Aug 182016
GazaIsraelBigRide (5)

The Big Ride has set out to draw attention to the 547 children verified as killed during the Israeli bombardment of Gaza in 2014.

With thanks to Greg Challis, The Big Ride.

Hundreds of cyclists and their supporters who blockaded a Midlands factory in protest at its sale of drones used by the Israeli military have vowed: “We’ll be back.”
The Big Ride for Palestine staged four feeder rides from London, Bristol, Manchester and Sheffield which converged on Birmingham for a festival in Sparkhill Park.

The peloton then moved off en masse to a rally at the factory gates of UAV engines, in Shenstone near Lichfield.

UAV is part of the Elbit group and has been the target of repeated protests by activists, appalled at the way drones have been used against Palestinian civilians.

The Big Ride has set out to draw attention to the 547 children verified as killed during the Israeli bombardment of Gaza in 2014.

Protesters pinned photographs of child victims on the fence surrounding the factory and, during a two hour peaceful action,heard first hand testimony from a Palestinian doctor working with children in Gaza.

The event also created a minor internet sensation with ten of thousands of views of a video posted by the Friends of Al Aqsa group and You Tube footage of Tom from Manchester performing his rap composition, There’s Nothing new about the News.

Dr Mona El Farra, who lost nine members of her extended family in 2014, told the crowd:

“With your support and solidarity, we are helping some of the thousands of children who are traumatised by the loss of the families, their homes, their schools. Even though Gaza has been reduced to rubble in places with the support of arms manufacturers like Elbit, who own UAV, we are doing everything we can to rebuild lives.

“The children are all our futures, and they are so brave, but I can’t tell you how damaged they are. They have to learn how to play again, to be children. This is nothing more than collective punishment of the Palestinian people by the Israel and we say that it is a war crime.”

The Big Ride drew support from MPs, MEPs, trade unions and celebrities, including film director Ken Loach and campaign and charity groups including War on Want and Campaign Against the Arms Trade. They have set a target of £20,770 to help the Middle Eastern Children’s Alliance, which funds projects on the ground in Gaza.

Activists are now meeting with other grass roots groups to step up their campaign against UAV and the Government supported arms trade with Israel.

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May 162016

Sea [is still] Around Us 01 higher res

The Sea [is still] Around Us.

With thanks to John Morrison.

As director of The Obituary Project, a compendium of experimental salvage ethnography that transforms a daily form of narrative, Hope Tucker reframes the passing of sites, people, communities, rituals, cultural markers, and ways of being.

Peacock Visual Arts presents selections from The Obituary Project this Wednesday, 18 May 2016, 6.30pm.

She has documented shuttered bread factories, fallen witness trees, and disappearing civil rights era landmarks; animated cyanotypes of downwinders and old instructions for making fishing nets by hand; recorded mobile phone footage of the last public phone booths in Finland; written the entire text of a video out of paper clips, a Norwegian symbol of nonviolent resistance; and retraced the path of protest that closed the only nuclear power plant in Austria.

Screening programme:

Missing in the Severe Clear
USA, 2001 / 4 minutes/ sound
‘Severe clear’ is aviation slang for clear, crisp, blue skies with boundless visibility.

Vermont says goodbye to Solzhenitsyn
USA, 2012/ 4 minutes/ surveillance video/ Russian with English titles
The Russian writer spent twenty years in exile in a remote American village. This pixelation, part one of a
diptych, was shot on the anniversary of his death.

Lolo Ferrari
USA, 2001 / 2 minutes/ corrupted sound file
An obituary whittles one’s social contribution down to its barest form.

Puhelinkoppi (1882-2007)
Finland, 2010/ 8 minutes/ mobile video/ Finnish with English titles
Marking a shift in the functioning of private and public space, after existing as a sidewalk staple for over a
century, the phone booth in Finland is now extinct. A Nokia camera phone documents the passing.

UK, 2005 / 5 minutes/ sound
A songwriter’s identity remains as obscure as his motives for penning a popular American holiday standard.

Bessie Cohen, Survivor of the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Fire
USA, 2000 / 3 minutes/ sound
The last ninety years of a complex life become eclipsed by an escape from a burning building.

Big Star
USA, 2003 / 3 minutes/ sound
The map-maker grew up down the street from where the car hit the tree and rode many a Big Star cart.

Handful of Dust
USA, 2013/ 9 minutes/ mono recording from 1953
Prussian blue can be used to render images and counteract radiation poisoning.

