Jiro (Keisuke Koide) meets a mystery girl (Haruka Ayase) on his birthday! One year later, they meet again. It is a shock to Jiro as she confesses and turns out to be a cyborg from the future that Jiro has sent to him as a present! Getting along with this mischievous cyborg girl friend, Jiro falls in love but she has no feelings at all. All of a sudden a disastrous earthquake his Tokyo, the cyborg saves Jiro’s life by sacrificing herself and the ultimate mystery of cyborg is going to be revealed.
2008 – Certificate IIA – Japanese Film
8.5 out of 10
Because I’m a fairly stupid person I sometimes buy DVDs or BDs (Blu-ray discs) that I’ve already got a copy of. I also occasionally upgrade from a DVD copy of a film or TV series to a BD one, or buy an alternative version because it’s longer or uncut. This means I gradually accumulate a supply of discs I no longer want. I used to sell these on eBay, but mostly I can’t be bothered to anymore so just get rid of them via MusicMagpie instead. The latter doesn’t pay a lot, but it’s quick and easy to dispose of them this way. Sadly, its home collection service is, (from my first attempt to use the latter), entirely shit. I waited about at home from 8:00am to 8:00pm on the relevant day for someone to come and collect my parcel, but no one came. It’s not like I live in an invisible castle floating in the sky, stuck in a parallel reality and out of phase with the regular universe, protected by a high (electrified) fence, a pack of hungry attack dogs and a set of visitor traps that even Indiana Jones would think twice about tackling; I live in a flat with a clearly marked buzzer on the outside wall by the door. And in a rare bit of good, British urban design, there’s always space outside to park too, without fear of getting a ticket or being clamped. I e-mailed the company a couple of days ago to find out what the problem was, but I’ve yet to get a reply.
Despite it’s time-travelling, disaster, sci-fi, slapstick, action-movie clothing, this is really a romantic comedy, the sort where nothing else really has any real world consequences outside of the two main characters. Get caught in the middle of a restaurant shooting? Big Deal. Doing your Terminator ‘thing’ in the middle of a busy road junction? So what? Your capital city gets destroyed? Whatever. It’s another one of those movies that only Japan seems to be able to produce, where this eclectic mixture of genres not only works together but feels entirely normal. In a damming indictment of our screwed up, star gossip culture, our hero, the nice but exceedingly dull and boring student Jiro, has become a bit of a celebrity in the future. This is enough for someone to want to travel back in time and meet him. Or something like that anyway. The special effects are decent enough and the story is fun in its own way, but it’s a film that gets its kicks from frequently and suddenly changing its mood. The scene where they travel to Jiro’s home village is really rather touching. It also has a dance-off scene that’s pretty cool too. The ending is a bit of muddle, as if the writers were suddenly struggling with how to sort out all the loose ends, but it’s a fab and fun mash-up of a movie, full of little Terminator references and well worth watching. Haruka Ayase is very cute too; not at all like Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The soundtrack varies from forgettable to okay, with the use of some pop songs filling in the gaps. J-pop is an interesting beast…
The trailer isn’t bad, although it does underplay the ever-changing mood of the film. The use of some questionable music over the action probably doesn’t help; then again, maybe it’s very appropriate given the ‘atmospheric turbulence’ of the movie. For some reason, YouTube has cut the second line off the subtitles; it probably doesn’t make a lot of difference though.
Recommended for dull students, both geeks and nerds, cyborgs (and other artificial life forms) and teachers who like to throw bits of chalk about. (Does that still happen these days or is chalk now classed as an offensive weapon?)
1 cat, no chainsaws or decapitations. A body does get severed in two though.
Top badass moment? I’m not sure someone/something that’s programmed to be what’s basically badass can actually then do anything that should count here, which leaves us with wusey Jiro. Sadly the latter fails to do anything remotely badass for the entire movie, which leaves me with a bit of a constitutional crisis. I’ll need to consult a solicitor before I’m prepared to comment further. Raoul, Jiro’s pet cat (not the lizard), puts in a couple of excellent performances; his eating from the dish was especially nuanced and controlled.
“Mum & Dad”, the impressive debut by writer-director Steven Sheil, is one of the most disturbing Brit-shockers to emerge in recent years. When Lena, a young Polish immigrant working as an office cleaner at Heathrow Airport, misses her last bus home, she accepts an offer of help from friendly co-worker Birdie, who lives nearby with her ‘adoptive’ parents. Knocked unconscious after arriving at the house, Lena soon finds herself imprisoned in a suburban house of horrors, a living nightmare of abuse, torture and murder. Designated a ‘Mummy’s Girl’, Lena’s only options appear to be to become part of the family – and join Mum & Dad in their insanity – or die.
2008 – Certificate 18 – British Film
Strong bloody violence, torture, terrorisation and sex references
7.5 out of 10
I’ve been a pretty lucky bloke over the past few months. I’ve been to Mexico, Bavaria in Germany, the mountains of Colombia, hung out with a rock ‘n’ roll band and met the Devil, flown around Los Angeles with a superhero, gone into space and met an alien (The Alien actually), been hassled by Japanese zombies that live in a toilet; yes, life’s been pretty interesting. Of course I’ve not left my living room either, because that would mean, well, going out, making an effort and mixing with other people. However, I’ve enjoyed these experiences through the films I’ve watched. A much safer, easier, cheaper and more convenient alternative I’m sure you’ll agree. I’ve never understood the urge some people have “to travel”. It sounds like my worst nightmare; a commute that never ends, surrounded by people who don’t speak English and will probably kill or rob you given half a chance; wildlife that will sting you to death or eat you; constantly sick from the weird, contaminated food you’ll be forced to eat; and a rate of exchange that you won’t understand and before you know it you’ll have spent all your money on a can of Coke. Even if you manage to survive all that lot, you’ll end up in prison forever, being buggered by a half human – half religious fanatic, all because you broke some local law you never knew existed, by making what you thought was a friendly gesture to someone. That’s what “going travelling” really means. However, not wanting to miss out on all the fun it offers and on my return the chance to entertain everyone with my stories and deep understanding of how people in other places live their lives, I’ve decided to start plotting all my travel adventures on a map. This will hopefully provide me with a constantly evolving picture of where I’ve been, complete with the odd photo and comment. I look forward to boring sharing this with the world! In a kind of appropriate way, this film takes place near Heathrow Airport in London, which will be the starting point for my global trek.
