Posts tagged “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)


The Mouse on the Moon / Computer Games


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recommend for politicians, astronauts and twitchers.

No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 cat (obviously), no chainsaws or decapitations.

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

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


Good Vibrations / My Life Story


Good Vibrations  -  Front Blu-ray Cover  -  UK Release

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No cats, chainsaws or decapitation.

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

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


Some Guy Who Kills People / Cooking ‘Chilli’


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Go / Boomtown Fair 2014


Go  -  Front DVD Cover  -  UK Release

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Lars and the Real Girl / Doing Less Than Nothing


Lars and the Real Girl  -  Front DVD cover  -  US Release

Sometimes you find love where you’d least expect it.  Just ask Lars (Academy Award Nominee Ryan Gosling), a sweet but quirky guy who thinks he’s found the girl of his dreams in a life-sized doll named Bianca.  Lars is completely content with his artificial girlfriend, but when he develops feelings for Margo, an attractive co-worker, Lars finds himself lost in a hilariously unique love triangle, hoping to somehow discover the real meaning of true love.  You’ll be swept off your feet by “Lars and the Real Girl”, hailed as “One of the Year’s 10 Best” by The Associated Press.

2007  –  Certificate: PG-13  –  American Film
Rating Details:  Some Sex-Related Content
8.0 out of 10

I’m on something called Annual Leave at the moment.  This is a strange, but rather welcome concept through which I get paid my salary to do sod all.  In fact for the last two days I’ve done even less than that and in doing so have actually discovered a new physics, which I’ve decided to call “Anti-nothing”.  This is a weird, quantum effect wherein you can actually do less than nothing at all.  It’s pretty scary stuff too.  It’s only through washing my sleeping bag at one point that I avoided crossing over the non-event horizon and falling into some sort of parallel dimension where no one does anything ever.  I’ve never been there myself, although I think I’ve met a few people who have.  Doing nothing has given me the time to enjoy the view out of my window a little more than usual.  I’ve notice a huge, bright orange building that has suddenly spring up amongst the trees that I’ve never seen before.  There’re also a couple of cars in the car park that have had most of their windows smashed in, which are accompanied by a number of dented panels.  I’ve no idea what the story is behind them, but they’ve been sitting there, neatly parked, side by side for several days now, and resemble a couple that have had a row and now aren’t speaking to one another.  Whoever owns then hasn’t even bothered to sweep up the glass or block up the holes.  Weird.  I’ve also observed the police dealing with who I imagine is my local drug dealer.  They spent ages searching him and his car yesterday morning; I watched all the action through my binoculars.  The good thing is that the car has gone now, because it’s been frequently and annoying parked just where I turn in.  There’s never a dull moment around here!  This movie has none of these exciting things in it, yet it’s still very entertaining.

This is basically a comedy-drama about a guy who buys a blow-up sex doll to have as his girlfriend.  Now I’ll readily admit that I’m not an expert in such ‘things’, but I’m willing to bet that most who are don’t take them outside to meet other people very often.  Although we live in relatively enlightened times, I’m not sure the world is quite ready for ‘significant others’ down the pub, at the shops or in the cinema, who are made of silicon and rubber and have lifelike ‘bits’ under their clothes.   It’s probably acceptable in the Star Trek version of the far future and in Japan right now, but for the rest of us it’s a bit of a social faux pas.  But this film sees Ryan Gosling doing exactly that.  This would all seem to suggest that this movie’s going to be full of smutty innuendo and body-function-based humour.  Actually it’s nothing like that at all.  It’s much more of a study of how one individual starts to recover from a life-long difficulty in relating to people.  Yes it is very funny at times, but it’s also quite moving too.  I really like Ryan Gosling and he seems to totally nail the part in this film.  The plot does start to stretch the boundaries of realism, especially towards the end, but it’s well written, acted and made.  Kelli Garner is very cute too.  An original, well-observed and great film.  It’s got one of the worst titles ever though.

The soundtrack is fine for what it is, but isn’t very memorable.

The trailer makes this movie seem more of a comedy than it really is.  It probably has most of the best jokes in it.

Recommended for people who work in builders’ merchants, mums-to-be, parents that want to have to explain what a “Living Doll” is to their offspring whilst watching the movie, and anyone who works in an office with people who clutter their desks with toys.  (I despair at some of my own colleagues, who stick lumps of brightly coloured fur-with-eyes to their monitors and clutter their work spaces with animal-based, plastic fripperies and desk tidies full of virtually unusable and hideously ugly pens.)

No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.

