The Thoughts of Cactus

Pups / Shite Royal Mail


Pups  -  Front DVD Cover  -  UK Release

Rebellious teenager Stevie (Cameron Van Hoy) finds his mother’s gun and along with his girlfriend (Mischa Barton) impulsively decides to rob a bank, becoming a latter-day Bonnie & Clyde in the process.  The pair find themselves in over their heads, as they take hostages and the FBI become involved in negotiating Stevie’s absurd demands.  Head FBI agent (Burt Reynolds) struggles to control the mounting tension in the bank, as he tries to keep the violence from escalating.  “Pups” is an edgy, post-modern response to the growing trend of senseless gun crime in America, featuring “two of the most natural and freed performances I have seen by actors of any age.” (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times)

1999  –  Certificate: 15  –  Rating Details: Strong Language and Moderate Sex References  –  American Film  –  6.5 out of 10

This week I’m seriously hating on the Royal Mail, the Post Office, Parcel Force, or whatever it’s called these days since it was stolen from everyone and then sold back to a small proportion of us.  In January I ordered a CD from Japan.   Instead of getting my CD, I got one of the dreaded, silver cards, explaining that I owed a £3.85 customs charge, plus a piss-taking £8.00 “handling fee”.  (And my name was spelt wrongly on the card too.)  So anyway, I paid the fees online eight days before the payment deadline but nothing then got delivered.  When I rang up (and it took three calls to get anywhere), I discovered that the CD had been returned to sender as it was claimed I’d not paid the fees.  So I then had to complete a claim (a two page P58) form to try and get my money back, plus the additional postage I’m now having to pay to get the CD reshipped to me, after I’d also had to go and sort that out with the company I’d bought it from.  The claim form itself was totally shit, as in festival toilets shit, as it asked loads of questions that I had no idea of the answer for, yet it was covered in threats telling me that if I didn’t answer them all my claim couldn’t be processed.  The form totally wasn’t designed for what I need to make a claim for.  The online version was even worse, as I couldn’t even get past the first page, or indeed the first paragraph.  I haven’t had a reply yet.  Why do they even need to know half the questions it asks anyway, as my CD clearly got as far as the UK or I’d not have been sent the silver card?  I remember when it cost 3p to send a first class letter (and 2.5p for second class).  Now it costs 93p (31 times as much) and the service seems worse, despite all the extra technology available these days.  It better pay my own, personal £8.00 “handling fee” I’ve added to my claim too.  And if this wasn’t all bad enough, two days ago I got a letter saying I needed to pay £9.14 VAT, plus an even bigger piss taking £13.50 “Clearance Fee” before they’ll redeliver it.  A total of £22.64, nearly twice as much as last time!  The CD only cost £20.34. What a load of bollocks it all is!  Unless the company has seriously undercharged me for delivery, then there’s no way the VAT can be £9.14.  The cost of the shipping would need to come to £25.36 for that VAT figure to be correct and I was only charged £8.03 for it each time.  I shall be interested to see what the packaging says, should it ever actually be delivered.  I don’t mind paying the VAT, but I can’t see how it’s been worked out correctly, or understand why the handing fee has now become a clearance fee and nearly doubled.  Fucking Nazi Postman Pat can fucking fuck off.  I’m going to write to The Queen, it is the Royal Mail after all; I’m sure she’ll go and bang a few heads together when she hears about this.  Right now I can so understand the protagonist in this film.  I feel like I want to go postal.

There’re three things about the US that no one else in the world understands.  These’re its favourite sports, its approach to public health care and it’s obsession with the right to own guns.  This film is about the latter.  It was made 16 years ago, yet despite a seemingly ongoing parade of nutters with guns going into shops, schools, offices and other places during this period, nothing much seems to have changed since then.  That’s kind of sad and reflects badly on the huge number of people there who do actually have some common sense.  This is quite a rubbishy movie.  The whole approach the police take to deal with the situation makes little sense and what Burt Reynolds is up to most of the time I have no idea; he spends most of it sitting in a car waiting for the kids in the bank to do something, pacing around smoking and scowling, or fielding calls from his wife.  The police and FBI seem to have very little control over the onlookers and the press too; there’re armed police everywhere as well as the kids with guns, yet they’re all within a few metres of the bank.  I’m not in law enforcement, but aren’t they supposed to keep everyone well away?  Even when one of the kids comes out waving a gun about they still don’t get the hint.  They seem to have about the same grasp on what to do as the Royal Mail has on postal delivery services.  In fact pretty well everyone seems to have a bit of a death wish.  However, it’s one saving grace is the boy with the guy.  He’s so over-the-top hyper and mad most of the time that it’s worth watching just for his performance.  He’s pretty unlikable, but somehow I feel a certain kindred spirit burns inside him.  Overall, the film is more entertaining than the sum of its parts might suggest.  At least they had a nice day for it, sunny and warm.  I’d imagine if it had been wet and cold, it would have been a much more miserable experience for everyone, especially those outside.

Recommended for school children, police officers and bank staff.

No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.

Top badass moment?  Banks aren’t exactly top of most people’s lists of favourite things right now, so with hindsight I’d like to consider the spontaneous decision by the two kids to rob one on the way to school, as an unconscious choice to stick it to the Man and get our money back.  That’s badass.  You’d do the same thing too, if you had the guts! 

Pups at IMDB (6/1 / 10)
Pups at Wikipedia
Pups at Roger Ebert (4.0 / 5)
Pups trailer at Video Detective

For some weird reason, there doesn’t appear to be an English language copy of the trailer on YouTube!

 

 


Edge of Seventeen / When Guitars Were Illegal


Edge of Seventeen  -  Front DVD Cover  -  UK Release

One of the classics in contemporary American gay cinema, “Edge of Seventeen” recalls one high school student’s eventful and raucous coming-out during the steamy summer of 1984.  Eric (Chris Stafford) is a 17-year-old senior from Ohio who takes a summer job at a local amusement park.  Working alongside his best gal pal Maggie (Tina Holmes), the two idle away the days until Eric meets Rod (Andersen Gabrych), a sexy and openly gay college student.  Soon sparks fly and Eric must confront feelings he had long suppressed.  A funny, entertaining and insightful coming-of-age tale, Edge of Seventeen is enhanced by a great ’80s soundtrack (including Bronski Beat and Eurythmics), terrific period design and a high-energy, upbeat tempo, making this an exciting and original take on growing up and finding love.

1998  –  Certificate: 15  –  Rating Details: Some strong language, sex and drug use  –  American Film  –  7.5 out of 10

In the early/mid 80s, punk and new wave disintegrated into a mostly horrible hardcore noise of badly played, pretend heavy metal.  At the same time, 2 tone came, saw, conquered and quickly left.  Meanwhile, the charts filled up with synth-based pop and whining, pretty-boys and girls singing about mostly nothing.  (Unlike today, where it’s full of groups of boring guys with beards and guitars singing about absolutely nothing, boy-bands who get off on arousing ten-year-old girls, and wailing woman who are so heavy auto-tuned they may as well be aliens.)  And maybe my memory is playing tricks on me, but actually I’m pretty sure that for part of the early-mid 80s electric guitars where made illegal, (unless you were the Housemartins).  However, all these new bands were British.  I can’t really remember what was going on in America at the time, chart music-wise, but as a source of New Romantic and synthpop it really doesn’t feature in my memory.  I will admit to a certain, limited fondness for some of the music, but most of it wasn’t that good; but even Spandau Ballet had one decent song, (although the video should be certified X for fashion and pretentiousness.)

This film is set during that period and it has to be said it gets its look and vibe spot on.  It’s a shame it wasn’t released until 1998, as otherwise it might well be remembered fondly in the same way as many real 80s films from that period are now.  Maybe having a gay lead character in a teen drama would have been a bit too subversive for mainstream US cinema at that time.  After all, gay people (including lesbians) are obviously the 80s equivalent of Islamic State, hell bend on destroying the status quo of everything everyone else holds dear.  This film follows the same basic story as most coming-of-age films do, (but with added gay angst).  It’s well made, well-acted and at times it’s genuinely touching; (i.e. it’s got scenes that are hanky-friendly).  The ending is a bit jarring though and felt a bit out of line with the rest of the film.  Maybe I just wanted more of a traditional, happy conclusion; (I think I must be going soft or something).  For a movie about a young gay guy and the New Romantic scene in general, everyone really does come across as very typical and real.  It would have been so easy for it to features lots of caricatures.  Well worth watching.

This is a movie that majors on its soundtrack and with a long playlist of bona fide 80s hits, it contributes significantly to making the film what it is.  I was pleased to find out that despite my declining years and way too many gigs, my ears are still good enough to hear Jimmy Somerville’s singing.

The trailer’s a solid effort.

Movie Weather Forecast.  Warm, dry and sunny throughout.

Recommended for fast-food restaurant workers, New Romantics and any teenagers thinking of coming out.

No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.

Top badass moment?  There isn’t one.  Normally this is a sign of a potentially crappy movie, one filled with horrible characters, or one I was too drunk or tired when I watched it to remember properly now, but in this case it’s really a reflection of a lot of normal people doing their best.  That in itself is badass.

Edge of Seventeen at IMDB (6.8 / 10)
Edge of Seventeen at Wikipedia
Edge of Seventeen at Roger Ebert (2 / 4)
Edge of Seventeen trailer at YouTube


Masters of Horror: Pelts / Dirty Secrets


Pelts  -  Front DVD Cover  -  US Release

Meat Loaf Aday stars as Jake Feldman, a short-tempered furrier struggling to build a small-time business while being tormented by his obsession for a sexy stripper.  But when a sadistic backwoods trapper (John Saxon of “Nightmare on Elm Street” and Argento’s “Tenebre”) kills a strange group of pet raccoons, Jake knows their luxurious hides could make a coat that will change his fortunes forever.  Only these are no ordinary pelts.  Everyone who comes in contact with the cursed furs is soon driven to unspeakable acts of self-mutilation and extreme violence.  Even if Jake can now possess the flesh he desperately covets, what horrific final price will he pay for the skin he’s in?

2006  –  Certificate: Not Rated  –  American TV  –  6.5 out of 10

I virtually never watch TV.  I’ve access to hundreds of channels and a hard disk recorder, plus more catch-up and subscription services than I can pronounce, but I can count on one, typical, human hand, how often I use any of these.  It’s not that I’m a TV snob either, as amongst all the dross are some really great programmes.  However, once in a while I take an arbitrary liking to something and will collect it on DVD or Blu-ray.  Whilst I like to watch films and write garbage about them here, I have a dirty, embarrassing, hidden secret that I rarely talk about to anyone; that is to say I also have one or two TV programmes I’m watching at the same time too.  (Although not literally.)  I don’t really binge-watch, so it takes me a long time to work my way through one with a lot of episodes.  Over the past few years I’ve done “Dad’s Army” (so part of my childhood), “Andromeda”, (massively underrated), “The Likely Lads” / “Whatever Became of the Likely Lads” (TV that reminds me of my father), and Red Dwarf (you can’t be a student without watching it and learning the silly Rimmer salute).  At present I’m slowly working my way through “South Park” and “Pretty Little Liars”.  Sadly, embarrassed by my indiscretions with the ‘small screen’, I rarely write much about them here.  This is strange in a way, because however good a film is you only get to spend a few hours with most of the characters, (even with a long franchise).  However, with TV you can spend weeks or months with them, years even, investing a huge amount of emotional capital in their lives.  This is something even the best film can never hope to match.  But no more…  From now on I’m going to attempt, in my usual inept way, to make more of a song and dance about them, right here.  Well don’t get too excited…

By pure coincidence, Pelts is actually a TV programme, although just to be confusing I’m treating it as a film.  Staring Meat Loaf (yes, that Meat Loaf), who spends most of the movie looking like a very disreputable version of Liam Neeson’s father and wanting to get his hands on a local stripper, when he’s not stripping the skin of the local wildlife to make coats out of.  Even without his less than vegan lifestyle his character is entirely without a redeeming feature; indeed, he really doesn’t have any positive characteristics at all.  This is not a film for which the plot is worth analysing; it’s really just there to provide an excuse for (the admittedly beautiful) Ellen Ewusie to get her top off (and scream a lot and yes, fall-over when she’s running away) and some excellent special effects.  (Except when Meat Loaf pulls most of his skin off and runs about a bit with it; not sure that worked well for me, but I guess he was just trying to out-strip his female co-star.  The face sowing is excellent though!)  However, it was good to see the purveyors of a fur coat get their come-uppance.  The wearers of real fur really are the embodiment of all that’s fucked-up in fashion.

There’s a soundtrack.  Its plays.    

The trailer is what it is.  It reminded me a bit of magnolias paint.

Movie Weather Forecast:  Eh… it’s overcast; and dark a lot.

Recommended for furriers, poachers, strippers and the fashion industry in general.

No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.  (Unless you count all the poor racoons that get killed and skinned; I imagine that involved all their heads being removed at some point.)

Top badass moment?  There really isn’t a single nice or worthy person or act in this film.  There’s not even evil masterminds either, just a load of shallow, mostly worthless individuals.  However, I don’t like to admit defeat and there is a brief shot of a snail (and sorry I don’t know what species it is) crawling along.  In comparison with all the humans, that’s just totally, totally, hardcore badass.

