Posts tagged “Black Comedy

101 Reykjavík / Hedge-laying


101 Reykjavik  -  Front DVD Cover  -  UK Release

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recommended for wasters, lesbians and jobcentre advisers.

No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.

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

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

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Frontier Blues / Begging for Money


Frontier Blues  -  Front DVD Cover  -  UK Release

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.

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

Frontier Blues at IMDB (6.7 / 10)


Kontroll / The Great Pasta Rip-off


Kontroll  -  Front DVD Cover  -  UK ReleaseA dark and dynamic ride through Budapest’s labyrinthine subway system, “Kontroll” stylishly careens through genres, thriller, drama, comedy, horror and romance, at the breakneck pace of a runaway train.  Life has turned upside-down for brooding Bulcsú (Sándor Csányi), a ticket inspector who patrols the platforms and trains of the city’s underground network with a motley crew of colleagues.  Bulcsú has forged a series of ‘relationships’ with other long-term denizens of this neon-lit world; the serial fare-dodger, the shadowy serial-killer, the veteran whose seen it all before, and the mysterious, beautiful woman who rides the rails in a bear suit.  The most successful Hungarian film of 2003 and selected for the Un Certain Regard section of the Cannes Film Festival, Kontroll”, with its echoes of “Run Lola Run”, is a fascinating tour of an unseen world and an atmospheric, pulsating search for redemption.

2003  –  Certificate: 15  –  Hungarian Film
Rating Details: Strong language and violence
8.0 out of 10

Today I’m being angry about dry pasta.  Dry pasta is a total rip-off.  By which I mean the price charged for some types is a blatant attempt to feed the insecurity, snobbishness and stupidity of a significant percentage of the population.  Normally I buy Ocado (own brand) Fusilli pasta at 113p / kg.  But on a whim, last time I did my ‘big shopping’ I also bought a bag of Giuseppe Cocco Fusilli Pasta at 598p / kg, to find out what’s so good about it.  That’s over 5 times more expensive!  The latter comes in a smaller bag and has fancy Italian writing all over the packet (that could be telling me to go fuck myself for all I know), but beyond that it isn’t any different.  It looks and tastes just like the cheap stuff.  People are soft in the head if they’re stupid enough to buy the expensive version and think it’s superior in some way.  Listen up.  It’s exactly the same!  Whether you like it or not, it’s only bought by the dull-witted and easy led, who actually believe it’s better; or food snobs who’re clearly lacking something in their lives that impressing themselves, their family and friends with grossly overpriced food, helps them to cover up.  It you really want to impress your peers, buy the cheap stuff and donate the £60 or so you’ll save each year to charity.  And while I’m on the subject, why is it that if you don’t buy spirals, spaghetti or tubes, the price of pasta also goes up hugely?  Another rip-off!  In fact, the only thing more ridiculous is bottled water.  Being a Brit who lives on a small island, I’m genetically programmed to think just about everywhere else in Europe is basically like one place as it’s joined together, such as Italy and Hungary

I went to Hungary once.  (Yes, it’s hard to believe isn’t it?)  I arrived with no local currency and had no idea what the exchange rate was, so for quite a while I based my estimate of prices on the bottle of overpriced Coke I bought from a vending machine at the bus station in Budapest.  (Based on this, a bottle of lager was about half the price of Coke.)  I never went on the underground there, which now having seen this film I’m quite glad about; the bus was quite traumatic enough.  This movie follows the exploits of a scruffy team of five ticket inspectors on the Budapest subway.  It starts with an introduction from someone claiming to be from the subway company, explaining why permission was given for the film to be made (entirely underground) and for the company to be depicted in the way it is.  I’m not 100% sure if this was serious or just a clever bit of writing.  The whole movie has a well developed script and provides plenty of nuanced observations and WTF moments.  The subway environment provides a great atmospheric background too, as the action switches quickly between different genera and pacing.  Ticket inspectors are depicted as being very low on the ‘food chain’ of careers, with questionable management, rivalry between teams and a general antagonism towards them from the travelling public.  A dark comedy (with a bit of romance and horror thrown in), this is a pretty fun, mind-fuck film that uses its setting well.  A great film.  Enjoy.

Musically it’s not an especially interesting movie as there’s not a lot used, although its scarcity does give it an impact when it does appear.

