Posts tagged “1997

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

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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


Gattaca / How a Washing Machine Can Start a Nuclear War


Gattaca  -  Front Blu-ray Cover  -  German ReleaseIn der nahen High-Tech-Zukunft entscheidet ein Gentest gleich nach der Geburt über das Schicksal der Kinder. Futuristische Biochemie macht es möglich, dass fast alle Eltern sportliche, hochintelligente Superbabies zur Welt bringen.  Vincent aber hat Pech gehabt.  Wegen seiner körperlichen Schwächen wird er nie zur Elite gehören.  Doch er träumt davon, als Gattaca-Pilot die Galaxis zu erforschen. Vincents Freund Jerome hat beste Gene, ein Unfall hat ihn allerdings an den Rollstuhl gefesselt.  Beide tauschen ihre Identität.  Ein äußerst riskanter Plan, denn die strengen Sicherheitskontrollen des perfekt organisierten Polizeistaates sind kaum zu umgehen. Bald hat Vincent die Geheimdienste auf den Fersen …  Ein spannender sci-fi thriller mit beängstigendem Zukunftsszenario.  Ethan Hawke (“Reality Bites”) und Uma Thurman (“Batman & Robin”, “Pulp Fiction”) in einem brandgefährlichen Spiel, das durchaus wahr werden könnte.  (It’s called German.  I’ve got a German copy of the film.)

1997  –  Certificate 12  –  American Film
8.5 out of 10

My washing machine broke down on Christmas Eve.  Well more accurately, it still washes things but it won’t dry them.  Using my amazing engineering skills, I’ve worked out that it’s either a broken thermostat or something to do with the fan.  Unfortunately I can’t be sure, as my skills don’t extend to having the special sort of screwdriver that appears to be needed to open the case where the fan lives.  I think I can hear it spinning but I can’t see the end of the spindle turning, which is a bit confusing.  Few things piss me off more than technology breaking and companies producing things which require a special bit of information (that they make it very hard to find out), or a special tool to fix.  So as you might imagine, this little occurrence has made me incandescent with fury.  The fact it happened at the most inconvenient possible moment of the year has just made things worse.  Really, it’s just as well I’m not the one with ‘my finger on the button’.

In the near future, parents will be able to create a ‘designer baby’ for themselves.  These “Valids” will go on to get all the best jobs, whilst the rest of us do the crappy stuff.  I know this to be true, because even Ernest Borgnine could only get a job as an office cleaner in “Gattaca”, yet a few years ago he was one of the crew of “Airwolf”, the most advanced helicopter ever built.  (It had a good theme tune too.)  Our hero Vincent wants to go into space, but sadly he’s one of the “Invalids”, the rubbish people who got born the normal way.  So starts his quest to beat the system.  I’ve seen a lot of good films over the past month or so and this is yet another.  Within its ‘hard’ sci-fi setting and 1984 overtones, this is a thriller with a great “will he or won’t he make it” right up to the end.  With its murder-crime subplot and some entirely superfluous love interest provided by Uma Thurman, we get to watch Vincent and his mate collecting bottles of blood, hair and other bits of discarded body from the latter; (mainly skin and stuff, we’re not talking about anything too Frankenstein-like here).  It’s a while since I saw a film with so much urine in it too, although to be fair it’s generally all contained in bags or plastic beakers; they’re a bit obsessed with testing at Gattaca.  (It’s the name of the company that does the space launches.)  Things don’t quite go to plan, (even more so if you watch the deleted scenes), someone gets murdered, the police investigate.  It’s just the sort of shit you don’t want to have to put up with when you’re about to diddle your way onto the first manned flight to Titan.  The final scene is really quite powerful and it’s a “proper good film” as they might say up North.

With a great film should come great music and we’re not disappointed here.  A full orchestral score, it’s not used a lot, but when it is things get taken to an extra level.  As an interesting side point, there’s a scene where we see a 12 fingered pianist playing a bit of music that’s actually meant to be impossible for one person to play; (Schubert’s Impromptu No. 3 in G flat Major, with some extra bits).  I find that strangely cool.

