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Non-Review Review: Good Ol’ Freda

This film was seen as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2014.

Freda Kelly was secretary to The Beatles, and the head of the official Beatles fan club. She managed letters and schedules and magazines and wages and all these different aspects of the lives of John, Paul, Ringo and George. However, she remains something of a peripheral figure in the grand tapestry of Beatles lore. According to most of the commentators in Good Ol’ Freda, there’s a very simple reason for this.

“My mother never played the fame game,” her daughter notes. Freda never published a tell-all book. She never betrayed confidence. Indeed, one of the stories in Good Ol’ Freda has her firing two assistants for one’s attempt to pass off the hair of a sibling for the hair of a Beatle. Integrity was very much the watchword of Freda Kelly, and it’s something that comes across in the documentary, as Freda rather pointedly refuses to be drawn on more personal or intimate questions.

As a result, there’s very little information here that won’t be familiar to fans of the Fab Four. There are some nice insights and an occasionally endearing anecdote – poor Ringo and his nine fan letters! – but Good Ol’ Freda never really pries too deeply into lives Freda managed for a decade at the peak of their popularity. Instead, Good Ol’ Freda works best as a character study of its subject, a glimpse of a woman who was caught up in a maelstrom and walked out almost completely unaffected.


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Non-Review Review: One Direction – This is Us

Let’s be honest here. As a brand, the success of One Direction has been phenomenal. In One Direction: This is Us, super producer Simon Cowell boasts about how it took him all of ten minutes to come up with the band, jamming five also-ran teenage X-Factor contestants into an also-ran X-Factor boy band that became a global pop culture juggernaut. Morgan Spurlock’s One Direction: This is Us is really nothing but a propaganda piece, a giant feature-length 3D pat on the back where a manufactured pop sensation are compared – not once, but twice – to The Beatles.

And there’s really nothing wrong with that. After all, this was never going to be an insightful piece of cinematic journalism, prying behind closed doors at the forces propelling One Direction to fame and the careful and painstaking maintenance and protection of the brand name. Anybody expecting anything but a celebratory ninety-odd minutes of mutual appreciation was clearly expecting something quite different from what was promised.

As piece of pop culture brand management, One Direction: This is Us is actually quite well-constructed. Spurlock knows how to frame an interesting documentary, and has always been theatrical and stylish. Even the talking head shots in One Direction: This is Us are tastefully shot, against a dark highway at night, Simon Cowell’s sterile studio apartment or in a band member’s makeshift art studio. There are moments in One Direction: This is Us when it looks like some humanity might accidentally shine through, but the film is quick to stamp that out with gushing about the fans and patronising discussions about how unique and individual the band members are.


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The Sopranos: A Hit is a Hit (Review)

A Hit is a Hit works a lot better than Boca, despite the fact that it’s structurally quite similar. It introduces a bunch of new characters and concepts to the series which don’t really extend beyond the episode in question. Massive G never appears again, and the pending lawsuit he threatens is never discussed in any later episode. It’s a light stand-alone tale coming towards the end of a season which has dedicated so much time and effort to building a full-formed world.

However, A Hit is a Hit doesn’t feel completely disposable. Part of that is down to the wonderful B-plot in which Tony finds himself struggling for acceptance among more the more reputable members of his neighbourhood, but it’s also down to the fact that the main plot feels like develops the themes of The Sopranos a lot better than Boca did, and that Christopher’s character arc feels like a logical progression rather than simply “an issue of the week.”

Ain't that a shot in the head?

Ain’t that a shot in the head?

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Doctor Who: The Chase (Review)

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the longest-running science-fiction show in the world, I’ll be taking weekly looks at some of my own personal favourite stories and arcs, from the old and new series, with a view to encapsulating the sublime, the clever and the fiendishly odd of the BBC’s Doctor Who.

The Chase originally aired in 1965.

You’re from Earth?

No, no, Ma’am. No, I’m from Alabama.

– Barbara and Morton set things straight

There are times when Doctor Who seems to straddle the line between genius and insanity, when the viewer is left completely unsure whether they’ve witnessed something profoundly clever, or infuriatingly stupid. The Chase is one of those stories, one of those rare cases where I’m honestly not sure if I’m reading too much into a piece of television or simply scratching the surface of a whole wealth of complex meaning and symbolism. The Chase is, as near as I can make out, either a desperate attempt to cash-in on the then-current Dalek craze, or one of the craziest attacks the show ever made on the fourth wall. It’s either completely terrible or breathlessly brilliant, and I refuse to rule out the possibility that it is both, possibly at the same time.

Cutting to the chase...

Cutting to the chase…

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Watch! Top 250 Films, in 2.5 Minutes…

As far as compiling a list of the best films of all times, the IMDb Top 250 films of all time is a fairly populist measure. Some enterprising soul out there decided it would be fun to compile all that into on two-and-a-half minute clip. It’s pretty intense, and kinda brilliant in a surreal sort of way. If nothing else, I never realised that so many movies featured trunk shots. Enjoy.

The Sopranos: College (Review)

College is interesting because it perfectly captures a lot of the themes at the heart of The Sopranos, effortlessly blending Tony’s upper-middle-class concerns with his familial obligations (both to his nuclear family and to the mob). At the same time, it explores many of the inherently contradictory aspects of modern living, including the implied acquiesce to a culture of greed and corruption. College is the first time that we really see Tony get his own hands dirty, and it’s the point at which we explore how complicit Carmela is in his shady dealings and illegal activities. I think it’s a show that really pins down what the show is going to be – and it’s no surprise that the episode won Chase his first writing Emmy for the show, and is reportedly his favourite episode of the series.

Driving the conversation...

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