The trailer’s pretty decent, but I couldn’t find a copy of it with subtitles anywhere on the Internet.  There’s a copy on the DVD though.

Recommended for ticket inspectors, tourists, serial killers and fare dodgers.

No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.

Top badass moment?  For most of this film the ticket inspectors are on the wrong end of abuse from passengers who haven’t got a ticket.  In one incident, an especially annoying woman threatens to report one for groping her if he hassles her any more about not having a ticket.  So the guy promptly grabs her boobs, much to her horror and embarrassment.  Now I’m not condoning this in any way, but somehow she deserved it.  Calling someone’s bluff is always badass, if you get away with it.

Kontroll at IMDB (7.7 / 10)
Kontroll at Wikipedia
Kontroll at Roger Ebert (3.5 / 4)
Kontroll trailer at YouTube


Meatball Machine / Epic Breakfast Fail


Meatball Machine  -  Front DVD Cover  -  US Release“Meatball Machine” is a wild, splatterific, experimental sci-fi/horror rollercoaster that will have your entire brain and body shaken and stirred.  Capable of making biomechanical weapons out of human flesh, alien parasites grotesquely invade the Earth, turning their hosts into maniacal killers who seek and destroy each other to the bloody death!  And yes, it’s also a human love story, even though the budding romantics are infested with slimy, tumour-like globules.  Co-directors Junichi Yamamoto and Yudai Yamaguchi (“Battlefield Baseball”) pull out all the stops and don’t let up until the final epic battle.  It’s a touching testament to young love, blood, and alien ooze that leaves you screaming for more!

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

I used to be quite a good cook.  Like many things, it’s an ability I seem to have lost.  Today I tried to make myself some breakfast, just some porridge and a cup of tea, not exactly rocket science.  I managed to burn the porridge to the bottom of the pan, let the tea go cold and fill my flat with the smell of ‘burnt something or other’ that even lighting an incense cone (mesquite) has failed to cover up.  It’s all a bit sad really.  I suppose it could have been worse; I could have been taken over by an alien.  Now that really does mess up your day.  By a strange coincidence…

I was very relieved to discover that this film was not about the exploitation of animals and their conversion into a disgusting, processed, flesh-food of the worst kind.  Instead, it focuses on humans infested by alien parasites, who take them over, convert them to necroborgs and then go about killing each other in very gruesome and bloody ways.  Much nicer, I think you’ll agree.  There’s blood and yukiness aplenty in this Japanese movie.  That pretty well sums the plot up, other than the inclusion of some soppy nonsense about the two main characters falling in love and ending up fighting.  Fortunately, this doesn’t really get in the way of the mess, which does look good.  By and large the effects are very nicely done; the little aliens in the tumours have an especially high ‘eew factor’.  For a film of this type it’s actually really well made.  The overall effect is kind of what would happen if the Borg went to English football matches in the 70’s but in Japan, got really pissed and then went looking for a fight with some rival team’s Borg supporters.  Despite all the gruesome action, it’s so comic book like that it doesn’t really leave much of a sickening after-taste.  The DVD I have also has good subtitles and loads of extras; a quality release.  Recommended.

The music’s there, it does it’s stuff.  That’s it really.  It works, feels accessible yet still Japanese.  Can’t think of anything else to say about it.

Recommended for factory workers, lovers and guys that like to tinker with electronic things.

No cats or chainsaws and 1 decapitation, (plus another head that blows up).

Top badass moment?   Sigh.  It’s so romantic.  The shared love of Yôji and Sachiko, helping them to overcome the power of the alien parasites infesting their bodies, before making the ultimate sacrifice.  Well, bollocks to that.  Seeing people turned into cyborgs, loads of blood, heaps of gross body parts and that unique Japanese touch that goes into films like this, is far more badass.  Give me a huge gun growing out of someone’s chest any day of the week over a candlelit dinner for two.

Meatball Machine at IMDB (5.8 / 10)

Meatball Machine at Wikipedia

Meatball Machine at YouTube


Happiness / National Lottery Refuses to Fund Cactus World


Happiness  -  Front DVD Cover  -  UK ReleaseIsolation… alienation… happiness.  In America they all go hand in hand.  Buy a new TV and you will be happy.  Still not happy?  Experience alienation.  Can’t afford a new TV?  Then live in isolation.  “Be happy”, and if that doesn’t work, pretend to make it work.  For the characters in Todd Solondz’ award winning, subversively funny film “Happiness”, the struggle to attain such a state is fraught with perils both heartbreaking and hilarious.