This is a decent, violent, low-budget horror that has the advantage of being set in a suburban house near Heathrow Airport. It features some pretty normal looking people with normal jobs and an assortment of syringes and basic DIY tools; very British. It’s a refreshing alternative to the endless American versions that tend to take place in the back of beyond and involve some in-bred weirdos having endless bad hair days and an impressive collection of power tools. “Mum & Dad” boasts plenty of realistic looking gore and a cast of suitably deranged characters. Dad is especially freaky. It’s particularly impressive when it subverts normal family life; (for example, instead of breakfast TV on in the background over a typical breakfast, this family has hardcore porn on the telly). Some of the justification used for Lena’s treatment is pretty scary too. The late addition of a couple of extra residents in the house tends to slightly dilute the story a bit, even as it ups the yukiness score. And if I thought about things too hard I started to wonder “why didn’t she just do” this, that or the other to escape, but other than that it’s a solid horror. The scene with the wooden mallet is particularly effective. It’s good to see that my lottery ticket money is being put to such good use. It’s also a film that explains where all that lost luggage at airports end up.
There a limited amount of music used in this movie, other than the big Christmas Day scene, where it rather cleverly makes the likes of “Silent Night” etc rather creepy.
The trailer’s a fair enough representation of the film.
Recommended for cleaners, airport baggage handlers and Polish immigrants.
1 decapitation, no cats or chainsaws.
Top badass moment? Lena looks pretty miserable for most of the movie, as well she might given the circumstances. However, she never really gives up trying to get away, despite all the unpleasantness. That’s badass. Having said that, she was being offered free accommodation. A room in a decent house in the Heathrow area has got to be worth £400 / month and for all they knew, she could have been an axe murderer or something. To be honest, it makes her seem a bit ungrateful.
Will Smith explodes onto the screen in this action-packed comedy as Hancock, a sarcastic, hard-living and misunderstood superhero who has fallen out of favour with the public. When Hancock grudgingly agrees to an extreme makeover from idealistic publicist Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman, “Juno”), his life and reputation rise from the ashes and all seems right again – until he meets a woman (Charlize Theron, “Aeon Flux”) with similar powers to his and the key to his secret past. A past that will have earth shattering consequences…
2008 – Certificate 15 – American Film
Strong language, sex and violence
9.0 out of 10
I sort of remember Hancock’s comedy genius from when I was young. Not so much directly, but more from my Father, who was a bit of a fan. So I was understandably worried when I first found out that Hollywood was going to make a film about his life; and even more concerned when I found out it was going to ‘reimagine’ him as a superhero and have a Black guy play his part. I like Will Smith, but Tony Hancock lived in East Cheam and I’d hazard a guess and say there weren’t a lot of Black people living in that part of Surrey in the late 50s. Fortunately, this modern film biography captures many facets of his life; his comedy timing, his ‘loser persona’, his personal fight with alcohol, his wife’s attempted suicide, his affairs with other men’s wives. It’s all here. Not only that, but it also cleverly introduces the plot from his most famous film, “The Rebel”. In this, he plays the part of someone else, whilst the title itself is also well reflected by Smith’s superb portrayal of the part in this new movie. It’s a much-see for all fans of British, post-war, kitchen sink comedy. Oh wait; I’ve fucked up again here haven’t I?
For some reason that I’m not fully aware of, I love this film. I guess the idea that a superhero can be a scruffy, underachieving alcoholic who hates people, gives me hope for my own life. The script is surprisingly well observed and it manages to provide most of the elements you’d expect to see in a movie about a superhero, without becoming a parody of one. Will Smith is actually very good in it and manages to make Hancock seem genuinely not very nice, rather than a watered down Hollywood bad guy suitable for kids. For a ‘summer blockbuster’, it does pretty well on the darker elements of the story, violence and language. Then again, I watched the uncut version that basically has ten minutes or so of the good stuff that was removed for the version that was shown in most cinemas. (It was good to see all the “jackass” references replaced with the original “assholes”.) Of course it has a few crappy scenes, (the one with Hancock having sex is an especially cringe-worthy example of a pretty pointless one); and don’t bother trying to count the plot holes either. But overall it’s a brilliant action film with a fun story, original lead character and a surprising amount of gravitas when it needs it. I enjoyed the ending too, even though you sort of know what’s going to happen. Go watch.
This is the ‘action’ orientated trailer; there’s a ‘comedy’ one out there too. It’s okay, but it doesn’t really sell the film especially well, unless you’re just into big explosions and stuff. It’s a far more multi-layed movie that this makes it seem.
I really like the soundtrack to this film. It’s everything a soundtrack is meant to be, enhancing what’s on-screen without ever taking over.
Recommended for superheroes, losers, rebels, drunks and PR consultants.
No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.
Top badass moment? It’s a film about a superhero. Go figure.
Produced by actors Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna (“Y Tu Mama Tambien”), this sharp Mexican thriller focuses on two troubled teens, who attempt an impossible rebellion against the adult world and embark on a revolt against everything and everyone. This leads them to an accidental new intimacy and discovery of their sexuality, a bond that both unites and confuses them. But with the police and their parents in hot pursuit, will their actions have major consequences?
2008 – Certificate: 15 – Mexican Film
Rating Details: Strong language, sex and moderate violence
6.0 out of 10
I’ve been vegan for nearly 25 years. This probably makes me a better person than you mentally, emotionally, physically, sexually and anyotherlly. But it’s just a fact of life; don’t let it worry you too much. Throughout this time I’ve drunk soya milk. I’ve not been an especially big fan of the stuff, but it works okay in tea. It’s not something that I choose to drink on its own or put on cereal, although some of the flavoured types are okay. I’ve tried most of the other plant milks too, such as almond, pea, oat, rice and cashew; most of these (with the exception of the rice one which is really nice but very watery) cost more and taste worse. However, as part of one of my recent visits to M&S to spend the vouchers I’d won, (which have sadly all been spent now), I purchased a couple of cartons of soya milk. Nothing very odd about that, except this was the fresh type, not the UHT treated version I normally drink. I bought it out of curiosity; I’ve never actually tried any before as it’s so much more pricey than the UHT stuff. And wow, it’s like a totally different drink. It actually tastes really nice, is really creamy and totally yummy. I’ve since tried a different brand and although it tasted a bit different, it was still really good. Unfortunately, this now means I’ve developed a bit of an expensive, ‘real’ soya milk fetish. I hope it’s not illegal. Perhaps I should try injecting it? Like most films, this one has some illegal things in it. (Are there many that don’t?)
