Star Wars VII review

Why does Finn played John Boyega (British/Nigerian) speak with an American accent and General Hux played by Domhnall Gleeson (Irish) speak with a pre world war one English accent?
Why does Finn – after 20 years of brain washing by the First Order (post Empire)- so instantly change his mind in the opening battle scene about what he’s finding for – and none of his hundreds of thousands of stormtrooper predecessors ever contemplated such a switch in sides before?

The baddies also werent scary enough.  Maybe because i’m 38 years older than when i watched my first Star Wars, but Kylo Ren (the updated masked (then unmasked) baddy with a deep voice) didn’t frighten me enough.  IN fact he didn’t worry me much at all.

There: my 3 moans about Star Wars. For the rest of it: I loved Star Wars VII – The Force Awakens

Reliance on non-stop blaster shoot-outs and hurtling aircraft fighting each other which no-one can really see or comprehend has thankfully been abandoned in favour of off-green-screen action ie the real world.  Loads of sumptuously shot desert scenes and giant film sets in Pinewood studios work much better than a blur of fight scenes in space.

The plot was easy to follow. I cared about the characters – unlike the prequels – and older, younger, male and female, pretty and ugly people were allowed on our screens. Vicious droids from Star Wars I are gone to be replaced by the the finest collection of aliens ever.  The famous Cantina scene from IV is emulated with different music but just as interesting.

I think SW purests (and I count myself as one) will like -if not love – this re-imagining of the franchise.  It has more humour, more colour and more authenticity than the prequels.

The nods to previous great lines are there but the dialogue is not too stodgy, too knowing, too nerdy.

Finally it was amazing to see the beautiful Skellig Islands in Co Kerry at the very end of the movie but how the hell did they get the Millennium Falcon onto the jagged rocks?


This IS the Star Wars we were looking for.

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James Murdoch leaves Isleworth in London for Manhattan

James’s resignation has a lot to do with the BskyB share price. Having fallen by 26% last summer, BskyB – which has nothing to do with News International (the Times, Sun etc) other than the Murdoch family presence – has had what’s called a ‘share overhang’. This means that the question marks over James Murdoch relating to hacking and whether he knew it was going on or not at NOTW has hindered the BskyB share price advance.

By resigning James distances himself from BskyB and this will probably benefit the share price going forward – assuming there are no further damaging revelations at Leveson or indeed the Culture Committee.

It also means that if Ofcom finds that JM is not a ‘fit n proper’ person to run a broadcaster, BskyB will now be only tangentially affected as he’s no longer in charge – though still on the board.

Non Murdoch shareholders in BskyB – led by Blackrock and Legal & General – are less concerned with hacking and more with up and coming media issues. The bid for Premier league football rights are to be decided this year. These rights account for 1/4 of BskyB’s programming budget and there is a worry that someone new eg Al Jazeera (back with Qatari oil wealth) might come in and push up the price for the football rights as they did in France. That would eat into profits – especially if Al Jazeera actually secured the broadcast rights.

BskyB investors are also worried about the impact of Apple TV which is on its way and could prove to be a viable alternative to Sky’s pay TV offering

Away from the financial side of things, JM’s resignation denotes the all but complete withdrawal of the Murdoch family presence from the UK media scene. Rupert arrived with great fanfare in 1969, his anointed son arrived in 2003 and now they are both back in New York licking their wounds

Although Murdoch enemies will tell you that JM is not fully gone from the UK. He remains deputy COO at News Int (the papers) and on the board of BskyB.

The bid from News Corp to buy the rest of BskyB (it already owns 40%) is probably only parked for now until the heat dies down. So JM will have to settle for only running the biggest global pay TV company in the world from Manhattan instead of Isleworth!

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Iceland supreme court ruling may accelerate repayment to UK and NL governments

My instant reaction to today’s ruling from the Icelandic Supreme court would be that this ruling now unties the hands of the Icelandic government to repay UK and NL the £2.4bn owing from the collapse of Landsbanki in 2008.

After 2 referendums in Iceland which both rejected a plan to repay the Netherlands and UK between 2016 and 2045, this ruling from the highest court in Iceland means that Reykjavik is now legally bound to repay both countries under the teams which it rather than the Icelandic people see fit.

Iceland’s main banks collapsed at the height of the financial crisis 3 years ago, which meant that 300,000 British savers with one of those banks – Icesave- couldn’t access their deposits. The UK Treasury refunded them in full and the government in Reykjavik agreed to repay that £2.4bn with interest.

That refund did not cover dozens of British local authorities which had saved with Icesave because they were considered to be educated investors rather than depositors.

Today’s Icelandic Supreme court ruling sets out that Depositors (including councils’ money) have “priority creditor status” for the deposits they had in failed Icelandic banks.

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UK Govt proposes a more permanent clock change – Is Britain moving closer to Europe after all?

For those of you who read today’s press release from the Dept for Business & Innovation and assumed that Britain’s clocks are set to change permanently soon, might I ratchet your expectations downwards?

