“This is England” tells the story of Shaun (Thomas Turgoose), an 11 year old kid growing up in the North of England. Set during the summer holidays of 1983, it follows his journey from a shaggy haired ruffian grieving the loss of his father into a shaven headed thug whose anger and pain are embraced by the local skinhead fraternity. Largely based on Meadows’ own personal experience, “This is England” not only captures a specific point in British history, but also beautifully articulates the allure of being part of a gang. Brilliantly charting a course from the joyous early passages to darker territory, Meadows also skilfully and with great sensitivity deals with the complexities of rage, race and masculinity. Featuring astounding performances from Stephen Graham, (“Gangs of New York”) and newcomer Thomas Turgoose, “This is England” is a riveting and deeply moving portrait of an often-overlooked moment in cultural history and is arguably Meadows’ masterpiece.
2006 – Certificate: 18 – British Film
Rating Details: Very strong racist violence and language
9.0 out of 10
Went to see Dreadzone two nights ago. It was playing Sub89 in Reading, which is great because it’s a 20 minute walk from where I live in Cactus World. There was a massive queue outside when I got there. In fact it was so long that as I was walking alongside it, I started to doubt whether it was actually the queue at all; and the people in it mostly didn’t look like the sort who would go to a Dreadzone gig either. In the end I took a walk around the block so I could reconsider the problem after having a bit of a think. (I have a real phobia of new gig venues, although I’ve actually been to Sub89 quite a few times.) However, after a little bit of loitering by the bus stops opposite, I decided that for some reason the doors that aren’t normally used for gig entrances were actually being used in this case. It appeared they’d put the gig in the downstairs bar and the nightclub upstairs where gigs normally take place. It’s a damming indictment of England and further proof that as a national were totally fucked, when the queue for a nightclub to dance to ‘chart music’ is about 1,000 times longer than the one for a quality band like Dreadzone. The young of today have been brainwashed into accepting mediocrity as the norm and not wanting to rock the boat, because they’ve got no job or a massive student debt to pay off (or both) and need to save up for their pension, mortgage and overpriced wedding. Fortunately, a few are still alive and they’d managed to make their way into the gig, along with a few survivors of times gone past. The gig was in the Bowery District, which is basically a posh cocktail bar. Having said that, it did have a proper little stage, some reasonable cider and a decent sound system. (Then again, most systems sound okay if you hang around about a metre away from a speaker stack all night…) What was also interesting about it is that if you stand near the stage, the design of the space effectively makes you feel you’re in a much smaller place and does a nice job of making things feel very intimate. So actually it wasn’t bad at all. Dreadzone played for what seemed like a long time. There were no support acts; something that doesn’t happen very often. It’s not a band I have a lot of recorded material by, but it’s one of those bands I’ll always try and go and see live, as that’s where it works best. I was pretty tired by the end. Dreadzone has quite a complex mix of beats and they certainly tax my abilities to the limit. (Then again, a click track would do that too.) The top of my legs are still somewhat sore today; which is odd, as it’s normally my calves that get knackered. Fortunately it finished at 22:00, so I was home by half ten. Dreadzone – Gangster Dreadzone – Too Late Dreadzone – Beyond a Rock This is a film that features lots of music too.
Except for a period in the 80’s, I’ve always kept my hair pretty short. These days I shave it myself (a “Number 1” for the technically minded), because I’m too mean to pay someone else £10 to have it done each time. I’ve been doing this for several years, so I imagine the part at the back that I can’t see probably looks a total mess now. For years, I also used to wear a pair of DM boots too, (before I became vegan in about 1989). Despite this, I’ve never really been a skinhead. But it really, really pisses me off to see morons appropriate my flag and some of the musical styles I like for their racist shit. These people have as much in common with the roots of the culture as IS has with the teachings of Islam (i.e. nothing), but as a result have tarnished a whole way of life. This is a film that well illustrates the best and the worst of the skinhead culture in the early 80s. It’s a brilliant movie on just about every level and a film everyone should see, if only to give themselves a history lesson.
As a film based on skinhead culture, it ought to have some great music in it and it doesn’t do too badly, although it would have been good to have a bit more. We get a good mix of reggae and 2 Tone ska, plus (rather more inexplicably), “Warhead” by the UK Subs.
In common with the film, its trailer is a top one too. It’s exciting and intriguing, but doesn’t give the details of the plot away.
Recommended for skinheads, and anyone who’d thinking of putting a young character into a film and wants to see how to do it without making everyone groan.
No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.
Top badass moment? Woody and his gang of skinheads befriend an 11-year-old boy who’s being bullied at school. They get him some proper clothes, a decent haircut and expose him to some quality reggae. That’s badass. What a shame it all gets spoilt by a racist idiot.
Eager to shift thoughts away from The Troubles during the 1970s, music fanatic Terri Hooley (Richard Dormer, TV’s “Game of Thrones”) opens a record store, ‘Good Vibrations’, in the heart of one of Belfast’s roughest districts. As the shop gains a loyal following, Terri starts a small record label with the aim of launching some of the local bands, including The Undertones whose first single, ‘Teenage Kicks’, is championed by legendary Radio 1 DJ John Peel…. A heart-warming and hilarious true story, Good Vibrations is not a feel-good film – it’s a feel-great film!
2012 – Certificate: 15 – British/Irish Film
Rating Details: Strong language, once very strong, and drug use
8.5 out of 10
In 1981 I was selecting what universities might be desperate enough to entertain me with an offer of admission. This, you’re told, is an important decision that could affect your whole life and one you should make after due, diligent consideration. At my sixth form college we had folders and files bulging with all the propaganda, prospectuses and other marketing materials from all the universities and polytechnics in the country. At the bottom of one cabinet, filed away under U, was a folder containing a slim, A5 sized booklet, and that’s it. Unlike everything else, which was dog-eared, scribbled over and had pages torn from it, this little publication was in pristine condition, untouched, unread. In the early 80s The Troubles were in full swing in Northern Ireland and no self-respecting student from an okay suburb in north-west London was going to even consider the New University of Ulster. The Undertones was (and still is) a punk band from Derry, which is about 30 miles from Coleraine, where the main campus was for the NUU. Entirely on the strength of this geographical connection and much to the consternation of my parents, I picked the NUU as one of my five choices of university. In the end I got offers from three of these, including the NUU. Six months later, thanks to some less than stellar A Level results, it’s where I ended up. (In truth I think it would probably have take just about anyone from England, regardless of their stupidity levels, as it was so desperate for ‘overseas’ students.) This film explains why this happened and why my life has turned out the way it has. I’d like to think I’m a tiny, unwritten footnote somewhere that’s connected to this film. I still have the Good Vibrations price labels on a few records (I didn’t want to peel them off) and without consciously trying to collect them have most of the label’s early releases too. Some wonderful songs were released during that period. It’s hard to believe it’s almost ten years since John Peel died too.
