Tag Archives: Harry Potter

The night SHE came home…

hall1…with loads of sweets!

That’s right, Iz experienced her first ever tick or treat evening…in fact I think it might even have been my own frst experience of trick or treating!

For this evening’s noctornal antics Iz decided to go as a witch, complete with green face of course, and with us not having a cat she gave some real contemplation to taking Missy but settled on her ginger cat, Crookshanks, from The World of Harry Potter.

DSC_1214Her partner in cantation crime was one of her best friends from nursery, Violet, who was also dressed as a witch – think of them as the witches of Westcliff so to speak.

In the night sky the searchlights were out in Southend for one of the nightclubs so we said tat they were looking for witches on broomsticks.

Talking of broomsticks, I don’t think Iz would get by very far on hers as she was trying to fly it tandam but also the wrong way round!

DSC_1219 - CopyIn the end I don’t think she would have got off the ground though as the pair of them were laden with just that many sweets that it would see them through to next year.

Iz and I may have been tick or treat virgins (I’m suprised we weren’t sacrificed considering the evening) but we had joining us a real Halloween expert in the shape of Violet’s mum, a native of Florida where obviously Halloween is done on a mega scale which must make the UK version seem rather PG-13 horror.

Still, there were a few houses that had made a real effort and Isabelle and Violet loved hitting the streets and knocking on doors and they were perhaps the politest pair of witches which you could ever wish to meet which guaranteed them a devilishly decent haul of sweeties.

Above is some footage of them calling at a house, it’s quite dark for obvious reasons (to be honest it is more about the audio) but you can here them jabbering along, almost like Mogwai – certainly we didn’t want them eating sweets after midnight. By the way the toilet Iz is referring to is on the door as it is a skeleton sitting on a toilet, that universal image of Halloween.

For them at least this Halloween was far from a nightmare on Elm Street!

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The Making of Harry Potter Studio Tour has sets appeal Part 3

It’s the final part of our Warner Bros Harry Potter Studio Tour experience and there might not be a Potter gold at the end of this trilogy, but there is the gift shop and more behind the scenes magic to be enjoyed…

As we stepped out into the sunshine, we took a few moments to take in the views of full size versions of the Knight bus (which Isabelle was rather obsessed with and was hard to get her off the back of it), the Weasley’s car and Hagrid’s motorbike and side car, all of which you could get in and have your photos taken in or next to…so obviously we did and it of course would have been rude not to.

This was great as back in Studio J there was the opportunity to have photos of yourselves sat on a broomstick whizzing through London or sat in the Ford Anglia car veering out of the way of the Hogwarts Express for the princely sum of £12. We might have done it if the queue time wasn’t an hour and Isabelle wasn’t getting a bit niggly.

Isabelle clearly enjoyed driving the car, with me in the driving seat (most of the time) on Hagrid’s motorbike and side car, trying to evoke more of a feeling of Indiana Jones and Henry Jones Sr from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade than say Wallace and Gromit or (even worse) Olive and Arthur from On the Buses! Isabelle did get a little bit stuck/lost in her seat but was quite comfy all the same!

 

 

 

Before embarking on previous said images outside and indeed inside vehicles (calming gritting teeth to queue jumpers I might add – I nearly gave them a lashing of my parcel tongue but thought better of it save for the rather loud PG comment or two) we enjoyed a cup of Butterbeer between us, which at nearly £3 I’m glad we did share.

It was somewhat disappointing that it came in a plastic cup and not in a small tankard that you could keep for a couple of quid extra, I’m sure it isn’t served as such in Florida’s Wizarding World of Harry potter, the only other place in the world where Butterbeer is served. And the taste, not to be all Jilly Gooldon, but it was one part melted werthers original meets cream soda, something of an acquired taste and rather sweet, even for me, but no doubt everyone who passes through will give it the taste test.

In that same outdoor area you also found a couple of other structures, including the exterior of the Dursley’s Privet Drive, filmed in an actual street for the first film but recreated on set for all instalments after that, the crooked house and part of the great bridge that connects Hogwarts.

Note Isabelle hanging onto the door knocker!

Round the edges of this area are some of the memorable chess pieces that formed the battle at the end of the first film that nearly saw poor old Ron meet his maker, it’s a shame they are hid in the shadows and not set up on an actual giant chess board or something.

