All posts by Wayne Madden

Die Hard (1988)

“When they touch down, we’ll blow up the roof, they’ll spend a month sifting through rubble, and by the time they work out what went wrong, we’ll be sitting on a beach, earning twenty percent.”

Every year since 2014 I’ve visited The Tyneside Cinema in Newcastle to watch Die Hard at Christmas. It’s become something of an annual pilgrimage, one which I took great pride in repeating last night, despite some real changes having taken place in the previous four years. I actually ended up working at the Tyneside for a considerable period between 2014 and 2017; with me experiencing the night at other selected screenings as a member of staff.

This year also marked a change because of the newly “remastered” version of the film, leading to an increased drive in Blu Ray sales for Christmas, also meaning a fresh print of the movie in which we’re expected to be able to see a notable difference in picture and sound quality. But more on that later.

For those who don’t yet know the story, and every year seems to bring in an additional group of people who are watching this movie for the first time, Die Hard is set in Los Angeles on Christmas Eve. John McClane (Bruce Willis), a New York City cop, is visiting his estranged wife Holly at her new job. He’s hoping to take some time to reconnect with his family, and the sub current of the film – which doesn’t get explored much – is that effectively Willis is somewhat of a misogynist with a drinking problem who assumed Holly would come crawling back after a few weeks.

When Willis arrives at the party, and repeated viewings of this film will make you realise just how absurd some of the supporting dialogue in these opening scenes are, he surprises his wife just prior to the arrival of German “terrorists” led by Hans Gruber (played fantastically by the late Alan Rickman) who are ultimately working for the benefit of a third party never identified. Willis then has to fight as a “lone gunmen” against unsurmountable odds, involving the LAPD, the FBI and, ultimately, the media in his quest to continue a conversation with his wife.

The film was written adapted from the novel “Nothing Lasts Forever” and depending upon whose stories you believed, the rights are purported to have been originally owned by Frank Sinatra. Sinatra was 77 when Die Hard was filmed and was contractually obligated to have been approached for the lead role, as he’d previously stared in the novel’s original film. Another theory is that Clint Eastwood was to play his own version a few years prior, but both he, Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger turned the film down.

One of the areas in which this film succeeds so well, although doesn’t receive much praise for doing so, is its supporting cast. Notable 80s actors like Paul Gleeson, William Atherton, Robert Davi and even a cameo from comedian Rick Ducommun make this film a directory for talent; yet Willis and Rickman, who themselves remain separate to each other for almost all of the film, remain in completely different locations than those outside. Part of this is rumoured to have been done owing to exhaustion, with Willis also filming Moonlighting during the same period, meaning more scenes involving the supporting cast had to be added.

The film, originally written to have a reveal towards the end between hero and villain, only avoided achieving that goal because of antics on set. The rumour goes that Alan Rickman was practicing an American accent prior to filming. Considered so good, director John McTiernan felt it was a perfect opportunity to have the pair meet without realising who the other one was. This scene was also unrehearsed, which upon re watching is phenomenal, showing just what depth of talent they had. This was also Rickman’s first day of shooting, and the actor effectively sprained his knee making the jump at the beginning of the scene.

Rewatching this film simply reminds you of how pivotal a role can be for an actor, and certainly it changed both Bruce Willis and Alan Rickman’s careers going forward. Reginald Johnson, the actor playing Al Powell however, never truly managed to find the same footing and his cameo appearance in the films sequel has been long since forgotten.

Picture wise I saw little difference in newly remastered print, with more continuity errors spotted, such as the shadow of the stage hand who knocks over the Christmas tree towards the films climax and the issues surrounding the filming of the final scene – which I’m unsure whether was now filmed earlier in the day than the preceding scenes during which Al shoots Karl and meets McClane. At the start of the film I was incredibly impressed with the colour of the sunsets, though note one scene in which the villain’s truck can be seen driving down the freeway. This truck seems to be filmed at a completely different time of day and weather condition to the rest of the film and such remasters make the print all the more obvious.

Crucially, though, the expanded light range is never taken so far that it looks unnatural or forced. Provided you’ve got a good HDR TV, you’ll see no clipping of detail in the newly invigorated light peaks, or crushing out of detail in the newly enriched dark scenes and image areas.

The 4K Blu-ray image is also a worthwhile upgrade over the HD Blu-ray when it comes to sharpness and detail. There’s a beautiful density and granular quality to the image that just isn’t present on the HD Blu-ray. Plus, you get far more texture and minutiae in everything from clothing to facial close-ups and the Nakatomi Tower’s stark combination of stylish and sterile environments.

