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.
The world is teetering on the brink of the apocalypse. A group of survivors have found themselves isolated from the remnants of society and under siege living in a subterranean bunker. They dare not abandon the crumbling complex as it is the only security from the enemy that awaits them outside. Living in a constant state of fear, they face the fact that food supplies and ammunitions are running out, giving them no choice but to leave the secure area. Together they start their quest for survival, facing an enemy that is stronger than expected, with a power that can destroy all of mankind.
2006 – Certificate: 15 – Spanish Film
Rating Details: Strong language, moderate violence and gore
7.5 out of 10
I’m teetering on the brink of an apocalypse too. At work I use a Dell Latitude E4300 laptop. This is a nice bit of kit that works well and still looks good, despite its age and the numerous scratches and marks on its minimalist, black lid. It’s also narrow enough that I can use it on a train without a table, even when I’m having one of my ‘fat days’. In fact it only has one fault. Every time I go to any ‘important meetings’ where people get out their laptops to pretend they’re doing something, all those with an E4300 spend the first five minutes repairing all the bits that have fallen off it since the last time they used it. The part around the screen is especially good at detaching itself. As well as this, mine also has various other bits of trim that have either broken off and vanished; or are hanging off but refusing to let go, like teeth used to when you were little and losing them. More recently, it’s decided that it would be extremely cool to allow one of its hinges to develop a more three-dimensional personal space than is generally regarded as normal for one. For my part I don’t think a hinge that’s desperate to do a bit of twerking whilst I’m trying to work is all that helpful, or sexy. A massive split the size of the Grand Canyon has also appeared in the case and my laptop now finds connecting to the Internet, either via a network cable or wirelessly, all a bit of a strain. Today I wasted over an hour yanking the screen about from ‘here’ to ‘there’ in an effort to make the hinge behave and whatever inside wasn’t connected properly, connect. I ended up pleading with it on my knees, using that well-known ‘tech support prayer’, “connect to the network you fucking bastard asshole machine!!” (I know, I’m not the most tolerant when it come to technology.) In the end I got it to work. My previous laptop was a D610, a machine with all the combative prowess of the Terminator. Sadly, the E4300 looks pretty, but is about as sturdy as a pink marshmallow. This film is all about a group of people in a ‘no win’ scenario too.
Spain, as well as being a great place to grow oranges, has also developed a nice side-line in independent horrors. This is one of them. What’s interesting, is that in most apocalypse films, as soon as something goes wrong, the whole of civilisation quickly collapses and nearly everyone who’s left becomes a homicidal maniac. In this one, we join a small group of people for a few days, who’ve banded together and are trying to live a vaguely ‘normal’ life, despite their circumstances; (for a while anyway). I guess it’s a bit of tribute to the enduring values of humanity. Alternatively, it’s got more to do with, “we’re a small group of people stuck in a small place without much to say, or the budget for a lot of special effects.” In truth, there’s a lot of ambiguity in the plot and a lot of unexplained things, but as an ‘atmosphere’ film it’s great. It also has two different groups of baddies, which makes for a change too. The characters are mostly well written and believable; I did start to care what happened to them. Two are called Jesús and Judas; I couldn’t decide if this was just a coincidence, or some sort of biblical reference relating to the film’s storyline that I couldn’t see. Like I said, there’s a lot of ambiguity. Even when we get to the inevitable ‘people running about in corridors with guns’ part, it manages to stay interesting. This is a grimy looking, depressing film. The ending is quite unexpected too and helps add to general air of despair. I enjoyed it!
The soundtrack is one thing that makes this more of a horror than a sci-fi movie. It’s also pretty good too and sounds ‘expensive’. Like what I imagine an effective butler would be like, it turns up in all the right places, does what it’s meant to do and then leaves. You won’t remember it but it does a great job of supporting everything else that’s going on. Good stuff.
Recommended for apocalypse survivors.
No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.
Top badass moment? I suppose having to deal with an apocalypse is pretty badass. It’s not the sort of thing you generally chat to the career counsellor at school about when you’re 16. Nurse, IT support, train driver, police officer, teacher, celebrity maybe, but the conversation probably doesn’t go along the lines of, “I’d like to become an Armageddon survivor please. Which A Levels do I need to study to do that?” Dealing with unexpected changes is badass, as most of us are crap at it.