It was then back inside to the Creature Workshop which showed you some of the models, animatronics and general FX magic that went into creating the menageries of creatures and beings that we encountered along with Harry. It was certainly odd coming face to face (or should that be head to head) with Nearly Headless Nick’s head, which I guess in many ways would actually make him Really Headless Nick!

His head could be found with shelves of others that could have easily looked macabre but for me was one of the highlights of the Tour, having seen such similar things from the makings of everything from Star Wars to Labyrinth and the Stan Winston Creature Workshop, it was great to see some of these creatures up close and personal.

It was also nice to see that even in this world of CGI there was still plenty of room for physical effects and creatures and that it wasn’t all just done inside of a computer and that the world still cried out for giant spiders and snake heads.

I don’t recall seeing the rather intriguing Shark Man (top right corner of the image on the right)  before though, who reminded somewhat of that awful Craig T Nelson starring Peter Benchley miniseries, The Creature, about a half man, half shark. As bad as it sounds.

The sheer quality and detail of work on display soon cleared that thought from my mind, with some amazing work, especially the life-size figures of Harry and Dobby, which made it look as if they were in some sort of cryogenic stasis.

It was at this point that Isabelle went exploring on her own and I had to chase her up Dyagon Alley, there’s a phrase you don’t find yourself using every day! We returned with Sarah in tow to see the range of shops and all they had to offer, alas you can only walk past them and they aren’t actually selling goods but this recreation is gift enough.

Passing through the shops I thought that we’d find ourselves back in the Harry Potter shop but to my delight we came across a wonderful display of concept art for creatures and locations, followed by some really rather intricate model work in paper that has to be seen to be believed.

If nothing else, after this tour you can really appreciate why the credits for such films are so long as there are just so many (until now) unsung heroes who are working on each and every single aspect of the film creating plans and drawings for buildings as if they were for real, which after they had weaved their magic, very often were.

Hogwarts is where our tour began, in The Great Hall, and Hogwarts is where our Tour ended, with a model of the castle that the word model doesn’t even come close to doing it justice.

It was a giant of a model that was used in background and really was astounding in its sheer scale, detail and delight it raised in everyone who saw it. Each side as impressive as the next as you walked round it through the changing light of day into night and the end of our adventure at the Warner Bros Harry Potter Studio Tour.

VERDICT

Now, to be honest, it is something of an obvious statement, but, if you don’t like the behind the scenes film making process of films or don’t like Harry Potter (you can be a fan of either or, it helps if you are both, it really doesn’t help if you are neither) then this probably isn’t the place for you, certainly not at those ticket prices. But then, you wouldn’t pay upwards in price of what individual tickets cost to go and see a band if you didn’t like their output would you? I think it is the same here really.

Did we buy the guidebook, yes, did we go for the audio tour, no, because we thought we had spent enough, knew enough about Potter and also those on the audio tour kept t on getting in the ruddy way moving Walking Dead like from one ‘press the next button spot’ to another. I’m sure it was very good and informative but we felt we knew enough without needing to hear the Potter patter.

We paid £28 per adult ticket and Isabelle was under 4 so she was free (I see us going to see so much stuff before she is 4 I can tell you!). All in all, for us, we thought it was great value for money and a magical day out for Muggles everywhere.

We were there for over three hours, which would have been longer if we were on our own but was enough with Isabelle, and talking of which, after her long and exciting day she was soon fast asleep, all hufflepuffed out!

The Making of Harry Potter Studio Tour has sets appeal Part 2

In this second part of our visit to the Harry Potter Warner Bros Studio Tour, join us as we go behind the scenes of the magical movies and see how they were brought to life…

As the door opened we were let into a room where you see a montage of Harry Potter posters from across the world greet you to remind you that the world of Harry Potter practically took over our one, we are then treated to how the transition was made from books to film so this very much serves as our prologue.

It very much reminded me of seeing the likes of seeing Terminator 2 3D at Universal, the excitement just builds and builds and if you weren’t excited before then shame on you, but you now feel a step closer, to what we aren’t sure, but its progress.

The doors swoosh open to reveal a small cinema, we take our seats, the light darken and the screen comes to life showing us a highlights package the Harry Potter films, until we meet some familiar faces; Daniel, Emma and Rupert. It’s great to see them and for them to be part of the introduction of this experience, something which at the end of the day has also been such a  big part of their lives as well and in many ways where they grew up as people and not just as characters.