Vi holder sammen/ We hold together
Norway, 2011 / 4 minutes/ Norwegian with English titles
A typeface formed by hand from paper clips spells out an imperfect construction of a national history as it
visualizes a period of nonviolent resistance.

The Sea [is still] Around Us
USA, 2012/ 4 minutes/ sound
Rachel Carson is dead, but the sea is still around us…this small lake is a sad reminder of what is taking
place all over the land, from carelessness, shortsightedness, and arrogance. It is our pool of shame in this,
’our particular instant of time.’ E.B. White, 1964

About the artist

Hope Tucker transforms what we know as a daily form of terse, text-driven, populist narrative through The Obituary Project, a compendium of moving image that gives new life to the antiquated documentary practice of salvage ethnography.

She has animated cyanotypes of downwinders and instructions for making fishing nets by hand; photographed shuttered bread factories, fallen witness trees, and decaying civil rights era landmarks; recorded mobile phone footage of the last public phone booths of Finland; written the text of a video out of paper clips, a Norwegian symbol of solidarity and nonviolent resistance; and retraced the path of protest that closed the only nuclear power plant in Austria.

Works from the project have screened in festivals, museums, and galleries including 21er Haus, Vienna; Ann Arbor Film Festival; Cairo Video Festival; European Media Art Festival, Osnabrück; Images Festival, Toronto; International Film Festival, Rotterdam; Museo Nazionale del Cinema, Torino; New York Film Festival; Punto de Vista, Pamplona; Vox Populi, Philadelphia; Wexner Center for the Arts, Ohio; Whitechapel Gallery, London; Zagreb Dox.

* Downwinders refers to the individuals and communities in the intermountain area between the Cascade and Rocky Mountain ranges who are exposed to radioactive contamination or nuclear fallout from atmospheric or underground nuclear weapons testing, and nuclear accidents.

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May 132016

Aberdeen Voice has been talking to young Scottish Actor Declan Michael Laird since AV began. We’ve charted his progress from River City to The Stella Adler Academy of Acting through to commercials, castings, forthcoming TV series (watch this space). Today we’re talking to him about a charity – more of a movement really – that is helping thousands of homeless people across the world.

The centre of the action this year will be Glasgow. Declan talks with Suzanne Kelly.

Declan Laird 12Declan’s just come from a commercial casting call; we’ll see how it goes. I can’t say what it’s for, but I will say he’s worth it. There never seem to be as many good news stories as there are bad, and talking to a young talented man who remains down to earth despite growing fame makes a pleasant change. To be talking to him about a worthwhile cause he’s giving his time to is a genuine pleasure.

Aside from his acting career which is really taking off (more on that soon), he is about to make a documentary which he’ll produce.

We talk football first, as we’ve done in the past. Where else to start than the fairy-tale ending to this year’s Premiership and Leicester? He’s full of enthusiasm.

DM – “Oh my god, oh my god, it was insane. It is so inspiring – it’s so great. It just shows the power of self-belief. If you had told those guys they’d win at the start of the season, they wouldn’t have believed you. What were those guys at the start of the season 5,000 to one or something?

“I read the letter ‘we do not dream’ by Claudio Ranieri where he talks about the boards saying to him at the start of the season ‘this is a huge season for us; we must stay in the premier league; we must score’ – what mad management skills that must have taken to keep the players motivated and to keep them from not losing the belief we can do this.”

I suggest that if you’re really hungry for something like winning the Premiership, then it’s probably easier to fight than if you’re comfortably earning £50,000 a week.

DM – “The likelihood is that they will not defend the title, but those guys will forever have that story to tell their kids and grandkids.”

I tell Laird it reaffirmed my faith that it doesn’t always have to be about who has the bigger chequebook – me and several million other people.

Declan sent me the Homeless world cup video – it is incredible.

DM – “It’s a documentary I’m producing called ‘Playing for Change’. It’s been my project for the last two and a half years. There are three things I’m very passionate about – acting and entertainment is one; the second thing is football, and the third thing is that I’m a great mental health and homelessness advocate.

“I’m a great believer that we should not be stigmatising people with addiction and mental health problems; instead we should be asking why they are not being helped. We should not be criminalising these people, but helping them get out of their addiction so they never have to become homeless. There is a big stigma – if people meet homeless people living on the street, they think they are better than them. 

homeless pic 2“The homeless are there through no fault of their own: they have to deal with issues that no one helps them with or they’ve been too ashamed to ask for help with.

