For as long as he can remember, the great chase films were whirling around in Edgar Wright's mind (as they do us all). Great films like Walter Hill’s The Driver, John Landis’ The Blues Brothers and Richard C. Sarafian’s incredible Vanishing Point to name but three. For twenty odd years, Wright has wanted to honour them and put his own, very singular, stamp on the genre. With Baby Driver he has crafted something special, his very own car chase musical.
Adrian Goldworthy's novel Vindolanda take us to Britain before the Wall, were our hero Ferox, a Briton naturalised into Rome, finds himself in the far north. With depression stalking him, a crisis arises that requires him to put his skills back to work and uncover the misdeeds of his own and the scheming of those who consider him a traitor. Vindolanda is vividly told and, once it gets going, a highly enjoyable ride.
The Blackbird series of aircraft, by the legendary Lockheed designer Kelly Johnson, is the subject of James Hamilton-Paterson's latest non-fiction venture into aviation. Hamilton-Paterson tells a tale of Cold War paranoia and desperation that lead to an incredible aircraft that lived out beyond Mach 3 on the meter. Blackbird is a worthy tribute to her designer, those brave Habu and the incredible craft they rode.
The Dark Ages in Britain are a fertile period to mine. The sources, few as they are, talk of kings and warlords, battles and death, and then arrive the men from the North. It is the period of Beowulf and Arthur, of a Britain living in the decay of the Roman withdrawal and the arrival of a new God to fight the old. Into this mix, Matthew Harffy has thrown a young warrior, Beobrand, into the turmoil of Northumbria to find his fame.
Speculative fiction is one that treads a fine line. Too far one way and it is dismissed as preachy or too far the other and it falls into the science fiction netherworld. When realising a world where global warming has changed the map of our world and America has again fractured North and South. With American War, Omar El Akkad has trod that line deftly with an extraordinary look at the cultivation of hate.
Unprecedented is Tiger Woods looking back at at his first Master win, 20 years ago now. Tiger is a towering figure in modern golf. He literally changed the game. Looking back at the 1997 Masters at Augusta National though, Tiger provides a wonderful insight into what made those incredible four round unprecedented in the illustrious history of The Masters. And a fascinating look it is too.
Their Finest does that difficult thing of being funny about a period and reverential about it at the same time. And above it all is Gemma Arterton. Her performance is subtle, humorous, strong and committed. Their Finest is one of those increasingly rare occasions where a film happily sits across generations and manages to please all.
As George Bernard Shaw once famously wrote: "If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance." In the case of David Baddiel's new show My Family: Not The Sitcom, he doesn't so much make them out to dance, as line his parents up and conga them around the Playhouse Theatre. That and spending two hours taking his mother's grammar and her spelling of masturbation to task.
A stunning biography of the Koh-i-noor diamond that has been coveted for millennia. Dalrymple and Anand cover the myths and history of the most famous rock in the work with a deft yet firm touch. Beautifully written, Kohinoor is a superb biography of one of the most divisive items in the world.
A look back on the epic battle between Ford and Ferrari in the late 1960's at Le Mans. The 24 Hour War recounts the troubled birth of the legendary Ford GT40 and the lengths the Ford Motor Company went to to beat the world over the course of a day. While a solid racing documentary, the focus is disingenuous and Amerocentric, which does a disservice the international racers that made the GT40 what it was.
A love letter to the finest TV Show on air at the moment, Hap and Leonard. No spoilers contained within, just an attempt to spread the joy of proper television and two towering performances from Michael Keneth Williams and James Purefoy.
With the recent publication of Daughter of Eden, 2013 Arthur C. Clarke Award winner Chris Beckett completed his trilogy of novels set on the sunless planet Eden and the The Family that inhabits it. The trilogy is wonderful and to celebrate the novels, Chris very kindly put up with me and answered my Eden related questions. I hope you enjoy our chat.
Looking back at one of my favourite actresses in film history, Gene Tierney and one of her finest perfomances in Leave Her to Heaven.
Robert Harris' new book Conclave is out now. Having visited the Henley Literary Festival and meeting up with Robert, amidst 300 others, I have a spare copy to give away. See the post for details and a recording of the conversation Robert Harris had with Paul Greengrass. Yes, THAT Paul Greengrass, who was a delight.
In this new, reasonably regular, series, we’re going to look at some of the photographs that have affected me over the years. The old adage “A picture paints/is worth a thousand words” is going to be our dictum. Over the course of a thousand words, we’ll tell the story of the image, the photographer and the subject and try to add a bit of depth to the image. The first is Sharon Tate by Terry O'Neill
Following the thrilling end to the Austrian Grand Prix where the Mercedes F1 drivers came together on the last lap, team boss Toto Wolff has threatened the use of Team Orders to reign in his two drivers, who are vying for the 2016 World Championship. This is my plea to Herr Wolff to hold off that threat, let the Silver Arrows continue to race freely and delight, thrill and excite us all the way to whichever one of his drivers claims the title come November.
Commuting is one of those modern evils that most of us have to endure each day. For me, my trip to the office involves two trains and a bus, basically the gamut of all the horrors of public transport in South and West London. To while away the anything from the hour to many hours of journey each way (depending on which hell the train companies have chosen to enact on any that day), reading is an escape from the overcrowded nightmare that my need to pay the bills, and book addiction, entails.
When my Grandparents came over for a mammoth visit after we had moved to England, I had an old Canadian TV and VCR to watch the tapes we'd brought with us. My Granma brought me a bunch of old movies, which is what she always did when we spent time together. She introduced me to some of the greatest films I have ever seen and, also, that good movies do not also need to be made in colour. On this trip, knowing me as she did, she brought me a copy of an RKO Picture called Spitfire.
Sunday sees the BBC's take on John Le Carre's The Night Manager. I love this book and to celebrate, I'm giving away a copy signed by the man himself, Le Carre, not the hotelier. Here I talk about the book and how you can win this via the old Twitter machine. A little note, this is one of my favourite of Le Carre's novels.
The wall was red. I remember that vividly. What I could not tell you was how long I’d been staring at it. I knew I hadn’t slept, my legs were hurting and there was a tightness in my chest. I remember asking myself, “Self, why are you staring at a wall?” It took a physical effort to pull myself away. That was the only success of that night. I started pacing about, wired yet exhausted, my brain going ten to the dozen, thinking about everything and nothing at all. I found myself in the kitchen, face to face with my mother, who stalks these halls at that hour, who looked both worried and unimpressed.