I don’t just watch tv. Tips for writing reviews, part 1 — Paper Beats World

If you love what we do here, please consider supporting us on Ko-fi. As some of you may know, I write reviews for a site called Haunted MTL. And yes, being a critic has always been a dream of mine. I think it’s probably a dream a lot of people have. I won’t lie, it’s […]

I don’t just watch tv. Tips for writing reviews, part 1 — Paper Beats World

Personal Writing — Paper Beats World

I have a secret. The writing that you see from me here, on Haunted MTL, and in my novels, is not everything that I write. If I were being generous, I’d say maybe half of the writing I do is ever seen by another human being.  That’s something to consider, isn’t it? I’m not exactly […]

Personal Writing — Paper Beats World

STILL CRAZY. (1998) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.

STILL CRAZY. (1998) DIRECTED BY BRIAN GIBSON. WRITTEN BY DICK CLEMENT AND IAN LE FRENAIS.

STARRING BILL NIGHY, JULIET AUBREY, HELENA BERGSTROM, BILLY CONNOLLY, JIMMY NAIL, SPEPHEN REA, TIMOTHY SPALL, BRUCE ROBINSON, HANS MATHESON, RACHEL STIRLING, PHIL DANIELS, FRANCES BARBER, AND ZOE BALL AND DONNA AIR AS THEMSELVES.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Astrid: Just give them your credit card number.

Ray, wailing: But I don’t know my credit card number…!

Astrid: It’s on your credit card, Ray…

I bloody love this film. It’s a rock-and-roll comedy spoof about a fictitious ‘Seventies rock band who get the chance to relive their glory days once more and take a second stab at their last concert, which ended badly and in a nightmare of hostility and acrimony between the band members.

An ex of mine introduced me to it in the early 2000s, one of the few truly decent things he ever did for me, the prick. When my daughter was old enough, I watched it with her, and this Christmas Eve, we introduced my teenage son (her younger brother) to it together.

He’s now as big a fan as the pair of us. We laughed, we cried, we simultaneously shouted ‘Noooooooooooo!’ when Les had to go back up on the roofs. It was like the time we first watched ‘THE FULL MONTY’ or ‘EAST IS EAST’ with him. Luvly jubbly.

Strange Fruit is the name of our fictitious rock band, who crashed and burned and died a humiliatingly public death onstage at the Wisbech rock festival in the late ‘Seventies. Even God had a hand in their downfall, and you’d think he’d prefer to be neutral in matters like rock festivals, wouldn’t you?

Anyway, twenty years later, the son of the original promoter of the Wisbech Rock Festival wants to put on an anniversary gig, with the Fruits on the bill, amongst others. It falls to Karen, the band’s Girl Friday, and Tony Costello, an original Fruit who’s now a condom salesman, to round up the rest of the band and see if they’ll agree to ‘surf the nostalgia wave’ like the other ‘70s groups are going to be doing…

Some band members will be harder to round up than others. The original singer, Keith, ‘OD’d in front of a Little Chef’ back in the day, the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle proving too strong for him. His brother Brian, guitarist and the love of Karen’s life, has disappeared and seems to be dead as well. Karen, a single mother of a daughter now and a bored tour guide, is gutted that she won’t get to reunite with the one man she’s ever really loved…

Of the living Fruit members, Bill Nighy does a superb job as Ray, the singer who took over from Keith when Keith overdosed. Still insecure and unsure of himself, he lives in an English country mansion which he urgently needs to sell because he’s flat broke.

Recovering alcoholic/drug addict Ray’s beautiful bitchy Scandinavian wife Astrid, a terrifically funny character, keeps him on the straight and narrow, away from the booze and other band members associated with his bad days.

She’s not remotely impressed to see Karen and Tony turn up at Ray’s daughter-by-his-first-wife’s wedding to ask Ray if he’ll get back with the band for the Great Wisbech Reunion of 1998…

Karen: How are Kirby, Steele and Oakes these days, Astrid…?

Astrid, confused: I never listen to their music…

Jimmy Nail is fantastic as the angry Les Wickes, the Fruit who was most upset by the band’s implosion. Married now with two kids to support and a roofing business he despises, he loves the idea of the reunion but has no time for poor, fragile and frequently wrong-footed Ray, who took over as singer from Les’s beloved but deeply flawed friend, Keith.

