Posts tagged “New York

The New York Ripper / The Role of Alcohol in Reviews


The NewYork Ripper  -  Front DVD Cover  -  Dutch Release

A serial killer makes New York unsafe. Brutally murders he maimed his female victims.  Inspector Williams in the dark.  Meanwhile, the killer continues to make victims and the police harass with nasty phone calls.  When the girlfriend of Williams is likely to be the next victim of the frustrated police launch an intense manhunt …  The New York Ripper (Los squartatore di New York) is one of Lucio Fulci’s most controversial films: stylish and exciting, but also extremely bloody, brutal and sadistic. A horror classic of the first water!  (Thanks Google, you’ve managed a perfect translation of the Dutch overview from my DVD!)

1982 –  Certificate: 16  –  Italian Film
6.0 out of 10

I like to watch films; and TV too, although I virtually never do the latter. I enjoy the experience and often have a wee drink as an accompaniment.  I’m not 100% sure, but I suspect there’s a correlation between how much I enjoy what I watch and what I have to drink, (or more accurately, how much alcohol I have to drink).  Not being the sort of person to pass up an opportunity to carry out radial, left-field, cutting edge research when the occasion arises, I’ve decided to report this information here from now on.  I know it’s not going to provide a cure for Ebola, sort out any civil wars or grant Scotland independence, but it’s still pretty exciting stuff isn’t it?  There is one small problem though.  I can’t actually start to do this yet, as I can’t remember what I had to drink whilst I was watching this film. I guess Einstein had days like this too.

Why do I watch films like this? A serial killer (who talks like a duck for reasons explained near the end of the movie) is on the loose in New York and a burnt out cop is after him.  I’m not a fan of cop films or 70s production values.  (It was made in 1982 but it looks like it was made in 1974.)  I guess as an example of ‘that’ kind of film it’s actually pretty good and carries an uncomfortably authentic level of sleaziness.  Most of the men in it are just dreadful.  I watched the uncut version.  In the UK the film was refused a certificate when first released (effectively banned) and an instruction given that all the prints of the film should be removed from the country. It’s never been released uncut in the UK.  So I ended up watching a Dutch import of an Italian film set in America, in which most of the actors are speaking Italian that was later dubbed into English for its release.  These days, now we’re more enlightened (i.e. when we’re happy for youngsters to play video games where they can actually rip people to pieces), most of it did feel dated and clichéd, although some of its murder scenes are still pretty unpleasant.  Probably not a good first date movie.

The soundtrack is uniformly horrible. In other words, it’s an ideal fit for the movie and adds a great deal to its sleazy, dated feel.  Way too much sax.

The trailer below is the ‘nice’ one. If you want to see the ‘not nice’ one, follow the link below instead.  Either way, they’re a suitably faithful representation of the film.  I can’t help thinking they overdid the screaming though, just a little bit.

Recommended for police offices, serial killers and psychiatrists; and sleazy guys in general.

No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.

Top badass moment? At the start of the film, a young woman on a bike (Rosie) manages to stupidly crash into a guy’s car and scratch it down the side.  She’s uninjured and her bike undamaged, but he’s naturally a bit pissed about it.  However, she just calls him an asshole and cycles off, leaving him with a lot of hassle and a big repair bill.  Shortly afterwards she’s murdered by a serial killer.  I know it’s wrong and everything and I’ll probably go to Hell for it, but a little bit of me was glad.  Payback is a bitch… and badass.

The New York Ripper at IMBD (6.4 / 10)
The New York Ripper at Wikipedia
The New York Ripper (red band) trailer at YouTube

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Emanuelle in America / Building My Own Sauna


Emanuelle in America  -  Front DVD Cover  -  American ReleaseThe stunning Laura Gemser stars as Emanuelle, the fearless fashion photographer and investigative photojournalist whose thirst for adventure is matched only by her insatiable erotic hunger.  But when Emanuelle uncovers shocking evidence of an international snuff film conspiracy, she is plunged into an odyssey of forbidden passion, depraved desires and unspeakable human brutality.  From the lust-filled streets of New York City to the corrupt corridors of Washington D.C. and beyond, one of the most controversial sex and gore epics in exploitation history has finally come home: This is “Emanuelle in America”!  Everything you’ve heard about this jaw-dropping cult classic is true: graphic sex, harrowing violence, a horse named Pedro and much, much more.  Directed by the notorious Joe D’Amato (“Beyond the Darkness”), “Emanuelle in America” has been newly mastered from pristine vault materials and is now presented completely uncut for the first time ever!

