“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.
Paul Kersey has been retired from vigilantism for several years. Under an assumed identity, he’s adopted a new life as a teacher in a small town college outside New York. Paul is a changed man. He’s even fallen in love and become engaged to Olivia, a former fashion model turned industrial entrepreneur. But fate won’t leave Kersey alone. On a visit to Manhattan he finds himself caught in the middle of a street shootout. Then he learns that his fiancé is a victim of a protection racket run by her ex-husband mobster Tommy O’Shea. When Olivia goes to the district attorney for help, Tommy has her disfigured, then brutally killed. Once again, Kersey becomes the relentless vigilante. Only this time, instead of relying only on his .357, Kersey uses some creative technology to avenge his lover’s murder!
1994 – Certificate: 18A – American Film
7.0 out of 10
Went to see MxPx at the Camden Underworld last night. That’s the fourth time I’ve seen MxPx since 2005, although the last time was in 2008. It only has one of the original members left these days, at least as a touring band. I like the Underworld. It has a capacity of 500, the sound’s decent, the vibe’s good, there’s no crash barrier in front of the stage and the beer isn’t too extremely priced for a London venue; (it was £4.20 for a pint of cider yesterday, even though I do have the distinct feeling that the price varies from gig to gig). It’s the gig venue I go to most often. Unlike the 100 Club, the concrete pillars that’re in front of the stage (they hold the building above up) don’t seem to get in the way too much. It has a decent raised area around the dance floor too, with a railing that’s good for leaning on when you want to watch a band and don’t want to get your drink spilt. It even seems to have got some new signs outside recently, so you can actually tell it’s there! It was a lot of fun, even though I felt a bit ‘slow’. I think I’ve been to see too many old bands and reggae groups recently; I’ve forgotten how fast punk rock can be live. There were a lot of young women crowd surfing last night; clearly the new ‘no stage diving / crowd surfing’ poster stuck on one of the concrete pillars wasn’t having much effect. There was also a young chap with his mum there too, right at the front; it’s a 14+ venue but he didn’t look any older than 12 to me. He went for a surf too at one point. That’s one cool mum. It’s also been quite a while since I’ve seen so many happy people at a gig. Nearly everyone seem to be so pleased just to be there, which was rather nice. I can’t be bothered with miserable sods at gigs these days. Got wacked the mouth at one point in the most pit so have a bit of a fat lip today, but that’s okay. Charles Bronson does more than that to people in this movie. (This is probably just as well, as otherwise it would have been a very boring vigilante film.)
Another year and another of Paul Kersey’s relationships ends with a rape and/or murder. Some people seem to be born unlucky. This, the last Death Wish film, doesn’t break the cycle. Released in 1994, it’s a film that now looks and feels its age, in fact older; some of the story is a bit silly too. However, Tommy O’Shea is one of the ‘forgotten’ badass movie baddies. It’s worth watching for him alone. In fact it has quite a few good characters in it. Paul Kersey is a strange guy, even ignoring his habit of blowing away underworld scum. Here he is, engaged to Olivia Regent, who has a young daughter. Olivia is a ‘big deal’ in the New York fashion industry, (and about 30 years younger than him). Yet he doesn’t seem to know very much about her ex-husband or even to have met him before, yet he turns out to be ‘Mr. Big’ when it comes to extorting money through controlling the local fashion industry and Olivia’s company in particular; as well as being her daughter’s father. You would have thought they might have talked about him just a bit at some point; it hardly struck me as a whirlwind romance.
I didn’t much care for the soundtrack, but for the film itself it’s a great fit and helps to set the mood well. In that sense it’s a bit like rain; it’s a pain in the arse when I want to do something outside, but it helps make things grow.
This film has a great trailer. In fact, if someone ever makes a trailer about me, I want the guy who does the voiceover on this one to do mine.
Recommended for fashion designers and entrepreneurs, vigilantes, ineffective police officers and gangsters.
No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.
Top badass moment? Charles Bronson and one of the best ‘forgotten’ movies baddies ever, Tommy O’Shea, face off in the last Death Wish film. There’s enough badass action in this movie for you to need a rectal examination after watching it. Charles Bronson was 74 (I think) when he made this film. If he got involved in setting governmental pension policies, I doubt any old grannies would be dying from hyperthermia in winter because they couldn’t afford to put their heating on. That would be badass too.
North Sea Texas is the feature film debut from cult director Bavo Defurne. His short films are love letters to the male form and soaked with lush visuals, garnering fans from across the globe and drawing comparisons to Pierre et Gilles, Herbert List, Dreyer and Eisenstein. Pim lives in a small town on the Belgian coat, together with his single mother Yvette, a local accordion starlet. It’s an ordinary existence which Pim brightens up by dreaming of princesses, beauty queens and handsome Gino, the boy next door. But when hunky traveller Zoltan blows through town, Pim’s life takes an exciting and unexpected turn.