Can Les keep his hostility towards Ray under wraps long enough to get the reunion in the bag? Can Ray stand up to Les’s bullying, because that’s what it is? As mad-for-it Fruit’s roadie and the film’s narrator Hughie (Billy Connolly) might say, ‘we wait with bated breath…’  

Timothy Spall is hilarious as Strange Fruit’s drummer, Beano, now a plant salesman in a nursery. Still living in a caravan on his mum’s farm, he hasn’t changed a bit since the ‘Seventies. There’s been ‘zero growth,’ as Ray tells him when they’re back on the road together.

Well, one thing’s changed. He has a rather terrifying woman from the Inland Revenue chasing him across country- and across Europe- now. Beano dreads the moment she catches up with him, but I wonder if he might not enjoy the experience after all? I mean, what’s the worst she can do to him…? Snigger.

Luke is the cool young guitarist the Fruits add in to make themselves look younger and happening again, much to the delight of Clare, Karen’s teenage daughter. All they need now is their distinctive-looking tour bus, and they’re off on a tour of small European towns and villages that DO NOT make it easy for them.

It’s a baptism of fire for the band of clashing egos, big dreams and (occasionally) small minds that can either end well or go disastrously wrong. Which will it be? We wait with bated breath…

The film is warm, funny, emotional and thought-provoking, a heart-breaking study of what it means to have a second go at the old brass ring, with lines of pure comic gold included just for ha-has. Hughie: I love the smell of vomit in the morning!

There are some gorgeous flashback scenes of the band in the ‘Seventies, ‘dropping acid in the Druids’ Circle,’ and a whole soundtrack of fantastic songs were penned for use in the film. Naturally, I’ve had the soundtrack album since the 2000s, man.

As the film was written by the fellas who also did the scripts for PORRIDGE, AUF WIEDERSEHEN PET and THE LIKELY LADS, it was always going to be a truly funny, warm film with a lot of love in it, but with a bit of a kick to it as well. It’s on my Top Ten List of Favourite Films Ever, and my wish for you this Christmas is that, if you haven’t seen it already, you get to watch it in 2023.

It’s a sign; a message from the gods of rock ‘n’ roll…!

REASONS WHY WRITER’S RETREATS ARE BETTER THAN PRISON — The Writing Bug

“Everyone [attending the retreat] wanted the same thing: to be reminded of what it felt like to be pulled toward his or her work, and to be unable to resist.” ~Mark Salzman, author of The Man in the Empty Boat By Brian Kaufman I’ve talked to writers who entertain the fantasy of writing a novel […]

REASONS WHY WRITER’S RETREATS ARE BETTER THAN PRISON — The Writing Bug

Agatha Christie – Some Thoughts on Writing — thehomeplaceweb

As I mentioned in Part One, Agatha Christie did not include much about her writing in her autobiography.  There are references sprinkled here and there, and some observations, but no real advice.  It’s as if she regarded the writing to be a minor aspect of her life, necessary but not of that much importance, […]

Agatha Christie – Some Thoughts on Writing — thehomeplaceweb

I Got COVID Again. How Do My Lessons Hold Up? — Your Friendly Malaysian Writer

Don’t ask me how. Don’t ask me why. I live in a country where masks are mandated, I’m been vaccinated and boosted, and I don’t really go out other than to do the groceries, run, or walk the dog. But that doesn’t matter. I tested positive once more. Thankfully, the symptoms don’t seem as wild […]

I Got COVID Again. How Do My Lessons Hold Up? — Your Friendly Malaysian Writer

What I Do to Live an Intentional Writing Life — Veronica Bale’s Blog

Being a writer in today’s digital climate means being not only an author, but an entrepreneur and business owner as well. We authors are wearers of many hats, and most of us know what it’s like to manage our own social media profiles, create our own e-newsletter distribution lists, organize our own promotions and giveaways, […]

What I Do to Live an Intentional Writing Life — Veronica Bale’s Blog

The Teacher of Warsaw — Claire Fullerton Author

The Teacher of Warsaw by Mario Escobar Author(s):  Mario Escobar Release Date: June 7, 2022 Publisher/Imprint: Harper Muse Pages: 368 Buy on Amazon Reviewed by:  Claire Fullerton “An important, sensitive look at the triumph of the human spirit over evil, The Teacher of Warsaw is based on a true story and epitomizes the very best of poignant historical fiction.” A nostalgic […]

The Teacher of Warsaw — Claire Fullerton Author