Friday, 29 November 2013

Off-Topic: Brian Farmer Murder Trial, Day 11

Day 11 -- November 29, 2013

Today was a short day in court, barely 90 minutes long. Miss Montgomery questioned Lisa Clarke for the purpose of clarifying her testimony, and as an attempt to show that there were no real contradictions between her first police statements and what she said in court. The only new revelation was when she said that John Campion had beaten Jason Andrews up because of what he had done to Brian. It was unclear whether this was to avenge Brian or because Jason had blamed John for what happened.

Off-Topic: Brian Farmer Murder Trial

I was just asked what's happened to my reports of the Brian Farmer murder trial. Yesterday I was asked to cease posting daily trial reports on my blog. The reason is that what I post might influence the jury, leading to the case being dismissed on a technicality. Since this was put to me as a polite request I immediately agreed to comply, instead of getting involved in a lengthy discussion about my blog. I do, however, consider my posts harmless, and I shall present my reasons here.

First of all, the jury has been instructed not to follow the court case by reading about it in newspapers or online. There is, of course, the danger that a juror might be a passionate film fan and accidentally stumble on my posts on this blog. After all, this is a film blog, not the place he would normally expect to find trial reports. I have already taken this into account. My trial reports only include things said in front of the jury. I have omitted the discussions held between the judge and the lawyers while the jury is out of the room. I have also been careful not to claim any of the defendants are guilty or innocent, merely reporting what they say and what the five lawyers in the case say about them. What I mean is, if a lawyer says that defendant X is lying I make it clear that it's the lawyer's opinion, rather than just saying "X was obviously lying".

Obviously I am not a professional court reporter. I have never received training as a journalist. Nevertheless, asking me to cease the reports shows that my skills are being underestimated. I know what to write and what not to write. I shall continue with my daily reports, but I shall no longer make them available to the general public. I shall make the reports public when the trial is over. I apologise to my regular readers for any inconvenience. This is a purely English problem. In America murder trials are broadcast live on the Internet, then posted to YouTube at the end of the day.

TV Series: Batman

It's time for Christian Bale to retire. There's only one Batman.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Off-Topic: Brian Farmer Murder Trial, Day 10

Day 10 -- November 28, 2013

On November 28th I removed all my posts about the trial and promised not to make any new posts, as I pointed out in this post. Nevertheless, I continued to write daily reports for myself. Now that the trial has finished and a verdict has been reached I have put back all my removed posts and published my new posts for the first time. I have backdated them to the appropriate dates, so that the date below the post corresponds to the trial date, not today's date.

Today Lisa Clarke was cross-examined by Mr. Lynch. Yesterday she claimed that she had asked her friend Darren, nicknamed Dizzy, to make an anonymous report of the assault on Brian to Crimestoppers. Since yesterday enquiries have been made, and no record of any call could be found.

Lisa denied that Jason Andrews was her boyfriend, claiming that he was just someone who followed her around. Mr. Lynch produced multiple text messages that contradict this. He also quoted Lisa's statement in a police interview in May 2012 in which she called Jason her boyfriend.

Lisa claimed that Vaughan Davies kicked Brian in the face and broke his nose in the early afternoon of May 5th. However, in the CCTV images from that evening no nose injuries are visible. Brian and Vaughan were seen shopping together as if they were friends. Lisa claimed that the major assault on Brian had taken place later in the evening of that day, leaving her traumatised, but CCTV footage late at night shows her calmly shopping with Jason and Vaughan.

Mr. Lynch pointed out that there are no CCTV images of Peter Knowles and Daniel Swift arriving or leaving. He suggested that they were never there, and Lisa had never travelled into the city centre on May 5th. It is Mr. Lynch's opinion that Lisa made up her story to fit the evidence as best as she could, while telling a story that excused herself of all guilt.

Next Mr. Denillen cross-examined Lisa. First he replayed the recording of the call to Careline on May 8th. Lisa denied that she was the woman in the recording.

The logs of telephone calls and text messages were used to support the suggestion that Jason and Lisa were together from May 4th to May 8th. It was the usual pattern that when they were apart there were constant contacts, several an hour. During these days there were none.

After cross-examination of things already covered by the other defence lawyers, Mr. Denillen suggested that the assault on Brian Farmer did not take place until the evening of May 7th. The only ones who attacked Brian were Lisa and Jason, because Vaughan was known to have been staying with a friend that night.

Mr. Evans' cross-examination focussed on the claims that Lisa had made to the police, some of them contradicting one another. She had said that if she had known Brian would die she would have stopped it, but in actual fact she didn't. She made no attempt to call an ambulance after she left Brian's flat. Mr. Evans says that she didn't want Brian to survive, because if he had survived he would have named her as the person who instigated the assault. He claimed that Lisa only took so many men to Brian's flat -- John Campion, Vaughan Davies, Peter Knowles and Daniel Swift -- because she wanted them to attack him.

Twilight (3½ Stars)

A few days ago I acquired the last two parts of the Twilight Saga, Breaking Dawn Parts 1 and 2. Rather than watch them straight away I've decided to watch the whole pentalogy from the beginning. I watched the first three parts at long intervals, and so I might have forgotten small details of the story if I jump straight into the last two parts. It's Thursday today. I'll try to get through all five films by Sunday. It depends on how much of my time the murder trial will take up.

I watched this film in the cinema when it was first released, probably shortly before Christmas 2008, according to the poster. I later bought the DVD and watched it at least twice, but evidently before September 2010. As I remember, it was one of those films that I absolutely loved on first viewing, but it dropped in my estimation with repeated viewing. For me it was a must-watch from the beginning because it was a vampire film, probably the biggest budget vampire film ever. On the other hand, as fans will be fast to point out, it's not really a vampire film, it's a love story that stars vampires. That's the way to watch the pentalogy. There is action, adventure and blood-sucking, but the central theme of the story is the love between Edward and Bella. In a superficial way they could be described as a modern day Romeo and Juliet, a pair of lovers from opposite worlds, although I admit this analogy can't be taken very far.

I've heard a lot of criticism of Kristen Stewart as an actress. I agree, she's not a very good actress, but in this film she fits in well. She's the dazed, open-mouthed girl from big city Phoenix who is transplanted to small town Forks in the far north. Mountains, woods, native Americans and that horrible stuff called snow. She's fine for the role. My problem is with Robert Pattinson as Edward. Despite being a vampire who has lived for approximately 100 years, he walks around with a dopy look on his face. I blame Joss Whedon. Ever since David Boreanaz played Angel in "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" he's become the template for the vampire lover: tall, hair that sticks up, brooding and eyes that stare off into space even while he's talking to someone. Just look at Stefan in "The Vampire Diaries" and you can see that they're all modelled on one another.

On the other hand, the other major characters in this film are well cast. I can't go through Bella's school class, but they're all strong characters, teenagers that you can believe would actually visit school in a remote American town. For me Jacob is the real star of the saga, even though he only plays a small part in the first film. It's a joy to watch him on the screen.

I realise that I've given this film a relatively low rating. I'm not sure I'm being fair to it. I'll give my ratings careful thought as I continue with the other four films.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Off-Topic: Brian Farmer Murder Trial, Day 9

Day 9 -- November 27, 2013

Today the prosecutor, Mr. Evans, continued with his cross-examination of Jason Andrews. First Mr. Evans put into doubt Jason's statement that when he is in his hostel in Bordesley Green and needs beer he walks to Tesco's in Yardley because it's the closest shop that's open and is only a 10 minutes walk. Mr. Evans pointed out that the distance is 2.6 miles, and to cover that distance in 10 minutes would make Jason a world champion runner. Apart from that it's doubtful that no shops in Bordesley Green sell alcohol. Jason's story was that he didn't return to Brian's flat in Bateman House on the evening of May 4th 2012. He was only at Tesco's, below Bateman House, to buy beer, and it was a pure coincidence that the CCTV cameras showed him walking with Vaughan Davies. He was in Brian's flat on the afternoon of May 5th, but never returned to his flat again. He walked to Tesco's to buy beer in the evening, and it was a pure coincidence that the CCTV cameras showed him walking with Vaughan Davies and Lisa Clarke.

Jason continually claimed in his testimony that Brian Farmer was his good friend, but he did nothing to protect him. On the contrary, he claimed to have left Brian's flat while Vaughan and Lisa were still attacking him. Mr. Evans said that this didn't make him a very good friend.

