Posted in music

Empress of soul – Gladys Knight

Best known as the “Empress of Soul” American singer. Songwriter,Gladys Knight was born 28th May 1944. She is best known for the hits she recorded during the 1960s and 1970s, for both the Motown and Buddah Records labels, with her group Gladys Knight & the Pips, the most famous incarnation of which also included her brother Merald “Bubba” Knight and her cousinsEdward Patten and William Guest. Knight has won a total of seven Grammy awards (four as a solo artist, and three with The Pips).Gladys Knight & the Pips joined the Motown roster in 1966, and, although regarded as a second-string act, scored several hit singles, including “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”, (recorded first by Marvin Gaye but released a year later), “Friendship Train” (1969), “If I Were Your Woman” (1970), “I Don’t Want To Do Wrong” (1971), the Grammy Award winning “Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye)” (1972), and “Daddy Could Swear (I Declare)” (1973).

Gladys Knight & the Pips joined the Motown roster in 1966, and, although regarded as a second-string act, scored several hit singles, including “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”, (recorded first by Marvin Gaye but released a year later), “Friendship Train” (1969), “If I Were Your Woman” (1970), “I Don’t Want To Do Wrong” (1971), the Grammy Award winning “Neither One of Us (Want
to Be the First to Say Goodbye)” (1972), and “Daddy Could Swear (I Declare)” (1973). In their early Motown career Gladys Knight and the Pips toured as the opening act for Diana Ross and The Supremes. Gladys Knight stated in her memoirs that Ross kicked her off the tour because the audience’s reception to Knight’s soulful performance overshadowed her. Berry Gordy later told Gladys that she was giving his act a hard time.The act left Motown for a better deal with Buddah Records in 1973, and achieved full-fledged success that year with hits such as the Grammy-winning “Midnight Train to Georgia” (#1 on the pop and R&B chart), “I’ve Got to Use My Imagination,” and “You’re the Best Thing That Ever Happeed to Me”. In the summer of 1974, Knight and the Pips recorded the soundtrack to the successful film Claudine with producer Curtis Mayfield.

The act was particularly successful in Europe, and especially the United Kingdom. However, a number of the Buddah singles became hits in the UK long after their success in the US. For example, “Midnight Train to Georgia” hit the UK pop charts Top 5 in the summer of 1976, a full three years after its success in the U.S.During this period of greater recognition, Knight made her motion picture acting debut in the film Pipe Dreams, a romantic drama set in Alaska. The film failed at the box-office, but Knight did receive aGolden Globe Best New Actress nomination.Knight and the Pips continued to have hits until the late 1970s, when they were forced to record separately due to legal issues, resulting in Knight’s first solo LP recordings–Miss Gladys Knight(1978) on Buddah and Gladys Knight (1979) on Columbia Records. Having divorced James Newman II in 1973, Knight married Barry Hankerson (future uncle of R&B singer Aaliyah), then Detroit mayorColeman Young’s executive aide. Knight and Hankerson remained married for four years, during which time they had a son, Shanga Ali. Upon their divorce, Hankerson and Knight were embroiled in a heated custody battle over Shanga Ali.In the early 1980s, Johnny Mathis invited Gladys to record two duets – “When A Child Is Born” (previously a hit for Mathis) and “The Lord’s Prayer”.

Signing with Columbia Records in 1980 and restored to its familiar quartet form, Gladys Knight & the Pips began releasing new material. The act enlisted former Motown producers Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson for their first two LPs–About Love (1980) and Touch (1981). During this period, Knight kicked a gambling addiction to the game baccarat.While still with The Pips, Knight joined with Dionne Warwick, Stevie Wonder, and Elton John on the 1986 AIDS benefit single, “That’s What Friends Are For” which won a Grammy for Best Pop Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal. In 1989, Gladys Knight recorded the title track for the James Bond movie Licence to Kill, a top 10 hit both in the UK, reaching #6, and Germany.In 1987, Knight decided to pursue a solo career, and she and the Pips recorded their final LP together, All Our Love (1987), for MCA Records. Its lead single, “Love Overboard”, was a successful hit and won a third Grammy for the act as well. After a successful 1988 tour, the Pips retired and Knight began her solo career. Gladys Knight & the Pips were inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame[6] in 1989 and into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.

Knight’s third solo LP, Good Woman, was released by MCA in 1991. It rose to #1 on the R&B album chart and featured the #2 R&B hit “Men”. The album also featured “Superwoman”, written by Babyface and featuring Dionne Warwick and Patti LaBelle. Knight and LaBelle would collaborate the same year on “I Don’t Do Duets”, a duet with Patti LaBelle from LaBelle’s album Burnin’.Her fourth solo LP, Just for You, went gold and was nominated for the 1995 Grammy Award for Best R&B Album.[8]In 1992 Vernon Ray Blue II, choir master of the year asked Gladys to record his first single “He Lifted Me”Knight joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1997. She had occasionally teased LDS Church president, the lateGordon B. Hinckley, that his flock needs to inject some “pep” into their music.[9] Knight created and now directs the Mormon-themed choir Saints Unified Voices.[10] SUV has released a Grammy Award-winning CD titled One Voice, and occasionally performs at LDS church firesides.In 2005, a duet between Knight and Ray Charles of “You Were There” was released on Charles’ duets album Genius & Friends.In 2008, a duet between Knight and Johnny Mathis was released on Mathis’ album A Night to Remember. Knight is ranked number eighteen on VH1 network’s list of the 100 Greatest Women of Rock.In the spring of 2008, Knight appeared alongside Chaka Khan, Patti Labelle and Diana Ross at the ‘Divas with Heart’ concert in aid of cardiac research, at New York’s Radio City Hall.In 2008 Gladys, Jack Black, Robert Downey Jr. and Ben Stiller performed on American Idol to raise money for charity. In March 2010,Randy Jackson mentioned on a new episode of the same show that he is back in the studio with Gladys Knight working on a new album.In 2009 Knight sang “His Eye Is On The Sparrow” and “The Lord’s Prayer” at the funeral service for Michael Jackson.On December 21, 2010, Knight released the single “Settle” on iTunes and Amazon. In September 2011, a new, updated recording of I (Who Have Nothing) was released on iTunes and Amazon.