This is a Mexican film. For those of you that don’t know where Mexico is, it’s the part of the US that’s got a decent football team and its entire population is employed picking all the oranges everyone eats. If you’re Mexican, the police will also take you home from work each day, which helps cut down on commuting expenses. This is one of those movies that the overview tends to big up somewhat. “..an impossible rebellion against the adult world and embark on a revolt against everything and everyone.”? I’ll just translate… “…two youngsters that spend most of their time camping on the roof of one of their homes and spying on their parents getting pissed off because they think they’ve gone missing; and then going down and taking food and drink when no one is in, a fact that seems to go entirely unnoticed.” There, I think you’ll find that’s a lot more accurate. The boy, Román, is immensely annoying. His female sidekick, Maru, isn’t much better. They come across as selfish, clueless and nihilistic in that way that only those with sufficient money can afford to be, with an idea of what they want to do but no real plan of how to do it. I guess that’s exactly what they were meant to be, but it didn’t stop me wanting to give them a good shake and tell them to wise up. I’m afraid there just weren’t enough SMART targets for me. I find when I’m busy smashing the system, it’s helpful to have some Gantt charts and regular appraisals of my performance to help my forward planning in relation to overthrowing The Man. But that’s just me.
There is a great deal of music used in the film, although most of it tends to blend into the background and get on with doing its stuff there. There is one tune that’s used a number of times (and towards the end of the trailer) that’s really quite a decent tune. For some inexplicable reason, the overlong trailer uses a PiL song which has no other connection to the film. But then again, do we really need an excuse to hear John Lydon?
Recommended for slightly corrupt and/or self-aggrandising politicians, and kids of ‘absent’ parents with loads of money.
No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.
Top badass moment? These days young people don’t rebel. They’re more interested in finding out about pension schemes and getting pissed off because they can’t afford a mortgage until they reach the age of 60; assuming they can even get a job. I blame it on dull indie rock; Mogadon music for the masses. Román and Maru may have been immensity irritating but at least they were trying. Youth rebellion is always badass.
The tense environment of a tough inner-city school where cultures and attitudes often clash is revealed in this award-winning drama based on François Bégaudeau’s best-selling novel Between the Walls. Bégaudeau himself stars as an idealistic teacher of a class of unruly 15 year-olds, whose spiky independence present constant challenges to his sometimes unconventional teaching methods. Featuring an outstanding non-professional cast of real teachers and students, Laurent Cantet’s gripping and sharply observed film offers a microcosm of contemporary society and explores the difficult issues facing education today.
2008 – Certificate: 15 – French Film
Rating Details: Strong Language
7 out of 10
I worked from home today. Despite not having nearly enough space to do so, I quite enjoy it as it allows me to work in just my underpants (the pair I was wearing the day before of course) and indulge my anti-social tendencies by not going out or seeing anyone. Today I did have to speak to people on the phone a lot, but that’s not as bad as actually having to speak to anyone face-to-face. For my dinner tonight I had some weird concoction that included tinned tomatoes, rice and tofu. To further indulge my anti-social tendencies, I do most of my food shopping online. Last time, due to an apparent world shortage of cheap, brown rice, I was gifted by Waitrose with a bag of basmati rice with added wild rice; (for the same price as the cheap rubbish I’d ordered). I’ve never eaten wild rice before, mainly because it’s about a million pounds a bag. After eating it tonight, I was left wondering how many people are willing to spend twice as much on a bag of rice as they need to, simply because it’s got a few ‘black bits’ in it. Taste-wise it didn’t seem to add anything, but I guess if you’re stupid, vein and rich, you can pander to your rice fantasies whenever you like. Finally, to indulge my anti-social tendencies still further, my meal tonight included two whole garlic bulbs. That’s a lot of garlic; and this film is French.
This is a movie that’s looks very much like a documentary. It features the staff and pupils at an inner city school in Paris and focuses on one particular teacher and his class, over the course of a year. Most of the time is spent in the classroom, watching him teaching them. Yep, that’s pretty much it; for over two hours. The teenagers act like real teenagers; sometimes they’re good and sometimes they’re bad. The teacher acts like a teacher; he gets some stuff right and some stuff wrong. Strangely, it’s all rather watchable, but I really have no idea why. Perhaps it’s the almost constant mental combat that’s going on in the classroom that makes it so absorbing? However, it has reminded me of just what a hard job teaching can be.
Music? There isn’t any. At all.
Recommended for teachers and school age teenagers. Game on!
No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.
Top badass moment? This is a film about one man who thinks he can ‘make a difference’. He’s got no superpowers or cool gadgets, or a perfect physique. He does however do battle on a daily basis, with a horde of confrontational, argumentative and troubled teenagers. He’s a teacher. That’s badass.
The Satanic Sluts are an all female collective (similar to the Suicide Girls), numbering up to 666 of the world’s most sexual, attitudinal, confrontational, creative and challenging women that have ever chosen to walk down the left-hand path. In this exclusive and unique DVD six members of The Satanic sluts have bared their corrupt souls for your delectation and their dubious pleasure. Featuring real bloodletting, Japanese rope bondage, whippings and satanic crucifixions, through to fantasized sequences involving torture, medical experiments and vampirism. Watching this DVD will be akin to having your eyeballs licked – prepare to go blind!
2008 – Certificate: 18 – UK Film
Rating Details: Very strong language, nudity, bloody gore and fetish
3.0 out of 10
I’ve always quite liked scented things for rooms. I’m not talking about those dreadful air freshener sprays that appear to be a close relation of tear gas; or them plug-in abominations, whose mere existence confirms the inevitability of environmental Armageddon. No, I’m talking about things like incense and oil burners. A couple of years ago, two friends came to stay with me and gave me a gift of some piñon pine incense cones. They were lovely, but sadly they ran out ages ago; (the cones, not the friends). I hunted around on the Internet looking for a supplier, but they were all in America and the idea of paying zillions for shipping wasn’t that appealing. All I could find closer to home were piñon incense sticks, which just weren’t the same. However, I finally came access a cone supplier on eBay a month or two ago, based in the UK. My flat now smells like an open wood fire in New Mexico. Apparently it also repels mosquitoes. The only smells likely to emanate from this film are rubber, latex and leather.