Mr. Evans presented evidence that Jason had not been picking up his medication regularly since January. This would not have been the case if he had been selling his tablets.

Mr. Evans questioned Jason about the incident on April 20th 2012 in which Brian claimed Jason had hit him over the head with a sugar bowl. Jason denied that this ever happened. He then questioned Jason about his previous convictions for carrying a knife. Jason denied responsibility for all the convictions, saying they were the results of lies or misunderstandings.

Next Mr. Evans talked about the text messages which Lisa sent to Jason in which she accused him of "killing an old man". When asked why he didn't reply to these messages, at least to deny it, he said that he can't remember receiving the messages. Mr. Evans pointed out that these messages had been manually deleted, so he must have seen them.

Mr. Evans spent some time talking about Jason Andrews' police interviews, in which he answered "no comment" to all questions, including questions such as "Did you take part in an assault that led to Brian Farmer's death?" After asking why Jason didn't answer these questions, which were very easy questions for an innocent man to answer, Mr. Evans pointed out the consequences of using the right to remain silent. The police had cautioned him, "You do not have to say anything, but it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court". By refusing to answer questions like the one above it has weakened his legal right to claim innocence now.

The cross-examination ended with Mr. Evans claiming that Jason's whole testimony in court is a "pack of lies", deliberately using the expression Jason uses whenever anyone contradicts him. Mr. Evans alleged that Jason had been in Brian's flat from May 4th until at least the evening of May 5th. Together with Vaughan and Lisa he mounted a vicious assault on Brian Farmer on the evening of May 5th 2012, in which he played a major part.

Jason Andrews' own lawyer, Mr. Benson, questioned Jason briefly to clarify the details of his testimony.

After this Lisa Clarke took the stand for the first time. She said that she has known John Campion and Peter Knowles for about 10 years. She considers John to be a very close friend, but he has never been her boyfriend. Prior to May 2012 she had known Jason Andrews for about nine months, and she had known Brian Farmer for five months. When asked about Vaughan Davies, she said that when she first met him she thought he was her son. On May 4th when she introduced Vaughan to Jason as her son it was because she still believed it to be the case. It was not until later in May 2012 that she was told that they weren't related. This is because when they first met Vaughan told Lisa he was her son who had been taken into care shortly after birth, and she believed him.

Lisa told the court that she had seen Jason carrying a knife on several occasions. She had seen him threatening his sister with a knife, and Jason had even threatened Lisa with a knife on one occasion. She said that she had witnessed Jason hitting Brian over the head with a sugar bowl on April 20th 2012. Jason said he had done it because Brian had stolen her knickers and hidden them under his jeans. Lisa found the knickers where Jason said they were, but she believes that Jason had put them there himself in order to justify a fight.

Lisa's chronology of the events of May 4th and 5th was very different to that told by Jason, but at least her story doesn't contradict the CCTV footage. She says that she was with John Campion in the city centre on May 4th when she met her son Vaughan. Together they took a taxi to Bateman House to visit Brian. When they entered the flat Brian and Jason were drinking together in a friendly manner. The evening was peaceful and uneventful. John left after a few hours. Lisa went to bed first.

When Lisa woke up on May 5th Jason was asleep in bed next to her. Brian and Vaughan were already awake in the living room. The room was in a mess, and there was broken glass on the floor. When Lisa asked what had happened Brian replied, "Those two were pratting about". At this time Brian was still uninjured. Lisa needed a drink, and her personal favourite drink, Skol Super, isn't sold at Tesco's, so she caught the bus into the city centre.

While in the city centre Lisa met John, and they came back to Bateman House by bus. When they entered Brian's flat there seemed to be a bad atmosphere. Jason said that Brian had told him that when he was two years old he had changed his nappies and held his penis when he pissed because he couldn't aim straight. Jason was angry and said that Brian needed a haircut. He forced Brian onto a chair and cut off chunks of his hair with the blade of a Stanley knife. Vaughan kicked Brian in the face and broke his nose. Lisa asked John to stop them, but John just stood watching with his arms folded. She kept on begging him, and eventually he said "Fuck this" and left. Jason and Vaughan then left Brian alone, so Lisa fetched a towel to help Brian. While she was helping Brian Jason was drinking cider and Vaughan was smoking weed.

After this Lisa left to go back into the city centre to find John. She couldn't find him, but she met two other friends, Peter Knowles and an Asian man called Daniel Swift. Together they returned to Bateman House by bus. Shortly after they entered Brian's flat the main assault began. Jason was slashing Brian's face with the Stanley knife blade. Daniel boiled a kettle and poured the water over Brian's head. Peter Knowles slapped Brian in the face a few times. Vaughan was acting like a madman, punching and kicking Brian. He was throwing food at him and hitting him over the head with a saucepan. Both Jason and Vaughan poured more boiling water over Brian. Jason tied Brian to a chair and stabbed him repeatedly with a long knife from behind, through the chair. Jason used a hacksaw on the back of Brian's neck in an attempt to saw his head off.

Daniel left first, then Peter, and eventually Lisa left, leaving Jason and Vaughan alone with Brian. Lisa insisted that Jason and Vaughan had been the main assailants, while Daniel and Peter played smaller parts. Lisa herself was the only one who did nothing to harm Brian. She said that she was so disgusted with Jason that she wanted nothing else to do with him.

At the end of her testimony Lisa was cross-examined by Jason Andrews' lawyer, Mr. Benson. He called Lisa a sponger, saying that she used men like Brian Farmer and John Campion to get money for drink. He alleged that Lisa began the attack on Brian because he had refused to give her any money. Mr. Benson quoted a conversation between Lisa and a nurse on May 20th in Sutton Coldfield Police Station. Lisa told the nurse that her son had killed Brian. She did not mention Jason's involvement. Mr. Benson suggested that Lisa only blamed Jason at a later date because Jason dumped her. In Mr. Benson's opinion, Lisa and Vaughan attacked Brian together, while Jason tried unsuccessfully to stop them.

All Babe Network (3½ Stars)

A television station's top programme is "Hoax Hunter", a series that exposes fake supernatural occurrences. It used to be successful until the network boss made his nephew the show's host. Now the ratings have fallen so low that it can't even compete with the dog food infomercial on Channel 36. The program director sees only one possibility to save the situation. She decides to sabotage the show to persuade the network boss to fire his son.

This is the fourth film directed by Dean McKendrick, and it features almost the same cast as "The Big Bust Theory". The good and the bad. Eric Masterson stands head and shoulders above everyone else as the station's unpaid intern. Christine Nguyen's addictive smile would win over the fiercest of critics. I haven't made my mind up about Jazy Berlin and Mary Carey yet. Alexandre Boisvert and Tony Marino stumble through their lines like they've never acted before. The final result is average at best. Come on, Dean, you can do better than this!

Alexandre is happy... Eric isn't...

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Off-Topic: Brian Farmer Murder Trial, Day 8

Day 8 -- November 26, 2013

After the long weekend the trial continued today with the questioning of Jason Andrews by the lawyers representing the other three defendants, Lisa Clarke, Peter Knowles and Vaughan Davies. As I've already pointed out, the unusual structure of this case with the four defendants accusing one another leads to the defence lawyers interrogating in a manner which would usually be done by the prosecution.

Lisa Clarke's lawyer, Miss Montgomery, began by asking Jason Andrews about a previous conviction for injuring his then girlfriend by hitting her with a dog chain wrapped around his fist. He claimed that the injury had been caused when his girlfriend fell over, but she asked him to pretend he had hit her so that she could be considered a victim of domestic violence and be given a new place to live. She also asked him about the occasions when he had threatened Lisa with a knife, attacked his sister and hit Brian over the head with a sugar bowl. He claimed that all these allegations were a pack of lies, and that he has never been violent to anyone.

Miss Montgomery suggested that Jason Andrews' whole testimony which he gave on Thursday was untrue. She presented the course of events as she sees them. She claimed that the attack on Brian Farmer was carried out jointly by Jason Andrews and Vaughan Davies, maybe because of sexual remarks made by Brian. Lisa Clarke took no part in the attack and tried unsuccessfully to stop it. Lisa wanted to leave, but Jason threatened her with a knife and forced her to stay.