Posted in books, films & DVD, Television

Tribute to author Ian Fleming

English author, journalist and Naval Intelligence Officer Ian Fleming was born 28 May 1908 in Mayfair . He is best known for creating the fictional spy James Bond and the series of twelve novels and nine short stories about the character. Fleming was from a wealthy family, connected to the merchant bank Robert Fleming & Co. and his father was MP for Henley from 1910 until his death on the Western Front in 1917. In 1914 Fleming was sent to Durnford School, a preparatory school on the Isle of Purbeck in Dorset. The school was near to the estate of a family called Bond, who could trace their ancestry back to an Elizabethan spy called John Bond and whose motto was Non Sufficit Orbis—The World Is Not Enough. From 1921 Fleming followed his brother Peter to Eton College. Although not one of the academic stars of the school, he excelled at athletics and was Victor Ludorum.He left Eton a term early for a crammer course to gain entry to the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst. Fleming spent less than a year at Sandhurst, leaving in 1927 without gaining a commission. He then went to a small private school, the Tennerhof, in Kitzbühel, Austria, run by a former British spy, and his American wife, the novelist Phyllis Bottome.

if-dnHis language skills developed well and from the Tennerhof he studied briefly at Munich University and the University of Geneva. Foreign Office, but failed the examinations.  In October 1931 he was eventually given a position as a sub-editor and journalist for the Reuters news service. in October 1933 moved into the banking world with a position at financiers Cull & Co. He was not a good banker and, in October 1935, became a stockbroker with Rowe and Pitman, headquartered on Bishopsgate, London. From 1929 onwards Fleming Also collected a library of over one thousand books of what Fleming described as “books that made things happen.”These books represented “milestones in modern science, technology and Western civilization.” He concentrated on science and technology, had a copy of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species but also owned other significant works ranging from Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf to Baden Powell’s Scouting for Boys.Second World WarDuring the Second World War Fleming was recruited by the Director of Naval Intelligence of the Royal Navy to become his personal assistant with the codename “17F”. On 29 September 1939 a document comparing deception of an enemy in wartime with fly fishing was published which contained a number of schemes to be considered for use against the Axis powers, in order to lure U-boats and German surface ships towards minefields. Number 28 on the list was an idea to use a corpse, carrying misleading papers, which the enemy could find: this suggestion formed the basis of Operation Mincemeat, the successful 1943 deception plan to cover the intended invasion of Italy from North Africa. On 12 September 1940 Fleming wrote a memo  instigating a plan named Operation Ruthless, aimed at obtaining details of the Enigma codes used by the German Navy. The memo suggested “obtaining” a German bomber, putting ina German-speaking crew, all dressed in Luftwaffe uniforms, and crashing the plane into the English channel. When the Germans would come to rescue the crew, they would be attacked and the boat, including its Enigma machine, would be brought back to England. Fleming also worked on intelligence co-operation between London and Washington.In May 1941 Fleming went to the United States and assisted in writing a blueprint for the Office of the Coordinator of Information, the department which turned into the Office of Strategic Services and eventually became the CIA. In 1941-42 Fleming was put in charge of Operation Golden Eye, a plan to maintain an intelligence framework in Spain in the event of a German takeover of the territory. The plan, drawn up by Fleming, involved maintaining communication with Gibraltar and launching sabotage operations against the Nazis.

casino185_339854aIn 1942 Fleming formed a unit of commandos, known as No. 30 Commando, or 30 Assault Unit (30AU), a group of specialist intelligence troops. 30 AU’s job was to be near the front line of an advance—sometimes in front of it— to seize enemy documents from HQs previously targeted.Fleming selected targets and directed operations from the rear, The unit was filled with men from other commando units and trained in unarmed combat, safe-cracking and lock-picking at the Special Operations Executive (SOE) facilities. Prior to the Normandy landings, most of 30AU’s operations were in the Mediterranean. Because of their successes in Sicily and Italy, 30AU became greatly trusted by naval intelligence. In March 1944, Fleming oversaw the distribution of intelligence through to Royal Navy units in preparation for Operation Overlord and he subsequently followed the unit into Germany after they located the German naval archives from 1870, archived in Tambach Castle. ntelligence fact-finding trip to the Far East on behalf of the Director of Naval Intelligence.Much of the trip was spent identifying opportunities for 30AU in the Pacific.In August 1944, following the success of 30AU, it was decided to establish a “Target Force”, which became known as T-Force. The official memorandum, held at The National Archives in London described their primary role as: “T-Force = Target Force, to guard and secure documents, persons, equipment, with combat and Intelligence personnel, after capture of large towns, ports etc. in liberated and enemy territory.”It was responsible for securing targets of interest to the British military. These included nuclear laboratories, gas research centres and individual rocket scientists. The unit’s most notable coup was during the advance on the German port of Kiel, where it captured the research centre for German engines used for the V-2 rocket, Messerschmitt Me 163 fighters and high speed U-boats. Fleming was to use elements of the activities of T-Force, particularly in his 1955 Bond novel Moonraker.In 1942 Fleming attended an Anglo-American intelligence summit in Jamaica and Fleming decided to live on the island a friend helped him find a plot of land in Saint Mary Parish and, in 1945, Fleming had a house built there, which he named Goldeneye. The name of the house and estate where he wrote his novels has many possible sources. Ian Fleming himself cited both his wartime Operation Golden Eye, but also the 1941 novel, Reflections in a Golden Eye by Carson McCullers. n May 1945, he joined  The Sunday Times and became Foreign Manager.