I’m not especially keen on this trailer.  It’s sort of okay, but it doesn’t really get across the feel of the film.

Recommended for astronauts, police detectives and the genetically pure.

No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.

Top badass moment?  It has to be the impossible to play piano performance.  As someone who can barely manage to play “English Country Garden” on the piano with two fingers, am I the only one who finds that whole idea strangely arousing?  Oh, right.  Okay then…  I think I’ve just discovered a new kind of porn.  (Well actually no, as Google gives nearly 52,000 results for “piano porn”.)  Now that really is very weird.

Gattaca at IMDB (7.8 / 10)
Gattaca at Wikipedia
Gattaca At Roger Ebert (3.5 / 5)
Gattaca at YouTube


In The Company Of Men / Urgh, I’m Sick…


In the Company of Men  -  Front DVD Cover  -  US ReleaseChad (Aaron Eckhart), furious about the way women are ruining his man’s world, enlists his wishy-washy co-worker (Matt Malloy) in a callous plan to date then dump a vulnerable secretary (Stacy Edwards).  Both horrifying and hilarious, “In the Company of Men” is “a brilliant black comedy… sure to be one of the best pictures of the year.  This is a movie event.”

1997  –  Certificate: R  –  Canadian Film
8.0 out of 10

For the past few days I’ve had the worst cold ever.  The sort of cold that’s so bad it’s probably new to medical science and if anyone but me had it they’d be in hospital in intensive care; but I don’t like to make a fuss.  Somewhat ironically, the day before I got it I’d remarked to a colleague how I hadn’t had one for ages and was considering the possibility that I’d somehow become immune to all forms of illness.  Actually I’m blaming it on foreigners.  It came on when I was in Kent for an overnight stay, so it’s probably some weird pathogen that somehow got blown across the Channel from France or somewhere.  I think I’ll vote UKIP in the next election; I bet they’d keep this sort of thing out of the country.  It’s Sunday evening now and its effects are starting to recede a little.  Typically and somewhat heroically, I’ve been sick over the weekend.  I often wonder if it’s better to be sick in my own time and reduce the consequential pile-up of work that results if I’m sick during the week.  Life as a middle manager is tough, let me tell you.  This film is about middle managers too.

I watch plenty of films with unpleasant, creepy or just plain nasty people in them.  Destroying the universe, taking over the Earth, torturing innocents and blowing stuff up are commonplace.  Whatever.  Fortunately, most of these sorts of people don’t exist, or only do so in very small numbers.  However, this film features two of the most annoying guys I’ve come across for quite a while, probably because they’re just a bit too ‘normal’ to explain away as a script writer’s dirty fantasy; I suspect people like them really do exist.  One’s an exploitative, misogynist, back-stabbing middle management type with absolutely no redeeming features whatsoever.  The other is one of his colleagues and a weedy, whiney loser. This is a movie about two ‘ordinary guys’ deciding to mess up a young woman’s life for no better reason than because they want to. In a lot of ways it reminded me of “Cruel Intentions”.  It’s the sign of a good film when the two principal characters are uniformly loathable, yet somehow you half want them to keep going.  The fact that the woman they pick on is disabled (and to be honest a bit boring), just makes it all worse.  I felt like I was visiting the scene of a car crash; of course not wanting anyone to be hurt, but secretly getting a bit excited by the fact that someone might have lost a limb or two anyway.)  It’s the same as watching motor racing; you don’t want anyone to get hurt, but the crashes and the risk of them do make things more exciting.  At the end I didn’t know whether to be horrified, or think, “fuck, yeah, lucky bastard.”  This is a nicely made and acted film; I enjoyed it!  The trailer makes it look much more of a comedy than it really is.

The only music used in this film is made up of the sound of a saxophone being strangled over the top of a drum solo of sorts.  I guess it’s some type of modern jazz.  I have to say it works very well though.

Recommended for assholes, secretaries, middle managers and feminists.

No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.