Next Peter Knowles' lawyer, Mr. Lynch, questioned Jason. He made a great deal of discrepancies between his written statement for the court, made in October, and the testimony he had given on Thursday. In his written statement Jason had made it clear that Vaughan and Lisa were jointly attacking Brian. On Thursday he claimed that Lisa took no part in the assault, apart from forcing Brian to drink a pint of her piss. Jason claimed that this was a mistake in his statement. Mr. Lynch pointed out how small Vaughan is in comparison to Jason, and suggested that it would have been easy to pull him away from Brian, especially with assistance from John Campion. In the cross-examination Jason repeatedly called Brian his good friend, which made Mr. Lynch ask why he hadn't done more to protect him. Mr. Lynch was confused why Jason would throw his own stereo system off the balcony in order to prevent Vaughan continuing with the attack, and suggested that the stereo system was already broken because Jason had hit Brian over the head with the loudspeaker. Mr. Lynch suggested that the attack had been carried out by Jason, Vaughan and Lisa, and that Peter Knowles had taken no part in the assault.

Vaughan Davies' lawyer, Mr. Denilo, made a great deal out of Jason's silence in the original police interviews. Instead of answering the questions put to him he replied "no comment" to all of them. He could easily have answered at the time that he was innocent and Vaughan Davies had carried out the attack. Mr. Denilo suggested that the reason for his silence when questioned was that he needed more time to invent a story. He didn't make the statement for the court until 17 months later. He said that Jason didn't make a statement until he had read what the prosecution's charges against him were. Mr. Denilo suggested that Jason blamed Vaughan for the assault as revenge for Vaughan grassing on him. He also suggested that Jason and Lisa had attacked Brian while Vaughan tried to stop them. At this point Jason changed his testimony. He said that Lisa had repeatedly punched Brian in the face with her fists, assisting Vaughan in his attack on Brian.

Jason repeatedly claimed that he left Brian's flat half an hour after the attack on Brian began and returned the next day, when Vaughan was no longer there. Mr, Denilo contradicted this by referring to CCTV footage. Lisa Clarke, John Campion and Vaughan Davies were seen arriving by taxi at 6pm on May 4th 2012. Later in the evening Jason, Lisa and Vaughan were seen together. Jason claimed that the first time he ever saw Vaughan was when he walked into the room and Vaughan was hitting Brian with a metal pipe. On the next day at 6:30pm , May 5th, Brian and Vaughan were seen shopping together, and Brian had no noticeable injuries. At 8:45pm on May 5th Jason, Lisa and Vaughan were seen leaving the building together.

A recording of a call to Careline on May 8th at 3:23am, which had been initiated by pressing an alarm button, was played to the court. The operator replied and asked if there was a problem. A male voice replied, "Sorry, I burnt some toast, nothing is wrong". The operator said "Bye bye", but the call continued, and the people in the flat didn't realise they were being recorded. Another male voice, different to the first, said, "He pressed the fucking buzzer". A female voice replied, "Yes, I know". The second male voice then said, "You'll get us all fucking locked up".

The female voice was identified as Lisa Clarke. The male voices could not be easily identified because of the background noise. Mr. Denilo suggested that one of the voices was Jason Andrews, but made no attempt to identify the other. It couldn't have been Vaughan Davies, because it's been proved he was staying somewhere else on the night of May 7th. Based on the evidence of text messages -- Jason and Lisa texted one another many times a day except when they were together -- Mr. Denilo says that Jason must have been with Lisa at the time, so one of the voices must have been his.

I personally am interested to know who the other male voice is. Jason has a speech impediment, and the first person who spoke, the one who can be heard clearly, spoke too fluidly. Jason must be the second man who spoke. Who is the first? It should be easy to compare voices. My personal theory is that John Campion was the other person present on May 8th, helping his friends clean up after Brian's death.

Finally the prosecutor, Mr. Evans, began his cross-examination. He repeated the accusation of all three defence lawyers that Jason's testimony was full of lies. The case will continue tomorrow.

Secret Life of Walter Mitty (4 Stars)

This film is loosely based on a short story written by James Thurber in 1939. It was filmed in 1947, and this is a "remake", very generally speaking. Actually, the new film just borrows the name and the concepts from the old film and the story, so it can be considered a completely new film. It's a matter of definition.

The expression "Walter Mitty" has entered popular culture. It signifies a person who daydreams about doing great heroic deeds instead of facing the challenges of real life. This may or may not involve telling other people that he has done them (lies) or telling others he would do them (empty boasting). Especially in the army, this expression is used to describe a person who claims to have performed heroic deeds which were actually carried out by others who may now be dead and unable to tell the true story. But let's be honest: there's a bit of Walter Mitty in all of us. When we read in the newspaper that someone robbed a shop and beat up the shopkeeper we say, "If I'd been there I would have stopped it"; but if we're ever present at a robbery we see how big the robbers are we freeze in fear. That's human nature.

In this film Ben Stiller plays Walter Mitty. He's the negative asset manager at Life Magazine in New York. If you're wondering what that is, it's the person who looks after photo negatives. The film is set today, in 2013, and as we all know film cameras are a thing of the past. The digital age has made Walter's job obsolete, and he's hanging onto it by the skin of his teeth. Walter feels attracted to Cheryl Melhoff, a new employee in his company, but he's unable to ask her out on a date; instead of speaking to her he dreams of impressing her by doing things like rescuing her dog from a burning building so that she'll fall into his arms.

Life Magazine is bought by another company and has to close down. From next month it will be an online publication only. Walter is entrusted with processing the photo for the final cover, provided by Life's top photographer, Sean O'Connell, one of the few purists who refuses to use digital cameras. Walter is sent the negatives, but one is missing, and he suspects that Sean never sent it. For the first time in his life Walter feels inspired to do something. On a whim he catches a plane to Sean's last known address in Greenland. Sean, the great adventurer, everything that Walter isn't, is always a few steps ahead of him. Walter pursues him through Greenland to Iceland and Afghanistan.

In the trailers the film is touted as a comedy. That's not quite true. It does have its humorous moments, but it's really a story about overcoming all odds and learning to become a real person. It's a very moving performance by Ben Stiller. The scenery in Greenland especially is breathtaking, in stark contrast to the cities of New York. If anything, it awakes the Walter Mitty in me. It's the place I want to be, not continuing in my dull life.

The film won't be on general release until December 26th in England. I was lucky to be able to watch an advance screening at Cineworld for their Unlimited Card holders only. It's certainly worth the money, only £15.90 a month, if there's a Cineworld cinema near where you live. If you are considering becoming a member, I advise you to apply online and use the promotional code RAF-42SM-64EG-76US-46SD in the last page of the application process. This will give you a free month's membership at the end of your first 12 months.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Day of the Doctor (5 Stars)

Great men are forged in fire. It is the privilege of lesser men to light the flame.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

An Adventure in Space and Time (4 Stars)

This made-for-television film tells the story of the first three years of "Doctor Who" from 1963 to 1966. More than that, it's a tribute the William Hartnell, the first actor to step into the title role. I'll probably make thousands of enemies for saying this, but he wasn't a very good actor. If he had been a top actor the BBC couldn't have afforded him on the show's shoestring budget. I've seen some of his films that he made before 1963, and it's difficult to call him an actor at all. He was typecast as a grumpy old sergeant, which seems to have been his real life personality. In 1963 his career was at an end, when he was offered the role of the Doctor in a revolutionary new science fiction series. Describing "Doctor Who" that way makes it sound like something spectacular, but when it was first conceived it was just an attempt to fill a hole in the Saturday evening television schedule.

With some reluctance Hartnell took on the job, and it was a marriage made in Heaven. He was perfect for the role, and the role was perfect for him. He was allowed to be himself for the series, and his likeable personality won the hearts of millions of people, children and adults alike. He was the grumpy old grandfather that kids love even when he tells them off.

In many ways, the series should never have been successful. It had a woman as producer and an Indian as director. The unacceptability of this is emphasised in a bar scene where the barman serves white men first and lets the others wait. It was an uphill battle to make the show on its minuscule budget of less than £100 per week. Problems were made by Hartnell's failing memory and his inability to remember lines. Some of his mistakes made their way into the broadcast episodes, because it was too expensive to refilm scenes. What really saved the series from early cancellation was the appearance of the Daleks in the fifth episode. These "monsters" captured the imagination of the viewers in a way that no television creatures have ever done, before or after 1963.

After three years William Hartnell was fired from the series. This was heartbreaking to him. He lived for "Doctor Who". It was his life.