russia185_339850aDuring the war Fleming had mentioned to friends that he wanted to write a spy novel, but it was not until 1952 that he began to write his first novel, Casino Royale. He started writing his book at his Jamaican home Goldeneye, on 17 February 1952. On 13 April 1953 Casino Royale was released in the UK in hardcover, Three print runs were needed, all of which sold out. The novel centred on the exploits of James Bond, an intelligence officer in the Secret Intelligence Service, commonly known as MI6. Bond was also known by his code number, 007, and was a Royal Naval Reserve commander. Bond was a composite based  on  all the secret agents and commando types Fleming came across during his time in the Naval Intelligence Division during World War II. Between 1953 and 1966, two years after his death, twelve Bond novels and two short-story collections were published, with the last two books—The Man with the Golden Gun, Octopussy and The Living Daylights—published posthumously.Much of the background to the stories came from Fleming’s previous work in the Naval Intelligence Division or to events he knew of from the Cold War. me from Fleming’s previous work in the Naval Intelligence Division or to events he knew of from the Cold War. The plot of From Russia, with Love uses a fictional Soviet Spektor decoding machine as a lure to trap Bond; the Spektor had its roots in the German World War II Enigma machine.

Many of the names used in the Bond works are from people Fleming knew: the primary villain of The Man with the Golden Gun, Scaramanga was named after a fellow schoolboy at Eton, with whom Fleming fought; Goldfinger, from the eponymous novel, was named after British architect Erno Goldfinger, whose work Fleming abhorred;Sir Hugo Drax, the protagonist from Moonraker, was named after an acquaintance of Fleming’s, Admiral Sir Reginald Aylmer Ranfurly Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax (What a splendid name  “Aylmer Ranfurly Plunkett”) and  one of the homosexual villains from Diamonds Are Forever, ‘Boofy’ Kidd, was named after one of Fleming’s close friends. the first five books —Casino Royale, Live and Let Die, Moonraker, Diamonds Are Forever and From Russia,with Love proved to be wildly successful. In 1958 Dr. No was published and the next book Fleming produced was a collection of short stories, For Your Eyes Only. Fleming followed up the book by novelizing a film script that he had worked on with others, the resulting novel being Thunderball. In April 1961, he also began working on a children’s novel, Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang, which was published in October 1964. Fleming’s creation has also appeared in film twenty-four times with seven actors playing the role of Bond, the film rights to his James Bond novels and short stories were sold in 1962 to Harry Saltzman who along with Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli co-produced Dr. No, which was released in 1962.

Fleming was a heavy smoker and heavy drinker throughout his adult life and suffered from heart disease. In 1961 he suffered a heart attack; three years later, at the age of 56, Fleming was already an ill man, suffering from the disease In January 1964 Fleming went to Goldeneye to write  The Man with the Golden Gun. Sadly Five months after returning from Jamaica, on the morning of 12 August 1964, Fleming died of a heart attack and was buried in the churchyard of Sevenhampton village, near Swindon, and Fleming’s last two books—The Man with the Golden Gun and Octopussy and The Living Daylights—were published posthumously.

During his lifetime Fleming sold thirty million books; double that number were sold in the two years following his death and The Bond books are among the biggest-selling series of fictional books of all time, having sold over 100 million copies worldwide andIn observance of what would have been Fleming’s 100th birthday in 2008, Ian Fleming Publications commissioned Sebastian Faulks to write a new Bond novel entitled Devil May Care. The book, released in May 2008, was credited to  Fleming also wrote the children’s story Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang and two works of non-fiction.Fleming was ranked fourteenth in a list of “The 50 greatest British writers since 1945″. The Eon Productions series of Bond films, started in 1963 with Dr. No, continued after Fleming’s death. As well as two non-Eon produced films, there have been twenty-two Eon films, with the twenty-third, Skyfall, announced in November 2011.A further five continuation authors have also produced Bond novels including “Sebastian Faulks, writing as Ian Fleming”, who was followed by American thriller author Jeffery Deaver, whose novel, Carte Blanche, was published in May 2011 and On 11 April 2012, it was announced that William Boyd will write the next Bond novel, which is due for release in the autumn of 2013.

Posted in films & DVD

Gangster Squad

The film Gangster Squad recently came out on DVD on Monday 27th May and being a big fan of stylish crime thrillers like The Godfather, Casino, Goodfellas and LA Confidential, I would like to watch it. Directed by Ruben Fleischer, The cast includes Sean Penn, who stars as notorious Thirties crime boss Mickey Cohen, with Emma Stone as his vampy moll, whose criminal activities attract the attention of Police chief William Parker (Nick Nolte), who asks squad leader John O’Mara, Josh Brolin, to take Cohen down.

So with the help of his wife Connie (Mireille Enos) he recruits a crime-busting unit of colourful but disreputable cops, including Sgt. Jerry Wooters (Gosling), beat cop Coleman Harris (Anthony Mackie), cowboy Max Kennard (Robert Patrick), Navidad Ramirez (Michael Peña), and tech nerd Conway Keeler (Giovanni Ribisi). However During the hunt Tactics get dirty and the line between good and bad becomes somewhat blurred as the vigilante cops start using thug methods to catch thugs.