At the end of the short film the threesome disappear behind a familiar large door that takes them into the Great Hall. They bid us a fond farewell and exit through a giant door and then the cinema screen is majestically raised to reveal THAT actual giant door…for some it’s almost like the reveal of King Kong in the theatre and you can hear an audible gasp and certainly it was with the group we were with initially, these were grown adults, we aren’t talking kids here! They gasped; for this door is an entrance into Hogwarts, but it is more than that it is an entrance into the great hall…the first ‘this is what we are here for’ moment on the tour. To be honest they just keep coming after that, a bit like a child who has too many Christmas presents and just doesn’t know what to play with first.

And so we entered into the great hall of Hogwarts…

It’s perhaps the most iconic and widely recognised sets from all the Potter films and for many who have made this pilgrimage it is their filmic Mecca as in this very ‘room’ so much so significant, so memorable has happened through each of the books and subsequent films…this is where Harry history was quite literally made.

As a set it is impressive and all that is seemingly missing is a bank of floating candles (and a roof to the build, to complete it. Although still large, as with many actual sets it is smaller than perhaps you might imagine it, not that this takes away from any of the magic of being there, from seeing the fireplace, the never ending house tables and at the end clothed mannequins standing in the very spots where Dumbledore, Snape and Haggrid once ‘stood’.

Even though one part of you is telling you that it is only a set and not actually a great hallway all your other senses, especially underfoot as that is very much real flagstones you are stepping on, tell you that it is and that it is as real as say something like the Tower of London.

We found that there were plenty of photo opportunities here, even if some folk did try and hog(warts) the models for far too long, but we never felt rushed.

From here it was into Studio J, which was a feast for the eyes as pretty much every inch of this Studio was filled with sets and pieces from all of the films. To say it was vast just doesn’t cover it as the horizon just went on and on with its sets and costumes and sets, each one instantly recognisable.

And the great thing about this warehouse of wonder, one is reminded of the vastness of the warehouse from the very end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, this is your Potter playground to discover and uncover things at your leisure as you could spend as much time in that section as you wished. The only rule being that once you left to go to the next section you could never return, which was of course was for handling crowd numbers, but all the same sounded suitably like something Harry and Co would have to adhere to on one of their quests.

As you walk through into the Studio be sure to keep your eyes peeled as if youlook above you you’ll see a golden snitch suspended in mid-air.

Although there were lots of people in the Studio looking round at the menagerie of sets and delights it very rarely seemed that people were stood in your way or that you had to wait anytime to catch a closer glimpse of say the potion room, the Weasley house interior, Hagrid’s Hut, Dumbledore’s Office or one of the Dorm rooms, to name but a few.

The decadent chocolate feast from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire looked, well, good enough to eat but don’t get too excited though as it turns out most of it was painted resin. Mmm, resin, as Homer Simpson might say. The detail is amazing, complete with a pesky trail of sugar mice.

The Hogwarts Gates, from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, look like something straight out of Hammer Horror, no doubt they would have looked right at home in Radcliffe’s first post-Potter outing, The Woman in Black. Rather than that though it was more a case of The Bloke in the Green Coat when I stood in front of them, I did have my glasses on as well so that must at least count for something!

In the Gryffindor dormitory, inexplicably there seemed to be a distinct lack of an Ordinary Boys single, as featured playing in Harry Potter and, surely the darkest point of all the Harry Potter films . You know, they were ‘famous’ for five minutes when lead singer Preston was in Big Brother.

The Leaky Cauldron, as well as home to the rather large and obvious item that gives the pub its name, in this drinking establishment there was also a great example of forced perspective, made smaller as it goes off into the distance to make it appear much longer than it actually was, an old Hollywood and stage trick that is still as effective today and shows that not everything has to be done in a computer.

One of my favourite pieces has to be the giant stone griffin, almost like a giant maltese falcon, whilst he portraits of Hogwarts saw over 350 hand-painted ‘masterpieces’ showing the wizards and witches of times gone by.

Set designers clearly had to Phink Pink (one for old Pink Panther cartoon fans there) when it came to the set design for Dolores Umbridge’s Ministry of Magic office from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, it echoed many of those same features and – ahem – styles featured in her Defence Against the Dark Arts Office in Order of the Phoenix.