Brandon (Michael Fassbender) is a 30-something man living comfortably in New York balancing a busy job and active social life. When the wayward Sissy (Carey Mulligan), turns up at his apartment unannounced, Brandon’s carefully managed lifestyle spirals out of control. From award-winning director Steve McQueen (“Hunger”), “Shame” is a compelling and timely examination of the nature of need, how we live our lives and the experiences that shape us.
2011 – Certificate 18 – USA
Rating Details: Strong sex and sex references
7.5 out of 10
I’m having a water meter fitted at home. No longer will I pay Thames Water £36.60 a month for the few drops of H2O that I use every day. (Apparently it has to dig up half the town to fit it, but who cares?) No longer will I feel guilt if I wash-up, flush the toilet, have a shower or do some washing, as I’ll simply stop doing all of those things. This will save me money and, more importantly, save the planet too. Who would have though becoming a lazy, housework-averse, smelly slob would actually be more community-minded than keeping your whites white and your home clean? The next time I see someone washing his or her car I’m going to go up to the criminal (and let’s face it, you can’t do much worse than destroy the whole planet), and tell them just how selfish they are. They may as well just get a gun and start killing people. Indeed, a clean 4×4 has a lot in common with a minigun. In a mostly unrelated incident, the first thing I did this morning was knock an almost entirely new toilet role into the toilet, while I was using it. I managed to knock it off the holder and in an effort to stop it falling on the floor, only managed to redirect it into the bowl instead. (My hands were pretty full at the time.) For the second time in about a month, I enjoyed the taboo experience of urinating onto something that’s not really meant to be treated in that way; (last time it was my mobile phone). In a not dissimilar way, this is a film about a successful guy with an addiction to sex. We also get to see him using a toilet in a similar fashion to me, although minus the bog role and with a ‘physical presence’ that made me feel somewhat inadequate.
This film has a story and a plot of sorts, but if you’re the sort of person who likes a story that sort of has a purpose, then you may not find it that satisfying. On the other hand, if you like films with a vibe and an atmosphere, then you might quite enjoy it. Depending on your world view, I guess you’ll either consider Brandon is ‘the man’ or a ‘total loser’. (If it helps you, please feel free to insert a pair of diametrically opposed euphemisms of your choice in place of the two I’ve just used, perhaps more suited to your age and social background.) This is actually a very good movie. I didn’t really want to like Brandon, but somehow he manages to come across as a decent guy with two sides to his life; one a success at work and the other an uncontrollable addict that he keeps bottled up by routine and ‘rules’. Then his somewhat messed up sister arrives on the scene. I felt quite sorry for him actually. This probably has a lot to do with how Michael Fassbender portrays the character, which is in a quite understated way. The story does leave a lot of unfinished business and unanswered questions in its wake, but really, it’s the mood of the film that makes it work. Mostly depressing (like most of what I watch), it’s a visually and emotionally entertaining portrayal of a guy with a problem, a guy with a problem that he then tries to do something about.
I really love how the music is used in this film, a mixture of mainly 80s pop, Johann Sebastian Bach and some great incidental stuff by Harry Escott. It also seems to be part of the trigger that makes Brandon try to change his behaviour.
No cats, decapitation or chainsaws.
Recommended for perverts, obviously.
Top badass moment? Twice in under two hours, we see Brandon make ‘meaningful’ eye contact with attractive women on the Subway. I’ve spent hundreds of hours on the Tube and never managed that; in fact I’ve only seen it happen once between anyone. Somehow that’s badass, or jealousy, I’m not sure which.
Ever watched any of those TV ads, which always seem to feature a young and good-looking guy in a white shirt and tie, sitting on a train with loads of space around him? The ones where it’s sunny outside and the train is passing through some beautiful countryside, which the guy in the shirt glances at contentedly whilst he works away on a laptop, looking happy and in control, as he drinks his complementary and delicious cup of coffee and deals with his important but achievable workload? Well that’s total bollocks. I’ve spend a lot of time recently sitting on trains trying to work on a laptop and its had about as much in common with that image, as someone sweeping the floor in an aircraft hangar has with Tom Cruise in “Topgun”. So here’s a reality check.
1) The trains are always over-crowded and no one looks happy.
2) You always have to chuck someone out of the seat you’ve booked, who’s always the person most genuinely in need of a seat on the whole train; typically a heavily pregnant but exceedingly fray old lady, who’s often from a Black or Asian community too, so that everyone else on the train can brand you both a bastard and a racist.
3) You can never plug your laptop in anywhere; there either isn’t a plug, or someone else is using it and will defend it to the death if need be. You’d have more chance of negotiating a peace treaty between North and South Korea.