Top badass moment?  That’s a tough question.  This is a film full of ambitious but somewhat inadequate middle managers, who wouldn’t know a badass moment if they sat on the toilet for a week with one.  It’s a movie without a single, redeeming act of kindness or heroics in it, so for the first time in many months I have to admit defeat and accept my failure to identify one.  Sorry.  :-(

In the Company of Men at:     IMDB (7.2 / 10)     Wikipedia     Roger Ebert (4 / 5)     YouTube


Good Will Hunting / Sleep and Toothache


Good Will Hunting  -  Front Blu-ray Cover  -  UK ReleaseIn an Oscar winning performance, Robin Williams (“The Birdcage”, “Dead Poets Society”) alongside Matt Damon (“The Bourne Trilogy”, “The Departed”) in the motion picture triumph that received an Oscar nomination for best picture of the year.  The most brilliant mind at America’s top university isn’t a professor… he’s the guy who cleans its floors, Will Hunting (Damon in an Oscar nominated role).  But Will is also a headstrong, penniless guy failing the lessons of life and love with his wealthy girlfriend (Oscar nominee Minnie Driver).  Facing a jail sentence after one too many run-ins with the law, Will’s fate lies in the hands of his therapist (Williams), who might be the only man able to help him see his true potential.  Also starring Ben Affleck (“The Town”, “Armageddon”), who co-wrote this Oscar winning original screenplay with Damon, “Good Will Hunting” is the inspiring, emotionally charged film that has everyone talking.

1997  –  Certificate: 15  –  American Film
Rating Details:  Strong language and violence
7.5 out of 10

My sleep pattern is all messed up at the moment.  Yesterday evening I was doing something on the computer and then suddenly felt really sleepy, so had to immediately go and lie down on the sofa in the middle of what I was doing.  I fell asleep for about an hour.  Then at about 2:00 am I woke up and was wide awake, so got out of bed, had something to eat and read a book for a while.  Something is obviously bringing out the ‘inner baby’ in me.  I blame the change in the weather and the longer evenings; I hate the winter.  I’ve also got an on-off toothache at the moment.  It’s not the physical pain I dread, it’s paying a dentist to sort it out that’s the real horror.  I’m sure something’s going terribly wrong under a crown; it feels very expensive.  I might just go for a head transplant, as it’ll probably work out cheaper.  I wonder if I can have Will’s from this film.

This is an entertaining, if somewhat bland movie.  There’s nothing especially wrong with it but there’s nothing that amazing about it either, which considering it won two Oscars is a bit of a letdown.   I just found it hard to emotionally engage with what was going on.  Matt Damon’s character (Will) was just a bit too unlikable for me to really care about what happened to him.  So he had a tough upbringing.  Big deal.  I’ve got toothache and you don’t hear me going on about it… much.  His ‘genius’ was just a bit too over-the-top too.  Even the film’s title is trying to be far too clever for its own good.   The fact that it’s currently meant to be the 143rd best ever movie (according to IMDB) just makes me worry a bit about people.  Robin Williams plays Will’s shrink nicely enough, but I’ve never forgiven him for being in “Mork & Mindy”, one of the most awful, awful TV programme ever to be conjured into existence.  When I get my hands on a time machine that’s definitely on my list of things to tamper with.  I’ll certainly have no qualms about polluting the timeline by removing “Mork & Mindy” from it.  On the plus side, this film’s got Stellan Skarsgård in it, who’s always great.  He manages to make being a professor of mathematics seem almost cool, in a non geeky way.  I do feel like I’m starting to stalk him though, as this is the third film I’ve watched with him in recently.  Minnie Driver is very cute too.  Reading that back to myself just now, I’ve realised that I’ve probably been a bit bitchy about this film; sorry, it’s the sleep deprivation and toothache talking.

The soundtrack is a bit “whatever”.  A lightweight Batman one.

Recommended for geniuses, mathematicians, swotty students and psychiatrists.

No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.

Top badass moment?  Until I was 16 I was really good at maths.  By the time I was 18 I was crap at it.  In revenge, I degrade it these days by referring to it as sums, just to get my own back on arithmetic.  And I call rectangles, oblongs and deliberately fail to remember the difference between diameter, radius and circumference.  No one’s more of a rebel than me!  Secretly though, I’m deeply impressed by anyone who can make sense of maths, especially if they can then make it mean something.  And pissing on students by being effortlessly better than them is good too.  Like it or not, that makes Will badass.