Posted in music

Charlemagne:the Omens of Death by Sir Christopher Lee

Ever since I heard that Legendary actor Christopher Lee, (who has appeared in such cinematic milestones as Lord Of The Rings , Star Wars , The Man With The Golden Gun and Dracula amongst many others), was releasing a Heavy Metal album entitled Charlemagne: The Omens Of Death on 25th May 2013. I was very curious to hear what it sounded like.(It rocks!)

The singer-actors first solo affair into the metal genre was the critically acclaimed album, Charlemagne: By the Sword and the Cross (2010), which was more symphonic than its successor. The Omens of Death, which signifies his move into full on Heavy Metal. The album features Guitar Idol Champion Hedras Ramos Jr, who takes over the lead guitar duties from Richie Faulkner.Singers: Christopher Lee as Charlemagne (Ghost) Vincent Richiardi as Young Charlemagne / Phil S.P as Pippin The Short / Mauro Conti as Pope Hadrian / Lydia Salnikova as Hildegrad / Gorgon Tittsworth as Roland / Aaron Cloutier as Duke Lop Musicians: Electric Guitar: Hedras Ramos Jr. / Bass Guitar: Hedras Ramos Sr. / Drums: Ollie Usiskin. Here is the track listing
1. The Portent
2. Charles The Great
3. The Siege
4. Massacre Of The Saxons
5. Dawning Of A New Age
6. Let Legend Mark Me As The King
7. The Betrayal
8. The Devil’s Advocate
9. The Ultimate Sacrifice
10. Judgement Day

I reckon he should also colaborate with the Icelandic band Lordi while dressed as Saruman, with a microphone hidden in his staff 😀

Posted in music

Happy Birthday Souixsie Sioux

English singer-songwriter Siouxsie Sioux ( Susan Janet Ballion) was born 27 May 1957. She is best known as the lead singer of rock band Siouxsie and the Banshees (1976–1996) and of its splinter group The Creatures (1981–2005). The Banshees produced eleven studio albums and a string of hit singles including “Hong Kong Garden”, “Happy House”, “Peek-a-Boo” and “Kiss Them for Me”. With The Creatures, Siouxsie recorded four studio albums and the hit single “Right Now”.She has also sung with artists such as Morrissey and John Cale.In the mid-2000s, she began a solo career and released MantaRay in 2007.

Siouxsie is considered to be “one of the most influential British singers of the rock era”.Her songs have been covered by Jeff Buckley,Tricky, Massive Attack, LCD Soundsystem,.Her records have also been praised by a wide range of other artists including PJ Harvey and TV on the Radio.In 2011, she was awarded for Outstanding Contribution To Music at the Q Awards and in 2012, at the Ivor Novello Awards, she received the “Inspiration Award”. In June 2013, she will give two concerts in London at the “Royal Festival Hall”

Posted in locomotives

Tribute to railway engineer Sir William Stanier FRS

42968aRailway engineer Sir William Stanier, was born on 27th May 1876 in Swindon. His father worked for the Great Western Railway (GWR) as William Dean’s Chief Clerk, and educated at Swindon High School and also, for a single year, at Wycliffe College.   In 1891 he followed his father into a career with the GWR, initially as an office boy and then for five years as an apprentice in the workshops. Between 1897 and 1900 he worked in the Drawing Office as a draughtsman, before becoming Inspector of Materials in 1900. In 1904, George Jackson Churchward appointed him as Assistant to the Divisional Locomotive Superintendent in London. In 1912 he returned to Swindon to become the Assistant Works Manager and in 1920 was promoted to the post of Works Manager.

In late 1931, he was “headhunted” by Sir Josiah Stamp, chairman of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS) to become the Chief Mechanical Engineer (CME) of that railway from 1 January 1932. He was charged with introducing modern and more powerful locomotive designs, using his knowledge gained at Swindon with the GWR. Stanier built many other very successful designs for the LMS, especially the “Black 5″ mixed traffic 4-6-0, and the 8F 2-8-0 freight locomotives. His Coronation Scot set a new British record of 114 mph, beating the previous record set by a Gresley A4, but this was eclipsed by another Gresley A4 “Mallard”, which set a new record of 126 mph for Steam Engines which still stands to this day   During WWII he worked as a consultant for the Ministry of Supply and retired in 1944. He was knighted on 9 February 1943 and elected a Fellow of the Royal Society on his retirement, the only railway engineer other than George Stephenson to receive that honour. He was also president of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers for 1944. William Stanier, with the backing of Sir Josiah Stamp, Chairman of the Company, reversed the small engine policy, which the LMS had inherited from the Midland Railway, with beneficial results. Designs introduced by Stanier include:

LMS Class 2P 0-4-4T (designed in the Midland Railway design office)

LMS Class 3MT 2-6-2T

LMS Class 4MT 2-6-4T (3-cyl)

LMS Class 4MT 2-6-4T (2-cyl)

LMS Class 5MT 2-6-0  ”Mogul”

