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Monday, February 18, 2002

Snow Business - How good is Channel 4 News?

The world is going to hell in a handcart, and you’re just sitting there watching. But at least if it’s Channel 4 News you’re watching, you know there’s some hope for us.

Captain Jon Snow and his able lieutenants, Krishnan Guru-Murthy and Kirsty Lang, sail the seas of the early evening schedules in the UK in their nippy destroyer, giving us attitude and accuracy in equal measure.

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Posted in • Square EyesUKTelevision
Friday, February 01, 2002

Vote with your remote - the loss of Eurosport

Recently I was talking to an old college friend of mine, who’s now wearing butcher-stripe shirts and working as a trader in the City of London. He gets to work at 6:30am every morning, several hours before the markets open.

I asked him why he was so previous, and he fixed me with a steely glare and said, ‘Because money never sleeps, pal.’

I was struck by the same thought when I switched channels at 12:05am on Thursday night to be greeted by CNBC’s market wrap from New York.  If I’d stuck around, I could watch as they seamlessly moved to their Asian centre to cover the opening of the Hang Seng. Money never sleeps.

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Posted in • Square EyesIrelandTelevision
Tuesday, January 22, 2002

Black Hawk Down - TGF

There was a moment in the middle of Black Hawk Down when it dawned on me what I was watching - it was a TGF.

Those of you unfamiliar with US military slang will have to take my word for this, but it wasn’t that Friday feeling I was getting as I watched this grim depiction what it’s like to be stranded in a city where everyone’s got a gun and they all want to kill you.

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Posted in • Square EyesUSAFilm
Thursday, January 10, 2002

Too cool - The Man Who Wasn’t There reviewed

The Man Who Wasn’t There is a cool film - a moody period film noir about blackmail and murder - and the Coen brothers can always be relied upon to deliver something interesting, but is that enough this time?

Billy Bob Thornton plays the title character with such reserve and quiet intensity that he’s transformed from his other more showboating roles. He says very little, and drifts through scenes breathing, smoking and doing very little else.

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Posted in • Square EyesUSAFilm
Sunday, January 06, 2002

Full-on integrity - Jackass reviewed

Attentive readers will be familiar with my enthusiasm for watching people fall over. From Kirsty’s Home Videos to You’ve Been Framed, I’m right there if someone’s going to do a face plant, and so today I bow before the sick wonder that is Jackass.

The film of the MTV show is due here soon, and with a new season on the telly, it’s time for a look at why Johnny Knoxville and the boys are so damn watchable, as they find new ways to hurt themselves and gross us out.

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Posted in • Square EyesUSATelevision
Wednesday, December 19, 2001

One Film to Rule them All - LOTR reviewed

Most films invite you into a different world for a couple of hours, showing you people and places that you know little about. We expect this world to be convincing, and to have a depth that allows us to suspend our disbelief for a time.

But very few films - whether fantasies or not - have created as coherent and powerful a vision as that shown in The Lord of the Rings.

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Posted in • Square EyesFilm
Wednesday, November 21, 2001

Up the War Wall - Sky News’ Afghan war coverage

In conducting its attacks on Afghanistan, it can be argued that the Americans have relied too much on flashy technology and not enough on old-fashioned, on the ground intelligence. But they’re not alone - you can level the same charge against the TV channels reporting the war.

It’s a standard American mistake to confuse technological superiority with real superiority, but of course smart bombs are only as smart as the people aiming them. Spending lots of money on kit and then not being able to use it without making a huge mess of things is something that Sky News knows a fair amount about as well.

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Posted in • Square EyesUKTelevision
Monday, November 12, 2001

What is says on the tin - Harry Potter reviewed

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’ is that rarest of birds - a big-budget adaptation of a successful book that works. And it not only works, it also remains true to the plot, vision and values of the original.

Normally, ‘based on the novel by . . . ‘ means ‘well, it’s got the same title’, or at the very best ‘it was all going fine until we did the test screenings, and then we had to reshoot the ending’.