The Death Eaters and their masks were certainly one of the more sinisterly memorable features from the Potterverse, which no doubt  cropped up in a few nightmares post trip to the cinema, this one giving Iron Man a run for his money.

It was nice to be able to take the time to take in some of these glorious crafted moments, not just in some of the bigger recreated sets but also the smaller objects and the massive amount of care and detail that has been put into everything, even if it only appeared on screen in the background or was a fleeting appearance.

And so onto the next section of the Tour, a section that would see us get hands on with some of the props, a place where we would meet our greatest foes, say hello to some old friends most people decided to exit throught the door, I thought I’d take the more direct route…

The Making of Harry Potter Studio Tour has sets appeal Part 1

In three parts, unlike the eight  films, join us as we experience the Warner Bros Studio Tour London and The Making of Harry Potter…

Friday 13th, unlucky for some and you don’t get much unluckier than Harry Potter whose parents were killed when he was a baby, he then found himself living with the despicable Dursleys and even had his mentor die. The same can’t be said for Daniel Radcliffe of course, whose just been announced to be worth £48 million, lucky chap.

We were lucky though as well, not that lucky, but we did have tickets for the Harry Potter Warner Bros Studio Tour, only two weeks after its official opening.

The Tour is based at Leavesden Studios, Watford, just off junction 20 on the M25 and is the filmic home of the Harry Potter series, so although Florida may have the Wizarding World of Harry Potter this is the place where the magic actually happened, where people actually stood, where the bespeccled boy wizard became a man.

I guess you could call it a pilgrimage of sorts as for me, with tickets bought by my mum and dad for my birthday, it was akin to visiting Universal Studios in LA, and the place just came with a sense of history and following in the footsteps of a multitude of stars. As an added bonus it was also at these studios where Bond was resurrected in the guise of Pierce Brosnan in GoldenEye.

When you first arrive you really get the feeling that you could be in Hollywood as you are greeted by massive images from the Harry Potter films, which really helps set the scene and get you all excited, and that is even before you enter under the WB sign and the familiar Harry Potter insignia

Once inside the lobby giant images of the main characters from Potter look down upon you as you get your bearings, it’s an impressive room with all the hustle and bustle of the Ministry of Magic, with only a Starbucks interrupting the Potterness of it all, I don’t remember those appearing anywhere!

Toilets, initially it wasn’t clear where the baby changing was but we were told at the info desks that it was the far cubicle at the end of both the gents and ladies (bonus), although happy to report that there was no Moaning Myrtle awaiting Sarah and Isabelle

Being a little early, thanks to the lack of traffic and indeed incidents on the road etc, it gave us plenty of time to peruse the shop, which looked impressive to say the least and was home to pretty much everything you could think of, and then some, from the Potterverse. For me, it reminded me of why I missed the Warner Bros stores so much, although I did find it rather odd that there wasn’t one Potter book, audio book, DVD or Bluray in sight.

It was also a surprise to see a distinct lack of mugs, minus those in the shape of Hedwig; I at least expected them with the house crests on. The shop was very expensive (as you would expect you had to pay a little over the odds) but lots of it was high end stuff – such as prints in frames, marauders map in frame (a shame they didn’t do cheaper kid friendly versions as they would have flown off the shelves),  the usual clothes (robes, hats, scarves) and of course broomsticks (nearly £300) and more wands than you could shake a wand shaped stick at (for around £25), which all seemed to be made out of a plastic resin, same with the broomsticks, with the former coming in proper looking wand boxes.

There was a nice assortment of key rings and I did rather like the Prisoner of Azkaban photo frame and we did plumb for an £8.95 box of Bertie Botts every flavour beans, including ear wax, yum!

Of course, Isabelle took a liking to the assortment of cuddly toys and it was a close call between Crookshanks and the three-headed dog, Fluffy, both of which she clung to as long as she could in the store. In the end she went for the moggy, which has hardly left her side since.

Not that the prices put people off, basketsand arms were piled high, and it was no different than if you were visiting Disney or Universal Studios, so people were taking the opportunity whilst they could, especially with many of the items looking to be unique to the Studio Tour.

