Friday 27 June 2008

Top 5 Non-Premier League players at Euro 2008

Whilst I've been enjoying a break from Football since the close of the English season, I've still found time to enjoy the European Championships. England's absence has in many ways made it a much more enjoyable competition to watch. No anguish over our performances or unrealistic expectations about our chances of winning it, just a chance to sit back and watch some entertaining games and some players I wouldn't normally see. I've written this ahead of the semis so don't know who made the final but hope a couple of these players make it all the way.

1. Andrei Arshavin (Russia) - Russia have been one of the surprise packages of the tournament, playing neat passing football and showing great team spirit. Pavyluchenko caught my eye early on, with a vague thought he might be a potential McBride replacement at Fulham. Not very likely since they beat the wonderful Dutch. Yuri Zirkhov also impressed with his relentless runs up and down the wing. Arshavin, having missed the opening two games due to suspension, is the player that could make the difference for Russia. Playing a free role behind Pavyluchenko he's able to roam wherever he wants and is capable of creating chances out of nothing.

2. Deco (Portugal) - One of the few players I had seen quite a bit of before, Deco exudes class as he controls the attacking intent of the Portuguese side. I was also impressed by right back, Bosingwa and we will get to see him in the Prem next season. Pepe the tall ex-patriot Brazilian also looked very good.

3. Nihat (Turkey) - Turkey's progress has been remarkable but fully deserved. They've fought hard to stay in games when they appeared to be outclassed and have players capable of finding some magic to turn the game. The comeback from two goals down against the Czech's was one of the games of the tournament and Nihat's second goal one of the best.

4. Danijel Pranjić (Croatia) - Croatia were "my" team and I was hugely disappointed they didn't progress to the semi-finals. They've got lots of talented players but left winger Pranjić was the one to take my eye. Central defender Simunic looked solid and may be heading to Fulham and Tottenham bound Luka Modric looked a very exciting prospect as well, but Pranjić's constant running and keenness to get good balls in from the left won me over.

5. Marcos Senna (Spain) - Spain are full of talented players, Torres, Villa, Silva and Fabregas have all looked good but you still need someone in your team who can do the hard work. Marcos Senna has played this role excellently, prowling the depths of midfield to protect his defence and allowing the young guns to go off and have fun.

Holland have been the team of the tournament for me and yet I couldn't find one non-Prem player that had stood out for me. Ruud Van Nistleroy was excellent up front, Edwin Van Der Sar outstanding in goal and Giovanni Van Bronckhorst showing a remarkable turn of speed for a man in his thirties.

Germany may yet win it - I've got money on them to do so - but have been typically free of individuals. Ballack is their heart and soul, whilst both Lahm and Podolski have looked good. My favourite German player though is bearded centre back Christoph Metzelder.

Friday 20 June 2008

Top 5 Big Brother's

Yeah, I know. Thought I'd follow my Top 5 Crap Comedy Movies with a crap TV topic. Big Brother 9 has just started and whilst I can't claim to have completely avoid it so far (Mrs C is still an occasional viewer) I'm trying hard not to start watching it. I know it's bad but what can you do.

1. Big Brother 2 (2001) - In which we enjoyed "Welsh" Helen's sparkling one liners ("I like blinking, I do" & "Cool your boots" being faves) and her "love affair" with "Dull" Paul. Winner and first openly gay contestant Brian Dowling's sharp wit and cutting humour ensured some genuinely funny moments. Elizabeth was nice and Surbiton boy Bubble added some eccentric interest. This series saw the advent of digital TV and extended coverage. I spent far too much of the summer that year watching live broadcasts of the happenings in the house.

2. Big Brother 3 (2002) - In which Sandy became the first housemate to escape. Scaling a wall and climbing over a roof whilst the rest of the housemates watched the England v Nigeria World Cup match. To add cool points, he'd also urinated in a bin before his departure. Kate Lawler was nice and another "love affair" of sorts was struck up with Spencer though every one knew that Jonny the fireman was the more likely suitor. The house was also split into rich & poor sides to add a bit of spice. Oh, this was the Jade Goody series too. The beginning of "car crash" TV and a road that eventually Channel 4 would probably regret going down.