“There are two sides of this mental health problem. It’s not spoken about enough because it’s not a scar on the outside you can see like an injury – if it’s inside and people can’t see it, and people don’t want to talk about it. In US people do talk about it – but they just throw medication at people.

“Talking about it in conversation can really help.”

I find myself wishing more people my age felt like Declan does. In my experience the homeless come from abusive family lives and have nowhere to go. They can be people who lost their money and homes after break ups.

They can be ex-service people who received absolutely no support or counselling on their return to the UK. They can be refugees fleeing brutal governments, bombing, and starvation. They can be people with existing physical and mental health problems: in my experience whatever has led to them being on the street either exacerbates or creates emotional and mental health problems – all of which should be wholly avoidable in any kind of compassionate, decent society.

Then Laird says something that for me hits a crucial nail on the head:

DM – “The younger generation are talking about it, but there is still a shame associated with depression or anxiety they don’t want to come forward about it because they think it is a sign of weakness. I personally feel it is a sign of strength – because you’re maybe just more sensitive. 

“A lot of actors, musicians, artists end up with maybe addiction or mental health problems and the public goes ‘oh it’s just another actor who’s died of an addiction or overdose’ and I think it’s because they are more sensitive – worse, people around them are not always interested in helping them.

“For the last year and a half because of my passion I go down to the homeless shelters maybe about once a month. I also do drama therapy at institutions and mental health clinics to promote mental health. We deal with people with schizophrenia and conditions like that and drama therapy and acting classes help.

“It’s amazing Suzanne – as an example there’s a guy with Tourette’s – normally he’s shouting and bawling, then apologizing, then shouting and apologizing some more. But when you give him a scene to do, he’s imagining himself to be someone else and his Tourette’s just disappears. It’s astonishing. It’s an outlet for whatever they’re feeling inside. 

“Through acting they can express their issues in scenes; if they feel angry, they can act out that anger; if they feel fear, they can act out their fear.”

We talk about the therapeutic values of art, music and drama for people with these issues. Declan continues:

DM – “I met Street Soccer Scotland’s David Duke who runs Street Soccer Scotland and I got involved. David’s story was that 10 years ago he was 23, and homeless in Glasgow. In a Bellshill hostel he saw a flyer ‘Represent your country in the Homeless World Cup’ and he responded. This initiative was started by a guy named Mel Young, the founder of The Big Issue. 

“David went to the trials  – which were at the time pretty makeshift – it was the first year and they didn’t really know what they were doing. He managed to get through the local trials (they were just guys then but there is a women’s team now too) and his team managed to get to Edinburgh.

“David was made captain of the team and got his side to Copenhagen and they won. When they came back, it really inspired him and he decided to change his life – he had an epiphany and decided he could really change his life. If he could have that epiphany, then why couldn’t other people? So he started the charity Street Soccer Scotland.

“David’s basically devoted every single day to going around Scotland and the whole UK getting people off the streets and getting their confidence back through football. They get the jobs and housing — but only if they are putting in the hours of volunteer work for the charity first.

“I started meeting the players, spending time with them, having lunch with David – and with refugees. He works with a lot of refugees, but also 10 years on they have many women too. They mentor Street Soccer USA, Street Soccer England, India, Sweden. Sir Alex Ferguson is one of their ambassadors.

“So whenever I travel back, I make a point of going to meet them, and when I was back at Christmas, my brother Stefan and I – Stefan’s a coach from Aberdeen FC – we took a training session for the team and we took them to lunch – to Tony Macaroni’s that was on the 23rd December. We sat and spent the day, and just had a good time.

“David told me “Declan – the Homeless World Cup’s going to be in Glasgow this year and I’m going to manage the team”. I was like ‘oh wow what a great idea for a documentary’; not just for me but to bring to life your organisation and get you the plaudits you deserve and to bring the homeless world cup to light.”

We talked for a while longer – He’s talking to a few potential outlets for this project, and the resulting documentary will undoubtedly shine a light on an initiative that will continue to help – no, actually to SAVE lives. I will save details of this and Declan’s acting career developments for a future interview.

The Homeless World Cup Tournament will start the first week in July. Volunteering and support would be welcome; further details here

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Feb 112016 thanks to Phil Moar, Account Manager, Citrus:Mix.