Top badass moment?  In the same way as I’ve never met anyone who’s admitted to voting for UKIP, I’ve never met anyone who’s admitted to using a blow-up sex doll. However, given the number of votes and sales associated with both, I probably have unknowingly met quite a few.  So it’s a pretty badass thing to take your blow-up girlfriend out and about with you, especially if you start to have conversations with her in public too.  (I’m not so sure voting for UKIP is though.)

Lars and the Real Girl at IMDB (7.4/10)
Lars and the Real Girl at Wikipedia
Lars and the Real Girl at Roger Ebert (3.5/4)
Lars and the Real Girl trailer at YouTube


Cutie Honey / Even More Root Canal Treatment…


Cutie Honey  -  Front DVD Cover  -  UK Release

Popular manga comic “Cutie Honey” is brought to life. Honey is an office worker who hides a secret.  Developed by her father, Honey has the ‘I System’ a necklace that allows her to transform into the super hero “Cutie Honey”.  The evil Claw Gang attempt to steal the necklace and “Cutie Honey” must use all of her superpowers to save the world from hate.  With plenty of eye candy and madcap villains, “Cutie Honey” is pure fun and truly wacky entertainment.

2004  –  Certificate: 12  –  Japan
Rating Details: Mildly sexualised posing
9.0 out of 10

It was back to the dentist for me again yesterday, to finish the root canal treatment on a tooth that was started in January.  For over 90 minutes my dentist drilled (as in I could see and smell clouds of smoke rising), filled and generally hacked about inside my tooth.  It’s actually really hard to lie still for that long on your back; (which is something that my many, many lovers could confirm).  Dentists’ chairs aren’t the most comfortable bits of furniture in the world and I was started to get a bit bored too.  There’s only so many times you can count the screws in a light-fitting before you realise that attempting yet another recount is probably not going to yield a more accurate total.  The ‘calming’ classical music playing on the CD kept skipping as well, which really started to bug me after a while.  The injection at the start was really weird.  I felt like it hadn’t really worked, as nothing seemed to go numb.  Normally you lose some of the sensation in the side of your face or lips, but this time I had none of that.  I was expecting the first touch of the drill to feel like it was boring into the centre of my brain or something, but actually it was fine.  Afterwards I had no sensation of the anaesthetic wearing off either. It was like I was just immune to the pain.  Maybe I’m a superhero, with the mental and physical power to control my body’s own pain reflexes?  (Nope, I don’t really believe that either.)  I was starting to think there must be more miles of canals in my tooth than in the whole of Birmingham, when the dentist finally declared she couldn’t do it.  Whatever’s blocking my root canal, it’s defeated the best that modern dentistry can provide.  (Perhaps I should give the Canal & River Trust or Inland Waterways Association a call?)  This was followed by a discussion about what I wanted to do about it.  I say ‘discussion’, but as I still had a mouth full of rubber dams and other weird stuff, I was limited to saying ur urggurggh, guhhh urgghhher; so it was a bit one-sided.  So now I’m the proud owner of a temporary filling, whilst we see how it settles down.  So it looks like there might be a sequel to this horror sometime.  Can’t wait…  This film is about a superhero who has perfect teeth.

I loved this film.  I’ve no idea what demographic the makers were aiming it at, but it was great.  Like a Power Ranger on acid, Cutie Honey (and that must be the worst superhero name ever) deals with the Panther Claw Gang, one by one.  Based on a manga/anime character, the story is some nonsense about saving the world from hate.  As a movie it has many highlights.  The opening 15 minutes are as fun as any opening to any film ever.  It does calm down in the middle a little and the ending is a bit wimpy, but overall it’s an over-the-top mess of action and fun.  I was especially impressed with the Black Claw’s song and dance routine.  When I’m involved in a fight to the death, I always like to start with one of those too.   My copy came in a vivid pink, DVD case.  Don’t think I’ve got many of those.

We see Honey change into her superhero alter-ego a number of times, which comes with a bit of music that wouldn’t be out-of-place in the world’s worst game show.

The trailer is a shambles of colour, noise and imagery.  It’s great.

One cat, no chainsaws or decapitations.  A beautiful, ginger cat (with a brief speaking part), steals the whole first scene from an otherwise naked (except for bath bubbles) Eriko Sato.

Recommended for police officers, journalists and anyone with an uncle who can invent cool stuff.  Also recommended for criminal gangs that want to fill the world with hate, (you know who you are).  Good for fans of 60’s Batman; not good for fans of Nolan’s Batman.

Top badass moment?  Starring Eriko Sato (Japan’s top swimsuit model).  That’s badass.  Well that bad just about everywhere really.  (Note for ‘old people’: that’s “bad” as in good, not “bad” as in bad).  In any case, any film that carries the BBFC Insight “Mildly Sexualised Posing” has got to be worth watching.