LMS Class 5MT “Black Five” 4-6-0

LMS Class 6P “Jubilee” 4-6-0

LMS Class 8P “Princess Royal” 4-6-2

LMS Class 8P “Princess Coronation” 4-6-2

LMS Class 8F 2-8-0

LMS Turbomotive

Posted in books, films & DVD, music

Happy Birthday Christopher Lee

English actor and musician Sir Christopher Lee, CBE, CStJ was born 27 May 1922. Lee  became famous for his role as Count Dracula in the Hammer Horror films. Other notable roles include Francisco Scaramanga in the James Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun , Saruman in The Lord of the Rings film trilogy , and Count Dooku in the final two films of the Star Wars prequel trilogy (2002. He has collaborated with director Tim Burton in five films, most recently with Dark Shadows.  He considers his best role to be that of Lord Summerisle in the British cult classic The Wicker Man (1973), which he also believes to be his best film (yeah, I like the bit where Britt Eklund dances but let’s not go into that). Lee is well known for his deep, strong voice and imposing height. He has performed roles in 275 films since 1946 making him the Guinness World Record holder for most film acting roles ever. He was knighted for services to drama and charity in 2009, and received the BAFTA Fellowship in 2011. Lee has also released two epicly noisy heavy metal albums called Charlemagne: by the sword and the omens, and Charlemagne:The omens of death (Which is released Monday 27th May 2013)

Lee was born in Belgravia, Westminster, on 27th May 1922  and his mother took him and his sister to Switzerland. After enrolling in Miss Fisher’s Academy in Wengen, he played his first villainous role as Rumpelstiltskin. The family returned to London, where Lee attended Wagner’s private school. . Lee spent some time at Summer Fields School, a preparatory school in Oxford (notable for sending many alumni to Eton), where he applied unsuccessfully for a scholarship to Eton.In 1947. Lee made his film debut in Terence Young’s Gothic romance Corridor of Mirrors  & was a student at the Rank “charm school” later that year, Lee made an uncredited appearance in Laurence Olivier’s film version of Hamlet as a spear carrier (marking his first film with frequent co-star and close friend Peter Cushing, who played Osric), and in John Huston’s Oscar-nominated Moulin Rouge. Throughout the next decade, he made nearly 30 films, playing stock action characters.Lee’s first horror film was The Curse of Frankenstein, in which he played Frankenstein’s monster, with Cushing as the Baron.

A little later, Lee co-starred with Boris Karloff in the film Corridors of Blood, and Lee’s own appearance as Frankenstein’s monster led to his first appearance as the Transylvanian vampire in the 1958 film Dracula. Lee returned to the role of Dracula in Hammer’s Dracula: Prince of Darkness in 1965 and later he also starred in Dracula Has Risen from the Grave , Taste the Blood of Dracula  and Scars of Dracula. Lee’s other work for Hammer included The Mummy. He portrayed Rasputin in Rasputin, the Mad Monk  and Sir Henry Baskerville (to Cushing’s Sherlock Holmes) in The Hound of the Baskervilles. Lee later played Holmes himself in 1962′s Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace, and returned to Holmes films with Billy Wilder’s British-made The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, in which he plays Sherlock’s smarter brother, Mycroft. Lee also played a leading role in the German film The Puzzle of the Red Orchid.He was responsible for bringing acclaimed occult author Dennis Wheatley to Hammer. The company made two films from Wheatley’s novels, both starring Lee., The Devil Rides Out and To the Devil a Daughter, Unfortunately though this was Hammer’s last horror film and marked the end of Lee’s long association with the studio. However Lee also appeared in horror films for other companies including the series of Fu Manchu films; I, Monster, The Creeping Flesh and The Wicker Man. In addition to doing films in the United Kingdom, Lee did movies in Mainland Europe including, Count Dracula, The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism, Castle of the Living Dead and Horror Express.

Since the mid 1970s, Lee has eschewed horror roles almost entirely. Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond spy novels and Lee’s step-cousin, had offered him the role of the titular antagonist in the first official Bond film Dr. No. Lee enthusiastically accepted, but was unable, until 1974, when Lee finally got to play a James Bond villain – the deadly assassin Francisco Scaramanga in The Man with the Golden Gun. In 1982, Lee appeared in The Return of Captain Invincible. In 1985, he appeared alongside Reb Brown and Sybil Danning in Howling II: Stirba – Werewolf Bitch, and a few years later Lee made his latest appearances to date as Sherlock Holmes in 1991′s Incident at Victoria Falls and 1992′s Sherlock Holmes and the Leading Lady. Lee and Peter Cushing also both appeared in separate instalments of the Star Wars films, Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin in the original film, Lee years later as Count Dooku.Lee was at one point also considered for the role of comic book villain/hero Magneto in the screen adaptation of the popular comic book series X-Men, but he lost the role to Sir Ian McKellen. However Lee did play Saruman in the The Lord of the Rings film trilogy oposite Sir Ian Mckellen (Which I reckon is a much better role). Lee has also met Tolkien once (making him the only person in The Lord of the Rings film trilogy to have done so) and makes a habit of reading the novels at least once a year. Lee’s appearance in the third film was cut from the theatrical release. However, the scene was reinstated in the extended edition. This marked the beginning of a major career revival that continued in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002) and Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005), in which he played Count Dooku, a name allegedly chosen to reflect his fame playing Count Dracula.

