The Ken Dodd Happiness Show (or ‘No, Ken Dodd’s Not Dead, And Neither Is His Dad’s Dog’)

June 27, 2016

“I thought he was dead”.

That’s the line most people gave me when they heard I was going along to see a Ken Dodd gig in Dunfermline last night; well that and the disgraceful “I’ve never heard of him” from some younger folks.

No folks, Ken Dodd is not dead; instead at the grand old age of 88 he’s still touring the country every weekend performing his epic gigs that have become the stuff of legend.

I’ve seen my fair share of stand-up shows over the years – including the great Billy Connolly – and they tend to last an hour, maybe two at max, but Dodd is well known for going on long into the night with reviewersken dodd suggesting you take a blanket and some breakfast just in case.

Surely though a show starting at 7pm would be out reasonably early?

Nope.

From the picture on the back of programme of Dodd holding up a clock reading five to midnight to his early jokes about how we’d soon find out what it’s like to be in a hostage situation, and that by time the show ends our loved ones would have reported us all missing, it was clear this might last a while.

Dodd finally wrapped up his show at 23:45, nearly five hours after first walking on the stage.

Of  course, there was an intermission at around 10pm as well as a couple of breaks from the man himself as he gave up the stage for two musical variety acts to go through (thankfully) short sets, but all in all he was front and centre for well over three hours.

Unbelievable.

And what of his act?

Though it dipped a little bit after the intermission as the man from Knotty Ash went on a long, rambling anecdote about a man entering a monastery, it was mostly engaging and laugh-out-loud funny throughout, even though it was sometimes a little bit difficult to hear what he was saying thanks to a combination of old age and a chest infection. The highlight of the night was the last 45 minutes when he brought out his famous Diddy Man, Dicky Mint to a huge ovation before finishing with rousing renditions of two of his most famous songs, Absent Friends and Happiness.

Now you might think that that is just standard Dodd, and if you look up either of his ‘Audience with…’ shows that are available on YouTube you’ll see him perform an almost identical last section of his act, but it doesn’t matter; Dodd’s delivery, enthusiasm and all-round mastery of his craft meant that it was still as brilliant as when you first saw it performed.

It was worth the price of admission, and then some.

For a guy of his age to stand out there and hit us with joke after joke and song after song for as long as he did is nothing short of incredible. Equally incredible was that I could attend anything for nearly five hours and not want to leave.

Ken Dodd is a national treasure – and legend – and while he no doubt has a few years left in him, it wouldn’t be unfair to suggest that he won’t continue to tour for too much longer.

So if you want to see him, do it. Sure, be prepared for a long night, but you won’t regret it.

Advertisements

Movies: Race Review (or ‘Worth Seeing If You Still Can’)

June 10, 2016

Sometimes films don’t get a fair crack of the whip, so to speak.

Take Race – the biopic of 1930s Olympic legend Jesse Owens – for example. At my local cinema it was given very little screen time, with a single 12:15 showing at weekends and an extra one at 18:15 during the week. Now maybe Cineworld did their homework and decided more money could be made showing other films in prime slots, but it meant that anyone who wanted to go had a very limited opportunity.race

And maybe it’s because of that, or perhaps it was because Race just didn’t appeal to the masses, but there were only seven other people in when we went at 18:15 on Tuesday.

That’s a pity because in my opinion, if you didn’t go then you’ve missed out.

Race is an enjoyable movie that – in spite of its lengthy 134 minute running time – never gets dull and certainly kept me entertained all the way through.

I have read that it’s “by-the-numbers”, “middle-of-the-pack” and “fails to fully explore 1930s racial politics” but I’m not so sure any of that matters. It’s a biopic and therefore the story can only be as interesting as the subject matter. Owens story is one that appeals to someone sporty like me and while I couldn’t tell you if it was 100% accurate, that didn’t stop it from being a good watch.

As for the notion that it fails to deal with racial politics fully, I’m personally glad. From what I do know about Jesse Owens, his triumph did nothing to change those politics and so I’d question why that should be the central focus of the film. It certainly touched upon it enough to let us know there were issues, but the focus of the piece was rightly on Owens himself.

Like I say, I enjoyed it and would recommend you go to see it, but at this stage, you’re more likely to have to wait until it’s released on DVD.

