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Homeland Season 3 – Teaser Release…

29 Jul

Homeland is back in September and I believe Channel 4 will be showing season 3.

For all Homeland fans out there here is a teaser released for the next season. Very cryptics so make of it what you will.

Channel 4…The Returned

9 Jun

Just a quick note to say this is brilliant. Yes it is in French and yes it has subtitles but if you can get past that then you are in for a superb Sunday night thriller.

Snyopsis of episode 1 From Channel 4

In a small mountain community, two local people – Camille, a teenager, and Simon – who both died years earlier, suddenly re-appear at their homes. They have not aged, and they are completely unaware of their own deaths.

Camille and Simon assume they can rejoin the world of the living as though nothing has happened, but their return throws their friends and family into a state of turmoil.

Camille’s sister Léna has continued to grow up without her sibling beside her, and Simon’s wife Adèle is just about to get remarried, to Thomas. Meanwhile, lonely nurse Julie receives a visit from a very strange little boy.

Seven years ago, the town was struck by a series of bloody murders. Now it seems the killings have started up again.

Great episode one, there was one flaw though. A pensioner made an out of hours call to his GP and got a home visit by that night by the GP…now that is just unrealistic….

Channel 4 …Terror in the Skies

9 Jun

Boeing 747-400 takes off from London Heathrow ...

It is safe to say if you are of a nervous disposition, have even the mildest fear of flying or just general more comfortable with your two feet on the ground this new series on Channel 4 is DEFINITELY NOT for you.

Over the years there have been many documentaries on aircraft safety and crashes, but what was really chilling about this series is with the advent of mobile phones and other hand held devices we are now getting footage from inside the plane.  As we found out with the movie the Blair Witch Project there is nothing that freaks you out more than shaky and very grainy footage of impeding doom.

The point the documentary stressed was that flying is very safe and a lot of effort has gone into making it as safe as possible, but there remain rare events or combination of rare events that are almost impossible to predict and when these  occur they can put the plane in a very precarious situation, what some might call the “Unknown Unknowns” – what you don’t know that you don’t know!

Brendan Walker, an aeronautical engineer, took us through us a number of cases including the sticky ice that almost brought a British Airways flight from Beijing to Heathrow almost crashing in to Hounslow a suburb just outside the airport.

A scary but very informative series, if you have the stomach for it one I would recommend.

Murder Workers …Channel 4

16 May

The only thing in common with all these stories on this thoughtful documentary was that they had lost a loved one in a murder. The hurt, the questions, the grief and the emptiness are all unique to each family. A burden each parent, sibling, child and relative had to deal with in their own way

I lost my dad when I was a teenager in a not unsimilar circumstance and I remember the immediate aftermath, dreams that he had travelled and come back and all was well but waking up every morning to the same gut wrenching void, so I have a lot of empathy for the families shown.

The loss you feel can be almost overwhelming, but real life does not stop out of sympathy and neither do the sad but inevitable consequences of the loss, like funerals or trials go away. In to this emotional whirlpool step in the workers of Victim’s Support National Homicide Team.

The gentle way they talked the little girl through the family album and watched her as she blots out the face of her ‘dad’ who had murdered her mother. The biker who had lost his son, said he was coping but when he talked about the son it was obvious he was welling up inside. The family watching the moment their dying son is dragged out of a club by the bouncers accused of killing him. The family who’s son is murdered and find the law sadly doesn’t alway dispense justice. The son who watched as his dad stabbed his mother to death and finds his dad is still his legal guardian.

In the face of this overwhelming grief the ‘Murder Workers’ offered a shoulder to cry on, an ear to share your grief and guiding hand to help you pull through

From the Channel 4 Website

The Murder Workers is a powerful and insightful Cutting Edge documentary exploring a side of murder that most people know very little about. It follows members of Victim Support’s National Homicide team as they work closely with families who have been bereaved by murder or manslaughter.

The Murder Workers offer practical and emotional support for families at different stages of bereavement from the initial shock right up until the steps needed to start re-building their lives again. The families are often thrown into a world of police investigations forced to navigate the deeply confusing world of the criminal system and it is the Murder Worker’s responsibility to guide them through this difficult time.