1998  –  Certificate: 18  –  American Film
Rating Details:  Adult theme, strong sexual references, language and sex
8.5 out of 10

The National Lottery spoilt my day today and it was going so well too.  It started off sunny.  Then I drove to Berkhamsted, which included a slow selection along the M4.  This provided me with a golden opportunity to open all the windows and ‘educate’ my fellow motorists in what good music sounds like, whether they wanted educating or not.  It’s never too early in the day for some noisy punk rock.  I then passed my MiDAS trainer/assessor reassessment.  This means I can continue to train people to drive minibuses in my own, inimitable style.  (e.g. “Just put your foot down.”  “It’s not your vehicle, so don’t worry.”  “You’re not paying for the insurance.”  “You’re bigger than they are.”)  I then drove home again with the windows open.  This time there was no slow section, so thanks to a large articulated lorry I no longer need to tidy up the interior of my car, as all the rubbish in it suddenly got sucked out of the window as the lorry went past.  Then I got home and opened a letter from the Disclosure and Barring Service, which was happy to report that I’m not a pervert or a weirdo; at least not one that’s been caught anyway.  But then the Lottery spoilt my happiness by rejecting a funding application I’d made for a project.  For the second time!  Bloody hell!  I even buy two lottery tickets every week by Direct Debit.  That should guarantee success.  (Then again, I don’t know why this surprises me.  In the 19 years it’s been running, I’ve bought one or two tickets virtually every single week and personally never won more than £10; and that’s not happened more than a few times either.  I’m relying on a Lottery jacket win to act as my pension too.)  My failure was highlighted in some nonsense about insufficient evidence of need.  I guess interviewing every single person on the whole planet about the project and finding that all 7,164,915,211 of them supported it and would benefit from it, wasn’t sufficient.  Still, I’ve been invited to reapply if I can provide more information.  It’s lucky I’ve just got my DBS Certificate, as I’m now going to need to hang about in various maternity wards and try to consult with some babies as they come out of the womb, as just about everyone else has already expressed an opinion.  It’s not the rejection that hurts, (well okay it is really), but the fact that some of my colleagues north of the border seen to be able to provide enough evidence for similar applications, by simply stating that they think the project they’re apply for money for would be “nice”.  This doesn’t make me very happy.  It’s so easy being Scottish.  We have to work hard in the South East of England for everything.  I think a career as a diplomatic would suit me better.  That would make me much happier too.  This is a film about happiness.

This is a sick film.  It’s exactly the sort of perverse movie that the DBS should ask about before issuing Certificates.  It’s also very funny, in a blacker than black way.  There’re loads of reviews of it on the Internet, half of which say it’s great and the other half say they walked out of it after 15 minutes because it was so “disgusting”.  Despite its reputation as a bit of a dodgy film, it’s also surprisingly moving and very well acted.  I think I like it as it features a load of people who think they’re happy but actually they’re not, yet they still are in a rather strange way.  I like to see people bought down to my level.  It’s a movie for grow-ups you should watch.  You can always use a pair of sharp scissors to cut the DVD in two if you don’t like it.  (But remember to take care with the scissors, especially as DVDs can suddenly shatter into sharp pieces when stressed.  I’d advise you wear gloves and goggles too, just in case.)

There is a soundtrack but it’s pretty unmemorable.  Music is sparsely used, although when it is it does support the action nicely.   On many occasions it’s used more as an element in the scenes themselves, rather than simply as background ‘noise’ to build tension or whatever.  Michael Stipe does sing the theme song though.

Recommended for weirdos.  (Sorry, I can’t be arsed to write anything else.)

No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.

Top badass moment?  At the start of the film, Allen strikes a blow for downtrodden men everywhere, with his “I’m Champagne” tirade.  Admittedly he picks on the somewhat weedy Joy as the target for his ‘stand’, but nevertheless he knocks the ball right out of the ground.  Yeah; men rise up and take back your birth right!  No more will we be under the thumb of woman-kind!  Reclaim the mighty sword of masculinity and trousers of relationship power!  (Do I come across as sounding bitter or twisted at all?)