2011 – Certificate: 15 – Belgium
Rating Details: Infrequent strong sex
7 out of 10
On Thursday I went to see China Drum play at the Garage in Islington, London; its first gig for 13 years. Since The Undertones reformed in 1999, it’s been the band I’ve wanted to see get back together more than any other. Playing as a 5-piece, I can’t even begin to express the kick-ass awesomeness of this gig. The place looked packed out and despite a somewhat alarming number of 30-something couples, the mosh-pit was great. The band played most of “Goosefair”, plus a few other tracks. I was really glad they played “60 Seconds” from the second album. China Drum is the band that singlehandedly got me back into going to gigs after about ten years of not really having been to any. Without China Drum, my life would be an empty void, without meaning, without value, without soul. (Well maybe not totally, but I’m sure you can see what I’m getting at here.) It’s also a band that means a lot to me on a personal level and reminds me very specifically of a certain time in my life. When the guitar chimed at the start of “Simple” (possibly the best revenge song ever written), 13 years of crappyness in my life was distilled into two and a half minutes of pure, sonic anger. “And if you ever get a life, I hope that it’s in hell, I wish that I could kill you, I’d slit your ugly throat, I’d wrap you up in concrete and throw you from a boat.” Well… sometimes you need to offload a bit of life’s baggage. They ended the set with the best cover version by any band ever, Kate Bush’s “Wuthering Heights”. I hope they don’t make this a one-off.
This film is about a right miserable little so and so. Then again, I suppose having a less than attentive (accordion playing) mother and living in a boring little town on the coast of Belgium, (which as everyone knows is boring at the best of times anyway) and being called Pim, is probably enough to make any young teenager miserable. This film follows Pim’s life for about seven years, as he falls for the handsome, older boy next door, Gino, who then basically dumps him for a girlfriend. He also gets nowhere with the hunky border Zoltan, who then proceeds to run off with his mother, leaving Pim on his own. Moving in with Gino’s family, the latter’s mother then dies. Rarely smiling, seemingly having no job, no friends and no prospects, Pim spends his time moping about doing nothing much at all, spreading an air of negative vibes wherever he goes; what Gino’s sister saw in him I’ll never know, but it was clearly more than he saw in her. There’s being “sensitive” and then there’s being “sullen”. Then there’s the whole, are they or are they not half-brothers, bit going on too. This film does its best to drag the viewer down to Pim’s level, with its unending vistas of meaningless days and general hopelessness. (It’s a shame Pim didn’t get to hear China Drum.) Despite its gay theme, this is more accurately a film about loneliness and rejection. It’s a metaphor for life, a few good parts adrift in a sea of disappointment. I guess that’s why I bought it. It’s the sort of thing Thomas Hardy would have written, if he’d penned gay-themed screenplays, set in the latter half of the 20th Century in Belgium. This is a movie which does an excellent job of capturing the futility of life; it’s well acted, the characters nicely rendered, it looks the part and it’s eminently watchable.
The music used in the film is mostly heard in the background, in pubs and on the radio, that sort of thing. The theme song, “Wooly Clouds”, works well as a quirky little song that fits the overall feel of the film. I really rather liked it actually. (And it really is spelt “Wooly”; it must be a Flemish thing.)
No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.
Recommended for The Borg; in this case, resistance really is futile.
Top badass moment? Pim burning his shoe-box of ‘mementoes’ on the beach, before running off into the sea naked. I prefer to work out my frustrations with life in the mosh-pit, but hey, each to their own. Burning things is a classic way to make a break with the past; irreversible, final and violent. It’s always good to make a fresh start, just so you can bugger things up again from scratch.
My legs ache. When I say this I really mean the muscles in my calves and the front of my knees are all totally wasted. Last night I went to see Sum 41 and the night before I went to see Feeder. I also spent the Feeder gig day cutting and laying carpet tiles in our new office at work, kneeling on the concrete floor to do it. I think these four things are quite closely related.
The Feeder gig was great. Feeder is a band that seems to consistently punch above its weight live. Of the two gigs I think I preferred this one, although to be fair there isn’t much in it. Two excellent gigs in fact. Feeder has a very mixed fan base and this felt the more friendly of the two gigs too. Think I nearly overdid it in the most pit though. Sum 41 are great live as well and have a better selection of songs. (Feeder can sound a bit too much like Coldplay at times; a sickening and perverted thought I’m sure you’ll agree.) Got floored once in the mosh pit, the first time for many months I’ve ended up in a heap on the ground. Actually I ended up more on my knees, as I tried to twist to one side to avoid falling on top of someone else; this was very painful, given the state of them at present. I know I know, I’m such a self-sacrificing hero to the masses. However, the Kentish Town Forum has quite recently had its wooden floor polished, so it did at least provide me with a really great and unexpected opportunity to examine it up close. (Who says you can’t combine a detailed study of interior design and moshing?) Sum 41 also boast “Still Waiting”, which is in the “Top 50 Songs Ever Written” in Cactus World. And here’s the rather excellent video for it.
“So am I still waiting, for this world to stop hating? Can’t find a good reason, can’t find hope to believe in”. Lyrically, a powerful blast of nihilistic energy and a song inspired by the dreadful things that happened on September 11th 2001. (It obviously brings out the music journalist in me too.)
Tonight I watched Sherrybaby, a film starring the very lovely Maggie Gyllenhaal. Another film about a dysfunctional family and well worth a watch. Very good acting and a very realistic feeling film too.
Right now I’m listening to a live version of “Apathy” by Subhumans.