1976  –  Certificate: Not Rated  –  Italian Film
5.0 out of 10

Last weekend provided Cactus World with its warmest day of the year so far.  Apparently it got to nearly 70F in some parts.  The roads will be melting again at this rate…  Anyway, I was so excited by this sudden burst of warmth that I decided to wash nearly every bit of clothing that I normally wear, so even if my washing machine’s dryer failed to work (as is often the case) I’d still be able to dry things by draping them attractively all around my lounge.  I never did get to find out about the dryer, as the washing machine decided that this time it wasn’t going to bother spinning anything instead.  I was left with a big pile of soaking wet clothing that even now, some 70 hours later, has only just dried out.  I had to go to an external meeting for work on Monday morning in wet clothes.  What fun!  I spent all of Sunday converting my lounge into a DIY sauna, as my dripping clothing and heating combined to produce a pretty decent impersonation of a rain forest.  It hardly ever gets that hot here, even in the summer; Cactus World isn’t well-known for its extremes of temperature.  The only signs of happiness came from the pot plants, who all thought their Christmases and birthdays had come at once.  This film was probably viewed as ‘hot’ in the 70s, but now it just comes across as a bit creepy, old and at times unintentionally funny.

Emanuelle, the “fearless fashion photographer and investigative photojournalist” (I’d like to have seen her fit that on her passport) investigates the seedy world of decadent politicians and snuff movies.  Potentially an interesting and exciting plot for a horror-thriller, instead she seems to spend most of her time in various states of undress, or watching others in a similar position.  I’ve heard of people enjoying their jobs, but even on a good day I don’t enjoy mine quite that much; (which I sure comes as a great relief to all my colleagues).  The admittedly attractive Laura Gemser isn’t very convincing as a private investigator, although what she lacks in ability she makes up for with good fortune.  An example?  Undercover as some rich asshole’s plaything, she randomly wonders about his estate for a few minutes, where she finds a load of guns hidden in a crate under some sacks in a stable.  Yes, that’s bound to happen isn’t it?  Not that they play any other part in the movie after that of course.   Still, all journalists do these days is hack people’s mobile phones, whereas Laura most definitely had to do it the hard way.  She’s either very brave or very stupid.  Sadly, after all her clever undercover work, the newspaper she works for refuses to publish her story and she throws a bit of a wobbly at the editor.  So, instead of going to the police with all her evidence, she goes off on holiday with her boyfriend to some tropical island, which then inexplicably turns into a movie set.  (No, I didn’t fully understand that either).  The End.  I did initially get a bit excited at the beginning of the film, when what looked a lot like the view of a star field from a starship travelling at warp, popped up on the screen; but then it turned out it was just the StudioCanal logo.  After that things went a bit downhill.  To be fair, it still has a few scenes that are likely to ‘surprise’ some people and the snuff film effects are pretty horrific too; but it’s style and presentation now seem so overwhelmingly old fashioned that watching it was more akin to finding a long lost item of clothing, which, despite it’s now utterly unfashionable appearance, is still sort of comforting to wear.  A reminder of simpler times perhaps?  Did anyone really take this stuff seriously?  I’m so glad I was too young in 1976 to notice things like this.  Thank God punk came along.

Sadly, I wasn’t able to find a real trailer anywhere.  So instead here’s an entirely uneventful clip of Emanuelle in a gondola in Venice, Italy.  The film is called “Emanuelle in America” after all.

The music.  Yes, the music.  It’s a horrible cross between porn-funk, crappy early 70’s soft rock and easy listening.  It’s awful, but at the same time works really well in setting up the whole feel of the film.  Yep, it really is that bad.

Recommended for investigative journalists, corrupt politicians, swingers and guys with blonde moustaches and silly medallions, who wear white shirts with huge collars.

No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.

Top badass moment?  A guy with a gun suddenly pops up in the back of Laura Gemser’s car as she’s driving along.  Refusing money or the car, he says all he wants is to strangle and murder her.  Personally, that would probably freak me out and make me late for something, but not so the beautiful Laura.  Keeping totally cool and using her unique abilities, (which if I’m honest I’m unlikely to be able to reproduce if I should ever find myself in a similar situation), she ‘talks’ her way out of it.  I have to admit, that’s badass.  She’s a very cool babe.

Emanuelle in America at IMDB (5.4 / 10)
Emanuelle in America at Wikipeda
Emanuelle in America Clip

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Side Effects / The Dentist: Part 3


Side Effects  -  Front DVD Cover  -  UK ReleaseEmily (Rooney Mara “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”) and Martin (Channing Tatum “The Vow”) are a successful New York couple whose world unravels when a new drug prescribed by Emily’s psychiatrist (Jude Law “Sherlock Holmes”) intended to treat anxiety, has unexpected and dangerous side effects.  From director Steven Soderbergh (“Contagion”, “Ocean’s Eleven”, “Ocean’s Twelve”, “Ocean’s Thirteen”) comes a riveting psychological thriller where neither the symptoms nor the cure are quite as straightforward as they seem.