Good Will Hunting at IMDB (8.2 / 10)

Good Will Hunting at Wikipedia

Good Will Hunting at YouTube


Men In Black / Profanity Top Ten!


Men In Black  -  Front Blu-ray Cover  -  UK Release“Men in Black” follows the exploits of Agents K (Jones) and J (Smith), members of a top-secret organisation established to monitor alien activity on Earth.  The two MIB find themselves in the middle of a deadly plot by an intergalactic terrorist (Vincent D’Onofrio) who has arrived on Earth to assassinate two ambassadors from opposing galaxies.  K and J face a simple imperative: track down the interloper or the Earth will be destroyed.  It’s all in a day’s work for the Men in Black.

1997  –  Certificate: PG  –  American Film
Rating Details:  Mild language, violence and horror
7.5 out of 10

At last, another film that has aliens, spaceships and explosions in it, as well as a plot I can relate to in a very meaningful way.  As well as dealing with the scum of the universe, I also work for an organisation that does its best to remain hidden, even down to changing its name on a regular basis, to help ensure we remain a secret.  Along with a somewhat stupid smartphone and a Dell laptop with bits falling off it, I have one of those ‘flashy things’ (a neuralyzer) to make people forget stuff, too.  And I’m certainly never seen in anything but a black suit/tie and white shirt combo.  And as for the cool shades, well I bought mine from eBay for about £2.  Will Smith is a talented chap.  He can act, sing and dance.  I guess when he talks to people about me he says, “that Paul’s a boring guy.  He can’t do bugger all.”

For a sci-fi movie made 16 years ago, this one still holds up well; it hasn’t really dated at all.  I watched it on Blu-ray and it looks really lovely in that way too.  According to IMDB this film contains 1 possible f-word, 13 anatomical terms (including 2 uses of a term for male genitals, i.e. dick), 18 scatological terms (crap, shit and piss), 29 mild obscenities, 3 religious profanities and 2 religious exclamations.  There’s also some name-calling (bastard, prick, etc).  Sadly, I had to watch the censored version, which of all this lot chooses to replace the word “prick” twice, with “twerp” and “jerk”.  There must be a ‘league table’ of ‘bad words’ that people refer to, to find out how bad each one is.  I wonder how they check if it’s correct?  Get a big group of people in a room, swear at them a lot and see how offended they get?  Funny thing is, someone must have sat down and made a record of all that; I bet that job’s a conversation starter at parties.  “What do you do for a living then?”  “Me?  Well I count profanities.”  You may also be interested to know that “the principal female character wears a short skirt that reveals a lot of her bare legs.  Once, for less than a split second, it hikes up to reveal a little of her lower buttocks.”  I must have missed that, I guess I’ll have to go back and use the frame-by-fame function to check for myself; thanks IMDB for letting me know, that’s my evening’s entertainment sorted out.  It’s not even that short either.  Actually I think I look a bit like Will Smith.

The music in this film is a bit of a disappointment.  Danny Elfman wrote the totally brilliant music for “Batman”.  I even bought the soundtrack of that on CD.  But for this film he seems to have had a bit of an off-day.  It’s serviceable but entirely forgettable.  On the other hand, we do get Will Smith and his fun theme tune.

Recommended for anyone that works for a secret organisation, aliens and females that wear short skirts.

One cat, no chainsaws or decapitations.  A true, starring role for a lovely ginger and white cat, complete with some real acting and lines.  He/she just blew Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith off the stage.

Top badass moment?  There’s something to be said for driving a souped up car along the roof of an underground tunnel full of traffic and taking the time out to give some advice to your passenger about dealing with stress at work; whilst singing along to Elvis and trying to save the Earth.  Even I don’t get to do that every week.  That’s therefore very cool and very badass.