The film's casting is excellent. David Bradley stands out as the perfect representation of William Hartnell. All the other main characters look uncannily like their real world counterparts. The only mistake made is using Reece Shearsmith to play Patrick Troughton. He looks much too young for the role.

I have to warn the viewers that there's a long after-credits sequence, a six-minute mini-documentary that's not worth missing.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Off-Topic: World Chess Championship 2013, Game 10

The king is dead, long live the king!

Today, after 14 days and 10 games, 22-year-old Magnus Carlsen became the world chess champion. When I was 22 I was fresh out of university and starting my career. At the same age he's done it all.

After yesterday's game Magnus only needed a draw to win the world championship. Nobody would have thought badly of him if he had played for a draw. This is the usual tactic in the first round of the Football World Cup; if a team only needs a draw to advance they don't take any risks. But Magnus isn't a professional footballer. He came out fighting, determined to win the final game and prove to the world that he deserves the title of world champion. Vishy was fighting for survival and needed a win, so it was a spectacular fight, probably the most exciting game of the whole championship

Carlsen, Magnus – Viswanathan, Anand
FWCM 2013 Chennai (10) 22.11.2013

1. e4 c5
2. Nf3 d6
3. Bb5+ Nd7
4. d4 cxd4
5. Qxd4 a6
6. Bxd7+ Bxd7
7. c4 Nf6
8. Bg5 e6
9. Nc3 Be7
10. O-O Bc6
11. Qd3 O-O
12. Nd4 Rc8
13. b3 Qc7
14. Nxc6 Qxc6
15. Rac1 h6
16. Be3 Nd7
17. Bd4 Rfd8
18. h3 Qc7
19. Rfd1 Qa5
20. Qd2 Kf8
21. Qb2 Kg8

This was the first proof of Magnus' fighting spirit. He could have played 22.Qd2, offering a draw by repetition. As I already said above, nobody would have criticised him for this. In fact, this is the move that the commentators expected. Instead of that he played 22.a4 to continue the fight. In the following moves Magnus built up the pressure by positioning his rooks in the middle of the board. Vishy's queen was looking like a target rather than a threat.

22. a4 Qh5
23. Ne2 Bf6
24. Rc3 Bxd4
25. Rxd4 Qe5
26. Qd2 Nf6
27. Re3 Rd7
28. a5

At this critical point in the game Vishy blundered. It's difficult to say what the best move would have been. Vishy didn't really have any chances open. Maybe a passive move like 28...Kf8. Maybe an aggressive move like 28...h5 or 28...g5. My personal preference would have been 28...Rcd8 to defend against the increasing pressure in the centre. Instead of this Vishy played 28...Qg5, which lost the pawn on d6 and gave up control of the centre to Magnus. I was watching the game live, and as soon as Vishy made the move his face dropped. He realised within a second of making the move that it was wrong.

29. e5 Ne8

But then the unthinkable happened. In his impatience to profit from Vishy's mistake Magnus took the pawn too soon, allowing for its recapture a few moves later. A better move would have been 30.Nc3, leading to lines such as 30.Nc3 Qf5 31.f4 d5 32.cxd5 exd5 33.Rxd5.

30. exd6 Rc6
31. f4 Qd8
32. Red3 Rcxd6
33. Rxd6 Rxd6
34. Rxd6 Qxd6
35. Qxd6 Nxd6

After the exchange of the queens and rooks the game looked drawn, but Magnus still had a plan to win the game. His king set out on a journey along the diagonal towards b6, which Vishy managed to prevent at the last moment. The square b6 now became critical to the continuation of the game.

36. Kf2 Kf8
37. Ke3 Ke7
38. Kd4 Kd7
39. Kc5 Kc7
40. Nc3 Nf5
41. Ne4 Ne3
42. g3 f5

It's worth pointing out this position. Computer analysis has shown that playing 43.Nd2 would have led to a win for Magnus. It's a long way off, but certain to succeed with perfect play by white. It's too much for me to describe here, except to say that this is a very typical computer move. When humans play they make plans and move their pieces to carry out the plans. For this reason 43.Nd6 is a very logical move, it's part of Magnus' battle for the square b6. Computers don't make plans. They're just number crunchers. 43.Nd2 is a very random move which I expect Magnus hardly even considered, but computer programs can see a victory for white by move 64. Instead of this Magnus sacrificed his knight to draw the black king away from b6.

43. Nd6 g5
44. Ne8+ Kd7
45. Nf6+ Ke7
46. Ng8+ Kf8
47. Nxh6 gxf4
48. gxf4 Kg7
49. Nxf5+ exf5

From this point on it was a pawn race. Who could get a queen first? Unfortunately, nobody could win the race. Magnus and Vishy both reached the final squares in move 56.

50. Kb6 Ng2
51. Kxb7 Nxf4
52. Kxa6 Ne6
53. Kb6 f4
54. a6 f3
55. a7 f2
56. a8Q f1Q

At this point nobody really expected anything but a draw. Only an inexperienced player could lose the game for either colour. At grandmaster level perfect play on both sides is expected. Like two tired boxers, exhausted in the 20th round of a fight, they kept punching one another, more out of instinct than anything else, until they wearily collapsed into one another's arms in move 65 and the draw was declared.

57. Qd5 Qe1
58. Qd6 Qe3+
59. Ka6 Nc5+
60. Kb5 Nxb3
61. Qc7+ Kh6
62. Qb6+ Qxb6+
63. Kxb6 Kh5
64. h4 Kxh4
65. c5 Nxc5
½ – ½

This was a battle worthy of champions, and a fitting end to the 2013 Fide World Chess Championship. The final score is 6½–3½. Magnus might have won, but Vishy can hold his head high and say that he gave all he had to give. The "Magnus Carlsen era" has begun, as commentators like to call it. It's a bit early to speak of an era, it's hardly been half a day since his victory, but I know what they mean. Let's see how long this era lasts.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

The Shining (5 Stars)

I recently read that this is the scariest horror film ever. I don't pay much attention to the top 10 lists published in magazines or on sensationalist websites, but in this case I don't disagree. I can't quite say that I agree either, but if some film has to be named the scariest film ever this is a good choice.

It might surprise people to know that when the film was first made Stephen King was so unhappy with the finished result that he took legal action to prevent it being released. He lost, of course, but it delayed the film's release by a year. I can understand the problem. He gave Stanley Kubrick the rights to make the film, but Kubrick hijacked the story. Even though the screenplay uses a lot of the book, key elements are altered and the end result is very much Stanley Kubrick's own film. The 1997 television mini-series is a faithful adaptation of the book, it's just as Stephen King wanted it, but people call the 1997 version rubbish. It certainly isn't rubbish, but something is missing. It doesn't have Jack Nicholson. It doesn't have Shelley Duvall (although I have to admit that Rebecca de Mornay is a good replacement). And it doesn't have Stanley Kubrick's unique brand of madness.

Today was the first time I've seen the original version of the film. The almost original version, at least. The film's original ending has been lost forever. Three days after the release of the film Warner Brothers, on instructions from Stanley Kubrick, ordered all projectionists to cut about two minutes from the end of the film, and send the footage back to the studio. This reduced the original length from 146 to 144 minutes. The film received poor reviews, so he cut a further 25 minutes from it before it was released in Europe. On videotape releases the 119 minute version was the standard. After the invention of DVDs a cross-Atlantic divide came about. In America DVDs were released with the 144 minute version, while the 119 minute version was released in England and other European countries. The American version is sometimes called the Director's Cut, but this is incorrect. A Director's Cut is released as an alternative to the theatrical version; it contains extra footage that would have made the film too long to be shown in cinemas. In the case of "The Shining" the opposite is the case. The long version is the original theatrical version, whereas the short version is the cut the director most approved of. I've watched the short version of "The Shining" often enough to immediately spot the extra footage in the long version. Kubrick wisely removed everything that slowed down the film, and the faster pacing improved the quality of the film.

The film has so many complexities and hidden meanings, even after excluding the conspiracy theories presented in the recent documentary film "Room 237". I'm sure that I'll watch it again soon, so I'll write a fuller exposition until next time.

Here is the screenplay from the film's original ending.


Ullman walks forward and stops at Reception desk where Nurse and Danny are playing “snakes and ladders”.