Die Hard remains as riveting and engaging 30 years (and many viewings) on as it did when it first exploded into cinemas in 1988. The only difference now is that it looks unprecedentedly glorious in its new 4K and HDR clothes.

Ghost – Prequelle

Do you believe in Santa Claus? Of course you do.

The fans of Ghost certainly believed in Santa Claus. And Papa Emeritus. They kept the myth alive even when others attempted to defrock the fabled front man as Tobias Forge. It didn’t seem to matter, because ultimately, Forge was creating something theatrical which people enjoyed.

All this changed in 2017 when several members of the band were named in a lawsuit which challenged Forge for withholding monies owed. This has led to no less than 10 musicians, prominently all male Swedish male musicians, stating to have (at one point or another) been a member of Ghost from 2009 to 2016. It also defrocked Forge as the groups lead vocalist (a fact previously confirmed by the Swedish Record Industry) and left the band in a somewhat state of uncertainty.

Prequelle is the groups fourth album, which sees (presumably) newer members and also the addition of a second named member – Papa Nihil – return to reclaim their throne. Whether Forge and some of his former bandmates have settled their differences is relatively unclear, and how much work previous band mates gave to the overall project is obviously a question for debate, but this new line up is certainly something of a revival. 

Put simply, Prequelle is without question the album of 2018; it’s phenomenal music radiates from start to finish to produce an album of electricity. Previous favorite like ‘Ritual’ and ‘Elizabeth’ focused on choral choirs, thundering bass and Blue Oyster Cult inspired guitar work; whereas improved production and tuning now gives the band a more macabre Queen-esque 80’s sound. 

If ‘Opus Eponymous’ was the 1970s, then the 80’s have well and truly arrived.

Of course you could argue that Ghost are ripping off things they’ve heard decades ago. The problem you’d have there, is that they’re doing it better than the original composers. ‘Dance Macabre’ and ‘See The Light’ give tinged ballads and rock licks a run for their money while instrumentals like ‘Miasma’ confirm the talent isn’t just in the vocals. The saxophone work on the latter track reminds me of Axl Rose introducing the band during ‘Move to the City’

Just stop reading this and buy the album. Now. 

“Dance Macabre,” already with 15-million Spotify streams, is the second music video and radio single from the Grammy-winning rock/pop band’s most recent album Prequelle (6/1/18 (Loma Vista Recordings /Concord Records). Simultaneously apocalyptic with catchy, contagious hooks, the song tells of how some people coped with the devastation of 14th century Europe’s Black Plague that wiped out millions – by dancing and partying and seducing until they dropped. The music video puts its own twist on the celebration of the End of Days and beyond.

Twenty-eighteen has been a good year for Ghost. “Rats,” the first single from Prequelle, held the #1 spot at Rock Radio for a record-setting nine consecutive weeks. In North America alone, “Rats” has been streamed more than 14-million times, its companion music video has racked up more than 13-million YouTube views, and Prequelle has accumulated nearly 49-million streams. Ghost recently sold out the very prestigious Royal Albert Hall in London, and Metallica just announced the band will be Special Guest on its 25-date European stadium tour next summer. Ghost will headline its two-act “A Pale Tour Named Death” Fall North American tour that starts in Dallas on October 25. The North American trek includes two headline arena shows, The Forum in Los Angeles, and New York City’s Barclays Center.

Ghost will play Twickenham Stadium, London, on June 20th 2019 as special guests to Metallica.

McBusted, Metro Radio Arena, April 2014

McBusted – The Ultimate Supergroup
Metro Radio Arena
April 28th 2014

“I’m Looking for Tom Fletcher – and a clean pair of pants!”

McBusted are, according to the PR displayed upon the Metro Radio arena site, the “ultimate super group” and consist of the merging of both Busted and McFly. Both bands have had a clear amount of success on their own but when forces are combined it leads to a nationwide arena tour in which tickets sell out in 300 seconds flat. My girlfriend has been screaming about this gig for weeks – she’s got McFly lyrics tattooed on her back – and she’s also a little bit cranky that I’ve just walked in for free!

Support tonight comes from three up and coming acts, up and coming because I’ve never heard of them before, which is a real shame as they all possess some serious talent – serious enough for me to give a considerable word count appearance to them all in my write up. Young Brando has a sound not unlike a young Pearl Jam meeting Elbow – a combination few will understand – but which nobody should ignore. E of E (featuring a Newcastle native on drums) take to the stage performing Nirvana’s “Smell’s Like Teen Spirit” quickly combined with the lyrics of Michael Jackson’s “Dirty Diana” and the track works exceptionally well.