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Posted in • Square EyesFilm
Monday, November 05, 2001

Sharp Cards - Late Night Poker reviewed

It’s 1am in the morning. Why would you want to watch complete strangers sitting around a table playing a card game you don’t fully understand? Because ‘Late Night Poker’ is the best game on TV, that’s why.

The premise is brilliantly simple. Stick serious poker players (some gifted amateurs, many hardened professionals) in a studio and record them playing cards. Add engaging expert commentary and the cool feature of being able to see what’s in everyone’s hand (there are cameras under the glass table), and you’re quids in.

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Posted in • Square EyesUKTelevision
Friday, October 26, 2001

After the Film

You walk out of the cinema and everything is changed. You entered the big boxy building in the light of an ordinary afternoon. But now it’s dark, and the city feels a little different. You wonder if what you’re seeing is actually there. Everything seems kind of real, but then you’ve just spent two hours believing what you saw, when you knew it wasn’t real.

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Posted in • Square EyesFilm
Friday, October 19, 2001

When in Rome - television in Europe

While on a recent journey across Europe, I had the opportunity to watch even more bad television than I normally do - this time, in a range of languages I hardly understand.

Some of it was the same rubbish we get here, just given the exotic patina of being dubbed into Swiss German or the like. Anyone for ‘Sabrina the Teenage Witch’ in French, or ‘Walker Texas Ranger’ in German, or my own favourite, ‘Robot Wars’ in Italian. Not a franchised Italian version of the show, mind, just the English programme with frantic Italian commentary: ‘Adesso, Iron Awe da Wolverhampton!’

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Posted in • Square EyesTelevision
Monday, August 27, 2001

Order and Chaos - the logic of tv dramas

TV drama shows have to move comfortably in two different scales. Firstly, the small circles of the hour, with the plot coming to a reasonably conclusive end after each episode, giving the audience a satisfactory feeling of closure. Secondly, they also have to play the long game, with events building up episode by episode so the major characters develop over time.

This is why medical dramas work so well. You can bring in new characters as patients every week to power the plot for that particular episode. At the same time, the fortunes of the staff fill out the longer-term plot needs. Interlacing the two makes the whole experience much more rewarding.

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Posted in • Square EyesTelevision
Monday, July 23, 2001

Conoisseur of Crap - what’s good about bad television?

Why do I like watching people falling over on television? Probably for the same reason I like to see clips of 1970s soup commercials featuring minor celebrities when they were ten years old.

Bad TV can be really good, and I stand by my commitment to ‘You’ve Been Framed’ and ‘Before They Were Famous’ despite all criticism about the intellectual bankruptcy and all-round crapness.

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Posted in • Square EyesTelevision
Wednesday, July 11, 2001

Who should win Big Brother 2?

OK, we’re down to six people in ‘Big Brother’, and there can be no doubt who the winner should be; so here’s the order in which I would off them,

In an ideal world, Paul would be the first on my list, but he’s dodged nomination this because his fellow inmates have given up trying to get the public to vote his sorry Teflon-coated ass out of the house. His continued survival is nothing short of astonishing. I’ve heard suggestions of rigged telephone voting and that wouldn’t surprise me since it’s the only waythis self-important, arrogant ignorant homunculus could have beaten Bubble a couple of weeks ago.

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Posted in • Square EyesUKTelevision
Sunday, July 01, 2001

It’s not easy being green - Shrek reviewed

‘Shrek’, it’s funny, it’s cute, it’s clever; a modern style fairytale with enough gags to please both the kids and the grown-ups in the audience, it offers an alternative view of dragons, princesses and ogres, topped off with amazing animation. I’m still marvelling over the texture of Eddie Murphy’s fur, and it’s not often you get to write that line.

The film’s very careful to underline the message that you should take people as you find them, and not get caught up in assumptions about perfection. So the hero is ugly, the dragon just wants some love, and the beautiful princess burps and kicks butt.

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Posted in • Square EyesUSAFilm
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