Ullman: Hi everybody.
Nurse: Good evening, Mr. Ullman.
Ullman: How’s it going, Danny?
Danny: Okay.
Nurse: He’s doing just fine. Aren’t we, Danny?
Danny: Yes.
Ullman: Good. That’s wonderful news. How’s Mrs. Torrance today?
Nurse: Oh, she’s much better. She had a nice lunch, and she took a little walk around this afternoon.
Ullman: Oh, that’s just great. Is it okay for me to go in and see her?
Nurse: Yes, of course, Mr. Ullman.

Ullman leaves Reception desk and walks towards open door where Policeman sits.

Ullman: How’s it going?
Policeman: Just fine.

Ullman knocks on door.

Ullman: Mrs. Torrance?
Wendy: Come in.

Ullman enters.

Ullman: Hi. How are you feeling today?
Wendy: Much better.
Ullman: Good. That’s really good to hear. You’re looking wonderful. Oh, by the way, I brought you these flowers.
Wendy: Thank you.
Ullman: Danny’s looking real well. He seems to have adjusted very well, all things considered. Oh, I spoke to Lieutenant Elliott on the way over here, and he said they’ve finished with this silly business about their investigation. He said he’d be over here this evening to tell you himself.
Wendy: Does this mean we’re free to leave?
Ullman: Of course you are. Oh, about the things you saw at the hotel. He told me they’ve gone over the place with a fine tooth comb and they didn’t find the slightest evidence of anything at all out of the ordinary. Mrs. Torrance, I think I know how you must feel about this, but it’s perfectly understandable for someone to imagine such things when they’re been through something like you have. You mustn’t think about it any more. Have you decided where you’re going when you leave here?
Wendy: No.
Ullman: Mrs. Torrance, I’d like to take the liberty of suggesting that you and Danny come and spend a while at my place in L.A. At least until you get your feet on the ground. It would be great for Danny. It’s right on the beach. You fall asleep with the sound of the waves, and in the morning you open the shutters and there you are: ocean, blue skies and sunshine. It wouldn’t be any trouble at all. I’ve got a marvelous housekeeper and two spare bedrooms. I really think this would be the best thing for you and Danny. I won’t take no for an answer.

Ullman walks to Reception counter.

Ullman: I’m on my way. Oh, I brought Mrs. Torrance some flowers. Could you have someone put them in a vase for her?
Nurse: Yes, I will.
Ullman: Good bye, Danny. See you tomorrow.
Danny: Bye.

Ullman moves away, then turns.

Ullman: Oh Danny. I forgot to give you this. Catch.

Ullman throws yellow ball to Danny.

Ullman: See you tomorrow, Danny.

Ullman leaves. Hold on Danny.


Track past furniture covered in dust-sheets to picture on background wall.

Fade into this title onto black:

“The Overlook Hotel would survive this tragedy, as it had so many others. It is still open each year from May 20th to September 20th. It is closed for the winter”.


What did Stanley Kubrick want to say with this original ending? Even more importantly, why did he go to the great expenses of removing it when the film was already being shown in American cinemas? It's impossible to crawl into Kubrick's head, but click here for a summary of opinions on the subject.

Off-Topic: World Chess Championship 2013, Game 9

Before the world championship began this is what people were expecting. Everyone expected the reigning world champion Vishy Anand to be toppled from his throne by the young challenger Magnus Carlsen. But expecting it and seeing it happen are two different things. Commentator Tania Sachdev had tears in her eyes when she realised Vishy had lost.

Anand, Viswanathan – Carlsen, Magnus
FWCM 2013 Chennai (9) 21.11.2013

1. d4 Nf6
2. c4 e6
3. Nc3 Bb4
4. f3 d5
5. a3 Bxc3+
6. bxc3 c5
7. cxd5 exd5
8. e3 c4
9. Ne2 Nc6
10. g4 O-O
11. Bg2 Na5
12. O-O Nb3
13. Ra2 b5
14. Ng3 a5
15. g5 Ne8
16. e4 Nxc1
17. Qxc1 Ra6
18. e5 Nc7
19. f4 b4
20. axb4 axb4
21. Rxa6 Nxa6
22. f5 b3

Vishy went into the game with attacking play, knowing that he really had to win today. He built up an aggressive pawn formation in the centre, and Magnus had to draw all his pieces back to defend. At this point Vishy pondered for almost half an hour before playing Qf4.

23. Qf4 Nc7
24. f6 g6
25. Qh4 Ne8

Magnus' b-pawn is dangerously close to being queened, but Vishy doesn't care. He wants to use his rook and queen to get checkmate. This isn't a bad idea, but in move 28 he made a fatal blunder. There were groans all around when Vishy played Nf1, and he resigned in the same move.

26. Qh6 b2
27. Rf4 b1Q+
28. Nf1 Qe1
0 – 1

The game could have been at least drawn by playing Bf1, for instance 28. Bf1 Qd1 29. Rh4 Qh5 30. Nxh5 gxh5 31. Rxh5 Bf5

There were cheers from the Norwegian camp, but the rest of the world stood in shock. Not just the Indians. Even though I've been a fan of Magnus for years, seeing Vishy's last chances crumble away hurts me. After nine games the score is 6-3 to Magnus, and Vishy still hasn't won a single game. They say that it isn't over till the fat lady sings. If I close my eyes I can already hear her warming up.

Tania's reaction

Off-Topic: Brian Farmer Murder Trial, Day 7

Day 7 -- November 21, 2013

Today the defence of the four people charged with murdering Brian Farmer began. Jason Andrews was questioned extensively about his relationship with Brian, up to and including the last days that he saw him alive.

Jason says that he met Brian about five years ago. He met him through his sister Debra, who was living next door to Brian when he lived in Coventry Road, Small Heath. He says that he never hit Brian in all the time he knew him. Jason also denied ever attacking his sister. He claims that she used to call the police and accuse him whenever she was drunk, about twice a week, but it was all lies.

Jason has been prescribed Olanzapine since 1997, 10mg tablets that he has to take three times a day. These are anti-psychotic tablets, and when he doesn't take them he can become agitated and aggressive. He said he was not taking the tablets in May 2012 because he was selling them to Brian for £1 a tablet.

On May 4th Jason was asleep in the bedroom of Brian's flat. He woke up in the evening, and when he went into the living room he found Brian together with Lisa Clarke, John Campion and Vaughan Davies. This was the first time he had met Vaughan. Lisa introduced him as her son, but he found out a few days later that this wasn't the case. Vaughan began to call Brian a dirty old bastard and hit him with a metal pipe. Jason asked Vaughan to stop, but Vaughan was like a madman and refused. Jason says he was scared of Vaughan, so he didn't intervene. John Campion left first. Lisa was also calling Brian names, but she didn't hit him. She pissed into a pint glass and made Brian drink it. Vaughan was throwing Brian's property off the balcony. Jason left soon after this because he didn't want anything to do with it. While he was waiting at the bus stop Lisa and Vaughan came and joined him.

On May 5th Jason and Lisa returned to Brian's house. When they got there Peter Knowles and an Asian man he didn't know were with Brian. Brian's face was messed up and covered with blood, but he was walking around normally. Lisa said that Brian had been sniffing her knickers, so Peter punched him in the face a few times and broke his nose. They all left at the same time.

On May 7th Jason returned by himself to check if Brian was alright, but Brian didn't open the door when he knocked. Jason assumed Brian had gone for a walk. At no time did he think Brian's injuries were so bad that he might be dead.

Jason denied that the knife found by the police in his sister's home belonged to him. When questioned about his previous convictions for possessing a knife he said that he couldn't remember anything.

It's a long weekend now, for reasons that have nothing to do with the case. There will be a four day break, and the trial will be continued at 10:30am on Tuesday.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Off-Topic: Brian Farmer Murder Trial, Day 6

Day 6 -- November 20, 2013

Today the prosecution called its last few witnesses. The first was Paul Meakin, who claims to have been a friend of Peter Knowles for about 10 years. He has also known John Campion since they were children. In his original police statements Paul testified that Peter had told him he was present during the assault on Brian Farmer. Peter said he had punched Brian and broken his nose, but that was all he did. He said that the others present during the assault were Lisa Clarke, John Campion and a young kid whose name he didn't know. He made no mention of anyone called Jason or A.J. When questioned by the prosecutor Paul frequently contradicted his earlier statement or said he had forgotten what had been said because it was so long ago. The prosecution evidently intends to use Paul Meakin's testimony as proof of Peter Knowles' participation in the assault, but the defence lawyers accused him of conferring with Lisa Clarke and John Campion before his police interview and being advised what to say. In particular, Mr. Lynch (Peter Knowles' lawyer) accused Paul of fabricating most of the story.