When others don’t know what to say or how they can help, it’s Murder Workers Dave, Alli and Carol who step in to help with funeral arrangements, apply for compensation, seek specialist help, close down bank accounts, cancel booked holidays or be there when their homes are turned into crime scenes; but most importantly, they are a shoulder to cry on. They are there to fight the family’s corner and whether its humour or a hug that’s required, they know the right thing to say – they have an extraordinary capacity to go into the unknown and alleviate some of the stress put on the families.

The Murder Workers also goes into the lives and homes of those recently bereaved to learn about the impact of homicide. Marie is an extraordinary woman with an inner fight and superior strength preparing to come face-to-face with the men accused of killing her son Lee. Elsewhere, Jackie who was getting ready for her retirement now has her hands and house full of young children. Her three grandchildren, aged five, eight and thirteen years old moved in with her after their father killed their mother, who was Jackie’s daughter. She is now battling to become the children’s legal guardian.

The Victim Support Website :

Secret Millions [Secret Millionaire Rebooted]…Channel 4

19 Mar

So let’s say I work in a Charity, social housing or some other part of the voluntary sector. Let’s say also my job is located in a former mining or industrial town somewhere up north that has seen better times. If one day a stranger appears out of nowhere with a camera crew in tow and tells me he or she is looking for some work experience and the crew are filming a documentary. Am I going to think “Secret Millionaire“? You’re damn right I would.

Secret millionaire has probably exhausted every ruse going and you even get the feeling in some of the later episodes that the people they met where pretty much going through the motions till the cheque turned up.

So how do you reboot a franchise that relies on that sort of deception. Well there is always Celebrity Secret Millionaire or Secret Millions as channel 4 now calls it. The twist is the celebrity is not pretending to be someone else, but instead needs to get people involved in a project to an extent that will convince the Big Lottery Fund to give them further funding.

This weeks episode feature TV architect George Clarke aka The Restoration Man and project was to get a bunch of London youths involved in a building apprentice scheme that would see them restore one of London’s thousands of abandoned properties back to a livable condition.

The youth were an assortment of young offenders and troubled teenagers. Including one chap, who had never left London before and never seen a cow either. His delight when he saw one was heart warming. It was somewhat more worrying when he couldn’t tell a cow and horse apart, and probably explains some of the problem’s in the meat industry.

The youngsters were a bit reluctant as the project kicked off but certainly the ones they featured really seemed to get into the whole thing and their sense of pride when the building was completed renovated was a clear to see.  Along the way we saw some real bonds develop between the youths and their mentors, the sort of bonds they clearly missed in parts of the earlier life. We saw the youths realise that there were opportunities for them through apprenticeship schemes in the building industry with support like that demonstrated in the programme.

So how do you do a big reveal in a situation like this? Typically on the old school secret millionaire, the millionaire went back revealed who he was and started doling out cheques, that obviously would not work in the case as everyone knows who the celebrity is.

That’s where the Lottery steps in.  George Clarke took the whole team to a swanky conference centre supposedly for a lecture on London architecture but it was a ruse for an opportunity for the The Big Lottery Fund’s spokesman to step in and announce funding of £1.7 million.

George Clark who had been very emotional through out the the programme was pretty much a blubbering wreck by this point.

The programme sent out a strong positive message about tackling youth unemployment and training opportunities, but there are serious challenges even for a laudable project like this. The construction industry is in recession, and British workers face fierce competition from experienced and cheaper skilled labour from Eastern Europe. Let’s hope are youthful apprentices are given the support needed to get through these challenges.

Movies on TV…Salt…Slightly over seasoned, completely unhinged (CH4)

18 Mar

I struggle to think of the last film I saw with Angelina Jolie where she wasn’t some sort of femme fatale rampaging through enemy territory guns blazing and fists flailing. From the Tomb Raider franchise, Mr and Mrs Smith, Wanted and even more recently The Tourist Ms Jolie is all action.

Did she take a break in Salt? You wish.

The essence of the plot had Evelyn Salt (Angelina Jolie) as a sleeper agent planted as a child in the United States by an agency of the then Soviet Union and she ends up working for the CIA.