I’ve never met Terri Hooley and I probably never will, but I think I’d like him if I did. He released the Undertones first single “Teenage Kicks” on his own little label that he started in his record shop in Belfast. He then got a copy to John Peel, who played it twice in a row on his show on BBC Radio 1. The rest is well documented history. If he’d not done this, I’d never have heard of the Undertones and that modest prospectus would have remained hidden in the blue file in the bottom draw. I think I still have it somewhere as I ‘borrowed’ it from the file; I don’t suppose anyone ever noticed it was missing. It’s quite an experience to watch a film that tells the story of someone who had such an unplanned effect on your own life. As a stand-alone movie it’s not perfect. Of course it has a montage of The Troubles and lots of characters who could only be from Northern Ireland. (When they weren’t busy marching around, shooting each other and blowing things up, the Northern Irish were some of the nicest and kindest people you could meet. Better than the English anyway!) In that sense it’s very clichéd, yet it’s still a really fun and enjoyable watch. The fact that it’s based on a true story just adds to its attraction. From my own knowledge of things, there are a number of scenes and touches in the film that really reflect what happened, although I’m sure there’s plenty of dramatisation too. An essential watch.
This is a film about someone who loves music. As such it features lots of great tunes, from reggae through to bands like the Outcasts, Rudi and of course the Undertones. It also contains absolutely the best music porn I’ve ever seen. For around 15 minutes it presents the story of “Teenage Kicks” and it couldn’t have been done better. It’s perfect and a brilliant and loving homage to it. After a couple of false starts the song finally bursts out on the screen and for 2 minutes and 28 seconds (more or less) we just get to experience the moment it was first played by John Peel. Of course, the band has written better songs since, but none will ever quite have the impact and resonance of “Teenage Kicks”. (They even managed to get some actors to play the band who mostly had a decent resemblance to the real people.) I must have about a dozen copies of it on various records and CDs. Of course, I already have a ticket for the band’s next gig in London, in nine months time.
The trailer is perfect. It contains “Teenage Kicks”.
Recommended for dreamers, musicians, music fans and anyone who’s ever fallen under the spell of any song.
No cats, chainsaws or decapitation.
Top badass moment? After the great built up, “Teenage Kicks” bursting out of the speakers provides THE most badass experience it’s possible to have. An iconic tune by the best band on the planet. Still gigging and still way ahead of their peers.
Captain Mainwaring and his men create comedy mayhem when they go on manoeuvres with other military companies under the eyes of a real Major-General. The result is disaster after disaster… After the shambles, the Walmington-On-Sea defenders return home just as a German scout plane crashes near their town. Its crew captures the church hall and holds the vicar and mayor as hostages. The Major-General sends for the Army, the Army sends for the Navy, the Navy sends for the Marines, the Marines call in the police, and the police call the fire brigade. While this is going on, the irrepressible irregulars of Dad’s Army hilariously demonstrate that they really can do the job they were organised for…
1971 – Certificate: U – British Film
7.0 out of 10
Last week saw the end of an era in Cactus World. About 15 years ago I became the owner of a 1L bottle of Bell’s Whisky. I think it came from a duty-free shop at an airport somewhere, although its exact heritage is now lost in the mists of time. Last week I finished it. I’d decided I wanted a drink one evening, but fancied something a bit different, so I ended up messing about with different whisky mixers; and suddenly it was empty. It’s strange to think that Cactus World didn’t even exist when I first had that bottle. (Along with most things from the era when Cactus World first came into existence, it was handed over by its evil predecessor, The Real World.) And I had some sort of life and ambitions in those days too. Then again, my Internet connection is now over 2,000 times faster, I’ve got a bigger TV and China Drum has reformed. I’m probably not the world’s biggest whisky/whiskey/bourbon drinker. To be honest I’m not sure I even like the taste very much, but feel I ought to make the effort. So now I’m down to my last four and a half bottles of the stuff. These include a bottle of Bladnoch 18-year-old single malt. This is most expensive booze I’ve ever purchased (I think it was about £60) and came from Scotland’s most southerly distillery. (This has sadly just gone into administration). A bottle of Jack Daniels Old No. 7 and a bottle of Bushmills 10-year-old single malt. And finally, a bottle of Amrut Indian single malt, which is the strongest alcohol I own at 61.9%. I’ve never opened any of these. Then again, I’ve never opened my bottle of Tesco Organic Vodka, which is even older and has spent nearly its whole life in my freezer. Tesco stopped selling it in 2006. Dad’s Army is even older than this bottle of vodka and most of it’s episodes predate punk, yet it still lots of fun; like whisky.
I don’t just watch films. No, I’m far more multidimensional than that. Far less documented is the fact that as well as watching films, I also have a TV series on the go at the same time too. Watched between the films when I don’t have the time or inclination to watch anything longer. I rarely binge on these, preferring instead to view a few episodes a week. Over the past few years I’ve made my way through “Andromeda” (five seasons), “The Likely Lads” / “Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads” (five series and a film, although loads of episodes are missing) and “Red Dwarf” (nine series, as there was at the time I watched them). Dad’s Army (on TV) ran for nine series, plus a film and three Christmas Specials, from 1968 to 1977. A few early episodes are missing, but most are still around. I’m now near the end of series 8, so I thought I ought to take a look at the film, which was made between series 3 and 4. Chronologically it sits near the start of the whole story, so I guess I should have watched it earlier on, although as it sort of overlaps the TV episodes doing so would probably have confused me greatly. The film is really like watching three episodes back to back and I suspect that’s how the script was developed originally. Although it has most of the continuing cast/characters in it and the same writers, it was filmed in widescreen and doesn’t have a laughter track, so it feels a bit weird watching it. It just doesn’t ‘feel’ quite right. But it’s still a lot of fun and has the gentle humour that characterised the TV series. Essential viewing if you liked it on television. Part of the fourth best British sitcom of all time.
There’re small musical elements in the movie that aren’t generally in the TV series, but really, they don’t make a lot of difference. If anything, they make it sound a bit like one of those 50s black and white Hollywood movies, that used to be shown on Saturday afternoons on BBC2 when I was young.
This is one of these films that doesn’t seem to have an official trailer. Weird.
Recommended for old soldiers, the patriotic and heroes.
No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.
Top badass moment? Pompous he may have been, but never a coward, Captain George Mainwaring rarely came face-to-face with any Nazis in the TV series. However, this film provides his greatest moment and for a brief few minutes he really is the hero that in his own mind he always was. Captain Mainwaring, the hero that Britain both deserved and needed. Badass.
“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.
Kaisa (Lena Headey), a beautiful and feisty Scottish woman, finally has her life together, at least until her mother (Charlotte Rampling) asks an enormous favour; to bring back to her Kaisa’s estranged larger-than-life father (Stellan Skarsgård). The two of them, father and daughter together, set out on a wild, brutally funny yet heartbreaking journey, which takes them through their emotional past before reaching their ultimate destination.