Pelts at IMDB (6.6 / 10)
Pelts at Wikipedia
Pelts trailer at YouTube


The Ordeal / Wine


The Ordeal  -  Front DVD Cover  -  UK Release

Stranded somewhere in the Ardennes after his van breaks down, Marc Stevens (Laurent Lucas “Harry He’s Here To Help”), a travelling cabaret singer, is taken in by a kindly inn keeper who offers to fix his van and give him shelter for the night.  But the motivation for the innkeeper’s kind actions soon changes from altruism to a fervent desire to prevent his new guest from ever leaving.  The thing is Marc reminds the lonely inn-keeper of his long-lost wife.  Before Marc knows it, his van is sabotaged and he is stranded.  But this is only the start of his ordeal and what follows has to be seen to be believed…  “The Ordeal” (aka “Calvaire”) delivers a terrifying and darkly comic tale of obsession, kidnap, and borderline psychosis that brings to mind films such as “Deliverance”, “Straw Dogs” and “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, but that has a continental flavour very much its own.

2004  –  Certificate: 18  –  Rating Details: Strong bloody violence  –  Belgium Film  –  5.0 out of 10

I don’t drink a lot of wine; (except ginger wine, but I’m not sure that really counts).  I don’t know a lot about it either.  I know it comes in three colours, bottles or boxes, sometimes it’s fizzy and in France they feed babies with it, but other than that…  So imagine my surprise when I sat down on Friday evening and found myself drinking an excellent 2004, organic Merlot from the Central Valley of Chile.  (Actually I bought it from Majestic Wines in Reading a number of years ago, due to my misunderstanding its rules about having to buy at least 12 bottles at a time; but you know what I mean.)  I think I probably selected it based on four things; it was organic, it was vegan, it wasn’t from France and it was strong (14% vol).  That’s basically how I select wine; although do generally prefer rosé wine because I can put it in the fridge and drink it cold, without the wine police raiding my home; and it’s a more interesting colour than white wine.  I’m not especially a fan of red wine, but this was actually pretty nice.  I’d had it laid down in my wine cellar for nearly ten years.  (I don’t like to brag, but my personal wine cellar is a small rack I bought from Argos that sits on the bottom shelf of a bookcase in my hall.)  I actually had to wipe all the dust off the bottle before opening it.  Along with the bollocks written on the label and the lack of a hangover the next day, that pretty well demonstrates just how authentically high-quality it really was.  In fact it was nice enough for me to finish off the whole bottle on my own whilst watching this film.  With hindsight, it’s probably just as well, as this movie was a bit like the wine bottle’s label.

Well, this was all a bit rubbish.  Weirdly, it seems to have a number of fans at IMDB, but really, it’s not very good.   For a start it’s not funny.  The sleeve says it is but it isn’t, unless it’s being ironic and we’re supposed to laugh at it because it’s so bad. The continuity is dreadful.  Perhaps I’m missing something here, but to me it just looked like the weather changed from shot to shot; in one case from no snow at all to a thick layer of snow on the ground, in the middle of a chase.  I’m sure dealing with weather is a nightmare for filmmakers, but most seem to manage.  I didn’t find any of the characters the least bit sympathetic, not even the victim, although I think that was intentional; the guy was a stupid, boring wuss and his singing was crap too.   There were just too many random incidents that really don’t go anywhere or explain anything.  And at times the editing was more jarring than dropping to sub-light speed; (probably, as I’ve not actually done the latter, yet).  Maybe I’m being a bit mean.  Some of the cinematography is actually very impressive, the acting decent and the bizarre dance the guys do in the pub was nearly worth it for the wtf moment it provides.  But no, actually I’m not.  It’s entertaining in its own way, but I preferred my bottle of wine.

This movie has a very space soundtrack, very sparse.  I guess what there is of it works well.

The trailer makes the film look a lot more horrific, a lot faster and more action packed than it really is. 

Movie Weather Forecast.  Heavy rain, followed by entirely random sunny spells, snow and rain showers, with the latter sometimes settling and sometimes melting very, very quickly, before suddenly coming back again.  Cold at all times, but not so cold that a thin jumper won’t keep you warm enough.

Recommended for inn-keepers, cabaret singers and farmers.

No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.

Top badass moment?  This is a movie with far too many arbitrary happenings in it, but credit where credit’s due.  The random dance by the guys in the village pub is completely inexplicable, creepy and downright weird.  Somehow (and I can’t really explain why), that makes it pretty badass.

The Ordeal at IMDB (6.2 / 10)
The Ordeal at Wikipedia
The Ordeal trailer at YouTube


Four Minutes / Unqualified Parents


Four Minutes  -  Front DVD Cover  -  UK Release

Following on from the success of The Lives of Others and The Counterfeiters, the award winning “Four Minutes” sees wrongfully imprisoned piano prodigy Jenny, a Molotov cocktail of suppressed emotions and uncontrollable rage, locked in a constant battle with those around her.  Together with Traude, a professional musician who wants to expose Jenny’s talents at a national competition, the pair develop a volatile teacher-pupil relationship.  As the duo plan their intent to make it to the finals, it soon becomes apparent that, once there, Jenny will have only four minutes to prove herself, and no guarantee of freedom afterwards.  Starring multiple award winner Hannah Herzsprung (“The Reader”, “The Baader-Meinhof Complex”), “Four Minutes” is a cinema tour de force that combines music, gritty prison drama and powerful performances to winning effect.

2006  –  Certificate: 15  –  German Film  –  Rating Details: Strong violence and very strong language.  10 out of 10.

To do most things that people consider important in life, you have to study and then possibly pass some sort of test, exam or interview.  In other cases you need to read the instructions or practice, but in the end you’re required to be able to demonstrate a degree of competency before you’re trusted by anyone to do it ‘for real’.  Yet for some reason, with one of the most important and challenging things, we expect everyone to just get on with it without demonstrating the slightest level of ability.  That’s so stupid.  Where’s the logic in that?  It’s enough to make Mr. Spock freak out.  I’ve mentioned it before, but my journey to work involves walking almost past an infant school, at least close enough for me to run into lots of parents taking their kids there.  I don’t expect young kids to ever do anything remotely sensible; in fact it’s in their job description.  They live in a world that isn’t quite in phase with grow-ups. However, if fate has put you in change of a young person, you really ought to be trained how to do this important job, as most people clearly don’t have a clue.  In fact those that do know are generally too old to have any, which in my opinion is a really bad design error.  I’m generally a very tolerant person; yes, really.  But one thing that’s been testing me to my limits recently is the almost total inability of parents to wait at traffic lights and not block the entire pavement with hyperactive kids, bags, pushchairs, dogs and other non-essential stuff.  Hell, it’s only a short walk to the local school, not a manned mission to Mars.  Somehow, they think having control of a young person entitles them to inconvenience the rest of the universe, as if this is some sort of reward for proving their immense virility or fertility.  Seriously dudes, we’ve managed to reproduce adequately enough to keep ourselves going since life first evolved on Earth; it’s really not that difficult and it doesn’t reflect on anyone’s worth.  What does take skill and deserves admiration is dealing with the consequences, which many clearly fail at on an epic scale. I’m a Pavement Warrior and denying me my right of access is a direct challenge to my entire belief structure.  I’m not keen on making kids orphans, but sometimes, someone needs to make a stand.  Just today I narrowly avoided a serious incident on an especially narrow bit of pavement, when two young boys came flying out of a terrace house; the sort that has a front garden about 1m deep.  A guy coming down ‘The Mountain’ (as I call this particularly steep section of my route to work) had to take evasive action to avoid running into them and nearly swerved into me as a result.  Seriously, I was lucky to get out of that in one piece.  Then again, what do I know?  It was only very recently that I found out that you can’t just take the batteries out of them at night when you go to bed.  And now something a whole lot better…

This is a totally awesome movie.  One of the best 50 films ever made.  It’s German, so unsurprisingly it’s not a comedy.  (I guess saying that makes me a racist, unlike Nigel Farage because he’s got a German wife.)  However, it is a kick-ass drama and totally absorbing.  Slow, dark and smouldering, it just blew me away.  I have a soft spot for movies about mavericks, rebels and people who don’t play the game properly.  In particular the ones that do it for no other reason than to piss the world off and who’re willing to take themselves down along with everyone else rather than change.  (I like to think that I’m a bit like that, except in reality I’m probably the world’s biggest ‘yes man’ and enjoy nothing better than asking “how high?” when someone tells me to jump.)  Cutting off your whole head to spite your face.  Our hero Jenny isn’t quite as nihilistic as that, but she comes close.  The Four Minutes of the title refers to a scene near the end of the movie.  One of the best bits of cinema ever; you could never play it loud enough.  It’s not a perfect film for a range of minor but noticeable reasons, but I’m willing to overlook it small faults and consider the bigger picture.  An essential watch.

This is a movie about someone who plays the piano and as such without a suitable soundtrack to support the story, it would fail miserably.  Fortunately it’s a great mixture of original and (mainly) classical, (mainly) German composed music.  There’s an interesting article on the official website about how hard it was to find a composer for the original music used.

I think this trailer lightens the mood of the film slightly and misrepresents the relationship between the two main characters, so it’s a bit disappointing.  It really doesn’t portray the power or mood of the film well.

Movie Weather Forecast.  Cloudy and cool.  Stay indoors is my advice.

Recommended for pianists, lesbians, nurses, prison wardens, Nazis, abusive parents and rebels.

No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.

Top badass moment?  The four minutes that give this film its title are as badass as it comes.  The closest you can get to sticking two fingers up to the world without saying a word; a great bit of punk and not a guitar in sight.

I wrote about this film here in 2010.  This is what I had to say then.

Four Minutes at IMDB (7.6 / 10)
Four Minutes at Wikipedia
Official Website
Four Minutes Trailer at YouTube


On the Doll / My Gambling Addiction


On the Doll  -  Front DVD Cover  -  US Release

Sex. Violence. Revenge. “On The Doll” is a dark look into the lives of sex workers and the affect it has had on their lives. Balery (Brittany Snow) is a call girl desperate for cash who conspires with Jaron (Josh Janowicz) to rob one of her regulars. Chantal (Shanna Collins) wants out of her door to door exploits to start life over with her boyfriend and Tara (Angela Sarafyan) has been pulled so far into her seedy peep show underworld that it could be too late. Mr. Garrett (Eddie Jemison), is a high school teacher who looks to bring some of his students (Candice Accola & Chloe Domont) into his world of sex and drugs. And behind it all is Jimmy Sours (Paul Ben-Victor), a twisted mastermind of the sex trade who controls the fate of everyone mixed up in his world. A cast of young, up and coming actors takes you to a place where victims search for new meaning in their lives, while fighting off the demons that lead to more pain. The first feature by acclaimed music video director Thomas Mignone, “On The Doll” is a shocking, but powerful look into a world that is sure to strike a chord.

2007. Certificate: Unrated. American Film.  7.0 out of 10

As everyone knows, I’m a hard rockin’, hard drinkin’, womanisin’ Lothario.  Recently I’ve added to my vices by also becoming a hardened gambler too.  How did this happen?  Well a few days ago I found myself standing in the queue at Tesco.  I refuse to use those nasty, automated, DIY checkout machines.  I want to be served by a human being.  I value the social intercourse I get with the frequently bored people I meet in this way; it helps give me a better prospective on my own life.  The choice as to whether or not to take advantage of the plastic bag I’m always offered keeps my mind sharp and helps me hone my decision-making abilities for the more ‘mission-critical’ circumstances to come, such as when to cross the road outside in a way that enables me to beat the traffic at the lights, before I’m turned into road-kill.  I distrust those self-service machines.   This is partly because all they’re good for is to do people out of jobs to boost shareholders’ profits.  I’m not letting them crush our will and independence comrades.  They also seem to have, en masse, taken a very personal dislike to me and enjoy nothing better than screaming out really loudly whenever I go near one that there’s an “unexpected item in the bagging area”.  Yes, me.  This phrase basically means the same as, “ha-ha everyone, let’s all draw attention to the stupid, luddite, fuckwit, who can’t operate us ‘idiot-proof’ machines properly and is now going to have to deal with the very public humiliation of being ‘helped’ by a smirking and bad-tempered shop assistant.  Seriously, it would be less embarrassing to stand in the middle of the High Street in Reading on a Saturday afternoon, dressed as a ballerina and announce to everyone there that I have the world’s lowest recorded sperm count. (Which of course, I don’t).  Anyway, back to my gambling addiction.  The person in front of me bought a Lottery Scratch Card.  I’ve never ever bought one of these.  I’ve always considered that they’re basically designed to entrap ‘weak-minded poor people’ into a downward spiral of debt and despair.  These people can then of course seek help to overcome their addiction, by attending a community-run self-help group, funded by the very same Lottery that caused their problem in the first place.  I don’t know what came over me, but when I got to the checkout I purchased three, £2 Scratch Cards.  And blimey, I only went and won £10 with one of them!  I must be so clever and skilful.   Trouble is, now this has happened it’s going to be a lot harder to ignore these things in future.  I feel my life now stands at a crossroads.  In one direction is a steep descent into a pit of unrelenting gambling debts, depression and finally suicide.  In the other is my present path, a steep decent towards a pit of unrelenting aging, depression and finally death.  I think I need to hone my decision-making abilities more.  This movie focuses on one vice that I don’t seem to have picked up yet, although I live in hope.

For a film about sex workers, this one’s surprisingly lacking in nudity; actually there isn’t any at all.  In fact it’s quite stylish, given its setting.  I find I don’t have a great deal to do with the sex industry on a regular basis myself, (but I guess that’s a good topic for a future blog entry), but if I did I can’t help thinking it would all seem a lot more seedy this this movie makes it out to be, although it does have its moments.  I guess they all just seemed a bit too clean, healthy and happy, even the sick, sad ones.  This ‘small detail’ aside, it’s actually quite a decent film, occasionally funny, occasionally painful.  (The latter will make sense if you watch it.)  The ending is a bit melodramatic but it kinda works.  I’m not sure if you’re really supposed to enjoy movies like this but I did.   