A resident of Bateman House, the block of flats where Brian lived, testified to having seen a young man in a blue shirt throwing a stereo system and small ornaments from the balcony of Brian's room on May 5th 2012. When she complained the young man used abusive language towards her. When cross-examined she insisted that this young man was the only person throwing items.

The ex-partner of Lisa Clarke's father testified to an incident that happened when Lisa came to visit her father. She came to the door and asked if she could borrow money from him. When he said no Lisa got angry and attacked her father, punching him, knocking him on the floor and kicking him. She was wearing a knuckleduster to assist her punches. In cross-examination Lisa Clarke's lawyer suggested that this event never happened, because there was no proof from any other sources.

Jason Andrews' sister testified that even though she sometimes argued with her brother he had never struck her. This was contradicted by Lisa Clarke's lawyer, who presented reports that she had called the police twice after he had attacked her. After this proof was provided she changed her testimony. A knife was presented to the court that had been found in her flat. She said it was not hers and could only have been left there by Jason.

A summary of Peter Knowles' police interview was read. In it he denied knowing Paul Meakin. He declined to answer almost every other question.

This concludes the presentation of the prosecution's case. Tomorrow the defence lawyers will present their cases, one by one.

Off-Topic: World Chess Championship 2013, Game 8

This article in GQ (click on the picture above) tries to answer a question that many people, including my friends, have been asking: "Why are so many people watching chess?" There hasn't been so much excitement over a world chess championship since 1972. Forty years ago it was obvious why the match between the champion Boris Spassky and his challenger Bobby Fischer fascinated people. It was the middle of the Cold War, and Russians had dominated the world of chess for decades. This implied to many that Russians were more intelligent than Americans, or that living in a Communist system makes people superior to those brought up in capitalist decadence. Finally America had found a modern gladiator. Despite his eccentricities, which became even more apparent in the years following the chamionship, Bobby Fischer wasn't just playing chess, he was fighting to represent America, democracy and the free world. If he had lost the championship the propaganda repercussions would have been enormous. The world held its breath.

So what's going on this year? Why is this year's championship enthralling people? The GQ article fails to give an answer. Unless you happen to be Indian or Norwegian there's no reason to take sides for nationalistic reasons. There are no political undertones to the battle. The only reason GQ cites for Magnus Carlsen's appeal is his rugged good looks. That's the sort of reason to be expected from a magazine like GQ, but let's take it seriously for a moment. I don't consider myself a suitable judge of male beauty, but I have heard that women are attracted to Magnus because of his thick jaw, small eyes, small ears and thick eyebrows. His brooding look and a face that seldom smiles make him seem enigmatic. He's certainly younger than his opponent, barely out of his teens. Younger and trendier, to be more precise, but this is because his appearance has been taken over by the company G-Star which pays him to endorse their products. The trendiness only extends to his appearance, not his lifestyle. He has little in common with other young people his age. He's not a party-goer, he spends his spare time bowling or playing sports like basketball. When surrounded by beautiful young women he has a faraway glint in his eye, and it's obvious to everyone that he's thinking about chess. That's what makes him the world's best player and the odds-on favourite to win the 2013 Chess World Championship. He has a one-track mind and can't be distracted by the same temptations as lower mortals.

In today's game it was obvious that Magnus wasn't taking any risks. He played a slow opening, one untypical for his usual style of attacking play. It was as if he was telling the world champion, "All I want today is a draw. If you want anything more you have to fight for it". But Vishy didn't fight. I'm not saying he didn't want to. Magnus' defence was too perfect, there were no chinks in his armour. Magnus played passively, exchanging more and more pieces and making anything other than a draw an ever more distant possibility. After the last pieces were exchanged in moves 25 to 28 -- instigated by Magnus, of course -- the game was over. Vishy agreed to a draw after move 33. The match score after 8 games is 5–3. Does anyone seriously think that Vishy has any chance of retaining the world title?

Carlsen, Magnus – Anand, Viswanathan
FWCM 2013 Chennai (8) 19.11.2013

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. Bb5 Nf6
4. O-O Nxe4
5. Re1 Nd6
6. Nxe5 Be7
7. Bf1 Nxe5
8. Rxe5 O-O
9. d4 Bf6
10. Re1 Re8
11. c3 Rxe1
12. Qxe1 Ne8
13. Bf4 d5
14. Bd3 g6
15. Nd2 Ng7
16. Qe2 c6
17. Re1 Bf5
18. Bxf5 Nxf5
19. Nf3 Ng7
20. Be5 Ne6
21. Bxf6 Qxf6
22. Ne5 Re8
23. Ng4 Qd8
24. Qe5 Ng7

25. Qxe8+ Nxe8
26. Rxe8+ Qxe8
27. Nf6+ Kf8
28. Nxe8 Kxe8
29. f4 f5
30. Kf2 b5
31. b4 Kf7
32. h3 h6
33. h4 h5
½ – ½ 

Magnus Carlsen summed up the game in the press conference:

"He played the Berlin. I played the most solid line. Yada, yada, yada, let's go to the doping control".

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (4½ Stars)

As I mentioned in my review of "The Mummy Returns", there are rules to obey when making a sequel. If a third film is made, there's another possibility. Either it's another sequel, in which the same sequel rules apply, or it's the third part of a trilogy. I won't quote everything from the speech in "Scream 3", because most of it applies specifically to horror films, I'll just quote the initial words:
"If you find yourself dealing with an unexpected back-story, and a preponderance of exposition, then the sequel rules do not apply. Because you are not dealing with a sequel. You are dealing with the concluding chapter of a trilogy".
I'm sorry to disappoint you, but the film I'm reviewing is neither a sequel nor the concluding part of a trilogy. It's a third possibility: it's a crossover. This is a film that follows some, probably not all, of the rules to make it a sequel, but mixes in elements of a film or films from a completely different genre. This isn't a new idea, but it might seem so because crossover films are rarely taken seriously and are soon forgotten. My personal favourite crossover film is Hammer's "Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires", made in 1974, in which Count Dracula is hiding in China and has assembled a cult of kung fu fighting vampires around himself. That's a film I need to watch again soon.

Maybe kung fu action is a good element to mix with any other film genre, because that's what we have here. The Dragon Emperor is none other than Jet Li, and he's cursed by a witch played by Michelle Yeoh. The Emperor is buried in China, but his tomb has all the traps typical for Egyptian tombs. Many of the battle sequences from the first two films are mimicked, but they're given a Chinese slant. Most critics hated the film and wrote wicked reviews, while the public loved it and flooded into the cinemas in droves. As usual, I'll prove that I'm not a serious film critic by siding with the public. I love it! I wouldn't rate it quite as highly as the first film, but it's definitely better than the second.

I've heard rumours that the Mummy franchise is going to be rebooted and a new trilogy made. The next time round it'll be a real trilogy, without any Chinese mischmasch. I don't think it's necessary, but as long as they don't ruin it I'll be happy. I wonder what the unexpected back-story will be. Maybe Rick O'Connell will find his father buried in a mummy's tomb?

Off-Topic: Brian Farmer Murder Trial, Day 5

Day 5 -- November 19, 2013

For most of today the trial's focus was on Peter Knowles. He used to be a frequent visitor of an organisation called Fireside in Birmingham, a charity that assists people who are homeless or have alcohol problems. It's an admirable organisation that provides free meals, clothing and counselling seven days a week. Lisa Clarke was also a frequent visitor. John Campion had visited Fireside, but was barred for bad behaviour.

Beginning on September 18th 2012 Peter Knowles talked in separate meetings to three staff members of Fireside. He told them that he had witnessed the murder of Brian Farmer. A man called A.J. had been the main assailant, while Lisa Clarke, John Campion and a young kid whose name he didn't know were watching. (A.J. is Jason Andrews' nickname). The three reports he gave differed in minor points, but they all agreed that Jason was stabbing Brian with a knife and pouring boiling water over him. Peter and the four others left Brian's flat together. When they left Brian was still alive, but Peter claims that A.J. returned later by himself. In Peter's reports he stated that it all began when Brian threatened to kill Lisa by injecting her with something.