2000 – Certificate: Not Rated – Norwegian / British Film
9.0 out of 10
Despite being a lowly nobody at work, a combination of staff sickness and annual leave yesterday meant that all the more senior staff with direct line management responsibility for me weren’t in. Taking advantage of my self-appointed, temporary CEO role, I finally got to order that Aston Martin V12 Vantage S I’m always on about. I knew my recent ‘job enrichment’ as “An Authoriser” would come in handy. With this new company car, I’ll soon be making better use of my valuable time, by utilising its top speed of 205m.p.h. (I spent over six hours driving today, mostly on the M25, covering a little over 200 miles in that time; it would’ve only taken me an hour in the Aston.) I haven’t been able to find out much about it fuel consumption or exhaust emissions, but luckily it’s got a catalytic converter so I’m sure it’ll be really good for the environment too. I can’t wait for it to be delivered. I imagine the optional, 1000W Bang & Olufsen BeoSound with ICEpower technology audio system I’ve included in my order is pretty good as well. This film features a decent car, but it’s not an Aston Martin. I should have watched a James Bond movie instead.
I’ve been to Aberdeen. It’s gray, depressing and bloody cold. It’s so cold even ice tries to avoid the place. The fact that many years ago I got dumped there by the most beautiful woman on the planet (although with hindsight she was clearly way out of my league), has no bearing whatsoever on my opinion of the place. I’m nothing, if not a consummate professional when it comes to giving factual, well-balanced information about things. (I remember the two of us building a huge snowman in a park. A short time later as we walked past it again, we saw some little bastards abusing it. They had just pushed its head off, in what turned out to be a remarkably accurate metaphor for our future together.) This is an amazing film that features the relationship between a father and daughter, two emotionally damaged individuals; one an alcoholic and the other a successful solicitor who’s seemingly lost the ability to love anyone. It’s essentially a road-trip movie, in which the daughter has to go from London to Norway to collect her father and then transport him to Scotland. I like films like this, as they me feel better about myself. Lena Headey and Stellan Skarsgård, who seem to turn up in quite a few films I watch, both put in wonderful performances and manage to make their characters sympathetic and somewhat endearing, despite their not being very nice people. I really did end up caring about what happened to them. If it has a fault, then it’s that some of the situations they run into on their journey just seem a bit too random and strange. This is an emotionally tiring film to watch, but worth every second. The trailer really doesn’t do it much justice.
To be brutally frank, the soundtrack’s unlikely to result in a circle pit in your living room. However, I don’t think that was the intention. Like most things about this film, the music works and really enhances the scenes its used in.
Recommended for alcoholics, solicitors and dysfunctional families.
No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.
Top badass moment? I’ve never been an alcoholic; I don’t have the time or the money. So I’ve never experienced what it’s like. Tomas is an alcoholic and spends most of the film very drunk. However, he does manage to go into a bar at one point and drink just water. I’d imagine that’s pretty hard to do when you’re an alcoholic. That’s badass.
This powerful, compelling drama traces the fraught interwoven journeys of three British soldiers who take part in the invasion of Iraq in 2003, return to Manchester, but are then inspired to revisit the chaos of Basra. Danny, Mike and Hibbs, friends in the same army regiment, have their own very different reasons to return. Danny (Stephen Graham) sees rich financial pickings in private security work, in a land awash with billions of dollars of reconstruction money. Mike (James Nesbitt) has fallen in love with Iraqi doctor Aliyah. Hibbs (Warren Brown) goes back because he believes in the mission to rebuild the country and help the Iraqi people. Life in the new Iraq however is unpredictable, chaotic and dangerous. Over the course of five years, the friendship of the three men comes under fierce pressure, as they pursue their dreams against the backdrop of growing fundamentalism, sectarian violence, and corruption in the world of privatised security. Occupation is a darkly humorous and emotionally involving story, which slowly builds to a gripping and moving finale, as their conflicting ambitions come to define not just their own lives, but the war and the occupation of Basra itself.
2009 – Certificate:15 – British Film
Rating Details: Strong language, injury detail and violence
9.5 out of 10
I went to see Bad Religion last Tuesday at Camden Koko. Whilst standing in the queue waiting to go in, (no thanks to the Tube, which thought it would be funny to have no trains in either direction running to Mornington Crescent), someone was handing out flyers for other gigs. After having one of these shoved into my hand, I took a brief look at it. FFS! What do I see on the front but concerts by Barry Gibb, Rick Wakeman, Peter Gabriel and Wet Wet Wet. I’m a baby-eating punk skinhead monster, standing in a queue waiting to see one of the best American punk bands ever and what do I get given? A flyer for two very old prog rockers, a guy who sounds like he hasn’t got any balls and the extremely well named Wet Wet Wet. If anyone at the Bad Religion gig decided to go to any of those concerts, he or she should be shot for treason. If would be more appropriate to give out money-off coupons for Bernard Matthews turkey drumsticks at the Vegan Society AGM. To say I was incandescent with fury would be to rather understate the feeling. However, I somehow managed to control my rage. Bad Religion was great. The support band Arcane Roots didn’t really do anything for me musically, but their sound was the nearest I ever want to get to being shot. Koko probably has the most powerful bass system of any venue for its size in London and they had the kick drum totally maxed out. Everything in the place just shook. I’ve never experienced that intensity of bass before, so thumbs up to the band for such an unpleasant experience! This film has some seriously intense stuff and people being shot in it too.
I always find it difficult to assess what I think of films when they’re based on true events, especially when the events weren’t very long ago; the drama and history remain so interconnected and the effects of the latter so raw and often still evolving, that it’s difficult to be objective. This is one such example. This film was originally a three-part BBC miniseries and it’s awesome. A totally absorbing and sometimes uncomfortable watch, it manages to give a real sense of the chaos, suspicion and differing world views of and in Iraq, during and after the American-led invasion, as it chops back and forward between Iraq and Manchester. It also manages to effectively explore the effects of this mess on some of the people caught up in it. It has a number of genuinely powerful scenes, the sort you just think “wow” after. It looks very authentic, the acting’s excellent and the script very nuanced. What a shocking nightmare it all was, and still is in many ways too. As an entertaining drama and as a reflection of what went on, it’s essential viewing.
There is very little music in this film. It’s there and adds nicely to the scenes when it’s used, but no one’s going to watch this movie for that reason.
No cats or chainsaws. There may or may not be a decapitation, but I don’t want to spoil what’s one of the most intense scenes in the film, so you’ll just have to watch it to find out.
Recommended for politicians and anyone who has any decision-making role relating to Syria.
Top badass moment? In a movie full of very flawed heroes, there’re plenty of would-be badass moments. But being a Brit and this being a drama rather than a documentary, I’ve had to pick out Mike (James Nesbitt) and his mercy dash with the young girl who got blown up by a hand-grenade. The hospital was a frightening example of what happens when you try to pour a gallon into a pint glass. James Nesbitt is the Undertones number one celebrity fan too!
The feature debut of Lindy Heymann is a clever comment on modern celebrity culture. Nicole (Kerrie Hayes) a Liverpudlian teenager, spends her time hanging around the gates of Anfield and the Liverpool training ground, desperate for a glimpse of her idol, the star footballer Lee Cassidy (Jamie Doyle). There she meets aspirant WAG Jasmine (played by Nichola Burley from “StreetDance 3D”), instantly. They trawl the city and its nightspots, fantasising about a time when they might have Lee for themselves, yet when the news breaks that the footballer is a transfer target for Real Madrid, they take drastic action to prevent him leaving… Stand-out performances from the two lead actresses make this energetic, funny and tense film one of the best UK debuts of recent years.