There’s a fair bit of music used in this film.  Most of it is fairly anonymous, modern indie rock, but it gets the job done.

It’s not a bad trailer.  Quite watchable as its own, little ‘mini-film’ that doesn’t give too much of the plot away. 

Movie Weather Forecast.  It’s another warm, dry, sunny day in movie land.

Recommended for prostitutes, school-girls, teachers and magazine publishers.

No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.

Top badass moment?  So few people really seem to make an effort to do their best at work, so it was great to see our anti-hero Jaron taking special care that the ads for prostitutes he was doing the layout and design for, were both spelt correctly and made sense logically.  Taking a pride in your work is badass, especially when it’s basically a crappy job to start with.

On the Doll at IMDB (5.8 / 10)
On the Doll at Wikipedia
Official On the Doll Website
On the Doll trailer at You Tube


101 Reykjavík / Hedge-laying


101 Reykjavik  -  Front DVD Cover  -  UK Release

Living on social security in the protected environment of his mother’s home, Hilmir has never felt the urge to venture beyond the confines of his neighbourhood, 101 Reykjavík, and is determined to resist adulthood at all cost.  However he soon finds out that life is busy making other plans for him when he discovers that the woman he has just been to bed with happens to be his mother’s lesbian lover, and may be carrying his child.  101 Reykjavik is a zany black comedy set against the backdrop of Iceland’s swinging nightlife and features a musical score by Damon Albarn and Einar Orn Benediktsson.

  1. Certificate: 18. Icelandic Film.  6.0 out of 10.

Tomorrow I’ve got to go out and teach some people how to lay hedges.  This isn’t as sexually adventurous as it sounds, but it is quite a lot of fun.  Hedge-laying is a traditional way to manage farm hedges to ensure they remain stockproof.  Doing so also ensures that they’ll survive almost indefinitely and continue to provide both homes and a transport network to wildlife, as well as attractive features in the landscape.  Of course, it’s a lot cheaper and faster just to put up a fence, or shove a few old beds and car doors in any gaps that appear in a hedge, but that’s not nearly as interesting.  The forecast is for rain, heavy at times, cloudy and windy, 10°C.  The weather in winter really sucks. I’ve also got to get up at some ungodly hour of the morning, so I’ve time to get all the kit packed, go pick up all the materials and then get out to the site.  By a cruel irony, the hedge runs alongside the Kennet & Avon Canal, a place I know well from having walked the entire length of it last summer in lovely weather.  Still, let’s look on the bright side, (not that it’s going to be very bright tomorrow); I’m unlikely to get skin cancer, but I will have an opportunity to try out my new, three-in-one fleece and waterproof jacket.  The weather is even worse in this film.

Representing 50% of my entire Icelandic film collection, I struggled a bit with this black comedy as its central character Hilmir isn’t really the anti-hero we’re meant to think he is.  He’s actually just a sponging loser who a bout of National Service would soon sort out.  Okay, I don’t really believe that either, but he was an almost total waste of space; (and I’m being nice by using “almost”).  He spent most of his time avoiding things or ineffectively moaning about them when he couldn’t.  I wasn’t able get behind him at all, I just wanted to see bad things happen to him and for him to get his comeuppance.   Walking around like an extra from Britpop, he’s the sort of person the Daily Mail would put on their front page to justly the abolition of welfare support and the reintroduction of capital punishment; and to be fair it would have a point too.  I guess this is a complement in terms of the acting and script, but the movie’s entrainment value was eroded by my frustration with its main character.  I’m not sure it did much to encourage me to visit Iceland either.  It just seems to be filled with people who’re a bit wacked out on their isolation, drinking hugely expensive beer in overly cramped bars, whilst its (insert your least favourite crappy weather here) outside.  We do get to see a bit of the countryside, but mainly it’s set inside ugly buildings made of concrete and corrugated metal.  Then again, all I though Iceland did was sell cheap frozen food, so what do I know?  Overall I’m probably being a little mean about this film.  I should watch it again sometime.

I was never a big Blur fan, so the fact that Damon Albarn wrote some of the soundtrack to this film didn’t really do much for me; it was okay but nothing special.  Having said that, the frequent use of a horrible sub-reggae / trip-hop version of the Kinks’ “Lola” was a notable low point, over and over and over again.  A good match for Hilmir in fact.

The trailer’s okay.  Pretty middle of the road.  One interesting thing is that despite most of the movie being made in Icelandic, the trailer uses a lot of parts taken from the English speaking sections.

Movie Weather Forecast.  Snow, heavy at times, turning to rain.  Further snow expected later.  Cold, with temperatures remaining below freeing for most of the time.

Recommended for wasters, lesbians and jobcentre advisers.

No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.

Top badass moment?   Main character Hilmir was a waste of space in so many ways.  However, his reaction when going to a family dinner party at Christmas and then having to sit there and watch a video they made the previous year of them all eating at the same dinner party, was understandable.  Please someone, if I ever get that bad, take me to a vet to be put down.

101 Reykjavík at IMDB (6.9 / 10)
101 Reykjavík at Wikipedia
101 Reykjavík Trailer


Thirteen / Back to the Dentist (Part XXXVII or Something)


Thirteen - Front DVD Cover - UK ReleaseAnxiously trying to fit into the peer-pressure cooker environment of junior high, thirteen-year-old Tracy (Evan Rachel Wood) goes to shocking lengths in order to befriend Evie (Co-writer, Nikki Reed), the most popular girl in school.  Now the two are inseparable – and incorrigible – leaving Tracy’s desperate mother (Academy Award Winner Holly Hunter) powerless to rescue her from a whirlwind of drugs, sex and crime.

2003.  Certificate: 18. American Film.  Rating Details: very strong language and drugs use.  8.0 out of 10

Spent two hours with the dentist yesterday.  I thought I was only going for a filling to replace a temporary one she put in last spring, after trying unsuccessfully to unblock some root canals in one of my teeth.  However, she decided instead to have another go at the latter, but two hours later and we were still no further forward.  It would probably be easier to get into Fort Knox than the bottom of my tooth.  Two hours is a long time to lay back in a not-that-comfortable chair, looking at a very boring light fitting, listening to rather moribund, classical music.  As the minutes ticked past, as I could think of was “please don’t let the anaesthetic wear off, please don’t let the anaesthetic wear off.”  At one point some metal clamp around my tooth broke, which certainly woke me up.  She even tried a new weapon I’ve not come across before, which heated up and made sizzling noises in my tooth, accompanied by little clouds of smoke!  That’s okay in a frying pan but in my mouth? No, I don’t think so.  I’m going back on Thursday for a regular ‘check-up’.  I’m fully expecting to see some sort of army explosives expert waiting for me, to blast his way in with some high tech munitions. 

I’m crap at being an adult*.  Today I commented to one of the people I manage that coming to work sometimes felt a bit like a game; I’m not sure if this is good or bad, but it doesn’t sound like a very adult viewpoint.  Films like this make me feel I was a crap teenager* too.  It’s not that I was perfect or anything, but all I can remember doing is sitting in my room every night, listening to punk music very loud and trying to do my homework.  Well sure I do have other memories, but that one seems to be the overriding one.  The homework was rarely that great, but the soundtrack was fab!  Strangely enough, I’m still listening to the same songs these days too, although the “homework” has mutated very slightly into what adults call “taking work home”.  This movie is about how to be a teenager; well a girl-version anyway.  Except these days few western teenagers rebel against anything. I heartedly recommended this movie to any young teenage girls who want to know how to rebel in an appropriately nihilistic and adult-seriously-pissing-off-way.  It’s actually a great film with a bit of an interesting story behind it too.  If it has a fault it sometimes introduces elements and people that don’t really go anywhere and just muddy the plot a bit, but beyond that it’s a great opportunity to watch peer pressure and allure of popularity in action.  (The self-harming sub-plot was very underexplored, whereas it could have been highlighted far more.)  The acting is great and it’s fun in a technical sense too, as the colour slowly gets leached out of the scenes until we’re left with little more than black and white.  Being a miserable sod that loves nothing better than to see everyone die, the ending was a bit of a disappointment too, but that’s just me.  Strangely enough, it’s not a depressing film; the makers seemed to have remembered that part of the role of a movie is to entertain.  Holly Hunter is always great too.  Well worth watching.

There’s plenty of music in this film, both a soundtrack and a lot of real songs from mostly pretty anonymous rock and hip-hip acts. However the opening shots with a track by Mark Mothersbaugh (from Devo) is great.  Visually the film makes a great start and this track is a big part of that.  I had to go and get hold of a copy afterwards.

The trailer’s okay.  Not bad, not good; very middle of the road stuff.  The whole movie is better.

Movie Weather forecast.  Warm and sunny throughout.

Recommended for teenage girls, hairdressers and recovering alcoholics.

No cats, chainsaw or decapitations.

Top badass moment? A surprisingly tough question in this case.  It’s a total cop out I know, but I may as well go for flawed mum Melanie.  Considering everything, she really didn’t do too badly in the end.  Sorry, I’ve just noticed this is so boring; please, seriously, don’t read anymore.  I think I just crossed the line between ‘sort of okay’ and ‘crappy drivel’.

*These were the first pictures that came up when I Googled on Bing (can you even do that?) for “teenagers” and “adults”.  The later is especially uncomfortable. 

Thirteen on IMDB (6.9 / 10)
Thirteen on Wikipedia
Thirteen on Roger Ebert (3.5 / 4.0)
Thirteen trailer on YouTube


Old Computer Games: Star Trek: Starfleet Academy


Star Trek  -  Starfleet Academy  -  Front Game Cover

It’s a tragedy when old things don’t work anymore.  Actually that’s not really true, as a lot of old things are rubbish.  But some old things are good.  I started ‘seriously’ playing computer games in the late 90s.  Well to be honest, calling myself a “serious gamer” is probably building up my status rather more than is strictly accurate, but I did like to play one or two online.  Mostly I frustrated people on the same side as me in team-matches, with my inability to shoot even the weediest, largest, slow-moving targets, whilst simultaneously being loved by anyone who faced off against me in a death-match.  Running away as fast as possible tended to be my tactic of choice.  This had the advantage of being unexpected by my opponents, which helped to both extend my lifespan and annoy the hell out of them at the same time too, although pissing off a bloodthirsty killer who’s already out to try and murder you probably isn’t the greatest idea in the world; but then again, what did I have to loose?  Many of these games I’ve haven’t played for years and years (and some I’ve never actually got around to playing), so over Christmas I thought I’d get a few out and see if they still worked.  Most of them are Star Trek themed ones; a lot of these got released around the turn of the century and there’s an interesting story behind most of them.

I tried eight in all, but only three would install and run properly.  The other five either wouldn’t run, crashed very early on, or wouldn’t run well enough to make them fun to play.  There’s no enjoyment to be had from trying to help Commander Riker from the Starship Enterprise investigate a damaged space station, when the graphics make it look like someone’s been sick all over everything after eating a banana-based blancmange.

The most frustrating was “Star Trek: Starfleet Academy”, which allowed me to complete a number of missions before reaching a particularly long and fiddly one against the Venturi (with no in-mission save option) which, however well I did it, I was always informed at the end that I’d allowed my ship to be destroyed.  What?  How did Commandant Rotherot think I got back home?  Swim or flap my arms and fly many light-years through the vacuum of space?  The man’s an idiot.  I even hailed him from my ship (I was its captain you know) when I got back to the starbase to tell him I’d completed the mission, so all he had to do was look out of the window to see my ship and crew were safe.  He wasn’t the least bit sympathetic either; no support, no discussion, nothing.  What a useless teacher he is.  He may be in charge of Starfleet Academy but he’s obviously just a stupid pencil-pusher who hasn’t a clue how to motivate students.  “Your score is inadequate. You’ll have to repeat the mission.”  Seriously dude, that’s not in the least bit helpful to me.  He’s pretty well ruined my self-confidence now.  After having the same conversation with him three times I got so pissed off that I tried to shoot at the starbase itself, but that just invoked an even more scathing rebuttal from him.  I really did feel like I was back at school; then again, I suppose shooting at your own base isn’t exactly the most grown-up thing I could have done.  I’m probably lucky I didn’t get expelled.

I think the solution to this problem and many of the others, is to get hold of an old Windows 98 computer and install them on that instead.  That’ll show the idiot that I really am starship captain material!  (I am, I really do believe that.)

Star Trek: Starfleet Academy at IMDB (8.1 / 10)
Star Trek: Starfleet Academy at Wikipedia
Review 1
Review 2


Look / Resolutions


Look  -  Front DVD Cover  -  US Release

There are an estimated 30 million surveillance cameras in the United States.  On any given day, the average American is captured approximately 200 times.  Every one of us is constantly being observed at our jobs, on the street, while shopping, and sometimes even in our own homes.  Every one of our secrets, lies, crimes and most private moments are all being recorded.  But who is watching us?  Rhys Colro (“Entourage”), Hayes MacArthur (“The Game Plan”), Jamie McShane (“24”) and Spencer Redford star in this award-winning drama from writer/director Adam Rifkin that takes the ultimate look at our ‘Big Brother’ world.  “This is a brash, darkly humorous and unsettling piece of work filled with startling scenes and fine performances,” raves Richard Roeper of Ebert & Roeper At The Movies.  “”Look” is a film worth seeking out!”

2007.  Certificate: R.  American Film.  Rating Details: strong sexual content, pervasive language, some violence and brief drug use.  8.0 out of 10.