Men In Black at IMDB (7.2 / 10)

Men In Black at Wikipedia


12:01 / Drinking Coffee


12:01  -  Front DVD Cover (US Release)Jonathan Silverman (“Weekend at Bernie’s”, “Brighton Beach Memoirs”) is Barry Thomas, and Barry is having a bad day… over and over and over again.  That’s because Barry is caught in a “time bounce” – an atmospheric phenomenon – that occurs when his employer, the high-tech company Utrel, has an experiment that goes haywire.  Spared from the effect of memory loss by an electric shock at the moment of the time bounce, Barry is the only one at Utrel who has the power to change the course of fate.  And to Barry that means saving the life of the woman he loves, research scientist Lisa Fredericks (Helen Slater, “City Slickers”, “Ruthless People”).  Tautly directed by Jack Sholder (“A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge”, “The Hidden”) and co-starring Academy Award winner Martin Landau (“Crimes and Misdemeanors”), “12:01” is a spirited sci-fi thriller you’ll enjoy again and again and again! “It’s Back to the Future” meets “Groundhog Day”!

1993  –  Certificate PG-13  –  American Film
Rating Details: Violence
6.0 out of 10

I really like tea, but I also drink a lot of not very nice instant coffee too.  I drink the latter almost exclusively at work, as the caffeine helps me to do my shit.  Without this stimulant, I’d not be able to deliver my corporate payload from a sufficiently high altitude to target my in-box effectively and render its population non-belligerent.  Really.  Like Bane in Batman (the version that hung about with Poison Ivy in the 1997 “Batman and Robin” film), each cup has the same effect on me as turning the ‘power dial’ on his head did on him.  I shake a lot, growl a bit and look angry, my fingers a blur of motion on the keyboard, as I up the misspelling count to such a shocking level that even Bill Gates can’t work out what the hell I’m trying to write.  Someone once sneaked a jar of decaffeinated coffee into the office and the whole organisation nearly went bankrupt.  Conversely, at home I almost never drink coffee.  About 15 years ago I bought a filter coffee-making machine when I had someone staying with me who liked coffee.  Despite my ongoing battle with technology, it’s still fully functional.  (I guess I don’t use it very often and it’s not a very ‘mission critical’ part of my lifestyle.)  However, tonight I made myself some real coffee in it.  It was very nice!  Funny enough, it’s even nicer if you tip a load of Tia Maria in it.  I wonder what happens if you try to get drunk on coffee?

The 80s and 90s were the golden age for ‘Made for TV’ films.  This is one of them.  It’s basically “Groundhog Day” with some sci-fi bolted onto it.  It’s got Martin Landau in it, but I guess all those years of running Moonbase Alpha in “Space 1999” must have taken their toll on him, because he’s rubbish!  Never mind phoning in his role, he didn’t even make contact.  I think they just carried a cardboard cut out about from scene to scene.  In fact the whole movie is pretty rubbish.  However, despite its limitations it’s a fun, easy watch, ideal for when you can’t be bothered to concentrate on stuff.  Our hero is Barry, who basically has to save the world, or universe, or something, from remaining stuck in the same 24 hour time loop.    He’s a workshy loser in the personnel department of a company that’s doing research into faster than light travel; (don’t worry if you don’t understand, it’s really not that important).  Now I’ve seen a lot of action heroes in my time with unlikely ‘day jobs’, but this is the first time I’ve come across one from an HR department.  I now have a new-found respect for personnel staff, they kick ass.  (Where I work we call them People Services, which I’m not sure quite conjures up the correct mental image to some.)  Despite its many faults, this is a decent enough thriller/romance/comedy to waste 94 minutes of your life on.

The soundtrack does its job, collects its pay check and leaves.

Recommended for anyone working in human resources, or as a scientist carrying out cutting edge research into particle physics.

No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.

Top badass moment?  Our hero finds himself breaking into his own employer’s offices.   The security guards, already alerted to the fact, are polite but inept, as Bazza somehow manages to grab one of their guns out of its holster.  Pretty impressive for an HR administrator.  However, what’s really badass is the threat he uses to distract them as he’s doing so.  “Stop giving me a hard time, because I’m going to have to come back here in the morning and make sure that you’re fired before we get here; and don’t think I can’t do it either, I’m in personnel.”  A terrifying threat in these economically tough times.