2013  –  Certificate: 15  –  American Film
Rating Details: Strong language, sex and violence
7.0 out of 10

Despite its capacity to bring good news, joy and happiness, the word “no” generally feels pretty negative.  So hearing a dentist mutter it twice whilst prodding and poking around in your mouth is not something that often generates a smile.  (Then again, when you’ve got a mouthful of torture devices masquerading as dental equipment, there isn’t actually an especially wide range of facial expressions at your disposal.)  My third 90 minute appointment this month bought me these two highlights, along with a comment at the end that she’d managed to get a few a millimetres further but the blockage was still there.  An hour and a half for that?  It’s not the London Crosslink rail tunnel; although all the talk of drilling, canals, bridges and crowns does put me in mind of a major, civil engineering project.  The only thing that kept me going we the fact that this was the last part of my own, personal, dental horror trilogy, (which itself was an expansion of the two-parter that had originally been planned).  Unfortunately, the news at the end was not good.  A fourth instalment is now required and ‘filming’ takes place in April, once the spin-off “The Dentist: Sore Wisdom Tooth” has wrapped. I still haven’t got the date for my trip to hospital to have the latter dealt with, but I’m pretty sure it’s going to be the most massively inconvenient one possible.

In the UK, you go to see your doctor and sometimes he or she gives you a prescription for some drugs.  You go to the chemist and he or she gives them to you.  You take them and hopefully feel better.  The end.  I don’t know anyone who has any sort of discussion about what brand of drug they want.  I guess it happens sometimes, but not very often.  They don’t get advertised on TV and I’d hazard a guess and say most people have no idea what make of drugs they’re taking or even if it stays the same between prescriptions.  Not so in America, where drug companies widely advertise their products and patents frequently tell their doctors what brand of drugs they want, presumably based on which has the best advertising on TV.  A movie like “Side Effects” simply wouldn’t make sense if it was set in the UK.  This film has more twists that you get in a big bag of that twisty-shaped pasta that’s always cheaper than any other shape of pasta.  (And why does the shape make such as huge difference to the price?  It’s feels like you’re charged a premium if it’s an easier shape to get onto a fork.)  It’s not a bad movie, as long as you concentrate, give its plot a bit of latitude and forgive its sometime dubious portrayal of same-sex relationships and mental health.  Jude Law and Rooney Mara are both great.  I guess if I wasn’t wracked with tooth inflicted agony and befuddled by antibiotics and pain-killing drugs (and no I’ve no idea what brand they are), I’d have got more out of it.

There’s a lot of music in this film.  None of it is especially memorable, but it’s there, in the background, most of the time.  A bit like weather.

Trailers for thrillers are often quite frustrating.  They want to encourage you to see the film, yet don’t want to give away the plot.  I guess it’s a bit like reading a book without looking at the words.  This is a good example.

Recommended for psychiatrists, lesbians, inside traders, drug pushers and conspiracy theorists.

No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.

Top badass moment?  You have to give Jude Law a bit of respect.  When the going gets tough he digs in and keeps going.  Bloody mindedness is always badass; and bloody annoying to everyone else too.

Side Effects at IMDB (7.1 / 10)
Side Effects at Wikipedia
Side Effects at Roger Ebert (3.5 / 5)
Side Effects trailer at YouTube


The Philadelphia Experiment 2 / Marks & Spencer


The Philadelphia Experiment 2  -  Front DVD Cover  -  US ReleaseIn the hit sci-fi thriller “The Philadelphia Experiment” the sole survivor of a wartime experiment is catapulted 41 years into the future and must race to save the world as we know it.  It’s now 10 years later, 1993.  David Herdeg (Brad Johnson), the surviving hero, has built a life for himself and his young son that’s unravelling fast.  The U.S. military is conducting another Experiment, one that not only alters Herdeg’s DNA makeup, but also threatens the fabric of the entire universe.  The Experiment’s goal is to transport a Stealth Fighter back to 1943 to use as the ultimate war machine, but its effect hurls Herdeg into another time warp, still 1993, but a 1993 where Germany has won the war.  Can Herdeg win the race against time and save his son and the world from a terrible future?  Or will the future be a twisted reality distorted by the Philadelphia Experiment?