Okay, it’s the start of the New Year so I feel obliged to make some New Year resolutions that I won’t keep.  So firstly, I’m going to lose some weight.  I have a pair of trousers (actually several) that I’ve never been able to use, so my target is to be able to wear them and not cause some horrible internal injury to myself.  I don’t exactly have a plan for doing this, but I’m sure it’s possible.  I guess ‘eat less’ is a good place to start.  Secondly, I’m going to not get behind with things at work.  I seem to perpetually be explaining why I haven’t done things and there’s only so many times I can use the “dog ate my homework” excuse before it starts to look a bit lame, especially as I don’t have a dog.  My target is to simply not have to explain my temporal inadequacies any more.  I don’t exactly have a plan for doing this either, but I’m equally sure it’s possible too.  I guess working ‘smarter’ is a good place to start.  (Well that’s what I tell my team whenever any of them whine about having too much to do; it doesn’t seem to work for any of them though.)

Well I must say, I wasn’t really expecting this film to be that great, what with its promise of crappy quality ‘security camera’ footage and their associated static camera shots; a bit like a found footage film but without the ‘shaky cam’, monsters, ghosts and up nostril views.  102 minutes later and I was really disappointed that it had ended.  It cleverly mixes up footage from lots of cameras to tell the stories (or partial stories) of a number of people, whose lives to some extent overlap.  Of course it does include murder, rape, ATM abuse, car crashes, bombs, child abduction, male strippers, sex (both gay and straight), office perverts and farts in elevators, but really, it’s all just about a lot of pretty mundane and dull people going about their day to day lives; so something I could relate to.  Well put together, this is strangely hypnotic movie and well worth watching.

There’s a lot of music used in this film, but most of it just sort of fades into the background.  Forgettable.

The trailer really doesn’t tell you a lot, other than it’s a ‘clever’ film that uses surveillance camera.  Try not to fall asleep.

Movie Weather Forecast:  Warm and sunny throughout.  It looks like it’s going to be a lovely summer!

Recommended for bimbos, petrol station attendants, teachers, bored office workers, parents and perverts.

No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.

Top badass moment?  Tricky; there’s not a lot of choice in a film filled with unprincipled losers dressed in a veneer of youth or respectability.   I guess the nearest we get to a hero is the guy working in the petrol station, who manages to report a couple of killers who call in for supplies.  Strangely he looks one of the most loser-like too.  Never judge a book by its cover.

Look at IMDB (6.6 / 10)
Look at Wikipedia
Look trailer at YouTube


Header / SSE


Header  -  Front DVD Cover  -  US Release

From the mind of horror author Edward Lee, comes this horrifying tale of gruelling revenge and backwoods terror!  Stewart Cummings (Jake Suffian), a government agent playing both sides of the law, finds himself in the nightmarish crossfire of a bloody family vendetta. Forced to delve deep into a series of gruesome murders, Cummings encounters the most twisted method of revenge ever conceived by man: The Header.  What’s a header?  Only redneck Travis Tuckton (Elliot V. Kotek) and his evil “grandpappy” knows for sure… and once you learn the shocking answer, you may never be the same. Get ready for the acclaimed horror film that may be the ultimate in violence and gore! “Header” is a film of unrelenting, twisted terror!

2006  –  Certificate: Not Rated  –  American Film
7.0 out of 10

There’s only 360 more days until next Christmas; how exciting!  I’ve managed to get all the way through this Christmas without putting the heating on at home.  It was my present for the planet and a middle finger to SSE (Scottish and Southern Electricity).  SSE managed to really piss me off recently.  I have (well had) an early version of a smart meter for my electricity.  I’ve had it about 2.5 years.  When I got it I had to change my tariff for a more expense one, (although to be fair it’s probably helped me save more money than the extra I spent on having it).  A couple of months ago it stopped working.  I e-mailed SSE to ask if it could be fixed or replaced.  The reply I got (that took longer to arrive that it should have) said that it was an outdated model and it couldn’t be replaced, but that I’d get a new, free smart meter in a few years’ time!  There was no suggestion that perhaps I’d like to change my electric tariff for a cheaper one again or anything.  This really annoyed me.  In fact it’s annoyed me so much that I’m going to change my electivity suppler next month.  Doing this has been on my mind for a while anyway, as SSE isn’t exactly top of the league when it comes to producing electricity from sustainable sources.  It will probably cost me a bit more, but I’m looking forward to using fair-trade, organic electricity in future, that’s produced by whole African villages of people peddling really quickly on static bikes to produce the stuff for me.  Quite why we can’t harvest the same stuff locally from all the private gyms around here I don’t know.  I guess it’s a similar situation to apples, where in the autumn I can either buy English Cox’s (the world’s best apple), or some tasteless replica with a brand name variety (like Pink Lady) grown in New Zealand.  That’s just weird.  So’s this film.

Agent Stewart Cummings is having a really, really bad day.  (I know he’s an agent as he spends most of the film running around in a t-shirt with the letters ATF on it.  (The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.)  His wife has a mystery illness for which the drugs she needs cost a fortune and his boss is less than supportive of him taking any sort of initiative when it comes to investigating crime.  And on top of that someone locally has started doing rather icky things with peoples’ heads.  Sadly for Stew it goes even further downhill from then on.  After the first ten minutes or so I thought I was going to be faced with an entirely crap film featuring poor production, acting and script.  Weirdly, as it progressed it improved.  It was like it was filmed in chronological order and everyone just got better as they went along.  That’s not to say it’s likely to worry the Oscars in any way, but it got good enough not to distract too much from the watching experience.  I’d love to tell you exactly what a header is, but that would spoil it for you.  Needless to say, it’s not got a great deal to do with aerial prowess in the penalty box, or plumbing.  If nothing else, it’s worth watching just to see Grandpappy, a brilliantly, over-the-top character who brings a level of enthusiasm to proceedings that I wish I could replicate myself when doing my budget forecasts at work.  I did have a lot of sympathy for Agent Cummings, a generally decent guy who just had a run of bad luck, really bad luck.  Sometimes you just have to lose it.  Whilst watching this movie, into my head popped the idea that American rednecks have a lot in common with the UK’s UKIP voters.  More weirdness.

There isn’t a lot of music used in the film, it’s mainly just over the credits, but it’s a decent bit of whatever sort of music it is.

The trailer isn’t exactly forthcoming with details.  (There is a better one on the DVD, but I couldn’t find a link to it anywhere to put here.)  I guess that’s what comes from having a ‘big secret’ that you don’t want to blow to quickly.

Movie Weather Forecast:  Warm and sunny through the course of the film.  Nice.

Recommended for police officers, cobblers, drug dealers and adulteresses.

No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.

Top badass moment?  In a fit of anger that wouldn’t have been out of place in the final verse of Eminem’s “Guilty Conscience”, Agent Cummings finally gets pissed at his bad luck.  I’m not condoning his behaviour of course, but, well, you can understand it.  I’m sure when I eventually ‘lose it’ I’ll go on the rampage too, probably on the London Underground in the rush hour, or maybe in Reading’s Oracle Shopping Centre, on a Saturday afternoon just before Christmas.

Header at IMDB (4.7 / 10)
Header at Wikipedia
Official Site
Header trailer at YouTube


Frontier Blues / Begging for Money


Frontier Blues  -  Front DVD Cover  -  UK Release

In this debut feature written and directed by Iranian born Babak Jalali, “Frontier Blues” features four, intertwined stories all set in Iran’s northern frontier with Turkmenistan, a region that has long been neglected in Iranian cinema, interesting not only for its magnificent, forlorn landscape but also for its multi-ethnic population of Persians, Turkmens and Kazakhs. Featuring non-professional actors from the northern region of Iran, Jalali’s film looks at fragments of the everyday existence of a varied collection of characters from the region.

2009 –  Certificate: 12  –  Iranian Film
Rating Details: One use of strong language and a moderate sex reference
7.0 out of 10

Although I frequently do nothing at work for weeks at a time (except procrastinate), I occasionally have to do something. This is normally something which I can’t delegate downwards or pass the buck upwards.  Yesterday was one of those days.  I had to complete a funding application.  I’d known it’d need doing for the last month or so, but it was only yesterday that I did much about it, as it had a 17:00 deadline.  I’d had a quick look at it the day before and decided that it wasn’t a lot of work; why I believe myself when I think something like that I’ll never know, but somehow I always do.  So yesterday I found myself having to do some real work for a change.  Now, there are people who actually do this sort of thing as their full time job and some of them actually seem to enjoy it.  I lack the intelligence, focus and strength of character to be like that.  I see it as a necessary evil that allows me to lead the decadent lifestyle that I do.  No one should be forced to write funding applications; it’s only one step up from begging in the street.  Like writing poetry or songs, funding bids come from the heart; they’re not something that can be forced out of someone.  In my case they’re dragged screaming and kicking from my very soul, before being nakedly spread-eagled across the page for all to gawp at, pointing and laughing as they do so, as if I was exposing a very private part of me, which in a way I am.  Being forced to write a funding bid is like being forced to love someone.  Of course I enjoy getting that follow up letter that contains the word “congratulations”, but most of the time they just say “I’m sorry to inform you”.  Writing funding bids is like asking someone out, and I’m crap at that too.  (You work yourself up for ages to do it and then it all comes out wrong.)  I’m just not thick skinned enough to take the rejection and it sends me into a subconscious mire of desolation and self-loathing.  I still haven’t got over asking Debbie Warby out in 1977 and getting turned down; I only wanted to go and see “Star Wars” too.  I never did see it at the cinema; no wonder I prefer “Star Trek”.  So anyway, I got it done yesterday and what a beautiful creation it was; really, it should’ve been on display in a gallery, not stuffed into a brown envelope.  After a 100mph death-defying drive, (it wasn’t far to go and I had an hour or so to get there, but I’d drunk far too much coffee), I got to hand it in before the deadline.  I got a call about two hours later from the fund’s administrator, asking if I could e-mail her a copy, as she was having to scan all the applications and she’d been “inundated” with them and would be at work for hours doing them, so it would save her time.  Inundated.  Inundated!  It’s like asking girls out again; a futile exercise that ends in humiliation and a feeling of abject failure.  A woman gets asked out in this movie; that ends in abject failure too.

So this was a chance to watch my entire collection of Iranian films… all one of them. Not sure what I was expecting really, probably just some propaganda to do with nuclear bombs, oppressed women who choose to wear a burqa and jihadist wars.  There isn’t anything else there is there, other than sand and oil… and camels probably?  Well, that’s what it says in the papers, so it must be true.  Okay, I don’t really believe any of that nonsense, but I was surprised by what I did see.  In fact it took me a while to get over my preconceptions and begin to appreciate what this film actually was, which made me feel a bit guilty; I really was under the impression that it would be sort of worthy, but a bit amateurish and boring.  In fact this is a black comedy, which pokes fun at itself and Iran’s own, internal preconceptions about itself.  It’s true to say that not a lot happens for most of the film and there aren’t a great many spaceships, aliens or explosions in it.  It’s simply a snapshot of the lives of four people that to some extent are interconnected.  At first I did find it a bit boring, but when I finally worked out what I was watching it got a lot more interesting.  It was almost as if I felt guilty about finding the discomfort of the characters funny, which is a bit sad really.  The picture quality isn’t always the best, which is a bit frustrating as the scenery is really worth seeing.  It’s also quite slow and nothing happens quickly; and in a cultural way there are a few things that just don’t sit comfortably for many westerners too.  However, the majority of it is good stuff and I really rather enjoyed it.

The music used in the film is sparse and haunting. It’s not something I’d listen to on its own but as a soundtrack it’s great and adds to the atmosphere a lot.  We also get treated to a bit of what sounds like Marlene Dietrich, but I could be wrong.

Movie Weather Forecast. I’ve still not started doing this properly, but it was dry and mostly sunny, with some blustery wind at times.

For stupid people like me, the trailer makes the tone of the film a bit clearer.

Recommend for wrestlers, photographers and anyone who works on a chicken farm.

No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.

Top badass moment?  I like tea.  I drink a lot of tea.  I like coffee but I like tea more.  In this film the characters drink tea.  They drink a lot of tea.  In fact I suspect that it’s a subtle joke about how much tea people in Iran do drink.  I thought all they did there was build nuclear bombs and hate on the West, but actually they drink a lot of tea and have a sense of humour that I can relate to.  That’s cool, because most of the people I actually know don’t understand it.  I’m a Brit so tea is automatically badass and badass in a way coffee will never be.  In fact it’s the most badass of drinks; except perhaps cider.

Frontier Blues at IMDB (6.7 / 10)


1 Litre of Tears / The End of a Revolution


1 Litre of Tears  -  Front DVD Cover  -  Japanese Release

Asae Ōnishi is the lead actress, starring as Aya Kito. 9th grader (third year of junior high school) Aya Kito collapses on the way to school.  Dr. Yamamoto discovers that Aya has spinocerebellar ataxia, a fatal and incurable disease that handicaps the body.  Aya’s mother and Dr. Yamamoto let Aya record in a diary to tell her story and to live her life to the fullest.