One thing has been puzzling me throughout the trial. Most of the witness testimonies so far have been second hand. What I mean is, people such as social workers or relatives have been saying, for instance, "Peter Knowles told me that he saw fill-in-the-blank happen". What's the point? Why not let the defendants speak for themselves? I can see two possible reasons for this. One reason is that some of the defendants might say something different when they're on the witness stand after listening to the others testify. In certain cases there have already been changes. What Vaughan Davies said when he first spoke to his social worker doesn't match what he said in his police statement. Was he putting right things he forgot first time, or did he decide to cover up something he regretted saying? That's one of the tough questions the jury will have to decide.

The other reason is that in the criminal sub-culture it's considered bad to tell the police what someone has done, especially if that person is a friend or a fellow criminal. They call this "grassing". In prisons it's common for prisoners who have "grassed others up" to be attacked by other inmates. It's an us-versus-them mentality. In their eyes the police are on the one side, and the good guys are on the other side. If a person tells a social worker that someone has committed a crime it's okay; if a person tells a policeman the same thing it's not. It's also not good to testify against a friend in court. The prosecution probably expects problems when the four defendants are called into the witness stand. So far, when giving testimony in private, they have all grassed up one another. When giving testimony in front of one another they might back down and put the blame on someone who wasn't there or doesn't even exist.

Today the jury was told about an incident that happened on April 20th 2012, less than a month before Brian's death. Brian was found sitting outside his home with a towel wrapped around his head, heavily bleeding. Police and ambulance were called. Brian informed the police that Jason Andrews had hit him over the head with a sugar bowl. The next day, after Brian was discharged from hospital, a policeman went to visit him. In his official statement Brian said that he refused to name the assailant because it was an old friend that he had known for 20 years. That's what I mean by not grassing.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Off-Topic: Brian Farmer Murder Trial, Day 4

Day 4 -- November 18, 2013

Today the jury was presented with the evidence of the pathologist. Brian's body was examined on May 20th 2012. At this time his body had already begun to decompose, making it difficult to identify the exact date of death. It was stated that Brian Farmer must have died between May 5th and May 10th, but the pathologist refused to pinpoint the date more precisely.

There were 54 injuries on Brian's body, all of which were described in great detail. Most of the wounds were superficial, some were potentially fatal if left untreated. Some were inflicted by sharp objects, some were inflicted by blunt objects, some were the result of scalding by boiling water. The deepest cuts, resulting in the greatest blood loss, were in his buttocks and upper thighs. There were also cuts to his head, shoulders and hands. In addition to this he had 11 fractured ribs, two on the left and nine on the right.

During the cross-examination of the pathologist the defence lawyers suggested that the injuries were sustained by Brian repeatedly falling over while in a drunken state. The pathologist admitted that some of the injuries might indeed have been caused by falls, but others were definitely due to the application of force from a third party. For instance, the damage of Brian's lower ribs on the right side might have been caused by him falling onto something like the edge of a table, but the fracture of the other ribs were in places that were unlikely to have been caused by falls. Apart from this, the pathologist stated that the ribs must have been fractured in at least four different "incidents".

Vaughan Davies' lawyer was especially interested to know if it was possible that the injuries were sustained in multiple attacks, i.e. Brian sustained some injuries in a minor attack, then received fatal injuries in a major attack a few days later. The pathologist ruled this out. It was impossible to say exactly when the injuries had occurred, but it was obvious that they had all been brought about at the same time, within a maximum time frame of 18 hours from the first to the last.

Finally it was revealed that Brian Farmer's blood was found on Vaughan Davies' tee shirt and trainers. Jason Andrews' blood was found on the intercom in Brian's flat and on the wall in the hallway outside his flat.

Off-Topic: World Chess Championship 2013, Game 7

If Sunday's game was the most exciting game of the world championship so far, today's game was certainly the most boring. Some people say that after losing two games in a row it was enough for Vishy to get a draw. I disagree. After today's drawn game the score is 4½–2½ in Magnus' favour. That means Vishy has to win at least three of the next five games. Considering that he hasn't won even one of the first seven games, that now looks like an impossibility. A win today would have given him at least a little hope.

Anand, Viswanathan – Carlsen, Magnus
FWCM 2013 Chennai (7) 18.11.2013

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. Bb5 Nf6
4. d3 Bc5
5. Bxc6 dxc6
6. Nbd2 Bg4
7. h3 Bh5
8. Nf1 Nd7
9. Ng3 Bxf3
10. Qxf3 g6
11. Be3 Qe7

Vishy began the game with the same four moves which lost him the sixth game, but in the fifth move he decided to exchange pieces. He committed his pieces to the kingside, only to be outplayed by Magnus castling on the queenside. After this there were no real fireworks in the game. Magnus forced the exchange of the rooks, making a draw unavoidable. In move 32 the game ended after threefold repetition.

12. O-O-O O-O-O
13. Ne2 Rhe8
14. Kb1 b6
15. h4 Kb7
16. h5 Bxe3
17. Qxe3 Nc5
18. hxg6 hxg6
19. g3 a5
20. Rh7 Rh8
21. Rdh1 Rxh7
22. Rxh7 Qf6
23. f4 Rh8
24. Rxh8 Qxh8
25. fxe5 Qxe5
26. Qf3 f5
27. exf5 gxf5
28. c3 Ne6
29. Kc2 Ng5
30. Qf2 Ne6
31. Qf3 Ng5
32. Qf2 Ne6
½ – ½ 

It's easy to see who is nervous now. Magnus was laughing and joking at the press conference. That's something he rarely does. He obviously doesn't expect any more problems.

Gravity (3½ Stars)

George Clooney and Sandra Bullock are two astronauts working to repair a space station. Their space shuttle is destroyed by flying debris, and they're left floating in space looking for an alternative way to return to Earth.

Sometimes a film is difficult to judge. This is one of them. It has spectacular special effects, but it's like fairground candy floss (called cotton candy in America); you pay your money and get something big in your hand, but when you put it in your mouth it shrivels up to nothing. It's all style and no substance. I was recommended this film by a friend who said that it has must-see 3D effects. I agree with this, despite my usual disinterest with 3D films. It's a film worth seeing in the cinema, but I wouldn't want to watch it at home.

P.S. When I got home I watched an episode of "Star Trek: The Next Generation". Now that is real science fiction action!

Sunday, 17 November 2013

The Mummy Returns (4½ Stars)

In many ways this is a typical sequel. If Hollywood has rules for sequels this ticks all the boxes. All of the characters return from the first film. The adventure is of a similar type. The action is more exaggerated. The danger is greater. There is more humour. Jokes are copied from the original film. The budget is bigger.

Is that all? Did I forget anything? There's one more factor that definitely doesn't have a tick box, but I'll add it anyway: the sequel isn't as good.

The last point is ironic, because in most cases, including this film, sequels make more money than the originals. That's easy to explain. When a film is made it isn't so well known. Normal film fans don't go to see it, or maybe they don't even hear about it. By the time the sequel comes around there's been a lot of publicity, and they want to see what they've missed. Don't get me wrong though. This is still a very good film. I just don't consider it to be a masterpiece like the first film.

This film was the introduction to acting for Dwayne Johnson, otherwise known as the Rock. I've never understood why professional wrestlers want to cross over into acting. From 1997 to 2003 I watched a lot of wrestling on television. I knew the Rock well. He went from being a first class wrestler to an average actor. Admittedly, he isn't as bad as other actors like Tom Cruise. But through his change of career he went from being the best in one field to being average in another. I suppose acting pays better money than wrestling, and he gets to kiss more girls, so good luck to him.

Is "The Mummy Returns" worth watching? Definitely! But watch the first film first, because the characters appear this time round without being introduced to the viewers. Don't waste time renting it. If you live in England you can buy it for less than 50p from Amazon. No wonder Blockbuster UK has gone into bankruptcy.

This post probably brings a sigh of relief to my regular readers who think I've been writing too much about chess. I admit that chess isn't a subject that interests everyone, but it'll only be for a couple of weeks. I've only received a few comments on my chess game reviews, and they've all been negative. Unless you're an active chess player, chess is boring. So please, if you've read and enjoyed my posts about the Magnus-Vishy conflict, tell me. I need the encouragement.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Off-Topic: World Chess Championship 2013, Game 6

After Magnus Carlsen's first victory yesterday the pressure was on the reigning world champion Viswanathan (Vishy) Anand. Tactically speaking, all Magnus needed today was a draw. Vishy, on the other hand, needed a win to remain in the contest. The scene when they arrived showed nothing of this. Vishy arrived at the table looking calm and relaxed, impeccably dressed as always. Magnus arrived with his hair uncombed and his shirt hanging out, leading commentators to joke that he had been partying all night. But this admittedly bizarre scene didn't last. As the game progressed Magnus patted down his hair, and the stress began to show on Vishy. While Vishy sat staring intently at the board Magnus was leaning back, relaxed and self-confident.

