This week has been full of highlights for me, starting with the marvellous Halloween special episode of Inside No. 9. We stupidly missed watching it live which would have made it even more enjoyable but caught up with it a day later on BBC iPlayer. if you haven’t seen it, I insist you do so. I will not say any more about it here because to do so would spoil the episode, but suffice to say that it is great.

Early Man on Amazon Video is a Nick Park animation with a similar look to Wallace and Gromit. Imagine if prehistoric man played football and one team of misfits had to beat another team of professionals to win back their home. That’s the basic premise with lots of humour, brilliant stop-motion animation and great voice-acting from a range of British comedy actors. it made for good Sunday afternoon viewing in between sessions on Assassin’s Creed.

Jigsaw on Netflix is the reasonably good sequel to all those Saw films you wished you hadn’t watched. Taking some cues from the previous good films (i.e. Saw and Saw 2) guilty Americans are locked inside a game which will see them killed in a variety of gruesome ways if they don’t atone for their sins. If you can get over how the victims laughably do exactly what their told by Jigsaw and don’t bother to try to break out of their environment, the fact that at least one of the traps would not actually be fatal if they just reacted in a logical way and the immense amount of forward planning and predication involved for the killer to make it all go to plan, then it’s an okay film. But it did rather smack of yet another money-grab from the studio and it’s no surprise that the ending could lead to yet another bloody sequel.

I, Tonya on Amazon Video is a biopic of disgraced American Olympic figure skater Tonya Harding starring Margot Robbie in the lead role. It’s filmed in a kooky style with lots of fourth wall breaking and leaves you wondering who to believe. The special effects if you take a step back to think about them are amazing. Two pro skaters were used to double for Robbie for the tricky manoeuvres like pulling off a triple-axel (something only very few skaters can actually pull off properly) and there’s some clever facial replacement going on. Filming the big moves in slow motion adds to the need for great effects and whoever did them really pulled it out of the bag.

Bohemian Rhapsody is another biopic and highlight number two. In UK cinemas now, it stars Mr Robot’s Rami Malek and was well directed by Bryan Singer (X-Men). Malek is great as Freddie Mercury and so too are all the actors playing the Queen band members, but the star of the show is the music. Brian May and Roger Taylor have done a good job of choosing the right tune for the right scene and we are treated to pretty much the complete set they played at Live Aid as the story starts at the very beginning with a Smile gig and ends on a high with their highly-rated charity performance. I understand the idea of ending on a high, but in hindsight felt that telling the story all the way to Mercury’s death might have made for a more rounded biopic.

I was rather skeptical about how they would cover the seedier side of the band’s lives and the film rather predictably centres on Mercury and his awakening as a gay man. It doesn’t blatantly portray his debauchery or that of other band members but does enough to paint a picture without using too much gloss. However towards the end of the film I did feel that it rather overplayed the impact of their LiveAid gig on viewers, the timing of Freddie telling the rest of the band about his illness was wrong and I realised that there had been no mention whatsoever of the Sun City debacle the band got embroiled in.

There was so much story to potentially include that obviously the screenwriters had to make some choices in the same way some of the band’s greatest songs were left out. But the film did a great job of showing the tragedy of Mercury’s story, the attention to detail in the costume and sets shone through and I had to laugh when Mike Myers (Wayne’s World) who was almost unrecognisable as EMI’s Ray Foster said that ‘No-one is going to be head-banging in the car to Bohemian Rhapsody…’

David O’Doherty – You Have to Laugh at Loughborough Town Hall is highlight number three. It was a gem of a comedy gig mixing musical comedy, with tunes played on his trademark electronic keyboard, and well-observed stand-up.  Among other shits and giggles, he talks to and disappoints his 18-year-old self in increments with each revelation about how his adult life is ‘grand’ (i.e. one level above ‘meh’), he tells the story of when he was recognised in a supermarket trying to cash-in a sports sock-full of English coins, how he overcame his fear of mice mixed with the reason the water-pressure in house was low, and another song about an inconsiderate motorbike owner.

There were some observations about life in Ireland and Brexit but told in a quirky likeable manner which was so different to say Henning Wehn. O’Doherty would have you believe that the world is going to shit (and let’s face it, most of us would agree with every example he gave) but that it’s best to laugh in the face of all this. <y only disappointment was that apart from his classic Grand Designs and Shakira related songs there was very little of his old material (that I’ve enjoyed on YouTube) in the new show. Stands to reason I guess. If I’d seen him live before I’d probably be complaining right now if there was too much of his old stuff in the show.

Here’s a clip from a gig in Australia, which gives you a flavour of how he operates:

Tom Allen – Absolutely was on at Loughborough Town Hall the night after O’Doherty and I was convinced by Siggy that it would be fun. We’ve seen him regularly on Eight Out Of Ten Cats Does Countdown and also on Bake Off – The Professionals, and I enjoy him in small doses, but what they hey, it’s not every night that acts like this come to town so in for a penny in for £16.50.

He was very funny. Siggy perhaps laughed more than I did and I preferred O’Doherty’s delivery compared to Allen’s posh shouty style but there’s no doubting the guy’s talent. It’s been a good year for comedians coming to Loughborough and he was a good act to end on. We don’t have anymore tickets for any other shows this year. So another highlight there. Here’s some of his stuff which we heard tonight almost verbatim:

I also read another book – I worked out that I’ve averaged almost a book a week this year so far (obviously some of the short reads have helped). Lee Child – Personal starts of feeling a bit like The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth – a sniper takes a shot at the French President but is thwarted by some bullet-proof glass. The shot is a really long-distance shot and there’s only a handful of people in the world that could have pulled it off. Jack Reacher is called in to help with the investigation because one of the possible snipers is a guy Reacher put away when he was an MP.

It soon becomes apparent that the suspect has it in for Reacher, taking a pot-shot at him while he’s over in Paris investigating the crime scene. Soon Reacher ends up flying into London where he gets embroiled with a couple of local gangs who may be hiding the snipers (there’s perhaps more than one involved) before a G8 conference takes place in a manor near the M25.

The observations over English life compared to American life delivered in the first-person narrative are interesting and amusing at times, Reacher is still obsessed with coffee and has a plucky young CIA woman in tow. For once he doesn’t end up in bed with her despite eyeing her up a few times and instead has to satisfy his animal instincts in a different way by beating the crap out of a variety of hapless goons and one giant of a man who you just know Reacher will figure out how to break.

It’s one of Child’s better books perhaps because of it’s first-person POV, the locations, but definitely because the plot for once feels plausible.