2005 –  Certificate: Unknown  –  Japanese Film
7.5 out of 10

Last Friday was Halloween. It was also the hottest ever Halloween on record in England, 24C.  Unfortunately I missed out on most of it as I left Cactus World and went to the Moon.  Yes, really.  Okay, to be more accurate I actually went to the Moon Club, although it is a long way from Cactus World and in a real foreign country too; a place called Wales.  Sadly, it was to attend the final gig by the 8th best band on the plant, Dirty Revolution.  After following the band for around five years and attending 28 gigs, everyone’s favourite alt-punk-ska-reggae-calypso-African-beats band was splitting up.  Support was from the awesome 10th best band on the planet, the New Town Kings, but it really was Dirty Revolution’s night.  Other than when the Undertones originally split up in 1983, I can’t think of a time when I’ve been so saddened by a band deciding to end it all.  The reasons appear to be the difficulty of having a young family and trying to tour, along with its alleged inability to know how to get people to sing along to the “whoo-ooos” and “yeh-yeh-yehs” etc that populate a number of its tunes.  I’d seriously considering ending it all too, but the fact that the band don’t seem to have fallen out with one another and that a quick look at my current Top Ten active bands indicates that all but two have split up and then reformed at some time or other.  This gives me hope that perhaps, one day in the dim and distant future, songs about having a fat ass, not feeling fear and highlighting the fact that Skrewdriver were a bunch of wankers, will once again reverberate around venues everywhere.  The Moon is a small club, with no air conditioning and sweat dripping from the ceiling.  The band played a long set.  I was at the front and could see a copy of the set list on the floor gradually being worked through; it was like waiting for the end of the world in some nuclear holocaust film, where all the characters can do is wait for the missiles to arrive, although before they do nothing seems any different to usual… and then all of a sudden it’s over.  The gig was filmed for a DVD.  One of the guys with a camera was menacingly close to where I was most of the time.  I guess with a decent bit of software they’ll be able to edit out the fat, old bloke trying to dance.  Joking aside, I do feel a genuine sense of loss.  This film is about loss too.  But before you read on,  I suggest you listen to some proper good music:

Dirty Revolution: Failure to Communicate
Dirty Revolution: Firing Line
Dirty Revolution: I Love Reggae
Dirty Revolution: This Community
Dirty Revolution:  Failure to Communicate (Live)

This is a movie of a book that was then a TV series. Something like that anyway.  The book (actually her diary) was written by a young woman called Aya Kitô.  She was diagnosed with Spinocerebellar ataxia when she was 15 (in 1977) and wrote a diary about her life for as long as she could, until she died when she was 26.  The film itself isn’t that great, although the actress who plays Aya is excellent.  I suspect that compared with the TV series and the diary itself, a lot was cut out to make it an appropriate length for a film.  However, there are a few really powerful scenes, often focusing on very small incidents; the one when Aya Kitô has to leave her school because it can no longer provide what she needs is pretty heart-breaking stuff.  People often seem to say that stories like this are “life-affirming” and “uplifting”.  No, they’re not. They’re sad and depressing.  I can’t see anything uplifting in a story about anyone, never mind a young person, who’s tragically struck down by a terrible illness that they had no way of avoiding, however brave he or she might be.  It’s just awful.

The soundtrack is mostly downbeat and piano driven. It fits the mood of the film well.

Movie Weather Forecast. Nope, still not started to take much notice of this yet.  Soon, I promise!

Try as I might, I couldn’t seem to find a trailer for this film anywhere.

Recommend for doctors, carers and heartless school teachers.

No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.

Top badass moment? This is a true story about a young woman with a horrible illness.  As her condition gets worse and worse, she never really stops trying to live her life as best she can, despite the increasing difficulty of doing so and the limitations of the physical world around her.  That makes her truly badass.

1 Litre of Tears at IMDB (8.1 / 10)
1 Litre of Tears at Wikipedia
1 Litre of Tears excerpt at YouTube


The Mouse on the Moon / Computer Games


The Mouse on the Moon  -  Front DVD Cover  -  US Release

The natives are growing restless in the tiny country of Grand Fenwick! There’s no indoor plumbing, no money to pay for it and no one’s had a hot bath in ages!  Facing a winter without warm water, the conniving Prime Minister (Ron Moody, “Oliver!”) convinces the U.S. Government to give him a million-dollar grant by promising to use it for Grand Fenwick’s Space Program.  There’s just one pesky problem: Grand Fenwick doesn’t have a space program!  But when a local crackpot professor discovers that the region’s wine makes radical rocket fuel, the little nation determines to blast its way into the space race… and land on the moon before the U.S., Russia or anyone else!  Get ready for a spoof on space travel and political plotting that’s so funny, it’ll have you howling at the moon!  Full of “hilarious slapstick moments” (Boxoffice), this lunar laugh-riot is a “delightful farce” (The Film Daily) that’s out of this world!

1963 –  Certificate: Not Rated  –  British Film
8.5 out of 10

My computer’s graphics card broke last week, which meant I had to buy a new one.  So Cactus World said goodbye to its old Foxconn NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GTS and hello to the Asus NVIDIA GeForce GTX 760, which despite its marginally less impressive name is actually a lot more powerful.  Consequently I can’t afford to eat this month, but if I ever find any time to play games, I’m sure I’ll experience an enhanced level of optical pleasure (and hopefully do a bit better too.)  I have tried it out on one game, “BattleZone II: Combat Commander” and it was very good.  (BZ2 is one of my all-time, favourite games).  The alien scum had no chance.  Then again, BZ2 was released in 1999, so a pencil and paper ought to be able to provide good graphics for it.  BZ2 is one of only nine games I can honestly say I’ve ever managed to play all the way through, (even though I own around 90).  The others are “BattleZone”, “Myst”, “Riven”, “Star Trek: Voyager: Elite Force”, “Star Trek: Borg”, “Star Trek: Starfleet Academy”, “Star Trek: The Next Generation: Klingon Honor Guard” and “The Longest Journey”. I must be the only person who’s still trying to finish “Carmaageddon II: Carpocalypse Now” and “Resident Evil” (as in the first Resident Evil game).  What can I say?  I’m hopeless at computer games and I like to explore the places I visit and not just go around killing everything.  At the rate I’m going I probably won’t even unwrap my pre-ordered copy of “LEGO Batman 3” until around the year 2145.  I think my oldest game is a 1990 ‘big box’ copy of “MegaTraveller 1: The Zhodani Conspiracy”. I haven’t actually got around to playing it yet, but it comes on a number of 5.25” floppy discs.  However, this film is even older than that… and me.

If I’d tried to come up with a list of my favourite films when I was young, this one would have been in it. In fact I’d go as far as to say it’s one of the two films that stick in my mind the most from when I was little.  (The other is “The Great Escape”, mainly because it always seemed to be on the TV every single Christmas.)  When I got older and DVDs came along, it was one of the very first ones I bought and I think the first one I got from Amazon via its US site.  This was back in 1993, when the idea of buying things like that from abroad still seemed a bit risky and weird.  Sadly it’s not been released on Blu-ray yet, so I still have my non-anamorphic flipper disc, with the widescreen version on one side and a horrible pan-and-scan one on the other.  The part where Bernard Cribbins tries to do what looks like The Twist in the café, only to find that the jukebox seemingly just plays music that would be more at home in barrel organ, has become a long-term memory that’s stuck in my mind for many years.  I don’t know why; it’s funny how random things like that happen.  Ed Bishop has a small part in it as an American Astronaut.  (He later went on to become the commander of SHADO (Supreme Headquarters Alien Defence Organization) in “UFO”, where he got to drive around in a cool-looking car and hang out with attractive women in silver hotpants, who wore purple wigs and worked on the Moon.)  With its political satire and caricature of the British Empire, “The Mouse on the Moon” is still pretty funny.  But more importantly it’s part of my childhood.  It reminds me of when I was young, my parents were both alive and life felt far simpler.  A wonderful film.

It doesn’t really have much of a soundtrack. A few bits of incidental music but that’s about it.

Movie Weather Forecast. Nothing to report.  I’d watched it before I decided to record the weather, so I’ve nothing much to say, although anecdotally I think it was pretty good, warm and sunny.

The trailer’s actually quite fun, although it wasn’t easy to find a decent copy online, despite there being one on the DVD itself.

Recommend for politicians, astronauts and twitchers.

No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.

Top badass moment? Grand Fenwick manages to use its locally produced wine to power a space rocket.  I guess that’s pretty badass, although if you ask me it looks even more like a criminal waste of good alcohol.  It must have been an excellent vintage.  Perhaps it’s something for Richard Branson to look into, after the very sad new this week about Virgin Galactic.

The Mouse on the Moon at IMDB (6.5 /10)
The Mouse on the Moon at Wikipedia
The Mouse on the Moon trailer on YouTube


Tom and Jerry: Robin Hood and His Merry Mouse / Climate and Weather


Tom and Jerry: Robin Hood and His Merry Mouse  -  Front Blu-ray Cover  -  US Release

He stole from the rich, gave to the poor and desperately needs the help of Tom and Jerry! Now the famous outlaw Robin Hood has been captured by the evil Sheriff of Nottingham, and Robin Hood’s true love, the fair maiden Maid Marian, faces grave danger at the hands of greedy Prince John.  Can sworn adversaries Tom and Jerry set aside their differences long enough to save the day?  With high-flying action, daredevil stunts and rollicking songs, your favourite cartoon Cat-at-Arms Thomas and Merry Mouse Jerry take furry aim at the beloved medieval tale in a new, full-length original movie.  It’s all for one and fun for all in Sherwood Forest’s most madcap swashbuckling adventure ever!

2012 –  Certificate: Not Rated  –  American Film
7.0 out of 10

I was so busy at work last week that I didn’t even have the time to be busy. And I don’t think this week is going to be any better.  Tomorrow I’ve got to get up at stupid o’clock to drive to Croydon to interview people all day.  Perhaps I can just curl up under the table and go to sleep; there are four of us interviewing so I probably won’t even be missed.  In other Cactus World news, the weather continues to be unseasonably warm and I still haven’t had to put any heating on at home yet, although I have recently started to deploy ‘The Blanket’ sometimes, to put around myself when sitting in the lounge.  In my head I imagine I look a little like the Dark Knight, wrapped in his cloak and brooding over what to do about the latest crime wave in Gotham; whereas to anyone else I probably look like a little fat bloke with a maroon blanket wrapped around him, because he’s too mean to put the heating on.  But I’m happily sitting in just a t-shirt right now; (and trousers and stuff), so it’s not cold.  If only I can make it to Saturday, I’ll have got to November and can make some pointless point about something or other.  This Climate Change stuff isn’t all bad you know.  Worldwide, economic meltdown, wars, mass migration and a few ocean states totally obliterated under the waves, is a small price to pay for my comfort.  It almost makes me want to start eating meat again.  Or maybe not…  Oh wow, I’ve just had a really, really, REALLY cool idea.  In future I’m going to comment on the weather in each film I watch.  Is that not the most exciting thing you’ve heard for ages?  When I was in my teens I wanted to become a meteorologist.  I’m a Bit, we’re obsessed with the weather, it’s genetic.  The problem was that I was crap at just about all the subjects that you needed to be good at to become one.  So instead I ended up working for an organisation whose mission is basically to get people to dig lots of small, differently shaped holes and then fill them in again, or burn stuff.

Thought I’d been given the wrong disc when I first played it, as all I got was two posh guys going about their obsession with money and power and how they wanted to tax the poor more. I thought I’d mistakenly been sent a rogue copy of a party political broadcast on behalf of the Conservative Party.  But then I realised that it wasn’t; George Osbourne doesn’t have a beard.  So having sorted that out I was faced with a Tom and Jerry film that actually didn’t do too badly in terms of not abusing the general Robin Hood legend (for an American cartoon).  It also fancied itself as a bit of a musical, which again is quite a nice nod to the fact that a lot of Robin Hood folklore comes in the form of ballads.  Fortunately T&J don’t sing anything; that would just be a step too far.  Wars have been fought over less.  I actually quite enjoyed it and the plot was a bit more sensible than normal too.  Wasn’t nearly enough cat on mouse on cat violence though.  Why does everything have to be so toned down these days?  I watched loads of old school Tom & Jerry when I was young and it never did me any harm; and anyone who says different can fucking go and die horribly with an ironing board smashed into their face, whilst being ripped apart in a food blender, before being blown up in an oven and sent flying skyward and then sucked through a jet airline engine.  Anyway, another good point is that Maid Marian turned out to be a bit of a sex kitten in her strange, leotard-like dress; she was quite the feisty babe.  It was one of the rare occasions in T&J animations that I could really see what was ratting everyone’s cage, so to speak.  If you want to watch some modern T&J and see a bit of plot too, then you could do a lot worse than this movie.

Well it’s a musical of sorts and Tom and Jerry, not being the most talkative of guys, have traditionally always had full soundtracks to support their relationship. There’s nothing especially memorable here, but overall it’s pretty good stuff.  The musical songs actually sound like proper musical songs too, rather than crappy, modern pop.

Movie Weather Forecast. Nothing to report.  Well I only just thought of the idea so to be honest I didn’t really notice anything when I watched this last week.

The trailer’s okay, but it does undersell the movie a bit. The film’s better.

Recommend for politicians, outlaws and anyone planning next year’s (2015) Labour Party election publicity.

1 cat (obviously), no chainsaws or decapitations.

Top badass moment? Jerry shoots an arrow at Tom from a powerful, mounted crossbow, which pins Tom to a wooden post.  When Tom looks down and notices, we’re rewarded with one of his classic ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGHs!!!  Unfortunately the arrow only goes under Tom’s arm rather than through him, such are kids’ cartoons these days.  But those moments are always badass.  As an adult I still mentally react in the same way as Tom whenever the occasion arises.

