Five-star movie, one-star review

This is my first (and possibly only) ever movie review that I would like to share with you.

It started with a tweet – this tweet, following the release and subsequent promotion of Argo, which is directed by Ben Affleck:

At the time it was read out on air and retweeted by Kermode & Mayo (a.k.a. @wittertainment) so I felt I ought to follow up on my tweet. Sadly, cinemas are expensive, and generally not my favourite places to be. Last night I was delighted to see that Argo is already available on iTunes! I downloaded it, watched it, and afterwards was so in awe of what I had just watched that I just had to submit my review on iTunes:

If you can forgive [Ben] Affleck for not sticking to the exact story, I think you may love this movie. You see, while Affleck does drift off from the exact events that inspired this work, we all know its conclusion and to then make it into a movie that is so intense and so full of suspense, yet with enough focus on the characters – all of them – to keep them human… that’s no mean feat, yet Affleck nails it.

I disagree with other reviewers who call this a “re-writing of history”; when you watch Argo you may find, as I did, that there are various specific points in its screenplay where Affleck could have just veered off and really make this into a bloated, chauvinist re-writing of history (possibly riddled with plenty of action scenes, special effects, CGI and other pompous drivel)… yet at those very points you can see he has held back and kept it together; I feel that’s what makes this movie all the more intense. Argo is no flippant or shallow piece of ‘strong and clever American superheroes vs. nasty and dumb non-American evil-doers’ fiction, when Affleck could quite easily have made it into that, and other directors probably would have done so.

On paper, this movie probably wouldn’t have appealed to me, exactly for the aforementioned reasons raised against it by other reviewers (reasons that I disagree with now that I’ve seen the movie). It was Ben Affleck himself who made me want to watch it when I heard him being interviewed about it by Mark Kermode & Simon Mayo last year. He was so tremendously engaging and intelligent in that interview that I felt compelled to go watch this movie. Tonight I have watched it and I am immensely grateful that I did. It’s sublime.

I forgot to include a health warning with the above review, so I feel the need to correct that mistake here: I really only ever watch anything when I go to bed. Usually that helps me unwind and then I tend to nod off into a relaxing sleep (quite often even before the ending of whatever it is I am watching). On this occasion the suspense was so great that I found myself wide awake and mildly hyperventilating for at least half an hour afterwards. So please, be warned.

Further reading: ‘Argo’: The Movie vs. The True Story, Argo: How the CIA and Hollywood Pulled Off the Most Audacious Rescue in History and The Houseguests: A Memoir of Canadian Courage and CIA Sorcery.

Further viewing (SPOILER ALERT): Argo: The Reel Story: How the movie Argo downplays Canada’s role in the rescue mission (CTV W5 2013).



This post was updated in November 2013 to reflect changes to available services. To skip straight to the TV licensing info, click here. To go straight to the information about on-demand services, click here.

In 2009, I got rid of my TV. April or May, I think it was, though I could be mistaken on that particular detail. For all the inspiration TV offered me, the annoyance it caused got the better of me.

While my annoyance was mostly with the BBC, I’d be lying if I claimed that was the whole story. It certainly wasn’t. But I’d say it was most of the story for me, for sure. I don’t know what it’s like today, but at that time I felt that for every gem the BBC broadcast, it seemed they would broadcast at least five shining examples of sheer and utter rubbish. And I don’t mean broadcasts that I simply didn’t like (perhaps because I wasn’t a member of the targeted audience for it), no, I really mean relentless bile that should never have been put on air; for instance because it was poorly researched, or because an interviewer appeared either completely out of his or her depth or too unbalanced (possibly biased), or because an expert on Victorian macramé did not quite turn out to be the ideal guest to have been invited on a programme to share their insights on twenty-first century legacies of the Third Reich.

In fairness to the Beeb, they were not the only ones producing rubbish. They were, however, the only ones to do so using my and everyone else’s money paid through TV Licensing. So when my resentment with having to pay for a TV licence grew to the level that I could no longer justify it in my budget, I gave up on the TV.

