (BBC1)

8 Feb
Lesbian Vampire Killers

Lesbian Vampire Killers (Wikipedia)

Imagine if I you were a hormonal 17 year old lad and the star of a hit TV show that enthralled the nation and turned you into a star across the country.

Imagine if some film dudes came along, looking to cash in on your new found popularity and offered to make any film you like with you as the star. I can imagine a film like Lesbian Vampire Killers would be top of your list, but surely not if you are in your 30′s with thoughts of a serious career.

Well Matthew Horne and James Corden stars of hit comedy Gavin and Stacey did just that, leveraging their fame from the BBC3 cult hit into one of the worst films to grace our TV screens in a long while.

The premise is very simple, two lads find themselves in the middle of the Norwich countryside late at night and spend the next hour and half stitching together every conceivable horror film cliche.

From the darkly lit pub with a bunch of unfriendly, inbred looking locals warning the two lads to be wary. The priest fighting a lone battle against the forces of evil. A camper van of exceptionally fine looking Swedish girls happy to party with the boys. The absence of any women over the age of 25 (we can’t have any actresses not there for anything other than their looks and youth). The lipstick lesbian vampires. It’s all there

What was missing was a discernible plot that made much sense, even for an outlandish horror movie.

It turns out that somehow this little village has a curse that turns all women over 18 into lesbian vampires. The only thing standing in the way of their  total domination of East Anglia is the character played by Matthew Horne who unknown to him is a descendant of a legendary vampire slayer.

The boys party with the girls, the Swedish girls get killed or turned into vampires one by one, till we are left with the two heroes, the last of the Swedish girls and the final not-so-epic battle with the forces of evil at a graveyard.

If you have been out on the lash, and struggled home with a doner kebab stuffed with salad and lashings of chilli sauce you may well think this has Oscar winning potential, but when you wake up in the morning you’ll quickly realise the film was just slightly more memorable than the remnants of last night’s Kebab.



Dave…Suits…Why can’t Mike Ross just not say anything to Rachel?

7 Feb

Mike Ross has everything going for him, he is clever, has a great job, more money than he knows what too spend it on, and a woman (Rachel) he is in love with and who also clearly loves him.

He does have one problem though, he had the opportunity for a relationship with Rachel and walked away, why because he can’t hide the truth from her and the particular truth he wants to hide – that he didn’t go to Havard – a prerequisite for working at the law firms of Pearson Hardman.

So that is dilemma, so why is this is a problem? Why does Mike have this overwhelming urge to tell Rachel the truth. He is pretty much living the lie every day. Even if she found out much later in a relationship she should understand why he would have been hesitant to share it.

I love suits but this does not make sense to me.

On another minor note is Season One of Suits was about Harvey Specter and Mike Ross, but I can help but think that in Season 2 the focus seems to be shifting more to Harvey. Is anyone else feeling this or is it just me?

Sky News…Peter Odemwingie in Football Interview of the Year

2 Feb

You may not be a follower of football so I will try to set the scene.

Every year there are two periods when football clubs are allowed to buy and sell players. Clubs doing poorly looking to boost their team, teams saddled with under performing players looking to trim their wage bill, new Russian owners looking to recycle their billions, the transfer window as it is known attracts all sorts.

Like almost everything we humans do so much is left to the last-minute. Imagine a manic trading floor like in Wall Street or Trading Places, that’s what it is like in football clubs across the country on the last day of the transfer window with faxes whirring, email’s pinging and phones buzzing as deals are made, attempted to be made or reneged.

One player hoping to make a move was Peter Odemwingie who normally plys his trade for West Bromwich Albion (WBA) FC. He seemingly had become disenchanted with life in the Midlands and yearned for a change of scene.

His preferred destination Queen’s Park Rangers (QPR) FC, a west London club languishing at the bottom of the league table and most notable these days for how much they are willing to pay in pursuing players to save themselves from relegation.

The would he wouldn’t he go saga was one of the story’s of the transfer window. On the last day of the transfer window so sure was Peter that the deal was close to being done he jumped in his motor to head down to West London.

Outside the grounds of QPR a  clearly elated Odemwengie gave this interview

Football is a fickle business, the deal never got done. QPR even refused him entry to the club and with his tail between his legs he’s had to head back to West Brom.  Cue widespread hilarity at his plight  and a classic tweet that went viral to the tune of Carly Rae Jepson “Call me Maybe”

“Hey, I just drove here. And this is crazy. I’m in your car park. So sign me maybe.”

BBC1…Graham Norton…The Red Chair is simply the best.

1 Feb

Graham Norton’s show is tops. His rapport with his guests is great, not too obsequious (except the Madonna special last year) and not too full of himself, but irrespective of who he has on his show the highlight is always the Red Chair.

This week the guests on Norton’s show were Dame Helen Mirren, Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann and Little Mix.

First up on the Red Chair was a woman who worked as GP’s receptionist, she seemed remarkably chirpy especially because in my experience GP receptionists are generally from the more miserable end of the happiness spectrum, but I digress.

Our lady started telling a story of how she went to get a hollywood wax. From the looks on he faces of Leslie and Paul I am guessing the phrase has not crossed the ocean, or may be not made its way to Hollywood (kind of ironic if so). Even the girls of little mix seemed a bit unsure of what this entailed, that was until Leigh-Anne Pinnock blurted out “Is that when you get an “H” down there”.

Graham Norton is normally the utmost showbiz professional but that even he could not keep it together after that and was left creased up with laughter. Poor Leigh-Anne she tried to explain but it was best left alone.

The second Red Chair ‘victim’ was a twenty something American lady from Kansas, incidentally the same state as Paul Rudd. She turned out to be also to be from the same town, it was a looking like she might be here to tell a riveting Paul Rudd anecdote and Graham asked the obvious question “Does she know Paul Rudd?”.  Her response “No but her parents went to high school with Paul”

I had rarely seen the chair lever been pulled so fast as she was tipped over.  There I was thinking Paul was at worst in his late thirties.