Lee is one of the favourite actors of Tim Burton and has become a regular in many of Burton’s films, having now worked for the director five times since 1999. He had a small role as the Burgomaster in the film Sleepy Hollow. In 2005, Lee then went on to voice the character of Pastor Galswells in Corpse Bride co-directed by Burton and Mike Johnson and play a small role in the Burton’s reimagining of the Roald Dahl tale Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as Willy Wonka’s strict dentist father Dr. Wilbur Wonka.   In 2007, Lee collaborated with Burton on Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, playing the spirit of Sweeney Todd’s victims called The Gentleman Ghost alongside Anthony Head, with both singing “The Ballad of Sweeney Todd”, in 2009, Lee starred in Stephen Poliakoff’s British period drama Glorious 39 with Julie Christie, Bill Nighy, Romola Garai and David Tennant, Academy Award-nominated director Danis Tanović’s war film Triage with Colin Farrell and Paz Vega, and Duncan Ward’s comedy Boogie Woogie alongside Amanda Seyfried, Gillian Anderson, Stellan Skarsgård and Joanna Lumley.In 2010, Lee marked his fourth collaboration with Tim Burton by voicing the Jabberwocky in Burton’s adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s classic book Alice in Wonderland alongside Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter and Anne Hathaway, and reprised his role as Saruman in The Hobbit. saying he wants to show Saruman’s corruption by Sauron, portraying Saruman as a kind and noble wizard, before his subsequent fall into darkness. In 2012, Lee marked his fifth collaboration with Tim Burton by appearing in his film adaptation of the gothic soap opera Dark Shadows. Lee also reprised his role as Saruman in the video game The Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle Earth along with the other actors of the films and has also contributed his voice as Death in the animated versions of Terry Pratchett’s Soul Music and Wyrd Sisters and reprised the role in the Sky1 live action adaptation The Colour of Magic, taking over the role from the late Ian Richardson.

During his long and varied career, Lee has recieved many Honours & awards. In 2001, Lee was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) by Queen Elizabeth II and was knighted in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 2009 by Prince Charles. Lee was named 2005′s ‘most marketable star in the world’ in a USA Today newspaper poll. In 2011, Lee was awarded the BAFTA Academy Fellowship by Tim Burton.   In 2011, accompanied by his wife Birgit and on the 164th anniversary of the birth of Bram Stoker (It was the 165th anniversary on the 26th May), Lee was honoured with a tribute by University College Dublin, and described his honorary life membership of the UCD Law Society as “in some ways as special as the Oscars”. He was awarded the Bram Stoker Gold Medal by the Trinity College Philosophical Society, of which Stoker was President, and a copy of Collected Ghost Stories of MR James by Trinity College’s School of English.

Posted in films & DVD

The Bling Ring

I would like to see the film The Bling Ring which is Directed by Sofia Coppola and stars Emma Watson who portrays Nicki a young woman obsessed with designer labels, who rather than go to a mall and buy her bling finds it easier to steal it by breaking into the homes of Paris Hilton, Orlando Bloom and Rachel Bilson, leading to her gang being dubbed The Bling Ring. She and her gang are like the 21st century equivalents of Fagin and the Artful Dodger , except that there’s no way they’d be seen in filthy clothing. Designer labels only, thanks very much and diamond rings on their fingers and Louboutins on their toes.Emma’s Nicki is a total Hollywood girl and at on poinmomenteyes almost pop out when she’s shown the Aladdin’s cave like sparking goodies on display in Hilton’s walk-in closets.

The film has been descibed as a fascinating cinematic essay of excess and desire .The effect of watching Coppola’s film is so hypnotic that it may breed a raft a wannabe girls in other major cities going around and doing an ‘Emma’ and knocking off the homes of the rich and famous.Coppola’s intention is to satirise such behaviour; to mock it and to wonder why such girls (and one boy) feel the need to go out and steal rather than get a Saturday job to earn money to buy the trash glamour goods they desire.Emma’s performance is so clever. At one point her character seeks to justify what she has done and explains how she has changed and what lessons she has learnt. The film also stars Claire Jukien, Israel Broussard , Katie Chang , Georgia Rock, Leslie Mann and Taissa Farmiga.

Posted in books, films & DVD, Humour, Television

Respect my authoritah!

Best known for being the co-creator of South Park along with his creative partner and best friend Trey Parker, the American actor, voice artist,animator, screenwriter, director, producer and musician, Matthew Richard “Matt” Stone wasborn May 26, 1972 in Houston, Texas, he attended Heritage High School and graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder,becoming their first student to double major in film and mathematics. Matt Stone and and his friend Trey Parker launched their largely collaborative careers in 1992, making a holiday short titled Jesus vs. Frosty. Their first success came from Alferd Packer: The Musical, subsequently distributed as Cannibal! The Musical. From there he made another short titleJesus vs. Santa, leading him and college friend Parker to create South Park, which ha been airing for over fifteen years. He has four Emmy Awards for his role in South Park, winning for oth “Outstanding Programming More Than One Hour” and “Outstanding Programming Less Than One Hour”

In 1992, Stone and Parker created the short film Jesus vs. Frosty, which included four boys, two resembling Stan Marsh and Kyle Broflovski, one called Kenny who looked likeCartman, and a fourth unnamed boy who looked like Kenny. Both Jesus and Cannibal! The Musical were made while they were students at the University of Colorado film school, studying under both Stan Brakhage and Jerry Aronson. After the duo releasedCannibal! The Musical, they were asked to make another animated short. They came down to two ideas: one a sequel to Jesus vs. Frosty, and one about a character that would later be recurring in South Park, Mr. Hankey. They chose to write about the four boys, and Stone and Parker produced 13 episodes for season 1. The video landed in the hands of Comedy Central who thought it was hilarious and South Park is currently still under contract to produce new episodes through 2016.