Resisting any naughty desire to open the window and throw out the TV (read: realising that (a) I wasn’t a rockstar and (b) the darn thing wasn’t quite portable enough for me to be able to physically throw it), I left it on top of my wheelie bin outside, with a note attached that said “Take me! I still work!” or something to that effect. Hours later it was gone.

Life without TV

Do I miss having a telly? Not at all. You see, life without a TV – for me – isn’t life without television. It’s just a life without the appliance in my home, and it feels good. If I want to see a televised football match, I go to my local. As for everything else, I’ve become a selective online consumer.

There’s a popular myth that “if you own a computer or have an internet connection, you have to have a TV licence”, but that’s just that – a myth.

“You need to be covered by a valid TV Licence if you watch or record TV as it’s being broadcast. This includes the use of devices such as a computer, laptop, mobile phone or DVD/video recorder.”

“You need to be covered by a licence if you watch TV online at the same time as it’s being broadcast on conventional TV in the UK or the Channel Islands.”

So since letting TV Licensing know I no longer needed a TV licence, I’ve only forfeited live TV (including online live streams), and by choosing what I want to watch carefully and selectively, I find myself only very occasionally confronted with TV drivel, thus minimising annoyance.

TV on demand, online

Let me be very clear about something: I don’t mind paying for what I’d like to watch on TV, I merely resented having to pay for a TV licence when the hard-earned money I paid was – in my opinion – being squandered in a manner that took away from the quality broadcasts that were made from time to time. So I am not interested in dodgy peer-to-peer platforms or other questionable websites that provide ‘free’ this, that, and the other, especially because of what they don’t tell you there: the spam, spyware, trojans and other malware they provide you with – now that’s not just annoying, it’s outrageously risky, if not dangerous. It’s unnecessary, too, as there are plenty of safe alternatives.

BBC iPlayer allows me to avoid live streams (though they are available, for those with a TV licence) and stream or download previously broadcast programmes perfectly legally and, as it happens, free of charge. Other UK broadcasters have their own versions – ITV has its ITV Player and Channel 4 (including E4, More 4 etc.) has 4OD – where content contains commercials but that means viewing is free of charge. Sky Go contains a mixture of free and paid content, and you have to set up a user account, but you don’t necessarily need to have a paid Sky subscription (although the latter would unlock much more content); the live streams require a TV licence so I avoid them. TVCatchup is a no-no for me; it may be free and (apparently) legal, it’s also streaming live TV so would require a TV Licence.

For movies and TV series I personally prefer using iTunes because that way you only pay for what you want (no commitment) and because you download the content to your desktop, you don’t have the annoyance of buffering/lags. Web-based alternatives (which do stream the content and may therefore buffer/lag if you’re not on superfast broadband) include Netflix (which requires a regular subscription) and (Sky-owned) NowTV and Acetrax (Amazon-owned) LOVEFiLM. (NowTV requires a monthly subscription, like Netflix, whereas on Acetrax you only pay for what you rent or buy.)


After three-and-a-half years I can honestly say I have no regrets. The annoyance of TV has gone, as have the information overload and noise. Selective media consumption (not just in respect of television) is definitely the way to go for me. Moreover, I’ve since down-sized to smaller, more flexible/nomadic living arrangements; a TV (not to mention any set-top-box/digital-antenna malarkey now the analog signals have been turned off) would simply not fit in with that lifestyle. I can highly recommend it.

Note: if you are considering chucking out your TV like I did, remember that while you may not require a TV licence, I would recommend making sure you have an ‘unlimited data’ contract with your ISP if you intend to stream or download media.

Podwhat? Podcast!


(Previously posted on Facebook) (Last updated 28 January 2012 – further updates will undoubtedly follow.)