2009 – Certificate: 15 – British Film
Rating Details: Strong language, sex and injury detail
8.5 out of 10
I’ve just drunk two big mugs of really strong coffee with Kahlúa poured into it. I’ve not had anything to eat for nearly 24 hours, (yes I’m still on my stupid ‘eat every other day’ diet), so I expect it’s about to have some sort of weird physical, emotional and mental effect on me. I’m about to experience the outer limits of human perceptions and experiences… There’s something weird about this film too.
It’s a really bizarre feeling when you see someone who really reminds you of someone else. You know it’s not the same person, yet you have a natural tendency to react to them as if it is. You can’t help it, it just happens. It’s futile to resist, as you’re trying to logically reason your way out of a whole lifetime of experience and memories, many of which you’ve subconsciously distorted over time to better fit your needs. (I’ve no doubt this is what’s behind the many incidences of random people coming up to me in the street and calling me names; or maybe that’s just how I am?) Kerrie Hayes (the blonde woman in the trailer) really, really, really reminds me of someone I knew years ago when she was a similar age; in fact we’re still close. (By “close” I mean we see each other three or four times a year, which for someone with a social circle as meagre as mine, makes us virtually Siamese twins.) They share the same mannerisms, the same look, the same intensity. It made watching this film probably a more unique experience for me than normal. This is a great movie. It takes a while to get going and the ending is a bit (and I’m using that word again, it must be the coffee) weird. You probably need to get drunk in ‘real time’ along with the characters, to get the most out of the latter part and to make their behaviour make sense. The two lead actresses in it are excellent and I love the whole look and feel of the film, depressing though it is. It’s basically a movie about a friendship between two young women, celebrity culture and living with this ‘illness’. Definitely recommended. I imagine if it isn’t already, obsessing over celebrities probably does has a medical name. The clinical test to determine if you suffer from it being that you can watch a new series of “Celebrity Big Brother” or “I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here” and recognise over 25% of the ‘celebrities’ in it. I’m pleased to say I’d struggle to recognise more than a couple. So basically what I’m saying is that the media has created a new disease for everyone to suffer from and deliberately spreads the ‘virus’ around in the form of gossip mags, Internet rubbish and fake newspaper stories, in the hope of infecting more people. What sort of sick bastards are they? Well it’s certainly crossed one of my red lines, so it’s just as well for them that I’m not World President Obama, or they’d be some serious consideration going on, relating to the arming of freedom fighters like myself with big pairs of scissors, so we can go into shops selling this rubbish and cut it all up into small pieces. Watch out News UK, we know who you are… even if you have just changed your name out of shame.
The soundtrack is all, slightly atmosphere indie rock. The individual tunes weren’t that exciting, but they surprisingly all hang together pretty well and nicely enhance the impact of the scenes they’re used in. They’re a really good fit into the overall feel of the film.
Recommended for bored teenagers, journalists who write about Kim Kardashian’s baby and professional footballers.
No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.
Top badass moment? There’s frequently a dearth of badass in movies like this. It’s all people with no real hope, no belief and no future. This one is no exception. So I guess the best I can come up with is the friendship that develops between the two main characters, Nicole and Jasmine. In a film about the shallowness of celebrity, it’s the one really meaningful thing in it.
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.
When top London cop, PC Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg), is reassigned to the quiet town of Sandford, he struggles with his seemingly crime-free world… and oafish partner Danny (Nick Frost). When several grisly accidents rock the village, it’s not long before Danny’s dreams of explosive, high-octane, car-chasing, gun fighting, all-out action become reality! It’s time for these small-town cops to hand out big-city justice!
2007 – Certificate: 15 – UK Film
Rating Details: Very strong language and strong comic bloody violence
9.0 out of 10
I went to the local chemists yesterday. To get there I had to walk up a steep hill. As I was doing so, I passed a young guy (I guess he was about 13) having a conversation in the street with a friend. (I say conversation; they were actually shouting at one another across the road and into an adjacent playground. Maybe it was just a new type of cheap, limited range not-very-smart phone they were trying out; who knows?) So anyway, I got to hear quite a long exchange between them, as I staggered, wheezing, red-faced and exhausted, up the near precipice I was attempting to climb. Maybe my physically overtaxed body was to blame, but I could barely decipher a word of what they were shouting to one another, despite the fact that I think they were speaking English. Today I went to a meeting in Redhill; (which despite the name, doesn’t appear to have a hill of any colour in it, just some shops and offices). I had to get up at the unwholesome hour of 5:58am to give me time to get there and the train was too crowded for me to get in a decent sleep on the way too. Maybe my mentally overtired mind was to blame, but I sat in a meeting with four other people who, although very nice, used so much ‘management speak’ that I could barely decipher a word of what they were saying to one another, despite the fact that I think they were speaking English. I guess I’m not cool enough to ‘hang out on the streets’ with ‘the kids’ or clever enough to exchange ‘intellectual banter’ with ‘corporate leaders’. The film features a number of language issues relating to the “metropolitan police vocabulary guidelines”.
This is a genuinely great action-comedy. If you’ve never seen it, rectify the situation now. If you have seen it, go and watch it again, now. That’s all I’ve got to say about it really, because it’s one of those movies you really ought to have seen already and it’s got Scotty in it. It’s also one of those rare British films where you want the police to win. If you think the locals as characterised in the movie are just a bit over-the-top; well, I’ve met people like them for real. Most of them are parish and town councillors. Lovely people, but a bit scary too… The Shires of southern England have a lot in common with the Wild West…
Between the inspired use of Adam and the Ants’ “Goody Two Shoes” at the start and Supergrass’ “Caught by the Fuzz” at the end, the music settles down into a more mundane but fun mixture of mostly 60s and 70s brit-pop songs, which often reinforce the images on the screen through their lyrics. Actually it’s a pretty good soundtrack.
Recommended for police officers, town/parish councillors, florists, journalists, publicans, hoddies, supermarket managers and anyone associated with a neighbourhood watch group.
No cats or chainsaws, but two decapitations, plus one head totally splattered with a church spire.
Top badass moment? Trashing your local supermarket has to be badass. (Is there anyone who hasn’t at some point wanted to pull the bottom can or packet out of one of those ‘food towers’ they build them from?) Doing so in the name of law and order simply gives you access to the moral high ground too. Imagine all the bargains there the next day, on the ‘slightly shop soiled’ shelf? (Actually, do they still construct those towers? I half think they’ve been done way with in the name of health and safety. Those “Tin of beans and it’s toast for toddler” types of headlines don’t look good.)