A series of insightful public information films which showcase the work of a number of Scotland’s leading charitable organisations is set to be shown in an Aberdeen shopping centre.

DFP Television is to stage a community roadshow within Bon Accord & St Nicholas for seven days, starting from Monday, February 22. A total of seven films will be shown within the Bon Accord mall with an aim of raising awareness to the north-east of their subject matter.

The work of St Andrew’s Children’s Society, Scottish Safety Camera Programme, NHS Grampian, Victim Support Scotland, Aberdeen Housing Partnership/Moray Housing Partnership, Home Energy Scotland and Guide Dogs will all fall under the spotlight.

In addition to the films, the DFP team and representatives from the organisations taking part will be available throughout the week to offer help and advice alongside handing out various information packs to those who require it.

Craig Stevenson, centre manager at Bon Accord & St Nicholas, is delighted to welcome the roadshow to the Bon Accord mall.

He said:

“We’re looking forward to welcoming both DFP Television and representatives from the organisations to the Bon Accord mall for what is sure to be a range of informative and insightful short films on some of the country’s most-loved organisations.

“At Bon Accord & St Nicholas, we are always looking at ways of adding to a shopper’s own experience and I’m sure the various subjects included in the films will strike a chord with many of our visitors. If we can help direct people to the correct support that they may require then we would be delighted to do so.”

Bon Accord & St Nicholas are at the heart of Aberdeen city centre’s retail sector, offering 840,000 sq ft of prime space and home to around 100 stores. Scotland’s largest Next, Aberdeen’s only Topshop and Topman standalone store as well as the City’s largest New Look and River Island are among the key retailers.

The centres, which attract an average of 275,000 visitors a week, are owned by BMO Real Estate Partners and managed by specialist retail agency Savills. For further on the centres visit

Picture Credit: “Inside the Bon Accord centre – – 1241608” by Stanley Howe. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Commons 

Jan 212016

Boxing drama Creed continues the Rocky series as its seventh instalment, both a sequel and spinoff.  Aberdeen Voice’s Andrew Watson was there the day of its UK release.


Michael B. Jordan plays ‘juvenile tearaway’, Adonis Johnson.

There were maybe just over a dozen people at Cineworld at Queens Links during the Friday midmorning showing; which would be about right, given it was a weekday and many would’ve been
It borrows a lot from the preceding films in the series, but the repetition is slightly more artistic symmetry than aping years gone by and merely being lazy. It’s not entirely a masterpiece, though.

Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan) is a tearaway in juvenile hall, who happens to be the lovechild of deceased boxing legend, one of Rocky Balboa’s fiercest rivals and closest friends, Apollo Creed.

Creed’s widow takes him under her wing, and the boy becomes a man that feels as if something in his life is missing.

Partly inspired by his father’s success in the ring, he goes to seek out Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) as the trainer to propel him into the boxing limelight and title glory.

Antagonist-wise there’s real-life boxer and Liverpudlian Tony Bellew, who serves as Creed’s English opposition, Ricky Conlan.

Between training montages and the like, Tessa Thompson serves as Creed’s love interest, Bianca.

There aren’t many of the original characters reprised in this film, and many maybe crestfallen than it’s not just Adrian who isn’t on the go anymore.

Positives of the film include the soundtrack, though much of it in that sense are reprises from previous films. There’s no denying, however, that chill as you hear the tolling of the bell; that the real training has begun. Or the pounding of the drums as he races up that stairwell.

Negatives, though, centre around Adonis. For someone who’s meant to be the blood of Apollo, he appears to have little of the charisma which gave his father such stage presence. To be out acted by a full-time boxer in Bellew, who plays a good villain in the piece, is daresay not very flattering.

Something else, which has carried on from Rocky Balboa, is the believability of the film. Now, this isn’t concerning the much derided fight scenes of the first five in the series. That aspect has definitely caught up with the times, and is far more based in realism than it used to be.

This more concerns how protagonist and antagonist weigh in against eachother. In Rocky Balboa, Rocky squares up to a comparatively rake-like Mason Dixon and so doesn’t look to be in the same weight division.

The same applies when muscular Adonis faces off with Ricky Conlan, though funnily enough the latter is indeed, as in the film, a light heavyweight in real life. Perhaps they elected for how good an actor was for the part, than any issues that may arise concerning body presentation.

All in all, it manages to come to a reasonable enough conclusion to encourage the viewer to stick around for the rumoured parts two and three of a spinoff trilogy. The parallels between this first Creed film and the original Rocky debut are definitely by design, and not accident.