Fast forward quite a few years and a Russian defector Orlov, turns up out of the blue to Salt’s office and is brought in for interrogation led by Salt. He tells a story of children trained by the Soviets as sleeper agents, how they are swapped with the real children of Americans and embedded as sleeper agents. He tells of one child swapped when her supposed parent die on a trip to Russia. The child has been trained as an assassin and  is to be triggered to kill the Russian President, a reformer, who is on a visit to the USA. He reveals the sleeper agent’s name – Evelyn Salt.

Her colleague Ted Winter and CIA counterintelligence officer Peabody (Chiwetel Ejiofor) were observing and a decision is made to detain Salt, and from that point on the film doesn’t not take a breather weaving at breakneck speed through one unexplained and implausible situation after another.

Why did Salt resist being questioned about Orlov’s allegations? Why did Orlov’s visit trigger Salt’s flight? How did she escape form so many well trained agents? Why did she go back to her apartment after fleeing? Why did the CIA not think to send people to her apartment straight after she escaped? Why was her friend and close colleague Winter allowed to join in the hunt?

Escaping from the CIA office Salt then seemingly kicked into her sleeper role mission to kill the the Russian President who was attending the funeral of his friend the Vice President of the USA. Despite the security cordon by the NYPD, FBI, CIA and the US secret service. Salt got into church, blew up the floor beneath the lectern where the Russian President was giving a Eulogy and as he dropped through the floor to where she was, she shot him.

More questions? Why did she go on this mission? How come she was so well prepared? Had she planned for the mission? and the inevitable question how come she outwitted and out fought her way through what were insurmountable odds.

After wrecking carnage at Funeral Salt meets up with Orlov in a hideout he has with the other sleepers who kidnapped and later kill Salt’s husband to test if she is still loyal. He reveals the next part of the plot to Salt, breaking into America’s nuclear bunker, kidnapping the President and starting a nuclear war with Russia. He sets up a rendezvous with a new sleeper agent who will get Salt into the White House. Salt however is not in a forgiving mood and kills Orlov and all the other sleepers in revenge for her husband’s murder.

Why were all the sleepers in one place, had they all been activated at once?  If they were all as highly trained as Salt how come she got rid of them so easily?

In the finale act she meets up with another sleeper who gets her into the White House. This sleeper attempts to assassinate the President by blowing himself up, but ends up triggering emergency procedures that takes the President into a safe room deep in the bowels of the White house. In there it turns out Winter, Salts colleague, is also sleeper. He kills all the agents and with the President all alone tries to force him to launch a nuclear war. Salt who had been trying to breaks into the bunker, finally does so and prevents Winter from launching the missiles.

More questions Was this part of the master plan? Why was Winter allowed to be part of the President’s security detail? What triggered his mission?

After nuclear was is averted. Salt is arrested but before they can take her away in a kerfuffle she engineers  she uses her handcuffs to choke Winter to death.

Why did she kill him? What purpose did that serve? If she hadn’t changed sides he was an ally she could use. If she hadn’t he might have valuable information on the rest of the sleeper network.

She is finally whisked away in a military helicopter, where even more implausibly after all the havoc she’s wrecked she persuades Peabody to release her and she escapes.

Why did he let go ?

I think the film should really have been called Saltyyyyyyy cause it left me with so many Whys?

p.s  The action scenes were great.


Gogglebox…Who’s watching who?

14 Mar

Sometimes you go to a hairdressers and they have mirrors on both sides of the wall and you look into one mirror and you see a reflection of your refection from the other mirror effectively a DIY infinity mirror.

Channel 4′s GoggleBox reminds me of that. We are watching people on TV watching programmes on TV, if one of the programmes they are watching ends up being GoggleBox there is a real and imminent danger we will all then become locked into a infinite never ending episode of the programme, so watch GoggleBox with caution.

Like all programmes about TV GoggleBox is a bit narcissistic, but nonetheless it has its entertaining moments. It is kind of like a less funny, but real version of the Royale Family. We see Britain’s diverse domestic units gathered around TV, families with kids, families without kids, friends, lovers and more.

All are entranced by what’s on TV which has been the centre of our domestic life for decades. Often the insights programmes like this give us are not just what we know, that everyone has an opinion on what is on TV, but the changing way we watch TV.