1993  –  Certificate: PG-13  –  American Film
Rating Details: Military violence
6.0 out of 10

Who actually shops in Marks and Spencer, unless they want a new bra or a pair of socks?  It’s like a John Lewis, except with all the interesting stuff removed.  For a start, it only sells a limited range of household things, none of which anyone would need; unless you feel owning a big, weirdly shaped glass jar full of ‘interestingly’ coloured marbles is essential.  Or a pastel coloured cushion with tassels on it rates as highly for you as food, shelter and safety.  Then there’s the Food Hall.  These huge caverns are full of food nobody really buys.  True, it’s all very nice and tasty looking, but it’s also all eye-wateringly expensive, pre-pealed, pre-prepared, over-packaged and marketed as over-valued ‘superfood’.  I don’t know why M&S doesn’t just take that find step and pre-digest it for you too and sell that instead.  In fact, just send it your money and save yourself from even having to bothering to do the shopping in the first place. The branch I went to, near Southampton, has its entrance 5m from a huge Sainsbury; why does an M&S Food Hall even exist there?  A small, plastic bowl-like container full of cherry tomatoes on the vine, asparagus tips and rocket, costs about a million pounds.  (Whatever happened to lumps of cucumber, lettuce and grated carrot?)  At the sort of prices it charges, I’d expect the rocket to be a fully functioning space shuttle, complete with crew.  Just before Christmas I won £500 of Marks and Spencer vouchers in a competition.  Unable to use them online, (and what’s the point of vouchers these days you can’t use online), I finally plucked up courage last week to go into an M&S store and use them.  It was a scary experience.  I had no idea how to behave.  I was convinced I’d get arrested for breaking some sort of social code of conduct, only known to people who have large jars of marbles in their bathrooms.  I was served by four people all at the same time, who insisted on wrapping everything up in millions of layers of paper to ‘protect’ it.  Do I look that clumsy?  What did they think I was going to do with it all?  I’m now the proud owner of the most expense set of pans it sells, two kitchen knives that actually cut, some glasses that match one another and a set of chopping boards that aren’t home to most of the world’s infectious diseases.  (And being the system-smashing rebel I am, I’m presently using the blue one that’s got the fish symbol on it, even though I don’t ever eat fish.)  I’ve also spent the last week or so living on strawberries, cherries, nectarines and ‘speciality’ apples.  My body thinks it’s been irrigated with bleach, such is the purity of my insides now.  I did manage to find some packets of pasta hiding away in the corner of the store, but the rice defied my best efforts to locate it anywhere.  This film is about someone who finds himself somewhere he’s not used to being.

The Philadelphia Experiment was an interesting, if horrendously dated-looking film that came out in 1984.  Nine years later we got the sequel.  In many ways this is a better film, although it still manages to look terrible dated.  It’s portrayal of an America 50 years after the Nazis won World War Two is really quite nicely presented. Very Orwellian.  I was interested to see that the concrete HQ ‘bunker’ that features in the film looks a lot like many of the new stations on the Jubilee Line in London.  The sight of a Nighthawk ‘stealth fighter’ decked out in swastikas makes a suitably big impression on the senses.  A few elements in the film reminded me of The Terminator too.  All the father-son-baseball nonsense at the beginning was a bit nauseating, but once we got past this it was a decent enough movie. Gerrit Graham puts in a good show as the slightly mad Dr. William Mailer.  Sadly, the sum of its parts is not up to its individual elements; it feels like a film that ought to be better than it actually is.

The soundtrack is a decent effort, with a mixture of what you’d expect, along with a bit of cowboy music and some suitably overwrought Richard Wagner.

Recommended for Nazis, slightly mad scientists, pilots and baseball fans.

No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.

Top badass moment?  David kills Mailer’s father, which results in some time-based shenanigans and Mailer disappearing, thus solving a number of tricky challenges.  I often do something quite similar myself, which makes it badass.  I can never understand why people have to complicate life so much.  If you don’t like something, just go back in time and try again.  It’s not rocket science.

The Philadelphia Experiment at IMDB (4.4 / 10)

The Philadelphia Experiment at Wikipedia

The Philadelphia Experiment at YouTube


Spider-Man / Being “An Authoriser”


Spider-Man - Front DVD Cover - UK Release

Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is an ordinary guy who lives with his beloved aunt and uncle and quietly pines for the girl next door, Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst).  But when a genetically engineered “super-spider” bites him while on a school trip, Peter develops unusual skills – fantastic acrobatic strength, supernatural awareness and a talent for web-spinning.  It’s not until tragedy strikes at home that Peter decides to use his new powers to fight crime under a secret identity, Spider-man! When the evil Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe) attacks the good people of New York and endangers the life of Mary Jane, Peter commits himself to the ultimate tests: to thwart his arch-enemy and to win the heart of the girl that he loves.