Tom and Jerry: Robin Hood and His Merry Mouse at IMDB (6.5/10)
Tom and Jerry: Robin Hood and His Merry Mouse at Wikipedia
Tom and Jerry: Robin Hood and His Merry Mouse trailer at YouTube


This is England / Dreadzone


This is England  -  Front DVD Cover  -  UK Release

“This is England” tells the story of Shaun (Thomas Turgoose), an 11 year old kid growing up in the North of England. Set during the summer holidays of 1983, it follows his journey from a shaggy haired ruffian grieving the loss of his father into a shaven headed thug whose anger and pain are embraced by the local skinhead fraternity.  Largely based on Meadows’ own personal experience, “This is England” not only captures a specific point in British history, but also beautifully articulates the allure of being part of a gang.  Brilliantly charting a course from the joyous early passages to darker territory, Meadows also skilfully and with great sensitivity deals with the complexities of rage, race and masculinity.  Featuring astounding performances from Stephen Graham, (“Gangs of New York”) and newcomer Thomas Turgoose, “This is England” is a riveting and deeply moving portrait of an often-overlooked moment in cultural history and is arguably Meadows’ masterpiece.

2006 –  Certificate: 18  –  British Film
Rating Details: Very strong racist violence and language
9.0 out of 10

Went to see Dreadzone two nights ago. It was playing Sub89 in Reading, which is great because it’s a 20 minute walk from where I live in Cactus World.  There was a massive queue outside when I got there.  In fact it was so long that as I was walking alongside it, I started to doubt whether it was actually the queue at all; and the people in it mostly didn’t look like the sort who would go to a Dreadzone gig either.  In the end I took a walk around the block so I could reconsider the problem after having a bit of a think.  (I have a real phobia of new gig venues, although I’ve actually been to Sub89 quite a few times.)  However, after a little bit of loitering by the bus stops opposite, I decided that for some reason the doors that aren’t normally used for gig entrances were actually being used in this case.  It appeared they’d put the gig in the downstairs bar and the nightclub upstairs where gigs normally take place.  It’s a damming indictment of England and further proof that as a national were totally fucked, when the queue for a nightclub to dance to ‘chart music’ is about 1,000 times longer than the one for a quality band like Dreadzone.  The young of today have been brainwashed into accepting mediocrity as the norm and not wanting to rock the boat, because they’ve got no job or a massive student debt to pay off (or both) and need to save up for their pension, mortgage and overpriced wedding.  Fortunately, a few are still alive and they’d managed to make their way into the gig, along with a few survivors of times gone past.   The gig was in the Bowery District, which is basically a posh cocktail bar.  Having said that, it did have a proper little stage, some reasonable cider and a decent sound system.  (Then again, most systems sound okay if you hang around about a metre away from a speaker stack all night…)  What was also interesting about it is that if you stand near the stage, the design of the space effectively makes you feel you’re in a much smaller place and does a nice job of making things feel very intimate.  So actually it wasn’t bad at all.  Dreadzone played for what seemed like a long time.  There were no support acts; something that doesn’t happen very often.  It’s not a band I have a lot of recorded material by, but it’s one of those bands I’ll always try and go and see live, as that’s where it works best.  I was pretty tired by the end.  Dreadzone has quite a complex mix of beats and they certainly tax my abilities to the limit.  (Then again, a click track would do that too.)  The top of my legs are still somewhat sore today; which is odd, as it’s normally my calves that get knackered.  Fortunately it finished at 22:00, so I was home by half ten.  Dreadzone  –  Gangster  Dreadzone  –  Too Late  Dreadzone  –  Beyond a Rock  This is a film that features lots of music too.

Except for a period in the 80’s, I’ve always kept my hair pretty short. These days I shave it myself (a “Number 1” for the technically minded), because I’m too mean to pay someone else £10 to have it done each time.  I’ve been doing this for several years, so I imagine the part at the back that I can’t see probably looks a total mess now.  For years, I also used to wear a pair of DM boots too, (before I became vegan in about 1989).  Despite this, I’ve never really been a skinhead.  But it really, really pisses me off to see morons appropriate my flag and some of the musical styles I like for their racist shit.  These people have as much in common with the roots of the culture as IS has with the teachings of Islam (i.e. nothing), but as a result have tarnished a whole way of life.  This is a film that well illustrates the best and the worst of the skinhead culture in the early 80s.  It’s a brilliant movie on just about every level and a film everyone should see, if only to give themselves a history lesson.

As a film based on skinhead culture, it ought to have some great music in it and it doesn’t do too badly, although it would have been good to have a bit more. We get a good mix of reggae and 2 Tone ska, plus (rather more inexplicably), “Warhead” by the UK Subs.

In common with the film, its trailer is a top one too.  It’s exciting and intriguing, but doesn’t give the details of the plot away.

Recommended for skinheads, and anyone who’d thinking of putting a young character into a film and wants to see how to do it without making everyone groan.

No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.

Top badass moment? Woody and his gang of skinheads befriend an 11-year-old boy who’s being bullied at school.  They get him some proper clothes, a decent haircut and expose him to some quality reggae.  That’s badass.  What a shame it all gets spoilt by a racist idiot.

This is England at IMDB (7.7 / 10)
This is England at Wikipedia
This is England at Roger Ebert (3.5/4)
This is England trailer at You Tube


Laura / Wow! How to be a Great People Manager


Laura  -  Front DVD Cover  -  UK Release

The sensually provocative images of internationally acclaimed photographer David Hamilton again move and breathe in Laura. A delicate journey through innocence, beauty and sensuality involving a 16 year old ballet dancer who falls in love with her mother’s former lover, a 40 year old sculptor. A classic cinematic treatment of mother-daughter competition and the first stirrings of sexuality.  With utmost taste and talent, Hamilton presents the gratification of budding womanhood.

1979 –  Certificate: 18  –  French Film
5.0 out of 10

For reasons that mostly baffle me but probably point to a severe breakdown in the decision-making process somewhere, I’m trusted with the management of nine people at work, plus another two or three that are ‘incoming’. I’ve never received much in the way of training to accomplish this, but I do my best.  I try to work them all to within an inch of their lives, make them feel worthless and in awe of me, blame them when something goes wrong and take the credit when something goes well.  I provide them with impossible deadlines and grass them up to more senior people when they fail to meet them.  I invent or overcomplicate existing procedures, to make their lives as difficult as possible.  My managerial catch-phrase is, “if you don’t like it you can leave”.  In fact the only book on management I’ve ever read is “The Art of Demotivation”.  I’d heartily recommend this to anyone who manages staff.  I keep my well-thumbed copy by my desk at all times.  Despite my obvious lack of emotional intelligence, in a strange way I consider these ‘resource units’ as my family.  (In that sense I care for them deeply, in the same way that Captain Janeway on the Starship Voyager cared for her crew, but still managed to nearly get them killed most weeks.)  Consequently, I get very distressed when any of them decide to fly the nest or take maternity leave.  (Mainly because of the extra hassle it’s going to cause me.)  In the next couple of months I have to recruit three or four new members of staff.  From experience, I’m pretty sure that interviewing is about as close as a man can get to giving birth.  The only difference is that we interview during office hours to a sensible timetable that minimises the disruption it causes.  It is however a painful experience, in which you deal with things as best you can, when all you really want to do is scream and moan about how long it’s all taking, as you wait for the candidate(s) to come into the room so to speak.  And my top tips for interviewing?  Always have the interview panel with the light behind its back.  I find it helps to put interviewees at ease if you silhouette yourselves.  I also find that starting off interviews with the question, “what’s the worst question we could ask you today?” often helps to put candidates at ease too.  If I don’t see tears by the end, I know I’m facing a tough son-of-a-bitch, who might one day challenge my Alpha Male status, an attribute that at work we call Wow; strangely, these people always score really poorly and consequently never get appointed.  There’s nothing Wow about this film either.

David Hamilton made a few films like this and they’re all crap. This is probably because I know nothing about art and can never relate to anything or anyone in them.  And I hate the ‘soft focus’ (i.e. out of focus) photography that always seems to get used too, so it’s not just the people, plots and places I don’t get.  I guess if I was cultured enough I’d think this movie was a cinegraphic masterpiece that “presents the gratification of budding womanhood” and unrequited love, rather than some child porn dressed up as art.  But what do I know?  I’m probably just an ignorant, Mail-reading Brit, who thinks anything foreign is rubbish (unless it’s American or curry).  I guess if I go out and kill someone on purpose, as long as I do it tastefully it’s art, not murder.  Having said that, there is a story of sorts (a somewhat pervy love triangle) and a bit of action when something catches fire.  There’s also some ‘fun’ with weed-killer too.  (It’s a good example of what happens when you don’t store and use chemicals correctly.)  I guess if you can work around all its technical and plot foibles, then you could get something positive out of it.  (It’s not unlike a trashy B-movie in that respect.)

The soundtrack is mainly plinky-plonky ‘emotional’ piano or dated prog rock. It’s not something I’d miss if it was somehow erased for existence by time-travelling, intergalactic film critics.

Trailer. Well if there is one I couldn’t find it.  Yes, the Internet has let me down.  The best I managed to locate were some clips, so I’ve picked out an especially action-packed one for here.

Recommended for sculptors, dancers and anyone with a very open mind.

No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.

Top badass moment? I guess it’s another reason for me to be sent to Hell, but Paul (40) manages to get off with Laura (15).  It’s not that I approve or would want to be in his place; it’s just that he could, which makes it badass, although mostly just bad.  What’s he got that I haven’t?  Other than he’s good looking, French, talented, sexy and (in these post-Saville times) “a sinister pervert who used his fame to get close to young women and girls”.  No wait, that’s Rolf Harris.

Laura at IMDB (6.0 / 10)
Laura at Wikipedia
Laura clip at YouTube


I Know What You Did Last Summer / Star Trek Novels


I Know What You Did Last Summer  -  Front DVD Cover  -  Uk Release

On the magic Summer’s night of high school’s end, Julie, Helen, Ray and Barry get into Barry’s new Beamer and drive out to celebrate, their lives and hopes before them. But on the road they have a terrible accident; hit and kill a man.  In the shock and panic that follows, they dump the body in the sea rather than reporting the accident.  As the body sinks, the hand of the dead man breaks the surface in a last grasp at life, then disappears into the murky depths.  The four friends realise they are now guilty of murder and swear to take their secret to their graves.  But now someone is stalking them, someone who knows who they are, knows what they did last Summer, and seeks revenge…

1997 –  Certificate: 15  –  American Film
8.0 out of 10

Recently I’ve been reading a lot of books. Not just any old book though, but Star Trek books.  (This is cue for you to both yawn and go find something else to do, or think this is the best thing, ever.  I don’t mind which you choose; after all, not everyone mentally and emotionally matures at the same speed.)  So anyway, for those of you who have matured sufficiently…  I’ll admit that in the past I’ve flirted a little with Star Trek novels and Star Trek audiobooks.  (I must confess that I especially love the minimal effort the latter take to enjoy and that I can do other things at the same time, like drive or go to sleep.  What’s not so good is the limited range of titles available, their cost and the fact that most have been greatly abridged.)   Star Trek was always as much about the relationships between the characters, as the ‘blowing things up’ stuff.  If it sometimes tries too hard to project a perfect version of America as itself, then I can forgive it that.  Most of these stories were based somewhere in the known Star Trek timeline, generally between this episode or that episode, or occasionally kind of outside it.  Following the release of “Star Trek: Nemesis” a void opened up, one as large as the universe itself.  The Star Trek reboot, whilst brilliant in its own way, can never hope to fill this space; it’s simply the wrong shape, size and timeline.  This void is empty except for one thing, a single Question; what happened to everyone?  The novels from this period are generally really entertaining and exciting, well written and treat ‘known’ Star Trek history with the appropriate level of respect and consistency.  However, they don’t answer that Question.   Then in May 2001, “Avatar” was published, a story written and set after the end of “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”.  Over next few years more books came out that did a similar thing and were set after the various TV series and then finally Nemesis itself.  Suddenly we could have answers to the Question.  Of course not everyone likes how future history is working out and what’s happened or happening to all those characters we travelled with for so long, but I’m finding the experience to be wonderfully entertaining.  No longer hemmed in by ‘official’ history or the limitations of TV or film productions, the books set in the period after Nemesis are able to chart their own way forward, taking the Star Trek story further into the future.  They also do a pretty good job of maintaining their internal consistency from one to the next and between different authors.  This makes it feel like they’re all part of one, giant story arc, rather than just random tales.  I’ve just finished reading the “Destiny” trilogy.  This does fundamental things with the Star Trek universe that would have taken a whole series on TV to do justice to them, as well as a sizable special effects budget.  For anyone who hasn’t taken the plunge and started to read these books, I’d fully recommend you find the time to do so.  I wish I could write stories…  This film was the first part of a trilogy.  I think that’s about as far as I can push the comparison.

This movie initially worried me. If someone really did know what I did last summer, then it was likely to be a totally over the top erotic thriller, with elements of horror, science-fiction and comedy mixed in with it.  (Although I must admit I was curious to see who was playing me in it.)  In the end it turned out to be a teen horror with Buffy in it and some killer running around wearing a yellow pacamac and carrying a hook so bent I can’t imagine it was easy to get it to go into anything, never mind a squealing teen.  It also features the absolutely worst pretend ice cubes I’ve ever seen a movie; seriously, they don’t even sound like ice.  And it heavily features “Hush” by Kula Shaka on the soundtrack too, one of the most insipid, horrible tunes ever to be conjured into existence.  It’s awful.  I can remember walking past the video hire shop (remember them) in Colliers Wood on a number of occasions when it first came out on VHS and seeing a big, cardboard cut-out for it in the window.  (Come to think of it, it could have been for one of its two sequels, but let’s ignore that possibility for now.  N.B.  Actually I’ve thought about it some more, I think it might have been an advert for the whole trilogy.)  I can’t recall exactly what went through my mind at the time, but I think there was a level of disappointment that suggests to me now I wasn’t expecting to see it.  It’s weird how you can sometimes recall these random thoughts years later.  I guess my disappointment must have been pretty profound.  Despite all this (and more), it’s actually a really good film, but I can’t for the life of me work out why.  Pretty enigmatic, isn’t it?  I think they’re making a new version of it too…

The evil of Kula Shaker aside, the soundtrack is actually okay and includes songs by the Mighty Mighty Bosstones and The Offspring.