Dec 172015

The American epic space opera Star Wars began again with its seventh instalment, The Force Awakens. Aberdeen Voice’s Andrew Watson was there the day of its general release.

vuepicsqThere were maybe just over a dozen people at Vue on Shiprow during the Thursday midmorning showing; which would be about right, given there were midnight and crack of dawn showings preceding it.
Generally speaking, with films of this nature, and magnitude, it can go one of two ways. This being faithful to the originals; or overcompensating lack of good storytelling with supreme focus upon special effects, fight sequences and otherworldly landscapes.

This however, seems to straddle the two. It’s not mind blowing; yet not too bad, either.

Basically, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) has gone missing, and the Resistance (what used to be the Rebel Alliance) are seeking him out for help against the odious First Order (what used to be the Galactic Empire). The latter has all but one of the fragments of data detailing his location, and the good guys have that one last piece of vital information.

So far, so good. This is the kind of solid underdog tale that the series has so successfully relied upon since its debut in 1977.

Though the best of the original characters are reprised with the same actors and actresses as before; the two or three main protagonists of the film aren’t so long in the tooth.

You’ve got Daisy Ridley as Rey, who’s basically this generation’s Luke Skywalker in the female form. She’s a scavenger and quite self-sufficient. There’s also rogue Stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega) who’s integral to the Resistance standing a chance of defeating the First Order.

On top of all that, Oscar Isaac plays ace pilot Poe Dameron with all the attributes of a non-greying Han Solo. Everyone else in the film more or less plays a supporting role to these three, including Harrison Ford (the aforementioned Han Solo) and Carrie Fisher (General Leia Organa).

Antagonist wise, there’s the triumvirate of Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) and General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson). This could also be read as the Darth Vader, Emperor Palpatine and Governor Tarkin equivalent of the film.

Come the end of the film, there are a couple of surprises. There’s yet another father and son divide, and someone of stellar importance to the series dies. The former might anger people. The latter, however, could definitely be very contentious among Star Wars fans.

All in all, it manages to come to a reasonable enough conclusion to stand by itself without the remaining two sequels. On the other hand, enough happens and enough is left unresolved to urge the viewer to watch the next instalment.

Nov 122015
A young musician plays an instrument made from recycled garbage, in Landfill Harmonic.

A young musician plays an instrument made from recycled garbage, in Landfill Harmonic.

With thanks to Barbara Holligan.

Take One Action! will open its first ever Aberdeen Film Festival on Fri 13 November with an exclusive screening of Landfill Harmonic, the inspiring story of a youth orchestra from the slums of Paraguay whose choice of instrument – recycled garbage – blazes with hope.
The festival will close with The Price We Pay, Harold Crooks’ acclaimed new documentary about international tax avoidance, it was announced today.

Landfill Harmonic, which won the audience award at Take One Action’s film festival in Edinburgh and Glasgow this September, follows the journey of the Recycled Orchestra of Cateura, a youth music group from the slums of Paraguay who build classical instruments out of garbage from the giant landfill site that towers over their homes – a story that captured the world’s imagination and featured in Time magazine and on Fox News.

The Take One Action! Film Festival sees thousands of Scots each year experiencing cinema with a difference, actively engaging with filmmakers, activists, politicians, journalists, and other audience members to explore new ways to create a fairer, more sustainable world – and to take action themselves.

Other festival highlights include a preview of The Divide, based on Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson’s bestselling book about social inequality, The Spirit Level and The Price We Pay, which has won rave reviews in Canada.

The Price We Pay examines the dark history and shocking present-­day reality of big business tax avoidance, which has seen multinational companies depriving governments of trillions of dollars in tax revenues by harbouring profits in offshore havens – originally created by London bankers in the 1950s. As well as tackling big issues, the festival tells fascinating human stories from across the world.

Stories of Our Lives is a series of moving vignettes about LGBTI people from Kenya, while Casablanca Calling introduces us to the women leading a spiritual revolution in Morocco by becoming Muslim leaders in a country where 60% of women have never been to school – part of a national response to a series of suicide bombings in 2003.

Festival screenings will take place at Belmont Filmhouse.

A special, free screening of Ivory Tower, an examination of the rising cost of higher education will be presented at the University of Aberdeen on Thursday 12 November. Every screening at the festival is accompanied by discussions with campaigners, artists and activists. Guests include representatives from Big Noise Torry (Sistema Scotland), Aberdeen Climate Action and SHMU Radio. Audience members are encouraged to get involved in the issues raised by the films.