3. Big Brother 1 (2000) - In which a nation tuned in hopefully only to discover this new show would not feature unexpurgated live sex. The star of the show was former novice-nun and Irish national netball player Anna. She should have won. She came second to Craig who went on to make a living doing DIY on daytime TV. Melanie was nice. "Nasty" Nick Bateman inadvertently recovered the viewers who'd left disappointed at the lack of sex, by attempting to influence the voting. He was forced to face an inquisition by his fellow housemates before admitting he was cheating. Channel 4 booted him out of the house via the back door. Then saw the ratings drop again. Hmmm.

4. Big Brother 5 (2004) - In which Channel 4 tried really hard to fill the house with oddballs and nutters so that there was no chance they'd loss them all. The house was smaller and more claustrophobic and (hopeful fans of live television sex) there was one bedroom! The contestants included an increase in the gay contingent (Marco, Dan and Kitten), a transsexual (Nadia), a former asylum seeker (Ahmed), and a couple of self obsessed alpha-males (Jason and Victor). The result was one of the biggest fights the show had ever seen, which probably would have been a ratings winner if Channel 4 hadn't got a bit scared and cut the transmission. The Police were called. Housemates were told off and Emma (who kicked the whole thing off) was taken out of the show. Becki was nice.

5. Big Brother 4 (2003) - In which Channel 4 tried all sorts of tricks to keep the "interesting" people in only to see the show won by an evangelical Christian. Jon Tickle was clearly a bit off the wall and kept us amused for some time. When (as always happens because "the nation" would rather keep the fit people in) he was voted off. Channel 4 surprised everyone by bringing him back for the final two weeks. It was a bit crap. Gos cooked well and was pretty cool. Tania was niiice. Eventual winner Cameron Stout was generally pleasant to everyone and also got to spend a week in the Big Brother Africa house (whilst one of the African housemates, Gaetano, spent time in the UK house).

Clear signs of the law of diminishing returns then, it's been steadily getting more debasing every year since.

My name is Chopper and I'm a TV-holic.

Friday 13 June 2008

Top 5 Crap Comedy Movies

OK I've had enough of talking about Sitcoms for the time being, got a couple of more to do but they can wait for a few weeks. This started out as my favourite "crap" movies until I realised they were actually all comedies and maybe not that crap. Film comedy is pretty hard to pull off and in compiling this list I wondered if this was actually my Top 5 comedy movies. None of these films would have won any Oscars but then perhaps that's the nature of comedy. They have all been able to make me laugh with repeated viewing.

1. The Big Bus (1976) - A disaster movie spoof like no other. Set on a huge nuclear powered bus (equipped like a luxury liner, with bowling alley, swimming pool, formal dining room and piano bar) as it attempts to travel non-stop from New York to Denver. So many moments that make me laugh out loud no matter how many times I see it. In particular the "The Flags of Many Nations" used to slow down the bus after a bomb explodes damaging the braking system and co-pilot "Shoulders" O'Brien who, despite having big shoulders, actually got his nickname because he has narcolepsy which causes him to fall asleep and drive on the hard shoulder.

2. Mystery Men (1999) - Picked this up cheap on video. Any film with a super hero theme being something I want to see. It wasn't quite what I expected but as with most of this Top 5 repeated viewing has resulted in a greater appreciation. My boys had seen the box lying around and were keen to watch it too and for a while this became THE movie being watched at home. I must have seen it, or at least parts of it, at least ten times now. The Mystery Men themselves have some dubious names and fairly unimpressive powers; 'The Shoveler' can wield a shovel very well, 'The Blue Raja' throws cutlery with great accuracy and 'The Spleen' can aim his highly noxious flatulence with deadly precision. The cast (including William H. Macy, Eddie Izzard and Paul Ruebens - Ben Stiller too, but don't let that put you off. Tom Waits is an eccentric scientist so that balances things out) is fantastic and there's some brilliant dialogue.