In a post-apocalyptic, nuclear-scarred future, the world has become a radioactive, neon drenched, industrial wasteland, populated by the disenfranchised and the demented. Amidst the dust and decay of a poisoned landscape, a Zone Tripper manages to salvage a disembodied robotic head. But what is initially mistaken for discarded techno trash is in fact the mechanical remains of the M.A.R.K. 13, a merciless killing machine programmed to activate, exhilarate and exterminate. After ending up in the isolated apartment of an introverted artist, the M.A.R.K. 13 re-assembles itself for an eye-gouging, chainsaw-wielding, body-drilling, skull-crushing rampage, where no flesh shall be spared. Directed by Richard Stanley (“Dust Devil”), “Hardware” features a face pounding soundtrack and appearances from rock legends Iggy Pop, Motörhead’s Lemmy and Fields Of The Nephilim’s Carl McCoy. Available for the first time as a Special Edition, “Hardware” remains a highly original, mind-melding, Cyberpunk, horror/sci-fi cult classic. So plug-in, turn on, download and prepare to have your inner circuits pulled out and re-wired.
1990 – Certificate 18 – British Film
Rating Details: Strong bloody violence and sex
5.0 out of 10
I had a water meter fitted yesterday. When I went to make a cup of tea afterwards I got soaked by a sudden explosion of water out of the tap, as the supply sorted itself out in the pipes. Nice. I currently pay about £330 a year for water rates, so I’ve convinced myself that by having a meter fitted, after just a few months I’ll have saved enough money to retire and go on that round-the-world cruise I’m always promising myself. (Well I know the maths doesn’t really add up and I’d probably get bored after about five minutes on a cruise, but it’s the principle I’m trying to establish here.) Who’d have thought that saving the planet could be so profitable? I wonder how long you can go for and not flush a toilet? A week? Well it works for washing up… In this film, water seems to be in pretty short supply; they should all have got meters fitted.
It’s the future, after some unspecified nuclear incident has taken place. We join a guy who’s collecting junk in a desert. This guy then sells some of the items he’s found in the sand, which include a bust-up robotic head, to a chap called Mo. Mo, who’s obviously a true romantic, takes it to his girlfriend’s place in the city for her as a Christmas present. Despite the fact that Jill’s more than a bit pissed off with him for being away so long, his gift has the desired effect (if you know what I mean). She’s a sculptor, so she decides to put it into something she’s working on. Unbeknownst to them, the head was part of a secret government war-bot programme. Oh dear, it comes back to life and rebuilds itself from common household appliances; (I hate it when that happens, it really interferes with your day and the cost of replacing everything afterwards can be quite considerable). It then starts killing people; although luckily it never really gets out of her flat. Truth be told, this is a pretty crappy film. It has a few interesting cameos, such as Iggy Pop as a radio DJ and Lemmy as a taxi-driver, plus some interesting musical choices, but most of the time it’s too dark or orange, or both, to make watching what’s going on a rewarding experience. Even on Blu-ray it was still a murky mess. One random sub-plot revolves around a pervy neighbour, who spies on Jill with a telescope whilst he ‘enjoys’ himself. Unfortunately, we never really get to see what he finds so inspiring, thanks to the Anadin-sponsored visuals. If ever there was a bad advert for sun beds, this film is it; there’s more orange about than in an episode of “Bargain Hunt” with David Dickinson. The times I found myself thinking, “Jill, put the bloody light on, for God’s sake”)… For all the time I spent in her apartment, I never managed to gain any sort of understanding as to its layout. How hard can it be to find a large robot in a flat? It’s not all bad by any means and it does have some interesting elements, but overall they just don’t overcome the ‘over-stylish’ look of the film.
One of this movie’s saving graces is its soundtrack. From traditional American folk to Public Image Ltd. we get a range of music that does its best to make up for what we can (or more accurately can’t) see. “This is what you want, this is what you get.” I don’t think so.
Recommend for people who like cult sci-fi. And it is a British, low-budget sci-fi film from 1990; can you even name another?
No cats or decapitations, plus one ‘built-in’ chainsaw. Someone does get sliced in two though, by a front door closing on him. (I don’t think you’d get one that tough from B&Q.)
Top Badass moment? To be honest she had the chance to get away on more than one occasion, but no one likes their place to get trashed by strangers. Reluctant hero maybe, but Jill’s defence of her home is most definitely badass. Not many people manage to really break a baseball bat over anyone’s (or anything’s) head. I hope her insurers will take all this into account when they come around to assess her claim. I wouldn’t want to be a Jehovah Witnesses in her neighbourhood.
“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.
Heck and Rachel are a young London couple about to embark on a new life together when an unexpected meeting turns Rachel’s world upside down. What follows is the romantic, humorous and sometimes poignant journey familiar to anyone who has ever fallen in love at first sight. And what if you discover that the one person you are destined to spend the rest of your life with might not be your boyfriend, but a perfect stranger? “Imagine Me & You” shows that the path to true love isn’t always straight…
2005 – Certificate: 12 – British Film
Rating Details: Moderate sex references and strong language
8.0 out of 10
Yesterday I went to see “Oblivion” at the cinema. Intelligent sci-fi riddled with clichés. Basically it’s Tom Cruise with an attractive woman on the back of his motorbike and flying around beating bad guys. Afterwards I went for a drink in three pubs. I don’t often go for a drink these days. This is partly because I have no friends, partly because the ones I do have generally have the sense to live a long way-away from me, partly because it’s expensive, fattening and not good for you, and partly because I don’t think they ‘make’ pubs for people like me; I’m clearly not a demographic worth targeting. Take yesterday for example. Didcot is a town that’s not known for much, other than a railway museum and a power station; and the power station has now closed. Broadways, a pub in the centre of the town, was almost empty and was the sort of place that if a fight broke out in it, they’d just pick up the broken glass and sweep the bodies to the side so no one tripped over them. The Prince of Wales, opposite the station, was full of late teens and 20-somethings getting tanked up for a night on the town. The Ladygrove, which was also full, is located on a ‘new’ estate and caters for “where did my life go wrong” 20 and 30-somethings with screaming kids in tow, eating anonymous pub-grub under searingly bright lights. None of them had any decent cider. Broadways caters for the working-class and underclass that the rest of us try to pretend don’t exist; the Prince of Wales for those that still think they can get on in life; and the Ladygrove for the same people as the Prince of Wales but ten years later. I think I preferred Broadways, in the same way I’d prefer to break my arm than lose a finger. There’s a scene in a pub in this film; actually there might be a few, but I can’t remember now.
London doesn’t really get well represented in films. It seems the north and west are full of ‘beautiful people’ who behave like Hugh Grant, the east gangsters and immigrants and the south chavs. Nowhere else exists. This movie is set in ‘the north’ of the city. It’s also a rom-com. So you now know most of the plot and what the characters are like. Fortunately, this film has two elements that manage to drag it out of the cesspit of predictable, bland, anonymous, chick-flicks. Firstly, it’s actually very funny. The script works well and all the characters manage to be suitably engaging. Secondly, it provides a bit of a plot-twist that gives it an element of originality, (although it quickly becomes very predictable again, so it’s not going to provide anyone with much of an insight into anything). This is much more of an out-and-out comedy that a romance, which does it no harm at all. It’s very watchable and fun. And let’s not forget it’s got Giles (the man behind Buffy) and Sarah Connor (of Terminator fame) in it. And one more thing, it’s one of those films where the seasons don’t seem to follow the narrative; there’re an awful lot of autumnal leaves on the trees, considering most of the film is set in the winter. Because of my job I notice these things. Our climate isn’t quite that fucked up, yet.