“We want people to feel empowered to help make the world a fairer, more sustainable place by taking practical action alongside others in Scotland,” says festival director Tamara Van Strijthem.

“This programme was put together with the direct involvement and support of a great group of Aberdeen residents. We also want to encourage audiences in Aberdeenshire and beyond to organise their own Take One Action film seasons in their own communities.”

Tickets can be booked in advance via Belmont Filmhouse (01224 343 500) Some of the films are available to view in advance of the festival. For information, and to request interviews and images, please contact Tamara Van Strijthem, Executive Director on 07876 612 334 or

You can watch trailers for festival films on our YouTube channel.


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Nov 062015

The found footage supernatural horror series Paranormal Activity has now reached its sixth and final instalment. Aberdeen Voice’s Andrew Watson reviews The Ghost Dimension, more or less a sequel to Paranormal Activity 3.

ParanormalactivityNot many people came for the Tuesday midmorning showing at Union Square’s Cineworld, the film having being released almost a fortnight ago. It perhaps serves to prove that this franchise has run its course. Though not hackneyed in the sense it shows cupboard doors flapping of their own free will, it’s largely predictable.

Having said that, the you-know-it-is-coming moments frighten because you can never totally anticipate that split second they’ll make you jolt; though that’s the case for just about every horror film, good or bad.

Plus points, however, include when the besieged protagonists explore the nature of the demonic presence they seek to be rid of.

The plot itself generally revolves around father Ryan Fleege (Chris Murray), wife Emily (Brit Shaw) and daughter Leila (Ivy George). Ryan’s brother Mike (Dan Gill) joins the family for Christmas after breaking up with his girlfriend.

Suspicions regarding the house are roused when family friend Skyler (Olivia Taylor Dudley) comes on the go. She’s somewhat of a Feng Shui expert and her comment upon its ‘energies’ validate what soon takes hold.

Whilst preparing the house for the festivities they find a box of tapes they’ve never seen before. Out of curiosity, brothers Ryan and Mike view some of them not realising that they’re family videos belonging to the previous family that lived there.

In fact, the current house is built upon the site of that very family’s house, which burnt down. The footage, which is not only weird and potentially satanic, references the current householders despite being recorded years ago; describing them in great detail.

The main debate with this is whether this girl with her eyes closed in the video is picturing the future, or is in fact viewing these viewers in some sort of spiritual plain within the present. Being honest, it seems a tad reminiscent of the girl coming out of the screen of the television in The Ring.

Leila starts acting up, though it begins innocently as what they think is her talking to an imaginary friend. It turns out that this imaginary friend seeks the young girl in a bid to take a physical form.

Things escalate to the point where they call in Father Todd (Michael Krawic), a priest. Despite being bitten by Leila during a fit of rage, he doesn’t think that she’s possessed.  He therefore elects for a cleansing, and not an exorcism.

Concern had already grown for Leila, and they’d placed a camcorder in her room in a bid to get a handle on what’s going on. During another very active night, Leila is seen via this surveillance walking through a passageway that has appeared in a crack above the headboard of her bed.

Perhaps this is the same spiritual plain within the present in those family videos, ‘the ghost dimension’.

One thing you cannot knock these films for is a lack of unhappy, and in turn conceivably realistic, endings. No psychics battling spirits of the netherworld, at least not this time round. Just feeble, mortal men and women clinging onto life; logic and reason leaving them as panic overtakes them.

Oct 292015

Spy thriller Spectre is Daniel Craig’s fourth outing as James Bond. It’s not as good as the previous Skyfall, though even that wasn’t particularly remarkable. Aberdeen Voice’s Andrew Watson watched the most expensive Bond movie yet in its second day in cinemas.

vuepicThere were just over a dozen people at Vue on Aberdeen’s Shiprow during the Tuesday morning showing, which was probably good given that most people were at work at that time of day.
Casting-wise the composition of its starring actors is interesting. Much time was spent placing the voice of main antagonist Ernst Stavro Blofeld.

Indeed Christoph Waltz is best known by many as Jamie Foxx’s sidekick in Django Unchained

He’s very soft spoken like Bond’s previous adversary, Skyfall’s Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem).