Queuing for the entrance 30 minutes before our allotted time, as clearly instructed, we slowly shuffled past the cupboard under the stairs where Harry would often find himself shut away during his time at Privet Drive. Finally we found ourselves at the front of the queue…we would be the first people in our group to enter into the world of Harry Potter…

Master of Horror: Kim Newman

His credits include everything from Empire magazine to Sight and Sound, as well as Moviedrome and numerous commentaries on DVDs. He’s an accomplished author, winner of several literary awards, even having one of his short stories sent into space! But, perhaps Kim Newman is best known for his seminal look at horror movies from 1968 to 1988 in the classic book, Nightmare Movies. This year, it gets a long awaited update filling in the last 20 years, ensuring it’s an essential read all over again.

Kim Newman kindly took time out of his busy schedule to catch up with Dean Newman, no relation, to answer some questions about his influences, his writing and his film reviews.

 Film

Who or what have been your main influences/how were you bitten by the film and writing bug?

Carlos Clarens, William K Everson, David Pirie, Robin Wood, David Thomson, Philip Strick. I started making notes on films when I was about fifteen, and have kept it up ever since.

First ever published review?

Last House on the Left, in the Monthly Film Bulletin (1982).
 

Your quotes have often been used on DVD and video covers that may influence people to rent or buy – with such great power do you feel a great responsibility?

Not especially; I’m not one of those critics who puts in quotes for extraction on the publicity, though I do sometimes get solicitations from distributors for recommendations. I always find it hard to come up with strapline-sounding things, even for films I like.

Ever walked out of a film? What was the last one?

Since I’m paid to review, no. The least I can do is watch the thing. I don’t fast-forward tapes or DVDs either. And because anything I might watch I might write about, I stick with whatever I start. The last thing I remember walking out of was an Iranian film called The Cow in 1979, and that was because I wanted to get home in those pre-VCR days to see Nigel Kneale’s then-new Quatermass serial. I have never gone back and found out what happened in The Cow, though.

 As a long term inmate of the Video Dungeon in Empire magazine – any personal recommendations or hidden gems that should remain so no more?

I was impressed with JT Petty’s The Burrowers. This month, I liked a German film called The Door.

Are there any guilty pleasures that you know you shouldn’t really like watching or enjoy but for some reason are drawn to?

I don’t buy into the guilty pleasure notion. I tend to divide films into interesting and dull rather than good or bad.

Who or what excites you in horror or sci-fi today.

Probably some filmmaker I’ve not heard of yet who’ll surprise me this year.

3D is back again – are you a fan and what do you think it means for film longterm?

Like a lot of folks, I’m getting a bit fed up with it – especially the ropey conversion jobs.

Favourite 3D film moment ever?

The bouncing ball in House of Wax. Reprised in Monsters vs Aliens.

Harry Potter or Twilight?

Neither.

True Blood of The Walking Dead

True Blood, marginally.

Talking of vampires, what is your favourite version of Dracula?

Nosferatu (1922). I also like Dracula AD 1972.

Writing and Television

Any top tips for budding writers or reviewers?

Not really. Omit needless words is always good. Read a lot. Write every day. The usual, in fact.

How about in writing books or for screen – any pitfalls to avoid?

Feeling too pleased with yourself.

How do you deal with writers block?

I’ve never had it, so I suppose I deal by writing.

Have you a time for writing that is more productive than
another?

When I’m not doing anything else. This sounds facetious, but it’s true.

According to IMDB you were once on Kilroy?

It was about horror. I’ve done a lot of TV stuff like that, mostly as an interviewee.

Talking of TV – Space Cadets – how was it for you? Especially with some of the famous guests?

I enjoyed it. I met Hattie Hayridge, who is a neighbour of mine, and we’re friends now. William Shatner was value for money. I had breakfast with Gareth Thomas. Angela Rippon was lovely. Bruce Dickinson was interesting. I’ve worked several times with Craig Charles. Oh, and I’m a semi-regular on Fred Macaulay’s Radio Scotland show off the back of it. Oddly, it wasn’t a particularly successful show.

Lots of sci-fi alumnus have appeared in the new Doctor Who, if offered a role would you? Or how about penning an episode?

No one’s ever asked me to be on or write Doctor Who. Steven Moffat did fetch me a drink at an awards ceremony last year, though. And I did write a Doctor Who novella.

You’ve won numerous awards, including the Bram Stoker Award and also had a short story sent to Mars, is there one that means the most to you and why?