Just for a moment, think about your favourite, male, movie action-hero. Okay, now imagine him in a tough spot; his gun’s out of ammo, he’s securely tied up with the film’s beautiful heroine and they’ve only got five minutes before the nuclear bomb they’re sitting on explodes, killing millions of innocents in Los Angeles. He might say something along the lines of, “this is bad… really bad”. Now, forget about the bomb and stuff and plonk that same action-hero in front of a TV and make him watch this film for a bit. Spot the difference in the dialogue? No, I can’t either. Part drama and part documentary, this movie is made up of a series of quite random short scenes and interviews with some of the ‘cast’. It’s probably supposed to provide an insight into an alternative lifestyle, whilst exciting the parts other films can’t reach. Well it did neither and it all felt strangely old-fashioned to me too. I’ve never quite understood the appeal of all that gothic, dominatrix in leather stuff; I suppose that comes of being vegan. I did find myself wondering at one point how hot it must get wearing all that latex. I use to have a pair of PVC trousers in my more flamboyant days and they used to really warm up if the sun got on them; they were good in wet weather though. I can only imagine the 170 seconds of footage that the BBFC insisted were cut from the film to enable it to gain an 18 certificate, must have all the plot and ‘good stuff’ in them. Yes, the compulsory cuts that were required to remove the “unsimulated sight of restrained woman’s arm being cut with a scalpel” must be where it all is. I guess the sight of someone having needles pushed into various parts of her face is okay though, it was probably just something to do with acupuncture that I’ve misinterpreted. And as I never open the security grills on the windows in my office at work, the stuff with the cages didn’t seem that big a deal to me. However, the scariest thing about this film is that it’s the first part of a trilogy. That will give me sleepless nights.
I’m not sure what sort of music soundtrack this film had. Industrial techno? Who knows? Anyway, it wasn’t very good.
Recommended for acupuncturists, nuns, birds in leather and nurses.
No cats, chainsaws or decapitations. However, one of the ‘stars’ calls herself Chelsea Chainsaw. I hope she has the proper ‘industry tickets’ for that name, at least CS30 and hopefully CS31 too.
Top badass moment? Someone has lots of needles pushed into her face, for the entertainment of others. It’s not made entirely clear what she gets out of it, but whatever, that’s kind of badass. I might give it a miss myself; there’re some reruns of “Bargain Hunt” with David Dickinson I’m keen to catch up with this weekend.
“The Waiting Room” is the beautiful, feature debut of Academy-Award nominated writer/director Roger Golby. The sterling cast give ‘top-notch performances’ in their portrayal of two strangers – Anna (Anne-Marie Duff) and Stephen (Ralf Little) – who are brought together by chance as they sit together in a deserted waiting room. Here they make a brief but powerful connection, forgetting their individual lives for an isolated moment in time. As Stephen and Anna’s lives move onwards, they find themselves thinking more and more of the stranger they met in the waiting room – and what would happen should they meet again. This highly acclaimed and deeply moving film presents a fresh, edgy and totally romantic view of contemporary life and love in London.
2008 – Certificate: 15 – British Film
Rating Details: One strong sex scene and strong language
8.5 out of 10
On my way home from work two days ago I did a bit of food shopping. A sudden impulse buy was a bottle of brown sauce. I can’t remember the last time I bought any, but it must have been years ago. If I’d had any sense I’d have bought some decent stuff, like HP. Instead, I bought some cheap, Happy Shopper Brown Sauce. It tasted sort of okay, but it contains about a tonne of salt per gram. (No, I don’t know how that’s possible either; I guess it’s this sort of ‘new physics’ that makes the experiments being done with the Large Hadron Collider so exciting.) Using it gave me a sore throat and I could feel my arteries bulging as if they were about to explode, thanks to my suddenly elevated blood pressure. All in all it’s pretty toxic stuff. I can only imagine that a large-scale deployment of Happy Shopper Brown Sauce would probably cross someone’s “red line” somewhere or other… I’m glad I only have the one bottle. I’ve not checked frame by frame, but I’m not aware that this film contains any brown sauce, or sauce of any colour for that matter. If anyone spots any do let me know.
I can’t understand why this film isn’t better known. It’s set in Wandsworth, south London and features a lot of Southern Trains suburban services in it; I mean seriously, how much more cool and fashionable could it possibly get? It’s a story that revolves around three couples, their relationships and a chance meeting between two people in a waiting room at Wandsworth Common Station. This is a gentle but hugely touching film about ordinary people. Like many character-driven stories, it just sort of jumps into a period in their lives and then after a while it leaves them again, giving us a glimpse into their thoughts, feeling and actions. It has a number of scenes that provide the sort of emotional impact that all good films should and characters, though flawed, it’s still easy to sympathise with. Funny in places and intensely sad in others, at times it felt a bit too close to home for my linking, which is partly why it’s such a brilliant movie.
The soundtrack is generally restrained and unmemorable, but quietly gets on with business of extending the impact of the scenes it’s used in. A job well done.
Recommended for anyone who accepts that their life is as good as it’s ever going to get.
No cat, chainsaws or decapitation.
Top badass moment? Stephen, one of the two main characters, works in a nursing home. When my mum was in a nursing home all the care staff there seemed too overworked to really spend much time with the residents. Perhaps that’s the reality of it, but if any of them did ever have a bit of time on their hands, I’d have wanted them to be like Stephen.
Michael Haneke (“Hidden”, “The Piano Teacher”, “Code Unknown”) takes on America with an English language remake every bit as shocking as his brilliantly conceived original 1997 “Funny Games”. In this exploration of our violent society Haneke retells the story through the eyes of a middle-class family who arrive at their secluded holiday home in the Hamptons for a two-week vacation. Soon after, a young man makes a surprise call, and asks to borrow some eggs. When the man is joined by his ‘charming’ friend, what initially appears to be an innocuous visit by their neighbour’s guests, soon turns into a horrifying ordeal for all concerned as the two men embark upon a twisted campaign of torment and raw terror.