In 1999, Stone and Parker made South Park bigger, longer and uncut and the film’s music was nominated for an Academy Award.As of 2007, Parker is credited with directing and writing the vast majority of South Park episodes, and voicing most of the regular and guest characters, leading fans to question Stone’s involvement in the creative process. On September 25, 2013, South Park’s seventeenth season will premiere. In 1997, they also released Orgazmo and In 1998, they starred in (but did not write or direct) BASEketball, another feature film, while being renewed for a second season of South Park. In 2001, the duo announced they would do 39 shorts between the lengths of 2 and 5 minutes. Although originally thought to be South Park related, they decided they would do something different. The result was the shorts Princess. The content was so extreme that it was cancelled after two shows aired. In 2001, they also createdThat’s My Bush!, another television series, which was cancelled after one season. In 2004, they made a film, titled Team America: World Police.(I’m so ronery:)

Stone is also a member of the band DVDA with Parker, for which he plays bass and drums. DVDA’s songs have appeared in many of the duo’s productions, including Orgazmo, BASEketball, South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, and Team America: World Police.On January 14, 2013, Stone and Parker announced that they would be starting a film production company called Important Studios. Inspired by the production work of Lucasfilm and DreamWorks,

Posted in music, Television

Lenny Kravitz

American singer-songwriter,multi-instrumentalist, record producer, actor and arranger Lenny Kravitz was born May 26, 1964. Kravitz began banging on pots and pans in the kitchen, playing them as drums at the age of three. At the age of five, he wanted to be a musician. He began playing the drums and soon added guitar. Kravitz grew up listening to the music his parents listened to: R&B, jazz,classical, opera, gospel, and blues. “My parents were very supportive of the fact that I loved music early on, and they took me to a lot of shows,” Kravitz said.[8] Around the age of seven, he saw The Jackson 5 perform at Madison Square Garden, which became his favorite group.His father, who was also a jazz promoter, was friends with Duke Ellington, Sarah Vaughan, Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, Bobby Short, Miles Davis and other jazz greats. Ellington even played “Happy Birthday” for him one year when he was about 5.He was exposed to the soul music of Motown, Stax, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Al Green, Stevie Wonder, Curtis Mayfield,Gladys Knight, The Isley Brothers and Gamble and Huff growing up who were key influences on his musical style. Kravitz often went to see New York theater, where his mother worked. His mother encouraged his dreams of pursuing music.In 1974, the Kravitz family relocated to Los Angeles when Kravitz’s mother landed her role on The Jeffersons. At his mother’s urging, Kravitz joined the California Boys Choir for three years, where he performed a classical repertoire, and sang with the Metropolitan Opera. He took part in Mahler’s Third Symphony at the Hollywood Bowl. It was in Los Angeles that Kravitz was first introduced to rock music, listening to Led Zeppelin, Kiss, Aerosmith, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, Cream, and The Who.”I was attracted to the cool style, the girls, the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle,” Kravitz said. Kravitz’s other musical influences at the time included Fela Kuti, Bill Withers, Marvin Gaye,Pharoah Sanders and Miles Davis; John Lennon and Bob Marley proved later to be influential as well.Kravitz attended Beverly Hills High School. Maria McKee, actor Nicolas Cage and musician Slash were his classmates. In 1978, Kravitz was accepted into the school’s well-respected music program. He taught himself to play piano and bass, and made friends with Zoro who would later become his long-time collaborator.

Kravitz wanted to be a session musician. He also appeared as an actor in television commercials during this time.With record labels still telling him his music wasn’t “black enough” or “white enough,” His “retro” style incorporates elements of rock, soul, R&B, funk, reggae, hard rock, psychedelic, folk and ballads. In addition to singing lead and backing vocals, Kravitz often played all the guitar, bass, drums, keyboards and percussion himself when recording. So Kravitz decided to record an album on his own. Kravitz had met recording engineer/keyboardist/bassist Henry Hirsch in 1985 when recording a demo at his Hoboken, New Jerseyrecording studio. Kravitz released his début album Let Love Rule on September 6, 1989, a combination of rock and funk with a general 1960s vibe. Music critics were mixed: some felt Kravitz was a gifted new artist, others felt he was overpowered by his musical influences. The album was a moderate success in the United States, but became an instant hit outside of the US, especially in Europe. Lisa Bonet directed the debut music video for the title track, “Let Love Rule.” Stephen Smith signed Kravitz with talent booking agency CAA, who soon were fielding offers for Kravitz, first on a club tour, and then in opening slots for Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Bob Dylan and David Bowie.Kravitz also produced the song “Justify My Love” for Madonna, which he co-wrote with Ingrid Chavez. The song, which appeared on her greatest hits album The Immaculate Collection. .In 1991, Kravitz produced the self-titled album Vanessa Paradis for French singer and actress Vanessa Paradis. He also released his second album, Mama Said, which included Kravitz’s biggest single yet, “It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over,”and the single “Always on the Run,” a tribute to his mother, featured Slash on guitar. “Stand By My Woman” and “What Goes Around Comes Around” followed.Sean Lennon co-wrote and played piano on the song “All I Ever Wanted”

In 1995, Lenny Kravitz released the album Circus, which went to number 10 on the Billboard chart on the back of his past achievement. However, the album only had two hit singles: “Rock and Roll Is Dead” and “Can’t Get You Off My Mind.”With 5 (1998), Kravitz embraced digital technology such as Pro Tools and samplers for the first time. 5 introduced his music to an even wider audience thanks to the hit single “Fly Away” being featured prominently in both car manufacturer and airline commercials. 5would reach number 28 on the Billboard 200, with “Fly Away” reaching number 12 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 1 in the United Kingdom. He would win the first of his four consecutive Grammy for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance at the Grammy Awards of 1999. Other hits from the album included “If You Can’t Say No”, that was also remixed by dance producer Brian Transeau, and “I Belong to You.” For the I Belong to You video Lenny can be seen without his signature dreadlocks. In 1999 he produced and sang with Cree Summer on her solo album Street Faerie.Kravitz worked on two songs for Michael Jackson’s Invincible album released in 2001; a snippet of “Another Day” has leaked, and the full version was officially released on the album Michael in 2010 .[14]Kravitz released a Greatest Hits album in 2000. It proved to be his most successful album, reaching #2 on the Billboard 200 and selling nearly 11 million copies worldwide and ultimately becoming one of the most commercially successful albums of the decade. The single “Again” earned him his third consecutive Grammy for the Best Male Rock Vocal in the Grammy Awards of 2001 and peaked at number 4 on the US Billboard Hot 100. Kravitz also co-wrote the song “God Gave Me Everything” with Mick Jagger in this period, appearing on Jagger’s 2001 solo album Goddess in the Doorway and in the film Being Mick.

