In the year 2008, U.S. President Walter Emerson (Kevin Pollak), who recently took office after the death of the former chief executive, is campaigning for re-election. After winning the Colorado state primary, Emerson finds himself stranded in a roadside diner after a freak snowstorm. While the president exchanges pleasantries with the diner’s staff and customers, a new bulletin appears on TV: Udei Hussein, son of the late Saddam Hussein, has invaded Kuwait and butchered several hundred U.S. peace-keeping troops. Outraged, the president announces that if Hussein and his forces do not withdraw and officially surrender, he will begin dropping nuclear weapons on Baghdad. However, Iraq responds that if they are attacked, 23 cities in the United States and allied nations will be immediately destroyed in a counterattack. Emerson, his advisors, and the others trapped in the diner with them debate long and loud about what to do, and what the potential consequences could be.
1999 – Certificate: Not Rated – French / American Film
8.5 out of 10
A few weeks ago I wrote about my work laptop having a few ‘issues’. Work-related stress, cruel and heartless management and a failure to ‘work smarter and not harder’, had reduced it to an untidy pile of nearly useless components unable to do the simplest things, other than make up excuses for not having done them. (Oh wait, that’s just me.) Over the past week or so, to coincide with moving our office, trying to sort out the old one and get the new one in a state to be used as anything more than a second-hand furniture shop, I’ve had ‘The Man From Dell’ visit no less than four times, in an attempt to fix my laptop’s problems. However, I’m now the proud owner of what looks like a new computer; although it’s been totally pulled to bits so many times and so many parts have been replaced, that I’m not sure it even recognises itself now. More importantly, it actually works. I really enjoyed downloaded the four million or so e-mails that have piled up for me over the past couple of weeks, many of which are increasingly angry ones from people demanding that I do this, that and the other by yesterday. I doubt they’ll care that moving office takes a bit of effort, my laptop’s gone mental, my mobile phone went into hiding and the new office looks like Engineering on the Enterprise after a particularly bad day dealing with Klingons. They’ll just think I’m a lazy, work-shy imbecile, who can’t be arsed to make an effort; trouble is, they’re probably right. In related news, ‘The Man From BT’ was also in today, to put in two basic phone lines. Quite why this took him (and a colleague) most of the day, I’m not sure. We’re in the centre of the town, there’re landlines and junction boxes everywhere. Unlike BT and myself, the President in this film manages to ‘get things done’, even though he’s stranded in a cafe with just a few phone lines and a TV, as he organises universal Armageddon faster than BT can get a telephone to work.
Despite all its plot holes and general dumbness, this is actually a really clever and tense political thriller. A number of its assumptions have since proved to be quite prophetic too. Its clever use of stock footage of American Presidents playing at “Team America: World Police” and TV coverage of the developing crisis, works very well. I wasn’t entirely sure if it was making a point about war being bad or necessary; or that American presidents have too much power or a responsibility to use that power. However, there is something very chilling about seeing someone ordering a nuclear attack on another country. It was also rather depressing to see how little value was placed by the Americans on the lives of its enemies and allies alike. (If it wasn’t for us, they’d still be riding around firing bows and arrows at one another.) I can’t really say much more as knowing about the plot would spoil things, but I’d certainly recommend watching it. It’ll give you lots to talk about afterwards too.
The soundtrack is good example of understated music making a big difference to the feel of the film. Good job.
Recommended for Special Agents, dictators and anyone caught in a snowstorm or who works in a cafe. Definitely not recommend for American Presidents.
No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.
Top badass moment? The American President ordering a nuclear attack is about as badass as you can get. Shame it’s not a good type of badass. I wouldn’t like to piss him off though.
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!