2008 – Certificate 18
Rating Details: Strong sustained threat, humiliation and violence
(I can’t help thinking the rating details sound like a day at work.) When I’m not saving the planet, listening to music, going to gigs or watching films, I like to read books. I often read them on trains, though mainly to help prevent the affliction known as eye-contact. Yesterday at work I had to go on a secret, special mission, to deepest, darkest, West Sussex; even my manager didn’t know where I was going, I think. I felt a bit like James Bond, except saving the planet and working for a charity seems (so far at least) to have precluded my being provided with an Aston Martin as a company car; (I have asked for one, many times). So I went by train instead. I got somewhat muddy trying to make-up a bit of time, by walking the three or four miles from the station to my ‘mission objective’ along a bridleway down the side of a field; I must speak to M, or P, or whatever letter of the alphabet is responsible for my equipment, about that. On the train afterwards I finished reading “Return of the Native” by Thomas Hardy. In fact I was so engrossed in it that I missed the station I was supposed to change trains at, to discover I was then stuck on a non-stop trip to London Victoria, which was a bit frustrating. I was also worried that when I got there, people might think I was a bit weird if I just carried on sitting on the train; well I had to get back to where I’d come from and I didn’t want the hassle of negotiating at the ticket barrier and trying to explain away my stupidity. In the end I did get out of the carriage and nonchalantly wonder about for a bit on the platform, before getting back on the same train when I though no one was watching; (I guess I’m very paranoid, or just have a hugely inflated opinion of my importance). As far as ‘classic literature’ is concerned, I only ever read Thomas Hardy. Despite Hardy’s misfortune to miss out on punk and modern movie blockbusters, I do find I share a lot of his world views. His books totally rock and if reading one whose first chapter is wholly devoted to the landscape of a heathland in southern England isn’t your idea of a fun time, then quite frankly you should go off and die; or at least feel very ashamed of your MTV-addled, “I want everything and I want it now” life-style. “Return of the Native” is probably my second favourite Hardy book. Honestly, you really should read it. My next book is “Star Trek: Millennium”; (which is really three books). And finally, if you still think my life isn’t exciting enough, then tomorrow I’m going to drive for about four hours, just so I can deliver four pints of hot water somewhere and shake a mayor’s hand. If someone wants to invade my home, then I probably won’t be in much, which if it was featured in a film like this one would have made it extremely boring and short. But even if I was home I’d be okay; I’m vegan so I don’t eat eggs.
In 1997 Michael Haneke wrote and directed a German thriller/horror home invasion film called “Funny Games”. It was so good that he remade it in English ten years later. That’s remade as in replicated virtually everything, even the camera angles. This is the American version. I have the German one but I’ve not got around to watching it yet. Most people seem to think the original version is the best. I really like this film. The victims were just a bit too nice and successful for my liking, what with their stupid 4WD car and huge, gated, second home in the country. The ‘bad guys’ were suitably bad and manage to be very unsettling. If the film does one thing well, it’s provide a real feel for the hopelessness of the family’s situation. Naomi Watts as Ann is really excellent and it provides a few “did they really just do that?” moments. It loses it a bit near the end, but overall it’s an excellent, tense, movie. Its pervading black humour and the hopelessness of the situation the family finds itself in are things Thomas Hardy might have appreciated.
Another film with a limited use of music, but when it does make an appearance its makes a big difference. The sudden jump from opera to Naked City’s thrash metal is a great segue. You just know something bad’s going to happen when you hear that.
Recommended for fans of tense, oppressive films. Not recommended for anyone who’s seen the first version; you know you’ll only moan that this one isn’t as good.
No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.
Top badass moment? Georgie, the little boy, did good; (for most of the film anyway). He was loads better than his useless father, who just sat around looking anguished and fussing about his leg. (Mister dull and conservative; whatever did Naomi Watts see in him?) It’s so wrong, but little kids with shotguns are badass.
It’s summer in Sweden… A primary school teacher decides to teach her colleagues a lesson they’ll never forget. Teenage girls are indulging in a webcam tease and seducing strangers. University students are taking male bonding to a new level. And as day turns to night, a coach driver decides enough is enough and won’t drive his passengers any further. Showered with International awards and praised by critics the world over, “Involuntary” is a dazzling and highly original comedy from the new enfant terrible of Scandinavian cinema, Ruben Östlund.
2008 – Certificate 18 – Sweden
Rating Details: Very strong language and strong sex references
7 out of 10
Ever at the very cutting edge of technology, today at work we had our first regional management team meeting by phone; (or as important people like me prefer to call it, a Teleconference). Instead of a very expensive, rush-hour-period trip on a crowded train into central London to sit in a cold, wooden shed in the woods with my colleagues, I had to endure a leisurely trip into my office, where I could lounge around, unshaven, in just my underwear, drinking coffee, adding elastic bands to our elastic band ball and sorting out the ever-growing collection of hole punches in the stationary cupboard; whilst making the occasional, worthwhile and insightful comment about something or other to impress the others, as we discussed how to reduce the amount of travelling we do by having more Teleconferences. There are however, some downsides to all this. As well as shocking the postman with my underpants, I’ve realised that listening hands-free on a cheap phone for hours that wasn’t designed with high fidelity sound in mind, has probably destroyed some part of the music-sensitive area of my brain. The experience was not unlike being trapped for hours on a bus to Hell, with only a group of teenagers on the back seats listening to Top 40 R&B on a tinny smartphone for company. This film also features two really annoying teenage girls, and several annoying adults too.
Years ago I watched a film with someone who, after a little while, got up, went over to the DVD player, took out the disc and threw it out of the window; (I was living on the third floor in a block of flats at the time.) This was apparently a physical reaction caused by the highly annoying characters in the movie. Had “Involuntary” been the film in question, I suspect the whole DVD player would have gone out of the window too. A movie made up of five individual stories, all of which play out in small sections throughout its run-time, it features some of the most annoying and banal losers ever to have been conjured into existence. For a while I sat watching and thinking, “what’s the point of all this?” Then it dawned on me that the point was simply to watch ordinary people being ordinary. I suppose for every remarkable person there has to be thousands of unremarkable ones; this is a film about the latter. It’s a black comedy that manages to be amusing without being funny. A coach driver, a father, two teenage girls, a teacher and a group of guys, all get themselves into slightly unfortunate situations, which could so easily be real. Felling that I’d have fitted in well, it was an embarrassing experience at times. I’d sum it up as a movie that celebrates the stupid and annoying uselessness of everyone. I enjoyed it; it’s funny in the same way as seeing someone accidentally hit themselves on the finger with a hammer, or walk into a lamppost. The cast do a great job.