2002  –  Certificate: 12  –  American Film
8.0 out of 10

With great power comes great responsibility…  That reminds me, I attended a webinar at work today, to enable me to become what’s called “An Authoriser”.  Thanks to having so recently watched “Spider-Man” I totally “got it” and realised the awesome obligation that had been bestowed on me.  True, it’s not given me enough super-powers to be able to go out and buy an Aston Martin as a company car, which I’m always going on about, but still.  I’m already responsible for saving the planet on a daily basis, so I guess adding this to my ‘portfolio of stress’ won’t make a lot of difference.  Jim gave the training, who’s the calmest person in the whole organisation.  Just as well really, as An Authoriser sounds more like someone who gives orders in a crime syndicate; or takes dead bodies, puts them in baths and pours acid all over them so they dissolve.  I probably watch too many films.  Ha, I just realised how apt attending a webinar was after watching Spider-Man. 

I enjoy superhero films.  It’s the ‘tortured hero that always comes good in the end’ that I can relate to.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, there’s a thin line between my job and Spider-Man’s, or any superhero’s for that matter; we all save civilisation on an almost daily basis.  This is a great film that still looks good.  In the big scheme of things, Spider-Man always came a distant fourth for me when I was young, behind Batman, Superman and Popeye (the spinach guy), but he looks good in action here.  It’s the usual stuff, guy finds he’s got super powers, pisses off someone powerful and bad, has a crisis of identity, then comes good and saves the girl, before giving her up for the greater benefit of everyone else.  Yep, sounds like my life, except the exciting and positive parts.

This film has a really good soundtrack by Danny Elfman, even though all the best bits of it sound like rejects from the Batman movie.

Recommended for people like me, photographers, military weapon designers; and, most importantly, arachnologists.

No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.

Top badass moment? It’s so mundane and predictable, but after spending ages (literally most of his life) chasing his soul mate, Peter Parker rejects her so he can ‘pursue’ his new ‘career’ more effectively.  What a do-gooder!  He didn’t even take her to bed first.  What a nice guy.  He made be stupid and he may be misguided, but the world needs more badass ‘nice people’ like him.

Spider-Man at IMDB (7.3 / 10)

Spider-Man at IMDB

Spider-Man at YouTube


Men In Black / Profanity Top Ten!


Men In Black  -  Front Blu-ray Cover  -  UK Release“Men in Black” follows the exploits of Agents K (Jones) and J (Smith), members of a top-secret organisation established to monitor alien activity on Earth.  The two MIB find themselves in the middle of a deadly plot by an intergalactic terrorist (Vincent D’Onofrio) who has arrived on Earth to assassinate two ambassadors from opposing galaxies.  K and J face a simple imperative: track down the interloper or the Earth will be destroyed.  It’s all in a day’s work for the Men in Black.

1997  –  Certificate: PG  –  American Film
Rating Details:  Mild language, violence and horror
7.5 out of 10

At last, another film that has aliens, spaceships and explosions in it, as well as a plot I can relate to in a very meaningful way.  As well as dealing with the scum of the universe, I also work for an organisation that does its best to remain hidden, even down to changing its name on a regular basis, to help ensure we remain a secret.  Along with a somewhat stupid smartphone and a Dell laptop with bits falling off it, I have one of those ‘flashy things’ (a neuralyzer) to make people forget stuff, too.  And I’m certainly never seen in anything but a black suit/tie and white shirt combo.  And as for the cool shades, well I bought mine from eBay for about £2.  Will Smith is a talented chap.  He can act, sing and dance.  I guess when he talks to people about me he says, “that Paul’s a boring guy.  He can’t do bugger all.”

For a sci-fi movie made 16 years ago, this one still holds up well; it hasn’t really dated at all.  I watched it on Blu-ray and it looks really lovely in that way too.  According to IMDB this film contains 1 possible f-word, 13 anatomical terms (including 2 uses of a term for male genitals, i.e. dick), 18 scatological terms (crap, shit and piss), 29 mild obscenities, 3 religious profanities and 2 religious exclamations.  There’s also some name-calling (bastard, prick, etc).  Sadly, I had to watch the censored version, which of all this lot chooses to replace the word “prick” twice, with “twerp” and “jerk”.  There must be a ‘league table’ of ‘bad words’ that people refer to, to find out how bad each one is.  I wonder how they check if it’s correct?  Get a big group of people in a room, swear at them a lot and see how offended they get?  Funny thing is, someone must have sat down and made a record of all that; I bet that job’s a conversation starter at parties.  “What do you do for a living then?”  “Me?  Well I count profanities.”  You may also be interested to know that “the principal female character wears a short skirt that reveals a lot of her bare legs.  Once, for less than a split second, it hikes up to reveal a little of her lower buttocks.”  I must have missed that, I guess I’ll have to go back and use the frame-by-fame function to check for myself; thanks IMDB for letting me know, that’s my evening’s entertainment sorted out.  It’s not even that short either.  Actually I think I look a bit like Will Smith.