Music; exactly what you’d expect. Exactly.
Recommended for people who like comedy who can manage not to retch at the more corny rom-com elements of it. Not so good for anyone looking for a romantic weepy.
No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.
Top badass moment? Yelling out “You’re a wanker number nine” while standing on the roof of a car, in a traffic jam, outside Bank Station in London, does it for me. It’s interesting to note that if this film was set in New York, there’d be an endless honking of horns and abusive taxi-drivers shouting out things; in London, hardly a sound. Our traffic jams are so much more civilised! I’m not entirely sure how “you’re a wanker number nine” would translate either.
Welcome to the terrifying world of “Little Deaths”, where everyday people are thrust into nightmares that push the limits of sensuality and violence beyond the breaking point. From a young homeless woman sucked into a whirlpool of cruelty by a wealthy couple, to a call girl used as a tool in a diabolical medical scheme and a domineering woman with a very unusual phobia, no one escapes unscathed and most don’t make it out alive. Featuring a mesmerizing soundtrack and unpredictable twists and turns, this stylish, groundbreaking vision of terror has been hailed as “one of the most unique and challenging horror anthologies in quite some time” (FEARnet).
2011 – Certificate: Unrated – British Film
8.5 out of 10
Margaret Thatcher has died. The human personification of Marmite; you either love her or hate her. An old woman of 87, suffering from senile dementia and living in a nursing home, (well okay, in the Ritz Hotel in London), has gone to a better place. Well better that is, until she starts ‘sorting things out’ there. I’ve watched loads of movies where the dead do (or try to) come back to life, with varying results; right about now I expect that a line of refugees from Heaven or Hell (depending on your point of view) to be winding its way back to Earth, resulting in a humanitarian crises that will make Syria look like Platform 5 at Reading Station after a train’s been cancelled. The amount of shit written about her everywhere in the past few days has been quite overpowering; I’d forgotten just what a hated witch she was (and still is). She’s getting a better press in Argentina than here! I guess it’s easier to be rude about someone once they’ve died; it not like she’s going to get up out of her bed and twat anyone with her handbag. You’re all tough guys now, aren’t you? I can’t understand why anyone had a problem with her selling all the stuff we already owned back to us; sounds like a great business model to me. I certainly enjoyed myself as one of the 3,500,000 unemployed in the 1980s, along with my time on that Government training programme that suddenly got cancelled one day; I wasn’t able to afford to buy those lovely oranges from the greengrocers on the hill in Rayners Lane after that. And who can forget her services to vegan-kind, in her earlier guise as The Milk Snatcher? Smashing the Unions, fighting General Galtieri and dealing with a party full of Tories would have been easy after dealing with the UK’s dairy industry. I hate how people always dwell on the negative things she did. She won three general elections for goodness sake; the only other person to do that recently was Tony Blair and everyone loves him. Northerners, they’ve got such a blinked view of life; they can only see as far as the end of the mine shaft they’re working in, never the big picture. Other than in Preston, where I think I still owe about £25 in Poll Tax, I can now freely explore the former council estates of Britain, safe in the knowledge that I’m surrounded by good, lower-middle-class owner-occupiers working in IT, breathing in air that’s free of heavy-industry pollutants or coal smog, knowing that thanks to Right to Buy and the resulting shortage of public housing and the artificially inflated cost of houses, I’ll be stuck in privately rented accommodation forever; until that is, I need to be moved to a nursing home like the Ritz. Thank you Maggie, I’ll miss you. You were great in “The Iron Lady” too; an excellent horror film that you really did look a lot like Meryl Streep in. Anyway, I’m looking forward to playing my “In Memoriam: Margaret Thatcher” CD from Chumbawamba that got delivered yesterday. I ordered it on 3rd March 2009, so it’s about time it arrived. This is a horror film too.
Actually it’s a horror anthology. I don’t normally like these but this one was actually really good. Three stories. The first stars a guy who looks scarily like George Osborne acting like Iain Duncan Smith, demonstrating the Government’s latest policy to deal with ‘welfare scroungers’. The second features a bucket of semen; it’s been a while since I came across one of those. And the final one’s about guy in a dog mask with a dominant girlfriend who’s terrified of dogs. All pretty grim stuff. Maggie was right, there really isn’t any such thing as society. They’re all pretty pervy though.
The music varies between the three films, but is generally fine, if a bit forgettable. However, the final one ends with a section that’s top stuff; brilliant.
No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.
Recommended for Government ministers, vivisectionists, homeless people, Nazis, prostitutes, drug-addicts and animal lovers. You will find yourself in at least one of these films.
Top badass moment? When you’ve just been done over by a George Osborne look-alike and his wife, it’s good to know that you and your mates will still get the last laugh. Another Government policy to deal with spending on welfare goes wrong…
Eight candidates face the interview from hell. Led into a windowless concrete bunker they are given eighty minutes to answer one simple question. A question that will take each candidate to the very edge… and beyond, as they are forced to confront their deepest, darkest, most violent fears. This nerve shredding thrill ride features a cast that includes Colin Salmon (“AvP”, “Die Another Day”), Jimi Mistry (“2012”), and Luke Mably (“28 Days Later”). Do you have what it takes to sit the “Exam”?
2010 – Certificate: 15 – UK
Rating Details: Strong language and one scene of torture
8.5 out of 10
About once a week I travel by train in the evening between Reading and London. I use First Great (delusions of grandeur) Western’s non-stop service to/from London Paddington; takes about half an hour, there’s hardly ever a seat and it’s always cold. When I come back afterwards, if I’m lucky, I get the chance to travel on one of its stopping services, which are much the same except they take nearer an hour, are colder and even more crowded. It’s public transport for cattle, but it’s fast, (well except the stopping service). Yesterday I went to see the awesome Random Hand at the Borderline in central London. (An evening that included the observation by Robin the singer, that one side of the Wall of Death looked ready for action and the other like the end of a stag do; which I have to say was profoundly accurate.) So I got to Reading Station, only to discover that the whole line into Paddington is closed over Easter, while Railtrack plays ‘train sets’ with it. Three rail replacement bus services were being offered instead; noooooooooo! However, Reading isn’t a transport ‘node’ for nothing. Hidden away in the corner on the new platforms is the South West Trains direct service to London Waterloo. I never take it, as it stops 16 times and dumps you in south London 82 minutes later. (In fact under normal circumstances, it would actually be quicker to get the Paddington train and then travel on the Underground across London to Waterloo.) Putting my best Indiana Jones foot forward I decided to chance it and test out this hitherto, unexplored world. I can now confirm that it does officially ‘take forever’ to reach London this way. However, there was hardly anyone on the train (in either direction) and the carriages (which are pretty new) were actually quite warm. It all felt quite civilised, rather like I image the Orient Express to be, minus the “Express” and “Orient” bits; and probably most of the rest too. But all in all, it passed the test. This movie is about a test too.