While E of E have a logo resembling Van Halen and a sound not unlike them either its “perfect crossover rock” is followed – well, perfectly – by 3 Dudes. This band is comprised of three young men who look like they’re probably not even young enough to drink their first beer here, never mind their native South Carolina. The crowd is getting fairly anxious and the band is unfavorably jeered by most of the young women in attendance tonight as they work their way through a cover of Blur’s “Song 2”. Their set – which goes in much too fast for my liking – finishes with an absolutely blinding performance of Sweet’s 1973 anthem “Ballroom Blitz” – it’s Life On Mars all over again as I look to be the sole person in this arena who gets the joke.

A swift turnaround later and McBusted are emerging onstage – a rather ingenious intro video cues a real life De Lorean to bring two of the band members to the podium and “Air Hostess” kicks in before a literal hurricane of female emotion screams the entire building down. In fact, while I won’t claim to be a hard man by any stretch of the imagination, I will tell you that neither fans of Slayer nor Pantera really quite terrified me just as much as these adoring females here tonight. At one point – quite possibly during the track “Sleeping with the Light On” – I’m punched in the back of the head by an overly excited fan that I just “got in the way of!”

There’s a lot of gimmickry and tongue in cheek antics tonight, one of the band members mentions that both Cheryl Cole and Ant & Dec are in attendance, but neither can be confirmed – and it’s clear that by the time a full sized UFO helps the band land “in the round” to play a short portion of the set towards the back end of the arena we’re seeing probably the most well oiled production touring in the UK at the moment.

References to Tom Fletcher’s wedding speech – a video which nicely cued up “Crash the Wedding” as one band member wore a wedding dress onstage – and Russell Crowe seemed to be taken well by the band. They poked fun at each other and attacked their own opinions but the realization was that these men are, whether you like it or not, rich beyond their wildest dreams and don’t mind taking the piss out of themselves in the name of revenue.

As I left the arena that night I felt a strange sense of entertainment – “All About You” and “Year 3000” are great Pop songs, even if I abhor the genre, and while it might not be my own personal taste – you can’t deny the skill of these five men to give those in attendance one of the best performances of their lives. And then repeat that process almost 35 times over for the rest of the dates.

Guys, I salute you.

Steelwork Steps for Former Brewery

The first steelwork has been laid in place as part of an exciting new Sunderland development. A plot of land, on the site of the former Faux Brewery, has begun construction on what will be a 60,000sq ft office complex – the land purchased by Sunderland City Council in 2011.

Irene Lucas CBE, chief executive of Sunderland City Council, said: Sunderland has taken huge leaps forward in attracting innovative, high-growth businesses to the city, as well as supporting start-ups to succeed – particularly in the knowledge economy, an area in which Sunderland has achieved the second fastest rate of growth outside London. 

“Office spaces like the new facility in Vaux will provide high quality accommodation to scores of businesses that want to be part of what will be an innovative and creative community at the heart of the city centre.  It’s hugely exciting to see the site taking shape.”

Work is being carried out by Carillion, part of the Siglion joint venture between Igloo Reconstruction and the Council to develop and transform five key sites across the city. Siglion itself is a development and regeneration company which found in April 2015. It manages over 700 tenancies and plans to develop Sunderland City at the Vaux site, Seaburn and Chapelgarth then Farringdon Row and Numbers Garth.

John Seager, chief executive of Siglion, said: “The Vaux site is such a focal point for Sunderland and its position as one of the main entrance points of the city centre is hugely important for those visiting.

“It’s fantastic to see the building begin to take shape and see this important location transformed into a development that reflects the modern and dynamic city that Sunderland is. The Vaux development, when it is completed, will be a space that will create new jobs, workplaces and original communities.  It’s a huge step forward and we hope that the second phase will follow soon after the first building.”

Designed by Architects Field Clegg Bradley Studios it is expected to stand five stories high, giving much needed office space to clients, as well as an open plan area accommodating a bar, café and restaurant with views overlooking River Wear and Wearmouth Bridge. It is expected that this site will be a flagship space in Sunderland’s current rejuvenation. The building is due to be completed in June 2018.

Eddie Tribe, Carillion’s project director said: “It’s great to start work on this iconic site. Our work will create jobs and opportunities for local businesses. We have agreed a target to achieve 60 per cent of spend with local suppliers and aim to employ 16 apprentices throughout the construction programme, with further opportunities within our supply chain for employment for local people.