There is a Private Members Bill winding its way through parliament at the moment which goes to committee next month and must be agreed upon before April 2012 to avoid being guillotined. The Govt is now formally supporting the Bill.

Assuming it passes all these hurdles, the Govt would then commission a review and that might determine when or even whether there should be jump onto CET – possibly by 2013.

The Review though will consult all the devolved UK parliaments and assemblies and there is nothing to suggest that Scotland would change its tune. In fact Edinburgh said as recently as last March that the SNP administration was against it because of the increased risk to Scottish children travelling to school in the dark.

Furthermore the UK govt has said that ‘consensus’ was needed for a change but what it really meant was unanimity because as a spokesman for BIS told me “if there is any disagreement then it wont happen”.

This begs the question: Why would the UK govt back a plan which it knows in its heart will fail due to an effective Scottish veto?

The answer seems to lie (according to my BBC Millbank colleagues) in the right wing of the Tory party whose MPs predominantly like the idea of brighter evenings in Winter. So, in order to placate them after the Commons Euro referendum vote on Monday, the Govt will throw them a bone to chew on, which ironically would bring Britain that bit closer to Europe i.e. in the same time zone.

PS: For those of you who cant get enough of this story, I’ve attached my TV piece on it from 12 months ago

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Why the #Occupy movement should occupy the minds of politicians

There’s a key barometer of income disparity, which some might describe as a measure of fairness. It’s called the Gini Co-efficient and the higher the number the more unequal the distribution of wealth in that country.

The so-called Anglo Saxon nations of the UK and US have a very high Gini. In the US alone, the top 1% of the population owns 23.5% of that country’s income.

This is at the heart of the #Occupy movement.

And governments – whether democratic or otherwise – should not ignore this movement because it could be the start of a gamechanger.

That’s because these Occupy movements aren’t the usual collection of hippies, communists and conscientious objectors – though they are well represented here as well. They are mostly populated by young educated middle class men and women. People who are seriously worried that they have no future and no way of creating a future for themselves.

50% of 18-24 year olds in Spain have no job. One million young people in Britain are unemployed and finding it very tough to get on a career ladder.

These people are the voters and leaders of the future and they cant even get unpaid internships because the sons and daughters of the elite have those slots mopped up.

They are experiencing something their parents never did.  They have forgone early income streams in order to get an education and when they come out the other side burdened with massive university debts, they either cant get a job or the job they get pays no better than the guy who left school at 17.

This is why the Labour leader Ed Miliband (who has otherwise been  uninspiring) knew exactly what he was saying when spoke of the ‘squeezed middle’.

Why would you bother getting a 3rd level education if you dont earn considerably more than the person without a degree?

This is frightening politicians who know that the middle classes drive every economy and decide every election.  If they see their young adults out of work with good degrees and nowhere to emigrate to, that bodes ill for society as a whole.

And it’s getting worse. Even if you have a nice white collar job like an accountant or solicitor, you face the very real prospect of being priced out of the market by your equivalent in India.  Companies, which outsourced blue collar jobs such as manufacturing are now targeting the professions.

That doesnt make companies nor capitalism evil. It’s just a natural yet unexpected by product of the same globalisation which has lifted hundreds of millions out of abject poverty.

And so the cost-cutting and austerity which is a by-product of the banking crisis – caused by the 1% – has spawned a new very mobile and very switched on protest movement on behalf of the 99% .

Theirs is the earth and all that’s in it. Yet for the first time they (the young middle class) are poorer in real terms than the generation before them.

How long will it be before the well heeled start rioting on the streets of London, Manchester, Boston or New York ie the countries with high Gini Co-efficients?

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Double take: UK is among the fastest growing countries in the G7. Best of very weak bunch

Using Q2 GDP as the basis, then Britain is just behind the US and Italy in GDP growth figures. But if you used the first half figures, Britain would be the third weakest.

It’s a measure of just how weak the Group of the richest industrialised nations (G7) is that Britain with its paltry 0.2% growth, can proudly say that it’s on the podium for growth among its peers. That the gold medal would go to all but bankrupt Italy and that Germany and Japan are amongst the weakest, shows that the global economy is in a very strange place.

GDP growth Q2   Q1
UK               0.2% 0.5%
Canada      -0.1% 0.9%
Germany    0.1% 1.3%
France        0.0% 0.9%
USA            0.3%*** (1.3% annualised)
Japan        -0.5% -0.9%
Italy           0.3% 0.1%

***The figure for the USA is difficult because they only publish an annualised figure and simply dividing by 4 is not accurate for a quarterly figure


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Countdown on the Eurozone Crisis: the crucial next 5 weeks

Oct 3 Eurogroup in Luxembourg
Oct 4 Ecofin
Oct 13-16 G20 Finance Ministers in Paris
Oct 14 Slovakia govt to vote on EFSF at the latest
Oct 14 Date on which Greece says it will run out of cash without €8bln bailout tranche
Oct 17-18 Full EU Council in Brussels
Oct 31 Trichet’s last day as ECB president /Draghi’s first day
Nov 3-4 G20 Heads of State & Govt in Cannes

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