Anyway, here are a few other random observations I have about Race…

  • For the second time this year, I’ve gone to a film where Tim McInnerny has been cast as a member of the Olympic committee; the other being Eddie the Eagle. What a weird thing to be typecast as.
  • Speaking of Eddie the Eagle, it made me question the characters in this. Did Owens really have a coach like Larry Snyder or was he made up to suit the narrative. Thankfully he did.
  • Jeremy Irons with an American accent sounds exactly like John Lithgow. It’s weird.
  • To criticise it, I did feel that some parts of Race were brushed over. For example, they built up a rivalry between Owens and another sprinter in the run up to the Olympics and then dropped it before it got interesting.
  • Also, the brief affair he had didn’t do much to advance the plot considering his fiancée immediately forgave him.
  • I like that the focus of the Nazis was on Goebbels rather than Hitler.
  • The direction and the scale of the scenes set in the Olympic Stadium were very good.
  • Every track event Owens took part in in the USA appeared to be filmed in the same venue. I don’t think that was meant to be the case.

 

 


Games – Gone Home Review (or ‘Why You Should Never Buy A Game On Review Scores Alone’)

June 7, 2016

If you’ve read this blog before, you’ll notice I don’t ‘score’ anything I review. The reason for that is because scoring is meaningless and often misleading. It’s the reviewer picking some arbitrary number out of their head from a scale of 1-5, 10 or 100, based on their own personal opinions and skewed to ensure everything either finishes in the top or bottom 25% of that scale.

But as much as scoring is meaningless, it’s also dangerous to you as the reader of the review. Why? Because if you are honest, if there’s a score in a review that’s pretty much the only thing you’re going to read and you’ll base your decision to buy/consume the product based on that.

I bring this up because if you google the ‘acclaimed’ PC and Console game, Gone Home – one of two free games available with your PS Plus subscription this month – then the first thing you’ll notice is that it gets gonehome9.5/10 from the well-respected gaming site IGN.

9.5/10?! “Wow”, you might think ,“that must be a great game; one of the all time classics.”

People will buy that game blindly based upon that score alone. I know I’ve done similar in the past, and even though I got it as part of my subscription to PS Plus today, I’ll also hold my hand up to being interested in playing Gone Home without knowing what it was, because of it.

But then I played it.

And after playing it for half an hour I dug a little bit deeper and actually read the review on IGN and – more tellingly – the comments from the public underneath it.

There were a lot of angry people.

Why?

Because the score doesn’t tell the story of what Gone Home actually is.

What it involves is walking around a house, picking up items, looking at them and putting them down. Occasionally picking one of those items up will trigger some narration from the woman you are controlling as she reminisces about her childhood friend-turned girlfriend.

But that’s all there is to it.

You wander around the house, you pick up every item and once you’ve been into every room – finishing in the attic – it ends. There’s no objectives, no quest, no danger, no actual gaming involved.

Bell to bell, Gone Home lasts for about an hour.

Full price, it costs £14.99.

£14.99 for an hour’s worth of gameplay – such as it was – and no replay value.

And yet it was given a score of 9.5/10 on the same scale that IGN use for reviewing every game in the world.

I genuinely cannot understand it. Even if the guy reviewing it really liked it for what it was and even if it’s the best walking-around-and-picking-things-up simulator there’s ever been, he must also have to accept that the lack of any sort of challenge and the cost of game versus the length of it means that there’s no argument to support that score, arbitrary or otherwise.

But he didn’t and so his 9.5/10 is what Gone Home’s reputation will be enhanced by forever.

And I don’t think that’s right.

I’m just thankful I didn’t pay for it…

 


Movies: Money Monster Review

June 2, 2016

I enjoyed Money Monster.

But then I have a penchant for enjoying movies presented in real-time as I think they are often more dramatic, they move along at a brisk pace and there are very rarely any lulls. Also – and this is often key to COL_BILL_TEMPLATE_21whether I like a film or not – they don’t out-stay their welcome.

Money Monster ticks all these boxes, while also presenting a scenario – the hijacking of a live finance TV show by a guy who lost his savings on stock tip gone bad – that perked my interest.

Now those three paragraphs are enough to justify a recommendation, but there’s a bit more to it than that. What I found most enjoyable about Money Monster was the way it had a streak of dark humour running through it. You wouldn’t think a hijacking could be funny unless it was deliberately played in a stupid way, but this manages it. I think that’s down to the characterisation of George Clooney’s obnoxious TV host character Lee Gates and Clooney’s performance. It was believable, and so was the way the viewing public reacted to the events.

The only thing not so believable was having Gus from Breaking Bad play a good guy; I wasn’t having that for a second.

I’ve read some people suggest Money Monster should be criticised for not doing enough to explain the way the stock market works, but honestly, I don’t care about stuff like that. In the case of Money Monster, I went along to be entertained, not educated.

And I was definitely entertained.