There’s not a lot of music in this film, just some over the credits and at times in the background. This lack probably explains a lot about the characters.
No cats, decapitation or chainsaws.
Recommended for the very, very, very patient.
Top badass moment? Never mind the Higgs Boson, this film has introduced me to the much more remarkable concept of anti-badassness. Its characters are so mind-numbingly ordinary and flawed… Seriously, Batman would feel compelled to shoot them all and do the rest of us a favour. Arrrraaggghh!
Rainn Wilson (TV’s “The Office An American Workplace”) takes centre stage in this wildly irreverent comedy about living your dreams – and embarrassing your family – at any cost. Twenty years after being kicked out of his nearly famous ‘80s rock group, Robert “Fish” Fishman (Wilson) gets a hilarious second chance at stardom when he joins his nephew’s high school garage band. Without missing a beat, Fish vows to reclaim the rock-god throne he always thought he deserved… while taking his much younger band-mates along for the rides of their lives!
2008 – Certificate: 12 – USA
Rating Details: Moderate sex references and infrequent muffled strong language
Today is a special day. From the mid-late 80s until the mid-late 90s, I didn’t really go to see many gigs; in fact off the top of my head I can only remember one. Then I went to see China Drum at ULU (University of London Union) and everything changed. It was the band that singlehandedly reintroduced me to live music. Then after three albums, China Drum split up and the world became a slightly more crappy place. It’s been at the top of my “wish they would reform” list for years. Now, twelve years on, China Drum is playing a gig in February in London. To say I’m a bit excited is like suggesting the sun is a bit warm. This movie is about something a little similar.
I’m a bit of a sucker for films about music and bands and I really like Rainn Wilson, so it’s probably no surprise that I enjoyed this one. There’s nothing especially groundbreaking about it, but it’s fun and at times really very funny; it has some great lines in it. It just about manages to stay on the right side of becoming a parody à la “Spinal Tap” and Fish remains a likable character. It seems to get compared to “School of Rock” a lot, but I think this is the better of the two films as it feels (okay slightly) more grounded. It has a number of clever little references in it to other films and ‘pop culture’ and there’s even a small cameo from Peter Best, The Beatles’ original drummer. The DVD has loads of extras too. Highly recommended.
Recommended for people who used to be into music and then ‘grew out of it’, but secretly wishes they hadn’t.
No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.
Top badass moment? The ending is terribly clichéd, but who doesn’t want to get one over on someone who got one over on them years ago? There’s nothing like holding a lifelong grudge; even I have one or two. It’s not the most grown-up way to get rid of the latter, but beating a long-standing nemesis is most certainly badass. Rock on!
I’ve pulled a muscle, or fractured a rib, or damaged some vital internal organ, or something like that anyway. I’d like to be able to report that I did this in some heroic fashion, saving a kitten from a tall tree, preventing a goal in a tense penalty shoot out, or thwarting a mugger. However, it happened when I sneezed whilst working on my computer. Stupid cold! Now every time I cough I suffer a stab of pain just at the bottom of my right rib cage that’s so intense, it would have most people begging for morphine. I’m not one to make a fuss though.
2008 – Certificate: 15 – USA
Rating Details: Strong psychological horror and strong injury detail
Well, here we have a ghost story. A very good ghost story as it happens. Something about orphans haunting an orphanage, where some bad goings on had gone on. There’s nothing especially original about the plot, but the film is very well made and at times pretty creepy. It does go a bit “Ghostbusters” at one point, but by and large it’s a first class movie. It sounds especially good too, all those creaks, rattles and booms all over the place. The main reason why I’ve not given it a higher score is because I really didn’t warm to the main characters in it. I’m sure they were very decent and good people and all that, especially as they were trying to open a home for disabled youngsters and had adopted a HIV Positive baby, but my God, were they boring! Mr and Mrs Mogadon. So middle of the road. Worthy but dull, like a bag of flour. I also didn’t much care for how he reacted at the end. For a very practically minded guy who disagreed with his wife’s interpretation of what was going on for the entire film, and struggled more and more to deal with her increasingly neurotic behaviour, he certainly changed his mind quick enough in the end. Then again, perhaps that was just his way of coping with things; me, I didn’t care enough about him to be that bothered one way or the other. He looked the kind of guy who would quickly go and find himself another bland woman to marry anyway. Guillermo Del Toro was the executive producer, but he may as well have been the writer and director too, given how much the tone and atmosphere of the film matched that of “Pan’s Labyrinth” that I watched a few weeks ago. Not a criticism though, just an observation.
Recommended for those who like horrors that don’t involve half-naked people being tortured every five minutes; or a guy with a massive knife or something killing off an isolated group of youngsters; or zombies.
No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.
Top badass moment? When all around you doubt your views and in a nice way are telling you you’re as nutty as a fruitcake, sticking to your guns when no one else believes you is pretty badass. Well done Laura. (Shouldn’t the saying really be as fruity as a fruitcake? I’m sure there’s more fruit than nuts in them. Unless you buy a really expensive one perhaps.)
This is a film about a young girl who overcomes great adversity. Whereas I’m a sad old bloke who’s got a cold right now and can’t be bothered to even try to do anything about it. Let the fiery depths of Hell take me; at least it’ll be warm there.