3. Team America: World Police (2004) - Created by Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park fame "Team America" parodies the current state of American foreign policy and in particular George Bush's "war on terror". Inspired primarily by "Thunderbirds" Parker and Stone move from animation to marionettes to great comic effect. Stand out scenes include an extended naked puppet sex scene, lead puppet Gary's descent into alcoholism and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il's songs. Comedy at it's most basic level but very funny all the same.

4. Three Amigos (1986) - I'm no fan of Steve Martin and the first time I watched this film, a comedy western with a similar plot to the Magnificent Seven, I thought it was awful. However after a discussion with a friend who'd also seen it had us both in fits of laughter I returned to watch it again and found that I really enjoyed it. The search for the singing bush remains the standout moment for me.

5. Slap Shot (1977) - Cracking movie starring Paul Newman as the coach of an Ice Hockey team that is put up for sale by it's owner. Can't think of much to say about this other than go and watch it.

Friday 6 June 2008

Top 5 British Sitcoms (21st Century)

Bang up to date and into the 21st Century then. It's harder to be objective about these show as they've not had the passage of time to help sort the great from the good. There does seem to be a resurgence in good comedy though, possibly thanks to the increase in channels wrought by the digital age.

1. Extras (2005-2007)
2 Series written by Ricky Gervais & Stephen Merchant
"The Office" may have been more groundbreaking but for me Extras wins out as it's got more laughs per episode. Stephen Merchant is outstanding as inept agent Darren Lamb, and the episode where Kate Winslet, whilst dressed as a nun, gives Maggie advice on how to talk dirty to attract a man is enough to claim first place on it's own.

2. Black Books (2000-2004)
3 Series written by Dylan Moran & Graham Linehan
A hidden gem in the Channel Four listings. Dylan Moran wrote and starred in this comedy about life in a small independent book shop in which the proprietor (Bernard Black) was more interested in downing quantities of red wine than selling books. Some great interaction between Moran, Bill Bailey and Tasmin Greig (often the only three participants of the episode) who bicker and goad each other to escape their insulated world only to repeatedly get sucked back in to old habits. Bernard's foul-mouthed, eccentric, misanthropic and nihilistic views on the world are oddly pretty accurate and in many ways chime pretty closely with my own.

3. Peep Show (2003 - ongoing)
5 Series written by Jesse Armstrong & Sam Bain
When I first started watching Peep Show it was on late at night which usually meant having to read the subtitles with the sound off. I think I properly discovered it flicking through the channels for anything to watch when I really should have been getting a good nights sleep. The "eye level" point of view created something a bit different that caught my attention as I flicked through endless channels of rubbish. Somewhere between then and now it's actually become quite successful and, having been moved to a more accessible time slot, is currently pushing the boundaries of taste during it's 5th series with a 6th series already commissioned.

4. The League of Gentlemen (1999-2003)
3 Series written by Jeremy Dyson, Mark Gatiss, Steve Pemberton, Reece Shearsmith
As I write this I've realised that this is possibly more of a sketch show than a sitcom. Too late for me to take it out now, and in any case whatever genre you might think it belongs it's a show that pushes the boundaries of both.

5. The Office (2001-2003)
2 Series written by Ricky Gervais & Stephen Merchant
Wasn't sure I really wanted to have two shows written by the same team in the Top 5 but it's impossible not to have this series included. Painfully cringeworthy at times but still very funny indeed.

Bubbling under but not quite making the final cut are The I.T. Crowd (2006 - ongoing - 2 Series written by Graham Linehan) which I may enjoy more than I should as it so closely resembles my own working life and The Mighty Boosh (2004 - ongoing - 3 series written by Julian Barrett & Noel Fielding) which I'm only just getting to grips with and still haven't decided if it's genuinely funny or just plain weird (could also be a sketch show not a sitcom. Damn! I think I'm losing the plot after 4 weeks of comedy).