Happiness at IMDB (7.7 / 10)

Happiness at Wikipedia


Mad Cowgirl / I Meet Skynet’s Grandparents


Mad Cowgirl  -  Front DVD Cover (US Relese)Sarah Lassez (“Nowhere”, “The Blackout”, “Until The Night”) delivers a star-making performance as Therese, an ass-kicking health inspector with a failed marriage, an on-going affair with a creepy televangelist (Walter Koenig, “Star Trek”), nymphomania, and an obsession with old kung-fu movies.  Further complicating her life is a very questionable relationship with her brother Thierry (James Duval from “The Doom Generation” and “Donnie Darko”), a meat importer who may (or may not) have infected her with mad cow disease.  She soon embarks on a surreal journey which descends into violence, insanity and her quest to kill the Ten Tigers From Kwangtung!

2006  –  Certificate: Not Rated  –  American Film
Rating Details:  Graphic violence and sexual situations
6.0 out of 10

I’ve described before how technology hates me.  I think it probably hates most people, but for some reason it gets an especially perverse satisfaction out of giving me hassle and grief.  The latest example was last Friday; the day my amplifier finally returned from over four months away being repaired, my Logitech Squeezebox died.  This cute little device has helped me to go to sleep for years, playing Internet radio stations such as Dub Xtra, Ska World, Hussieskunk and Gutter Punk when I went to bad.  I suppose I’ve had a reasonable amount of use out if it; they stopped making them quite some time ago.  However, the loss has been keenly felt right across Cactus World.  The nearest equivalent that’s now available is the Logitech UE Smart Radio, which isn’t what I really want.  Logitech seems to think everyone has a smart phone these days and will use it to access music, so its range of products reflects this outlook; well I don’t so I can’t.  Its loss then.  I don’t have any friends so what’s the point of me having a phone, smart or stupid?  Instead I’ve bought a Roberts Stream 83i.  Doing this has also freed up my DAB radio alarm and a nice mini stereo system, as the 83i (wow, catchy name) has these things built into it.  In fact, if I’d listed all the features I wanted, this clever bit of kit would be the result. The User Guide has 108 pages, all in English.  It hasn’t been delivered yet, but I’m already looking forward to it pissing me off for some reason soon.  Oh yes, and if this wasn’t proof enough of the self-aware nature of technology, the hard drive in my NAS also failed last week.  I’m pretty sure it’s all a precursor to something resembling Skynet.  And on the subject of not being able to tell reality from fantasy…

I always enjoy a film that within the first couple of minutes makes a positive statement about vegans.  Sadly, I don’t feel I can really reciprocate the feeling.  Maybe I should try to be more sober when I watch movies, so I can make more sense of them?  Despite its title, this film isn’t trying to do for westerns what Twilight did for vampires and it’s probably much better that I’m giving it credit for.  It staggers about like a drunk, from straight-forward drama, through slasher horror into surreal mind-fuck territory and then back again. On the surface it’s really quite a shambles, but underneath it’s actually quite a clever film.  It’s a parody of a kung fu movie, yet it also offers up an emotionally screwed-up scene as the lead character breaks down in a confessional booth, with the realisation that’s she’s not got long to live.  It’s got Chekov in it (the Enterprise’s navigator, not the doctor/writer), but far too much gratuitous gross meat-eating for my liking.  In fact it’s a bit of a food-fight movie; there’s ideas and thoughts splattered everywhere.  So something for everyone then, or nothing for anyone, or whatever.

This film offers up a muddle of many different types of music; an intentional mixture of a straight-forward soundtrack and kitsch opera, rock, rap, funk and many other music genus too, as it tries to keep up with the ever-changing vibe on-screen.  There’s a brief burst of a great punk song at one point, but sadly I don’t know who it’s by or what it’s called.

Recommended for environmental health inspectors, butchers, evangelists, Trekkies and connoisseurs of kung fu movies.

3 decapitations, no cats or chainsaws.  The Flying Guillotine is an interesting concept…  And it was pleasing to see a battery-powered drill and circular saw being used to good effect too.

Top badass moment?  Ten Tigers From Kwangtung!  Cindy, The Girl With the Thunderbolt Kick, wasn’t bad either.