The new podcast “Ian Collins Wants a Word” will launch on 31 January 2012.
(Aside from that, you can catch Ian on radio weekly on Stephen Nolan’s show on BBC
5live on Saturdays after 10pm, and see him make regular TV appearances on BBC News and Sky News.)*

Some answers to questions (as previously posted in the Facebook page’s comments):

Q: How do I get Ian’s podcast(s)?
A: From Tuesday 31 January 2012 you can download it and/or subscribe to it using iTunes, or listen to it on

Q: Why can’t I find Ian’s podcast on iTunes?
A: Because it’s not there yet. It launches 31 January 2012 and won’t be visible before then.

Q: Is there an RSS feed/URL for Ian’s podcast?
A: Not yet. It launches 31 January 2012 and any direct link(s) available from then will be shared when they’re available.

Q: What is a podcast?
A: A podcast is a media file made available on the internet for download to a computer, portable media player, smartphone or other compatible device. Besides Google, a good resource for information about podcasts in general and iTunes podcasts in particular is Apple’s website: click here to read Apple’s web page dedicated to the topic; they also have a page where they answer Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).

Q: But I don’t have / I hate Apple/iTunes/etc..?
A: You don’t need an iPhone, iPod or iPad to get podcasts; anyone with a PC or Mac can download podcasts using iTunes or listen to it on

Q: What about my Android phone/tablet?
A: Android users can sync podcasts like any other files from their computer to their device or use podcast apps as listed on this online article by The Next Web and no doubt other information will be available elsewhere on the web.

Q: That rules me out then, I have a BlackBerry…
A: No, it doesn’t. BlackBerry users can sync from their computer to their device using BlackBerry Media Sync (an extension to your BlackBerry desktop software); once the URL for Ian’s specific podcasts is known you may even be able to download them directly onto your BB using the BlackBerry Podcast App, who knows.

Q: Yeah, but…
A: Bottom line is: any device that can play media files will be able to play podcasts. As for the Ian Collins Wants a Word podcast, if iTunes doesn’t tickle your (device’s) fancy, any web-enabled device should be able to get you to where the podcast will be made available as well.

Q: How can I contribute to Ian’s podcast?
A: Give him a shout on the studio mobile 07789 18 32 62 (from outside UK: +44 7789 18 32 62). He wants rants, opinions, things that annoy you, whatever you like! it’s a normal UK mobile number so not premium rates or anything. If he likes the message he may include it on the programme.

* Ian’s confirmed appearances from now until the end of February are as follows
  (list is subject to change and may not include all TV appearances):
  – Fri 28 Jan ’12 (TV) Sky News 10.30 & 11.30pm;
  – Sat 29 Jan ’12 (TV) BBC News 11.15pm;
  – Sat 29 Jan ’12 (RADIO) BBC 5live 11.30pm & 12.00am;
  – Tue 31 Jan ’12 (PODCAST) Ian Collins Wants a Word;
  – Sat 04 Feb ’12 (RADIO) BBC 5live 11.30pm & 12.00am;
  – Tue 07 Feb ’12 (PODCAST) Ian Collins Wants a Word;
  – Sat 11 Feb ’12 (RADIO) BBC 5live 11.30pm & 12.00am;
  – Tue 14 Feb ’12 (PODCAST) Ian Collins Wants a Word;
  – Sat 18 Feb ’12 (RADIO) BBC 5live 11.30pm & 12.00am;
  – Sun 19 Feb ’12 (RADIO) LBC 97.3 1-4pm;
  – Tue 21 Feb ’12 (PODCAST) Ian Collins Wants a Word;
  – Sat 25 Feb ’12 (RADIO) BBC 5live 11.30pm & 12.00am;
  – Sun 26 Feb ’12 (RADIO) LBC 97.3 4-7pm;
  – Tue 28 Feb ’12 (PODCAST) Ian Collins Wants a Word.

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© 2012 Ian Collins / Jo Hughes. All rights reserved.