12:01 at IMDB (6.7 / 10)

12:01 at Wikipedia


Affliction / Horseburger Threat To Life As We Know It


Affliction  -  Front DVD Cover (UK)I got a feelin’ like a whipped dog. Someday, I’m gonna bite back.”  Throughout his life, Sheriff Wade Whitehouse has been cowed and brutalised by his father, a venomous alcoholic.  But a child never forgets a cruelty, and two suspicious deaths in their small New Hampshire town lead inexorably to a cataclysmic confrontation between father and son.  Dark, powerful and moving, Paul Schrader’s adaptation of Russell Banks’ novel creates an indelible impression, enhanced by stunning performances from James Coburn and Nick Nolte.

1997  –  Certificate: 15  –  USA
6.5 out of 10

Apparently Tesco used its Store Defence Grid ground to air missile capability today to shoot down a helicopter in the centre of London, in an effort to deflect the news about its new range of delicious ‘horseburgers’ from the front pages.  That’s pretty harsh, even for a business that’s run like Tesco.  I can’t imagine Waitrose doing that, or the Co-op.  I wouldn’t go shoplifting in Tescos if I was you, its store detectives don’t take prisoners.  The way a lot of people appear to have reacted to ‘horseburgergate’ is rather like their reaction to the loss of the so many independent stores from our town centres.  They shake their heads in sadness at the loss of diversity in the ‘high street,’ yet use the very shops that are causing the problem.  In the same way, they react in horror at the idea of a horseburger, whilst happily chewing up bits of other animals made into disc shapes and given alterniatve names to disguse what they really are.  What the fuck?  That makes no logical sense at all.  Be like the French and just eat everything with a face, at least that’s consistent.  Meanwhile, that other destroyer of the high street and leading non-payer of what the tabloids think is a fair level of tax, Amazon, must be pissing itself laughing at the moment, in the week that Play, Blockbuster and HMV all rolled over and died.  I went to buy a DVD from it this evening and for some reason they’re all now priced £30 or more.  I guess the cost of plastic must have gone up…  This is a film that I bought from Amazon, when it was the new kid on the block, the rebel outsider taking on the ‘big boys’.

This movie, despite its good points, I struggled to relate to.  I probably need to file it under “too American”.  Then again, a film about a son’s relationship with his abusive, alcoholic father is one I’m quite happy to feel I’ve missed out on.  (My own father died almost 30 years ago; I wish I could remember more about him.  He’s the person who gave me my love of music, even though his tastes and mine weren’t exactly the same; although I do have an inexplicable liking for easy listening, such as James Last, Mantovani, Franck Pourcel, Bert Kaempfert, etc.  I still use the turntable he bought in 1969, a Thorens TD-150 Mk II, a wonderful bit of engineering.)  This is a thoroughly depressing movie, on nearly every level.  Nick Nolte does a great job of making the main character seem a decent guy, despite his failings.  James Coburn is brilliant as his father; an evil motherfucker who’s as compelling to watch as he is a total bastard.  What an awful character; my heart goes out to all those people who are (or have been) in the position of having someone like that as a father.  It’s a shame he doesn’t get more screen time as you’ll really want to boo him and throw stuff at the TV.  He won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for this role and I can see why.  The rest of the film sort of gets lost in a weird narrative that doesn’t quite make sense, as we watch the life of his son, the local sheriff, fall apart.  We get to see what happens but we don’t really get inside his head.  I never got to fully understand why, after so many years, he suddenly got all weird about things.  I’m a sympathetic guy, I wanted to understand his pain, not just watch him bugger up his whole life.  He was a really crap police officer though; he should have become a dentist; (it makes sense if you watch the film).  As a side issue, I thought his young daughter was a really whiny bitch.  Geez, I’m bitter and twisted about everything today!

Recommended for James Coburn.

No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.

Top badass moment?    It’s often hard to find a badass moment in a depressing film and this one is no exception.  I accept defeat with good grace.

