Spank Gold Volumes 7a/8a/9a: The Furlough Trilogy (digital edition)

Two ashtrays, two cinemas, and some dick in a hatOnce more for the people who weren't listening (or more accurately chose not to).

Between 2009 and 2010, I wrote six books: collections of Edinburgh reviews, London Film Festival reviews and travel pieces, all taken from this website and covering the period 1989-2009. I liked the idea of having a physical copy of all this stuff I'd written, sitting on my bookshelf, and possibly other people's bookshelves too (yeah, right). But even back in 2010 e-readers were growing in popularity, so I grudgingly created a series of digital editions of the six books, using the laziest method possible (i.e. taking the PDFs used to make the print versions and selling them as is).

Jump forward to 2020, and that six week period during April and May when I was on furlough from work. By then I'd racked up another decade's worth of content on the site, and it seemed reasonable to use this free time to assemble a few more books. They've all been on sale for a while now - another Edinburgh collection, and two more sets of LFF reviews. And if you haven't bought them yet because you don't do paper, then I'm afraid that I have some bad news for you.

Yes, it's time to fire up your electronic devices and pay a fiver apiece (bargain!) for the digital editions of the three books in the Furlough Trilogy. (Or pay more to have them on lovely lumpy paper.) Full details below.

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Edinburgh Festival 1989-2020: An Index

A hair salon, Edinburgh, 2005. Do you see what they did there? I admit it, the Edinburgh Festival coverage on this site is all over the place - a combination of REPOST pages written for the old site and ported over to here, SPANK GOLD pages written years after the event, and pages that were actually blogged live from Edinburgh as they happened. Anyone just diving into the Edinburgh folder will probably have a hard time working out where to find stuff.

Until now!

What follows is a set of links to the writeups of all the Edinburgh Festivals I've attended since 1989, plus a couple where Spank's Pals went up without me. (Which means nowt for 1993, 1997 or 2000, so don't look for them.) For each year I've included a vaguely chronological list of all the shows that are mentioned in the entry by name. I'm now having a minor freakout at just how many shows that is, but that's not your problem.

The plan is to update this index after every Festival, so this page will mostly remain at the top of the Edinburgh folder. If that's how you got here in the first place, welcome: feel free to browse through the pages linked to below. And if you like the reviews, maybe you'd like to pay me some money to own them in book form? See bottom of page for links.

(Updated September 15th 2020 to include 2020 reviews, such as they were)

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Spank's LFF Diary: The Wrap Party 2020

The LFF programme cover that never was (extrapolated from an advert published in Sight & Sound)As is traditional, let's start with the numbers and the programme categories...

* Laugh: 0
* Journey: 6
* Dare: 7
* Create: 5
* Love: 4
* Cult: 1
* Debate: 6
* Family: 1
* Treasures: 3
* Experimenta: 1
* Shorts: 20
* Expanded: 5
* Events: 4

The shorts make it difficult to make a proper comparison with previous years - normally they'd be clumped into programmes, here we ended up picking and choosing from several collections. But in terms of feature films, we saw 34 in total: 26 online, 8 in cinemas. That's the same number of features as last year, before we add on all the shorts, VR gubbins and live events.

Remember how we thought a couple of months ago that there wouldn't be a 2020 London Film Festival? Looking a bit silly now, aren't we?

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Simian Substitute Site for November 2020: The Long Island Rhesus Monkey Escape

The Long Island Rhesus Monkey EscapeMONTH END PROCESSING FOR OCTOBER 2020

Movies: We were late in joining the Train To Busan train, and I'm not quite sure why. I knew that it was out there in 2016, and even namechecked it at the start of a piece I wrote for MostlyFilm about the London Korean Film Festival - but as that article required me to watch 10 Korean films back to back, maybe I just didn't have time to watch another one. Anyway, thanks to a Blu-ray present from The BBG, we eventually got to see it, and even rode the train ourselves, albeit in the wrong direction. And now there's a follow-up with the slightly unwieldy title Train To Busan Presents: Peninsula, which (like its predecessor) got a quick preview run in UK cinemas for Halloween. Four years after the zombpocalypse depicted in the first film, most of the surviving inhabitants of Korea have fled to other countries like Hong Kong. This film focusses on a group of refugees who've decided to go back to Incheon, as part of a triad operation to recover a van full of cash. As such, it's not a direct sequel at all, more of a standalone story set in the same universe: tonally, it's like going from Alien to Aliens, where the first one is a no-frills horror movie and the second is more of an action thriller. We've got used to the cartoony depiction of massive swarms of zombies in these movies, where they become more of an exercise in fluid dynamics than anything else, as they cascade off high buildings or surge in waves over the ground. If there's a problem with Peninsula, it's that its car stunts - of which there are many - are rendered in CGI with the same lack of realism, with the vehicles bouncing along like they used to in 1920s animated films. But somehow, the breakneck pacing and the story get you over these niggles, and the result is ridiculously entertaining. Peninsula should have been getting a short release in cinemas from November 6th, but I guess that won't be happening now: expect to see it on home video from November 30th.

Music: One thing that I didn't do this month was buy a 24-disc CD box set. In my defence, I already owned 11 of them. Venus, Folly, Cupid And Time: Thirty Years Of The Divine Comedy is, as its name suggests, Neil Hannon's attempt to gather his entire musical career inside six sides of cardboard. The eleven Divine Comedy albums have been remastered and each paired up with a second disc of demos, outtakes, b-sides and other detritus: and then there's a final double disc called Juveneilia with even older and rarer material, including the real first Divine Comedy album Fanfare For The Comic Muse which Hannon subsequently withdrew out of shame. To be honest, there doesn't seem to be enough good material here to justify the cost of the full box set. There are highlights, sure: some lovely instrumental mixes of the band's prettiest backing tracks, a collection of Eurovision classics, and the b-side version of Europe By Train that ended up on a film soundtrack. But the demos and sketches leading up to finished songs just show how much you miss the decorative touches that make a Divine Comedy record what it is. Still, thanks to Spotify, you can fillet out those nine and a half hours of bonus material for your own purposes without paying a fortune for it. Well, I have, anyway.


Telly: If you thought I was late getting onto the Train To Busan train, wait till you hear about me and Taskmaster. Again, I was aware of it: I'd stumbled across the odd episode on Dave while channel-hopping, and I'd actively tracked down a couple of clips from the Norwegian version when I found out that Ylvis had been contestants on it. But I'm old-fashioned enough that it took a move of the show from Dave to Channel 4 before I'd considered actually watching a whole series from beginning to end. Three episodes in, it's become a regular injection of joy into the week, and dammit we all need that right now. It helps that for this tenth season, there's a careful balance of contestants: relative newcomers Daisy May Cooper and Mawaan Rizwan, regular TV favourites Johnny Vegas and Katherine Parkinson, and oldtimer Richard Herring who's utterly transparent in his desire to win the thing. That's the sort of detail that justifies watching a whole series, as you start imposing your own character arcs on the five series regulars and seeing them develop from week to week. I'm in for the duration, anyway.

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