Increasingly we compliment what we are watching of TV with active or casual surfing, checking what the internet, social media, wikipedia and such have to say on a topic we are watching. On Gogglebox we saw Ipads and phones used by the by our TV watchers to check the amount of money winning crufts gets you, and when Pistorius last twitted amongst others. Fact Checking, as Americans referred to it, is now the order of the day. So TV programme makers beware!







Interesting side observation. why did one of the Guys from the Siddiqui family always watch TV in a suit? He clearly takes it a bit seriously.

Movies on TV…Skyline (Channel 4)

10 Mar

I think I get Skyline. Whenever there is a movie about  a massive alien invasion of earth you expect two things. Firstly you expect the aliens to arrive with overwhelming force battering mankind to the point where they are just one hero, or one stroke of good luck, away from defeat (Independence Day, War of the Worlds,  or even Mars Attacks)

Invariably the plot gets to a point where just when it seems all is lost the tide turns, mankind triumphs and we are reminded of the human ability to survive adversities of all kinds as misty eyed survivors gather and celebrate the indomitable human spirit.

Skyline does not buy into this, well they buy into the first part about aliens battering mankind close to submission, but not the part of  turning the tide. In Skyline when the aliens go on a rampage, they really go on a rampage.  Earth is totally beaten.

In some ways Skyline is arguably a dose of realism, well as real as you can get when you are talking about  aliens and flying saucers.

We as human race have pretty much scanned the all the planets close by and quite a few not so close and not found any signs of life. If aliens do invade they would be in all likelihood be coming from some seriously far-flung star system and would be equipped with technology far in advance of anything we have.

The chances are that the battles would be one-sided and that was what we get in Skyline.  An alien race with the ability to hover vast number of humans into their space ships to satisfy their taste for human brains and equipped with an unstoppable war machine to do this. In the process they defied the best the US Army and Airforce could throw at them including nuclear bombs.

The plot centered around 6 main characters Terry  played by Daniel Faison (Turk for Scrubs aficionados), Jarrod (Eric Balfour), Elaine (Scottie Thompson), Candice (Brittany Daniels), Denise (Crystal Reed) and Oliver (David Zayas).

Terry is a wealthy LA entrepreneur who is living the LA dream with  Candice his girlfriend. Terry invites old school buddy Jarrod over to LA from New York for hedonistic weekend to celebrate his birthday, but also plans to ask him to join his business. Jarrod comes along with his pregnant girlfriend Elaine. Joining the couples for a weekend of fun is Terry’s assistant Denise with whom he is having an affair. Added to the mix later on is David the building manager of the penthouse where Terry lives.

After Terry and his guests indulge in some serious pool and penthouse partying their well-earned late morning lie-in is interrupted by strange goings-on. The aliens have landed and from their we are pulled into a claustrophobic thriller as the party goers later joined by Oliver the building manager struggle to evade the alien brain snatchers.

For a film that depicts a world-wide invasion of earth the concentration on the such a limited number of characters and staging the bulk of the plot  in a single building may have been great for the budget, but was pretty poor for creating a sense of scale. It was like Attack on Precinct 13 but with slimy aliens as the bad guys.

I also never worked out why it took the US Airforce a whole day to respond to the wholesale alien invasion of Los Angeles. When they did respond we were treated to a some very good air battles cumulating in the detonation of the mother ship with a thermo nuclear device in Los Angeles.

I am not an expert  on nuclear war, but I would assume the White House in authorising that attack had pretty much had accepted that the casualties from the radiation fallout were justified in attempt to save earth.  The attack was unsuccessful in stopping the aliens because the mother ship seemed to have some ability to self-heal, but the radiation fallout so close to ground zero of the explosion seemed to have no effect on our cast of 6.

The nuclear bomb and radiation fallout might not have done them in but one by one they were picked up by the Aliens till were left with Jarrod and Elaine and this was with a couple of minutes left in the movie and then it clicked. Isn’t there going to be a twist, will the aliens suddenly realise they are vulnerable to the common cold, will a brave pilot fly into the middle of the mother ship on Kamikaze style and bring it down or will we find that country music played on loud speakers is there kryptonite.

The answer was none of the above, Jarrods brain was sucked out and Elaine was swept away into slimy, grimy alien incubator for pregnant women. Aliens 1 Mankind 0.


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.

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.