Affliction at IMDB (7.0/10)


Cube: 4.0 Stars


Cube  -  Front DVD Cover (UK)Six strangers awaken from their daily lives to find themselves trapped in a surreal prison – a seemingly endless maze of interlocking cubical chambers armed with lethal booby traps.  None of these people knows why or how they were imprisoned…  But it soon emerges that each of them has a skill that could contribute to their escape.  Who created this diabolical maze, and why?  There are unanswered questions on every side, whilst personality conflicts and struggles for power emerge as the tension rises.  But one thing is crystal clear; unless they can learn to co-operate to work out the secrets of this deadly trap, none of them has very long to live…

1997  –  Certificate: 15  –  Canada
Rating Details:  Language, occasional, strong; violence, infrequent, strong, horror; other, horror, science fiction.

I tend to buy a few books for myself around Christmas.  I think I do this because I have a bit more time then and when I’ve got time I start to think how nice it would be to read a book.  So off I trotted (electronically) to Amazon.  I decided to buy a couple of Star Trek novels.  For various dull reasons, the first one I selected was called “Homecoming”.  £200.68 new!  £200.68!!  For that price I’d expect it to come with a full-sized, fully operational Star Trek spaceship, including crew.  Is there suddenly a world shortage of letters?  Are the Chinese restricting exports of full stops, thus leading to frantic trading in alternative punctuation marks on global stock markets?  Have the Americans finally realised that they can’t spell and bought up the entire world output of letter Us for the next five years, in an effort to correct all those misspelt references to colour?  So anyway, I’ve ended up buying myself a Kindle, the cheapest one, which costs £69.  I can now buy the book for £4.99.  I am suffering a bit of a guilt trip though.  I feel like I should be castigating Amazon for its over-effective use of British tax laws and in fact be refusing to buy anything from it in line with the recently announced boycott.  Then there’s also the fact that I’ve effectively allowed myself to be locked into its proprietary file format and e-book system for the rest of my life.  However, there’s a certain thrill in the idea that the first book I read on it will be a Star Trek one, a franchise that frequently depicts characters reading from a small pad that with hindsight looks suspiciously like a Kindle.  As for the other issue, if you’re going to lock yourself into a sweet factory, it may as well be in Willy Wonka’s.  This film also features people who’re locked in somewhere, but there’s not a lot of chocolate around, or books, e or otherwise.

I simultaneously love and hate this film.  It’s a great and stylish horror/sci-fi thriller, with an unusual and suitably disturbing and clever storyline.  I also like how by using only seven people and virtually just a single, small set, it manages to be such a good movie.  It creates a tense atmosphere by making great use of sound and the claustrophobic set-up; the traps are ‘nicely’ presented too.  Sadly, the characters in it lack any semblance of common sense, so they seem unbelievably stupid, despite their unique talents.  There’s not a great deal of emotional intelligence on show, or indeed any sort of togetherness.  I’ve seen more communication between passengers on the London Underground in the rush hour than this lot managed, such was their inability to interact meaningfully in a ‘mission-critical’ way.   The way they develop and change during the film also stretches their credibility to pretty ridiculous levels.  At first, they seemed like a group of people under a lot of pressure, which does tend to make individuals do some strange things, but then I found myself thinking, “what the fuck”?  What sort of morons are these people?  Why don’t they just work things out together like everyone else would?  Haven’t any of them watched “The Poseidon Adventure”?   The cliché of groups of people in films who’re trapped together and then not getting on, is getting to be as bad as the one involving groups’ of young people going to remote places for a ‘good time’ and then meeting a grizzly end.  Their over or under reaction to different situations just seemed to have been determined by the writers throwing a dice.  6?  Oh dear, you’re going to freak out.  1?  That’s cool, you’ll barely notice what’s going on, you’re so laid back about it.  It’s not that the acting is especially poor, it’s more the script that’s at fault.  One plus point is that it’s got Nicole De Boer in it, the world’s third most beautiful woman, although she’s not looking her best, but I can forgive her for that given the circumstances.  Nicole De Boer is of course, Lieutenant Ezri Dax from Star Trek Deep Space Nine.  However, despite its shortcomings, Cube still manages to be a really good film. Weird eh?