4) The tables are too narrow to have the screen at the right angle or the keyboard in the right place; and there’s always some other poor sod sitting on the other side of the table trying to use a laptop too; and the nightmarish possibly that the backs of the lids might accidentally touch one another, would feel not unlike experiencing your best mate suddenly touching you ‘inappropriately’ and declaring he’s always loved you.
5) You’re always stressed out because you’ve got too much work to do. Internet access costs nearly £5 for an hour and at best is annoyingly intermittent and slow, so you end up having to close and reopen Outlook loads of times in an effort to send or receive any e-mail. And don’t even think you can use a mouse, as the train’s movement will result in your clicking on everything but what you wanted and a screen full of usless boxes and windows that you’ve then got to try to close, an equally futile exercise that just perpetuates the nightmare. And if you saved the link your mate sent you last week for that comedy bestiality gay porn website, you can be sure you’ll accidently click on it and everyone in the carriage with hear your tinny laptop speakers blare out the fact, confirming in their minds that you’re a social deviant as well as being a bastard and a racist, and probably a paedophile too. Your only defence against all this is that the chance of you actually finding a suitable space in which to move a mouse around, is rather less than that of the Earth suddenly exploding right now… nope, we’re still here. (And here’s a friendly bit of advice; don’t bother trying to use your mouse on your thigh, it doesn’t work and after it’s fallen on the floor with a loud clatter a few times, everyone will be adding stupidity to your growing lists of crimes.)
6) The person sitting opposite you always has a better laptop that makes you feel like a Luddite and failure, as you look at your scratched Dell with its broken bit of trim in the corner; whilst his is miraculously in pristine condition, despite its apparently nomadic existence; they’re nearly always Macs too; does Apple pay people to travel on trains just to make it look like it has a bigger market share than it really does?
7) The weather is always wet and horrible; or really bright and the sun shines directly onto the screen of your laptop, rendering it unreadable.
8) The person next to you acts as if he’s Beelzebub’s cousin and insists on staking his claim to every square nanometre of his allotted space; even using his bag and jacket to build something akin to the Berlin Wall between you and him. The unspoken threat this leaves hanging in the air will lead you to prefer the option of wetting yourself, rather than ask him to move so you can go to the toilet.
9) If the person next to you is a woman, she will continually use body language that strongly suggests the world’s most evil-smelling pervert has just sat next to her. Unlike Beelzebub’s cousin, she will attempt to curl up in as small a space as possible, mathematically as far from you as she can, whilst texting her mates non-stop to tell them of her ongoing trauma.
10) The coffee is mediocre, costs £2.20 and comes in a paper cup.
This film is set in 1972. Before laptops existed. (And I really actually like trains.)
1991 – Certificate: PG – USA
Before I watched this film I couldn’t remember anything about it or why I’d bought it. Neither the overview nor the trailer suggested that it’s going to be anything other than a fairly crappy, 90s, mainstream Hollywood romantic/family comedy with a precocious, ‘Hollywood-style’ kid in it. An evening of British stoicism beckoned, as I looked forward to 98 minutes of mediocre averageness. But when a film starts with an 11-year-old girl speaking directly into the camera, claiming to have caught haemorrhoids and explaining how her breasts are developing at different rates and that means she’s got cancer, does suggest that it’s going to have more balls that it ought to. (Sorry if that all sounds a bit Jimmy Savilley, it’s not meant to.) For a PG rated film, I bet that freaked out a few parents in the cinema! It’s basically a film about death, a suitable depressing topic that probably explains why I bought it in the first place. In the end, it still turned out to be a 90s, mainstream Hollywood romantic/family comedy with a precocious, ‘Hollywood-style’ kid in it, but at times it’s also a genuinely touching and powerful bit of drama. The adults are more or less cardboard cut-out characters, but the kids make the film come alive and the script’s surprising subtle. It’s got a good soundtrack too. (Problem is, I still can’t get used to Dan Aykroyd not hunting ghosts, or Jamie Lee Curtis not fighting Michael Myers.)
Recommended for people who want to revisit the experience of losing someone they love.
No cats, decapitations or chainsaws.
Top badass moment? Vada sulking in the supermarket and throwing can after can from the shelf into the trolley. Am I the only one who thinks doing this without looking at the shelf or fumbling any of the cans, whilst the trolley is moving, was pretty clever? It’s hard to make sulking look cool, so managing to do so is badass.