2008 – Certificate: R – USA
Rating Details: Disturbing sexual assault of a young girl, and brief sexuality
You know they often say that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, or that something often acts as a catalyst to help others achieve more together than apart? Well whatever the opposite of those is, applies to this drama. It looks good and the acting is great, but somehow the story and script didn’t really work for me; I guess it’s one of those films that takes too many of its cues from its setting; in this case the southern states of the US in the 50s, a time and place I can’t readily relate to. From what I saw in this film, it was pretty crap anyway and I’m glad I don’t know it. I like films that utilise music as a component in the plot and this one uses Elvis Presley and The Blues to decent effect; and there I was, thinking the Wasted and One Direction represented the pinnacle of popular music. I did enjoy seeing a dysfunctional family again too, it’s been a while since I’ve come across one in a film. Dakota Fanning, who plays Lewellen, the young girl, really does an amazing job with the role; the film is worth seeing for that alone. Her singing is pretty impressive too. I was also stuck by the number of times objects just happened to be in the right place to save someone or other’s blushes; I’ve not seen so many strategically placed house plants etc since the Austin Powers movies. The biggest letdown was the script; the characterisation was excellent, yet I felt I had to fill in too many gaps in the plot; maybe it’s my cold, but some important things just seemed to pass me by. I suppose that makes it a film for clever people, not like me. This is also a film that’s famous for one particular scene, where Lewellen is horribly raped by a milkman. It really isn’t that graphic or anything, but I suppose the idea of what’s happening and the fact that it looks very real on the screen does give it a great deal of power. The second half of the film wouldn’t really work without it either. Also, if you don’t like snakes, this is a film to give a miss; there’re a lot of them in it.
Recommended for intelligent people who aren’t going to freak out over ‘that’ scene.
No cat, chainsaws or decapitations.
Top badass moment? Charles, Lewellen’s unofficial mentor. Despite his slightly unhinged view of the world, which is probably a result of his hanging out with too many snakes, he does represent just about the only character in the whole film that’s able to move things forward. Anyone with that much belief in the power of music has to be badass.
Working in the ‘environmental sector’ as I do, I frequently find myself watching films and noticing ‘environmental errors’. This one has a classic. Most of the movie appears to have been shot towards the end of the summer, given the condition and size of the Bracken that’s seen growing everywhere. However, the aerial shots appear to have been filmed in mid winter, given the totally dead appearance of the Bracken and the lack of leaves on many of the trees. I know, I know, I should ignore this stuff, but it’s hard to! Talking of big mistakes, Jenny and Steve made one or two in this movie.
2008 – Certificate: 18 – United Kingdom
Rating Details: Strong bloody violence and sustained terrorisation
Eden Lake is what the director happily calls a “genre film”. Group go somewhere isolated, group piss someone off, group get chased, group suffer the consequences; in this case it’s a young couple and some local kids, who spend most of the movie chasing each other around the woods. Having said that, it is a really good example of this type of horror/thriller, with decent acting, good photography/effects and well thought-out characters. The latter do actually manage to act in a reasonably realistic way most of the time, even if there were just a few too many coincidences used to push the plot along. I’ve slept in a tent ‘in the middle of nowhere’ lots of times and I’ve always had a slight fear that one night some weirdo is going to come and ‘disturb’ me. This film did nothing to allay my fears. I did struggle to relate to the couple (Jenny and Steve) a little. They were nice enough, but God were they boring; and he was also an irritating yuppie too. His attempts to be the ‘alpha male’ were somewhat pathetic as well, if sadly realistic. They were the classic, “what a shame they’re going to build all over this nice bit of land, so let’s go and enjoy it first by driving there in our 4×4, just to use as much fuel as we can doing so” middle-class couple. Very light green ‘greens’ if you ask me. I bet she uses a reusable shopping bag to buy her organic veg each time she goes to the shops in said vehicle. It was quite a while before I started to feel sorry for them. Not that the kids were any better; rural delinquents with equally crappy parents. The ending is pretty brutal too. And finally, a quick note for horror script writers. If you’re running around in the woods in England (and probably most other places too) trying to avoid others, (like in this film), it’s really not that hard to hide. Two intelligent adults trying escape from a group of thick kids in an area that probably covers 100s of acres, really shouldn’t be that difficult. The place was full of tall Bracken. Just! Don’t! Walk! Along! The! Paths!
Recommended for fans of classic modern horror. (Can you actually have classic modern anything?)
No cats, decapitations or chainsaws.
Top badass moment? Well all the kids were thick plebs, (and my thanks to the Rt Hon Andrew Mitchell MP, Member of Parliament for Sutton Coldfield and Government Chief Whip, for reminding me of that one). Steve was simply an annoying yuppie, too full of his own importance for anything he could ever do to be considered badass. So this only leaves Jenny really. She never totally got into full bad-bitch-from-hell mode, but for a primary school teacher she didn’t do too badly. That makeshift dagger was very effective! Considering the trying circumstances, her efforts probably should be considered badass.
Buying underwear is generally quite a boring task. Maybe I just don’t have much of an imagination, but it is. I begrudgingly buy it because I have to, not because I want to. (I guess I should add some sort of “I need it because I’m such a big guy” kind of comment here, but I can’t be arsed to right now; I’m just not in the mood). It always seems highly overpriced for what you get, which for men is basically a crappy pair of shorts and for woman a smaller version that’s more stretchy. (I did warn you I don’t have any imagination.). Yet the price per square metre of underwear ‘real estate’ is way beyond that for most clothes. If trousers were priced in the same way, you’d easily end up paying £150 a pair, minimum. All this for something that hardly anyone will ever see or is that interested in; (and if someone does then he/she is probably more interested in what’s inside them, so getting into a discussion about underwear at that point is unlikely to be very high on his/her agenda.) In fact, underwear is the bottled water of fashion; an item that has little intrinsic value but is overpriced and somehow seen as desirable. And forget all that stuff about letting people see a glimpse of it; this is at best advertising (isn’t it weird how the waistbands always seems to have some sort of brand-name embellished all over them) and at worst a leading reason for the so called distortion of family values, and part of the over-sexualisation of children and the consequentially high rate of teenage pregnancies in the UK, (presently 35.5 per 1000 in the under 18 age group); I expect it’s probably responsible for Global Warming too and the rubbish weather we’ve been having recently. It’s nearly all made by children in Bangladesh anyway, for 1p a day, just so some fat bloke in a massive office somewhere can earn more money that he could ever possible hope to spend, in an effort to impress his equally greedy and selfish friends, who all, somewhat ironically, would not look at all good in the skimpy undies they force young kids to produce, because a huge role of fat hanging out over the waistband probably wouldn’t go with the ‘cool image’ they’re trying to peddle for their overpriced underwear in the first place. Or maybe I’m just missing the romance of it all? This movie features very little underwear, at least in the traditional sense.