Anyway, the film primarily revolves around Bond and his main love interest Dr Madeleine Swann, played by Léa Seydoux. She’s the daughter of a man with serious links to a shadowy organisation called Spectre.

Basically Bond starts the film following the death wish of M (Judie Dench). Her assignment from beyond the grave lands him in some serious trouble. It turns out that new management at MI6 wants to steamroll the ‘00’ project, and 007’s transgression justifying this process.

He goes rogue anyway, and tracks down Swann’s father. Upon revealing his daughter’s location, someone to help Bond in M’s search for answers, he urges him to protect her before killing himself.

This is amidst the new setup of the British intelligence services, soon to turn global, warring with the old guard like the current M (Ralph Fiennes). The latter is, of course, in favour of the ‘00’ project.

When Bond seems certain to die, inextricable links are made between himself and Blofeld. The revelation concerning Bond’s childhood almost makes enduring some of the film’s less watchable moments worthwhile just for this alone. Of course, looking back it was Bond’s upbringing that made Skyfall intriguing.

However, barely a couple minutes of key dialogue within a film clocking almost two and a half hours is a lot to ask. Highbrow types maybe wouldn’t have the patience.

The fascinating detail revealed is seemingly the one of few things of substance revealed in the duration; the rest just cars, combat and explosions. The whole “Bond, James Bond” routine early on in the film in this particular outing is meant to be brooding and sexy, but just comes off as corny.

Yes, despite how more serious Bond has become in the Craig-era there are, thankfully you suppose, some lights moments; the third ‘c’, comedy.

Overall it’s typical of most Bond films that have preceded it: spy thriller slightly more intelligent than your average exploding action film. Shaking, but not too stirring.

Oct 292015

Trail to Tranquility and Trouble Again in Tranquility are to premier on 14 November at Aberdeen’s Belmont Cinema. Suzanne Kelly, who played a role in Trail to Tranquility, reports.

tranq_1Trail to Tranquility was written by and produced by Alistair Baranowski and directed by Paul Vernon.  Trouble Again in Tranquility was written by Stewart Walker. They were shot on location at the Tranquility Wild West Town in Huntly.

Located near the Glendronach Distillery in Aberdeenshire, Tranquility was begun in 2005 and is a reconstruction of a small frontier town in the old American West.

Award-winning director Paul Vernon said:

“Trail to Tranquility has been very well received at some exclusive previews, so I know you are all in for a fun treat in the old Western tradition of good guys vs bad guys.”

Also appearing on the same programme is another short western – Trouble Again In Tranquility – which is a follow-up to last year’s short Trouble In Tranquility.

Of Trail to Tranquility, Alistair Baranowski said:

“I think the making of this film has been a labour of love by everyone involved in front & behind the cameras. We were extremely lucky to have some great young & talented local actors on board helping us out. There’s plenty of action throughout the film to satisfy all western fans & there’s some fantastic cinematic work from our award winning director, Paul Vernon.”

Acctor Karl F Hiemeyer who played the US Deputy Marshal said:

“It was a lot of fun working with director Paul Vernon, Mikey Mcallen and the rest of the cast and crew for TTT.  It was a great experience for me and memories for a lifetime.  The makeup crew did a fantastic job throughout.”

Paul Vernon added:

“With some enthusiastic new talent from the south, some lively returnees from last year’s ‘Return of a Son’ and a few firm loyal favourites from the Town itself, we hit the ‘Trail To Tranquility’ running. We had two and a half days to shoot a 30 minute film – no mean feat. However with the whole team totally committed to the project, working hard and pulling in the same direction we managed to pull off a great looking film.

“With plenty of action, fist fights, gun play and plain old skullduggery this is a romping western in the good old tradition of the Wild West.”

Mikey McAllen, who plays outlaw Kelly, said:

“Working on Trail to Tranquility was something really different for me.  I really enjoyed portraying the outlaw Kelly – this is a guy who doesn’t care about anything other than himself.

“This is my first western and playing this cowboy villain was a great new experience for me.  It has now made me want to push myself more in taking on a variety of different roles for future projects.  Not only did I get to neet and work with some fantastic actors but having the chance to work with an amazing and creative director Paul Vernon as well, made it a very positive experience.  It was a big shame the production had to come to an end as I had so much fun.

“I can’t wait to see the finished piece of Trail to Tranquility.” 

Tranquility Wild West Town is open to the public only on our “Open Days” or “Round Ups”.

Ticket Hotline –  from Ally on

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