Cutie Honey at IMDB (6.5 / 10)
Cutie Honey at Wikipedia
Cutie Honey trailer at YouTube


Slaughter High / When Words Resemble Monkey Sick


Slaughter High  -  Front DVD Cover  -  US Release

There’s horror in the halls… lynching in the lunchroom…  murder in the metal shop.  Welcome to “Slaughter High”, where the students are dying to get out!  In high school, Marty was the kid all the students teased, taunted and tortured mercilessly.  One day, things went too far; one of their jokes backfired, disfiguring Marty for life.  Now, five years later, Marty has arranged a special reunion for all his high school “friends.”  The prom queen, the jock, the class clown, the rebel and a few select others have been invited… and it’s going to be a gala of gore!

1986  –  Certificate: Unrated  –  American Film
7.0 out of 10

I’m crap at everything.  However, I try very hard and surround myself with more able and talented people, which in some limited cases enables me to function in society without everyone pointing in my direction, or crossing the road when they see me coming.  Yesterday was a good case in point.  I spent all of it trying to complete a quotation (that a colleague had already done most of the work for), in response to a competitive tender document for a project to help set up a new community group, to care for the areas along the line of an old railway.   It didn’t really come with any sort of structure for what it was asking for, which means trying to do it was like trying to play a game that no one’s explained the rules to me about.  All that choice!  Vegans don’t deal with choice well; it’s typically the green salad, or chips, or nothing for us.  At about half past four I found myself staring at the words on the screen, able to read and understand them, but totally unable to work out what they meant, or how one string of them (a thing we call a sentence) related to any other.  Talk about not being able to see the wood for the trees.  Somehow I managed to complete about 98% of it, although when I proof-read it this morning most made less sense than a wall covered in a bucket full of scrabble letters and monkey sick.  There was one little bit that I had to complete by hand and I swear it looks like a six-year-old did it.  I don’t think I can write anymore; I used to have lovely handwriting too.  Sometimes I feel like life is teasing me for a laugh.  One day I’ll react like Marty in this film….

Oh dear, it’s the uncut version of a ‘forgotten classic’.  To be fair it’s probably not that obscure and it’s probably not that bad either.  It’s not boring anyway.  Here we have a group of young adults who behave in an almost entirely irrational way, an isolated location, a seriously pissed off guy harbouring a grudge… and you know the rest.  The murders are a mixed bag; I guess my favourite was the electric shock during sex, although the lawnmower one isn’t too bad either.  Did I like Marty the vengeful killer?  Well he was/is a dork, but clearly after his injury the law failed to provide him with the justice he genuinely did deserve, so in a way I can’t blame him for taking things into his own hands.  The guy had probably had a very successful and exciting career ahead of him too.  Actually, the more I think about it the more I realise that he really is the victim here.  The fact that the group that bullied him didn’t even seem to have any remorse for what they did, even though the outcome probably was an accident and unintended, just makes things worse.  What a nasty set of individuals.  Awful.  I’m glad they’re all dead now.  And another thing, the level of health & safety in the school’s science lab was woeful.  Seriously, no one would store a really large, glass bottle of nitric acid on top of a narrow, wobbly, free-standing shelf unit that itself is sitting on top of a table in the middle of a room, not even in the 80s.  And the bottle wasn’t labelled properly either.  And where were Marty’s gloves and protective goggles?  He didn’t strike me as the sort of guy who wouldn’t wear them because he didn’t look cool.  Then again, he does appear to take the time to take his Doddsville County High School jacket off in the middle of his science experiment starting to blow up all around him, so I guess his appearance did matter a lot to him, which probably explains why he got so worked up about being hideously burnt.  For that matter, why wasn’t he being supervised?  I know the school only appeared to have one teacher, who worked in the gym, but even so.  I know, I’m probably over analysing things.  Despite its intentions, the most offensive thing in the whole movie was the dreadfully racist scene involving the Black caretaker.  I image this is one of Jeremy Clarkson’s favourite movies.

Musically we’re deep into 80s low-budget territory.  Yes, very deep.

The trailer isn’t so bad, although it does manage to give away the entire plot and partly show a number of the murders too.  Then again, the plot isn’t exactly an original and you don’t get to see all of the murders.

No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.  Surprisingly.

Top badass moment?  No one likes a bully.  And we like groups of bullies even less.  So it’s high-fives all round for Marty, as he slowly dispatches them all one by one.  Also, given the speed at which he appears to be able to get from place to place at around the school, he’s apparently invented some sort of personal teleportation device too.  That’s seriously badass; or just dreadful editing.

Slaughter High at IMDB (5.0 / 10)
Slaughter High at Wikipedia
Slaughter High trailer at YouTube