Awards are nice, but I try not to take them too seriously. All systems of voting – jury, popular ballot, random name out of a hat – have fatal flaws.

For many people you are almost like the real life Peter Vincent, have you ever fancied your own Moviedrome style slot or documentary like the recent Mark Gatiss horror one on BBC 3?

I did do Moviedrome – a Mario Baya double bill. I’ve also written and fronted documentaries (for radio and TV). I’m not sure at the moment I’d have the time to make a commitment to a series.

What’s next for Kim Newman?

The Anno Dracula series is coming out again (from Titan) in expanded editions over the next few years, including the long-announced fourth volume, Johnny Alucard. Also from Titan, I’ve got The Hound of the d’ Ubervilles, a book about Professor Moriarty, due out this Autumn.

Also, can we expect to see another volume of Nightmare Movies covering the last 20-odd years since that very first influential instalment?

Yes, there is a new edition (essentially, the old book and a new one covering the last twenty years added on to it) out from Bloomsbury.

Nightmare Movies: Horror on Screen Since the 1960s is released on April 18th.

Gremlins

To describe Gremlins as a kid’s film would be like describing the Bates Motel as a swell place to stay.

Cutesy in a typical Spielbergian world at the very beginning, sure, but it is soon revealed that we, the audience, and indeed the Peltzer family are sorely mistaken and have somewhat misread the situation in the ultimate ‘always heed the instructions’ moment in cinematic history

An animal is for life, not just for Christmas, such is the number one life lesson that we can all learn from the Spielberg Executive Produced, Joe Dante Directed, Gremlins. Rounding out this trio of talent is then scriptwriter – later Harry Potter Director, Chris Columbus – who was on something of a roll after penning scripts for both The Goonies and Young Sherlock Holmes around the same period. This ‘E.T. with teeth’ captivated and entertained and still stands tall as a comedy horror Christmas classic, and you don’t get many of those.

Originally a spec script by the young Columbus the feature was set to be a very different ‘beast’ with the Gremlins being even more dark and twisted, with the irresistibly cute Gizmo turning into Stripe, Barney the dog getting hung and Billy’s mum’s head rolling down the stairs!

Being a Joe Dante film it is a veritable reference of film and cartoon delights, from a cameo by the legendary animator Chuck Jones to a blink and you’ll miss it Steven Spielberg disappearing in a Time Machine

It’s a deliciously wicked and rich film, even until this day and has an almost timeless charm about it like that other 8o’s classic Back to the Future, which also shared the Universal backlot as its main set that created the town, Kingston Falls, and it does so spectacularly.

We get suckered into the cute, furry routine just like the Peltzers. It’s a family movie alright, but more about a families survival than in the traditional sense of the word. As such it caused such shockwaves Stateside and was one of two films that year, 1984, that helped create the PG 13 rating in America, the other film being Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

For all the Gremlins’ attacking from a Christmas tree, driving a bulldozer into the Futterman house, causing mayhem in the streets it’s a very low key scene that lingers in the memory and proves to be the most distressing, that classic monologue by Phoebe Cates on why she hates Christmas, a chilling story of them finding her dead dad stuck up the chimney dressed as Santa Clause. Inspired and perhaps only pipped by the SS Indianapolis story speech by Quint in Jaws for its powerfulness and evococativeness.

The set pieces and the imagery, their swirling lights of the swimming pool when Stripes throws himself in at the deep end, the tension of the death of the college tutor scene played against the rapidly beating heart on the projector, on par with anything in The Howling. Not to mention the discovery of the pods and the classic kitchen scene.

It’s a shame that Dante went for out and out comedy in the sequel as it would have been an interesting study in terror to see them go really, really dark. Of course, a remake or reimagining has been mentioned but it really does remain to be seen whether the Gremlins would hold the same appeal us knowing that they were merely pixels. The Gremlin creations by Chris Wallas are pretty much pitch perfect in design, that other unsung hero of the film is also Jerry Goldsmith and his blistering score that manages to be both comical and scary in equal measure.

It really is a nasty piece of work, and is all the more beloved and beautiful for it. Full of great energy, Dante clearly has great fun letting the Gremlins run riot in the usual Spielberg-like world, albeit one full of B-movie horror high jinks, and it all works wonderfully thanks to the film’s humour and the charm of its young leads. It maybe a special effects lead film but it’s the story that drives it, just like Back to the Future again in many respects, remember when that happened?

