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March 2013
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May 2013

MOSTLY FILM: Friends, Romans, Juno's Countrymen

I'm NOT Spartacus!Somewhere in my house, there's a copy of the programme for the 1991-ish West End production of An Evening With Gary Lineker, a play by Arthur Smith and Chris England. If I could be bothered trying to track it down from inside a collection of cardboard boxes, I could quote you the exact text from the biography of cast member Nick Hancock. Instead, I'll have to do it approximately from memory: "his television appearances include the roles of Cockney In Dressing Gown in The Bill and Cockney On Fire in London's Burning." It's a line that's stuck with me for over two decades now, because it has a degree of wry truth to it: these are exactly the sort of TV parts that actors have to take while they're waiting for something brilliant to come along.

In my latest article for Mostly Film - a review of the final season of Spartacus, entitled Friends, Romans, Juno's Countrymen - I mention another English actor, Simon Merrells. His CV was largely made up of appearances in soaps and the like, until this year he took on the role of lead baddie in Spartacus: War Of The Damned and tore the living arse out of it. His 'something brilliant' came along, and he grabbed the opportunity when he saw it. Good for him.

Most of the acting talent pool on Spartacus comes from Australia. So if English actors have to mark time in The Bill while waiting for their big break, what are the equivalent shows for an Aussie actor? Find out in this Red Button Feature, and specifically in the YouTube playlist below.

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Easter Parade 2013

"Pint of 5am Saint..." *snap* *snap* *snap* " a THIN glass."It's been suggested in some quarters - you know who you are - that the only reason why The Belated Birthday Girl and I spent Easter in Newcastle this year was so we could tick BrewDog Newcastle off our list. That was partly the case, I'll admit: we've set ourselves this target of twelve locations in twelve months, and we had to go there eventually. But there's a lot more to the city than one bar, of course. For a start, there are all the other bars, not to mention its other cultural and architectural delights.

Still, there's no denying that this article is going to end up feeling a little like the red button pieces I write to accompany the Monoglot Movie Club articles in Mostly Film. So, following on from an article focussing on one particular aspect of a city, here's a second one about everything else: travel, accommodation, attractions and so on.

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BrewDogging #3: Newcastle

Clockwise from top left: brownie, Dana, Waimea, Goldings, El Dorado, malt & orange blossom sponge. (Note handy diagram at centre to help us remember which beer was which.)This is going to be a long one. Not because there’s a particular problem with reviewing the BrewDog bar in Newcastle – far from it. But there are several other things we need to take into consideration alongside a simple analysis of a bar. For one thing, The Belated Birthday Girl and I have reported on previous adventures in Newcastle, back in Christmas 2009, and we were curious to see what the city looked like when it wasn’t completely covered in white slippery stuff. In fact, given the weather a couple weeks ago, we weren’t entirely sure that we wouldn’t be snowed in again. In the end, there was an occasional microflurry, but otherwise the weather was fine.

Regular readers may have worked out what else needs to be discussed at some point: because our visit to Newcastle took place over the Easter weekend. We have an Easter Sunday tradition that needs to be upheld, as it was most recently in Whitstable in 2012. Could we keep up the run this year? Well, yes, obviously, but we won’t get into that just yet - we'll save that for a separate post, and just concentrate on the beer for now.

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Director Pang Ho-Cheung demonstrating his casting couch technique at the Vulgaria premiereAs I mentioned around the time that Mostly Film celebrated its second birthday, I seem to have three specialist subjects I write about for the site: Asia, sleaze, and cult film. So I'm delighted to announce that my first contribution to its third year of existence touches all three of those bases. (What, the Monoglot Movie Club things? They're separate. Stop ruining my intro.)

Currently on Europe's Best Website, you can read my review of Vulgaria, a Hong Kong film that's just been released on DVD and Blu-ray by Third Window Films. They're the distributors who famously gave up on theatrical releasing last year, claiming that the costs of trying to put niche arthouse films in UK cinemas had become prohibitive. That's a pity, particularly in the case of a comedy like Vulgaria: I saw it in a packed cinema thanks to Third Window's friends at the Terracotta Film Club, and it's just the sort of film that thrives on the shared experience. Still, as I say in the review, you should still have a blast watching it at home.

Vulgaria is directed by Pang Ho-Cheung. So what else has he done? Well, you can find out in today's Red Button Content, as we hammer through his career in 30 minutes or so of video.

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Simian Substitute Site For April 2013: Edinburgh Zoo Squirrel Monkey Webcam

Edinburgh Zoo Squirrel Monkey WebcamMONTH END PROCESSING FOR MARCH 2013

Books: I don't want to speak ill of the dead, but, y'know, sometimes you have to. When horror writer James Herbert died in March, the tributes paid to him followed a standard format: they were all from middle-aged men who fondly remembered his sex 'n' gore-filled potboilers as the first properly adult books they read as teenagers. And that's precisely how I remember them too: my generation, hitting adolescence in the mid-70s, was the first to experience the illicit thrill of copies of The Rats and The Fog being passed around in school, some pages naturally falling open, others curiously difficult to prise apart. It struck me that I'd never read a Herbert since then, so when I found a copy of his final novel Ash in an airport bookshop, I felt it had to be done. Sadly, I discovered that you can never go back to your childhood. Herbert's good on plotting and subversively gruesome ideas - if you want a detailed description of an old Nazi being devoured by hyper-evolved maggots, he's your man - but he has (or had) an excruciatingly poor ear for dialogue. An early low point involves a female Brazilian doctor, who responds to a simple chatup line with a sociopolitical analysis of São Paulo that feels like it's been ripped straight from Wikipedia. But any part of the book where people converse is painful to one degree or another, taking all the show-not-tell rules and repeatedly ignoring them. Do I go back to The Rats now to see if it was equally clunky? To be honest, I'm scared to.

Movies: If you're reading this on the Bank Holiday Monday, I'm pleased to announce that I've contributed to yet another piece for Mostly Film today. Obscure Gems 3: Back From The Dead is the latest instalment of a regular series, in which our writers introduce forgotten movies that may have escaped you. If anything, we've done too good a job this time round, as I've been unable to find enough decent clips or trailers for our latest set of selections. So treat this here as the red button hype piece that traditionally accompanies my work for Europe's Best Website, and have a look at the Obscure Gems we've found for you - including a rare example of the genre they call Sumosploitation. You might learn something.

Theatre: Later this year, you can expect the return of this site's not-award-winning Edinburgh Festival coverage, after my traditional one year off in three last year. But I was delighted to spend a few days back there in March on business, and while I was there I couldn't resist the lure of the city's cultural attractions. Particularly when I discovered what was playing at the Royal Lyceum Theatre: it was Takin' Over The Asylum, Donna Franceschild's stage adaptation of her BBC TV serial from nearly two decades ago. It's a beautifully pitched tragicomedy, telling the story of Eddie (Iain Robertson), a soul music fan who lands a weekly gig playing records on hospital radio for a Glasgow mental institution, and gradually comes to know and love the inmates there. It's terrifically acted, and the cast manage to banish all memories of their telly predecessors. That's especially impressive in the case of Brian Vernel's portrayal of Cameron, the character played on telly by a young but charismatic unknown called David Tennant. As a play, it's let down a little by some curious lapses in pace: this may be five hours of TV boiled down to two hours of theatre, but there still seem to be a few dead spots in the production. Nevertheless, it's worth seeing whether you were a fan of the original or not. It's playing in Edinburgh until April 6th - no word on any subsequent performances elsewhere after that, though.

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