The trailer. It’s better with the sound off.

Recommend for students and fisherman.

No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.

Top badass moment? Despite being an entirely obnoxious rich-boy who seemed to exist entirely for the purpose of pissing off his friends and showing his stomach muscles off to the viewer, Ray finally does the right thing and saves The Girl from The Baddie.  As well as being a cliché of the first degree, this is (if it was real of course) a really badass thing to do.  (However, he’d probably have been killed by Ben if it was real life, so it’s just as well it’s only a movie.)

I Know What You Did Last Summer at IMDB (5.6/10)
I Know What You Did Last Summer at Wikipedia
I Know What You Did Last Summer at Roger Ebert (1.0/4)
I Know What You Did Last Summer trailer at YouTube


Good Vibrations / My Life Story


Good Vibrations  -  Front Blu-ray Cover  -  UK Release

Eager to shift thoughts away from The Troubles during the 1970s, music fanatic Terri Hooley (Richard Dormer, TV’s “Game of Thrones”) opens a record store, ‘Good Vibrations’, in the heart of one of Belfast’s roughest districts.  As the shop gains a loyal following, Terri starts a small record label with the aim of launching some of the local bands, including The Undertones whose first single, ‘Teenage Kicks’, is championed by legendary Radio 1 DJ John Peel….  A heart-warming and hilarious true story, Good Vibrations is not a feel-good film – it’s a feel-great film!

2012 –  Certificate: 15  –  British/Irish Film
Rating Details: Strong language, once very strong, and drug use
8.5 out of 10

In 1981 I was selecting what universities might be desperate enough to entertain me with an offer of admission. This, you’re told, is an important decision that could affect your whole life and one you should make after due, diligent consideration.  At my sixth form college we had folders and files bulging with all the propaganda, prospectuses and other marketing materials from all the universities and polytechnics in the country.  At the bottom of one cabinet, filed away under U, was a folder containing a slim, A5 sized booklet, and that’s it.  Unlike everything else, which was dog-eared, scribbled over and had pages torn from it, this little publication was in pristine condition, untouched, unread.  In the early 80s The Troubles were in full swing in Northern Ireland and no self-respecting student from an okay suburb in north-west London was going to even consider the New University of Ulster.  The Undertones was (and still is) a punk band from Derry, which is about 30 miles from Coleraine, where the main campus was for the NUU.  Entirely on the strength of this geographical connection and much to the consternation of my parents, I picked the NUU as one of my five choices of university.  In the end I got offers from three of these, including the NUU.  Six months later, thanks to some less than stellar A Level results,  it’s where I ended up.  (In truth I think it would probably have take just about anyone from England, regardless of their stupidity levels, as it was so desperate for ‘overseas’ students.)  This film explains why this happened and why my life has turned out the way it has.  I’d like to think I’m a tiny, unwritten footnote somewhere that’s connected to this film.  I still have the Good Vibrations price labels on a few records (I didn’t want to peel them off) and without consciously trying to collect them have most of the label’s early releases too. Some wonderful songs were released during that period.  It’s hard to believe it’s almost ten years since John Peel died too.

I’ve never met Terri Hooley and I probably never will, but I think I’d like him if I did. He released the Undertones first single “Teenage Kicks” on his own little label that he started in his record shop in Belfast.  He then got a copy to John Peel, who played it twice in a row on his show on BBC Radio 1.  The rest is well documented history.  If he’d not done this, I’d never have heard of the Undertones and that modest prospectus would have remained hidden in the blue file in the bottom draw.  I think I still have it somewhere as I ‘borrowed’ it from the file; I don’t suppose anyone ever noticed it was missing.  It’s quite an experience to watch a film that tells the story of someone who had such an unplanned effect on your own life.   As a stand-alone movie it’s not perfect.  Of course it has a montage of The Troubles and lots of characters who could only be from Northern Ireland.  (When they weren’t busy marching around, shooting each other and blowing things up, the Northern Irish were some of the nicest and kindest people you could meet.  Better than the English anyway!)  In that sense it’s very clichéd, yet it’s still a really fun and enjoyable watch.   The fact that it’s based on a true story just adds to its attraction.  From my own knowledge of things, there are a number of scenes and touches in the film that really reflect what happened, although I’m sure there’s plenty of dramatisation too. An essential watch.

This is a film about someone who loves music. As such it features lots of great tunes, from reggae through to bands like the Outcasts, Rudi and of course the Undertones.  It also contains absolutely the best music porn I’ve ever seen.  For around 15 minutes it presents the story of “Teenage Kicks” and it couldn’t have been done better.  It’s perfect and a brilliant and loving homage to it.  After a couple of false starts the song finally bursts out on the screen and for 2 minutes and 28 seconds (more or less) we just get to experience the moment it was first played by John Peel.  Of course, the band has written better songs since, but none will ever quite have the impact and resonance of “Teenage Kicks”.   (They even managed to get some actors to play the band who mostly had a decent resemblance to the real people.)  I must have about a dozen copies of it on various records and CDs.  Of course, I already have a ticket for the band’s next gig in London, in nine months time.

The trailer is perfect. It contains “Teenage Kicks”.

Recommended for dreamers, musicians, music fans and anyone who’s ever fallen under the spell of any song.

No cats, chainsaws or decapitation.

Top badass moment? After the great built up, “Teenage Kicks” bursting out of the speakers provides THE most badass experience it’s possible to have.  An iconic tune by the best band on the planet.  Still gigging and still way ahead of their peers.

Good Vibrations at IMDB (7.2 / 10)
Good Vibrations at Wikipedia
Good Vibrations trailer at YouTube


The New York Ripper / The Role of Alcohol in Reviews


The NewYork Ripper  -  Front DVD Cover  -  Dutch Release

A serial killer makes New York unsafe. Brutally murders he maimed his female victims.  Inspector Williams in the dark.  Meanwhile, the killer continues to make victims and the police harass with nasty phone calls.  When the girlfriend of Williams is likely to be the next victim of the frustrated police launch an intense manhunt …  The New York Ripper (Los squartatore di New York) is one of Lucio Fulci’s most controversial films: stylish and exciting, but also extremely bloody, brutal and sadistic. A horror classic of the first water!  (Thanks Google, you’ve managed a perfect translation of the Dutch overview from my DVD!)

1982 –  Certificate: 16  –  Italian Film
6.0 out of 10

I like to watch films; and TV too, although I virtually never do the latter. I enjoy the experience and often have a wee drink as an accompaniment.  I’m not 100% sure, but I suspect there’s a correlation between how much I enjoy what I watch and what I have to drink, (or more accurately, how much alcohol I have to drink).  Not being the sort of person to pass up an opportunity to carry out radial, left-field, cutting edge research when the occasion arises, I’ve decided to report this information here from now on.  I know it’s not going to provide a cure for Ebola, sort out any civil wars or grant Scotland independence, but it’s still pretty exciting stuff isn’t it?  There is one small problem though.  I can’t actually start to do this yet, as I can’t remember what I had to drink whilst I was watching this film. I guess Einstein had days like this too.

Why do I watch films like this? A serial killer (who talks like a duck for reasons explained near the end of the movie) is on the loose in New York and a burnt out cop is after him.  I’m not a fan of cop films or 70s production values.  (It was made in 1982 but it looks like it was made in 1974.)  I guess as an example of ‘that’ kind of film it’s actually pretty good and carries an uncomfortably authentic level of sleaziness.  Most of the men in it are just dreadful.  I watched the uncut version.  In the UK the film was refused a certificate when first released (effectively banned) and an instruction given that all the prints of the film should be removed from the country. It’s never been released uncut in the UK.  So I ended up watching a Dutch import of an Italian film set in America, in which most of the actors are speaking Italian that was later dubbed into English for its release.  These days, now we’re more enlightened (i.e. when we’re happy for youngsters to play video games where they can actually rip people to pieces), most of it did feel dated and clichéd, although some of its murder scenes are still pretty unpleasant.  Probably not a good first date movie.

The soundtrack is uniformly horrible. In other words, it’s an ideal fit for the movie and adds a great deal to its sleazy, dated feel.  Way too much sax.

The trailer below is the ‘nice’ one. If you want to see the ‘not nice’ one, follow the link below instead.  Either way, they’re a suitably faithful representation of the film.  I can’t help thinking they overdid the screaming though, just a little bit.

Recommended for police offices, serial killers and psychiatrists; and sleazy guys in general.

No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.

Top badass moment? At the start of the film, a young woman on a bike (Rosie) manages to stupidly crash into a guy’s car and scratch it down the side.  She’s uninjured and her bike undamaged, but he’s naturally a bit pissed about it.  However, she just calls him an asshole and cycles off, leaving him with a lot of hassle and a big repair bill.  Shortly afterwards she’s murdered by a serial killer.  I know it’s wrong and everything and I’ll probably go to Hell for it, but a little bit of me was glad.  Payback is a bitch… and badass.

The New York Ripper at IMBD (6.4 / 10)
The New York Ripper at Wikipedia
The New York Ripper (red band) trailer at YouTube


Green Lantern / Being Fearless at Work


Green Lantern  -  Front Blu-ray cover  -  UK Release

In a universe as vast as it is mysterious, an elite force of protectors for peace and justice has existed for centuries. They are the Green Lantern Corps.  When a new enemy called Parallax threatens to destroy the universe, their fate and the fate of Earth lie in the hands of the Corps’ newest recruit, the first human ever selected: Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds).  Bringing the popular superhero to the big screen for the first time, “Green Lantern” also stars Blake Lively (“Gossip Girl”), Peter Sarsgaard (“Orphan”), Mark Strong (“Sherlock Holmes”), Academy Award nominee Angela Bassett and Academy Award winner Tim Robbins.

2011 –  Certificate: 12  –  American Film
Rating Details: Moderate fantasy violence
8.0 out of 10

I spent about two and a half hours today at work, attending a data protection webinar. So now I’m too scared to write anything here… about anything…  What I will say is that one of my colleagues, who will remain nameless (Oonagh), thought it would be funny to send a text to someone else in another office who was also attending it; so we got to hear that person’s mobile beep in the background during the webinar.  We all thought it was very funny!  It’s good being a grown-up.  Here’s something else that’s a bit childish too.

I can sort of understand why so many people trashed this film, but I thought it was jolly good fun. This might be to do with the fact that I lit my lounge with a green bulb to watch it, to help me feel immersed in the action so to speak, of which there was plenty.  So it’s a bit camp at times and the plot somewhat wooden (although it does have some good lines in it), but sometimes all we need are a few easy to identify goodies and baddies to have fun.  I thought Ryan Reynolds was pretty good as Green Lantern, even though he’ll always be the fat guy in “Just Good Friends” to me.  Maybe it’s because when I was young the Green Lanterns were very much B-class superheroes who I never really engaged with much; so I didn’t have any previous perceptions to have spoilt.  They actually have an interesting and unusual back story too, which makes them different to most of their super-colleagues.  But in the end I guess they’re just another manifestation of the United States, in terms of them acting as self appointed protectors of everyone else.  At first I thought the movie was some sort of documentary about environmentally friendly torches.  It took me quite a while to realise that it was actually about an arrogant test pilot.  I’m not a test pilot, but there’s still a chance that I might one day be selected as a Green Lantern, as I learnt that “In order to be chosen by the ring, it is said that one must be without fear.”  I’m pretty sure the discussions I have with my manager every month after I’ve submitted my financial variance report, puts me into that select group.

The soundtrack is pretty good. It’s suitably epic.

The trailer’s okay, but I don’t think it really captures the feel of the film that well. It seems a bit disjointed and not quite sure what sort of film it’s mean to be promoting.

Recommend for test pilots, xenobiologists and anyone who likes the colour green. Not recommend if you don’t like green; this movie will just make you retch.

No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.

Top badass moment? Hal Jordan’s been a Green Lantern for five minutes when he stomps into the Guardian’s hang-out and gives some impassioned speech about Earth and humans and stuff.  I’m not sure about anyone else, but if you get recruited by a Fortune 500 company, are you really going to barge into the boardroom on your first day and tell the directors, who have been there for basically forever, how to do things?  He doesn’t get his way but he doesn’t get the sack either.  That’s got to be badass behaviour in anyone’s book.  I have a feeling he’s going to be on the fast track to a more senior position very soon.

