Is Amazon wasting Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s talents?

The Tomb Raider franchise seems to have been a graveyard for oddly overqualified people. Angelina Jolie played the character of Lara Croft twice after winning an Oscar, and subsequently Alicia Vikander gave the English aristocrat-turned-global adventurer a go. Neither left much of a mark – which is why it is all the more surprising that Fleabag creator and star Phoebe Waller-Bridge is to write the scripts for a new Amazon series based on the video game. It has been wryly observed that, despite her heroics in the forthcoming Indiana Jones film, Waller-Bridge herself is not expected to play Lara Croft. That’s a disappointment for those of us who would enjoy a mixture of arch smirks to

My childhood Cold War fears are back

On the day before my seventh birthday, which I spent at my grandma’s in Yorkshire, a young man named Raymond Jones walked into North End Music Stores in Liverpool and asked the guy behind the counter for a record on which an obscure local group called the Beatles provided the backing track for a song titled ‘My Bonnie’. The guy behind the counter was the shop’s manager and the son of its owner. His name was Brian Epstein, and as a restless budding entrepreneur he felt he should be alert to what was going on around him. Because of young Raymond’s evident enthusiasm, Brian made a note on a piece

Do we still need explorers today?

In November 2017 Benedict Allen found himself at the centre of a media frenzy. He’d been in Papua New Guinea (PNG) on a one-man expedition and hadn’t been heard of for weeks. Declaring him ‘lost’, several papers turned on him, accusing him of being overprivileged and imperialistic. One even suggested the whole thing was a stunt. It didn’t help that he was picked up by a helicopter, sent by the Daily Mail. This was a story the paper’s rivals wanted to spoil. Explorer is Allen’s account of that journey and how it all began. It’s no excuse or apology, but is written with anger and passion. The story begins in

The snobbery of Extinction Rebellion’s Amazon blockade

Every week brings fresh proof of what a bunch of bourgeois snobs Extinction Rebellion are. The latest exhibit is their blockading of Amazon’s main distribution centres. The eco-loons and their apologists are dressing this up as a principled stand against venal capitalism. Pull the other one. This is just a noisy middle-class moan about the greedy masses and all the ‘crap’ we’re planning to buy on Black Friday. Yes, not content with irritating deliverymen, builders and other productive members of the working classes by plonking themselves on the M25 and other major roads a few weeks ago, now XR is trying to stop us from getting the things we’ve ordered

Can Boris Johnson salvage COP26?

It’s day two of COP26 and so far the climate summit in Glasgow has made news for travel chaos, Greta Thunberg’s swearing and the Archbishop of Canterbury’s unfortunate ‘Nazi’ climate comparison. There was some disappointment among government officials on Monday when India only set a target of 2070 to reach net zero, but ministers are hopeful that today – which is the last full day many world leaders will spend at the two-week summit – will see better headlines. This is also the first agreement Boris Johnson can really shout about The first of which is an agreement between more than 100 world leaders to end and reverse deforestation by

Dave Eggers cancels Amazon

Selling books through Amazon is now part and parcel of a working author’s life. It would be a brave writer who decided to refuse to allow their work to be sold through earth’s biggest retailer. But that is exactly what Dave Eggers has done with his new book, The Every, which he has decreed can only be purchased from independent bookstores. Sorry, Jeff Bezos; this one’s not for you. It is hard to dismiss his decision to eschew Amazon as simply a quixotic act of rebellion by a washed-up has been Eggers has form in this regard. His 2013 satire The Circle took aim at a monolithic social media and tech

Bitcoin’s whiplash volatility is still a problem

Crypto markets were in a tizzy over the past week following rumours – later quashed – that Amazon was planning to accept bitcoin for payments. Last Thursday, Amazon posted a job opening for a digital currency and blockchain lead, prompting a media frenzy that culminated with a report that the company would accept bitcoin payments by the end of the year. Bitcoin prices had been declining since April, but they surged by almost 15 per cent to hit £29,000, before moderating to around £27,000 yesterday after Amazon denied the report, saying the speculation around specific plans for cryptocurrencies was not true. Another roller coaster ride was to come, after Bloomberg

This film deserves all the awards and praise: Nomadland reviewed

Nomadland won multiple Oscars including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actress, and if there’d been an award for Best Film In Which The Woman In Her Sixties Isn’t The Least Developed Character In The Screenplay, Hallelujah, About Time, it would have scooped that too. Not much competition, regrettably, but you have to admire the film just for that, plus there is much to admire generally. It is based on the non-fiction book Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century by the journalist Jessica Bruder, who spent months living with older Americans who, out of economic necessity, eke out a living while travelling from place to place for seasonal employment.