Anand, Viswanathan – Carlsen, Magnus
FWCM 2013 Chennai (6) 16.11.2013

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. Bb5 Nf6
4. d3 Bc5
5. c3 O-O
6. O-O Re8
7. Re1 a6
8. Ba4 b5
9. Bb3 d6
10. Bg5 Be6
11. Nbd2 h6
12. Bh4 Bxb3
13. axb3

For the first two hours of the game Magnus played very relaxed chess, making slow moves, not attacking, just sitting back and waiting for Vishy to make the first attack. We can see Magnus' strategy in this position. After exchanging the bishops on b3 the logical move would have been to play a5 to gain a more active position. Instead of this he played the shocking move Nb8, which totally confused the commentators, followed by Nbd7, Qe7 and Qe6. He didn't play a5 until move 18. These moves weren't necessarily bad, but he was playing defensively, leaving it up to Vishy to do something productively. Vishy spent these moves adjusting his knights on the kingside, but only because he had nothing else to do. In the following press conference Vishy called 13...Nb8 a very strong move. I'm not convinced it really was that strong, but it was certainly a powerful psychological blow.

14. h3 Nbd7
15. Nh2 Qe7
16. Ndf1 Bb6
17. Ne3 Qe6
18. b4 a5
19. bxa5 Bxa5
20. Nhg4 Bb6
21. Bxf6 Nxf6
22. Nxf6+ Qxf6
23. Qg4 Bxe3
24. fxe3 Qe7
25. Rf1 c5
26. Kh2 c4
27. d4 Rxa1
28. Rxa1 Qb7
29. Rd1 Qc6
30. Qf5 exd4
31. Rxd4 Re5
32. Qf3 Qc7
33. Kh1 Qe7
34. Qg4 Kh7
35. Qf4 g6
36. Kh2 Kg7
37. Qf3 Re6

The game continued to progress slowly. By move 24 all the minor pieces were gone. The a-rooks, which had been staring at one another since move 20, were finally exchanged in move 28. This left each side with a queen, a rook and seven pawns. As experienced chess players know, having 14 pawns on the board at this late stage in the game clutters the board and makes advances difficult. The commentators were predicting a draw, and even the exchange of two pawns in the centre did little to simplify the position. But as I said at the beginning, Vishy wasn't happy with a draw. He had to do something aggressive. In move 38 he played Qg3, sacrificing a pawn, but clearing up the board clutter in the following exchanges. Was this a good move? The opinions are divided. Vishy was a pawn down, but he had the possibility to attack black's b and c-pawns. It looked like a good strategy when it was played. Now I'm not so sure.

In move 44 Vishy sacrificed a second pawn, leading to gasps from the audience. It's a brave man who's willing to face Magnus The Chess Machine Carlsen in a rook endgame two pawns down. Vishy had the possibility to attack and retake the h-pawn a few moves later, but he was playing a risky game.

38. Qg3 Rxe4
39. Qxd6 Rxe3
40. Qxe7 Rxe7
41. Rd5 Rb7
42. Rd6 f6
43. h4 Kf7
44. h5 gxh5
45. Rd5 Kg6
46. Kg3 Rb6
47. Rc5 f5
48. Kh4 

In the following 13 moves Magnus Carlsen showed the world why he deserves to be the new world champion. In my opinion these were the most exciting moves of the championship so far. He was like a snake, which had spent the whole game coiled up, patiently watching his prey. Now he was ready to strike. Nobody saw it coming. Magnus played Re6, sacrificing his b-pawn. After some manoeuvring this also led to the sacrifice of the c-pawn in move 59. Then he went on to sacrifice his h-pawn in move 61. Magnus had gone from being two pawns up to one pawn down... but he was winning! The f-pawn was free to march on to become a queen. It's possible that Vishy could have drawn the game by playing 60.b4 instead of 60.Ra4, but it would have been a difficult game. Vishy resigned after move 67.
49. Rxb5 Re4+
50. Kh3 Kg5
51. Rb8 h4
52. Rg8+ Kh5
53. Rf8 Rf4
54. Rc8 Rg4
55. Rf8 Rg3+
56. Kh2 Kg5
57. Rg8+ Kf4
58. Rc8 Ke3
59. Rxc4 f4
60. Ra4 h3
61. gxh3 Rg6
62. c4 f3
63. Ra3+ Ke2
64. b4 f2
65. Ra2+ Kf3
66. Ra3+ Kf4
67. Ra8 Rg1
0 – 1

Now things are looking dark for the world champion. It's halfway through the match and he's 4-2 down. Vishy desperately needs to win the next two games to remain with a chance. But it's difficult enough to draw against Magnus, what are his chances of beating him?

Off-Topic: World Chess Championship 2013, Game 5


After four draws, Magnus Carlsen drew the first blood today. It was a very complex game, beyond the capabilities of normal players like me. It's claimed that the game was won because Vishy blundered in move 45, but it's no exaggeration to say that Vishy's blunders are better than my best moves.

Carlsen, Magnus – Viswanathan, Anand
FWCM 2013 Chennai (5) 15.11.2013

1. c4 e6 
2. d4 d5 
3. Nc3 c6 
4. e4 dxe4 
5. Nxe4 Bb4+ 
6. Nc3 c5 
7. a3 Ba5 
8. Nf3 Nf6 
9. Be3 Nc6 

The next move at this position surprised the commentators. Expected was something like 10.dxc5, gaining a pawn advantage. In this position a doubling of the c-pawns would be strong, especially after a queen swap. Instead of this Magnus played 10.Qd3, preparing the way for queenside castling and moving the rook into the centre of the board. This gained a small but significant advantage for Magnus that Vishy had to fight against for the next 30 moves.

10. Qd3 cxd4 
11. Nxd4 Ng4 
12. O-O-O Nxe3 
13. fxe3 Bc7 
14. Nxc6 bxc6 
15. Qxd8+ Bxd8 
16. Be2 Ke7 
17. Bf3 Bd7 
18. Ne4 Bb6 
19. c5 f5 
20. cxb6 fxe4
21. b7 Rab8 

22. Bxe4 Rxb7 
23. Rhf1 Rb5 
24. Rf4 g5 
25. Rf3 h5 
26. Rdf1 Be8 
27. Bc2 Rc5 
28. Rf6 h4 
29. e4 a5 
30. Kd2 Rb5 
31. b3 Bh5 
32. Kc3 Rc5+ 
33. Kb2 Rd8
34. R1f2 Rd4 

35. Rh6 Bd1 
36. Bb1 Rb5 
37. Kc3 c5 
38. Rb2 e5 

By move 38 the game had developed into a complex rook and pawn endgame. Some commentators considered the game drawn, and others even saw a small advantage for Vishy, but over the next four moves Magnus gained a pawn advantage. The structure of Vishy's remaining pawns was shattered, and having them on advanced squares was a liability, not an advantage.

39. Rg6 a4 
40. Rxg5 Rxb3+ 
41. Rxb3 Bxb3 
42. Rxe5+ Kd6 
43. Rh5 Rd1 
44. e5+ Kd5 
45. Bh7 

This is the position at which Vishy's notorious blunder occurred. It's claimed that if he had played 45...Ra1 he would have had a chance at a draw. Instead he played 45...Rc1+, and by move 51 Magnus was two pawns up. Vishy should have resigned in move 51, but he struggled on for a few more moves and resigned in move 58.

46. Kb2 Rg1 
47. Bg8+ Kc6 
48. Rh6+ Kd7 
49. Bxb3 axb3 
50. Kxb3 Rxg2 
51. Rxh4 Ke6 
52. a4 Kxe5 
53. a5 Kd6 
54. Rh7 Kd5 
55. a6 c4+ 
56. Kc3 Ra2 
57. a7 Kc5 
58. h4 
1 – 0 

Even weak players should have no trouble seeing the easy win for Magnus here. The black rook can stop either the a-pawn or the h-pawn becoming a queen, but not both. At best Vishy could delay the inevitable by harrassing the white king with checks, but that wouldn't be worthy of world champions. The game was over and they both knew it.

The score is now 3-2 with seven games to go. Let's hope for more excitement tomorrow.