I hate exams. Other people seem to breeze through them but I hate them. This probably has something to do with my being very stupid and not knowing anything, although I used to blame it on the injustices of a system that rewards people with large, page-filling handwriting. With this in mind it’s hard for me not to consider this film a horror, by it’s really a thriller. There are a few plot holes and other inconsistencies, but it’s otherwise a great study of a group of highly motivated people, who allow themselves to get spooked by stress and the environment they’re in. I remember being on a ‘Training the Trainer’ training course many years ago and for some reason when all the shutters on the windows of the room we were in were closed, it had a similar effect. This is an excellent film, made almost entirely in one room. “Resilience is a key attribute in these dark times and if you can’t survive our selection process you won’t survive in the job.” I must remember that for the next time I interview anyone at work, to put the candidates at their ease.
For a nice change this isn’t a film that’s a marketing exercise for a CD of tunes by loads of boring bands who have 15 second clips of their songs in it, who are also all strangely on a record label owned by the same company as the film. This movie has a soundtrack that you won’t remember, but if it was taken away you’d notice. It’s nicely done, tension-building stuff. The one exception to this ‘invisibility’ is the song that part of sounds exactly like the beginning of “Twilight of the Innocents” by Ash.
Recommended for anyone who‘s involved in setting exams, interviewing or just likes to mess with peoples’ heads.
No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.
Top badass moment? The Invigilator walks into the room, gives out the instructions for the exam to a group of highly qualified people and then leaves. That’s badass. I wish I could be that cool and self-assured. If it was me, I’d have forgotten some of what I was meant to say, made some not funny comments, confused everyone and then left.
Brandon (Michael Fassbender) is a 30-something man living comfortably in New York balancing a busy job and active social life. When the wayward Sissy (Carey Mulligan), turns up at his apartment unannounced, Brandon’s carefully managed lifestyle spirals out of control. From award-winning director Steve McQueen (“Hunger”), “Shame” is a compelling and timely examination of the nature of need, how we live our lives and the experiences that shape us.
2011 – Certificate 18 – USA
Rating Details: Strong sex and sex references
7.5 out of 10
I’m having a water meter fitted at home. No longer will I pay Thames Water £36.60 a month for the few drops of H2O that I use every day. (Apparently it has to dig up half the town to fit it, but who cares?) No longer will I feel guilt if I wash-up, flush the toilet, have a shower or do some washing, as I’ll simply stop doing all of those things. This will save me money and, more importantly, save the planet too. Who would have though becoming a lazy, housework-averse, smelly slob would actually be more community-minded than keeping your whites white and your home clean? The next time I see someone washing his or her car I’m going to go up to the criminal (and let’s face it, you can’t do much worse than destroy the whole planet), and tell them just how selfish they are. They may as well just get a gun and start killing people. Indeed, a clean 4×4 has a lot in common with a minigun. In a mostly unrelated incident, the first thing I did this morning was knock an almost entirely new toilet role into the toilet, while I was using it. I managed to knock it off the holder and in an effort to stop it falling on the floor, only managed to redirect it into the bowl instead. (My hands were pretty full at the time.) For the second time in about a month, I enjoyed the taboo experience of urinating onto something that’s not really meant to be treated in that way; (last time it was my mobile phone). In a not dissimilar way, this is a film about a successful guy with an addiction to sex. We also get to see him using a toilet in a similar fashion to me, although minus the bog role and with a ‘physical presence’ that made me feel somewhat inadequate.
This film has a story and a plot of sorts, but if you’re the sort of person who likes a story that sort of has a purpose, then you may not find it that satisfying. On the other hand, if you like films with a vibe and an atmosphere, then you might quite enjoy it. Depending on your world view, I guess you’ll either consider Brandon is ‘the man’ or a ‘total loser’. (If it helps you, please feel free to insert a pair of diametrically opposed euphemisms of your choice in place of the two I’ve just used, perhaps more suited to your age and social background.) This is actually a very good movie. I didn’t really want to like Brandon, but somehow he manages to come across as a decent guy with two sides to his life; one a success at work and the other an uncontrollable addict that he keeps bottled up by routine and ‘rules’. Then his somewhat messed up sister arrives on the scene. I felt quite sorry for him actually. This probably has a lot to do with how Michael Fassbender portrays the character, which is in a quite understated way. The story does leave a lot of unfinished business and unanswered questions in its wake, but really, it’s the mood of the film that makes it work. Mostly depressing (like most of what I watch), it’s a visually and emotionally entertaining portrayal of a guy with a problem, a guy with a problem that he then tries to do something about.
I really love how the music is used in this film, a mixture of mainly 80s pop, Johann Sebastian Bach and some great incidental stuff by Harry Escott. It also seems to be part of the trigger that makes Brandon try to change his behaviour.
No cats, decapitation or chainsaws.
Recommended for perverts, obviously.
Top badass moment? Twice in under two hours, we see Brandon make ‘meaningful’ eye contact with attractive women on the Subway. I’ve spent hundreds of hours on the Tube and never managed that; in fact I’ve only seen it happen once between anyone. Somehow that’s badass, or jealousy, I’m not sure which.
I’ve won £500 worth of vouchers for Marks & Spencer. I completed some questionnaire about holidays at http://www.tickbox.net and then got randomly picked by a computer as the winner. After getting over my initial excitement and then realising I wasn’t actually going to be able to retire on the proceeds, I got down to the business of deciding exactly how I was going to squander away my newly found fortune. At this point I realised that Marks & Spencer doesn’t actually sell anything I want/need. Whatever it’s demographic is, I’m not in it. There are only so many pairs of sensible underpants and socks you can wear. I guess it’s just a bit too upmarket for me. I could buy about 220 bottles of Lancashire Dark Mild I suppose; I’ve no idea what it tastes like but the M&S website says its vegan. And I ought to get a new bag for work; anyone who’s seen the torn and battered one I use at the moment would probably agree with that idea. I need a new potato peeler too, as I accidentally threw my beloved ‘high performance’ one away a couple of months ago, by leaving it in the bag with the peelings. A decent toaster would be good as well; the handle you push down has fallen off mine and some of the plastic at the top has melted. And some new drinking glasses, as I seem to have broken all but one of my nice ones; and a new duvet and pillows for the winter; and a couple of decent kitchen knives and some new pans. Humm, maybe I can spend them after all. Oh, and if anyone is interested, I’ve completed 895 questionnaires on this web site and this is the first time I’ve ever won anything. I reckon that’s works out at about £8.50/hour. Anyway, now I’m so filthy rich, this film should scare me….