Carpe Diem

I live to write. I love to write as well. I’m writing a story right now. Descriptive narrative has always been something I’ve excelled at, and if they had done a full module in creative English when I was at school there might have been a chance I’d have gotten at least one A in my final exams. But with great power, comes great responsibility, and I always felt that I needed to play to my strengths. I’ve spoken before about the first story I ever wrote – it was a news piece about the Stena Sealink, which had crashed into a wall docking in a Dublin port – and I had to edit the piece as reported by RTE online to a nice little script for my newsreader.

When I worked with Wave 102 in Dundee back in 2009, I got plenty of experience with writing news stories and creating articles for broadcast, and then I’d be the person reading them out during the broadcast. I always remember how weird it was to go for a walk around Dundee Town Centre and hear my voice reading the news on a loudspeaker in the local shopping centre. We pre-recorded the last four bulletins of the day on a weekend, so I’d recorded the first 8/10 live and then do the final 4 before I left for the evening.

December 2018 commemorates my tenth anniversary of getting a job at Talk107. As a Producer for a major Edinburgh radio station it remains one of my firm career highlights and allowed me to look after things like the Drive Time show and create content and features like I’d dreamed of since I was 15. Of course, I was closer to 15 at the time than I am now, and I’m still dreaming. Still writing articles and creating words and being as descriptive as I can with this narrative – perhaps to pull on your heartstrings this festive season?

My first Journalism lecturer was named Tom Clarke. He gave me some interesting advice, on my very first day as a Professional Journalist, when he told me that if I didn’t consider myself a Journalist from this moment on I would never be one. And he was right, because this was before the age of YouTube and Video Journalism, where every person with a camera can claim to be a reporter. Oddly enough, that used to annoy me, but then I realised that just because you give somebody a football doesn’t mean they know how to play soccer. And even when they learn to kick a ball and score a goal, does it mean they can make the first team?

What I mean by this is that Journalism, from my perspective, is a skill. There’s an ability to be able to create something and a talent or a flair that is inhalable. I don’t necessarily agree that you have to pay to go to University to obtain something like this, but I do agree that you’ll soon discover whether you have it or not, and your voice and your presence will carry you. I think another talent for Journalism is investigation – the ability to hunt and find what you need – to ask questions others would naturally shy away from or just to be the person who has the self-belief, self-determination, courage, respect or whatever to put their hand up and challenge.

The same lecturer also told me that you shouldn’t accept gifts from bands, that you need to avoid writing in the first person and that you should diversify as much as possible. And I don’t think I’ve been able to keep a single one of those rules. The difference between my skills in Journalism and those of, say, a solicitor; the lawyer doesn’t give legal advice for free. Rarely have I met a comedian who doesn’t inform me that when somebody learns what they do, there’s an expectation they’ll tell them a joke. Imagine meeting someone at a dinner party who informs you they’re a cleaner – would you immediately ask them to empty your bins?

At one point in my career I stopped being creative. I stopped presenting my radio show, stopped writing articles like these, stopped taking photographs and posting them online. I even hesitated to make Facebook posts longer than four syllables. I did this because a friend, who is also a Journalist, told me he wouldn’t take a commission for work unless it was paid. He’s still waiting. I became incensed at the idea that everybody wants this work for free, that I couldn’t earn a living doing what I loved because I was selling myself short. From what I know, most of the people I studied Journalism with in University went on to study other subjects – a majority of them retrained and entered medicine. They look back at their Journalism time as the naïve folly of youth, as if I’m approaching being that guy you notice in your record store. The dude with the ponytail whose greatest moment was aged 23.

But that’s not where my story ends.

Because I realised that if I enjoy doing something, monetary value (although important), should not be the deciding factor. I know filmmakers who are hesitant to create new projects because they simply can’t afford it. Ideas and scripts sitting in a drawer which would make millions – perhaps – but the world is saturated with Netflix originals and re-original content.

A friend once complemented me. We were standing next to a plane that had flown in World War 2 and I said “Imagine, at aged 19, getting in this plane and flying across the skies. Dropping bombs on other countries, shooting down enemies…” and he just looked at me, told me never to lose that, because all he saw “was a fucking plane”. But that gentlemen once told me that filmmaking, true filmmaking, is an art. Directors like James Cameron and writers like John Hughes used to create visual and aural poetry – whereas nowadays, there are less obvious concerns for craft.

So I’ll continue writing. But not because I believe I’m better than anyone else. But because I believe that if you’re good at something, you should never stop doing it – and you should be able to choose the direction it takes. Last night I spent two hours sitting by a computer and listening to music. I heard an album from start to finish without interruption. I can’t remember the last time I did that. We live in a world of such fleeting glances, GIF’s and disposable media, that taking time out to do something which meant that other things couldn’t get done seemed alien.

Carpe Diem.