The BBC needs to face up to the truth about the licence fee’s future

It won’t come as much of a surprise to learn that the National Audit Office thinks the BBC faces ‘significant’ uncertainty over its financial future due to changes in viewing habits. The NAO’s findings are about as ground-breaking as your average anodyne Beeb drama, but they do tighten the cilice on a funding model that is impossibly outdated in the 21st century.  In the past decade alone, there has been a 30 per cent decline in BBC TV viewing; on average, the amount of time an adult spent watching broadcast BBC TV fell from 80 minutes per day in 2010 to 56 minutes in 2019. When it comes to younger

Why charity begins in shops

When everything re-opened after the first lockdown, I didn’t immediately head to a restaurant, bar or hairdresser. I went to the Second Chance charity shop on Blackstock Road in north London. It wasn’t that I was feeling particularly charitable. If anything, my visit came from a place of selfishness. I wanted to rootle around, alone, and find something unexpected — and probably pointless — in the piles of bric-à-brac. Out I came with a milk jug (£2.50) and a book titled Cool Names for Babies (50p) written by two women called Pamela Redmond Satran and Linda Rosenkrantz. I instantly felt better, as though the past few months had been a

What to watch on Amazon Prime this Autumn

Whether you’re stuck at home in quarantine or just looking to spice up those weekday evenings, there’s plenty coming to Amazon Prime over the autumn. Here’s our round-up of the shows and films you don’t want to miss: The Boys (Season Two), 4 September Set in a parallel universe in which superheroes are real – and form a crucial part of America’s police industrial complex – The Boys is a smart and timely satire that packs a serious punch. Don’t let the familiar capes and claws aesthetic fool you: this is no Marvel rip-off. For all their YouTube-friendly stunts, this is a series about how latex-clad ‘supes’ aren’t always as

In defence of Amazon

We should take heart from BP’s £5.1 billion second-quarter loss, accompanied by a halving of its dividend. What’s good about that? Nothing — except that the loss reflects a write-down of the value of oil and gas assets that shifts the company to a more realistic footing for an extended period of low oil prices and reduced demand, indicating resilience rather than impending doom. In recent times, BP has lived through Deepwater Horizon, history’s most politicised oil-rig disaster, and extricated itself from TNK-BP, history’s nastiest Russian joint-venture. It operated when oil was below $20 a barrel in 2001 and when it hit $147 in 2008. It has plans to achieve

Will retail giants outsmart the online sales tax?

When I worked in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur long ago, my office looked across Jalan Tun Razak, a boulevard named in honour of the country’s second prime minister and ‘father of development’. This week his son Najib Razak, its sixth prime minister (2009-2018), was convicted of charges relating to the disappearance of $4.5 billion from a sovereign wealth fund called 1MDB which he once controlled. More trials await, but 1MDB may go down not only as the world’s biggest corruption scandal but also the most vulgar — proceeds that might have helped Malaysia’s poor having been frittered on private jets, penthouses, parties in Las Vegas and the financing

What’s new to watch on Amazon Prime

While the coronavirus might have delayed filming for now, the big streaming services are still managing to put out new content – at least for the time being. Here are eight new releases on Amazon Prime to keep you entertained on those lazy summer evenings: Dating Amber, available now Fans of Sex Education and Derry Girls will likely be charmed by this kind-hearted semi-romcom about two nerdy misfits – one male, one female – coming to terms with their sexuality in 1990s Ireland. As a ploy to hide their real preference from homophobic bullies, the two friends decide to pretend to be a couple. But it’s when they escape to

The best Independence Day films to watch on 4th July

Jaws, Amazon (To rent or buy) Nothing says ‘Murica’ quite like insisting the beaches stay open – killer shark or no – because it’s the 4th July weekend. It’s why – during his brief libertarian phase – Boris Johnson once declared that Larry Vaughn, the Mayor of Amity, was the movie’s true hero. Apart from the now rather obvious clunkiness of ‘Bruce’ the mechanical great white, the film still stands the test of time – the jump scare when they investigate the sunken fishing boat; the memorable scene where Quint describes his experiences after the USS Indianopolis was torpedoed; the literally explosive climax. duunnn dunnn… duuuunnnn duun… Independence Day, iTunes

Tinkering with VAT won’t make us trust the government

Should Chancellor Rishi Sunak cut VAT as an emergency stimulus to the consumer economy? When Labour’s Alistair Darling made a 2.5 per cent £12 billion cut after the 2008 crash, I called it ‘an unconvincing and expensive gambit’, on the basis that shoppers would barely notice and that ‘far more significant will be the general level of confidence as it is affected by business failures and job losses… and the general grimness of global economic news’. The same applies today only more so, given that inflation is dormant, households’ pent-up spending power has in many cases been boosted by lockdown and the top VAT-cut winner would likely be Amazon. By