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!
Six strangers awaken from their daily lives to find themselves trapped in a surreal prison – a seemingly endless maze of interlocking cubical chambers armed with lethal booby traps. None of these people knows why or how they were imprisoned… But it soon emerges that each of them has a skill that could contribute to their escape. Who created this diabolical maze, and why? There are unanswered questions on every side, whilst personality conflicts and struggles for power emerge as the tension rises. But one thing is crystal clear; unless they can learn to co-operate to work out the secrets of this deadly trap, none of them has very long to live…
1997 – Certificate: 15 – Canada
Rating Details: Language, occasional, strong; violence, infrequent, strong, horror; other, horror, science fiction.
I tend to buy a few books for myself around Christmas. I think I do this because I have a bit more time then and when I’ve got time I start to think how nice it would be to read a book. So off I trotted (electronically) to Amazon. I decided to buy a couple of Star Trek novels. For various dull reasons, the first one I selected was called “Homecoming”. £200.68 new! £200.68!! For that price I’d expect it to come with a full-sized, fully operational Star Trek spaceship, including crew. Is there suddenly a world shortage of letters? Are the Chinese restricting exports of full stops, thus leading to frantic trading in alternative punctuation marks on global stock markets? Have the Americans finally realised that they can’t spell and bought up the entire world output of letter Us for the next five years, in an effort to correct all those misspelt references to colour? So anyway, I’ve ended up buying myself a Kindle, the cheapest one, which costs £69. I can now buy the book for £4.99. I am suffering a bit of a guilt trip though. I feel like I should be castigating Amazon for its over-effective use of British tax laws and in fact be refusing to buy anything from it in line with the recently announced boycott. Then there’s also the fact that I’ve effectively allowed myself to be locked into its proprietary file format and e-book system for the rest of my life. However, there’s a certain thrill in the idea that the first book I read on it will be a Star Trek one, a franchise that frequently depicts characters reading from a small pad that with hindsight looks suspiciously like a Kindle. As for the other issue, if you’re going to lock yourself into a sweet factory, it may as well be in Willy Wonka’s. This film also features people who’re locked in somewhere, but there’s not a lot of chocolate around, or books, e or otherwise.
I simultaneously love and hate this film. It’s a great and stylish horror/sci-fi thriller, with an unusual and suitably disturbing and clever storyline. I also like how by using only seven people and virtually just a single, small set, it manages to be such a good movie. It creates a tense atmosphere by making great use of sound and the claustrophobic set-up; the traps are ‘nicely’ presented too. Sadly, the characters in it lack any semblance of common sense, so they seem unbelievably stupid, despite their unique talents. There’s not a great deal of emotional intelligence on show, or indeed any sort of togetherness. I’ve seen more communication between passengers on the London Underground in the rush hour than this lot managed, such was their inability to interact meaningfully in a ‘mission-critical’ way. The way they develop and change during the film also stretches their credibility to pretty ridiculous levels. At first, they seemed like a group of people under a lot of pressure, which does tend to make individuals do some strange things, but then I found myself thinking, “what the fuck”? What sort of morons are these people? Why don’t they just work things out together like everyone else would? Haven’t any of them watched “The Poseidon Adventure”? The cliché of groups of people in films who’re trapped together and then not getting on, is getting to be as bad as the one involving groups’ of young people going to remote places for a ‘good time’ and then meeting a grizzly end. Their over or under reaction to different situations just seemed to have been determined by the writers throwing a dice. 6? Oh dear, you’re going to freak out. 1? That’s cool, you’ll barely notice what’s going on, you’re so laid back about it. It’s not that the acting is especially poor, it’s more the script that’s at fault. One plus point is that it’s got Nicole De Boer in it, the world’s third most beautiful woman, although she’s not looking her best, but I can forgive her for that given the circumstances. Nicole De Boer is of course, Lieutenant Ezri Dax from Star Trek Deep Space Nine. However, despite its shortcomings, Cube still manages to be a really good film. Weird eh?
Recommended for fans of clever sci-fi, who won’t let a few hot-headed characters spoil their geeky fun.
No cats, chainsaws or decapitations. However, two heads do get well and truly mangled.
Top badass moment? Given the uniformly un-cooperative, combative and plainly stupid behaviour of most of the characters most of the time, the top badass moments have to be whenever the Cube does something that pisses one of them off, or worse. It’s a sad day when you end up having to cheer for the mechanical baddie. If our ancestors conducted themselves in the same way, we’d still all be living in caves and bashing one another over the head with clubs. Get some anger management people, for goodness sake.
I watch a lot of horror films. So you’d think by now that I’d be used to people being killed, mutilated, raped, dismembered, or otherwise psychologically damaged. But this week I’ve come face to face with real horror. My Cyclamen has been infected with Mealy Bugs! Like a crappy, straight-to-video horror, these little bastards just appeared, with little or no back-story and just got down to the business of terrorising my pot plant and by association, me. It’s a home invasion experience of the worst kind. All the leaves and even the pot are covered in some sort of evil, disgusting, Mealy Bug pus, whilst the sniveling little cowards hide beneath the leaves, plotting their next nefarious move. Like a good slasher movie icon, they pouch on the innocents, newly emerging leaves, infecting them with an unearthly virus (or whatever it is that Mealy Bugs do). It’s like watching a house plant version of “28 Days Later” or “Doomsday”. They’re hideously ugly and have an aura I can only describe as feeling like undiluted, pure hate. In a similar was to the Borg, they are seemingly linked to a single hive mind, intent on destroying all houseplant life on my bedroom window sill. I’m half expecting the US to target my flat with a Cruise Missile, in an effort to destroy them before they take over the world. I’ve not quite worked out how to get rid of them yet. Negotiation has so far proved futile. Strangely, my Cyclamen seems little effected by their malevolent presence thus far and is currently presenting me with 15 beautiful, pink flowers, although its leaves drip with a rancid, putrid slime that could have come from Hell itself. I’ve got to rid my plant of them, and in a way that doesn’t leave any opportunity for a sequel! After facing this crisis, this movie seems a bit tame.
2004 – Certificate: 18 – USA
Rating Details: Strong bloody violence
I’d forgotten just how good a thriller this film is. So, it also gets credited for popularising torture porn, which later movies in the series do feature more heavily, but this one isn’t that explicitly gory. It is however, clever, interesting and challenging. Although I didn’t really care for the two main characters, I still worried about what was going to happen to them. Sure they were flawed, annoying and a bit pathetic, but I was concerned enough about them that part of me wanted them to escape; no one deserves that much shit. The film also does a good job of making the viewer feel a bit sorry for the perpetrator, too, which makes for a great set-up if you want to experience a range of feelings as things progress. A great modern horror classic.
Recommended for fans of genuinely great thrillers and horrors.
No cats, decapitations or chainsaws. There are a couple of hacksaws though.
Top badass moment? It’s got to be Alison Gordon, fighting back against Zep and doing so pretty successfully. With only the advantage of surprise, she manages to defend herself and her young daughter against a younger guy armed with a gun. That’s got to be badass. She’s had more balls that her pathetic husband, whose mindset was, “oh, my child and wife (whose back behind I’m having an affair) are in trouble; I know, I’ll cut my foot off.” Yeh, good thinking Batman, give that man a cigar.