The music in this film is a bit of a disappointment.  Danny Elfman wrote the totally brilliant music for “Batman”.  I even bought the soundtrack of that on CD.  But for this film he seems to have had a bit of an off-day.  It’s serviceable but entirely forgettable.  On the other hand, we do get Will Smith and his fun theme tune.

Recommended for anyone that works for a secret organisation, aliens and females that wear short skirts.

One cat, no chainsaws or decapitations.  A true, starring role for a lovely ginger and white cat, complete with some real acting and lines.  He/she just blew Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith off the stage.

Top badass moment?  There’s something to be said for driving a souped up car along the roof of an underground tunnel full of traffic and taking the time out to give some advice to your passenger about dealing with stress at work; whilst singing along to Elvis and trying to save the Earth.  Even I don’t get to do that every week.  That’s therefore very cool and very badass.

Men In Black at IMDB (7.2 / 10)

Men In Black at Wikipedia


Funny Games / Reading on Train Journeys


Funny Games (US)  -  Front DVD Cover (UK ReleaseMichael Haneke (“Hidden”, “The Piano Teacher”, “Code Unknown”) takes on America with an English language remake every bit as shocking as his brilliantly conceived original 1997 “Funny Games”.  In this exploration of our violent society Haneke retells the story through the eyes of a middle-class family who arrive at their secluded holiday home in the Hamptons for a two-week vacation.  Soon after, a young man makes a surprise call, and asks to borrow some eggs.  When the man is joined by his ‘charming’ friend, what initially appears to be an innocuous visit by their neighbour’s guests, soon turns into a horrifying ordeal for all concerned as the two men embark upon a twisted campaign of torment and raw terror.

2008  –  Certificate 18
Rating Details:  Strong sustained threat, humiliation and violence

(I can’t help thinking the rating details sound like a day at work.)  When I’m not saving the planet, listening to music, going to gigs or watching films, I like to read books.  I often read them on trains, though mainly to help prevent the affliction known as eye-contact.  Yesterday at work I had to go on a secret, special mission, to deepest, darkest, West Sussex; even my manager didn’t know where I was going, I think.  I felt a bit like James Bond, except saving the planet and working for a charity seems (so far at least) to have precluded my being provided with an Aston Martin as a company car; (I have asked for one, many times).  So I went by train instead.  I got somewhat muddy trying to make-up a bit of time, by walking the three or four miles from the station to my ‘mission objective’ along a bridleway down the side of a field; I must speak to M, or P, or whatever letter of the alphabet is responsible for my equipment, about that.  On the train afterwards I finished reading “Return of the Native” by Thomas Hardy.  In fact I was so engrossed in it that I missed the station I was supposed to change trains at, to discover I was then stuck on a non-stop trip to London Victoria, which was a bit frustrating.  I was also worried that when I got there, people might think I was a bit weird if I just carried on sitting on the train; well I had to get back to where I’d come from and I didn’t want the hassle of negotiating at the ticket barrier and trying to explain away my stupidity.  In the end I did get out of the carriage and nonchalantly wonder about for a bit on the platform, before getting back on the same train when I though no one was watching; (I guess I’m very paranoid, or just have a hugely inflated opinion of my importance).   As far as ‘classic literature’ is concerned, I only ever read Thomas Hardy.  Despite Hardy’s misfortune to miss out on punk and modern movie blockbusters, I do find I share a lot of his world views.  His books totally rock and if reading one whose first chapter is wholly devoted to the landscape of a heathland in southern England isn’t your idea of a fun time, then quite frankly you should go off and die; or at least feel very ashamed of your MTV-addled, “I want everything and I want it now” life-style. “Return of the Native” is probably my second favourite Hardy book.  Honestly, you really should read it.  My next book is “Star Trek: Millennium”; (which is really three books).  And finally, if you still think my life isn’t exciting enough, then tomorrow I’m going to drive for about four hours, just so I can deliver four pints of hot water somewhere and shake a mayor’s hand.  If someone wants to invade my home, then I probably won’t be in much, which if it was featured in a film like this one would have made it extremely boring and short.  But even if I was home I’d be okay; I’m vegan so I don’t eat eggs.