Recommended for fans of clever sci-fi, who won’t let a few hot-headed characters spoil their geeky fun.

No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.  However, two heads do get well and truly mangled.

Top badass moment?  Given the uniformly un-cooperative, combative and plainly stupid behaviour of most of the characters most of the time, the top badass moments have to be whenever the Cube does something that pisses one of them off, or worse.  It’s a sad day when you end up having to cheer for the mechanical baddie.  If our ancestors conducted themselves in the same way, we’d still all be living in caves and bashing one another over the head with clubs.  Get some anger management people, for goodness sake.

Cube at IMDB (7.4/10)


Scream 2: 3.0 Stars


Scream 2  -  Front DVD CoverToday the world woke up to the fact that however good Polish workers are, you wouldn’t want to employ one to fix your roof.  This afternoon, England managed yet another lacklustre performance and gained a draw against Poland.  However, the real highlight of the football coverage came yesterday, watching ITV’s commentary team, lead by Adrian Chiles, desperately trying to fill two and a half hours, sitting in a studio watching it raining outside.  The highlight was Chiles’s genuine query to the rest of the team, “What’s the difference between heavy rain and a downpour?”  It gave a whole new meaning to the word “inane”.  Sadly, we were not treated to any great insight or wisdom on this matter either, which just goes to prove that men really can’t talk about anything other than football.  Although it has to be said that a group of men employed to commentate on an international football match probably do represent the pinnacle of male development, so it’s hardly surprising that something as complex as the weather might elude them.  I also enjoyed FIFAs attempts to entertain the crowd with its throw-back to the golden age of silent cinema; watching the referee regularly come out with a ball and then randomly throw it into the air and watch it land with a splash without bouncing, was a wonderful pastiche of the early greats, such as Charlie Chaplin Harold Lloyd and Buster Keaton.  It was raining, the pitch was clearly getting more and more waterlogged, what did he expect to happen? (If he was an astronaut he’d be the one to go outside and take off his helmet, just to check that there really wasn’t any air there.)  Not a smile did he flash either, not even for a moment; I couldn’t tell if he was totally raging inside at the futility of what he was being told to do, in front of millions of people, and getting soaked doing it, or he really was taking it very seriously.  Jeez, he needs to lighten up a bit.  He had all the demeanour of a detective investing a serious crime scene; which considering the nonsense with the automatically closing roof that they didn’t close, he sort of was.  This film also features a number of serious crime scenes.

1997  –  Certificate: 18  –  USA
Rating Details:  Strong Bloody Violence

Try as I might, I just can’t work up any real enthusiasm for this film.  I feel it ought to be a lot better than it is, which just added to my disappointment.  There’s nothing really wrong with it, but nothing really right with it either.  It just kind of exists because “Scream” exists, a bit like the relationship between dead leaves in autumn and trees.  It’s not really very scary, it’s not really very funny, it’s not really very gory and it’s not really very hip.  It doesn’t help that I get “Scream” and “Scary Movie” mixed up in my head, so in my mind it’s become a sort of inoffensive Frankenstein film made up of several others; (let’s not forget the two further sequels to “Scream” and the three sequels to “Scary Movie”.   That’s eight nearly identical films, so it’s no wonder I’m confused.   Watching it felt like one of things you just have to do from time to time, not something to get worked up about or anything, but just something you do and not give much thought to, like going to the toilet I guess.  What I did hate was that it was non-anamorphic, so with its widescreen aspect ratio I ended up watching a picture the size and shape of an enlarged match, without a head.  God, I can’t be bothered with anymore thinking about this film right now.

Recommended for people who saw Scream, I guess.

No cats, decapitations or chainsaws.

Top badass moment?   Whatever.  It might as well be Cotton Weary finally getting what he wanted (greedy asshole) and becoming a sort of hero(ish).  That’s badass(ish). 

Scream 2 at IMDB (6.0/10)