1987 – Certificate: FSK-16 – United Kingdom
I love this film. It’s the sort of film that was only made in the 80s, at a time when Britain was producing lots of new, alternative comedy; okay some of it was rubbish but at least it was happening. Nowadays most comedy, at least what you get to see on TV, is pretty bland. This movie is a mess of politics, civil unrest, greed and generally awesome nonsense. And I have to ‘fess up that it’s one of those films that I quote lines from in general conversation, from time to time. It also has loads of cameos from properly famous and well-known people. Other reasons to like this film? I love the scene in the dole office; I don’t believe there’s a person alive who hasn’t wanted to do something like that, at least once in their life, when faced with annoying, inefficient and unfair, petty bureaucracy. As Alex says in the film, “You’d do the same if you had the guts!” I also love the basic premise of the story that demonstrates that vegans (as usual) would be able to take the moral high ground. It has a Triumph Herald in it (a V6 of course), which was my second favourite car when I was in my teens. Most of the outdoor scenes were filmed in Oxfordshire too; I’ve tried to work out the exact location but I’m not sure, but I think it’s probably south Oxfordshire somewhere.
Recommended for people who remember the 80s and how crappy they were a lot of the time. 25 years on and not a lot has changed, with many of this film’s themes in the news as much today as they were then. Depressingly so in fact.
No cats, decapitations or chainsaws. A lot of people do get turned into mincemeat though.
Top badass moment? Alex in the dole office; one of my favourite all-time movie scenes. I’m fortunate that I’ve not had to make a claim for any benefits for quite a while, but in the 80s/90s I had to deal with many less than competent jobsworths, idiots and assholes at the DHSS; (no wonder it ended up getting rebranded as Jobcentre Plus). Alex is a true hero for the downtrodden masses and taking on the establishment is 100% pure badass.
Eat The Rich at IMDB (5.7/10)
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.
Yesterday I drove for two and a half hours, then spent three hours teaching three people how to drive a minibus, then spent another two and a half hours sitting in a minibus watching them drive it, then drove for another two and a half hours home. Yesterday the world seemed to be full of idiots driving cars, and I’m not referring to the learners who I was with either. At one point on the way home I was driving along a bit of dual carriageway and slowly catching a yellow car up. I don’t generally drive that fast, rarely more than 60 m.p.h., as I want to give myself the illusion that somehow I’m doing my bit to save the planet whilst simultaneously driving nearly 1,000 miles a month. Anyway, I pulled out to overtake the yellow car. As I passed it and looked in my mirror to see if I could go back into the inside lane, I noticed it had speeded up. I ended up doing over 80 with this fucking asshole still playing stupid buggers next to me. After having had to put up with so many other cretins on the roads yesterday, something snapped inside. I jerked the steering wheel to the left and hit the yellow car, forcing it off the road and down an embankment into a field, where I think it hit a tree or something and burst into flames. I’m not sure what happened to the driver and I don’t care as long as it hurt; I didn’t bother to stop and check what had happened to him. What a selfish bastard he was too, as I’ve now I’ve got a dent in my car to explain away and get fixed. It’s a jungle out there on the roads. (Just like Dennis Weaver in Steven Spielberg’s classic “Dual”, I never really got a good look at my protagonist.) Well, okay that only happened in my mind, but the intent (if not the guts) was there. In fact what did happen is that I gave up trying to overtake the yellow car and humiliatingly went back to 60 m.p.h. behind it. However, as cars, driving and men are inextricably linked to the latter’s sexual prowess and I failed to overtake the yellow car, I think I’m probably impotent now. He, on the other hand, is probably making his first porn movie even as I type this. Great! In a similar way, this film is about a young woman with intimacy issues.
2003 – Certificate: 18 – United Kingdom
I think the makers of this film started off wanting to make a serious torture porn movie but then got fed up with the idea and decided a comedy slasher/thriller would be a much better idea. Otherwise why suddenly introduce a bizarre sub-plot involving Siamese twins and then another one about a bank robbing stripper? It’s original, I’ll give it that. It suffers from some of the worst acting I’ve ever seen, yet at other times it’s really okay. Fiona Horsey (the lead character) is a bit of a babe; (am I still allowed to say stuff like that)? All the men in the film are portrayed as perverts, deviants, weirdos, rapists, sociopaths and murderers; the woman don’t do a lot better either, but the guys really do get a bit of a hammering. Ultimately it’s an entertaining movie, simply because it’s so ridiculous. I did feel a bit sorry for Helen, no one is that unlucky with men. Most of it was filmed on the Isle of Wight too.
Recommended for someone; not sure who, but someone.
No cats, chainsaws or decapitations. However, plenty of men do, em, ‘disappear’ inside Helen, totally.
Top badass moment? In a film filled with characters that are simultaneously both pathetic and horrible, there’s not a terribly large choice. So I guess it has to be Helen, for simply putting up with so much shit. They say dealing with it well makes you a stronger person.
Altogether then, to the tune of “Celebration”, that horrible, horrible Kool & the Gang hit from 1980. Ulster Bank has finally managed to get my account details up to date; it’s only been 21 days since it broke its computer and my account stopped working. I wonder how many of the four credit card companies that haven’t been paid on time as a result of this, (“I’m afraid you won’t be able to make any manual payments from your account until it’s fixed”, said the nice man from Ulster Bank on the phone last week), will be looking to put a ‘hit’ out on me in retaliation? (Look, since the ‘Banking Crisis’ they’re pretty hot on this stuff; killing off a few, stupid late-payers will probably help the global economy no end. Yes technically it’s illegal, but since when has that been an issue for a bank?) On a more serious note, I can’t wait to see all the different bailiffs turn up on the doorstep and start fighting amongst themselves as to who gets my TV and lava lamp. So now let’s go from the Ulster Bank to a film about Ulster (sort of).
2009 – Certificate: 15 – United Kingdom
America has spent the last 37 years churning out films about Vietnam, in an attempt to rewrite history or justify it, (depending on your viewpoint). Northern Ireland is becoming the UK’s own personal Vietnam, as more and more films about The Troubles get released, to, em, ‘review’ what went on. This one does have the added authenticity that it’s based on real interviews with two men who were involved as victim and perpetrator. Liam Neeson is great as the downbeat killer, whilst James Nesbitt (who’s an Undertones fan and therefore ‘the business’ as far as I’m concerned) does a great job as the increasingly unhinged victim’s brother. It does lurch from genuinely menacing to somewhat comedic from time to time in a rather haphazard way, but what’s going to happen in the end is pretty well hidden and although it feels a bit slow at times it does keep the attention; (well it kept mine anyway). I always feel a bit crap about being entertained by films based on real life tragedies, especially ones that identify the individuals concerned; kind of like laughing at a funeral, or looking for the bodies at the scene or a car crash. I’m glad most of this stuff has now stopped in Northern Ireland. I lived there for years and I really liked it, well except the crappy weather and that fact that hardly any non-local bands played gigs there; I’m convinced I was exposed to too much country music when I was there and this has had a negative and long-lasting effect on my mind…
Recommended for people who like decent drama with a bit of an edge. (This a weak statement I know; I just can’t think of anything else to say right now.)
No cats and no decapitations.
Top badass moment? I can’t say, because it would spoil the ending if you haven’t seen it. If you have seen it then you’ll know what I mean.