Eager for one final vacation before their lives change forever, six friends embark upon a camping trip to a remote mountainous area. By nightfall, their lives will change forever… in ways too horrific to imagine. For in the shadows awaits a pack of the most evil, vicious rejects of humanity, addicted to violence and thirsty for blood! This is “Psycho Holocaust”…
2011 – Certificate: Not Rated – USA
6 out of 10
I’m not just an uncouth, middle-aged yobbo, who only listens to angry punk music and watches slasher movies. No, I also have a cultured, respectable side, the sort that The Queen would be entirely at home with. In proof, I offer up the fact that I’ve just finished reading “The Hand of Ethelberta” by Thomas Hardy, not for the first time either. In between reading Star Trek novels I read Thomas Hardy ones. The latter is of course, the greatest writer the world has ever seen. In fact I’m a fully paid-up member of the Thomas Hardy Society. That’s how cultured I am. Unlike “The Terminator” Sara Connor’s “No fate but what we make”, Hardy’s novels generally provide more of a ‘fate will do whatever it wants with you, despite your best efforts to do otherwise, and you probably won’t like it either’ point of view. Even though it’s one of Hardy’s more light-weight stories, “The Hand of Ethelberta” once again provides us with a reminder that it’s basically pointless trying to do something about your lot in life, or dream about bettering yourself. When it comes down to it, you might win a few battles, but the war will be lost. I find Hardy an excellent counter-balance to the optimism and can-do attitude prevalent in Star Trek. Together, they help to keep me grounded! This movie is more Thomas Hardy than Star Trek.
“Six friends embark upon a camping trip to a remote mountainous area” eh? I wonder what on Earth this film could be about? Ornithology? Geology? Photography? Actually, it features three veterans of the conflict in Iraq, in a searing and damming documentary about the effects of combat on individuals and the political implications of going to war. Okay, I lied a bit. It does indeed feature three veterans (and one was a documentary film maker), but then it all sort of goes where a million low-budget horrors have gone before. In its favour, our six ‘heroes’ weren’t teenagers and even the three war veterans displayed a clear lack of fantasy indestructibleness. (Cool, a six-syllable word that Word approves of.) The latter also exhibited a genuine concern for their local environment, (an attractive woodland). It was heartening to see a couple of sick and twisted psychos busy taking two of their victims off to a location to kill them in, discussing an impending plan to turn the area into “one big fucking suburb”. A small quirk of fate and they’d have been running about, carrying out direct action in the name of Earth First instead. That’s the ‘Hardy Effect’ for you. The violence is well up to scratch and some (though not all) of the special effects are generally pretty believable. The lead baddie is suitably effective and entertaining, even though he did look a little too like Simon Pegg to be totally convincing. I kept expecting him to pick up a pile of LPs and use them as weapons. Despite the occasionally horrific bit of acting, the film works well as a B-movie and the violence scores highly on the official sick-gross-eew scale. Turning to health and safety now, a number of different tools get used in the film, including two carpenter’s saws, a claw hammer, a few hand axes, a double-headed axe and a sort of flat bladed butcher’s hatchet, as well as a chainsaw. By and large, these were used in a generally appropriate and certainly effective way, although the arm that was cut off wasn’t really secured properly and the no-handed use of one of the saws isn’t a formally recognised technique. (You may wish to give that some further though.) Unfortunately, as is often the case, the chainsaw was used with little or no attention paid to safety. I couldn’t see any PPE in use and even an idiot must surely realise that running about in a woodland carrying a running chainsaw, over uneven terrain full of trip hazards, isn’t a terribly good idea. It never fails to amaze me how few chainsaw wielding psychos use their equipment safely. Particularly in this case, considering the latter were ex-military; this was disappointing and certainly made the whole movie feel a lot less realistic. However, it did seem to start really easily, from both hot and cold, so at least it looks like it was being maintained properly, which is promising.
1 cat, 1 chainsaw and 1 decapitation. Bingo! The first film I’ve watched for ages that gets a full set. (I think the cat was just a bystander that ran onto the set though.) There’re a few other rather painful amputations too.
Recommended for would-be psychos. An excellent training film.
Top badass moment? It’s certainly a gentleman’s leg-crossing moment, but Laura’s treatment of her would-be rapist was pretty awesome; I’m just not sure how feasible it would be in real life (so says Mr. Modest-Bigboy). It wasn’t that she’d had an especially good day up to then either. A whipping, a drowning, another rape, a bashing on the head with a big rock and finding her boyfriend missing a leg, (who then promptly fell on her when she tried to help him, trapping her), do not a good day make for anyone. And let’s not forget her safe and effective use of the double-headed axe too.