On 2001, Kravitz released his sixth album Lenny and participated in a benefit auction for the Red Hot Organization, in conjunction with Amazon.com to increase public AIDS awareness, which ran from February 28 until April 11, 2001. The event featured rare RHO memorabilia and the work of Rolling Stone photographer Mark Seliger.In 1993, Kravitz wrote “Line Up” for Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler, and appeared on Mick Jagger’s solo album, Wandering Spirit, in a cover of the Bill Withers soul classic “Use Me”, and played guitar on the title track of David Bowie’s The Buddha of Suburbia. That year Kravitz also got to work with idols Al Green and Curtis Mayfield.In 1993, Are You Gonna Go My Way was released, reaching number 12 on the Billboard 200 and Kravitz earned a BRIT Award for best international male artist in 1994. The title track won a MTV Video Music Award for Best Male Video for the video produced by Mark Romanek, in which Kravitz slung his dreadlocks and wore high-heeled platform boots. During the presentation of the MTV Video Music Awards, he performed the song with John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin on bass. Several singles from the album would follow including, “Believe,” “Is There Any Love In Your Heart,” and “Heaven Help/Spinning Around Over You.” This album was the first to feature guitaristCraig Ross, who has also played on all his subsequent albums.[13] One song, “Eleutheria,” was influenced by the island Eleuthera in The Bahamas where Kravitz built a house and recording studio at that time.[10] In 1993, he also released the EP Spinning Around Over You, which included four live tracks from his “Universal Love Tour”. A feature documentary about his 1994 tour entitled Alive From Planet Earth was directed by Doug Nichol and released.In 1994, Kravitz recorded a funk-rock version of the song “Deuce,” for the KISS cover album KISS My Ass: Classic KISS Regrooved. The track featured Stevie Wonder on harmonica and background vocals. This song was one of three radio singles from the album, and was also the album’s lead-off track.

Kravitz’s seventh album Baptism was released in May 2004. The first single was “Where Are We Runnin’?”. The single “California” failed to be commercially successful, but “Storm”, featuring Jay-Z, reached the charts. “Calling All Angels” was successful in various countries and a huge hit in Brazil, however it was “Lady” that became the album’s surprise hit, making the US Top 30 and propellingBaptism to gold status. Also in 2004, he appeared on N.E.R.D’s album Fly or Die. From March 2005, Kravitz toured all over the world with the tour Electric Church, which ended at the Brixton Academy, London in July 2005. Kravitz served as the opening act forAerosmith who are long term friends of Kravitz on their fall 2005 tour. The tour began on October 30 at the Mohegan Sun Arena inUncasville, Connecticut. The night before that tour started, October 29, 2005, Lenny’s father TV Producer Sy Kravitz died. During that first show, Lenny broke the news to the stunned crowd and stated it was not a time to be sad but rather a time to celebrate because he is now in Heaven. Lenny then dedicated Let Love Rule to his father. That tour was so successful that it was extended through February 25, 2006 and ended in Anaheim, California. In January 2006, Kravitz contributed “Breathe” to absoluttracks, a project sponsored by Absolut Vodka.Lately, Kravitz has founded a design firm named Kravitz Design, stating if he hadn’t been a musician he would have been a designer. Kravitz Design, focused on interior and furniture design, has designed residential spaces, as well as a chandelier for the crystal company Swarovski, named “Casino Royale”. In 2007, Kravitz performed at the Brazilian leg of Live Earth in Rio de Janeiro,[16] making him one of three major international rock stars to perform two huge free concerts at the world-famous Copacabana Beach along with Macy Gray and the Rolling Stones. Also in 2007, Kravitz released a version of “Cold Turkey” by John Lennon on the charity CD Instant Karma: The Amnesty International Campaign to Save Darfur. Kravitz also spent time recording his latest album, It Is Time for a Love Revolution, released February 5, 2008. He also performed on the 2007, the Fats Domino tribute album “Goin’ Home ; A Tribute To Fats Domino”  on the song “Whole Lotta Lovin'” along with Rebirth Brass Band, Troy “Trombone Shorty” On July 15, 2008, Lenny was honored in Milan, Italy with the key to the city in a special toast ceremony for his work with the United Nations Millennium Campaign to end world poverty. Kravitz’ next album, tentatively titled Funk, was tentatively re-titled Negrophilia Featuring the songs “”Stand”, “Super Love” “Come on Get It” and “Life Ain’t Never Been Better Than It Is Now” Eventually the album was later named Black and White America. On May 23, 2011, Lionsgate announced that Kravitz would be joining the cast and crew of The Hunger Games, as Katniss’ creative stylist, Cinna.

Kravitz has won many awards including the Grammy Award for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance four years in a row from 1999 to 2002, breaking the record for most wins in that category as well as setting the record for most consecutive wins in one category by a male. He has been nominated for and won other awards, including American Music Awards, MTV Video Music Awards, Radio Music Awards, BRIT Awards and Blockbuster Entertainment Awards. On December 1, 2011, Kravitz was made an Officer of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. He plays the role of Cinna in The Hunger Games film series.Kravitz was honored with one of the highest cultural awards in France when he was made an Officer of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by French cultural minister Frederic Mitterrand in Paris.