Mad Cowgirl at IMDB (5.0 / 10)

Mad Cowgirl at Wikipedia


Wristcutters: A Love Story / The Amplifier Returns


Wristcutters  -  Front DVD Cover (US Release)Distraught over breaking up with his girlfriend, Zia (Patrick Fugit) decides to end it all.  Unfortunately, he discovers that there is no real ending, only a run-down afterlife that is strikingly similar to his old one, just a bit worse.  Discovering that his ex-girlfriend has also “offed” herself, he sets out on a road trip, with his Russian rocker friend, to find her.  Their journey takes them through an absurd purgatory where they discover that being dead doesn’t mean you have to stop livin’!

2006  –  Certificate: R  –  American Film
Rating Details:  Language and disturbing content involving suicide
8 out of 10

Let’s start with a history lesson.  In January 2010 I bought myself a new amplifier, an Onkyo TX-NR807.  (It’s totally overpowered for someone who lives in a flat like me and is surrounded by others they don’t hate, but hey, I’m a bloke and I need to make up for my perceived sexual inadequacies; I’d probably be tempted to buy a Porsche if I could afford it, just to drive up to the corner shop and back.)  In January 2012 it broke down.  Fear swept across Cactus World, as the population was plunged into a miserable silence.  Fortunately it got fixed pretty quickly.  In January 2013 it broke down again, with exactly the same fault.  This time it wasn’t fixed quickly.  Last Monday I rang up the crappy repair company, (Genserve, Onkyo’s official repair company in the UK).  Not my first call to it.  Fed up with it abysmal service, I used my ‘really, really, really pissed off customer who knows where you live and will kidnap your babies and torture and kill them if you don’t bloody get it fixed soon persona’, to get some information out of them.  Apparently the replacement part was ordered from Germany but if it’s not in stock there it has to come from Japan.  The guy I spoke to offered to send an e-mail to see where things had got to; wow, I bet that would’ve scared the shit out of them.  I also phoned up Onkyo and gave it a load a grief about its shoddy amplifier design.  What a lot of bollocks that all turned out to be, as strangely I got a phone call less than 48 hours later to tell me it had been fixed.  I got it back on Friday and two days later it’s actually still working.  Why do I have to pretend to be a murderous psycho to get anything sorted these days?  And the moral of this story?  Never, ever by anything made by Onkyo, because it’s unreliable, fucking shite; yep, I think that just about sums things up.  A shame, because when it’s working it’s a great amp.  It’s enough to drive someone to despair, get a gun and randomly go out and shoot people and then blow their own head off.  All of which bring me to this film…

I’m swearing a lot here, sorry.  Anyway, this is a mind-fuck movie, but a good one. The idea of an afterlife that’s just a bit more crappy than the living version, appeals to my pragmatic world view.  It’s not a bad metaphor for life.  In fact I’m starting to wonder if in fact I’m already there, given my recent experiences with my amplifier.  Sometime between January 2012 and January 2013 I must have committed suicide, although I can’t for the life of me remember doing so.  (By the way, my saying “Can’t for the life of me” there is a bit of a joke; I don’t want anyone to miss it so I thought I’d mention it.)  I guess it just wasn’t very memorable.  It would also explain a great many other things.  One of the characters spends her time looking for the People In Charge, because she’s convinced there’s been a mistake and she shouldn’t be there; I could relate to the too.  This is a really interesting film which, despite its theme, is fun; if there’s such a thing as a black, rom-com road-movie, this is probably it.  Its story is really quite unique.  Well worth watching.

This film has some interesting music in it and extends its theme by using some songs from bands whose singers sadly did commit suicide.  A lot of the rest is from Gogol Bordello, a band who’s sizable appeal I’ve never really quite understood, although it sounds fine here.  Tom Waits, who’s in the film quite a bit, also contributes a suitably jolly track.

Recommended for undiscovered rockers, pizza shop workers and cult leaders.

One cat, no chainsaws or decapitations.  It’s only onscreen for a few moments, but it’s a cute ginger one!

Top badass moment?  I watched this film about two weeks ago, so I have to admit I can’t remember enough to identify it now.  I’m sure there was one though; probably several actually.  I really should take notes.

Wristcutters: A Love Story at IMDB (7.3 / 10)

Wristcutters: A Love Story at Wikipedia


The Untold Story / Birds Eye Potato Waffles


The Untold Story  -  Front DVD Cover (US Release)In a riveting performance that won him 1993’s Hong Kong Film Award for Best Actor, Anthony Wong (“Hard Boiled”) stars as the owner/chef of the Eight Immortals Restaurant, where the original owner and his family mysteriously disappear.  As the police, led by Danny Lee (“The Killer”), intensify their investigation, they gradually uncover the shocking truth.  Definitely not for the squeamish, “The Untold Story” is also an intelligent character study filled with dark humour touches. And remember… it actually happened!