Green Lantern at IMDB (5.7 / 10)
Green Lantern at Wikipedia
Green Lantern at Roger Ebert (2.5 / 4)
Green Lantern trailer at YouTube


Some Guy Who Kills People / Cooking ‘Chilli’


Some Guy Who Kills People  -  Front Blu-ray Cover  -  UK Release

Meet Ken Boyd: small-town loner and comic-book nerd, making ends meet by pushing a broom around the local ice-cream parlour. Fresh out of the loony bin, where he spent years recovering from the horrific torture he suffered at the hands of the high school basketball jocks, Ken (Kevin Corrigan) wants nothing more than to just be left alone.  But when the lovely Stephanie (Lucy Davis) comes into Ken’s life and he is reunited with his estranged, 11 year old daughter Amy, things finally seem to be looking up.  Even his constantly disappointed mother (Karen Black) and the town Sheriff (Barry Bostock) start to treat him with a little more respect.  That is, until those very same jocks that Ken deems responsible for his ruined life start turning up dead…

2011 –  Certificate: 15  –  American Film
Rating Details: Strong language and bloody violence
7.0 out of 10

For dinner last night I had a weird and not overly tasty concoction that was meant to be a chilli, except I didn’t have any chillies or chilli powder, so I thought I’d use paprika instead; well it’s nearly the same colour isn’t it? I also thought I’d use a whole garlic bulb in it too.  I ground the garlic up in an electric chopper, rather than cut it up into small bits with a knife, which is what I normally do.  This had the effect of spreading the taste throughout the rest of the food, instead of keeping it more concentrated in certain places.  The overall result of all this was an overpoweringly garlicky mush that didn’t go at all well with the paprika.  I ate it all, but I imagine anyone coming anywhere near me in the next 36 hours is likely to be putting in a call to National Grid soon after.  In the flats where I live, all the kitchens have a built in vent/fan system that is supposed to remove cooking smells.  It’s really not very efficient; it just makes a lot of noise.  Unfortunately and from personal experience over many years, this system also doesn’t seem to be very good at venting the smells out of the building either, preferring instead to simply pump them into all the neighbouring kitchens and bathrooms instead.  I imagine that many of my neighbours were busy last night with the Air Wick, in a desperate attempt to hide my dietary experimentation.  Still, I’m just getting my own back for all the meat and fish based meals they share with me in the same way.  This movie has a bit of a revenge theme going on too.

In common with much of life, this film is a gentle comedy with the occasional bit of slasher horror. Like far too many other films, this one features another of those young (in this case an 11-year-old) kids with impossibly high levels of emotional intelligence, empathy and stability.  They really are a cliché.  Listen Mr. Movie-Maker, they may make useful plot devices but they don’t actually exist in the real world.  You may as well have introduced a purple alien to fulfil the same role; it wouldn’t be any less believable (and could well end up actually being more believable).  Despite this and a sometimes weak storyline, the characters are actually the best things in this film; yes, even the 11-year-old with the professional life-coaching skills; (and she looks about 13 too.)  I enjoyed watching this movie more for the individual scenes to see everyone interacting, rather than the overall plot.  The ‘horror bits’ felt a bit bolted on to everything and it would have probably worked just as well without them.  So worth a watch for the fun and the acting, but it’s a disappointing horror with a wonky story.  (When was the last time you heard or saw anyone use the word “wonky” then?)  I’ve just though, this is the second American film in a row I’ve watched that has a ‘token Brit’ in it. She calls someone a “wanker” anyway; a complex term that I imagine goes over the head of many Americans.

The soundtrack does what it needs to do but is otherwise pretty anonymous.

The trailer’s entertaining, but it does sort of give away the story and has most of the best lines in it as well.

Recommended for police officers, precocious kids, bullies (and their victims), basketball fans, losers and anyone in a dead-end job.

1 decapitation, no cats or chainsaws. A clean if somewhat messy cut; off in one.

Top badass moment? As a minor plot point, this film includes issues around custody of a young girl.  Fortunately this appears to get sorted out in about 15 seconds to the satisfaction of all.  I thought these things are meant to take ages and cost a fortune?  Was this just lazy writing, or have I been brainwashed for years by the legal profession bent on maximising what it gets from the misery of others?  Regardless, the DIY result in this movie seems badass.

Some Guy Who Kills People at IMDB (6.4 / 10)
Some Guy Who Kills People at Wikipedia
Some Guy Who Kills People trailer at YouTube


Go / Boomtown Fair 2014


Go  -  Front DVD Cover  -  UK Release

From the director of “Swingers” comes a black comedy tracing the outrageous misadventures of a group of young American delinquents.  18-year-old check-out girl Ronna (Sarah Polley – “The Sweet Hereafter”) is trying to score some rent money before she is evicted on Christmas Eve.  Accompanied by reluctant partner in crime Claire (Katie Holmes – “TV’s Dawson’s Creek”), she embarks on her first drug deal…  Meanwhile, impulsive Brit Simon (Desmond Askew – TV’s “Grange Hill”) is driving a stolen car with buddy Marcus (Taye Diggs – “How Stella Got Her Groove Back”) during a no-holds-barred night of partying in Vegas, as TV stars Adam (Scott Wolf – TV’s “Party of Five”) and Zack (Jay Mohr – “Jerry Maguire”) find themselves in the middle of a real-life drug sting – and a very creepy Christmas dinner…

1999  –  Certificate: 18  –  American Film
Rating Details: Strong sex, coarse language and drug use
8.0 out of 10

I don’t do music festivals.  Never have.  I’ve been to hundreds of gigs over the years but only a few festivals, which have mostly been indoors and only lasted a day; in fact I’ve only been to four outdoor music events ever.  In 1983 I did hitchhike from London to Stranraer in Scotland, got the ferry across to Larne in Northern Ireland, before hitching down through Belfast and then Dublin, to go to the Punchestown Racecourse.  That was to see The Undertones last ever gig (until the band reformed in 1999).  Dire Straits was the headliner, but I left before it came on.  This was still a one-day event, but I slept in a random field in the open by a haystack the night before.  (Until that is, I was woken up in the middle of the night by a lot of very drunk Irish guys, who ‘insisted’ I slept in their tent, which just happened to be elsewhere in the same field.  Being woken up by being dragged along the ground in your sleeping bag in the middle of the night by a load of incoherent drunks is a strange experience).  But that’s the nearest I’ve got to the real ‘festival experience’… until this year.  For some reason I rashly agreed to buy a £167 ticket to go to the Boomtown Fair near Winchester in Hampshire last month; four days of dance, reggae, ska and punk, all mixed up in a ‘pop-up’ town with 38,000 other people. Four days of drinking cider at 10:00am; eating nothing but bread and falafels; getting virtually no sleep courtesy of camping right next to the Hidden Woods and it’s seemingly non-stop diet of what I think young people might consider dubstep; and wandering around in what tuned into a quagmire of mud. I was lying in my tent one morning, holding onto the inner part of it in the hope that the tail end of what used to be Hurricane Bertha wasn’t going to blow it away; I’d never seen tent poles bend like that before.  (Typical Yanks, sending us their worn out, second-hand weather.)  I ‘lost’ my wallet at NOFX, (who were pretty crappy actually); lost my red/black hat (a huge tragedy) as I got too drunk; had something weird happen to my eyes so it looked like I’d not slept for 50 years; got so sunburnt that my nose fell off (well nearly); and spent a lot of time wondering about and occasionally dancing even more stupidly than normal to bands such as New Town Kings, Dirty Revolution, The Skints, Imperial Leisure, Culture Shock and Sonic Boom Six.  For most of the Skints’s set it poured down; not normal rain, but the sort of rain that Noah had to deal with.  I couldn’t have been wetter if I’d sat in a bath in my clothes.  There’s something very surreal about dancing in the pouring rain on a surface that’s rapidly turning into a mud slide.  The best ‘new’ bands were Smiley & the Underclass and (by coincidence) Smiling Ivy.  Other than the music, the other sound I heard most often was people filling balloons full of nitrous oxide to inhale.  In places the ground was covered in the little metal canisters it normally comes it.  We were also asked at least a dozen times if we were ‘selling’ anything.  I never realised I looked so much like a drug dealer.  Then again, about 99% of the people there were younger than me, so I guess to deal drugs is the only reason ‘old people’ go to festivals.  And then there were the toilets…  Would I go again?  Fuck, yeah!  And for those of you interested in the rather random set of photos I took, they can be viewed hereThis is a film about musical culture too, in this case the rave scene at the end of the 90’s.  (Nice segue me.)

So, this isn’t a film about the ancient, Chinese game of Go.  A sort of cross between “Pulp Fiction” and “Trainspotting”, we follow the exploits of a group of young friends over a weekend, seeing the story unfold three times as it focuses on different people.  It feels a bit OTT and kind of dated (pre mobile phones), but is actually very funny and well put together.  I’m not sure what I was doing when all this rave stuff was going on originally.  I seem to remember it was towards the end of the 80s and early 90s.  I own some 12” singles from that period, which would suggest I had some knowledge of it, but that’s all.  Maybe I was totally out of it on E, X, J or W, or whatever letter of the alphabet people took in them days.  Or perhaps I fell asleep in front of the TV for a few years or something.  Yeah, reach for the lasers…

For a film about rave culture, it has surprisingly little music in it and what there is sounds a bit bland.  It’s okay but a bit of a wasted opportunity; a little like this sentence really.  It does have Steppenwolf’s “Magic Carpet Ride” in it, which seems to turn up in a lot of films.  But it was used in “Star Trek; First Contact”, so that’s a good enough recommendation for me.  

The trailer’s not bad.  Actually it works quite well as an introduction to the film without giving much away.

Recommended for people who work in supermarkets, drug dealers, dodgy cops and losers in general.

2 cats, no chainsaws or decapitations.  Cute cats, awwww.  One has some top dialogue; it’s dubbed into English too, which is great for anyone that doesn’t understand cat language.

Top badass moment?  To raise money to pay her rent, Ronna starts selling aspirin and antihistamines and telling people that they’re drugs.  (That’s drugs as in drugs, not drugs as in, em, drugs).  People buy them and then think they’re having the sort of effect they expect.  It reminded me of how bottled water is sold to the masses.  Marketing pointless crap to stupid people successfully is, begrudgingly, badass. 

Go at IMDB (7.3 / 10)
Go at Wikipedia
Go at Roger Ebert (3.0/4)
Go trailer at YouTube


The Mothman Prophecies / Decorating as a Weapon of Mass Destruction


The Mothman Prophecies  -  Front DVD Cover  -  UK Release

Based on true events, “The Mothman Prophecies” is a  compelling, heart-pounding, bone-chilling thriller that will jolt you off your seat!  Driven to investigate the mysterious circumstances surrounding his wife’s death, John Klein (Richard Gere – “The  Hoax”, “Chicago”) uncovers chilling secrets behind The Mothman, a timeless, nameless horror whose appearance spells doom for all those who see it.  Klein discovers a connection between the supernatural being and Point pleasant, West Virginia; a small town paralysed by fear where he meets Connie (Laura Linney – “The Exorcism of Emily Rose”, “Mystic River”) who helps shed light on the crisis.  If you see it, are you safe? If you don’t… are you next?

2002  –  Rating: 12  –  American Film
Rating Details: Moderate Horror and Infrequent Strong Language
8.0 out of 10

So where have I been for the last month?  Serving a prison sentence for inciting a popular but ultimately unsuccessful uprising?  On a world tour to promote my latest bestseller?  Locked away in a Scottish castle writing my autobiography?  In a drunken stupor in a gutter somewhere?  Nope, in fact I’ve been decorating my kitchen.  Shortly after I moved in seven or so years ago, I found myself suffering from ‘decorating burnout’.  This is a tragic ailment for which the most common symptom is knowing exactly where everything is in the local B&Q, even when they keep moving the stuff on the shelves around from week to week.  This sadly happened before I’d got around to doing the kitchen, so it’s remained ‘as was’ ever since, slowly becoming more and more embarrassing and an increasing threat to world health.  My flat isn’t exactly what you’d call huge.  It’s so small that even when a single item gets left away from its normal resting place, the whole, fragile ecosystem of my life starts to break down.  This normally includes injuring myself on some bit of furniture or other item that I’ve inadvertently walked into or on, as I’ve tried to navigate around the out of place ‘thing’.  So you may wish to consider the real-life horror I’ve been living with that results from emptying everything out of my kitchen and storing it elsewhere in my flat.  I’ve seen tidier looking places in post-holocaust movies just after the bomb’s dropped.  My favourite injury this time was from a bracket that sticks out too far as it’s too big for the shelf it’s supporting.  Normally it’s not a problem, but this time I knelt down by it at one point in an attempt to open the door of the fridge that was facing directly towards a wall.  I managed to rip two nice grooves out of my right leg.  Oh what fun it was!  I’m sure I’m going to end up with a hideous scar.  It reminded me of why I don’t do DIY very often.  The kitchen took 36 days to finish.  It’s now going to take as long to sort out the chaos it caused everywhere else.  For anyone that’s interested, here’re a few photos of the final result:

I think I’m becoming a bit of a wuse in my old age.  I think it’s because as you get older you get nearer to death, so anything that involves ghostly dead things that are still around, starts to worry you more.  This film doesn’t exactly have ghosts in it, but it’s near enough.  It’s a 12 certificate film, how scary can it be?  Well it had me looking at the open door of the lounge as I was watching it, too scared to go over and close it in case the Mothman, or something like it, suddenly flew in.  If you want to frighten a few 12 year olds but be a goody-goody and not pull out you latest 18 certificate torture porn or “Exorcist” Blu-ray, show them this film.  Don’t forget to mention that it’s based on a true story too.  It helps that it takes a while for the nature of the Mothman to be revealed, as not knowing makes it all the more scary.  It also has great sound.  I didn’t think the two main characters had that much on-screen chemistry, but it punches above its weight in terms of mood and general atmosphere.  Things feel a bit safer once you find out what’s going on, but it still has a pretty good disaster movie ending to enjoy.

The soundtrack is decent enough.  I can’t remember anything else about it now, but it was good.  Honest.  I think it even won an award or something, so it must be good.

The trailer is pretty standard stuff.  You’ll watch it and then forget it.

Recommended for reporters and police officers.  (Wow, that’s original.)

No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.

Top badass moment?  Richard Gere goes house hunting with his wife and they decide to have sex in a wardrobe there, before being disturbed in it by the estate agent asking if they’re interested in buying the house.  I’m not sure what’s most badass, doing that at their age, or the way the estate agent closes the deal.  Well okay it’s not the latter; I just can’t make myself think of an estate agent as badass.   I don’t think I’d have space in my wardrobe to do that.

IMDB (6.5 /10)
Wikipedia
Roger Ebert (2/4)
YouTube