Alien is often mooted as the monster sci-fi movie of reference but for me it will always be Gremlins, for me it will always be a great big little monster movie.

Bangers and Clash: Welcoming back The Apprentice

Oh. My. God. It’s exit stage left for The X-Factor and sit this one out Strictly as the Don of reality gameshows is back.

The Apprentice, making its first Autumnal appearance due to fears of Lord Sugar’s mug – his face not his drinking receptacle  (no doubt of Amstrad design) – may have had an impact on the outcome on the General Election with him being a Labour Peer and all. At least he wasn’t Hastings Pier is all I can say!

Anyway, back to the show and within the first five minutes you are left wondering if they shouldn’t have renamed the programme The A-pretentious. The voiceover said that there were 16 top candidates and 12 tough weeks, I can only imagine that he means they are going to be tough for us judging by this bunch.  

A flurry of suits of nameless wannabe Sugar bitches and bastards who’ll say and do anything to get there. I personally can’t wait for the Saw inspired episode with Lord Sugar coming in on a little trike complete with the Jigsaw doll inspired white face. Talking of Jigsaw, the Janet Ellis TV show, it would actually be far scarier if he came out as Mr Nosey Bonk.

“I describe myself as a bit of a maverick”, spouts Alex Epstein, who looks like Neville Longbottom from Harry Potter. Neville, I mean Alex, also claims that he has a unique blend, and something tells me it’s not his brand of coffee he is attempting to get us excited about. He says, “I’m not just another corporate clone.” He’s right there; he’s more the corporate clown and a walking cliché to boot. It’s as if he’s been round all the dentists in the UK and read the words of wisdom on those pictures of lovely lakes and mountains.

Sticking with Hogwarts we also have Melissa, who is an amalgam of Velma from Scooby Doo with the hair and annoyingness of Draco Malfoy, who claims she has loads of business/ retail experience and is as if she is about to nominate herself for Team Leader but then says she doesn’t want it and then snipes at the Team Leader through the remainder of the show. She also had some brilliant facial expressions and I’m sure I saw her glasses steam up at one point.

The person who I hollered at the most whilst he appeared on my television though had to be Stuart Baggs, he with the hair of Eddie Munster. In his intro he claimed that there was no glass ceiling for him, which isn’t technically true as I can think of several I would like to shove him through, and that he was Baggs the brand. Baggs of shite more like.

He even came out with this bobby dazzler, “Everything I touch turns to sold.” Crap comment, plus never believe a man whose eyes are too close together.

We are told these 16 were chosen from thousands of applicants, the voiceover doesn’t say they were the best as obviously they were chosen to give us the best entertainment value in the same sense that people were chosen on the very same basis on how the misfits all complemented, or not, each other as a group.

For me it was the group names chosen that summed up this opening episode best, not exactly inspiring boardroom material. The guys basically had a toss up between Fusion and Synergy, both of which sound like really lame Gladiators, and went for the latter.

The ladies reasoning for their eventual name was my favourite though as they settled on Apollo, after dismissing the frankly bonkers Winning Women from Draco. Alas it was less inspired by Carl Weather’s Apollo Creed from the Rocky series and more the space programme as their motto was ‘failure is not an option’. Great sentiment, but I’m not sure that Gus Grissom (hang on wasn’t he in CSI?), Ed White or Roger Chaffee would agree as they were astronauts on the very first Apollo mission who burnt to death in a fire on the launch pad. There’s an irony of sorts then that the first show’s task was about selling sausages, perfect for BBQs.

The blokes sold budget bangers in boaters, even attempting to sell them door to door at one point. You can just see them feeding strings of them through letter boxes. At one point I thought they were going to start hurling packs of sausages into passing cab windows! At least they got their griddle going, unlike the women, who had an initial uphill struggle selling their bulging posh variety. Some clever number crunching was all that saved their bacon…er sausages.

Dan Harris, the Team Leader of ‘Synergy’ was onto a loser the moment he announced that he would lead the team and that they would do all the work, which saw stepping into the back of a black cab pretty much a foregone conclusion.

He signalled his own demise but dragged Eddie Munster hair and Neville into the boardroom with him. Stuart just doesn’t shut up, not even to Lord Sugar, and clearly his card is marked. He still bleated on about being unique and 21, surely not much of a USP!