1992  –  Certificate: Not Rated  –  Hong Kong Film
Rating Details:  Scenes of extreme violence and graphic sexual situations
6.5 out of 10

In the late 80s I stopped eating Birds Eye Potato Waffles.  This is because I got really bad food poisoning from them, twice in a row.  I can still remember it quite vividly.   I think it’s the last time I took time off work through being physically ill.  They’re the only thing that’s ever given me food poisoning, as far as I can remember.  A few months ago I decided to try them again.  The good news was, no sickness or diarrhea etc, a promising start.   (I don’t recommend trying to microwave them though, the results aren’t especially satisfactory.)  Now, these are potato waffles; they’re probably one of the Bird Eye brand’s ‘signature products’.  On the side of the packaging is a marketing highlight which proudly proclaims, “Made with REAL potatoes”.  What the fuck?  Potato waffles and they’re actually made with potatoes; surely not?  Is that really the best thing they can come up with?  It doesn’t bode well for the rest of the product if that’s the highlight.  This also left me wondering what exactly is an unreal potato.  The packaging also goes on to say each 100g of waffles is made with 109g of potatoes.  Really?  I guess an understanding of particle physics is helpful if you want to enjoy Birds Eye Potato Waffles; it must be all that ‘new physics’ stuff again.  Personally, I’d rather know that all the potatoes used are grown within 40 miles of the factory where they make them, which is what it says on its web site; I think that’s much more worthy.  Has our food become so crap these days that the fact it contains what you’d expect it to contain has become such a big deal that it needs bragging about?  (Oh, I forgot about all the horse burgers.)  Birds Eye in Europe is presently owned by private equity group Primira. One of its 11 Business Principles is “Comply with both the letter and the spirit of all applicable laws, regulations and contractual obligations”.  I guess that’s why it has its finance team based on Guernsey; nothing to do with its tax haven status then?  This film features a restaurant and food that makes people sick; and dead.

Never released in the UK, Anthony Wong plays a restaurant owner called Wong Chi-Hang and it’s worth tracking down a copy of this film for his performance alone.  The guy has some serious, anger management issues.  When he’s not feeding his clientele with the ground-up remains of people he’s killed, raping his staff, beheading children or cheating at Mah Jong, he’s being beaten up by various people, generally the police or the relatives of those he’s murdered.  For a pretty gruesome and dark film that’s basically about a serial killer, the police are presented as only a few steps above the Keystone Cops.  The senior detective and his team investigating the case don’t seem to do a lot of work, they continually belittle the only woman in the team, they happy beat up poor old Anthony with the least provocation and the senior detective nearly always has a prostitute with him at work.  It’s not often you can have any sympathy for a serial killer, but he’s clearly a product of his environment; well, sort of.  Set in Macau, this film is meant to be based on a real crime too.  It’s a bloody horror with the occasional bit of almost slapstick comedy; very watchable if you can deal with all that.

This film has a fair amount of background music, much of which is clearly inspired by the “Psycho” ‘shower scene’.  You’ll not want to watch this film for the music.

Recommended for catering students, the police and anyone who’s crap at Mah Jong.

No cats or chainsaws and three decapitations; two of the latter were after they were dead though.  It’s not often you see a child have her head cut off in a film…

Top badass moment?  In the middle of cutting a load of people up, it was good to see Anthony Wong take time out to sharpen the meat cleaver he was using.  (He forgot to wear safety goggles or gloves whilst using the grinder though.)  No wonder he was so pissed off when the cutting edge got damaged soon after.  (Maybe he sharpened the blade too finely for cutting bones; or perhaps he hit the floor with it by mistake?)  Caring about your tools, even if you’re a serial killer, is good practice and therefore badass.  They do say a blunt tool is more dangerous than a sharp one.

The Untold Story at IMDB (6.8 / 10)

The Untold Story at Wikipedia


Involuntary / Teleconferencing


Involuntary  -  Front DVD Cover (UK ReleaseIt’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!