2008 – Certificate: R – USA
Rating Details: Some sexuality and language
This is a fascinating film. I can’t really say that much about the story it as it would spoil it for you (should you have the good sense to go and watch it), but both the overview and the trailer don’t really do it any sort of justice. Vera Farmiga is scarily, scarily convincing as the mad-as-a-hatter Fiona, the main female character. (I’ve met women like this for real and they’re both strangely attractive and bad news at the same time; in fact I’m probably a bit of an expect and if there’s a word for them I’m a whatever the word it ologist.) A film that’s ostensibly about people who want to be given a disability for no other reason than they want one, it’s really quite a different sort of thing entirely. Look, it’s got a pair of ‘magic shoes’ in it and the main male character uses a wheelchair and spends a great deal of time not being picked up by taxis. I’d like to write more about it here, but really it’s too good to spoil so just go and watch it. It’s a cool film. Lots of things to think about once it’s over too. I’m not even sure if it had a happy or sad ending either.
Recommended for anyone who’s not going to be put off by the subject matter and who likes good quality drama with a healthy mind-fuck quota. It’s also good if you like tulips.
No cats and no decapitations.
Top badass moment? It has to be Isaac’s ‘magic shoes’. Everyone needs a pair of those sometimes. I hope they do a vegan version.
Last week I celebrated 25 years with my employer in one form or another. Some of the people I manage arranged for a group of us to go out for a meal, which I wasn’t expecting and was really rather nice of them, especially as I’m actually the boss-bastard-from-hell who hates everyone he manages, considers then to be little more than ‘resource units’ to be utilised and enjoys nothing better than telling them to “work smarter, not harder” in response to any problems they might be having. They presented me with a collage of pictures from my 25 years, which just served to remind me how fat I’ve got and how much hair I don’t have anymore; thanks! Getting old is rubbish. What’s the point of it? Like wasps, wind and dust, it doesn’t appear to have any useful function, or indeed any function at all; it just ‘is’. Anyway, in 25 years I appear to have moved up the career ladder exactly one rung; still, I’ve plenty of time as I’m never going to be able to retire as I won’t be able to afford to. By now I really should be playing golf on Sunday with people who get huge bonuses, drive even bigger cars and live in houses so large that other people would call them whole towns. Instead, I sit at home, talk to Penny, watch endless films and go to gigs and wobble like a Weeble to music by bands that no one over the age of 25 has even heard of. Getting old sucks.
2008 – Certificate: 15 – Germany
Anyway, this film. It’s a depressing, German drama. Very depressing. In fact, on a scale of one to ten, where 10 is paradise and 1 is spending a whole day with me discussing how cat fur is really, really hard to vacuum up, even with a powerful cleaner like a Dyson, this film would score a negative number. It’s about an ‘old woman’ who starts an affair with an even older man and then tells her husband about it. In its favour it’s very well acted; it feels much more like a documentary than a movie. In fact Ursula Werner (who plays the woman Inge) is amazing in it. It’s worth watching just to see how good an actress she is. Wonderful stuff. It has some full-frontal nudity, but with most of the characters being in their 60s and 70s it’s not exactly pornographic. Oh, did I mention it’s depressing? Is this what the future holds for you when you get old? Getting old sucks.
Recommended for people who don’t have any sharp objects near them.
No cats and no decapitations. (Actually I can’t remember. I should write these things down. I must be getting old…)
Top badass moment? Ursula and her lover Karl going skinny dipping in some pond in the country. That’s pretty cool, especially considering their age. Doing ‘stuff’ that you’re not meant to do because you’re too old is always badass; and it freaks ‘the younger generation’ out too.
You never know what life’s going to throw at you. Today for example, I got talked into going to see a rugby match in March, the day after my birthday and the day after I’ve been to a gig; (the New Town Kings, amazing ska band). I have zero interest in rugby. In fact, I’ve less than no interest in it, I’ve actually got anti-interest in it. The idea of paying £20 and then sitting in a cold, half empty football stadium, watching a load of blokes carrying a stupidly shaped ball around for 80 minutes, fills me with the sort of dread normally reserved for exams, opening my bank statement and getting a bollocking at work for not doing something I should have done. Anyway, here’s a mental challenge for you. Please first think of the Power Rangers in a typical episode. Okay, hold that image. Now replace them with two Japanese schoolgirls in school uniforms. Still with me? (Oh for goodness sake, keep your focus on the relevant details here.) Good. Now replace the ridiculous baddies the Power Rangers were fighting in your mind with a sinister organisation called The Clown, which wants to take over control of the Earth; (unless you have a different copy of this film, where you may find that that for some reason the translation turns The Clown into The Joker, although not the Batman one). If you’ve managed that successfully (and well done if you have) then you’re part way to conceptualising this Japanese action movie. (Well I say movie, but it’s only actually 45 minutes long. It does feel very much like a pilot episode for a TV series that’s never existed.)
2008 – Certificate: Not Rated – Japan
Despite this being an entirely absurd film it’s actually quite entertaining, for both intentional and unintentional reasons. Join best friends Anne and Eunice (the names of the heroines in my translation of the film), as they do battle with The Clown. We never really find out a lot about The Clown and the motivation of the girls’ games teacher makes zero sense to me too. And I’m sorry to say this and I know it’s kind of sexist and everything, but Anne really does ‘run just like a girl’ the first time she appears in the consolidated armour. It wouldn’t inspire me if I saw her run like that and was waiting for her to come and help me fight a group of ‘henchman’ and the weird guy in the mask and leathers. (And before I forget, note for translators. We normally call it “bust size” okay? Also, you don’t have to bother to keep adding subtitles to “Mmmm”, as that’s much the same in any language). There are plenty of silly laughs to be had in this movie and it’s really quite sweet in its own way. I’ve not checked but I don’t suppose it was nominated for any Oscars.
Recommended for anyone who likes films at the “Dude, Where’s My Car?” level or below. Not good for people who think a film needs any sort of depth to it. No one’s going to drown in this movie.
No cats and no decapitations.
Top badass moment? Waking up chained to an under-lit table, surrounded by weirdos and finding out that you’ve had your body transformed somehow and you’re about to be brain-washed so you’ll do the bidding of an evil organisation know as The Clown, I imagine is a tough situation to accept. Then finding out soon after that you’re going to have to fight to destroy this organisation before it kills you, probably makes things worse. Still, Anne more or less takes it all in her stride. That’s got to be badass at any age.