In 1997 Michael Haneke wrote and directed a German thriller/horror home invasion film called “Funny Games”.  It was so good that he remade it in English ten years later.  That’s remade as in replicated virtually everything, even the camera angles.  This is the American version. I have the German one but I’ve not got around to watching it yet.  Most people seem to think the original version is the best.  I really like this film.  The victims were just a bit too nice and successful for my liking, what with their stupid 4WD car and huge, gated, second home in the country.  The ‘bad guys’ were suitably bad and manage to be very unsettling.  If the film does one thing well, it’s provide a real feel for the hopelessness of the family’s situation.  Naomi Watts as Ann is really excellent and it provides a few “did they really just do that?” moments.  It loses it a bit near the end, but overall it’s an excellent, tense, movie.  Its pervading black humour and the hopelessness of the situation the family finds itself in are things Thomas Hardy might have appreciated.

Another film with a limited use of music, but when it does make an appearance its makes a big difference.  The sudden jump from opera to Naked City’s thrash metal is a great segue.  You just know something bad’s going to happen when you hear that.

Recommended for fans of tense, oppressive films.  Not recommended for anyone who’s seen the first version; you know you’ll only moan that this one isn’t as good.

No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.

Top badass moment? Georgie, the little boy, did good; (for most of the film anyway).  He was loads better than his useless father, who just sat around looking anguished and fussing about his leg.  (Mister dull and conservative; whatever did Naomi Watts see in him?)  It’s so wrong, but little kids with shotguns are badass.

Funny Games at IMDB (6.4 / 10)


The Visitor / Ghost Trains


The Visitor  -  Front DVD Cover (UK Release)Walter Vale (Richard Jenkins, “Six Feet Under”), a widower of five years, lives an aimless life as a college economics professor in suburban Connecticut.  When Walter reluctantly agrees to fill in for a colleague at a conference in New York City he discovers a young couple, Tarek (Haaz Sleiman) and Zainab (Danai Gurira), have been scammed into illegally renting his vacant flat.  Walter agrees to let them stay until they find a place of their own.  However when an interaction with the police lands Tarek, an undocumented New Yorker, in an ICE detention centre, Walter emerges as the only person able to visit Tarek.  When Tarek’s mother Mouna (Hiam Abbass) appears in search of her son, Walter’s emotional commitment in Tarek’s case is sealed.  As the four people struggle to deal with the stark realities of the US immigration system and their own individual lives, their shared humanity is revealed in awkward, humorous and dramatic ways.

2007  –  Certificate 15  –  USA
Rating Details: Infrequent strong language
8.5 out of 10

In the last two days I’ve had the same, unnerving and surreal experience, twice; once last night and once this morning.  I’ve travelled on two trains and each time had a whole carriage to myself.  (I’ve seen plenty of films where people travel on empty trains and they never end well.)  Last night I could sort of understand; who wants to go from Oxford to London at seven minutes past midnight on a miserable, Monday evening?  (I’d been at a Stranglers gig; amazing band.)  But today I was going from Reading to Winchester at just gone midday.  I was really quite surprised (although relieved) to reach my destinations and not be accosted by a psychotic killer or two, or the undead, or some zombies; it was quite disappointing really.  There is something uniquely creepy about being on what feels like an empty train at night; you can’t see anyone, you can’t see anything out of the windows, you’re just in this metal tube that’s rumbling through the darkness like an out of control monster-thing.  It’s a bit of a tenuous link, but the last scene in this film takes place in a train station.

This is a great film.  It’s really well written, filmed and acted.  It makes a point (about the immigration system in the USA).  It has characters that don’t feel like they were cut out of the back of a cereal packet.  The interaction in it between people who, on the surface have little in common, is top stuff.  Despite their ‘illegal’ status, it’s hard not to feel sorry for Tarak and Zainab; in fact I can’t imagine anyone with any shred of humanity not sympathising with their situation.  Tarak is also Syrian, which give the film an extra poignancy at the moment, although it was made just before the civil war there started.  He comes across as a decent, nice person, a little reminder that most people there are just like the rest of us.  (At this point I started going on about Syria, politicians and diplomats, but when I read it back to myself it sound like total shite, so I deleted it; yes, it really was that bad.)  Anyway, yes, this film.  It was written and directed by Thomas McCarthy, who also wrote and directed “The Station Agent”, probably one of the best ten movies ever made.  “The Visitor” isn’t as good at that, but it’s still pretty awesome.  Watch.

This is another of those films where the music is almost a character in it.  I love them.  A lot of the ‘action’ revolves around Tarak teaching Walter how to play the djembe.

No cats, decapitation or chainsaws.

Recommended for the living.  Plenty of emotional ups and downs, so maybe not so good if you tend to throw up on rollercoasters.

Top badass moment?  When it comes to doing new things, I’ll be the first to admit I’m a coward.  My comfort zone is very well-defined and heavily defended by some serious, state of the art hardware.  Seeing Walter join the drumming circle in the park is most definitely badass.