Involuntary at IMDB (7.0/10)


Storytelling / I Meet My New Manager


Storytelling  -  Front DVD Cover (UK)Storytelling is comprised of two separate stories set against the sadly comical terrain of college and high school, past and present. Following the paths of its young hopeful, troubled characters, it explores issues of sex, race, celebrity and exploitation…

2001  –  Certificate: 18  –  USA
7.5 out of 10

On the walls in my office at work are maps of the eight counties that make up the South East of England.  (By the way, I’m not looking now to debate if Sussex is one or two counties, or if the Isle of Wight is one or not, so if you don’t like the number I’ve come up with please feel free to substitute your own; and anyway, I haven’t actually put up the maps for two of them yet, as there’re some old filing cabinets in the way that someone was meant to have got rid of ages ago but hasn’t).  The point of them is so when someone rings and starts talking about a detail of his/her tiny village somewhere, I have a chance of actually being able to find it quickly, seeing where it is relative to other places and not sound like I don’t have an intimate knowledge of every part of the 7,373 square miles of the South East.  The latter seems to be what most people assume and then get all defensive about when I ask something like, “where exactly is Deeping Minor?”  Near the edges of these maps is written stuff  that I simply translate as “here be dragons”.  I believe these to be blasted, post apocalyptic wastelands, inhabited by mutants, aliens and huge, people-eating monsters.  I never go there but I’m pretty sure that’s what it’s like.   (Okay, London runs along much of the top of the maps, but really, it’s so small and anyway in its own way it’s full of even weirder stuff.)  I have a new boss at work, my fifth in under seven years; (I guess I must be a nightmare to manage).  I had to go and visit him last week in his village, a place called Norwich.  This is so far away it wasn’t even on the maps.  I thought you just fell off the edge of the world if you went that far, but apparently not.  The journey took days.  It started on a (fairly) modern train and ended with an uncomfortable trip in the open wagon of a local journeyman, who spoke a strange Middle Earth dialect and was selling reeds for thatching; (he was probably a mutant too, but I didn’t like to ask).  On reaching my destination I was confronted by a small, blue hut by a muddy river.  I was ushered into a tiny room with a cup of some weird, local beverage, where my new manager was waiting.  With hindsight, I believe the drink to have included some sort of witch-doctor truth serum.  My new manager is a giant, at least thirty feet tall, which somewhat confirmed my suspicions about the conditions to be found beyond the South East.  Ever heard or read stories about people confessing to crimes they didn’t commit?  I used to think they must be very weak-minded.  However, after my long journey and then over 20 hours of non-stop interrogation about what we do in the South East, work-wise, I was ready to agree to anything, just to get away.  For some reason I now find myself with financial targets even ExxonMobil would be happy to achieve, so I guess I’m going to be a real bitch-from-hell manager to my team this year.  This film is also about telling stories and interpreting life though the prism of a parallel, fictional narrative; or something.

This darkly funny movie is actually two films joined together.  One features the students in a creative writing class and the other a would-be documentary maker.  They don’t have anything to do with one another, except that push the overall point of the film along, which seems to be to highlight the hypocrisy of how people react to different things, based on how society perceives them rather than simply as a reaction to absolutely how good or bad they are.  This is a very dense film in the sense that there’s a real mesh of subtexts and other stuff under its surface.  I recommend Goolging it if you want to find out more about them.  However, simply on a superficial level, (which is where I generally spend my time), the movie works.  It provides plenty of nuanced, flawed characters for us to like, despise, relate to or misunderstand; a set of dysfunctional people trying to do more (and sometimes less), than they’re capable of and failing to realise, whilst getting lost in maze of political correctness and self-importance.  Well worth watching, especially for the ‘did he/she just say/do that?’ moments.  I watched the uncensored version; that’s the one that doesn’t have the big red rectangle over the ‘rude bits’, which itself was used as a statement by the Director.

Recommended for people who enjoy seeing others fail; not so good for the less-than-liberal middle-classes, who find anything less that PC perfection to be on a level equivalent to the Holocaust.

1 cat, no chainsaws or decapitations.  A lovely grey and black stripy cat gets a brief bit of ‘lap-action’, but overall I felt it was very underutilised.  A wasted opportunity.

Top badass moment?  I’m not for a moment suggesting it’s something anyone else should look to emulate and she was a bit of a nutter on the quiet, but Consuelo’s way of dealing with unemployment was an interesting and radical departure from the norm.  A definite bit of thinking outside the box badassness.

Storytelling at IMDB (6.7/10)