The Visitor at IMDB (7.7/10)


Shame / Water Meters & Toilet Rolls


Shame  -  Front Blu-ray Cover (UK Release)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.

Shame at IMDB (7.3/10)


Storytelling / I Meet My New Manager


Storytelling  -  Front DVD Cover (UK)Storytelling is comprised of two separate stories set against the sadly comical terrain of college and high school, past and present. Following the paths of its young hopeful, troubled characters, it explores issues of sex, race, celebrity and exploitation…

2001  –  Certificate: 18  –  USA
7.5 out of 10

On the walls in my office at work are maps of the eight counties that make up the South East of England.  (By the way, I’m not looking now to debate if Sussex is one or two counties, or if the Isle of Wight is one or not, so if you don’t like the number I’ve come up with please feel free to substitute your own; and anyway, I haven’t actually put up the maps for two of them yet, as there’re some old filing cabinets in the way that someone was meant to have got rid of ages ago but hasn’t).  The point of them is so when someone rings and starts talking about a detail of his/her tiny village somewhere, I have a chance of actually being able to find it quickly, seeing where it is relative to other places and not sound like I don’t have an intimate knowledge of every part of the 7,373 square miles of the South East.  The latter seems to be what most people assume and then get all defensive about when I ask something like, “where exactly is Deeping Minor?”  Near the edges of these maps is written stuff  that I simply translate as “here be dragons”.  I believe these to be blasted, post apocalyptic wastelands, inhabited by mutants, aliens and huge, people-eating monsters.  I never go there but I’m pretty sure that’s what it’s like.   (Okay, London runs along much of the top of the maps, but really, it’s so small and anyway in its own way it’s full of even weirder stuff.)  I have a new boss at work, my fifth in under seven years; (I guess I must be a nightmare to manage).  I had to go and visit him last week in his village, a place called Norwich.  This is so far away it wasn’t even on the maps.  I thought you just fell off the edge of the world if you went that far, but apparently not.  The journey took days.  It started on a (fairly) modern train and ended with an uncomfortable trip in the open wagon of a local journeyman, who spoke a strange Middle Earth dialect and was selling reeds for thatching; (he was probably a mutant too, but I didn’t like to ask).  On reaching my destination I was confronted by a small, blue hut by a muddy river.  I was ushered into a tiny room with a cup of some weird, local beverage, where my new manager was waiting.  With hindsight, I believe the drink to have included some sort of witch-doctor truth serum.  My new manager is a giant, at least thirty feet tall, which somewhat confirmed my suspicions about the conditions to be found beyond the South East.  Ever heard or read stories about people confessing to crimes they didn’t commit?  I used to think they must be very weak-minded.  However, after my long journey and then over 20 hours of non-stop interrogation about what we do in the South East, work-wise, I was ready to agree to anything, just to get away.  For some reason I now find myself with financial targets even ExxonMobil would be happy to achieve, so I guess I’m going to be a real bitch-from-hell manager to my team this year.  This film is also about telling stories and interpreting life though the prism of a parallel, fictional narrative; or something.

This darkly funny movie is actually two films joined together.  One features the students in a creative writing class and the other a would-be documentary maker.  They don’t have anything to do with one another, except that push the overall point of the film along, which seems to be to highlight the hypocrisy of how people react to different things, based on how society perceives them rather than simply as a reaction to absolutely how good or bad they are.  This is a very dense film in the sense that there’s a real mesh of subtexts and other stuff under its surface.  I recommend Goolging it if you want to find out more about them.  However, simply on a superficial level, (which is where I generally spend my time), the movie works.  It provides plenty of nuanced, flawed characters for us to like, despise, relate to or misunderstand; a set of dysfunctional people trying to do more (and sometimes less), than they’re capable of and failing to realise, whilst getting lost in maze of political correctness and self-importance.  Well worth watching, especially for the ‘did he/she just say/do that?’ moments.  I watched the uncensored version; that’s the one that doesn’t have the big red rectangle over the ‘rude bits’, which itself was used as a statement by the Director.

Recommended for people who enjoy seeing others fail; not so good for the less-than-liberal middle-classes, who find anything less that PC perfection to be on a level equivalent to the Holocaust.

1 cat, no chainsaws or decapitations.  A lovely grey and black stripy cat gets a brief bit of ‘lap-action’, but overall I felt it was very underutilised.  A wasted opportunity.

Top badass moment?  I’m not for a moment suggesting it’s something anyone else should look to emulate and she was a bit of a nutter on the quiet, but Consuelo’s way of dealing with unemployment was an interesting and radical departure from the norm.  A definite bit of thinking outside the box badassness.

Storytelling at IMDB (6.7/10)